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Vol 9, No. 3

March 2009

THE BOSNIAN EXAMPLE OF COEXISTENCE By Amir Telibeirovic

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o ‘Westerner’ can erase the Islamic influences in Bosnia, and no ‘Easterner’ can impose their own influences on our way of life.” This statement, overheard at a Sarajevo coffee bar, explains the unique character and identity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the conflict of the previous decade, it is still a unique case of a country following a middle path of coexistence between individuals with different religions and ethnicities. Islam was introduced to Bosnians in the 15th and 16th centuries during the Ottoman Empire. Bosnian Muslims, ethnically identified as Bosniaks, have long been neighbours with ethnic Serbs who are largely Orthodox Christian, predominantly Catholic Croats and other ethnic and religious minorities, such as Sephardic Jews, Albanians, Roma and others.

If you talk to members of the older generation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they will recall a time when Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito pointed to Bosnia and Herzegovinia as a model for Yugoslavia to coexist without conflict. Though there has been intolerance and conflict between members of various religious and ethnic groups, tensions never pitted the entire populations of one group against another. Most conflicts in Bosnia’s history were imported or orchestrated from Ankara, Vienna, Berlin, Belgrade and Zagreb — for territorial occupation or the exploitation of local natural resources. One critical exception in recent history was the Bosnian War (1992 to 1995), which erupted as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia and brought much misery and destruction to the region.

Eventually, peace was restored by NATO forces. But after the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, which brought an end to the three-year war, refugees returned to their homes to find their cities divided — sometimes physically — along ethnic lines. And local laws limiting freedom of movement exacerbated these tensions and obstructed reconciliation efforts. As a result, parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina remain divided — politically, religiously and ethnically — even today. Since the war, however, restoring the middle path of coexistence has been the goal of ordinary Bosnians working with non-governmental organisations in local cities. Reconstruction has served as a way for various groups to work together for a common good. NonTurn to next page

STATEMENTS

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R EDUCING P OLITICKING ; F OCUSING UPON THE E CONOMIC C RISIS ... It is no

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coincidence that in the short span of 3 or 4 days Ruler after Ruler has expressed grave concern about the situation in the country .............................. P.2

ASEAN R ESPONSIBILITY T OWARDS THE P LIGHT OF THE R OHINGYA AND OTHER REFUGEES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA .....The Rohingya, who live in the northern part of Arakan state in Myanmar, adjacent to Bangladesh, are a Muslim minority ............................................................. P.3 OBAMA ON AFGHANISTAN .....Barack Obama is reported to have decided to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan .................................................... P.4

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Whatever the legal issues involved

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By Jean-Moïse Braitberg, Michael Neumann, Osha Neumann ........................................................page5

CAN MITCHELL TURN JERUSALEM INTO B ELFAST ? By Ali Abunimah ......................................... page 6

MEDIA SILENT AS INDIAN MUSLIMS FOREGO HOLIDAY By Marc Gopin .......................................... page 7

GLOBAL F INANCIAL U NCERTAINTIES AND THE FUTURE OF MALAYSIA (PART 2) By Mahathir Mohamad ................................ page 8

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By Faith in Human Rights .......................... page 10


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governmental organisations such as the Sarajevo-based International Forum Bosnia, which houses the Center for Interreligious Dialogue and facilitates dialogue among different religious groups, and the International Mennonite Organization which aids in home reconstruction and youth programmes, are hard at work to ease remaining tensions in this post-conflict society. But what is most notable is those places where coexistence between ordinary people of different religions and ethnicities never stopped, not even during the war. These are the communities that the rest of the region can learn from, the people that adhered to the middle path and refused to align with those who committed acts of violence along ethnic or religious lines and turned against their neighbours in times of trouble. Cities like Sarajevo, Mostar and Tuzla,

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were known to have the largest interethnic populations in the Balkans. In various sieges throughout the war, neighbours came together, regardless of ethnicity or religion, to protect one another and their towns from destruction. In fact, the heavy artillery raining down upon them created solidarity among them, instead of separating them. Historically, neighbourhoods in these cities were not divided between one group or another. There had been interethnic and inter-religious mixing for generations, and this kind of coexistence was considered the norm, unlike other towns in the region where one ethnic or religious group comprised the majority. This attitude of coming together during the war demonstrated that not all communities can be driven apart along ethnic or religious lines, even in times of war. In fact, people of various

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backgrounds came together in reaction to the aggressive attempts to divide them. Despite the violent upheaval in the 1990s and the tumultuous years that followed, coexistence amongst the diverse population of Bosnia and Herzegovina has endured. The resilience of the people in the region, particularly those still working to build united communities out of divided groups, serves as an example not only in the Balkans, but for conflict-torn countries around the world. 10 February 2009 Amir Telibeirovic is senior editor of Sarajevo-based online magazine Bosnia Daily. This article is part of a series on lesser-known Muslim societies written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews). Source: CGNews

