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Islam and Human Rights

In all civilizations, there are forces that represent tribalism and forces that represent humanism. Orthodox Hinduism with its fixed caste hierarchy represents the tribal exclusiveness of the Indo-European tribes that conquered the Indian subcontinent and subjugated the indigenous peoples of this region. The caste system embodies that tribalism. On the other hand, the Bhakti movement and other anti-caste cults that evolved in our region represent universalism and humanism. Similarly, within the Islamic civilization, the Mu’tazila and the rebel Sufis represent humanism and universalism. Mainstream Sunnism and Shiaism are expressions of tribalism and exclusivity. -- Ishtiaq Ahmed

Contemporary examples of utilising the approach of religious natural law are Abdulaziz Sachedina and Dr Anver M Emon. Sachedina, in his recent work, Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights, argues for a theory of Islamic natural law. He uses Mu’tazilite philosophical and interpretive strategies and concepts to provide a framework of inclusive and liberal moral theology. Sachedina argues for a conversation and dialogue between religious liberals and secular moral theorists, since the goals are the same but the routes are different. This innovative set-up of moral pluralism where different cultures and traditions can reach the same conclusions but with different concepts of human nature, epistemology and ethics is attractive. Sachedina argues that we must utilise ‘religious reason’ to construct arguments from the Islamic tradition to provide a buttress for human rights. -- Ahmad Ali Khalid

In the Qur`an there is no mandatory death penalty even for these two crimes (5:33, 45, 2:178). In any case they are far more restrictive than in the Jewish tradition, which not only allows but requires death penalty for many more cases. In this way, the Qur`an makes another improvement over the earlier traditions.

Here is a long list of deeds punishable by death in the Bible, as against the two in the Qur`an:

Cursing or disobeying parents (Ex 21:17, Deut 21:18-21)

Murder (Ex 21:12, 21:15) And he that smites his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

Adultery (Lev 19:20, 20:10)

Kidnapping and enslaving a man (Ex 21:16)

Bestiality (Lev 20:15-16)

Abominations (Lev 20:2)

Blasphemy (Lev 24:16)

Incest (Lev 20:11-14)

Witchcraft (Ex. 22:18, Lev 20:27, Num 3:10)

False Prophecy (Deu 13:5)

Rebellion (Josh 1:18, 2 Chr 15:13)

Lying with a woman having her menstruation (Lev 20:18)

Working on the sabbath day (Ex 16:25, 29, 31:14-15,35:2-3, Num 15:32-36)

Losing virginity before majority (Deut 22:21-24)

Worshiping or enticing others to worship gods of non-Jews (Deut 13:6-10, 17:2 -5)

Other pre-Islamic traditions are also full of mandatory death penalties. By totally doing away with mandatory death penalty for all crimes the Qur`an further raises the value of human life in comparison to other religions. -- Dr. Ahmad Shafaat

All nationalist forces must come together to fight occupation

While the people in both Indian and Pakistani Punjab enjoy cross-border cultural and commercial links, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh are denied similar interchanges in the name of Kashmir issue. To date, the Line of Control remains closed disrupting trade along Kargil-Skardo and Astore-Srinagar roads. This has hurt livelihoods of the natives; obstructed the development of local cultures and languages, and refused the right of contact to thousands of divided family members.

Having said that, one fails to find any use of repeating these historical facts, if the natives would have to continue experiencing deprivation at the hands of Pakistani oppressors while the international community fails to persuade Pakistan to withdraw from the region and pay attention to the genuine needs and demands of the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan. 

Till date, these facts have failed to result in the right of self determination for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan which Pakistan proposes for the natives of Kashmir valley. Gilgit-Baltistan’s connection with Kashmir issue has failed to translate into reinstatement of State Subject Rule and resumption of cross-LOC trade and commerce for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. This connection with Kashmir issue has failed to result in the withdrawal of more than fifty thousand Pakistani forces and around one hundred thousand illegal settlers from Gilgit-Baltistan, which could have helped grant the natives control over their land and resources.

