Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nobel Peace Prize winners urge actions on the Rohingya crisis

Three Nobel Peace Prize laureates are urging Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, herself a Nobel laureate, to condemn the violence against Rohingya refugees or possibly face prosecution for genocide.
Three female Nobel peace laureates have accused Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military of the "genocide" of Rohingya.
Shirin Ebadi of Iran, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen made the accusation during a press conference on Wednesday in Dhaka shortly after visiting Rohingya refugee camps in the southern Bangladeshi district of Cox's Bazar. 
The mission of the Nobel Women's Initiative was launched so that the three Nobel laureates could witness the plight of Rohingya women in the squalid refugee camps.
They urged Myanmar's defacto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the violence against Rohingya refugees or possibly face prosecution for genocide.
Aung San Suu Kyi "is directly responsible for the crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims," said Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
The three called on Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, to stop the persecution of the minority group.
"Our Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, she is the chancellor of the Myanmar government, and she is silent, she did not tell the truth to the world ... she should wake up and stop this genocide," said Karman, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 along with Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her compatriot Leymah Gbowee.
"As Nobel laureates, we accuse the Myanmar government and the military of the crimes of genocide. That is why we plan to take the Myanmar government to the International Court of Justice," said Maguire, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for conflict resolution in Northern Ireland.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after Myanmar's military launched an offensive against suspected Rohingya militants in northern Rakhine State on August 25. The United Nations and the United States say the government's actions amount to ethnic cleansing.

Rajjastan Lynching: A crime of hate by Harsh Mander

Written by Harsh Mander | Published: March 1, 2018 12:06 am
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A screengrab of Shambhulal Regar, the main accused in the case. The victim Afrazul (inset) was hacked and burnt alive in Rajasthan allegedly over an affair.We began this New Year with a journey of the Karwan e Mohabbat into Bengal. Few parts of India are untouched by the swirling tides of hate, therefore we had resolved to take our Karwan to at least one state every month, visiting the homes of families hit by acts of hate violence. There, as we did in our travels to eight states in September 2017, we would assure the bereaved families that they are not alone, that there are many in the country who care and who suffer with them. We would continue to tell their stories to the rest of the country, for not just solidarity, but to appeal to our conscience. A score of senior and young journalists and writers, lawyers, a photographer, a trade unionist, an amateur film-maker, researchers, students and rights and peace workers joined the Karwan in Kolkata.
For me it was fitting but emotionally wrenching to start this year’s Karwan with a visit to the home of Afrazul Khan, the migrant worker whose life had ended last year in a particularly brutal hate killing. I had gone days after he was bludgeoned, hacked and then burnt alive, assiduously filmed by a teenager on December 6 2017, to Rajsamand. We learnt there that Rajsamand district, like many parts of Rajasthan, is served by thousands of migrants from Malda, mostly Bengali Muslim workers skilled in construction and road-building. They live lonely lives of hard labour some 10 months every year far away from their families and homes, to feed and educate their families. Just four days after the killing, most of the workers had fled home in terror. We had met in Rajsamand Afrazul’s son-in-law, who the police had asked to stay to assist with the investigations. I had resolved then that the Karwan must visit Afrazul’s family in Malda.
In our journey in Malda, we passed mustard fields in flower and freshly transplanted paddy fields, before we wound our way through narrow lanes to Afrazul’s home in Saiyadpur village. The fruit of his long years of hard labour was that his family lived in a pucca brick home. Led inside, we met his widow Gulbahar Bibi, and his three daughters. He had no sons.
We explained to his family who we were. Her elder son-in-law, Musharraf, who we had met in Rajsamand after the murder, recognised us. Afrazul’s widow Bibi was composed, but her face was strained, breaking down occasionally. She said they wanted nothing now except the hanging of the man who killed her husband so cruelly, for no reason except his religion. Her daughters fondly recalled their father, who had devoted his entire life to their care. He had educated all his daughters, and married off the elder two. The youngest, Habiba Khatoon, 16 years old, was in Class 10, and wanted to study further. A private residential school had given her admission after her father’s cruel death.
Afrazul had come to them last during Eid ul Zuha. But even the morning he died, he had called his wife according to his custom, at 8.30 in the morning. He had asked after his beloved youngest daughter — had she gone to school? His wife asked him if he had eaten. He said he would come to see them at the village at the end of that week. This was the last time that they spoke.
His eldest daughter, Jyotsnara Begum, wept as she repeated, “My father was a good man. We have no brothers. There is no one to take care of us now. I want that his killer should be hung.” I tried to tell them that I agreed that he deserved severe punishment (although I believe no one should be given the death penalty). But I said I felt that even far more than him, the people, the organisations, and the leaders — up to those who hold high offices — are those who are even guiltier than him, because they have fostered the frenzied and irrational hate that blinds and drives men like their father’s killer. I told them a little about what I had learned about the man who had killed their father. (We had visited his family as well when in Rajsamand).
Outside Afrazul’s home, a large number of men had gathered. Most said that they were circular migrant workers. “We have little or no land here. There is very little work to be had in agriculture. There are no factories. We can stay alive if we travel to far corners of India in search of work.” They managed to save six or seven thousand rupees a month which they sent home.
Many had returned in droves from Rajasthan after Afrazul’s killing, and were still too frightened to go back there to work. They said they had never faced violence in Rajasthan before this. “But after all the killings of Muslims that we see all over India these days, we have started living with fear. We never know who will attack us, and where.” But they know they will have to set out one day soon again, otherwise their families will starve, and they would not be able to educate and marry off their children. “If not Rajasthan, we will have to find another part of India to travel to in search of work”.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently made a welcome and important announcement for such workers, that her government would ensure 200 days of work each year for them near their villages if they chose to stay back. If she ensures this, it could be a model for the entire country for all circular migrants, estimated at 100 million workers forced to leave their homes in search of work each year.
It is hard enough to be forced to spend most of your adult life toiling at low and uncertain wages without a decent room or food or the company of your loved ones in faraway lands. If now you also have to live with the fear that you might be killed just because of your religion, just trying to survive for those you love is an enterprise so dangerous that it becomes too hard to bear.

