Showing posts with label sharia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sharia. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

KENYA: 4 August constitutional referendum threatens trouble for Kenyan Church.

With the government hungry for a YES win, after receiving assurances it would attract US investment , the constitutional referendum on 4 August 2010 threatens to split the Kenyan Church into pro-government vs dissident/oppositional camps.

Religious liberty observers must watch Kenya to see if this division translates into favoured vs persecuted status.

Kenyan churches are united in their support for constitutional reform, but not in their support for the draft constitution that will go to a referendum on 4 August. Most churches are advocating a 'NO' vote because the draft constitution makes abortion more accessible; it entrenches Kadhi (Islamic) courts; and it advances ethnic federalism (Balkanisation/Majimbo) which many fear could trigger ethnic violence.

On Sunday 13 June, six died and over 100 were wounded when a church-run 'NO' rally in Nairobi was bombed. Tensions are extremely high.

The Kenyan government desperately wants the constitution passed. This puts much of the Kenyan church in the dangerous position of political opposition in a country known for its propensity for political violence.

(See earlier post: KENYA's churches oppose draft constitution over concerns about abortion, 'Balkanisation' and Kadhi (Islamic courts). 16 June 2010)

CRACKS EMERGE

A group of clergymen operating under the banner, Christians for Yes, have come out in defence of the draft constitution and are advocating a 'YES' vote. The group, led by retired Anglican Archbishop David Gitari, includes PCEA cleric Timothy Njoya, bishops Peter Njenga, Beneah Salala and Mwai Abiero as well as the Rev John Njenga of the Anglican Church of Kenya, evangelical bishop Patrick Mungai, and outspoken Catholic priest Ambrose Kimutai.

Speaking at a ceremony recently, Dr Gitari exhorted Christians to fight falsehoods peddled by preachers who oppose the draft. He trivialised the amendments to the abortion law and claimed that fears over Sharia laws were misplaced fears. "There is a lot of sharia-phobia in the Christian church," he said. "More than 80 per cent of Kenyans are Christians. There is no way 20 per cent can push their way over everybody." (emphasis mine)

According to Dr Njoya, church leaders who advocate 'NO' have abandoned the gospel and are peddling lies on the kadhi courts and abortion. "They have substituted 'No' for God," he said. "Christians should boycott such churches. These peddlers of lies should be smoked out. Their conduct has shown that the church needs redemption."

MP Professor Nyong'o supported Dr Njoya and compared church leaders opposed to the constitution to Pharisees in the Bible who rejected Jesus.

At a subsequent press conference, the Nairobi archbishop of the Catholic Church, John Cardinal Njue and the Anglican head, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, along with Bishop Mark Kariuki, maintained that the Church leadership would not relent in its quest to shoot down the document, but also, they would not be being forcing anyone to vote against their conscience.

See:
Reformers Take Battle to Church
By Emeka Gekara-Mayaka, 7 July 2010

Kenya: Cracks in Church as Clerics Join 'Yes'
By Peter Leftie, Daily Nation (Kenya), 22 July 2010

DANGERS LURK

Meanwhile, Church leaders in the 'NO' camp report receiving threats on their mobile phones. On Saturday 17 July, a renegade 'pastor', John Kamau, and two accomplices were arrested and charged with being in possession of explosive materials and for plotting to bomb a 'NO' campaign rally in Mombasa.

See:
Police question man found with explosives
By FRED MUKINDA, Daily Nation (Kenya), Sunday, July 18 2010
PHOTO: Some of the 300 bomb detonators that police recovered from a suspect in Ongata Rongai, Nairobi July 10, 2010. Police arrested two men, one of them a pastor and recovered bomb material in their car July 17, 2010.

Pastor with bomb had bus ticket to Coast
By Cyrus Ombati, Standard Media, 19 July 2010

Bomb pastor faces seven years in jail
By NICHOLAS NGOLYO, Daily Nation (Kenya), Monday, 19 July 2010
PHOTO: Rev John Kamau Mbugua in Kibera court on Monday 19 July.

Friday, March 20, 2009

NIGERIA: THE BATTLE FOR SHARI'AH SUPREMACY

Date: Friday 20 March 2009
Subj: Nigeria: The Battle for Shari'ah Supremacy
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


In January 2000, Governor Ahmad Sani Yarima Bakura defied the Nigerian Constitution and enacted Shari'ah Law in his north western state of Zamfara. Other northern and middle-belt Muslim-majority states soon followed and it was not long before all 12 northern states were under Shari'ah Law: the constitution of the Islamic State. In religiously mixed middle-belt states such as Kaduna and Plateau, thousands -- mostly Christians -- died in Shari'ah riots and anti-Christian pogroms.

Nigeria has a secular constitution which guarantees religious freedom and does not permit states to adopt a religion (See Link 1). Adoption of Islamic Law as the law of the state does violate the constitution. It is extremely unfortunate that the federal government did not nip the Shari'ah movement in the bud while it had the chance. Then-president Olusegun Obasanjo seriously underestimated the Shari'ah movement, believing it would fade away by itself. But of course it did not. Instead it has transformed from bud to monstrous ticking time bomb.

SHARI'AH IMPLEMENTATION


As long as the constitution of the Federation remains supreme, Shari'ah Law cannot be fully implemented because any Shari'ah ruling made in a northern Shari'ah court that conflicts with the provisions of the constitution of the Federation can be successfully appealed in a federal court on constitutional grounds. Because of this, Shari'ah courts have avoided issuing harsh penalties: the acquittal of Amina Lawal is a case point. In March 2002, Amina Lawal -- who had been charged with adultery after conceiving out of wedlock -- was sentenced by a Katsina Shari'ah Court to death by stoning. In September 2003, a Katsina Shari'ah Appeals Court acquitted her on procedural grounds. It was always understood that the death-by-stoning sentence -- which had attracted global attention -- would eventually have been overturned in the Supreme Court. (Link 2)

Subsequently, Shari'ah implementation slowed considerably.

The issue of the day is no longer Shari'ah adoption, but Shari'ah implementation. To this end, the Centre for the Promotion of Shari'ah held a three-day conference in Kano from Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 February to "brainstorm on the way forward for Shari'ah in Nigeria". (Link 3)

The Shari'ah advocates are pursuing constitutional amendments that would exempt Shari'ah Law from the constitutional provision in Article 1.3: "If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void." Such an exemption would essentially give Shari'ah Law (the constitution of the Islamic State) supremacy over the constitution of the Federation.

Isa Sa'idu reports for the Daily Trust that the Centre for the Promotion of Shari'ah (CPS) convened the conference with the aim of finding solutions to the problems militating against the implementation of the Shari'ah legal system in Nigeria. The conference was chaired by Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima (former governor of Zamfara State) and funded by the Kano State Government. (Link 3)

According to Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima, the main obstacle to Shari'ah implementation is the Federal Constitution. He proposed that each state have its own independent constitution. While ignoring the fact that such a move would essentially result in the break-up of Nigeria, Senator Yarima appealed to "democracy" saying, "Democracy is a game of numbers. If we are to practice democracy vis-a-vis the Shari'ah legal system, there is the need for us to have individual states' constitutions that would be drafted and supported by the people of every state. When we have that in place, states that want to practice Shari'ah can go ahead and do it holistically without any constraint." (Link 3)

According to the Daily Trust, the CPS National President, Imam Aliyu Ibrahim Al-Tukri said, " . . . some of the problems facing Shari'ah in Nigeria are non-execution of judgments on grave offences, pressure and negative campaigns from different groups, misconception and mischief about Shari'ah. He said the legal battle between Kano State and the federal government on the legality or otherwise of establishing the Hisbah (Shari'ah implementation guards) is a vivid example of attempt to frustrate Shari'ah implementation in Nigeria." (Link 3)

THE BATTLE OVER THE LEGALITY OF HISBAH
(Hasba/sharia implementation)

After comfortably winning the 2003 state elections, Kano's Governor Ibrahim Shekarau established a Hisbah (Shari'ah implementation) Board. By 2005 Kano State had a 9000-volunteer-strong Hisbah Corps essentially operating as a parallel police force tasked primarily with enforcing Shari'ah Law.

In May 2004 the Kano Assembly passed legislation banning women riding on taxi mopeds, deeming it un-Islamic. In December 2005 Hisbah Corps launched a crack down on un-Islamic transport, in particular the persistent problem of women riding on taxi mopeds. The resultant clash between taxi drivers and the Hisbah Shari'ah enforcers -- which resulted in eleven people being injured and dozens of vehicles being vandalised -- generated an uproar.

