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Indian-Americans protest communalism in NYC

Gather in Times Square to denounce politics of hate

06 Aug 2020

US

On Wednesday evening, the day of the laying of the foundation of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, a group of Indian-Americans came together in New York to disrupt the celebrations at Times Square. The ‘Coalition to Stop Genocide in India’, a broad coalition of Indian Americans and US based civil rights organizations and activists, organized a rally to protest celebrations related to temple politics, especially destruction of the mosque.

The American Indian Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had allegedly organized celebrations to show support for construction of the proposed Ram Temple for which the ‘ground breaking’ ceremony was held in Ayodhya on Wednesday, August 5. To counter this, protesters from Coalition to Stop Genocide in India came together with placards and chanted slogans to highlight human rights abuses in India.

US

According to a press release by the group, “For some who had gathered to celebrate the construction of the Ram Temple in India on the ruins of the Babri Mosque, the protests were a reminder that normalizing hate and bigotry would not go unchallenged in the US.”

Sunita Vishwanath, President of Hindus for Human Rights, said, “The reality is that the Ram Temple issue was leveraged by Hindutva forces to polarize Indian society in a destructive campaign that has resulted in untold human suffering and that continues to this day.”

Jawad Mohammed, General Secretary of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) said, “There is no doubt that Ram is a revered figure in Hinduism, and respect for all religions is part of our commitment to pluralism.” He added, “However, people's reverence for Ram has been manipulated in order to serve a vile and hateful agenda whose evil fruits are evident not only across India but now increasingly in the US as well.”

US

New York City Councilmember Daniel Dromm said, “I condemn any attack on an individual or group because of their faith and stand with my Muslim siblings here in my district and in India as they fight for dignity and human rights.” He added, “I also thank all the Hindus and others who have taken a stand against dog-whistle propaganda cloaked as cultural celebrations.”

The Coalition to Stop Genocide in India includes dozens of organizations, including Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Soceity of North America (ISNA), Coalition Against Fascism in India, Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), Boston Coalition, Organization for Minorities in India (OFMI), South Asia Solidarity Initiative, Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA), Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC), Council for Minority Rights in India (CMRI), North American Indian Muslim Association (NAIMA), Ambedkar International Mission, Coalition of Seattle Indian Americans, Guru Ravidas Sabha, Periyar International USA, Ambedkar International Mission Society, Canada, Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI) and International Soceity for Peace and Justice.

 

Related:

San Francisco passes resolution opposing discriminatory CAA, NRC and NPR

Joe Biden bats for restoration of rights in Kashmir
US slams India yet again on subject of religious freedom
Designate India as 'Country of Particular Concern', impose sanctions: USCIRF 

Indian-Americans protest communalism in NYC

Gather in Times Square to denounce politics of hate

US

On Wednesday evening, the day of the laying of the foundation of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, a group of Indian-Americans came together in New York to disrupt the celebrations at Times Square. The ‘Coalition to Stop Genocide in India’, a broad coalition of Indian Americans and US based civil rights organizations and activists, organized a rally to protest celebrations related to temple politics, especially destruction of the mosque.

The American Indian Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had allegedly organized celebrations to show support for construction of the proposed Ram Temple for which the ‘ground breaking’ ceremony was held in Ayodhya on Wednesday, August 5. To counter this, protesters from Coalition to Stop Genocide in India came together with placards and chanted slogans to highlight human rights abuses in India.

US

According to a press release by the group, “For some who had gathered to celebrate the construction of the Ram Temple in India on the ruins of the Babri Mosque, the protests were a reminder that normalizing hate and bigotry would not go unchallenged in the US.”

Sunita Vishwanath, President of Hindus for Human Rights, said, “The reality is that the Ram Temple issue was leveraged by Hindutva forces to polarize Indian society in a destructive campaign that has resulted in untold human suffering and that continues to this day.”

Jawad Mohammed, General Secretary of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) said, “There is no doubt that Ram is a revered figure in Hinduism, and respect for all religions is part of our commitment to pluralism.” He added, “However, people's reverence for Ram has been manipulated in order to serve a vile and hateful agenda whose evil fruits are evident not only across India but now increasingly in the US as well.”

US

New York City Councilmember Daniel Dromm said, “I condemn any attack on an individual or group because of their faith and stand with my Muslim siblings here in my district and in India as they fight for dignity and human rights.” He added, “I also thank all the Hindus and others who have taken a stand against dog-whistle propaganda cloaked as cultural celebrations.”

The Coalition to Stop Genocide in India includes dozens of organizations, including Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Soceity of North America (ISNA), Coalition Against Fascism in India, Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), Boston Coalition, Organization for Minorities in India (OFMI), South Asia Solidarity Initiative, Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA), Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC), Council for Minority Rights in India (CMRI), North American Indian Muslim Association (NAIMA), Ambedkar International Mission, Coalition of Seattle Indian Americans, Guru Ravidas Sabha, Periyar International USA, Ambedkar International Mission Society, Canada, Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI) and International Soceity for Peace and Justice.

 

Related:

San Francisco passes resolution opposing discriminatory CAA, NRC and NPR

Joe Biden bats for restoration of rights in Kashmir
US slams India yet again on subject of religious freedom
Designate India as 'Country of Particular Concern', impose sanctions: USCIRF 

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South Africa Court resolves arbitrary deprival of citizenship, upholds constitutional mandate

In a unanimous judgment, a nine-judge constitutional bench interpreted citizenship provisions in a manner that confers citizenship rather than depriving it

06 Aug 2020

Image Courtesy:groundup.org.za

The Constitutional Court of South Africa, in a judgment dated July 22, conferred citizenship to applicants who had been denied the same by the Department of Home Affairs owing to an interpretation of the amended provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1995. The judgment partially confirmed a judgment of the High Court.

The High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Pretoria had held sections 2(1)(a) and 2(1)(b) of the South African Citizenship Act 88 of 1995 as amended by the South African Citizenship Amendment Act 17 of 2010, constitutionally invalid. It further granted the consequential relief sought by the applicants, with the exception of the second applicant, declaring them citizens and directing the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs to register their births, enter their details into the population register, assign them South African identity numbers and issue them South African identity documents and/or identity cards as well as birth certificates.

When this judgement of the High Court came before the Constitutional Court of South Africa for confirmation, the Constitutional Court refrained from confirming the part of the High Court’s judgment that held the two sections of the Citizenship Act to be constitutionally valid but at the same time it affirmed the other part of the judgement by confirming conferment of South African citizenship to 4 out of 5 applicants while affirming the direction given to the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs to register their births while issuing them necessary identity documents as mentioned in the High Court’s order.

The Constitutional Court’s judgment was authored by Justice Khampepe as a unanimous decision of a nine judge bench.

Changes brought about by the 2010 amendment.

The 2010 Amendment set about redefining the categories for the acquisition of citizenship. This was done by providing new definitions for citizenship by birth and citizenship by descent. Before the amendment, citizenship by descent could be acquired in 4 ways and after the amendment, the definition was limited to only those who have been adopted under the Children’s Act by a South African citizen. Further, definition of citizen by birth under section 2 was also amended to include a person who was a citizen by birth immediately prior to commencement of the amendment or for someone who is born in or outside the country, one of their parents at the time of their birth was a South African citizen.

Reasons for non-confirmation of invalidity

The Court held that the High Court provided sparse reasons for its findings of constitutional invalidity of those sections of the Citizenship Act. The Court stated that there is no express constitutional provision requiring Judges to furnish reasons for their decisions, the proffering of reasons is a vital component. Further stressing upon the need for a reasoned order, the court said, “this duty to provide reasons is a vital strut to the Judiciary’s legitimacy in our constitutional democracy, which is based on a culture of justification”.

Concluding its contention on why it is unable to confirm the order of constitutional invalidity of certain provisions of the Citizenship Act as decided by the High Court, the Court held, “Without the benefit of a reasoned judgment from the High Court, this Court is placed in an invidious position” and refrained from confirming the same.

The court’s observations on citizenship

The Court observed,

“Citizenship is not just a legal status. It goes to the core of a person’s identity, their sense of belonging in a community and, where xenophobia is a lived reality, to their security of person. Deprivation of, or interference with, a person’s citizenship status affects their private and family life, their choices as to where they can call home, start jobs, enrol in schools and form part of a community, as well as their ability to fully participate in the political sphere and exercise freedom of movement.”

The Court also looked back at the controversial history of citizenship in the country whereby Many black Africans were denied their citizenship through unfair and discriminatory colonial and apartheid laws.

How South African Constitution defines citizenship

The Preamble to the Constitution states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it” and the rights in the Bill of Rights are afforded to everyone, unless expressly stated otherwise. The Constitution follows the principle of common citizenship under section 3 and under section 20 it states, “no citizen may be deprived of citizenship”.

Citizenship in South Africa, as per the Constitution, is to be defined by a legislation but that definition must be consistent with the Constitution.

Interpretation of the amendment

The Court came to conclude that the interpretation of the definition of citizenship by birth under section 2 of the amended Citizenship Act “any person who is born in or outside the Republic, one of his or her parents, at the time of his or her birth, being a South African citizen” to be “a person who is a child of a South African citizen, regardless of when that person is born or whether that person in born inside or outside the Republic”.

The court stated that by interpreting the section in this manner, all categories of citizens who acquired citizenship by birth or descent under the previous law (before amendment) would be accommodated and would retain their citizenship rights and further the same people can also become citizens by birth through the amended section if they are born to at least one South African citizen.

The court, thus, simplified the interpretation of the amendment without having to declare it unconstitutional as the High Court had done. The court observed, “The avoidance of interpretations which unduly strain legislative texts is a vital characterisation of the rule of law, which demands that law should generally be clear and ascertainable and respects the primary legislative role conferred on the Legislature.”

Conferment of citizenship

The Court observed that the authorities consistently failed to recognise the applicants’ citizenship and give effect to the rights emanating from it, without providing adequate reasons for this denial. The court thus held,

“…citizenship does not depend on a discretionary decision; rather, it constitutes a question of law. The amended Citizenship Act does not require the Department of Home Affairs to consider any public interest when deciding whether or not to recognise a person’s citizenship. Instead, if the requisite conditions to acquire citizenship are satisfied, the Department of Home Affairs is required to recognise this citizenship and proceed with the concomitant administrative procedures, without any further consideration.”

The complete judgment may be read here.

Related:

Boy who ran away from home, declared ‘foreigner’ in Assam
First Covid, now floods; NRC work still on hold in Assam
San Francisco passes resolution opposing discriminatory CAA, NRC and NPR

South Africa Court resolves arbitrary deprival of citizenship, upholds constitutional mandate

In a unanimous judgment, a nine-judge constitutional bench interpreted citizenship provisions in a manner that confers citizenship rather than depriving it

Image Courtesy:groundup.org.za

The Constitutional Court of South Africa, in a judgment dated July 22, conferred citizenship to applicants who had been denied the same by the Department of Home Affairs owing to an interpretation of the amended provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1995. The judgment partially confirmed a judgment of the High Court.