Hate Crimes Against Jews and Muslims

This commentary focuses on hate crimes motivated by religion and argues that American Jews and Muslims as the primary targets of religious hatred must cooperate to fight the hate menace. The commentary also argues that the provocateurs of religious hatred and their corporate sponsors should be identified, exposed, and held responsible under both civil and criminal laws.
Since 2001, the animus against American Jews and Muslims has remained steady. After the 9/11 attacks, the hate crimes against American Muslims (554 victims) peaked out. In the same year, however, American Jews also faced the most incidents of hate crimes (1196 victims).  In 2015 & 2016, the hate crimes against American Muslims have roughly doubled as compared to those in immediately preceding years; but the hate crimes against Jews have also ascended. As the chart demonstrates, regardless of yearly fluctuations, American Jews and Muslims are the principal victims of hate crimes motivated by religious bias.
Each year, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program operated under the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects data across the United States involving various offenses, including hate crimes. In 2016, for example, a total of 6, 121 hate crimes were reported, involving more than 7,500 victims. Victims include individuals and businesses.
Hate crimes are ordinary crimes, including murder, rape, assault, and property damage, motivated by the offenders’ biases. Bias-motivation rather than the type of offense determines the genealogy of hate crimes. Various biases motivate hate crimes, including those of race/ethnicity/ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability.
Each year race-motivated hate crimes top the list. And each year, religion-motivated hate crimes rank the second highest. In 2016, for example, 58.5 percent of hate crimes are motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry while 21.3 percent of hate crimes are motivated by religion. While African Americans are the leading targets of racial hate crimes, Jews and Muslims are the primary targets of religious hate crimes.
American Jews and Muslims
A common misperception exists among some social and political circles that American Jews and Muslims are at odds with each other. Surely, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict divides Jews and Muslims. Yet in the United States, if hate statistics are any indication, Jews and Muslims as the foremost targets of religiously-motivated hatred occupy the same boat. Recognizing their common victimhood, Jewish and Muslim organizations need to pool their resources to fight religious hatred against all groups.
The UCR statistics show that over the past sixteen years hate crimes against American Jews constitute more than 50% of the religiously-motivated hate crimes. Muslims are next, sharing about 25% of the hate crimes. These percentages have for the most part remained steady. When religiously-motivated hate crimes rise, as they did the most in 2001, both Jews and Muslims suffer proportionately. When religiously-motivated hate crimes dwindle, as they did the most in 2014, both Jews and Muslims benefit proportionately. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are interdependent hatreds.
Unfortunately, some prominent provocateurs of Islamophobia are Jews, such as David Horowitz, Pamela Geller, David Yerushalmi, and Shalom Lewis. Some Jewish provocateurs paint Islam as an inherently violent religion; some portray American Muslims as a threat to national security; some lead campaigns for drawing the Prophet Muhammad’s cartoons; and some advocate murdering the families of “terrorists.” Such incitements poison the minds of ordinary Americans who lack the first-hand contact with Muslims.
It is unclear why Jewish provocateurs breed hatred against Muslims. Presumably, they do know that American Jews are and have been the prime victims of religiously-motivated hatred.  Maybe, they foolishly believe that by propagandizing the perils of Islam they can divert the hatred against Jews toward Muslims. Maybe, they don’t care about hate crimes against Jews as long as Muslims are also despised. Maybe, they are unaware of the spill-over effect of hatred.
Spill-Over Effect
The UCR statistics demonstrate that when hatred against any religious group is incited, almost all religious groups, including atheists, experience more hate crimes. The spill-over effect is particularly pernicious with respect to historically-targeted religious minorities, such as Mormons and Jews.  Even American Catholics, the third most hated religious group, suffer additional hate crimes when Jews and Muslims are targeted.
The intertwining of hate crimes among various religious groups reveals that no religious group is immune when a wave of hatred is released against a specific religion. In America, Jews and Muslims are closely tied as victims of religious hatred, even though anti-Semitism is condemned much more forcefully than Islamophobia. The fact remains that despite social taboos on anti-Semitism, an increase in hate crimes against American Muslims has a corresponding uptick effect on hate crimes against Jews and other religious groups.
Provocateurs and Perpetrators
In a previous commentary, I distinguished between provocateurs and perpetrators of religiously-motivated hatred. A provocateur produces hatred against an identified religious group by speech, oral or written, but rarely commits a hate crime.  By contrast, perpetrators commit hate crimes, such as murder, rape, physical assault, or property damage, motivated by bias against the religious identity of victims. Laws are in place to punish the perpetrators of hate crimes. However, the provocateurs of religious hatred seek refuge under the First Amendment.
I maintain that the provocateurs of hatred are much more dangerous than the perpetrators of hate crimes. The provocateurs furnish intellectual and emotional resources to cultivate and express hatred. By maligning Islam, for example, the provocateurs lay the foundation for violence.  Religious hatred, if unleashed against any religious group, observes no denominational boundaries.  Unwittingly, the provocateurs generate hatred not only against Muslims but also against Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Sikhs, and Hindus.
A universal consensus is building that free speech is the heart of a thriving democracy. Free speech is indispensable for transparency, creativity, and accountability. Men and women of enormous intellect and integrity have been exiled, tortured, and murdered for saying innocuous things such as “that the earth moves or that it is not flat.”  The depressing history of intellectual and political oppression cautions us not to dilute free speech protections.
Yet, it is the business of law to make distinctions. Without censoring free speech, the law has the tools to hold the provocateurs of hatred accountable. The whole world, except the United States, punishes the provocateurs of hate speech.
Sean Hannity, Frank Gaffney, David Horowitz, David Yerushalmi, Shalom Lewis, Robert Spencer, Ann Coulter, Pamela Geller, Bill Maher, to name a few, and the corporate media that sponsor them to express religious hatred can be held liable under state and federal laws. The victims of religious hatred should speak to their lawyers to explore the possibility of whether any of these provocateurs and their corporate sponsors can be held responsible for the religiously-motivated provocations that nurture criminal violence.
The legal system cannot sit idly by to passively ponder over the statistics of hate crimes that the UCR generates each year. The perpetrators of hate crimes, if apprehended, are lawfully prosecuted. But the provocateurs that disgorge hatred in their TV shows, speeches, or writings take cover under the First Amendment. The lawyers may begin to experiment with various available legal doctrines, including aiding and abetting, accomplice liability, vicarious liability, contributory liability, principal liability, and corporate negligence to reach the provocateurs of hatred.
Liaquat Ali Khan is the founder of Legal Scholar Academy, a firm dedicated to the protection of civil rights and human liberties.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

12-Year-Old Dalit Boy Hacked To Death, Sister And Mother Raped In Tamil Nadu Village

