Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Saffron politics with education in Assam

BJP is on a roll and has won many of the Indian states' legislative assemblies including Assam, next to Bangladesh, showing its ugly fascist Hindutvadi face. The state has a significant population of minority Muslims many of whom sent their children to madrasas for education.
It is worth noting here that the Madrassa Education Board was established as long back as 1934 and has been regulated since. There are more than 700 schools under this board.
Assam's current deputy chief minister is Himanta Biswa Sarma, a die-hard Hindutvadi, of the BJP government wants to stop madrasas in Assam. He has no moral qualm to grant Rs 10 crore to the schools run by Vidya Bharati, a sister organization of RSS, the Hindutvadi fascist organization.
The minister’s fixation with government-run madrassas is an example of his recent fondness for promoting Hindutva than a real intent to reform education. A few months ago, Sarma announced that state-run Madrassa schools would be closed only on Sunday and not on Friday, a day which is considered holy in the Islamic calendar and which has been general practice in Assam. He went on to point out that it was only madrassas in Pakistan and Bangladesh that remained closed on Friday.
A few days ago, Sarma tweeted that separate directorate for Madrassa education would be abolished and its functions supervised by the Board of Secondary Education.
As noted by Uddipan Dutta it is too early to comment on the modalities of this proposed change. However, one needs to be watchful of the manner in which Sarma is surreptitiously pushing a saffron agenda. This certainly doesn’t augur well for Assam which is rightfully proud of its long cherished secular tradition in education.

Come clean on Middle East air strikes: HRW

Human Rights Watch has demanded the Defence department come clean on past air strikes in Iraq and Syria and the extent of civilian casualties.
The department has begun a new attempt at transparency making fortnightly reports available on its website.
The day before the federal budget in early May, it's first report carried a brief descriptions of seven strikes in Mosul, Iraq, between April 18-30, but did not specifically mention any civilian casualties.
The second report was due to be released on Monday.
Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Elaine Pearson said the reports were a good first step and urged the department to provide backdated reports from the past two and a half years.
She called on Defence Minister Marise Payne to detail any past investigations carried out into civilian casualties and the outcomes.
"We urge you to immediately release details on civilian casualties caused by Australian air strikes, and if you are not collecting such information, to start doing so without delay," she said in a letter to the minister.
Ms Pearson said reliance on video assessments taken from the air wouldn't give the full picture of casualties, especially in densely populated areas.
"The government should actively seek this information and not wait for it to be publicly reported before beginning an investigation," she said.
Documents released under freedom of information in March said the federal government did not collect "authoritative" data on the enemy or civilian casualties.
Ms Pearson said the government should also collaborate with Airwars, a non-government group monitoring air strikes and civilian deaths in the Middle East.
It estimates 3530 civilians have been killed in coalition air strikes.
The US-led coalition acknowledges an estimated 352 civilian deaths.
Airwars last year rated Australia one of the least transparent members of the international military coalition.
A spokesman for Senator Payne said Defence would disclose allegations of civilian casualties if they were made but ruled out issuing backdated reports.
The US is the only member of the coalition against Islamic State militants that has admitted to causing civilian casualties.

Read more at http://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/05/22/13/45/come-clean-on-middle-east-air-strikes#dFCXhQc9AAZEhVkw.99

Monday, May 22, 2017

Commencement speech of Mahsheed Mahjor

This evening, while listening to the PBS Newhour, I was simply amazed to listen to the commencement speech of a young Afghan student studying in the USA. Her name is Mahsheed Mahjor, a graduate of the class of 2017 from Muhlenberg College, PA. She delivered her student address at commencement on hardships and inequities around the world, the role of citizenship and the value of her education.
Hers was a very powerful speech, which must be listened by many. I have not heard too many of her kind. It is really worth listening to this young girl who is already so wise at such a young age. Simply impressive!
You can hear her speech by clicking here.

Shame on India!

Major Nitin Gogoi, who tied a civilian to an army jeep as a human shield in Kashmir, has been awarded by the Indian Army for counter-insurgency operations.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has awarded Gogoi with a commendation card for 'sustained efforts' on counter-insurgency operations.
"Major Gogoi has been awarded Chief of Army Staff's Commendation Card for sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations," Army spokesperson Aman Anand said.
This news is simply shameful! It bares the ugly side of Indian occupation of Kashmir. Shame on India and its army chief!
The army had come in for criticism one the video was out, with reports saying that the act constituted a war-crime.
Sources said Major Gogoi was given the award during Gen Rawat's visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week.
The Army Chief's 'Commendation Card' is considered a prestigious award and is given for distinguished services and devotion to duties.
A video, showing the man tied to the army vehicle during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election on April 9, had triggered a public outcry, prompting the Army to institute a probe.
The CoI was tasked to look into the circumstance that prompted Major Gogoi to tie the Kashmiri youth to the jeep's bonnet as a "human shield".
The man, who was seen tied to an army jeep on polling day had been identified as Farooq Dar, while the army unit involved in the act was 53 Rashtriya Rifles.
Dar was later quoted as saying, “I am not a stone-pelter. Never in my life have I thrown stones. I work as an embroiderer of shawls, and I know some carpentry. This is what I do.”
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In a separate news, I was equally perturbed to learn that a former Bollywood actor and now a BJP  Parliamentarian Paresh Rawal has tweeted that writer-author Arundhati Roy should be used as human-shield in the Kashmir valley instead of stone-pelters. Rawal's tweeting is simply inexcusable and sickening and shows where is India heading these days under Hindutvadi fascists.
Booker Prize winner Roy’s causes have all landed her in conflict with the Hindu Right that freely bandies the phrase ‘anti-national’.
In a tweet that instantly attracted a series of crticism as well as support, the Padmashree winning-actor made an open attack on Roy who has, on various ocassions, spoken against the human rights violation in Kashmir.

Why Tulsi Gabbard cannot be defended

Today while browsing the Internet, I was surprised to see an article in defense of Tulsi Gabbard, the hypocrite congresswoman from Hawaii.  It was probably posted by a staffer working for Tulsi. It was a shameful display of indefensible argument for Tulsi to support a controversial petition HR 608. I have reviewed Tulsi's hypocrisy in the past quite thoroughly and find her insincere and opportunist.
The interested reader may like to click here to read my points of view on Tulsi.

