Monday, 11 September 2017

End Violence Against Rohingyas - UN Chief Calls on Myanmar

End Violence Against Rohingya –
UN Chief Calls on Myanmar

Dr. Mozammel Haque

There is a real concern at the United Nations from the humanitarian side. UN says that more than 123,600 Rohingyas have crossed over to Bangladesh in 11 days since 25 August, 2017, adding to the 400,000 already taking refuge there. On Tuesday, 5th of September 2017, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addressed the situation at a press briefing. He said, “I appeal to all authorities in Myanmar, civil authorities and military authorities to put an end to this violence. And in my opinion it is creating a situation that can destabilise the region.” UN chief warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilisation.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar as he appealed to the country's authorities to end violence against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - mostly women and children - have crossed the border into Bangladesh in the past 11 days, fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to alleged attacks by Rohingya fighters. Since the latest round of violence began on August 25, at least 400 people have been killed in the ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive.  

"The grievances and unresolved plight of the Rohingya have festered for far too long and are becoming an undeniable factor in regional destabilisation," Guterres told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday. "The authorities in Myanmar must take determined action to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence and to provide security and assistance to all those in need," he added.

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights has criticised leader Aung San Suu Kyi. De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Laureate is failing to protect Rohingya Minorities.

Myanmar’s Rohingya are the world’s largest stateless minority and endure severe restrictions on their movements. They are denied citizenship in Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots that date back centuries. Most of Myanmar’s estimated more than one million Rohingya Muslims live in northern Rakhine state. They face severe persecution in the Buddhist-majority country, which refuses to recognize them as a legitimate native ethnic minority, leaving them without citizenship and basic rights. Longstanding tension between the Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists erupted in bloody rioting in 2012. That set off a surge of anti-Muslim feeling throughout the country.

Rohingyas received international attention after the 2012 Rakhine State riots which resulted in the Rohingya refugee crisis of 2015 and a subsequent military crackdown between 2016 and 2017. A large number of Rohingya fled to the bordering areas with Thailand Bangladesh and Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. Nearly 100,000 Rohingyas are estimated to live in camps established for internally displaced persons inside Myanmar. The Rohingyas are not recognised by Myanmar as native ethnic minority and are often denied citizenship and basic rights. 

Current violence
Around 27,400 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar, United Nations sources said, a week after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine state, prompting clashes and a military counteroffensive. The army says it is conducting clearance operations against “extremist terrorists” and security forces have been told to protect civilians. But Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh say a campaign of arson and killings aims to force them out.

A total of 87,000 mostly Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since violence erupted in neighbouring Myanmar on 25 August 2017, the United Nations said Monday, the 4th of September, amid growing international criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi. Thousands of the stateless Muslim minority have fled the mainly Buddhist nation and poured over the border since the latest round of fighting broke out, piling pressure on the already overcrowded camps in Bangladesh. Around 20,000 more were massed on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine and waiting to enter, the UN said in a report.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is facing extreme trouble in coping with this refugee crisis. Nearly half a million Rohingya refugees are already living in the bordering areas of Bangladesh many years. Most of those entering Bangladesh are women, children or elderly men, and the refugees say that many young men have stayed behind to fight. The UN said most of the new arrivals were in the squalid camps already housing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees around the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar. International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is working with Bangladesh Government to provide food and other basic necessities for the refugees, but the efforts still fall short to meet the need.

Dhaka had stepped up border controls after the latest round of violence began 10 days ago, but the UN said recent arrivals reported there had been no attempt to stop them from crossing. The UN said most of the new arrivals were in the squalid camps already housing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees around the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar. But many lacked shelter from the heavy monsoon rains and an AFP reporter on the ground said hundreds of new makeshift shelters had sprung up on the outskirts of the sprawling camps in recent days. “It has been raining frequently since last week. We have to keep our children safe from being sick,” said Amena Begum, a newly arrived mother of five. Refugees in Cox’s Bazar have alleged their families were massacred and villages torched by security forces and Buddhist mobs.

UN and other Human Rights Groups
Rights groups alleged massacres of Rohingya in remote villages led by Myanmar security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist mobs. Fortify Rights, an NGO with a focus on Myanmar, said eyewitnesses alleged mobs shot and hacked down Rohingya villagers — including children — in a five-hour “killing spree” in the village of Chut Pyin in Rathedaung township on Sunday afternoon. But in a complex situation, further muddied by the swirl of claims and denials by both sides, more accounts emerged accusing Myanmar forces of killings and widespread abuse. However, Human Rights groups accused the army of carrying out massive abuses, including killing, rape and burning down more than 1,000 homes and other buildings.

Since 25th August, 2017 some 60,000 have escaped from Rakhine to Bangladesh, according to the UN. Local reports say there are at least 10,000 more people waiting at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. About 18,000 Rohingya Muslims are estimated to have crossed into Bangladesh in the last week from 25-30 August, 2017, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Wednesday, 30 August, seeking to escape the worst violence in Myanmar’s northwest in at least five years. The IOM also said it was difficult to estimate the number of people stranded in the no man’s land at the border between the neighbours, but added there were “hundreds and hundreds” of people stuck there.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is struggling to provide basic humanitarian support for the rapidly rising number of refugees, an IOM staff member said on condition of anonymity. Local Bangladeshis are trying to help, but “the situation is so grave that Bangladesh can’t handle it anymore by itself,” said a government official on condition of anonymity. Sanjukta Sahany, a spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on the border with Myanmar said the Rohingya crisis was not just an issue between Myanmar and Bangladesh but of international concern. Ali Hossain, Cox’s Bazar district’s top government official told the Associated Press that its resources were under huge stress after some 87,000 Rohingya entered Bangladesh since October last year and another 18,000 since last Friday 25th of August 2017.

Aid agencies estimate about 73,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar since violence erupted. Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for UN refugee agency UNHCR told Reuters on Sunday, 3rd of September. The UN refugee organisation on Tuesday, 29 August 2017 urged Bangladesh to continue to allow Rohingya fleeing violence to seek safety. It said it was ready to help Bangladesh with assistance for the refugees.

Muslim World: Reaction and Response
Muslim anger is growing in Asia as there seems no letup in violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim refugees.  The crisis threatens Myanmar’s diplomatic relations, particularly with the Muslim majority countries in South East Asia where there is profound public anger over the treatment of the Rohingya.

We have already noticed how the UN refugee agency UNHCR, Human Rights groups and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) responded to the situation, the plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The people and government of the two Muslim majority countries, Indonesia and Turkey raised their voices and demanded immediate action. They condemned the atrocities treatment of Rohingyas by the Myanmar authorities. 

Turkey: Turkey has called on the international community to put pressure on Myanmar’s government to stop the killing and displacement of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.  Turkey, both at the government and public level is leading the people and demanding early resolution of the crisis.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority. “There is a genocide there,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. “Those who close their eyes to this genocide perpetuated under the cover of democracy are its collaborators.”