The High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Pretoria had held sections 2(1)(a) and 2(1)(b) of the South African Citizenship Act 88 of 1995 as amended by the South African Citizenship Amendment Act 17 of 2010, constitutionally invalid. It further granted the consequential relief sought by the applicants, with the exception of the second applicant, declaring them citizens and directing the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs to register their births, enter their details into the population register, assign them South African identity numbers and issue them South African identity documents and/or identity cards as well as birth certificates.

When this judgement of the High Court came before the Constitutional Court of South Africa for confirmation, the Constitutional Court refrained from confirming the part of the High Court’s judgment that held the two sections of the Citizenship Act to be constitutionally valid but at the same time it affirmed the other part of the judgement by confirming conferment of South African citizenship to 4 out of 5 applicants while affirming the direction given to the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs to register their births while issuing them necessary identity documents as mentioned in the High Court’s order.

The Constitutional Court’s judgment was authored by Justice Khampepe as a unanimous decision of a nine judge bench.

Changes brought about by the 2010 amendment.

The 2010 Amendment set about redefining the categories for the acquisition of citizenship. This was done by providing new definitions for citizenship by birth and citizenship by descent. Before the amendment, citizenship by descent could be acquired in 4 ways and after the amendment, the definition was limited to only those who have been adopted under the Children’s Act by a South African citizen. Further, definition of citizen by birth under section 2 was also amended to include a person who was a citizen by birth immediately prior to commencement of the amendment or for someone who is born in or outside the country, one of their parents at the time of their birth was a South African citizen.

Reasons for non-confirmation of invalidity

The Court held that the High Court provided sparse reasons for its findings of constitutional invalidity of those sections of the Citizenship Act. The Court stated that there is no express constitutional provision requiring Judges to furnish reasons for their decisions, the proffering of reasons is a vital component. Further stressing upon the need for a reasoned order, the court said, “this duty to provide reasons is a vital strut to the Judiciary’s legitimacy in our constitutional democracy, which is based on a culture of justification”.

Concluding its contention on why it is unable to confirm the order of constitutional invalidity of certain provisions of the Citizenship Act as decided by the High Court, the Court held, “Without the benefit of a reasoned judgment from the High Court, this Court is placed in an invidious position” and refrained from confirming the same.

The court’s observations on citizenship

The Court observed,

“Citizenship is not just a legal status. It goes to the core of a person’s identity, their sense of belonging in a community and, where xenophobia is a lived reality, to their security of person. Deprivation of, or interference with, a person’s citizenship status affects their private and family life, their choices as to where they can call home, start jobs, enrol in schools and form part of a community, as well as their ability to fully participate in the political sphere and exercise freedom of movement.”

The Court also looked back at the controversial history of citizenship in the country whereby Many black Africans were denied their citizenship through unfair and discriminatory colonial and apartheid laws.

How South African Constitution defines citizenship

The Preamble to the Constitution states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it” and the rights in the Bill of Rights are afforded to everyone, unless expressly stated otherwise. The Constitution follows the principle of common citizenship under section 3 and under section 20 it states, “no citizen may be deprived of citizenship”.

Citizenship in South Africa, as per the Constitution, is to be defined by a legislation but that definition must be consistent with the Constitution.

Interpretation of the amendment

The Court came to conclude that the interpretation of the definition of citizenship by birth under section 2 of the amended Citizenship Act “any person who is born in or outside the Republic, one of his or her parents, at the time of his or her birth, being a South African citizen” to be “a person who is a child of a South African citizen, regardless of when that person is born or whether that person in born inside or outside the Republic”.

The court stated that by interpreting the section in this manner, all categories of citizens who acquired citizenship by birth or descent under the previous law (before amendment) would be accommodated and would retain their citizenship rights and further the same people can also become citizens by birth through the amended section if they are born to at least one South African citizen.

The court, thus, simplified the interpretation of the amendment without having to declare it unconstitutional as the High Court had done. The court observed, “The avoidance of interpretations which unduly strain legislative texts is a vital characterisation of the rule of law, which demands that law should generally be clear and ascertainable and respects the primary legislative role conferred on the Legislature.”

Conferment of citizenship

The Court observed that the authorities consistently failed to recognise the applicants’ citizenship and give effect to the rights emanating from it, without providing adequate reasons for this denial. The court thus held,

“…citizenship does not depend on a discretionary decision; rather, it constitutes a question of law. The amended Citizenship Act does not require the Department of Home Affairs to consider any public interest when deciding whether or not to recognise a person’s citizenship. Instead, if the requisite conditions to acquire citizenship are satisfied, the Department of Home Affairs is required to recognise this citizenship and proceed with the concomitant administrative procedures, without any further consideration.”

The complete judgment may be read here.

Related:

Boy who ran away from home, declared ‘foreigner’ in Assam
First Covid, now floods; NRC work still on hold in Assam
San Francisco passes resolution opposing discriminatory CAA, NRC and NPR

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Misconceptions about animal sacrifice

31 Jul 2020


Image Courtesy:nytimes.com
 

EVERY year millions of heads of sheep are sacrificed during the Eid Al-Adha festival. Such a huge number of sheep would not have been slaughtered for sacrifice if people had been given correct information about this ritual. A lot of money is wasted on sacrifice by people, who lack proper religious knowledge.

Some people wrongly believe that it’s a Sunnah, which should be followed by every Muslim. This is a mistake because this animal sacrifice is required only from cattle owners who rear animals and do business with it, and others are not required to do the ritual.

The Holy Qur’an says: “That they may witness things that are of benefit to them and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He hath bestowed upon them. (Al-Haj: 28)

The word “bestowed upon them” was used in this verse with a purpose and not without any meaning. A person should have purchased an animal to say that he has possessed one. Bestowed here means actual possession of the animal not its possibility.

This Qura’nic verse was revealed in the context of making sacrifice as a kaffara or expiation for performing the tamattu form of Haj. We should know that the Qur’an will not use any word without any meaning and it’s better to have a new meaning for a word than it becoming redundant.

I believe that the word rizq used in this verse to denote what has been possessed personally and not to indicate general blessings like rain. God will not ask us to give charity or do sacrifice from the general blessings. But if they possess part of them like honey, milk, fruits and fish, etc. they would be asked to pay charity to get closer to Allah. People are instructed to give charity from these agricultural products for possessing them.

The Hadith that “those who had the ability to perform sacrifice and did not do that should not approach our (Eid) prayer places” is applied on those having cattle, not money.

Performing sacrifice for the dead is another mistake, even if it was mentioned in the will as there is no evidence for doing it by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions. We know that the Prophet did not perform sacrifice for his uncle Hamza and wife Khadeeja.

Prophet’s wives did not perform sacrifice for the Prophet after his death. Aysha and Asma did not perform sacrifice for their father Abubacker Al-Siddique after his death. Abdullah Bin Omar and his sister Hafsa did not perform sacrifice for the goodness of their father Omar Bin Khattab. If an act of worship is considered makrooh or disapproved in Islam it will remain disapproved even if it was mentioned in the will of a dead person.

Another common mistake is to sacrifice cattle for every member of the family. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sacrificed two heads of sheep while his wives were with him, and he did not sacrifice for every one of them. How can someone sacrifice animals for his wife and children, who live with him in a single house, and boast about the number of sacrifices made? This is mere hypocrisy because a person is supposed to perform worship secretly without publicizing it. Some people may narrate certain stories in order to tell people he performed the prayer in the mosque.

The fourth misconception related to sacrifice is its repetition every year. The Prophet did not repeat sacrifice every year, even though it was imposed in the second year of migration. He lived 8 years after the imposition of sacrifice but he did not perform sacrifice in all those years.

It is narrated from Abubacker and Omar that they were not performing sacrifices fearing that it would become a Sunnah or a tradition. Hudaifa Al-Ghafari has narrated a Hadith in this respect. Famous scholar Al-Albani has said the people who reported the Hadith were dependable and trustworthy. A similar Hadith has been reported from Abdullah Bin Omar and Bilal.

It has been reported about Omar Bin Khatab and other Companions of the Prophet that they had not sacrificed animals continuously for three to four years. These narratives do not support the phenomenon of sacrificing animals every year. Performance of sacrifice once in life would be sufficient.


This article was first published in saudigazette.com.sa and may be read here

 

Misconceptions about animal sacrifice


Image Courtesy:nytimes.com
 

EVERY year millions of heads of sheep are sacrificed during the Eid Al-Adha festival. Such a huge number of sheep would not have been slaughtered for sacrifice if people had been given correct information about this ritual. A lot of money is wasted on sacrifice by people, who lack proper religious knowledge.

Some people wrongly believe that it’s a Sunnah, which should be followed by every Muslim. This is a mistake because this animal sacrifice is required only from cattle owners who rear animals and do business with it, and others are not required to do the ritual.

The Holy Qur’an says: “That they may witness things that are of benefit to them and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He hath bestowed upon them. (Al-Haj: 28)

The word “bestowed upon them” was used in this verse with a purpose and not without any meaning. A person should have purchased an animal to say that he has possessed one. Bestowed here means actual possession of the animal not its possibility.

This Qura’nic verse was revealed in the context of making sacrifice as a kaffara or expiation for performing the tamattu form of Haj. We should know that the Qur’an will not use any word without any meaning and it’s better to have a new meaning for a word than it becoming redundant.

I believe that the word rizq used in this verse to denote what has been possessed personally and not to indicate general blessings like rain. God will not ask us to give charity or do sacrifice from the general blessings. But if they possess part of them like honey, milk, fruits and fish, etc. they would be asked to pay charity to get closer to Allah. People are instructed to give charity from these agricultural products for possessing them.

The Hadith that “those who had the ability to perform sacrifice and did not do that should not approach our (Eid) prayer places” is applied on those having cattle, not money.

Performing sacrifice for the dead is another mistake, even if it was mentioned in the will as there is no evidence for doing it by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions. We know that the Prophet did not perform sacrifice for his uncle Hamza and wife Khadeeja.

Prophet’s wives did not perform sacrifice for the Prophet after his death. Aysha and Asma did not perform sacrifice for their father Abubacker Al-Siddique after his death. Abdullah Bin Omar and his sister Hafsa did not perform sacrifice for the goodness of their father Omar Bin Khattab. If an act of worship is considered makrooh or disapproved in Islam it will remain disapproved even if it was mentioned in the will of a dead person.