A 12-year-old Dalit boy was killed and his sister and mother were injured in an attack on their family by unidentified persons at a nearby village  in India, the police said.
Amid allegations that the girl and woman were sexually assaulted in the February 22 pre-dawn attack at Vellamputhur, which came to light on Monday, the police said medical tests were being conducted.
The girl and the woman were admitted to the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in nearby Puducherry, the police said, adding that a probe was on to ascertain the motive behind the attack.
Political parties demanded stern action against the culprits, while alleging that the girl and her mother were raped.
"A boy, aged about 12 years, was killed. His 15-year-old sister and mother sustained head injuries," a senior district police official told PTI.
On the motive behind the attack and allegations levelled by political parties that the victims were targeted over a land dispute as they were Dalits, he said a probe was on.
"A case of murder has been registered as of now," the official said, declining to elaborate further.
PMK leader and Dharmapuri MP Anbumani Ramadoss demanded that the culprits be brought to book at the earliest and given the maximum punishment for the offence.
"The boy has been hacked to death," he said, adding that the girl and her mother were admitted to hospital in an unconscious state.
The PMK leader described the attack on the family as a "most brutal" one.
Claiming that rumours were being spread by anti-socials that the woman and her daughter had died, Anbumani said it had led to an unrest and sought action to tackle the situation.
SDPI Tamil Nadu president KKSM Tehlan Baqavi demanded steps with an iron hand to stop such attacks.
Condemning the attack, which he said occurred over a land dispute, Baqavi demanded that the culprits be arrested immediately and the family given a compensation of Rs 25 lakh.
In a statement, he alleged that the "woman and her daughter were sexually assaulted by anti-socials and seriously attacked", while the boy's "throat was slit".

Bihar hit and run case: BJP leader Manoj Baitha, accused

Bihar hit-and-run case: The Bihar Police had said that eyewitness accounts and CCTV footage have helped “conclude” that Manoj Baitha was driving the SUV that ran over the schoolchildren.

Sitamarhi BJP leader Manoj Baitha, who allegedly ran over nine schoolchildren crossing a road at Minapur in Muzaffarpur district (India) on Saturday, surrendered before the police on Wednesday morning. DSP (East) Muzaffarpur Gaurav Pandey confirmed the arrest.
Baitha has been shifted to Patna Medical College and Hospital treatment of the injuries he suffered during the accident. The Bihar Police had on Tuesday said that eyewitness accounts and CCTV footage have helped “conclude” that Baitha was driving the SUV that ran over schoolchildren. Police also believe Baitha was treated for injuries after the accident, including 24 stitches, before he ‘fled away’.
While trying to flee after running down a 65-year-old woman near the Dharampur middle school on February 24, Baitha had allegedly lost control of his SUV and ran over a group of students crossing National Highway 77, killing nine children aged between seven and 13. Ten more children, injured in the accident, are being treated at hospitals in Muzaffarpur and Patna.
To read more, click here.

Inter-ethnic clashes in eastern Congo kill 22 people

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Inter-ethnic clashes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have killed at least 22 people, including 15 civilians, over the past two days, a local official said on Monday.
Militiamen from the Hutu-dominated Nyatura militia attacked a Nande-dominated militia called Mai Mai Mazembe in the village of Kalusi on Sunday and Bwalanda on Monday, local administrator Hope Sabini told Reuters.
Eleven civilians were killed in the fighting in Kalusi, while four civilians and seven militiamen were killed in Bwalanda, Sabini said.

EU agrees to prepare sanctions on Myanmar generals

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to prepare sanctions against Myanmar generals over the killings of Rohingya Muslims and to strengthen the EU arms embargo, accusing state security forces of grave human rights abuses.
Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village September 1, 2017. Handout via REUTERS
As reported by Reuters last week, foreign ministers meeting in Brussels asked the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, to draw up a list of names to be hit with EU travel bans and asset freezes.
In a statement, ministers called for “targeted restrictive measures against senior military officers of the Myanmar armed forces responsible for serious and systematic human rights violations without delay”.
The measures would be the EU’s toughest yet to try to hold the Myanmar military accountable for the abuses, likely joining U.S. and Canadian sanctions already in place.
Foreign ministers also want to strengthen the bloc’s 1990s-era arms embargo on the Southeast Asian country that remains in place, although they did not give details.
Reuters investigations have highlighted the killing of Rohingya Muslim men who were buried in a mass grave in Rakhine state after being hacked to death or shot by ethnic Rakhine Buddhist neighbours and soldiers.
No names of generals to be targeted for sanctions have been yet discussed, two diplomats said, but the United States said in December it was sanctioning Major General Maung Maung Soe, who is accused of a crackdown on the Rohingya minority in Rakhine.
One EU diplomat said the EU’s list was likely to include more than just one senior military officer.
The EU’s decision to consider sanctions reflects resistance to such measures in the U.N. Security Council, where veto-wielding powers Russia and China said this month they believe the situation in Rakhine was stable and under control.
The United States, as well as United Nations, have described the military crackdown in Myanmar as “ethnic cleansing”. More than 680,000 people, mostly Rohingya, have fled Rakhine for shelter over the border in Bangladesh, the EU said.
Myanmar has denied most allegations of abuses and asked for more evidence of abuses, while denying independent journalists, human rights monitors and UN-appointed investigators access to the conflict zone.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Buddhist fascism and Rohingya tragedy

rohingya refugees1
The Rohingya Muslims are currently the world’s most persecuted minority. Since last year at least 625,000, over half the total population, have fled slaughter in Myanmar (also known as Burma). This is only the latest wave in a series of killings and expulsions starting in 1978. The UN calls it a ‘textbook example’ of ethnic cleansing.
Two recently-published books provide necessary background to the Rohingya tragedy. Francis Wade’s “Myanmar’s Enemy Within: the Making of a Muslim Other” contextualises events politically and historically. Azeem Ibrahim’s “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Genocide” covers similar ground while, as the title suggests, convincingly arguing that Myanmar “stands on the brink” of genocide,  a crime defined by the UN as the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
The Rohingyas have been designated as ‘Foreigners’ since 1978. The Myanmar state today describes them either as Indians imported by the British or as recent illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Both books dispute this revisionism. Ibrahim begins Rohingya history as far back as 3,000BCE, when Indo-Aryan people arrived in what is now Arakan (or Rakhine province), while Wade presents evidence of an 11th Century CE Muslim community composed of stranded Indian, Arab and Perisan sailors.
Ibrahim’s account of ancient and colonial history is the most detailed. Rohingyas lived alongside Rakhine people who were connected linguistically and religiously to the Burman, the dominant ethnicity in today’s Myanmar. Though Arakan was influenced by the ancient Burmese kingdom, it wasn’t conquered until 1784. Over the next four decades 30,000 Muslims fled Burmese-Buddhist rule, until the British annexed Arakan in 1826. Burma – with Arakan and its Rohingyas attached – won its independence in 1948.
The Rohingyas entered the new state at a disadvantage. Their loyalty to the British during the 1942 Japanese invasion had sparked conflict with the Rakhine. Nevertheless they participated in national life. Some joined the army and others served in parliament. They were included as an ethnic group in the 1961 census.
In 1962 Myanmar’s military seized power. At this point Wade’s book takes the lead in describing the rage for national homogeneity motivating these Burman generals, in a country where minority groups make forty percent of the population. The army waged wars to subdue the Shan, Kachin and Karen peoples, amongst others. In the 1960s, it expelled Indian and Chinese residents.