Hypocrisy and Condescension - by Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. Here is the link to his latest article on Trump's visit of the Middle East.

Not remembering USS Liberty attack

It is safe to assume that when President Donald Trump lands in Israel Monday, he will not have been briefed on the irrefutable evidence that, nearly 50 years ago – on June 8, 1967 – Israel deliberately attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 U.S. sailors and wounding more than 170 other crew. All of Trump’s predecessors – Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – have refused to address the ugly reality and/or covered up the attack on the Liberty.
It is not too late for someone to fill Trump in on this shameful episode, on the chance he may wish to show more courage than former presidents and warn the Israelis that this kind of thing will not be tolerated while he is president.
A new book by Philip Nelson titled: Remember the Liberty: Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas, is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand what actually happened to the Liberty and to contemplate the implications.
To read more on this subject, click here.

The 'Muslim World' Does Not Exist

Dr. Zareena Grewal is an Associate Professor American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University. She is a historical anthropologist and a documentary filmmaker whose research focuses on race, gender, religion, nationalism, and transnationalism across a wide spectrum of American Muslim communities. Her first book, Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (NYU 2013), is an ethnography of transnational Muslim networks that link US mosques to Islamic movements in the post-colonial Middle East through debates about the reform of Islam.
Her latest article on President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia appeared in the Atlantic and can be read below.
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“I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world,” President Trump said in Riyadh on Sunday, in a speech billed as a call to Muslims to promote a peaceful understanding of Islam and to unite against terrorists.
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, but it is not the capital of the Muslim world. In fact, it’s worth remembering that “the Muslim world” is not actually a place. It’s a Western idea built on the faulty racial logic that Muslims live in a world of their own—that Islam is an eastern, foreign religion that properly belongs in a distant, faraway, dusty place. (This is arguably the logic that underlies Trump’s Muslim travel ban, currently held up in the courts: Islam is foreign, “Islam hates us,” Islam cannot possibly be a real American religion and that is why we can ban its adherents. Stephen Miller, an architect of the travel ban, was also reportedly among the writers of Trump’s Islam speech.)
If the Muslim world were the modern equivalent of the premodern concept of “Islamdom” (lands ruled by Muslims), it would refer only to Muslim-majority countries; countries where Muslims are national minorities, such as China and India, would be left out. If the Muslim world is a euphemism for the Middle East (sometimes Afghanistan and Pakistan are mistakenly lumped in, too), what to make of the fact that 80 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims live outside the Middle East, including American Muslims like me?
Trump will also visit Jerusalem and the Vatican on his Abrahamic religions world tour, but we certainly do not imagine him addressing all Jews or all Christians from those cities. We understand Israel to be a modern, Zionist nation-state, not the representative of all Jews worldwide. Similarly, we understand the Vatican as the institutional center of a global Catholic network, not the heart of Christendom.
The same should apply to the theocratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Kingdom does not and cannot speak for all Muslims around the world just because sites Muslims consider sacred are contained within its borders. In fact, when Muslim pilgrims arrive in Mecca, they are often dismayed to find that the Saudi government has allowed hotels, fast-food chains, and malls to encroach right up to the very edges of Muslims’ holiest sites. It’s hard to imagine the U.S. government allowing a Starbucks to be built next to the Grand Canyon; the Saudi government’s urban planning aesthetic, driven by profit, is not sensitive to the sensibilities of most Muslims. And the Saudi government’s bombing campaigns in Yemen, and blocking of humanitarian aid, have sparked moral condemnation among ordinary Muslims and human rights activists worldwide.
Muslims around the world are expressing a wide variety of reactions to Trump’s address, just as they expressed a wide variety of reactions to President Obama’s address in Cairo in 2009. Obama’s “Muslim World Address” was framed as a renewed bid for the Muslim hearts and minds that had been the “other” front in President Bush’s War on Terror, in order to signal that Americans were not “at war with Islam.” Every word of Obama’s speech had been carefully weighed by both the president himself and by his Muslim American speechwriter, Rashad Hussain, and every word was thoroughly scrutinized afterwards. Was Obama’s tone too conciliatory or too critical of Muslim societies? Was it a mark of integrity or of weakness for him to admit American complicity in upholding the Iranian shah’s brutal regime? And what about Obama’s decision to cite American Muslims like Muhammad Ali as proof of American exceptionalism and as evidence of the success and tolerance enjoyed by Muslim minorities in the U.S.?
 
Nevertheless, Obama’s speech did inspire hope that the U.S. would begin to properly promote democracy, freedom, and stability in the postcolonial world. On the eve of Ramadan, date sellers in Cairo named the most expensive, juiciest holiday fruit after Obama and the cheaper, dried up ones after Bush, reflecting the political mood.
Trump, too, has given a pre-Ramadan speech that is sure to be widely dissected—but his actions speak louder than his words. He is not only countenancing Saudi Arabia’s strikes against civilians in Yemen, which the United Nations reported could constitute crimes against humanity, but appears to be actually rewarding the Saudis: He just inked a weapons sale to them worth $110 billion. Obama had also sold billions in weapons to the Saudis, but he did freeze weapons sales after a strike on a funeral home reflected a pattern of attacks on civilians. Trump’s deal is a sinister reversal of Obama’s policy and belies anything he said in his Islam speech about peace or refugees. The war in Yemen, after all, could produce the world’s next refugee crisis.
Trump’s visit also marked the launch of a joint Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. He called the fight against terrorism a “battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.” It was clear from his praise of autocratic Muslim leaders what the criteria are in Trump’s view to be a “decent” or “good” or “moderate” Muslim. The “moderate” Muslim is the Muslim who will endorse a version of his or her own religion that has already been endorsed by the U.S. government. The “moderate” Muslim is the Muslim who will uncritically toe the line when it comes to U.S. policy. The “moderate” Muslim is the Muslim who will suppress dissent; no protests of Trump’s visit were permitted in Saudi Arabia.
This is why I disavow the politically loaded label of “moderate Muslim.” In fact, I always introduce myself as a “radical Muslim” in order to recuperate the term.
As I’ve written before, we have come to understand the term “radical Muslim” as a slur, a synonym for “terrorist.” And yet, around the world, Muslims who are committed to social justice, anti-racism, feminism, anti-imperialism, and, yes, peace, describe themselves as radicals. There is an alternative, thriving, radical strain of Islamic thought based on peaceful dissent, represented through figures like Muhammad Ali. Ali, who Obama propped up as a moral exemplar to the Muslim world, opposed both the policies of the U.S. government and militant Muslims—be they the perpetrators of the Iranian hostage crisis or the San Bernardino shooters—whom he felt misrepresented the authentic teachings of Islam with their violence. In Saudi Arabia, the radical Muslims who give me hope are the young Muslim feminists, and committed Muslims, who are agitating for political reform and peace.
Although many Western analysts are focusing on Trump’s softened language on Islam, I do not find anything heartening or politically meaningful about the fact that Trump traded the vitriolic anti-Muslim rhetoric that helped get him elected for a more conciliatory tone aimed at pleasing his Saudi hosts. This is crude political expediency, ripped straight from his playbook, the art of the (weapons and oil) deal.
Trump’s dangerous fantasy world is one where violence flows out of America’s borders to a faraway “Muslim world” in the form of weapons sales and military operations, while jobs and dollars and oil flow back to the United States. Violence flowing toward America can be blocked at the borders simply by banning Muslim bodies. The Muslim world is tolerated, so long as it serves American interests from afar.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trump speaks in Riyadh

