Friday, June 26, 2009

Perspectives of Major Media Outlets Reflect Country’s Pluralism, Study Says

---Jakarta Globe, Indonesia

June 25, 2009

Ismira Lutfia

Perspectives of Major Media Outlets Reflect Country’s Pluralism, Study Says

Despite a study showing that five national publications had strikingly different perspectives when it came to reporting on Ahmadiyah and the antipornography bill, the general feeling is that the country’s media is a healthy example of the how the press works in a pluralistic society.

“It’s inevitable that the media would project differing perspective as they were formed in a pluralistic society,” journalist Aristides Katoppo said on Thursday.

“No media exists whose participants are homogenous.”

A team of five researchers from the Habibie Center, who presented their findings during the launch of a book, “Pluralism Issues in Media Perspective,” chose the controversial Ahmadiyah Muslim community and anti- pornography bill as representations of pluralism in the country because they sparked polar opposite views, which the media itself contributed in shaping.

The study analyzed how weekly news magazines Gatra and Tempo, and dailies Kompas, Media Indonesia and Republika framed the two issues by their choice of sources and words in their reports.

“These five media outlets are aspects of the plurality in our society,” Sumarno, one of the researchers, said in his presentation, adding that the media members had different views in framing the news and presenting the facts.

He said Kompas, Media Indonesia and Tempo tended to quote news sources that were against the antipornography bill and supported Ahmadiyah’s existence, while Republika took the opposing stance but with a similar approach. Gatra displayed a more impartial view on both issues.

Sumarno said that the main message conveyed by Kompas, Media Indonesia and Tempo was that to deny Ahmadiyah its right to exist violated the Constitution and was an abuse of human rights, while passing the antipornography bill would limit freedom of expression and discriminate against women.

“Republika viewed Ahmadiyah as blasphemous and therefore pushed the government to take a stand against it,” said Afdal Makkuraga Putra, a fellow researcher, adding that the paper saw the antipornography bill as an attempt to protect women.

“Their choice of words reflected the news perspective that they represented,” Afdal said.

A. Makmur Makka, communications director at the Habibie Center, said that as an organization, each media establishment had its own distinctive characteristics, which were shaped by its audience and by its management.

“This is reflected in its editorial policies, so it is acceptable to be partial as long as the news report is written in good conscience,” Makmur said, adding that what was presented in a news report was a result of agreements between various interests in the newsroom.

“We can’t really label media outlets as pluralist or non-pluralist based on their perspectives on two issues,” he said.

Copyright 2009 The Jakarta Globe

Minorities doubtful of freedom of religion

---The Jakarta Post, Indonesia
Thu, 06/25/2009 10:15 AM
Minorities doubtful of freedom of religion

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, JAKARTA

Representatives of minority groups, including religious leaders, affirmed pledges by vice presidential hopefuls during a televised debate to place religions on top of the state, saying it is a must if the country wants to uphold the freedom of religion and avert it from politics.

But, they remained unhappy with the lack of statements from the candidates on how to transform their pledges into actions, and allow all people to conduct their faith free from state interventions.

Chairman of the Communion of Indonesian Churches (PGI) Andreas Yewangoe said the problems regarding freedom of religion were due to frequent intervention from the state.

“And symbol of religions remains dominant in political arena in the country,” he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said further discussions on the role of religions and state were still badly needed.

Vice presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto, Boediono and Wiranto debated the role of religions and state as one of topics in the televised debate aired by the SCTV station Tuesday night.

Andreas from PGI said many bylaws in a number of regencies still used religious symbolism, showing the intervention of state.

Executive secretary of interfaith relationships of the Bishop’s Conference of Indonesia (KWI) Benny Susetya said statements from vice presidential candidates on the role of religions and state were still normative.

“It is right the religions should be above the state as the religions teach values of life, but in practice, there are still too many interventions from the state on the religion affairs, meaning political interests remain dominant,” he told the Post.

“The state must be neutral; it should not intervene in the people’s faith. The state only aims to ensure all people are free to practice their faith.”

Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia Deputy Secretary General K.S. Arsana said in general the three candidates spoke in the same tone regarding their commitment to pluralism and interfaith tolerance.

“However, two pairs show a better commitment — Megawati Soekarnoputri-Prabowo and Jusuf Kalla-Wiranto.”

Arsana said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s agreement to pass the ponography bill into law during his governance showed the incumbent lacked commitment toward pluralism.

“The bill was very controversial, and its passing into law was triggered by a certain group for its political interests.”

A follower of the banned Ahmadiyah sect, Saeful, felt the three presidential pairs had beautifully articulated their commitment regarding interfaith tolerance.

“However, I believe they will be very bad in applying it. Personally, I think SBY is a very good man, but considering the political forces behind him now, I am very doubtful he is strong enough to put his ideals regarding tolerance into practice.

“Kalla has clearly shown his lack of support toward pluralism by his support towards the joint-decree on religious affairs.”

Rusli, a member of the Indonesian Tridharma Magistry (Matrisia), part of the Council of Buddhist Communities, shared Saeful's remarks.

“All of the candidates say beautiful things about tolerance on religions, but it is only a lip service to their campaigns.

“I have to say that I am very keen on the statements of Prabowo and Boediono, who said religions should be separated from politics.

“My sentiment is not the same towards Wiranto, who still believes that mixing religion with politics is a good thing.” (hdt)


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monthly Newsreport — May, 2009

Another Ahmadi killed for his faith

Faisalabad; May 29, 2009: Another member of the Ahmadiyya Community has lost his life in a senseless attack in Pakistan. Mian Laiq Ahmad (54), a well known Ahmadi trader in Faisalabad, died on May 29 after being brutally attacked the previous evening. He is the 5th Ahmadi to be murdered in 2009 for his faith and the 101st to be killed in Pakistan since anti-Ahmadiyya laws were introduced by the government of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1984.

On May 28 evening the deceased was returning home in ‘Peoples Colony’, when he saw a parked Toyota Corolla blocking the road outside his home. As Mr. Ahmad neared his home he slowed down when unknown persons jumped out of the Toyota and ran towards his car. It seems that at this point Mr. Ahmad tried to reverse his car but as he did, he was shot in the head. At that point the attackers got closer to Mr. Ahmad and fired repeatedly at him. He was hit in the stomach and arms. The assailants then fled the scene.

Mr. Ahmad was immediately taken to the local hospital and later transferred to the Allied Hospital but was unable to recover. He passed away at 11.30 a.m. the following day. Mr. Ahmad is survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters.

Currently throughout Pakistan and in particular within the Punjab, anti-Ahmadiyya conferences are taking place on a regular basis. In these conferences audience are instructed that it is their duty to kill Ahmadis, so the audience are led to believe that the bloodshed of innocent Ahmadis is something that will be greatly rewarded. It is worth noting that one such Khatme Nabuwwat Conference was held near to where the deceased lived only a day before the attack. The conference was addressed by mullas: Muhammad Usman Shakir, Muhammad Ayub Siddiqui, Khalid Mahmud Azamabadi and Abdul Hafeez Tabassum (The daily Aman; Faisalabad, May 28, 2009).

Faisalabad is a hub of Wahabi activism. Politically, the PML (N) is strong there. Authorities maintain a permissive attitude towards anti-Ahmadiyya agitation in this industrial city. This metropolis has claimed a number of Ahmadis’ lives in the past. A recent phenomenon is the abduction of Ahmadis. The criminals and religious fanatics are known to the police.

Another criminal case registered under Ahmadi-specific law PPC 298C

Kharian, District Gujrat; May 13, 2009: The police registered a case under PPC 298C against an Ahmadi, Mr. Mubashir Ahmad at Kharian with FIR 197/09 on May 13, 2009. Mr. Ahmad is headmaster of a government high school. The police arrested him. He is old and suffering from diabetes.

The complainant has accused Mr. Ahmad of misguiding the students quoting references from the Quran and Hadith, although he had been advised to desist from it. “Also, he took out Quranic texts and chapters from a school library and sent these to the complainant’s home; action should therefore be taken,” says the FIR. This, of course is not the whole truth.

Mr. Mubashir Ahmad was appointed the headmaster of the school a short while ago. Mr. Muhammad Anwar, the complainant, who was already working as a teacher at the same school, had a personal vendetta against Mr. Ahmad. The new headmaster, in his efforts to improve the school, discovered that one of the school cupboards was used by Mr. Anwar for his own personal needs. The headmaster asked him to vacate it, but Anwar did not comply. After repeated failed attempts the headmaster took out the contents of the cupboard, that included some holy texts and delivered these with due care to the residence of Mr. Anwar, who felt offended and consulted a mulla. Accompanied by some clerics, he went to the police station and got an FIR registered.

It is obvious that people continue to use the Ahmadi-specific laws to settle their personal grievances. These laws are commonly used to harass and persecute Ahmadis. The police register these cases with no regard to the circumstances and facts of the complaint and proceed with making unjustified arrests. This is blatant tyranny. Despite the opening of Pandora’s box in Swat, the state authorities continue to neglect the awesome menace of religious extremism.