It also sought legitimacy as guardian of the Theravada version of Buddhism, especially when it needed to deflect attention from the so-called Burmese Road to Socialism’s economic disasters. The military spent less than three percent of the national budget on health and education, but devoted great energy and resources to converting the animist and Christian populations. Wade describes state-run mass-conversion ceremonies in which the profession of Buddhism is rewarded by rice and a National Registration card.
The Rohingyas, marked as ‘other’ by darker skin as much as by religious difference, were steadily deprived of all civil rights. Paradoxically this process only worsened after the partial return to democracy in 2010.
The first reason for this, as Ibrahim points out, is that the military still governs remotely – either in parliament through its Union Solidarity Development Party, or on the street by backing MaBaTha, an organisation of hate-preaching monks which orchestrates boycotts of Muslim businesses as well as anti-Muslim violence.
But Wade explores a more disturbing issue – how populist hyper-nationalism may transform democracy into a ‘tyranny of the majority’. “Should the forces that inevitably result from liberalisation,” he asks, referencing the extremist monks, “and which can aid the opening of a country as much as they can imperil it, be constrained, or should they be allowed to run free?” After decades of propaganda, most people in Myanmar genuinely fear and resent Rohingyas, believing these poverty-stricken farmers and fishermen to be jihadists in disguise, bent on the destruction of Buddhism.
Wade and Ibrahim recount the sorry results. During the 2012 and 2013 anti-Rohingya pogroms, police and soldiers watched as mobs burnt homes, raped women, and beat children to death. Thereafter Rohingya were driven from urban areas and segregated in camps. Regional and national political parties either tacitly encouraged the violence or – like the National League for Democracy, which would win the 2015 elections by a landslide – ignored it. Much more was expected of the NLD, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who had spent over twenty years under house arrest. But the NLD’s base is the ethnic Burman elite. Driven either ideologically or by a pragmatic unwillingness to rock the boat, Suu Kyi refuses even to acknowledge that the Rohingya community exists.
All this contradicts the West’s stereotype of Buddhism as a religion of peace, tolerance and non-violence. Certainly these principles were important to the Buddha himself, but when Buddhism – or any other religion – is tied to a modern state-building project, morality rapidly takes second place to a furiously exclusionary identity politics. Ibrahim argues that Theravada Buddhism is made particularly vulnerable to such deformation by its notion that the religion’s strength depends on a state committed to its protection, and to the suppression of other faiths.
Wade considers how another set of Western stereotypes – those associated with the Islamophobic ‘War on Terror’ narrative – have served Myanmar’s fascists very well, recasting their slaughter of Rohingyas as self-defence. In reality, Rohingyas, unlike other oppressed groups in Myanmar, have historically been passive in the face of violence.
But we have seen this movie before, not only in Syria. Very often an oppressive state’s terror scare becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Right on cue, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army appeared in 2016, launching scattered attacks on police stations. This provided the pretext for the most recent cleansing of Rohingyas, which in turn has attracted the attention of international ‘jihadists’ of the al-Qaida or ISIS variety. This vicious circle can spin much deeper.
So what can be done – beyond charity work – to help the Rohingyas? Refugees ask for the right to return home, citizenship, and freedom of movement. But the first condition is meaningless without the others. In current circumstances they will return, at best, to unbearable oppression.
Because it desires arms sales and economic investment, Myanmar’s behaviour could be modified by international pressure – this at least is Ibrahim’s argument. China and Russia recently vetoed a UN resolution calling Myanmar to account. It is to be hoped that Myanmar’s fellow ASEAN countries, the EU, and Muslim states do better.
Ordinary people can also educate themselves on the issue, and these complementary books should be read together. Wade is stronger on Myanmar’s inflammatory media, for instance, and the apartheid system of “racialised health care, purposeful and carefully designed.” Ibrahim focuses more on what happens to Rohingya refugees, including their frequent subjection to slavery. (Thailand has an estimated 500,000 slaves, most refugees from Myanmar.) Ibrahim’s energised polemic is certainly informative, but Wade’s is more discursive, often quoting personal testimonies, and makes more engaging reading.
In the foreword to Ibrahim’s book, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus takes the liberal (and for many states – including perhaps Donald Trump’s America – seemingly heretical) position that “a government must in the end be judged” not by its enforcement of ‘identity’ nor by the size of its nuclear button but “by how it protects the most vulnerable people in its society.”

Turkey: US embassy Jerusalem opening in May damages peace, tramples on law

Turkey on Saturday described as “extremely worrying” the US push to open its embassy in Jerusalem this May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.
To read more, click here.