President Trump delivered a speech Sunday in front of Arab and Muslim leaders at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, urging the Muslim world to take a stand against global terrorism and share the burden of eradicating extremism in the region. The Shi'ite majority country Iran and its allies were not invited in the meeting. His speech was a far cry from his rhetoric during the election campaign and much more conciliatory.
The full extract of his speech can be read by clicking here.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM - report on Burma

The year 2016 marked a historic and peaceful transition of government in Burma, also known as Myanmar. Yet while the political handover occurred without incident, conditions during the year continued to decline for Rohingya Muslims, as well as for other religious and ethnic minorities. In addition, fresh and renewed fighting in some ethnic areas highlighted the schism between Burma’s civilian-controlled leadership and the military, which controls three powerful ministries and significant portions of the economy. Although the circumstances and root causes driving the ill treatment of religious and ethnic groups differ, there are two common elements: (1) the outright impunity for abuses and crimes committed by the military and some non-state actors, and (2) the depth of the humanitarian crisis faced by displaced persons and others targeted for their religious and/or ethnic identity. Due to both governmental and societal discrimination, Rohingya Muslims—tens of thousands of whom are currently displaced— are stateless and vulnerable, and many Christians are restricted from public worship and subjected to coerced conversion to Buddhism. Given that the National League for Democracy (NLD) government has allowed systematic, egregious, and ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief to continue, USCIRF again finds that Burma merits designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, in 2017 under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The State Department has designated Burma as a CPC since 1999, most recently in October 2016. Non-state actors such as Ma Ba Tha and other nationalist individuals and groups do not meet the definition of an “entity of particular concern” under the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (P.L. 114-281), but merit continued international scrutiny for their severe violations of religious freedom and related human rights.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT

• Continue to designate Burma as a CPC under IRFA;
• Enter into a binding agreement with the government of Burma, as authorized under section 405(c) of IRFA, setting forth  mutually agreed commitments that would foster critical reforms to improve religious freedom and establish a pathway that could   lead to Burma’s eventual removal from the CPC list, including but not limited to the following:
•Taking concrete steps to end violence and policies of discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, including the investigation and prosecution of those perpetrating or inciting violence; and
• Lifting all restrictions inconsistent with international standards on freedom of religion or belief;
• Continue to encourage Burma’s government to allow humanitarian aid and workers, international human rights monitors, and   independent media consistent and unimpeded access to conflict areas, including in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states and other   locations where displaced persons and affected civilian populations reside, and direct U.S. assistance to these efforts, as   appropriate;
• Support efforts by the international community, including at the United Nations, to establish a commission of inquiry or similar   independent mechanism to investigate the root causes and allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan    states and other conflict areas, and to hold accountable those responsible— including members of the military and law enforcement—for perpetrating or inciting violence against civilians, particularly religious and ethnic minorities;
• Encourage Burma’s government to become party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
• Engage the government of Burma, the Buddhist community (especially its leaders), religious and ethnic minorities (including   Rohingya Muslims and Christian communities), and other actors who support religious freedom, tolerance, inclusivity, and   reconciliation, to assist them in promoting understanding among people of different religious faiths and to impress upon them   the importance of pursuing improvements in religious tolerance and religious freedom in tandem with political improvements;
• Use the term “Rohingya” both publicly and privately, which respects the right of Rohingya Muslims to identify as they choose;
• Encourage crucial legal and legislative reform that strengthens protections for religious and ethnic minorities, including  citizenship for the Rohingya population through the review, amendment, or repeal of the 1982 Citizenship Law or some other  means, and support the proper training of local government officials, lawyers, judges, police, and security forces tasked with implementing, enforcing, and interpreting the rule of law;
• Press for at the highest levels and work to secure the unconditional release of prisoners of conscience and persons detained or awaiting trial, and press Burma’s government to treat prisoners humanely and allow them access to family, human rights monitors, adequate medical care, and lawyers and the ability to practice their faith; and
• Use targeted tools against specific officials, agencies, and military units identified as having participated in or being responsible for human rights abuses, including particularly severe violations of religious freedom, such as adding further names to the “specially designated nationals” list maintained by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, visa denials under section 604(a) of IRFA and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and asset freezes under the Global Magnitsky Act.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CONDITIONS  2016–2017 

The Persecution of Rohingya and Other Muslims 

  In 2016, Rohingya Muslims suffered the harshest crackdown since waves of violence in June and October 2012 killed hundreds, displaced thousands, and destroyed hundreds of religious properties. On October 9, 2016, a large group of insurgents believed to be Rohingya Muslims carried out a series of attacks in and around Maungdaw Township in northern Rakhine State, targeting Border Guard Police and other law enforcement facilities and resulting in the deaths of nine police officers. In response, Burma’s military and law enforcement instituted a sweeping clearance operation that cut off humanitarian aid and restricted independent media access. According to a February 2017 report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), approximately 66,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh between October 9 and early 2017. Since the report’s release, the number is reportedly more than 70,000. (Several thousand also were internally displaced, including some ethnic Rakhine.) Rohingya victims and witnesses interviewed by OHCHR for the report described extrajudicial killings; death by shooting, stabbing, burning, and beating; killing of children; enforced disappearances; rape and other sexual violence; arbitrary detention and arrests; looting and destruction of property, including by arson; and enhanced restrictions on religious freedom. The report concluded that crimes against humanity likely had been committed.