Bid to slaughter an Ahmadi

Chakwal, May 21, 2009: Two madrassah students carried out a murderous attack on Mr. Mubashir Ahmad Tahir, an Ahmadi college lecturer. They tried to cut his throat and stabbed him in his chest and arm grievously injuring him.

According to a press report two Pathan students of the local madrassah at Imdadiya Masjid, Rawalpindi Road, Chakwal entered the residence of Professor Mubashir Ahmad Tahir of the Government Post-graduate College and attempted to cut his throat (the daily Jang, May 22, 2009). As they entered the house they told him: “You are a Qadiani, therefore we have come to kill you”. One of them shot at him with a pistol but missed. Then they took out knives and attacked him. This resulted in serious injuries to his neck, chest and arm. Hearing the noise his neighbors arrived at the scene. The assailants came out and declared that the professor had beaten them, and then they fled. One of the neighbours followed them on his motor cycle and apprehended one of them, while the other escaped. The one who was caught is reportedly from Malakand. However, according to the daily Jang, he is from Khyber Agency of FATA. Mr. Tahir was taken to a local hospital, thereafter he was referred to the GHQ Hospital in Rawalpindi where he is now recovering. They used five bottles of blood for transfusion. An FIR was later registered with the police.

The professor has been a resident in Chakwal for the last 10 years. He had been receiving threats on his cell-phone for sometime, so he changed his number. That provided him some relief. However the religious extremists then decided to act. The man under arrest confirmed that they intended to kill the professor for his faith.

The daily Jang reported: “This attempt to cut the victim’s throat has caused fear and alarm in the population of the entire area.”

The spokesman of the Ahmadiyya Community stated in a press release: “It is becoming almost normal to attack the lives and properties of Ahmadis in the name of religion. A violent anti-Ahmadiyya movement is surging throughout the country. … Anti-Ahmadiyya conferences have been held at various locations in the Punjab where death edicts are passed against Ahmadis and a message of hatred and malice is propagated openly. … This has resulted in murders of Ahmadi doctors, notables and social workers …” He urged the government to take serious notice of this incident and punish the guilty persons in accordance with law. He asked the authorities to take appropriate steps to put a stop to the mischief of extremists.

Religion-based criminal case registered after one year

Silanwali; April 28, 2009: A fabricated case under the anti-Ahmadiyya law was registered here against 15 Ahmadis, on March 4, 2009. The police called both the parties for interrogation on April 8. They accused the Ahmadis of preaching to Muslims. The officer asked the complainant to point out the guilty party. The complainant pointed towards two Ahmadis. The police officer asked him the names of those two Ahmadis, the complainant had no answer except that he would tell their names later. Mullas presented some Ahmadiyya books to support this claim. They presented a magazine on which it was written, “I shall carry thy message to the corners of the earth”. They derived from it that preaching is an integral part of Ahmadiyyat. They presented a picture of an entrance to an Ahmadi’s house, on which it was written Mashallah. They said, “Look, they (Ahmadis) claim that God is theirs, while they have no right to claim God”. The mullas said that it hurt them when Ahmadis observed prayers, recited the Kalima, offered the Friday prayers and recited the Holy Quran. When they noticed that they had failed to make a prima facia case, they presented a man, Ghulam Abbas, who joined the Ahmadiyya community a year ago, but deserted later. He said that Qadianis had preached to him a year ago.

The police was then quick to register a case basing it on a year-old complaint by Ghulam Abbas and proceeded to arrest four Ahmadis. A case has been registered against them under 298-C with FIR No. 201/09 at P.S. Silanwali on April 28, 2009 over an incident dated May 25, 2008. The accused have now to face prosecution in courts for a long time.

Ahmadi lawyer is attacked

Gujranwala; May 04, 2009: Mr. Riasat Ali Bajwa, advocate was fired at by unknown attackers when he arrived at his office in the morning. He was hit in his legs and back. He is now stable after an extensive surgical operation. He had been threatened on phone for some days and had been pursued.

The ruling elite of Azad Kashmir indulge in unbecoming sectarianism

There is a lesson not only for all Pakistanis but also for the whole world in the recent traumatic events of Swat, that religious extremism and sectarianism are fatal for peace and harmony in society. However, the current rulers of Azad Kashmir have come to the opposite conclusion; they appear to think that these evils are highly desirable for their people and polity. Recently the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Assembly of Azad Kashmir attended a conference in Bagh, and spoke against Ahmadiyyat. Perhaps they are forwarding someone else’s agenda.

According to the press reports, these leaders along with their fellows attended a conference at Bagh on April 29, 2009. The conference was apparently held in memory of Sardar Muhammad Ayub, a former speaker of Azad Kashmir assembly, who sponsored a resolution in the Azad Kashmir Assembly that declared Ahmadis to be Non-Muslims. However the event now was simultaneously termed a Khatme Nabuwwat Conference as conveyed by the daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Islamabad of April 30, 2009 in its banner headline: Qadiani centres of apostasy should be destroyed forthwith. Resolution of the Yaume Khatme Nabuwwat Conference (End of Prophethood Day Conference)

The same newspaper reported in the story that Sardar Yaqub Khan, the PM said: “The object of celebrating the anniversary of Sardar Mohammad Ayub Khan’s death is to convey to the Muslims of the whole world that the first voice that was raised to counter the mischief of Qadianis was from Bagh in Azad Kashmir; this eventually culminated in the form of a law.” Raja Zulqarnain the president of the territory, said: “The services of Major Ayub (Rtd) in eradication of Qadianiat will be remembered for ever. … It will be an honour for me to attend his anniversary here every year.” He further stated that (in those days) “Mirzais were a major power in Pakistan and they held the entire establishment in their grip….” The president however came to the conclusion that, “We are under attack now from all over; we are passing through the most difficult time in our history. We shall have to fight through the situation by setting aside our subsidiary differences.” Shah Ghulam Qadir the speaker of the Assembly stated that, “His (Sardar Ayub’s) crowning achievement was to have Mirzais declared a Non-Muslim minority; this will be remembered forever in history.” (The daily Ausaf, April 30, 2009)

The daily Nawa-i-Waqt placed on record the following demands made in the Conference:
  1. Khatme Nabuwwat Day should be celebrated officially every year on April 29 in memory of Major Muhammad Ayub. The day should officially be declared a national holiday.
  2. The government should allot a piece of land to the Tehrik Tahaffuz Khatme Nabuwwat, where a Khatme Nabuwwat Islamic University should be built with donations.
  3. The anti-Qadiani law of 1984 and the Resolution of 1973 should be implemented.
  4. Qadianis of Azad Kashmir should be registered as Non-Muslims and identified as such (in I.D. cards).
  5. Khatme Nabuwwat should be made a part of the national curriculum.
  6. Qadiani centres of apostasy that look like mosques should be destroyed forthwith.
  7. The daily Alfazl, the (Ahmadiyya) TV channel and all the Qadiani literature should be banned in Azad Kashmir.
  8. Qadianis in government service should be listed and the list should be made public.
(Note: All these indecent and questionable demands were made in the presence of state dignitaries – of course, with their nod.) In his speech, the Prime Minister accused his predecessors of:
  1. Wasting 6 billion rupees of the Asian Development Bank through graft and ‘commissions’.
  2. Consuming 220 million rupees in the Kohala Dhir Kot Raod project however they did not spend even 22 rupees on the work.
  3. Consuming 60 million rupees in the Bagh scrap (Malbah) scandal etc.

The confident Prime Minister made a hopeful prediction, “Those who seek to oust me will be disappointed. Allah who installed me as the prime minister might appoint me life-time prime minister in response.”
(Report complied from the dailies Nawa-i-Waqt, Ausaf, Khabrain, Jammu wa Kashmir of April 30 and May 1, 2009)

Another Ahmadi abducted

Faisalabad; May 9, 2009: Mr. Rashid Karim S/o Dr. Fazl Karim, a local well-known Ahmadi in Faisalabad, was abducted while returning from his pharmacy at 10:30 P.M. He was on his motor cycle when two assailants also on motor cycles stopped him on Jail Road and fought with him. Meanwhile a white car appeared at the scene and he was forcibly taken into it, and was driven away. This was witnessed by a nearby shop-keeper. No trace of him has yet been found.

Burial in public graveyard denied

Thehri, District Sargodha; May 14, 2009: District Sargodha was the scene of another grave sectarian incident. On this occasion Ahmadi family were denied the right to bury a loved one in the public graveyard of Thehri village.

Ms. Bibi died at about 2 p.m. on May 14, 2009. Ahmadis had always been buried in the public graveyard prior to her death. This time when Ahmadis dug up a grave to bury Ms. Bibi, the mullas agitated. They sent a van-load of religious bigots and boys to the site. They told Ahmadis to stop further work on the grave, and insisted that they would not allow an Ahmadi burial there.

They informed the police of their intentions and told them to support their plans. The police arrived at the scene and, in league with the mulla, told the Ahmadis not to commit a burial to the graveyard. The Ahmadis had no choice but to comply with the police’s orders. They took the dead body to another village and buried it there. The police remained with them until the end of the burial to ensure that the mulla’s will prevailed.

