Inter Press Service » Religion http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 26 Jul 2016 21:20:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 The Americans Should Have Their Own Chilcothttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:59:48 +0000 Mohammad Badrul Ahsan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146181 By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
Jul 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Ever since the Chilcot Inquiry vilified former Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 6 for taking the United Kingdom to war in Iraq, the world is waiting for the other shoe to drop. If Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, the report assessed he had done it at the behest of his American ally George W. Bush. That gives sufficient ground for the Americans to have their own Chilcot. Blair had bought the distribution rights on this of the Atlantic for the biggest lot of hogwash Bush sold to the entire world.

op_1_Bush and Blair remind one of America’s most notorious criminal couple, Bonnie and Clyde. In the movie made on their life in 1967, Bonnie Parker tells Clyde Barrow after he rebuffs her romantic advances, “Your advertising is just dandy… folks would never guess you don’t have a thing to sell.” We don’t know if the former British premier ever had the pride of an embarrassed Bonnie to tell his friend Bush before, during or after the Iraq invasion that he didn’t have a thing to sell when he lied about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

The world knows that George Bush lied. It knows he fabricated that story to invade Iraq for more reasons than overthrowing its ruler. And, it doesn’t seem to be an honest mistake or an error in judgment because Bush has never apologised, accepted responsibility or shown remorse for his decisions. Meanwhile, the global chain reaction he set off has already killed thousands of men, women and children, and continues to convulse the world.

UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond said after the Chilcot report was released that the US blunder in Iraq led to the rise of IS. He criticised the US decision to dismantle the Iraqi army, when 400,000 unemployed soldiers, many of them Saddam loyalists, were let loose to graze on the fields of anger and vengeance.

In fact, it’s not clear till today what has been accomplished by trashing a country to topple its dictator. It has been more than nine years since Saddam was hanged on an Eid day, but Iraq is bloodier, ever more violent and ever more confused. Pakistan is paranoid, Afghanistan is antsy, Syria is seething, Yemen is yelping, Turkey is terrorised, and European cities are reeling under terrorist attacks. Even a previously quiet country like Bangladesh has to look over its shoulder. IS has also turned its wrath on Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

An American Chilcot inquiry should look into what goat George Bush had in this fight. Did he want to seek vengeance for the plot Saddam once had allegedly hatched to assassinate his father? Did he have a crusade mission to invade a vulnerable country and throw a monkey wrench into the Muslim world? Did he go after Iraq’s oil? What did he actually want?

That Bush didn’t go for the WMDs is clear already because he knew he couldn’t find what wasn’t there. He also didn’t go there to fight terrorism because Saddam hasn’t been linked to terror groups, which carried out the 9/11 attacks. He also didn’t go to liberate Iraq, which is squirming under the oppressive burden of foreign invasion.

The United States needs a Chilcot-like investigation to answer these questions. It may take seven years or so, but better late than never. The Americans don’t need to carry the burden of one man’s guilt on their conscience. They, like the British people, have the right to know why their former leader had lied to take their country to a wasteful war.

It will be nice if the American inquiry summons Tony Blair as a witness. The investigators should have him sit together with George Bush at the same table and observe how they defend each other. Then both men should be provided with calculators to work out this simple math. Problem: Saddam was executed for the murder of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites. Solution: How many times should a devious duo be hanged for their misguided or mischievous policies that have killed nearly a million in Iraq, thousands in Syria and many more in other countries as collateral damage?

If the United States sincerely wishes to help other countries in their fight against terrorism, it must go back to the original sin and exonerate itself. It must explain to a disgusted world how an architect of anarchy could trigger turmoil worldwide and then enjoy the perks of a retired president without having so much as a rap on the knuckles!

Injecting air bubbles into the bloodstream can lead to brain damage or even death. An American inquiry needs to investigate how George Bush’s “hot air” has created a similar medical condition across the world. Those left brain-damaged are ruthlessly killing, while others are helplessly dying in vain. Shame!

The writer is Editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: badrul151@yahoo.com.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot/feed/ 0
Convicting Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/convicting-children-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=convicting-children-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/convicting-children-2/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 17:28:49 +0000 Zainab Malik http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146169 By Zainab Z. Malik
Jul 21 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Like 73pc of Pakistan’s population, Ansar Iqbal’s birth had never been registered. And like most juvenile defendants in Pakistan, he was erroneously charged and tried as a 23-year-old adult because the police thought that’s how old he looked.

The writer is a human rights lawyer working with the Justice Project Pakistan.

The writer is a human rights lawyer working with the Justice Project Pakistan.

During Ansar’s trial, his lawyer produced government-issued birth records demonstrating his juvenility. The courts however, chose instead to rely upon the police’s appraisal of his physical appearance. In 2015, he was issued a birth certificate by the National Database and Registration Authority that unequivocally confirmed his plea of juvenility. Despite this, the Supreme Court of Pakistan refused to consider the new evidence placed before it. “It was raised out of time” and so, Ansar’s review petition was rejected.

An arbitrary visual assessment had sent Ansar Iqbal on death row for 23 years, and ultimately to the gallows in September last year. He was 38 years old.

A flawed juvenile justice system is rigged against those it seeks to protect.

Sentencing juveniles to death is prohibited under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 and under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This has not counted for much since the six-year moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in December 2014. Pakistan has knowingly executed at least six juvenile offenders in the face of credible evidence supporting their minority. In June 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its concluding observations on Pakistan’s fifth periodic report noted that it is “seriously alarmed at the reports of execution of several individuals for offences committed while under the age of 18 years”. A study by the Justice Project Pakistan and Reprieve discovered that as many as 10pc of Pakistan’s 8,000 strong death row were juveniles at the time the alleged crime took place.

That’s 800 children convicted as adults.

Almost 46pc of Pakistan’s population has no form of official registration. At the time of arrest, it is virtually impossible to prove their age. Police, in the absence of documentary proof, arbitrarily record an age that is above 18 years to avoid applying protective procedural safeguards for juveniles during detention. Pakistan has consistently failed in its obligation to effectively investigate juvenility claims.

If a plea of juvenility is raised at the trial, the courts place the burden entirely upon the defendant. Not only is this difficult to dispel, given the dismal birth registration rates, it is also a violation of international law principles. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recognised the need for a medical or social investigation in the absence of proof of age. And even if there is conflicting or inconclusive evidence “the child shall have the right to the rule of the benefit of the doubt”.

Where government documents are presented by defendants, courts often dismiss these as unreliable. No further investigation into the prisoner’s social history to determine his age is conducted. If there is a disparity in the available evidence, the burden of doubt is almost never granted to the juvenile.

The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance provides limited guidance on how to determine age. It only states that if a question of juvenility arises during a criminal proceeding, the court must “record a finding such inquiry which shall include a medical report for determination of the age of the child”. This clearly does not contain sufficient detail to ensure that determinations of age are conducted in accordance with international standards.

The lack of clear and comprehensive age determination protocols has led to radically different interpretations by the courts. In the cases of ‘Amanullah vs the state’ and ‘Majid Khan vs the state’, the high courts held that a birth certificate should always be preferred over medical examination. However, in ‘Ghulam Rasool vs the state’ and ‘Majid Khan vs the state’ medical tests are given clear precedence.

Similarly, in ‘Zafar Hussain vs Ayyaz Ahmed’, the Lahore High Court held that the onus to prove juvenility lies upon the defendant and no benefit of doubt should be given to him whereas in ‘Saddam vs state’, the Sindh High Court stated that the provisions of the JJSO should be construed liberally and all benefit of doubt regarding age should go to the accused.

It is imperative that the government of Pakistan develop age determination mechanisms for juvenile offenders in order to fulfil its international human rights obligations and address the manifold human rights violations inherent under its criminal justice system. The National Commission on Human Rights and the newly appointed child rights commissioners serve as the ideal institutions to develop and ensure implementation of age determination mechanisms at each stage of the arrest, trial and appeal.

It has been almost one year since Ansar was executed. How many others will we lose before we reform our juvenile justice institutions so that they can fulfil the objectives they were designed to serve?

The writer is a human rights lawyer working with the Justice Project Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/convicting-children-2/feed/ 0
Is Kemalism on Its Way out in Turkey?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:48:48 +0000 Taj Hashmi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146166 By Taj Hashmi
Jul 21 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The enigmatic coup-attempt in Turkey on the night of July 15 and 16 signals something ominous about the future of Turkey, NATO, and the entire region. There’s more to read into the event than what appears on the surface. We don’t know much about the nature of the coup, but it has definitely tarnished the “Turkish Model” of success, which its Arab neighbours envied, and European ones admired for the co-existence of liberal Islam, secularism, and democracy. The “abortive coup” seems to have further consolidated Erdogan’s power, at least for the time being. Seemingly, Erdogan and his followers are marching together toward “illiberal democracy”, if not toward the utopia of Islamist totalitarianism.

A man lies in front of a Turkish army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. PHOTO: AP

A man lies in front of a Turkish army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. PHOTO: AP

Kemalism turned Turkey too secular too soon to sustain for generations. Thus, the resurgence of political Islam in Turkey indicates the country is preparing itself for a departure from Kemalism. One’s not sure as to how this seesaw is going to affect Turkish society and politics in the future. I think the following are Turkey’s nemeses, which we need to understand as to what might happen to the country now: Kemalism; the Kurdish problem; Turkey’s neighbours; and Turkey’s relationship with America.

Turkey is very unique from its European and Muslim neighbours. Being straddled on two continents, this Muslim-majority country is officially secular in the strictest sense. It’s not just another postcolonial country in the Muslim World, it’s rather a former colonial power, the centre of the mighty Ottoman Empire, which once ruled parts of Eastern Europe, West Asia, and North Africa for several centuries up to the end of World War I. Turkey’s Ottoman legacy of ruthless subjugation of European nations – including forcible conversions of Christians into Muslims, and the infamous Armenian Genocide – is still a factor behind its exclusion from the EU by European nations.

Turkey isn’t a nation state. Fifteen million of its 80 million people are ethnically and linguistically non-Turkish Kurdish Muslims, in the process of being fully integrated into the main stream of population. Turkey has a checkered history of military rule and democracy; and many Turks aren’t sure if they are primarily Asian, Muslim, or European.

Now, to look at the enigmatic “abortive coup”, one may agree with an analyst that: “Erdogan is using this failed coup to get rid of the last vestiges of secular Turkey.” Some people question the coup and whether it was staged to further consolidate his power, and to turn Turkey into an Islamist autocracy. The amateurish and excessive brutal behaviour of the soldiers on the street, who didn’t even close down all electronic media outlets, including cell phones, and TV stations, raises questions among people whether it was really a coup-attempt, or a false flag operation!

Interestingly, while Erdogan blames his former ally and present adversary, Hanafi Sufi Master Fethullah Gulen – self-exiled in the US – for the “coup-attempt”, Gulen points fingers at the President for staging the whole thing for further consolidation of power. To Erdogan, Gulen is corrupt and a terrorist, although there’s no Turkish court decision to charge Gulen with any terrorist activity. The day after 9/11 attacks, he wrote an article in the Washington Post and stated: “A Muslim cannot be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.” Contrary to Erdogan’s allegations, Gulen believes in interfaith dialogue, multi-party democracy, and asserts: “Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshipping God”.

The end of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 and the Kemalist Revolution of 1923 transformed Turkey into a modern, ultra-secular country, where the military and urban classes became the main custodians of secular democracy. With the end of the Cold War and the acceleration of the globalisation process, and the IT Revolution in early1990s, Muslims across the world became more Islamised than before. Henceforth, Turkish Muslims started questioning the utility of Kemalist “Godless” secularism. Erdogan became one of the bold advocates of political Islam. He is not only an Islamist but also an admirer of “authoritarian democracy” – a euphemism for dictatorship, a la “Mahathirism” in Malaysia.