However, these ideas can become a reality only after all nationalist forces of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan put a unified struggle against Pakistani occupiers. All Parties National Alliance (APNA) and Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA) are two suitable platforms to pursue such rights and for all these dreams to come true, Gilgit Baltistan National Congress has joined hands with nationalist forces to continue the struggle with all its sincerity, conviction and integrity.-- Senge Hasnan Sering, Director, Gilgit Baltistan National Congress (GBNC), speaking at an informal seminar held at the United Nations Human Rights Council on September 22, 2010.

 

In a memorandum to the President of Pakistan, members of the United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP), say: “We the members of United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP), through this memorandum intend to draw your kind attention towards a matter of immediate attention of your esteemed office. The United Kashmir People’s National Party, is a secular, progressive and pro-people political party of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Party has always stood for human rights, democracy and development in the entire region. Party also believes that only democratic governance could overcome on current issues like socio-economic, socio-political and growing phenomenon of extremism and fundamentalism in south Asian region. Party not only believes in the expansion of peace constituency but also struggling peacefully for these high human ideals.

Excellency; …The Chairman of United Kashmir People’s National, is well-known political leader and human rights defender. He has been peacefully striving and mobilizing local people for revival of their rights. Due to peaceful political struggle he became the target of Pakistani security agencies and eventually he was forced to leave the country in 1999…. --  Usman Kayani,  President, Jamil Latif,  General Secretary, United Kashmir People’s National Party.

During the last 62 years the situation of minorities in Pakistan like the general conditions in various fields has remained a matter of serious concern. Professor Marvin G. Vonbom, of University of Illinois, USA describes this situation in her article, Civil society and democracy in Pakistan that “Pakistan is a state owned by the Muslims but from their behavior it seems as if they are a minority surrounded by hostile threats. In this way they have developed a defensive mechanism that has no rationale. These people think that strengthening of minorities would be a threat to Pakistan and Islam. The reality is completely opposite. Though the Muslim rulers in the past had provided protection to the minorities yet it is a historical fact that the minorities were not given equal political status and equal political rights.” -- Junaid Qaiser

No one wants to hear about the degradation of innocent Christian girls, but to remain silent about it would be a greater crime. My hope is that, in sharing news of these crimes, you will not only be better informed of the harsh reality facing so many Christians in Pakistan every day, but also in a better position to help them win justice.

Christians and especially young Christian girls are paying a high price for being Christians in an Islamic society and the proliferation of attacks and accusations in recent months is reaching an unprecedented level. Christian girls are looked down upon with hatred, regarded as inferiors, and treated by men like ‘mal-e-ganimat’ (the term used to describe booty seized during the Islamic war). -- Nasir Saeed

Human Rights in Pakistan: Cultural and Ethnic Dimensions
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Pakistani state’s continued involvement in promoting acts of terror abroad, even if it is more an act of omission rather than commission, as it claims, has to be inevitably viewed with concern by all those who believe in the indivisibility of human rights. One cannot protect human rights in one country and allow their violation in another country. But this is a cause for even greater alarm for Muslims who see the goings on in Pakistan, as tarnishing the fair name of Islam, thus immensely fuelling Islamophobia around the world. It is no accident that Islamophobic political parties have begun to gain ground in several European countries in the aftermath of continuing massive human rights violations in some Muslim countries and by Muslim extremists even after 9/11. 

Humanity in general, but Muslims in particular, have got to become very careful about how Islam is being projected by Muslims in the eyes of the world. Thus not only world organisation like the UN, but also Muslim Organisations like OIC must intervene and seek to impress upon offending Muslim countries like Pakistan to stop following domestic and foreign policies that sully the name of Islam. Suicide bombers trained in Pakistan are not only creating havoc in their own country, but also crossing land and seas to terrorise the world.

 It is strange that while the International community seizes upon the slightest violation of human rights in some countries to condemn them from all corners, it is quite reluctant to put pressure on Pakistan to change course. This is presumably because it is perceived as an ally in the ongoing war on terror. But it has to be understood that by its acts of omission and commission Pakistan is actually fuelling this war. It is not in Pakistani interest or at least in the interest of all-powerful Pakistan Army for this war to end. So those of us who are working towards creating a more peaceful world should take the issue much more seriously than we have done up to now. -- Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam, addressing a parallel seminar on Human Right Concerns in South Asia organised by Inter-Faith International during UN Human Rights Council’s June 2010 session at Geneva.

