Human Rights, Islam and the Charlatan Activists

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In the post 9/11 period we find cyber-postings by individuals, mostly with Muslim-sounding names, living in the West, who all on a sudden are all agog to saving the world from a perceived threat of Islam, ‘fundamentalism’ or ‘Talibanization.’ Forget the fact that the entire Muslim world is so weak and so disunited that its current rulers are threats to none but only their own people. Forget the fact that for hundreds of years Muslim rulers, wherever they ruled, practiced mostly a very liberal version of Islam, allowing all minorities to practice their religion and that the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was nothing more than an exception to that rule of Islamic polity, we are continuously reminded how fanatic Muslims are. Forget the fact that the Qur’an is the most read and memorized book in the world, which is revered as a sacred Scripture, providing the basis for faith of nearly a quarter of humanity, let alone there is hardly a country outside Saudi Arabia today that applies Qur’an (and even there one can find many departures in its application). One group wants to ban the Qur’an (because it is considered by them to be the most dangerous Book on earth). Forget the fact that there is not a single Muslim country that can qualify unequivocally as a theocratic state (as it is commonly understood in western parlance), another group wants to secularize Muslim world (as if all the Muslim states are theocratic states). Forget the fact that outside Saudi Arabia, Iran and Muslim dominated and populated northern territories in both Nigeria (Hausa) and Sudan, there is hardly a country that applies Shariah as the only basis of civil law, another group wants to ban Shariah laws (considering this to be the most inhuman law on earth; or as if these laws are practiced in vast majority of Muslim states). Forget the fact that it costs millions of dollars to run for an electoral office in the USA, and that once elected each senator has to start collecting tens of thousands of dollars every week for his reelection campaign bid, and that the election process in itself is flawed [truly] requiring outside, neutral monitors (probably from Cuba or Bangladesh, thus, giving a respite to our poor old boy Jimmy from trotting the globe), as was evident in the last Presidential election, another group wants to democratize Muslim world in the American model. And then there are others who have similar or multiple goals.

All these cyber-pundits, -Jesuits and -rabbis, many of them masquerading as secular humanists, make such a caricature of Islam that one cannot but question where are they coming from or who is paying their bills? Are we living in the same planet or what? I hardly see them demonstrating their humanly concern on more appalling conditions elsewhere in the world, especially in the very country that they now live in.

How genuine are these groups’ concerns? We have seen that the group that had called for democratization of Islamic world (and had a gathering not too long ago in Washington D.C. with much fanfare) showed their real ugly face when in the post-Saddam era, Iraqi Shi’as, the vast majority in Iraq, rejected the Pentagon’s handpicked-choice Chalabi and instead demanded that their basic democratic right to choose freely their form of government be respected. Is not democracy all about ‘right to choose freely a government of the people, for the people and by the people’? But not to those masquerading anti-Muslim Jehadis. They contacted Richard Perle and other neocons, with close ties to the Bush Administration, to make sure that Iraqis are denied their basic human rights. So, for a foreseeable future we won’t see true democracy in our once ‘liberated’ and then ‘occupied’ Iraq. The group that calls for banning the Qur’an is known to have close ties with Zionists and other hate-groups.

In an e-forum, an advocate of human rights recently wrote, “If any one of us cannot compromise or our Quran and Sunnah can not be compromised to accommodate the following principles (we can not cut hands as punishment, women should be treated equal and other principles) then we are to be classified as fundamentalists, the international community will have to deal with us as minority with our minority rights and privileges and we are to live as minority with the hope that the world will understand our viewpoint one day.” [He then cited Articles 5 and 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.]

So, when I read these comments, I cannot but feel puzzled. Most of the Muslim countries are signatories to this Declaration of Human Rights. Some of the western countries (United States, in particular) try to portray themselves as great advocates of this Declaration and make a big fuss every time somewhere these rights are violated. In so doing, these so-called poster-boys of human rights quite often try to shift our attention away from what goes on in their own backyards.

Although the Declaration was adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, for another two decades, the inhuman situation of the Afro-Americans and Native Americans in the USA did not change. They were harangued, abused and lynched. Our government (USA) was the paramount supporter of the erstwhile apartheid regime of South Africa (look at US voting record in the UN), until this cancerous tumor was removed in the late ’80s.

