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SACW | 1 Aug. 2003

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 1 August, 2003 [1.] Sri Lankans call for apology (Frances Harrison) - Text of Appeal Signed in Sri Lanka [2.] No to South Asian
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2003
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 1 August, 2003

      [1.] Sri Lankans call for apology (Frances Harrison)
      - Text of Appeal Signed in Sri Lanka
      [2.] No to South Asian troops for Iraq (Praful Bidwai)
      [3.] The Tribulations of the World of Islam: Review Essay (Hassan N. Gardezi)
      [4.] India: Reservation needs revamping (S.P. Udayakumar)
      [5.] Letter to Dr Nelson Mandela (IK Shukla)
      [6.] PRESS RELEASE July 31, 2003 National Human Rights Commission,
      New Delhi, India
      [7.] PRESS RELEASE All India Democratic Women Association [India]



      BBC 31 July, 2003

      Sri Lankans call for apology
      By Frances Harrison
      BBC correspondent in Colombo

      More than 100 civil society groups in Sri Lanka have called for the
      president and prime minister to apologise for the 1983 anti-Tamil
      riots which triggered the country's civil war.
      In what they called an act of remembrance for the riots, human rights
      activists called for serious attempts at ethnic reconciliation.
      But the event was only attended by a few hundred people and a strong
      groundswell of public feeling still seems to be missing in the peace
      Humanitarian agencies have issued a statement calling the 1983 riots
      an outbreak of unprecedented and shameful violence.
      It said the killing and looting showed the state's unwillingness to
      maintain law and order.


      One speaker at the event described how his father was burned alive in
      anti-Tamil riots in 1977 and then his wife's foster brother was
      burned alive in 1983.
      He went on to say that there was not a month of his life when he had
      not suffered discrimination as a Tamil living in Sri Lanka -
      including recent police harassment because of his work as a peace


      Twenty years on - riots that led to war

      On behalf of the government commission for refugees, Bradman
      Weerakoon spoke of the need to accept that minorities had been
      wronged by the state in the past.
      But he stopped short of acknowledging state involvement in
      orchestrating the 83 riots as widely alleged at the time and since.
      Instead, Mr Weerakoon blamed the inaction of the security forces on
      the prevailing chaos and confusion.
      The organisers of the event called for government compensation for
      the victims who 20 years later are still waiting for financial help
      in rebuilding their lives.
      A recent presidential inquiry received complaints from nearly 1,000
      Tamil victims of the riots - almost all of whom were still facing
      bureaucratic obstructions in obtaining redress.
      The event ended with a candlelight vigil in Independence Square but
      the poor turnout suggested few people want to dwell on the past now
      or reflect on what is needed to heal Sri Lanka's divided society.

      o o o

      [ Text of Appeal Signed in Sri Lanka]

      "Never Again": an appeal to begin a process of reconciliation

      Twenty years ago, on July 24, 1983 Sri Lanka experienced an outbreak
      of unprecedented and catastrophic violence against the Tamil people,
      which changed the entire destiny of our country. The scale of
      violence perpetrated against helpless people, the loss of lives and
      property, but above all the psychological harm it has done to victims
      and our society as a whole have been incalculable.

      The blatant violation of the rule of law and the killing of Tamil
      prisoners in custody in the New Magazine Prison on 25th and 27th of
      July reduced society to a state of lawlessness and brutality. The
      events of that period remembered as 1983 Black July created deep
      divisions of fear and insecurity amongst all peoples of the country.
      Black July generated a mass exodus from the country. It helped to
      nurture Tamil militancy, swell the ranks of Tamil militants and
      produce violent reprisals.

      These events have had many ramifications to date. It was the
      beginning of the civil war. It resulted in inhuman and brutal types
      of violence which engulfed our entire country and in which innocent
      Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese, women, children and men underwent
      immense suffering time and again during the last twenty years. The
      perpetrators of the violence of July 1983 have gone unpunished.

      The long silence and inaction of successive governments are a
      shameful revelation of the State's unwillingness or incapacity to
      maintain the Rule of Law. After a lapse of 18 years, the Truth
      Commission was appointed by the last government to inquire into the
      violence during this period including the events of Black July.

      The report it has recently issued uncovers the criminal complicity
      and involvement of the various political actors and segments of
      society in the events of this period and acknowledges that grave
      crime has been committed against a people. It is a belated
      acknowledgement. But shorn of any partisan recriminations, it can
      still mark the first step towards reconciliation and healing. We
      should as people and as distinct communities, have the resolve to say
      never again!

      All leaders of this country especially the President and the Prime
      Minister should apologise for the wrongs that have been committed.
      Such an apology will go a long way in healing the deep wounds, fears
      and insecurity that continue to afflict our people. It will also set
      in motion reconciliation and healing among the peoples of all three
      communities. We urge that the Government apportion due compensation
      to all affected directly by the violence of '83 July riots as a token
      of acceptance of responsibility.

      We call upon the people of all communities in all parts of the
      country to set aside a few moments of silent remembrance and mourning
      on July 27, recalling in particular those who suffered in Black July
      and also making it the occasion to remember all the innocent victims
      of the brutal civil conflict of the last twenty years. Let it mark
      the commencement of a nationwide process of truth and reconciliation
      in which we as Sri Lankan people will regain our humanity and
      co-exist in harmony realising in our lives the noble truths of all
      the great religions that are practised in our land.

