Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Genocide in Rakhine state - Rohingya Crisis

Genocide in Rakhine State
Rohingya Crisis Could destabilise the Entire
Region – says United Nations Secretary General

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Rohingya crisis could destabilise the entire region – says United Nations Secretary General on the basis of the reports, information received from the different agencies of the United Nations. Though the situation in Myanmar and the condition of the Rohingyas deserve to be taken attention but the UN Security Council has failed to speak out. It is reported that two human rights groups are accusing the UN Security Council of ignoring the “ethnic cleansing” taking place on a large scale against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International representatives said at a joint press conference at UN headquarters that the UN’s most powerful body has failed to speak out and immediately demand an end to the violence. About 370,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25 and thousands are arriving every day. Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, said, “This is an international peace and security crisis” and there is no excuse for the Security Council “sitting on its hands.”

The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, said the government clearance operations in Rakhine “risked” ethnic cleansing. A Change.org petition to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize had reached 390,000 signatures by Friday.

Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
The attacks on Rohingya villages on 25 August, 2017 appear to many to have been a systematic effort to drive them out. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has described it as ethnic cleansing. The UN human rights chief has described the systematic attacks against the Rohingya minority by the security forces of Myanmar as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Amnesty International regional Director James Gomez accused Suu Kyi of “a mix of untruths and victim-blaming.” “There is overwhelming evidence that security forces are engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing,” Gomez said. The top UN human rights official, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, said. "The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."


Heads of States of different countries also said there is genocide in Rakhine state. French President Emmanuel Macron said attacks on Myanmar’s Rohingya minority amounted to “genocide.” Macron said in an interview with the French TV channel TMC. Macron’s use of the word “genocide” marks his strongest verbal attack yet on the military drive against the Rohingya. France will work with other members of the UN Security Council for a condemnation of “this genocide which is unfolding, this ethnic cleansing,” The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a statement: “You watched the situation that Myanmar and Muslims are in. You saw how villages have been burned … Humanity remained silent to the massacre in Myanmar.” Turkish President Erdoğan has accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority, who have fled in the tens of thousands across the border into Bangladesh to escape ethnic cleansing. There is a genocide there,” Erdoğan said in a speech in Istanbul during the Islamic Eid al-Adha feast. “Those who close their eyes to this genocide perpetuated under the cover of democracy are its collaborators.”

His Holiness Pope Francis said that he is following the “sad news of the religious persecution of Rohingya community… he asked that the members of the ethnic group be given full rights.”

Bangladesh's Foreign Minister said “genocide" is being waged in the country's violence-hit Rakhine state. "The international community is saying it is genocide. We also say it is a genocide," AH Mahmood Ali told reporters. “The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide," AH Mahmood Ali told reporters.

UN Secretary General
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, is pushing hard for concerted action and warns of the risk of ethnic cleansing (several Nobel peace prize laureates say that point) has already been reached. But Myanmar has said openly that it is working with China and Russia to prevent a Security Council rebuke. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, warned that the violence in the country verged on ethnic cleansing and could destabilise the wider region.

United Nations Report
United Nations Report released this year detailed what happened to those that stayed. The report described mass killings and gang rapes by the armed forces in actions that “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity. A security crackdown launched last October in Maungdaw led to the U.N. report on human rights violations by security forces that indicated crimes against humanity. Al-Jazeera reported, “The U.N. documented mass gang-rape, killings -- including infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances. Rohingya representatives have said approximately 400 people have been slain during the crackdown.”

While writing petitions to stop the genocide by Hussein Mohamed and Najma Maxamed of London UK, said, “Upon the documentations of the crime against humanity being conducted in Myanmar by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in a ‘flash report’ which was released on 3 February 2017, no serious action seems to have been taken to end this genocide since then. This is regardless of the fact that another recent report made on the 30th August 2017 seems to have found that indeed the violence being shown towards the Rohingya population in Rakhine State throughout this protracted crackdown could “very likely” amount to crimes against humanity.”

“According to OHCHR more than half of the women its human rights team interviewed reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence. Many other interviewees reported witnessing killings, including of family members and having family who were missing.”

United Nations Human Rights
The top UN human rights official has urged Myanmar to end "brutal security operation" against Rohingyas in Rakhine state, calling it "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing". Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva said, "I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred, and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population." Zeid also said. "The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

UNHCR
“A spokeswoman for the UN high commissioner for refugees, Vivian Tan, told Agence France-Presse, “The numbers are so alarming. It really means we have to step up our response and that the situation in Myanmar has to be addressed urgently.”

It is clear by now that there have been serious human rights laws both local and international that have been violated by the Myanmar government through its security forces. It is also clear that these violations which have resulted in approximately more than tens of thousands of people murdered from a specific community alongside the displacement of even more people certainly amounts to genocide as opposed to just being termed as being “very likely” to amount to crimes against humanity.

OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation)
The world’s largest Muslim body, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), condemns abuses of Rohingya in Myanmar. It was urging Myanmar to allow in UN monitors so they can investigate what it alleges is systematic brutality against the Rohingya ethnic minority. “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation issued its statement Tuesday after an emergency meeting on the sidelines of a technology conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.”

Heads of States
Besides the United Nations and its different organs and agencies, the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the heads of states of different countries such as the United States, France, Iran and Saudi Arabia, were concerned and wanted the United Nations to take immediate action.

