Friday, January 30, 2004

Iraq: Islamisation, 'Jihad Rock' and death

Date: Friday 30 January 2004
Subj: Iraq: Islamisation, 'Jihad Rock' and death
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


-------------------------------------------------------------
IRAQ: ISLAMISATION, "JIHAD ROCK" AND DEATH
--------------------------------------------------------------

The Iraqi Governing Council has voted to replace the country's civil family laws with Islamic Sharia Law.

Pamela Constable writes from Baghdad for the Washington Post (17 Jan), "For four decades, Iraqi women have enjoyed some of the most modern legal protections in the Muslim world, under a civil code that prohibits marriage below the age of 18, arbitrary divorce or male favouritism in child custody and property disputes. Saddam Hussein did not touch those rights. But the US-backed Iraqi Governing Council has voted to wipe them out, ordering that family laws shall be 'cancelled' and such issues placed under the jurisdiction of strict Islamic legal law or sharia.

"The order, narrowly approved by the 25-member council in a closed-door session on December 29, was reportedly sponsored by conservative Shiites. The order is being opposed by several liberal members and senior women in the Government." (Link 1)

LA Times staff reporter Alissa J. Rubin, comments that "the measure would shift women's fates from the hands of judges to those of clerics, most likely chosen by their husbands, who may have little commitment to protecting their rights.

"The law under Hussein was a progressive amalgam of the most generous Sharia rules toward women - drawn from each sect - on marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance, according to lawyers and judges. Although women were never treated better than their male counterparts, under Iraq's civil law at least a judge rather than a cleric heard their cases in matters of divorce and child custody, ensuring a measure of equity regardless of the woman's sect or ethnic background."

Rubin reports that "every judge and lawyer interviewed insisted that Sharia law was superior to civil law. 'Sharia is from God, the law is man-made, and Sharia is better because what comes from Allah is fixed,' said Kadhim Jubori, 55, who has practised family law for 33 years in Baghdad. A similar attitude was evident in the comments of Governing Council members who supported the measure. Ibrahim Jafari, a member from the Shiite Dawa Party, said Islamic law was more progressive than U.S. law..." ("Fighting for Their Future", by Alissa J. Rubin, LA Times 25 Jan 2004)

Pamela Constable's Washington Post article reports, "The chief US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, must approve the council's decisions and aides said unofficially that his imprimatur for this change was unlikely. But experts said that once US officials turned over political power to Iraqis at the end of June, conservative forces could press ahead with their agenda to make sharia the supreme law."

As was pointed out in a WEA RLC News & Analysis posting entitled "Iraq: The IGC and the Battle for Iraq" (Monday 28 July 2003) the US desperately needed Shi'a support for the IGC in order for it to be credible and have authority. In order to win Shi'a support, particularly from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI - the largest and most organised political organisation in Iraq) the US acquiesced to SCIRI's demands and permitted the IGC to be stacked with a majority of Shi'a, most of whom are staunch Islamists.

Under the 15 November 2003 "Agreement on Political Process", a transitional assembly selected through regional caucuses would form a fully sovereign Iraqi government on 1 July 2004, based on a "Fundamental Law". This Fundamental law, or interim constitution, would include a "Bill of rights, to include freedom of speech, legislature, religion; statement of equal rights of all Iraqis, regardless of gender, sect, and ethnicity; and guarantees of due process".

However, Iraq's powerful Shi'a leader Ayatollah Sistani has since insisted on direct elections for the transitional assembly, as well as assurances that the interim constitution will defer to Islam. Analysts argue that the motive behind Al-Sistani's consistent demand for elections is to secure a Shi'a-dominated government.

Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi, a key U.S. ally before the Iraq war, is saying that he supports al-Sistani's call for direct elections. Chalabi is no doubt considering the possibility of standing as a presidential candidate, and is thus keen to align himself more with popular Iraqi sentiment than with U.S. policy.

"JIHAD ROCK"

On 17 January the South China Morning Post published an article on the escalating popularity of "jihad rock" by local singer Sabah al-Jenabi. "The rhythm, you can almost dance to. The lyrics call for guerilla war. Though the lyrics are contemporary, the music is based on a form of religious music, centuries-old, called praising.

