In order for us to do justice to the topic of Islamophobia, it is imperative that we understand what fear implies. Fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” In line with this definition, it would not be wrong to claim that many in the Western world are currently living in a state of fear of Islam.
However, one needs to acknowledge that the threat Islam is seen as posing to the world is imagined rather than real. Unfortunately, though, the repercussions of this irrational fear of Islam are not only affecting individual Muslims in the form of increased discrimination, harassment, and persecution but also infiltrating into foreign policy decisions worldwide.
The West has numerous misconceptions about Islam, particularly with regard to human rights. Often human rights violations in certain dictatorial regimes in the Muslim world are cited to prove the point. The point to note is that human rights violations can never really occur in genuine Islamic states. Ironically, the West continues to support these oppressive autocracies and despotic regimes in the Muslim world, ignoring popular voices that oppose these regimes and their rulers.
Islam upholds the same human rights precepts as enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Unfortunately, though, it must be conceded that these rights are rarely upheld in the so-called Muslim world. The word Islam literally means submission to God, which only means that Islam encapsulate the same moral principles as outlined in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, both of which served as templates for the modern Western code of law and legal system. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) introduced the concept of human rights to Arabia when there was no such concept in the world, what to speak of 7th century Arabia. He is the one who promoted human rights and human dignity not only for his followers, but also for all of humanity.
Islam, as a growing force in the world, is not a threat and it is compatible with the Western ideals of freedom and democracy. This is not to say that an Islamic society would look like an American one, but neither do any of the socialist democracies or monarchies found throughout Western Europe and much of the Western world are modeled on the American system. It should not be the West’s goal in particular America’s, to impose their own version of democracy in the Islamic world but rather to support the rise of governments that uphold the same tenets of equality, freedom, and justice that the West holds dear.
Undoubtedly, the message of some emergent Islamic groups tends to be more extreme (often misrepresenting or misreading Islamic teachings altogether), but the West needs to understand that this is often a reaction to the policies of some of its states and their governments. If Islamic groups that protect human rights and representative ideals were to receive support from the West, they would be able to find a foothold in the Muslim world and help usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.
Before proceeding to unveil human rights as envisaged in the Qur’an, it is necessary to point out that while most Muslim scholars cite human rights to highlight certain apparent similarities in Western and Islamic value systems, they erroneously try to cloak the Islamic values in contemporary Western ideological garb so as to project them in a favorable light.
Using the UDHR as a reference point, they fashion frail arguments using verses such as: “We have honored the children of Adam (AS) and carried them on land and sea and provided them with good things and preferred them over many of those we created,” (Qur’an, 17:70) to prove, for example, that “dignity is a resolute principle that every human being warrants at a humanitarian level.” This initiative is merely an attempt to squeeze out of the Qur’anic verses something, which has a resemblance to modern Western declarations. In fact, most readers would not have otherwise interpreted dignity in this passage as it is conventionally defined (dignity: “the quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect’). Islam does indeed uphold the spirit of such values, but refers to them in a manner that can be applied across time and space. The Qur’anic precepts are universal and are meant for the purpose of individual spiritual development, as well as a blueprint for establishing peace and harmony between peoples. For example, God says in the Qur’an:
“O mankind, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant..” (Qur’an, 49:13)
This affirmation of a single lineage of common ancestry links all human beings as brothers and sisters. After all, we are all descendants of one father and one mother. From this clearly flow the concepts of brotherhood and reciprocity and all other ideals central to civilized interactions between peoples. However, the pursuit of happiness in the Western and Islamic contexts may differ. If one’s pursuit of happiness encroaches on another individual’s basic rights, Islam would not condone it, given the obvious difficulties that would arise (cannibalism is an extreme, albeit excellent example).