United States of America
US President Donald Trump wants the United Nations Security Council to take “strong and swift action” to end the violence, Vice President Mike Pence said. Diplomats say the Security Council could consider adopting a formal statement if the situation does not improve, but China and Russia are unlikely to agree to stronger action that would require the adoption of a resolution they could veto, it is reported in Arab News.

The US has dispatched an envoy to Myanmar to express its “grave concern” with the violence in Rakhine. Patrick Murphy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia, will meet with government leaders and travel to the state capital of Rakhine but not the conflict zone further north, the official said.

France
French President Emmanuel Macron said attacks on Myanmar’s Rohingya minority amounted to “genocide.” France will work with other members of the UN Security Council for a condemnation of “this genocide which is unfolding, this ethnic cleansing,” Macron said in an interview with the French TV channel TMC. Macron’s use of the word “genocide” marks his strongest verbal attack yet on the military drive against the Rohingya. “We must condemn the ethnic purification which is under way and act,” Macron said. “Asking for the violence to end, asking for humanitarian access... progressively enables an escalation” under UN auspices, Macron said. “When the UN issues a condemnation, there are consequences which can provide a framework for intervention under the UN,” Macron said.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia said the issue of the Muslim minority in Myanmar is a top concern for the Kingdom and calls on the international community to intensify its efforts to stop the apparently systematic ethnic cleaning campaign against the Rohingya Muslims.
It also stressed the need to intervene to find a humanitarian solution to protect the Rohingya minority from acts of violence and collective punishment they experience.
This came in the Kingdom’s speech before the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during the interactive dialogue with the independent internationally mandated fact-finding mission on Myanmar.

The Kingdom’s speech was delivered by Saudi Ambassador at the UN in Geneva Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed Al-Wasel. Al-Wasel strongly condemned the recent violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority. He stressed the Kingdom’s position that the UNHRC should address these violations and alleviate the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims and compel Myanmar to respect its international obligations to promote and protect human rights without discrimination based on race, sex or religion. “Myanmar is asked to cooperate fully with the fact-finding mission to look at human rights violations there and to promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence in all sectors of the state,” Al-Wasel said.

Iran
Iran’s Supreme Leader has strongly condemned the killing of Muslims in Myanmar by the government. It is reported in Arab News, “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the killing of Rohingya Muslims is a political disaster for Myanmar because it is being carried out by a government led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he called a “brutal woman.” He urged Muslim countries to take practical steps to stop the violence and said they should “increase political, economic and commercial pressures on the government of Myanmar.”

Human Rights Groups
The Human Rights Groups are very much critical of the Myanmar’s brutalities on Rohingyas. “The government has to stop this offensive,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “It has to allow humanitarian assistance and let journalists into this area. We have to actually see what’s happened because quite clearly human rights violations have taken place.”

An Amnesty International report this month, based on extensive interviews with Rohingya as well as analysis of satellite imagery, claimed that actions by Myanmar’s military may constitute crimes against humanity.

Nobel Prize Laureate
More than a dozen fellow Nobel laureates have criticised Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, for a bloody military crackdown on minority Rohingya people, warning of a tragedy “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. It is reported in The Guardian, “The open letter to the UN Security Council from a group of 23 activists, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, warned that the army offensive had killed of hundreds of people, including children, and left women raped, houses burned and many civilians arbitrarily arrested. It was delivered as Bangladesh announced around 50,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the violence across its border.”

“Access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor,” reads the letter, whose signatories include current and former political and business leaders and campaigners such as Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. “Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide. It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies – Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo,” the letter reads. “If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets.”

But the signatories to the letter said the army’s response had been “grossly disproportionate”. “It would be one thing to round up suspects, interrogate them and put them on trial,” the letter said. “It is quite another to unleash helicopter gunships on thousands of ordinary civilians and to rape women and throw babies into a fire.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu joined the growing list of voices calling on Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to protect Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority. He issued heartfelt letter to fellow peace prize winner calling for her to speak up for Rohingya in Myanmar. He has called on Aung San Suu Kyi to end military-led operations against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. It is reported in The Guardian, “The 85-year old archbishop said the “unfolding horror” and “ethnic cleansing” in the country’s Rahkine region had forced him to speak out against the woman he admired and considered “a dearly beloved sister”.  “I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness,” he wrote in a letter posted on social media. “For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people. You symbolised righteousness.”

“Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and others ‘a slow genocide’ has persisted – and recently accelerated. “It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country,” said the anti-apartheid activist. “If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep,” reported by Naaman Zhou and Michael Safi in The Guardian.

Tutu used his open letter to urge Aung San Suu Kyi to “As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again,” he said. “We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness again.


Malala
“Every time I see the news, my heart breaks at the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar,” Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban, said on Twitter. “Over the last several years I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same.” The Malaysian foreign minister, Anifah Aman, said: “Very frankly, I am dissatisfied with Aung San Suu Kyi,” he told Agence France-Presse. “She stood up for the principles of human rights. Now it seems she is doing nothing.”

Peaceful protest and demonstration
Besides the reaction of the UN agencies, Human Rights groups and the Presidents of USA, France, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey against the Myanmar’s brutalities towards the Rohingya Muslims; there were peaceful demonstrations, protests and petitions in different countries.

