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.
Kashmiri women demand writ of instruments of human rights
The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, confirms the human rights of women as an ‘inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights.” The Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, both are an outcome of more than two decades of collective efforts of the international community. NGO’s and civil society at large, and their whole and sole objective was the empowerment of women.
The changing millennium has established the importance of women in the economic, social, cultural and political conditions. And it is a fact that true development of a society cannot be achieved and is not possible without the full participation and involvement of women in all activities of a human society.
Violence against woman remains a major issue in the development and advancement of women. The violations of women’s right during all conflicts has remained an issue in the twentieth century and if not corrected it will surely affect women not only in twenty-first century but also in the next millennium.
As per report of the various NGO’s and human rights agencies, hundreds of thousands of women have been the target of sexual crimes at the hands of the armed forces in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Myanmar, Kashmir and elsewhere. These NGO’s have documented incidents of gang-rape of young girls and grand mothers alike. Sexual abuse sometimes in the presence of male family members is used as a weapon of war. Rape by armed forces is, indeed, a gross violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. The condemnation of rape during war and internal conflicts must be condemned by all including Human Rights Council to protect the rights of women in all circumstances.
The report of the ‘Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women’ noted that rape, “is the destructive combination of power, anger and sex which incites sexual violence against women. The victims of rape suffer a disorder, anxiety, and the ‘Rape Trauma Syndrome’ which causes them to constantly relieve their rape through a series of flashbacks, dreams, nightmares and body memories.”
The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR) issued its “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir,” on July 8, 2019. The report contains graphic documentation of human rights violations being committed by the Indian military and paramilitary forces in Jammu & Kashmir. This is a significant step towards greater international recognition of the serious abuses committed against Kashmiris at the hands of Indian army. This report takes the veil of secrecy off of India’s crimes against humanity.
The 49-pages report cites specific incidents where the Indian Government violated the very principles of human decency and democratic freedom against the people of Kashmir. It is well documented that the bloody occupation has resulted in massive human rights violations, particularly targeting women and children. The sanctity of women has been violated, in a gruesome and unforgiving fashion. The UN report upholds that [In the 2013 report on her mission to India, the ‘Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women,’ its causes and consequences, said, “[W]omen living in militarized regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states, live in a constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public. Information received through both written and oral testimonies highlighted the use of mass rape, allegedly by members of the State security forces, as well as acts of enforced disappearance, killings and acts of torture and ill-treatment, which were used to intimidate and to counteract political opposition and insurgency.”]
The United Nations report further illustrates that, “One significant case that illustrates the state’s failure to investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual violence and addressing impunity for sexual crimes in Kashmir is the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape, which took place 27 years ago and for which attempts to seek justice have been denied and blocked over the years by the authorities at different levels. According to survivors and a local administration official, on the night of 23 February 1991, soldiers from the 4 Rajputana Rifles regiment of the Indian Army gang-raped around 23 women of Kunan and Poshpora villages of Kupwara district. The Indian Army and Government of India have denied the allegations”
The UN report further details that “Survivors and human rights groups have campaigned for an independent investigation into this case for many years. In October 2011, SHRC directed the state government to reopen and reinvestigate the case and to prosecute a senior official whom it accused of deliberately obstructing the investigation. On 18 July 2013, a court in Kupwara district ordered the state police to reinvestigate the case within three months. When no progress was made despite these orders, five survivors filed a petition in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in October 2013. In July 2014, the High Court reportedly said the 2011 SHRC recommendations were supported by evidence and asked the state government to consider paying monetary compensation within three months.”
“Do You remember Kunan Poshpora” documentary evidence of five brave Kashmiri women scholars wrote these words on page 1, “This book is about one night in two villages in Kashmir. It is about a night that has refused to end for 24 long years, a night that holds stories of violations, injustice, oppression and falsehood, as well as acts of courage, bravery and truth. This book is about Kunan Poshpora.”
Dr. Nazir Gilani, President JKCHR in a written statement submitted to the UN Secretary General during 58th session of HRC said, “The issues of Kashmiri women have multiplied ever since. The Kunan Poshpora rape case of 1991 and the issue of half-widows (women whose husbands are missing and cannot re-marry) have continued to remain unresolved.”