Extremism manifests itself in a university campus

Faisalabad: As if last year’s events at the Punjab Medical College were not a sufficient eye-opener, the authorities of the state-owned Engineering and Technology University have allowed another crisis to occur on their campus.

Mr. Adnan Asif, an Ahmadi, is a lecturer/lab engineer. Two former students of the University, Waqas and Sajid, who graduated last year, visited the campus, went to various class rooms and delivered addresses against Ahmadiyyat. They urged the students to implement a social boycott of all Ahmadi students and lecturers. The university administration responded only after the damage had been done. Their hate campaign was quite successful. As a result, the students in general wanted not to be taught by an Ahmadi lecturer.

Thereafter the Campus Coordinator advised the students that they had been misguided. However, he was not forceful or convincing enough; the students did not agree with him. The Coordinator then timidly took the easy course. He asked Mr. Asif to resign. This was, of course, not acceptable to the latter who replied that it is the writ of the administration that should prevail in the University and not that of the students. Also that, he would not opt to set a precedence that Ahmadi lecturers should resign in the face of student protests. The Coordinator then asked him not to come to the campus for a month while still on pay. Mr. Asif did not agree to this either. At this, the Coordinator told him not to enter any class-room; he will nominate other lecturers to take the classes instead.

Mr. Asif feels very concerned, as he is filling the post on ad-hoc basis. He was expecting to get confirmed soon. But in the present situation, when authorities readily submit themselves to the pressure of so-called Islamists, his job is at risk.

Obviously, the state has failed to learn a lesson from the happenings in the Malakand Division and is woefully slow in adopting a wholesome counter-extremism policy.

Lahore - a center of anti-Ahmadiyya extremism

If religious extremism has been recognized as the biggest evil afflicting this country, one would expect that the government would move immediately and effectively to control and eradicate this evil from the provincial capitals. However, the government of Punjab thinks otherwise; it organized a major End of Prophethood conference at the Badshahi Mosque last month (News Report for April 2009 refers). The Wall Street Journal was right to comment:
“The Taliban cannot defeat Pakistan militarily. The Taliban will win because what they want is already being implemented by Pakistan.”
(The Wall Street Journal; May 21, 2009)
Sectarian groups are well aware of the government policy, they move and act freely in neighborhoods of Lahore to propagate anti-Ahmadiyya hatred. The organizers of the Shuban-e-Khatme Nabuwwat are in the forefront of this agitation and they openly give their cell-phone numbers on their publicity leaflets, stickers, posters etc. These are: 0300-4900673; 03214571912; 0333-4398770; 0333-4221287.

The Shubane-Khatme Nabuwwat generally undertakes the following in their hate campaign:
  • They stick provocative stickers on the gates and doors of Ahmadi-owned homes, apartments, businesses etc.
  • They do wall-chalking in abusive language.
  • Mullas hold Milad etc. and use these occasions to spread hatred against Ahmadis.
  • Mullas urge their flock in Friday sermons to undertake Jihad against Qadianis. They call upon worshippers to implement a social boycott against Ahmadis.
  • At times they commit violence. etc.
The most affected neighborhoods in Lahore are: Township, Cantonment (North), Model Town, Rachna Town, Bhati Gate, Karim Park at Ravi Road, Engineering University, Factory Area in Shahdarah etc.

A sample from the vernacular press

The vernacular press, with some rare exceptions, has played a very negative role for over half a century in the victimization of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan. It has propagated hostile false news, promoted sectarian strife, prompted its shallow readership to blatantly violate Ahmadis’ human rights and urged the state to do all that it can to persecute this harmless religious community. The Urdu press finds it convenient to routinely give space to any petty mulla to declare: Qadianis are enemies of Islam and Pakistan. Some leading dailies can boast more than two anti-Ahmadiyya news items per day. Most of them print special editions on anti-Ahmadiyya theme on any excuse. Last month they highlighted this theme at the occasion of the conference in the Badshahi Mosque and also on the death anniversary of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whom one of these papers called the ‘Mujahid’ of the End of Prophethood (The daily Pakistan of April 4, 2009), while another unabashedly declared that “It was shaheed Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto who drove the last nail in the coffin of Qadianiat”. (The daily Jinnah of April 4, 2009)

One of these dailies is the Ausaf in Lahore (Chief Editor: Mehtab Khan; Editor: Mohsin Bilal Khan). It recently tasked one of its staff reporters to fabricate a story regarding Ahmadi students in medical colleges, and came up with three ‘news’ items under a three-column headline on May 9, 2009. The following is the brief account of it. First, the headline:
Qadianis are enemies of Islam. They should not be admitted in medical colleges. Students
The Ausaf attributes all three stories to a ‘lady reporter’, without mentioning her name. The malicious view given in the main headline is attributed to ‘students’ although the Ausaf’s record provides ample evidence that this is also its own opinion. This ‘lady reporter’ is said to have visited the medical colleges at Lahore but her opening salvo was again a willful fabrication: “The students of medical colleges express extreme anger (intihai ghamo ghussai ka izhar) over the discreet transfer of Qadiani students who had been expelled from the Faisalabad Medical College.” Obviously the Ausaf aims at reopening the Faisalabad issue of last year. Who, other than the extremist and sectarian clerics’ lobby, is it working for?

The lady reporter lamented: “Although the Muslim students come from high class families they are unaware of these people who defile the Prophethood (Qadianis) (sic)”. It is obvious that the objective of the Ausaf was to reignite a sectarian issue like the one that took place in Punjab Medical College at Faisalabad. The Ausaf took numerous photographs at this occasion and printed 10 of these along with the story. This is reproduced below in facsimile.

It is relevant to mention that only two days earlier, on May 7, 2009, this newspaper published a story under a three-column headline in which it reported that the issue of Ahmadi students of the Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad had been completely suppressed (daba diya gia) by ‘hidden powers in utmost secrecy’. The Ausaf disclosed the names of all the Ahmadi students, their roll numbers, their home addresses and their new locations.

Pakistan is facing a mortal threat from forces of obscurantism and extremism. Who energizes these forces? Some of them occupy offices of such newspapers. Let this come on the record.

US Commission on International Religious Freedom indicts Pakistan

The daily Dawn of May 5, 2009 reported in brief from the USCIRF Annual Report 2009 issued recently. Excerpts:
Washington, May 4: Pakistan is one of the 13 countries named by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in which the persecution of minorities is common and condoned or supported by the government. The year 2009 “has seen the largely unchecked growth in the power and reach of religiously motivated extremist groups whose members are engaged in violence in Pakistan and abroad, with Pakistan authorities ceding effective control to armed insurgents espousing a radical Islam ideology,” the Annual Report 2009 of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom stated.

“Today, the threat to religious freedom or belief in Pakistan has measurably and demonstrably increased,” she said, “and therefore we renew our recommendation that Pakistan be named a CPC.”

The USCIRF made the following recommendations for US policy towards Pakistan, inter alia:

The US government should urge the government of Pakistan to inter alia;
  • Decriminalize blasphemy and, in the interim period until that action is taken, implement procedural changes to the blasphemy laws that will reduce and ultimately end their abuse; and ensure that those who are accused of blasphemy and their defenders are given adequate protection, including by investigating death threats and other actions carried out by militants and that full due process is followed;
  • Prioritize the prevention of religiously motivated and sectarian violence and the punishment for its perpetrators, including by:

    … investigating acts of religiously motivated and sectarian violence and punishing perpetrators in a timely manner and …
  • rescind the laws targeting Ahmadis, which effectively criminalize the public practice of their faith and violate their right to freedom of religion guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights; and
  • confront and work to address the consequences of the political alliances maintained by past military dominated governments with Islamist parties, which afforded an excessive amount of influence to these groups, and which, in turn, had a strong negative impact on religious freedom in Pakistan.
  • set national text book and curriculum standards that actively promote tolerance towards all religions, and establish appropriate review and enforce mechanisms to guarantee that such standards are being met in government (public) schools; and ….
Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Conference in Sahiwal

Sahiwal: An all-parties Khatm-e-Nabuwwat convention was held in the central Jame Mosque under the auspices of Mutahida Tahrik-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Rabta Committee, Sahiwal Division. This conference inflamed anti-Ahmadiyya sentiments and promoted the clerics’ national as well as international political agenda. Some highlights are quoted below from the daily Pakistan; May 8, 2009:
  • The U.S. and Pakistani rulers should stop shedding blood in the name of Sufi Muhammad. Stop derogating Islam. — Syed Ataul Muhaiman Bukhari
  • Qadianis are distancing the Muslims from their passion for Jihad and are responsible for Islamic disunity.
  • Qadianis are responsible for all disorder in the country.
  • There is a grave need of Qadianis’ political and societal annihilation.
  • Qadiani conspiracies backing terrorism will be confronted at all costs — Mulla Ilyas Chinioti
  • Some influential circles are trying to undo the blasphemy laws and the laws safeguarding the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat.
  • Our peaceful movement will continue till the effective imposition of the punishment for apostasy as per Sharia (Death) and firing of Qadianis from key posts. — Mulla Ilyas Chinioti
Kotli, Azad Kashmir, revisited for discrimination on the basis of religion

Kotli: Last year, the authorities at Kotli withheld the award of a business contract to an Ahmadi on the basis of his faith, and conveyed to him their decision in writing (News Report for June 2008). Despite the change of the Prime Minister, the discrimination on the basis of religion continues.