In Oxford, Oxford Information Centre organized a peaceful demonstration in support of Myanmar Rohingya people. Sheikh Ramzy said: "We calling on our government to save the Burma's Rohingya community from further persecution, ethnic cleansing and genocide, and exodus. UN described Rohingya Muslim as the most 'persecuted minority on earth', Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim community have been victims of mass murder - including of women and children - rape and torcher. Burma's de facto political leader, the Nobel laureate Aung Sun Suu Kyi, who herself was feted in our Parliament for upholding human rights, now dehumanizes the community by denying them their right to be citizens of their own land.

In South Asia, Massive protests are reported in many countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India among others against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (September 2017). There were protesters in Kolkata, India, burning an image of Aung San Suu Kyi. This time around violence seems to have been triggered due to the attack by militants (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) on police and military posts. United Nations has said that the extent of violence indicates that it is crime against humanity.

Tens of thousands of people rallied in the capital of Russia’s mainly Muslim republic of Chechnya in support of the Rohingya. The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, told the crowd in Grozny that the world was watching in silence while the Rohinghya were “torn to pieces, burnt on fires and drowned”. 

UN Aid Agencies
In spite of all these protests, petitions and reactions to the Myanmar’s brutalities towards Rohingya Muslims, Myanmar government has not stopped its ethnic cleansing. Rather Myanmar has blocked all United Nations aid agencies from delivering vital supplies of food, water and medicine to thousands of desperate civilians at the centre of a bloody military campaign against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority, the Guardian has learned. The office of the UN resident coordinator in Myanmar said deliveries had been suspended “because the security situation and government field-visit restrictions rendered us unable to distribute assistance”. “The UN is in close contact with authorities to ensure that humanitarian operations can resume as soon as possible,” the office said.

It is also reported, “The UN World Food Programme said it also had to suspend distributions to other parts of the state, leaving 250,000 people without regular access to food. Sixteen major non-governmental organisations including Oxfam and Save the Children have also complained that the government has restricted access to the conflict area. Humanitarian organisations are “deeply concerned about the fate of thousands of people affected by the ongoing violence” in northern Rakhine, said Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Myanmar.”

Humanitarian Aid.
However, on the other hand, Muslim countries have taken decision to send humanitarian aid to the worst affected Rohingyas in Rakhine state. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered the payment of $15 million aid for the Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar as a result of genocide and torture. The announcement came in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) following a meeting of the Saudi Cabinet, which was briefed by Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabiah, general supervisor of Riyadh-based King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid on the situation in Myanmar with the Muslim minority Rohingya refugees that have been forced to flee.

Indonesia has despatched from Jakarta two Hercules aircraft carrying humanitarian aid for the Rohingya community in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. “The two planes carry tents, water tanks, blankets, family kits, five tons of instant food and nearly a ton of medicines,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. The aid will be handed to Myanmar’s government in Yangon for distribution. Nugroho said Indonesia previously sent eight sortie missions to help the relief effort in Bangladesh.

Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told Arab News: “The developments in Myanmar, the plight of the Rohingya, have moved the conscience of nations and people throughout the world.” The crisis constitutes a litmus test for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to present itself as part of the solution, said Natalegawa, who dealt with the issue during his 2009-2014 tenure, and visited Rakhine in 2013.

Turkey has called upon the Bangladesh government to open its doors to Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state. In terms of humanitarian aid in the world, Turkey ranks 2nd after the United States with $6  billion and $6.3 billion respectively, Cavusoglu added. Dr. Altay Atli, a research associate specializing on the Asia-Pacific region at Sabanci University's Istanbul Policy Center, said, Turkey’s leading role in the Rohingya issue has two components: Humanitarian aid, including an open check offered to Bangladesh to cover the costs of the refugees, and diplomatic initiatives, such as taking the issue to the UN and mobilizing the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). “These two components, implemented together, can be effective,” he said.

Britain’s International Development Secretary, Priti Patel in a statement released on 8 September said, “The appalling violence in Rakhine must stop now. Britain urgently calls upon the security forces to de-escalate the situation in Rakhine and the Government of Burma to allow immediate and full humanitarian access and support for the people and communities affected.”

Britain is immediately releasing a further £5 million from existing funds to provide additional critical life-saving assistance such as food, shelter, water and sanitation to those who are fleeing the violence. In addition, Britain is ready to support the recommendations of the Kofi Annan led Rakhine Advisory Commission to assist the long-term development of all people in Rakhine state, but right now the immediate action is for the security forces to end the violence and the Government of Burma to allow humanitarian access.

Conclusion
The Rohingyas are a minority of about a million people who, despite living in the country for generations, are treated as illegal immigrants and denied citizenship. They have been persecuted for years by the government and nationalist Buddhists.

Fact Finding Mission
Under the present circumstances, four immediate actions should be taken before the Myanmar government became completely successful in ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas. Firstly, there is a repeated demand for a UN-mandated fact-finding mission established this year.  The Myanmar government is also asked to allow the fact-finding mission to visit affected areas to carry out its assigned role.

Impose sanctions
Secondly, sanctions should be imposed immediately on Myanmar’s military. Pressure also grew on Myanmar as rights group urged world leaders to impose sanctions on its military.

Humanitarian aid
Thirdly, Humanitarian aid should be allowed to enter and reach the worst affected Rohingyas immediately.

Return of Refugees to Rakhine
Fourthly, Return of Rohingya refugees plan should be made immediately. Repatriation of the refugees who went to Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries to their home in Rakhine state.