Dr. Gilani added that “Women of Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir have descended into a ravine of helplessness from 1990. JKCHR has highlighted the plight of Kashmiri women in its Statements released in the Council, in particular the Statement A/HRC/37/NGO/113 dated 13 February 2018 released at the 37th session.”
How many Kashmiri women have to be dishonored before one concludes that a human rights violation has taken place? This is one of the questions that is on the minds of millions of Kashmiri women. Please remember that these women live under the stranglehold of a 900,000 strong army of occupation. These women are not oblivious to the world events. They know that in welcoming the appointment of a ‘Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women,’ the Vienna Declaration declared that “the human rights of women are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of the universal human rights.” They wonder what action was taken by this Rapporteur, whose mandate included action on “state-sponsored violence against women.” They waited with hope because the same document had asked the United Nations human rights body to “strengthen mechanisms or accountability to ensure that governments take steps to end discrimination and punish perpetrators of violence against them.” (Reference UN documents: E/CN/4/1995/NGO/28, and /5).
These violated Kashmiri women ask: what action has been taken to enforce the writ of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women?
Are these reports and revelations not enough to shake the conscience of the world powers and the Human Rights Council? The perpetrator of this state policy, India, has the temerity to sit not only in the Human Rights Council but also in the Security Council. Why does the international community not condemn India?
During the years of suffering in Jammu & Kashmir, despite some intermittent and half-hearted efforts, the situation has worsened. And why has that been so? Because the response of the international community to the predicament of Kashmiri people has been essentially weak and lacking in credibility. It is equally true that the United Nations mechanisms do not effectively address massive human rights violations. In the situations of armed conflicts and civil strife, it is the innocent people who are killed and brutalized.
There is need to forcefully deal with the root cause of the conflict. If the United Nations continues to apply its writ selectively, then the tide of world opinion may turn against it. If we continue to target small countries and overlooking the pernicious acts of the bigger countries, then the global family may lose its hope and the United Nations system may lose much more than that – its credibility.
The suggestion made by Dr. Nazir Gilani is very pertinent when he said, “It is high time that Human Rights Council addresses the question of sexual violence committed against Kashmiri women as detailed in Paras 125 to 133 of OHCHR Report of 14 June 2018. The Kunan-Poshpora mass rape victims have not received any justice for the past 30 years. Many of the victims have died while waiting for justice.”
Justice is not a vocation for the weak-hearted, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere: Dr. Fai
“I am deeply honored by the opportunity to address this highly esteemed circle of dignitaries, representing equally estimable nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). I am also humbled to see such an esteemed group of Muslim leaders devoted to causes that rise above ambition or self-promotion.
I am exceptionally grateful for the unwavering support that has always been given by the member states of OIC for the cause of Kashmir, no matter how great the Realpolitk temptations. Justice is not a vocation for the weak-hearted, whether in Palestine, Myanmar, Kashmir or elsewhere,” this was stated by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Chairman, Washington-based ‘World Forum for Peace & Justice’ during two days international conference, entitled: “Human Rights Violations Faced by the Muslims,” held in Istanbul on February 16 & 17, 2022.
The conference was jointly sponsored by the Government of Turkey in cooperation with Independent Permanent Commission of Human Rights (IPCHR) of the OIC and was addressed among others by, H.E. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Turkey; Professor (Dr.) Mustafa Sentop, Speaker, Grand Assembly of Turkey; H.E. Yakup Mogul, Deputy Minister of Justice, Turkey; Daniel Holtgen, Spokesperson for the Secretary General of ‘Council of Europe,’ and many others.
The other panelists of the session in which Dr. Fai participated included: Ambassador Shabbir Ahmad Chowdhury, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh; ElHabib Bourane, Director, Muslim Communities and Minorities, OIC; Dr. Reza Uddin, Council member, Arakan Rohingya Union; Ambassador Zamir Akram, Former Pakistan’s Representative to the UN in Geneva; Dr. Hassan A. Abdein, Associate Editor, Muslim Minorites, Oxford, UK. The theme of this session was, “The Situation of Muslims in Asia.”
Dr. Fai narrated that it is a historical fact that the Kashmir question is one of the oldest unresolved international problems in the world. It is worth mentioning that when the Kashmir dispute erupted in 1947-1948, the United States championed the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be ascertained in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the territory. The United States was the principal sponsor of the resolution # 47 which was adopted by the Security Council on 21 April 1948, and which was based on that unchallenged principle.
