By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
September 16, 2013
United Nations Human Rights CouncilTwenty-fourth session (From 9 to 27 September 2013)Agenda item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
Oral Statement by Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
On behalf of World Environment and Resources Council (WERC)
16 September 2013
We Muslims of the world, at least our governments, have been bludgeoning the United Nations since 1999 in our bid to protect Islam from defamation. But aren’t the states that claim to speak for Muslims the worst defamers of Islam themselves?
Linking Islam with terrorism is considered defaming Islam. One would assume that Muslim countries would first prohibit defamation of Islam by ideologies of terror in their own countries. However, the case is quite the opposite. It is media outlets refuting the Islamist terrorist ideologies that are banned, as was a website called New Age Islam a couple of months ago in Pakistan.
The terrorist mouthpiece Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad whose extremist ideas New Age Islam refuted continues to flourish. The Taliban fatwa that New Age Islam refuted was titled: ‘Circumstances in which the killing of innocent people among infidels is justified.’ Anyone would consider such an essay defamatory to Islam. But not the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It was the web-magazine that sought to refute this that was blocked.
It's time we Muslims made up our minds, Mr. President. What is Islam: a totalitarian, fascist, supremacist and exclusivist political ideology out to conquer the world or a spiritual path to salvation?
The international community is supposed to protect Islam from Islamophobes. But the Islamophobes portray Islam exactly in the way the Jihadists do. Jihadists do it approvingly and Islamophobes disapprove and condemn. If Islamophobes’ narratives of Islam are defamatory, as they indeed are, then so are the narratives of Jihadi groups whose ideology thrives in the Muslim world. Both are violent, patriarchal, regressive, misogynist and based on sexual fantasies of sick men. It is this narrative that is taught in most of our madrasas, in schools and colleges.
I hope the UN Human Rights Council will not entertain any defamation of Islam resolution until Islam is protected from defamation by Jihadi literature in the Islamic world first.
Islam is indeed NOT and should NOT be portrayed as a religion of Terror.
But It is Jihadi literature and speeches of terrorist masterminds like Hafiz Saeed with a US 10 million dollar bounty on his head allowed to strut around the country calling for global Jihad that defame Islam the most.
According to a BBC Urdu programme Sairbeen broadcast recently, the Islamist militant journals freely distributed in all cities of Pakistan are: “monthly Al-Shariat”, "Azaan", “Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad”, “Hateen”, “Murabetoon”, “Al-Qalam”, “Zarb-e-Momin”, “Al-Hilal”, “Sada-e-Mujahid”, “Jaish-e-Muhammad” and “Rah-e-Wafa.
Clearly the countries that come here to lobby for protecting Islam from defamation keep allowing defamation of Islam in their own countries day in and day out while blocking media outlets like the multilingual Islamic website New Age Islam (available at www.NewAgeIslam.com) that is actually seeking to protect Islam from defamation.
As mentioned above, this also gives rise to another pertinent question: If it is right for Jihadis to call Islam a political ideology out to conquer the world, why should it be wrong for Islamophobes to do the same? If Ibn-e-Taimiya, Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab, Abul A'la Maududi and Syed Qutub can be taught in schools, why raise such a hue and a cry over Geert Wilders's Fitna, for instance.
If ever notorious Jihadi campaigner in Britain Omar Bakri spoke the truth, it was this: "If we leave out the first images and the sound of the page being torn, [Fitna] could be a film by [Islamist] Mujahedeen."
Go through Islamophobic literature circulating around the globe on the internet. You will find hardly much difference in the depiction of Islam and spiritual terms like Jihad by Islamophobes and Jihadists. Both propagate a vision of a militant Islam out to conquer the world and establish Khilafat. The only difference is that Jihadists approve of this militant Islam and ask for Muslims to work globally to bring it to power everywhere under one Khalifa whereas Islamophobes use this version to spread the fear of Islam among peaceful citizens of the world.
