By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam
8 July 2019
Oral Statement at 41st Session UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, delivered on 8 July 2019
By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam
On behalf of Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum
General Debate, Agenda item 8, Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
The Vienna Declaration recognizes that “every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion.” The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution, proposed by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic states, last March, condemning “defamation of religion” as a human rights violation. Speaking for the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Pakistan said that “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.” It called on states “to deny impunity” for those exhibiting intolerance of ethnic and religious minorities, and “to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and beliefs.”
However, Mr. President, news reports often emanate from Islamic countries, particularly Pakistan, of intolerance of and disrespect for minority religious beliefs. We also see free publication and distribution of Jihadi literature associating Islam with and indeed promoting human rights violations and extremist violence. Even school and madrasa text books are not free from extremist and exclusivist teachings, asking Muslims to stay away from religious and cultural celebrations of other religious communities. Pakistan’s notorious anti-blasphemy laws ensure that members of religious minorities are either lynched by mobs or awarded death sentences on mere accusations of blasphemy. The case of a Christian lady Aasia Bibi, mercifully out of the country now, has brought this issue to world’s attention. Ahmadiya Muslims are officially excluded from Islam and even debarred from claiming to be Muslim in any way. Like non-Muslim minorities, they too suffer indignities of various kinds in their daily life. Hundreds of young Hindu girls are routinely abducted and forcibly converted to Islam and raped in the name of marriage.
While this resolution seeks to protect Islam from defamation through any association with terrorism, the religion is routinely defamed in Muslim countries by publication of literature justifying violence against non-Muslim civilians. The very title of a long essay in the Taliban mouthpiece Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad was: ‘Circumstances in which the killing of innocent people among infidels is justified.’
I would, therefore, urge the Council to ask the Muslim countries to treat intolerance of minorities and Jihadi literature too as defaming the religion of Islam.
But it’s important to look at the issue in some detail.
In the essay referred to above, a Taliban scholar Sheikh Yousuf Al-Abeeri justifies the 9/11 attacks on American people and institutions by saying things that would definitely amount to defaming Islam which the OIC is now seeking to ban. Al-Abeeri says that Islam supports indiscriminate killing of Innocent civilians under special circumstances. He talks of the Islamic permissibility of “brutal and mass killing of the enemy.” Starting from the “lawfulness of burning the enemy” and “opening the dams of rivers and lakes” to drown the inmates of a fort or besieged town, launching mortar attack, the fatwa goes on to justify “releasing snakes and scorpions on the enemy even if non-combatant women and children are also present.” Then it argues, “the lawfulness of these measures including ‘demolishing their buildings, spreading poison and smoke,” if it is not possible to capture or dominate them without resorting to these practices”. Having thus “established” the justification of a terror attack against civilians, the Taliban scholar then goes on to justify the destruction of American cities and questions the “sanity of any Muslim who declares killing the Americans in New York and Washington as unlawful.”
These arguments are made quoting several reputed medieval jurists of the stature of Imam Nawawi, Allama Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdīsī, Imām al-Bayhaqi and Al-Sahihain. (Al-Sahihain refers to Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim, the two books of Ahadith, considered the most authentic sources of Islamic faith after the holy Qur'an).
Taliban scholar Al-Abeeri concludes: “Therefore, given the arguments from Shariah, it can be said that whoever said that killing the Americans in New York and Washington is unlawful actually shoots in the dark. He is saying this in ignorance. Killing the enemy by burning or drowning, destroying or damaging buildings to capture them or terrifying the enemy are the points on which the majority of scholars of Islam agree. This practice was followed by the holy companions of the Prophet. How can then someone who is blind in the love of the Americans question something which is authenticated by the Quran and the Hadith.” (Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad, January 2013)
Taliban’s tirade against Islam continues in its mouthpiece Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad month after month. The essay referred to above had appeared in parts for eight months in 2013. In the latest issue the Taliban mouthpiece (March 2019), has published an article by Taliban scholar Sameer Khan Shaheed titled “Markazi Nukta (Central Point) which says: “In Saudi Arabia's view, Jihad against the Soviet Union was purely Islamic. When the same Jihad is waged against America, it is wrong in their eyes. We announce disassociation from those who consider Jihad a means to please America. As a matter of fact, Jihad will remain Farz-e-Ain (compulsory act for all individual Muslims in all conditions) unless the United States and its apostate allies leave the Islamic land. And in addition to the apostates of the land, those tawaghoot (oppressors) are also included in its allies, who are engaged in making the rich richer, and the poor poorer, and also those who aggressively oppose Muslims who are seeking to establish the system of Tauheed (Oneness of God) and change the rules set by Allah according to their own wishes” (Nawa e Afghan Jihad, March 2019, p.66)
Later in the article, Sameer Khan quotes Abdullah Azzam, considered the ideological mentor of Osama bin Laden as saying, “During my stay in Afghanistan, I realized that Tauheed could not enter into the human spirit peacefully, nor can it become as strong and powerful as in the field of Jihad. I mean to say that the work of Tauheed is done by means of sword, and not by reading books and gaining knowledge related to aqaid(creeds)” (Nawa e Afghan Jihad, March 2019, Markazi Nukta by Sameer Khan, p.61)
In another Jihadi publication widely distributed in Pakistan, Masood Azhar, the leader of terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed, recently listed as terrorist by the UN, writes, in his book “The Virtues of Jihad," “Fellow Muslims! We cannot appeal to the unbelievers to assist us; we have to understand that the annihilation of Muslims is their main purpose and mission; they are overjoyed upon seeing the free flow of Muslim blood. The real sorrow is that there is no value of a Muslim life in another Muslim’s sight. The oppressed Muslims are looked upon by other Muslims with hatred and insignificance. When we have reached this stage of indifference, then why should we expect the Muslim blood to be of any worth? It can be said that the value of this blood is even less than water. The Muslims have generally looked upon the persecution and oppression of their neighbouring Muslim communities with the view that it did not affect them and that their fate was safe. They have witnessed the torture and murder of countless innocent civilians and remained unaffected by the humiliation which their mothers and sisters were continually subjected to. The Muslim spectator of this carnage feared even to offer verbal support in case he would offend his masters and risk his worldly status.