As Erdogan’s support for Islamist rebels in Syria has contributed to the instability in Turkey and, so is his tacit support for the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Turkey is accused of having bought cheap oil from the ISIS controlled Iraqi oilfields, and it didn’t stop foreign nationals at its border from entering ISIS-occupied territories in Syria to join the terror outfit, till the recent past. Why so? One assumes to topple the pro-Iranian Assad regime, and to stop secular nationalist Syrian Kurds from gaining any foothold in Syria.

The Kurds are in Turkey by default since 1919. The League of Nations arbitrarily divided Kurdistan into four parts, giving each to Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Up to 2009, Kurds in Turkey couldn’t publicly speak their language or sing any Kurdish song. Turkey didn’t even recognise them as Kurds, but as “Mountain Turks”. After the US-led Iraq invasion of 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan has become an autonomous entity. The Turkish government is very uncomfortable with this development.

Erdogan tried his best to make Turkey a EU member. The EU has been unwilling to accept Turkey as a member so far. European and North American NATO members have had no problem in having Turkey as a member of this military alliance. However, as The New York Times has pointed out [“The Countercoup in Turkey”, July 18, 2016]: Erdogan’s use of Islamist language and harsh retaliatory measures against his secular opponents might “compromise Turkey’s democracy and its ability to be a stabilising influence in NATO and the region”.

In view of Erdogan’s position vis-à-vis the democratic and secular values of the EU and the West, it’s strange that till the other day Turkey was insisting its main strategic relationships remained with the NATO and the EU, and that it had “zero-problem” with European neighbours. But now it seems like Erdogan and his party may be laying the ground for the creation of a Muslim bloc. Both the EU and US seem to have emerged as the biggest nemeses for Turkey.

To conclude, one is least likely to be enamoured by Erdogan’s authoritarian Islamism; his attitude towards the Kurds; mass arrests of journalists, opposition supporters, and alleged coup makers; his promotion of Islamist rebels in Syria; and last but not least, his alleged links with the ISIS at least in the earlier stages. However, one can’t solely blame Turkey or Erdogan for the drift in Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies, which are deviations from Kemalist principles of secular democracy. Western obduracy, racism, and Islamophobia are also responsible for the messy situation in Turkey. This doesn’t bode well for regional and global security in the long run.

Turkey, its European and Asian neighbours, and America must find out a durable solution to the problems dogging Turkey and the entire Middle East and North Africa, and their mutual relationship with each other.

The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University in the US. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (Sage, 2014). Email: tajhashmi@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey/feed/ 0
Has the World Gone Mad?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/has-the-world-gone-mad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=has-the-world-gone-mad http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/has-the-world-gone-mad/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:09:28 +0000 Nadine Shaanta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146157 By Nadine Shaanta Murshid
Jul 20 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Has the world gone mad? No. Violence is a part of our history, as mankind – we’ve known it all our lives. But, never before have we been exposed to violence in the manner that we are now, because of cable news coverage and social media. Before this age of rapid transfer of information, it took us much longer to learn about acts of violence in far away lands.

Photo: www.tapwires.com

Photo: www.tapwires.com

[One example is Cambodia – its people experienced genocide while the world had no clue. It wasn’t until much later that people started to learn about what was happening, about Pol Pot’s Red Army of children, the plan to start from “zero.” There is genocide going on today as well – but we are clued in much earlier than used to be the case (for example, the Rohingyas in Myanmar), because they make headlines and because “civilians” report from the ground.]

So, while we are experiencing huge exposure to violence, there is little understanding of the reasons for the production of violence.

To understand the violent world in which we live today, it is important to understand that with neoliberal policies came rapid globalisation (that fostered international trade, privatisation of national institutions, deregulation, and competition) and that includes, as we can see, globalisation of terror and acts of terror. An excellent example is ISIS. Their “franchise system” that allows group membership to anyone willing to commit an act of terror in any part of the world – which ISIS can then claim responsibility for – has been a successful model because of social media and networking capabilities that are enhanced via the internet, the mascot, if you will, of the globalised world.

The UN had declared in 2011 that internet-access is also a human right (for reasons such as freedom of expression). And countries have responded well – but, for many under-developed and developing nations of the world, the internet has been an easier “upgrading” of infrastructure in the absence of real ones: roads, railways, institutions. This nod from the UN has allowed neoliberal policymakers, hand in hand with the Facebooks and the Googles of the world, to aggressively push last mile internet connectivity for deeper reach to the “Bottom of the Pyramid” to garner more consumers. So, we have a situation in which we have populations that do not have decent healthcare facilities or schools, but have internet-enabled smartphones.

In some ways, this can be seen as “development” (indeed, some pluses include mobile banking services for the poor that fosters financial inclusion). But, this also highlights the old concept of uneven and combined development that doesn’t keep par with economic growth, that in turn makes way for a class-based structure, in which many are left behind, disenfranchised.

It is, thus, fairly easy and profitable to recruit foot soldiers in a system that has produced enough disenfranchised individuals, primarily youth, looking for meaning. Indeed, meaning-making for young people has become a challenge in a system where even universities are in the business of producing skilled labour for the neoliberal regimes of the world, which isolates them as they strive to take personal responsibility for structural problems that they did not create; fighting in a system that’s rigged against them.

So, if neoliberalism and its neoliberal education systems have created isolation among youth across social and cultural barriers, youth who find “brotherhood” in a “cause” that they can get behind, it has also created inequality and injustice. Together, isolation, disenfranchisement, inequality, and injustice form a potent pill that breaks people. So much so that they have nothing left to lose. Such spaces can easily become hotbeds for terrorist recruitment, given the high supply of broken people to cash-in on. That some private universities in countries like Bangladesh have become such hotbeds is not a coincidence.

We must realise that the violence that we see around us is not about the moral compasses of those who commit such acts. Nor is it about parenting. It’s about the system that has let them down.

Unless we fix the system that creates disenfranchisement and inequality, we will continue to see violence erupt in all corners of the world. And because of the way media works, we will hear the most nitty-gritty details of it all. And those acts of violence will be “co-opted” by groups like ISIS who will claim responsibility for them – and that will feed more hate – and in this case Islamophobia, and that will create more hate towards the West, and the cycle will continue.

We need to create a class-neutral world for its citizens. We need to really undo this Empire that enables certain groups to have all privileges, while marginalising all other peoples.

There are declared and undeclared wars going on around the world that are being televised and hash-tagged for consumption. Some people make money and gain power in war economies.

Surely, we know who they are?

The writer is Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work, University at Buffalo.


This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/has-the-world-gone-mad/feed/ 0
The Importance of Soft Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-importance-of-soft-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-importance-of-soft-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-importance-of-soft-power/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:02:07 +0000 Syed Mansur Hashim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146141 By Syed Mansur Hashim
Jul 19 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The world is at war with extremists. Developed and developing nations, whether it is France, the United States, Russia or China, the Middle East or countries in the sub-continent, we are all battling one form of Muslim militancy or another. And while alliances are being forged on a regional or trans-continental basis to fight outfits like the Boko Haram, Al Qaeda or the Islamic State (IS), and battles are being fought out on land in Iraq Syria, Libya or Yemen, on the streets of Paris or in Dhaka, every nation that has faced the onslaught of extremists who are connected to a global network of jihadists that is increasingly sophisticated, the realisation that they are now battling for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the populace is emerging.

soft_power_The extremists’ distortion of religion and their success in disseminating information has policymakers the world over going back to the drawing board and reassessing the threat – not just in military terms, but also incorporating a new strategy that makes use of media activity, to new school curricula, to effectively counter jihadist propaganda. It is the realisation that this is an ideological battle and the war must be fought on two fronts, both militarily and undermining extremist ideology that will put a dent in their recruitment efforts.

Taking the actual message of Islam to the schooling system is one approach being tried out in some countries. It is now obvious that if young Muslims are to be stopped being turned by jihadists, something has to be done about teachings and preaching in mosques, seminaries and educational institutions. The use of religious text that prove that arguments put forth by extremists that mass killings are condoned by the Qur’an is false, that Islamists are toying with young impressionable minds – is essentially at the forefront of this new effort. Unless hard-line teachings can be countered, the “war on terror” will be a losing battle.

Adam Garfinkle of the Foreign Policy Research Institute put all this into context: “we face not an esoteric intellectual but a full-fledged sociological problem in the greater Middle East…The larger and deeper social context, which feeds off collective emotion rather than the tracts of Sayiid Qutb or the tape-recorded rants of Osama bin-Laden, explains why newly vogue US counter-messaging efforts are a waste of time and money. Those efforts are bound to fail because those messages are…disembodied from the social networks in which ideas are embedded and give life. The notion that a bunch of people on the fifth floor of the State Department are one fine day going to discover the perfect set of words placed in perfect order and translated perfectly into Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto and so on – and that set before fanatics these words are going to suddenly change their entire point of view – is a rationalist fantasy.”

One approach that has worked to counter gang violence in developed countries is now being tailor made to go counterterrorism in developing countries. Tailor-made in the sense that experts take into account local conditions, but the success of such approaches largely depend on the willingness of local stakeholders that include the respective governments to cooperate to change their corrupt and abusive behaviour. The idea that criminal gangs and terrorist outfits possess similarities in outlooks based on socioeconomic conditions is giving criminologists ideas to come up with programmes that may be implemented in various countries to counter the philosophies espoused by militants. Some basic elements are the same. The feeling of hopelessness in the face of police brutality, the need to belong to a club or a congregation of people who face similar identity crisis, the overwhelming hatred for the ‘establishment’, the need to feel powerful, proactive and invincible, etc. The counter-messaging efforts that are emerging differ from region to region.

For any effort to succeed, the respective governments must be open to ideas. The United States State Department has tried to find common ground with Bangladesh police to introduce ‘community policing’ that would help devise a strategy based on police-civilian partnerships. That initiative never went anywhere because local conditions and culture were not factored in. A country where the larger populace is in fact alienated from the police due to a myriad of reasons, and also corruption amongst certain elements of the citizenry provided the grounds for failure. No solution can be imposed from the outside. What works in El Salvador will probably not work in Bangladesh and vice versa.

What will work of course is bringing on board the religious leadership of the country who control the mosques and religious schools and the Islamic scholars to work with authorities. This will only work if the vast majority of the religious opinion leaders are convinced that it is time to forge a partnership with the State to counter a force that threatens their way of life too and not just that of the State’s. The State for its part has to step back from wholesale suppression of any dissent which is giving rise to much of the anger that is being utilised by jihadists to reach their own end goals. At the end of the day, we have to realise that ideas must be fought with ideas. No amount of policing and counterterrorism will root out militancy. Only when the State takes into confidence the people can there be any meaningful resistance to the spread of ideals (no matter how distorted) amongst the youth – illiterate or otherwise.

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-importance-of-soft-power/feed/ 0
Ideology and Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ideology-and-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ideology-and-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ideology-and-terrorism/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 14:41:13 +0000 Umair Javed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146110 By Umair Javed
Jul 18 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

What causes a person to drive a truck through local citizens and tourists celebrating a national holiday? What compels someone to open fire on unsuspecting patrons at a nightclub?

humairy_Closer to home in Pakistan, we’ve grappled with far too many of these questions on far too regular a basis. How can you kill children? How can you kill oppressed minorities? How can you kill innocent worshippers?

Finding root causes for militancy or terrorism is a difficult task. Part of this is because very few individuals actually resort to violence, and partly because researchers don’t have access to a large enough number of militants. In the few cases where some are caught, they’re kept locked away and subjected to the secretive grind of the anti-terrorism judicial system. As a result, we are often left with sparsely detailed life stories and lots of hypotheses — some moderately tested, some plausible, and others still mere conjecture.

