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Arif Humayun Information

Islam is not inherently Radical.

The following four articles are works presented by Arif Humayun, a local Muslim concerned about Islamophobia and the association of terrorism with Islamism

The four articles are:

1. An introduction to Arif Humayun
2. Should we blame Islam for terrorism?
3. Proposed strategy to combat radicalism among Muslims
4. A recommended reading list

1. Introduction to Arif Humayun

            Arif Humayun

            Arif Humayun

Arif Humayun is an American citizen, practicing Muslim, and avid writer.  A specialist in comparative religion, Arif is dedicated to understanding what causes radicalization and in advancing human rights.

Born in Pakistan, Arif came to the United States in 1980 to pursue post graduate studies in engineering at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.  He lived in Australia from 1989-1992, where he developed his interest in comparative religion.

Arif authored a detailed white paper on radicalism among Muslims after the 2009 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and has written extensively on topics like shari’a, jihad, blasphemy, and apostasy, the radical ideology and the Islamic State doctrine.

Arif’s most recent work, Connivance by Silence, addresses the politically-inspired interpretations of Islam that have crept into the Muslim discourse and inspired radicalization. In Connivance by Silence, Arif explores this topic specifically in the context of Western democracies.

Professionally, Arif manages a global intellectual property licensing business as an employee of a large multinational corporation.  His frequent and extensive global travel has brought him a crystal-clear perspective on the destructive phenomenon of political Islam. Arif is also the president and co-founder of Circle of Peace, an international initiative to strengthen the bonds of humanity and compassion across faith communities. He is also an active member of the American Islamic Leadership Coalition.


2. Should we blame Islam for terrorism? (The Guardian, 27 March 2017)
David Shariatmadari
Monday 27 March 2017 11.18 EDT Last modified on Tuesday 28 March 2017 01.42 EDT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/27/should‐blame‐islam‐terrorism

It’s a question even liberals can find themselves asking after attacks such as the one in Westminster. But the answer can’t be yes – and here’s why

‘Islam can be a convenient focus for the rage we feel after hearing about acts of brutality. But don’t mistake something being seductive for it being accurate.’

Since the Westminster attacks, many people seem to have been getting stuck on the following question, as they do after most acts of jihadi violence: “Is there something special about Islam? Something that lends itself to terrorism?”

I’m not just talking about the Katie Hopkinses of this world (they have already decided to privilege gut feeling over actually finding out, so this piece isn’t really for them). Or even the Roger Scrutons: on Radio 4’s Start the Week on Monday, he said: “We do need to have a discussion about the Qur’an ... how do we deal with those difficult suras [chapters] which are full of these tetchy pronouncements.” It sits at the back of progressives’ minds too, the kind of people who think it’s not good to generalise, and that there are definitely lots of nice Muslims, but still ...

And, in fact, it’s not an unreasonable thought if you’re unfamiliar with Islam. It provides an easy‐to‐grasp account of acts that otherwise seem inexplicable. Who knows (or can be bothered to find out) what those verses say, and how they have been interpreted? The media uses shorthand, focuses on the present and immediate past rather than the vast contemporary and historical context, and therefore nudges us towards the conclusion that there’s something fishy about this faith.

The fact is, however, that a proper explanation isn’t to be found here. And while it’s crucial liberals don’t avoid the question (that just sounds like making excuses), we need to show why it’s the wrong one. Because until we do, all it really does is stand in the way of proper investigation. It’s like a sign that says “look here and no further”, obscuring, sometimes a little too conveniently, far more complex causes.

Let’s assume for a moment, then, that Islam is especially predisposed towards violence. If that’s your view, then you’ll need to show why the history of jihadi terrorism is so very short: this is emphatically a late 20th and early 21st century phenomenon, yet Islam has been around since the seventh century.

What about its wars of conquest? Well they definitely happened, but not in a way that marks Islam out from other cultures. The subsequent wave of imperial expansionism came via the sky‐worshipping Mongols, before they settled down to become Muslims. Not only that, the dominant (often genocidal) military powers since the 17th century have been Christian – and they frequently regarded themselves as having a religious mission.

Aspects of Islamic teaching do indeed justify some kinds of violence. Islam isn’t a pacifist religion. But again, it has this in common with Christianity, Judaism and other world faiths. Since that’s the case, and

 

since we know that violence in the name of Islam has waxed and waned, it follows that we cannot look simply to theology to explain recent Islam‐inspired terrorism.