Fai cited the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR) ‘Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir,’ issued on June 14, 2018 which contains graphic documentation of human rights violations being committed by the Indian military and paramilitary forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir. This was a significant step towards greater international recognition of the serious abuses committed against Kashmiris at the hands of Indian army. This report takes the veil of secrecy off of India’s crimes against humanity.
The report cites specific incidents where the Indian Government violated the very principles of human decency and democratic freedom against the people of Kashmir. It also details many instances where the use of draconian laws have given sense of total impunity to the Indian army in Kashmir. The report underscored that “Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.”
The United Nations report suggested that [As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture under any circumstances (Article 7), India is obliged to ensure that no person is “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. There have long been persistent claims of torture by security forces in Kashmir.] The UN report qoutes ‘the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences,’ who said, “[W]omen living in militarized regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states, live in a constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public.’
Since, August 5, 2019, the Indian government, in order to crush any resistance to its illegal occupation, has instituted new draconian measures. In a ruthless campaign they imprisoned politicians, journalists, and civil society members, to intimidate and suppress any form of dissent. The enactment of Domicile Law was designed to change the demography of Kashmir. It is reported that over 4 million Domicile certificates have been issued to grant non Kashmiris’ right to buy and compete for local jobs which is a clear violation of International Law since it unilaterally changes the United Nations_recognized status of Jammu & Kashmir.
Fai added that the latest actions taken by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) are politically motivated and are part of the Indian government’s attempt to censor peaceful Kashmiri voices. The Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA) has been used countless times to harass, assault and imprison activists, political leaders and journalists who aim to expose the human rights violations committed by Indian forces. Latest victim is Khurram Parvez, one of the internationally known human rights activists who was detained under UAPA. Ms. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders said on November 23, 2021, that ‘He (Khurram Parvez) is not a terrorist, he is a human rights defender.’
Dr. Fai made the following twelve suggestions to the IPHRC:
1. 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 would like to 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 between February 28 to April 1, 2022.
2. 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 in his January 19, 2022, TV interview with Karan Thapar, that ‘in India, there are the makings of a genocide against Muslims, starting with Kashmir & Assam’. Based on this authoritative evidence, we suggest to OIC ‘The Gambia Model’, taking Myanmar to the ICJ for crimes against humanity against the Rohingya, to be followed for Occupied Kashmir as well.
3. OIC should invoke the ‘Genocide Convention’ in the UN General Assembly and / or Security Council.
4. The OIC must provide ‘safe havens’ for the Kashmiri Diaspora, especially those fleeing oppression in Occupied Kashmir – students, scholars, activists, journalists, and business people – in OIC member states, in an institutional manner, like opening up visas / jobs / scholarships for meritorious students, relocation facilitation for such skilled and professional Kashmiris, for whom living in Modi’s India has become unbearable.
5. In the ‘battle of ideas’ for Azadi (Freedom) of Kashmiri people, OIC must promote the 3 core causes together: PKR (Palestine, Kashmir, Rohingya); establish a special website, combining genocide with resistance. This has to be a sustained and coordinated initiative, where people of conscience, both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, intellectuals and diplomats can play a role through various channels, including Parliamentary Diplomacy.
6. OIC should set up an ‘independent’ criminal court to hear cases of specific crimes against civilian population in occupied Kashmir.
7. OIC should organize a ‘digital referendum’ in occupied Kashmir eliciting wishes of the Kashmiri people (even if only a section of the population participates); and ask the UN General Assembly and / or Security Council to allow a representative of the Kashmiri people (selected through ‘digital referendum’) to present the case of Kashmir to the world community.
8. OIC should commission to study the danger of a nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India due to the unresolved Kashmir dispute.
9. OIC should establish a ‘Global Kashmir Assembly’ composed of Kashmiri diaspora leaders from across the world. It could operate virtually; lobby with host countries on agreed group positions / demands.
10. OIC must persuade the Government of India to release all political prisoners unconditionally, including Khurram Parvez, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, Masarat Alalm, Aasia Andrabi, and others.
11. OIC must convince the United Nations to persuade Government of India to rescind the Domicile Law which is designed to change the demography of Kashmir.
