Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Gene travel: To Malihabad via Israel?


Ashish Tripathi, The Times of India, Lucknow, November 5, 2009

Shahnaz Ali, a senior research fellow at the National Institute of Immuno-Hematology, Mumbai, has been awarded a scholarship by the government of Israel for the academic year 2009-2010, to study the DNA of Afridi Pathans of Malihabad in Lucknow to confirm whether they are of Israelite origin or not.

Shahnaz Ali had collected blood samples of the Afridi Pathans of Malihabad in October 2008, when she was associated with the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Kolkata. Now, with the scholarship in hand, she will conduct the analysis of the DNA at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa. The study will be done under the supervision of scientist, Professor Karl Skorecki.

The theory of the Israelite origin of Afridi Pathans was brought into focus by Indo-Judaic studies scholar, Navras Jaat Aafreedi. He did his doctoral and post-doctoral research at the universities of Lucknow and Tel Aviv respectively. Shahnaz's genetic research would examine Navras's theory that Afridi Pathans are descendants of the lost Israelite tribe of Ephraim, which was exiled in 721 BC.

When contacted, Shahnaz expressed her pleasure at being selected for the scholarship. "The theory has been a matter of curiosity since long and now I hope a scientific analysis would provide us with some answers about the Israelite origin of Afridi Pathans. We still don't know what the truth is, but efforts will certainly give us a direction," said Shahnaz.

Navras, who himself is an Afridi Pathan, has been working on the hypothesis of the Israelite origin of Afridi Pathans since 2002. He invited Professor Tudor Parfitt and Yulia Egorova of SOAS, London University to collect mouth swabs of Afridi Pathans in November 2002. The swabs were analysed at the University College London by Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas, but the results were never made public.

Navras also welcomed the development. "It's a great news that now my research would be analysed scientifically. I don't know what would be the outcome of the DNA analysis, but it would provide us a direction to resolve the complex issue. I also hope that such effort will have positive ramifications and will bring the Muslims and Jews close and enable them to forget historical animosity," he said.

Navras was awarded PhD degree in 2005 by Lucknow University, on his research on Afridi Pathans based on religious and secular texts written by Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars. Later, in June 2007, he did his post-doctoral research from the Graduate School of Historical Studies, Tel Aviv University, on the "Traditions of Israelite Descent among Certain Muslim Groups in India".

It was after navras presented his paper on Afridi Pathans in October 2007 at the 19th annual conference of the Midwest Jewish Studies Association, USA, he was contacted by Shahnaz, who wanted to scientifically analyse the findings.

In October 2008, Shahnaz, then a Senior Research Fellow at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Kokata, came to Malihabad in Lucknow and collected blood samples.

Navras said that as per history, ten Israelite tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel were exiled by the Assyrian invaders in 721 BC. It is believed that some descendants of these lost tribes settled in India between AD 1202 and AD 1761. Afridi Pathans of Malihabad are said to be one of them. Some Israeli academicians have visited Malihabad in the last few years to study customs and traditions of Pathans to find if they have any resemblance to Israelite traditions.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Inikah Suku Israel yang Hilang?


Oleh: Farzand Ahmed, India Today, 6 November 2006

http://unseenhands.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/inikah-suku-israel-yang-hilang/

Studi baru-baru ini telah menemukan bahwa asal-usul suku Afridi Pathan di sebuah kota kecil bernama Uttar Pradesh berasal dari ‘suku hilang’ Israel yang sesuai dengan Bibel. Namun suku Pathan tidak bersedia menerima diri mereka sebagai Yahudi. Malihabad, sebuah kota kecil yang terkenal akan buah-buahannya, di daerah pinggiran Lucknow, akan menarik perhatian Anda. Tempat yang mahsyur dengan buah mangga Dussheri yang manis dan harum itu telah melahirkan beberapa syair Urdu dan Persia terindah. Dan pernyataan tersebut tak berakhir di situ. Kota berdebu itu kini dianggap memiliki sesuatu yang dapat ditelusuri hingga masa Bibel. Di antara penduduk Malihabad terdapat sebuah suku berperawakan tinggi, berkulit kuning langsat, dan bertubuh tegap, yang menyebut diri mereka sebagai penyair dan prajurit Afridi Pathan. Selain itu, sebuah panah raksasa yang terletak di gerbang masuk kota didedikasikan untuk Bab-e-Goya, seorang penyair dan prajurit terkenal. Namun bukti-bukti yang berkembang menyiratkan bahwa leluhur mereka bukanlah Muslim tapi Israel dan mereka sebenarnya bukan berasal dari wilayah Afghanistan-Pakistan tapi ternyata merupakan salah satu ‘suku hilang’ Israel. Di Malihabad, di jantung kota Uttar Pradesh, mereka sangat menonjol dengan ciri-ciri fisik mereka yang unik.