At Kotli, an Ahmadi’s companies provided medicines, rations and general stores to the District Hospital. This had been going on for more than 20 years. In 2008, although these firms offered bids that were the most attractive, the authorities disqualified them for their association with ‘Firqa Ahmadiyya’. This also resulted in difficulties in recovering the arrears from the hospital. Six hundred thousand rupees are still outstanding with the hospital.

Recently the hospital ordered some medicines, and the company delivered them on May 19. However, the Medical Superintendent lost courage and refused to take the delivery on account of ‘pressure’ from various quarters. He issued a circular, No. 1534-37/MS/09 dated May 19, 2009, indicating cancellation of the previous tenders “for unavoidable reasons”, and conveyed that tenders would be called afresh.

The two companies intend to offer their bids for the next year’s contract in June 2009. However, in the prevailing political and religious circumstances, the possibility of their success in winning the contract is remote, even if they deserve it on merit.

Press report on very poor municipal services in Rabwah

The daily Ausaf, Lahore published the following story on Rabwah in its issue of May 31, 2009:
Report is sought over Ausaf report on the deplorable state of Chenab Nagar.
No drinking water, substandard sewage system, worn out roads, negligence of TMA.
Heaps of filth stink and filth depots help in breeding of poisonous mosquitoes, flies and other insects.
Chenab Nagar: (Staff reporter) In a special letter, senior officials of the Punjab government have asked for a report from a local intelligence agency over a report in the daily Ausaf, Lahore regarding deplorable state of the Chenab Nagar town, and discriminatory behavior of the TMA Chiniot towards it. It is learnt through confidential sources that the news published in the said newspaper regarding the non-availability of water due to the incompetence of water-works officials, and the toils of citizens in searching for water is factual. Roads and streets are in poor condition and clearing of the sewage lines is unsatisfactory. Roads and streets have long since fallen into disrepair, and ditches abound due to the lack of repairs and negligence of the TMA. Heaps of filth in the city stink and reflect on the competence of the sanitary inspector and his department. These filth depots are now perfect breeding grounds for poisonous mosquitoes, flies and other insects. In fact large amounts of money have been allocated by the District Council Jhang and Tehsil Council Chiniot for welfare projects and relief from the said sufferings of (Chenab Nagar) citizens who pay their taxes hundred percent. It is also noteworthy that Anwar Saeed TMO and a few of his close associates were transferred on charges of corruption spread over six years. Everyone praised the Chief Minister Punjab for this step. Only God knows why they have been reinstated again in the same posts. Public representatives and notable citizens have demanded on immediate removal of Anwar Saeed TMO and his five ‘friends’.
Threat to an elderly Ahmadi

Sargodha: Mr. Shahzad Ahmad Waraich received a threatening letter from self-styled Taliban Pakistan (Punjab). Its translation is given below:
“Infidel (Kafir), Infidel Mirzais Infidel. This is your first and last warning. If you want to save your home and business from destruction, and would like yourself and your children to stay alive then convert to Deobandi Islam within a month. Otherwise you will yourself be responsible for your extermination. Taliban Pakistan (Punjab)”.
In recent months incidents of abduction of Ahmadis and threats to their persons increased visibly which demands the attention of the administration. To provide security to every citizen in the country is the primary duty of a government.

Ahmadis behind bars
  1. Mr. Muhammad Iqbal was imprisoned for life in a fabricated case of blasphemy. He was arrested in May 2004, and is now incarcerated in the Central Jail, Faisalabad. An appeal lies with the Lahore High Court against the decision of the Sessions Court. It is registered as Criminal Appeal No. 89/2005. He is now in the sixth year of his imprisonment.
  2. Three Ahmadis namely Messrs, Basharat, Nasir Ahmad and Muhammad Idrees along with 7 others of Chak Sikandar were arrested in September 2003 on a false charge of murder of a cleric, alleged by opponents of the Jamaat. The police, after due investigation found no evidence against the accused. Yet these men still faced ‘complaint trial’ for a crime they did not commit. Based on the unreliable testimony of the two alleged eye-witnesses (who were proven false in the court) the court acquitted seven of the accused, but on the evidence of the same two liars the court sentenced these three innocent Ahmadis to death. They are being held in a death cell at a prison in Jehlum, while their appeal lies with the Lahore High Court. These innocent are now in the sixth year of their incarceration. Their appeal to the Lahore High Court is registered as Criminal Appeal No. 616/2005 dated 26 April 2005.
  3. Dr. Muhammad Asghar of Nankana was arrested on a fabricated charge of blasphemy in June 2008. The judge rejected his plea for bail. The police investigation found him innocent. Subsequently his plea for bail has been rejected by the High Court – and the Supreme Court.
  4. Rana Khalil Ahmad of Kunri (Sindh), an elderly and disabled gentleman, is detained for allegedly writing a letter to a cleric.
  5. Mr. Rashid Iqbal of Kunri (Sindh) is facing a fabricated accusation under the blasphemy law. He was arrested and refused release on bail.
  6. Four school-going children and Mr. Mubashir Ahmad were charged in Layyah for blasphemy on 28th January, 2009 and put behind bars without any initial inquiry or witnesses. It is now fifth month that these juveniles are in a Pakistani prison under unbearable conditions.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Maududi’s Children Blog, Pakistan

Maududi’s Children

Posted by Nadeem F. Paracha in Featured Articles, Pakistan on 06 11th, 2009 |

How the intellectuality of Political Islam turned into the brutality of faithful fascism: Nadeem F. Paracha

In Pakistan even the traditional Muslim practice of reasoning in matters of religion – originally introduced by the 9th century Mutazilites – is at times treated like some kind of an abomination to be feared, discouraged and repressed.

It is easy to accuse the proverbial mullah for this. And it is equally easy to blame him for being anti-intellectual and regressive.

However, over the years the conventional mullah has already lost a lot of face and respect. But this seemingly anti-mullah trend didn’t always mean the opening up of society to a more enlightening and pluralistic alternative.

On the contrary, the gap created by the conventional mullah’s gradual downfall was filled by religious scholars who only seemed to have intellectualized, modernized and politicized obscurantism. [1]

In Pakistan, Islamic scholars like Abul Ala Maududi and the far more moderate, Professor Fazalur Rahman Malik, were some of the first to occupy this gap.

Their tirades against the conventional mullah were welcomed by the more ‘educated Muslims.’ [2]

Working as the head of the Central Institute of Islamic Research formed by the Ayub Khan dictatorship in 1961, Prof. Fazalur Rahman laboured hard to find that elusive middle-ground between Pakistan’s colonial secular heritage and its somewhat ambiguous ‘Islamic Republic-ism.’

Maududi’s elaborate treatises however, concentrated more on undermining the constructive role being played by the less puritanical Islamic sects in Pakistan. [3]

And even though both Maududi and Fazalur Rahman were staunchly anti-left in equal degrees, Maududi soon turned his intellectual weaponry against Rahman as well after the later published his short but highly acclaimed book ‘Islam’ in 1968.

Maududi and his Jamat Islami accused Rahman for undermining the importance of the hadith and for claiming that not all text of the Qu’ran was eternal and (thus), it should be understood allegorically. [4]

Maududi’s staunch stance against the non-puritanical strains of Islam was a counterproductive move. Because in an ethnical, sectarian and religiously pluralistic society like Pakistan, the factions that Maududi challenged were/are comparatively moderate in essence: Barelvi-ism, Sufism and the Hanaifi school of jurisprudence – which is the most liberal of the four schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam – are still at the forefront of faith in Pakistan, boasting a large following. [5]; [6]; [7]; [8]

Many believe they are the very reasons that help keep tensions between religions, and religious sects in the country at a bare minimum. At the root of this is the pluralism-friendly factor emerging from these strains’ historical make-up generated from a healthy cultural fusion between distinct peoples in the subcontinent. [9]

That’s why a ‘progressive Muslim’ in a country like Pakistan must be more pragmatic than either idealistic or political. He may be aesthetically and theologically opposed and repulsed by the more ‘superstitious’ strains of the faith, but he must understand that ironically, the large number of adherents that such strains have in Pakistan, they remain to be the social engine behind the consensual need in the society at large to keep matters like sectarianism and inter-Islamic polarisation in the country largely de-politicised. [10]

But Maududi not only shunned these ‘superstitious’ strains, his alternative of a more ‘unembellished’ and concrete version of Islam was also highly political and compartmentalized. [11]

This meant that not only were the more ‘blemished’ strains of Islam challenged by him, modern western philosophical and political ensembles like democracy, liberalism, socialism and especially Marxism too were rejected.