12. Finally, it is further our hope that the policy makers of OIC member countries will look to solving the root cause of the problem of Kashmir – the unfulfilled promise of self-determination as guaranteed by successive United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Observance of Solidarity Day
The Indian security forces have been using ruthless force to suppress the freedom struggle of the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K), which they launched in 1989 after having been frustrated by the Indian intransigence to grant them the right of self-determination. According to reports compiled by human rights organizations and other authentic sources, since then, 95,791Kashmiris have been killed, more than twelve thousand women have been gang-raped and more than one hundred thousand houses have been destroyed.
The history of the freedom struggle is replete with innumerable incidents of bestiality committed by the Indian security forces. However, none of them can be compared to the brutality and callousness exhibited by them on January 21, 1990, when they resorted to indiscriminate firing on the demonstrators in Srinagar, who were protesting the molesting and rape of Kashmiri women at the hands of the Indian security personnel–killing 55 people and injuring dozens more.
The incident revived the memories of the Jalan Wala Bagh tragedy and justifiably caused severe outrage and resentment in occupied Kashmir, throughout Pakistan, and among the Kashmiri community the world over. A complete strike was observed in Pakistan on the 5th of February 1990 to protest against this dastardly act of the Indian troops. Since then February 5 is observed as Kashmir Solidarity Day in Pakistan and by the Kashmiri diaspora around the world.
The observance of the solidarity day has assumed greater significance in the backdrop of the Indian move to change the special status of the state; its bifurcation into two regions and declaring them part of the Indian union virtually nullifying the UN resolutions; siege of the state and continuation of the killing spree. Reportedly, more than 400 Kashmiris have been killed since August 5, 2019, including 22 martyred during January 2022.
India is in the grip of the proponents of the supremacist philosophy of Hindutva headed by Narendra Modi who by revoking the special status of IOJ&K and making it part of the Indian union has created a very dangerous situation posing a grave threat to peace and security in the region. He has not only ended the special status of IOJ &K but has also adopted a belligerent posture towards Pakistan which has brought the two nuclear powers face to face with each other. Modi is a cunning and callous enemy who can go to any extent to achieve his nefarious designs premised on the RSS ideology of “Hindutva.”
The revelations by the Indian Journalist Arnab Goswami that Modi had orchestrated the Pulwama incident in which more than fifty Indian soldiers were killed to win elections and finding an excuse to take action against Pakistan, amply exposes his fascism. He did send his planes to hit imaginary terrorist camps at Balakot in February 2019, though that incident ended in a lot of embarrassment for his government which cost it two planes and the capture of a pilot. The situation could have led to a full-fledged war between the two countries but the restrain shown by Pakistan and the intervention of friendly countries defused the situation.
Any such eventuality could have disastrous consequences for the entire region as any miscalculation on either side could easily trigger a nuclear war between the two countries. Pakistan has shown tremendous restraint over Indian provocations even though it was fully capable of giving a befitting response to any act of aggression against it as it proved last February.
Continuation of tensions and the possibility of war between Pakistan and India can not go away until the Kashmir dispute is resolved in consonance with the UN resolutions. The world community, the powers which can help in having those resolutions implemented and pressurizing India to end the persecution of the people of the Indian Occupied Kashmir, must abandon their indifference to the plight of the people of Kashmir who are fighting for their right to self-determination.
The people of Kashmir undeterred by the Indian atrocities are continuing their struggle for freedom. Their resistance and freedom movement continue notwithstanding the brutalities perpetrated on them by the Indian security forces. Indian machinations have not been able to subdue their urge for independence and they would not relent until they are allowed to decide their fate as per the UN resolutions. India is holding Kashmir against the will of its people and its stance on the issue has no moral or legal basis. History is a witness to the fact that freedom struggles cannot be subdued with the barrel of the gun. Pakistan which is a party to the Kashmir dispute would not allow India to get away with her illegal occupation of IOJ&K and its annexation to the Indian Union in defiance of the UN resolutions.
India which is spilling the blood of Kashmiris and has crossed all limits of persecution must realize that it can neither keep doing it indefinitely. By continuing the persecution of Kashmiris and maintaining a belligerent posture towards Pakistan it is not only endangering peace in the region but also jeopardizing the security and economic well-being of its people.
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