Kini sebuah studi yang dilakukan oleh salah satu anggota suku mereka sendiri, Navras Jaat Aafreedi, yang dipublikasikan baru-baru ini dalam bentuk e-book berjudul “The Indian Jewry & The Self-Professed ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’ in India”, menelusuri garis silsilah mereka hingga ke salah satu ‘suku hilang’ Israel. Navras mengatakan, “Tujuan utama penelitian ini (untuk gelar doktor dari Universitas Lucknow) adalah untuk menelusuri leluhur suku Afridi Pathan.” Untuk membuat studinya lebih kredibel, ia mendapat bantuan dari tim peneliti internasional termasuk Profesor Tudor Parfitt, direktur Centre of Jewish Studies di Universitas London, dan Dr Yulia Egorova, seorang ahli bahasa dan sejarah dari Rusia. Tim tersebut mengunjungi Malihabad dan mengumpulkan sampel DNA dari 50 pria Afridi yang tidak memiliki hubungan secara paternal, guna memperkuat informasi mengenai silsilah Israel mereka. Para peneliti mempelajari hubungan Israel dengan Pathan di beberapa daerah perbatasan Pakistan serta kaitannya dengan Afridi Pathan di Malihabad, Uttar Pradesh, dan Qaimganj (Farrukhabad), juga dengan suku Pathan di Aligarh, Sambhal, dan Barabanki, di samping suku-suku di Kashmir, Manipur, dan Guntur di Andhra Pradesh.

Para sejarawan dan ilmuwan seperti Profesor S.N. Sinha (mantan kepala departemen sejarah di Universitas Jamia Millia Islamia), dan Profesor V.D. Pandey (kepala departemen sejarah India zaman modern dan pertengahan di Universitas Lucknow), menyatakan bahwa penelitian Navras menjadi studi ‘yang penting’ mengenai Yahudi di India dan hubungannya dengan Uttar Pradesh. Menurut Bibel, terdapat 12 suku Israel. Kerajaan utara terdiri dari 10 suku yang dibuang dan kemudian dianggap ‘hilang’. Empat dari ‘suku hilang’ tersebut telah ditemukan di India: Afridi, Shinlung di Timur Laut, Yudu di Kashmir, dan suku non-Muslim di Guntur. Para sejarawan percaya bahwa Afghan adalah keturunan Israel – nama lain cucu Ibrahim, Jacob atau Yakub. Mereka datang ke wilayah yang dikenal sebagai Perbatasan Barat Laut dan Afghanistan; dan setelah pindah mereka dipanggil Afridan, dalam bahasa Persia berarti ‘baru tiba’ dan karena itu memperoleh sebutan ‘Afridi’. Banyak dari Afridi-Afghan masih mengikuti tradisi Yahudi seperti Sabbath dan khitanan pada hari ke-8 kelahiran bayi. “Ada 3 kelompok utama Israel atau Yahudi di India: Bene Israel (kelompok tebesar), Cochini (kelompok terkecil), dan Baghdadi. Pathan di Malihabad dan Farrukhabad menyebut diri mereka sebagai Bani Israel, yang berarti Anak-anak Israel (Children of Israel). Suku-suku Bani Israel juga ditemukan di Aligarh dan Sambhal, Moradabad.

Perkampungan Pathan-Afridi di Malihabad telah ada sejak tahun 1202, ketika desa Bakhtiarnagar didirikan oleh Mohammad Bakhtiar Khilji. Sebagian besar suku Pathan datang pada sekitar pertengahan abad 17 dan semua suku migran mengambil kepemilikan atas desa-desa di sekitar Malihabad. Namun, gelombang terbesar migran Pathan, terutama Afridi, tiba di Malihabad satu abad kemudian saat terjadi lima invasi Ahmad Shah Abdali antara tahun 1748 dan 1761. Banyak Israel-Afridi di Malihabad dan Qaimganj memperoleh kedudukan terkemuka di bidang peperangan, politik, literatur, dan olah raga. Jika Dr. Zakir Husain, seorang Israel-Pathan, Presiden India ke-3 dan pendiri Universitas Jamia Millia Islamia berasal dari Farrukhabad, Malihabad bangga memiliki Nawab Faqueer Mohammad Khan ‘Goya’ (penyair dan anggota istana Awadh yang kemudian pindah ke Pakistan), Ghaus Mohammad Khan (pemain tenis), dan Anwar Nadeem (artis, penulis, dan penyair).