While Qur’anic ideals are timeless, Islamic thinkers need to explain them in universal terms. For example, readers need not be reminded that slavery was allowed in the United States until 1865 (although technically not until 1928 with the abolition of the convict-lease system and even with such legislative mandates, most of the slaves bought and sold today – for sex, labor, etc., unfortunately find their destination in modern Western countries without much press or legislative attention). The Qur’an has been discouraging slavery since 600 C.E. Based on the typical frivolous “catch-up” and imitative approach of Islamist thinking, Muslim apologists, prior to 1865, would even have contended that Islam also allowed slavery because it never forbade it.
Again, Islamists should concentrate their efforts towards defending universal truths as conveyed through all the sacred scriptures, especially the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity & Islam. Some of these timeless spiritual principles are reflected in the thirty articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though many have been still left out, as subsequent paragraphs will show.
One more promise given to Kashmiris at the United Nations
Washington, DC. November 19, 2023
The United Nations Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) during its 55th meeting on November 17, 2023, approved a draft resolution on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination. According to the text, the Assembly would call on those States responsible to cease military interventions in and occupation of foreign countries and territories, as well as the brutal methods employed against the populations. Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would reaffirm the universal realization of the rights of all peoples, including those under colonial, foreign and alien domination, to self-determination as a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights.
Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, Chairman,‘World Forum for Peace and Justice’ said “This is one more promise given to the people of occupied lands, including Kashmir that cannot be kept. If promises are made to be broken, then Kashmir may be summoned to prove the treacherous proposition. Broken promises haunt Kashmir’s history and explain its tragedy.
And, if we were to judge the United Nations based on its history of involvement in efforts to resolve international conflicts, Dr Fai added, the simplest answer is that it has been an enormous failure. Counted among the greatest failures of the UN are dozens, in particular, Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia; Rwanda; Palestine and Kashmir. In context, Kashmir cannot be ignored, perhaps for no other reason than the conflict there has gone on for 76 years and seems destined to continue as long as the 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces continue to occupy the region. The potential for genocide remains a very real threat as warned by Dr. Gregory Stanton, Chairman, Genocide Watch.
“With the lapse of British paramountcy on Aug. 15, 1947, broken promises over Kashmir came not like single spies but in battalions, to borrow from Hamlet. Princely states enjoyed three options: accession to India, accession to Pakistan or independence. But the choice, according to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and tacitly endorsed by the Mountbatten British Viceroy was to be made by popular referendum in cases where the creed of the ruler varied from the religion of the majority. That promise was never kept,” Fai explained.
India then raced to the United Nations Security Council on Jan.1, 1948, and championed a pair of resolutions on Aug. 13, 1948, and Jan. 5, 1949, that prescribed a self-determination vote for Kashmiris on the heels of U.N. supervised demilitarization. That promise was also broken.
Promises were made by India in 1966, (Tashkent Declaration), and 1972, (Shimla Agreement) to negotiate seriously over Kashmiri’ssovereignty. But nothing was done. One more broken promise can be laid at the feet of the UN Security Council which has never exerted any moral or other clout to even nudge India toward compliance with its resolutions. The train of broken promises over Kashmir might be forgiven if the consequences were innocuous or inconsequential. But I submit the opposite is the case. India exerts an iron-fisted rule over Kashmir that would stir the heart of Genghis Khan.
Fai expressed frustration at the lack of initiative at the United Nations. It seems that the UN Security Council has honoured India’s indefensible defence of its Kashmir broken promises because of its muscular military, nuclear and economic profile and hegemony in South Asia.
Now, listen to Ambassador A. Gopinathan, Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations who said at the Third Committee that,” India is fully committed to the universal realisation of the right of peoples to self-determination as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the international Covenants on human rights, as well as in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 of 14 December 1960.”
All was going well so far. Then suddenly, Ambassador Gopinathan realised that he could not win the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir if they were given the right to self-determination. Recognizing that the people of Kashmir would never freely vote for accession to India, he contrived an excuse, and said, “In today’s world self-determination implies the right of participation in freely-held elections by all sections of society.”