The Islamic concept of justice is based on the divinely-ordained right of human dignity: “we hace honoured the children of Adam” (17.70). if honour, and dignity, is a common heritage of mankind, then it is only logical that they all must be trated as equals. It is important to remember that one of the attributes of God mentioned in the Quran is adl, that is justice, which denotes placing things in their rightful place. The Quran says, “God does command you to render back your Truths to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between man and man, that you judge with justice”(4.58) -- Arif M. Khan

On 13 June, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, published an article entitled Sakineh on the threshold of stoning and pointed out that there is now no legal obstacle to her execution being carried out at any time. In May 2006 she was convicted of having had an “illicit relationship” with two men and received 99 lashes as her sentence. Despite this, she was subsequently convicted of “adultery while being married", which she has denied, and was sentenced to death by stoning. -- Amnesty  International

 

In a strong statement to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, June 9, 2010, IHEU main Representative, Roy Brown accused Pakistan of encouraging discrimination and hatred against religious minorities. Citing condemnation of Pakistan by the Muslim Canadian Congress and a recent resolution of the European Parliament calling on Pakistan to remove expressions of hatred from its government approved school textbooks, he reminded the Council and the government of Pakistan that it was government and media support for expressions of hatred that led to the Nazi Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. 
 
Speaking to reporters after his statement, Brown accused the Pakistanis of playing with fire by permitting hate speech against minorities to run unchecked.
 
Here is the text of Roy Brown’s statement in full....

Many of the Islamist extremists who came here in recent years did so because they were wanted people in their own countries; they really are political refugees, but they regard us as the enemy, too. Yet the 1951 Geneva Refugees Convention, under which people like Chahal and Qatada were allowed into the UK in the first place, specifically states that asylum "cannot be claimed by a refugee whom there are reasonable grounds for regarding as a danger to the security of the country in which he is". On this basis, they could be sent back if it were not for the ruling of the European court in the Chahal case.

Aside from not letting them in to start with, what can be done? Could we withdraw from the European convention? In theory, yes – but it might mean having to leave the European Union because observing the rights in the ECHR is now a condition of membership. One suggestion is to withdraw from the convention and rejoin the following day having entered a reservation to Article 3. This is possible under Article 57, which allows for a reservation to be entered when a country joins. It is not clear, however, whether this would be valid if a country left and rejoined or even if it would be allowed, since torture is prohibited by a fundamental rule of international law. -- Philip Johnston

 

I was inspired to write this essay by a Pakistani journalist friend. Later, during a lecture tour in South East Asian countries, where Indian and Chinese origin minorities are also discriminated I noticed that the minorities are palpably anguished. The latest incidents of organized attacks by Bengali Muslims on hill dwelling Chakma tribals in Khagrachari areas firmed up my decision to chronicle a preliminary account of the conditions of the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan. I had earlier written a piece on the plight of the Pakistani Christians. I have not touched upon the plight of the Shia and Ahmadiya (non-Muslim) communities in Pakistan, which require international attention. Not a single Indian Muslim religious seminary has so far condemned Pakistan for inhuman treatment of the Shia and Ahmadiya communities. -- Maloy Krishna Dhar

It’s my privilege to present a brief case on Gilgit Baltistan on the occasion of Human Rights Council Session here in Geneva.

I represent Gilgit Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA) as chairman of Balawaristan National Front (BNF) being in exile in Brussels because of the ISI’s threat to my life and I am also representative of a lonely nationalist alliance of Balawaristan (China and Pakistan Occupied Gilgit Baltistan) namely GBDA (Gilgit Baltistan Democratic Alliance) which consists of 6 indigenous parties, which demand for freedom and independence from the occupation of both Pakistan and China.---- Abdul Hamid Khan, Chairman, Balawaristan National Front (BNF)