Within existing contemporary research, two particular analytical strands stand out most clearly. The first is what is commonly called the materialist or structuralist perspective. This is best represented in the view that militant activity represents reaction or rebellion of particular groups against perceived marginalisation and oppression. The French social scientist, Giles Kepel, sees economic, social, and spatial ghettoisation of immigrant populations and anti-Muslim racism as a prime cultivator of resentment and, consequently, militancy.

The role of ideology adds further complexity to the alleged relationship between religion and terrorism.

Another prime example is explaining Middle Eastern insurgencies as a product of state oppression of particular communities. Similarly in Pakistan, militancy in the northwest is frequently seen as a result of long-standing deprivations, American foreign policy interventions, and the oppressive, colonial-era governing arrangements installed in the tribal areas.

The other major camp is best represented through the views of another French scholar, Olivier Roy. He argues that individual-specific factors are key to understanding particular types of violent activity. The starting point is that those resorting to violence are often a very small number of individuals from a larger group’s population. Therefore, psychosocial traits, personal experiences, and individual value frameworks are more crucial given that ‘mass revolt’ isn’t taking place. Roy labels this the ‘Islamisation of radicalism’, and sees its encapsulation in the often criminal and unstable backgrounds of individuals like the Orlando bar shooter, Omar Mateen.

Structuralist and individual-centric explanations are not mutually exclusive. In fact, given the general indeterminacy around terrorism research, it is impossible to confidently assert one set of analysis over the other. At most, we can say they are mutually constitutive in so far as communal experience of deprivation and racism combine with individual psychological traits.

There is, however, one factor that appears central to all schools of thought that are studying acts of militancy and the larger spectre of religious radicalisation: the role of particular beliefs and ideology.

Ideology allows human beings to make sense of the world around them. It arms them with values, moral frameworks, and the ability to understand and add meanings in relations.

The history of the 20th century tells us that marginalised populations don’t just mobilise spontaneously. Back then, it was left-wing ideology that played a central role in first creating a sense of community (as workers or peasants) and then imbuing that community with a sense of political purpose.

In other cases, workers simply didn’t rise up, or rose up in defence of arrangements that were thought to be against their interests (such as fascism).

History tells us ideology can interact with individual-level factors in different ways and can produce varied results. In the past two decades, particular interpretations of religious texts have given birth to ideologies that provide a sense of meaning to individuals and glorify acts of violence as logical actions. In many cases, these ideologies are consumed without being acted upon in any major way. Sometimes they manifest themselves through vocal support and propagation. In a few cases, they compel individuals to undertake acts of violence on their own or to build or join organisations that would allow them to do so.

The role of ideology adds further complexity to the alleged relationship between religion and terrorism. Many in the Muslim community are quick to distance Islam from ideological variants that preach violence. The most common refrain now heard is that terrorism has no religion.

This reaction is somewhat understandable as most believers would not want themselves or their belief system to be associated with heinous acts.

Religion, however, is as much a social phenomenon as it is a divine one. It is practised by human beings and is very much a part of all their moral failings and successes. Given its widespread nature, and the legitimacy endowed to it by human society, religion is a central component of many constructed ideologies, both peaceful and violent. When someone buys into the ideology of jihadism, his or her sense of self, community, and the world at large is derived from an extreme interpretation of religion and its associated practices.

Well-intentioned prescriptions from existing research suggest focusing on marginalised communities and removing the source of deprivation and marginalisation. Some also talk about the need to provide individual-level support to ensure disaffected individuals don’t resort to violence. Beyond these, the fight against militancy cannot ignore the role of ideology, and the part played by violent interpretations of religion.

When this last factor is considered, the role of religious communities becomes paramount. One important contribution that communities can make is to locate and isolate ideologues preaching hatred and violence. Another would be to ensure adequate efforts are exerted to institutionalise non-violent and pro-social interpretations and norms.

Whatever efforts are made, it is increasingly clear that a variety of interventions are required. Only by addressing structural, individual-level, and ideological roots of terrorism do states stand any chance of eradicating this menace.

The writer is a freelance columnist. umairjaved@lumsalumni.pk

Twitter: @umairjav
Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ideology-and-terrorism/feed/ 0
Entrenched Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrenched-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:19:17 +0000 Faisal Bari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146083 By Faisal Bari
Jul 15 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Do a girl born in a poor household in rural Balochistan and a boy born in a rich household in Karachi have the same or even a similar set of opportunities in life? Are their chances of acquiring an education similar? Do they have access to comparable healthcare services and facilities? Do they have equal opportunities for access to physical infrastructure and the freedom of movement and association?

Faisal Bari

Faisal Bari

The girl from the poor household in rural Balochistan has a significant probability of not surviving infancy. If she does, it is unlikely she will go to school. The chances of her making it to matriculation are almost negligible. She will be malnourished as a child and anaemic as an adult (the oft-heard refrain that at the very least nobody goes to sleep hungry in Pakistan is a blatant lie and a powerful means of self-deception). If she survives and makes it to adulthood, it is unlikely that marriage will change her economic/social status by much. Childbearing-related health risks and exposure to environmental hazards will make it likely that she will have a less than average lifespan.

Distribution of opportunities is highly unequal in Pakistan, and the differences are of many dimensions: income, wealth, gender, caste, ethnicity, sect, religion, rural/urban and provincial. But, more importantly, these inequalities are very deeply entrenched in our social, political and economic fabric. Our institutions, organisations and ways of doing things are structured to perpetuate this inequality and deepen it across generations. A poor child is likely to remain poor in his/her lifetime and his/her children are likely to remain poor too.

Our society and institutions are structured to perpetuate inequality across generations.

Socio-economic inequalities, and their entrenched and self-perpetuating nature, are the biggest challenge we face in shaping a future for Pakistan. It is easy to find challenges that Pakistan faces: there are plenty of good candidates. The fundamental one is inequality and what perpetuates it. But, and here is the perplexing part, despite its fundamental nature, it is one issue that is not even on the agenda for discussion or on the reform agenda.

People have been concerned about terrorism and extremism. Right or wrong, the government, with most stakeholders in agreement, came up with Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the National Action Plan to deal with it. We have been concerned about stabilisation and, right or wrong, we have been shoving stabilisation policies, under the guidance of the IMF, down everyone’s throat. We have become concerned about growth and, right or wrong, we have responded with investments in energy, infrastructure and now through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

But where is the response to the highly unequal access to opportunities in the country? Where is the outrage against this blatant neglect of the rights and needs of the majority? The politicians are not interested in the issue. There is no debate on the issue in legislatures, there are no policy options on the table, and there is not even an articulated demand or ideological approach by any political party on this larger question.

There does not seem to be any articulated demand from the public for addressing this issue either. Elections are not lost or won on the issue of addressing equality of opportunity: the provision of quality education/skills training, basic health, access to good social/physical infrastructure, and employment and growth opportunities.

Though we often talk of both the free, highly vocal and developed mass media in the country and the free and independent judiciary, they have not been instrumental in raising fundamental issues of rights and opportunities. The media produces more heat than light through the debates that incessantly go on. The judiciary has not taken up any of the fundamental issues — be it the right to education, healthcare or employment or questions of access to resources through land reform — at all. Cases filed on these matters with the higher courts have been languishing for years.

Is it not a fact that the hold the upper classes have on society is very strong, not only in terms of managing access to resources but even over the power to start and sustain debate? The upper classes, the top five to seven per cent, the main beneficiaries of the current system, do not have an interest in starting a debate on rights and equality of opportunities: they stand to lose the most. But, in addition, it seems that the people who rise to middle-class level (the professionals), the subsidiary beneficiaries of the current system, also see their benefit in perpetuating the system rather than in challenging it. They are co-opted.

But if we feel we can address terrorism, extremism, ethnic strife, sustainable development, high growth, and income and employment generation without addressing the issue of opportunities for all, we live in la-la land. If we believe we do not have the resources to provide a basic level of services to all, we are wrong again. Kerala, an Indian state that boasts developed society level statistics on education, health and well-being, provided basic health and education services to all when it was a relatively poor state.

Many people also feel that there is a trade-off in growth and expenditure on basic services. They are wrong. Human development theories have shown that. Empirical evidence is also there. Kerala was not the fastest-growing state in India when it extended basic services to all, and many critics thought this extension would limit Kerala’s growth prospects even further. Today, Kerala stands at the top of the list of Indian states in growth and income terms.

If a poor girl from rural Balochistan does not get almost the same opportunities as a boy from the middle or upper class from Karachi, our dreams for a better Pakistan will remain just that: dreams. And, in reality, we will continue to live the nightmare that we currently face.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2
016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/feed/ 0
Focus on the Supply Side of Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/focus-on-the-supply-side-of-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=focus-on-the-supply-side-of-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/focus-on-the-supply-side-of-terrorism/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:02:48 +0000 Shah Husain Imam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146080 By Shah Husain Imam
Jul 15 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Clearly, this is a tipping point in our understanding of and approach to ideological terrorism so far as Bangladesh is concerned. Since we have been visited by a series of ‘firsts’ in so-called jihadi manifestations, perhaps a review is in order.

supply_side_of_terrorism_It is for the first time that young men from well-off families educated in secular institutions staged a bloodbath. They formed a ‘suicide squad’, so far unheard-of in Bangladesh, to carry out their killing mission. A global contagion effect is taking hold.

Bangladesh, however, is not a lone figure on the supply side. A story from Kerala has it that men and women mostly from affluent and highly educated families confided in their friends about an intent to abandon their wealth and go somewhere to lead “a true Islamic way of life”.

“Of the 21 missing youths from Kerala, with at least some suspected to have left in a bid to join Islamic State, The Indian Express spoke to the families of 10 from the Padanna and Trikkaripur region to piece together a story of rapid radicalisation and a common thread — most were followers of the ultra-conservative Salafi movement.”

Sometime ago, even Muslim youths in England including teenage girls left their families travelling to Turkey on way to Iraq and some ISIS strongholds in Syria. The British authorities obviously cried foul but with a major difference that they would approach the returnees from such misadventure debriefing and engaging them in de-radicalisation programmes.

Latest reports suggest that the viscera samples of the five deceased participants in the Gulshan killing spree is being preserved. This is for testing whether they had used Captagon, a terrorist drug, before the act. For five young men to have executed 20 individuals in such a brutal fashion has raised a suspicion about the influence of some kind of drug before carrying out the operation Reportedly, FBI and an organisation in Gujarat have asked for visceral samples to carry out forensic test along that line.

Captagon is an ‘ideal’ drug to facilitate inhuman acts. “During the Paris attacks on November 13, those who managed to flee the scene have since provided descriptions of the terrorists that could point to the use of Captagon: with empty stares, pallid, expressionless faces, the attackers are said to have looked like the ‘walking dead’.”

A huge gap in the mechanical surveillance structure has come to light. A Prothom Alo report titled ‘Police in the dark about planners’ reveals a deficiency in the CCTV camera coverage. They have closed circuit camera footage along Road # 79 showing the militants entering the Holey Artisan Bakery Restaurant, but they have little by way of the route taken to enter Gulshan or if any vehicle was used by them. So, the police don’t have a clear picture of their movement leading up to their barging into the restaurant.

Also importantly, the police and Rab have detected a serious precautionary flaw at the Holey Artisan Bakery itself. It is found that the restaurant’s CCTV cameras did not contain any recording device – they only showed the arrival and departure of customers. Without any sequential footage, investigators say that they are left to depend entirely on versions by 13 rescued persons including eyewitness accounts of Artisan employees.

All this is an eye opener to an imperative necessity for getting the basics right. The slack in the maintenance of CCTV cameras with many routinely going out of order and the inability to analyse the fragmentary images when the chips are down are patently unacceptable. Properly trained personnel should be put in charge and held accountable for each of the CCTV camera installations. It is common knowledge that many private business houses, commercial centres, real estate apartments, transport terminals, banks, hotels have CCTV cameras but a new level of coverage and operational efficiency is called for should the lurking terror threats be staved off.