Finally, Dr. Fai suggested that it is high time that the United Nations try to make a constructive departure. The best point for doing so is to restore the focus where it originally belonged and where it still rests logically viz: the rights and interests of the people of all zones of the State of Jammu & Kashmir itself. No sleight of hand is required, no subtle concepts are to be deployed, and no ingenious deal needs to be struck between India and Pakistan. What is needed is going back — yes, going back — to the point of agreement which historically existed beyond doubt between India and Pakistan and jointly resolving to retrieve it with such modifications as proposed by the Kashmir leadership – the tripartite negotiations between India, Pakistan and the genuine leadership of the people of the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
Torture is a Universal Sin and a Crime against Humanity
The Committee against Torture opened its seventy-eighth session in Geneva on October 30 and will continue until November 24, 2023. The body of 10 independent experts is headed by Dr. Claude Heller of Mexico. The Committee will examine the implementation of the ‘Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ by its States parties.
It is worth mentioning here that the Convention against ‘Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ was adopted on December 10, 1984. It entered into force on June 26, 1987. Article 1, of the Convention, reads, “For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
Dr Alice Jill Edwards (Australia), United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture told the United Nations Third Committee, “There is a persistent accountability gap for torture and ill-treatment worldwide, caused in part by the systemic denial, deliberate obstruction and purposeful evasion of responsibility by public authorities.” She added, “when a State fails to defend truth and justice, it becomes an accomplice in torture. Some States wrongly perceive criminal investigations into torture as a direct attack on their legitimacy. On the contrary, what threatens governmental legitimacy is impunity.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) talks about torture in these words, “The prohibition against torture is a bedrock principle of international law. Torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, is banned at all times, in all places, including in times of war. No national emergency, however dire, ever justifies its use.”
So, Torture is a universal sin and a crime against humanity. Torture with impunity, nonetheless, is widespread in the disputed territory of Kashmir. The abuses are so extensive as to extend beyond those directly affected, reaching every man, woman, and child in the Valley of Kashmir. The civilians live under the constant threat of abuse. The overwhelming presence of 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces serves as a constant reminder to Kashmiris that they are not free people, but a people subjugated and enslaved against their will.
India has authorized a police state reminiscent of the Gestapo in Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, The Disturbed Areas Act, The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act are illustrative. Generally speaking, these laws empower the Indian military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir to arrest, detain, torture, search, wiretap, tr, and punish without material restraints.”
Tens of thousands of Indian officials are guilty of war crimes in Kashmir. These crimes include willful killing, torture, rape, wanton destruction of civilian properties and maiming of innocent civilians. These brutalities are commonplace in Kashmir and have been verified by numerous impartial human rights NGOs.
Ms. Arundhati Roy, an internationally acclaimed novelist of India wrote, “The documentation of instances of torture, disappearances, custodial deaths, rape and gang-rape (by security forces in Kashmir) is enough to make your blood run cold. The fact that despite all this India retains its reputation as a legitimate democracy in the international community and amongst its own middle class is a triumph.”
Dr. Juan E. Mendez, Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Professor of Human rights Law in Residence at American University, Washington, Dc wrote about the ‘Torture Report on Kashmir’, “Hopefully, a serious debate among the Indian public about this report will prompt the national authorities to take the matter of torture seriously and establish effective control and to act as a more responsible global citizen and cooperate with the human rights machinery at the United Nations.”
Aljazeera reported that “Human Rights bodies say India uses torture as ‘instrument of control’ to quash rebellion in Indian-administered Kashmir.”
Amnesty International reported, “The Indian government must take urgent steps for the protection of the people of Kashmir…Indian government’s historical failure to protect the people of Kashmir will keep feeding into this never-ending cycle of abuses and impunity.”
The United States, Department of States, 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in India says, “According to human rights NGOs, police used torture, other mistreatment, and arbitrary detention to obtain forced or false confessions.”
Edmund Burke wrote that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing. Bishop Desmond Tutu lectured that “Apathy in the face of systematic human rights violations is immoral. One neither supports justice and freedom or one supports injustice and bondage.”