"Coalition spokesman Dan SeƱor recently said 'any sort of public expression used in an institutionalised sense that would incite violence against the coalition or Iraqis' is banned under Iraq's current rules. Yet, CD shops and cassette stalls continue to sell Jenabi's albums and those of other musicians calling for jihad, or holy war, against the Americans. They sell for 2,000 Iraqi dinars, less than US$1.25.

"At Sabah Recordings, a popular cassette shop in a Fallujah alleyway, owner Maher al-Ajrari at first denies he even sells Jenabi's music. But after an hour of hemming and hawing, he admits the 'jihad tapes' are bestsellers. He even carries 'video' versions: as musicians sing the anti-American songs, news footage of American troops killing and maiming Iraqis rolls by."

It is not surprising then, that that those considered to be American allies, even Iraqi Assyrian Christian women doing laundry for an American base near Baghdad, would be gunned down in cold blood by fellow Iraqis. (See BBC, "Iraq women gunned down", 22 Jan 2004.)

- Elizabeth Kendal

Link

1) Ruling council tries to ditch women's rights
By Pamela Constable in Baghdad, 17 January 2004
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/16/1073878025455.html

Iraq: The Assyrians and a federation for Iraq

Date: Friday 30 January 2004
Subj: Iraq: The Assyrians and a federation for Iraq
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


------------------------------------------------------------------
IRAQ: THE ASSYRIANS AND A FEDERATION FOR IRAQ
------------------------------------------------------------------

Fikret Bila reports for the Turkish Press (12 Jan), "Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the US civilian administrator in Iraq, said that a federation would be the best regime for the country. The Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq are pushing for an ethnic-based federation. They are planning a dual federation based on the Kurds and the Arabs. The ethnic Turkmen and others would not be taken into consideration. Bremer's approach shows that the US is leaning in the
same direction." (Link 1)

The civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, announced however that the U.S. would agree on establishing federalism in Iraq, but based on geographic and not demographic, ethnic partition, although he would be happy for the Kurds to control the northern regions with the exception of Kirkuk. ("Washington And The Kurds." By Abdullah Al Ashaal. Al-Hayat. 19 Jan 2004)

Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party regime exercised a policy of Arabisation, whereby Arabs were moved in to regions formally dominated by ethnic minorities, in order to change the demographics. The Kurdish claim is for an ethnic federation and a reversal of Arabisation. One thing that is not being talked about is the effect such a situation would have on the other inhabitants and ethnic minorities of northern Iraq, such as the Assyrians, who are the indigenous inhabitants of northern Iraq and are Christian.

THE ASSYRIAN CHRISTIAN REMNANT

According to Nineveh.com, "The Assyrians of today are the indigenous Aramaic-speaking descendants of the ancient Assyrian people, one of the earliest civilizations emerging in the Middle East, and have a history spanning over 6750 years. Assyrians are not Arabian, we are not Kurdish, our religion is not Islam. The Assyrians are Christian, with our own unique language, culture and heritage. Although the Assyrian empire ended in 612 B.C., history is replete with recorded details of the continuous presence of the Assyrian people till the present time." (Link 2)

Peter BetBasoo has produced an excellent summary history of Assyria and the Assyrian people on the website of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). He describes Assyrians as "a Semitic people indigenous to Mesopotamia". With a map he shows the historic Assyria as located in north Mesopotamia, spanning four countries - from the Euphrates River in north-eastern Syria, through the eastern corner of Turkey, western edge of Iran, and northern Iraq to about 100 miles south of Kirkuk. The plains of Arbil and Nineveh (Mosul) were the breadbaskets of the Assyrian people.

The Assyrians converted from Ashurism to Eastern Christianity in the three centuries after Christ. The Assyrian Church of the East was founded in 33 A.D. Once Assyria had been major military Empire, but after 33 A.D. it was to become a great religious empire with a large active missionary movement that took the gospel into China and beyond. Arab Islamic invaders captured Mesopotamia in 630 A.D. and subjugated the Assyrians under Muslim domination.