When terror strikes, the priorities are clear cut: Thoroughly professional investigation into how it happened including relaying orders, training, arming, target fixing and colluding arrangements, if any, behind the act. The rest about financing, mentoring, networking is a grey area not privy to foot soldiers or even the sleeping cells of terrorist organisations. There, credible and focused intelligence exchanges are vital between countries having a common stake.

The overarching concern at this point is to prevent recurrence of a terror attack of the Holey Artisan Bakery type or the attempted one like in Sholakia. A fallout is seen through the postponement of some international conferences and events as hints of change of travel plans by buyers and tourists and a short-term fall in investment appear in the horizon.

We have been through rough patches before which proved transient as we would bounce back every time. This too will be a passing phase in ensuring which we must play our own part.

At any rate, we should view it as a new challenge that we share with the rest of the world requiring a new response to be had.

It is true that many a terrorist attack may have been prevented due to good police and Rab work. What is equally true is an ample room for improvement in their intelligence gathering, collation and analytical activities. Multiplicity of intelligence agencies could hinder coordination between them, even make them work at cross-purposes. The right balance will have to be struck in accordance with best practice methods.

Lest you have forgotten, here is a punchy quote from Theodore Roosevelt: ‘Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time.’ – (Speech 14 June 1917)

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/focus-on-the-supply-side-of-terrorism/feed/ 0
Saudi Scapegoatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/saudi-scapegoats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saudi-scapegoats http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/saudi-scapegoats/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 16:07:16 +0000 Rafia Zakaria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146034 By Rafia Zakaria
Jul 13 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The eleventh day of September 2001 seems a distant memory now. On that day, 19 hijackers unleashed mayhem in the skies over the United States of America. Fifteen of these 19 hijackers, it would later be discovered, were Saudi citizens. Yet the war that ensued, that cast its bloody fingers deep into the Middle East and South Asia, would not be a war against Saudis. It was instead against Afghans, Iraqis and, at least via remote control, Pakistanis.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

Much of the world, at least those portions of the world that matter, that are listened to, that construct the narratives of conflict, did not seem to balk at this fact or its incongruity to the politics of blame and expiation that have dominated the world since the 9/11 attacks. Saudi Arabia remained best friends with the US, its oil industry lubricating the latter’s economy.

Last week, the scourge of terror that has seeped into every pore of the rest of the Muslim world made Saudi Arabia its target. Near the end of Ramazan, three bombings occurred in the Saudi cities of Jeddah, Qatif and Madina. Four security guards were killed and four others wounded in the Madina attack, which took place ominously close to the mosque of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), one of Islam’s most sacred sites. The bombing in Qatif targeted a Shia mosque and the one in Jeddah took place near the US consulate.

In both the Qatif and Jeddah attack, the bombers were not able to execute the attack and succeeded in killing only themselves. The three bombings in three different parts of Saudi Arabia all took place within 24 hours. While there were no immediate claims of responsibility (as with attacks in Dhaka and Istanbul) the modus operandi of the attack aligned with the usual tactics of the militant Islamic State group.

Pakistanis are weak, their lives are cheap and they can provide at best a feeble response to the aspersions Saudi Arabia casts on them.

In the days since the attack Saudi authorities have been busy rounding up suspects. According to a report published by Al Jazeera, 19 people had been arrested by July 9. Of these 19, 12 are Pakistani and the remainder are Saudi citizens. In addition, Saudi authorities claim that the Jeddah bomber was also a Pakistani named Abdullah Gulzar Khan, who had been working in the kingdom for the past 12 years. The suspect was reported to have worn a suicide belt before he blew himself up.

The inordinate scrutiny placed on Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia is likely to become an even larger problem. Even when criminal charges are not terrorism-based, the Saudi legal system is opaque, providing few explanations of charges or records of proceedings. Owing in part to their inferior status in the kingdom and the intractability of its legal system in general, over 2,000 Pakistanis already languish in Saudi jails with 10 or more executed every year. The 12 arrested last week will simply join their ranks, the truth of the allegations against them never properly explained, the details of trials and prosecutions never communicated to the consulates of a poor country like Pakistan.

There are good reasons for the Saudi effort to pin the blame on Pakistanis. For instance, it permits Saudi Arabia to deflect the truth that in past years its propagation of an orthodox version of Islam via countless religious schools around the world has contributed to the creation of the jihadi mindset, whose pupils increasingly if not always provide cannon fodder for suicide bombers who have struck targets across the world.

According to an article published last year in World Affairs Journal, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, (either officially or via private donors) has funded madressahs and religious centres that have then been used for recruitment by extremist groups. The article quotes US Vice President Joe Biden as estimating the Saudi contribution to jihadi groups as being at “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons”. Increasingly defensive about its own contribution to the very threat that is now at its doorstep, Saudi royals like King Salman have tried to deflect blame by saying that they cannot be held responsible if the money they gave for good causes is appropriated into the cause of extremism and ‘jihad’.

Blaming Pakistanis is probably another portion of this strategy of deflecting blame; of responding to the premise that the seeds they planted have grown into an invasive species that wants to throttle the gardener itself. Pakistanis are weak, their lives are cheap and they can provide at best a feeble response to the aspersions Saudi Arabia casts on them.

At a time when Saudi Arabia is investing in national unity, painting the foreign worker as a potential terrorist serves to justify the already despicable treatment allotted to them. Predictably, all other Muslim countries and even Pakistanis themselves quietly and submissively accept this role; those who speak out loud and clear about European and American excesses heaped on immigrant Muslims maintain pin-drop silence when it comes to Saudi mistreatment. The self-appointed guardians of Islam’s holy sites, it is assumed, must be holy and beyond reproach.

For Pakistanis, it is ironic that Saudi Arabia leads the ‘Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism’. Unlike even Western countries, whose excesses against alleged terror suspects, whose unauthorised bombings of this or that country have received attention and criticism in the global public sphere, Saudi Arabia retains its air of sanctity.

Given this, whether it is air strikes that kill civilians in Yemen, or the easy implication of Pakistani foreign workers as terrorists, there appears to be no one who can chide the kingdom or check its power. Pakistanis, reviled yesterday as foreign and poor or deficiently Muslim, can now be made scapegoats in the Saudi war on terror, accused and indicted, not necessarily for their guilt but simply because it is so very easy to blame them, punish them, persecute them.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy. rafia.zakaria@gmail.com
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/saudi-scapegoats/feed/ 0
Murder in the Name of Faithhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/murder-in-the-name-of-faith/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=murder-in-the-name-of-faith http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/murder-in-the-name-of-faith/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 13:52:28 +0000 Zahid Hussain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145959 By Zahid Hussain
Jul 7 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

A wave of terrorist attacks — from Istanbul to Bangladesh and Iraq to Saudi Arabia — has shaken the Muslim world. The deadly week has left hundreds of people dead and wounded. The militant Islamic State group (IS) has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks and others clearly seem to be inspired by the group that has now established itself as the most lethal terrorist network with global reach.

zahidIt promised to make the holy month of Ramazan a pain for those who it considers ‘infidels’. Most of the victims of the terror attacks carried out in the name of Islam were Muslims.

These terrorist attacks came even as the militant group was being driven out of much of the territory under its control in Syria and Iraq, and marked a dramatic shift in its strategy to extend its terror war to other regions. While the suicide bombing in Baghdad appears to be in retaliation to the series of military setbacks received by IS over the past months, the attacks in Istanbul and Saudi Arabia signal a widening of the theatre of terror wars in the Middle East.

Editorial: Terror in the kingdom

The profiles of the Dhaka restaurant killers and those involved in Karachi’s Safoora bus carnage are similar.

Although IS has not claimed responsibility for those two attacks, suspicion leads to its role in them. Ironically, both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have in the past been blamed for providing indirect support to the Sunni militant group fighting the Shia-dominated governments in Iraq and Syria.

Most of the oil from IS-controlled territory in Iraq was reportedly smuggled to Turkey. Turkey’s border areas with Syria had become the main transit point for fighters from across the world joining IS. Some analysts likened the Turkish border region with Peshawar of the 1980s during the Afghan jihad against Soviet occupation, when the Pakistani city became the main base of holy warriors from across the Muslim world. The tightening of the border under international pressure seems to have turned the foreign militants against the Turkish state.

Turkish security officials have named a Chechen militant for masterminding the deadly attack on Istanbul that left more than 40 people dead. Chechens form one of the largest contingents of foreign fighters in the IS ranks in Syria and Iraq. The group has also been blamed for other terrorist attacks that have rocked Turkey over the past few months.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the series of coordinated suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia this week. But IS has been responsible for some recent terrorist attacks targeting Shia mosques and security personnel with devastating effect. This indicates the growing presence of the militant group in the country that the kingdom has been accused of patronising in its battle for influence in the region. With its growing internal and external problems, Saudi Arabia is much more vulnerable to the threat emanating from the same extremist elements.

But it is Bangladesh that has become the latest hotspot of rising Islamist militancy. The bloody siege in a restaurant in the nation’s capital underlines the evolution of IS activities beyond the Middle East. What is most disturbing is the growing influence of the militant group among the country’s youthful population.

The profiles of the six militants who hacked to death 20 people, mostly foreigners, inside a restaurant in an upscale neighbourhood in Dhaka last week fit into a new generation of militants influenced by IS. They were all young and products of elite schools — children of opportunity rather than deprivation. They came there to kill and die in the name of faith.

The gruesome carnage marked the scaling up in religion-based violence that has plagued Bangladesh for the past three years. Several liberal bloggers and intellectuals have been hacked to death in targeted individual attacks. Those convicted in the killing of bloggers also belonged to secular educational institutions. IS was quick to claim responsibility, posting pictures of the attackers online.

Not surprisingly the profiles of the Dhaka restaurant killers and those involved in Karachi’s Safoora bus carnage are quite similar — young, educated and from upper-middle class backgrounds. Both groups were home-grown militants influenced by IS ideology. They seem to have been radicalised by some local contact and powerful IS propaganda posted online. Religion is the most effective tool used by the terrorist group to manipulate the minds of young Muslims across the world.

Read: Bangladesh politician ‘stunned’ by son’s role in Dhaka carnage

As in Pakistan, IS may not have any organised structure in Bangladesh, but its footprint has been visible in the country for long. Some radical Islamist groups in Bangladesh are suspected to have established links with Al Qaeda and IS. Many Bangladeshi militants are reported to have joined the IS war in Iraq and Syria. The Dhaka attackers had reportedly disappeared from their homes months ago and their parents seemed to have no clue about the radicalisation of their children except for their becoming more religious. There is still no information about what they were doing during their disappearance.

Bangladesh is a new centre of militancy. The country has figured more frequently in the propaganda literature of Al Qaeda and IS. The IS central leadership may not have been directly involved in the Dhaka terrorist attack. The carnage, however, was part of the plan to escalate militant violence around the world. After France and Belgium, it is now the Muslim countries that are being targeted.

After losing much of the territory under its control, thereby endangering its dream of establishing a ‘caliphate’ that had attracted Islamist militants from across the globe, IS has now stepped up terrorist attacks in the Middle East and beyond. The latest bloodbath is yet another indicator of the grave threat the militant group poses to the world, particularly to the Muslim countries.

IS justifies its terrorist actions in the name of faith, declaring everyone who does not subscribe to its retrogressive ideology an ‘infidel’. There is a need for united action against the scourge before it is too late.

The writer is an author and journalist.
zhussain100@yahoo.com
Twitter: @hidhussain

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/murder-in-the-name-of-faith/feed/ 0
Terror Will Not Define Ushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/terror-will-not-define-us-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=terror-will-not-define-us-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/terror-will-not-define-us-2/#comments Wed, 06 Jul 2016 11:00:40 +0000 Syed Eshamul Alam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145950 By Syed Eshamul Alam
Jul 6 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

“Everything will be alright in a few days again”, I said to my friend in a half hearted attempt to console her as I left her apartment. It was her answer which consumed me for the rest of the day. Motherly in nature and genuinely bereaved, she looked back at me and said “why should it be, why should we forget”.