   During 2016, the NLD government failed to respond both to the violence in northern Rakhine State perpetrated by the military and security forces, and more broadly to the discrimination and ill treatment of Rohingya Muslims. In one government attempt at compromise that further inflamed tensions, on June 19 the Ministry of Information directed state media to use the terms “Buddhists in Rakhine State” and, rather than “Rohingya” or “Bengali,” “Muslims in Rakhine State.” For different reasons, both ethnic Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine strongly objected, including thousands of Rakhine Buddhists who protested throughout Rakhine State. Also, as noted above in the Background section, hundreds of ethnic Rakhine, including Buddhist monks, protested the government’s decision to include foreigners in the Annan Commission. The government also largely remained silent in the aftermath of the military’s indiscriminate and disproportionate clearance operation in northern Rakhine State. Not only has the NLD government refrained from speaking out against the violence, but it also has rejected

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Not only has the NLD government  refrained from 
speaking out against  the violence, but it also has
 rejected  and denied many of the  
military’s reported abuses. . . .
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and denied many of the military’s reported abuses and rebuffed the international community’s concerns. The government did establish an investigation commission to examine the October 9 incident in northern Rakhine State. However, the selection of military-appointed Vice President U Myint Swe to lead the commission raised concern among human rights advocates. On December 15, the commission reported on its visit to northern Rakhine State in a State Counsellor’s office-issued statement that refuted a report made by one Rohingya woman about an alleged rape by military personnel and portrayed living conditions in a largely positive light, a characterization incongruous with nearly all other accounts of the situation in Rakhine. In its January 2017 interim report, the commission found no evidence of genocide and insufficient evidence supporting numerous rape allegations, and failed to mention civilian deaths at the hands of security forces even though authorities just days earlier detained several police officers after the release of a video showing them beating Rohingya Muslims. (For further information about abuses against Rohingya Muslims, refer to Suspended in Time: The Ongoing Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma at www.uscirf.gov.)

     Ill treatment of Rohingya Muslims goes beyond violence. For example, in September 2016, as part of a nationwide government-ordered initiative to demolish religious structures built without state or regional permission, Rakhine State authorities announced plans to demolish several mosques and madrassahs (Islamic schools). The demolition order also applied to Buddhist structures, like pagodas, that lacked official government permission. However, religious minorities typically have more difficulty obtaining the multiple layers of government permission required to build or a repair houses of worship and therefore often do so without authorization, making them more vulnerable to the demolition order. 

    Government and non-state actors also perpetrate discrimination and violence against Muslims who are not ethnically Rohingya. In June 2016, a reported mob of approximately 200 Buddhists destroyed parts of a mosque in Bago Region, along with other nearby property. Then, on July 1, another mob burned down a mosque in Hpakant, Kachin State; police arrested five people in connection with the arson. In both incidents, Muslims fled, fearful for their safety. Prompted by the violence, 19 nongovernmental organizations issued a joint statement calling on Burma’s government to investigate, hold perpetrators accountable, and ensure freedom of religion or belief.
 
U.S. POLICY

   The United States must reinforce with Burma its responsibility to incorporate religious freedom and related human rights as part of the broader peace process; continue to press for the rights of Rohingya and other Muslims, Christians, and other religious and ethnic groups; and make clear to the government of 
 
 
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[I]nterfaith activists Zaw Zaw Latt and  Pwint Phyu Latt, 
both Muslim,  were sentenced to two years’  
imprisonment on charges relating  to their 
interfaith activities. . . .
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Burma that perpetuating and tolerating human rights abuses is not without consequence.

    During the year, the United States remained engaged with Burma on the serious human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims. On March 17, 2016, the Department of State issued the Atrocities Prevention Report, which, with respect to Rohingya Muslims in Burma, underscored pervasive governmental discrimination and the role of non-state actors in perpetrating violence. On April 28, after the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon used the term “Rohingya” in a condolence statement issued following a boat accident that killed more than 20 people, hundreds of nationalist protestors, including Buddhist monks and Ma Ba Tha supporters, staked out the embassy to object. In May, hundreds more in Mandalay protested the U.S. government’s use of the term. Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated publicly it preferred the U.S. Embassy avoid using the term, but the U.S. government continues to use it as appropriate. Also, in November 2016 U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel was part of an international delegation that visited Rakhine State. On December 9, the U.S. Embassy signed a joint statement with 13 other diplomatic missions expressing concern about the lack of “desperately needed” humanitarian assistance in northern Rakhine State and urging Burma’s government to fully resume assistance deliveries.

   On May 17, the United States announced it would partially ease sanctions against Burma by removing restrictions on three state-owned banks and seven state-owned businesses. In late July, the United States announced $21 million in new assistance funding to Burma, primarily for economic governance. On September 14, while State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi visited Washington, DC, then President Barack Obama announced the United States would remove Burma’s national emergency designation, paving the way to lift economic sanctions and restore duty-free trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences. After also lifting restrictions on the import of jade and rubies and delisting 111 individuals and companies from the Treasury Department’s “specially designated nationals” list, only a few restrictions remain, including trade with North Korea, military assistance, and visa bans on some former and current military members. Also during Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit, the two countries announced the U.S.-Myanmar Partnership, which includes cooperation and support on issues such as rule of law, human rights, human trafficking, corruption, investment and economic growth, and global health security, among others. On October 7, then President Obama issued an executive order removing the national emergency designation for Burma under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. U.S. businesses had advocated the removal of sanctions, while human rights advocates within and outside Burma criticized the United States for eliminating crucial points of leverage with Burma’s government given serious and ongoing human rights abuses.

 Lastly, on December 16, 2016, then President Obama signed into law the Fiscal Year 2017 Department of State Authorities Act (P.L. 114-323), which requires the secretary of state to submit a report to Congress describing “all known widespread or systematic civil or political rights violations, including violations that may constitute crimes against humanity against ethnic, racial, or religious minorities in Burma, including the Rohingya people.” Neither the lifting of sanctions nor the act impact the existing U.S. arms embargo, which is the presidential action applied to Burma pursuant to the CPC designation. The State Department renewed the CPC designation for Burma in February and October 2016.
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To read the full report click here.
 