      Signed: 1. E. A. W. Bandara (Senasily Foundation - Puttalam), 2. J.
      P. Dayananda de Silva (Citizen Committee - Galle), 3. S. Devadasa
      (Kelani Valley Peace Coordinating Committee), 4. U. M. Kuthoos (Rural
      Development Foundation - Puttalam), 5. K. V. Terrance (YMCA -
      Colombo), 6. Julian Rozairo (Community Education Centre), 7. D. L.
      Kaluthanthri (Samasevaya - Bandarawela), 8. Ven. Madampagama Assaji
      Nayaka Thera (Inter-Religious Peace Foundation), 9. His Grace K. K.
      Kathamba (Hindu Religious Leader), 10. Ramya Herath (Women's
      Development Centre - Kanthale), 11. K. P. W. Chandani (Women's
      Development Centre - Kanthale), 12. Rev. Fr. Mervyn Fernando (Subodhi
      Institute - Piliyandala), 13. T. B. Dharmapala (Galoya Mitiyawatha
      Community Development Foundation), 14. J. I. Noel Peiris (Ampara),
      15. D. A. D. N. C. Wimalaratne (Rural and Community Development
      Cooperation), 16. R. K. Perumal (Sumaithangi - Nuwara-Eliya), 17. M.
      W. Piyadasa (Human Rights Organisation - Rathnapura), 18. Walter
      Keller (GTZ), 19. M. I. Alwis (Women's Development Centre - Kandy),
      20. G. Ariyapala (Sarvodaya - Gampaha), 21. T. A. A. Asoka (Sama
      Padanama - Gampaha), 22. Upul Seneviratne (Desodaya - Colombo), 23.
      M. S. D. Perera (Association of Disabled Ex-service Persons), 24. H.
      Podinilame (Centre for Human Development - Tholangamuwa), 25. G.
      Joganathan (Future in our Hands Development - Badulla), 26. Titus
      Fernando (IMADAR), 27. V. Kamaladas (INAYAM - Batticaloa), 28. S.
      Senthurajah (NGO Consortium - Ampara), 29. S. H. L. Aliyar (Sewalanka
      Foundation - Colombo), 30. Cyril Pathiranage (Human Power Foundation
      - Galle), 31. Rosline Arockiyasamy (Araising Sun Community
      Development - Nuwara Eliya), 32. M. W. S. de Silva (Saviya
      Development Foundation - Galle), 33. Kapila Jayaweera (Saviya
      Development Foundation - Galle), 34. S. Nadesa Pillai (Non Violent
      Direct Action Group), 35. T. Panchalingam (Jaffna), 36. S.
      Paramanathan (Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies - Jaffna), 37. S.
      Arumugasamy (Vinayager Social Service), 38. Sivashri K. Sivalogatha
      Thesigar (IRPF - Jaffna), 39. S. B. Udovita (Sri Lanka Social
      Development Library Institute - Hali-Ela), 40. Stella Victor (Palm
      Foundation - Nuwara Eliya), 41. M.A. Zubaidheen (Peace Foundation -
      Akkaraipattu), 42. Arun Sivaganam (Movement for Defence of Democratic
      Rights), 43. Channa Mendis, 44. Dulcey de Silva (Women and Media),
      45. K. V. Mahesh, 46. Saman Seneviratne (National Peace Council -
      Galle), 47. Nimali Dissanayake, 48. Ven. Budhiyagama Chandraratane
      Thera (Wanni Cultural Foundation), 49. S. Kamalakanthan
      (Trincomalee), 50. F. Solomentine (Centre for Performing Arts -
      Colombo), 51. B. W. Gunasekera (National Ethnic Unity Foundation,
      Ampara), 52. Vasanthy Sivasamy (Plantation Women's Development
      Organisation - Wattegama), 53. V. Thirunavukkarasu (New Left Front -
      Colombo), 54. W. T. D. Sirithunga (Peace Secretariat - Colombo), 55.
      A. M. Saman Keerthi, 56. F. A. Alexander (Plantation and Rural
      Education Development Organisation - Kandy), 57. Prof. Tissa
      Vitarana, 58. Jeslin Punchihewa (Bintenna Kantha Sanvidanaya -
      Mahiyanganaya), 59. Rohini Weerasinghe (Kantha Sakthi), 60. T. N. D.
      de Silva (Saviya Sanvardana Padanama), 61. Rev. Fr. N. M. Saveri
      (Centre for Performing Arts - Colombo), 62. H. K. Asoka Dayaratne,
      63. U. L. M. M. Mubeen (Muslim Peace Council - Katthankudy), 64.
      Deacon Bro. Siriwardana (YMCA - Ampara), 65. Suvinitha Amadoru, 66.
      Ven. Galagama Dammaransi (Hatbodhi Viharaya - Narahenpita), 67. Raja
      Uswetakeiyawa (Kandy Friendship Foundation), 68. Shirley Candappa,
      69. Tennyson Edirisuriya (former MP), 70. Rev. Fr. Anura Perera
      (Inter Religious Peace Foundation), 71. Rev. Fr. Dr. Rienzie Perera,
      72. M. I. M. Mohideen (Muslim Rights Organisation), 73. S.
      Balakrishnan (National Peace Council), 74. S. P. Nathan (National
      Peace Council), 75. Wimal Fernando (Movement for Free and Fair
      Election), 76. I. M. Ibrahim (Muslim Rights Organisation -
      Samanthure), 77. Indika Gunawardana (Kalani Mitiyawata Podujana
      Udanaya - Avissawella), 78. Ven. Weligama Dammissara (Protectors of
      Human Resources - Wellampitiya), 79. Mano Rajasingham (Mandru -
      Batticaloa), 80. Shanthi Sachithanandam (Mandru - Batticaloa), 81. S.
      Selvaratnem (The Human Resources Development Society), 82. Linus
      Jayatilake (Ekshath Kamkaru Sammelanaya), 83. Karunadasa Minikandala
      (Samaja Sajeeva Kendraya - Gampaha), 84. Manel Rathnayake (Uva
      Community Development Centre), 85. Dr. P. Sarvanamuttu (Centre for
      Policy Alternatives), 86. S. Sridharan (PAFFREL), 87. Denesha
      Samararatne (Law Faculty student), 88. M. Mahuruf (Consultant -
      NOVIB), 89. S. Amaraweera (Free Trade Union Development Centre), 90.
      A. B. A. S. Sufyan (Northern Muslims Rights Organisation - Jaffna),
      91. Padma Ranasinghe (Women's Development Centre - Kurunegala), 92.
      V. L. Perera (Hill Country Assemble), 93. Rev. Sister S. Fatimanayaki
      (SEDEC), 94. D. S. Dasanayake (Sarvodaya - Badulla), 95. Dr. Kumar
      Rupesinghe (Foundation for Coexistence), 96. S. Sivagurunathan
      (MDDR), 97. Dr. Jehan Perera (National Peace Council), 98. Gunarathna
      Konara (Human Rights Organisation - Monaragala), 99. Jayantha
      Rathnaweera (Seedo Lanka - Badalkubura), 100. Wasantha Pushpakumara
      (National Anti-War Front), 101. Ananda Rathnayake (Sri Lanka Human
      Resource Development Foundation - Badulla), 102. Rev. Fr. Dr. Osweld
      B. Firth (People Association for Peace and Development - Colombo),
      103. Jayasekara Weerasinghe.