Kurds swept into Assyria in 1261 A.D. after King Salih Isma'il ordered them to emigrate from the mountains of Turkey to the Nineveh plains. Assyrians left their homes and fled to Arbil. Many lost their lives. When Timurlane the Mongol arrived in 1300 A.D he found the Assyrian people already traumatised and decimated. He massacred the Assyrians and drove them out until only a remnant remained.

Only a decade after the genocide of the Armenians (1915-23), the Assyrians suffered a major massacre in Iraq during the post-WW1 mandate period (1933). Actually the history of the Assyrian people, particularly since the arrival of Islam in the region, has been one of frequent massacres and almost continual oppression and persecution. (Link 3)

PRESENT THREAT

The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reports that the present Kurdish proposal "to establish an ethnically based autonomous area even beyond the current occupied northern provinces has alarmed various Iraqi communities including Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs), Arabs, Turkman, and Yezidis within Iraq and abroad. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK) Barham Salih recently declared that the Kurdish autonomous area ought to be extended beyond the three occupied and already diversely populated and contentious provinces of Dohuk (Nohadra), Arbil, and Sulaimaniya to include large portions of Diyala, Nineveh, and Karkuk.

"According to a December 25, 2003 Jordan Times article, Mr. Barham Salih asserted that, 'Karkuk is an integral part of Kurdistan, administratively, geographically, and historically.' In addition, Mr. Salih affirmed that the Kurdish map includes the historically Assyrian provinces of Arbil and Dohuk and now unabashedly extends the proposed area to occupy the remaining Assyrian towns and villages in the plains of Nineveh, the ancient Assyrian capital, which up until the war of liberation were under government control." (Link 4)

The escalation of fighting along ethnic lines in northern Iraq is cause for great concern. AINA quotes Mr. Abgar Maloul of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) as saying that "ethnic federalism built on the premise of the subjugation by one ethnic group of other minorities is not what we envisioned a liberated Iraq would resemble. We have long stood for a free, sovereign, secular, and democratic Iraq for all Iraqis." (Link 4)

Ashor Giwargis, born in Beirut in 1970, is a researcher and writer concerning the Assyrian cause. He writes out of great concern for the future of Iraq's Assyrian Christians. "Before the coming of the Ba'ath regime to Iraq in 1968, Assyrians constituted 65% of the population of the northern region, and the Kurds were about 15% and Arabs about 20%. During the 1st Gulf War, Kurdish tribes came in from Iran, supported by the Iranians, to fight against Iraq. They destroyed our villages. As a result, the majority of the Assyrians fled their towns and migrated to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, seeking refugee visas to U.S.A, Europe, and Australia. That's why today we have some 3.2 million Assyrians in the Diaspora. The Assyrians make up 30% of Iraqi immigrants.

"In Iran the Assyrians were more than 150,000 before the coming of Khomeni in 1979, but now they are only about 30,000. We have churches that date back to the 1st century, built by St. Thomas and other churches from 2nd, 3rd, 4rth century. The indigenous people of Assyria are today scattered around the world. We are watching the news and hearing how the descendents of Tamorlane the Mongolian are announcing their 'Kurdistan' in Assyria, but we are unable to say a word for the great powers are busy with more important issues."

This is a situation to watch very closely. Christians worldwide must make it known that we regard the future and fate of our Assyrian Christian brothers and sisters as a very important issue.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Iraq Federation?
By Fikret Bila, Turkish Press, 12 Jan 2004
http://www.turkishpress.com/turkishpress/news.asp?ID=16667

2) http://www.nineveh.com/whoarewe.htm

3) http://www.aina.org/aol/peter/brief.htm
& http://aina.org/releases/2004/karkukaut.htm

4) Kurdish Autonomy Proposal Threatens Iraqi Territorial Integrity
Assyrian International News Agency. 8 Jan 2004
http://aina.org/releases/2004/karkukaut.htm

Recommended further reading:
Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2003)
Iraqi Assyrians: Barometer of Pluralism.
By Jonathan Eric Lewis.
http://www.meforum.org/article/558/

Iraq: the persecution of Mandaeans

Date: Friday 30 January 2004
Subj: Iraq: the persecution of Mandaeans
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


----------------------------------------------------
IRAQ: THE PERSECUTION OF MANDAEANS
----------------------------------------------------

Mandaeans follow the teachings and practice of John the Baptist. Since Ayatollah Al-Hakeem declared Iraq's Mandaeans to be "unclean" and not "People of the Book", the situation for Mandaeans in post war Iraq has become critical. It is not an exaggeration to say that their survival as a people is seriously at risk.