Another common mistake is to sacrifice cattle for every member of the family. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sacrificed two heads of sheep while his wives were with him, and he did not sacrifice for every one of them. How can someone sacrifice animals for his wife and children, who live with him in a single house, and boast about the number of sacrifices made? This is mere hypocrisy because a person is supposed to perform worship secretly without publicizing it. Some people may narrate certain stories in order to tell people he performed the prayer in the mosque.

The fourth misconception related to sacrifice is its repetition every year. The Prophet did not repeat sacrifice every year, even though it was imposed in the second year of migration. He lived 8 years after the imposition of sacrifice but he did not perform sacrifice in all those years.

It is narrated from Abubacker and Omar that they were not performing sacrifices fearing that it would become a Sunnah or a tradition. Hudaifa Al-Ghafari has narrated a Hadith in this respect. Famous scholar Al-Albani has said the people who reported the Hadith were dependable and trustworthy. A similar Hadith has been reported from Abdullah Bin Omar and Bilal.

It has been reported about Omar Bin Khatab and other Companions of the Prophet that they had not sacrificed animals continuously for three to four years. These narratives do not support the phenomenon of sacrificing animals every year. Performance of sacrifice once in life would be sufficient.


This article was first published in saudigazette.com.sa and may be read here

 

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John Lewis: The world will miss him

A personal tribute to a legend!

25 Jul 2020

John Lewis
Image: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
 

John Lewis is no more and the world will miss him! When he died on July 17, 2020, he left a great void which will never be filled! He was one of a kind who roamed this earth, impacted on the lives of many and has left us all a rich and unforgettable legacy. He was truly a wonderful human and a great hero! Beginning Saturday July 25, his funeral ceremonies will last for full six days until his burial on Thursday July 30.

Ever since he died, rich and glowing tributes have been pouring in from every corner of the world; editorials and op-eds have been written on him: all remember and highlight the many causes he espoused and championed as a civil rights leader. The Congressional Black Caucus in a statement said. “The world has lost a legend; the civil rights movement has lost an icon. John fought against against every form of discrimination and divisiveness: be it racism, casteism and attacks on the minorities in India. His convictions and stand for justice -were always based on nonviolence, peace and unity. 

Much is being written about John Lewis. He was truly someone who contributed in many in promoting and protecting all that is right and just. Many of the eulogies that are written are by people who knew him at close quarters: were connected with him, worked with him or for that were able to follow him at least a good part of his eighty years. I make no claim to belong to any of these special groups. I have had however, the joy and privilege of meeting with him on three different occasions: once in Ahmedabad and on two different occasions in Washington DC; two of these meetings were very brief but one lasted for almost a couple of hours!

Ever since I heard of the death of John Lewis, I have been revisiting my meetings with him and feel it is important to put down some of my personal glimpses of this great soul, as a small way of paying my tribute to him, these include:

John Lewis was very human

I cherish my meetings with him; he gave me value time; he was such a warm, affable, available and unassuming person despite the power he had and the influence he could wield!  He was definitely a busy person, but when I spoke, he gave me his total undivided attention, listening intently! His questions were based on what I had said; areas which needed more clarification or substantiation. Right from the word ‘go’ one felt that he trusted you; believed in what you were saying, was on the same page as you were and was determined to do all he could to address the concern


John Lewis was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi

There has never been any doubt about this: he was convinced of the non-violent approach of Mahatma Gandhi. I first met John in the Gandhi Ashram here in Ahmedabad; he was accompanying Martin Luther King III (the son of MLK Jr). “I have always wanted to come here; to experience the sacredness of this place, he said to me. In one of my visits to his office in the Capitol, he insisted that his political assistant takes a picture of the two of us, in front of the displayed photos of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. which adorned his shelves. It is a vintage picture which I will always treasure. In December 2019, to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, John Lewis introduced a Bill (HR 5517) in the US House of Representatives that aimed to promote the legacy and contributions of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Through the bill, he hoped to affirm the friendships of the two largest democracies of the world: India and the US and establish a bilateral partnership, “for collaboration to advance development and shared values, and for other purposes. He had earlier proposed a similar bill, called the “Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative Act of 2011”, which aimed to use peaceful and non-violent methods for global conflict resolution.


John Lewis took a stand against injustice and for freedom

He was always concerned against any injustice, any discrimination that took place anywhere. His public fight against injustice began in the summer of 1961, when he and other students protested at segregated lunch counters and later joined the famous Freedom Rides. By his early twenties, Lewis was head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In March 1963, he joined Martin Luther King and others at the ‘March on Washington’. He elevated his fight for freedom and equality with a passionate speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial’. He spoke on voting rights and the future of the Democratic Party. His speech was brief, lasting less than eight minutes, but his words influenced a generation of activists. “To those who have said, 'Be patient and wait,' " he said, "we must say that we must not be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now." His own resolve for justice and freedom was tested, as he and other peaceful protesters were violently beaten in 1965 while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. He never looked back since then! He was anguished and angry at was happening to the minorities (particularly to the Christians and Muslims), the Dalits, the Adivasis and other vulnerable groups, in India, particularly since 2002. He never hesitated in sponsoring any Congressional resolution or endorsing any Congressional statement to address these matters.


John Lewis loved Mother Teresa

He simply loved Mother Teresa; her love for the poor; the peace and joy which she radiated. On 29 December 1975, TIME magazine brought out a special issue entitled ‘LIVING SAINTS’ (Messengers of Love and Hope). Mother Teresa was on the Cover Page and figured prominently in the detailed cover story, ‘Saints Among Us: The Work of Mother Teresa’. The story however, was not only about Mother Teresa but also about other ‘living saints’ who were making their mark on society with the much-needed love and hope. This is what TIME Magazine said almost forty-five years ago, The U.S. has its own civil rights heroes. John Lewis, 35, the young apostle of nonviolence in the '60s, was arrested more than 40 times in civil rights demonstrations, and his skull was fractured at Selma in 1965. Since 1970 he has headed the Voter Education Project in Atlanta and helped register some 3.5 million blacks. As a Baptist seminarian, Lewis was kidded for talking up the Social Gospel, but he insists that some "immutable principles" must be at the base of the "Beloved Society" he envisions, and nonviolence is one of them. If a compassionate world is the end, he argues, "then the means we use must be consistent with it.” John was the youngest of the ‘living saints’ who found a place in the article. No small achievement! I had never seen that issue of TIME magazine; but in one of my meetings with him, in a very bashful manner he took out a copy of that issue and showed it to me. “You know Father, he said, one of the happiest moments of my life was to be honoured in the same article which featured Mother Teresa. I know that I am not deserving of that ‘title’ but it has spurred me all these years to love the poorest of the poor just as she did!” Today I believe that John is with Mother Teresa in heaven celebrating their sainthood together there!


John Lewis admired Pope Francis

He genuinely admired Pope Francis. In September 2015, Pope Francis gave a historic speech to a joint session of the US Congress in Washington. That speech touched the hearts of many who were listening; many were teary-eyed. He returned to his Office and released a powerful statement which went viral and was covered extensively by the mainstream media. He wrote:

"The Holy Father, Pope Francis of the Holy See, delivered a powerful message to Congress and the American people today.  In his humble, gentle way he used his authority to encourage us all to simply do what is right to protect the dignity of all humankind.  

"He said, 'All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity....Politics is...an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good...'

"These words and ideas speak to the center of our work as members of Congress and to the importance and vitality of our roles as individual citizens. Pope Francis delivered one of the most moving speeches I have ever heard in all my years in Congress.  I loved the way he used the life and work of President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton as the basis of his lesson for all of us.

"Though I was reluctant to openly shed tears, I cried within to hear his words.  I was deeply moved to realize I had a connection in some way with some of those he mentioned. When TIME magazine, years ago, did a story on "living saints," they actually included Dorothy Day and I in the story.  Also Thomas Merton was a monk whose words I studied during non-violence training in the Civil Rights Movement. It was amazing that the Pope mentioned the Selma-to-Montgomery march because during the first attempt to march to Montgomery, now known as Bloody Sunday, I carried one of Thomas Merton's books in my backpack.

"Pope Francis spoke to the heart and soul of Congress and America.  It is my hope and prayer that members of Congress will heed his simple call to respect the dignity and divinity of every human being then we would be better servants of the American people, this would be a better country, and a better world.” It was a direct ‘release’ from the heart of John: he meant every word! A genuine outburst!

In his lifetime, John tried to emulate MLK Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Pope Francis. He has left us at a crucial and critical time of our lives. The only real tribute we can pay this great soul is to have the courage to try to live concretely and substantially the rich legacy he has left us: by taking a stand against every form of discrimination and injustice around us!

Rest in peace Dear John! The world will miss you! We are poorer without you!


*Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights and peace activist/writer.

Other pieces by Fr Cedric Prakash:

 

Refugees Matter!

‘We’, not ‘us’ and ‘them’

Whither Freedom of Press in India?

John Lewis: The world will miss him

A personal tribute to a legend!

John Lewis
Image: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
 

John Lewis is no more and the world will miss him! When he died on July 17, 2020, he left a great void which will never be filled! He was one of a kind who roamed this earth, impacted on the lives of many and has left us all a rich and unforgettable legacy. He was truly a wonderful human and a great hero! Beginning Saturday July 25, his funeral ceremonies will last for full six days until his burial on Thursday July 30.

Ever since he died, rich and glowing tributes have been pouring in from every corner of the world; editorials and op-eds have been written on him: all remember and highlight the many causes he espoused and championed as a civil rights leader. The Congressional Black Caucus in a statement said. “The world has lost a legend; the civil rights movement has lost an icon. John fought against against every form of discrimination and divisiveness: be it racism, casteism and attacks on the minorities in India. His convictions and stand for justice -were always based on nonviolence, peace and unity. 

Much is being written about John Lewis. He was truly someone who contributed in many in promoting and protecting all that is right and just. Many of the eulogies that are written are by people who knew him at close quarters: were connected with him, worked with him or for that were able to follow him at least a good part of his eighty years. I make no claim to belong to any of these special groups. I have had however, the joy and privilege of meeting with him on three different occasions: once in Ahmedabad and on two different occasions in Washington DC; two of these meetings were very brief but one lasted for almost a couple of hours!

