By Mehru Jaffer
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
When a group of Indian women start taking computer and English courses in April they will be participating in what organizers describe as a women's anti-terrorism effort that sprang from the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks of 2008.
When she thinks back to the beginning of SAVE, Schlaffer recalls the popular Indian legend of Ganesha, the elephant god who was once asked to describe the world.
According to legend, the portly Ganesha, widely worshipped as the remover of obstacles, made his mother Parvati stand still from her chores while he leisurely circled around her.
"This is how I describe my world," Ganesha said.
The legend shows how women--particularly mothers--enjoy tremendous moral authority in societies all over the world.
But for Schlaffer the thought of Ganesha circling his mother alternated with another image: that of 23-year-old Ajmal Kasab visiting his family village in rural Pakistan to seek his mother's blessing before embarking on the deadly mission to attack Mumbai.
Kasab is the only person out of the 10 Pakistanis to be captured alive for laying siege to Mumbai between November 26 and 29 in 2008. The attacks killed 164 people and wounded at least 308.
Kasab is in custody in India where he has been sentenced to death.
Schlaffer admits that hosting similar workshops in Pakistan is a challenge for SAVE. Incidents of terrorism are on the increase in that country, where the lives of women and children in particular is greatly restricted and endangered.
However, Schlaffer has already found a grassroots partner in Mossarat Qadeem, executive director of PAIMAN Trust, an Islamabad-based organization working with women and young people in Pakistan's conflict-ridden region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and the driving force of SAVE in Pakistan. In a few months, Qadeem is expected to launch similar workshops for female survivors of terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
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Mehru Jaffer is a Vienna, Austria-based Indian journalist and author of "The Book of Muhammad" and "The Book of Muinuddin Chishti," both published by Penguin. She teaches Islam and gender related courses at the University of Vienna and at the American Webster University in Vienna.
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