"UNCLEAN"

Before his assassination at the Tomb of Imam Ali in Najaf in August 2003, prominent Shiite leader and jurist Ayatollah Al-Hakeem decreed that Mandaeans do not have the status of People of the Book (Ahl-i-Kitab). This declaration remains on his Arabic website. This means Mandaeans are "unclean" (najes) and not to be "protected" as People of the Book. They may be killed or forcibly converted to Islam. This indeed appears to be what is happening on the ground.

EXPLANATION

The Qur'an mandates a system of Islamic apartheid. In the Islamic State, those regarded as "unclean" (pagans, idolaters) are to be killed or converted to Islam, while those regarded as "People of the Book" are afforded "protection". Protection enables the People of the Book, primarily Jews and Christians, to purchase their right to life and right to keep their own religion through payment of jizya (special tax) and submission to a life of utter subjugation. (See
Qur'an Sura 9:29.) Non-payment of jizya or any sign of rebellion against their subjugated status (i.e. criticism of the Qur'an, or reaction against abuse) results in protection being withdrawn and a state of war (jihad) resuming.

Sabaeans (Mandaeans) are mentioned three times in the Qur'an. Sura 2:62 states that Jews, Christians and Sabaeans - those who believe in God, the Last Day and do what is right - will have nothing to fear in judgement. Sura 5:69 says the same but also includes believers (Muslims). Sura 22:17 says that believers (Muslims), Jews, Sabaeans, Christians, magicians and pagans will all be judged by God on the Day of Resurrection.

The status of Sabaean Mandaeans has varied throughout Islamic history. In early days Sabaeans were regarded as People of the Book and protected. However, by the tenth century the Sabaeans, who were by then living in al-Wasit (Iraq), were officially declared to be "unclean" and not dhimmis (protected people). (Footnote 1)

PRESENT CRITICAL SITUATION

The Sabaean Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) reports that on or about 20 December 2003, Rafid Al-Khamisy, a Mandaean, was confronted by Muslims in front of a number of people in Hay Al-Shurtha suburb in Baghdad. The Muslims demanded that Rafid Al-Khamisy convert to Islam. Rafid Al-Khamisy refused to convert to Islam and the Muslims then killed him in front of the others who were present.

On 20 January the SMAA reported, "The Sabian Mandaean Association in Australia has now been advised that in Falluja alone thirty-five (35) Mandaean families have been forcibly converted to Islam. This also involves forced circumcision. The Mandaean women and girls of these families have been forcibly married to Muslim men chosen by the Muslims. The suffering that has been inflicted is incalculable.

"It has also been reported to us (SMAA) that a group of Muslim men seized a seven (7) year old Mandaean boy, doused him in petrol and set him alight. As the child was being burnt to death the Muslims were running around shouting, 'Burn the dirty infidel!'

"It has also been reported to us that a young Mandaean man went into a restaurant and drank a glass of water. Some Muslims realised that he was Mandaean so they beat him severely, breaking many of his bones so that he needed to be hospitalised. The Muslims then broke the glass he had drunk from because, according to Islam, it had been rendered ritually 'unclean'. We have been informed that there have been many incidents of this kind.

"Recently a Muslim magazine published a picture of Christ and His Mother Mary next to an article claiming that all Christian homes were brothels making money from the American troops. On this occasion the American authorities intervened to stop the circulation of the magazine."

SMAA has many such cases of documented persecution. "Raeed Hwaiel was in his house in Basra when Muslims threw two grenades into his house in October 2003. Ms Abrar Saaeed was kidnapped by Muslims and forcibly converted to Islam together with her family in Basra in November 2003. Jinan Bassim Tabit was kidnapped by Muslims in Baghdad in September 2003. Seaa Mehsen was killed by Muslims in Baghdad in October 2003." The SMAA sent me (E.Kendal) an email on 12 January with 30 such cases listed in detail. They acknowledge with much grief that this is only the tip of the iceberg, as the reports they receive are primarily from those Mandaeans with relatives in Australia.