Ever since I heard of the death of John Lewis, I have been revisiting my meetings with him and feel it is important to put down some of my personal glimpses of this great soul, as a small way of paying my tribute to him, these include:

John Lewis was very human

I cherish my meetings with him; he gave me value time; he was such a warm, affable, available and unassuming person despite the power he had and the influence he could wield!  He was definitely a busy person, but when I spoke, he gave me his total undivided attention, listening intently! His questions were based on what I had said; areas which needed more clarification or substantiation. Right from the word ‘go’ one felt that he trusted you; believed in what you were saying, was on the same page as you were and was determined to do all he could to address the concern


John Lewis was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi

There has never been any doubt about this: he was convinced of the non-violent approach of Mahatma Gandhi. I first met John in the Gandhi Ashram here in Ahmedabad; he was accompanying Martin Luther King III (the son of MLK Jr). “I have always wanted to come here; to experience the sacredness of this place, he said to me. In one of my visits to his office in the Capitol, he insisted that his political assistant takes a picture of the two of us, in front of the displayed photos of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. which adorned his shelves. It is a vintage picture which I will always treasure. In December 2019, to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, John Lewis introduced a Bill (HR 5517) in the US House of Representatives that aimed to promote the legacy and contributions of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Through the bill, he hoped to affirm the friendships of the two largest democracies of the world: India and the US and establish a bilateral partnership, “for collaboration to advance development and shared values, and for other purposes. He had earlier proposed a similar bill, called the “Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative Act of 2011”, which aimed to use peaceful and non-violent methods for global conflict resolution.


John Lewis took a stand against injustice and for freedom

He was always concerned against any injustice, any discrimination that took place anywhere. His public fight against injustice began in the summer of 1961, when he and other students protested at segregated lunch counters and later joined the famous Freedom Rides. By his early twenties, Lewis was head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In March 1963, he joined Martin Luther King and others at the ‘March on Washington’. He elevated his fight for freedom and equality with a passionate speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial’. He spoke on voting rights and the future of the Democratic Party. His speech was brief, lasting less than eight minutes, but his words influenced a generation of activists. “To those who have said, 'Be patient and wait,' " he said, "we must say that we must not be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now." His own resolve for justice and freedom was tested, as he and other peaceful protesters were violently beaten in 1965 while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. He never looked back since then! He was anguished and angry at was happening to the minorities (particularly to the Christians and Muslims), the Dalits, the Adivasis and other vulnerable groups, in India, particularly since 2002. He never hesitated in sponsoring any Congressional resolution or endorsing any Congressional statement to address these matters.


John Lewis loved Mother Teresa

He simply loved Mother Teresa; her love for the poor; the peace and joy which she radiated. On 29 December 1975, TIME magazine brought out a special issue entitled ‘LIVING SAINTS’ (Messengers of Love and Hope). Mother Teresa was on the Cover Page and figured prominently in the detailed cover story, ‘Saints Among Us: The Work of Mother Teresa’. The story however, was not only about Mother Teresa but also about other ‘living saints’ who were making their mark on society with the much-needed love and hope. This is what TIME Magazine said almost forty-five years ago, The U.S. has its own civil rights heroes. John Lewis, 35, the young apostle of nonviolence in the '60s, was arrested more than 40 times in civil rights demonstrations, and his skull was fractured at Selma in 1965. Since 1970 he has headed the Voter Education Project in Atlanta and helped register some 3.5 million blacks. As a Baptist seminarian, Lewis was kidded for talking up the Social Gospel, but he insists that some "immutable principles" must be at the base of the "Beloved Society" he envisions, and nonviolence is one of them. If a compassionate world is the end, he argues, "then the means we use must be consistent with it.” John was the youngest of the ‘living saints’ who found a place in the article. No small achievement! I had never seen that issue of TIME magazine; but in one of my meetings with him, in a very bashful manner he took out a copy of that issue and showed it to me. “You know Father, he said, one of the happiest moments of my life was to be honoured in the same article which featured Mother Teresa. I know that I am not deserving of that ‘title’ but it has spurred me all these years to love the poorest of the poor just as she did!” Today I believe that John is with Mother Teresa in heaven celebrating their sainthood together there!


John Lewis admired Pope Francis

He genuinely admired Pope Francis. In September 2015, Pope Francis gave a historic speech to a joint session of the US Congress in Washington. That speech touched the hearts of many who were listening; many were teary-eyed. He returned to his Office and released a powerful statement which went viral and was covered extensively by the mainstream media. He wrote:

"The Holy Father, Pope Francis of the Holy See, delivered a powerful message to Congress and the American people today.  In his humble, gentle way he used his authority to encourage us all to simply do what is right to protect the dignity of all humankind.  

"He said, 'All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity....Politics is...an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good...'

"These words and ideas speak to the center of our work as members of Congress and to the importance and vitality of our roles as individual citizens. Pope Francis delivered one of the most moving speeches I have ever heard in all my years in Congress.  I loved the way he used the life and work of President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton as the basis of his lesson for all of us.

"Though I was reluctant to openly shed tears, I cried within to hear his words.  I was deeply moved to realize I had a connection in some way with some of those he mentioned. When TIME magazine, years ago, did a story on "living saints," they actually included Dorothy Day and I in the story.  Also Thomas Merton was a monk whose words I studied during non-violence training in the Civil Rights Movement. It was amazing that the Pope mentioned the Selma-to-Montgomery march because during the first attempt to march to Montgomery, now known as Bloody Sunday, I carried one of Thomas Merton's books in my backpack.

"Pope Francis spoke to the heart and soul of Congress and America.  It is my hope and prayer that members of Congress will heed his simple call to respect the dignity and divinity of every human being then we would be better servants of the American people, this would be a better country, and a better world.” It was a direct ‘release’ from the heart of John: he meant every word! A genuine outburst!

In his lifetime, John tried to emulate MLK Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Pope Francis. He has left us at a crucial and critical time of our lives. The only real tribute we can pay this great soul is to have the courage to try to live concretely and substantially the rich legacy he has left us: by taking a stand against every form of discrimination and injustice around us!

Rest in peace Dear John! The world will miss you! We are poorer without you!


*Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights and peace activist/writer.

Other pieces by Fr Cedric Prakash:

 

Refugees Matter!

‘We’, not ‘us’ and ‘them’

Whither Freedom of Press in India?

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Convert Hagia Sophia As the Inter- Religious Faith Centre of Peace and Harmony

24 Jul 2020

Hagia Sophia

The conversion of world’s great and unique architectural wonder, “HAGIA SOPHIA” into a Mosque definitely agitates the hearts of peace-loving humanity. Truly, it has imbalanced the religious sentiments of all people.  In the present world when all people irrespective of their colour, creed, religion, politics and culture are joining their heart and mind together to eradicate the common enemy, Covid-19 for the well-being of entire humanity, the conversion of world’s this unique antique monument only for the one sect of human race breaks the unity and faith that humanity together shared for each other. This transition hurting the peace of the world should be reconsidered.

https://www.newageislam.com/picture_library/Hagia_Sophia_1__FrMJ_NewAgeIsl.jpg 
The Covenant of Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, also called the Ashtiname of Muhammad.  A copy of this document is kept at the Saint Catherine's Monastery.

-----

The meaning of the word “Hagia Sophia” is ‘Holy Wisdom’.  In the Holy Scriptures, both in the Holy Bible and in the Holy Quran, it is written that Allah has created this entire world out of Allah’s wisdom. In this wisdom, Allah has envisaged the pure spirit of unity in diversity. In this created world, Allah has made sure that all kinds of life shall live together. This is peace. Accepting this difference and sharing in this difference maintain the peace of every living being. Yes, it is time to accept this world order in the name of ‘HAGIA SOPHIA- the divine wisdom”.

Human history ever tells the story of mighty people but accepted and respected only those people, in their heart, who practiced the wisdom of peace, love and compassion for all. When the power rules the world, it is peace and harmony that the hearts ever long for existence.

https://www.newageislam.com/picture_library/Hagia_Sophia_2_FrMJ_NewAgeIsl.jpg 
From the very inception of “Hagia Sophia”, the history has observed a series of power struggle upon this aesthetic wonder. It has always been looked as the pride of faithful communities who ruled over the nation.

Hagia Sophia was built at Constantinople, the present Istanbul, Turkey, in the 6th century under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian 1. It was the cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for more than a millennium.  In 1204, it was looted by the Venetians and the Crusaders on the Fourth Crusade. In 1453, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II conquered this Byzantine architecture and converted it into a mosque. In 1934 Turkish President and the father of modern Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk having realized its religious, political, aesthetic and cultural heritage, elevated this feel of human spirit, Hagia Sophia into a museum. Thus, the then President respected the sentiments of every minds and hearts both by building peace among humanity and uplifting human fraternity. On the 10 of July this monument of human fraternity was shaken by the decision of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan when he altered this into a mosque.  We observe here that in its 1,450-year life span, HAGIA SOPHIA has served as a cathedral, mosque, a museum and now again as a mosque.

https://www.newageislam.com/picture_library/Hagia_Sophia_3_FrMJ_NewAgeIsl.jpg 
The Hagia Sophia is an enormous architectural marvel in Istanbul, Turkey

------

In all these power struggles, the predominant feel one gets from the history of ‘Hagia Sophia’ is both the religious and the political egoism in the name of Great Allah. The spirit of wisdom of God is least cared about here. We experience an exception in this case at the time of the President Kemal Ataturk. All the Christians believe that God is Love and all the Muslims believe that Allah is compassionate. These two aspects are two sides of ONE GOD. Without love there cannot be compassion and without Compassion, love is not love at all. Love and compassion is incomplete, if it is limited to only one sect of people. This type of expression of sectarian love and compassion can never be of divine wisdom. I understand that if we want to be faithful to this divine wisdom, we must have an inclusive platform for their faith expression and where people of these different religious communities do experience a brotherly love for each other and do their worship here. This is divine wisdom.

It is not enough converting an aesthetic structure having different heritages of centuries into a museum. Yes, it can be considered as a great step towards peace and harmony. This building is the amalgamation of different faith expressions and art.  Maintaining this monument merely as a museum doesn’t bring justice to the peace and harmony of people. It is a passive state where all the egoism of the people are buried but not purified. When the museum is again converted into a mosque, this suppressed egoism is hurt and escalated as pain for all. Can we say again that converting this mosque again to museum is the only solution for peace? Never.

The only solution for the peace and harmony of all the people and believers concerned of HAGIA SOPHIA is to elevate this monument into a common platform for inter- cultural-religious- centre of active faith expression. In this new ambience, humanity in general and religions in particular live in peace by caring all and by exchanging both love and respect for all. Thus ‘Hagia Sophia, the Divine Wisdom’ shall be respected in its true spirit and letter.  It will remain forever an actively living monument of peace and harmony among humanity. When our common house, the earth permits us and gives us all the facilities to worship that transcendental God in different names and forms according to different cultural and social context, don’t we have to learn from this wisdom, the divine wisdom? May “Hagia Sophia” encompass both the Christian and Islam believers in its bosom and may the humanity is able to vibrate and participate with this divine wisdom as dear children holding all Christian and Islam believers together.