Let me illustrate what constitutes acceptable and permissible discourse about Islam for the Islamic world but unacceptable when presented by Islamophobes in the wider world:
In his essay on Jihad, the founder-ideologue of Jamaat-e-Islami Maulana Maududi, said: "Islam wishes to do away with all states and governments which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam. ... Islam requires the Earth - not just a portion, but the Entire Planet." If this is not defamation of Islam, what is? But Maududi's books are freely available and used to brainwash Muslim youth.
Because Islam is all-encompassing, Maududi believed that the Islamic state should not be limited to just the "homeland of Islam". “It is for all the world. ‘Jihad' should be used to eliminate un-Islamic rule and establish the worldwide Islamic state,” he said.
Let me put this in context:
“Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam, regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard-bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State. Islam requires the earth—not just a portion, but the whole planet .... because the entire mankind should benefit from the ideology and welfare programme [of Islam] ... Towards this end, Islam wishes to press into service all forces which can bring about a revolution and a composite term for the use of all these forces is ‘Jihad'. .... the objective of the Islamic ‘ jihād’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.”
--- Maududi in Jihad fil Islam
Apparently the need for finding out what constitutes defamation of Islam is paramount. But this will require in-depth study. The former President of the UN Human Rights Council Doru Romulus Costea virtually prohibited any discussion of Sharia on the intervention of OIC delegates and explained that we must avoid "amateur theologising".
Discussions about religion, he said, will be "very complex, very sensitive and very intense; only religious scholars should enter into such questions and that mention of "religious" causes for human rights abuses will be unhelpful. He accepted the point that it is insulting for our faith, Islam, for Sharia to be discussed here in this forum. But the same countries which consider a discussion of man-made Sharia insulting to Islam while claiming a divine status for it also try to foist Sharia on the Human Rights Council from a different route.
Take the case of the so-called Cairo Declaration of Human Rights. It mentions Shariah 15 times. Read it objectively. Not difficult to see that it is actually a determined effort to suppress human rights. It is a study in how Muslim governments behave in a supremacist and exclusivist fashion in front of the world audience while we blame Islamophobic and Jihadi ideologies alone for propagating Islam-supremacism and exclusivism. Some portions of the document will illustrate why I consider the Cairo Declaration of so-called Human Rights as an Islam-supremacist document not at all helpful in international discourse on universally accepted human rights:
ARTICLE 10: Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism.
ARTICLE 12: Every man shall have the right, within the framework of Shari'ah, to free movement and to select his place of residence whether inside or outside his country and if persecuted, is entitled to seek asylum in another country. The country of refuge shall ensure his protection until he reaches safety, unless asylum is motivated by an act which Shari'ah regards as a crime.
(d) There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari'ah.
ARTICLE 22: (a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari'ah.(b) Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari'ah(c) Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.
Clearly Islamic world needs to clarify to itself and to the world at large what is Islam and what would constitute its defamation. If Islamophobes’ narratives of Islam are defamatory, then so are the narrative of Jihadi groups whose ideology thrives in the Muslim world. As I said before, both are violent, patriarchal, regressive, misogynist and based on sexual fantasies of sick men. There is hardly any difference in the two narratives, though the one may approve and the other disapprove and condemn. And it bears repeating that it is this Islamophobic, Jihadi narrative that is also taught in most of our madrasas, in schools and colleges in the Muslim countries.
The United Nations should not shy away from an investigation into what is Islam and what would constitute its defamation for fear of this leading to a theological discourse. If solemn Declarations of Human Rights can be couched in terms that are deeply theological and constitute the core of ideologies like Wahhabism – that are commonly linked to terror and use of force in Islamic societies - then does the world have an option but to engage in theological investigation?
