Friday, May 28, 2004

Iraq: can sovereignty guarantee security?

Date: Friday 28 May 2004
Subj: Iraq: can sovereignty guarantee security?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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CAN SOVEREIGNTY GUARANTEE SECURITY?
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Reports of intimidation and violence indicate that the situation is deteriorating for non-Muslims in Iraq's hot spots. When these concerns are expressed, the response is invariably that sovereignty is the key to security in Iraq. Yet in Fallujah, where US troops have withdrawn and control has been handed to Iraqi forces, religious minorities appear to be more at risk than ever as the town descends into a Taliban-style Islamic mini-state. This leads us to ask, "Security for whom?"

If the US and allied troops are going to withdraw and evacuate before they can guarantee the security and future of the non-Muslim population of Iraq, then they should take the vulnerable religious minorities with them. Refuge should then be provided in America and its allied nations.

This scenario is of course not what the Iraqi religious minorities want. They want security in their homeland, the homeland of their ancestors and their immense history.

MANDAEANS UNDER ATTACK

The Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) is receiving regular reports of kidnappings and murders of Mandaeans (who follow the teachings and practice of John the Baptist).

On Friday 21 May it was reported to the SMAA: "Two more Mandaean children have been kidnapped by Muslims in Iraq. Mohand Wasfi Hnadi aged 15 years, was kidnapped by Muslims in Basra 14 days ago. Osama Ashor Hwail aged 12 years, was kidnapped by Muslims in Basra 4 days ago. There are fears that they may have been forcibly circumcised and forcibly converted to Islam."

On Friday 21 May the SMAA was informed that a young Mandaean man aged 22 years, was killed two days earlier in Baghdad by members of Al-Sadr's "Mehdi Army". He was the only son of his parents.

On 25 May the SMAA was informed of the kidnapping of a female Mandaean college student, close to her house the Zayoona area, as she was returning home from her final exams. Her parents were contacted to pay one million dollars for her safety.

These kidnapping reports are frequent and in most cases the victims are not heard of again - they simply "disappear". According to the SMAA this has particularly been the case in respect with women and girls who have been kidnapped by Muslims.

The SMAA is also receiving reports of Mandaeans being intimidated and terrorised and of Muslims seizing the opportunity to repudiate debts owed to Mandaeans. Of course the Mandaean creditors have no remedy and no redress.

The SMAA understand that considerable numbers of Mandaeans have now fled from Iraq and more are now preparing to flee.

CHRISTIANS AND MANDAEANS THREATENED

On 25 May, the SMAA received confirmation that the Mandaean Church (Mandi) in Baghdad had received a letter demanding that the Mandaeans take part in the Muslims' attacks upon the Americans with the threat of reprisals by the Muslims if the Mandaeans fail to do so.

Assyrian Christians have also received threatening letters telling them to support Muslim rebellion and practise Islam or suffer the consequences. One such letter was passed to Assyrian Christian News. Both the scanned Arabic hand written letter and an English translation can be found at <http://www.assyrianchristians.com/notice_english.htm>.

The recipients of this letter are told to stand with the "'Brothers of Muslims' group" and follow the Muslims' basic rules of wearing the Islamic veil and following Islamic teaching. If the recipients do not submit and comply, then it is threatened that they will be raped, tortured, killed, kidnapped, or have their house, along with their family, burned or "exploded".

The letter is signed in Persian, from the "Islamic troops of Bader in Najaf, Tehran - The Islamic Campaign".

The SMAA comments that the letter to the Assyrian Christians reads very much like the letter sent to the Mandaean Mandi.

This appears to be an orchestrated campaign of jihad, to fully Islamise the community.

WILL SOVEREIGNTY MEAN SECURITY FOR ALL?

US troops withdrew from Fallujah in early May under an agreement that ended a three-week siege. They were replaced by local Iraqi police and Fallujah was placed under the control of a new Iraqi military force, the Fallujah Brigade, led by Lt. Gen. Salah Abboud al-Jabouri, a former officer in Saddam Hussein Republican Guard, and a native of Fallujah.

Hamza Hendawi reports for the Associated Press, "With U.S. Marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state." Hendawi's report on Fallujah is chilling. (Link 1)

As Hendawi notes, "Under the agreement, the Marines handed security in the city to a new Fallujah Brigade made up largely of local residents and commanded by officers of Saddam Hussein's former army.