Terdapat sekitar 1200 sampai 1300 suku Pathan di Malihabad, dan setengah dari mereka, menurut penelitian terbaru, adalah Israel-Afridi. Penelitian tersebut telah menimbulkan kegemparan di antara Afridi Pathan karena mereka tidak bersedia mengakui identitas ke-Yahudian mereka. Tidak seperti suku-suku lainnya yang telah bersedia menyatakan pertalian mereka dengan ‘suku hilang’ Israel, Afridi Pathan bersikap tdiak percaya tentang status ke-Yahudi-annya. Kengganan ini terbukti ketika Qavi Kamal Khan (91 tahun), salah satu anggota suku Afridi Pathan di kota, mengatakan, “Saya telah mendengar bahwa kami memiliki garis silsilah Israel, tapi kami bukan Yahudi. Kami adalah Afridi.” Namun, para sejarawan mempercayai penelitian Navras dapat menjadi tonggak penting dalam penelitian sejarah-genealogis yang berangkat dari Lucknow yang tak dikenal, untuk menemukan kembali pertalian yang hilang dalam perjalanan waktu. Studi tersebut, sekali lagi, membuktikan bahwa dunia ini ternyata adalah desa global.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Lost and Found?



The Sunday Indian, 4 May - 10 May, 2009

THE AFRIDI PATHANS OF MALIHABAD, A TOWN NOT FAR FROM LUCKNOW, MAY TRACE THEIR LINEAGE TO ONE OF THE FORGOTTEN TRIBES IN ISRAEL. PUJA AWASTHI EXPLORES THE TRAIL...

Does Malihabad, a sleepy town 27 kilometres from Lucknow, one that yields some of the sweetest mangoes and even sweeter Urdu poetry, also hold a piece of one of the world's most fascinating puzzles - what haapened to Israel's lost tribes?

One bit of research on the subject, titled The Indian Jewry and the Self-Professed 'Lost Tribes of Israel' in India, authored in 2006 by a 30-year-old scholar called Navras Jaat Aafreedi, that has drawn wide appreciation in Israel, holds that the 600-plus Afridi Pathans of Malihabad (probably like those living in Qayamganj, Farukhabad, 270 kilometres from Lucknow) have descended from the Ephraim, one of the ten tribes driven out of northern Israel by the Assyrians in 721 BC. (The migrations of these 10 tribes went unrecorded and they gradually melted into larger populations and were hence lost).

Citing ancient Persian and Jewish texts and illustrating with existing practices and beliefs among the Afridi Pathans, Aafreedi says they came to India between 1202 and 1761 AD from what is today known as the North West Frontier Province (Pakistan) and from Afghanistan, where the Ephraim had settled after being ejected from Israel. They journeyed as part of the conquering army of Ahmad Shah Abdali and moved to Malihabad, which was home to other Pathans(though not of Israelite descent). To curry favour with India's non Pathan rulers of the time, they kept quiet about their origins, finally losing its knowledge.

That contention, fascinating as it is, is yet to be backed by scientific evidence.

In 2002, a team led by Tudor Parfitt, professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and author of The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth (Phoenix, 2003), collected mouth swabs of 50 paternally unrelated Afridi Pathan males from Malihabad to test them for possible genetic links to Israelites.

While the results of the study are yet to be made public, Parfitt, in an e-mail interview, says of them: "They were neutral, that is, they did not say anything one way or the other."

In October 2008, Shahnaz Ali, a research assistant at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Kolkata, collected blood samples from 53 subjects from Malihabad. "This is a fascinating subject," says Ali, who is likely to be sponsored by the Israeli government to begin her tests at the Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, in May 2009.

What makes Malihabad and Qayamganj's Afridi Pathans important subjects of study is also the fact that the other, much larger concentration of their kind, in Afghanistan and Pakistan (where they make large parts of the Taliban) is unavailable for any academic inquiry.

Three other groups in India - the Kashmiris, the Benei Menashe of the Northeast and the Benei Ephraim (Madigas) of Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, claim descent from Israel's lost tribes. Of these, the Benei Menashe (Chin, Lushai and Kuki tribes of Mizoram and Manipur) were studied by CFSL, a study that did not make the cut with the Israeli scientific establishment that objected to the gene sequencing methods employed. That makes the Afridi Pathans only the second such group to be scientifically studied.

The search for Israel's lost tribes is much more than a tantalizing secret that has lured the world for centuries. Backing it is a Biblical prophecy that holds that apocalypse will be triggered when the lost tribes return to Israel, while legal sanction is provided by Israel's Law of Return, 1950, that gives every Jew (practicing or otherwise), anywhere in the world, the right to return to Israel and gain Israeli citizenship.