I am referring here to the Qur’anic verse amr bil maaroof nahi anil munkir (ENJOINING GOOD & FORBIDDING EVIL) on which the entire edifice of coercion and inhuman practices of Taliban and Boko Haram and their ideological fount in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is based. ARTICLE 22 B of the so-called Cairo Declaration of Human Rights is merely an extended translation of this verse: amr bil maaroof nahi anil munkir. I have already mentioned that this Declaration mentions Sharia 15 times. So if Cairo Declaration can be a part of international discourse on human rights, why not the Holy Quran, Hadith and Sharia? In all honesty, the international community cannot avoid an in-depth exploration of Islamic theology while it discusses human rights issues in Islamic countries or resolutions on Defamation of Religions, particularly Islam.
‘Bidding the Good and Forbidding the Evil’ (Amr Bil Ma‘Ruf Wa Nahi ‘Anil Munkar) By The Traditional Institution Of Religious Police Stands Un-Islamic Today
The Beautiful Islamic Doctrine of Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil: How Wahhabi Ideologues Misused It to Turn Islam from a Spiritual Path to a Supremacist Political Ideology
A relevant post from www.NewAgeIslam.Com
Religious Bigotry and the UN
27 Apr 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com
The United Nations Human Rights Council in its 13th Session
passed a resolution called ‘Combating Defamation of Religions’ in Geneva on
March 25, 2010. Interestingly, this was not the first occasion a UN body had
gone about this exercise, it was rather the 12th time. The Resolution on
Defamation of Religions had been tabled every year since 1999 and was hence
called an ‘annual exercise’: at the UN Commission on Human Rights seven
times, by the UN General Assembly three times and a couple of times at the UN
Human Rights Council (HRC), the recent induction to the UN human rights
system that replaced the Commission on Human Rights in 2006.
In the midst of international concern and a massive debate around the concept
of defamation of beliefs and ideas versus the rights of human beings, and
whether religious discrimination could be linked to racial discrimination,
the support for the Resolution on Defamation of Religions has been dwindling
in the UN bodies. While it garnered 101 votes at the UN General Assembly in
2005, the resolution got 86 votes in favour in 2008 and just 80 votes in
The latest victory of the resolution was with a low margin in the UN Human
Rights Council this March. In the house of 47, the resolution got the support
of 24 countries in 2007 whereas in 2010 it had only 20 on its side. Minus the
support of Russia, China and Cuba, who often want to champion the cause of
the Third World, the next resolution might be hard to get through. The trend
in the General Assembly showed diminishing support with more countries
abstaining, while in the Human Rights Council countries like Brazil, South
Korea and Japan seem to have exhausted whatever goodwill they attached to
this resolution earlier and moved to vote against it in the past couple of
The situation merits comment and queries both on the content and intent of
this move. If this resolution was so important and yet needed to be passed
annually in the past 12 years, it is nevertheless a contradiction in terms.
Why is the UN allowing a resolution to be passed over and again? Are the
movers of this resolution and the UN bodies serious? Do they mean business?
Is it some kind of manipulation of the human rights agenda at the UN? What
would be required to stop such a manipulation? Should Pakistan as a member
state support this resolution?
As far as the content is concerned, all these resolutions (or should it be
called one resolution) had ‘defamation of religions’ in the title and looked
inclusive. Secondly, although it presumably meant to stop any insult to all
‘religions’, yet Islam was the only religion expressly mentioned and it
portrayed only Muslims as victims of xenophobia and discrimination on the
basis of religion and belief. For example, point eight and nine of the
resolution passed by the General Assembly in 2008 (A/62/439/Add2) has been a
common feature of all resolutions, i.e. “(UN) Deplores the use of the print,
audio-visual and electronic media, including the internet, and any other
means to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and
discrimination against Islam or any other religion, as well as targeting of
religious symbols; (UN) Stresses the need to effectively combat defamation of
all religions and incitement to religious hatred, against Islam and Muslims
Thirdly, the Pakistan Mission at the UN has been the proponent all along on
behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Looking at the
internal political situation might offer insight into the dynamics of the
Pakistani Mission’s role concerning this move at the UN. The Resolution on
Defamation of Religions was first tabled by the Pakistan Mission in April
1999 when Mr Nawaz Sharif was at the helm and the famous Shariat Bill meant
to pontificate him as Ameerul Momineen had been moved in the National
Assembly of Pakistan six months before the resolution was introduced in the
UN body. The tabling and passage of the resolution gained momentum during the
Musharraf era. This resolution was moved eight times on the world forum
during his enlightened and moderate democracy that alone understood the fine
difference between good and bad Taliban. Finally, it has been passed thrice
during Mr Zardari’s fully restored democracy, admittedly in desperate need of
looking for ‘Friends of Pakistan’.