"With the departure of the Marines, the position of the U.S.-appointed civil administration has been weakened in favor of the clerics and the mujahedeen who resisted the U.S. occupation. That is a pattern that could be repeated elsewhere in Iraq after the occupation ends June 30, unless other legitimate leaders come forward to replace those tainted by association with the occupation."

Hendawi reports from Fallujah, "On Sunday, for example, scores of masked mujahedeen, shouting 'Allahu Akbar,' or 'God is Great,' paraded four men stripped down to their underpants atop the back of a pickup that drove through the city. Their bare backs were bleeding from 80 lashes they had received as punishment for selling alcohol. They were taken to a hospital where they were treated and released.

"On Tuesday, the mujahedeen expanded their 'cleanup' campaign. About 80 masked, armed men, accompanied by local police, forced hundreds of street hawkers at gunpoint to clear out from the streets and confine their businesses to designated areas.

"According to residents, barbers have been instructed not to give 'Western' haircuts - short on the back and sides and full on top - or to remove facial hair."

AL-SISTANI

Considering the influence Iraq's senior Shi'a cleric Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani is likely to have in the new Iraq, it might be advisable for everyone to familiarise themselves with his website.

Under "Islamic laws" -- under "Najis things", Sistani gives a list of those things Muslims are to consider najis (unclean). Sistani says, "The following ten things are essentially najis: Urine, Faeces, Semen, Dead body, Blood, Dog, Pig, Kafir, Alcoholic liquors, The sweat of an animal who persistently eats najasat."

Sistani's definition of "Kafir": "An infidel i.e. a person who does not believe in Allah and His Oneness, is najis... similar is the case of those who deny Prophethood, or any of the necessary laws of Islam... The entire body of a Kafir, including his hair and nails, and all liquid substances of his body, are najis. As regards the People of the Book (i.e. the Jews and the Christians) who do not accept the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad bin Abdullah (Peace be upon him and his progeny), they are commonly considered najis, but it is not improbable that they are Pak [clean]. However, it is better to avoid them."

It must be noted though, that in spite of being najis (unclean), kafir (infidels) may be used for the purpose of temporary marriage (marriage for a set period of time i.e. half an hour, in exchange for payment).

In other words, according to Al-Sistani, Mandaeans and Christians are confirmed and condemned as filth and good for nothing but prostitution.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Link

1) Fallujah slides toward Islamic state
By Hamza Hendawi. The Associated Press.
Fallujah, Iraq. 26 May 2004
http://www.sunherald.com/mld/thesunherald/news/world/8760091.htm

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Nigeria: Christians die in Kano after Muslims die in Plateau.

Date: Thursday 13 May 2004
Subj: Nigeria: Christians die in Kano after Muslims die in Plateau.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Readers of WEA RLC News & Analysis will be very familiar with the consequences of Christian minorities being scapegoated and demonised for political gain through the playing of ethnic and religio-nationalist politics. The situation in Plateau state central Nigeria is the same as that, except in reverse, and this has led eventually to the appalling massacre of between 200 and 600 Muslims by "Christian" militiamen in Yelwa on 1-2 May.

In recent years Nigeria has seen some radical and devastating retaliatory attacks and rioting by northern Muslims in response to trivial "Christian" infractions, usually accusations of insulting Islam, the prophet Mohammad or the Qur'an. A prime example is the November 2002 Muslim riot in Kaduna, triggered by a journalist's comment concerning Nigeria's hosting of the Miss World contest. Muslims deemed her comment offensive and the ensuing riot left 200 dead, 1,000 injured, 11,000 homeless and 20 churches destroyed. Unfortunately these riots have become a feature of life in northern Nigeria, ensuring that the Christian minority lives in a perpetual state of fear-induced submission.

It therefore beggars the imagination to contemplate what might be in store for the Christians of Northern Nigeria after the appalling and devastating massacre in Yelwa, unless of course the government can restore calm.

On 11 May 04, in the northern state of Kano, a Muslim demonstration to protest the Yelwa deaths descended into chaos and rioting, leaving at least 11 Christians dead and two churches torched. Rioting continued on 12 May and the death toll rose to about 30 with some 50 injured and much property destruction. A dusk to dawn curfew has been imposed. Thousands of Christians have fled the city.

Even before the Yelwa massacre, Zamfara state had ordered the destruction of all churches in accordance with its implementation of "Sharia Phase 2". (Link 1) It is possible that the Yelwa massacre will be used to justify all manner of repression and persecution being unleashed upon an already besieged Christian minority. Security has been tightened in the northern city of Bauchi after leaflets were found calling on Muslims to avenge the Yelwa killings and on Christians to leave the region. Security has also been increased in Kaduna as tensions are running high.