 The Holey Artisan Bakery, a favorite among expats became the scene of terror on July 1 as twenty hostages, mostly foreign nationals, were killed when a group of militants stormed in with guns and swords in the popular Gulshan cafe. Star file photo.

The Holey Artisan Bakery, a favorite among expats became the scene of terror on July 1 as twenty hostages, mostly foreign nationals, were killed when a group of militants stormed in with guns and swords in the popular Gulshan cafe. Star file photo.

We had all gathered together the night before for dinner to say goodbye to a friend who happened to be a social worker visiting from Europe. She had come to work for the Acid Survivors Foundation. We all got together to celebrate her time in Bangladesh, the work she’s done and the lives she impacted.

It was a little after dinner that the phones of my friends’ began to buzz with Emergency messages from their respective embassies urging caution. At that moment the intensity of the situation was not yet apparent and we carried on with our usual conversations.

But as news outlets began to cover the incident, the severity of the situation came to light. We were left in a situation that far exceeded our sensibilities. With our hosts insisting on us staying back due to concerns for our security, we decided to stay the night.

As the night progressed we stayed fixated on the TV screen. Curious as to how the situation was being handled we were hooked to every little detail. At times disdain was voiced regarding the sensationalizing of the news coverage; nonetheless, we all stayed glued to the television.

Amidst all the feeble laughter and small talk, the gravity of the situation slowly began to sink in. Here I was, on a Saturday night stuck in a house with 15 or so people, 8 of them being expats, watching the unraveling of a hostage situation where foreigners and Bangladeshis were victims.

Slowly, as time passed, the irony of the events taking place caught on. While we watched on TV, a group of extremists planning to kill all those who were seemingly different from us; I sat there observing instead, the threads which bind all of us together.

There was a raging concern for all those stuck inside the bakery; friends, family, acquaintances or even strangers, it didn’t matter. We all prayed together for their safety; a group of people differing in religion, language, country and ethnicity. Not once was the issue of religion raised. Nor did anyone blame religion for this catastrophe. A silent agreement resonated in the room about the evils of extremism.

What stood out most for me was how every now and then someone would run off and go explaining to their parents, at home or abroad, that they were alright. We were all adults but still children in the eyes of our parents. Children in the eyes of God. How much different could we possibly be?

Tired and strained we all decided to go to sleep after Sehri knowing little of what awaited us in the latter part of the day. As the news of the morning raid into the compound broke, we again were hooked on the television. There wasn’t much information of substance that was shared so it did little to appease the apprehension of what lay ahead. We watched as news varied between reports of the rescue of 12 to 14 people. There was no mention of the fate of others. Another glance around the room revealed the shift from a look of concern to one of desolation, till finally someone asked that the news be turned off. An ominous silence fell upon the room. We knew what had happened would have a lasting impact on the country, but maybe what preceded that was the concern about what to do next. Something as primal as, how do we go home?

I tried to make sense of the scurry of emotions which fluttered through my head. The initial sentiment was one of shame. I felt that I owed an apology. I felt that as a nation we would be burdened by this heinous act. But a little reflection revealed that that cannot be the case.

As a strong nationalist I believed that I along with everyone I have come in contact with embody the ethos of our country; which entails a sense of inclusion, acceptance of diversity and respect for religious freedom. There is a unanimous sense of empathy for all lives lost, civilians and defense forces. Overwhelming support for all those affected is being voiced out everywhere. It begs the question then, why should we as a nation let a group of a few extremists dictate the sentiments of the country?

It is no secret that extremism is a growing concern in the country, but we have at our disposal the strongest tool to battle it. Extremism is a mindset and the flames of it cannot be blown away with guns and tanks. It can only be contained and eradicated through educating people on religion and understanding of inclusion. It is time and again that we forget that Prophet Muhammamed (Pbuh) governed over the city of Medina with a diversely ethnic and religious population. It is the natural convulse in fear to what is different and a natural inclination to endear all that is similar.

It is our reaction to this incident that will define us as a nation. It would display the character of the country as a whole to the international community. Overcoming the natural instinct of anger, I realised that what we need now most is our pride in our nature of “Bengaliness”; the overly passionate, the extremely loving and excessively accommodating people. We stand together to show our empathy to the families of those who we lost, our love for them and promise to act on this monstrosity.

This act does not define us a nation. This incident does not display our character as a nation. It certainly does not reduce our capacity to love as a nation. We stand together in prayer for the lost ones and for our country. We shall overcome this menace with what they fear most, Love. #PrayForBangladesh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/terror-will-not-define-us-2/feed/ 0
Elites, Expats and Enclaveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/elites-expats-and-enclaves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=elites-expats-and-enclaves http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/elites-expats-and-enclaves/#comments Wed, 06 Jul 2016 10:26:01 +0000 Rafia Zakaria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145945 By Rafia Zakaria
Jul 6 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

At the end of a hot and exacting month of fasting, Eid-ul-Fitr this year arrives on the heels of a ghastly number of terrorist attacks. In the week gone by, travellers have perished in Istanbul, diners in Dhaka, shoppers in Baghdad, and several people in three separate blasts in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia the other day.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

While the militant Islamic State group has not taken responsibility for all of these attacks — it has for some — most appear to be their doing, and are part of a grisly Ramazan special of mayhem and misery that the militants have decided to unleash on Muslims of the world. In the midst of so much death and such vast stores of tragedy, there are big questions to be answered: what can possibly be their intent behind such bloodlust, such bold theatrics of brutality?

There are, of course, few answers to the troubling questions posed by such tragedies as of the past week. Several of the attacks involved suicide bombers, many as yet unidentified, men who shot and detonated, taking with them the lives and loves of so many others.

In many parts of the developing world where security is an issue and social inequity is rampant, there is deep resentment of those who access and partake in the security and privilege of enclaves.

Of all the attacks this week, the one in Dhaka stands out; due to the amount of time the attackers spent with their victims and the sorting and selection process of deciding who to kill and who to set free. According to reporting by The New York Times (and survivor testimonies), the attackers — now known to be well educated — arrived carrying grenades and firearms. One of the first things they did was to separate foreigners from Bangladeshis, asking everyone their nationality. The kitchen staff and other natives were locked in a bathroom.

As has now been recounted, the dead included Italians, Japanese and Indians. One Bangladeshi Muslim man, dining with an Indian friend and a Bangladeshi-American girl, was killed with the rest; the man, Faraz Hossain, chose not to desert his friends even though the attackers had permitted him to leave.

In the details of the attack on the Holey Artisan cafe, who was targeted and how and what sort of communications the attackers had with their hostages, are clues as to how the Islamic State capitalises on long-standing resentments in developing countries to recruit fighters for its agenda. As has been mentioned, the cafe was located in the diplomatic enclave of Dhaka and was not too far from the US embassy.

The area may not be one where many Bangladeshis would feel comfortable or fit in; to belong, one has to be an expatriate or a member of the country’s elite. Unsurprisingly, the attackers were chosen for their ability to pass as ‘elites’, to pepper their conversations with English, to exude the entitlement of those that eat expensive bread in a rice-growing nation.

This pointed class dimension — of elites, expats and their enclaves — was not limited to the selection of the venue in Dhaka. The first picture of the carnage released by the IS ‘news agency’ Amaq showed a table still set with plates of food half-eaten. Next to the plates of food were apparently glasses of red wine. On the floor, killed first by bullets and then cut up with daggers, lay the dead consumers of the repast, chosen to be killed because they were foreign, non-Muslim and drinking wine in Ramazan.

Most of the Muslims were not harmed; the kitchen staff was instructed to prepare tea for them and later sehri so that they could eat before beginning the next day’s fast. As an excuse for the fact that they were killing so many, the attackers told the living that they too were going to die soon.

The resentment towards foreigners, drinking and eating expensive food in cordoned-off portions of a country percolates in many postcolonial states.

In other parts of the developing world where security is an issue and social inequity is rampant, there is deep resentment of those who access and partake in the security and privilege of enclaves. There have even been instances where the artificially maintained ecosystems of such enclaves have been subject to scrutiny, judgment — and occasionally attack — by the larger populace. In this hotbed, the line between protecting sovereignty and ceding tolerance becomes blurred.

Postcolonial populations all bear the scars of exclusion and chafe against the dilutions of their sovereignty by the intrusions of more powerful foreigners. Given this, is there any way that true security can be arranged for the representatives who manage relationships between the wealthy and the wanting? As legitimate as the scrutiny often is, as much as it exposes entrenched local and global inequities, it also stokes some unwanted consequences. It is co-opted by outfits such as the Islamic State group, that prey on and exploit the legitimate grievances of the disenfranchised, while indoctrinating those who only perceive themselves to be so.

Deploying existing resentments and insecurities, class-based exclusions and snubs for its own nefarious agenda, is proving to be the ace in the Islamic State’s deck of brutalities. One hand in this continuing game was played in Dhaka. By freeing the locals while killing foreigners, they present a grotesque and bloodthirsty caricature of justice — the specifics of which reveal just how small qualms can be magnified by terrorists’ bloodlust into excuses for carnage.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/elites-expats-and-enclaves/feed/ 0
When Kids Become Monstershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/when-kids-become-monsters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-kids-become-monsters http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/when-kids-become-monsters/#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2016 21:44:15 +0000 Syed Mansur Hashim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145942 By Syed Mansur Hashim
Jul 5 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

We have been attacked as never before. The facts do not need to be repeated. The savagery with which 20 hostages were slaughtered need not be retold. Islamic terrorism has arrived in Bangladesh with a bang and it has shaken us to our foundations. The relative peace we lived in while the world around us disintegrated in the face of onslaught by extremist outfits such as the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda and other similar outfits across the length and breadth of all continents is now not news anymore, merely a fact of life.

monster_What took many of us by surprise is that three of the dead terrorists turned out to be students of elite English medium educational institutions like North South University and Scholastica School (as identified by friends when pictures were released on social media). This blows apart our perception that the marauding hounds of hell who constitute Jihadi outfits in Bangladesh are all, essentially, products of madrasas. So, why on earth would the children of well-to-do parents end up wielding automatic weapons and other weaponry be on a suicide mission? What has happened in Dhaka is big news for us, but it is hardly news. The world has been witnessing young people of similar backgrounds from Europe signing up to fight the Jihadi fight in Syria and Iraq under the banner of the IS.

Things did not come to this state in a day. Although this article is not a lesson in history, we do have to look to the past in an effort to try and understand why bright young men decide to throw away their lives in the false belief that it is alright to take the blood of innocents to gain martyrdom. Every major religion has its zenith and its decline. Islam had its heyday. Hegel defined the rise of Islam as the revolution of the east. Following a few centuries of unparalleled growth that allowed space for rational debates that ushered in a glorious civilisation, rich in science and the arts, the Muslim world witnessed the creeping in of rigid orthodoxy by the 12th century. With strict indoctrination crept in corruption, ignorance and inept governance. The decay was many centuries in the making but by the time Europe entered into the industrial revolution in the 18th century; the Muslim world had fallen far behind.

Unable to match the West in terms of technology and challenged intellectually, it was impossible to stop the flow of ideas from an alien world that ushered in liberal thoughts that threatened the orthodoxy from which the Muslim world could not recover. New fangled ideas in the guise of nationalism and socialism attacked and overturned the set order of things in the Muslim heartland of the Middle East. Westernisation was inevitable and it ripped apart the spiritual and the cultural identity of the Muslim world as the young rose to challenge the old. Colonialism in its many manifestations threatened to engulf and perish the Islamic Order that had recoiled from learning from other civilisations and was stuck in the past. Modernism was frowned upon but could not be stopped. Nation States were carved out of the old Order by colonial powers and Muslims were relegated to second grade citizens in a world where they had wielded considerable influence and prestige.

