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Islam and Human Rights

Well-known Pakistani journalist and human rights activist Mariana Baabar wrote a rather nostalgic piece about the Sikhs fleeing Swat Valley as Pakistan army launches operations against the Taliban in the region. It first appeared in The News, Karachi and later in the weekly newsmagazine Outlook, New Delhi. In his column in The Times of India, Hindutva ideologue Tarun Vijay called it a “fictional defence of the barbarians” the like of which he had only come across in “the propaganda sheets of Goebbels and Saddam Hussein.” We present both views for a better appreciation of the treatment being meted out to the Sikhs by the Jizya-wielding barbarians, the Taliban, as the “Islamic’ government of Pakistan surrendered the Swat valley to them in a peace deal that has now come unstuck, leading to an all-out war between the two which has taken hundreds of lives and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands, making them refugees in their own lands. -- Editor

State within a state

The Taliban in Orakzai Agency are reported to have occupied three homes and ten businesses belonging to Sikhs, to press for their demand that 'jaziya', a tax imposed non-Muslims, be paid. The militants had previously demanded a sum of Rs 50 million, which they later reduced to Rs15 million. This of course is extortion. There is no other name for it..... It is sad our legislators have not spoken up for the rights of the minorities who live in Taliban-controlled areas. Even in cities still outside Taliban rule, they have been targeted for violence and victimized. These most vulnerable of citizens need to be protected. – Editorial in The News, Islamabad

Malaysia bans secret conversion of minors

Although the Malaysian Cabinet’s decision to ban the conversion of minors without the consent of both parents and to make it law to raise children according to the common faith of the couple at the time of marriage, even if one of them later converts, is a welcome move towards empowering minorities in this multi-religious, multi-cultural country, optimism over the news needs to be tempered with caution.

The decision was taken after the widely publicised case of Ms M Indira Gandhi was brought to the notice of the Malaysian Government. Ms Gandhi — an ethnic Indian Hindu — has been fighting a legal battle against her husband who recently embraced Islam and converted their three children to the religion— all minors — without her consent. The husband is said to have gone into hiding with the youngest of the three, baby Prasanna, aged one.

But in the wake of the Cabinet decision the Ipoh High Court granted Ms Gandhi custody of all her children. She is now battling to be reunited with her infant child and see to it that all her children remain Hindus as the country’s Sharia’h Department has already taken note of their conversion. Ms Gandhi’s case is one of many reflecting the underlying social tensions plaguing this Muslim-dominated country. -- The Pioneer Edit Desk

 

A workshop entitled “Jews of Yemen” that was held last Saturday in Sana’a condemned the intimidation and discrimination that Jews face in Yemen. The workshop was organized by the Women’s Forum for Studies and Training and by the online news website Al-Tagheer. Attended by a number of human rights activists, the workshop called for a review of Yemeni constitution and laws that discriminate against Yemeni Jews. It demanded that the rights of the Jewish minority in Yemen are guaranteed as they are guaranteed to all Yemenis and to end all practices that violate these rights. The workshop also called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Expatriates to deal humanely with Yemeni Jews who emigrate in the same way that they deal with all other emigrating Yemenis, and to give Jews all their rights as citizens. It also demanded that the two ministries follow up issues and concerns of Yemeni Jewish expatriates abroad and give them the opportunity to participate in all activities. -- Mohamed Bin Sallam

 

Defend the right to offend the religious

Ever since 2006, when Muslims worldwide rioted over newspaper cartoons picturing the prophet Muhammad, Western countries, too, have been prosecuting more individuals for criticizing religion. The "Free World," it appears, may be losing faith in free speech. ... History has shown that once governments begin to police speech, they find ever more of it to combat. Countries such as Canada, England and France have prosecuted speakers and journalists for criticizing homosexuals and other groups. It's the ultimate irony: free speech curtailed for the sake of a pluralistic society.... Religious orthodoxy has always lived in tension with free speech. Yet Western ideals are based on the premise that free speech contains its own protection: Good speech ultimately prevails over bad. There's no blasphemy among free nations, only orthodoxy and those who seek to challenge it. -- Jonathan Turley

 

Did Pakistan Army murder Geo TV Reporter Musa Khankhel?
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

One Major Farooq, of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), exchanged harsh words with Khankhel, and he was told to be careful when dealing with the armed forces....

In the past year four journalists have been reportedly killed by the security forces in the Swat, twenty over the last two year period. Journalists, particularly reporting in the war torn NWFP on its destroyed houses, schools and hospitals, observe that security forces are generally hostile toward them, and each reporter has experiencing problems during investigations, some receiving death threats. The motive, as explained by the journalists, is to keep the reporters out of the area. Journalist Mr. Hameedullah’s house was bombed on his return to his village on 5 January, 2009. They and other residents had been forced to evacuate the area on 28 December, when the army launched an offensive against the Taliban.