Maududi’s alternative was an ‘all-encompassing Islam.’ He purposed a single, exclusive version of the religion; a version that discouraged any previous interpretation of the Qu’ran and the Islamic Law (Sharia) that his own analysis did not approve of. And though he was skeptical of all modern secular concepts of ideology, paradoxically, he wasn’t all that allergic to the notions of modern state politics. [12]; [13]; [14].

Calling for the imposition of this politicized and puritanical version of Islam in a socially pluralistic and religiously sectarian society like Pakistan was not only Utopian, it was also dangerous.

Not surprisingly, ever since the late 1960s, Maududi’s philosophy has off and on found itself being used to encourage self-righteous coercion, political intrigues and violence - as seen in Jamat Islami’s role in the 1953 and 1974 anti-Ahmadiyya violence (for which Maududi was imprisoned); the role of the party in supporting (and taking part) in the Pakistani Army’s controversial actions in the former East Pakistan; and the role of the party’s student wing, the Islami Jamiat-e-Taleba (IJT), which was accused (in the 1980s) of introducing the violent ‘Kalashnikov Culture’ on the country’s campuses. [15]; [16].

Worst of all, Maududi-ism (as it is sometimes called), was also exploited by dictators (General Zia-ul-Haq), ulema and, of course, the Jamat Islami, as a way to deflect, deflate and denounce any other form of Islamic reformism. It actually eschewed tolerance. [17]

A number of politico-religious forces in Pakistan, as well as many television anchormen, print journalists and publications, are both directly and indirectly influenced by Maududi.

That’s why one is not surprised to watch most of them dutifully derailing any idea that looks inwards at the present state of Islam as a cause for the violence perpetuated in its name.

These gentlemen and publications continue to offer hyperbolic Maududist tracts pointing at ‘western powers’ and faith-based ‘distortions’ for all the ills befalling religion and society in Pakistan.

Outdated Maududist thoughts are being aired in a reality where Communism, Cold War tussles, ‘secret societies,’ and ‘distorted sects’ are not the ‘problem’ anymore. On the contrary, most of the present crises are clearly stemming from a violent, psychopathic and totalitarian version of the faith. Thus, the socio-political disconnect in these gentlemen’s otherwise widely published and televised arguments is now starker than ever.

The fact is, Maududism in the post-9/11 Pakistan stands to be little more than an outdated relic of the Cold War, offering what now sound like rhetorical and hyperbolic clich├ęs.

What’s more, Maududi’s ideas are also being used to make a veneered defense of the actions of anarchic militants in the North (as heard from politicians like JI’s Munawar Hussain and Qazi Hussain Ahmed; PTI’s Imran Khan, and even from some PML-N leaders who were once part of JI’s student-wing, the IJT. [18]

It is interesting to imagine how Maududi himself would have reacted in the current scenario. However, there is no doubt that the way his thoughts and ideas have evolved, they have been at least one reason why the current trends of reformism in Islam have failed to find any valid expression in Pakistan.

The backlash

The present-day reformist inclinations in Islam include two variations. One is being led by staunch secularists and the other by ‘progressive Muslims.’

Both may disagree with one another but their aim and goal seem to be common: To expunge Islam as we know it from laws and exegeses that, though man-made, have been handed down through the centuries as being ‘divine’ and thus unalterable. [19]

One of the many examples in this context is the law of stoning adulterous men and women that is practiced in some Islamic societies as ‘God’s law,’ but it is actually not found in the Qu’ran - (the law was formed in the 8th century from a hadith whose credibility many scholars have questioned). [20]

Another is the literalist way the hudd or Hudood laws have been interpreted. Even though most Islamic countries (through the process of ijtihad/collective consensus), have avoided enacting ‘Hudood Laws’ due to these laws’ incompatibility with changing times and circumstances, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (until 2007) were the only two countries having these laws as part of their respective legal cannons.

Nevertheless, the Hudood Ordinances (enacted by the Zia dictatorship in 1979 in Pakistan), were finally scrapped by the Musharraf regime in 2007.

This was one of the foremost acts by the state of Pakistan directly challenging the ‘Islamisation’ milieu left behind by Zia who had been a staunch ‘Maududist.’ [21]

Yet another example suggesting a gradual backlash against the Maududist politico-theological model was the recent unprecedented verdict by the Federal Shariat Court that declared drinking alcohol as a comparatively minor crime in Islam, and changed the punishment (of drunkenness) from 80 lashes (from a whip) to light strokes from a stick (made from a date tree leave). [22]

Alcohol had always remained a largely tolerated indulgence in Muslim societies across the centuries. Many scholars maintain that though the Qu’ran has ‘advised’ Muslims to stay away from wine (as opposed to forbidding it like it does pork, carrion meat, blood and idolatry), it does not prescribe any punishment for its usage. [23].

In Pakistan too, alcohol was freely sold and consumed until 1977, when first (under pressure from the Jamat Islami), the secular government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto banned its sale, and then the reactionary dictatorship of Gen. Zia turned its consumption and sale (by Muslims) as a crime punishable under his controversial Hudood Ordinances.

Ironically, Zia’s ban on alcohol gave birth to a thriving bootlegging mafia - even though cities like Karachi have licensed liquor stores that have successfully checked the bootleggers’ influence in this city.

Zia’s ban on alcohol also triggered the widespread usage of addictive drugs like heroin.

For example, until 1979, Pakistan literally had just a single reported case of heroin addiction. But by 1985, it had the second largest population of heroin addicts! [24]

Though no Pakistani has been flogged for the offence of consuming and selling alcohol ever since 1981, the Shariat Court’s verdict must have come as a blow to the architects of Zia’s Islamisation process that was largely based on Maududi’s politico-religious thesis of an ‘Islamic state.’ A state whose blueprint, many Islamic scholars opposed to Maududi-ism maintain, does not exist in the Qu’ran and is only a generation of Maududi’s imagination.

Waiting for reason

There are a number of progressive Muslim scholars, especially in Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, Algeria and Indonesia, who seem to be making deeper inroads in the 21st century Islamic reformist psyche. In Pakistan Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, the London-based Ziauddin Sardar and respected intellectual, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy can be named.

In their work on Islam they have taken a scientific and a strictly academic approach, and are not immune to openly question the historicity of the Laws of Islam that have been handed down to us from the 8th century onwards; or a history and versions of the Shariah that started to appear almost two centuries after the demise of the Prophet.

To them the Muslims need to have an interpretative relationship with the Holy text. According to Sardar, for example, we have been relying on an age-old interpretation of the Qu’ran, one that is ice-capped in history. The context of this interpretation is of the 8th and 9th century Muslim societies. It needs to be radically updated through ijtihad.

Most current Islamic reformists are also concerned about the retrogressive tendency in some recent so-called modern Islamists to determine ‘scientific miracles in the Qu’ran.’

According to Dr. Hoodbhoy, by doing this they undermine all the hard work undertaken by early Islamic scientists and philosophers and that this practice in a way also suggests that present-day Muslims should stop getting their hands dirty in labs and universities, thinking they know everything. [25]; [26].

Respected Muslim scholars like Prof. Sardar, and monumental Algerian scholar, Muhamad Arkun, have been particularly harsh on French writer, Maurice Bucaille’s controversial book, The Bible, Qu’ran & Science and how this book (financed by the Saudi government), has given birth to a navel-gazing cottage industry of half-baked ‘experts’ distracting Muslims from learning real science. They say the Qu’ran encourages the acquiring of science, instead of creating a pseudoscience by reading wrongly into the meanings of certain surahs of the Holy Book. [27]

Turkish pseudo-scientist Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar) – who has recently gained fresh new following among Pakistani TV news anchors like Shahid Masood and so-called ‘security analysts’ and TV personalities like Zaid Hamid – too has come under the hammer of neo-Islamic rationalists and secularists alike.

The rationalists have accused Yahya of encouraging Muslims to shun secular sciences as if this act of shunning was ordained by God. [28]

Interestingly, unknown to most of his Pakistani followers, Yahya has been a constant receptor of police arrests for various drug and sex related scandals. [29].

Many critics of this trend have described such men as ‘Islamic quacks’ who are discouraging a rational and scientific mindset in present-day Muslims.

Today’s reformists also insist that there never was just one correct way to be a Muslim. As Sardar suggests, the propagation by any group of the single correct way is a totalitarian act. It will eschew plurality, democracy and tolerance, leading the ummah towards a totalitarian situation.

That’s why to modern Islamic scholars like Muhammad Arkun, it is of vital importance that Islamic history and law be critiqued and thoroughly explored in the light of reason and current times. [30]; [31].