STATEMENTS REDUCING POLITICKING; FOCUSING It is no coincidence that in the short span of 3 or 4 days Ruler after Ruler has expressed grave concern about the situation in the country. Their concern reflects the sentiments of the rakyat who are fed up with the excessive politicking that has characterized public life since the General Election of 8 March 2008. Even people outside Malaysia — as I discovered recently— are astounded that leaders in government and the opposition are consumed with political manoeuvrings at a time when the whole world is focused upon the global economic crisis. Some of them are of the view that the antics of the politicians have brought Malaysia to the brink of political turmoil. At the root of this politicking is the unbridled drive to acquire and enhance power, whatever the costs and consequences, among politicians on both sides of the divide at state and federal levels. Ethical principles mean

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little to them. Their politics has not only created tension and antagonism, illustrated so starkly in the Perak crisis. It has also, it appears, increased corruption and abuse of power and has led to the further deterioration of ethnic relations. Intense politicking has also taken a toll upon certain institutions of governance such as the Election Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Police and even the Judiciary. Most of all, it has distracted our political leaders from concentrating upon the economy. With almost all exports – petroleum, palm oil, rubber, electrical and electronic goods—declining, unemployment escalating steeply, and the Gross Domestic Product(GDP) shrinking, the prognosis for the next few months is discouraging. Our leaders, regardless of party affiliation, should be responding to this Herculean challenge by implementing carefully

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thought-out policies and programmes that will ensure the well-being of the people in these difficult times. All their energies should be focused upon this challenge— and not on how to engineer defections or to oust their political rivals. Such a concentrated focus upon the economy may not be forthcoming for an obvious reason. The two major dramatis personae in the Malaysian political arena today, Dato Seri Najib Razak, the incoming Prime Minister, and Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the Leader of the Opposition, will continue to be locked in combat for some time to come. Najib will want to consolidate and strengthen his position as head of government, while Anwar will go all out to topple him since his single-minded ambition is to become Prime Minister in the shortest time possible. It is partly because of their fear of the disastrous consequences of this titanic continued next page


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continued from page 2 tussle for power between these two personalities that concerned citizens like Anas Zubedy have proposed a truce that would help to reduce politicking. Najib and Anwar could perhaps seek to forge some agreement in the following areas:-

1)The formulation of anti-defection laws at state and federal level which would require an elected legislator to vacate his seat in parliament or the state assembly if he decides to resign from his party. Some existing provisions in the Federal and State Constitutions will have to be amended in order to accommodate the proposed legislation. 2)Joint efforts to improve Federal-State ties in accordance with their respective constitutions and in the true spirit of

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federalism. 3)The creation of ‘economic crisis councils’ at federal and state levels which will bring together the government and the opposition— apart from other groups and individuals— with the single aim of overcoming the economic crisis. 4)Joint efforts to improve ethnic relations by eliminating communal rhetoric, deepening understanding of the ethnic situation in Malaysia, and demonstrating through deeds a commitment to a balanced, allembracing notion of justice for all communities. 5)Concrete measures to enhance mutual respect for their respective roles

S T A T E M E N T S as Prime Minister, on the one hand, and Leader of the Opposition, on the other. If Najib and Anwar make no attempt to reduce politicking and improve the political atmosphere in the near future, it is quite conceivable that the overall situation will deteriorate rapidly with all its dire consequences. In such a situation, the rakyat would expect the Rulers— specifically the King— to help restore good governance through measures which accord with constitutional rule and democratic principles. Dr. Chandra Muzaffar. President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST) 9 March 2009

ASEAN RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THE PLIGHT OF THE ROHINGYA AND OTHER REFUGEES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

The recent boat people incident is additional testimony to their miserable situation. It was reported that the Thai Navy had pushed hundreds of Rohingya boat people back into the sea and let them die. The Indian Navy and the Indonesian authorities in Aceh rescued hundreds of them. Some of the survivors had claimed that they were abused by the Thai Navy.

It was reported on 27 February 2009 in the Bangkok Post that the Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi had stated that the countries affected by the influx of the Rohingya refugees must be firm in turning them back. The Rohingyas must prove that they came from Myanmar and have addresses and family members there. Speaking after chairing a meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the eve of the summit, the Thai foreign Minister, Kasit Pironmya said that since no conclusion was reached on the Rohingya issue, further discussions would be held with Malaysia, Indonesian and Bangladesh governments. The matter would be discussed from 14-15 April 2009 at the Bali Process meeting which is a nonbinding grouping founded in 2002 to solve problems concerning human trafficking and smuggling. It is obvious that the meeting will not produce any substantive result as it has no binding value upon the states concerned.

The Myanmar government has told the ASEAN foreign ministers that it is willing to accept the refugees from their countries if they are identified as Bengali minorities. There is a contradiction in their stance as the Myanmar government does not classify them as citizens.

Any proposal to send the Rohingyas back will only make their plight worse. What awaits them is more torture and inhuman treatment. Despite the presence of adequate human rights laws at international and regional levels, the refugee problem, especially the plight of the Rohingyas in

The Rohingya, who live in the northern part of Arakan state in Myanmar, adjacent to Bangladesh, are a Muslim minority. They are amongst those persecuted by the Myanmar military government. Due to persecution, they have fled to Thailand and Malaysia and live as illegal refugees in miserable conditions in refugee camps. The receiving states consider them illegal refugees and do not provide them with adequate protection. Many of them have been persecuted by the security forces of these states and exploited by the locals. Their situation is pathetic.