Wake Up And Stop Rohingya Abuses

No one would realise better than a woman how it feels when a child is snatched away from the arms of a mother and slaughtered, a man is murdered before the eyes of his wife, or a girl is raped.
That is what happened to countless Rohingya women back in Rakhine State of Myanmar.
As three Nobel laureates listened to such harrowing tales of tortured women and children one by one in the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, they could not hold tears back.
The trio, all of them mother themselves, then urged Myanmar's de facto leader and their fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out about violence against the Rohingyas, often dubbed one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
They implored her to "wake up" to the brutalities, warning she otherwise risks prosecution for "genocide".
The three Nobel Peace Prize winners -- Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire -- demanded those responsible for the atrocities in Rakhine should be hauled to the International Criminal Court.
“We appeal to Aung San Suu Kyi, our sister laureate. Think of your children being pulled off your arms, because you are a mother, and massacred and villages burnt,” said Maguire, who is from Northern Ireland.
“Don't deny the Rohingya people their right to life,” she said in an emotion-choked voice after listening to the Rohingya women at Thyangkhali refugee camp in Ukhia of Cox's Bazar yesterday.
A violent military crackdown launched last August sent 700,000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh, sparking an unprecedented humanitarian emergency in the border district where the refugees are now sheltered in teeming, squalid camps.
Accounts of mass killing, rape, looting, burning of villages and shooting of civilians kept coming with the refugees over the months, while global condemnation poured in for the army campaign which the UN termed a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”.
Nobel Peace Laureate from Northern Ireland Mairead Maguire talking to a Rohingya refugee during her visit to Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on Sunday. Photo: AFP/collected
Yemen's Tawakkol Karman said it is time Aung San Suu Kyi woke up, or she will be one of the perpetrators of the crime.
“If she could not stop all this crime, she has to resign now. It is very important,” she said, adding Suu Kyi otherwise could be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court.
“We, women Nobel laureates, call for those criminals prosecuted at the ICC … so we don't expect our sister Aung San Suu Kyi to be one of them in the future. If she will continue her silence, she will be one of them.”
The Nobel laureates came to Bangladesh on Saturday and began a visit to the Rohingya camps to assess the allegations of violence against Rohingya women and the overall refugee situation.
The Nobel Women's Initiative, a platform of six female peace laureates established in 2006, is organising the visit in partnership with Naripokkho. On Sunday, they visited the refugee camps in Kutupalang and Balukhali.
They held a meeting with Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam in Cox's Bazar yesterday morning and visited the refugee camps in Thyangkhali.
The three laureates, who all through their lives have fought for human rights and democracy, expressed their anger at the inaction of world leaders over the Myanmar crisis.
The UN Security Council discussed the Rohingya issue several times but failed to take any concrete action against Myanmar that had denied the minority people citizenship and rights to education, movement, healthcare etc.
The Rohingyas have been fleeing since 1980s and the latest influx that began on August 25 last year is the largest, raising the number of refugees in Bangladesh to over a million.
In the first 10 days of this month, about 1,500 Rohingya crossed over from Myanmar.


“Every single woman we met said they were raped, they lost families. One woman's baby was taken off and butchered by the Myanmar soldiers. This is clearly clearly clearly genocide that is going on by the Burmese government and military against the Rohingya people,” added Maguire.
Terming it an orchestrated attempt to remove the Rohingyas out of Myanmar and out of history, she said the Nobel laureates reject the genocide policy of Myanmar.
"We reject this genocide policy of the Burmese government. They will be taken to the ICC and those who are committing genocide will be held responsible.
“As a human family, we cannot allow genocide of a whole people. The world must act,” said Maguire, who spent her life in bearing witness to oppression and standing in solidarity with people living in conflicts.
“We have, as a human family, to remove impunity because a people and military think they can kill and slaughter little children because this is a slaughtering way of allegiance in a massive massive scale. Where is our world going?”
An official briefing the three female Nobel Peace laureates -- Iran's Shirin Ebadi (left), Mairead Maguire and Yemen's Tawakkol Karman -- as they visit the Thyangkhali camp yesterday. Photo: AFP/collected
She further said, “The international community has to say enough is enough and we all have to raise our voices and not remain any more silent.”
Yemen's Tawakkol Karman said the Rohingyas are really facing genocide, a massacre, but the international community has “disappeared”.
“It is shame for all of us, for the international community that they are silent in front of the genocide,” she said, calling for the perpetrators of the crimes to be held accountable and tried at the international court.
The first Arab woman to win Nobel Peace Prize, Karman said the sufferings of the Rohingyas have been going on for decades under the eyes of the world.
“Now we are seeing an ethnic cleansing. That's shameful with the world, shameful that these women have been raped and their children slaughtered. The worst crime is that they have been displaced from their homes, their country.
“Now this is a real real appeal to the international community, the UN and the Security Council to wake up. It is the time now to wake up.”
Later, Karman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation she had spoken to 15 women who said their husbands and some of their children had been killed, and they had been raped repeatedly by soldiers.
"You can't imagine what we heard today," said Karman, who won Nobel Peace in 2011 for her nonviolent struggle for the safety of women rights and peace-building in Yemen.
Iran's Shirin Ebadi said that as members of international community it is their upmost demand Myanmar military be taken to the International Court of Justice.
“We are all paving the way for that,” said Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for promoting human rights, in particular the rights of the women, children and political prisoners.
Meanwhile, she said, Rohingya refugees are still coming into Bangladesh that must stop because it is not good for the minority group and it also creates intense pressure on the people of Bangladesh.
The Nobel laureates expressed gratitude to Bangladesh government and people for their generosity in hosting the refugees, and urged the UN and international community to ensure the Rohingyas have basic needs and services.
“We are with you, with Bangladeshi people,” said Karman.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Rohingya see no end in sight, six months after brutal attacks began

AL JAZEERA :Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims are still pouring over Myanmar border into Bangladesh every
 week, bringing accounts of torture and murder, six months after a military crackdown. 

Their houses are often made of plastic sheets. Much of their food comes from aid agencies. Jobs are few, and there is painfully little to do. The nightmares are relentless.
But six months after their horrors began, the Rohingya Muslims who fled army attacks in Myanmar for refuge in Bangladesh feel immense consolation.
"Nobody is coming to kill us, that's for sure," said Mohammed Amanullah, whose village was destroyed last year just before he left for Bangladesh with his wife and three children. They now live in the Kutupalong refugee camp outside the coastal city of Cox's Bazar.
A Rohingya refugee boy desperate for aid cries as he climbs on a truck distributing aid for a local NGO near the ...
KEVIN FRAYER/GETTY IMAGES :A Rohingya refugee boy desperate for aid cries as he climbs on a truck distributing aid for a local NGO near the Balukali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on September 20, 2017.
"We have peace here," Amanullah said.