An interviewee of mine recently pointed out that, before the Iranian revolution, Shiism was regarded by many non‐Muslim commentators as a uniquely private, peaceable, apolitical form of Islam (in other words, “quietist”). These were essential and natural qualities of Shiism, they argued.

After the 1979 revolution, this interpretation was turned on its head. Trying to make sense of the fervour with which many Iranians bought into the Islamic Republic, they recognised the inherently radical qualities of Shiism, its obsession with martyrdom and sacrifice, and explained the revolution as a natural expression of the Shia mindset.

What had changed? Not the religion. A political earthquake had occurred and religion was now being used by those in power as a vehicle for massive social reorganisation. But what this story captures is a tendency among non‐Muslims to attribute magical, ahistorical qualities to Islam – to appeal to it as a black box when events are perplexing, or, as is sometimes the case, when their own wrongheaded policies are implicated.

It’s here that the question of politics – geopolitics – becomes inescapable. The Qur’an and the hadith, the sources of Islam, didn’t get rewritten in the last few decades. But they were taken up and used by certain political actors to justify horrific violence. Why?

The answer must lie among the political, economic, military and social changes in the Middle East in our times, and how they have ramified in the wider world. It’s only by looking beyond the texts that we can hope to understand why certain interpretations of them have gained currency among a tiny minority – but a minority willing to indiscriminately kill civilians.

This isn’t an excuse. This isn’t the “‘kill us, we deserve it’ school of foreign policy analysis” as described by Nick Cohen. It’s unimpeachable logic. If you think that the causes of terrorism are embedded in the Qur’an and hadith, you’re proving yourself unable to deal with the complexities of a world in which politics – including military and non‐military intervention by foreign powers – interacts with religion.

Saying “there’s something special about Islam” saves you from making the effort to learn more about this faith, the people who practise it and the conditions they live in.

It’s psychologically useful, granted. Islam can be a convenient focus for the rage we feel after hearing about acts of brutality. But don’t mistake something being seductive for it being accurate.

For some – and I suspect this includes Steve Bannon, Marine Le Pen and more than a few British pundits – the natural conclusion is that people should be convinced to abandon Islam, and if that doesn’t work, it should be driven out. This, of course, would be a grossly illiberal and violent programme – but one, I suppose, that sits in a rather long tradition of nationalism and supremacism in the west.

Remind me: who’s special again? 


3. Proposed Strategy to counter Radicalism among Muslims

Arif Humayun
Circle of Peace (CircleOfPeaceOnLine.org)

Summary

Victory in the long and expensive US War on Terror will remain elusive until the root cause – radical ideology among Muslims – is addressed and effectively refuted. Defeating the ideology of political Islam and victory against terrorism can be achieved only through a long‐term human‐rights based educational program and developing a counter narrative around the UN Human Rights Declaration (UN HRD) that is linked to the primary Muslim scripture – the Qur’an. This combined initiative must be undertaken by Muslims themselves; a process that has already been initiated in the US. An objective public conversation is required that is designed to heighten awareness on these matters.

This paper discusses the background and highlights the gravity of this ideology with a view of enabling the Democratic Party to develop an effective strategy to refute its root cause. I propose a role for the Democratic Party that facilitates public conversations on these issues via public presentations or town hall type conversations, to propagate the narrative that focuses on the UN HRD in line with the Muslim’s combined narrative. In my view, radical violent ideology among Muslims can be combatted and the war on terror won only by supporting and putting into practice UN HRD in support of marginalized minorities.

Background

The US‐led war against terrorism began in Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11th attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Started by the Republican Administration of President George W. Bush and inherited by the Democratic Administration of President Obama, this longest and most expensive war in US history is continuing albeit with the current pause where the US has extricated itself from combat operations. The new Republican Administration of President Trump is promising the use of more force to eliminate ISIL and radical Islamic ideology. Addressing the joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017, the President reiterated his resolve and said: We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.1

Harvard economist Linda Bilmes estimated the cost of this war through 2013 to range between $4‐6 trillion.2 Her estimate includes the projected long‐term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, AND the cost of military hardware replenishment. She could not however quantify the untold human suffering, the loss of life, and the increased polarization in our country. Despite this long and expensive war, victory remains elusive. There is widespread agreement that efforts must be made to end this war and comprehensively defeat terrorism.