Southeast Asia remains a long neglected issue that needs the urgent attention of the international community and regional states. It is time that ASEAN gave serious attention to this problem as it has adopted an ASEAN Charter that alludes to human rights. It has a moral responsibility to solve the problem as it is a flagrant human rights violation in its own backyard. ASEAN should not hide behind the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of a fellow member state and allow refugees to suffer. In fact, ASEAN should, as a matter of urgent priority, adopt a common policy on the fair and humane treatment of refugees which would cut across national boundaries. In formulating this policy, ASEAN states should be guided by both international law and the religious cultures of the region which exhort us to show our humanity to our distressed neighbour so that his dignity would be preserved and protected.

Dr Arujunan Narayanan Executive Committee Member, International Movement for a Just World (JUST) 6 March 2009


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The Perak episode is in a sense linked to the attempt by the de facto leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) , Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, to engineer defections from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) at the federal level in order to achieve his ambition of becoming Prime Minister of Malaysia. Anwar’s backdoor politics in fact began two weeks after the 12th General Election. He tried over a period of seven or eight months to topple the BN which at that time had a clear 58 seat parliamentary lead over the combined opposition. Anwar failed in his bid. Even in the case of Perak, it was after he enticed a Barisan Nasional Assembly member to cross over, that the BN hit back with its manoeuvres leading to the present tussle for power. Anwar had now been hoisted by his own petard. However, it is not going

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AFGHANISTAN

Many pundits are already comparing US involvement in Afghanistan with its earlier debacle in Vietnam - in the 1960s. In our opinion, this involvement might turn out to be much worse than that. Almost everybody who is familiar with the conflict agrees that the only alternative is to win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan. This would also be in line with the fundamental values of Islamic and Western civilizations. In our view, President Obama should rather give priority to social and economic development in Afghanistan, ensure an effective system of governance, and resist the temptation of pursuing the

THE TUSSLE Whatever the legal issues involved in the tussle in Perak, there is no honour in coming to power through defections. I have maintained since the mid-eighties that acquiring power through the backdoor is unethical. It is not only a betrayal of the voter; it also shows very little respect for the democratic process.

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to deter him from trying again. One hopes that his PKR colleagues and his partners in the Pakatan Rakyat, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP), will be more critical of Anwar’s antics and evaluate his leadership of the PR in a more objective manner. After all, he is partly responsible for the loss of one of the states that the PR captured in the last General Election. More important, now is the time for both the PR and the BN to demonstrate their sincere commitment to the wellbeing of the people by joining hands in formulating an anti-defection law which will be adopted at Federal and state levels. There are a number of countries from Bolivia to Trinidad to South Africa to India which have such laws. The BN has been reluctant to enact such legislation because it has for a very long time benefited from crossovers. Now it knows that the PR can also play the same game. If the BN and PR continue to play this diabolical game, there will be no political stability. Malaysian democracy will be a sham. Economic development will stagnate since political leaders will be preoccupied with manoeuvres and

military solution. Of course in the short term the security situation must be addressed; Instead of increasing troops, President Obama should replace US and NATO forces with OIC troops. The purpose of an OIC presence would be to stabilize the immediate security situation. Once some stability has been achieved, talks may begin for the formation of a truly national government and legitimize it through the democratic process. Dr Abdullah al-Ahsan Vice-President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST). 24 February 2009

PERAK machinations aimed at ousting their adversaries. The bureaucracy will cease to deliver. Even ethnic relations will take a turn for the worse as political instability increases and economic growth declines. Most of all, the people will suffer when their interests and aspirations are ignored as leaders jostle for power. The Malaysian citizenry should not allow this to happen. It should adopt a principled stand against defections and demand an anti-defection law immediately. It is wrong of our people to endorse defections or remain silent about them when one’s own side is the beneficiary. Likewise, it is hypocritical to oppose defections simply because one’s side is the victim. It is only when our citizenry rises above such biases and commits itself to what is ethical regardless of who gains and who loses that we would have developed a political culture that is resistant to defections and other forms of Machiavellian politics. Chandra Muzaffar. 9 February 2009.


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REMOVE THEIR NAMES By Jean-Moïse Braitberg, Michael Neumann, Osha Neumann Mr. President of the State of Israel, I am writing to you to intervene with the appropriate authorities to withdraw, from the Yad Vashem memorial dedicated to the memory of Jewish victims of Nazism, the name of my grandfather, Moshe Brajtberg, gassed at Treblinka in 1943, and those of other members of my who family died during deportation to various Nazi camps during World War II. I ask you to honor my request, Mr. Chairman, because what took place in Gaza, and more generally, the injustices to the Arab people of Palestine for sixty years, disqualifies Israel to be the center of the memory of the harm done to Jews, and thus to all humanity. You see, since my childhood, I lived in amongst survivors of the death camps. I saw the numbers tattooed on their arms, I heard the story of torture; I knew the impossible grief and I shared their nightmares. I was taught that these crimes must never happen again, that never again must man, because of ethnicity or religion despise other man, mock his Human Rights of living a safe, dignified life, without barriers, and hope, so remote be it, of a future of peace and prosperity. Yet Mr. President, I note that despite dozens of resolutions adopted by the international community, despite the glaring evidence of the injustices done to the Palestinian people since 1948, despite the hopes raised in Oslo, and despite the recognition of the right of Israeli Jews to live in peace and security, repeatedly reaffirmed by the Palestinian Authority, the only answers given by successive governments of your country have been violence, bloodshed, confinement, incessant controls, colonization, deprivations. You’ll tell me Mr. President, that Israel has the right to defend itself against people launching rockets into Israel, or suicide bombers that destroy innocent Israeli lives. My response to that is that my humanism doesn’t vary according to the nationality of the victims.