According to Arkun, it is only then that reason in Islam can be liberated from man-made dogmatic constructs - constructs that have played the foremost role in derailing Islam from its early philosophical and rational path, landing its fate in the clutches of biased power politics and, eventually, in the gun barrels of the fascistic and irrational mutations of the faith (such as the Taleban and Al-Qaeda).
  1. The Forgotten Swamp — Navigating Political Islam: Guilain Denoeux (
  2. Islam & Modernity: Fazalur Rahman Malik (
  3. Encyclopedia of the Middle-East: (Entry) (
  4. Revisiting Fazalur Rahman’s Ordeal: (Non-Skeptical Essays) (
  5. Islamic Extremism in Pakistan: Khaled Ahmed (
  6. Hanafi Madhub: Shaikh Siddiqui (
  7. Berelvi Islam: (Entry) ( (
  8. Maududi & Islamic Revivalism (Pages : 122-125) : Syd ValiReza Nasr (
  9. The Sufi Movement & Pakistan : (Entry) (
  10. Pakistan’s Pluralist Traditions: Lisa Curtis (
  11. Syed Abul Ala Maududi : Prof. Ziauddin Sardar (
  12. Tajdeed O Aya-e-Deen: Abul Ala Maududi (
  13. How Islam sees itself: Warren Larson (
  14. Radical Islam’s Missing Link: John Shaffer (
  15. Munir Report on 1953 Riots: Javaid Aslam. (
  16. The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution (Pages:: Syed Vali Reza (;query=IJT#1)
  17. Towards a Fundamentalist State: Bjarne Skov (
  18. Split on the Taliban: Dr. Hassan Askari (Daily Times) (\05\24\story_24-5-2009_pg3_2)
  19. Rethinking Islam: Prof. Ziauddin Sardar (
  20. FAQ about stoning: (Entry) (
  21. Musharraf Signs Bill: (Dawn). (
  22. A Good Decision: (Daily Times Editorial) (\05\30\story_30-5-2009_pg3_1)
  23. Islam, Its Laws & Society (Page:38): Jamila Hussain (
  24. Heroin, Taliban & Pakistan: B. Raman (\papers3\paper288.html)
  25. Science and Islamic Philosophy: Ziauddin Sardar (
  26. A Review of Pervez Hoodbhoy’s Islam & Science: Dr. Ahmed Shafaar (
  27. Weird Science: Ziauddin Sardar (
  28. Harun Yahya & Islamic Creationism: Francois Tremblay (
  29. Police cracks down on obscure sect: (Turkish Hurriyat) (
  30. Islam-To Subvert or Reform: Muhammad Arkun (
  31. Philosophers of Arab: (Entry) (
©2009 DAWN Media Group. All rights reserved

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indonesia: Debate Fails to Tackle Human Rights Issues

---Jakarta Globe, Indonesia
June 18, 2009
Dozens of victims of human rights violations in 1965 rallying in front of the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta. (Photo: Afriadi Hikmal, JG)
Debate Fails to Tackle Human Rights Issues

Millions of Indonesians across the country would have tuned in on Thursday night to watch the first official presidential debate. The overall tone of the debate was civil and the three candidates were asked a range of questions. But on the most crucial issue, that of human rights and how the next government would deal with past abuses and ensure basic freedoms, none of the candidates addressed the questions squarely or adequately.

None of the candidates, for example, touched on the most fundamental human right — the right to freely worship one’s God. Our national ideology, Pancasila, enshrines the belief in one God and the right to worship one’s God without fear. This is a God-given right, but sadly neither the state nor previous governments have prevented church burnings or the open persecution of the Ahmadiyah sect.

Religion is at the very heart of our society. If we do not respect each other’s beliefs, how can we discuss human rights? This also applies to the how we treat women in our society. As long as women are not accorded full and equal rights, we have no starting point on this issue.

The second most important human right is the right to a secure life. Governments in the past have trampled on the lives of ordinary citizens through kidnappings and torture. It is the duty of the next president to provide hope and succor to ordinary citizens by creating good policies, displaying leadership and investing in infrastructure, education and health care. In a nutshell, to empower the people to create better lives for themselves.

Do we as a country excel in the promotion and protection of these human rights? Do our citizens feel safe and secure in their own country from their own government?

Human beings have several basic needs that must be met for a fulfilled life. These start from meeting physical needs, such as food and shelter, to feeling safe and secure, being loved and having self-esteem. Irrespective of race, religion, skin color and ethnic background, is every Indonesian proud to be an Indonesian?

In today’s Indonesia, unfortunately we do not have a Martin Luther King Jr. or a Kartini championing human rights. One of the worst perpetrators of human rights in this country has been the military establishment, and all three presidential candidates have direct or indirect links to the military. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a retired general while the vice presidential running mates of both Megawati Sukarnoputri and Jusuf Kalla are former generals.

There is no denying this fact and it colors the whole debate over human rights. Two of the vice presidential candidates are connected to human rights issues that have not been resolved. If we are to move forward, we must resolve and account for what happened in May 1998, when innocent Indonesians were raped and murdered. No inquiry has been held and no attempt has been made at punishing the perpetrators, as well as those who fueled the violence.

Unless this issue is resolved, there can be no credible discussion on human rights. Educated Indonesians watching the debate will have made up their own minds.

Copyright 2009 The Jakarta Globe

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Relief denied to the four Ahmadi children incarcerated for months on false accusation of blasphemy

---Ahmadiyya Foreign Missions Office, Rabwah, Pakistan

Human Rights - Fax
June 15, 2009

Relief denied to the four Ahmadi children incarcerated for months on false accusation of blasphemy

Layyah: Four Ahmadi school children and an adult were arrested in January 2009 in District Layyah in a fabricated case of blasphemy. There is no evidence, and no witness to the involvement of the accused in the incident.

Extremist mullas made it an issue and threatened agitation. Self-seeking politicians decided to support them. The police found it convenient to arrest the accused despite absence of evidence against them. Well-known human rights NGOs acted fast, made on-the-spot inquiries and found no substance in accusation against the five Ahmadis. They said that in their published reports.

The children remained behind bars for months. On every court appearance, the police requested extension in Judicial Remand which the court granted. The accused thought that this was perhaps to let the extremists’ temperature cool down.

It is now learnt that Mr. Sadaqat Ullah Niazi, the Additional Session Judge Layyah, on June 12, 2009, finally decided to refuse the accused’s plea for release on bail.

The children will now continue to suffer in prison for a crime they did not commit. In their tender age they have to endure severe hardship of Pakistani prison in extreme hot summer, even when they have not been tried and found guilty. Obviously the state continues to sustain and nourish extremism, despite its own suffering and agony at the hand of extremists.

The children need help in this environment of suicidal dissolution.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pakistan: International Religious Freedom Report – May, 2009

Excerpts from
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
Report on International Religious Freedom – May, 2009


“The Threat of Religious Extremism to Religious Freedom and Security” has been the Commission’s overarching theme during this reporting period, and unfolding events in Pakistan make clear the relevance of this theme to the 2009 Annual Report. At the time of writing, emboldened Taliban-associated extremists had advanced to within 60 miles of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. In the areas they already control, these groups are imposing draconian restrictions on human rights and religious freedom and engaging in brutal acts against individuals, particularly women and local police, who refused to accede to their repressive policies.

The Commission predicted this result in February 2009, as the Pakistani government considered entering into a so-called “peace deal” with these elements in the Swat Valley. On February 25, the Commission publicly warned that the agreement “would represent a significant victory for Talibanassociated extremists fighting in the Swat Valley, and could embolden other violent extremists and Taliban militants who would seek to expand their influence and control elsewhere in Pakistan and Afghanistan”. The Commission’s concerns sadly were borne out when, soon after Pakistan’s Parliament and President approved the deal, the extremists moved to duplicate their success in neighboring regions.

While Pakistani leaders have acquiesced to the rule of Taliban-associated extremists in some regions, members of civil society have courageously objected. The front cover of this report features Pakistani women standing up against these violent extremist groups. Their signs, written in Urdu, protest violent religious fanaticism and the systematic destruction of girls’ schools, 150 of which reportedly have been demolished. These brave women are on the frontlines of the battle to preserve human rights, including religious freedom, in their country. Their voices must be amplified.

Since its inception, the Commission has strived to place religious freedom at the forefront of the U.S. foreign policy agenda, and the 10th Annual Report is a key component of those efforts. In this reporting period, the Commission engaged both the Bush and Obama Administrations on ways to promote religious freedom and highlighted a number of critical issues to U.S. foreign policy.

During this reporting period, the Commission met with human rights defenders from many nations where violent extremists or repressive regimes threaten fundamental rights and national security. The Commission held public hearings that examined the threat to religious freedom and security posed by violent religious extremists in Sudan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and reviewed possible U.S. government responses.………

The Commission also has raised concerns and highlighted a variety of problematic regional and global trends, such as the expansion of highly restrictive religion laws in many countries of the former Soviet Union, the promotion of the pernicious .defamation of religions. concept at the United Nations, and major limitations on religious freedom throughout Asia.


Countries of Particular Concern and the Watch List

Each year the Commission makes recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress, based on its ongoing review of the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom, as to which countries should be designated as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs. In doing this, the Commission works alongside an array of diplomatic mechanisms also established by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), such as the Office of International Religious Freedom at the Department of State, headed by the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. IRFA mandated that the State Department work through its embassies and consulates abroad to collect information on religious freedom conditions and by September 1 of each year review the status of freedom of religion or belief worldwide. That review comes in the form of the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

Based on that review, IRFA directs the Secretary of State, delegated by the President, to designate “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, which are countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom. IRFA defines “particularly severe” violations as ones that are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious,” including acts such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances, or “other flagrant denial[s] of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons”. After a country is designated as a CPC, the president is required by law to oppose the violations by taking actions specified in IRFA.