To this very date, our U.S. government has been the best ally of the racist, apartheid state of Israel. Through her veto power, bullying and buying-in tactics, the USA government has virtually made the UN a dysfunctional world body with scores of UN Resolutions hibernating. Zionism once equated, and rightly so, as a form of racism was rescinded later, thanks again to American arm-twisting. USA has blocked the entry of and investigation by outside agencies like the UN or Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch groups for crimes against humanity there. Even when Sharon commits mass murder in the occupied territories and the UN calls for deploying international force to act as a buffer force, thereby curtailing violence against civilians, it is again our U.S. government, working as a liaison and mouthpiece for war-criminal Sharon, which blocks the implementation of the UN proposal. Thousands of Palestinian civilians have been deliberately killed with American weapons and funding, yet the victims are always blamed by the Bush Administration. As I write this essay, another 150 Palestinians have been abducted/hijacked on suspicion of belonging to Hamas. Israel can do whatever she likes. She can arrest, kill, demolish é you name it é and the only explanation she has to offer, if she chooses to offer, not that we can force her to explain her crimes, is that the murdered Palestinian was wanted for crimes against Israel or that he was planning to harm Israelis. The entire Palestinian population is viewed by this savage regime as weapons of mass (Israeli) destruction (WMDs)! They want to ‘disarm’ these human WMDs.

Israel is portrayed as the only democracy in the Middle East. And what a democracy it is! Its IDF uses live ammunitions, helicopters, planes, tanks, rockets, bombs and mortar shells against stone-throwing Palestinian children (the ‘other’ people). But the same IDF takes a beating from gun-totting angry settlers – the right wing Zionists – who use boulders against them. They are hesitant to use any force, including light baton charge or water gun, there. If the IDF cannot apply the same restraining force against its ‘other’ people, should not Israel be trashed as a pariah and apartheid state, or as a joke to being a ‘democracy’? But we won’t find our charlatans losing their sleep over such gross violations of human rights. Human rights of the Palestinian people mean nothing to Washington or to its cronies. This behavior only reminds me of a speech by Shaikh Fadlallah, the Shi’ite leader in Lebanon, who in the early ’80s declared, “When they [the West] talk about democracy, it is their [form of] democracy; when they talk about human rights, it is their human rights, .. Muslims simply don’t count in that equation.” In the last two decades, how many times did I wish that Shaykh Fadlallah were wrong! But I have not been lucky, and probably will not be in my lifetime. Through its hypocritical and criminally biased Middle East policy, America – the poster-boy of human rights é has truly redefined the phrase ‘human rights.’

And everyone in this country (USA) now knows how the neo-cons deceived and misled our people in invading and occupying Iraq. Michael Ledeen, a very influential foreign policy advisor to the Bush Administration, during a recent Nightline interview with Ted Koppel of ABC TV, did not feel any guilt (or ’embarrassment’) for misleading the nation with WMDs. [No WMDs have been found and in all probability will never be found unless our agents implant those in Iraq to justify our war. Instead of disarming Saddam, our coalition forces have disarmed thousands of Iraqi civilians, a clear case of war crime and human rights violations.] He now wants USA to invade Iran for its nuclear technology. (And right away you heard what our President had to say in his weekend Radio speech!) These guys don’t give up, or do they? They behave like a drooling, fixated hound-dog on scent: other crucial disasters may be happening all around him, but his eyes and nose are locked onto Muslims

The entire Middle East has to be made safe for Israel, and the second coming (or is it the first one?) of Messiah be expedited! Who is next in line to be invaded by Washington? Iran or Syria? Already innocent civilians are killed at will in the occupied territories of Iraq (any in semi-occupied territories of Afghanistan), in violations of the Geneva Convention. The only excuse America has to offer is that the car/van/convoy was suspected of carrying Saddam or his Ba’th party members (or Taliban or al-Qaeda members). That will make it kosher for the slaughter! One can guess where Israel gets the cue for firing missiles first and asking questions later! Did anyone hear any complain from our charlatans? At least, I did not. They are concerned about fundamentalism, cutting of hands, women’s half share, etc., etc. I don’t say that we should not be concerned at all about these latter issues. But there are priorities for everything. For instance, when was the last time we heard someone’s hand being chopped off for petty theft, due to imposition [or rather misapplication] of Shariah? On the other hand, don’t we hear everyday that some Iraqi or Palestinian civilians are killed in the ‘occupied’ territories in clear violations of the charters of the UN and the Geneva Convention?

It took more than four decades since the Declaration was adopted before the US government apologized to the children of Japanese detainees (during the Second World War). And all these, while the USA was denouncing other regimes for their violations of human rights. Hypocrisy has been the hallmark of our government’s foreign policy. We are on the process of perfecting this art!

Here, I cannot resist myself from quoting from Malcolm X, who had experienced first hand the violations of human rights in this country. Speaking about our government, he said, “And there is no system on this earth which has proven itself more corrupt, more criminal than this system that in 1964 still colonizes 22 million African-Americans, still enslaves 22 million Afro-Americans. … There is no system more corrupt than a system that represents itself as the example of freedom, the example of democracy, and can go all over this earth telling other people how to strengthen out their house, when you have citizens of this country who have to use bullets if they want to cast a ballot.” (Malcolm X Speaks, p. 50) That was back in 1964, some 16 (sixteen) years after the Declaration was adopted, when he made the speech in Harlem, NY. Has the situation changed in the last four decades? Not really. No country has a higher % of prisoners than the USA, many on false charges, mostly Blacks and Latinos.