On 11 May President Obasanjo held a crisis meeting with Muslim clerics in Abuja and implored them to be patient and give him time to deal with the matter. "I will appeal to you to restrain our Muslim brothers... because if you go for an eye for an eye, this country will be bloody."

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PLATEAU: THE YELWA MASSACRE - HOW DID IT GET TO THIS?

Plateau State in central Nigeria is majority Christian. Before democracy came to Nigeria in 1999, the nation had been ruled almost exclusively by northern Muslims through a succession of military dictatorships. During those years, the Hausa Muslim minority of Plateau state gained privileges, and dominated politics, business and wealth. The poverty and marginalisation experienced by the Christian majority generated feelings of resentment.

When democracy did come to Nigeria in 1999, Christian political figures in Plateau discovered that ethnic politics could work for them, winning votes by feeding Christian resentment of Hausa Muslim domination and wealth. Hence there has developed in recent years a culture of "us and them" or of "indigene and stranger". The indigenes are Christian, poor and oppressed, while the strangers are Hausa, wealthy and dominating. People became political pawns - either majority vote-cattle to be appeased, or minority scapegoats to be demonised. This forms the backdrop to what has happened in Plateau in recent months.

Many Hausa-Fulani, though Muslims, have returned to or immigrated into Plateau state in recent years to escape the deteriorating conditions and harsh imposition of Sharia law in the northern states. There has been tit-for-tat conflict over land between the Hausa-Fulani cattle herders and the "Christian" Tarok crop farmers ever since.

The most recent cycle of violence, which has created the present crisis, began with Fulani cattle trampling Tarok crops. This is a real problem and needs to be addressed, as the crops are the Tarok's means of livelihood. Unfortunately the Tarok took the situation into their own hands and stole and killed Fulani cattle. This is also serious as the cattle are the Fulani's livelihood. This should have been addressed. Unfortunately the Fulani took matters into their own hands and on 24 February 2004 they, along with hired Islamic mercenaries from Chad and Niger, killed 90 Tarok in Yelwa, including 48 who were axed to death as they sought refuge in a Church of Christ in Nigeria church, which was then torched.

Two days later Christians in Gerkawa town in the Shendam district of Plateau state turned on their Muslim neighbours to avenge the Yelwa killings. At least 40 Muslims were killed with swords or cutlasses and their bodies burned. The army evacuated some 3,000 Muslims from Gerkawa to Yelwa as Christians fled Yelwa out of fear of further attacks.

These tit-for-tat attacks have been occurring across Plateau and escalating, taking on the dimensions of a religious war. The Muslims are recruiting Islamic mercenaries from Chad and Niger, while the "Christian" militia that attacked Yelwa was allegedly armed and supported by retired generals, further escalating the violence. The state government seems to have made little effort to stop the violence.

In the most recent attack, the "Christian" militia that attacked Yelwa on 1-2 May used high-powered automatic assault rifles mounted on jeeps. There are rumours circulating that the "Christians" were aiming to inflict a final solution and rid the region of Hausa-Fulani "once and for all".

Nigerian Red Cross staff told an AFP reporter that at least 630 people had been killed. A spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, said however that a government team had visited Yelwa and put the death toll at between 200-300. Yelwa residents talk of a mass grave. However the National Emergency Management Agency investigated the grave and said that it had been in use for some time and that not all the bodies were recent. While the death toll is disputable and may possibly never be known, even 200 dead is a massacre of unacceptable and shocking proportions. (Link 2)

The Yelwa massacre has led to an exodus of Muslims from the region, further entrenching the religious polarisation of Nigerian society. The Plateau state government, which has fed ethnic and religious tensions for its own political gain, and has been totally ineffective in dealing with the crisis, must shoulder much of the blame.

KANO BOILS AND CHRISTIANS DIE

Islamic zeal is strong in the northern state of Kano. Kano's governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, was elected on a radical, hardline, pro-Sharia platform. Christians suffer intense persecution in Kano, their schools and churches having been closed and burned. It is compulsory for all public-school girls to wear Islamic hijab, and as the Christian schools have been closed Christians don't have much choice. On the night of Shekarau's election (21 May 2003), pastor Chikezie (Sunday) Madumere and his whole family were burned to death in their home in "No Man's Land" Kano city, by Muslim mobs celebrating Shekarau's win.