Yet you, Mr. President, you lead the destiny of a country which claims not only to represent the Jews as a whole, but also the memory of those who were victims of Nazism. This is what concerns me and that I find unacceptable. By displaying the names of my family members at the Yad Vashem Memorial, in the heart of the state of Israel, your state imprisons my family memories behind the barbed wires of zionism, and makes it hostage of a so-called moral authority which commits every day the abomination of denying justice. So, please, remove the name of my grandfather from the shrine dedicated to cruelty against Jews so that it no longer justifies the injustice being done to the Palestinians. Please accept, Mr. President, the assurances of my respectful consideration. Jean-Moïse Braitberg ○

Following the example of Jean-Moise Braitberg, we ask that our grandmother’s name be removed from the wall at Yad Vashem. Her name is Gertrud Neumann. Your records state that she was born in Kattowitz on June 6, 1875 and died in Theresienstadt. M. Braitberg delivers his request with excellent reasons and eloquent personal testimony. His words are inspiring, but they give you — and those who stand with you - too much credit. I will instead be brief. Please take this as an expression of my disgust and contempt for your state and all it represents. Our grandmother was a victim of that very ideal of ethnic sovereignty in whose cause Israel has shed so much blood for so long. I was among the many Jews who thought nothing of embracing that ideal, despite the sufferings it had inflicted on our own race. It took thousands of Palestinian lives before, finally, I realized how

foolish we had been. Our complicity was despicable. I do

not believe that the Jewish people, in whose name you have committed so many crimes with such outrageous complacency, can ever rid itself of the shame you have brought upon us. Nazi propaganda, for all its calumnies, never disgraced and corrupted the Jews; you have succeeded in this. You haven’t the courage to take responsibility for your own sadistic acts: with unparalleled insolence, you set yourself up as spokesmen for an entire race, as if our very existence endorsed your conduct. And you blacken our names not only by your acts, but by the lies, the coy evasions, the smirking arrogance and the infantile self-righteousness with which you embroider our history. In the end, you will give the Palestinians some scrap of a state. You will never pay for your crimes and you will continue to preen yourself, to bask in your illusions of moral ascendancy. But between now and the end, you will kill and kill and kill, gaining nothing by your spoilt-brat brutality. In life, our grandmother suffered enough. Stop making her a party to this horror in her death. Michael Neumann ○

I join my brother, Michael Neumann, in asking that any reference to our grandmother be removed from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. I have been to this memorial. Its buildings, paved courtyards and plazas


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spread themselves authoritatively over many landscaped acres. It frames the Holocaust as a prelude to the creation of the state of Israel. It embalms memorabilia of the death camps and preserves them as national treasures. That treasure does not belong to Israel. It is a treasure only if it serves as a reminder never to permit any nation to claim an exemption for its chosen people from the bounds of morality and decency. Israel has twisted the Holocaust into an excuse for perpetrating more holocausts. It has spent the treasure of the world’s sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust on a fruitless effort to shield itself from all criticism as it

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massacres and tortures Palestinians and suffocates them under a brutal occupation. I do not wish to have the memory of my grandmother enlisted in this misbegotten project.

grandmother’s memory. I do not wish Yad Vashem to be her memorial. Osha Neumann 31 January 2009 Jean-Moïse Braitberg is a French author

I grew up believing that Jews were that ethnic group whose historical mission was to transcend ethnicity in a united front against Fascism. To be Jewish was to be anti-Fascist. Israel long ago woke me from my dogmatic slumber about the immutable relationship of Jews to Fascists. It has engineered a merger between the image of Jewish torturers and war criminals and that of emaciated concentration camp victims. I find this merger obscene. I want no part of it. You have forfeited the right to be the custodian of my

CAN MITCHELL TURN JERUSALEM

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at a Canadian university. He is the author of What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche and The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at mneumann@live.com Osha Neumann is a defense lawyer in Berkeley and author of Up Against the Wall MotherF**ker: a Memoir of the 60s with Notes for Next Time. Source: Le Monde and Common Ground News