But the greatest tension was not between the Hisbah Corps and the "masses" but between the Hisbah Corps and the police with whom they frequently clashed while pulling women off moving mopeds and confiscating alcohol from hotels etc.

On or around 7 February 2006, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Sunday Ehindero, told a press conference that the Hisbah Law and the operations of bodies created by the Hisbah Law were unconstitutional and therefore illegal. He claimed the Hisbah agencies undermined Nigeria's national security, and noted intelligence alleging the Hisbah Board was receiving assistance from Libya and Iran and that around 100 Hisbah officers had been trained abroad in the ideology and methodology of jihad and terrorism, a claim the Kano authorities denied.

On 8 February 2006, the Inspector-General of Police arrested the Chairman of the Hisbah Corps, Yahaya Faruk Chedi, and his Deputy, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareen. The men, arrested in Kano, were immediately taken to Abudja where they were charged with conspiring to subvert the government by managing and assisting an unlawful society known as the Hisbah Board in Kano.

The Kano State Government responded by petitioning the Supreme Court of Nigeria, asking it to rule on the constitutionality of the Hisbah Law. The Federal Government then requested that the proceedings in the High Court of Abuja against the Kano Hisbah Corps Chairman and Deputy be stayed pending the determination of the suit at the apex court, because obviously the ruling of the apex court would impact the ruling of the Abuja High Court.

What Kano's Hisbah advocates were after was a Supreme Court ruling that would declare Hisbah lawful, and restrain the Inspector-General of Police from interfering in and disrupting the full implementation of the Law.

However, the Supreme Court ruled on 2 March 2007 that the case did not come under its jurisdiction as the Kano State Attorney-General's complaints were against the Inspector-General of Police and not against the Federation. Seven Chief Justices were unanimous in this and the case was struck out. (Full ruling see: Link 4)

In his ruling, Justice Mahmud Mohammed JSC notes that in 2005 the President of the Federation wrote a letter expressing concern about the Hisbah Board, to which the Governor of Kano State responded, allaying his fears. Subsequently, in July 2005 the President sent a delegation to Kano to investigate the situation. The Governor of Kano welcomed the delegation and reportedly extended full co-operation. The Governor of Kano also wrote to the President correcting the alleged misinformation being spread about the Hisbah Board.

As Justice Mohammed noted: "Not a single paragraph of the plaintiff's statement of claim accused the Federation of Nigeria or the Federal Republic of Nigeria of doing anything to the Hisbah Law of Kano State, the operation of the Hisbah Corps in Kano State or the arrest and detention of the named Commander General and Deputy Commander General of the Hisbah Corps in Kano State. On the face of the statement of claim of the plaintiff therefore, it is not difficult to see that there is no dispute whatsoever between Kano State in its status as a component unit of the Federation and the unit of the Federation itself which are the recognised parties when the original jurisdiction of this court is invoked."

In his judgment, Umaru Atu Kalgo JSC further elucidated the inaction of the Federal Government, adding that the President of the Federation "apart from writing the letter and sending a delegation on a fact finding mission to Kano, did not take or threaten to take any action against Kano State Government, or Hisbah Law, or any of its operators. There is no doubt that the President in his official capacity has the constitutional powers to address or deal with any security issue affecting or likely to affect Nigeria or any part thereof. He is the Chief Security Officer of this country and must be satisfied with any information on security before deciding whether to take action or not. In this case, the President did not take any action, apart from acquiring information from the Kano State Government, and therefore since he took no action at all, he is presumed to be satisfied with the explanation and information given to him."

In his judgment, Niki Tobi JSC noted that while there was clearly no dispute between the Kano State authorities and the Federal Government, Kano State was "asking for a declaration that the Kano State Hisbah Board Law No4 of 2003 and the Kano State Hisbah Board (Amendment) Law No 6 of 2005 are legal, lawful and constitutional", prompting Justice Tobi to ask: "Is the plaintiff not trying to jump the gun?"

And this is the point: the Federal Government has never challenged the legality of Shari'ah or Hisbah in the Supreme Court. Nor has it ever interfered with Shari'ah implementation. The Inspector-General of Police had acted in his own capacity when he made the claim that the Hisbah Corps was unconstitutional. The plaintiff's complaints were not against the Federation and so the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction. The plaintiff was left with the option of taking the complaint to the Federal High Court.

On 29 March 2007 the Daily Triumph reported that the presiding judge of the Abuja Court of Appeal, Justice Babs Kuewumi, had ruled the detention of Chairman of the Hisbah Corps, Yahaya Faruk Chedi, and his deputy, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareen to be unlawful and ordered the Federal Government pay each of them the sum of N500,000 as compensation for their illegal detention. (Link 5)

RETURNING TO THE CPS CONFERENCE


The driving force behind the Centre for the Promotion of Shari'ah (CPS), Kano State Governor Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, told the Kano conference that implementation of the Shari'ah legal system gives "a higher meaning and direction to politics" (Link 3).

Using the language of human rights and religious freedom, Governor Shekarau implored the conference participants not to forget the plight of Muslims in the south. "While Muslims in the north are struggling and pushing for further expansion of Shari'ah in their respective states, those in the south have been denied the right to have their marriages, divorces, inheritance and other social activities to be officially conducted, regulated and resolved in accordance with the provision of Shari'ah Law. This is unfair and unacceptable and the kinds of this forum must find a peaceful way out for our brothers in the south, also. We all have a role to play to this predicament of our southern brothers."

The Daily Trust reports: "At the end of the conference, the participants agreed that for Shari'ah to work effectively in Nigeria, the problems of political will, constitutional constraint, disparity in the approaches adopted by the Shari'ah implementing states, attitudinal problems of some Muslims towards Shari'ah, among others, must be addressed.

"The conference therefore called for a joint effort by the Shari'ah implementing states to ensure that concerned Muslims reflected, and impediments to Shari'ah implementation are removed in the proposed constitutional review, among many other recommendations."

The fact that the conference participants lamented the "attitudinal problems of some Muslims" exposes the reality that Muslims are divided over Shari'ah. Not all Muslims want the provisions of Shari'ah forced upon them.

Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz, who reported on the CPS conference for LEADERSHIP NIGERIA (Abuja), sees the reincarnation of the Shari'ah debate as a battle for supremacy.

Abdulaziz reports: "Insiders confirmed to LEADERSHIP that major forces within the pro-Shari'ah camp are itching to take centre stage with the Shari'ah agenda. Apart from the need to seek more power for the Shari'ah legal code in the new constitution which some persons have expressed, others are setting out to play the Shari'ah ticket for political prominence. The cornerstone of this, LEADERSHIP gathered, is the political romance coming into the limelight between the former Zamfara State Governor, Ahmad Sani Yarima and the incumbent Kano State Governor, Ibrahim Shekarau." (Link 6)

While a dispute between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the leadership of the Joint Constitution Review Committee has thrown the constitutional review process into disarray, Shari'ah advocates are making the most of the opportunity to advance Governor Ibrahim Shekarau's presidential prospects. One such group, known as Shekarau Political Action (SHEPAC), believes that Governor Shekarau "could be a vehicle for the total emancipation of the people of Nigeria". (Link 7)

By Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria --1999
http://www.nigeria-law.org/ConstitutionOfTheFederalRepublicOfNigeria.htm

Article 1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

Article 10. The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.

Article 38. (1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Links cont.

2) Facing Death for Adultery, Nigerian Woman Is Acquitted
By Somini Sengupta. Published: 26 September 2003
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9900E0D9153DF935A1575AC0A9659C8B63

3) Shari'ah: Surmounting the tall obstacles
by Isa Sa'idu, Kano. 10 March 2009
http://www.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5933&Itemid=17:testset

4) Supreme Court of Nigeria. Friday 2 March 2007. S.C. 26/2006
Between Attorney-General of Kano State (Plaintiff) and Attorney-General of the Federation (Defendant).
http://www.nigeria-law.org/Attorney-General%20of%20Kano%20State%20v%20Attorney-General%20of%20the%20Federation.htm

5) Rights abuse: Court orders FG pay Chedi, Rabo N1m
From Kabiru Yusuf, Abuja. 29 March 2007
http://www.triumphnewspapers.com/archive/DT29032007/right293207.html

6) Reincarnating The Shari'ah Debate?
By Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz. 10 March 2009
http://leadershipnigeria.com/news/138/ARTICLE/7971/2009-03-10.html

7) 2011: Inside Shekarau's 'presidential project'
By Suleiman M. Bisalla, 8 March 2009
http://www.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5818&Itemid=53

Monday, December 18, 2006

ACEH: A STRUGGLE COMMENCES OVER SHARIA

Date: Monday 18 December 2006
Subj: Aceh, Indonesia: A struggle commences over Sharia Law.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


On Monday 11 December, an estimated 85 percent of Aceh's 2.6 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the autonomous province's first gubernatorial elections since the peace agreement signed in Helsinki, Finland, in August 2005 that ended 30 years of conflict with Jakarta.

