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Islam and Human Rights ( 20 Jan 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Freedom Report Shows Limited Freedom In Muslim Countries: Is Islam To Blame?

New Age Islam Edit Desk

Jan 21, 2013

Islam, many Islamists claim, professes freedoms and human rights for its citizens but ironically it is the Islamic countries that have been lagging behind in providing its citizens the basic freedoms and liberties. According to a recent survey, titled Freedom of the World 2013, published by the Freedom House, an NGO based in America, the Islamic countries have disappointed those who boast of the human principles of Islam based on the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Though the report also shows that there has been a decline in the overall freedom in the world due to the political, religious and social crises, it prominently comes out in the report that the Muslim majority countries or Islamic countries have fared badly in terms of political and civil liberties to their citizens.

The survey has divided all the countries under three heads — free, partly free and not free. The report says, “A Free country is one where there is broad scope for open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media.

Partly Free countries are characterized by some restrictions on political rights and civil liberties, often in a context of corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic strife, or civil war.

A Not Free country is one where basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied.”

It has rated the countries on the basis of most free to the least free where 1 represents the most free while 7 represents the least free.

Out of 197 countries and 12 “disputed” territories like the two Kashmirs and Gaza strip, most of the Muslim majority and Islamic counties have fared badly winning 7 out of 7 in both categories of Political Rights and Civil Liberties.

A majority of Islamic countries do not even have electoral democracy. Thus most of the countries have got the worst marks, that is, 7 while the better ones have got 5 or 6. For example, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei,  Chad, Egypt, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Jordan, Libya, UAE, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,  Maldives and Mali. Oman, Qatar, Yemen and Turkmenistan have got points from 5 to 7. It speaks of the lack of freedom and liberties in these countries.

Worse, out of 47 countries 9 have been designated as Not Free, and of them six are Muslim majority countries or monarchies. The countries are Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Only Muslim countries that have scored 3 or below 3 is Indonesia that has scored 2 for political rights and 3 for civil liberties. Other Muslim country that has demonstrated a better score is Bangladesh with 3 for political rights and 4 for civil liberties. Bosnia Herzegovina has scored 3-3 under both the categories.

The majority of the Muslim countries with low marks that is highest in political insecurity and violation of human rights are those that are going through civil and political strife like Pakistan where terrorism, political instability and Muslim-on-Muslim violence have earned it 4 and 5 for political rights and civil liberties respectively. Similar is the case of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq that are going through political and sectarian strife. Iran also fares badly on freedom and liberties index as it has been cracking down on journalists, writers, artists, bloggers and political opponents. The number of death sentences was the highest during the year as political opponents were sentenced to death. Last November famous blogger Baheshti died of torture in police custody.

Another country which is grappling with Sunni-Shia uprising against the dictatorship is Bahrain, a Muslim majority country. It has rated 6 on both counts. The political opponents as well as democracy and rights activists have been at the receiving end of the dictatorship and freedom and liberty is at its worst in this country.

Turkey had though improved during the early years of Tayyip Erdogan’s tenure, of late it has seen deterioration on the rights front as it leads in the incarceration of journalists and advocates of democracy. Thus though it has got 3 for political rights, it has earned a 4 for civil liberties. It has shown in a negative change that is a decline in an overall situation of rights and liberties.

Most of these countries with poor track record have 60 to 98 percent Muslim population. These countries have not only demonstrated intolerance towards the minorities but have also showed intolerance on the basis of ethnicity or linguistic prejudice. Not only that the intolerance has been merely ideological and manifest in national policies but also it has shown violent ramifications.

The findings of the survey, therefore, lays bare the claims of the Muslims that Islam ensures fair treatment to the citizens and grants equal rights and liberties to its minorities. Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia are powerful Muslim countries but have disappointed the world with their treatment of their citizens.

Does that mean that Islam has failed as a political system? Recent developments in Maldives and Mali have only strengthened the belief that Muslims are not satisfied with any system. When under dictatorship or monarchy, they fight or rebel against the dictatorship but when they achieve democracy like in Egypt, they begin their struggle for the establishment of a democracy governed by the Shariah. And then persecution of minorities starts because of the wrong interpretations of Islam by the narrow-minded scholars who are ignorant of the essence of the teachings of Islam. 

When Pakistan was formed, Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be a secular country like India but the ambitious and narrow-minded mullahs of the country gradually turned it into a Islamic country saying that Pakistan will be an Islamic republic.

However, they could not rest at that. Now a section of Pakistan’s religious leadership has been crying hoarse claiming that even a democracy based on Islamic principles dominated by Muslims is not Islamic and only a caliphate is acceptable as the form of government. This section calls the Pakistan government a system based on kufr (non-belief) and only a caliphate established or envisioned by the Taliban is a true Islamic form of government.

It is therefore clear that Muslims the world over lay undue stress on the external form of the government and not on the inner soul of it where the delivery of justice and good governance matters. In past, there existed a few monarchs whose reign was more democratic than some of the best democracies of the modern world.

It is very unfortunate that none of the Islamic or Muslim dominated governments scored a 1 in the survey. The United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands etc have got 1 both in political rights and civil liberties. They are all Christian countries with a sizeable minority population of Muslims and followers of other religions.

It’s time Muslims and the rulers of Islamic countries shun violent approach to religion and the problems of their collective life in the broader context of multicultural necessities of the modern world.