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By Ali Abunimah US President Barack Obama’s appointment of former Senator George Mitchell as his new Middle East envoy is a good choice. Mitchell showed even-handedness uncharacteristic of US officials when he led a fact-finding mission to the region in 2000. Had its recommendations been followed — cessation of all violence and a full freeze of Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land — the peace process might have made progress. Mitchell, who is already in the Middle East, helped broker the 1998 Belfast Agreement, the key to ending decades of strife in Northern Ireland. Because of historical similarities, that peace agreement is an important precedent for Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Before 1948, European Jewish settlers, newly-arrived in Palestine, wanted their own state once British colonial rulers withdrew. But because Jews were a minority, the only way to achieve this was a partition that the majority Arab Palestinian population, fearing dispossession, bitterly opposed. When Israel was established in 1948, most Palestinians were forced from their homeland, and those remaining became

refused to recognize. As Israeli Jews did to Palestinians, Protestants institutionalized their own culture and religion as the official creed and violently suppressed expressions of nationalist identity. In the words of its first prime minister, Northern Ireland’s seat of government at Belfast’s Stormont Castle was a “Protestant parliament for a Protestant people.” Catholics faced systematic discrimination in jobs and housing. second-class citizens in a “Jewish state.” The modern conflict in Ireland began when Great Britain, facing resistance from Irish nationalists, decided to withdraw after centuries of rule. But the Protestant ruling class — a quarter of the population — descended from English and Scottish settlers, insisted that Ireland remain tied to Britain. These unionists refused to live in a state with a nationalist Catholic majority. To appease the unionist minority, which threatened violent rebellion if it did not get its way, Britain partitioned Ireland in 1921, creating Northern Ireland, an entity whose legitimacy nationalists

Nationalists launched a civil rights movement in the 1960s inspired by the one in the US. Protestant unionists violently resisted demands to share power and reform, but the numerical growth and assertiveness of the nationalist Catholic population within Northern Ireland made such intransigence untenable. In 1972, Britain sent in troops and imposed direct rule. During 30 years of “The Troubles,” 3,700 people died at the hands of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Protestant militias, British forces and others.

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The Mitchell-led Belfast Agreement ended formal Protestant hegemony in favor of equality, mitigating partition’s injustices. It promised that government power “shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people” and guaranteed “just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos, and aspirations of both communities.” Decades of bloody conflict left deep social divisions. But a framework for nondiscriminatory democratic governance has allowed nationalists and unionists within Northern Ireland to begin to shed their siege mentalities. While formal partition of Ireland remains, it is disappearing on the ground as anyone can live, work and move freely, and official cross-border bodies are integrating the infrastructure and economies of the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. The power-sharing executive in Belfast, led by staunchly nationalist Sinn Fein (closely affiliated with the IRA) and the hardline Democratic Unionist Party, was once as

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inconceivable as a government made up of members of Hamas and Israeli politicians would be today. US diplomacy played a key role by putting pressure on the stronger parties —the British government and Protestant unionists — in favor of the weaker nationalist side. Instead of shunning Sinn Fein the US, prodded by the Irish American lobby, insisted it be brought into the process. By 2010, Palestinians will outnumber Israeli Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined. The two groups can no more be totally separated than Protestant unionists and Catholic nationalists in Ireland. Like Irish nationalists, Palestinians will never recognize the “right” of another group to discriminate against them. Like Protestant unionists did, Israeli Jews insist on their own state. Israel’s “solution” is to cage Palestinians into ghettos — like Gaza — and periodically bomb them into submission just so Israeli Jews, their relative numbers dwindling, can artificially maintain a Jewish state.

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A R T I C L E S If Mitchell is allowed to apply Northern Ireland’s lessons, then there may be a way out. But he goes to Jerusalem with few of the advantages he brought to Belfast. The Obama administration remains committed for now to the failed partition formula of “a Jewish state” and a “Palestinian state” and maintains the Bush administration’s misguided boycott of Hamas, which overwhelmingly won Palestinian elections in 2006. And the Israel lobby — much more powerful than its Irish American counterpart — warps US policy to favor the stronger side, an intransigent Israel committing war crimes. If these policies don’t change, Mitchell’s efforts will be wasted and escalating violence will fill the political vacuum. 2 February 2009 Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the IsraeliPalestinian Impasse. An abridged version of this article first appeared in The Detroit Free Press. Source: The Electronic Intifada

INDIAN MUSLIMS FOREGO HOLIDAY By Marc Gopin

Millions of Muslims across India decided to temper or even cancel festivities on their most cherished week of holy yearly celebrations, Eid alAdha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son in obedience to God and His mercy upon him as a result, in protest of violent acts committed in the name of Islam by the criminals who murdered so many in Mumbai.

Delhi’s Jama Mosque, from the Khwaja Banda Nawaz Dargah (shrine) in Gulbarga to the mosques of Mumbai - Eid celebrations were subdued, in a symbolic declaration of Muslim protest against terrorism.

According to a Times of India article, “They wore black ribbons, carried placards of peace, sent out emails and SMS’s reiterating harmony and put up banners saluting those who died in the 26/11 terrorist attack.

“At every shrine prayers were said for the grieving families in Mumbai. In the cities of Ajmer Sharief, Kaliyar Sharief (Uttarakhand) and Barabanki’s Deva Sharief, communities came together burying their differences to focus on one thing: communal harmony. By showing our unity, we have spoilt the terrorists’ Eid,” said Qari Mohd Miya Mazhari, editor of the Urdu daily, Secular Qayadat.