Courtesy: https://www.newageislam.com/

 

Convert Hagia Sophia As the Inter- Religious Faith Centre of Peace and Harmony

Hagia Sophia

The conversion of world’s great and unique architectural wonder, “HAGIA SOPHIA” into a Mosque definitely agitates the hearts of peace-loving humanity. Truly, it has imbalanced the religious sentiments of all people.  In the present world when all people irrespective of their colour, creed, religion, politics and culture are joining their heart and mind together to eradicate the common enemy, Covid-19 for the well-being of entire humanity, the conversion of world’s this unique antique monument only for the one sect of human race breaks the unity and faith that humanity together shared for each other. This transition hurting the peace of the world should be reconsidered.

https://www.newageislam.com/picture_library/Hagia_Sophia_1__FrMJ_NewAgeIsl.jpg 
The Covenant of Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, also called the Ashtiname of Muhammad.  A copy of this document is kept at the Saint Catherine's Monastery.

-----

The meaning of the word “Hagia Sophia” is ‘Holy Wisdom’.  In the Holy Scriptures, both in the Holy Bible and in the Holy Quran, it is written that Allah has created this entire world out of Allah’s wisdom. In this wisdom, Allah has envisaged the pure spirit of unity in diversity. In this created world, Allah has made sure that all kinds of life shall live together. This is peace. Accepting this difference and sharing in this difference maintain the peace of every living being. Yes, it is time to accept this world order in the name of ‘HAGIA SOPHIA- the divine wisdom”.

Human history ever tells the story of mighty people but accepted and respected only those people, in their heart, who practiced the wisdom of peace, love and compassion for all. When the power rules the world, it is peace and harmony that the hearts ever long for existence.

https://www.newageislam.com/picture_library/Hagia_Sophia_2_FrMJ_NewAgeIsl.jpg 
From the very inception of “Hagia Sophia”, the history has observed a series of power struggle upon this aesthetic wonder. It has always been looked as the pride of faithful communities who ruled over the nation.

Hagia Sophia was built at Constantinople, the present Istanbul, Turkey, in the 6th century under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian 1. It was the cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for more than a millennium.  In 1204, it was looted by the Venetians and the Crusaders on the Fourth Crusade. In 1453, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II conquered this Byzantine architecture and converted it into a mosque. In 1934 Turkish President and the father of modern Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk having realized its religious, political, aesthetic and cultural heritage, elevated this feel of human spirit, Hagia Sophia into a museum. Thus, the then President respected the sentiments of every minds and hearts both by building peace among humanity and uplifting human fraternity. On the 10 of July this monument of human fraternity was shaken by the decision of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan when he altered this into a mosque.  We observe here that in its 1,450-year life span, HAGIA SOPHIA has served as a cathedral, mosque, a museum and now again as a mosque.

https://www.newageislam.com/picture_library/Hagia_Sophia_3_FrMJ_NewAgeIsl.jpg 
The Hagia Sophia is an enormous architectural marvel in Istanbul, Turkey

------

In all these power struggles, the predominant feel one gets from the history of ‘Hagia Sophia’ is both the religious and the political egoism in the name of Great Allah. The spirit of wisdom of God is least cared about here. We experience an exception in this case at the time of the President Kemal Ataturk. All the Christians believe that God is Love and all the Muslims believe that Allah is compassionate. These two aspects are two sides of ONE GOD. Without love there cannot be compassion and without Compassion, love is not love at all. Love and compassion is incomplete, if it is limited to only one sect of people. This type of expression of sectarian love and compassion can never be of divine wisdom. I understand that if we want to be faithful to this divine wisdom, we must have an inclusive platform for their faith expression and where people of these different religious communities do experience a brotherly love for each other and do their worship here. This is divine wisdom.

It is not enough converting an aesthetic structure having different heritages of centuries into a museum. Yes, it can be considered as a great step towards peace and harmony. This building is the amalgamation of different faith expressions and art.  Maintaining this monument merely as a museum doesn’t bring justice to the peace and harmony of people. It is a passive state where all the egoism of the people are buried but not purified. When the museum is again converted into a mosque, this suppressed egoism is hurt and escalated as pain for all. Can we say again that converting this mosque again to museum is the only solution for peace? Never.

The only solution for the peace and harmony of all the people and believers concerned of HAGIA SOPHIA is to elevate this monument into a common platform for inter- cultural-religious- centre of active faith expression. In this new ambience, humanity in general and religions in particular live in peace by caring all and by exchanging both love and respect for all. Thus ‘Hagia Sophia, the Divine Wisdom’ shall be respected in its true spirit and letter.  It will remain forever an actively living monument of peace and harmony among humanity. When our common house, the earth permits us and gives us all the facilities to worship that transcendental God in different names and forms according to different cultural and social context, don’t we have to learn from this wisdom, the divine wisdom? May “Hagia Sophia” encompass both the Christian and Islam believers in its bosom and may the humanity is able to vibrate and participate with this divine wisdom as dear children holding all Christian and Islam believers together.

Courtesy: https://www.newageislam.com/

 

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‘Cypher’ will bring together artists and HRDs to take stories to wider audience: Front Line Defenders

The digital monthly magazine will use visual storytelling to bring together artists and human rights defenders in a bid for their stories to reach new audiences

24 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:practicesource.com

Visual storytelling has now become an art form all over the world. It has been said that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ and visual storytelling does exactly that. It has gone from being just the cornerstone of marketing to a formidable weapon used by artists and dissenters to bring their stories to the public.

Everyone, from feminists to tribal rights activists, have used this medium to draw attention to, gather like-minded collaborators and inspire hitherto ignorant citizens about causes that have not found a space in the conventional debates around human rights. Through online messaging, videos, photos and other forms of art, India and the globe have seen massive human rights movements garner success. Some examples are the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Shaheen Bagh, India, ‘The Rapist is You’ – feminist movement in Chile and Save the Arctic movement.

Now, Front Line Defenders, an organization working with the specific aim of protecting human rights defenders at risk (HRDs) has harnessed this medium to “reach new audiences, beyond the human rights community that already works to support HRDs”. It has launched a new monthly digital magazine, Cypher, through which it will collaborate with comic artists from around the world and pair them with HRDs to develop stories that portray their work and the challenges, risks and threats they face.

Explaining why it chose the name Cypher to facilitate creative production, Front Line Defenders said, “The dictionary definition of cypher is ‘a secret or disguised way of writing’. In many ways, this is the essence of comic storytelling – the image, rather than the word, is a disguise for many words, that can convey meaning and emotion, and can re/frame an entire narrative.”

Cypher will take human rights stories to new communities

The organization which is collaborating with Beldan Sezen, an award-winning storyteller for Cypher, stated, “Comics offer unique, creative and different ways of engaging audiences than videos, reports or infographics, and can be disseminated across digital platforms that can reach audiences that otherwise might not pay attention to more traditional forms of reporting. And by working with artists to put their talents in the service of human rights, Front Line Defenders is enabling partnerships between the artists and the HRDs that can extend beyond the magazine and bring those stories to new communities to which the artists have access.”

The first edition of Cypher will feature stories from:

Kenya (artist: Nomes Dee) – a profile of Ruth Mumbi’s efforts to defend the rights of evicted families in the Kairobangi neighborhood of Nairobi as the Covid-19 pandemic spread;

Pakistan (artist: anonymous for security reasons) – the story of the abduction enforced disappearance of Pakistani HRD Idris Khattak, as told from the perspective of his daughter;

Lebanon (artist: Pascale Ghazaly) – with Covid-19 hitting, ongoing street protests against political and economic corruption and the collapse of the economy, Ethiopian domestic workers found themselves kicked out and abandoned, as even the embassy refused to help; a collective of domestic workers organized critical support;

Brazil (artist: Lyvia Emanuelly) – transvesti HRD Rosa Luz is a social media and YouTube influencer and rap/hip hop musician; when she used her art to criticize political leaders, she faced intense backlash in the media and from politicians, including death threats, only returning to her public role after a hiatus to ensure her security.

Prior to this, Front Line Defenders had developed, produced and disseminated the critically acclaimed nonfiction graphic novel, La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico. Following the publication in Spanish, Front Line Defenders worked with educators and human rights defenders in Chihuahua State in Mexico to develop a curriculum to use the book in schools in the state. Since 2017, the book has been used by thousands of secondary school students and initial work is underway to develop the project to the national level.

 The entire statement by Front Line Defenders may be read below.

Related:

Revolution through art at Mumbai Bagh and Mumbra Bagh protests
Front Line Defenders expresses concern on “Imminent arrest” of Fr. Stan Swamy and other Jharkhand activists
Front Line Defenders condemns arrest of Pinjra Tod activists, demands immediate release

‘Cypher’ will bring together artists and HRDs to take stories to wider audience: Front Line Defenders

The digital monthly magazine will use visual storytelling to bring together artists and human rights defenders in a bid for their stories to reach new audiences

Image Courtesy:practicesource.com

Visual storytelling has now become an art form all over the world. It has been said that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ and visual storytelling does exactly that. It has gone from being just the cornerstone of marketing to a formidable weapon used by artists and dissenters to bring their stories to the public.

Everyone, from feminists to tribal rights activists, have used this medium to draw attention to, gather like-minded collaborators and inspire hitherto ignorant citizens about causes that have not found a space in the conventional debates around human rights. Through online messaging, videos, photos and other forms of art, India and the globe have seen massive human rights movements garner success. Some examples are the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Shaheen Bagh, India, ‘The Rapist is You’ – feminist movement in Chile and Save the Arctic movement.

Now, Front Line Defenders, an organization working with the specific aim of protecting human rights defenders at risk (HRDs) has harnessed this medium to “reach new audiences, beyond the human rights community that already works to support HRDs”. It has launched a new monthly digital magazine, Cypher, through which it will collaborate with comic artists from around the world and pair them with HRDs to develop stories that portray their work and the challenges, risks and threats they face.

Explaining why it chose the name Cypher to facilitate creative production, Front Line Defenders said, “The dictionary definition of cypher is ‘a secret or disguised way of writing’. In many ways, this is the essence of comic storytelling – the image, rather than the word, is a disguise for many words, that can convey meaning and emotion, and can re/frame an entire narrative.”

Cypher will take human rights stories to new communities

The organization which is collaborating with Beldan Sezen, an award-winning storyteller for Cypher, stated, “Comics offer unique, creative and different ways of engaging audiences than videos, reports or infographics, and can be disseminated across digital platforms that can reach audiences that otherwise might not pay attention to more traditional forms of reporting. And by working with artists to put their talents in the service of human rights, Front Line Defenders is enabling partnerships between the artists and the HRDs that can extend beyond the magazine and bring those stories to new communities to which the artists have access.”