The Baluchistan Operation basically started with the announcement of the Gwadar Project and the setting up of barracks in Baluchistan because the Baluch nationalists have serious apprehensions over the Gwader project and the apprehensions have been documented in the Bugti dossier. The nationalists presented their apprehensions on paper to the government and committees and sub-committees were formed to allay those fears. Unfortunately, the committee could not yield any tangible results. Despite these reservations, the government started work on the port and the nationalists were accused of being anti-development saying they were a handful of people. The 72 sardars of Baluchistan are on our side and the rest only three (Mengal, Marri and Bugti) are against us because they are trying to save their sardari (authority).It can be noted that the differences between the central government and Baluchistan started way back in 1948 and is existing till date. -- Mohammad Jan Baluch (Translated from Urdu by Sohail Arshad)

Baluchistan was once a haven of peace. Today the situation here is extremely bad. The operation is going on in Dera Bugti, Koblo, Awaran and Jhalawan and the inhabitants of Balochistan demanding their rights are beng put into jails. The world has an eye on the natural resources of Balochistan. There are projects like Sendak Rekodik where the gold and copper mines have been outsourced to the companies of China and Australia. The manpower in these two companies belongs to the rest of the states. Only a handful of sentries and peons have been employed from Balochistan though hundreds of the engineers in Balochistan are unemployed. -- Md Hashim Noshki (Translated from Urdu by Sohail Arshad)

 

"The Global Mufti: the Phenomenon of Yusuf al-Qaradawi" is the title of a recently published collection of essays on the life and work of the most well-known and influential TV sheik in the Islamic world.

With his hostility towards religious minorities in the Islamic world and his wholesale dismissal of Muslim life in Europe, the Islamic scholar and television preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi is damaging dialogue and interreligious communication. A commentary by Khaled Hroub

Photo: Doha-based Egyptian scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi

 

The Indian debate about Islam has remained frozen in a time warp. The mainstream intellectuals who dominate the country’s editorial pages and television channels tend to trace the Muslim world’s problems almost exclusively to the alleged misdeeds of Israel and the US. The Hindu right doesn’t make this mistake, but its tendency to group all Muslims together, its inability to distinguish between Islam as a religion and Islamism as an ideology, and its championing of causes important to the most orthodox Hindu believers shades into bigotry and religious chauvinism.

In Jaipur, Hirsi Ali challenged the assumptions of both groups. She was flatly unapologetic about her views on Islamic theology, but at the same time she urged the audience to think of Muslims as “individuals who are capable of changing their mind”. … Speaking to a packed hall, with her burly bodyguard unobtrusively off-stage, Hirsi Ali spoke about Islam—and its problems with individualism, women’s rights and sexuality—with a frankness unfamiliar to most Indians. She described the faith she was born into as “a dangerous, totalitarian ideology masquerading as a religion”. She argued against the moral relativism that has prevented Western intellectuals from scrutinizing Islam as they do Christianity and Judaism. She asked why it seemed impossible to have a sober discussion about the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad without riling Muslim sentiment, and made the case for bringing the Enlightenment to the blighted lands of West Asia and Muslim South Asia. ---Sadanand Dhume

 

I wish I could share with you a “success” story as a result of my being a “whistle-blower,” but the reality of things simply do not presently allow it. I admit to you that at one time I did believe that my life would eventually turn for the better, in spite of it all, especially fighting under the banners of “doing right,” “standing up for others” and “speaking the truth.”

But it has been a very long and arduous path I have found myself upon with no end in sight. Rather than a karmic “good” winning in the end over “the forces of evil,” I have experienced what I feel like is a slow and intimate wrath in response to my actions. -- Sam Provance

Ebadi and her colleagues have taken it upon themselves to help secure the human rights and dignities of these women while simultaneously protecting (or perhaps better put, correcting) Islamic values. She told me that part of her job is to help women interpret Islam "correctly" in order to assert their claim to equal rights. She and her colleagues have - on numerous occasions- presented mounds of documentation intended to force the courts to acknowledge that at a minimum, there are numerous possible interpretations of Islamic law, and ideally, to compel them to recognize that their own mandates are in violation of the spirit of Islam. It is a powerful strategy - reclaiming Islam - that has formed the basis for much of the unity and discipline behind the Women's Movement in Iran and which has drawn in supporters from across all demographics, including sex, of Iranian society. -- Shirin Ebadi

 

Every month a couple of Hindu families (of the 2.44 lakh Hindus in Pakistan) leave the land where they and their parents had been born, to seek refuge, in India. Each one talks of feeling watched, being pushed further into their homes. They celebrate their festivals as quietly as possible or not at all. They pray behind closed doors and many have considered giving their children Muslim first names, except that even that might attract violence. Riding in public transportation is a fraught event because someone might decide that Hindus should sit with them. -- NISHA SUSAN

“Hindu girls are kidnapped in every part of the province,” said Mr Chand.