International Symposium on Islamophobia at ICC

Two-Day International Symposium on
Islamophobia at the Islamic Cultural Centre

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Two-Day International Symposium to explore mechanisms to counter the phenomenon of Islamophobia legally and in the media was hosted by The Islamic Cultural Centre, London and which was organised by the Jeddah-based The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in cooperation with Rabat-based The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), and The Islamic Cultural Centre in London.

The International Symposium was held at the Conference Library Hall of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on Saturday and Sunday, the 15th and 16th of July, 2017 respectively, which was attended by Lawyers, Media Experts, Academics from European Universities and Diplomats from various Embassies. The title of the Symposium was: Mechanisms to challenge Islamophobia legally and through the media.

The Symposium was started with the recitation from of the Verses of the Holy Qur’an and Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, welcomed the august gathering to the conference.

Proceedings of the Symposium
There were three sessions besides the Opening Ceremony and Closing Ceremony. In the Opening Ceremony, there was welcome address by the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London; Address by the representative of The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO); Address by the representative of the General Secretariat of The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the address by Lord Sheikh, Peer of the House of Lords of the British Parliament.


The First session on Islamophobia and defamation of religions from the perspective of international law was chaired by Dr. El-Mahjoub Bensaid. The Second session on Moral responsibility of the media in the proliferation of stereotypes about the other and mechanisms for the professional treatment of Islamophobia by the media was chaired by Dr. Maha Akeel of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The Third session on the Role of civil society institutions in countering Islamophobia from the legal and human rights perspectives was chaired by Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London.

In the Closing session the Symposium was declared closed with the closing addresses, passing of recommendations and presentation of certificates of participation.

Background of the Symposium
According to the papers and folder distributed, the background of the Symposium is as follows:
“With the turn of the third millennium, the denigration of Islam and Muslims has taken new forms that are in blatant violation of all international law rules governing human rights and the media. In this process, the forms and mechanisms of abuse have evolved, shifting from the slurs buried in books, encyclopedias and Orientalist studies, to films, radio and TV programmes and the Internet. With these tools, violation of law have escalated in the Western media, and the images of Islam and Muslims are being tarnished within the circles of the European Elites, as well as at the global level, including academic and cultural spheres. These abuses constitute a deliberate violation of international law, and a heavy blow to the essence and contents of all documents consecrating the international legitimacy of human rights and which affirm the freedom of the media and the freedom of expression, but which become restrictive when it comes to the denigration of religions; the aim being to ban instigation to hatred, racism and religious discrimination, and advocating tolerance.

“Certain Western media have been at work kindling the flames of Islamophobia in its association with the denigration of Islam, its symbols and its sanctities through the stereotypical portraying of Muslims and Arabs, the religion of Islam, labelled as the religion of terrorism. Voices rose from within the United Nations, including the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, demanding the promulgation of an internationally binding law to deter and stem the spread of the phenomenon. This law would be consistent with the concept of respect for religions.

“In this connection, The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation OIC) regularly expressed its deep concern over the dangerous rise of Islamophobia in the United States and a number of other Western countries. At the level of the respective meetings of the Islamic Summit, the Foreign Ministers Council, and the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers, the OIC has, since 2005, adopted numerous important resolutions calling for the adoption of clear and concrete measures and mechanisms on all levels, including national and foreign media, in a bid to earnestly address this phenomenon and defend Islam and Muslims.

“In this context, the Information Department at the OIC General Secretariat has prepared a Media Strategy to Counter Islamophobia, which was adopted by the 11th Islamic Conference of Information Ministers, held in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on 21 December 2017. This is a civilizational project, which proposes effective initiatives to address Islamophobia in the West through a set of integrated measures and mechanisms aimed at achieving short and long-term objectives. These include, inter alia, highlighting, identifying and refuting the misconceptions about Islam and Muslims by providing comprehensive online materials which shall be supported by social networks, and building alliances with academic, press and media groups and with civil society.

“Being concerned with correcting misconception on Islam and the Islamic civilisation in the international media, while being aware of the pressing challenges and demands in this connection, ISESCO, has since 2007, devoted a great attention to addressing Islamophobia and the stereotypes on Islam and Muslims in the Western media from a professional, media and legal perspective. In this context, ISESCO has endeavoured to develop the professional and technical expertise and skills of journalists working in media organisations, inside and outside the Islamic world. The ultimate aim is to enhance their legal culture and enable them to defend their interests, their cultural specificities and their mission within the framework of international laws, customs and conventions on freedom of opinion and expression, the ethics of journalism, and rejection of the denigration of religions.”

ISESCO and the OIC General Secretariat, being aware of the challenges posed by the spread of Islamophobia, and in a bid to coordinate their efforts in this connection to address the demonization of Islam, based on a professional and human rights perspective, agreed to hold this meeting in coordination with the Islamic Cultural Centre in London on 15-16 July 2017.


Objectives of the Meeting
The objectives of the meeting, according to the organisers of the international Symposium were as follows:
1. To Address Islamophobia in the Western Media, Cultural and Academic circles.
2. To enable media professionals in and outside the Islamic world to master the techniques of addressing stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the media, produce an alternative images favouring intercultural dialogue and fostering values of tolerance, co-existence and respect for otherness.
3. To highlight the illegal aspects of Islamophobia and propose legal measures to limit them.
4. To invigorate partnership with Western civil society organizations concerned with combating racial discrimination, hatred denigration of religions.