The persecution is not localised. Mandaeans are being persecuted wherever they are found - Baghdad, Falluja, Basra. The persecution is also frequent and committed with impunity.

The Sabaean Mandaean Association of Australia believes all governments with troops in Iraq should be required to rescue from Iraq all the Mandaeans and Christians who have been forcibly
converted to Islam.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Footnote

1) Bat Ye'or. The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: from
Jihad to Dhimmitude. 1996.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Islamisation, extremism and the Christians of Pakistan

Date: Monday 26 January 2004
Subj: Islamisation, extremism and the Christians of Pakistan
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

---------------------------------------------------------------
ISLAMISATION, EXTREMISM AND THE CHRISTIANS OF PAKISTAN
---------------------------------------------------------------

QUID PRO QUO

On 6 June 2003, the WEA RLC produced a News & Analysis posting entitled "Pakistan: Islamisation or dictatorship or both?" That posting examined the relationship between Pakistan's President Musharraf and the Majlis Muttahida-e-Amal (MMA) - an alliance of six anti-West, pro-Taliban, pro-sharia, Islamic parties that hold the balance of power in Pakistan.

In August 2002, Musharraf amended the Constitution by decree (the Legal Framework Order) to give himself vastly increased powers. The October 2002 elections however, resulted in a hung parliament. Musharraf's military-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Quid-e-Azam (PML-Q) won the most seats, but all opposition parties opposed Musharraf's constitutional amendments.

During 2003 the MMA managed to strike a deal with Musharraf; to support the LFO in exchange for his acceptance of their Islamisation package. That package contains 17 points - seven are modifications of the LFO, ten relate to the Islamisation of society. (Link 1)

THE DEAL IS DONE

In late December 2003 the Pakistan Parliament passed the Seventeenth Amendment Bill, which asserts the validity of the Legal Framework Order (LFO), modified in accordance with the demands of the MMA. The amendments made by the Seventeenth Amendment Act and the modified Legal Framework Order, have now been incorporated into the text of the Constitution.

On 1 January 2004, General Musharraf secured a vote of confidence in both houses of parliament and four provincial assemblies, meaning he will remain in power until late 2007, and as military chief until the end of 2004.

Musharraf's success on both counts was due to the support of the MMA. So what has this cost in terms of quid pro quo with the MMA? Details of any deal are proving extremely difficult to find. However, some things are self-evident. President Musharraf's dependence upon the MMA severely limits his ability to deal with Islamist extremism and terrorism, and this puts Musharraf in a hard place. He must appease the U.S. for military aid, and he must appease the mullahs and the MMA for regime survival. This seriously compromises security for Christians in Pakistan. Ultimately it also compromises Musharraf's own security.

RESURGENT EXTREMISM

Reuters reported on 16 January 2004 that the car bomb that exploded outside the Holy Trinity Cathedral/Bible Society complex in Karachi on 15 January "was a fertiliser bomb very much similar to what was used in the U.S consulate". The U.S. Consulate in Karachi (1 km from the Holy Trinity Cathedral) was bombed in June 2002. That attack was attributed to Al-Almi, a splinter faction of Harkat-ul Mujahideen, a group fighting in Kashmir. (Link 2)

TIME magazine reported in the 26 January issue that the militant Islamist group Jaish-e-Muhammad (also fighting in Kashmir) was behind the 25 December 2003 assassination attempt on Musharraf, and that this group is also linked to the June 2002 bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi.

Regarding the assassination attempt, TIME magazine comments (and we can apply this to the Bible Society bombing as well), "That Jaish-e-Muhammad has the capacity to launch sophisticated attacks on the President, possibly with insider help, is a situation partly of Musharraf's making. The government in Islamabad has long coddled militant Islamic groups, encouraging them first to help drive the Soviets out of neighboring Afghanistan and later to torment Indian troops in the part of the disputed state of Kashmir that is under Indian control.