In the midst of this onslaught orthodox Islam spread its wings in the form of “exporting” madrassas globally which taught young men a strict version that was known as the Wahabi school of thought. The world came to know of this when the United States and its allies sought to contain its erstwhile cold war adversary, the Soviet Union when it invaded Afghanistan. The Mujahideen were recruited from the madrasas in neighbouring Pakistan and fighters adhering to radical schools of thought globally flocked to the training camps to form an army to fight the “infidel” Soviets.The unpublished piece ‘Understanding Radical Islam’ by Ali Ahmed Ziauddin delves deeper into the issue.

With the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Afghan campaign, the world was left with thousands of battle-hardened fanatics with no war to fight. But there is always a war to fight and that came when Saddam was toppled and Iraq disintegrated into a battleground where the Sunnis lost overnight their right to rule. Saddam’s army was disbanded and thousands of former soldiers found that they had lost their purpose. The Sunni populace lost their homeland and were relegated to second class citizens by Baghdad where Shiites ruled supreme – and their country which they believed was theirs to rule turned into a wasteland. Reaction was inevitable. Insurgency crept in, as did radicalisation. Former officers merged with guerrillas from the Afghan campaign and beyond, birds of different feathers united in their common goal – fighting under a banner that promised death to “infidels” and the resurgence and re-emergence of Sunni dominance.

Post-invasion Iraq is the place where modern day radical Islam found a breeding ground for growth. A once proud nation that had been humiliated to the point that mass despair set in; millions unemployed and thousands dead – it provided the perfect setting for extremists to plan, organise, recruit and execute a long campaign that would give birth to outfits like the IS. A global Jihadi movement was born that would draw in the disaffected and the disenfranchised in their thousands, not just the madrasa students but the sons and daughters of the elite, educated in the best institutions, but radicalised by their perception of being relegated to 2nd class citizens for being Muslims – by the West.

One question that is not often asked is why distorted interpretation of Islam is able to draw in people from different backgrounds, with varying educational qualification. The answer simply is this: Islam in principle, allows for inclusivity. That is why over 14 centuries, Islam has spread to all continents and why today a Bangladeshi and an American Muslim can relate to each other on the basis of faith. The seeds of today’s scourge whether it is the IS or one of the several local extremist movements that exist in our country were laid by the West in the camps of Pakistan many decades ago. The use of Islamic zealots to fight their wars have now come back to haunt us all. Today thousands are perishing the world over for bad political decisions.

So what do now? We have chosen to ignore the warning signs despite repeated killings by such elements over the last year or so. Free thinkers, members of minority communities and other sects have been killed with impunity – all the while the State claiming that we are insulated from these forces. We have heard talk about uniting to defeat these forces of darkness who kill and maim in the name of religion. That is tall talk where political dissent has been effectively quashed to the point of extinction and the vacuum created has been filled up by Islamic radicals. These elements are drawing their “soldiers” from the disenfranchised, the millions of unemployed, but they are also drawing them from the elite – because at the end of the day, the success of IS in holding territory and fighting it out with global powers and surviving, sends a very powerful message, however distorted, to millions of young Muslims worldwide that there is a ‘fight’ worth fighting for.

In Bangladesh, we have to wake up to these realities. As radicals join a pan Islamic movement to propagate global jihad, there is a counterbalance to that in the form of other nations that have fought the scourge for decades. These countries have developed counterterrorism techniques and outfits that have tackled radical outfits which cannot be tackled by conventional law enforcement. When will we get our heads out of the sand and admit we have a problem and we need help from friendly nations?

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/when-kids-become-monsters/feed/ 0
A Night of Terrorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-night-of-terror/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-night-of-terror http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-night-of-terror/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2016 19:27:54 +0000 Adnan R Amin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145926 By Adnan R Amin
Jul 4 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

So, a night of absolute terror preceded the glorified Night of Power this Ramadan. And it has left Dhaka in a stupor; in a dazed state of disbelief and heartbreak. There is talk of vengeance in the air; and there is the call to patience. There are defenses of creed and vilification of entire traditions. There is evaluation of the response time and criticism of the PR spin on casualties. There are subtle attempts to claim some connection to the tragedy, by professing either geographic or personal proximity to the place, or the people involved. But what is missing is clarity. ‘Why did this happen? Why us?’

People help an injured person after gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Café. Photo: AP

People help an injured person after gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Café. Photo: AP

This is the intended effect of Terrorism.

This piece was written Saturday night, so by now new developments will have been reported. Defense analysts will have speculated without end and media will have ceaselessly eulogised victims for the extra click. Claims will have been made about the alien beliefs and social standing of the attackers. Perhaps, our national response, by next week, will have been ‘business as usual’. Either way, it does not matter – because a new reality has been revealed to us, which exists and will continue to exist regardless of how we react to it. As Bangladesh mourns the victims of this attack, it must also mentally and strategically prepare for the next one.

A condemnation of the perpetrators, though socially warranted, is meaningless. It is self-serving. It is a symbolic shield against a real, unsheathed cutlass. Then again, the audience too is a victim in this and its need for venting, pontificating and consolation must not be ignored. However, this should not preclude a social response strategy, be it through community-based counterterrorism or through reclamation of traditional values.

But the other party central to staging a bloody spectacle must not be beyond reproach. Mainstream media’s performance during the night of terror has been outrageous and outstanding at the same time. Outrageous because reporters demonstrated zero professional training, no respect for tactical response preparations and little empathy for those thrust in harm’s way. What self-respecting reporter tries to interview injured policemen? What kind of a human being prioritizes ‘breaking’ hostage identities over protecting their lives? What kind of intellectual institutions don’t understand why televising security positions and tactical equipment may jeopardize security forces?

Media performance was also outstanding because reporters sensed the irrepressible public demand for inside scoops and gory details. Perhaps, this unholy interest in violence and death is universal: there is no denying that a violent spectacle on this scale is as inherently addictive as it is repulsive; that it triggers a macabre voyeurism, a certain brand of schadenfreude. Remember: when a thousand security experts mushroom all over the screens, Facebookers peddle new details and conspiracy theories and op-eds like this one start to frame and reframe the event – it is spurred on by the popular demand for meaning-making.

This is the target market for Terrorism.

The fourth wheel, so to speak, is the formal response system: comprising of researchers, strategists, intelligence agencies, anti-terrorism units and tactical equipment. Bangladeshi security forces acted with valiance. While their failure to prevent a heavily-armed squad’s entry into the heart of Dhaka may be baffling, and their initial lack of readiness criticised – there is no question that members of security forces put themselves in harm’s way when it mattered. The tragedy that transpired wasn’t from a lack of effort or dedication, but it may have been helped along by a lack of preparedness.

What may have been underwhelming was the management of information flow during this national crisis. It is strange that the media was allowed to broadcast from the scene for as long as it was. Despite the blackout, videos of trucks hauling military landing crafts were being telecast till after daybreak. On international media, there seemed to be little monitoring of or control over who was speaking for Bangladesh and in what capacity. As a result, US media, for example, managed to paint Bangladesh as ‘a failed state’, ‘right next to Pakistan’.

It is now easier to place Bangladesh in the radicalisation map and the global Islamist Terrorism narrative. Doubtless, this broad shift has its roots in geopolitics. But when was there a scenario where an attack wouldn’t be politicised? Theories will fly. Political analysts will connect it to geopolitical ambitions of larger nations. Loyalists will find anti-liberation elements in the mix. The global audience will see a natural, geographic progression in terrorist tactics. The opposition will view it as a government failure and the voyeur horde will treat it as a juicy spectacle. There are those who will take it as a loss of this city’s innocence and breakdown of family structures, and yet others who will find in it the wrath of God. Each of these views is politically inspired and contributes something to the bearers’ individual/group interests.

For some years, we have seen the ‘War on Terror’ (WOT) manual being emulated in Bangladesh, where an ‘other’ is blamed for attacks on ‘us’ and the narrators retain exclusive right to the moral highground and legitimacy by controlling the interpretations. The tactic is to fight violence with greater violence, a questionable approach even when the enemy is an outsider. But could a Muslim majority country thus deal with violent radicalism? An important clue may have been revealed when RAB announced its intention to negotiate with the gunmen at Holey Artisan Bakery, a departure from WOT response protocol.

Perhaps, academics and security strategists should revisit if the Bush-administration’s tactics are adequate or even suitable for Bangladesh. To illustrate, there are cases where a single individual was connected (or separated by a degree) on social media to both victims and alleged terrorists. It would appear that the gunmen lived and breathed much closer than we expect(ed). Their socioeconomic status, social environment and operational tactics were also markedly different from that of ‘sleeper cells’ involved in recent targeted killings. These young men didn’t travel to Dhaka from far-flung districts, only to flee once they had struck. They grew up among us. They played with us on our fields. And then, something led them to that fateful night of terror. By then, they had crossed an invisible threshold and had no demands or statements left to make. Bloodshed was the only statement. This is not a language that we understand, but the gravity of the contents is lost on no one. Also not lost is that fact that such ideologies cannot germinate without nurturing.

Bangladesh is not a fertile breeding ground for radicalism. The key word here is ‘fertile’. There is no historical resentment or unjust wars, as there are in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are no ‘infidel rulers’ or sectarian conflicts. However, there are indeed young minds ready to be molded and influenced. And there is a glaring lack of exemplary role models. There seem to be social cracks, where tender emotions are being smelted into violent hatred. This is where social response must start.

Let me end with a little story. Family sources say that when one of the boys held hostage was spared his life, he refused to leave without his two friends. He demanded that the friends too be allowed to leave, and when refused, stayed back in that inferno. In the end, he paid the price with his life; but not before setting an example of and for us all. Let this boy remind us that at the end of the day, there’s no morality without courage, and no righteousness without mercy.

The writer is a strategy and communications consultant.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-night-of-terror/feed/ 0
First Independent Expert To Tackle LGBTI Discrimination: “Historic Victory”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 19:48:48 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145910 Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 1 2016 (IPS)

Human rights groups have described the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) decision on Thursday to appoint an independent expert to target the ongoing discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people all over the world as a “historic victory.”

“For LGBTI people everywhere who have fought so hard for this victory, take strength from this recognition, and let today represent the dawn of a new day,” OutRight International’s executive director Jessica Stern said. OutRight International was one of 28 non-governmental groups which welcomed the resolution with a joint statement.

More than 600 nongovernmental organizations helped ensure that the HRC in Geneva adopted the resolution to “protect people against violence & discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

The establishment of an expert-position for these problems is a significant step since not all of the UN’s 193 members see eye to eye on LGBTI issues. “A UN Independent Expert sends a clear message that violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are a concern for the international community and need to be addressed by Member States,” John Fisher of Human Rights Watch told IPS.

With regard to compliance, Fisher said: “Of course, some States will decline to cooperate, which only underlines the need for the outreach work that an Independent Expert will conduct. Members of the Human Rights Council are required by a GA (General Assembly) resolution to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the biggest defenders of LGBT rights in the United States, expressed its approval, too. Jamil Dakwar, ACLU’s International Human Rights Director, told IPS the HRC resolution “is yet another affirmation that the promise of universal human rights leaves no one behind.”

"Transgender persons face laws which deny their fundamental self-defined gender identity." -- John Fisher

He also emphasized that “even in a country like the United States, where some LGBT rights are legally recognized, recent events, including the tragic mass shooting at an LGBT club in Orlando and the post-marriage equality legislative backlash against transgender people, confirm that the human rights of LGBT communities are in dire need of attention and protection.”

