New Age Islam
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Islam and Sectarianism ( 30 Nov 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Minority rights: from Quaid to Nawaz: New Age Islam’s Selection From Pakistan Press, 1 December 2015

 

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

December 01, 2015

 

Minority rights: from Quaid to Nawaz

By Salman Ali

Terrorism: domestic and global dimensions

By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

The US’s perspective on Turkey-Russia

By Sabria Chowdhury Balland

 

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Minority rights: from Quaid to Nawaz

By Salman Ali

It is a very sad reality that the encouraging words spoken by the PM during the occasion of Diwali cannot conceal the dark side of our society, which is filled with extremism, bigotry, hatred, prejudice and ignorance

No democratic and modern state can exist without protecting and giving full rights to its people. Every constitution of a real democratic state protects the fundamental rights and basic needs of its people, irrespective of their religion, creed, cast and colour. As Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities across Pakistan recount numerous horrific attacks, Minority Rights Group International, a watchdog organisation, has ranked Pakistan as one of the world’s worst country in terms of increases in threats to minorities since 2007.

Minority rights have always been an issue of great debate not only in Pakistan but also around the whole world. Although Pakistan’s Constitution gives full protection to its people, including all the minorities, the state and government have utterly failed to implement the articles of the Constitution concerning minority rights fully. It is a fact that minorities like Shias, especially Hazara Shias, Christians, Ahmedis, Hindus, Parsis and Sikhs are not safe in our country. No person can openly talk about the misuse of religion in our society without facing grave consequences. The killings of former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti are before us. They were killed because they dared to raise their voices against the rampant misuse of the blasphemy laws.

How we can forget the words of Quaid-e-Azam when, giving an interview to the APA Representative in Bombay on November 8, 1945, he said: “Minorities can rest assured that their rights will be protected. No civilised government can be run successfully without giving minorities a complete sense of security and confidence. They must be made to feel that they have a hand in government and to do this they must have adequate representation in it. Pakistan will give them this”. These were historic words we should have lived by. Even in his famous August 11, 1947 speech Jinnah again talked extensively about minority rights.

On the other hand, in these hard and fearful times, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s participation in a Hindu festival to mark the occasion of Diwali is very commendable and is an encouraging act. He said during his speech that every community living in Pakistan, whether Hindu, Muslim or Parsi, belongs to him and that he belongs to them. He said that he was the PM of all communities: “If you are in distress, I will stand by you. Even if a Muslim commits an injustice, I will stand by the victim.” He added: “Diwali celebrates humanity’s struggle against the forces of evil. We are one nation, and forging unity and consensus is my mission. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis are part of the country.”

These were very beautiful and fine words filled with hope, love, peace and interfaith harmony. Nawaz Sharif has become the first PM in Pakistan’s history to join the Hindu community in their Diwali event. I personally believe that this speech by the PM should be included in textbooks and curriculums as it will create a soft image of what the government is trying to do where interfaith harmony is concerned, something that is vital for the younger generation, and will spread the message of brotherhood.

However, it is a very sad reality that these encouraging words cannot conceal the dark side of our society, which is filled with extremism, bigotry, hatred, prejudice and ignorance. The people of Pakistan know that their leaders are past masters in articulating beautiful words and being very poor and incompetent in translating them into actions. It is also an established truth that our venal and corrupt ruling elite, including political, religious elements, feudal lords, businessmen and civil officers, is the real culprit in spreading extremism in Pakistan. This cruel, ruling echelon has used religion to protect its own partisan interests in Pakistan and the region.

Unfortunately, today’s Pakistan is quite opposite to the country envisioned by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the speech the PM gave during Diwali. Minorities in our country — the Shias, Ahmedis, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians — are treated with prejudice and are meted our violence. We have completely forgotten the basis on which this state was founded. The rights and voices of the minorities are constantly being suppressed.

There are many false ideas and notions barring the minorities from assimilating in our society and culture. They are considered little better than second-class citizens. The government established a National Commission for Minority Rights after the Supreme Court (SC) judgment of June 19, 2014, giving the government a clear blueprint to address the persecution of minorities in Pakistan. Such commissions should also be established at the provincial level to monitor cases of forced conversions and marriages, restrictions on religious practices and the incitement of blasphemy accusations.

If PM Nawaz Sharif is serious about his intentions, he should turn his well-meaning words into meaningful action. He can do this by shutting down all those madrassas (seminaries) that are fanning extremism, bigotry and hatred. He should introduce a unified moderate and scientific education system in the country. Moreover, he should try to remove all discriminations against the minorities as they are also citizens of Pakistan and have equal rights and protection under the law.