On August 25 last year, Rohingya insurgents attacked several security posts in Myanmar, killing at least 14 people. Within hours, waves of revenge attacks broke out, with the military and Buddhist mobs marauding through Rohingya villages in bloody pogroms, killing thousands, raping women and girls, and burning houses and whole villages. The aid group Doctors Without Borders has estimated that at least 6700 Rohingya were killed in Myanmar in the first month of the violence, including at least 730 children younger than five. The survivors flooded into Bangladesh.
A Rohingya refugee boy extends his hand to receive relief material at Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in ...
AP :A Rohingya refugee boy extends his hand to receive relief material at Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, in January.
Six months later, there are few signs Rohingya are going home anytime soon.
Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed an agreement to gradually repatriate Rohingya in "safety, security and dignity", but the process has been opaque and the dangers remain. New satellite images have shown empty villages and hamlets levelled, erasing evidence of the Rohingya's former lives. And with 700,000 having fled Myanmar since August, more Rohingya continue to flee.
So for now, the refugees wait.
Noble Peace laureate from Yemen, Tawakkol Karman, right, holds a Rohingya refugee child during her visit to Kutupalong ...SUZAUDDIN RUBEL/AP :Noble Peace laureate from Yemen, Tawakkol Karman, right, holds a Rohingya refugee child during her visit to Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sunday.
"If they agree to send us back, that's fine, but is it that easy?" asked Amanullah. "Myanmar must give us citizenship. That is our home. Without citizenship, they will torture us again. They will kill us again."
He said he would only return under the protection of UN peacekeepers: "They must take care of us there. Otherwise it will not work."
Buddhist-majority Myanmar doesn't recognise the Rohingya as an official ethnic group, and they face intense discrimination and persecution.
On Sunday, two female Nobel Peace laureates visited refugee camps in Cox's Bazar and talked to rape victims. Human Rights Watch has said in a report that Myanmar security forces raped and sexually assaulted women and girls before and during major attacks on Rohingya villages.
Katia Gianneschi, a spokeswoman for the Nobel Women's Initiative who accompanied Yemen's Tawakkol Karman and Northern Ireland's Mairead Maguire to the camp, said in an email that the women talked to the victims and heard their stories. Another laureate, Iran's Shirin Ebadi, will join her colleagues on Monday.
The Nobel Women's Initiative, established in 2006, is a platform of six female Nobel Peace laureates.
The three laureates, who are on a weeklong visit to Bangladesh to meet the refugees, especially Rohingya women, accused Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her country's military of unleashing atrocities, and said the international community should bring those responsible to justice.
Minara Begum, 25, who was raped and tortured by soldiers, told reporters after the laureates' visit that they hugged her and held her tightly and cried as they heard the stories of brutality and repression.
"They were overwhelmed, they cried with us, they could not hold their tears," Begum said. "I was also touched by their eagerness to know our sad stories."
Karman said in an email on Saturday (Sunday NZT) that she and her colleagues were standing "in solidarity with displaced Rohingya women and calling for Rohingya women's voices to be heard".
She said Rohingya women were twice victimised - for being Rohingya and for being women - and "are affected by the ethnic cleansing and are also subject to high levels of sexual and gender-based violence".
"Rohingya women's unique needs are largely unmet in refugee camps in Bangladesh," she said. "Less than 20 per cent of displaced Rohingya women who have survived sexual violence have access to post-rape care."
Meanwhile, the children in the camps face a particularly difficult time. The UN estimates children are the heads of 5600 refugee families.
A survey of children's lives inside the camps showed they faced an array of terrors, from girls reporting concerns of harassments near the camp toilets to fears that elephants and snakes could attack them as they collected firewood.
"We cannot expect Rohingya children to overcome the traumatic experiences they've suffered when exposed to further insecurity and fears of violence in the camps," Mark Pierce, country director for Save the Children in Bangladesh, said in a statement.
The study was prepared jointly by Save the Children, World Vision and Plan International.
"The overwhelming message from these children is that they are afraid," Pierce said. "This is no way for a child to live."
The situation will worsen soon. Seasonal monsoon rains will begin pounding the refugees' plastic-and-bamboo city in April.
 - AP

Eastern Ghouta: Death toll climbs to 426 as Russia blocks Syria ceasefire resolution

At least 428 people, including 98 children, have been killed in the aerial offensive on the besieged rebel suburb of Damascus in one of the worst episodes of violence in the seven-year-long war. A sixth day of air strikes, including illegal barrel bombs, shelling and rocket fire, continued unabated in the area on Friday.  More than 22 medical facilities have been damaged, leaving thousands of injured people unable to access adequate help.
The criminal Asad regime is relentless.
To read the full story, click here.

Gun violence in Philadelphia

While the world focuses on Florida, gun violence is an everyday reality for young people in Philadelphia. To read the article, click here.

Fifteen Years Later

Here is the link to Dr. James Zogby's article that discusses the aftermath of invasion of Iraq.

Kashmiris will never abandon the demand of Aazaadi by Dr. G. N. Fai

Once again, Kashmir is living proof that it is not going to compromise, far less abandon, its demand for Aazaadi (freedom) which is its birthright and for which it has paid a price in blood and suffering which has not been exacted from any other people of the South Asian subcontinent. Compared to the sacrifice Kashmir has had to endure, India and Pakistan themselves gained their freedom through a highly civilized process.
That is a most poignant truth. But even more bitterly ironical is the contrast between the complex and decades-long agony the Kashmir issue has caused to Kashmiris, to Pakistan and to India itself and the simple, rational measures that would be needed for its solution. No sleight of hand is required, no subtle concepts are to be deployed, and no ingenious deal needs to be struck between an Indian and a Pakistani leader with the endorsement of the more pliable Kashmiri figures. The time for deceptiveness is gone. All that is needed is going back — yes, going back — to the point of agreement which historically existed beyond doubt between India and Pakistan and jointly resolving to retrieve it with such modifications as are necessitated by the passage of time.
That point of agreement is the one India as well as Pakistan, each independently, brought to the United Nations Security Council when the Kashmir dispute was first internationalized. In fact, the Council itself took that point as the basis of the resolutions it later formulated.
The point was one of inescapable principle- — that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be decided by the will of the people of the State as impartially ascertained in conditions free from coercion. The two elements of a peaceful settlement thus were, first, the demilitarization of the State (i.e. the withdrawal of the forces of both India and Pakistan) and a plebiscite supervised by the United Nations.
With propositions of such clarity and character accepted, what room was left for the dispute to arise? This question is bound to evoke divergent answers and it entails the risk of reopening old recriminations. However, it would be disingenuous to avoid it altogether. It is apparent from the record of the Security Council that India articulated the principle, accepted the practical shape the Council gave to it and freely participated in negotiations regarding the modalities involved. However, when developments inside the State made her doubt her chances of winning the plebiscite, she changed her stand and pleaded that she was no longer bound by the agreement. Of course, she deployed ample arguments to justify the somersault. But even though the arguments were of a legal or quasi-legal nature, she rejected a reference to the World Court to pronounce on their merits. This is how the dispute became frozen with calamitous consequences for Kashmir most of all, with heavy cost for Pakistan and with none too happy results for India itself.
However, despite the passage of decades, nothing has been irretrievably lost. The principle that the disposition of the territory in dispute must be in accordance with the will of its people can still be implemented as truly as it would have been in 1950’s. As a matter of fact, it can be done better now because we are not as oblivious now as all sides seemed to be earlier of the unique heterogeneity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir — one of the most bizarre products of 19th-century British colonialism. Recognizing the existence of several different ethnicities, each with its own history and its affiliations, and the right of each to determine its future without constraint not only from India or Pakistan but also from one dominant region within the State on another, we are not likely to commit the fallacy of one-size-suits-all. The plan of action that would ensure for all components of the State as it existed on 15 August 1947 equal representation and equal freedom to decide whether to continue the status quo or to opt for a new dispensation is not difficult to work out. It can be done by a joint committee composed of the rightly qualified people from India and Pakistan who would consult the leadership of Kashmiri political resistance and also, as necessary, experts from the United Nations.
What is visualized here is not a charade to be enacted by the respective Foreign Offices and the pretense of a so-called peace process, which merely means the bureaucratization of the dispute. What is desperately needed is an affirmation by the Indian and Pakistani leadership at the highest level of the necessity of taking new measures to effect the settlement of the dispute within a reasonable time frame. To that end, India and Pakistan must together prepare a plan for the demilitarization of the State with safeguards for security worked out together. Confidence that a real peace process is being launched would be inspired by the ending of repressive measures within the Indian-controlled area by both the federal and the state authorities. If sincerity is brought to the process in place of cheap trickery, the dawn of peace will glow as never before over the subcontinent.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Death of a 'crusading' preacher