"Under pressure from Washington, he (Musharraf) banned various militant organizations in January 2002, but he left their leaders largely unfettered and allowed the organizations to reconstitute under new names. Pakistan's intelligence services, which had helped build up the ground and infiltrate its fighters into Indian-controlled Kashmir, were hesitant to crack down, even after Jaish-e-Muhammad began unleashing religious terrorism within Pakistan." (Link 3)

Compass Direct (http://www.compassdirect.org ) reported on 23 January that Pakistani Christian teenager, Zeeshan Gill (16), was kidnapped for more than two weeks in November 2003 by Islamist militants training fighters for jihad in Kashmir. Zeeshan was taken to Jamia al Qasim al Aloom Islamic school (madrasa), beaten, forced to recite the Islamic creed, and threatened with death. He escaped home to his mother and they have fled into hiding.

Compass Direct reports, "According to Joseph Francis of the Lahore-based Center for Legal Aid and Assistance Settlement (CLAAS), the Gill family's dilemma is not unusual among Pakistan's tiny Christian minority." Joseph Francis told Compass Direct that CLAAS lawyers represented another boy who had been kidnapped as a minor. It was ordered that he be released from the madrasa. Shortly after his return to his mother, he was re-kidnapped and sent straight to Kashmir. No one knows his whereabouts.

Until the Pakistan government stops supporting the Kashmir jihad, dismantles the terror networks and cuts off their lifelines - madrasas and funds - the Christian community will remain at great risk.

---------------------------------------------
REPORT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP
Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan's Failure to Tackle Extremism
16 January 2004

The International Crisis Group has released a detailed report analysing and condemning Pakistan's lack of action against extremist Islamist organisations and madrasas. (Link 4)

The ICG report notes that the Pakistan government appears to be "more concerned about appeasing a valuable ally [MMA] than tackling the threats of terrorism and extremism in earnest."

The ICG accuses the government of refusing to invoke anti-terrorism laws against the leaders and members of banned militant Islamist organisations or dismantle their infrastructure. Hence when these groups are banned, they simply re-surface with new names and continue operations.

The government's failure to reform the jihadi madrasas is rooted in two issues - government support for the Kashmir jihad, and government dependence on MMA support for regime survival.

MADRASA REFORM & SECTARIAN VIOLENCE

The ICG reports details the links between the mullahs, the MMA and the madrasas and comments that "to appease the clergy and to gain the religious parties' support for the LFO, President Musharraf placed madrasa reform on the backburner".

"President Musharraf's MMA allies have categorically rejected, with a public campaign, government reforms of madrasas and any proposed laws to regulate their functioning, including curricula and finances." (ICG p 9)

Not only has madrasa reform gone on the backburner, but the issue of terrorist financing has been sidestepped altogether.

ICG reports, "Within Pakistan, the jihadi madrasa also continues to play a central role in promoting sectarian hatred and violence." And, "Sectarian tensions are bound to increase so long as the jihadi madrasa is allowed to preach religious intolerance." (ICG p 10)

HAMSTRUNG

Excerpts from ICG report page 16, under the heading "Strategies of Regime Survival" and subheading "Appeasing the Mullahs": "President Musharraf's pledges in 2002 to confront and eliminate Islamist extremism were compromised by his desire to obtain MMA support for controversial constitutional amendments and indeed his presidency. Now that the MMA has played a pivotal role in giving the LFO constitutional cover and helping Musharraf gain a vote of confidence to extend his presidency until 2007, the military-run government may be even less likely to risk taking effective action against the religious alliance and its many extremist offshoots.

"The quid pro quo for Musharraf's deal with the mullahs might never be officially revealed but can be gauged, at least partially, through the MMA's demands. Even prior to the December 2003 agreement, it had insisted upon official support for Islamisation in return for acceptance of the LFO and Musharraf's dual hats of president and chief of army staff. In June 2003, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain admitted that the government had accepted ten MMA demands for Islamisation, in addition to pledging government funding to 8,000 madrasas. The ten included legislation in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology; restructuring the economy, education and media along Islamic lines; ensuring rights for women in accordance with Islamic injunctions; and giving Islamic subjects equal importance with other fields of study in all educational institutions."