Themes of the Meeting
1. Islamophobia from the perspective of international law
2. Ways to address Islamophobia through the media
3. Legal ways to address Islamophobia
4. Ways to promote cooperation, understanding and mutual understanding with civil society organisations to redress misconceptions about Islam and Muslims

Opening Ceremony
Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan, The Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre welcomed the august gathering and thanked the organisers for partnering with the Centre to address such a prominent and pressing topic. Dr. Al-Dubayan stressed that given recent tragedies in the UK Islamophobia remains a pressing issue concerning people in the UK and globally. Dr. Al-Dubayan highlighted that Islamophobia can take place in many forms and that mechanisms of abuse have evolved, shifting from the slurs buried in books, encyclopaedias and studies, to films, radio and TV programmes and the Internet.

Dr. Al-Dubayan hoped that throughout the two days the experts could draft proposals and resolutions which will be forwarded to the partnering organisations in which the issue of Islamophobia can be approached. Dr. Al-Dubayan also mentioned the need for Muslims to interact more with the community and that through interactions fear and hatred would be reduced; it would also help inform people of the true image of Islam. 

As a representative of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Dr. Mahjoub Bensaid, Head of Public Relations at ISESCO, conveyed their Director General's best wishes for the success of the Symposium. Dr. Bensaid said that institutions like the Islamic Cultural Centre where in the forefront in showing the real and true image of Islam as a religion of peace which advocates tolerance. Dr. Bensaid also thanked the OIC for supporting and working in collaboration in this timely symposium. 

As a representative of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Maha Akeel, Head of Public Relations at the OIC - Organisation for Islamic Cooperation highlighted the Organisation's role and mission in addressing concerns facing Muslims across the Globe. The OIC serves as an international umbrella organisation aimed at articulating the collective voice of Muslims across the globe. The topic which was being discussed this weekend is one of which the OIC has written many publications and organised many activities to address these issues. 

Lord Sheikh, Peer of the House of Lords, British Parliament, highlighted in his opening speech the many issues facing the Muslim Community in the UK. Lord Sheikh mentioned how Muslims are over represented in Prisons representing over 15% in Her Majesty's Prisons. Lord Sheikh also mentioned that the Muslim population are mostly comprised of young undedicated youth which reflects poorly on society. The issue of social challenges facing many Muslim Households was also addressed.

Nonetheless, a pressing phenomenon facing the UK community his Lordship touched upon was the issue of Islamophobia. Recent attacks across the UK have demonstrated that Islamophobia is a prominent issue, which was on the rise and that needs to be approached and His Lordship praised the Islamic Cultural Centre and the supporting partners for putting together this symposium. Lord Sheikh talked about the need for Mosques to diversify in their activities and paid reference to the ICC which holds programmes ranging from youth clubs to Arabic Calligraphy courses. It is through these programmes that the Muslim community can more proactive citizens engaging with society and promulgate Islam and its true understandings. 

Dr Maha Akeel
Dr. Maha Akeel, Head of Public Relations at the OIC - Organisation for Islamic Cooperation – in an interview with Jeddah-based Arab News before coming to the Symposium, said, “The OIC media strategy in countering Islamophobia consists of short, medium and long-term objectives that include focusing on interaction with media outlets, academics and experts on various related topics; producing content, publications and media literacy programs; engaging with Western governments in creating awareness; and supporting efforts by Muslim civil societies in the West and involving them in the elaboration of plans and programs to counter Islamophobia.”

Dr. Maha Akeel also said in that interview, ““No doubt there is a rise in Islamophobia in the West, which is indicated in the latest OIC Islamophobia Observatory Report, and there is usually a spike in hate crimes against Muslims following terrorist acts perpetrated by a Muslim.”

“The forum will look at the role of the media and civil society in countering Islamophobia from a legal and human rights perspective because we cannot talk about the role of the media without discussing freedom of the press and freedom of expression as fundamental human rights,” she said.
She also added, “When talking about the role of the media, it is within the framework of its responsibility in the proliferation of stereotypes and its ethical and professional standards in covering and handling Islamophobic acts.” (Arab News, Friday, 14 July, 2017)

During the session
Executive Director of the Interfaith Network Dr. Harriet Crabtree talked about the role of interfaith activities in working together to tackle not just Islamophobia but also anti-Semitism. Dr. Harriet mentioned that providing a platform for dialogue and inter-religious discussions will help promote harmony and understanding between worshippers of all faiths.

As mentioned earlier, the Symposium was broken down into three sessions:
1. Islamophobia and defamation of religions from the perspective of international law which was delivered by panellists comprising of Lawyers and Academic from around the world the world. 
2. Moral responsibility of the media in the proliferation of stereotypes about the other and mechanisms for the professional treatment of Islamophobia by the media which was delivered by experts from organisations such as "Tell MAMA", "Faith Matters" who are at the heart of providing support for victims of Islamophobia and Hate Crime. There were also journalists who provided expert advice on the topic. 
3. Role of civil society institutions in countering Islamophobia from the legal and human rights perspectives which was delivered by Islamic Organisations and Interfaith officers which focused on the role of institutions and bodies in nurturing and protecting the rights of victims of hate-crime and ways in which reducing such crimes can be suggested. 