Indeed, although many states are making progress, LGBTI people still face discrimination and violence. According to studies, between half and two thirds of LGBTI students in the US, UK and Thailand are bullied at school and thirty percent of them skip school to avoid the trouble.

Fisher said to IPS that “discrimination is faced in access to health, housing, education and employment, transgender persons face laws which deny their fundamental self-defined gender identity.”

In the past years, violence, particularly against transgender people was shockingly common. For example, the 2014 report of the Anti-Violence Project showed that police violence was 7 times more likely to affect transgender people than non-transgenders. The 2015 report, released this June, revealed that 67 percent of victims of hate violence related killings of LGBTQ people were transgender.

A study released this week shows that there are 1.4 million transgender persons living in the United States: Twice as many as previously estimated. Although the US is slowly addressing some issues related to LGBT rights, such as removing barriers for transgender persons in the military some states have begun banning transgender people from using the bathroom according to the gender they identify with.

Human Rights Watch and others are happy to witness progress in states like the US and many Latin American countries. There was a clear pattern in the voting behavior of Thursday’s HRC meeting, too. No African and few Asian countries (only South Korea and Vietnam) voted in favor of the resolution. The 18 votes against the new resolution came among others from Russia, China and various Arab States.

The non-governmental actors who supported the resolution, however, also came from developing countries. “It is important to note that around 70 percent of the organizations are from the global south,” Yahia Zaidi of the MantiQitna Network said.

The resolution builds on previous HRC decisions in 2011 and 2014. In the newest draft, the independent expert is the most important innovation. Still, other parts of it were debated, too:

“Some amendments were adopted suggesting that cultural and religious values should be respected; these amendments could be interpreted as detracting from the universality of human rights. The resolution does, however, also include a provision from the outcome document of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, affirming the primacy of human rights,” Fisher reported from the council in Geneva.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory/feed/ 1
Suspend Saudi Arabia from Human Rights Council, Human Rights Groups Sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 21:56:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145882 Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch brief the press. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch brief the press. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 30 2016 (IPS)

Saudi Arabia’s membership in the Human Rights Council (HRC) should be suspended by members of the UN General Assembly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) said on Wednesday.

The two human rights groups have joined forces to make the exceptional call for action, noting that it is based on Saudi Arabia’s “gross and systematic violations of human rights” in Yemen and domestically.

“We believe that…Saudi Arabia does not deserve to sit anymore on the Human Rights Council,” HRW’s Deputy Director for Global Advocacy Philippe Bolopion said to press here Wednesday.

HRW and AI allege that they have documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which have killed at least 913 civilians including 200 children.

In total, the UN Human Rights Office estimates that there are more than 9,000 causalities since military operations began in Yemen in March 2015. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian causalities as all other forces put together.

In a recent report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon found that the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of recorded child deaths and injuries, and nearly half of the 101 attacks on schools and hospitals.

However, the Secretary-General removed Saudi Arabia from a list of countries that have committed violations against children in that same report earlier this month, after the Gulf state reportedly threatened to withdraw funding from critical UN programs. HRW and AI called the list of countries the “list of shame.”

“I had to make a decision just to have all UN operations, particularly humanitarian operations, continue,” the Secretary-General said upon receiving criticism of the move.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs,” he continued.

In response, the Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi denied the use of threats and intimidation to remove the country from the list.

“It’s important to defend this very important mandate to protect children affected by armed conflict. Member states of the General Assembly ought to stand up and defend this mandate,” Bennett told the press.

In addition to the UN’s reporting, HRW and AI have also documented 19 attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen involving internationally banned cluster munitions, many of which were in civilian areas such as Sana’a University.

Alongside the nine nation-strong coalition led by Saudi Arabia, Executive Director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division Sarah Leah Whitson also noted that the United States and the United Kingdom have “crossed the threshold to become a part of this war” by being principle suppliers of weapons including cluster munitions. In 2015, Saudi Arabia purchased $20 billion of weapons from the U.S. and $4 billion from the UK.

The two Western nations have also provided intelligence support and targeting assistance during the conflict.

This makes them legally responsible for crimes being committed on the ground, Whitson stated.

Meanwhile, the coalition’s naval blockade of Yemen’s ports have drastically limited the supply of food and medicine, leaving over 80 percent of the population in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. This barrier and starvation of civilians is “a method of warfare and a war crime,” Whitson said.

“Failure to act on Saudi Arabia’s gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,” -- Richard Bennett

Saudi and U.S. officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but members of the coalition have repeatedly denied any violations of human rights.

Domestically, Saudi Arabia’s country’s crackdown on dissent has also persisted. In 2015, at least six people, including prominent writers and activists, were punished for the expression of their opinions. One was sentenced to death.

Even speaking to human rights groups such as HRW and AI is an offense, said Director of AI’s Asia-Pacific Program Richard Bennett.

Executions have also surged, Bennett noted.

Just in 2016, at least 95 people have been executed, higher than at the same point last year. Approximately 47 of them were killed in a mass execution in January. Many of these executions are for offenses which, under international law, must not be punishable by death.

Despite the well-documented violations in international humanitarian and human rights law, Saudi Arabia has used its membership in the HRC to shield itself from scrutiny and accountability, the two groups said.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia thwarted a resolution in the HRC that requested an investigation on alleged war crimes and other violations by all sides to the Yemeni conflict. Instead, the country drafted its own resolution that did not include a reference to an independent UN inquiry.

HRW and AI have also called on member states of the General Assembly (UNGA) to act in accordance to Resolution 60/251. The resolution states that the UNGA, with two-thirds of the vote, can suspend the rights of membership in the Council if a member commits human rights violations.

The rule has previously been invoked in 2011 when Libya’s membership was suspended due to human rights violations.

“We realize that the odds are against us,” Bolopion stated when asked about the likelihood of Saudi Arabia being suspended.

But Bolopion hopes the campaign will be a “wake-up call” for other countries to see that they cannot get away with conducting human rights abuses and to clean up their act.

HRW and AI also stressed that action is essential in order to maintain the UN’s integrity.

“Failure to act on Saudi Arabia’s gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,” Bennett concluded.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia, along with nine Arab states including Egypt and Kuwait, intervened in the Yemeni conflict and has since clashed with Houthi forces.

Despite UN-mediated peace talks which produced a ceasefire, there have been “serious violations” by both parties, the Secretary General said to Yemeni negotiators.

The negotiations are set to resume in mid-July following the Muslim Eid holiday.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say/feed/ 0
Uganda Rolls Out Compulsory Immunization to Dispel Anti-Vaccine Mythshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:49:56 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145876 Women wait to immunize their children at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda, where free vaccinations take place. The nurse in the foreground is Betty Makakeeto. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Women wait to immunize their children at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda, where free vaccinations take place. The nurse in the foreground is Betty Makakeeto. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Patience*, a Ugandan maid, planned on taking her three-year-old son for polio immunization during the country’s mass campaigns a year ago, until her landlord’s wife told her a shocking myth.

“The medicine they are injecting them with means the boy when he’s an adult won’t be able to reproduce,” Patience, 32, recalled to IPS what she’d been informed. “She said: ‘Don’t even think about immunization’.”

Patience said that in her neighborhood, the Kyebando slum in Kampala, many families “lied to medical personnel” because they were “terrified” about what this woman had told them.

Earlier this year, the country’s president signed the Immunization Act 2016, prescribing fines, a jail term of six months or both, for parents who don’t vaccinate their children in the age bracket of five days to one year old.“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals.” -- MP Huda Oleru

The Act also requires the production of an immunization card before admission to day care centres, pre-primary or primary education. It also aims to provide for compulsory immunization of women of reproductive age and other target groups against immunisable diseases.

According to the legislation, passed by Parliament last year, diseases for which immunization is compulsory include tuberculosis, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, polio and measles.

One in five African children still do not receive all of the most basic vaccines they need, including ones for three critical diseases—measles, rubella and neonatal tetanus – a report issued by WHO at the first ministerial on Immunization in Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February.

Uganda was ranked lowest in east Africa for immunization coverage, with one example being the country’s 2014 diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) coverage which was at 78 percent compared to DRC (80 percent) Kenya (81 percent), Tanzania (97 percent) and Rwanda (99 percent).

According to outgoing female MP Huda Oleru, who tabled the private member’s bill in 2011, the biggest obstacle to vaccination in Uganda was the 666 cult made up of more 500 members but “growing” across the country, who refuse to immunize their children.

“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals,” Oleru told IPS.

Oleru is continuing talks with the groups in eastern Uganda, and said she hoped “in the long-term” they would come around.

But for now the law was the “easiest way” of getting them to immunize their children.

“When I entered Parliament (ten years ago), I realised that we didn’t have an immunisation law, and a law is guidance or directive and it guides us in areas of impunity,” said Oleru.

At least ten members of a Christian group were detained over refusing to vaccinate their children against polio, the Daily Monitor reported last month.

Dr. Henry Luzze, the deputy program manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, told IPS the government was currently vaccinating against ten diseases. It had submitted an application to GAVI ((the Vaccine Alliance) and received approval to introduce the rotavirus vaccine for diarrhea in children, a “big problem”. They were also looking at introducing a rubella vaccine by 2018 and a second measles vaccination to be given at 18 months.

Measles were still a huge threat, after outbreaks last year in western Uganda, he said.

“We still have some districts and communities that are still below what we want in terms of coverage in the eastern part of the country, areas where there are very high hills and no transport,” said Dr Luze.

Children were also not being vaccinated due to shortages in a number of facilities at a district level, but through recent support from GAVI, Uganda was able to procure solar powered fridges to keep the vaccines in areas prone to power cuts.

The influx of refugees from Burundi, DRC and South Sudan, where immunization rates are low, pose another challenge to Uganda. Late last month at least three cases of yellow fever were confirmed here, with scores of cases suspected.

According to the new Act, “the government shall provide free vaccines and other related services to every Ugandan required to receive vaccination”.

Dr Luzze said the law was good as it was balanced and compels the government to “make sure all the vaccination services are in place”.

“After that, then you commit the parents or the caretakers to make sure all their children are vaccinated,” said Dr Luzze, claiming the legislation “empowers CSOs to challenge the government”, who could be taken to court over shortages.

But there has already been some criticism from Ugandans that the law is too harsh, and during a recent mass polio campaign, held in March, there were reports that about 2,000 children below the age of five missed out on immunizations in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, according to the country’s Daily Monitor newspaper.

The Act also creates the establishment of an Immunization Fund, house by the ministry of health, to “purchase vaccines and related supplies, cold chains, and funding of immunization outreach activities”.

Sources will be made of up monies appropriate by Parliament for the fund and donations.

“GAVI has been supporting this country so much and they’re still giving, but the challenge is GAVI has its criteria,” said Oleru. “Soon we might become a middle-income country, then we shall not be eligible (for support) under GAVI.”

Luzze said he believed the law would be easy to enforce because “the president, the ministers, the parliamentarians, religious leaders” all supported it.

President Yoweri Museveni was “aggressive” about promoting immunization because he believes it saves “families from spending too much money and time caring for sick members”, among other reasons, said his spokesperson Lindah Nabusayi.

Dr Moses Byaruhanga, the director of medical and health services for Uganda’s police, told IPS the authorities would go on radio talk shows to talk about the law, but would be strict on it.

“Police will be able to find out if (parents) did not take their kids for immunization,” he said, adding health workers, local leaders and schools would be the eyes and ears of the community.

International immunization experts such as Mike McQuestion, director of sustainable immunization financing at Sabin Vaccine Institute in the US, have praised the new legislation as a “textbook example of good governance”.

“The way the Ugandans created this law was itself impressive,” he told IPS. “Several public institutions had to work together to write it, vet it and push it through.”

In late March, about two weeks after it emerged the law had passed, Patience had her son immunized against polio, during a door-to-door mass campaign.