1 http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/politics/donald‐trump‐speech‐transcript‐full‐text/ 2 http://time.com/3651697/afghanistan‐war‐cost/

 

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Terrorism by Muslims is the result of radicalization fueled by an ideology developed by the politicized clergy in reaction to the defeat of the former, long established Muslim empires. This defeatist ideology has long advocated the recreation of an Islamic State. It was first proposed in 1928 by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt after the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in WW1 and the termination of the Caliphate by Kamal Atatürk. Supported by similar political elements in India (Jama’at‐i‐Islami (JI)), during the British colonial period, this ideology gained traction and is now deeply embedded in the Muslim psyche. The politicized radical Muslim clergy have interpreted these historic developments – the capitulation of the 500‐year old Ottoman Empire, the termination of the Caliphate and the British colonization of India after more than three centuries of Muslim rule – as divine punishment for their departure from the fundamentals of Islam.

Proclaiming religion as a complete political system – a claim refuted by the Qur’an3, MB and JI have demanded the recreation of an Islamic State to be ruled under the Laws of the Caliphate (sharia) that were developed by the Abbasid Caliphate during the 8‐10th century. JI redefined jihad4 as a violent doctrine which they attempted to employ to defeat the non‐Muslim colonizers. These convoluted doctrines have only been sharpened over time and more jihadist groups have jumped into the fray. The politicized clergy have successfully implanted several flawed concepts into the religious thinking of Muslims, e.g., Islam is a complete political system, the Islamic State is a prerequisite for Muslims, Islam prohibits befriending non‐Muslims, and adopting Western influences. They reject the separation of religion and politics and continually narrow their definition of a Muslim to quell dissent, and equate being secular as being irreligious. These flawed concepts have blurred the boundary between religion and politics, as confirmed by Pew Research,5 and need to be reversed through education and dialogue within Muslim communities.

The Radical Ideology and its Prior Documentation

Schematically depicted in Figure 1, the ideology of establishing the Islamic State rests on four pillars – blasphemy (for curbing freedom of expression), apostasy (for curbing freedom of choice), sharia (providing legal cover for their actions) and interpreting jihad (to justify the use of violence). In the past few decades, these pillars have been given legislative cover and protection by the governments of the Muslim‐majority countries, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC – the 56‐member group of ‘Islamic’ countries). The extent of their support can be gauged by the fact that in 1990, the OIC declared the UN Declaration of Human Rights, adopted virtually unanimously in 1948, as un‐Islamic and replaced it with an Islamic Declaration with sharia as its main component.6

3 Humayun, A. Connivance by Silence: How the Majority's Failure to Challenge Politically Motivated [Mis]interpretation of the Qur'an Empowered Radicals to Exploit Islam and Propagate Radicalism, Xlibris, Corp.
4 In Qur’anic terms, Jihad refers to the struggle to overcome personal ego and vanity. A defensive battle to defeat all religious persecution and safeguard all places of worship is allowed, but this is accorded the lowest level. The highest being the struggle against personal ego.
5 http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the‐worlds‐muslims‐religion‐politics‐society‐overview/
6 http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/instree/cairodeclaration.html; and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo_Declaration_on_Human_Rights_in_Islam (accessed March 5, 2017)

 

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This reversal of OIC’s position shows the depths to which the radical ideology of political Islam has permeated into the Muslim consciousness through their propaganda which was encouraged by the Muslim regimes as quid pro quo for their support while the moderate viewpoints were suppressed through convoluted legislations to restrict free speech. This ill‐fated decision by the OIC has resulted in much confusion among Muslim believers as they attempt to reconcile their understanding with the contentious religious‐political narratives they are exposed to in their Muslim majority societies where any knowledgeable narrative is forcefully suppressed. Two noteworthy documents that refute the OIC position must be emphasized: one a book that cross references each article of the UN Declaration to the Qur’an7 and the other a comprehensive analysis8 of Muslim scholars and jurists’ opinions starting from the 7th century to date showing the convoluted path to engineer capital punishment for blasphemy in the Muslim world. Given this sad situation, President Trump will be hard pressed to find allies in the Muslim world to effectively counter radical Islamist ideology.