The first edition of Cypher will feature stories from:

Kenya (artist: Nomes Dee) – a profile of Ruth Mumbi’s efforts to defend the rights of evicted families in the Kairobangi neighborhood of Nairobi as the Covid-19 pandemic spread;

Pakistan (artist: anonymous for security reasons) – the story of the abduction enforced disappearance of Pakistani HRD Idris Khattak, as told from the perspective of his daughter;

Lebanon (artist: Pascale Ghazaly) – with Covid-19 hitting, ongoing street protests against political and economic corruption and the collapse of the economy, Ethiopian domestic workers found themselves kicked out and abandoned, as even the embassy refused to help; a collective of domestic workers organized critical support;

Brazil (artist: Lyvia Emanuelly) – transvesti HRD Rosa Luz is a social media and YouTube influencer and rap/hip hop musician; when she used her art to criticize political leaders, she faced intense backlash in the media and from politicians, including death threats, only returning to her public role after a hiatus to ensure her security.

Prior to this, Front Line Defenders had developed, produced and disseminated the critically acclaimed nonfiction graphic novel, La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico. Following the publication in Spanish, Front Line Defenders worked with educators and human rights defenders in Chihuahua State in Mexico to develop a curriculum to use the book in schools in the state. Since 2017, the book has been used by thousands of secondary school students and initial work is underway to develop the project to the national level.

 The entire statement by Front Line Defenders may be read below.

Related:

Revolution through art at Mumbai Bagh and Mumbra Bagh protests
Front Line Defenders expresses concern on “Imminent arrest” of Fr. Stan Swamy and other Jharkhand activists
Front Line Defenders condemns arrest of Pinjra Tod activists, demands immediate release

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San Francisco passes resolution opposing discriminatory CAA, NRC and NPR

The resolution was passed unanimously and stated that the CAA, NRC and NPR would create a massive refugee and health crisis

22 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:clarionindia.net

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), an umbrella organization of progressive South Asian groups across the United States, in coordination with the local San Francisco community, today welcomed the resolution passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors denouncing India's draconian Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).

The resolution was jointly worked upon by AJA and other local San Francisco organizations like the American Institute of Islamic History and Culture, San Francisco Interfaith Council, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and the San Francisco Muslim Community Center, AJA said in a statement.

San Francisco has now become the sixth city in the US after Seattle (Washington), Albany (New York), St. Paul (Minnesota), Hamtramck (Michigan) and Cambridge (Massachusetts) to pass a resolution denouncing the CAA, NRC and NPR.

CAA and NRC violate norms of a secular democracy

In its statement, AJA said the CAA and NRC sought to render millions of people among minorities and caste oppressed stateless, for many had been living in India for generations but did not have caste certificates. It added, “Their use of religion as a criterion for selectively granting citizenship to immigrants of certain communities is a flagrant violation of all norms of secular democracies besides being inconsistent with India's Constitution that guarantees equality before the law for people of all faiths.”

The resolution which was passed by a unanimous vote categorically opposed the CAA, NRC and NPR as “discriminatory to Muslims, caste oppressed, women, indigenous peoples, and the LGBTQ community." It also denounced “any other efforts that render vulnerable populations anywhere to become stateless, scapegoated, and targeted for discrimination, violence, and the abrogation of human rights that are universal to one and all.”

It also raised concerns on how the CAA and NRC would create a massive refugee and health crisis and mentioned that the bigoted policies of President Trump had been mirrored by Indian PM Narendra Modi and the BJP and their alarming ideology that Hindus are racially and culturally superior to others.

Hala Hijazi, a Commissioner on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and a board member of the San Francisco Muslim Community Center and San Francisco Interfaith Council, expressed pride in the City and County of San Francisco. Hijazi was quoted as saying, “When genocidal campaigns begin, one important intervention is international condemnation, and the Bay Area community feels a deep sense of solidarity with their elects, as the time to stand against the Indian government's Islamophobic policies is now.”

AJA quoted Sharmin Hossain of Equality Labs who stated that the resolution highlighted the significance of standing up for caste-oppressed minorities and said, “Thousands of organizers across the country have called, e-mailed, and organized to amplify this Resolution, and it sets an example to cities across the United States - that we do not stand on the side of genocide.”

Nazeer Ahmed of the American Institute and Institute of Islamic History and Culture said, “India is creating a refugee crisis of biblical proportions. It will impact civil society in many parts of the world including the United States.”

Mentioning that Genocide Watch had issued two separate genocide alerts for the states of Assam and Kashmir, Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) said, “In this context, San Francisco’s decision to stand with oppressed minorities in India sends a clear message on where people of conscience around the world stand in regards to the deepening crisis in India. Today’s development will resonate across the US and beyond.”

In conclusion, the resolution called on the support of other municipalities in the US to urge the Parliament of India to uphold the Indian Constitution by repealing the Citizenship Amendment Act, stop the National Register of Citizens, close all detention facilities detaining de-naturalized citizens, take steps towards helping refugees by ratifying various UN treaties on refugees, explore U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

Previously too, the Indian government has been called out for its failure to preserve India’s flailing social fabric.

Last month, US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called out the Centre's repression of minority communities in India, especially the treatment of people in Kashmir in wake of the abrogation of Article 370.

Prior to that, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its Annual Report for 2020 painted a bleak picture of how India treated her religious minorities. It had recommended that the US Government not only designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), but also impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies.

Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide had also raised several key questions about the growth of hate speech and especially the targeting of the Muslim community in wake of the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the nationwide agitation against it.

The complete resolution by the City and County of San Francisco may be read below.

Related:

Joe Biden bats for restoration of rights in Kashmir
US slams India yet again on subject of religious freedom
Designate India as 'Country of Particular Concern', impose sanctions: USCIRF 

 

San Francisco passes resolution opposing discriminatory CAA, NRC and NPR

The resolution was passed unanimously and stated that the CAA, NRC and NPR would create a massive refugee and health crisis

Image Courtesy:clarionindia.net

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), an umbrella organization of progressive South Asian groups across the United States, in coordination with the local San Francisco community, today welcomed the resolution passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors denouncing India's draconian Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).

The resolution was jointly worked upon by AJA and other local San Francisco organizations like the American Institute of Islamic History and Culture, San Francisco Interfaith Council, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and the San Francisco Muslim Community Center, AJA said in a statement.

San Francisco has now become the sixth city in the US after Seattle (Washington), Albany (New York), St. Paul (Minnesota), Hamtramck (Michigan) and Cambridge (Massachusetts) to pass a resolution denouncing the CAA, NRC and NPR.

CAA and NRC violate norms of a secular democracy

In its statement, AJA said the CAA and NRC sought to render millions of people among minorities and caste oppressed stateless, for many had been living in India for generations but did not have caste certificates. It added, “Their use of religion as a criterion for selectively granting citizenship to immigrants of certain communities is a flagrant violation of all norms of secular democracies besides being inconsistent with India's Constitution that guarantees equality before the law for people of all faiths.”

The resolution which was passed by a unanimous vote categorically opposed the CAA, NRC and NPR as “discriminatory to Muslims, caste oppressed, women, indigenous peoples, and the LGBTQ community." It also denounced “any other efforts that render vulnerable populations anywhere to become stateless, scapegoated, and targeted for discrimination, violence, and the abrogation of human rights that are universal to one and all.”

It also raised concerns on how the CAA and NRC would create a massive refugee and health crisis and mentioned that the bigoted policies of President Trump had been mirrored by Indian PM Narendra Modi and the BJP and their alarming ideology that Hindus are racially and culturally superior to others.

Hala Hijazi, a Commissioner on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and a board member of the San Francisco Muslim Community Center and San Francisco Interfaith Council, expressed pride in the City and County of San Francisco. Hijazi was quoted as saying, “When genocidal campaigns begin, one important intervention is international condemnation, and the Bay Area community feels a deep sense of solidarity with their elects, as the time to stand against the Indian government's Islamophobic policies is now.”

AJA quoted Sharmin Hossain of Equality Labs who stated that the resolution highlighted the significance of standing up for caste-oppressed minorities and said, “Thousands of organizers across the country have called, e-mailed, and organized to amplify this Resolution, and it sets an example to cities across the United States - that we do not stand on the side of genocide.”

Nazeer Ahmed of the American Institute and Institute of Islamic History and Culture said, “India is creating a refugee crisis of biblical proportions. It will impact civil society in many parts of the world including the United States.”

Mentioning that Genocide Watch had issued two separate genocide alerts for the states of Assam and Kashmir, Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) said, “In this context, San Francisco’s decision to stand with oppressed minorities in India sends a clear message on where people of conscience around the world stand in regards to the deepening crisis in India. Today’s development will resonate across the US and beyond.”

In conclusion, the resolution called on the support of other municipalities in the US to urge the Parliament of India to uphold the Indian Constitution by repealing the Citizenship Amendment Act, stop the National Register of Citizens, close all detention facilities detaining de-naturalized citizens, take steps towards helping refugees by ratifying various UN treaties on refugees, explore U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

Previously too, the Indian government has been called out for its failure to preserve India’s flailing social fabric.

Last month, US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called out the Centre's repression of minority communities in India, especially the treatment of people in Kashmir in wake of the abrogation of Article 370.

Prior to that, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its Annual Report for 2020 painted a bleak picture of how India treated her religious minorities. It had recommended that the US Government not only designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), but also impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies.

Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide had also raised several key questions about the growth of hate speech and especially the targeting of the Muslim community in wake of the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the nationwide agitation against it.

The complete resolution by the City and County of San Francisco may be read below.

Related:

Joe Biden bats for restoration of rights in Kashmir
US slams India yet again on subject of religious freedom
Designate India as 'Country of Particular Concern', impose sanctions: USCIRF 

 

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Grand Mufti of Egypt opposes Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque

Shawky Allam, Grand Mufti, said that the conversion was impermissible in Islam

20 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:en.shafaqna.com

Reacting to the decision of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia being converted into a mosque, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam on Saturday said that conversion was impermissible in Islam, Ahval News reported.

During an interview with Nathrah on Sada al-Balad TV, Grand Mufti Shawky Allam said, “We [as Muslims] are commanded to preserve churches [...] Prophet Mohammed (peace and Blessings be upon him) was always recommending in wars not to destroy temples or kill monks.”

Ahval News added that the Grand Mufti said that churches and mosques around the world must be preserved as was done during the course of Egypt’s history, while referring to a fatwa by Laith bin Saad Fakih of Egypt who ruled churches to be a part of the earth’s architecture in Islam.

Professor Saad el-Din Helaly of the Al-Azhar University too said that the announcement by the “Muslim Brotherhood government of Turkey” was an “escalation against human civilization” and harmed Muslims and Islam, reported Cleveland Jewish News. He added that the decision was the nature of political Islam, saying that Hagia Sophia should remain a museum and calling for honorable Muslims to boycott the Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia out of respect for the property of others and property of the people.