If that were to happen and people of Israelite descent from far flung corners of the world were indeed to return home, the socio-political ramifications would be massive. Aryeh Gallin, Founder and President of the Root and Branch Association Limited, a 27 year old Israel-based volunteer organisation working to better relations between Israel and the world, believes that the research has the potential for "critical and positive impacts on the geo-political situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir and India", besides serving as a "powerful spiritual counterforce and antidote to the Taliban/Deobandi/Salafi/Wahabi poison."

"The reunion of Muslim Pathans and Jews will be a catalyst in reconciliation between Muslims and Jews worldwide, between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Pakistan, and will have as one of many additional side effects a positive influence on relations between Muslims and Hindus in India," says Gallin, who is part of the large and growing band of lost tribe enthusiasts.

Some critics point out that this search is merely a clever trick to lure poor from the world over to feed the growing ranks of soldiers pushed into service for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as to swell the country's pool of cheap labour.

But for Qavi Kamal Khan (93), the oldest living Afridi Pathan of Malihabad, the suggestion that he could be of Israelite descent is simply an abomination. "Bahut burri qaum hai (It is a very bad community)," he says.

His criticism, like those of most other Indian Muslims flows from a strong disapproval of Israel's conflict with Palestine. The fact that Aafreedi, who has made the claim, is Khan's nephew holds for little. "No other authority has said that. I do not want to be a Yehudi (Jew), I am an Afridi Pathan," Khan says with obvious pride for being part of a community that among other greats has produced India's third president Dr. Zakir Husain and Ghaus Muhammad Khan, the first Indian to reach the Wimbledon's quarter finals in 1939.

The possibilities held out by the research have begun to attract tour operators to explore a "Jewish circuit", with Malihabad at its centre.

Aafreedi builds a cautious defense for his research. "No historian can ever say his work will be definitive for all times to come. But all the evidence that we have so far, convinces me." If science were to back that conviction, Malihabad might well be forced out of its slumber.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Roots Researcher


Vidya Pandit, Education World, 4 February 2009

The doctoral thesis of Lucknow-based Navras Jaat Aafreedi (31), on the possible Jewish ancestry of Afridi Pathans, has become one of the most widely discussed works on lost tribes of humanity in recent times.

Aafreedi's research (The Indian Jewry and the Self-Professed 'Lost Tribes of Israel' in India, 2006) draws from ancient Persian and Jewish texts, and existing customs and beliefs of the Afridi Pathans of Malihabad (27 kms from Lucknow), to suggest they could be descendants of the Ephraim, one of the tribes driven out of northern Israel in 721 BC by Assyrians. Ten tribes were banished from Israel at that time, and as they moved and merged with larger populations they were lost to the world.

Himself an Afridi Pathan, the motivation behind Aafreedi's research study was personal and academic. "In part the study was an investigation into my own roots," says Aafreedi, an alumnus of La Martiniere Boys college and Lucknow University. It is the first anthroplogical research conducted in India and was instrumental in getting Aafreedi a post-doctoral position in the Graduate School of Historical Studies, Tel Aviv University in 2007, following the award of a scholarship from the government of Israel.

Aafreedi's thesis is that Afridi Pathans travelled with the conquering armies of Ahmad Shah Abdali and Bakhtiyar Khilji between 1202 AD and 1761 AD. To curry favour with India's non-Pathan rulers of the time, they suppressed their ethnicity and gradualy lost their cultural moorings. The study is important as the other, much larger concentration of Afridi Pathans, in Afghanistan and Pakistan (where they provide the jihadi foot soldiers of the Taliban), is inaccessible for academic enquiry.

Inevitably, given that Afridi Pathans are among the world's most militant Islamists, criticism of Aafreedi's work has come from within his own family, with his 93-year-old paternal uncle Qavi Kamal Khan accusing him of using his research to "get cheap publicity".

Beyond the family circle, research on lost tribes is also being slammed as a Zionist conspiracy to lure poor people around the world into Israel, to swell the ranks of Israeli soldiers required to sustain the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Such suspicions are fuelled by Israel's Law of Return, 1950, which gives every person of Jewish origin worldwide, rights of residence and Israeli citizenship.

Scientific validation of Aafreedi's work can come from genetic testing. Last October, Shahnaz Ali, a Research Assistant at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Kolkata collected blood samples from 53 paternally unrelated males from Malihabad. In May, she will begin testing the samples at the Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, sponsored by the Israeli government.

If they indeed prove the Jewish origins of the Afridi Pathans, Aafreedi's doctoral research thesis could well catalyse a rapprochement in the war-torn Middle East.