In this reporting period, the Commission recommends that the Secretary of State designate the following 13 countries as CPCs: Burma, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Overview of CPC Recommendations and Watch List

Justification of Commission Recommendations for CPC Designation

Serious religious freedom concerns persist in Pakistan, due to continuing sectarian and religiously-motivated violence and the government’s inadequate response. The past year has seen the largely unchecked growth in the power and reach of extremist groups whose members are engaged in religiouslymotivated violence in Pakistan and abroad. A number of the country’s laws abridge freedom of religion or belief. Anti-Ahmadi legislation results in discrimination against individual Ahmadis and effectively criminalizes various practices of their faith. Anti-blasphemy laws have been used to silence members of religious minorities and dissenters, and frequently result in imprisonment on account of religion or belief and/or vigilante violence. The Hudood Ordinances—Islamic decrees predominantly affecting women that are enforced alongside Pakistan’s secular legal system—provide for harsh punishments for alleged violations of Islamic law. Extremists have imposed a harsh, Talibanstyle rule in the Swat Valley and neighboring districts, with the acquiescence of provincial and Federal government authorities. The government of Pakistan also continues to promote the flawed.defamation of religions. concept at the United Nations, which would violate the freedoms of religion and expression.

Keeping Congress Apprised of Religious Freedom Issues

The Commission held a series of hearings during the reporting period, many of which explored religious extremism and U.S. national security interests. Two hearings focused on the impact of religious extremism on religious freedom and security in Bangladesh and Pakistan, respectively, while the other discussed the peace process in Sudan and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

In March 2009, the Commission convened a hearing to discuss Pakistan and the threat posed by religious extremism to religious freedom and related human rights, particularly for women, members of religious minorities, and other vulnerable communities. Entitled Pakistan: The Threat of Religious Extremism to Religious Freedom and Security, Commissioners heard testimony from five witnesses who discussed limitations on religious freedom and violence against women and religious minorities, including Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadis, Christians, and Hindus, as well as the extremist threat to democratic institutions and the rule of law and Pakistan’s relationship with Taliban-associated religious extremists. Witnesses included the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, William Milam, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) participated and provided opening remarks.



Dramatic political events unfolded in Pakistan in the past year, some of them with a potentially significant impact on the rule of law and human rights protections generally, including freedom of religion or belief. This year also has seen the largely unchecked growth in the power and reach of religiously-motivated extremist groups whose members are engaged in violence in Pakistan and abroad, with Pakistani authorities ceding effective control to armed insurgents espousing a radical Islamist ideology. In addition, all of the serious religious freedom concerns on which the Commission has reported in the past persist. Sectarian and religiously-motivated violence continues, particularly against Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadis, Christians, and Hindus, and the government’s response continues to be insufficient, and in some cases, is outright complicit. A number of the country’s laws, including those restricting the rights of Ahmadis and criminalizing blasphemy, frequently result in imprisonment on account of religion or belief and/or vigilante violence against the accused.

Moreover, despite some minor improvements, Pakistan’s Hudood Ordinances, Islamic decrees introduced in 1979 and enforced alongside the country’s secular legal system, provide for harsh punishments, including amputation and death by stoning, for violations of Islamic law. Pakistan also has taken a leadership role in promoting in various international fora the concept of “defamation of religions,” an attempted globalization of its own blasphemy laws, which this Commission believes would limit seriously and criminalize the rights to freedom of religion and expression of individuals worldwide.… In light of these persistent, serious concerns, the Commission continues to recommend that Pakistan be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC. To date, the State Department has not designated Pakistan a CPC.

The Zardari government has taken some positive steps regarding religious freedom. In November 2008, the government appointed prominent minority-rights advocate Shahbaz Bhatti as Federal Minister for Minorities with cabinet rank. Mr. Bhatti has publicly promised that the Zardari government will review Pakistan's blasphemy laws and that the government is committed to protecting the rights of minority religious communities, including by implementing a five percent quota for religious minorities in federal government employment. In March 2009, the government appointed a Christian jurist as a judge in the Lahore High Court. It is not yet clear what impact these developments will have on religious freedom, which has been severely violated by successive Pakistani governments in the past. Discriminatory legislation, promulgated in previous decades and persistently enforced, has fostered an atmosphere of religious intolerance and eroded the social and legal status of members of religious minorities, including Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadis, Hindus, and Christians. Government officials do not provide adequate protections from societal violence to members of these religious minority communities, and perpetrators of attacks on minorities seldom are brought to justice. This is partly due to the fact that Pakistan’s democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary and the police, are weakened by endemic corruption, ineffectiveness, and a general lack of accountability.

Many religious schools, or madrassas, in Pakistan provide ongoing ideological training and motivation to those who take part in violence targeting religious minorities in Pakistan and abroad. In mid-2005, the government of Pakistan renewed its effort to require all madrassas to register with the government and ordered them to expel all foreign students. By that year’s end, despite an outcry from some violent extremist groups, most of the religious schools had registered. However, reports indicate that the registration process has had little if any effect on the content of the schools’ curricula, which remains extremist and includes exhortations to violence, and there are still no government controls on the madrassas’ sources of funding. It remains doubtful whether these belated official efforts to curb extremism through reform of the country’s Islamic religious schools will be accompanied by other measures to make them effective. Moreover, these efforts do not adequately address the much wider problem of religious extremism in Pakistan and the continued, unwarranted influence of militant groups on the rights and freedoms of others.

Ahmadis, Christians, and Hindus also have been targeted in attacks by Sunni extremists and in mob violence conducted with apparent impunity. In September 2008, the Pakistani television network Geo TV broadcast a religious affairs program about the Pakistani parliament’s 1974 decision to declare Ahmadis “non-Muslim.” The host of the program reportedly encouraged his guests, who were religious scholars, not only to endorse this decision but to affirm the duty of killing Ahmadis. A day later, a prominent Ahmadi doctor was assassinated, and a local Ahmadi leader was killed the following day. Perpetrators of such attacks on minorities are seldom brought to justice. Indeed, according to the State Department, the government stalled investigation of these two murders.

Among Pakistan’s religious minorities, Ahmadis are subject to the most severe legal restrictions and officially-sanctioned discrimination. Ahmadis, who number between 3 and 4 million in Pakistan, are prevented by law from engaging in the full practice of their faith and may face criminal charges for a range of religious practices, including the use of religious terminology. Pakistan’s constitution declares members of the Ahmadi religious community to be “non-Muslims,” despite their insistence to the contrary. Barred by law from “posing” as Muslims, Ahmadis may not call their places of worship “mosques,” worship in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms which are otherwise open to all Muslims, perform the Muslim call to prayer, use the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quote from the Koran, or display the basic affirmation of the Muslim faith. It is also illegal for Ahmadis to preach in public; to seek converts; or to produce, publish, or disseminate their religious materials. Over two days in late May 2008, the inhabitants of the majority-Ahmadi town of Rabwah, Punjab (called Chenab Nagar by Pakistani authorities) celebrated their faith through distinctive clothing, badges with religious slogans, lighting displays, and fireworks. Two weeks later, police lodged charges against the entire community under the anti-Ahmadi laws. In a separate incident in June 2008, 23 Ahmadis were expelled from medical school in Faisalabad, Punjab for allegedly preaching their faith to others. Moreover, because they are required to register to vote as non-Muslims, Ahmadis who refuse to disavow their claim to being Muslims are effectively disenfranchised. The one potentially positive development—the December 2004 abolition of the religious identification column in Pakistani passports, which, among other advances, enabled Ahmadis to participate in the hajj—was derailed in March 2005, when members of a government ministerial committee restored the column, reportedly in response to pressure from Islamist religious parties. As far as is known, there has never been an effort on the part of any Pakistani government to reform the anti-Ahmadi laws.

Prescribed criminal penalties for what is deemed to be blasphemy include life imprisonment and the death penalty. Blasphemy allegations, which are often false, result in the lengthy detention of, and sometimes violence against, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and members of other religious minorities, as well as Muslims. Because the laws require no evidence to be presented after allegations are made and no proof of intent, and contain no penalty for leveling false allegations, they are commonly used by extremists to intimidate members of religious minorities and others with whom they disagree. They also are often used by the unscrupulous simply to carry out a vendetta or gain an advantage over another. Although the penalties were amended in October 2004 with the aim of reducing the more maliciously applied charges, the minor procedural changes have not had a significant effect on the way the blasphemy laws are exploited in Pakistan. The negative impact of the blasphemy laws is further compounded by the lack of due process involved in these proceedings. In addition, during blasphemy trials, Islamic militants often pack the courtroom and make public threats of violence as a consequence of an acquittal. Such threats have proven credible since they have sometimes been followed by violence. Although no one has yet been executed by the state under the blasphemy laws, individuals have been sentenced to death. Several of those accused under the blasphemy laws have been attacked, even killed, by violent extremists, including while in police custody. Those who escape official punishment or attacks by extremists are sometimes forced to flee the country.