The Symposium ended with the Collection of Recommendations and Proposals which were submitted to the OIC, ISESCO and appropriate stakeholders. Dr. Al-Dubayan also paid tribute to the co-organisers The Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and ISESCO for their invaluable efforts not just in support of the symposium but their diligence in supporting Islam and Muslims across the globe. 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Threat to Minorities in India

India’s Hindutva Agenda:
Threat to Minorities in India

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Amid the increasing  rise of Hindutva threat to minorities in India, politicians, academics, religious leaders and national representatives as well as leading diaspora organisations came together to call for international intervention to counter the threat posed by Hindutva agenda in India. A major international conference was held, chaired by Lord Ahmed, chair of Parliamentarians for National Self-determination (PNSD), at the main chamber of the Birmingham Council House, Birmingham, on 29 April, 2017. The Conference unanimously adopted Resolutions (enclosed below).

On 20 June, 2017, a delegation of Sikhs and Kashmiris delivered a Memorandum to the UK Prime Minister Rt. Honourable Theresa May at 10 Downing Street calling for intervention to protect religious freedoms and fundamental human rights of minorities, Christians, Dalits, Muslims and Sikhs alike in India.

In this connection, I would like to mention the hugely authoritative report issued recently in February by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) entitled “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India” which details the numerous constitutional and legal restrictions on minority religious freedoms in India, as well as this week’s open letter by 65 senior Indian civil servants which condemned the rampant ‘majoritarianism’ of the establishment.


The followings are the reports on the international conference at Birmingham Council House and its Resolutions. Draft Memorandum to the UK Prime Minister is also included along with the report below.

Conference on
India’s Hindutva Agenda: A Challenge
to International Law and Civilised Norms
A major international conference was held on 29 April 2017 in the main Chamber of the Birmingham Council House, Birmingham attended by politicians, academics, religious and national representatives as well as leading diaspora organisations. The conference was chaired by Lord Ahmed, Chair of Parliamentarians for National Self-determination (PNSD), who had earlier in the week raised formal questions in the House of Lords seeking the UK government action based on the recommendations of a report issued last month by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom.

The conference was addressed by Dr Mukul Hazarika (Assam Watch), Prof Dr Mohammed Arif Khan (Kashmir based educationalist and author), Amrik Singh Sahota (President, Council of Khalistan), Nazir Qureshi (President, All Parties Kashmir Coordination Committee), Dr Gurnam Singh (academic and TV presenter), Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Doris Jones from the Sabah region of Malaysia, Joga Singh (Babbar Akali Organisation), Raja Amjad Khan (Kashmir Iqbalistan Movement) and Ranjit Singh Srai (PNSD).

They came together to call for international intervention to counter the threat posed by an increasingly rabid extremist Hindutva agenda in India. That agenda has denied not only the rights of nations to self-determination in their homelands but even the free practice of other faiths without intimidation and violence.

After the conference a press release under the above caption was issued along with the resolution of the conference. Followings are the details of the press release:
“The key, according to the resolutions adopted at the conference was to require Indian compliance with international legal obligations and, in case of default, to punish defiance with targeted sanctions, including the banning of fascist group that are responsible for almost daily attacks on minorities.

Dr Iqtidar Cheema, who authored that report; US Commission for International Religious Freedom, presented to the conference the array of legal and constitutional measures by which religious minorities in India were being targeted, such as Sikhs Buddists and Jains being deemed to be Hindus for the purposes of personal laws.

His namesake, Harpal Singh Cheema, president of Dal Khalsa, participated by video link from Punjab, along with senior human rights lawyer Amar Singh Chahal. They castigated the Indian state for the genocide of the Sikhs, the denial of freedom and the illegal appropriation of Punjab’s river waters in breach of riparian law. On the anniversary of the 1986 Declaration of Khalistan they said the Sikh nation will pursue its right of self-determination in a peaceful and democratic manner, in accordance with international law. There was, they said, no option other than an independent and sovereign Punjab to bring to an end the decades-old conflict there.

Professor Shawl, chairman of Kashmir Concern, said the people of Kashmir alone must decide their destiny and India’s posting of 800,000 troops in the region will never alter that fact, despite the atrocities being committed by them. Mehmoob Makhdoomi, a Kashmiri author and columnist, urged the international policy and decision makers to facilitate efforts for true conflict resolution in the troubled region, based on the will of the people. India’s vision, which he characterised as the “peace of the graveyard” was no solution – the rise of a new generation of Kashmiri freedom supporters witnessed in recent months has amply demonstrated that.

Reverend Joshva Raja John, Church of England Priest and Queens Foundation research scholar expressed dismay at the rampant minority bashing being tolerated by the Indian authorities. Christians have been targeted by violence and intimidation under the guise of the repugnant ‘ghar vapsi’ mantra of Hindu extremists. He called for the Bajrang Dal and VHP offshoots of the BJP’s RSS mentor to be internationally banned as terrorist organisations.

Christina McKelvie, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, said other nations should aspire to self-determination just as the proud people of Scotland are doing and that the pursuance of national self determination through peace and democracy is a noble cause. Phil Bennion, former Member of the European Parliament, of the Liberal Democrats spoke of the paramount need for the right of self determination to be respected in disputed territories like Kashmir and called on India to drop its threat to execute Sikhs prisoners.