MMA's MASS CONTACT CAMPAIGN

On Sunday 18 January the MMA launched a "mass contact campaign" for the enforcement of its 17-point Islamisation programme, which it describes as "the only solution to the country's many problems".

MMA chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad said that Pakistan had to come out from under American influence, that "Kashmir Solidarity Day" should be celebrated nationwide on 5 February. Ahmad read out the MMA 17-point Islamisation package and said, "We want to enforce true Islamic system in the country and the 17 points covers all aspects of Nizam-i-Shariat [Islamic law] whose implementation would establish Nizam-i-Mustafa [Islamic system] in the country." (Link 5)

INCREMENTAL ISLAMISATION (ICG p 19)

The ICG report comments on the shari'a bill passed by the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Assembly in June 2003, which pledges to impose "Allah's rule on earth through His pious men".

"Under another proposed law, yet to be presented to the provincial parliament, the MMA government intends to set up a hasba (accountability) department and ombudsman's offices at the provincial, district and local levels to ensure the enforcement of Islamic laws. Each ombudsman will have under his command a hasba force, a Pakistani version of the Taliban's vice and virtue police."

The ICG notes that, "The MMA's policies in the NWFP have encouraged extremists in other provinces and at the centre to follow suit." The report then details cases of Islamist groups in Baluchistan, the Punjab, Lahore, and Karachi, illegally enforcing elements of Islamic law, primarily in relation to depictions women in advertising, not only with impunity, but support from the national government.

"After the MMA's support for the Seventeenth Amendment, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali emphasised that his party, the PML-QA [Musharraf's military-backed party], and the MMA are 'natural allies', and that both 'favour...implementing [a] complete Islamic system in the country'."

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) "Pakistan: Islamisation or dictatorship or both?"
WEA RLC News & Analysis, Elizabeth Kendal, 6 June 03

2) Police link Karachi church bomb, consulate blast.
By Aamir Ashraf , KARACHI (Reuters), 16 Jan 2004
http://www.reuters.com/locales/newsArticle.jsp?type=worldNews&locale
=en_IN&storyID=4139006

3) TIME. 26 Jan 2004
The Monster Within. By Tim McGirk in Islamabad
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101040126-578991,0
0.html

4) Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan's Failure to Tackle Extremism
Asia Report N°73
16 January 2004
http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=2472

5) MMA launches mass contact campaign
HiPakistan 18 January 2004
http://www.hipakistan.com/en/detail.php?newsId=en51266&F_catID=&f_ty
pe=source

Friday, January 2, 2004

Sri Lanka: situation critical.

Date: Friday 2 January 2004
Subj: Sri Lanka: situation critical.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


The grief accompanying the death of the Buddhist nationalist champion, Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero, along with all the subsequent and virtually unchallenged false information about a Christian conspiracy to murder him is resulting in the security situation for Christians in Sri Lanka becoming critical. (Link 1)

CONSPIRACY THEORIES - MURDER

Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero (57) was a champion of Buddhist nationalism. He died of a heart attack on 12 December in Russia where he was receiving an honorary doctorate. He was also a diabetic. An autopsy confirmed that heart failure was the cause of death and that Ven. Soma, with a heart condition, had suffered a previous minor heart attack. Buddhist nationalists in Sri Lanka had wanted Ven. Soma's body returned without an autopsy. The Sri Lankan government made a special request to the Russian government for the autopsy to be done in Russia.

Ven. Soma's supporters allege however, that he was number four on a 'hit list' of an unnamed Christian group. They have even named a Christian businessman as being linked to a conspiracy to murder Ven. Soma. (Link 1)

The Sasana Sevaka Sangamaya, a lay organization formed by Ven. Soma, claims it has information that Christian fundamentalists had arranged a sum of US $24,000 to silence him and Medananda Thera. (Link 2)

Thousands of colour posters have appeared which accuse Christians, certain NGOs (non-government organisations), and leading businessmen of hatching a plot to kill Ven. Soma. (Link 3)

Angry, vengeful and grief-striken Buddhist nationalists are embracing the late Venerable Soma's contempt for Christianity and Christian NGOs, and his passion for anti-conversion legislation, with renewed militant fervour.