UN Envoy Urges Myanmar Government to Do More to Stop Religious Violence

Myanmar must do more to address the escalation of religious hatred and violence following clashes between ultranationalist Buddhists and minority Muslims in Yangon, a senior United Nations envoy said.
Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, told the Guardian she has seen a rise of hate speech and violence in Myanmar, which didn’t receive enough attention from the National League for Democracy government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I have, in the past, raised concerns regarding incidents of hate speech, incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence, and of religious intolerance, and these appear to be drastically escalating,” Lee said.
“I believe that the spread of anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric is not receiving the serious attention that it requires, and is too often left unchecked by the authorities,” she added. “This cannot be tolerated any longer. The government must step up to take more concerted efforts to tackle and address such incidents.”
About 1 million Rohingya Muslims live in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state where they are denied citizenship and basic rights. Many in the Buddhist-majority country regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Aung San Suu Kyi and her government have been widely criticized for failing to speak out on behalf of persecuted religious minorities or to condemn the crackdown.
Last week a fight broke out in a Muslim neighborhood of Yangon after dozens of nationalists raided the home of a family they believed was hiding Rohingya Muslims. Local residents confronted the nationalists and several were injured. The violence came two weeks after the same people had forced the closure of two Muslim schools.
The nationalists had vowed to keep fighting Muslim influence in the country, citing government reluctance to "protect race and religion" in Myanmar.
"We are protecting our people because government authorities are reluctant to do that. Even though many people hate us, we are not creating problems," U Thuseikta, a monk and a senior official of the Patriotic Monks Union, told reporters at a news conference.
Myanmar police said they had arrested two radical Buddhist nationalists in connection with the violence and were seeking the rest, underscoring the authorities' growing concern over rising religious tensions.
"We want to get equal treatment and be protected by the government — we voted for them with our hands," Tin Shwe, a Muslim community leader, told Reuters.

Wirathu - 'Terror’s Advocate'

 Director Barbet Schroeder ('Barfly,' 'Terror’s Advocate') documents the religio-fascist Buddhist leader of a deadly anti-Muslim campaign in Myanmar.

Those who believe that all Buddhists respect their religion's core principles of peace and tolerance should take a look at The Venerable W (Le Venerable W), director Barbet Schroeder’s eye-opening chronicle of one Burmese monk’s long campaign of racism and violence against his country’s minority Muslim population.

The third part in a “trilogy of evil” that began in 1974 with General Idi Amin Dada and continued in 2007 with a look at the controversial French lawyer Jacques Verges in Terror’s Advocate, this scathing portrait gets up close and personal with Ashin Wirathu, the self-appointed spiritual leader of Myanmar’s anti-Muslim crusade.

Speaking openly to the camera, Wirathu propagates xenophobia and bigotry against a group that represents only a fraction of the local population, yet have been subject to decades of persecution by both the monk's followers and the military-controlled Burmese government. The result has been hundreds of deaths, thousands of homes burned to the ground and tens of thousands of Muslims displaced – all of it in the name of a religion that asks, according to one translation of the Metta Sutta, to “cultivate boundless love to all that live in the whole universe.”

The Venerable W, which consists of interviews with Wirathu and some of his most outspoken critics, as well as footage of riots, beatings, burnings and killings that have taken place since the 1970s, reveals that the 75-year-old Schroeder is still a fearless explorer of the darkest facets of our society. At a time when Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere, his film is a reminder that even the most peaceful of religious doctrines can, if twisted in the wrong way, be used as a veritable source of evil. A premiere in Cannes should give this vital documentary the attention it deserves.

Wirathu operates out of the city of Mandalay, a third of whose inhabitants consist of monks or monks-in-training. In the late 90s he formed the “969” movement and began delivering racist sermons to his disciples, referring to Muslims as “kalars” (the equivalent of the n-word) and claiming they are a subspecies who don’t deserve Myanmar citizenship, that their businesses should be boycotted and that they should be banned from intermarriage with Buddhists.

Although prejudice against the Rohingya Muslim community, which is based in the western part of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh, dates back to before Wirathu’s time, he has helped accelerate a campaign resulting in many, many deaths and the mass destruction of property. In order to fuel the fire, he often highlights incidents where Muslims have attacked Buddhists (in one case, the rape and murder of a woman), distributing propaganda videos on DVD and backing riots where Rohingyas are driven from their homes while the armed forces stand idly by.

What’s especially disturbing about Schroeder’s inquiry is how, on one hand, Wirathu can be seen expounding the peaceful tenets of Buddhism to his followers, while on the other he preaches a holy war meant to ostracize – and indirectly, destroy – an entire segment of the population. The man himself sees no contradiction in the two, simply believing that Muslims are a lesser race unworthy of the basic human rights accorded to Buddhists.

 While the situation in Myanmar is particularly extreme, Schroeder reveals at one point how, even in a western nation like France, the perception of Islam’s grip on society vs. the reality of that grip is highly exaggerated. Terrorist attacks like those that occurred in Paris in 2015 only help to augment fears and nationalistic tendencies, which is why a candidate like Marine Le Pen was able to capture more than a third of the vote in France’s recent presidential runoff.

The Burmese authorities have made some attempts to quell the tide of Islamophobic sentiment, banning the “969” group and jailing Wirathu for several years. But after his release, the popular monk managed to form a new movement, promoting a series of “protection of race and religion bills” that seem to be the first step toward a modern version of the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany. One of those laws has already been enacted, while the government continues to persecute the Rohingyas throughout the land.

Like in his portraits of Verges and Idi Amin, Schroeder has an unflinching way of capturing the propos and rationale of Wirathu without any filter whatsoever. Ace editor Nelly Quettier (Holy Motors) juxtaposes the lengthy one-on-one interview with found footage of devastated villages and grisly beatings, revealing how Wirathu’s teachings resonate through the widespread violence that has afflicted Myanmar for several decades now, and that will likely continue in the near future. In a place where Buddhists currently represent more than 90% of the populace, it’s unthinkable how a religion that preaches so much love can, in this case, yield so much hate.

