SACW | 1 Aug. 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
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
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
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
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
Hassan N. Gardezi
Islam and Democracy by
Fatima Mernissi, Cambridge, MA,
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 regions 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 Islams 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 Mutazila 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. Mutazila 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 (taa).
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 Mutazila.
Human beings, they argued, are endowed with power to think and form
opinion (ray) 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 sharia, 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 (taa), 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,"
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 persons 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 sharia laws which renounce freedom of thought and demand
obedience (taa). 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 (taa). 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 sharia.
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. Mernissis 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 Kaba 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 Kaba 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 sharia. 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. Islams 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 Jamats
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 sharia, in its meaning as despotic
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
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 taa, 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 Islams 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
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.
Subject: Letter to Dr Nelson Mandela
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2003 22:23:37 +0000
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
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
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
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.
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.
INTERIM DIRECTIONS ON 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
ON SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT
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)
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