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya, continued his telephone diplomacy with the leaders of Senegal, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. He is expected to discuss the crisis on the phone with the leaders of Pakistan, Iran, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh this week. Meanwhile, Cavusoglu spoke with former UN Secretary-General Annan.

Turkish President also said he would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly in New York later this month, adding that he had already talked to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other Muslim leaders.

Similarly Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey has so far delivered more than $70 million in humanitarian aid to the Rohingya, but delivering aid is not enough. “In two weeks, we need to hold a meeting in New York with the UN secretary-general, leaders of Muslim countries, international organizations, the head of the UN Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, Kofi Annan, and other leaders to solve this issue,” he said. “We’ve called upon the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). We’ll organize a summit this year on the issue. We have to find a definitive solution to this problem.”

Cavusoglu also urged the Bangladeshi government to “open its doors” to Rohingya Muslims, and pledged to cover all costs to accommodate them.

Turkish Civic societies
: Similarly, the Turkish civic societies, the lawyer, academic and research organisation has expressed their views how to resolve the problem. Talip Kucukcan, a lawmaker from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, said Ankara has taken the lead in raising awareness about the plight of the Rohingya, and calls on the international community to take effective steps to prevent a humanitarian disaster. “A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding, while the international community pays lip service to the slaughter and forced migration of Muslims,” he told Jeddah-based English daily, Arab News.

“The lack of response around the world indicates that UN and other agencies are becoming useless entities,” he said. “Ankara couldn’t remain silent over the plight of Rohingya Muslims, not because Turks belong to the same religion, but due to Turkey’s emphasis and investment in humanitarian assistance worldwide.

Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, and provides humanitarian assistance in more than 100 countries regardless of religion or ethnicity, said Kucukcan.

Democratic illusion: It is interesting that the academic scholar found two obstacles in the resolution of the issue which coined “democratic illusion.”  Dr. Altay Atli, a research associate at Sabanci University’s Istanbul Policy Center, said Turkey can draw global attention to the tragedy and facilitate multilateral steps to resolve the issue. “I see, however, two obstacles in this respect,” Atli told Jeddah-based English daily Arab News. “One is related to what I call ‘democracy illusion’ in Myanmar. There’s a democratic transition, the junta has left, there were elections, but democratization takes time.” With the international community buying into this “democracy illusion,” it turned a blind eye to ongoing undemocratic practices, including the situation of ethnic minorities, he said.

Furthermore, Western countries want to access Myanmar’s natural resources and counterbalance China’s influence there, Atli added. “The second problem relates to the OIC’s inability to act in unison, make binding decisions and enforce them,” he said.

Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, and provides humanitarian assistance in more than 100 countries regardless of religion or ethnicity, said Kucukcan.

Indonesians have expressed grave concern and anger following reports of violence against Rohingya Muslim refugees in Myanmar. Both at the Government level and public level they expressed their views to halt the violence in Myanmar.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has sent his foreign minister to Myanmar to urge its government to halt violence, he said. “Earlier this afternoon, the foreign minister has departed to Myanmar to ask the Myanmar government to stop and prevent violence, to provide protection to all citizens, including Muslims in Myanmar, and to give access to humanitarian aid,” Widodo said.

Meanwhile, a few meters from the rally, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Vice Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir met with representatives of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Muhammadiyah, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Islamic Students Alumni Association and the Islamic Students Association. Muhyiddin Junaidi, head of the MUI’s international relations department, said they conveyed to Marsudi and Fachir the concerns of the Indonesian people over the Rohingya issue, and urged the government to take firmer action against Myanmar.

The Foreign Minister is set to leave for Myanmar next week, and is expected to meet with Suu Kyi and National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun.

Indonesian civic societies: Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation Muhammadiyah demanded Muhammadiyah the government to reconsider its silent diplomacy.  Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization demanded that the government reconsider its silent diplomacy with Myanmar because it had not ended Rohingya suffering. Recounting the horror of Myanmar Army’s attack, Abdur Rahman, a 46-year-old Rohingya who fled Chikon Jhuria village in Rakhine to Bangladesh, said: “I can’t believe I’m still alive.”

Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, on Thursday demanded that the government reconsider its silent diplomacy with Myanmar because it had not ended Rohingya suffering. Given the number of victims, Muhammadiyah called on ASEAN to put aside its policy of non-interference in member states’ domestic affairs, and take common responsibility in protecting the Rohingya people. “We demand that the (Indonesian) government consider the possibility of designating a certain area to temporarily shelter Rohingya refugees,” said.

The Indonesian Humanitarian Alliance for Myanmar (AKIM) — which unites 11 civil society and charity groups, including Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization NU, Muhammadiyah and the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Walubi) — said it is spending $2 million on health, education, economic and relief programs for the next two years. “We began the programs in mid-2017. We fix roads and provide food and shelter. In the near future, we’ll assist with education facilities,” AKIM Chairman and NU representative Ali Yusuf said Thursday. “The most important thing is that our programs are inclusive for all affected communities, regardless of ethnicity and religion,” he said, adding that the root cause of the conflict is economic, and all communities are deprived of economic opportunities. “This is why our programs have nothing to do with religion. It’s about empowering communities that need empowerment,” he said.

Marsudi said the programs are in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State’s report issued last week. The commission is led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “We hope the Myanmar government will protect everyone in Rakhine state, including the Muslim community, and provide access for relief missions so the humanitarian situation won’t get worse,” Marsudi  

Society of Professionals for Rohingya Humanity: On Saturday, 3rd of September, 2017, up to 100 people under the banner of the Society of Professionals for Rohingya Humanity staged a rally in front of Myanmar’s Embassy in Jakarta, urging member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to end the “genocide” of the Rohingya ethnic group. “We also want Myanmar’s membership in ASEAN to be suspended,” said the group’s coordinator Ichsan Loulembah.

They demanded that Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi put more effort into ending the violence. Otherwise she “doesn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, and we demand that it be revoked,” Said Reza, a spokesman for a communication forum for mosque youth groups in Indonesia, told Jeddah-based Arab News at the rally.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce: The deputy chairwoman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Suryani Motik, said the rally participants came from various business, political and religious backgrounds, and shared the same concerns over the Rohingya people’s ordeal. They also “demanded that ASEAN hold an extraordinary meeting to urge Myanmar to end this atrocity, or their membership should be suspended,” Muhyiddin told Arab News.

Muhyiddin said according to Marsudi, if Jakarta exercises megaphone diplomacy, Myanmar may block Indonesia’s ability to channel humanitarian aid to the conflict-torn Rakhine state. “Even though we and the government have different views, in principle we agree that Myanmar should stop violence against Rohingya people immediately, and we support the government’s effort. We hope it will be successful,” Muhyiddin said.