US signs $110 billion military deals with Saudi Arabia

The United States on Saturday announced military deals worth nearly $110 billion, during a visit by President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia.
A White House official said Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would attend the signing of a memorandum of intent on a package of defense equipment and services to bolster the security of the kingdom and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats.
"This package demonstrates, in the clearest terms possible, the United States' commitment to our partnership with Saudi Arabia and our Gulf partners, while also expanding opportunities for American companies in the region, and supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the U.S. defense industrial base," a statement said.

Hassan Rouhani relected as the president of Iran

Dr. Hassan Rouhani was reelected as the Iranian President.
He said his re-election shows voters reject extremism and want more links with the outside world.
After avoiding a run-off with a 57% outright victory over his main rival, Mr Rouhani said he respected the opponents' right to criticise him.
Mr Rouhani, 68, supports the landmark deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme.
The decisive victory gives him a strong mandate to seek reforms and revive the country's ailing economy, analysts say.
"The Iranian nation has chosen the path of interaction with the world, a path which is distant from extremism and violence," Mr Rouhani said in first speech after the victory, broadcast on state television.
"The election is now over. I am the president of the nation and need assistance from every single Iranian, even those who oppose me and my policies."
Mr Rouhani also thanked former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, apparently defying a media ban on citing the ex-leader's name.
Turnout in the election was unexpectedly high, at around 70%.
And this is thought to have helped Mr Rouhani, who received close to 23 million votes out of the 40 million that were cast.
His main challenger, former prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi received 38.5%, or 15.7 million votes, not enough to take the election to a second round.
On Twitter, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the election showed the "increasing progress" of the "Iranian nation".
Mr Khamenei said Iran would demonstrate "national dignity" and "wisdom" in relations with other countries.
There were celebrations in the capital, Tehran, with young people singing and dancing the central Vali Asr Square, despite efforts by police to move them, AFP news agency reported.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Attaining Taqwa during Ramadan

Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is approaching fast. In the USA it is expected that the first day of Ramadan would fall on May 27.

Through fasting from dawn to dusk a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and sympathizes with those in the world who have little to eat or drink every day. It teaches him/her to be charitable. Through increased charity, Muslims develop feelings of generosity and good-will toward fellow human beings.

Fasting is an obligation for most Muslims, as dictated by the Qur’an – the Muslim Holy Scripture, in which they are commanded by Allah:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa.” (2:183)

The above Qur’anic v
erse confirms two points. Firstly, that fasting is for everyone and secondly, that the development and attaining of Taqwa is dependent on fasting. That is, without fasting, one may not be able to attain Taqwa. It is also clear that Taqwa is for the rich and the poor, the knowledgeable and the uneducated, the leader and the follower, the ruler and the ruled, the old and the young, the man and the woman. And that it was also prescribed to the people of other faiths that came before the time of Muhammad (S), the prophet of Islam.

So, what’s Taqwa that appears 151 times in the Qur’an?  In his book - Al-Mufradat fi Gharib al-Qur’an, Imam Rāghib al-Isfahani says that taqwā simply means to protect oneself.

Protection against what? Just like garments that protect our body from the cold and the hot weather, Taqwa is a protection from the Anger of Allah (swt) and His Punishment.

In the Qur’an, it is stated:

O Children of Adam! We have certainly sent down to you garments to cover your nakedness and for adornment. Yet the garment of taqwa —that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah so that they may take admonition. (7:26)

The word Taqwa is used 251 times in the Holy Qur’an as either a noun or a verb indicating its importance in the life of Muslims. These numerous verses elaborate the different dynamics and dimensions of the inner meanings of Taqwa that enables Muslims to be an ideal and a living example as a vicegerent of Allah.

The four verses in Surah Al-Baqarah (Verses 2-5) summarize the guiding principle in the Noble Qur’an for the people of Taqwa:

This is the Book whereof there is no doubt a guidance to those who are al-Muttaquin; Who believe in the Ghaib (the Unseen), and establish prayer, and spend out of what We (Allah) have provided for them; And who believe in the Revelation sent to you (Muhammad), and sent before your time, and (in their hearts) are certain of the Hereafter. They are on (true) guidance from their Lord (Allah), and it is these who will prosper.

The Muttaqun are those that believe, fear Allah and look to what He has ordained in carrying out His actions to avoid His displeasure. These people are involved and active in the affairs of the humanity, whilst at the same time praying, fasting, spending in Allah’s cause, having good morals; they are forgiving and just. All these descriptions can be attributed to a person who has Taqwa who will be successful in the Hereafter.

As to the characteristics of a Muttaqi, the Qur’an says:

It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards east or west; but it is righteousness - to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend wealth, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for setting the slaves free; to establish prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient in tribulation and adversity, and in times of panic (or stress). Such are the people of truth and they are al-muttaqoon. (2:177)

The most honored in the sight of Allah is the believer with the most Taqwa, i.e., the most conscious and aware of Him. The Glorious Qur’an illustrates this in Surah Al Hujurat (49:13):

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the one who has Taqwa. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”

Ali (RA) said, “Certainly, Taqwa is the medicine for your hearts; it is the sight for the blindness of your spirits, the cure for the ailments of your bodies, the rectifier of the evils of your breasts, the purifier of the pollution of your minds, the light of the darkness of your eyes, the consolation for the fear of your heart, and the brightness for the gloom of your ignorance.” [Nahjul Balagha]

The son of ‘Ali (ra), Al-Hasan (ra) once said, “The people who have Taqwa (al-muttaqoon) are the people who avoided whatever Allah (swt) has prohibited and have done whatever Allah (swt) has ordained.”

In his last khutbah Muhammad (S) said, “I ask you to fear Him (swt), listen to Him (swt), and obey.”

Both the Qur’anic verses and the hadith command Muslims to have Taqwa as a barrier between himself and the Anger and Displeasure of Allah (swt). Through Taqwa, the Muslim strives to obey Allah (swt) and abstains from His prohibitions.

A true muttaqi is a person who strives to possess a solid understanding and knowledge of the rulings of Allah (swt) through the Qur’an and Sunnah. Without proper knowledge of the Islamic rulings, a person would not know what is asked of him/her. Therefore, it is a must to understand Islam properly as well as to have the proper intention of pleasing Allah (swt) in carrying out these actions.