The cause of radical Muslim ideology was first documented and explored in a comprehensive judicial inquiry report in Pakistan in 1954. The Report documented how the political clergy engineered religiously‐motivated riots to declare the newly‐independent Pakistan to be an Islamic State. They accomplished this through the manipulation of Islamic teachings, as a crutch, to achieve their political objectives. Martial Law was declared in the affected parts to quell the disturbances and a high powered judicial commission was formed to investigate the causes and identify the instigators. The following observation from the report on the Punjab Disturbances of 1953 should serve as an eye opener:

“It is this lack of bold and clear thinking, the inability to understand and take decisions which have brought about in Pakistan a confusion which will persist and repeatedly create situations of the kind we have been inquiring into until our leaders have a clear conception of the goal and of the means to reach it. .... And .... press Islam into service to solve situations it was never intended to solve, frustration and disappointment must dog our steps. The sublime faith called Islam will live even if our leaders are not there to enforce it....Our politicians [leaders] should understand that if Divine commands cannot make or keep a man a Musalman [Muslim], their statutes will not.”9 (emphasis added)

The following extended excerpt from the referenced Commission’s Report clearly identifies the confusion and its causes that need to be addressed in any counter narrative to reverse this radical ideology which misinterprets and abuses the teachings of the Qur’an:10

We have dwelt at some length on the subject of Islamic State not because we intended to write a thesis against or in favour of such State but merely with a view to presenting a clear picture of the numerous possibilities that may in future arise if true causes of the ideological confusion

7 Zafrulla Khan, Islam and Human Rights, Islam International Publications, 1966
8 Arafat Mazhar, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/blasphemy‐the‐untold‐story‐pakistans‐law (accessed 5 March 2017)
9 Report of the Court of Inquiry constituted under Punjab Act II OF 1954 to Enquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953, pg 232
10 Ibid, pgs 231‐232

 

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which contributed to the spread and intensity of the disturbances are not precisely located. That such confusion did exist is obvious because otherwise Muslim Leaguers, whose own Government was in office, would not have risen against it; sense of loyalty and public duty would not have departed from public officials who went about like maniacs howling against their own Government and officers; respect for property and human life would not have disappeared in the common man who with no scruple or compunction began freely to indulge in loot, arson and murder; politicians would not have shirked facing the men who had installed them in their offices; and administrators would not have felt hesitant or diffident in performing what was their obvious duty. If there is one thing which has been conclusively demonstrated in this inquiry, it is that provided you can persuade the masses to believe that something they are asked to do is religiously right or enjoined by religion, you can set them to any course of action, regardless of all considerations of discipline, loyalty, decency, morality or civic sense.

Pakistan is being taken by the common man, though it is not, as an Islamic State. This belief has been encouraged by the ceaseless clamour for Islam and Islamic State that is being heard from all quarters since the establishment of Pakistan. The phantom of an Islamic State has haunted the Musalman [Muslims] throughout the ages and is a result of the memory of the glorious past when Islam rising like a storm from the least expected quarter of the world—wilds of Arabia— instantly enveloped the world, pulling down from their high pedestal gods who had ruled over man since the creation, uprooting centuries old institutions and superstitions and supplanting all civilisations that had been built on an enslaved humanity. What is 125 years in human history, nay in the history of a people, and yet during this brief period Islam spread from the Indus to the Atlantic and Spain, and from the borders of China to Egypt, and the sons of the desert installed themselves in all old centres of civilisation—in Ctesiphon, Damascus, Alexandria, India and all places associated with the names of the Sumerian and the Assyrian civilisations.

Historians have often posed the question: what would have been the state of the world today if Muawiya’s siege of Constantinople had succeeded or if the proverbial Arab instinct for plunder had not suddenly seized the mujahids of Abdur Rahman in their fight against Charles Martel on the plains of Tours in Southern France. May be Muslims would have discovered America long before Columbus did and the entire world would have been Moslemised; may be Islam itself would have been Europeanised. It is this brilliant achievement of the Arabian nomads, the like of which the world had never seen before, that makes the Musalman of today live in the past and yearn for the return of the glory that was Islam. He finds himself standing on the crossroads, wrapped in the mantle of the past and with the dead weight of centuries on his back, frustrated and bewildered and hesitant to turn one corner or the other. The freshness and the simplicity of the faith, which gave determination to his mind and spring to his muscle, is now denied to him. He has neither the means nor the ability to conquer and there are no countries to conquer.