“It was very easy, they just put a drop in the mouth, then a mark on the finger,” she said, adding it took only three minutes.

Patience admitted she had been “partly” worried about going to jail under the new law, and that was the reason she’d chosen to vaccinate her son. But she said the nurse had told her “you shouldn’t not vaccinate him because you’ll be arrested, but because he can get sick”.

“I think now he is free from becoming sick,” said Patience.

*Patience’s name was changed for personal reasons.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/feed/ 2
Islamists and Secularists Adjust to Work Togetherhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/islamists-and-secularists-adjust-to-work-together/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamists-and-secularists-adjust-to-work-together http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/islamists-and-secularists-adjust-to-work-together/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 20:56:56 +0000 Ruby Amatulla http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145803 By Ruby Amatulla
Jun 24 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

It is encouraging to watch how Rachid Ghannouchi and Nahdha, the largest and most popular Islamic political party in Tunisia which is now widely expected to come to power again in the next election, have been transforming over time. Recently Ghannouchi astonished the world by declaring that “We will exit political Islam”, meaning that the country would be working to separate religious work from politics. Coming from one who once advocated Sharia law in governance, this change is amazing. Ghannouchi’s leadership of remaining flexible, without compromising fundamental values and principles of Islam, has played a major role in helping Tunisia to become a vibrant democracy today, when other countries in the region have failed.

The goals of the revolution in Tunisia have not yet been achieved but the country is seeing some progress. photo: afp

The goals of the revolution in Tunisia have not yet been achieved but the country is seeing some progress. photo: afp

While Nahdha was in power, two opposition leaders were assassinated in 2013 and there were mass protests. To restore trust and confidence among people, Nahdha resigned and handed over power to a neutral caretaker government, who would be in charge until the next election. A secular party, Nidaa Tounes, got the majority in the Parliament in the subsequent election held in October 2014. Nahdha readily conceded defeat and pledged its cooperation. Thus a dignified political tradition, complying with the democratic spirit, was initiated. People’s trust was restored. Even the parties who lost in the last two elections in Tunisia confirm that elections were fair and the system is working well.

Going back, in June 2003, representatives of three major secular political parties made a visionary and courageous move in meeting representatives of Nahdha, then in exile, to negotiate and sign a joint declaration: “Call from Tunis” (issued from Paris). That document laid down rules of future political engagements that would ensure upholding democratic principles as well as respecting religious traditions and guaranteeing religious freedom. Since then, constructive engagements and protracted negotiations for a decade or so have produced a progressive Constitution, including terms of gender parity, proportional representation (PR) electoral system, and so on; a political system that should be emulated by the rest of the Muslim world.

This is an enormous achievement for a previously divided society that was ruled by autocrats since its independence from France in 1956, and torn between modernity and religious traditions. Since the Jasmine Revolution that ended President Ben Ali’s 23-year autocratic rule in January 2011, the nation has gone through difficulties but has survived with amazing resilience. The main contributing factor is the constructive engagement of the oppositions and the consequent changes in the greater society creating optimism and public trust in the political processes.

Right after the revolution, Nahdha was very popular and was widely expected to win about 90 percent seats in the Constituent Assembly without the PR [proportional representation] system. That would be unacceptable to the secular and liberal parties. To avoid turmoil in the country, Nahdha accepted PR whereby, they knew, the party’s share of the Assembly would drastically shrink.

In fact in the October 2011 elections, after using the PR system, Nahdha got only 41 percent seats. In spite of being the largest party in the Assembly, Nahdha formed coalition and shared power with the two secular groups. Paradoxically, the constraints and compromises of power-sharing among the oppositions have been the key to Tunisia’s success in having a functional democracy today.

On the other hand, Egypt, a regional power, could not hang on to the emancipation process after ending the long repressive rule of Hosni Mubarak around the same time of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution in January 2011. Only two-and-a-half years after the Revolution, and one year after Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was elected president, a military coup removed Morsi from power on July 3, 2013. Again a military man, the former Defence Minister, Abdel Fateh al-Sisi, who led the last coup, is on the throne, claiming to have received over 90 percent votes in the last election. Egypt is back full circle.

he main reason Egypt was unsuccessful is because secularists and Islamic groups failed to reach out to each other. President Morsi, after assuming power, refused to listen to the secular voices in the country, took an uncompromising approach, tried to consolidate power fast, and sent a signal of another authoritarian rule in Egypt. Massive protests erupted nationwide and turmoil ensued. The army took over power. The nation, since its independence from Britain in 1922, lost a historic opportunity for self-rule. The Islamic party bears a lion’s share of the blame for this failure. However, looking back, secular forces also remain responsible for this unfortunate outcome. Moderate Islamists have been persecuted at the hands of autocratic secular rulers going back to Nasser’s time over 60 years ago, while secular groups and civil society gave lip service to pluralism but remained silent when moderate Islamists were oppressed and their rights were violated.

Many western and eastern scholars have been repeatedly pointing out that whenever constructive moves of moderate Islamist groups are ignored and they are persecuted, extreme radical forces emerge. Ghannouchi confirms: Salafist and Jehadist groups emerged both in Tunisia and Egypt during the repressive secular rules.

As radicalism intensifies, autocratic regimes find more excuses to continue their grip in the name of fighting terrorism. In reality, they imprison opposition leaders at will and violate the civil rights of citizens. The western powers, in the name of stability, support and do business with these undemocratic ruthless regimes. Their support reinforces the status quo and their hypocrisy creates cynicism and distrust among the people under such a repressive rule. The anger and frustration of some segments of the society, especially of the younger generation, help reinforce radicalism. Radicals find more justifications for their vicious work. That also increases the ferocity of repression.

This vicious cycle continues with the reckless way of pursuing de-radicalisation. The recent events in many countries is a testament to the fact that the ‘War on Terror’ policy has failed, in spite of spending hundreds of billions of dollars by the powerful western countries. There is no military solution to radicalism, especially in this global society with an ever higher intolerance for subjugation and humiliation, and with the ever more availability of arms through reckless arms businesses. It is long overdue that the world powers focus on a deep rooted agenda to address radicalism, such as helping establish power-sharing democratic rule. The counterproductive strategy of pursuing stability at the expense of democracy ultimately helps create a stagnant situation devoid of both stability and democracy.

Tunisia seems to be getting out of this quagmire. Radicals have either mostly been transformed or marginalised. Both Islamists and secularists are finding common grounds and democracy is thriving in the country.

The writer is Executive Director, US based Justice, Peace and Progress.
E-mail: rubyamatullah@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/islamists-and-secularists-adjust-to-work-together/feed/ 0
Collective Indifference or Silent Acceptance?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/collective-indifference-or-silent-acceptance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=collective-indifference-or-silent-acceptance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/collective-indifference-or-silent-acceptance/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:30:52 +0000 Moyukh Mahtab http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145773 By Moyukh Mahtab
Jun 23 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

When blogger Rajib Haider was killed in 2013, the outcry was tremendous. But, over the next three years, at least 38 more were added to the list of those murdered, which includes writers, publisher, foreigners, religious minorities and LGBT rights activists. There have been reports about alleged IS involvement, and last week, the security forces launched a drive that resulted in the arrest of 194 ‘militants’. But the collective outrage over people being murdered seems to have mellowed.

Alfredo Ramos Martínez, 1934.

Alfredo Ramos Martínez, 1934.

It’s almost as if there is a general indifference towards those being killed now – there has even been ‘doubts’ about whether the slain deserved their fate. Of course, most Muslims in this country are not radical in their belief. But certain attitudes towards minorities have made the situation worse. As long as there is an impression that many people find nothing wrong with the murder of those who might have differing beliefs, whoever is behind these killings, be it Hizb ut-Tahrir, Ansarullah Bangla Team, JMB or even IS, are being ‘legitimised’ in their acts.

A recent article by The New York Times tries to explain the situation. The report quotes the Chief of the Police Counterterrorism Unit, Monirul Islam: “They have tried to pick their targets with care, with the aim of gaining support from the public. . . Their goal was to convert Bangladesh’s mixed secular and religious culture to an Islamist one.” The report does not inspire hope. Further comments from Monirul Islam and the reporter run along the same lines: “To a surprising extent, the militants have succeeded in their aim of discrediting secularism”; “In general, people think they have done the right thing, that it’s not unjustifiable to kill”. (“Bangladesh Says It Now Knows Who’s Killing the Bloggers”, NYT, June 8, 2016)

The killers seem to have achieved what they wanted. They targeted the deep-rooted cultural biases and attitudes of the largely Sunni Muslim population of the country. The moment bloggers of the Shahbagh movement became branded as ‘atheists’, the public outrage over fanaticism shifted. A pervasive fear has taken hold that Islam is somehow under threat, and eliminating elements that supposedly run counter to the religion need to be discarded. In the week of the police crackdown on militancy, a Hindu college teacher was stabbed in Madaripur, and staff of Ramakrishna Mission received death threats. And yet, the majority of the people remain unconcerned.

And here we must confront some uncomfortable issues. Despite our loud proclamations of being a secularist country, are we truly, by any definition secular? Our Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and safeguards against persecution due to religious belief. Secularism entails official neutrality of the state in matters of religion: that is religion is a personal issue, not a state one.

Yet, our minorities have been marginalised over the past four decades and the country’s Hindu population is on a decline (from about 30 percent before ’71 to less than 10 percent today). Since independence, secularism as a basic principle of the Constitution was removed, a state religion was ordained, and now we have the conflicting state of both being there at the same time.

Institutions like the Awami Olama League can today demand removal of Hindu ministers and judges with impunity and still operate under the AL banner. Age-old traditions of celebrating Pahela Baishakh are challenged as being un-Islamic. There has been increasing pressure from sections of society trying to impose parochial values and codes on women in the name of religious decency. Just this week a post that sparked a lot of debate on social media exemplified the manifestation of our belief when a woman was abused verbally on the road for driving a car instead of being at home, preparing iftari. The abuse was met with support of the general onlookers, as they berated the woman for not being at home, where she belonged.

Clearly, the state of affairs did not develop overnight; ghosts of unresolved communal issues, stretching from 1971 to as far as at least 1947, and the post-independence coups and countercoups have resulted in a fragile and fragmented society with serious identity issues. We seem to be grappling with the question of who we are. Instead of our identity being based on our roots in this country, with the corresponding effect of apathy and hostility towards not just other religions, but also towards other Islamic schools of thought like those of Shias and Ahmeddiyas. The root of the problem is that increasing number of people, including students, from universities and madrasas, are becoming radicalised.

On top of that, the educated liberal elites’ defensive stance on the issue has created further confusion. The Islamophobia in the West, and the repercussion of US foreign policy, has meant that Muslims here have been active in refuting the terrorist association with Islam. But, what they seem to miss is that the Islamophobia of Trump in a country where Muslims are a minority, and the case of a country like Bangladesh with a Muslim majority are not the same. Islam does not promote terrorism and killings in any form. That does not mean that certain schools of thought have not misinterpreted the religion in justifying vile acts. The flagging of all Muslims as terrorists is reprehensible, as is refusing to deal with the fact that in the name of the religion, actions are being carried out that go against its core values.

The previously mentioned New York Times article quotes authorities in Bangladesh as saying: “Only when the leaders are caught will the attacks be stopped, and at that, only for a while if the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism is not blunted.” Collectively, we are indifferent towards those being hunted down and butchered. We refuse to acknowledge the issues that plague our society. Religion is not at fault here. The problem is with how religion is being interpreted by some people; the killers are being used as pawns, while the general people stand aloof. As long as we do not confront our exclusionary beliefs and accept that people with different beliefs than ours live in this country, no amount of anti-militancy drives or constitutional amendments can stop the killings.

The writer is a member of the editorial team, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/collective-indifference-or-silent-acceptance/feed/ 0
Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/feed/ 0