Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Tuesday, 30 September 2014
All New Yorkers of good will should be disgusted by Pamela Geller’s decision to plaster city buses with Islamophobic tripe effectively smearing all Muslims as being in league with ISIS, Hamas and even Hitler.
I say this not as a Muslim American, but as a Sikh who has strong differences of opinion with devout Muslims about theology and lifestyle choices.
But the fact is, my family owes its very survival to the tolerance of Muslims, and I feel I owe it to them to speak out on their behalf.
When the Indian subcontinent was divided between India and the new Muslim nation of Pakistan in 1947, fanatics in the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities used religion as an excuse to attempt genocide against each other.
Hundreds of thousands of people died. Millions were turned into refugees and driven to opposite sides of the border based on their religion.
During this upheaval, a devout Muslim protected my paternal grandparents and their children, providing them food and shelter for several months at considerable risk to his own life. He was a colleague of my grandfather at the china factory where they both worked. Sensing that my family’s life was in danger, he hid them in a barn on his property out of view of rampaging mobs. When the violence subsided, he delivered my family to safety.
It is convenient to blame all Muslims for uprooting my family from its ancestral home — just as it would be easy for Muslims to blame all Hindus and Sikhs for doing the same on the other side of the border — but nuance matters. My father was a year old, and the fact is that his life was saved by a Muslim. If his life had been cut short, my own life would not have been possible.
What makes Geller’s ads so troubling is not simply that they are juvenile and intellectually dishonest but that they dehumanize Muslims. In fact, they could even incite bigots to lash out against our fellow Americans.
These are not theoretical concerns. Earlier this month, Linda Sarsour — an American civil rights activist who wears a headscarf and happens to be Muslim — and one of her colleagues were accosted by a man in Brooklyn, who threatened to behead them.
In the last year, three turbaned Sikh Americans — Prabhjot Singh in Harlem, Sandeep Singh in Queens and Jaspreet Singh Batra on Roosevelt Island — experienced brutal physical assaults after being subjected to epithets, such as “terrorist” and “Osama Bin Laden.”
In December 2012, Sunando Sen — a Hindu American — lost his life after being shoved in front of a moving subway train in Queens by an assailant who declared that she hated Muslims and Hindus.
The First Amendment protects Geller’s right to be obnoxious, but she should be shamed for trying to combat anti-American extremists by publicly stereotyping entire groups of people and creating a climate of fear that could endanger the lives of innocent people.
There are fringe extremist groups in many religious communities throughout the world. ISIS, Al Qaeda and others are real threats to Americans. But they constitute a tiny fraction of the total population — which, in the case of Muslims, totals up to 1 million in New York City and more than 1 billion globally.
Nor is it the case that moderate Muslims are failing to condemn extremists. The devout Muslims I know are disgusted with these groups.
By pandering to the lowest common denominator, Geller is failing to acknowledge the devout Muslims who are working full-time to combat extremism and promote secular, pluralistic democracies in Muslim-majority countries.
A Muslim stood up for my family two generations ago and made it possible for us to thrive. Now, all of us should stand up for our Muslim brothers and sisters so that they can live in peace.
Singh is director of law and policy at the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh American civil rights organization in the United States.
Monday, 29 September 2014
Militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group publicly killed a rights lawyer in the Iraqi city of Mosul after their self-styled Islamic court ruled that she had abandoned Islam, the U.N. mission in Iraq said Thursday.
Samira Salih al-Nuaimi was seized from her home on Sept. 17 after allegedly posting messages on Facebook that were critical of the militants' destruction of religious sites in Mosul.
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, al-Nuaimi was tried in a so-called "Sharia court" for apostasy, after which she was tortured for five days before the militants sentenced her to "public execution."
She was killed on Monday, the U.N. mission said. Her Facebook page appears to have been removed since her death.
"By torturing and executing a female human rights' lawyer and activist, defending in particular the civil and human rights of her fellow citizens in Mosul, ISIL continues to attest to its infamous nature, combining hatred, nihilism and savagery, as well as its total disregard of human decency," Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. envoy to Iraq, said in a statement, referring to the group by an acronym.
The militant group captured Iraq's second largest city Mosul during its rapid advance across the country's north and west in June, as Iraqi security forces melted away. The extremists now rule a vast, self-declared caliphate straddling the Syria-Iraq border in which they have imposed a harsh version of Islamic law and beheaded and massacred their opponents.
In the once-diverse city of Mosul, the group has forced religious minorities to convert to Islam, pay special taxes or die, causing tens of thousands to flee. The militants have enforced a strict dress code on women, going so far as to veil the faces of female mannequins in store fronts.