Some Muslims even avoided festival purchases such as new clothes. From Chennai’s Thousand Lights Mosque to

“The festival of sacrifice also became a platform of protest both for celebrities as well as ordinary citizens.

“In Mumbai, actor-director Aamir Khan wore a black band on his arm. So did Jab We Met director Imtiaz Ali, lyricist Javed Akhtar and his actor-director son, Farhan Akhtar. A news agency reported that other Bollywood biggies such as Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan too preferred to stay away from the festivities.” This is an act of solidarity with the victims - Hindu, Jew, Muslim, and Christian alike - and this despite the fact that the prejudice and structural injustice that Indian Muslims experience is widespread and systemic. I have always sensed from my readings and studies that Indian Islam, the religion of one of the largest Muslim communities in the world, has always articulated a deeply ethical form of Islam. It historically has continued next page


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been a model to the world of a minority community asserting its identity and simultaneously arguing for a strongly non-violent ethic of religiosity.

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who are peaceful is creating at least as much bleeding as the acts of terrorism.

Why does the world ignore millions of good simple people when they stand up for non-violence but keep everyone riveted when 20 or so criminals hijack a city? More importantly why is a hijacking a “Muslim event” but not the peaceful protests and statements of solidarity with Hindu victims of millions of people?

The three Abrahamic religions share a story of Abraham and his son being prepared to offer the greatest sacrifice to God, and this Muslim holiday celebrates God’s response to such devotion. I say what I am about to say in protest against the haters in our midst: I am grateful that God saved this son of Abraham so that a great culture, civilisation and religion could be born, a culture and civilisation of the Arab and Muslim world.

We cannot have a deep understanding of the problems facing humanity if this prejudice against peaceful expressions of religion goes on in the media. I know that “if it bleeds it leads” in the media, but the lack of attention to the majority

And I refuse to join the haters in my midst who look at these sad brainwashed criminals of the Mumbai attack and say, “They are the flower of Islam”. They are no more the flower of Islam than Timothy McVeigh and his

A R T I C L E S Christian Identity Movement, or the Ku Klux Klan and their burning Christian crosses, are the flower of Christianity. Crime is crime, and we must honour the millions of Indian Muslims today who are surrendering their holiday spirit in solidarity with the innocent. What a wonderful model and challenge to the rest of humanity. 16 December 2008 Dr. Marc Gopin is the director of George Mason University’s Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, and author of www.marcgopin.com. Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

GLOBAL FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTIES AND THE FUTURE OF MALAYSIA By Mahathir Mohamad (Part 2) At the other end of the spectrum we see a number of countries which have been sanctioned by the powerful and rich countries of the world. They have hardly any involvement in foreign investments, certainly not in financial instruments and funds. The financial turmoil would not affect them as badly since they have become insulated though the sanction etc. But still they will be faced with some relatively minor problems. We may say that Malaysia is a country in between the two examples mentioned. We have not been great investors in foreign funds or even in the foreign industries which are collapsing. But we are a trading nation and for a trading nation the sufferings of its trading partners cannot but affect it adversely. We are going to find our trading partners unable to pay, partly because their banks are bankrupt and partly because their countries’ recession must affect their buying power and their priorities when they buy. Our trade must therefore diminish and this will affect our industries and jobs for our workers.

This is the environment in which Malaysia will have to function and it will have to handle. How it handles this environment will determine its future. The last time Malaysia had to face a financial crisis, its economy went down the way other countries did. The people became poor suddenly and the growth became stunted. It seemed like it would have to borrow from the IMF and surrender itself to IMF dictates. The result would be a less independent country with no certainty of recovery as the IMF loan was for settling Malaysia’s foreign debts and not really to help its economy to recover. It therefore chose not to seek IMF and World Bank “help” because Malaysia had to continue with its New Economic Policy. We did not think the IMF would be interested in our principle objective of correcting the economic imbalance between the races. They believe in competition in which the losers should be put to death like the gladiatorial fighters of old. Such an attitude would increase the ill feelings and tensions between the races, would in fact lead

to racial clashes and instability for the country. And the instability would have an adverse effect on the economy. Today Malaysia has joined other countries in the region in being politically unstable. For 50 years political stability was what attracted investments, both foreign and local. Now a weak Government has tried to regain popularity by pandering to the demands of the extremists and the naïve. The floodgates have been opened and all kinds of sensitive issues are being publicly debated. The result is not the kind of liberal society that such a policy was supposed to bring. The result is the resurgence of racism on the part of all the ethnic groups. In this atmosphere the Government will find it difficult to handle the oncoming financial and economic instability. The fear of political repercussions will prevent the Government from taking decisive, if unpopular, measures. Admittedly the crisis is not the easiest continued next page


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continued from page 8 problem to handle. But if confidence is to be restored the Government must be seen to be serious about handling it. Making a few billion dollars available is not the total answer. There is a need to identify the problem areas, to understand the underlying causes and to devise plans of actions to counter them.