Greece too has joined the global outrage against the decision saying that the move is provocative and a grave historic mistake, VOA News reported. Greek leaders think that the decision is an affront to Christianity and the country is now trying to rally international support to impose sanctions on Erdogan and his government.

It must be noted that Erdogan’s decision is in line with his right-wing political ideology and a part of a previous plan. The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque was on Erdogan’s mind as a part of his election manifesto last year.

The move does nothing for the people and only deepens the divide between Turkey’s nationalist and secular groups. In fact, it only pushes Erdogan’s nationalist agenda and will be lauded by his religious voter base for which the push was in fact made.

The current scenario in Turkey is reminiscent and close to what is happening in India. The Amnesty International on June 30, 2020 had reported that Amnesty International Turkey’s honorary chair Taner Kilic was in the dock together with the German human rights trainer Peter Steudtner, the former director of Amnesty International Turkey Idil Eser and eight other human rights defenders even while Turkey was wooing German tourists to visit. NBC News too reported how the Turkish government was disinclined to criticism and was launching investigations in Opposition leaders, sacking elected mayors and imprisoning journalists even though there was a bill passed to release inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

Erdogan’s response to the May 2013 Gezi park protests against the conservative government which brought liberals, Kurds, women, etc. to the streets was to respond with water cannons and tear gas. Erdogan had then described the protestors as ‘terrorists’ and launched a crackdown on artists and academic intellectuals. While some were put behind bars, some managed to leave the country and move away, forming stark comparisons to the current treatment of dissenters in India.  

Outlook reported that Turkey, since 2015 has been bombing the homes of ethnic minorities' Kurdish villages in northern Iraq, northeast Syria and carrying out military operations in the Kurdish stronghold of southeast Turkey, where thousands have died.

Erdogan’s decision of converting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque is seen as a last resort, to evoke ‘Muslim pride’ and a form of vindication to the oppression they suffer throughout the world. This ‘restroying’ of religious monuments paint parallels of what is happening in India and Turkey and only portray how secularism has only dwindled as the democratic age of the two countries has increased.

Thus, it is imperative that dissenting voices against the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque be brought to the fore, to counter extremist ideas of religion to make hold in democratic civilizations today.

Related:

Zakir Naik Showcases the Rot within Islamic Theology
A Nationalist Takeover of Hagia Sophia is not What the Muslim World Needed Now
Turkey: Hagia Sophia should not be converted to a Mosque  

Grand Mufti of Egypt opposes Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque

Shawky Allam, Grand Mufti, said that the conversion was impermissible in Islam

Image Courtesy:en.shafaqna.com

Reacting to the decision of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia being converted into a mosque, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam on Saturday said that conversion was impermissible in Islam, Ahval News reported.

During an interview with Nathrah on Sada al-Balad TV, Grand Mufti Shawky Allam said, “We [as Muslims] are commanded to preserve churches [...] Prophet Mohammed (peace and Blessings be upon him) was always recommending in wars not to destroy temples or kill monks.”

Ahval News added that the Grand Mufti said that churches and mosques around the world must be preserved as was done during the course of Egypt’s history, while referring to a fatwa by Laith bin Saad Fakih of Egypt who ruled churches to be a part of the earth’s architecture in Islam.

Professor Saad el-Din Helaly of the Al-Azhar University too said that the announcement by the “Muslim Brotherhood government of Turkey” was an “escalation against human civilization” and harmed Muslims and Islam, reported Cleveland Jewish News. He added that the decision was the nature of political Islam, saying that Hagia Sophia should remain a museum and calling for honorable Muslims to boycott the Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia out of respect for the property of others and property of the people.

Greece too has joined the global outrage against the decision saying that the move is provocative and a grave historic mistake, VOA News reported. Greek leaders think that the decision is an affront to Christianity and the country is now trying to rally international support to impose sanctions on Erdogan and his government.

It must be noted that Erdogan’s decision is in line with his right-wing political ideology and a part of a previous plan. The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque was on Erdogan’s mind as a part of his election manifesto last year.

The move does nothing for the people and only deepens the divide between Turkey’s nationalist and secular groups. In fact, it only pushes Erdogan’s nationalist agenda and will be lauded by his religious voter base for which the push was in fact made.

The current scenario in Turkey is reminiscent and close to what is happening in India. The Amnesty International on June 30, 2020 had reported that Amnesty International Turkey’s honorary chair Taner Kilic was in the dock together with the German human rights trainer Peter Steudtner, the former director of Amnesty International Turkey Idil Eser and eight other human rights defenders even while Turkey was wooing German tourists to visit. NBC News too reported how the Turkish government was disinclined to criticism and was launching investigations in Opposition leaders, sacking elected mayors and imprisoning journalists even though there was a bill passed to release inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

Erdogan’s response to the May 2013 Gezi park protests against the conservative government which brought liberals, Kurds, women, etc. to the streets was to respond with water cannons and tear gas. Erdogan had then described the protestors as ‘terrorists’ and launched a crackdown on artists and academic intellectuals. While some were put behind bars, some managed to leave the country and move away, forming stark comparisons to the current treatment of dissenters in India.  

Outlook reported that Turkey, since 2015 has been bombing the homes of ethnic minorities' Kurdish villages in northern Iraq, northeast Syria and carrying out military operations in the Kurdish stronghold of southeast Turkey, where thousands have died.

Erdogan’s decision of converting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque is seen as a last resort, to evoke ‘Muslim pride’ and a form of vindication to the oppression they suffer throughout the world. This ‘restroying’ of religious monuments paint parallels of what is happening in India and Turkey and only portray how secularism has only dwindled as the democratic age of the two countries has increased.

Thus, it is imperative that dissenting voices against the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque be brought to the fore, to counter extremist ideas of religion to make hold in democratic civilizations today.

Related:

Zakir Naik Showcases the Rot within Islamic Theology
A Nationalist Takeover of Hagia Sophia is not What the Muslim World Needed Now
Turkey: Hagia Sophia should not be converted to a Mosque  

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A Nationalist Takeover of Hagia Sophia is not What the Muslim World Needed Now

13 Jul 2020

Hagia Sophia has been one of the most enduring symbols of eastern Christendom since it was built in the sixth century. The Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453 and converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The triumph of Islam over Christianity was complete with a new name for the city, Istanbul. Hagia Sophia remained a mosque till 1935 when it was declared a museum under the secularising zeal of Mustafa Kemal. The museum has now given way to a mosque under a judicial decree backed by the popular demand of Turkish people. To be sure, this time, it has not been converted into a mosque by an executive decision. Rather, it is the decision of the Court which revisited the state decree of 1935 and made it null and void. Erdogan can now legitimately argue that his government was bound by the decision of the Court and that he was only following the ‘rule of law’. The only real comparison of such judicial rescue of the executive is the Indian case where the land of a centuries old mosque was given for constructing a temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Covenant of Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, also called the Ashtiname of Muhammad.  A copy of this document is kept at the Saint Catherine's Monastery.

-----

In most of such cases, judicial decisions are in fact political in nature. There was a growing campaign in Turkey to convert the museum into a mosque, with repeated polls showing overwhelming support for such a move. Erdogan, the Turkish president, heads a party, one of whose important aims is to re-Islamize Turkish society. Hagia Sophia had become a symbol of this desire and the ruling party had cultivated this sentiment amongst the people for long. Any argument against the move meant going against the popular mood of the people. It is no surprise that the main opposition parties did nothing to mobilise a counter opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In all probability, this move will further boost the popularity of Erdogan within Turkey, but internationally, Muslims will face renewed questioning over the nature of their faith. One of the first to be questioned will be Muslim minorities throughout the world. In Europe and in parts of Asia, Muslims have been petitioning various governments for securing their religious rights. What Turkey has done will make their situation difficult in terms of positioning their argument. Recently, Muslims were elated when they heard the azan for the first time from mosques across Germany. The three million Turkish minority in Germany will now have tough time to explain this symbolic action to the German people. At a time when Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere, this action will be exploited by far-right parties to further stigmatise Muslims.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Hagia Sophia is an enormous architectural marvel in Istanbul, Turkey

------

Christians who follow the Eastern Orthodox Church will be most hurt by this decision. For centuries, the Hagia Sophia has been the symbol of their devotion and pride. It is important to realise that there are Christian minorities living in different parts of the Middle-East. With the rise of radical Islam, there position has become precarious. Hundreds of them have already been killed, many dispossessed of their homes. At a time when they need re-assurance regarding their safety and security, this move by Turkish government will have the opposite impact of making their position all the more vulnerable.

The USA and Russia, along with other countries have already denounced the move and have asked Turkey to learn from the shared values of Islam and Christianity. However, it is time that their hypocrisy is called out. If they really believed in the philosophy of shared values, then Spain should ideally allow prayers in the mosque of Cordoba which is now a Cathedral. And Greece should apologise to the Muslim world for demolishing mosques built by the Ottomans. More importantly, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which much of the western world did recently, is hardly a strategy rooted in mutual respect and sharing between the two religions. The Christian world seems to remember religious tolerance and pluralism only when their sacred monuments come under threat.

The real impact of this move will be felt by Muslims themselves. Due to a number of reasons, Islam has earned a bad name through its association with terrorism, intolerance and anti-pluralistic theology. What signal is Erdogan sending to jihadis and other radicals who want to convert and control the whole world? Today, they must be the most vocal supporters of Erdogan. This highly symbolic move reeks of Islamist supremacy which Muslims, especially those who are in minority, will find hard to justify. Erdogan might argue that the issue is one of Turkish sovereignty, but even he knows fully well that its reverberations will be felt beyond national boundaries.

Erdogan had a choice to let Hagia Sophia be as it is, a museum of international importance which was accessible to members of all religious faith. Or, the same space could have been used for both Islamic and Christian practices with some creative solutions. After all, Muslims also have strong claim to the site since they have prayed there for almost five hundred years and their religious sentiment should also be taken into consideration. Many would say that this is utopic, but then if both religions pray to the same God, then why is it that they cannot share the same ritual space?

In the early years of Islam, caliph Umar refused to pray at the Christian site of Holy Sepulchre after the bloodless conquest of Jerusalem, stating that it might become a precedent for later Muslims to convert Churches into mosques. A few centuries later, the Ayyubids would build a mosque where Umar had prayed, just a short distance from Christianity’s holiest church, thus making the fears of the caliph almost prophetic. Even earlier, the prophet of Islam had granted safety and security to monks of Mount Sinai, stating in no uncertain terms that the holy places of Christians must be protected. Muhammad’s Testament of assurance is still preserved within the four walls of Saint Catherine’s monastery. Erdogan could have looked to these traditions within Islam and made tolerance and co-existence the present credo of Islam. In choosing the obverse, he has made the claims of Islamic pluralism sound hollow.

Arshad Alam is a NewAgeIslam.com columnist.