Scores of arrests on blasphemy charges are reported each year and most of the accused are refused bail because of the danger of mob violence. In one case, five Ahmadi teenagers were arrested in January 2009 for allegedly writing the Prophet Mohammed's name on the walls of a toilet in a Sunni mosque. The arrest reportedly occurred when they voluntarily appeared before the police to deny the allegation. A fact-finding mission by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan concluded that there was no witness to the deed and no evidence linking the accused with the alleged action. In January 2009, five Christians, held on blasphemy charges since April 2007, were acquitted and released from custody in Punjab following reconciliation meetings between Muslim clerics and Christian representatives. Another two Christians, both elderly men from Faisalabad, Punjab, were acquitted by the Lahore High Court in April 2009. In November 2006, the two had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly burning pages from the Koran, a charge reportedly fabricated due to a land dispute. Although there have been occasional acquittals on blasphemy charges, in virtually all cases those acquitted have been forced into hiding or even exile, out of fear of attacks by religiously-motivated extremists.

The government of Pakistan also has been active in the international arena in promoting limitations on freedom of religion or belief. As it has done in UN bodies since 1999, in March 2009 Pakistan once again presented a resolution to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva supporting measures to halt the so-called “defamation of religions”. The backers of the resolution claim that their aim is to promote religious tolerance, but in practice such laws routinely criminalize and prosecute what is often deemed—capriciously by local officials in countries where such laws exist—to be “offensive” or “unacceptable” speech about a particular, favored religion or sect. Defamation of religion laws clearly violate principles outlined in international human rights instruments, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression, as well as freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Moreover, they appear to grant rights to entire religions rather than to individuals. Regrettably, the resolution passed the Council with 23 votes. Eleven countries voted against the resolution and 13 countries abstained.

The Commission has long been concerned with the serious religious freedom abuses that are perpetuated in Pakistan, some of which are condoned by the government of Pakistan itself. Since 2002, the Commission has recommended each year that Pakistan be designated a country of particular concern. The Commission has highlighted religious freedom problems in Pakistan through public hearings, meetings with the Administration and the Congress, letters to senior U.S. government officials, and press statements. In February and April 2009, the Commission called attention to the willingness of Pakistan’s provincial and central governments to accept an agreement conceding local control of the Malakand division, of which the Swat Valley is a part, to Taliban-associated extremists who routinely use violence to enforce their political and theological agendas, resulting in systematic human rights abuses and severe limitations on religious freedom.

In March 2009, the Commission held a hearing on Capitol Hill entitled, “Pakistan: The Threat of Religious Extremism to Religious Freedom and Security”. Experts discussed legal restrictions on religious freedom in Pakistan; the threat, particularly to women and religious minorities, of religiously motivated violence and intolerance; strategies for promoting tolerance in Pakistan's educational system, including Islamic schools; and how U.S. policy toward Pakistan could better support the institutions that promote respect for human rights, including freedom of religion or belief.

Based on that hearing and the Commission’s earlier work on Pakistan, the Commission welcomes the Administration’s announcement on March 27, 2009 of “a comprehensive, new strategy” that “focuses more intensively on Pakistan than in the past, calling for more significant increases in U.S. and international support, both economic and military, linked to Pakistani performance against terror.” The Commission concludes strongly, however, that the contest with religious extremists now taking place in Pakistan, and neighboring Afghanistan, requires, in addition to economic and military assistance, that the United States bolster the position of those elements within Pakistani society that respect democratic values, the rule of law, and international standards of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief. To this end, the Commission has made a number of recommendations, the most recent of which appear below.

Recommendations for U.S. Policy

In addition to recommending that Pakistan be designated a CPC, the Commission has the following recommendations for the U.S. government regarding Pakistan.

I. Stopping Abuses of Religious Freedom and Other Human Rights

The U.S. government should urge the government of Pakistan to:
  • oppose agreements that would empower violent Taliban-associated groups to control local justice systems, whether sharia or secular, which would result in human rights abuses and religious freedom restrictions for the citizens of Pakistan, and rescind any agreements made to date, including the agreement affecting the Swat Valley approved by the central government in April 2009;
  • decriminalize blasphemy and, in the interim period until that action is taken, implement procedural changes to the blasphemy laws that will reduce and ultimately end their abuse; and ensure that those who are accused of blasphemy and their defenders are given adequate protection, including by investigating death threats and other actions carried out by militants, and that full due process is followed;
  • prioritize the prevention of religiously-motivated and sectarian violence and the punishment of its perpetrators, including by:
  • making greater efforts to disarm violent extremist groups and provide the necessary security to Shi’a, Sufis, Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus, Sikhs, and other minority religious communities in their places of worship and other minority religious sites of public congregation;
  • investigating acts of religiously-motivated and sectarian violence, and punishing perpetrators in a timely manner; and
  • constituting a government commission that is transparent, adequately funded, inclusive of women and minorities, and defined by a mandate to study and produce recommendations on ways that the Pakistani government can proactively diminish religiously-motivated and sectarian violence, particularly in areas with a heavy concentration of members of religious minority communities, such as Shi’a Muslims in Kurram Agency.
  • rescind the laws targeting Ahmadis, which effectively criminalize the public practice of their faith and violate their right to freedom of religion guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and
  • halt its practice at the UN Human Rights Council and other international fora of introducing the socalled.defamation of religions. resolution, which violates the internationally-guaranteed rights to freedom of religion and expression.

    The U.S. government should:

  • clearly articulate a concern for upholding religious freedom and related human rights as an essential element of the new U.S. strategy toward Pakistan, and support Pakistani civil society institutions that work to uphold and guarantee those rights; and
  • designate a member of Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke’s team to report to the Special Representative exclusively on human rights in Pakistan, specifically including religious freedom and sectarian violence.
II Strengthening Law Enforcement, the Judiciary, and Civil Society

The U.S. government should urge the government of Pakistan to:

  • reinforce the rule of law, including by strengthening protections for the freedoms of religion, speech, association, assembly, and the media, and by restoring and resolutely defending an independent judiciary.

    The U.S. government should:

  • use its civilian financial assistance to Pakistan to strengthen institutions crucial to Pakistan’s democratic development, particularly the judiciary and the police, which are reported to be especially corrupt, ineffective, and lacking accountability, thereby contributing to violations of human rights, including religious freedom;
  • ensure that non-military assistance emphasizes respect for human rights, civil society, constitutional processes, and democratic institutions, rather than the previous strategy of emphasizing the importance of certain political parties or particular political or military leaders to Pakistan’s stability;
  • expand U.S. government contacts beyond the Pakistani government to include substantially more open and public dialogue with a variety of civil society representatives, including groups and political parties that may be critical of the government or represent diverse viewpoints; andexpand U.S. government contacts beyond the Pakistani government to include substantially more open and public dialogue with a variety of civil society representatives, including groups and political parties that may be critical of the government or represent diverse viewpoints; and
  • recognizing that lasting stability in Pakistan will come from a vibrant civil society, expand programs leading to the sustained engagement of the United States with the Pakistani people, such as the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Program, and other exchanges for professionals, students, and religious and civil society leaders from all of Pakistan’s diverse communities.
III Fighting Extremism and Government Alliances with Extremist Groups

The U.S. government should urge the government of Pakistan to:
  • cease toleration or support of the Taliban or other terrorist groups by any element of the Pakistani government, including the intelligence services; and
  • confront and work to address the consequences of the political alliances maintained by past military-dominated governments with Islamist political parties, which afforded an excessive amount of influence to these groups, and which, in turn, had a strong negative impact on religious freedom in Pakistan.

    The U.S. government should:

  • set detailed, transparent, and measurable benchmarks for the use of civilian and military assistance to ensure, inter alia, that U.S. aid does not bolster Taliban-associated or other violent extremist groups; serves as a confidence-building measure that can help restore the trust of the Pakistani people in the United States and its commitment to Pakistan’s security, stability and prosperity; and promotes consistency in how aid is disbursed and goals are pursued.
IV Focusing on Education and Tolerance in Schools

The U.S. government should urge the government of Pakistan to:

  • investigate and close any religious schools that provide weapons or illegal arms training in perpetrating acts of violence;
  • set national textbook and curricula standards that actively promote tolerance towards all religions, and establish appropriate review and enforcement mechanisms to guarantee that such standards are being met in government (public) schools; and
  • ensure that a madrassa oversight board is empowered to develop, implement, and train teachers in human rights standards, and to provide oversight of madrassa curricula and teaching standards.

    The U.S. government should:

  • in administering its education assistance to Pakistan, focus more specifically on promoting reform in the state schools and madrassas, where textbooks regularly present religious intolerance as acceptable and include derogatory statements about religious minorities, particularly Jews and Hindus; and
  • request an annual progress report from the U.S. State Department and/or the U.S. Agency for International Development to Congress and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom regarding U.S. education assistance to diminish intolerance in Pakistan’s state schools and madrassas, and progress made toward detailed, transparent, and measurable benchmarks.
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