I also want to take this opportunity to ask urban-centric liberals and a major chunk of our civil society, which have tasked themselves with being responsible for protecting and raising the rights of minorities, why they have limited their well-funded activities to candlelit vigils, talk-shows and peace walks. Is it just for the sake of photo sessions? No one will tries to discuss the real problem and, in turn, its solution.

If this situation does not rectify itself the people will keep on misusing our religion and with much greater impunity. The solution lies in improving governance and ensuring the state’s writ so that minorities and other vulnerable communities are protected.

Salman Ali is a social and political activist based in Lahore. Presently, he is linked with a humanitarian organisation working for the betterment of the working class.

dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/01-Dec-2015/minority-rights-from-quaid-to-nawaz

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Terrorism: domestic and global dimensions

By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

November 29, 2015

The terrorist incidents in November, especially the ones in Paris and the explosion of the Russian passenger aircraft in midair in Egyptian airspace, have reminded us of the transnational scope and devastating impact of extremism and terrorism. The appeal of terror groups is partly ideological, attracting people across territorial boundaries, and partly local, attracting people on the basis of their grievances against local and national governance systems. A combination of these two root causes can be lethal because of modern communication and transportation technology. International cooperation amongst states is essential for coping with these trends. However, the internal dynamics of a society facing terrorism and the nature of the ideological framework of such groups are no less salient in understanding this phenomenon.

Three major issues are key to understanding the dynamics of extremism and terrorism. The marginalisation of some and the ways in which social and political alienation develops in a section of society; internal incoherence and chaos in the face of the collapse of state authority and the erosion of the commanding role of the state; the ideology and worldview of extremist and violent groups, or their self-articulated narrative of perceived exploitation and injustices and a promise of turning the ideological utopia into a reality. Furthermore, criminality and the sheer desire to take advantage of an unstable situation in society also attracts a good number of groups and individuals to pursue their exclusive and criminal agendas, by identifying with such extremist groups or by floating their own groups.

Extremism and terrorism have become far more complex than domestic crime and violence. Therefore, it requires capacity-building by the state to track these groups and the use of strong and coercive methods to effectively deal with them. The state must demonstrate through tough actions that terrorist groups cannot get away scot-free after resorting to violence. A concerted and holistic approach is needed to cope with extremism and terrorism, which includes military and non-military or non-coercive methods. International cooperation is needed for exchanging information on extremism and terrorism, building state capacity to control criminal and terrorist activity, curtailing the movement of personnel and funding across the territorial boundaries of states. These efforts come in conflict with the current notion of globalisation that calls for greater movement of goods, services, investment and trade across state frontiers and geographical divides. The fruits of globalisation cannot be enjoyed by the states that suffer from extremist and violent activity. Therefore, extremism and terrorism become major obstacles to improving state economy and the quality of life for the common people which, in turn, contributes in the alienation of people from state institutions and processes.

The French president and his government acted swiftly and without reservations in dealing with the post-attack situation. The guiding principle was that no individual and group can challenge the authority of the state and that it is the primary responsibility of the state to protect the life and property of the people. This approach needs to be compared with the response of the civilian government in Pakistan, which pursues an ambiguous approach towards extremist and terrorist groups. The military also suffered from this dilemma in the past. However, it has come to the conclusion that such groups are a threat to state survival. However, the PML-N and its allies derive electoral support from right-wing and religious groups, which have sympathy for militancy. The exigencies of electoral politics make it difficult for Pakistan’s federal government to articulate a unity of mind and action on extremism and militancy. It was ironic that the joint statement issued after the end of the All-Parties Conference on terrorism in September 2013, described the Pakistani Taliban as a “stakeholder” in the Pakistani state and society.

Another interesting facet of terrorism in Paris is that the European and North American states adopted a unified and determined disposition for eliminating terrorism. There was no ambiguity in their view of how to cope with extremist and terrorist activity. Compare this with the responses of Muslim states to religious extremism and terrorism. Their state and dynastic rivalries and religious preferences influence their disposition towards extremist groups. For example, some conservative Arab states support hardline religious groups in their quest to dislodge the Bashar-al-Assad government in Syria. The support of and opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood movement has been a point of contention in the Middle East. Each state acts more on the basis of its dynastic and state exigencies rather than adopting a non-ambiguous and determined policy to eliminate extremist and militant groups.

There is a downside to the policies of the European and North American states in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Though the French government and the US president argued that terrorism was an act of a few and that it could not be linked to Islam or Muslims as a whole, who oppose such violence, at the societal level, there were numerous instances in these countries of a display of hatred against local Muslims. Even in New York City, Muslim men and women were subjected to what The New York Times described as “Islamophobic taunts” and physical assaults. The European states and the US must strictly discourage the negative attitude of their societies towards Muslims. These governments and leaders must engage with local Muslim communities in their respective countries. It is important to understand why a good number of Muslims feel marginalised in these societies and complain about non-availability of equitable opportunities for their cultural and religious expression. The more there are opportunities for them to enter the national mainstream, the more isolated becomes the small fraction of their population that subscribes to extremism and violent methods.

Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi is an independent political and defence analyst. He is also the author of several books, monographs and articles on Pakistan and South Asian affairs

tribune.com.pk/story/1000698/terrorism-domestic-and-global-dimensions/

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The US’s perspective on Turkey-Russia

By Sabria Chowdhury Balland

December 01, 2015

It just may well be that President Obama's priority is to maintain the Anglo-American base in the US-led coalition in Syria in order to keep the volatile situation under control

“Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained” — Sun Tzu, the Chinese military strategist and philosopher (544 BC-496 BC), The Art Of War.

On November 24, 2015, a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkey, resulting in a direct NATO versus Russia confrontation. Not surprisingly, there was and continues to be a considerable amount of sound and fury from Russia, and initial considerations that it may engage in covert retributions. Some even went so far as to insinuate that this is the catalyst that will trigger World War III.

The Russians claim the jet was on the Syrian side of the border and Turkey claims it was on theirs. Turkey is playing an extremely pivotal role in the Syrian civil war. Putin’s immediate response has been to accuse Turkey of “stabbing Russia in the back”. From the point of view of the US, the reaction is clearly and obviously one that will be supportive of Turkey, a NATO member state.

President Obama has stated that Turkey has a right to defend its airspace and territory, and that much of the problematic issues stem from Russia’s lack of focus in fighting Islamic State (IS). He further stated that it is of crucial significance that the US, along with its NATO allies, ensures that Turkey and Russia talk to each other and heed diplomatic policies, find out exactly what happened and take the necessary measures to discourage any sort of escalation of the event.

President Obama’s stance is explicit in that he perceives Russia’s role in the entire Syrian conflict as one that is at odds with that of the US and its allies. From what has been seen thus far, Russia seems much more keen on keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power rather than fighting IS. The point of view of the US is that had Russia focused its energies on IS, these conflicts and the potential for the escalation of grave errors would be much less likely to occur. The US welcomes Russia in the broad-based coalition but is cognisant of the fact that, as President Obama stated, “The problem has been Russia’s focus with propping up Assad rather than IS.”

Having said this, examining the Turkish-Russian strained relationship more closely, it may just be that the US actually has an interest in this strained status quo. It just may well be that President Obama’s priority is to maintain the Anglo-American base in the US-led coalition in Syria in order to keep the volatile situation under control. The involvement of Russia may thoroughly alter the chemistry of this coalition, thus disrupting, so to speak, the prospects of NATO being the sole peacemaker in the Middle East. The strain in Turkish-Russian relations may just have been what the doctor ordered: an optimum window of opportunity for bypassing the Russian proposal of an international coalition to fight IS.

In fact, there is even a conspiracy theory that Turkey shot down the Russian plane because, as a member of NATO, it felt that this incident would be a perfect opportunity to poke Russia and thus suit the US agenda in Syria. There has been much talk that Russia was obliged to get involved in Syria. It has made blatant insinuations that the US is incapable of leading a significantly strong power base to combat terrorist forces. This insinuation is clearly a flagrant and direct stab at President Obama’s leadership capabilities in tackling a monumental task such as the one that presents itself in Syria. However, the truth of the matter is if President Obama lacks genuine interest in collaborating with Russia in the war against IS, there really is not much that Russia can do to persuade him.

Putin stated that Russia does not need cooperation or any coalition. This scenario is reminiscent of the Cold War, which, in the grand scheme of things, is unhelpful in the face of global terrorism. It is of utmost necessity for Russia to grasp this notion for everyone’s benefit.

What the world faces as a whole currently in the face of terrorism can only be tackled and hopefully subdued with a strategic collaboration of the member and non-member states of NATO. In this regard, Russia can only be productive in collaboration with the US-led coalition. In essence, a message to Russia would be: this is not a showdown. In following Sun Tzu’s quote, the real advantage to be gained here would be in containing and defeating terrorism. All other conflicting steps would inevitably escalate into useless conflicts that would detract focus from why a foreign presence is needed in Syria to begin with.

Sabria Chowdhury Balland is the political analysis editor of Turkey Tribune. She is also an elected member of the US Democratic Party.

dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/01-Dec-2015/the-us-s-perspective-on-turkey-russia

URL: http://newageislam.com/islam-and-sectarianism/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/minority-rights--from-quaid-to-nawaz--new-age-islam%E2%80%99s-selection-from-pakistan-press,-1-december-2015/d/105473

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