"NGO MAFIA"

Venerable Soma referred to NGOs as the instruments of a "diabolical conspiracy" by Christian powers to convert and corrupt the Singhalese Buddhist nation. In the light of such allegations it is not surprising that the office of World Vision in Sri Lanka was attacked on 13 November 2003.

Posters have gone up that read, "Let's defeat the NGO mafia", picturing Ven. Soma walking with the Sri Lankan army. This image sets up an expectation that along with Sri Lanka's monks, the Sri Lankan army should be a protector of Buddhism. It is also "'a veiled rise up call to the military - exhorting it to demonstrate its true patriotic role as the guardian of the Sinhala Buddhist nation,' a leading political columnist for an English weekly published from Colombo told TamilNet." (View posters at TamilNet - Link 4.)

ANTI-CONVERION LAWS

On Monday 29 December 2003, dozens of Buddhist monks protested "unethical conversions" by Christians and demanded anti-conversion laws be enacted immediately. One hundred Buddhist monks of the Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya have commenced a hunger strike "unto death" opposite the Buddha Sasana Ministry, urging the government and President Chandrika Kumaratunga to bring in laws to curb unethical conversions. They also charge Christian "fundamentalists" of operating under the guise of NGOs. (Link 5)

(As has been explained in previous WEA RLC reports on Sri Lanka, anti-Christian elements regard all conversions as coerced and unethical. Also, "fundamentalist" generally refers to evangelicals, generally not associated with the mainline denominations, i.e. Baptists, AOGs, independents etc.)

The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) reports that Sri Lankan Roman Catholic Archbishop Rt. Rev. Oswald Gomis and Bishop Rev. Marius Peiris have issued a joint statement expressing their concern over the growing number of complaints on the illegitimate and wrongful conversions, and distancing themselves from "fundamentalist Christian sects, particularly by the more radical elements". This is clearly a self-serving measure in the face of rising anti-Christian hostility.

According to this Daily Mirror article, ". . . anti-Christian slogans have become the order of the day. There are fears that this wrath might spiral to unimaginable levels with the tensions exacerbated by unsubstantiated reports both deliberately and unwittingly propagated." (Link 3)

"HOLY WAR" - CHRISTIANS ATTACKED

At Ven. Soma's funeral, some monks called for a "Holy War" upon Christians. (Link 1) One man at the funeral was savagely beaten after being identified as a Christian. (Link 4)

The Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka has documented 14 incidents of violent attacks against churches, house churches, pastors, and Christian families in the 5 days between the 24 December 03 state funeral of Ven. Soma and 29 December.

STATEMENT FROM WEA RLC

"The global church and all organizations working for human rights should closely monitor what now is happening on Sri Lanka and contact authorities in Colombo asking them to guarantee religious freedom for everyone in Sri Lanka," says Johan Candelin, Executive Director of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission and Goodwill Ambassador of WEA. "Unless this is done we are probably seeing only the beginning of a "disinformation war and subsequent attacks" against Christians. World Evangelical Alliance will surely take up these attacks at the UN Commission meeting in Geneva this spring (April)."

The articles linked to here are the most detailed reports on this horrific situation - they are essential reading.

Elizabeth Kendal


Links

1) Attacks on churches reflect religious tensions in Sri Lanka
By Feizal Samath, InterPress Service, 31 December 2003
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2003/dec/31/yehey/opinion/20031231opi6.html
AND
Sri Lanka police on guard after attacks on churches
Reuters, 30 Dec 2003
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/CL156772.htm

2) Sri Lankan Buddhists Target Christians for Monk's Death
By Champika Liyanaarachchi, Colombo, 23 Dec 2003
http://www.oneworld.net/article/view/75763/1/

3) Ethno-religious insecurities take precedence over peace process
By Champika Liyanaarachchi, Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka 24 Dec 2003
http://www.dailymirror.lk/2003/12/24/opinion/1.asp

4) Postmortem of xenophobia
TamilNet, 29 December 2003
http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=10812

5) Fasting monks demand anti-conversion laws
Minister promises Cabinet proposal
By Pujitha Wijetunge Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, 30 Dec 2003
http://www.dailymirror.lk/2003/12/30/front/1.asp