      Daily News [Sri Lanka] 1 August 2003



      The News International [ Pakistan] July 31, 2003

      No troops for Iraq
      Praful Bidwai

      It is a telling comment upon the dented, eroded moral authority of
      the world's sole Superpower that it approached some 90 countries the
      world over for military assistance in Iraq, but managed to persuade
      only 19 of them to send troops. Their commitment of a total of 13,000
      troops is but a small fraction of the number needed to relieve the
      158,000 US and British soldiers currently in Iraq, and an even
      smaller proportion of the strength required to instil a minimal sense
      of security among ordinary citizens. Even with its NATO allies, the
      US has had poor luck: only about a fourth of them are willing to send
      soldiers to further America's war.

      Evidently, the US is a military giant with political feet of clay.
      Domestically, in both America and Britain, fresh political crises are
      gathering over the reported suicide of the whistle-blower
      microbiologist David Kelley, and disclosures that the US allegations
      that Saddam Hussein bought uranium from Niger were pure fabrications.

      It would be a surprise if George Bush and Tony Blair emerge unscathed
      from these episodes. Kelly's death is a particularly serious matter.
      The expert, who visited Iraq 37 times, knew Blair was lying when he
      claimed that Iraq was a mere 45 minutes away from deploying its
      weapons of mass destruction. In his assessment, Iraq was nowhere near
      weaponising its chemical or biological capabilities, leave alone its
      (primitive) nuclear programme.

      Complicating this political crisis is Iraq's domestic situation,
      marked by growing resistance to the occupation, widespread chaos,
      lawlessness, breakdown of public services, and antipathy towards the
      US and its clients. An opinion poll commissioned by the conservative
      British "Spectator" magazine reveals that 75 percent of Iraqis say
      that Baghdad is more dangerous than it was before the war (including
      54 percent who say it is "much more dangerous"). Two-thirds fear
      being attacked in the streets.

      Forty-five percent believe the US attacked Iraq "to secure oil
      supplies" and 41 percent "to help Israel". Just 6 percent think that
      the main motive was "to find and destroy WMD".

      The occupation is unpopular. Only 29 percent favour the Americans,
      although only 7 percent want Saddam Hussein back. Only 13 percent
      want occupation troops to leave immediately. But 71 percent want
      power handed over to the Iraqi people within 12 months.

      Three-and-a-half months after the fall of Baghdad, the US has failed
      to restore order or public services. Baghdad has a pathetically
      inadequate 3,900-strong police force. Human Rights Watch says women
      are much more insecure than under the Saddam regime. Destitution is
      rampant. Thousands of competent technocrats have been sacked under
      wholesale "de-Baathification" - although many became members of the
      Baath Party out of compulsion. Occupation troops have failed to
      instil a sense of security among Iraqi civilians.

      The occupation is proving extremely costly - over and above its hefty
      $4 billion monthly bill. Fifty American troops have been killed since
      May 1 and over 150 since March 20. US soldiers' morale is extremely
      low, and falling.

      The New York Times quotes a sergeant from the 3rd Infantry Division
      saying, "we feel betrayed" at the cancellation of the division's
      scheduled return home. "It was like a big, big slap in the face ..."
      Relatives have been circulating an anonymous email message from a
      soldier. "Our morale is not high or even low", it says. "Our morale
      is non-existent."

      Iraq is witnessing something akin to "imperial overstretch": the US
      has failed to control the political and military situation despite
      deploying 16 of its army's total of 33 combat brigades. This is well
      in excess of the recommended combat-deployment ratio of one-to-three.
      It is desperate to relieve its glum, tired, demoralised soldiers. It
      is now concentrating on its recruitment efforts on South Asia and,
      secondarily, Turkey. That's the context for the visits of Generals
      Richard Myers and John Abizaid to this region.