Actually Malaysia is cash rich. It has huge savings and its reserves exceeded the statutory requirement. Its economy is made up of both the production of raw material and commodities and the manufacture of goods. Its growth remained quite steady during the early period of the downturn because commodity prices were very high and were able to sustain high exports earnings despite decline in earnings from exports of manufactured goods. I have no figures to support the statement but our exports used to consist in value terms of 82% of manufactured goods and 18% of commodities. But when the prices of crude oil went up from USD 30/- to USD 140/-, while palm oil went up from less than RM 1000/- to RM 4,500/-, the export earnings from commodities must be a major contributor to the USD 100 billion of Malaysia’s export earnings in 2007 and first half of 2008. But now we are seeing the prices of commodities making a steep dive with crude down to about USD 50/- and palm oil to RM 1500/-. Our export earnings must take a beating. It is likely that the trend will continue. In the meantime exports of manufactured goods will not be rising, but is likely to decline. FDI has not been flowing in either. Although there have been a lot of proposals nothing much is seen on the ground. The Arab proposal to invest in

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Wilayah Iskandar may not materialise nor will the other corridors see any real contribution to growth. The reason is simple enough. Worldwide there has not been much FDI lately. But for corridors or regional development to take place, the infrastructure in terms of roads, railways, water supply and electricity must be assured. Sites for industries must also be identified and be well prepared. We do not see anything of these developments either. Generally infrastructure projects have been neglected. It must be noted that these projects are not only necessary to support growth, but they also create business opportunities and jobs for the people. Sadly we are told many of the projects have been overpriced and there is a likelihood that much of the money will not go into real construction. This will mean the contribution of such large Government expenditure towards economic stimulation would be minimal. This is the future that Malaysia is likely to experience if we go by the present economic scenario in the country and internationally. But the future can become brighter if the economic and financial crisis facing the world and their effect on Malaysia are better managed. This crisis is extraordinary and the scale is enormous. The world has never seen anything like this before, not even during the Great Depression of 1929 - 31. The great financial institutions and banks survived in 1929 - 31 but we are seeing them falling like nine-pins this time. For Malaysia to handle the effects on the country the crisis must be carefully studied and understood. Certainly we must know why and how they happened and how they affect us.

A R T I C L E S This crisis is largely Man-made. It is the result of greed being allowed to abuse the systems. This is what happens when Government abdicates its regulatory role and slavishly acceded to the demand of the bankers and financers to leave the market to the market. The signs of a breakdown were seen early but such is the faith in the market regulating the market that the free market Governments took no notice and did nothing. Fortunately Malaysia has always been conservative and has not taken to the idea that Government should not interfere with the market. As a result much of market activities in Malaysia have remained subjected to regulations. So Malaysia should be in a better position to counter the effects of deregulation. Now Government must look into playing a bigger role in the economy. But it should also be judicious. If it controls too tightly, business will not be attracted or it will fail, strangled by Government regulations. In any case, deep knowledge of the aetiology of the crisis will help the process of identifying the effect on Malaysia’s economy and finances and perhaps help formulate a plan for tackling or mitigating the fallouts from this, the greatest financial crisis ever. The world has yet to acknowledge that this financial crisis needs a global solution. It needs a revision in the banking system and the monetary system. It may even need a totally new system developed with the interest of all the countries in the world. Malaysia may be able to lessen the effects on the country’s economy but until the world succeeds in devising new systems for banking and international monetary regime, all solutions will only be cosmetic. 11 December 2008

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is a former Prime Minister of Malaysia. The above speech was delivered at the ‘Bridges — Dialogue Towards a Culture of Peace’, held at Putrajaya, Malaysia on 11 December 2008 Part one of the speech was published in the February 2009 issue of the JUST Commentary


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HUMAN RIGHTS

Preamble On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 2008, we, representatives of various world religions, are gathered at the Peace Palace, seat of the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, The Netherlands, to pronounce and confirm that our religions recognise and support the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every human person, alone or in community with others. It must be acknowledged that sadly enough religion sometimes is being misused in a way which violates human rights. But now, while representing different faith traditions, we come together in unity to stress that religion has been a primary source of inspiration for human rights as our sacred writings and teachings clearly show: “Someone who saves a person’s life is equal to someone who saves the life of all.” (Qu’ran 5:32); “A single person was created in the world, to teach that if anyone causes a single person to perish, he has destroyed the entire world; and if anyone saves a single soul, he has saved the entire world” (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5); “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27); “Let us stand together, make statements collectively and may our thoughts be one” (Rigveda 10:191:2); “Just as I protect myself from unpleasant things however small, in the same way I should act towards others with a compassionate and caring mind” (Shantideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life); “Let us put our minds together to see what life we can make for our children” (Chief Sitting Bull, Lakota). We recognise our responsibility towards our believers and to the world at large and reaffirm our intention to take all necessary steps both within our communities and in co-operation with others to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for each and every person, irrespective of religion or belief. Therefore, we solemnly state to take to our heart the following achievements, challenges and commitments: I Human Rights: Achievements 1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrates the dignity of the human person, irrespective of religion, race, sex or other distinctions. As such it helps realise our shared vision of a religiously and culturally diverse world community striving together to promote and defend the rights and dignity of all. The Declaration has stimulated and inspired a new standard setting and good practice at national and international levels. We wish to emphasize the importance of two of its principles: that every person enjoys the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and that no one should be discriminated against on the basis of religion or belief. 2. States bear the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights. However, we wish to underline that everyone has duties to the wider communities of which they form a part and only in which the free and full development of one’s personality is possible. It is therefore important to make all people aware, through