Little does he understand that the forces, which are pitted against him, are entirely different from those against which early Islam, had to fight, and that on the clues given by his own ancestors human mind has achieved results which he cannot understand. He therefore finds

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himself in a state of helplessness, waiting for someone to come and help him out of this morass of uncertainty and confusion. And he will go on waiting like this without anything happening. Nothing but a bold re‐orientation of Islam to separate the vital from the lifeless can preserve it as a World Idea and convert the Musalman into a citizen of the present and the future world from the archaic in congruity that he is today.

This prophetic 67‐year‐old statement is more relevant today than in 1954 when the Judicial Commission published its findings. It highlights the confusion in the concept of establishing an Islamic State which we are faced with today in the form of ISIL. Pakistan’s – and the Muslim world’s – failure to implement the Commission’s recommendations to eliminate the root cause of radical Islamist ideology has converted the country into an incubator for nurturing this destructive ideology. The findings of this report are extremely relevant to any strategy to defeat terrorism around the world. The direct testimony11 during this inquiry was even more revealing and must be reviewed to understand the full implications of this convoluted ideology which terrorist groups like al‐Qaida, Taliban and ISIL are implementing. The average Muslim ‐ who is neither fully aware nor interested in acknowledging the gravity of this destructive ideology – is now caught in a dilemma. In today’s charged political environment in the US and the Western world, the average Muslim is prepared to refute this ideology but needs a venue to do so which their own leadership is not able to provide.

As an unintended consequence of nurturing the radical Islamist ideology and making it part of their constitution, Pakistan has suffered serious economic and human consequences. Pakistan’s military has launched 13 campaigns against violent Islamist terrorists since 200712, but has been unsuccessful in eradicating terrorist attacks or the radical ideology that causes them anywhere in the country.

The common thread in the failure of Pakistan’s and the United States’ wars against the terrorism is that both are fighting the symptoms, without addressing the root causes. Resorting to more force has not enabled the US win this open‐ended war which has largely taken place in the isolated and rugged mountainous regions of Afghanistan and in the densely populated urban areas of Syria and Iraq where military hardware and firepower cannot be efficiently employed. The unintended consequence of the prolonged war has been to spread the conflict to other regions where new, battle‐hardened and more barbaric incarnations of ISIL (or ISIS) have emerged, including Boko Haram, Taharek‐e‐Taliban, etc.

This failed approach of using overwhelming force must be replaced by the proposed new strategy that focuses on education to challenge the radical ideology that fuels Islamist terrorism.

In the 22 March 2017 London attack near the parliament building, the terrorist attacker – a 52‐year‐old convert to Islam – was born and raised in the UK in a Christian family as Adrian Russell. A recent convert to Islam who took on the name Masood, he was a popular football (soccer) player at school and an

11 Humayun, A. Connivance by Silence: How the Majority's Failure to Challenge Politically Motivated [Mis]interpretation of the Qur'an Empowered Radicals to Exploit Islam and Propagate Radicalism, Xlibris, Corp. pg 145‐197
12 https://www.geo.tv/latest/132048‐Pakistan‐Army‐launches‐nationwide‐Operation‐Radd‐ul‐Fasaad‐against‐ terrorism

 

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extremely popular pupil, who was bright and sporty. He was fond of alcohol and drugs while in school.13 Although the British Government has not yet established any definite connections with terrorist groups, the Saudi Arabian Government has confirmed that he spent time in Saudi Arabia teaching English.14 His motivation for the terrorist attack has not yet been confirmed by the British authorities.

The Facts behind the Misconception about UN HRD and Islam

The common perception among many Muslims and non‐Muslims is that the UN HRD is incompatible with Islam. This misconception is fueled by several factors. Saudi Arabia objected to two articles of the UN HRD and later abstained from voting for its adoption at the UN in 1948. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) rejected the UN HRD as being un‐Islamic in the 1990s and adopted their Islamic version in June 2000 (Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam) which cites sharia as their supreme law. The OIC decision required the Muslim majority countries to reverse their prior support of the UN HRD. The OIC action occurred amid prevailing propaganda against Western influences as well as befriending non‐Muslims. The OIC action, driven by Saudi Arabia, was prompted by Iran whose representative, defending his country’s human rights violations at the UN in 1984, stated: “... apart from Islamic law....conventions, declarations, and resolutions or decisions of international organizations, which were contrary to Islam, had no validity in the Islamic Republic of Iran....The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which represented secular understanding of Judeo‐Christian traditions, could not be implemented by Muslims and did not accord with the system of values recognized by the Islamic Republic of Iran; his country would, therefore not hesitate to violate its provisions.”15