      All South Asian countries must reject US requests for troops, for at
      least four reasons. First and foremost, the case for war on Iraq was
      based on a hoax - falsified evidence, sexed up intelligence, and
      fanciful inferences. No WMD have been found in Iraq. A war mired in
      such dishonesty, fraud and deception could only have been grossly
      unjust. Equally immoral and illegal is the resulting occupation.

      Second, in bypassing the Security Council to wage war, the US mocked
      at the United Nations, violated its Charter and undermined the
      principle of multilateralism. Under the Charter, no state can use
      armed force against another without the Security Council's prior
      authorisation - except in self-defence.

      Iraq's invasion was the consequence of the new, dangerous US doctrine
      of "pre-emptive" or "preventive" war. The world would become a
      lawless jungle if mighty states invaded others on suspicion that they
      might some day pose a threat. We in South Asia must not legitimise
      such doctrines or work against a multipolar rule-based world order
      with multilateralism at its core.

      Third, the US is desperate to put a multi-racial, multi-ethnic,
      plurilateral gloss on Iraq's essentially First World occupation
      force. It would be extraordinarily foolhardy for South Asians to
      oblige it and become targets of Arab nationalist resistance. Joining
      hands with an insolent Superpower, which the Arab masses hate, will
      compromise our peoples' - and migrant workers' - safety and security.
      Right since 1953, when the US toppled Mossadegh in Iran, and set back
      the cause of democracy in the Middle East, America has repeatedly
      destabilised that volatile region. It would be mindless for us to
      ally with the US.

      And fourth, US actions in and plans for Iraq cannot be isolated from
      the agenda of the Neoconservatives who now rule Washington. The
      Neocons have spelled out their goal: a US global Empire based on
      military supremacy. If the post-9/11 attack on Afghanistan was the
      first step in that process, the war in Iraq is the second (and much
      bigger) step.

      The pursuit of this agenda is unleashing forces of discontent and
      disorder whose full dimensions the US can barely comprehend, leave
      alone control. Blinded by militarism, Washington has no political
      strategy to deal with the phenomena (terrorism) it wishes to
      eliminate. In building a new global Empire, it seems destined to
      visit havoc and devastation upon the world.

      It would be suicidal for Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh to collude
      with the US Empire. This will bring them into hostile confrontation
      with Arab public opinion and earn them the hatred of the bulk of the
      Third World. Iraq has become a quagmire thanks to Washington's own
      cynical policies since the 1960s, when it promoted one Baathist
      faction (Saddam's) against another, and through the 1980s when it
      sided with him against Iran even as he used chemical weapons.

      The US is a bad "nation-builder". It fails to translate military
      victory into peace. A recent study by the Carnegie Endowment for
      International Peace says the US has so far conducted over 200
      overseas military interventions. A mere 16 of these were
      "nation-building" attempts. Only four (post-War Germany, Japan,
      Granada-1983 and Panama-1989) succeeded in establishing democracy
      lasting 10 years or longer.

      Iraq is already turning sour. It could become a gigantic
      misadventure. Only the foolhardy would want to become America's
      partner in disaster.



      31 July 2003

      The Tribulations of the World of Islam

      Review Essay
      Hassan N. Gardezi

      Islam and Democracy by
      Fatima Mernissi, Cambridge, MA,
      Perseus, 2002

      Over the past few decades death and devastation, dispossession and
      humiliation have become the lot of ordinary Muslims around the world.
      In Pakistan today Muslims are massacred by Muslims on account of
      differences in sect, gender and class. In India they pay the price
      for being a minority in the midst of a majority fired by militant
      Hindu nationalism. In Afghanistan an erratic jihad instigated years
      ago by the United States in complicity with the Saudi royal family
      and a Pakistani dictator has reduced the Muslim country into killing
      fields with no end in sight. In the Middle East, the birth place of
      Islam, Muslim masses remain helpless victims of Zionist fury and a
      resurgent imperialism, fueled in part by the region’s own oil wealth.
      The horrors of the recent high-tech invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq
      displayed on the TV screens for the whole world to watch have
      convincingly demonstrated the pitiable disarray in the world of
      Islam. As there seems to be no end to this tale of woes, one feels
      compelled to look for credible explanations of the tragic phenomenon.

      Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan scholar of Islamic history, well versed
      in the language and the message of Koran offers one such explanation
      in her book, Islam and Democracy. It is very likely that her analysis
      of the situation will be spurned by the patriarchal establishments
      within the world of Islam, as it comes from a woman who also happens
      to be a professed feminist. But it is her very feminist
      consciousness, sparked by her experience of spending her childhood in
      a Muslim harem (chadar aur chardewari as they call it in Pakistan)
      and her early education in a Koranic school, which gives her a
      profound insight into the plight of her co-religionists.

      Mernissi traces the roots of Islam’s decline and the sorry state of
      Muslims to the historically generated and strategically fostered
      fears and phobias of the caliphs, imams and their present day
      counterparts in authority, including their fundamentalist allies and
      opponents. One by one she identifies the elements that were once the
      seeds of life in Islam, but over the course of time have come to be
      dreaded, demonized and veiled as alien and subversive to the faith.

