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Islam and Human Rights

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

Siti Musdah Mulia of the Indonesia Conference of Religions and Peace cited the Koran's al-Hujurat (49:3) that one of the blessings for human beings was that all men and women are equal, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, social positions or even sexual orientation. "There is no difference between lesbians and non-lesbians. In the eyes of God, people are valued based on their piety," she told the discussion organized by non-governmental organization Arus Pelangi. "And talking about piety is God's prerogative to judge," she added. "The essence of the religion (Islam) is to humanize humans, respect and dignify them." Musdah said homosexuality was from God and should be considered natural, adding it was not pushed only by passion. Mata Air magazine managing editor Soffa Ihsan said Islam's acknowledgement of heterogeneity should also include homosexuality.  -- Abdul Khalik

Traditional Patriarchal Norms

Christianity

Paradoxes: Doctrine versus Reality

Gay Priests

Tolerance of Homosexuality in Middle-Ages Christianity

Christian Intolerance of Homosexuality and Hypocrisy

Islam

Judaism

The Hebrew Book of Leviticus

Attained Gay Marriage Rights Across the World

The Nature of Homosexuality

Conclusions

Persecution of Ahmadiyas, Ismailis in Pakistan
The Taliban have begun harassing Ismaili Muslims in Pakistan. They would not spare any one and will not be satisfied until the last person left obeys them. If this trend is not checked and criticized, they may think that they have the approval from the Muslims. They don't. They need to know clearly and loudly that their ideology has no currency among Muslims and above all, their cruelty is not Islam, not one bit....
The persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan is a living example; they cannot even say "As Salaam u Aliakum" or call their place of worship a Masjid. The epidemic has now crawled over into Bangladesh and Indonesia as well. Did the Pakistani lawmakers even pause to think about the legitimacy of Hudood Laws? Some thirty years later another Avatar of Zia ul Haq employed the same strategy of fear and got the Patriot Act passed here in the United States. Both the laws are a stain on the civil societies....
As Muslims, we do not have the time to do the Ijtihaad, the consultative decision making process on issues of the day. As a result we Muslims have been reduced to rituals, rather than the spirit. It is time to believe in the prime value of Islam; freedom. -- Mike Ghouse

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

 
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