The result has implications not only for Aceh (Indonesia), but for the military-backed regime in Thailand which has proposed the "Aceh model" (autonomy with Sharia Law) be considered as a means of ending the Islamic insurgency in Thailand's deep south. (Link 1)

Sharia Law was part of the special autonomy package that President Habibie offered Aceh in 2001 to end the long separatist insurgency. But while virtually all Acehnese wanted Aceh to have special status and autonomy, not all Acehnese wanted Sharia. International Crisis Group (ICG) comments that Jakarta regarded Sharia Law as "something the Acehnese wanted (although how much was debatable - after the Indonesian parliament granted it, one Acehnese called it an 'unwanted gift', and he was not alone)". ICG's detailed examination of the implementation and expansion of Sharia in Aceh, and the repression and division it causes, can be found at link 2.

US-educated Irwandi Yusuf (46) is a former veterinarian doctor and lecturer at Aceh's state-run Syiah Kuala Universty. He became a military spokesman for GAM, writing GAM's media releases, and speechwriting for several exiled rebel leaders.

In 2003 Jakarta charged Irwandi with sedition and sentenced him to nine years in prison. He was freed on 26 December 2004 when the tsunami washed away the jail where he was incarcerated.

In 2005 Irwandi represented GAM on the international Aceh Monitoring Mission overseeing the Helsinki peace process. Whilst associated with GAM he is and always has been primarily an academic, not a gun-toting rebel.

Irwandi Yusuf contested the 11 December 2006 gubernatorial election as an independent. He was the only candidate whose election platform included the promise to re-examine the controversial imposition of Sharia Law in the province. He clearly did not believe this would be political suicide.

Irwandi Yusuf was an outside runner whose presence caused the GAM vote to be split. Despite this, and contrary to all predictions that the race would be tight, Yusuf was the clear winner, polling more than 39 percent of the vote, more than double his nearest rival.

His win is not only a rebuff to Jakarta, it is also a rebuff to the Islamists and unpopular Sharia enforcers. A selection of articles that detail Irwandi Yusuf's election campaign and give some insights into his views on Sharia can be found at link 3.

ISLAMIST CHALLENGE


After his election win Irwandi Yusuf indicated that Sharia would not be his first priority, rather he considered improving living conditions in the tsunami-ravaged province to be far more urgent. Sharia he said is "something we'll talk about later". For Aceh's Islamists however Sharia is clearly their first priority and they want to talk about it right now!

On Tuesday 12 December, the day after Yusuf's election victory, Aceh's Sharia Office published a draft law proposing amputation of the hand as punishment for thieves. The Sharia Office paid for the draft law to be published in an advertisement in Aceh's Serambi newspaper. The advertisement called for readers to submit their comments so the draft law could be reviewed before being put to legislators for debate. (Link 4)

Irwandi Yusuf immediately responded, promising that he would block any such law if it was pushed through before he took office. According to Irwandi, GAM never fought for sharia.

The Aceh situation is making headlines in Thailand. The Bangkok Post reports:

"The incoming governor of Indonesia's strife- torn Aceh province vowed to block a law to cut off a thief's hand, if such legislation is enacted before he takes office, he told a group of visiting German press Saturday night. 'I will stop this,' said Irwandi Yusuf, a former rebel and political prisoner who fought for Aceh's independence.

"The law was being actively pursued by the outgoing government, Irwandi said. Irwandi tried to allay fears that strict sharia law in Aceh might deter much-needed international investment. 'The problem is that sharia law was imposed on us by the central government in Jakarta,' Irwandi said." He went on to express his opinion that Sharia should be less about punishment and more about improving of people's lives. (Link 5)

WILL JAKARTA SUPPORT THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE?

It is to be hoped that Jakarta will uphold peace, autonomy and democracy in Aceh by supporting the people's choice in the face of Islamist pressure and provocation. There are grounds for concern that should unrest erupt (which is always likely when Islamists are challenged) Jakarta may instead choose military intervention and appeasement of Islamist forces.

Times Online reports that former GAM fighters "accuse the government of bolstering the Islamists and using sharia as a method of weakening their consistent demand for a progressive, democratic Aceh, ruled by its own people. 'They are exploiting the religious conviction of many Acehnese to manipulate them,' wrote Aguswandi, a human rights activist, in The Jakarta Post." (Link 6)


Links

1) Indonesia's Aceh as a model for Thailand's south?
WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis, 13 Nov 2006
WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

2) SHARIA IN ACEH

Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh
(Asia Report No 117 - 31 July 2006)
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4295&l=1
Morality police rule Aceh. By Cindy Wockner, 9 Dec 2006
http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,,20898999-5003406,00.html
Aceh wary over new Sharia police. By Lucy Williamson, 8 Dec 2006
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6220256.stm

3) IRWANDI YUSUF'S ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Hope for moderate in Aceh
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent. 9 Dec 2006
http://origin.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20896958-2703,00.html
Democracy calling.
Mark Forbes, Banda Aceh, 11 Dec 2006
http://www.theage.com.au/news/in-depth/democracy-calling/2006/12/10/1165685549981.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1
INTERVIEW-Ex-rebel confident of winning Aceh vote
11 Dec 2006, Reuters
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SP15253.htm
I need time: Aceh leader
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent, 13 Dec 2006
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20919292-2703,00.html

4) Draft law calls for amputation of thieves' hands in Indonesia's Aceh
The Associated Press, 12 Dec 2006
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/12/12/asia/AS_GEN_Indonesia_Aceh_Islamic_Law.php

5) Aceh 'will not have sharia law'
Banda Aceh (dpa) 17 Dec 2006
http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=115193

6) Tsunami survivors given the lash
Michael Sheridan and Dewi Loveard, Banda Aceh. 17 Dec 2006
Disaster donations help Islamic vigilante force impose punishments on women
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2508262,00.html

Monday, November 13, 2006

INDONESIA'S ACEH AS A MODEL FOR THAILAND'S SOUTH?

Date: Monday 13 November 2006
Subj: Indonesia's Aceh as a model for Thailand's south?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


Not all Muslims want to live under Sharia Law (the constitution of political Islam). Non-Muslims definitely don't. When Jakarta granted Aceh autonomy and the right to enact Sharia Law it brought peace to Jakarta, but at the expense of the Acehnese. The implementation, subsequent expansion and impact of Sharia in Aceh is the subject of the latter part of this posting.

Now Thailand's military-appointed Prime Minister is proposing the "Aceh model" as a means of ending the Islamic insurgency in Thailand's deep south. This would doubtless bring peace to Bangkok, but it would be at the expense of the southern Thai, 20 percent of whom are Buddhist (not even "People of the Book"!). Southern Thai would pay for this "peace" with their lives as Islamic terrorism morphs into religious persecution and ethnic cleansing.

It may be relevant to note that Thailand's new interim Prime Minister, Surayud Chulanont, was appointed by coup-leader and Army Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, Thailand's first Muslim Army Chief. They have a close relationship. Surayud Chulanont, a former member of King Bhumibol Adulyadej Privy Council, played a key role in the promotion of General Boonyaratkalin to position of Army Chief. The recently installed cabinet is allegedly little more than a political front for the military, and while Thailand is less than five percent Muslim, the most significant and powerful posts are now held by Muslims. The Defence Minister, Boonrawd Somtas, is a Muslim; and the Interior Minister, Aree Wongarya, is also a Muslim.

-----------------------------
THAILAND'S SOUTH
-----------------------------


Muslims count for only 4.6 percent of the 65 million population of Thailand, but are concentrated in the southern-most provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat where they form majorities. According to the 2000 census, Muslims represent 69 percent of the 415,000 residents in Yala; 88 percent of the 600,000 residents of Pattani; and 82 percent of the 662,000 residents of Narathiwat. Around 90 percent of Thai Muslims are ethnic Malay and speak a Malay dialect.