The root cause of this misconception clearly is Saudi Arabia’s objections to the adoption of the UN HRD in 1948. The reason for the Saudi opposition must be analyzed to understand the facts. Mary Ann Glendon16 and Tayyab Mahmud17 have documented the discussions at the UN General Assembly’s 182nd Plenary Meeting of the 3rd Committee where the Draft of the International Declaration of Human Rights was discussed in 1948. Per Tayyab Mahmood’s account:18

The colloquy that took place between the representatives of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan during the discussion of the Draft UN DHR210 is very instructive. The Saudi delegate took the position that the draft was based largely on the patterns of culture dominant in the West, patterns frequently "at variance with the patterns of culture of Eastern States."211 He particularly took issue with Article 18's construction of freedom of conscience as including the right to change

13 http://www.bbc.com/news/live/uk‐39355505
14 http://www.dailynews.com/general‐news/20170325/london‐attacker‐had‐worked‐in‐saudi‐arabia‐teaching‐ english
15 UN General Assembly; Thirty Ninth Session, Third Committee, 65th meeting held on Friday, 7 Dec 1984. (seen in http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=honorscollege_theses)
16 Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New – Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Random House, 2001
17 Tayyab Mahmud, Freedom of Religion & Religious Minorities in Pakistan: A Study of Judicial Practice, Fordham International Law Journal Volume 19, Issue 1, 1995. Article 5
18 Ibid, p 86

 

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one's religion.212 According to the Saudi delegate, the right to change one's religion was not recognized in Islamic law [sharia], and he castigated representatives of Islamic countries who voted for the provision as a betrayal of their constituency.213 The representative of Pakistan, however, characterized the adoption of the UDHR as an "epoch‐making event," and "thought it necessary to set out very clearly his delegation's position as to that part of article 19" which "dealt with the freedom of conscience, including freedom to change one's religion."214 He said that "the Moslem religion had unequivocally proclaimed the right to freedom of conscience and had declared itself against any kind of compulsion in matters of faith or religious practices. The Pakistan delegation would therefore vote for article 19 [subsequently changed to Article 18 in final Declaration], and would accept no limitation on its provisions."215

Objecting to Articles 16 and 18, the Saudi Arabian delegate Jamil Baroody charged that the authors of the draft Declaration had adopted Western standards for family relations, and had “ignored more ancient civilizations, which were past the experimental stage, and the institutions of which, for example marriage, had proved their wisdom through the centuries.” Documenting the Saudi opposition to Article 18 (freedom to change religion), “Baroody was again the most outspoken critic. His delegation supported the freedom of conscience and religion but objected to the right to change one’s religion because proselytization historically caused so much bloodshed and warfare. Saudi Arabia’s vigorous opposition to the marriage and religion articles in the third committee foreshadowed that country’s abstention from the Declaration.”19

Baroody was neither a Saudi nor a Muslim but a Lebanese Christian Arab.20 Baroody did oppose including a phrase on the freedom to change religion that was eventually to be guaranteed in Article 18 of the UDHR, which some observers have attributed to Islam, but he did not expressly invoke Islam as a reason for his opposition. Johannes Morsink21 notes that Baroody's objections to Article 18 included his assessment that the language concerning the freedom to change religion was superfluous and that it was inconsistent to provide for the right to change religion as part of the freedom of religion when there were no corresponding provisions guaranteeing the right to change positions in the provisions on freedom of thought and conscience. Some other delegations supported Baroody's objections, and not all of these were from Muslim states. Thus, using Baroody's remarks to generalize about a supposed Islamic hostility to the UDHR is unwarranted.

According to Glendon, “The main speaker on the issue in the General Assembly was Muhammad Zafrulla Khan [Pakistan’s foreign minister and head of its UN delegation] who told the delegates that the article on religious freedom would have the full support of Pakistan, then the UN member with the largest Muslim population. The issue, he said, “involved the honor of Islam”65 and cited the Qur’anic passage for the proposition that faith could not have an obligatory character: Let him who chooses to believe,

19 Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New – Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Random House, 2001, p 153‐4
20 Ibid, p 148
21 Johannes Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting and Intent, (Univ of Pennsylvania Press,1999, p 25‐6

 