Let me also tell you that even in today’s violent world, the behaviour of the Indian occupation regime in Kashmir is singular in so far as it has enjoyed total impunity from the restraint imposed through international action or persuasions. No word of disapproval, much less condemnation, has been uttered by the international community. There has not been a call on India to cease and desist from the murderous course it has chosen for itself in Kashmir. Such passivity, such unfeeling and indifference, let no one blame the Kashmiris for concluding, amounts to encouragement of tyranny.
Does anyone seriously believe that if the ICC statue were ratified by India, a single Indian soldier or civilian official would ever be prosecuted before the ICC? Of course, NOT. India has sneered at international law for decades, and the international community has yawned, whether the violations were in Kashmir or with minorities within India. Although not contrary to international law, India showed itself utterly contemptuous of international moral sentiments. It stands proudly outside the mainstream of international conventions.
And the Biden Administration would do nothing to call India to account. The United Nations Security Council has sat on its hands for over 76 years over Kashmir. President Biden stood mute when he met Prime Minister Modi at the White House on June 22, 2023, and then at G20 meeting on September 9, 2023, in New Delhi, India.
He never paid any attention to the warning of Dr. Gregory Stanton, Chairman, Genocide watch who said that Kashmir was at the brink of genocide and New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists that the news media in Kashmir was at the brink of extinction. I still believe that President Biden will tell Prime Minister Modi to lead with the power of example and NOT the example of power to resolve the Kashmir conflict for the sake of international peace and security.
Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai is the Chairman World Forum for Peace and Justice
OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly
The OIC Ministerial Meeting of the Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir was held on September 20, 2023, at the United Nations headquarters, in New York on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The meeting was chaired by Mr Hissein Brahim Taha, the Secretary General of the OIC. It was attended by the foreign ministers and senior officials of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Niger and representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The ministers reaffirmed their support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their struggle to achieve the right of self-determination that was promised to them by the United Nations. The ministers also expressed their fervent desire to see an immediate end to the sufferings of the people of Kashmir so that conditions are created for a sustained and meaningful dialogue between Pakistan, India and the leadership of the people of Kashmir.
Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani, the foreign minister of Pakistan apprised the members of the Contact Group about the deteriorating and serious situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir, saying that “The current Indian leadership is bent upon perpetuating India’s occupation of Jammu & Kashmir.” He warned the members of the Contact Group that newly enacted laws are designed to change the demography of Kashmir. Otherwise, why India has issued millions of domicile certificates to Indian citizens to settle in Kashmir, he asked?
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, participated today in the meeting of the Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 78). Addressing the meeting, Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands by the Muslim people in maintaining their Islamic identity and preserving their dignity. The foreign minister also reiterated the Kingdom’s support to the afflicted people in areas witnessing conflicts and unrest, including the people of the Jammu and Kashmir region.
Saudi Foreign Minister added that the Jammu and Kashmir issue constitutes one of the pressing challenges facing the security and stability of the region, the foreign minister said, warning that leaving the issue unresolved will contribute to regional instability. The Kingdom is exerting unremitting effort to mediate between the parties of the conflict in order to reduce escalation and achieve calm and a peaceful settlement to the issue in accordance with the relevant international resolutions, the foreign minister said. Such efforts emanate from the Kingdom’s unwavering stance in support of Islamic peoples. Deputy Minister for International Multilateral Affairs Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Rassi and Director-General of the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulrahman Al-Dawood attended the meeting.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, representing the people of Jammu and Kashmir conveyed the gratitude of the people to brotherly member states of the OIC Contact Group for their steadfast and unwavering support extended to them in their struggle for the right of self-determination.
Dr. Fai added that the issue of Indian-occupied Kashmir continues to be unresolved and the international community has almost relinquished and retracted from the promise that was made to them in 1948. – the promise of the right of self-determination under the auspices of the United Nations. To break the will of the people of Kashmir, India has deployed over 900,000 soldiers fully armed and with unlimited powers under the draconian Kashmir-specific laws which have wreaked havoc in the region. The atrocities inflicted on the hapless Kashmiris have been documented by Indian and international human rights organizations, like Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, including a 47-page report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
The following nine recommendations were made by Dr. Fai to the OIC Contact Group in Jammu and Kashmir for immediate action.