United Kingdom
In British Parliament: In the United Kingdom, people are very much concerned about the situation in Myanmar. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Peer in the House of Lords in the British Parliament, tabled on the first day of the session of the House on the 5th 0f September, 2017 the following questions to Her Majesty’s government in the House of Lords:
 -“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made any representations to the Myanmar Government regarding the recent violence against the Rohingya community?
-  To ask Her Majesty’s Government their assessment of refugees fleeing violence in the Rakhine region of Burma?
- To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much they are contributing towards training the Myanmar military in the name of development?
- To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Britain is or will be contributing towards the humanitarian aid for Rohingya refugees and the amount of the contributions made to date?
- To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will support the Bangladesh Government in their efforts to accommodate Rohingya refugees?

Meeting on Rohingya: Islamic Information Centre Oxford is organising a meeting later this month where some special guests and participants would come and participate for making decision to find the best way to approach the United Nations in presenting a document to prove that Genocide happened, as the recognition of Genocide in Myanmar by the UN is vital to bring justice. International Criminal Lawyers would be explaining the best procedure to present a proposal to the United Nations.

leader Aung San Suu Kyi
The treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution. Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is a “partner in crime” with the army against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, Salah Abdulshkoor Alarakani, director of the Rohingya Media Center, told Arab News on Sunday.

Malala Yousafzai: De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner of Myanmar’s junta, has come under increasing fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or chastise the military. She has made no public comment since the latest fighting broke out. “Over the last several years I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment,” Pakistani activist and fellow Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai said in a statement about the Rohingya crisis on Twitter.  “I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same.” Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, called on her fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the “shameful” treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, saying “the world is waiting” for her to speak out.

Activists from Indonesia, home to the world’s biggest Muslim population, on Saturday called on the Nobel committee to withdraw Suu Kyi’s peace prize during protests outside the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta, state news agency Antara reported.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Message of Love Mercy and Solidarity at Interfaith Iftar Party

Interfaith Iftar Evening at the ICC:
The Message of Love, Mercy and Solidarity

Dr. Mozammel Haque

An Interfaith Iftar and Dinner Evening was organised by the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, held at the Conference Library Hall of the Centre, in the evening of Tuesday, the 20th of June 2017. The evening party was attended by more than 130 representatives from 12 faith and religious communities, besides the representatives from various faiths, the Metropolitan Police, local Member of Parliament Karen Buck, MP and community leaders. The diplomatic delegation was represented by Ambassador Dato Aminuddin Ihsan, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam in London, Mr. Abdulmomen bin Mohammed Sharaf, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia and representatives of the Embassy of Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan.

The Iftar Evening was started with the recitation from of the verses of the Holy Qur’an by Sheikh Khalifa, head Imam of the centre followed by Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre who welcomed the guests.

Welcome address by Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan
 Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan expressed his happiness to see everyone again. He enquired Why we have arranged this event today? And answered promptly that this event was arranged well before all the sad incidents which have recently occurred and we insisted not to change the date of this event as it’s better to meet in the hard days. He said, “We planned this day today before all these incidents what happened have not happened at that time. And we kept it as it was; and decided not to change it. Because we would like to meet more in the hard days inviting you today to share with us this fasting month of Ramadan, to know something about us; about our fasting month of Ramadan for those who do not know.”

“To share good times together; in the Arabic tradition; the Arabs say when you share someone with food and drinks that means that you are friends forever. We are friends, close friends and I hope this friendship will really be ever lasting and will remain long run always,” said Dr. al-Dubayan.  

Ramadan the Month of Mercy and Solidarity
Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “Ramadan is the month of mercy, it is the month of solidarity with other people. Fasting is a kind of worship. The Qur’an tells us the fasting was also a charity in other faiths before. We fast by the orders of Allah and also at the same time to remember those who are poor and do not have enough food to feed themselves. Ramadan is the month when every Muslim must look after their parents, spouse, children and neighbours.”

Ramadan the Month of Generosity
He continued, “Ramadan is the month of generosity and being generous. Every Muslim is asked to be more generous than before. Being generous is one of the good manners and behaviours in Islam. And the Qur’an and the Tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has praised about this a lot. In Ramadan it is more confirmed and be precise; come together and share all this this evening together.”

This evening for sharing love, mercy and solidarity
Dr. al-Dubayan pointed out that today we have come together to share the meaning of love, mercy and solidarity with each other. He said, “This evening is the evening of love, mercy and solidarity and I am sure that there are not only in Islam but there are also in all other religions. All those representatives of other faiths are with us in this evening of today know that these are in their faiths.”

He remembered all the sad incidents which occurred in the United Kingdom in the past few months including Manchester Arena, London Bridge, Finsbury Park Mosque and the Grenfell Tower and stressed that these incidents clearly showed how much we need to work together and that the message must be delivered by all the faith groups to the wider society who are ignorant of their own faiths and also to those who mislead innocent people.

Sad and terrible days last few weeks
“Lot of problems come here. The problems always come from the followers themselves. They do not practice the teachings in their daily lives. We have terrible days in the last two weeks or three weeks from one incident to another: from the terror attack on the London Bridge, from the awful attack in Manchester and then again back to London; then the fire on the Grenfell Tower which is also regretful incident and then recently the terror attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque. That shows really how much we need to work together; that shows how much we need the massage from the faith groups to be delivered to the wider society; that shows how much really people are ignorant of their own faiths. And that shows how much we really need to deliver the message to those who misleads innocent people from the right path,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned the sign of
Sharing many things in common
Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned that coming together today at the Islamic Cultural Centre would be a sign for us all that we can share together, live together and like each other. This message should be spread among the younger generation. He said, “Today I would like it to be a sign for all of us that we can share together; we can live together; we can like each other; we have many things in common; we can be friends; we can be neighbours; we can be colleagues also; we can live together; And this is the massage I wish really every leader and every faith here today and those who are not with us here today try to spread the message among the younger generation. The young generation must understand faith in the right way.”

Need to spread the true meaning of
Peace and solidarity to young generation
It is highly important to reach out to the young generation and spread the true meaning of peace and solidarity. Dr. al-Dubayan said, “Can we return back those manners and those values that we share all together. This is actually the message that we should really bring together. I want the new generation to see this.”

“The young generation must understand faith in the right way. We from all the faiths and backgrounds have gathered here to celebrate peace and solidarity and this indeed is a great example that we can live together peacefully. We really hope InshaAllah that this may bring some positive change in the younger generation and that would be able to do something better for the society,” Dr. al-Dubayan said and added, “Role of organisations around us in the society - the faith organisations, the religious organisations - is really badly needed now more than any time before.”

Advanced technology and its impact
Dr. al-Dubayan pointed out the advanced technology cannot be controlled and due to many false information in the media the young generation are not able to identify reliable sources of information and sadly many of them get carried away by the false information. He said, “Evil is everywhere. Now with the advanced technology you cannot control the flow of information; it is going everywhere in every house, every room, in every head of young generation. The problem is: young generation cannot distinguish or know exactly what sources are reliable; they just read something; and they think it is true. Very good example of that is what happened in the fire in the Grenfell Tower a few days ago last week; lots of rumours and really fake news spread in the social media and again the attack in the face book spread over and over. This is for this generation is a source of information, regardless whether it is a reliable source or not.”

Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned about Islamophobia. He said, “Islamophobia will do exactly what anti-Semitism did once 70 years ago and we all know the story. We don’t want actually Europe and specially this lovely country where Muslims have more rights and succeed more than any other country. We don’t want in this country and in Europe face what we call may be the Islamic questions like the 19th century what they call that time the Jewish questions. Something dangerous. And things coming down like a drop of water if somebody does not speak up really this; this drop of water becomes the one day and it will take us all away.”

Religious organisations responsibility to bring
back reliable sources to the young generation
Our responsibility as a religious organisation is to work together with the authorities try to bring things back to the reliable sources and try to spread the real message of peace.

Dr. Al-Dubayan concluded his speech with a hope that this gathering may bring love, mercy, good relation and good intention from the Islamic Cultural Centre to everyone present and to show what Islam truly says. He said, “I hope this gathering today bring us the meaning of love, mercy and good relations, good intentions from our hearts to all of you. And to show you a model about what Islam says about other people. And I belief your presence here with us today is one of the good examples and evidence that we have.”

Finally, he thanked all the respected guests for attending and honouring the Islamic Cultural Centre with their presence.

Member of Parliament for Westminster
North, Karen Buck, MP
Member of Parliament for Westminster North, Karen Buck, MP, started by addressing the gathering saying “Assalamualaikum good evening. I have seen many honoured guests. I would be very brief. We want to hear warm messages of support from everyone gathered here this evening. I want to say how proud and grateful I am for the works of the Regents Park Islamic Cultural Centre and for Dr. Dubayan and for bringing us together this evening and we see representatives here from mosques, temples, churches synagogues. They are the visible sign of their communities that can be reached out to each other and we shall also see many voluntary organisations and institutions of civil societies and police representatives here.”

Speaking about the month of Ramadan, MP Buck said, “As Dr. Dubayan said it is the holy month of Ramadan to renew our commitment; and to reach out to each other to get to know each other and to continue a dialogue that is even more important in hard times than it is in normal times.”

“The main goal of our meeting is that we believe in God and that religion has great value in our daily lives and that spiritual values are important to all,” said Karen Buck, MP.

Karen Buck MP also pointed out that the United Kingdom had witnessed a number of sad events recently, but said that she was very happy that the community stood together in a cohesive and solidarity and that it was not and would not be divided. She also mentioned the incredible courage and incredible unity of human kind in these last few weeks. She said, “just returning from the horror in Grenfell Tower in the constituency I used to represent I know well they have been coming together from every faith community, from every corner of the civil society, gathering donations, organising fund raisers, putting money out, reaching out, giving support to those affected and many many young people quite spontaneously wanted to be involved in helping and that is absolutely an wonderful thing to see and something we want to continue.”

Karen Buck also reiterated that “the messages of love, hope and unity that we hear tonight and that would bridge not just between faiths but also between many faith communities and of no faith, whether they are of the institutions or individuals. But I think also as a bigger challenge and a bigger task that we need to recommend ourselves too.”

“The message of love and unity we all will be celebrating tonight,” Karen Buck MP. said.

She also thanked the Islamic Cultural Centre and its Director General Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan for their efforts and services to strengthen relations between Muslims and other religions in Britain.

Chief Superintendent David Stringer
of the Metropolitan Police
Chief Superintendent David Stringer of the Metropolitan Police said that Islam is a religion of tolerance, co-existence and cooperation, and those mosques and religious centres bear responsibility for portraying this true and true message of Muslims and society. He also stressed that the police stand in the service of all religions, called on the importance of dialogue between religions to remove the misconceptions and fear of the other in society and this in turn will reduce the crimes of hatred against the other.

Talking about the tragic incidents took place in the United Kingdom, Stringer said, “It’s a difficult time; it’s a difficult time for London; difficult time for the emergency services. What we have seen is a small number of people seeking to divide us. What I have seen personally is a large number of people, the vast majority of people, working together, standing together and demonstrating visibly sometimes in some events we have to put on like vigils, like the services of hope visibly standing together and supporting each other. The vast majority of people of this country and the city would not be divided and we will absolutely stand together.”

He also said, “Please maintain that stand please maintain your vigilance. He also mentioned about the security around mosques and the places of worship. “We are absolutely determined during this month at this time to keep people safe. We are determined with your support to keep London safe and to keep faith communities safe but we depend on you for community intelligence and for help us to keep safe.”

Venerable Stephen Welch, Arch Deacon of
Middlesex, Representing the Bishop of London
Venerable Stephen Welch, Arch Deacon of Middlesex, representing the Bishop of London extended all the “warmest possible greetings.” He mentioned, “I had a little distraction in the last few days because of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. “What I have seen in the shadow of what’s gone on there is quite remarkable. Large numbers of people between faiths and between no faiths just turn out to work as community in response to an enormous tragedy.”

“I think in a gathering like this one can always sense the tangible depth of faith that is here and what can be achieved from that depth of faiths by broader and more open and more passionate collaboration in so many ways for the good of London,” Venerable Welch said and added, “I cannot believe my eyes in the different way; in response the way people of all faiths and none have had responded to the enormous challenge there and I have seen the community and the sense of common response care experience of grief and tragedy was beaten and mingles with hope.”

He said for us there is much to do in together; much to do in educating those young people; rooting the young in the deepest and fertile fruit of human society and civilisation. “Peace be to this house this evening. May justice rein our spirit and may love be in all our hearts. Thank you very much.” (20:15-22:16)

Gillian Merron, Chief Executive
of the Board of Deputy of British Jews.
Gillian Merron, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said, “I am here on behalf of the Jewish community across the United Kingdom. I want to wish you all the Happy Ramadan. I want to begin with some thoughts others have done on the awful attack on Muslims in Finsbury Park. We utterly condemn this act of terrorism. All good faithful people all good people should stand together in joining and rejecting hatred and violence from wherever it comes.”

“Hatred of people because of their religion has no place in our society,” she said and added that the divide between Muslims and Jews can only be bridged by getting to know one another, much better. With that in mind I look forward to making new friends this evening as I have done already. On behalf of the Jewish community thanking you for inviting me to break fast with you and Ramadan Mubarak.”

Father Stephen Wang
Dean of Marylebone Church
Father Stephen Wang said, “I am here as University Chaplain. I am here as Catholic Dean of this area around Regents Park and also on behalf of the Catholic Church and the Bishop of that people, just to share the sentiment of those people how good it is to be together this evening.”

He talked of the commonality, friendship and commonness. “We talk a lot as people of faiths; we share so much; we dialogue; we recognise what we have in common; we also recognise what we don’t have in common sometimes. And both of them are important. That underlining everything that genuine human friendship which we believe comes from human heart. That unity comes not from the human heart but from the gift as we say; as we believe that the gift of unity is in those deeper values that we share,” Stephen Wang mentioned.