While a separatist struggle has simmered in the deep south for decades, the Islamic insurgency which erupted in earnest on 4 January 2004 has now claimed more than 1,700 lives. Most Christians and Christian ministries have fled the region. Militant Islamists target Buddhist monks (who are frequently decapitated), government-run schools, karaoke bars and other
entertainment venues (which are frequently bombed), as well as Thai soldiers, police, checkpoints and other pro-government individuals or institutions. On Thursday 9 November, eight car and motorcycle showrooms were bombed almost simultaneously at noon in Yala, leaving nine wounded.

While Thai Muslims have historically been well assimilated, several factors have contributed to the growing Islamic unrest and the rise of Islamic terrorism in the Muslim-majority southern provinces.

In May 2005, International Crisis Group (ICG) asserted that despite the rise in "puritanical strains of Islam", "Muslim anger at the deployment of Thai troops in Iraq" and the growth in "Islamic consciousness and a sense of persecution and solidarity with fellow Muslims", the violence in the south is not an Islamic jihad and is driven by local issues. ICG cites "historic issues" as well as discrimination, the heavy handed tactics employed by the Thai police and military, and the government's tendency to send its most inept and corrupt officials to posts in the Muslim south, frustrating the local population there, as examples of local issues driving the insurgency. (Link 1)

While these issues are definitely historic and contributing factors, the pre-eminent factor behind the present insurgency is undoubtedly radicalisation. As GlobalSecurity.org noted in mid 2004, "Authorities have known for quite some time that many Muslim Thai activists went overseas to
Islamic schools, where they came under influence of hard-line teachers. Some were reported to have joined the jihad war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and returned to Thailand as extremists." (Link 2)

Yet it is well known that radicalisation does not affect all Muslims. Many Muslims, especially in south-east Asia, actively resist the introduction of radical (Wahhabi) elements and ideology. For this they are labeled "apostates" by the bearers of "true Islam", and are persecuted and sometimes killed for their efforts.

Samart Disuma is one such Muslim. Samart, a community leader, has resisted radical and separatist elements in the southern province of Yala for decades. These days he and his family live in a virtual fortress. Rungrawee C. Pinyorat writes, "While critical of government policies, a number of Muslims in the south work for reconciliation and show no desire to live in a separate nation. Although Samart's fortress has never been attacked, at least three Muslims in his village have been slain in the past two years.

"Over the years, the separatist movement has waxed and waned but never completely ceased. In January 2004 it suddenly surged, and when the government failed to ensure people's safety, more Muslims and Buddhists turned to guns for self protection." (Link 3)

According to Samart there have been sporadic clashes between separatist rebels and security forces for decades. But he says today's violence is different - it is more rampant and increasingly indiscriminate. And whereas the old-time separatist rebels used to operate from bases in the jungle, today's insurgents operate from within village communities, putting everyone at risk.

Regardless of their claims, political and militant Islamist leaders never speak for all Muslims. Clearly they are not speaking for Muslims like Samart.

THAI PM PROPOSES "ACEH" SOLUTION FOR SOUTH

Reuters reported on 22 October: "Surayud Chulanont, the former army chief appointed prime minister by the military, has said he wants a peaceful solution to the violence and offered talks with militant leaders, a policy u-turn from the days of Thaksin.

"During an official visit to Jakarta on Saturday, Surayud hailed Indonesia's Aceh peace accord signed in Helsinki last year to end a separatist insurgency which had seen more than 15,000 killed since 1979.

"'Indonesia has set a model in solving the conflict in the Aceh province successfully,' a Thai government Web site, www.thaigov.go.th, quoted Surayud as telling Indonesian media after meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"'The Aceh model is a good example to bring peace to southern Thailand,' the Web site reported on Sunday." (Link 4)

Thai News Agency reported on 8 November: "Prime Minister Surayud said that Thailand will not let go of the territory of the south, but that the government was open to negotiate various forms of polity including self-rule, autonomy and the establishment of sharia (Muslim religious) law in place of Thai civil law." (Link 5)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
INDONESIA'S ACEH: WHAT HAS SHARIA ACHIEVED?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


When Jakarta ended the insurgency in Aceh by granting the Acehnese autonomy and the right to implement Sharia Law, it was appeasing the real power-brokers behind the insurgency: the Islamists. The deal ensured that Aceh's Islamists would no longer be Jakarta's problem, only Aceh's.

International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report in July 2006 entitled "Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh". (Link 6)

This is an important and valuable report because the implementation and expansion of Sharia in Aceh can serve as a model to demonstrate how Sharia not only divides Muslims, but has a tendency to expand once implemented.

The ICG report notes that the Muslim Acehnese have long been divided over Sharia. During Indonesia's battle for independence Acehnese elites clearly expressed their preference for Dutch-style secular administration. Even Aceh's ulama (religious scholars) were divided between those who favoured secular administration and those who wanted an Islamic State based on Sharia Law. ICG notes that for many, the issue had more to do with power than ideology - the elites did not want a religious bureaucracy established that could expand and threaten their authority, while the Islamists were determined to establish a formal religious bureaucracy from where they could expand and advance their influence and power.

ICG notes that the leader of the Acehnese Islamists, Daud Beureueh, led the Acehnese in jihad against the "kafir" Dutch occupier specifically with the aim of achieving an Islamic state. Sukarno courted and rewarded Beureueh with assurances that Indonesia would be built on Islamic principles and Aceh would have Sharia Law. This was radical as Sharia had no historic precedent in Aceh.

After Suharto's downfall, President Habibie offered Islamic Law to Aceh as a political solution to Acehnese unrest and disaffection, which really arose out of neglect and frustration. ICG reports that Jakarta regarded Sharia law as "something the Acehnese wanted (although how much was debatable - after the Indonesian parliament granted it, one Acehnese called it an 'unwanted gift', and he was not alone)". (ICG p 4)

Since Sharia has been legitimised and implemented in Aceh it has expanded considerably, for the religious bureaucracy tasked with codifying and implementing Sharia in Aceh is committed to "its own expansion; a focus on legislating and enforcing morality; and a quiet power struggle with secular law enforcement".

According to ICG, many Acehnese worry "that extension of Shari'a has been taken on as an agenda by conservative organisations. . . Women's organisations have been particularly active in raising questions about proposed changes to the khalwat qanun [laws on relationships between men and women] but in general, the conservatives, who support more extensive Shari'a application, are more vocal than those concerned about its consequences". (ICG p7)

The religious bureaucracy constantly extends the reach of Sharia by revising legislation and increasing the number of crimes that can be dealt with by the Sharia Courts. It has already been proposed that revisions be made to the laws covering khalwat (illicit relationships between men and women) so that any woman who alleges she was raped must follow Sharia protocols and produce four male adult Muslim eye-witnesses to support her claim in order to prove it. If she cannot, she will be found guilty of making a false accusation of rape, guilty of illicit sex, and caned accordingly.

In 2004, Aceh established the highly unpopular vice and virtue patrol, the wilayatul hisbah (WH) (hasba/sharia implementaion), which is responsible for monitoring compliance with Islamic law. Not only has Aceh's WH already grown from 13 members to 33 in one year, its powers are constantly increasing. What's more, the very presence of the WH is fueling the rise of hard-line Islamic vigilantism.

ICG also notes that as the religious bureaucracy expands it will rely more and more on young recruits who are motivated primarily by their contacts with intolerant radical foreign elements, in particular Wahhabis, jihadists, and groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

-------------------
CONCLUSION
-------------------

Appeasing Islamist terrorists by granting them the right to enforce Sharia Law is a betrayal of all non-Islamist citizens, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

Employing the "Aceh model" in southern Thailand would doubtless bring peace to Bangkok, but it would also close southern Thailand off to Christian ministry and mission; and it would strip all southern Thai of their right live with security under Thai civil law and under the Thai Constitution which guarantees religious liberty. It could also result in southern Thailand becoming a haven and base for terrorists.