Taqwa in a broader sense is a requirement for everyone who wants to be a true human being, live under control of reason, and follow certain principles. In religious context, Taqwa is the quality of those who protect themselves from all that is considered by religion as wrong and sinful.

Imam Ahmad mentions a hadith, narrated by a Sahabi, whereby a person once asked, “Oh Messenger of Allah, give me some advice.” The Prophet (S) responded, “I advise you to fear Allah (swt) because it is the head of everything.” In another occasion the Prophet (saw) replied, “Fear Allah (swt) because it is the collection of all goodness.” Allah (swt) also promises to be with those who have taqwa. Allah (swt) says,

Truly, Allah is with those who have Taqwa, and those who are Muhsinun (doers of good for Allah’s sake only).” [An-Nahl 16:128]

-============-

Let us look at some examples of Taqwa from the Sahaba:

Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Ibn Abi Awfa (may Allah be pleased with them both) who said:

Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Anas b. Malik (RA): “I was serving drinks to Abu Talha al-Ansari, ‘Ubaidah b. al-Jarrrah and Ubayy b. Ka'b prepared from unripe dates and fresh dates when a visitor came and he said: Verily liquor has been prohibited. Thereupon, Abu Talha said: O Anas! Stand up and break this pitcher. I stood up and (took hold) of a pointed stone and struck the pitcher with its lower part until it broke into pieces.”

Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of ‘Ayisha (may Allah be Pleased with her) who said: “We have been told also that when Allah revealed the order that the Muslims should return to the pagans what they had spent on their wives who emigrated (after embracing Islam) and that the Muslims should not keep unbelieving women as their wives, 'Umar divorced two of his wives.”

Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of ‘Ayisha (may Allah be pleased with her) who said: “May Allah have mercy on the Muhajir women. When Allah revealed the verse: “And let them draw their head-scarfs all over necks and bosoms” [An-Nur:31] they tore their wrappers and concealed themselves with them.”

Abu Dawud reported on the authority of Safiyyah bint Shaybah (RA) who reported that ‘Ayisha (may Allah be pleased her) praised the women of Ansar and said: “When Surat an-Nur came down, they took the curtains, tore them and made head covers of them.”

Ibn Ishaq said: “…Al-Ash’ath b. Qays came to the Messenger of Allah as part of the Kindah delegation. Az-Zuhri informed to me that he came with eighty riders from Kindah. They entered the mosque of the Messenger of the Prophet (S). They had long hair and put kohl (in their eyes). They wore Jubbahs with silk hems. When they entered the presence of Allah’s Messenger he said to them: did not you embrace Islam? They said: Yes. He asked: ‘then what is this silk put around your necks? So they tore the silk and threw it away.”
 

                                                              -========-

The ideal Islamic society is a Taqwa-conscious society, conferring its highest respect on those considered to be high in Taqwa.

In his famous book Kimiya-e Sa’dat, Imam al-Ghazzali (r) tells the story of a certain Shaykh [Junayd al-Baghdadi (r)] who favored one of his disciples over others because of the latter’s God-consciousness. Other disciples obviously were jealous about the Shaykh’s favoritism. One day to prove the point, the Shaykh gave each disciple a fowl to kill it in a place where no one could see him. All the disciples returned after killing their fowls, except the favored disciple. The Shaykh inquired why he had returned with the live fowl. The disciple replied, “I could not find a place where Allah would not see me.” His God-consciousness (Taqwa) did not allow him to be heedless of Allah’s presence. The Shaykh then told his other disciples: “Now you know this youth’s real rank; he has attained to the constant remembrance of Allah.”

Fasting increases Taqwa, the God-consciousness (i.e., being conscious of Allah in all affairs and actions) by taming the Nafs, which gets its strength from full stomach. [Consider, e.g., the statements by Islamic savants. Abdullah ibn Mas’oud (RA) said,Four things darken the qalb (heart): (1) gluttony, (2) the company of oppressive people, (3) obliviousness of past sins, and (4) high aspirations. Four other things illuminate one’s qalb: (1) an empty stomach (i.e., living in hunger for fear of committing sin), (2) the company of righteous people, (3) recognition of one’s past sins, and (4) curtailed desires.” [Al-Munabbihat]

Abdullah al-Antaki (R) similarly said, “The cures for the qalb (heart) are five: (1) the company of the righteous people, (2) the recitation of the Qur’an, (3) an empty stomach, (4) vigils at night [through worship], and (5) sincere petition for Allah’s forgiveness before the daybreak.” [Al-Munabbihat]]

The sufi elders have said, “When Allah created the nafs [soul] He held it in a place of questioning and addressed it, saying, ‘Whom am I?’ - that is, ‘O soul, do you know Me?’  The soul, coquettish and rebellious, raised its head and said, ‘Do You know me?’  Allah kept it in the prison of affliction for a thousand years, then brought it out and asked, ‘Who am I?’  The soul said, ‘Whom am I?  Do You know who I am?’  Allah commanded that it be held in the prison of illness for a thousand years; then it was released, but it had no fear of that either.  When Allah said, ‘Who am I?’ the weary soul replied, ‘Who am I?  Do You know me, or not?’  Allah commanded that it be held another thousand years in the prison of nakedness, that it might be tamed; then He brought it out and asked, ‘O soul, Who am I?’  The soul did not fear that either, and said, ‘Who am I?’  It claimed to be all powerful.  ‘Put in the prison of hunger!’ Allah commanded, and they did so; when they brought it out it had become weak and thin and humble, and was afraid.  When Allah asked, ‘Who am I?’ It answered, ‘You are the Omnipotent, All-conquering Lord, and I the sinful, blaming soul which commands to evil.’” [See this author’s book: Cure for the Sickly Heart.]

Thus, the soul will not be afraid until it fears hunger and cries out in distress; therefore, its discipline is through hunger, and it is for this reason that the prophets and saints fasted often. That is why, it is said that “Hunger is the food of the righteous”.

Fasting increases devotion and righteousness, and brings a Muslim closer to the Creator. It creates the recognition that everything we have in this life is a blessing from Him. It teaches humility, and thereby charity and generosity. It teaches self-control or -restraint, and thereby, good manners, good speech, and good habits.