People wondered what value was attached to bringing the Resolution on
Defamation of Religion a number of times when a resolution was not a binding
instrument and thus lacked any chance of implementation, especially at state
level. First, countries like Pakistan and Sudan, where blasphemy is a
criminal offence, could get away with criticism on the national laws if the
defamation of religions was incorporated into the international human rights
framework. This alibi would help ward off the kind of recommendation Mr
Abdelfateh Amor made after his fact-finding visit to Pakistan in 1995 as UN
Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance. He recommended amendments to the
blasphemy laws with the following observations in UN document
E/CN4/1996/95/Add1, Para 82: the punishments in blasphemy laws of Pakistan
were proportionately higher than the offence, thus unacceptable. Moreover,
the application of the blasphemy law on religious minorities was
inappropriate and discriminatory.
Second, later events explained that repetitive motion of the resolution was a
strategic choice of the movers, because they anticipated that the Western
countries, which have their own reasons and a history in defending freedom of
expression, might bring a parallel resolution defending and neutralising the
effect of the Resolution on Defamation.
Third, the countries rallying behind the Defamation tried to use a back door
entry, manipulating the procedure concerning the International Convention on
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). As a follow up of
the Durban Conference held in 2001, an ad hoc committee was supposed to frame
Elaborate Complementary Standards for the ICERD Treaty. The Pakistan
Mission-headed lobby circle tried to incorporate Defamation of Religion
(Islam) in racial discrimination, as a complementary standard or Optional
Protocol that could be signed with the ICERD. Following a heated debate this
March at the HRC, a decision is to be taken by the ad hoc committee in its
meeting in December 2010.
The Resolution on Defamation
of Religions is undoubtedly a prototype of the infamous blasphemy laws in
Pakistan, protected by the pressure groups — aided by the bureaucracy — from
any revision or change in their substance, albeit the blasphemy laws have
claimed several dozens of innocent lives and hundreds of people suffered
trials, jail sentences and displacement. Despite the fact that successive
governments in Pakistan admitted that the blasphemy laws were frequently
abused, they have hesitated so far from bringing forth the data on the issue.
The data collected by the National Commission for Justice and Peace showed
that among around 850 persons accused of blasphemy since 1987, half the
victims were Muslims.
It is easy to infer that the resolution is a piece of bad statecraft relying
on the abuse of religion for political purposes. It is not unimaginable that
sympathisers of stringent laws and policies in the Pakistani establishment
crafted and maintained the move for over a decade irrespective of the change
of three governments, their specific policy emphasis and shifting
geopolitical realities during this period.
The fact that the resolution began to be moved much before 9/11 explains that
it was not meant to address the circumstances arising from this incident,
despite that an alibi was sought in relating it to 9/11 and the aftermath.
The resolution also came six years before the cartoon issue surfaced. Thus
the cartoon issue was not in the backdrop of objectives of the resolution(s).
Through this resolution, the countries having a moderate or low performance
on implementation of human right tried to kill time, intimidate, and block
criticism, especially from independent experts and Special Rapporteurs of the
UN, in the past few years.