      A major casualty of this atavistic repression is democracy itself and
      its working principles. The Mu’tazila intellectuals, philosophers,
      and sufis fostered the democratic ideals of freedom, equality,
      humanism and tolerance within Islamic culture during the 9th and 10th
      centuries AD under the early Abbasid rulers of Baghdad. Reason and
      private initiative triumphed during this period, making Islamic
      civilization synonymous with the flowering of philosophy, arts,
      mathematics, astronomy, engineering and medicine. But soon these
      caliphs too succumbed to the despotism characteristics of their
      Umayyad predecessors. Mu’tazila philosophers were hunted down and
      condemned for polluting Islam with Foreign (Greek) ideas. Al-Hallaj,
      the sufi who insisted that human beings can be repositories of truth,
      was burned alive. Freedom of thought and private initiative (ijtehad)
      was replaced with the cult of blind obedience (ta’a).

      Islamic history reveals two traditions of dealing with the problem of
      despotism. One is the rational tradition based on the use of reason
      (aql) to challenge absolute authority, promoted by the Mu’tazila.
      Human beings, they argued, are endowed with power to think and form
      opinion (ra’y) based on reasoning. Therefore, they should have the
      right to chose their leaders without being coerced to obey. This
      tradition was violently suppressed and silenced by the later day
      caliphs who invoked shari’a, stripped of its questioning dimension,
      to demand obedience and conformity.

      The second tradition of dissent is centered around subversive
      rebellion, associated with the khrjites who first appeared on the
      scene of political Islam as the assassins of Ali, the fourth
      successor (caliph) to the Prophet of Islam. With the effective
      suppression of the rational tradition of political Islam only the
      kharjite rebel tradition has survived and flourished. Interaction
      between "the violence of the caliph and the violence of the
      subversive" became the pattern in Muslim history and explains the
      modern reality." But seeking justice through violence and murder is
      no solution to the problem of despotism "because it removes the
      essential element from the scene, the masses and their will."

      After decolonization of the 1940s through 1960s the Muslim
      nationalist leaders, faced with militaristic, imperialist West took
      shelter in their past, erecting it as a cultural rampart or
      boundaries (hudud) to fence off all sorts of real and imagined
      enemies. But the past they activated was not the rational tradition;
      it was the cult of obedience (ta’a), entrenched in the caliphal Islam
      of the palace and the hangman. Democracy was defined as a "Western
      malady" and decked out in the chador of foreignness. The "West by
      constantly talking about democracy, brings before our eyes the
      phantom ship of those who were decapitated for refusing to obey,"
      says Mernissi.

      It is tragic that while Muslims are cut off from the most important
      cultural advances of recent times that have made the flowering of
      civil society in the West possible, their states continue to import
      Western arms in massive quantities. The billions of dollars raised
      through these sales are used by the West in military research to
      boost its space and electronic industries giving it control over
      heavens through satellites, cruse missiles and stealth bombers. The
      Muslim East is by contrast weakened more than ever and reduced to
      "that crippled, powerless mass that Gulf wars spread before the world
      on television."(the book under review was written before the second
      and more devastating Anglo-American invasion of Iraq). The Muslim
      regimes "frightened alike by rationalism and by idea of democratic
      participation" are neither able to protect Islam nor Muslims," while
      the fundamentalism of their allies and opponents "lowers intelligence
      to the level of emotional, visceral reflexes. And any drop in
      intelligence bears within it the germs of decay."

      Linked to the widespread fear of democracy among Muslim regimes and
      their Islamic establishments is the fear of freedom of thought. Why
      is it that there is hardly a Muslim state where freedom of thought
      can be taken for granted? Mernissi points out that freedom of thought
      is associated with pre-Islamic jahiliyya, the chaotic pagan world
      before Islam. Freedom of thought inevitably leads to plurality of
      opinion conjuring up the vision of plurality of gods worshiped by the
      jahiliyya Arabs. Thinking involves creation of different images of
      reality and the images that the pre-Islamic Arabs created were those
      of idols. Therefore, with triumphant monotheism of Islam creation of
      an image (sura) was slapped with a ban. This was the beginning of
      distrust of imagination, the locus of all creation, innovation and
      improvisation. Imagination (khayal) is also the refuge of
      individuality, "a person’s little secret garden that escapes all
      censorship, all compromise. ... It is a place of freedom that the
      group cannot keep a watch on," and what cannot be watched can put the
      security of the group in danger. "The fact is that for fifteen
      centuries the imagination has been condemned to pursue its course
      beyond the hudud, outside the walls. This presents no danger if our
      great minds are in Paris or London or the United States." But
      whatever other purpose it may serve, the banishing and stifling of
      imagination, certainly does not serve the need of the people to live
      in security and peace in an electronic age. "It is absolutely
      necessary that the umma (Islamic community) root its security
      somewhere else than the ban on free thought," concludes Mernissi.

      All Muslim states that are members of the United Nations have signed
      its charter which gives their citizens freedom of thought, a law that
      is supposed to supercede the laws of the individual member states.
      However, the regimes that seek legitimacy on cultural and symbolic
      grounds rather than democratic principles have resorted to
      introducing shari’a laws which renounce freedom of thought and demand
      obedience (ta’a). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
      incorporated in the UN charter since the founding of the world body
      says in part (Article 18) that "Everyone shall have the right to
      freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include
      to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice, either
      individually or in community with others and in public or in private.

      This crucial article obviously calls for a secular state. If the
      Muslim states had signed the UN charter in good faith and entered the
      modern age with grace, the least they could have done was to
      "initiate a debate about freedom of thought and the relationship
      between religion and the state" within their countries. They could
      have used their government controlled media and educational
      apparatuses to explain the UN charter to their citizens and its
      relevance to democracy. They could have addressed the difference in
      freedom of thought in its modern democratic context and freedom of
      thought during the jahiliyya. Instead the heads of the Muslim states
      chose to hide the provisions of the charter they had signed behind a
      hijab and squandered their public revenues to promote the ideology of
      obedience (ta’a). In order to sit in the United Nation they chose to
      present a modern face at the United Nations in New York, only to
      return home to show the "face of an Abbasid caliph to terrorize"
      their people with shari’a.