Taqwa is an important concept in Sufism or Islamic spirituality. The 10th-century Sufi scholar Al-Qushayri in his Epistle (Risala) writes about three parts of taqwa: "full trust in God with respect to what has not been granted to him; full satisfaction with what has been granted to him; and full patience with respect to what has eluded (or dodged) him."

The merit of Taqwa are numerous. E.g., “Whoever fears Allah, Allah will grant him a way out of hardship.” [At-Talaq 65:2]

Allah (swt) also promises forgiveness of sins to those people who are muttaqoon.
 “And whoever has Taqwa (fears) in Allah, and keeps his duty to Him, He will forgive his sins from him and will enlarge his reward.” [At-Talaq 65:5]

Allah (swt) has given the glad tidings of paradise to such people: “Verily those who have Taqwa when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan, they remember Allah and indeed they then see (aright).” [Al-A‘raf 7:201]

Let people attain Taqwa in its true meaning.
Life is too short and there is no better time than now, today, this very moment to prepare for it. If not now, let the coming Ramadan allow us to mold our character in the path of Taqwa.

 

Iran's presidential election

Polling has ended in Iran's presidential elections after being extended three times and by five hours.
Long queues had formed outside polling stations throughout the country after an unexpectedly high turnout.
Counting begins shortly and results may come as early as Saturday afternoon.
Supporters of President Hassan Rouhani came out in big numbers after signs that the hard line backers of his main challenger, Ebrahim Raissi, had mobilised all their forces to vote.
Election officials said the extensions to voting hours were due to "requests" and the "enthusiastic participation of people".
Ballot papers also ran out for Iranians voting in Istanbul in neighbouring Turkey, and attempts were made to fly in more from Tehran.
President Hassan Rouhani is seeking a second term, standing against three other candidates.
If no-one wins more than 50% of votes cast, a run-off will be held next week.
Every incumbent president has been re-elected in Iran since 1985, when Ayatollah Khamenei himself won a second term.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Danger Of 'Post-Truth'

Trevor Noah had historian Timothy Snyder on to “The Daily Show” this week to discuss his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.
Snyder is a Yale professor who specializes in Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. He has spent a lifetime trying to understand how fascism and authoritarianism transform from an idea into a reality. He has written book after book breaking down the patterns and signs to look for. 
So when Snyder had the stage on “The Daily Show” this week, he capitalized on it by succinctly explaining to the public the steps through which authoritarianism, or fascism, or whatever you want to call it, can become a reality anywhere, even in the U.S.
In just 60 seconds, Snyder broke down the process by which authoritarian figures convince you to stop trusting your eyes and start trusting the myth. In today’s society, we often refer to this as a working within a “post-truth.” It’s a new word for an old thing, something we often convince ourselves couldn’t happen here. Snyder argued that is not true. 
Here is his comment in its entirety: 
 
Fascism says nothing’s true. Your daily life is not important. The facts that you think you understand are not important. All that matters is the myth ― the myth of one nation as together the myth-ful connection with the leader.
When we think of “Post-truth,” we think its something new. We think its something at campuses. We think its something irrelevant. Actually, what post-truth does is it paves the way for regime change. If we don’t have access to facts, we can’t trust each other. Without trust, there’s no law. Without law, there’s no democracy. 
So if you want to rip the heart out of democracy directly, if you want to go right at it and kill it, what you do is you go after facts. And that is what modern authoritarians do.
Step one: You lie to yourself, all the time. Step two: You say it’s your opponents and the journalists who lie. Step three: Everyone looks around and says, “What is truth?” There is no truth.
And then, resistance is impossible, and the game is over. 
At the end, Noah could only say one word: “Wow.”

Stop the Eviction of Rohingyas in Jammu

APRRN Statement: Stop the Eviction of Rohingyas in Jammu
17 March 2017
APRRN Statement
Stop the Eviction of Rohingyas in Jammu
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) urges the Government of India to act immediately to provide protection to Rohingya refugees living in Jammu. Since November 2016, Rohingya living in Jammu have increasingly been subject to a campaign of negative propaganda and actions by local right wing Hindu political party leaders and residents. This includes forced evictions, slow genocidal and hate campaigns, demonstrations, and restrictions on Rohingya attending their places of work.
APRRN recognises and commends India for being a kind host to refugees for centuries, providing them a place of safety and protection. Not only has India provided sanctuary, but it has also played a vital part in enabling and empowering them to contribute to their local communities. It is in this context however that the recent ill-treatment of Rohingyas living in Jammu is very disturbing.
It is well known that the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted groups on earth and have faced decades of ongoing ethnic hate. As a disadvantaged ethnic group in Myanmar, they have fled their country because of severe and targetted ethnic discrimination and have sought safe haven in India. In Jammu, there are currently close to 6000 Rohingyas, with most living in squatters and temporary shelters in deplorable conditions. They are forced to take up difficult, dangerous and poorly paid jobs simply to make ends meet.
On November 26th 2016, a fire in Jammu’s Narwal refugee settlement destroyed several houses and four people including three children died. This incident was the trigger for politicians to put the issue of the Rohingya and their supposed association with militancy into the spotlight despite their being no substantive evidence. Since then, there has been a systematic campaign in Jammu to malign the Rohingya by criminalising them and branding them as a community of lawbreakers and illegal migrants. Under the pretext of local job protection, the Rohingya community are continuously being hounded and evicted from their squatters. Some of them have even been imprisoned and detained under the Public Safety Act without trial or due process. In addition, some radical right wing organisations have also started a villification campaign called “Quit Jammu” that has created an environment of fear and traumatisation.
APRRN raises serious concerns about these developments in Jammu and calls upon the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India to provide necessary protection to this vulnerable population.
APRRN makes the following call for action to the Government of India and the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir:
  • Provide protection to all Rohingya living in Jammu and Kashmir and take concrete actions to thwart the malicious campaigns by radical groups.
  • Provide safe accommodation for Rohingya in order to prevent fundamentalist groups using the Rohingya population as easy targets.
  • Extend the welfare programs of the state that are available for the most vulnerable to the Rohingya as done in some other states in India.
  • Immediately release refugees who have been detained under the Public Security Act and are being held without trial.
  • Take complete responsibility to provide workshops, pre-employment jobskills training and education to empower the Rohingya population within their borders.
While APRRN statements are prepared in consultations with APRRN members, they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Julia Mayerhofer, Interim Secretary General, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network