The head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jahangir, said in a statement that announcements made from mosques by the banned Sunni group Lashkar-i-jhangvi the day before called upon Muslims to “make mincemeat of the Christians”. Human rights and minority rights groups have called, and continue to call, for the repeal of blasphemy laws that they said are used to persecute non-Muslims. The Hindu community in Karachi has not forgotten the case of Kumar Jagdesh, a young Hindu who was brutally murdered in April last year in Karachi. -- Isambard Wilkinson

 

The Message of Qur’an. The Muslims are under an obligation to honour and protect any house of worship dedicated to God, whether it be a mosque or a church or a synagogue (also mentioned in Qur’an; 22:40); and any attempt to prevent the followers of another faith from worshipping God according to their own lights is condemned by the Qur'an as a sacrilege. Allah says: “Hence, who could be more wicked than those who bar the mention of God's name from [any of] His houses of worship and strive for their ruin, [although] they have no right to enter them save in fear [of God]? For them, in this world, there is ignominy in store; and for them, in the life to come, awesome suffering.”(Qur’an; 2:114).

The history of Islam proves that Muslims, Christians, and Jews and other non Muslims [like Hindus in Mughal empire] lived together in dominant Islamic societies. In Spain under the Umayyads and in Baghdad under the Abbasid Khalifahs, Christians and Jews enjoyed a freedom of religion that they themselves never allowed for each other or anyone else. In contrast forced conversions to Catholicism have been documented at various points throughout history. The most prominently cited allegations are the conversions of the pagans during Emperor Constantine (306-337 C.E); of Muslims, Jews and Eastern Orthodox during the Crusades (1095-1291 C.E); of Jews and Muslims during the Spanish Inquisition; and of the Aztecs by Hernando Cortes in South America. -- Aftab Khan

 

Clearly, both secular and religious societies have tried to control the practice of homosexuality but failed. It is time now for them to come to terms with ground reality and accept the demand for legalisation of this widespread practice. Though science is still not very clear about its genetic roots, given its spread across the length and breadth of the world spanning all secular and religious societies, it should be accepted as coming to human beings as a natural “affliction.” If so, both secular and religious societies should try and come to terms with it.

Islam is better placed than all other religions to come to terms with continuing or changing ground realities. It has the institution of ijtihad (rethinking, reform), as a part of its orthodox practice. It’s time Muslims decided to open the closed gates of Ijtihad and discussed and changed the laws regarding homosexuality, among a whole host of other things. -- Shamshad Elahee Ansari

Religious leaders may please keep their religious views private as it should be confined to the followers of their religion. If they have any objection, let them educate their followers on the flip side of homosexuality. Let them not try to impose their views on those who hold pragmatic views. If gays exist, let them exist. In any case they are not new in the society. They have existed in the society from time immoral, though they did not come out in the open for their cause as they do today. One can now see so many gays both men and women come out in the open without covering their faces. That means they have no worry over the possible social stigma to be attached to them. The government therefore has to be very rational and take a pragmatic view before deciding on the legalisation to make homosexuality legal. In any case very few were prosecuted under the penal provisions of Section 377 of IPC. The law itself was 148 years old introduced by Lord Macaulay during the colonial rule and certainly it needs to be reviewed keeping the present situation in mind. -- A.M. Jamsheed Basha

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    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
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    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
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  • Ghulam Mohiyuddin sahib, I am sharing with you some points. Despite the fact that the terms ‘kafirin’ and ‘mushrikin’ are not used in pejorative sense among Muslims, ...
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    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • Thank you brother, very nice!'
    ( By smile! )
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    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
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    ( By Aayina )
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