Habib Siddiqui
Billy Graham, widely touted here in the USA as ‘America’s pastor’, died on February 21 at his home in Montreat, North Carolina. He was 99 years old.
In 1963, he famously said, “We are selling the greatest product on earth. Why shouldn’t we promote it as effectively as we promote a bar of soap?” [Saturday Evening Post]

What Billy was selling to his audience was the ‘soul-saving’ tablet of Christianity, which he packaged as “crusades” from small events in towns across the USA to television sets around the world. Truly, he was a precursor of the Protestant televangelism that helped reshape the American religious and political landscapes. According to his ministry, he preached Christianity to more people than anyone else in history, reaching hundreds of millions of people either in person or via TV and satellite links.

Billy Graham was called a preacher to presidents - Democratic and Republican alike.  He started meeting with presidents since the tenure of Harry Truman. He played golf with Gerald Ford, skinny-dipped in the White House pool with Lyndon Johnson, vacationed with George H.W. Bush and spent the night in the White House on Nixon's first day in office.

His son, Franklin, known more for rabid bigotry than anything good, is one of President Donald Trump’s highest-profile religious cheerleaders. Trump said on Twitter: "The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man."

Trump has again misspoken bigly. No non-Christian will miss Billy G - a person who epitomized hypocrisy, let alone racism and bigotry. He was an opportunist. And that is not the sign of greatness. Sorry, Mr. Trump. The elder Graham was not a great man.

Graham was against racial integration. He refused to participate in the 1963 March on Washington. When Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) electrified the nation with his "I Have a Dream" speech Billy Graham was not impressed. He dismissed MLK's belief that protests could create a "Beloved Community" in America where even "down in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will join hands with little white boys and white girls."

"Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children," Graham said after King's speech.

"There wasn't a major Protestant leader in America who obstructed King's Beloved Community more than Billy Graham did," says Michael E. Long, author of "Billy Graham and the Beloved Community: America's Evangelist and the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr."

"Graham was constantly making statements opposing King and his dream," says Long, an associate professor of religion at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. "Graham's legacy is definitely tarnished by the way he approached racial justice."

Long says Graham was a constant critic of the Black movement and tried to shift blame away from his native South whenever King shined a spotlight on the region's racism.

Long also says Graham personally lobbied President Dwight D. Eisenhower to ignore the racial crisis in the South, that he told a white audience in Charlotte in 1958 that demonic hordes were the real source behind the country's racial problems, and that he wrote a 1960 article for U.S. News and World Report tacitly defending Southern resistance to integration.

Long says, "If Graham had come out vocally for King and the movement early on, he could have made a huge impact in advancing equality for all Americans."

Graham despised all non-Christian faiths. He hated Jews. But outwardly, he appeared to be an avid backer of Israel. Like many evangelicals and Judeo-Christians of our time, a tour of Israel in 1960 cemented his support for the Zionist state, establishing the seeds of strong pro-Israel support that persist in that community until now. In 1967, he urged Israeli leaders not to yield to diplomatic pressures that could endanger the country’s security; such entreaties, commonplace now on the American right, were unusual at the time. He made a film, “His Land,” about Israel that continues to be screened among pro-Israel evangelicals.

For his support of the apartheid Israel, Graham received awards from the organized Jewish community and was so beloved in its precincts that in 1994, when H. R. Haldeman, a former top aide to President Richard Nixon, revealed Graham’s lacerating anti-Semitism expressed in private talks with Nixon, the Jewish community dismissed Haldeman’s account out of hand. Initially, Graham claimed ignorance of the hour-and-a-half long conversation. However, the tapes from the Nixon Library released in 2002 validated Haldeman’s account.

“A lot of Jews are great friends of mine,” Graham told Nixon in 1972. “They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them.”

In the audio tapes Graham could be heard referring to Jews as pornographers and agreeing with Nixon that the U.S. media was dominated by liberal Jews and could send the United States "down the drain." ''They're the ones putting out the pornographic stuff,'' Graham said to Nixon - "the Jewish stranglehold has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain,'' he continued.

In 2002, Graham apologized for the remarks, but the relationship would never again be the same. “We knew that Nixon was an anti-Semite,” Abraham Foxman, then the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, told JTA at the time, whereas Graham is “a guy we all felt comfortable with … And he was so infected with this virulent anti-Semitism.”

In a must-read article ‘Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear, Cecil Bothwell writes, “Graham’s message was principally one of fear: fear of a wrathful god; fear of temptation; fear of communists and socialists; fear of union; fear of Catholics; fear of homosexuals; fear of racial integration and above all, fear of death. But as a balm for such fears, he promised listeners eternal life, which he said was readily claimed through acceptance of Jesus Christ as one’s savior. Furthermore, he assured listeners that God loved us so much that He created governments, the most blessed form being Western capitalist democracy. To make this point, he frequently quoted Romans 13, particularly the first two verses. In the New American Standard Version of the Bible, they read, ‘Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.’”

It is not surprising why Graham, the high priest of the American crusade, was the most sought out pastor by American presidents. Based on that Biblical mandate for all governments, Graham stood in solid opposition to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, all but addressed to Graham, King noted, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ … If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.”