      Mernissi rejects the idea that Islam can only succeed if it is
      imposed on the people in a totalitarian manner through the courts, as
      if Islam has nothing to offer to a modern citizen who will quickly
      abandon it if state surveillance is lifted. "Islam can not only
      survive, but thrive in a secular state, as has Christianity in
      secular United States, France and Germany.

      The fears and phobias of those who head the Muslim states and their
      allies and opponents among the fundamentalists fall into a complex
      syndrome which explains the mutilated modernity of the world of
      Islam, devoid of the "democratic advances as well as the cultural and
      scientific achievements" of the last century. Mernissi’s analysis of
      this syndrome leads her to its core, the fear of women. This fear is
      also strongly linked to the jahilliya, "which Arabs have never taken
      pains to analyze coolly, as a first step towards moving beyond it."

      The most powerful of the 360 gods of Ka’ba were female goddesses.
      These goddesses were also the most violent as they demanded blood
      sacrifices, and had nothing of the maternal about them. "Despite many
      gods of the pre-Islamic Arabs, it was the goddesses who reigned over
      heaven and earth in Mecca," during the dark days of jahiliyya. They
      symbolized strength and danger, just as the jahiliyya stood for
      disorder. Therefore, both must be veiled and made invisible, as it is
      only the strong and dangerous that is veiled. After the Ka’ba was
      cleansed of its idols, women were not to walk the streets again, had
      to be excluded from the Mosques and confined in the harem, the
      forbidden and protected space.

      The shrill calls for banning the mixing of sexes heard from Algeria
      to Iran and Pakistan today are nothing new in Islamic political
      history. It is the caliphal tradition of tathir, the ritual
      purification of the social body. In year 405 of the hijira when Egypt
      was faced with failure of crops due to the falling waters of the
      Nile, the Fatimid caliph, al-Hakim ordered women to be shut in their
      homes and forbade manufacture of shoes for them. Those who opposed
      his orders were killed. In year 487 faced with a similar crisis, al
      Mutaqi, the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad, exiled women singers and women
      of ill repute from the city. In due course this caliphal tradition
      was formalized as a theory of crisis by some Muslim historians.
      Mernissi notes that as late as the middle of the twentieth century,
      Ahmad Amin, an eminent historian contended in his monumental work on
      Islamic history that women have been the grave diggers of dynasties;
      from the moment they became visible in society the dynasty foundered.
      The fundamentalists of today are just reactivating this age-old
      caliphal tradition in the name of shari’a. To quote from a long
      lament of Shaykh Abbas Madani, a leader of the Algerian
      fundamentalist movement, "... mixing of sexes in schools, Lycees, and
      universities has led to the proliferation of bastards. Depravity has
      spread, and we see that women no longer cover themselves, but display
      their bodies with makeup and naked for all to see ... Where then is
      the dignity of the Algerian man after his honor has been publicly
      flouted?" Is this not the same refrain that is blasted into our ears
      in Pakistan from the Mosque loudspeakers every Friday?

      The sacred city of Islam is supposed to be a homogenized community,
      "carefully divided into two hierarchical spaces, where only one sex
      manages politics and monopolizes decision making. The emergence of
      woman means the emergence of the stranger in the city." And the
      stranger personifies danger. Islam’s sacred city must be protected
      from anything that smacks of the disorder of jahiliya. But the
      boundaries, hudud, are crumbling now. Women are infiltrating the
      forbidden territory in large numbers and the imams are alarmed and
      furious. Over the last few decades women have drastically altered the
      sex ratios in the universities, so much so that in some Muslim
      countries such as Iran, the proportion of women university teachers
      is now higher than in some of the Western countries. And that is why
      Imam Khomeini ordered in 1980 to make hijab compulsory. That is also
      why the conglomerate of religious parties in Pakistan, the MMA, is
      keen to legislate women back into hijab, and segregate them into
      separate universities. And that is also why the Jamat-e-Islami of
      Pakistan is taking the desperate step of building its own sacred city
      of Islam to be named Qartaba, where women will once again be
      invisible and there will be no depravity and nakedness (fahashi aur
      uriani, as they call it in Pakistan). That seems to be the Jamat’s
      solution to the problem of man created weak because of shahwa
      (desire), But what protection it will bring to the masses of Muslim
      men women and children around the world from being bombed massacred
      and starved by their fellow Muslims and others in another question.

      "The hijab is manna from heaven for politicians; it is not just a
      scrap of cloth." Although it may have its other contextual functions,
      for Merssini "it is division of labor. It sends women back to the
      kitchen. Any Muslim state can reduce its level of unemployment by
      half just by appealing to the shari’a, in its meaning as despotic
      caliphal tradition."

      The Saudi monarchy is the natural epicenter of all the fears and
      phobias that afflict the despots who rule the world of Islam. From
      its oil resources flow the billions of dollars that have created the
      "petro-Wahabism, whose pillar is the veiled woman." As the core of
      Islamic fundamentalism, it is promoted around the world to fight back
      equality, freedom of thought, rationalism and humanism, the working
      principles of democracy, and thereby blocks all avenues for the
      majority of Muslims to live peaceful and productive lives in the
      modern age.