 Father Wang also said, “We are standing in the middle of the crisis but without being overwhelmed by it. And I hope and I pray meeting this evening is the testimony of that desire in ourselves, in our communities and in our friendship together and that comes from our love for God and love for each other.”  

Pheriza Gan Kotwal , Zoroastrian
Trust Funds for Europe
Pheriza Gan Kotwal from Zoroastrian Trust Funds for Europe first talked about the meeting of SACRED (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education in Schools) where she launched Zoroastrian manifesto and syllabus this morning. 

She spoke of love and peace and said, “There is no question of preaching peace and love.” She also talked about how much we have in common. For example, she said Muslims wear hat; in our religion, even small child of two or three years, men women or children wear topes; so all have topes she also showed Zoroastrian manifesto; prayer book which is Avasta in Latin or Greek.

His Grace Bishop Angaelos Coptic Orthodox Church
Bishop Angaelos of Coptic Orthodox Church said, “It is a wonderful time to be standing together;  we do not only gather here during the month of Ramadan; we don’t only gather in the wake of numerous terror attacks; only a few days ago; we also meet today which is world refugee day and it is a day that culminates quite a lot  of challenges we are speaking about: basement, marginalization, terrorism, alienation things which have regrettably been around our world, certainly about centuries but even more tragedy past decades when we are supposed to be in a different time, in a different development with international agreements, statutes and treatises which apparently safeguard our rights.”

He also mentioned, “This is time for our religious leaders to take ownership of the space. It is time for us to increase the legitimacy of our messages that will never ever come through the tribalism. It is only when we are able to stand with our Muslim community or indeed in other times with Christians, Baha’is, Yazidi’s or people of no faith at all. It is only then we can truly find the absolute perfect space for our faith.”

“Our biggest enemy is not each other,” said Bishop Angaelos and added, “Our biggest enemy is secularism that shows that at best we are irrelevant and at worst we are complicit with it what are happening and for that reason it is time – the fact is that it has happened over the centuries, over the past decades or over the past years does not mean it must continue on our watch. Gathering like we have today at Scotland Yard, like we had yesterday at Finsbury Park, like we have tonight at the Islamic Cultural Centre, this is going to speak louder than any terrorist action; but at least to be genuine.”

The Coptic Orthodox Church Bishop also said, “In this melting pot, in this diverse community we live in, we are each other reality; we are each other’s present; and we are certainly each other future.”

Tricia Hillas Revd Canon
St Pauls Cathedral Church.
Tricia Hillas Revd Canon of the St. Paul’s Cathedral Church expressed her gratefulness for the kind invitation to be at the Islamic Cultural Centre and “the warm welcome and the depth of your generous hospitality”. She said, “In this evening, in this holy night, in this holy month, in this holy meal, you set before us gracious hospitality.”

She also mentioned, “Hospitality of venue, hospitality of mass wonderful food. Hospitality of time to be together and to be with you and most of all sharing of what is important to you and of you which expresses that deepest generosity which is of the heart.  And the hospitality of the human heart points to the merciful hospitality of the divine heart itself. And there are few things more significant and more holy than opening one’s doors and eating together.”

This was followed by many speeches by all representatives of religions from Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. All thanked the Centre and the Islamic Community and offered their condolences to the victims of the attack in Finsbury Park London and the victims of the fire in Grenfell Tower London and thanked the police and emergency services and the British government for their full support and service. The representatives stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue to promote cooperation and understanding between religions and society and the importance of condemning terrorist attacks that could not divide society. He thanked all the Islamic Cultural Centre and its Trustees for the invitation and hospitality during the occasion.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Hajj - The Fifth Pillar of Islam

Hajj: The Fifth Pillar of Islam

Dr. Mozammel Haque

ISLAM IS A PRACTICAL RELIGION which lays down a complete code of life. Its training starts from childhood. The final pillar of Islam or the Fifth Pillar of Islam comes after the successful completion of the first four pillars of Islam. The training of five times prayer every day started from the local Masjid, meeting with local people, with neighbours five times every day.

But the ultimate objective or the summum bonum of Islam is establishing peace and harmony in the whole universe, and for that reason, it makes various provisions for creating peace and harmony in the lives of mankind as well as in the universe. Peace and harmony can be achieved only when there is solidarity and universal brotherhood among human beings. Islam preaches this concept and puts it into practice through the unique annual assemblage of the pilgrims during Hajj.

The institution of Hajj in Islam is quite extraordinary and unparalleled. It is only Islam that has made the annual assemblage at one place, Makkah, an obligation for the capable Muslims from all corners of the world. In other words, it may be called the World Muslim Congress. This assembly has many distinctive features which no other gathering has and no other religion stipulates. The concept of unity and brotherhood is embedded in Islam in such a way that one is truly amazed to see millions of Muslims dressed in two white sheets of cloth gathered at one particular place, i.e. in Arafat during a fixed time on certain fixed days in the year. All human and man-made barriers and distinctions are demolished during that assembly.

We shall deal here with the aspects of unity and universal brotherhood which, besides others, are quintessential among the concepts of Hajj. First, let us take universal brotherhood. This universal brotherhood emanates from the following basic concepts and is demonstrated in a most authentic and brilliant manner here on this occasion:

Adam is the first man from whom all human beings have sprung up;
Abraham is the father of monotheistic religion;
Acceptance of all prophets as prophets of God;
Belief in all revealed books of Allah.

Thus, this acceptance of Abraham as the patriarch of the concept of Tawheed and recognition of the continuity of Prophethood from Prophet Adam to the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him all) and having faith in all revealed books keeps up a chain of faith known as Islam throughout the world. This binds the whole humankind into a bond of brotherhood whose genealogical father is Adam and the spiritual father Abraham. Thus Muslims believe in the continuation of the human race on earth. There are no conflicts and controversies in the monotheistic religion decreed by God. All Muslims (those who consciously and willingly surrender to the Will of the Creator) belong to this Ummah and therefore constitute a fraternity of faith. This is one way the Hajj conveys the message of universal brotherhood.

This aspect of universal brotherhood can also be noticed during Hajj when Muslims come from remote corners of the world and congregate in Makkah in the vicinity of the House of God, i.e. Baitullah. Though they might have come from the east or west, north or south, and all differences in colour, language, race and nationality notwithstanding, they find their oneness on the basis of their faith in One God, One Qiblah, One Book and One Prophet.

The practical training for this universal brotherhood starts from the local or neighbourhood level with the five times daily prayers in the mosque, which gets enlarged with the Friday prayers once a week. The circle is again made substantially larger during the Eid prayer, and it becomes internationalised transforming into a global gathering once in a lifetime. So, as I mentioned at the beginning, the concept and training in universal brotherhood, which reaches its peak, starts from the very childhood at the local level.

