Saturday, September 13, 2008
Fighting Agents of Intolerance
Sadly, the news of intolerance, abuse and hate crimes, continue to pour out of various parts of South Asia and the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the threats are issued and crimes committed in the name of religion or tradition or ethnicity. What gets reported is probably only the tip of the iceberg, but here's a sampling of what has caught my attention recently:
Top Saudi Judge on Satellite TV operators:
According to media reports, Saudi Arabia’s top judiciary official has issued a religious decree saying it is permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV networks that broadcast "immoral" content.
The 79-year-old Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan said Thursday that satellite channels cause the “deviance of thousands of people.” ...
Al-Lihedan was answering listeners’ questions during the daily “Light in the Path” radio program in which he and others make rulings on what is permissible under Islamic law. One caller asked about Islam’s view of the owners of satellite TV channels that show “bad programs” during Ramadan.
“I want to advise the owners of these channels, who broadcast calls for such indecency and impudence ... and I warn them of the consequences,” he said.
“What does the owner of these networks think, when he provides seduction, obscenity and vulgarity?” he said.
“Those calling for corrupt beliefs, certainly it’s permissible to kill them,” he said. “Those calling for sedition, those who are able to prevent it but don’t, it is permissible to kill them.”
Pakistani TV Host Calls for Ahmadis' Murder:
According to Asia Human Rights Commission, the host of the religious talk show 'Alim Online', Dr. Amir Liaquat Hussain--also former federal minister for religious affairs--declared the murder of Ahmadis, members of a minority sect excommunicated by fundamentalist Islam, to be obligatory (Wajib ul Qatal) according to Islamic teachings, because its followers don't believe in the last prophet, Mohammad. Dr. Hussain repeated his instruction several times, urging Muslim listeners to "kill without fear".
While on air the host also pressed two other Islamic "scholars" (from two different sects) on the program to support the statement. This resulted in a unanimous agreement among the "scholars", on air during the popular television show, to urge lynching of Ahamdis. This was not the first time Mr. Hussain has done this. On September 9, Mr. Hussain answered a query with the comment that blasphemers are liable to be put to death.
According to media reports, at 1:15pm on September 8, 18 hours after the broadcast, six people entered the Fazle Umer Clinic, a two-story hospital at Mirpur Khas city and two of them went to the second floor and asked 45 year-old Dr. Abdul Manan Siddiqui to come downstairs to attend to a patient in crisis. Dr. Manan left his office and descended into an ambush. He was shot 11 times and died on the spot. His private guard was also shot and is in a serious condition. A woman was also injured by firing. The killers remained at the hospital until the doctor was declared dead, then they walked out of the building's front entrance. Police registered the killers as unknown.
On September 9, 48 hours after the broadcast, Mr. Yousuf, a 75 year-old rice trader and district chief of the Ahmadi sect was killed on his way to prayer in Nawab Shah, Sindh province. Yousuf was fired on from people on motor bikes, and sustained three bullet wounds. He died on the way to the hospital. The assailants had taken a route past a police station. No one was arrested.
Thackeray Threatens Bollywood's Bachchan Family:
A star-studded premiere for Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan's new film, The Last Lear, has been scrapped in Mumbai, India, because of security concerns for guests, after the Shiv Sena chief made threats against the Bachchan family. Mr. Bal Thackeray has vowed not to allow any film starring any member of the Bachchan family from being released in the state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai is the capital, according to media reports. Mr. Thackeray has rejected repeated apologies from Mr. and Mrs. Bachan over their reported remarks denigrating Marathi language.
So who is Bal Thackeray and why is he so feared? According to a Wikipedia entry, Bal Keshav Thackeray (born January 23, 1926), popularly known as Balasaheb Thackeray, is the founder and chief of the Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist, Marathi ethnocentric and populist party active mainly in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. He is also referred to as Hindu Hridaysamrat (lit. "Ruler of Hindu hearts") and Sher (Tiger) by members of the Shiv Sena.