“In light of the Biblical endorsement of rulers, Graham supported police repression of Vietnam war protesters and civil rights marchers, opposed Martin Luther King’s tactic of civil disobedience, supported South American despots, and publicly supported every war or intervention waged by the United States from Korea forward,” writes Cecil Bothwell, author of The Prince of War: Billy Graham’s Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire (Brave Ulysses Books, 2007).

Graham was an enormously success story. What is, however, not known much is the fact that Graham first gained national attention in 1949 when the publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, searching for a spiritual icon to spread his anti-communist sentiments, discovered the young preacher holding forth at a Los Angeles tent meeting. Hearst wired his editors across the nation, “puff Graham,” and he was an instant sensation. Hearst next contacted his friend and fellow publisher Henry Luce. Time and Life were enlisted in the job of selling the soap of salvation to the world. According to Bothwell, Time, alone, has run more than 600 stories about Graham.

The man who would become known as “the minister to presidents” offered his first military advice in 1950. When on June 25, North Korean troops invaded South Korea, Graham sent Truman a telegram. “MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS PRAYING GOD GIVE YOU WISDOM IN THIS CRISIS. STRONGLY URGE SHOWDOWN WITH COMMUNISM NOW. MORE CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHERN KOREA PER CAPITA THAN ANY PART OF WORLD. WE CANNOT LET THEM DOWN.”

It was not the only time that Graham had encouraged a president to go to war. He gave his blessing to every conflict under every president from Truman to George W. Bush, and most of the presidents, pleased to enjoy public assurance of God’s approval, made him welcome in the White House. Bothwell writes, “Graham excoriated Truman for firing General Douglas MacArthur and supported the general’s plan to invade China. He went so far as to urge Nixon to bomb dikes in Vietnam—knowing that it would kill upward of a million civilians—and he claimed to have sat on the sofa next to G.H.W. Bush as the bombs began falling in the first Gulf War (though Bush’s diary version of the evening somehow excludes Graham, as does a White House video of Bush during the attack).
According to Bush’s account, in a phone call the preceding week, Graham quoted poetry that compared the President to a messiah destined to save the world, and in the next breath called Saddam the Antichrist. Bush wrote that Graham suggested it was his historical mission to destroy Saddam.”

Bothwell says that through the years, Graham’s politics earned him some strange bedfellows. He praised Senator Joseph McCarthy and supported his assault on Constitutional rights, then scolded the Senate for censuring McCarthy for his excesses. He befriended oil men and arms manufacturers. He defended Nixon after Watergate, right up to the disgraced president’s resignation, and faced public scorn when tapes were aired. “Graham was a political operative, reporting to Kennedy on purported communist insurgencies in Latin America, turning over lists of activist Christians to the Republican party, conferring regularly with J. Edgar Hoover and networking with the CIA in South America and Vietnam.”

“Graham endorsed and courted Eisenhower and compared a militaristic State of the Union speech to the Sermon on the Mount, fanned anti-Catholic flames in the Nixon-Kennedy contest, backed Johnson and then Nixon in Vietnam, lobbied for arms sales to Saudi Arabia during the Reagan years, conveyed foreign threats and entreaties for Clinton and lent his imprimatur to G.W. Bush as he declared war on terrorism from the pulpit of the National Cathedral.
Billy Graham approved of warriors and war, weapons of mass destruction (in white, Christian hands) and covert operations. He publicly declaimed the righteousness of battle with enemies of American capitalism, abetted genocide in oil-rich Ecuador and surrounds and endorsed castration as punishment for rapists. A terrible swift sword for certain, and effective no doubt, but not much there in the way of turning the other cheek,” writes Bothwell.

To his credit, Billy Graham is leaving behind a United States government in which religion is playing a far greater role than before when he intruded into politics in the 1950s. According to Bothwell, “The shift from secular governance to “In God We Trust” can be laid squarely at this minister’s [Graham] feet.”

It was because of ‘crusading’ message of southern preachers like Graham, Christian evangelicals – who believe that religious conversion or a personal ‘born-again’ experience leads to salvation - are America’s most powerful religious affiliation today. As a group, the white evangelicals form one-fifth of all registered voters in the United States and make up one-third of all voters who identify or lean Republican. [Note: Compared with other high-income nations, the U.S. stands out as exceptionally religious. Of the 70.6% of Americans who consider themselves Christian, evangelism has consistently been the most popular denomination.] In fact, at least one quarter of the population in nearly 30 U.S. states is affiliated with the evangelical faith. In every way, Graham was the spiritual father of today’s right-wing religious leaders and the evangelicals who so inhabit the national conversation.

It goes without saying that without the support from the evangelicals Donald Trump would not have been elected president of the USA. And that is the chilling fact as to the toxic influence of ‘crusading’ pastors like Billy and Franklin Graham who have had contributed to the meteoric rise of xenophobia, religious hatred and racial violence against the minorities.

Admired by many southerners, esp. the evangelicals, and despised by others, Billy Graham leaves behind a legacy as a very controversial pastor in American history. I fail to see greatness in him. He was a flawed man, a hypocrite who amassed millions of dollars for his church’s proselytizing, ‘crusading’ mission. As noted above, when caught with his prejudicial pants down, Graham claimed ignorance of the hour-and-a-half long conversation in which he led the anti-Jewish attack. As reported by the Associated Press on March 2, 2002: “Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon . . . some 30 years ago,” Graham said in a statement released by his Texas public relations firm. “They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks.”

Graham’s comments deserve our full scrutiny. What were we to make of a preacher who insisted that his words didn’t reflect his beliefs? Were we to believe him then or later, on other matters?

Graham’s despicable hypocrisy nevertheless helps to explain why the evangelicals would have no moral qualms of electing some of the most immoral, adulterous, authoritarian and least churchly people to the public offices, of course, as long as they espouse ‘crusading’ mentality. Seemingly, they are ready to summon the devil if it promises to do the Lord’s task.

I see a looming grave danger in such a twisted evangelical mindset! In their zeal to win the soul for Christianity they have lost their intellectual minds.

In his address delivered at the dedication ceremony of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, Charles Habib Malik (1906-87), the Lebanese diplomat and philosopher, said, “If you win the whole world and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover you have not won the world. Indeed, it may turn out that you have actually lost the world.... Responsible Christians face two tasks — that of saving the soul and that of saving the mind.” [‘The Two Tasks’, JETS, 23/4, (Dec. 1980) 289-96]

Ironically, that spirit and wisdom is missing among today’s Bible-thumping Christian missionaries and crusading zealots, and their brain-dead evangelical supporters who want to make ‘America Great Again’!