As regards unity, Islam, first of all, removed all man-made bonds and barriers bringing all human beings into one global family tracing their genealogical origin to common parents and biological chemistry to one element, i.e. clay. Almighty God has laid down in the Holy Qur’an, “O Mankind, We have created you from a male and a female.” (49: 13) This establishment of absolute equality on the basis of their ancestral origin and biological composition removes all artificial differences between man and man.

The enforcement of the concept of Muslim brotherhood is the greatest social ideal of Islam. Islam places emphasis on unity and unifies mankind on the basis of one God, one Book - the Qur’an, one Qibla - the Ka’aba and one leader - the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Noble Prophet’s mission was to establish unity and peace throughout the world. The Islamic concept of unity transcends all other forms of unity based on territory, geographical boundary, linguistic and ethnic affinity. He united Muslims on the basis of faith, which is the Oneness of God, Islam.

On this vital concept was based the Prophet’s sermon in his last pilgrimage, which shows that Islam cannot be completely practiced until this ideal is achieved. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) unified and cemented the Muslim Ummah under the banner of La ilaha illallah Muhammadur-Rasoolullah by establishing the first-ever Islamic state in Madina, which later on took the shape of a grand Caliphate. Under the Caliphate the Muslim Ummah was unified and integrated. Thus the first concept of universal and worldwide unity was demonstrated by Prophet Muhammad more than fourteen hundred years ago having been guided and inspired by God for establishing unity and peace in the world.

Islam is essentially a community and group-oriented religion. So, the practical lesson in unity and equality first starts within the family, then in the neighbourhood, especially through the institution of five daily prayers in the mosque and still on a larger scale in the locality, during weekly Friday prayers, and then in much larger gatherings in the two Eid prayers and ultimately in the international or global gathering during Hajj. This very characteristic and feature of Islam demonstrates the universality of this religion and its heavenly origin which transcends all worldly barriers of race, colour, class and nationality.

Pilgrimage is the best occasion to bind again the loose threads, tighten them on the basis of belief and in the presence of God and frustrate the nefarious machinations of the enemies of the Ummah’s unity.

Another aspect of Hajj is making sacrifice in the way of God for the cause of Islam. As Islam itself is a religion of sacrifice, its different pillars also contain the same features and characteristics. It is a known fact that the Islamic or Hijra calendar starts with the month of Muharram and ends with the month of Hajj. The first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram, is the month of sacrifice – a sacrifice made by the grandson of Muhammad, Hussain ibn Ali, who laid down his life at Kufa in the cause of Islam and its ideals. Similarly, the 12 months of the Hijra calendar, the month of Hajj, marks the remembrance of the sacrifice made by the Prophet Ibrahim for the sake of God and His Pleasure.

The Patriarch, the first Prophet of monotheistic religion, Islam, the Prophet Ibrahim was ready to sacrifice his most loved one for the sake of God. He loved his only son, Ismail, more than anything else. God asked him to sacrifice Ismail. Ibrahim was going to sacrifice Ismail, in the way of God by His Order. The Holy Qur’an explains the story of Ibrahim and his son Ismail thus:

Then when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son; I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice. Now say what is your view.” (The son) said: “O my father; do as you are commanded; you will find me, if God so wills, one practising patience and constancy.” So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him, “O Ibrahim; you have already fulfilled the vision; thus indeed do We reward those who do right.” (37:102-105) The Qur’an says: “And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice.” (37:107)

The sacrifices made by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail for the love of God left an indelible imprint on the history of mankind. This sacrifice is still remembered and re-enacted during Hajj. Ibrahim left a glorious record of sacrifice to please God.

In modern times, sacrifice is symbolised by an act of slaughtering a camel, cow or lamb for the sake of God during the days of Eid-al Adha, i.e. starting after the Eid prayer till the sunset on the third day of Eid. Sacrifice is a strongly recommended Sunnah of the Prophet and was introduced in the second year after Hijra. The purpose of sacrifice is to remind oneself of the great sacrifice of Ibrahim.

The sacrifice of life and wealth in the way of God is the zenith of a man’s belief. God says: “By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely) of that which you love; and whatever you give, of a truth God knows it well.” (Al-Qur’an 3:92) This means that when something, which has been held so dear, is sacrificed in the way of God one may hope to secure God’s Pleasure. The verse tells us that to attain righteousness one has to sacrifice things, but to attain it in perfection one has to sacrifice things, dearer to one.

Every sacrifice and every effort is to be aimed at seeking God’s Pleasure. That God be pleased with us is the real capital of our lives and it is to win this pleasure that everything should be sacrificed. In the words of the Qur’an: “Surely my prayers and my sacrifice, my life and my death is for God alone, the Lord of the Universe.”

In the modern age, the pilgrims, when they start their journey to Makkah for performing Hajj with only two white sheets on their bodies leaving behind their wives, children, kith and kin and their wealth and properties, they practically exemplify their act of sacrifice for the love of God.

Hajj is the greatest training and practical demonstration of the spirit of sacrifice and the spirit of Jihad in the way of God. It shows that Islam does not end with giving some utopian ideals for the human life. It is not only a religion; it is the guidance for the whole mankind to shape their lives in this world and hereafter. That’s why God makes provision for the teaching and training of humankind in every quality through practical implementation.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Threat to Minorities in India

India’s Hindutva Agenda:
Threat to Minorities in India

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Amid the increasing  rise of Hindutva threat to minorities in India, politicians, academics, religious leaders and national representatives as well as leading diaspora organisations came together to call for international intervention to counter the threat posed by Hindutva agenda in India. A major international conference was held, chaired by Lord Ahmed, chair of Parliamentarians for National Self-determination (PNSD), at the main chamber of the Birmingham Council House, Birmingham, on 29 April, 2017. The Conference unanimously adopted Resolutions (enclosed below).

On 20 June, 2017, a delegation of Sikhs and Kashmiris delivered a Memorandum to the UK Prime Minister Rt. Honourable Theresa May at 10 Downing Street calling for intervention to protect religious freedoms and fundamental human rights of minorities, Christians, Dalits, Muslims and Sikhs alike in India.

In this connection, I would like to mention the hugely authoritative report issued recently in February by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) entitled “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India” which details the numerous constitutional and legal restrictions on minority religious freedoms in India, as well as this week’s open letter by 65 senior Indian civil servants which condemned the rampant ‘majoritarianism’ of the establishment.

The followings are the reports on the international conference at Birmingham Council House and its Resolutions. Draft Memorandum to the UK Prime Minister is also included along with the report below.

Conference on
India’s Hindutva Agenda: A Challenge
to International Law and Civilised Norms
A major international conference was held on 29 April 2017 in the main Chamber of the Birmingham Council House, Birmingham attended by politicians, academics, religious and national representatives as well as leading diaspora organisations. The conference was chaired by Lord Ahmed, Chair of Parliamentarians for National Self-determination (PNSD), who had earlier in the week raised formal questions in the House of Lords seeking the UK government action based on the recommendations of a report issued last month by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom.