John Burn of the Green Party called on India honour its international obligations and to show zero tolerance to attacks on minorities. He also called on the UK government to stand up for human rights and the right of self-determination, rather than allow trade interests to override those “most basic and important” vales. Graham Williamson, chair of Nations without States, spoke of the need to allow self-determinists to operate peaceably within conflict zones, without the threat of sedition and treason laws, in order to unlock peaceful and democratic solutions to intractable.”

Resolutions Adopted At The Conference
At the end of the Conference following resolutions were unanimously adopted at the Conference:
“This Conference calls on the international community to fully recognise the role that self-determination can play as a means of peaceful conflict resolution; this is a democratic mechanism underpinned by international law. Whilst nations and peoples must be left to decide their own destiny, the global community must do what it can to hold non-compliant states to account when they refuse, overtly or covertly, to respect the right of self-determination. In the case of India, which officially rejects Articles 1 of the 1966 Covenants on Human Rights, this non-compliance has led directly to the unresolved and hugely destructive conflicts in Kashmir, Punjab, Assam and Nagalim over sovereignty, territory and riparian rights.

“The denial of religious freedoms, attacks on religious minorities in the name of chauvinistic ‘majoritarianism’, as being currently witnessed in the Hindutva extremism sweeping across India, is condemned as a breach of international law as well as basic moral standards of behaviour adopted by the civilised world. This Conference fully endorses the recommendations of the recent report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom entitled “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India”.

“This Conference calls on the international community to identify and impose targeted sanctions against Hindutva organisations, including the RSS and all its affiliates across the world, to force a change in the cowardly tactics that are being adopted to intimidate Dalits, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and others.

“This Conference urges all UK based political parties to address the concerns of the diaspora communities so that UK political representatives, including the UK Government, responds to the threats caused by blatant breaches of international law by the Indian state.”

Sikhs and Kashmiris call on UK Prime Minister
to tackle India’s Hindutva Agenda
On 20 June 2017 a Memorandum was delivered by a delegation of Sikhs and Kashmiris to 10 Downing Street calling for Intervention to protect Religious Freedoms and Fundamental Human Rights. A press release was issued along with the draft Memorandum to the UK Prime Minister Rt. Honourable Theresa May. Followings are the press release and the Draft Memorandum to the UK Prime Minister. 

Following press release was issued. A delegation of Sikhs and Kashmiris delivered an appeal on 20 June 2017 to 10 Downing Street calling for a re-set in the UK’s foreign policy towards India.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair of Parliamentarians for National Self-determination, and Lord Qurban Hussain both endorsed the memorandum and joined Sikh and Kashmiri representatives in delivering it to the UK Prime Minister’s official residence. They urged the UK Government to listen to the UK’s massive diaspora communities which want their political representatives to act on their concerns.

They characterised the Hindutva surge in India as a fascist threat to Christians, Dalits, Muslims and Sikhs alike – a threat which breaches India’s international legal obligations. Compelling India to comply with universally accepted legal and humanitarian norms was, they said, the key to bringing India back in to line.

They cited the hugely authoritative report issued in February by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which details the numerous constitutional and legal restrictions on minority religious freedoms in India, as well as this week’s open letter by 65 senior Indian civil servants which condemned the rampant ‘majoritarianism’ of the establishment. 

The delegation called for the implementation of the USCIRF report’s recommendations which include changes to the Indian Constitution (such as the removal of outrageous provisions that deem Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains to be Hindus for the purposes of personal and religious law) and operationalizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The memorandum also heighted the atrocities committed by state and non-state actors aimed at crushing the self-determination movements in Punjab and Kashmir. It called for genocide perpetrators to be punished by UN established tribunals and for peaceable conflict resolution by holding plebiscites so that the people of those regions could freely determine their own destinies. An unchecked Hindutva agenda in India makes resolution of those conflicts impossible; hence the international community must, according to the memorandum, require India to formally accept and comply with the right of self-determination as enshrined in Article 1 of the 1966 Covenants on Human Rights. India has formally rejected that right – something which the UN and leading member states have said is unacceptable.

The memorandum was signed by Amar Singh Chahal (official spokesman of Jagtar Singh Hawara, the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs), Prof Nazir Shawl (Chair, Kashmir Concern), Amrik Singh Sahota OBE (President, Council of Khalistan), Gurdev Singh Chohan (President, Akali Dal, UK) and Joga Singh (Babbar Akali Organisation). Importantly, it was also countersigned by Dr Iqtidar Cheema, the author of the USCIRF report which was also formally handed over at the same time.

MEMORANDUM
An International Law Response to the Hindutva
Majoritarianism Threat to Minorities in India:
an Appeal to the new UK Government to hold India to account

The followings are the Memorandum prepared, signed and delivered on 20 June 2017 to 10 Downing Street calling for intervention to protect Religious Freedoms and Fundamental Human Rights.

“Rt Honourable Theresa May,
Prime Minister,
10 Downing Street,
London.
20 June 2017
Dear Prime Minister,
“Following your re-election in this month’s General Election, we write to you in connection with an aspect of UK foreign policy which is a great concern to hundreds of thousands of Sikhs, Muslims and Christians from the large diaspora communities settled here that have roots in India. We believe there is an urgent need to re-set the UK’s foreign policy toward India so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, especially in light of the appalling right wing Hindutva surge that is alarming those communities.