Although there are conflicting reports about Khankhel's killing; most of the reports point in the same direction. After the ‘war on terror’, the impunity enjoyed by security agencies saw a dramatic rise in cases of torture, abduction, disappearance and the murder of government opponents. There are more than 4000 persons disappeared for their resistance to military operations in different part in the country, and the AHRC last year determined the existence of 52 clandestine detention centres. Still, ‘unknown’ actors are publicly blamed for many of the area's most violent crimes.

PAKISTAN’S human rights star Asma Jahangir visited India to compile a fairly damning report on the state of religious freedoms and beliefs in the country. That she was invited by the Indian government to travel to the various hot spots and meet officials concerned and victims of bigotry across the country, including the sensitive state of Jammu and Kashmir, speaks for New Delhi’s maturity in giving her free access. It must have taken something for it to accept a Pakistani as the UN’s rapporteur on religious freedoms and beliefs in India.

I envy Ms Asma Jahangir’s easy access with the Indian government and her ability to make important criticisms without putting her Indian visa at risk. I envy her because as a correspondent with an international news group in Delhi years ago, it was frustrating to see my fellow foreign journalists being given visas to cover events like elections in Pakistan, while I was not even considered because Indian journalists were, and still are, not trusted by the Pakistani government. -- Indian Journalist Jawed Naqvi in The Dawn, Karachi

Syed Soharwardy states that honour killings have nothing to do with Islam. I do not believe this to be an accurate statement. A Sunni manual of Islamic law, Umdat al-Salik, states, "retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right." (Umdat al-Salik o1.1-2). However, there is an exemption to this obligatory retaliation. Mothers, fathers and grandparents can kill their children or grandchildren without penalty under this law. Perhaps Soharwardy is not aware of this particular ruling, says Ted Williams.

What is the reality of Islam and Human Rights? ask Canadian Muslims as do Muslims around the world.

 

In our prayers for the poor and oppressed of this world, including those in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, we can be somewhat forgiven for ignoring the plight of more than a quarter million ghetto dwellers in squalid camps in Bangladesh.  These are the Biharis, forgotten remnants of the Indo-Pakistan partition, and there are very few voices that bring their destitute conditions to the fore… Camp conditions are miserable, and large groups of families are often forced to share their living area with animals. They have no rights, limited job options and few economic prospects. They are refugees. Although they did not desert their country; their country appears to have forgotten them.… In pre-independence India, they were a Muslim minority in the region of Bihar.  At the time of the partition in 1947, many moved to what was then East Pakistan.   When civil war broke out between East and West Pakistan, the Biharis sided with the West. Subsequently in 1971, East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh, and these Biharis who had been loyal to Pakistan were denied citizenship because they were deemed as collaborators and had "supported the enemy".

Tariq A. Al-Maeena reminds us of the plight of Biharis in Bangladesh

 

Saudi Arabians claim to be Wahhabis, followers of what they claim is the purest version of Islam. One of the main blessings of the advent of Islam, we are told is liberation of women. But from time to time we keep getting evidence of the extreme oppression women have to face in this society, as they had to in the Afghanistan run by the Taliban who were products of the Saudi educational system. We in India too have a large number of madrasas run with Saudi largesse and presumably following the same system of education. We know that these madrasas are creating obscurantists with contempt for not only religions other than Islam but also Islamic sects other than their own. Indeed they consider the vast majority of Muslims who belong to other sects or schools of thought as Kafir, and not only that but also as people who should be eliminated from the face of the earth. NewAgeIslam.com would love to be contradicted on this point.

Concepts like forgiveness, tolerance, pluralism, multi-culturalism are alien to the Saudi version of Islam being propagated in India at great expense to the sponsors. If this radical Islamism also spawns terrorism, which may not have been intended to begin with, there should be no surprise. After all Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are the hottest products of Saudi Isalm.

Fifty-Something Saudi Refuses to Annul Marriage to his Eight-Year-Old Wife

 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the case of Mr. Hartoyo who was tortured and sexually abused in January 2007 in Aceh. The Banda Aceh District
Court treated this case as a minor offence and let those responsible go free. 
Earlier report: AHRC has received information regarding the alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse of Mr. Hartayo, an NGO worker, and his partner Bobby while in detention, by the Banda Raya police between 22-23 January 2007 in Banda Aceh. The alleged underlying motive behind the detention, torture and sexual abuse of the victims is because they are homosexuals. We were also informed that the police made the victims to sign a statement to the Village Head Chief not to indulge in "homosexual actions again". The AHRC is deeply concerned that such brutal violence against the victims was committed without hesitation not only by the civilian attackers but also by the police whose mandate is to protect the rights of people.