Kano has recently introduced a Mobile Court to monitor and deal with people selling and screening foreign films or videos, and selling or playing foreign audio CDs. The Mobile Court will be guided by Sharia law and is charged to work toward the institutionalisation of Islamic norms in all spheres of life. (Link 3)

In early May, Sheik Kabo informed Kano's Sharia Enforcement enforcers (HISBA) that the Kano State Sharia Commission would no longer permit any area or any person to be exempt from Sharia. He recommended that anyone who is not willing to adhere to Sharia should leave the state. (Link 4)

Reports that Christians had massacred more than 600 Muslims in Yelwa, Plateau state, quickly reach Kano. On Tuesday 11 May, Muslim leaders led a protest march that started off peacefully but degenerated into a violent riot.

Associated Press writer Oloche Samuel reports that angry Muslims hunted for "nonbelievers" whom they then killed with machetes before burning the bodies. "The violence came hours after thousands of Muslim protesters - some carrying daggers, sickles and clubs - marched from the main mosque in the northern city of Kano, traditionally a hotbed of religious tensions.

"Amina Usman, a 19-year-old university student, recounted seeing two mutilated bodies next to a makeshift checkpoint where young Muslim Hausa-speaking men armed with sticks, knives and clubs were searching cars for Christians and animists and asking passengers to recite Muslim prayers.

"An Associated Press reporter saw youths at a makeshift checkpoint of burning tires strike three young women with machetes after accusing them of being 'nonbelievers' for wearing Western-style skirts and blouses. The women escaped with bleeding head wounds after several motorcycle taxi drivers intervened."

Oloche Samuel reports that Umar Ibrahim Kabo, the most senior Muslim cleric in Kano, told protesters, some of whom burned U.S. and Israeli flags, 'This violence is a calculated global Western war against Muslims, just like in Afghanistan and Iraq. Muslims are in grief'."

According to Samuel, "Kabo issued a seven-day ultimatum to Obasanjo to apprehend the Yelwa killers 'or be blamed for whatever happens' afterward." (Link 5)

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Genuine followers of Jesus Christ are paying a heavy price for this ethnic and religious conflict. Obed Minchakpu reported for Compass Direct on 2 April that the violence in Plateau in late March had resulted in the deaths of 8 pastors and 1,500 Christian believers, and the destruction of 173 churches. Reverend Dr Alexander Mamdip Lar, President of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), reports concerning the Plateau crisis (2 May), "We [COCIN] lost two ordained ministers in Jos and Rim [and] 117 of our churches were destroyed, while six pastors, one ordained minister and hundreds of members were killed in Wase, thus completely obliterating the church there." As he says, the Church in Plateau is "under siege".

While genuine followers of Christ are not likely to be involved in atrocities, they will be (and are) hit first and most savagely in any retaliation.

- Elizabeth Kendal


Links

1) Zamfara Launches Sharia Phase II. 24 April 2004
http://allafrica.com/stories/200404260559.html

2) Death toll in Nigerian 'massacre' revised. 10 May 2004
http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=86&art_id=qw1084184820267N26
5&set_id=1

3) Kano Establishes Mobile Court to Preserve Culture, Beliefs
Vanguard (Lagos) 20 April 2004. By Tina Anthony in Kano
http://allafrica.com/stories/200404200985.html

4) Sharia: No Part of Kano is Exempted --Kabo
Vanguard (Lagos) 3 May 2004. By Tina Anthony in Kano
http://allafrica.com/stories/200405040076.html

5) Nigerian Muslim protest turns violent in wake of sectarian
killings. By Oloche Samuel, Associated Press, 11 May 2004
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20040511-1240-nigeria-viole
nce.html
FURTHER REPORT ON PLATEAU & KANO VIOLENCE
Shoot-on-sight order in Kano as death toll hits 30
By Tina Anthony, Taye Obateru, Charles Ozoemena & agency report
Vanguard (Lagos). 13 May 2004
http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/headline/f113052004.html
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PLUS - FURTHER ANALYSIS
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Bigotry and avarice fuel Nigerian conflicts.
By Dave Clark, 8 May 2004
http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=68&art_id=qw1084030920351B252&set_id=1
AND
Tears for Plateau (Daily Trust, Abuja)
OPINION Ujudud Shariff. 11 May 2004
http://allafrica.com/stories/200405110306.html