information and education, of their human rights and also of the common responsibility to make human rights a reality. In this regard we commend the valuable contribution of many religious and civil society organisations. II Human Rights: Challenges 3. We express our deep concern that despite all achievements, the enjoyment of human rights in today’s world remains a distant reality for many. Human rights violations cause innocent people to die or to be seriously harmed resulting in untold suffering, loss and hardship. More than ever, in this world threatened by racial, economic and religious divisions, we need to defend and proclaim the universal principles of dignity, equality, freedom, justice, and peace, which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Challenges to the acceptance of human rights and fundamental freedoms 4. The rights, freedoms and obligations laid down in the Universal Declaration

of Human Rights are recognised all over the world. Nevertheless, they are not fully accepted everywhere. We observe tensions with regard to a number of specific rights, such as the freedom of religion or belief, the principle of equality and the prohibition of torture. We wish to state clearly that the Declaration should not be regarded as a ‘pick-andchoose’ list. There is an urgent need for a thorough reflection on the integral acceptance of each right. Challenges to the interpretation of human rights and fundamental freedoms 5. Human rights are open to a variety of interpretations. The argument of cultural relativity of human rights is at times used to justify grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We therefore recall the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights, wherein all States of the world agreed that “all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. (..) While the significance of national and continued next page


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regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.� This implies that a continued dialogue is necessary among government representatives, religious communities, indigenous peoples and independent experts based on a dynamic interpretation of human rights. Challenges to the implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms 6. Peace and security are essential conditions for the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Whilst States are entrusted to guarantee the peace and security of their societies and their citizens, this should not lead to curtailing basic human rights. We denounce the development of security measures and means that endanger human life rather than protect it, for example the tremendous worldwide expenditures on weapons. This lifethreatening devastating power makes it imperative to look for peaceful means of resolving tensions. 7. The prevalence of violence within the international and national communities remains a source of serious concern and impedes the realisation of human rights. We call on all concerned to pursue all peaceful means of redress and to refrain from a misuse of violence. In addition, we wish to highlight the problem of structural violence within society and of domestic violence in particular. It is of utmost importance to counter this and to save by so doing the lives of the most vulnerable among us. 8. We note with serious concern the increase of intolerance in matters relating to religion or belief, of cases of incitement to religious hatred, overt or covert. While emphasising the importance of the freedom of

A R T I C L E S the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 11. The contributions that may come from religious inspiration and from the structures of religion or belief towards a fuller implementation of human rights include the need to:

expression, we deplore portrayals of objects of religious veneration which fail to be properly respectful of the sensibilities of believers. We consider the freedom to have, to retain and to adopt a religion or belief of one’s personal choice, without coercion or inducement, to be an undeniable right. Furthermore, the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief in any form of worship, observance, practice and teaching may only be subject to carefully defined limitations consistent with generally accepted principles of international law. 9. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights demands meeting basic human needs. The abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty to which more than a billion people are currently subjected, must be decisively altered. The human destruction of the environment has to be stopped. The process of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (eight targets that 189 countries have pledged to meet by 2015) represents a key indicator of the commitment of States to realise human rights for all. III Commitments 10. Adherents of various faith traditions have striven to protect human dignity. Religion has to stand for peace, reconciliation, universal values, mutual respect and upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms. Our faith traditions have been and are capable of providing inspiration and guidance towards realising these aims. We wish to reiterate our commitment to respect all human rights for all, as enshrined in

a. study carefully our holy scriptures and teachings and to explore the theological rationale in defence of human rights; provide responses where harm has been done in the name of religion and seek ways of forgiveness and reconciliation in order to foster mutual respect and understanding among our communities; b. address major threats to the full realisation of human rights by fostering concepts of peace, security and development that advance the full realisation of the Millennium Development Goals and make our shared world a safe place to live; c. listen to the suffering of individuals, families and communities and assist them to tell and visualize their stories so that empathy may lead to solidarity and action; d. encourage religious communities to become further engaged with human rights issues, both within and outside their community, and stimulate interfaith co-operation with mutual respect. Conclusion 12. Humbled by the authority that is vested in the religions of the world and conscious of our shared responsibility to defend human rights, we fervently desire that this Statement will initiate a wider process, and will become a catalyst for transformation and change. In order to widen and deepen the support for human rights by religious communities we invite religious leaders around the world to endorse this Statement. We call upon believers everywhere to disseminate this Statement as widely as possible and act upon it.

Source: The above statement was sent to the JUST Commentary by JUST member Fr. Pieter van Dongen from The Netherlands, who signed the petition. The petition is available for signature at http://www.faithinhumanrights.org


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Just Commentary March 2009