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believe, and him who chooses to disbelieve, disbelieve.22 Speaking with the authority of a religious scholar23 Zafrulla Khan’s forceful support of Articles 16 and 18 convinced all other Muslim countries, except Saudi Arabia, to support the Declaration. Elaborating on his explanation of the cited Qur’anic teachings, Zafrulla Khan said: Let he who chooses to believe, believe, and he who chooses to disbelieve, disbelieve, and it formally condemned not lack of faith but hypocrisy. “The Moslem religion was a missionary religion: it strove to persuade men to change their faith and alter their way of living, so as to follow the faith and way of living it preached, but it recognized the same right of conversion for other religions as for itself.”24 Following Zafrulla Khan’s rebuttal of the Saudi position using scriptural justification, all Muslim countries, except Saudi Arabia, supported the Declaration. Zafrulla Khan was a distinguished jurist who later served as the president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and later published a book, cross referencing each article of the UN‐HRD to the Quran.25

The slight difference in detail about the reason for Saudi opposition to Article 18 notwithstanding, Zafrulla Khan forcefully established that the Islamic scripture validates freedom of conscience, including changing faith, at this important international forum. The Saudis did not refute his position nor did they oppose the Declaration – they abstained. The fact that Saudi Arabia has not changed its original position regarding the un‐Islamic nature of the UN HRD is disturbing. After failing to convince the Muslim majority countries on facts at the UN in 1948, the Saudi petrodollars succeeded in convincing the Muslim world THROUGH OIC to reverse their previous position in favor of the Saudi position. This reversal shows the widespread propagation and acceptance of the Saudi‐based Wahabbi ideology in the Muslim world. It also helps contextualize the results of the 2013 Pew Research study (Ref 4 cited earlier) which shows resurgence in the demands for implementation of sharia in Muslim majority societies, and the associated confusion in Muslim countries that is giving credence to the medieval conspiracy theories about the West being at war with Islam.

The UN Human Rights Declaration and the Proposed Strategy

We were all humans until:

  •   Race disconnected us

  •   Religion separated us

  •   Politics divided us ..... (anonymous)

    This sad but relevant quote implies the fundamental bond that can bring people together – our common bond of humanity. Unfortunately, people have failed to understand the role of religion – to unite humanity by gradually elevating the adherents’ behaviors from instinctive to moral and spiritual consciousness. Tragically, religion instead has been exploited as a tool to secure political power, control

    22 Ibid, p 168
    23 John F. Cullinan, A Tale of Two Countries, National Review Dec 12, 2008 (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/226516/tale‐two‐countries‐john‐f‐cullinan)
    24 http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1450&context=ilj cited in footnote215, pg 86 25 Zafrulla Khan, Islam and Human Rights, Islam International Pub, 1967. (https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Islam‐HR.pdf)

 

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and securing wealth by monopolizing truth, condemning the other to eternal damnation, and causing destruction, etc. Awareness of the common bond of our humanity can be used to reverse this disparaging trend. Led by Western societies, following the widespread suffering and destruction of World Wars I and II, this awareness was catalyzed in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

The Declaration is a voluntary statement of ideals that every human being aspires to attain. The Declaration is not contrary to any religious teachings because world’s major religions all foster unity and peace rather than division and war.26 Therefore, all the major religions have upheld the thirty Articles of the UN Declaration. Emphasizing this point, Eleanor Roosevelt, commented: The important thing is neither your nationality nor the religion you professed, but how your faith translated itself in your life.27 She characterized this Declaration as “the Magna Carta”28 for people around the world. Some of her other quotes are as relevant today as they were in 1948 when this Declaration was adopted:

  •   Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this.29

  •   Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.30

  •   It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.31

    Some US Muslim organizations have formally promoted the importance of the UN HRD and developed educational programs around its principles to counter the growing threat of radicalism among Muslims. Two examples of these initiatives are the Muslim Reform Movement32 launched by a group of Muslim

    26 Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New – Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Random House, 2001 p75‐6 cites independent UN surveys before adopting the HRD to confirm there was no conflict between the HRD declaration and teachings of major world religions.
    27 https://themindsjournal.com/lessons‐from‐eleanor‐roosevelt/

    28 Magna Carta, signed in 1215, was drafted by the rebel nobles in England to curb the tyrannical power of their own monarch and secured liberties for England’s elite classes. Its language protecting due process and barring absolute monarchy has guided the fundamental principles of common law in constitutions around the world for the last 800 years. The Magna Carta brought an end to the absolute power of English sovereigns as they, too, were required to be held accountable by the law.