 

A Nationalist Takeover of Hagia Sophia is not What the Muslim World Needed Now

Hagia Sophia has been one of the most enduring symbols of eastern Christendom since it was built in the sixth century. The Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453 and converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The triumph of Islam over Christianity was complete with a new name for the city, Istanbul. Hagia Sophia remained a mosque till 1935 when it was declared a museum under the secularising zeal of Mustafa Kemal. The museum has now given way to a mosque under a judicial decree backed by the popular demand of Turkish people. To be sure, this time, it has not been converted into a mosque by an executive decision. Rather, it is the decision of the Court which revisited the state decree of 1935 and made it null and void. Erdogan can now legitimately argue that his government was bound by the decision of the Court and that he was only following the ‘rule of law’. The only real comparison of such judicial rescue of the executive is the Indian case where the land of a centuries old mosque was given for constructing a temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Covenant of Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, also called the Ashtiname of Muhammad.  A copy of this document is kept at the Saint Catherine's Monastery.

-----

In most of such cases, judicial decisions are in fact political in nature. There was a growing campaign in Turkey to convert the museum into a mosque, with repeated polls showing overwhelming support for such a move. Erdogan, the Turkish president, heads a party, one of whose important aims is to re-Islamize Turkish society. Hagia Sophia had become a symbol of this desire and the ruling party had cultivated this sentiment amongst the people for long. Any argument against the move meant going against the popular mood of the people. It is no surprise that the main opposition parties did nothing to mobilise a counter opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In all probability, this move will further boost the popularity of Erdogan within Turkey, but internationally, Muslims will face renewed questioning over the nature of their faith. One of the first to be questioned will be Muslim minorities throughout the world. In Europe and in parts of Asia, Muslims have been petitioning various governments for securing their religious rights. What Turkey has done will make their situation difficult in terms of positioning their argument. Recently, Muslims were elated when they heard the azan for the first time from mosques across Germany. The three million Turkish minority in Germany will now have tough time to explain this symbolic action to the German people. At a time when Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere, this action will be exploited by far-right parties to further stigmatise Muslims.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Hagia Sophia is an enormous architectural marvel in Istanbul, Turkey

------

Christians who follow the Eastern Orthodox Church will be most hurt by this decision. For centuries, the Hagia Sophia has been the symbol of their devotion and pride. It is important to realise that there are Christian minorities living in different parts of the Middle-East. With the rise of radical Islam, there position has become precarious. Hundreds of them have already been killed, many dispossessed of their homes. At a time when they need re-assurance regarding their safety and security, this move by Turkish government will have the opposite impact of making their position all the more vulnerable.

The USA and Russia, along with other countries have already denounced the move and have asked Turkey to learn from the shared values of Islam and Christianity. However, it is time that their hypocrisy is called out. If they really believed in the philosophy of shared values, then Spain should ideally allow prayers in the mosque of Cordoba which is now a Cathedral. And Greece should apologise to the Muslim world for demolishing mosques built by the Ottomans. More importantly, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which much of the western world did recently, is hardly a strategy rooted in mutual respect and sharing between the two religions. The Christian world seems to remember religious tolerance and pluralism only when their sacred monuments come under threat.

The real impact of this move will be felt by Muslims themselves. Due to a number of reasons, Islam has earned a bad name through its association with terrorism, intolerance and anti-pluralistic theology. What signal is Erdogan sending to jihadis and other radicals who want to convert and control the whole world? Today, they must be the most vocal supporters of Erdogan. This highly symbolic move reeks of Islamist supremacy which Muslims, especially those who are in minority, will find hard to justify. Erdogan might argue that the issue is one of Turkish sovereignty, but even he knows fully well that its reverberations will be felt beyond national boundaries.

Erdogan had a choice to let Hagia Sophia be as it is, a museum of international importance which was accessible to members of all religious faith. Or, the same space could have been used for both Islamic and Christian practices with some creative solutions. After all, Muslims also have strong claim to the site since they have prayed there for almost five hundred years and their religious sentiment should also be taken into consideration. Many would say that this is utopic, but then if both religions pray to the same God, then why is it that they cannot share the same ritual space?

In the early years of Islam, caliph Umar refused to pray at the Christian site of Holy Sepulchre after the bloodless conquest of Jerusalem, stating that it might become a precedent for later Muslims to convert Churches into mosques. A few centuries later, the Ayyubids would build a mosque where Umar had prayed, just a short distance from Christianity’s holiest church, thus making the fears of the caliph almost prophetic. Even earlier, the prophet of Islam had granted safety and security to monks of Mount Sinai, stating in no uncertain terms that the holy places of Christians must be protected. Muhammad’s Testament of assurance is still preserved within the four walls of Saint Catherine’s monastery. Erdogan could have looked to these traditions within Islam and made tolerance and co-existence the present credo of Islam. In choosing the obverse, he has made the claims of Islamic pluralism sound hollow.

Arshad Alam is a NewAgeIslam.com columnist.

 

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UN takes closer look at attacks on women journalists

Special Rapporteur seeks to lay the foundation for States to establish an appropriate human rights framework to ensure the protection of women journalists.

10 Jul 2020

women journalistRepresentation Image


A recent report by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Dubravka Šimonović, on violence against women journalists aims to build on the existing human rights standards and to offer a more holistic approach to addressing the specific challenges faced by women journalists and ensure that they can work in a safe environment.

According to the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, violence against women, including against women journalists, comprises any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Online violence

The report examines the role of online violence in exacerbation gender-based violence against women journalists. The report says, “Online and offline harassment and abuse of women journalists is reflective of broader issues of sexism in society. In the online sphere, harassment can have significant consequences, leading to self-censorship in response to online abuse. The failure to address and reprehend online threats can be fatal, as is demonstrated by attacks on and murders of women journalists that were preceded by online hate campaigns and threats. In response to persecution, some women reporters have had no choice but to drop investigative work, avoid reporting on certain subjects, or abandon their profession altogether.” It goes on to explain, “Emerging forms of online violence against women such as ‘doxing’, ‘sextortion’ and ‘trolling’, as well as the non-consensual distribution of intimate content (or ‘revenge porn’), are also being used to defame and silence women journalists.”

Sexualization, intersectional discrimination and workplace sexual harassment

The report says, “Women journalists are expected to fit into stereotyped roles and sexualized images of women and to operate within unequal power relationships between men and women in the media world. They are often targeted for being highly visible and outspoken and for their work, especially when they are breaking the rules of gender inequity and stereotypes. Many women journalists also face intersectional discrimination and gender-based violence because of other characteristics such as, but not limited to, race, religion, ethnicity or minority affiliation.”

The report further explains, “When journalists are indigenous women, women belonging to minorities, and/or lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex women, they may face an added level of discrimination, in ways that often intersect with their indigenous, and/or minority or lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex identities.” It also touches upon the particular vulnerability of indigenous women journalists saying, “In the particular case of indigenous women journalists, the risk of experiencing violence as a result of their work may increase, owing to the combination of structural patterns affecting community media; intersectional discrimination against indigenous women; and the high public profile they may acquire in defence of the rights of indigenous peoples and/or the rights of women in their territories.”

It also touches upon recent movements to expose perpetrators of gender-based violence and their impact in the newsroom. The report says, “The rise of popular movements, such as #MeToo, #NiUnaMenos and their various manifestations across the world, have highlighted sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence, including the rampant sexism and discriminatory practices that pervade the newsroom.”

The report further says, “In addition to killings, sexual violence, including sexual assault and rape, and in particular the threat of rape, continue to be used as a form of gender-based violence and as a tool to undermine the credibility of women journalists and discourage them from working in the media. Many women media workers have reportedly experienced sexual violence in relation to their work, with the most frequently recounted act being unwanted touching of a sexual manner.”

The entire report may be read here: 

 

Related:

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UN takes closer look at attacks on women journalists

Special Rapporteur seeks to lay the foundation for States to establish an appropriate human rights framework to ensure the protection of women journalists.

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A recent report by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Dubravka Šimonović, on violence against women journalists aims to build on the existing human rights standards and to offer a more holistic approach to addressing the specific challenges faced by women journalists and ensure that they can work in a safe environment.

According to the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, violence against women, including against women journalists, comprises any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Online violence

The report examines the role of online violence in exacerbation gender-based violence against women journalists. The report says, “Online and offline harassment and abuse of women journalists is reflective of broader issues of sexism in society. In the online sphere, harassment can have significant consequences, leading to self-censorship in response to online abuse. The failure to address and reprehend online threats can be fatal, as is demonstrated by attacks on and murders of women journalists that were preceded by online hate campaigns and threats. In response to persecution, some women reporters have had no choice but to drop investigative work, avoid reporting on certain subjects, or abandon their profession altogether.” It goes on to explain, “Emerging forms of online violence against women such as ‘doxing’, ‘sextortion’ and ‘trolling’, as well as the non-consensual distribution of intimate content (or ‘revenge porn’), are also being used to defame and silence women journalists.”

Sexualization, intersectional discrimination and workplace sexual harassment

The report says, “Women journalists are expected to fit into stereotyped roles and sexualized images of women and to operate within unequal power relationships between men and women in the media world. They are often targeted for being highly visible and outspoken and for their work, especially when they are breaking the rules of gender inequity and stereotypes. Many women journalists also face intersectional discrimination and gender-based violence because of other characteristics such as, but not limited to, race, religion, ethnicity or minority affiliation.”

The report further explains, “When journalists are indigenous women, women belonging to minorities, and/or lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex women, they may face an added level of discrimination, in ways that often intersect with their indigenous, and/or minority or lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex identities.” It also touches upon the particular vulnerability of indigenous women journalists saying, “In the particular case of indigenous women journalists, the risk of experiencing violence as a result of their work may increase, owing to the combination of structural patterns affecting community media; intersectional discrimination against indigenous women; and the high public profile they may acquire in defence of the rights of indigenous peoples and/or the rights of women in their territories.”

It also touches upon recent movements to expose perpetrators of gender-based violence and their impact in the newsroom. The report says, “The rise of popular movements, such as #MeToo, #NiUnaMenos and their various manifestations across the world, have highlighted sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence, including the rampant sexism and discriminatory practices that pervade the newsroom.”

The report further says, “In addition to killings, sexual violence, including sexual assault and rape, and in particular the threat of rape, continue to be used as a form of gender-based violence and as a tool to undermine the credibility of women journalists and discourage them from working in the media. Many women media workers have reportedly experienced sexual violence in relation to their work, with the most frequently recounted act being unwanted touching of a sexual manner.”

The entire report may be read here: 

 

Related:

Journalists, activists, express solidarity with Scroll’s Supriya Sharma

I got my award for my work, not for sitting at home: Masrat Zahra

Stop the Online Vilification of Rana Ayyub: NWMI

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