      It is true that the story of tribulations of the world of Islam
      remains incomplete if the role of Western imperialism, specially the
      arrogantly resurgent US imperialism, is not taken into account. But
      there is no dearth of incisive studies of this phenomenon that are
      continually being produced by progressive scholars both in the East
      and the West. The question is , can the Muslim East stand any chance
      of defending itself from the rapaciousness of Western imperialism by
      taking shelter in its medieval past, by hiding women behind the hijab
      and promoting the cult of ta’a, by its phobia of democratic
      pluralism, by its fear of freedom of thought and by its vendetta
      against reason? Those women and men who are involved in the struggle
      for democracy , social justice and secular humanism in Muslim
      countries can take heart that Fatima Mernissi has boldly addressed
      these issues, even if she has a tendency to romanticize the
      revolutionary character of some of Islam’s intrinsic concepts, and
      the potential of the emergent feminist movement to rescue Muslims
      from the calamities that besiege them.



      The Hindu [India] July 01, 2003
      Open Page

      Reservation needs revamping

      Despite all the laudatory legislation and statutory safeguards, the
      `lower' castes are still discriminated against in their daily life.
      This caste evil has to be fought collectively and comprehensively. To
      win that war, we need to win all the battles on the way without
      getting divided. Reservation is one such key battle. The battle-plan
      should be carefully modified in order to do justice to the truly
      oppressed and the needy among us.




      To: nmandela@...
      Subject: Letter to Dr Nelson Mandela
      Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2003 22:23:37 +0000

      Dear Sir:

      It comes as a big shock to learn that you have been invited to visit
      Gandhi Birthday celebrations in India

      By those who were party to and celebrants of Gandhi's assassination,
      By those who placed in the Parliament the portrait of Savarkar who
      was a co-conspirator in Gandhi's murder. (To add to the national
      ignominy, across Gandhi's portrait).
      By those who opposed Gandhi in his lifetime relentlessly for his
      egalitarianism embracing all Indian citizens without any distinction
      or bias.
      By those who are votaries of Fascism and Nazism (for making Germany
      "pure" by extermination of Jews).
      By those who always opposed India's freedom by collaborating with the
      Brits as spies and informers.
      By those who were the first to plead for India's bifurcation along
      theocratic lines.
      By those who drenched Gujarat in blood and fire in 2001 by
      massacring Muslims in thousands, raping and burning their
      women-men-children, old and young, alive, setting to torch their
      properties, making a bonfire of their homes and shops, rendering them
      wandering refugees.
      By those who destroyed hundreds of mosques, and scores of churches,
      who demolished a great (Muslim) poet's and a great (Muslim)
      musician's centuries-old monument and memorial shrine.

      Who perpetrated countless atrocities on all minorities - Christians
      and Muslims, First Indians (tribals),and Oppressed classes, and still
      continue their heinous crimes, with the federal government's

      Who want to invade Pakistan in pursuit of their revanchist dream of
      Akhand Bharat (Indivisible India).

      Who are bloodily striving to make India a theocratic state of Hindus
      alone - Hindu Rashtra, by exterminating millions of "others"
      branding them as "foreigners". (These so-called "foreigners" built
      India, lived for centuries in it, and died for it).

      Who preach violence, hatred, intolerance, and religious terrorism to
      young and old, men and women.

      Who burnt alive an Australian missionary Dr Staines(working among
      lepers) and his two sons.

      Who demolished a mosque in 1992, a historical site in north India,
      just to hurt and humiliate Muslims.

      Who distributed swords, guns, daggers, gas cylinders and other
      inflammable material among their followers to kill and burn Muslims
      alive in thousands.

      Who desecrated Gandhi's own Sabarmati Ashram with violence and terror.

      Who stole Muslim properties worth millions and are unwilling to
      return the same.

      Whose disdain for Gandhi, as vitriolic and virulent as for
      secularism, democracy, pluralism, and non-violence, is well known,
      loud, and obscene.

      By accepting their invitation you may be involuntarily and
      unwittingly investing them with legitimacy respectability that they
      never deserved, that they long forfeited, that they would most
      diabolically misuse by continuing their horrendous crimes against
      humanity without any moral let or legal hindrance (they distributed
      millions of flyers coaching Gujarat Hindus how to commit rape, arson,
      murder, robbery with impunity, without attracting any punitive
      measures in the criminal code of the land).

      Unfortunately, your acceptance of an invitation from avowed fascists
      and religious terrorists, will militate against all principles you
      hold dear and always fought for.

      Millions in India would be obliged to you if you decide in favor of
      honoring Gandhi and not his assassins.

      Yours sincerely,



      Press Release July, 2003

      National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, India

      <http://nhrc.nic.in#no1>NHRC decides to move the Supreme Court in
      Best Bakery case Transfer application also moved in respect of 4
      other serious cases
      New Delhi, 31/07/2003

      <http://nhrc.nic.in#no3>INTERIM DIRECTIONS ON GUJARAT
      New Delhi, 12/07/2003

      NHRC decides to move the Supreme Court in Best Bakery case Transfer
      application also moved in respect of 4 other serious cases
      New Delhi, 31/07/2003

      In response to repeated requests from representatives of the print
      and electronic media regarding the action being taken by the
      Commission in the Best Bakery case, the Commission would like to
      state the position which is as follows:

      Deeply concerned about the damage to the credibility of the criminal
      justice delivery system and negation of human rights of victims, the
      National Human Rights Commission, on consideration of the report of
      its team which was sent to Vadodara, has today filed a Special Leave
      Petition under Article 136 of the Constitution of India in the
      Supreme Court with a prayer to set aside the impugned judgement of
      the Trial Court in the Best Bakery case and sought directions for
      further investigation by an independent agency and retrial of the
      case in a competent court located outside the State of Gujarat.