“The Muslims should urgently rectify their situation and they should put the fire out before it reaches their homes and accept the Muslim’s issues as their very own and try to feel their pain. We should never make mockery of the oppressed but instead should fight shoulder to shoulder against unbelievers avenging the death of each and every Muslim” (Masood Azhar, The Virtues of Jihad, p. 132-133)
In a book in Urdu titled “Yahud ki Chalees Beemariyan” (Forty Diseases of Jews, available in pdf on alqalamonline.com.), Masood Azhar thoroughly demonises the Jewish community whose scriptures Muslims have been asked by Quran to believe in as God’s own commandments (Quran 4:162-163, and several other verses), and many of whose prophets have been referred to in Quran by name as prophets sent by God. Speaking of the significance of this book, another Jihadi scholar Abu Lubaba writes in its Introduction, “The way the Quran condemns the Jews and the Prophet has advised the believers to avoid their evil attitudes, and the way the books of Prophet’s biography (seerat) mentions hatred of Jews towards Islam and our dear prophet Muhammad Mustafa (peace be upon him); having studied all this, Muslims should have abstained from the practices of this ‘condemned and hateful nation.’ Despite the Jews being complete Fitna (mischief), Dajjal (Devil) and deceitful, Muslims are associated with them. Muslims have started believing their practices to be good and worth imitating. Having neglected the blessed ways of the Prophet, they have adopted their (Jews’) filthy and nonsensical customs and profiles,” (“Masood Azhar, Yahud Ki Chalees Bimariyan (Forty Diseases of Jews), Introduction by Abu Lubabah)
In a bid to promote exclusivism among Muslims, religious schools and seminaries around the world quote the following fatwa of revered 13th—-14th century scholar Ibn-e-Taimiya, which was also quoted recently by ISIS publication ‘Rumiya’ in its 6th issue:
“The Ruling of Those Who Celebrate Mushrik (polytheistic) Festivities
“Ibn Taymiyyah was asked about a Muslim who prepares food like the Christians do for New Year’s, or other times like the Feast of the Baptism, Christmas, Lentil Thursday (“Holy Thursday”), or the Sabbath of Light (“Holy Saturday”), and about one who sells something to them for their celebrations -- is it permissible for Muslims to do so or not?
“He answered, saying, “All praise is due to Allah. Regarding their celebrations, it is not permissible for Muslims to resemble them (Christians and Jews) in anything: not in their food, their clothing, their bathing, their lighting of candles, the abandoning of one’s work or worship, or otherwise. It not permissible to prepare a meal or give gifts, nor to sell that which assists them in doing any of that, nor to allow children or others to play games specific to these celebrations, nor to dress up [for them]. Overall, Muslims must not give special consideration to [kafir] celebrations at all. Rather, those days of festivity should be – to the Muslims – just like any other day.
“A Muslim’s intentionally giving consideration to one of these days [by doing something special without actually intending to celebrate the occasion itself] was disliked by groups of the Salaf(early Islam) and the Khalaf (later Islam). As for his specifically doing anything of what was mentioned above [in celebration of the occasion], then there is no dispute about it amongst the scholars. Rather, some scholars opine that whoever does such things has committed kufr (act of unbelief), since doing so involves holding the religious activities of kufr in esteem. Others have said that whoever slaughters a ram on a day of their celebrations, it is as if he slaughtered a pig.” (ISIS’s magazine, Rumiyah, 6th issue, p.16)
But while the Jihadis are free in Pakistan to demonise Islam and Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), by saying the kind of things quoted above, the regular journalists are not free to express dissent of any kind. As Opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on the International Press Freedom Day this year, "There is an undeclared censorship in Pakistan. The space for democratic rights has dangerously shrunk, the media and the right to freedom of expression are under siege. Journalists are under attack both from state and non-state actors. Of the 26 journalists murdered between 2013 and 2018, only 16 cases proceeded to court, trials were only completed in six cases and only one conviction was awarded by a lower court. But none were punished as the sole conviction was also overturned.” Even the brutal lynching and murder of a 23-year-old journalism student, Mashal Khan, has not brought the slightest change in Pakistan’s attitude towards its harsh blasphemy laws.