 

SAUDI ARABIA: Father of dead infant willing to forgive Sri Lankan maid, but not mother

Rizana Nafeek is a 17-year-old girl from a poor family from a conflict ridden area with a passport indicating her age as 18 when she arrived in Saudi Arabia as a domestic helper. Within two weeks she was accused of the murder of an infant which she denied, claiming that the death was the result of accidental choking. However, by the time the news reached the outside world she had already been sentenced to death by beheading by a Saudi court and she had only 20 days remaining to make an appeal. The BBC Sinhala Service broadcast this news and expressed the fear that, like four Sri Lankans who had been beheaded earlier, she might face a similar fate.

The AHRC is writing to Muslim scholars worldwide for support

 

 MEET Sanno Amra and his wife Champa: a middle-aged Hindu couple. They live in a small, simple but spotlessly clean home in Karachi’s Punjab Colony. Until six weeks ago, they lived with their five children, reasonably content with their lot. Sanno worked as a chauffeur, and his wife cooked for a family. On October 18, their lives suddenly fell apart: Champa returned home from work to discover that her three oldest daughters were missing — Reena (21), Usha (19) and Rima (17) had seemingly vanished without a trace. This is any parent’s worst nightmare, but the couple’s woes had only begun. Well-known Pakistani columnist Irfan Husain describes their plight following their daughters’ abduction and presumably forcible conversion to Islam in the posh Karachi colony of Clifton.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that a man, whom a prosecutor had falsely charged for committing acts of terror, has been continuously held in detention for six months to face a trial on an offense that has not been substantially proven. CASE DETAILS, COMMENTS, SUGGESTED ACTION and SAMPLE LETTER to be sent to the authorities of Philippines.

 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received an appeal about the impending execution of a man which is scheduled to be carried out on October 8.  His final meeting with his daughters will be held on October 7 at Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, the twin city of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. He was unable to afford a lawyer and it is believed that the case was heard in a biased manner. His wife died during the court proceeding because of blood cancer.

 

China's Repression of Muslim Minorities grows', says US

The state department's annual report on religious freedom around the world criticised Beijing's actions in remote Xinjiang province and Tibetan areas.

Iran, Burma, Egypt and North Korea were all singled out for criticism, along with nations regarded as more tolerant such as Jordan and Algeria.

The report noted some improvements in Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

Presenting the document, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said religious freedom was "at the core of our nation".

 

Amidst international apathy, most experts say the human rights situation in Xinjiang is likely to get worse before it gets better. "There's no international pressure to change policy in Xinjiang right now," says Segal. "So why would China make any changes?"

 

Beijing has branded them part of the "Bin Laden Clique," making human rights monitors worry that China is stepping up repression of its own Muslim minority. But Uighurs say things in the distant Wild West remain unchanged, meaning miserable and hopeless.

 

These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them," thundered Israr Ullah Zehri, a Senator from Baluchistan, in Pakistan's Parliament on August 29, 2008. Obviously, the people of any democracy would love to see their elected representative defend their traditions, especially if it is centuries old. But what is the tradition that the Senator was defending? He was referring to the shooting of five women in Baluchistan by armed men, sometime in July 2008, and then burying the injured women alive, writes D Suba Chandran.

 

Given the multiple issues facing Pakistanis, the last thing we surely need is for a legislator to defend a heinous crime in the name of tradition or custom.…The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded over 600 cases of 'honour' killings or karo kari last year – just the reported incidents, compiled from reports appearing daily in the media. The actual number may be higher, as not all cases are reported. Is the violence actually rising or is it just that the media is reporting such cases with greater frequency? An analysis by Beena Sarwar, an independent Pakistani journalist and documentary filmmaker in The News, Islamabad.

 

 The shocking news of the barbaric incident of burying five women alive in the name of tribal honour in the district Nasirabad, Balochistan, and the subsequent defence of the brutal act as the Baloch tradition in the Senate by Israrullah Zehri and Jan Mohammad Jamali, has made many think that with such a misogynist and criminal mindset of our public representatives, what hope do we have to survive as a nation and pull ourselves out of multiple crises, write Dr Farzana Bari and Sarwar Bari  in The News, Islamabad.

 

The issue of the incident in Jaffarabad district in Balochistan, where five women were reportedly buried alive, has finally created a national furore.…But an obvious attempt seems to be on to bury the truth, alongside the hapless women who met so terrible an end. The interior adviser himself shied away from making any reference to a live burial, focusing instead on 'honour' killings that he emphasized also took place outside Balochistan, says an editorial in The News, Islamabad.

 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from a remote area of Balochistan province, that five women were buried alive, allegedly by the younger brother of Mr. Sadiq Umrani, the provincial minister and a prominent leader of the Pakistan People's Party, the ruling party. However, police have still not arrested the perpetrators after one month of the incident.

 

SYDNEY: Australia’s defence minister yesterday rejected criticism of the country’s special forces in Afghanistan after they were accused of detaining suspected Taleban militants in dog pens — a report that outraged the Muslim community.

 

The 1999 NATO-led bombing against Serbia was a humanitarian intervention, not a U.S. and European power grab, writes Paul Hockenos.

 
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