Most immediately and seriously, it would involved abandoning up to 400,000 Buddhists to their fate in an Islamic State. Ethnic-religious cleansing is already underway. Escalating Islamic terror directed at local Buddhist civilians recently forced all the Buddhist living in the districts of Than To and Bannang Sata, Yala province, to flee their homes. These Buddhist, amounting to 122 people, or 52 families, have taken refuge in the nearby Buddhist temple of Nirotsangkha-ram in Yala's Muang district and are awaiting humanitarian assistance. (Link 7)


Links

1) Southern Thailand: Insurgency, Not Jihad
Asia Report No 98. 18 May 2005
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3436&l=1

2) Thailand Islamic Insurgency
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/thailand2.htm

3) Thai Muslim village leader builds fortress against rebels
By Rungrawee C. Pinyorat KRONG PINANG, Thailand, AP, 30 Oct 2006
http://www.chinapost.com.tw/asiapacific/detail.asp?ID=94005&GRP=C

4) Bomb kills soldier, wounds monks in Thai south. 22 Oct 206
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061022/wl_nm/security_thailand_dc

5) Thai PM presents Thai road to democracy to world media
BANGKOK, Nov 8 (TNA) http://etna.mcot.net/query.php?nid=25844

6) Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh
(Asia Report No 117 - 31 July 2006)
http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/indonesia/117-islamic-law-and-criminal-justice-in-aceh.aspx

7) Exodus of Buddhists. The Nation, Thailand. 10 Nov 2006
http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/11/10/headlines/headlines_30018555.php
ALSO: Thailand: Buddhist flee from majority Muslim villages.10 Nov 2006 (AKI)
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Security&loid=8.0.358783100&par=0
AND: Monks in Narathiwat to cease daily alms (dpa) 12 Nov 2006
http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=114154

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Canada: Quebec rejects Sharia to preserve equality and rights.

Date: Thursday 2 June 2005
Subj: Canada: Quebec rejects Sharia to preserve equality and rights.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


On 26 May Quebec's legislative assembly unanimously rejected the use of Sharia tribunals. Quebec is the first Canadian province to explicitly ban the use of Sharia Law (Islamic Law), and they are doing so to preserve equality, rights and liberty for all irrespective of race or religion.

The Canadian Council of Muslim Women has cheered the decision and hailed it as courageous.

Meanwhile, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal likened the decision to Hitler's treatment of the Jews, and hinted that it might consider filing a complaint to the United Nations. Of course this would be quite a legitimate course of action now that the UNCHR has agreed to monitor "defamation" of Islam by "extremists" who "wrongly" associate Islam with human right violations. http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/CHR/resolutions/E-CN_4-RES-2005-3.doc

-------------------------------
October 2003 ONTARIO
-------------------------------
At a conference in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada, in October 2003, Muslim delegates elect a 30-member council to establish the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice. Muslims move to establish Sharia Arbitration Courts whose rulings will be enforced by Canada's secular courts. For background see: Canada: Applying Shariah through Islamic arbitration. 15 Dec 03

--------------------------------
December 2004 ONTARIO
--------------------------------
Ontario attorney general Marion Boyd issues a report recommending that Muslims in Canada should have the right to seek arbitration based on their religious laws.

------------------------------------------------------------
26 May 2005: QUEBEC REJECTS SHARIA TO PRESERVE EQUALITY AND RIGHTS
------------------------------------------------------------

On 26 May, Liberal backbencher Fatima Houda-Pepin, who was born a Muslim in Morocco, put forward a motion in the Quebec Assembly to reject Sharia tribunals in Quebec. Ms Houda-Pepin told members of the Assembly that Sharia Law discriminates against women. She
alleged that Muslim women in Canada want to integrate and the drive to introduce Sharia Law in Canada "is part of a strategy to isolate the Muslim community, so it will submit to an archaic vision of Islam. These demands," she continues, "are being pushed by groups in the minority that are using the Charter of Rights to attack the foundation of our democratic institutions. It's a political agenda in the name of Islam." (Link 1)

She also cautioned that any move to allow Islamic family law would lead to similar demands in criminal and civil legal areas.

-------------------------------------------------------------
RESPONSE from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)
-------------------------------------------------------------

CCMW press release (excerpts): "The Canadian Council of Muslim Women has welcomed the Quebec National Assembly’s unanimous adoption of a motion declaring that no Muslim tribunals for family matters will be allowed in the province, and that the laws of Quebec will apply to all its residents, regardless of religion, ethnicity or culture.

"This public motion is a courageous act and though it may be criticised by some, its message is strong that religious women will not be isolated and placed under any other form of law. Quebec has clearly understood that different laws for different citizens leads to discrimination and has nothing to do with multiculturalism or Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedom."

Regarding the present debate in Ontario over whether or not to introduce Sharia tribunals CCMW said, "Ontario should not discriminate against religious women nor isolate them because of their faith. The government should also not be persuaded that there is a conflict between religious freedom and women's equality rights, nor that pluralism should lead to segregation of citizens on the basis of religion, ethnicity or race. It is a fallacy which shows a lack of understanding and caring when the facile argument is made that the use of private legally binding arbitration is a matter of 'choice' or that it is 'voluntary'.

"We urge Premier McGuinty to demonstrate leadership so that Canada does not set a precedent which is of grave concern to the international community." (Link 2)

-------------------------------------------------------------
RESPONSE from the Muslim Council of Montreal (Quebec)
-------------------------------------------------------------

The Daily Times (Pakistan) reported the outrage of Salam El Menyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, who fumed, "'Taking such action is tantamount to religious bigotry and discrimination against a religious minority. Muslims are being excluded from rights other religions have. And this exclusion is very dangerous because that is exactly what Hitler did to Jews.' He added, 'I have been inundated with calls and e-mails from the Muslim community asking that we should file a complaint with the United Nations.'" (Link 3)

-----------------------------
QUEBEC: EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL
-----------------------------

According to an article in Canada's National Post, Ms Houda-Pepin claimed that Islamic fundamentalists from the Muslim World League, based in Saudi Arabia, held a conference in Washington in 1991, where Canada, because of it's rights guarantees and official multiculturalism, was specifically targeted for the introduction of Sharia. (Link 4)

She claims the Islamist plan is to set Canada up as a precedent for all Muslims in the West, encouraging them to reject Western laws and push for Sharia where they are.

The National Post reported, "Ms. Houda-Pepin also wondered what form of sharia would be adopted in Canada, noting that it means different things in different countries.

"In Pakistan, a woman who is raped can be flogged unless she can produce four male witnesses to prove she was raped, she said, while in Nigeria a woman can be stoned to death for sexual relations outside marriage. Sharia in Iran allows men to have as many 'wives of pleasure' as they want, she noted. In Saudi Arabia, in the name of sharia, a woman cannot drive a car.

"The victims of sharia have a human face," she said. "They are Muslim women."

There is concern that if Sharia Arbitration tribunals exists then Muslim women might find themselves pressured to sign pre-nuptial agreements promising to use Sharia arbitration in the event of a dispute, thus depriving them of the rights available to non-Muslims.

It should also be noted that according to Sharia family law, Muslims who commit apostasy (leave Islam) are automatically divorced and lose custody of their children. According to Canada's rules of arbitration, Canada's secular courts are obliged to enforce the religious rulings.

The National Post quotes Marilou McPhedran, legal counsel to the Canadian Counsel of Muslim Women, as saying that there was "a well-intentioned naivete about this [Boyd] report. Why would we in Ontario privatize family law when we already have a public system of family law that is predicated on the constitutional values of equality in this country, in this province, that should be available to each and every woman living in Ontario," she said.

Canadian Press reports, "Premier Jean Charest's Liberals are putting pressure on the Ontario government, which is expected to make a decision [regarding Sharia law] before summer. Charest said he simply wants to send a clear message that all Quebecers are equal under the law. 'It's important to send a very clear message that there is one rule of law in Quebec,' Charest told reporters. 'We are a very inclusive society, but a society that will govern itself according to one set of rules'." (Link 1)

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Quebec rejects introduction of Sharia law into legal system in the province
LES PERREAUX, QUEBEC (CP), 26 May 2005
http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/cpress/20050526/ca_pr_on_na/que_sharia_2

2) CCMW Welcomes Quebec motion on Sharia law. 27 May 2005
http://www.ccmw.com/ShariainCanada/CCMW%20news%20release_May%2027.pdf

3) Canadian Muslim women welcome rejection of sharia tribunals
By Khalid Hasan, 29 May 2005
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_29-5-2005_pg7_49

4) National Post: Quebec bans sharia
Blow to proponents of using Islamic law in Canadian society
Kevin Dougherty, with files from Mike de Souza, Elizabeth Thompson
and Lee Greenberg
CanWest News Service, 27 May 2005
http://www.canada.com/news/national/story.html?id=7d268ffa-8cc2-4272adaa-1fb780adad29

Monday, December 15, 2003

Canada: Applying Shariah through Islamic arbitration.