Thackeray is very vocal in his opposition to people who migrate to Mumbai, to non-Hindus (especially Muslims), and to Bengali Muslims he believes are Bangladeshis. In the late 1970s, as part of his "Maharashtra is for Maharashtrians" campaign, Thackeray threatened migrants from South India with harm unless they left Mumbai.
Women Buried Alive in Baluchistan:
Baba Kot, a village 50 miles from Usta Mohammad town of Jafferabad district in Baluchistan, is where this recent tale of tribal terror began.
The media reports and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) indicate that it was here that Mr. Abdul Sattar Umrani, a brother of Mr. Sadiq Umrani, a Baluchi tribal leader and a serving PPP provincial minister, came with more than six men and abducted five women at gun point. They were transported in a government vehicle to another remote area, Nau Abadi, near Baba Kot. Upon reaching Nau Abadi, Abdul Sattar Umrani and his men took the three younger women out of the jeep and beat them before opening fire with their guns. The girls were seriously injured but were still alive after the shooting. Sattar Umrani and his men pushed them into a wide ditch and covered them up with dirt and stones. When the two older women protested and tried to stop the burial, the attackers also pushed them into the ditch and buried them alive. After completing the burial, they fired several shots into to the air so that no one would come close and left the scene.
According to media reports, the five female victims were Fatima, wife of Umeed Ali Umrani, Jannat Bibi, wife of Qaiser Khan, Fauzia, daughter of Ata Mohammad Umrani, and two other girls, aged between 16 to 18 years, whose names have not been published. At the moment they were abducted, the women were preparing to leave for a civil court at Usta Mohammad, district Jafarabad, so that three of the girls could marry the men of their choice. Their decision to go to to court for a civil marriage was contrary to the wishes of the elders of the tribe.
The live female burials took place a month ago but the police have neither registered a crime report nor taken any action. There have been no arrests yet. Minister and tribal chief Sadiq Umrani confirmed the incident took place but insisted that only three women had been killed by unknown people.
India's Guantanamos and AbuGhraibs:
An essay on TwoCircles.net by Yoginder Sikand describes the deteriorating human rights situation of Indian Muslims. America's 'global war on terror' has provided a convenient cover to the Hindutva lobby and to fiercely anti-Muslim elements within the Indian state machinery to launch a concerted campaign of terror against Muslims. Large numbers of Muslims in various parts of India continue to languish in jails on trumped-up terror charges, suffering brutal torture as well as routine insults to their religion by police officials. Meanwhile, Hindu terrorists, often in league with the police and the state machinery, are allowed to run riot, unleashing violence and bloodshed on a frightening scale, while the state, the police and the courts take no firm action against them. Bomb blasts that are now occurring with frightening frequency, whose perpetrators remain unknown, are automatically blamed on Muslims, while some of these might possibly be engineered by Hindutva outfits or by elements within the state apparatus, or even by foreign intelligence agencies like the CIA or the Israeli Mossad who have a vested interest in demonizing Muslims and thereby driving India closer into the deadly American-Israeli embrace. That, in brief, was what numerous social activists as well as dozens of Muslim victims of police and state terror testified to at a public hearing on brutalities against Muslims in the name of countering 'terrorism' recently organized in Hyderabad by a group of noted human rights' activists. Going by their depositions and the verdict of the jury of eminent social activists, journalists and retired judges, it appears that powerful elements within the state apparatus are deeply implicated, along with Hindu terrorist groups, in a witch-hunt of India's Muslim citizens.
Aafia Siddiqui 11-year old son in detention:
According to media reports and Human Rights Watch, Ahmed Siddiqui, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's 11-year-old son, is being held under inhumane conditions by the Afghan authorities. While considerable doubts remain about the US and Afghan accounts of Dr. Siddiqui's arrest in Ghazni, most human rights activists see no justification for holding her son in custody.
Call For Action:
How can we, as individuals, fight this scourge of rising intolerance, abuse and hate crimes? In addition to supporting organizations that fight for human rights such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Commission, etc, each of us should raise our voice against it through whatever platform is available to us. We can blog about it, write to newspaper editors, join the call-in shows and sign petitions to officials. Whatever it takes, it is important that we speak up for the basic rights of our fellow human beings everywhere in the world.