“The Manchester and London atrocities over recent weeks have disgusted all right-thinking people across the world.  Apart from the clear determination to defeat the evil ideology of hate and the cowardly targeting of innocents and non-combatants, there has though been another remarkable feature of the response from ordinary people here in the UK. That has been the impressive show of defiance and unity – whatever peoples’ backgrounds – grounded on core humanitarian values such as mutual respect for all our fellow citizens and a sense of common humanity. Those values will ultimately play the crucial role in defeating the narrative of chauvinism and belligerence being espoused by cowards who despite their claims, in truth, have no religion at all.

“During the month in which Sikhs commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the infamous Indian army attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984, in which thousands of innocents and non-combatants were deliberately targeted to quell a legitimate movement for self-determination by the people of Punjab, it is timely to remind the new UK Government of the clandestine connivance, for the sake of trade, of the then British and other governments with the Government of India, and the subsequent genocide of the Sikhs. You will of course be aware of the need to fully disclose the level of that unfortunate British involvement and, we hope, the need to redress that wrong by taking suitable action now to protect the very nation that was then so inhumanely targeted.

“Even today, there is a growing threat to minority groups in India who are facing a right-wing extremist ‘majoritarian’ onslaught. Christians, Sikhs and Muslims have been covertly targeted by discriminatory laws, sectarian policies as well as by state and mob violence for decades, but there is now a more overt threat to them.

“This week sixty-five (retired) senior Indian civil servants wrote an open letter to Indian authorities saying: “In the face of a rising authoritarianism and majoritarianism, which do not allow for reasoned debate, discussion and dissent, we appeal to all public authorities, public institutions and constitutional bodies to take heed of these disturbing trends and take corrective action”. They cited, by way of example, the right-wing extremist Hindu thugs who roam the streets in the name of ‘cow protection’ - “Gau-rakshaks function with impunity and seem to be doing so with the tacit complicity or active encouragement of state machinery”.  See:https://thewire.in/146332/open-letter-authoritarianism-india-retired-officials/

“More significantly, we attach a copy of the recent report issued by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom which sets out clearly why international pressure is needed make Indian authorities comply with their obligations under international law. The report details the ways in which – quite apart from the thuggery on the ground – the very constitution, laws and administrative machinery in India formalises discrimination and restrictions on (minority) religious freedoms. The report sets out how these practices contravene international law; it also includes recommendations for what India needs to do in order to comply with those universally agreed basic standards of conduct. We would draw your attention in particular to the recommendations it sets out for US Government action – all of which we urge the UK Government to adopt.

“Apart from the increasing use of ‘Hindutva’ to crush religious freedoms, there is (unsurprisingly) a hardening of the stance to deny self-determination and riparian rights in Punjab, Kashmir and the North East which are non-Hindu majority regions.

“A number of us wrote to you last year (memorandum handed in to 10 Downing Street on 15 August 2016) in connection with the India’s genocidal response to the Sikh struggle for national self-determination in their homeland in Indian-controlled Punjab and were disappointed to receive a response (dated 9th September 2016) from Duncan Johns at the South Asia Department of the Foreign Office. The response characterises the conflict as an internal matter for the Indian Government which should be resolved through dialogue. It is, with all due respect, simply not credible for genocide to be viewed as an internal matter and to expect the perpetrators to engage in ‘dialogue’ willingly. The Foreign Office will surely have noted that the Ontario Canadian state parliament passing a resolution in April of this year recognising those systematic mass killings of Sikhs as genocide – an act which the Indian Government’s spokesman quickly dismissed. We urge you to raise with the Indians the pressing issues of Sikh political prisoners, the punishment of the those guilty of genocide at a UN established tribunal and the need for a democratic solution to the Indo-Sikh conflict.

“In Kashmir you will have noted the unrelenting brute force being used by Indian security forces over recent months to crush mass public protests calling for the right of self-determination to be exercised in that region.  Kashmir, a disputed territory according to the UN itself, cannot be left to the brutalities of the Hindutva agenda. The oppression was epitomised when troops tied an innocent Kashmiri to their jeep as a human shield to protect them – something that Human Rights Watch has soundly condemned. See: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/20/no-one-should-defend-use-human-shield-army. The officer who ordered that obscene action has since been awarded an honour by the Indian army! Quite apart from the humanitarian need to intervene in Kashmir, there is a real need to resolve the Kashmir conflict, in accordance with the wishes of the people, given the increasingly dangerous proximity of Chinese, Pakistani and Indian forces in the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which India seems bent on disrupting.

“As such, we appeal to you to call on the Indian Government to withdraw its reservation against Article 1 of the 1966 Covenants on Human Rights, pull back from military occupation of those regions and allow the international community to oversee free and fair democratic plebiscites to determine the destiny of those traumatised regions.

“These concerns were raised by Kashmiri, Sikh and Christian Diaspora communities at a Conference held at the Council House in Birmingham on 29 April 2017, which was addressed by UK politicians, academics as well as speakers from those regions.” The Diaspora communities want the UK government to raise these issues as set out in the Resolutions adopted at the Conference.” (mentioned above).

Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair, Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination; Amar Singh Chahal, spokesman for Jathedar Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Jagtar Singh Hawara,  Dr. Iqtidar Cheema, Author of the USCIRF Report; Amrik Singh Sahota OBE,  President, Council of Khalistan; Prof Nazir Shawl, Chair, Kashmir Concern, Ranjit Singh Srai, Admin. Sec. PNSD; Gurdev Singh Chohan, President, Akali Dal, UK and Joga Singh, Babbar Akali Organisation.