Date: Monday 15 December 2003
Subj: Canada: Applying Shariah through Islamic arbitration.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


At a conference in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada, in October 2003, Muslim delegates elected a 30-member council to establish the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice. The institute is classified in Islamic law as a Darul-Qada, or judicial tribunal. Its bylaws are scheduled to be drafted and approved by 31 December.

In an article by Judy Van Rhijn for the Vancouver Independent Media Center, Muslim barrister Syed Mumtaz Ali explains that in the past Canadian Muslims have been excused from applying Shariah in their legal disputes because it was impractical as there was no way to enforce decisions. However, amendments to the Arbitration Act have made it possible for Muslim committees to enforce settlements. "Now, once an arbitrator decides cases, it is final and binding," says Syed. "The parties can go to the local secular Canadian court asking that it be enforced. The court has no discretion in the matter. So, the concession given by Shariah is no longer available to us because the impracticality has been removed. In settling civil disputes, there is no choice indeed but to have an arbitration board." (Link 1)

This has raised many concerns for the religious freedom of Canada's Muslims and in particular, the rights of Canadian Muslim women.

Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham (B.A., LL.B., LL.D) is the Director, Law and Public Policy, and General Legal Counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) Centre for Faith and Public Life. I asked her for a comment.
-----------------------------------------
ANALYSIS OF SHARIAH LAW IN CANADA
Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham (EFC link 5)
10 December 2003


The Law Times newspaper announced on 25 November 2003 that several Islamic groups were in the process of forming an arbitration council in Ontario that would allow Muslims to have their disputes decided in accordance with Shariah law. Under the Arbitration Act, 1991 in Ontario, the decision of an arbitrator may be enforced by the courts. This development has raised questions and concerns.

Under the Arbitration Act, 1991, people may make an agreement to have any disputes adjudicated by binding arbitration. They can set out the qualifications of the arbitrators and even indicate a particular arbitration group to which they agree. Arbitrators are given broad powers to decide their own jurisdiction and process. They may make any remedy available to a court. Under the Act, an arbitrator's award is enforceable through the courts as though it was a court order. In general, the court will not review or overturn an arbitration decision unless there is an error of law. Considering that the purpose of the Islamic arbitration board is to apply Shariah law, rather than the law of Canada, it is an open question at this point if the courts will overturn decisions that are not in accordance with Canadian law.

The most important pre-condition of the use of the Islamic Arbitration Board is that it is voluntary. It will only have jurisdiction if the parties agree to its use. It is quite possible that if an arbitration decision is not in accordance with Canadian law and one party appeals the decision, the courts would overturn the decision. This arbitration board is being set up under the current Arbitration Act; it is not new legislation that imports Shariah law into Canadian law for any purpose. It appears, therefore, that it will only be effective if the parties agree to it.

The Law Times article itself makes reference to a previous Islamic dispute resolution board that failed because Muslim women refused to make use of it. It therefore appears that Muslim women are aware of the impact of Shariah law on them. If they refuse to agree to this arbitration board, there is no way that they can be forced to be subject to it.

Some specific questions have been posed to me:
----
1. Will these lead to stoning of women for adultery?

The short answer is no. Any two "persons" (which includes corporations) may have their dispute decided by arbitration. Criminal law is not enforced through arbitration.

An arbitrator or board of arbitration may give any remedy that may be given by a court. This does not include remedies such as stoning or any other kind of physical remedy such as incarceration or physical punishment. In addition, the court can substitute a different remedy for that awarded by the arbitrator.
----
2. Does Canada have any law that would prevent a woman from being stoned under a ruling of a Muslim arbitrator?

The short answer is yes. An arbitrator does not have jurisdiction to give this kind of remedy. If it did, it could (and would) be overturned by a court. If someone tried to stone a woman subject to an arbitration decision, that person would be subject to the criminal laws of Canada that prohibit assault and battery.
----
3. Will Muslim women who convert to Christianity lose their children under this arbitration?

This poses the greatest concern. If a woman agrees to arbitration under an Islamic arbitrator either as part of a pre-nuptial agreement, or any other agreement, this can only be changed under the ordinary laws of contract. This means that this agreement will likely be binding (as it is very hard to change this kind of agreement).

On the positive side, the court does have jurisdiction to overturn an arbitration decision if it is "unfair" in law to one party. The courts in Canada are very sensitive to women's rights and it seems unlikely that courts would enforce arbitration awards that give women no rights (custody or access) with respect to their children.

----------------------------------------

RIGHTS SAFEGUARDED?

On 11 December, Workopolis, a Canadian Internet job site, ran an article entitled, "Islamic law in civil disputes raises questions." This article confirms that, "Under Ontario law, the courts must uphold the agreements as long as they are voluntary and negotiated through an arbitrator. The courts will not uphold the agreements if they violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

"Under Ontario's Arbitration Act, people enter into arbitration voluntarily, noted Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. 'People can use any arbitrator they want and can use a religious framework if it is mutually acceptable,' he said. 'The Charter of Rights is the supreme law of Canada and the Arbitration Act is subject to it. If the award is not compatible with Canadian law, then the court will not enforce it. You can't agree to violate Canadian law.'" (Link 2)

Yet, as Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham's notes, "Considering that the purpose of the Islamic arbitration board is to apply Shariah law, rather than the law of Canada, it is an open question at this point if the courts will overturn decisions that are not in accordance with Canadian law."

Muslim lawyer Syed Mumtaz Ali says that Canadian Muslims are obliged to follow Sharia and the laws of Canada. "We have a double obligation," he says. "You don't have to be the wisest man to see there will be conflicts." (Link 3)

This is exactly the point. Canada will now have two potentially conflicting systems of law in operation. Now that Shariah has been given this legitimacy, will a Muslim (who is supposed to accept Shariah as the eternal law of Allah) dare contest the decision of a Shariah arbitrator through a secular court? Will the courts dare overturn a decision? If both Muslim parties voluntarily agree (or are "persuaded" to "voluntarily" agree) to abide by the dictates of the Shariah arbitrator and not contest the decision, do the courts have the right to intervene to preserve Canadian rights and values? The questions are endless.

MUSLIM WOMEN ANXIOUS

The Toronto Star ran an article on 12 December that noted the concern of Canada's Muslim women. "Alia Hogben, president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, expressed reservations about the arbitration committees. 'Who will represent the rights of women?' she asked from Kingston. 'We are gravely concerned because there are lots questions and we don't understand from the Canadian Muslim women's point why another system is being applied.' Since most Muslim women in Canada are religious, many may be persuaded to go to arbitration as part of their Islamic faith and identity, she said." (Link 4)

This concern (that Muslim women will be "persuaded" into Islamic Arbitration) is probably the most serious issue at present. This persuasion may come in the form of intense family or social pressure, or via prenuptial agreements.

In the Workopolis article (link 3) Muslim lawyer Syed Mumtaz Ali says that "Islamic family law would definitely not apply in child-custody cases," and that women may even use the tribunal to negotiate prenuptial agreements that allow them to initiate divorce proceedings without the permission of their husbands.

However, this is highly unlikely - it is difficult to imagine that the Shariah arbitrators will rule contrary to Shariah principles.

A DOOR TO SOCIAL DIVISION

This move can only open the door to social division and conflict. It will polarise Muslim and non-Muslim communities, and it will polarise the Muslim community (as Shariah does). Muslims who choose not to use the Shariah tribunals will doubtless be rejected and persecuted as rebellious or apostate. Muslims in Canada (especially Muslim women and Westernised Muslims) may find that they will lose - or be "persuaded" to abandon - their precious Canadian rights and freedoms.


- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) First steps taken for Islamic arbitration board
Vancouver Independent Media Center
By Judy Van Rhijn
http://vancouver.indymedia.org/news/2003/11/87502.php

2) Islamic law in civil disputes raises questions
Judicial tribunal based on sharia to decide disagreements among
Ontario Muslims. By Marina Jimenez, 11 December 2003
http://www.workopolis.com/servlet/Content/qprinter/20031211/SHARIA11

3) Canadian Muslims Press For Setting Up Shari'a Court
OTTAWA, Canada, 29 November 2003
http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2003-11/29/article03.shtmlv

4) The Toronto Star, 12 Dec. 2003
New Islamic Institute set up for civil cases
System would reduce court time. Move worries Muslim women.
By Leslie Scrivener, Faith and Ethics Reporter
Go to the Toronto Star front page http://www.thestar.com and type
"Islamic institute" into the 14-day search.

5) Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Centre for Faith and Public Life
websites: http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca
http://www.religiousfreedom.ca
http://www.christianity.ca

Monday, July 28, 2003

Iraq: The IGC and the Battle for Iraq.

Date: Monday 28 July 2003
Subj: Iraq: The IGC and the Battle for Iraq.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


-----------------------------------------------
IRAQ GOVERNING COUNCIL (IGC)
-----------------------------------------------

THE POWER OF SCIRI

SCIRI, (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) is an Iran-backed Iraqi Shi'a resistance and opposition group that formed in exile in Iran more than 20 years ago. SCIRI also has an Iran-funded and armed militant wing known as the Badr Brigade. SCIRI only recently returned to Iraq but is now Iraq's largest and most well organised Shi'a political organisation.

SCIRI initially rejected the IGC as U.S.-appointed, and therefore undemocratic. However, a day of tough negotiations on 12 July 03 saw the U.S. administration yield to SCIRI's demands in order to secure SCIRI participation on the IGC.

In a 10 June Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) article, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, an independent Shi'a activist in London, reported that SCIRI had made a strategic decision to be part of the post-Hussein system in Iraq, and that through its initial rejection of the IGC, it hoped to win greater veto power over who was selected. "I don't think they wanted to be outside the process of democratisation in Iraq," al-Rubaie said. "I think they want to be part and parcel of it, but a major player. The difference is over how major a player [SCIRI] will be."

Al-Rubaie said the reason for SCIRI's determination to remain inside the system is its conviction that it can use the democratic process in Iraq to successfully advance its aims. He said the group wants to first win majority representation for the Shi'a community, which makes up some 60 percent of the Iraqi population, then use its access to the Iraqi media and other institutions to persuade Iraqis to adopt a more Islamic system of government.

As predicted by Al-Rubaie, one of SCIRI's demands was that the IGC be majority Shi'a, while another demand was the replacement of two candidates. The U.S. conceded and SCIRI came on board. The media touted this as a "dramatic U-turn by SCIRI", and hailed it as a victory for the U.S. administration and the IGC. In reality however, it was a strategic victory for SCIRI.

SCIRI has already stated that its intention is to "enforce the Islamic order", and call for the imposition of Sharia (Islamic law) and for Islamic religious leaders to decide important questions of state, based upon interpretations of religious principles. (RFE/RL 4 June)

UPHILL BATTLE FOR LIBERALS

The IGC has won measured support at the United Nations. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Governing Council's formation is "an important first step toward the full restoration of Iraqi sovereignty." He then warned, "There is an overwhelming demand for self-rule, and democracy cannot be imposed from the outside."

At a press conference after his UN debut, Ahmad Chalabi said that Iraq faced two main challenges in drafting a new constitution -- determining the role of Islam and guaranteeing the rights of non-Arabs, especially Iraq's large Kurdish population. "We look forward to a process where we can separate religion from politics," he said.

Meanwhile, both Shi'ites and Sunnis inside Iraq continue to protest against the IGC, saying they will reject a constitution that does not come from a democratically elected body.

On 1 July, Iraq's leading Shi'a cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa (religious decree) attacking U.S. plans for a new constitution. The Grand Ayatollah says the constitution should be written by a democratically elected constitutional drafting committee, that can "uphold the Iraqi people's interests and express their national identity which is founded on Islam and lofty social values".

Another leading Shi'a cleric, Sayed Muqtadabal-Sadr, has rejected the IGC and called for the creation of an "Islamic army" that would answer to religious leaders. He is also threatening to establish a parallel Islamic government and a parallel Islamic constitution.

Sunnis meanwhile, are protesting that the Shi'a majority makes the IGC "sectarian".

Not all Iraq's neighbours are supportive of the IGC either. According to IGC representative Ahmad Chalabi, the IGC's attempt to take over Iraq's UN seat on Tuesday was derailed by "the reservations of some of our neighbours." He did not specify which countries were involved, but a source close to the delegation pointed to Syria, a member of the UN Security Council, as part of the problem.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Noah Feldman, author of "After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy" and a former senior adviser for constitutional law to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq, believes democracy and Islam are compatible.

The point remains though, that Islam, when governed by Shari'a, is not compatible with religious freedom - religious freedom being full rights to freedom of belief (including freedom to convert) and freedom to exercise that belief. Yet Noah Feldman says many "Islamic democrats in Iraq" are presently calling for a system where citizens will be free to express their own choices in the realms of religion and politics.

The product of democracy can only be as good as the foundations upon which it is built. And so the battle between the liberals and the Islamists, for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, begins. Presently, the liberals appear to be swimming against the tide.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Kenya: Muslim tensions rise and churches burn.

Date: Tuesday 1 July 2003
Subj: Kenya: Muslim tensions rise and churches burn.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

On 13 June, Muslims rioting over the arrest of one of their clerics torched five churches in Bura, Tana River district, not far from Mombasa in Kenya. The churches razed were the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) in Bura, the Bethel Church, and churches belonging to the Pentecostal Evangelism Fellowship of Africa (PEFA), the East African Pentecostal Church (EAPC), and the Full Gospel Church of Kenya (FGCK). (Link 1)

Of great concern to Christians in Kenya is the fact that no one has been charged over the burning of the churches. Christian leaders are still waiting to see if the arsonists will receive justice or impunity. As impunity equals permission, this is a serious issue of national significance at a time when Muslim tensions are rising to boiling point.

---------------------------------------------

CHURCH BURNINGS IN BURA

The Reverend Simon K. Mungumba, the Assistant Chairman of the Bura Pastors' Fellowship, has written a report of the incident. Rev. Mungumba writes (14 June) that on the evening of Thursday 12 June 2003, the Divisional Officer (DO) was passing through Manyatta withsome security officers in his vehicle. When they stopped in Manyatta and alighted from their vehicle, some Orma and Somali youths started stoning them, forcing them to retreat into their vehicle and flee.

According to Rev. Mungumba's account, the DO returned the following morning to inquire of the local Imam as to why they had been attacked. The Imam told the DO that the local Muslim youths had a visiting preacher in town and feared he may be arrested.

This 'visiting preacher', Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso, is a former Christian pastor who converted to Islam and now preaches aggressively against Christianity and Christians, with offensive messages that, according to Rev. Mungumba, "border on incitement".

Rev. Mungumba reports that at that point the DO decided to take Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso in for questioning. Once again the DO and his accompanying security officers were pelted with stones and abused by Muslim youths and women. The attack became so violent that the police fired their weapons into the air in the hope of dispersing the rioters. When that did not help, the DO arrested Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso and took him away for police questioning.

At that point the Muslim rioters stoned the police station and commenced burning and looting the churches, while others chanted, "release our sheikh, we want him to continue preaching".

The rioting lasted from the arrest at 9:00am until Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso was released at the intervention of a local MP.

There is little shade in Bura, so in an act of great solidarity and generosity, the Catholic Church provided tents for all of the churches that were burned down.

At a subsequent meeting of Christian leaders, Ibrahim Ormondi of the Evangelical Fellowship of Kenya spoke with Bishop Kinnogah, who told him that he had met with the Provincial Commissioner, who promised to order the arrest of Sheikh Mutiso for inciting Muslim hostility in Bura. So far, however, he has not been arrested.

The local Imams say they do not know Sheikh Mutiso, however Christian leaders know him as a preacher from Mwingi who has been preaching the same way in Mombasa and the administration are aware of his threats and inflammatory statements, which are usually directed towards youths, most of them of school age children and teenagers.

The Bura Pastor' Fellowship is calling on the Kenyan government to investigate the incident and compensate the churches that have lost their buildings.

"Also," says Rev. Mungumba, "as Bura leaders we feel the security in Bura needs boosting. The Muslim youths need to know the worth and authority of the government. This occurrence should be addressed with the decisiveness it deserves."

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MUCH IS COOKING IN KENYA

Kenya is 78.6 percent Christian and 6-8 percent Muslim. This incident over Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso and the burned churches is only one of several issues in the pot - under which the heat is rising. This is why it is imperative that the Kenyan government deal decisively with religious violence.