In August, the group destroyed a number of historic landmarks in the town, including several mosques and shrines, claiming they promote apostasy and depart from principles of Islam.
Among Muslim hard-liners, apostasy is considered to be not just conversion from Islam to another faith, but also committing actions that are so against the faith that one is considered to have abandoned Islam.
The Gulf Center for Human Rights said Wednesday that al-Nuaimi had worked on detainee rights and poverty. The Bahrain-based rights organization said her death "is solely motivated by her peaceful and legitimate human rights work, in particular defending the civil and human rights of her fellow citizens in Mosul."
In the nearby town of Sderat, militants on Tuesday broke into the house of a female candidate in the last provincial council elections, killed her and abducted her husband, the UN also said. On the same day, another female politician was abducted from her home in eastern Mosul and remains missing.
The ISIS extremists' blitz eventually prompted the United State to launch airstrikes last month, to aid Kurdish forces and protect religious minorities in Iraq.
This week, the U.S. and five allied Arab states expanded the aerial campaign into Syria, where the militant group is battling President Bashar Assad's forces as well as Western-backed rebels.
Nearly a dozen countries have also provided weapons and training to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, who were strained after months of battling the jihadi group.
In other developments Thursday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited northern Iraq for talks with Kurdish leaders about the fight against ISIS extremists and Berlin's efforts to help with arms deliveries.
Thursday also marked the start of German arms deliveries to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, with the ultimate goal of supplying 10,000 Kurdish fighters with some 70 million euros ($90 million) worth of equipment.
Friday, 26 September 2014
Thursday, 25 September 2014
Wednesday, 24 September 2014
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Tucked away in a recent New York Times story on military operations against ISIS by Iraqi special forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga was a brief description of what these troops discovered when they entered a village in Iraq that had been occupied by ISIS fighters. A naked woman, tied to a tree, who had been repeatedly raped by ISIS fighters. Another woman was discovered in a second village, similarly naked, tied down and repeatedly raped. The fighters, it appears, are “rewarded” by being allowed to have their way with captured women.
ISIS has received considerable world attention for its savage beheadings, executions of captured soldiers and men in conquered towns and villages, violence against Christians and Shiites, and the destruction of non-Sunni shrines and places of worship. But its barbarity against women has been treated as a side issue. Arab and Muslim governments, vocal on the threat ISIS poses to regional stability, have been virtually silent on ISIS’s systemic degradation, abuse, and humiliation of women. To the men of ISIS, women are an inferior race, to be enjoyed for sex and be discarded, or to be sold off as slaves.
From ISIS-captured territory in Syria, we saw a photograph of a line of women, covered from head to toe and tied to one another by a rope, as they were being led to a makeshift slave market. Little girls, who were going to school and playing with dolls before ISIS fighters arrived at their doorstep, were married off to men many times their age. ISIS set up marriage bureaus in captured Syrian towns to recruit virgins and widows to marry fighters, and also called on fellow jihadists in other countries to recruit brides for the fighters and send them to Syria. It is hardly likely that these “marriages” were based on consent, as is required in Islam. Where women are concerned, consent does not appear to exist in the lexicon of ISIS fighters.
When ISIS moved into Iraq, a similar set of atrocities followed. In ISIS-conquered towns, reports of women and girls having to undergo female genital mutilation spread like wildfire, until denied by ISIS’s savvy social media. Iraqi NGOs reported that scores of women of the Yezidi sect—an amalgam of Zoroastrianism and Islam—were taken captive. The older women were sold off as slaves and the young ones were kept as brides for the ISIS fighters. The nature of these forced marriages remains obscure.
Zakia Hakki, an Iraqi judge and a woman herself, says that the fighters leave behind pregnant women who, as “soiled goods,” are ostracized by their own societies, while their children are treated as illegitimate. These raped women become targets for honor killings in their own families and communities. The governments of Iraq and Syria have also failed to protect these women and give them any assistance; nor have Western NGOs been effective in looking after these abandoned women and children. ISIS’s men not only leave behind dead bodies in their wake but also women and children who are scarred for life.
In its propaganda, ISIS emphasizes women’s modesty and piety. It created the al-Khansaa female brigade to protect the morality of women and to ensure they appear totally veiled in public. The irony will not be lost on anyone.
Volunteer fighters from around the world, including from Western countries, who have joined ISIS are complicit in these crimes against women. These young men who grew up in Western cultures seem to have absorbed nothing regarding the value of human life and respect for women. Why are there are no demonstrations in Western and Muslim societies against this barbaric onslaught on women and girls? How much longer will the Muslim and Arab world watch these horrors against women and children before speaking out and acting forcefully to protect them and rid the region of the ISIS calamity?