The conference was addressed by Dr Mukul Hazarika (Assam Watch), Prof Dr Mohammed Arif Khan (Kashmir based educationalist and author), Amrik Singh Sahota (President, Council of Khalistan), Nazir Qureshi (President, All Parties Kashmir Coordination Committee), Dr Gurnam Singh (academic and TV presenter), Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Doris Jones from the Sabah region of Malaysia, Joga Singh (Babbar Akali Organisation), Raja Amjad Khan (Kashmir Iqbalistan Movement) and Ranjit Singh Srai (PNSD).

They came together to call for international intervention to counter the threat posed by an increasingly rabid extremist Hindutva agenda in India. That agenda has denied not only the rights of nations to self-determination in their homelands but even the free practice of other faiths without intimidation and violence.

After the conference a press release under the above caption was issued along with the resolution of the conference. Followings are the details of the press release:
“The key, according to the resolutions adopted at the conference was to require Indian compliance with international legal obligations and, in case of default, to punish defiance with targeted sanctions, including the banning of fascist group that are responsible for almost daily attacks on minorities.

Dr Iqtidar Cheema, who authored that report; US Commission for International Religious Freedom, presented to the conference the array of legal and constitutional measures by which religious minorities in India were being targeted, such as Sikhs Buddists and Jains being deemed to be Hindus for the purposes of personal laws.

His namesake, Harpal Singh Cheema, president of Dal Khalsa, participated by video link from Punjab, along with senior human rights lawyer Amar Singh Chahal. They castigated the Indian state for the genocide of the Sikhs, the denial of freedom and the illegal appropriation of Punjab’s river waters in breach of riparian law. On the anniversary of the 1986 Declaration of Khalistan they said the Sikh nation will pursue its right of self-determination in a peaceful and democratic manner, in accordance with international law. There was, they said, no option other than an independent and sovereign Punjab to bring to an end the decades-old conflict there.

Professor Shawl, chairman of Kashmir Concern, said the people of Kashmir alone must decide their destiny and India’s posting of 800,000 troops in the region will never alter that fact, despite the atrocities being committed by them. Mehmoob Makhdoomi, a Kashmiri author and columnist, urged the international policy and decision makers to facilitate efforts for true conflict resolution in the troubled region, based on the will of the people. India’s vision, which he characterised as the “peace of the graveyard” was no solution – the rise of a new generation of Kashmiri freedom supporters witnessed in recent months has amply demonstrated that.

Reverend Joshva Raja John, Church of England Priest and Queens Foundation research scholar expressed dismay at the rampant minority bashing being tolerated by the Indian authorities. Christians have been targeted by violence and intimidation under the guise of the repugnant ‘ghar vapsi’ mantra of Hindu extremists. He called for the Bajrang Dal and VHP offshoots of the BJP’s RSS mentor to be internationally banned as terrorist organisations.

Christina McKelvie, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, said other nations should aspire to self-determination just as the proud people of Scotland are doing and that the pursuance of national self determination through peace and democracy is a noble cause. Phil Bennion, former Member of the European Parliament, of the Liberal Democrats spoke of the paramount need for the right of self determination to be respected in disputed territories like Kashmir and called on India to drop its threat to execute Sikhs prisoners.

John Burn of the Green Party called on India honour its international obligations and to show zero tolerance to attacks on minorities. He also called on the UK government to stand up for human rights and the right of self-determination, rather than allow trade interests to override those “most basic and important” vales. Graham Williamson, chair of Nations without States, spoke of the need to allow self-determinists to operate peaceably within conflict zones, without the threat of sedition and treason laws, in order to unlock peaceful and democratic solutions to intractable.”

Resolutions Adopted At The Conference
At the end of the Conference following resolutions were unanimously adopted at the Conference:
“This Conference calls on the international community to fully recognise the role that self-determination can play as a means of peaceful conflict resolution; this is a democratic mechanism underpinned by international law. Whilst nations and peoples must be left to decide their own destiny, the global community must do what it can to hold non-compliant states to account when they refuse, overtly or covertly, to respect the right of self-determination. In the case of India, which officially rejects Articles 1 of the 1966 Covenants on Human Rights, this non-compliance has led directly to the unresolved and hugely destructive conflicts in Kashmir, Punjab, Assam and Nagalim over sovereignty, territory and riparian rights.

“The denial of religious freedoms, attacks on religious minorities in the name of chauvinistic ‘majoritarianism’, as being currently witnessed in the Hindutva extremism sweeping across India, is condemned as a breach of international law as well as basic moral standards of behaviour adopted by the civilised world. This Conference fully endorses the recommendations of the recent report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom entitled “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India”.

“This Conference calls on the international community to identify and impose targeted sanctions against Hindutva organisations, including the RSS and all its affiliates across the world, to force a change in the cowardly tactics that are being adopted to intimidate Dalits, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and others.

“This Conference urges all UK based political parties to address the concerns of the diaspora communities so that UK political representatives, including the UK Government, responds to the threats caused by blatant breaches of international law by the Indian state.”

Sikhs and Kashmiris call on UK Prime Minister
to tackle India’s Hindutva Agenda
On 20 June 2017 a Memorandum was delivered by a delegation of Sikhs and Kashmiris to 10 Downing Street calling for Intervention to protect Religious Freedoms and Fundamental Human Rights. A press release was issued along with the draft Memorandum to the UK Prime Minister Rt. Honourable Theresa May. Followings are the press release and the Draft Memorandum to the UK Prime Minister. 

Following press release was issued. A delegation of Sikhs and Kashmiris delivered an appeal on 20 June 2017 to 10 Downing Street calling for a re-set in the UK’s foreign policy towards India.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair of Parliamentarians for National Self-determination, and Lord Qurban Hussain both endorsed the memorandum and joined Sikh and Kashmiri representatives in delivering it to the UK Prime Minister’s official residence. They urged the UK Government to listen to the UK’s massive diaspora communities which want their political representatives to act on their concerns.

They characterised the Hindutva surge in India as a fascist threat to Christians, Dalits, Muslims and Sikhs alike – a threat which breaches India’s international legal obligations. Compelling India to comply with universally accepted legal and humanitarian norms was, they said, the key to bringing India back in to line.

They cited the hugely authoritative report issued in February by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which details the numerous constitutional and legal restrictions on minority religious freedoms in India, as well as this week’s open letter by 65 senior Indian civil servants which condemned the rampant ‘majoritarianism’ of the establishment. 

The delegation called for the implementation of the USCIRF report’s recommendations which include changes to the Indian Constitution (such as the removal of outrageous provisions that deem Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains to be Hindus for the purposes of personal and religious law) and operationalizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The memorandum also heighted the atrocities committed by state and non-state actors aimed at crushing the self-determination movements in Punjab and Kashmir. It called for genocide perpetrators to be punished by UN established tribunals and for peaceable conflict resolution by holding plebiscites so that the people of those regions could freely determine their own destinies. An unchecked Hindutva agenda in India makes resolution of those conflicts impossible; hence the international community must, according to the memorandum, require India to formally accept and comply with the right of self-determination as enshrined in Article 1 of the 1966 Covenants on Human Rights. India has formally rejected that right – something which the UN and leading member states have said is unacceptable.