MYSTERIOUS KILLINGS IN EMBU

The Catholic Diocese of Embu wrote to the Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) in Embu, Eastern Province, recently, requesting an investigation into a series of killings. Since March this year, at least 12 church watchmen and one church cook have been killed. The victims all had their throats cut or were decapitated and only churches and church related institutions were being targeted. There are no clues however as to the culprits or their motives (other than
theft). It is quite mysterious and unsettling. (Link 2)

KADHIS COURTS

Kenyan Muslims are pushing to increase the power and influence of Kenya's Kadhi (Islamic / Sharia) Courts. Muslims want the Kadhi courts to be fully entrenched in the new Constitution with national rather than just local jurisdiction. Christians maintain that the entrenchment of Kadhi Courts in the constitution, elevating them to national level and giving them authority equal to the state's secular courts, will compromise Article 10 which states that, "The State shall treat all religions equally". Muslims maintain that they will accept nothing less than the entrenchment of the courts in the constitution and some Muslims unfortunately, have made inflammatory threats to establish a separate Islamic state if the Kadhi Courts are not accepted -- this has not helped the debate. (Link 3)

TERROR ARRESTS

On Monday 23 June, four Kenyan residents were brought before Chief Magistrate Aggrey Mchelule in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to face murder charges. They have been in detention since March 2003 on suspicion of harbouring the terrorists who carried out the car-bomb attack on the Israeli-owned beachfront Paradise Hotel near Mombasa in November 2002 that killed 18 people. They were remanded in custody and will appear before court again on 8 August.

The charges against the four - Kenyan father and son Mohamed Kubwa and Mohamed Kubwa Seif, and Said Saggar Ahmed and Aboud Rogo Mohamed, whose nationalities were not known - were the latest in a string of anti-terror measures.

Some 80 Muslims are currently detained on suspicion of terror links. Muslims are outraged by the arrests, saying that they are being used as scapegoats and that the cases are unduly influenced by foreign (USA, CIA) interference, pressure and funding.

Kenyan Muslim politicians and clerics believe that Kenya's proposed Anti-terrorism Bill abuses the rights of Kenyan Muslims. (Three MPs from the ruling NARC party have crossed the floor to support the opposition in this, and several lawyers are saying that it violates the constitution.)

Muslim leaders, led by the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) secretary-general Sheikh Mohammed Dor, and the chairman of unregistered Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK) Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, have threatened to form their own political party. At a public rally in Mombasa on Sunday 29 June, Islamic speakers "blasted the Government for what they termed arassment of Muslims after branding them terror suspects on the whims of America and Israel." Sheikh Dor comments, "The way things are going on today, civil strife is looming." Dor also branded "America, Israel and the (ruling Kenyan) NARC Government as enemy number one of Muslims." (Link 4)

- Elizabeth Kendal


1) Five Churches Torched in Tana River District
The East African Standard (Nairobi) 20 June 2003
By Philip Mwakio And Jesse Masai
http://allafrica.com/stories/200306200072.html

2) Church Condemns Killings. 24 June 2003
Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi)
http://allafrica.com/stories/200306240631.html

3) Christians Fear Shariah Will Undermine Tolerance
Joyce Mulama NAIROBI, 18 June 2003 (IPS)
http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=18853

4) Kanu, Muslims attack Govt.
The East African Standard
By Daniel Nyassy 30 June 2003
http://www.eastandard.net/headlines/news30062003011.htm

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Bali Analysis

Date: Tuesday 29 October 2002
Subj: Bali Analysis
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


In this posting, Rev. Dr. Mark Durie of Australia offers an analysis of the 12 October 02 terrorist bombings at Kuta Beach Bali. Dr. Mark Durie is the author of many articles and books on Acehnese language and culture. He is an Anglican pastor and was formerly head of the Department of Linguistics and Language Studies at the University of Melbourne. His insights on Bali and Indonesia come from years of extensive research and experience of Indonesian culture (primarily in Aceh) as well as a continued deep interest in Indonesian affairs.

- Elizabeth Kendal

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BALI ANALYSIS by Rev. Dr. Mark Durie
Putting the Bali Bombings into the Wider Indonesian Context.

In all the discussion of the Bali tragedy this past week, many Australians have searched for a reason why so many innocent people have been killed. Surely such hatred must have some explanation? Could it be something we have done? Was it East Timor? The 'war on Iraq'? Our lifestyle? Our indifference to world poverty?

STRATEGIC GOALS OF ISLAMIST ORGANISATIONS

This bomb attack, and others like it, must be understood in terms of the strategic goals and world view of the Islamic terrorist organizations which carry them out. All these groups aim to establish the Islamic shari'a or 'Islamic way' as the law of the land. They oppose existing regimes in Muslim countries, which are rejected as un-Islamic. A second belief they share is that jihad is the best method for bringing this objective about. Countless books, tracts and training schools emphasize these two principles.

"UNITY IN DIVERSITY" UNDER ATTACK

At the time of independence from the Dutch in 1945, calls for Indonesia to become an Islamic state were successfully resisted. The authors of Indonesia's constitution opted instead for pluralism, affirming a diversity of religions including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Bhuddism. The national motto is 'Unity in Diversity'.

However during the 1980's President Suharto, to prop up his ailing presidency, began to court Islamic radicals, who rapidly grew in influence. One of the effects of this political shift has been an escalation of attacks on Christian communities in Indonesia. The Barnabas Fund (UK) reported at the end of 2000 that half a million Christians have become internally displaced; more than 5,000 people have been killed; and as many as 7,000 have been forcibly converted to Islam. Local Muslim communities have also experienced great suffering in the violent confrontations.

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Churches attacked or destroyed in Indonesia since Independence

Years Churches attacked
1945-1965 2
1966-1975 46
1976-1985 89
1986-1995 104
1996- present Over 500

Source: Indonesian Christian Communications Forum

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AGGRESSIVE DRIVE FOR SHARI'A

There are renewed calls today for Indonesia to become a shari'a state. However an obstacle to imposition of the shari'a, apart from the many moderate Muslims, is the handful of provinces with significant Christian populations, or, in the case of Bali, a majority Hindu population.

In November 2000 the Laskar Jihad militia announced "We intend during this Ramadan to ... carry out various activities paving the way for full shari'a at least in places that have now become exclusively Islam, such as the islands of Ternate, Tidore and Bacan." This is a kind of code for religious cleansing of Christians from those regions. The town of Poso in Central Sulawesi used to have a population of 40,000, mostly Christian. By the end of 2002 it had been reduced to an exclusively Muslim population of 5,000, with all of its churches destroyed. Reports of the Laskar Jihad's operations in Ambon and Sulawesi describe a systematic progression through villages and towns, sometimes using equipment such as bulldozers, petrol tankers, rocket launchers and other military hardware. Villages are looted, burnt out and razed to the ground.

The Laskar Jihad is known to include fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's top political and security minister, has said of them "They also play a role in defending truth and justice that is expected by Muslims in Indonesia. For me, as far as what they are doing is legal and not violating the law, then this is OK."

The Laskar Jihad has proven links to the Al Qa'ida, which by its title is officially dedicated to world-wide jihad against "Jews and Crusaders" (Crusaders means "Christians" in terrorist-speak). An Al Qa'ida training centre near Poso was used by the Laskar Jihad as a staging base for many attacks against local Christians, constantly frustrating local attempts at reconciliation between Muslims and Christians during 2001. More recently the Laskar Jihad have proclaimed West Papua as their next theatre of operations. Thousands of militants have been gathering there to prepare the way for the next jihad campaing. Although the Laskar Jihad claim to have disbanded just hours before the Bali atrocity, their troops remain in Papua.

The shift from jihad against Indonesian citizens to attacks on foreigners heralds a new phase in the struggle. Yet the goal of this operation must still be measured in terms of the way it could forward the pro-shari'a cause. It has certainly greatly weakened Hindu Bali and, by dealing the tourist trade a deadly blow, it will serve to isolate Indonesia from Western scrutiny and influence. Forcing Megawati to take action against militants could hasten her political demise, and leave the way open for a more acceptable replacement. It also helps the shari'a cause that the operation was conducted in Bali, where Muslims would be much less likely to have been hit as collateral damage.

SECTARIAN VIOLENCE OR JIHAD?

The label 'sectarian violence', used so irresponsibly by the media for all this terror, has served to conceal and minimize the overall impact of the radical jihad groups' activities within Indonesia. The world has allowed destabilization, terror and displacement to advance a very great way already.

As we mourn the lost, and express sympathy and sorrow for the suffering of survivors from the Bali attack, let us work and seek for peace in Indonesia, a return to religious harmony, and a stable future for this great nation.

END