      The NHRC has, inter-alia, contended in the SLP that

      · The concept of fair trial is a constitutional 'imperative and is
      explicitly recognized as such in the specific provisions of the
      Constitution including Articles 14, 19, 21, 22 and 39A of the
      Constitution as well as the various provisions of the Code of
      Criminal Procedure 1973 (Cr.P.C).

      · The right to fair trial is also explicitly recognized as a human
      right in terms of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil
      and Political Rights (ICCPR) which has been ratified by India and
      which now forms part of the statutory legal regime explicitly
      recognized as such under Section 2(1)(d) of the Protection of Human
      Rights Act, 1993.

      · Violation of a right to fair trial is not only a violation of
      fundamental right under our Constitution but also violative of the
      internationally recognized human rights as spelt out in the ICCPR to
      which India is a party.

      · Whenever a criminal goes unpunished, it is the society at large
      which suffers because the victims become demoralized and criminals
      encouraged. It therefore, becomes duty of the Court to use all its
      powers to unearth the truth and render justice so that the crime is

      · It is, therefore, imperative in the interests of justice for the
      Hon'ble Supreme Court, in exercise of its powers under Article 142 of
      the Constitution, to lay down guidelines and directions in relation
      to protection of witnesses and victims of crime in criminal trials
      which can be adhered to both by the prosecuting and law enforcement
      agencies as well as the subordinate judiciary. This is essential in
      order to enhance the efficacy of the criminal justice delivery system.

      The Commission has also filed a separate application under Section
      406 Cr.P.C. before the Supreme Court for transfer of four other
      serious cases, namely, the Godhra incident, Chamanpura (Gulburga
      society) incident, Naroda Patiya incident and the Sadarpura case in
      Mehsana district, for their trial outside the State of Gujarat.


      New Delhi, 12/07/2003

      Miss Zahira approached the National Human Rights Commission on 11th
      July and made a statement before it. Among other things, she stated
      that under threat to her life and the life of the remaining members
      of her family, she had resiled in the Trial Court from the earlier
      statements made by her. She sought the help of the Commission to
      reopen the Best Bakery Case. The Statement has been placed on record
      by the Commission.

      At a meeting of the Full Commission here on 11th July, an interim
      report submitted by the Commission's team which visited Vadodara on 8
      July 2003 was also considered. As the materials collected by the team
      were voluminous in nature and written in Gujarati, the team submitted
      an interim report requesting, among other things, that it be given
      further time in which to translate and examine the materials and to
      submit its report to the Commission. The Commission agreed to that
      request and directed that the report be submitted expeditiously.

      The Commission also decided to request some eminent lawyers to
      examine the entire record for their advice on the future course of

      Given the seriousness of the issues involved in the order of
      acquittal in the "Best Bakery Case", it will be recalled that the
      Commission, through its Proceedings of 3rd July 2003, instructed a
      team to proceed to Vadodara to inspect the records of the case,
      examine the judgement and all other relevant materials and submit a
      report to the Commission within one week. The team, comprising Shri
      Ajit Bharihoke, Registrar, Shri Sudhir Chowdhury, DIG
      (Investigation), and Shri P.G.J. Nampoothiri were in Vadodara on 8
      July 2003 and brought back with them the relevant materials
      pertaining to the Best Bakery Case.



      All India Democratic Women Association [India]
      PRESS RELEASE July 31, 2003


      The Supreme Court judgement upholding the two-child norm for
      contesting panchayat elections is in contradiction to the Cairo
      declaration to which India is a signatory and the National Population
      Policy charter that eschews coercive methods in population control.
      By giving its stamp of approval on laws of some State Governments
      that are highly discriminatory in nature it justifies the extension
      of economic and social inequality to democratic processes, creating
      an underclass that is deprived of the basic right to participate in
      elected decision making bodies.

      There can be no quarrel with the Court's rejection of the
      preposterous plea made by some complainants that since they had the
      right to four wives the two child norm could not be applied to them.

      However the reasoning given by the Court goes far beyond this
      objectionable plea, since it justifies disincentives to control
      family size as being "in the national interest." The court's
      perception of the "national interest" ignores the interests of the
      majority who make up the nation. Global experience as also the
      experience of our own country shows that family size is linked to
      factors like control of infant mortality, poverty eradication,
      literacy, access to safe contraception and so on. When these issues
      are tackled as is the example of Kerala, then couples opt for a
      smaller family. In the absence of such measures, a regime of
      disincentives is actually punishing the poor for their poverty. The
      Supreme Court judgement has wider implications that are a throwback
      to the logic of the Emergency days when coercive methods of
      sterilization were justified as being in the "national interest." It
      gives sanction to and opens the floodgate for cruel strategies
      employed by many State Governments of depriving poor families who
      have more than two children, of Government benefits including ration
      cards, Government jobs and so on.

      In a country where there are skewered sex ratios based on cultures
      of son-preference a two child norm will lead to further distortions.
      In many cases women have little choice over family size and therefore
      are being punished for factors beyond their control.

      We oppose the judgement of the Supreme Court. We demand that
      Parliament reassert the basic premise of the Cairo declaration and
      the National Population Policy against coercion, disincentives and
      Brinda Karat (General Secretary)


      Information resources on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on
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