The memorandum was signed by Amar Singh Chahal (official spokesman of Jagtar Singh Hawara, the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs), Prof Nazir Shawl (Chair, Kashmir Concern), Amrik Singh Sahota OBE (President, Council of Khalistan), Gurdev Singh Chohan (President, Akali Dal, UK) and Joga Singh (Babbar Akali Organisation). Importantly, it was also countersigned by Dr Iqtidar Cheema, the author of the USCIRF report which was also formally handed over at the same time.

An International Law Response to the Hindutva
Majoritarianism Threat to Minorities in India:
an Appeal to the new UK Government to hold India to account

The followings are the Memorandum prepared, signed and delivered on 20 June 2017 to 10 Downing Street calling for intervention to protect Religious Freedoms and Fundamental Human Rights.

“Rt Honourable Theresa May,
Prime Minister,
10 Downing Street,
20 June 2017
Dear Prime Minister,
“Following your re-election in this month’s General Election, we write to you in connection with an aspect of UK foreign policy which is a great concern to hundreds of thousands of Sikhs, Muslims and Christians from the large diaspora communities settled here that have roots in India. We believe there is an urgent need to re-set the UK’s foreign policy toward India so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, especially in light of the appalling right wing Hindutva surge that is alarming those communities.

“The Manchester and London atrocities over recent weeks have disgusted all right-thinking people across the world.  Apart from the clear determination to defeat the evil ideology of hate and the cowardly targeting of innocents and non-combatants, there has though been another remarkable feature of the response from ordinary people here in the UK. That has been the impressive show of defiance and unity – whatever peoples’ backgrounds – grounded on core humanitarian values such as mutual respect for all our fellow citizens and a sense of common humanity. Those values will ultimately play the crucial role in defeating the narrative of chauvinism and belligerence being espoused by cowards who despite their claims, in truth, have no religion at all.

“During the month in which Sikhs commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the infamous Indian army attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984, in which thousands of innocents and non-combatants were deliberately targeted to quell a legitimate movement for self-determination by the people of Punjab, it is timely to remind the new UK Government of the clandestine connivance, for the sake of trade, of the then British and other governments with the Government of India, and the subsequent genocide of the Sikhs. You will of course be aware of the need to fully disclose the level of that unfortunate British involvement and, we hope, the need to redress that wrong by taking suitable action now to protect the very nation that was then so inhumanely targeted.

“Even today, there is a growing threat to minority groups in India who are facing a right-wing extremist ‘majoritarian’ onslaught. Christians, Sikhs and Muslims have been covertly targeted by discriminatory laws, sectarian policies as well as by state and mob violence for decades, but there is now a more overt threat to them.

“This week sixty-five (retired) senior Indian civil servants wrote an open letter to Indian authorities saying: “In the face of a rising authoritarianism and majoritarianism, which do not allow for reasoned debate, discussion and dissent, we appeal to all public authorities, public institutions and constitutional bodies to take heed of these disturbing trends and take corrective action”. They cited, by way of example, the right-wing extremist Hindu thugs who roam the streets in the name of ‘cow protection’ - “Gau-rakshaks function with impunity and seem to be doing so with the tacit complicity or active encouragement of state machinery”.  See:

“More significantly, we attach a copy of the recent report issued by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom which sets out clearly why international pressure is needed make Indian authorities comply with their obligations under international law. The report details the ways in which – quite apart from the thuggery on the ground – the very constitution, laws and administrative machinery in India formalises discrimination and restrictions on (minority) religious freedoms. The report sets out how these practices contravene international law; it also includes recommendations for what India needs to do in order to comply with those universally agreed basic standards of conduct. We would draw your attention in particular to the recommendations it sets out for US Government action – all of which we urge the UK Government to adopt.

“Apart from the increasing use of ‘Hindutva’ to crush religious freedoms, there is (unsurprisingly) a hardening of the stance to deny self-determination and riparian rights in Punjab, Kashmir and the North East which are non-Hindu majority regions.

“A number of us wrote to you last year (memorandum handed in to 10 Downing Street on 15 August 2016) in connection with the India’s genocidal response to the Sikh struggle for national self-determination in their homeland in Indian-controlled Punjab and were disappointed to receive a response (dated 9th September 2016) from Duncan Johns at the South Asia Department of the Foreign Office. The response characterises the conflict as an internal matter for the Indian Government which should be resolved through dialogue. It is, with all due respect, simply not credible for genocide to be viewed as an internal matter and to expect the perpetrators to engage in ‘dialogue’ willingly. The Foreign Office will surely have noted that the Ontario Canadian state parliament passing a resolution in April of this year recognising those systematic mass killings of Sikhs as genocide – an act which the Indian Government’s spokesman quickly dismissed. We urge you to raise with the Indians the pressing issues of Sikh political prisoners, the punishment of the those guilty of genocide at a UN established tribunal and the need for a democratic solution to the Indo-Sikh conflict.

“In Kashmir you will have noted the unrelenting brute force being used by Indian security forces over recent months to crush mass public protests calling for the right of self-determination to be exercised in that region.  Kashmir, a disputed territory according to the UN itself, cannot be left to the brutalities of the Hindutva agenda. The oppression was epitomised when troops tied an innocent Kashmiri to their jeep as a human shield to protect them – something that Human Rights Watch has soundly condemned. See: The officer who ordered that obscene action has since been awarded an honour by the Indian army! Quite apart from the humanitarian need to intervene in Kashmir, there is a real need to resolve the Kashmir conflict, in accordance with the wishes of the people, given the increasingly dangerous proximity of Chinese, Pakistani and Indian forces in the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which India seems bent on disrupting.

“As such, we appeal to you to call on the Indian Government to withdraw its reservation against Article 1 of the 1966 Covenants on Human Rights, pull back from military occupation of those regions and allow the international community to oversee free and fair democratic plebiscites to determine the destiny of those traumatised regions.

“These concerns were raised by Kashmiri, Sikh and Christian Diaspora communities at a Conference held at the Council House in Birmingham on 29 April 2017, which was addressed by UK politicians, academics as well as speakers from those regions.” The Diaspora communities want the UK government to raise these issues as set out in the Resolutions adopted at the Conference.” (mentioned above).

Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair, Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination; Amar Singh Chahal, spokesman for Jathedar Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Jagtar Singh Hawara,  Dr. Iqtidar Cheema, Author of the USCIRF Report; Amrik Singh Sahota OBE,  President, Council of Khalistan; Prof Nazir Shawl, Chair, Kashmir Concern, Ranjit Singh Srai, Admin. Sec. PNSD; Gurdev Singh Chohan, President, Akali Dal, UK and Joga Singh, Babbar Akali Organisation.