Some mandate-holding experts have taken a clear position on the floor
regarding this resolution. During the Durban Review Conference in April 2009
in Geneva, a joint statement was released by Githu Muigai, UN Special
Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia
and Related Intolerance, Asma Jahangir, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of
Religion and Belief, and Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion
and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. Together
they asserted that “providing an objective definition of the term ‘defamation
of religions’ at the international level makes the whole concept open to
abuse” and that “while the exercise of freedom of expression could in some
extreme cases affect the right to manifest the religion or belief of certain
identified individuals, it is conceptually inaccurate to present ‘defamation
of religion’ in abstracto as a conflict between the right to freedom of
religion or belief and the right to freedom of opinion or expression.” They
welcomed the fact that the debate seems to be shifting to the concept of
“incitement to racial or religious hatred”, sometimes also referred to as
‘hate speech’, and urged that the debate on these issues be framed within the
provisions of the ICCPR.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression,
Frank La Rue, presented his report to the 11th session of the Human Rights
Council on June 2, 2009. La Rue came under attack for his conclusion that
“the concept of ‘defamation of religion’ does not accord with international
standards on freedom of expression,” as well as his reference to a joint
declaration of the holders of similar mandates of other regional human rights
bodies which expresses the same conclusion.”
Astonishingly, while the tabling and passage of the Defamation Resolution
provoked a heated debate on supposed defamation versus freedom of expression,
the resolution and its implications remained unknown in Pakistan. Quite
strange, because Pakistan’s Mission at the UN had been spearheading the move
all along during this period stretching over a decade.
Opening a discussion in Pakistan on the resolution(s) would have had serious
repercussions if the zealots supporting blasphemy laws in Pakistan had blown
it out of proportion and the issue would have gotten out of hand. The
discussion might have exposed the contradictions within the blasphemy laws,
especially attacks waged on religious minorities were another danger. The use
and abuse of blasphemy laws ultimately did not protect the citizens of
Pakistan, especially the religious minorities. They became vulnerable to
being killed, their properties looted and torched on phoney charges. Entire
settlements were set on fire (Shantinagar 1997, Sangla Hill 2005, Qasur,
Gojra, Korian and Sialkot in 2009) after concocting charges of defamation or
By 2008, the international civil society organisations monitoring
developments at the UN decided to be proactive and not to let state parties
alone define and decide the human rights standards and the law. Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, The Becket Fund and many other
organisations joined hands to make their voice heard on the issue. They
approached several states to convince them to oppose this move meant to
criminalise blasphemy in international humanitarian law.
Now the elected government is fully saddled in power in Pakistan, parliament
is manifested to be sovereign and foreign policy oversight is possible. The
government should review Pakistan’s participation at the UN and its position
on the Resolution on Defamation of Religion(s). It is quite clear from the
experience at home that the Resolution on Defamation will not resolve any
issues, supposed or real. On the contrary, it will undermine the development
so far in the conceptual framework and implementation of human rights. The
international community has realised the dangers attached with the resolution
and its fate is almost sealed. In December 2010, the ad hoc committee framing
Complimentary Standards for Eliminating Racism cannot remain blind to the
fact that racial discrimination cannot be equated with defamation of
religion. This occasion perhaps will also bring our moment of truth to see
that the blasphemy laws in Pakistan also need a serious and objective review
and ultimate repeal. The international organisation has the capacity to
reform and rectify its mistakes for a variety of reasons. The nations playing
an important role internationally must also make their contribution in this
The writer is a Lahore-based human rights
activist working with National Commission for Justice and Peace.
Daily Times, Pakistan
Mr Shahin has shown his true worth:
Shahin kabhee parvaaz say thhak kar nahin’ girtaa!
“ISLAM IS INDEED NOT AND SHOULD NOT BE
PORTRAYED AS A RELIGION OF TERROR”.
The biggest danger for the Muslims is the terrorist within. Have
to be identified, exposed and eliminated – intellectually of course, before one
can face the external ones.