An Amnesty International (AI), USA report released on April 23, 2003 finds “killers of whites are more likely to face death,” although “blacks and whites are murdered in about equal numbers.” “80% of the 845 people executed since the US resumed the practice in 1977 were put to death for killing whites.” “A disproportionate number of those executed were blacks, and many were convicted by juries with no black members,” the AI report said. [1] Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation said, “Prosecutors in more conservative counties use the death penalty more often. That produces an effect that it’s used more often in white-victim cases. But that’s not discrimination: that is politics.” According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks constitute 12% of the US population, but 41% of those on death row and 35% of those executed between 1977 and 2001 were black. AI says one in five executed blacks was convicted by a jury without any blacks. Although Ashcroft maintains that “there is no evidence of racial bias in the administration of federal death penalty,” an Illinois study found that juries were three times more likely to sentence a person to death if the victim was white rather than black. This was the reason behind then Governor George Ryan commuting 167 death sentences in January, 2003. [2]

In the post 9-11 era, U.S.A. is one of the worst abusers of these human rights, as is vividly demonstrated from its inhuman treatment of so-called enemy combatants and imprisonment of thousands of immigrants in this country. Most of these detainees still have not been able to see their lawyers. Jose Padilla, a US citizen, who converted to Islam, has been detained for almost two years on a cooked-up charge that he intended to use dirty bomb. No proof has yet been presented by the Justice department. Just imagine! We shall probably never know the veracity of this allegation, unless years of mental and physical torture traumatize the accused of accepting responsibility for the alleged crime.

Anyone living in this country is now a fair game, who can be imprisoned indefinitely without ever being tried or represented in an open court or meeting his/her lawyers, friends and family members, under the new laws of Home Land Security Administration. The prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were brought blindfolded, naked, drugged and shackled (tied to their cargo seats with their feces) from Afghanistan. Human rights watch groups found the prison condition to be despicable, let alone the psychological and physical abuses that are routinely practiced; many prisoners have attempted to commit suicide. Why would a prisoner, esp. a Muslim, try to commit suicide, if the prison condition was livable or tolerable?

Almost every Muslim, with exceptions of the likes of Drs. Fuad Ajami and Khalid Duran, living in the USA is considered a potential Mohamed Ata, a potential terrorist, a sleeper. Ethnic and racial profiling of Muslims, esp. Arabs, is at an all time high in this country. Almost on a daily basis, Muslims, young and old, male and female, Arabs and non-Arabs alike, face verbal and physical abuse in this country. Many Muslims have lost their jobs simply because of having a Muslim or Arabic sounding name. Many have dropped using their first name é Muhammad. Muslims are spied on by their colleagues and neighbors. Those who lost jobs can’t easily find jobs that they were good in, some forced to take odd jobs. There is an unwritten policy in corporate America to shun Muslims, not to hire them [hiring is more like an absolute last resort]. This is the stark reality of Muslim experience in this country today. Muslims are afraid to speak, write and gather. They are worried about FBI. Their children are harassed in schools (taunted as “Osama’). They are even afraid to write a [bank] cheque for donation, fearing that they might be found guilty of aiding some terrorist organization. The fear tactics, espoused by this Administration, the Patriot Acts and others, have simply made life miserable for Muslims living in this country.

Last month, a Bangladeshi foreign student who was completing an MBA at the West Chester University, PA was picked up by the INS officers, working for the Home Land Security Department. He completed his course requirements in May ’03 and was planning to leave the country soon. When all the Bangladeshi non-citizens, including foreign students, were asked to register, he duly obliged and had the impression that he could stay another 60 days beyond his May 10, ’03 graduation date. INS charged: he had overstayed his stay in this country and should have left by April 2003 (while his course grades were not even posted until the first week of May). He is now languishing in the York INS Detention center, PA. He had his hearing today (6/23/03) and was ordered to post a $20,000 bail, if he wanted to be released and leave USA before July 3. The poor guy could not even pay his last semester’s tuition, how is he going to pay his bail? This is just one such case out of many routine violations of human rights in this country.

Centuries before the UN adopted the Declaration of Human Rights, the Qur’an guaranteed most of these rights. A large part of the Qur’an is dedicated to freeing mankind from all the chains that bind them. Yet, some fourteen centuries later, Qur’an and its readers and the faith it ushered in remain the most misunderstood book, people and religion.

Notes:

[1]. Philadephia Inquirer, “Amnesty finds killers of whites are more likely to face death,” April 24, 2003, pg. A2.

[2]. Ibid.

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