2. OIC must persuade the United Nations to convey to the Government of India to rescind the Domicile Law which is designed to change the demography of Kashmir and change the majority Muslim character into a minority community
3. OIC should also convince the United Nations to prevail upon India to repeal all draconian laws, including the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), the Public Safety Act (PSA) which are being used to forcibly silence the people into submission.
4. Given the report, issued by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights on June 14, 2018 & July 8, 2019, regarding the ‘Situation in Kashmir’, we request the OIC members of the Human Rights Council to endorse this report and initiate a joint OIC resolution to set up an enquiry commission on human rights violations in Kashmir during the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to be held in February 2024.
5. Widely use and disseminate testimony of Dr Gregory Stanton, Chairman, ‘Genocide Watch’, which he gave to the United States Congress on January 12, 2022, and repeated that Kashmir was on the brink of genocide.
6. The OIC must provide ‘safe havens’ for the Kashmiri Diaspora, especially those fleeing oppression in Occupied Kashmir – scholars, activists, journalists, and businessmen – in OIC member states, in an institutional manner, like opening up visas/jobs / relocation facilitation for such skilled and professional Kashmiris, for whom living in Modi’s India has become unbearable.
7. In the ‘battle of ideas for Azadi (Freedom) of Kashmiri people, OIC must promote the 3 core causes together: PKR (Palestine, Kashmir, Rohingya); and establish a special website, combining genocide with resistance.
8. OIC should allocate emergency scholarship funds to the meritorious students of Kashmir who are the victims of Indian state terrorism.
9. OIC must persuade the Government of India to release all political prisoners unconditionally, including Mohammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Masarat Alalm, Aasia Andrabi, Khurram Parvez, and others.
A Joint Communique was adopted unanimously during the Contact Group meeting which condemns the protracted detention of the entire Hurriyat leadership, the genuine voice of the Kashmiri political aspirations, and thousands of political activists, journalists and human rights defenders.
The Communique also reads:
Reaffirming the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Rejecting the conduct of the G-20 Tourism Working Group Meeting, held in Srinagar on 22-24 May 2023, which aimed to legitimize India’s illegal occupation of the IIOJK and sought to project a facade of normalcy in the occupied territory.
Denouncing India’s continued refusal to allow the OIC Special Envoy, the OIC- Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), the UN Special Mandate Holders and international civil society organizations to visit IIOJK.
Welcoming the role played by the relevant UN Special Rapporteurs, world leaders, parliamentarians, human rights organizations, and international media, in raising their voice against illegal Indian occupation and then ongoing egregious human rights violations in IIOJK.
The Joint Communique also:
Denounced the Indian authorities’ fresh plea seeking the death penalty for one of the renowned Kashmiri leaders, Yaseen Malik, who is incarcerated and has already been awarded life imprisonment; and mandated the Special Envoy on Jammu and Kashmir to take appropriate steps to raise voice against the possible award of the death penalty to Malik.
Rejected the illegal and unilateral actions taken by India on August 5, 2019, as well as subsequent steps to undermine the internationally- recognized disputed status of the IIOJK and to alter its demographic structure and political landscape.
Appreciated the countries, which decided to dissociate themselves from the G-20 Tourism Working Group Meeting in Srinagar, and,
Barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhary, President Azad Kashmir & Mr Ghulam Mohmmad Safi, representative of All Parties Hurriyat Conference addressed the Contact Group via Zoom.
Barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhary, President, of Azad Jammu Kashmir said that Kashmir is one of the oldest issues, pending on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. The urgency dictates the United Nations and the OIC must come forward to support the people of Kashmir in their struggle to achieve the right to self-determination.
Mr. Safi highlighted the grave situation in Kashmir and emphasized that the Kashmir dispute needs to be resolved for the sake of international peace and security. The inaction and passivity of the world powers have given the sense of total impunity to 900,000 Indian soldiers in occupied Kashmir, Mr Safi told the group.
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