    29 http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/45956‐remember‐always‐that‐you‐have‐not‐only‐the‐right‐to
    30 https://www.thoughtco.com/eleanor‐roosevelt‐universal‐declaration‐of‐human‐rights‐3528095
    31 https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/eleanorroo131302.html
    32 https://aifdemocracy.org/declaration‐of‐the‐muslim‐reform‐movement‐signed‐by‐aifd‐december‐4‐2015/

 

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organizations in North America and Europe and True Islam33 lunched by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

The Democratic Party should develop their strategy to counter the radical ideology around the UN Human Rights Declaration which should also include:

  1. Support public conversations (through invited presentations or town hall type meetings) on these matters to expound the root cause, history, and the illogical position behind the radical ideology.

  2. Public discussions will draw Muslims, who are disengaged, to contribute to this debate, and help propagate the counter narrative developed by Muslims based on the Qur’an and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Such a strategy will go a long way in uniting the society around noble ideals that all human beings aspire to attain. In Eleanor Roosevelt words, 34 “We’ve found ourselves in a situation where we must know about all the other peoples of the world. We must know about the way we live, what they are like, what their beliefs are, what their aspirations are ... To me, the fact that there is contact, a bridge on which we can meet and talk, has value.”

Concluding Comments

The UN Declaration of Human Rights provides a neutral platform and common ground for human beings to come together in support of the lofty ideals all individuals aspire to attain. Although supported by most religious scriptures, the Declaration is a secular document. It upholds America’s critical constitutional elements of equality under the law, non‐discrimination, separation of religion from government (a prerequisite for rejecting the concept of Islamic State), and grants individuals the right to basic human freedoms that are critical for the individuals’ intellectual, moral and social development.

The Democratic Party is in a good position to develop a strategy to counter the Republican position which relies on the use of force alone; the Republican approach lacks the critical educational component to resolve the radical ideology. This positive, fact‐based proposed strategy for the Democratic Party will not only attract the Muslim votes, it will also showcase the Party as the leader for social justice and a supporter of marginalized minorities. Additionally, it will promote a counter narrative to effectively refute the Republican Party’s anti‐Muslim rhetoric and the radical ideology of creating an Islamic State.

33 http://www.trueislam.com/home/
34 Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New – Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Random House, 2001, p 223

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4. Recommended Reading List

For understanding Radical Ideology among Muslims Islam, by Arif Humayun

1.     For UN Human Rights Declaration and Islam, read the references in the background paper.

2.     http://www.circleofpeaceonline.org/?page_id=495  (several articles posted by Arif Humayun)

3.     Munir Commission Report http://www.circleofpeaceonline.org/?p=119  (for historical perspective, free download)

4.     https://aifdemocracy.org/

5.     https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/blasphemy-the-untold-story-pakistans-law (audio for first 2 minutes is poor; good for the rest of the presentation)

6.     Connivance by Silence: How the Majority's Failure to Challenge Politically Motivated [Mis]interpretation of the Qur'an Empowered Radicals to Exploit Islam and Propagate Radicalism by Arif Humayun (October 2010)  https://www.amazon.com/Connivance-Silence-Politically-interpretation-Radicalism/dp/1453595708

7.     Islam and Human Rights, Zafrullah Khan, Islam International Publications, (1967), https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Islam-HR.pdf (free download)

8.     TED Talk - a former jihadist from Bangladesh https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwpiI18TBdE

9.     Radical: My Journey Out Of Islamist Extremism ,by Maajid Nawaz and Tom Bromley (Oct 2013) https://www.amazon.com/Radical-Journey-Out-Islamist-Extremism/dp/0762791365/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492546968&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Apostate%2C+Maajid+Nawaz

10.  The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left (April 2009) https://www.amazon.com/Islamist-Became-Islamic-Fundamentalist-Inside/dp/0143115987/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492547014&sr=1-1&keywords=the+islamist+ed+husain

11.  Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Second Edition, Ahmed Rashid, https://www.amazon.com/Taliban-Militant-Fundamentalism-Central-Second/dp/0300163681/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492547404&sr=1-1-fkmr1&keywords=Taliban+Ahmad+Rashid

12.  I is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror in Afghanistan September 2006 https://www.amazon.com/Infidel-Holy-War-Terror-Afghanistan/dp/1586484524/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492547572&sr=1-1&keywords=I+is+for+Infidel