The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Islam!

Authors

This article by me was originally published in Winter, 2009 volume of Muslim Sunrise:

This examines the philosophical and historical basis of human rights.


With the election of a son of a Kenyan man to the highest office in USA we see gradual perfection of the vision expressed in the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  But at the same time, suicidal bombings by terrorist, the outrageous violations of human rights in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the indifference to the so called collateral damage in air bombings, have again rekindled the question as to what are the human rights and where do they come from.  The events since September 11, 2001 have jolted every citizen of the planet earth with renewed quaking and put them on a quest to look for answers.  Is life of an American more sacred than a non-American?  What if he or she is a Muslim?  Are all humans truly created equal?  Where did the words, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal;’ come from?  To one exposed to Western propaganda only these words came from the pen of President Thomas Jefferson, as he authored United States Declaration of Independence in 1776.  But a more cultured Westerner may know what Wikipedia mentions, under the heading all men are created equal, “Many of the ideas in the Declaration were borrowed from the English liberal political philosopher John Locke.”  But that is where Western scholarship ends. Locke lived in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.  Such is the dissociation of the Western writers in terms of ignoring the beauties of Islam, that they can attribute all such liberal ideas with a straight face to Western philosophers, despite the fact the Muslim literature has been replete with mention of the Holy Prophet Muhammad saying to a crowd of more than a hundred thousand people, at the time of the final pilgrimage, an event that itself symbolizes human equality, “All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they may belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal. Allah has made you brethren one to another, so be not divided. An Arab has no preference over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one.”  The whole of his sermon is recorded in history and has been more famous and cherished than the Gettysburg address in the Muslim world over the centuries.  This is where human equality began, not only for the Muslims but for the whole of humanity!Fast forward to World War II.  Dr.  Andrew Conway Ivy was appointed by the American Medical Association as its representative at the 1946 Nuremberg Medical Trial for Nazi doctors.  By 1945 he was probably ‘the most famous doctor in the country.’  He wrote, “Only in a moral world, a world of responsibility, can man be free and live as a human being should. Men are truly equal and free only as creatures of God, because only as the children of God and only in the sight of God and ultimate moral law are men truly equal.”[1]  In the Nuremberg trial he struggled with the question that if man-made law is the sole source of basic human rights, why condemn the Nazi assault on Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and politi­cal enemies; and having shaken by this perplexing trial he concluded:

“If God and the ultimate moral law are denied, there can be no absolute argument against slavery, against ‘might makes right’ and man’s greedy exploitation of man. If human beings have no absolute intrinsic value, no absolute intrinsic freedom of decision, no absolute liberty, no absolute duties, they possess only extrinsic value and may be used as chattels, slaves or serfs by those who have the intelligence and power.” [2]

It took the catalyst of World War II, after millions of casualties, to propel human rights onto the world stage and into the global conscience.  On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the 56 members of the United Nations. The vote was unanimous, although eight nations chose to abstain.   Articles one and two could be considered paraphrasing, in contemporary legal terminology, of what the Prophet Muhammad had said in his address at the time of last pilgrimage, or what President Thomas Jefferson wrote more than a millennium later.  Article one states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”  As the Prophet delivered his farewell speech in the eighth year after migration to Medina, to an unprecedented large gathering, standing on the back of his camel Qaswa, he raised his hands and joined the fingers of the one hand with the fingers of the other and then said, “Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another. No one has any right, any superiority to claim over another. You are as brothers.”[3][4][5]

Article two of the universal declaration announces, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”  In the contemporary world the letter of the law exists but the spirit is missing.  Prophet Muhammad linked the sanctity of human rights to the human appreciation of sacredness; as he addressed a sobbing and spell bound crowd of pilgrims, to the very first house ever built for remembrance of one God, “Even as this month is sacred, this land inviolate, and this day holy, so has God made the lives, property and honor of every man sacred. To take any man’s life or his property, or attack his honor, is as unjust and wrong as to violate the sacredness of this day, this month, and this territory.“  The echoes of the words would reverberate, with deep emotional conviction, for centuries to come in the known world.
Mountain of Mercy
The Mount of mercy from where the Prophet Muhammad gave his sermon of the last Pilgrimage
Encyclopedia Britannica describes one of the Presidents of the UN General Assembly Sir Zafrulla Khan in these words, “He became the new country’s minister of foreign affairs and served concurrently as leader of Pakistan’s delegation to the UN (1947–54). From 1954 to 1961 he served as a member of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He again represented Pakistan at the UN in 1961–64 and served as president of the UN General Assembly in 1962–63. Returning to the International Court of Justice in 1964, he served as the court’s president from 1970 to 1973.”[6]  
Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
He wrote an excellent small book that compares all the articles of the Universal Declaration with the Quranic teachings.  The book is titled and is available for a free download from Alislam.org.  Author’s deep appreciation of the law and insight into the religion of Islam and its holy scripture the Holy Quran make it a must read for every man of conscience:

http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Islam-HR.pdf

It will not be unfair to challenge apologists of other religions especially those who are vitriolic against Islam, like Don Richardson, to show such correlation between human rights and their respective scriptures.  They may have tall claims to make but those need to be substantiated from their scriptures and the history of respective scriptures; otherwise it only amounts to hollow Monday morning quarterbacking.

George A. Makdisi (1920-2002), Professor Emeritus of Arabic & Islamic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, writes about lack of general information about Islam, “The cultured Christian layman is aware of his religious debt to Judaism, and of his intellectual debt to Greco-Roman antiquity; but, generally speaking, he is not aware of any debt to classical Islam. The very idea may cause him to smile indulgently, or to dismiss the suggestion as unworthy of his attention. Others may be aware of some legacy from Islam.”[7][8]  In an article published in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, he argues that scholarship and learning that made the foundation of Italian Renaissance can be adequately explained only on purely Islamic-Arabic grounds.[9]

In sphere of ethnic human equality, fourteen hundred years after the Holy Prophet Muhammad declared that the white have no superiority over the black or an Arab over a non-Arab; Western science was struggling with Polygenetic theory of human origin to prove the superiority of the Caucasian race over the other races.   The Holy Quran declares, “O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may know one another.”[10] No wonder, Arnold Joseph Toynbee had to confess, “The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue.”[11]

EPILOGUE

The world peace cannot be secured if we only pay lip service to the ideals expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Something has to inspire the passions of not only the leaders but also the masses, to implement these ideals in real life situations.  This is where the role of religion comes to play.  We conclude in the words of the famous historian Arnold Toynbee pertaining to racial equality in Islam, “On two historic occasions in the past, Islam has been the sign in which an Oriental society has risen up victoriously against an Occidental intruder. … If the present situation of mankind were to precipitate a ‘race war,’ Islam might be moved to play her historic role once again.”[12]
ASIDE
To demonstrate to the critic that the Holy Quran, indeed, teaches Universal Brotherhood for the whole of humanity, let me quote from it in addition to the quotes that I have provided from the sermon of the Holy Prophet Muhammad above.  The verse 14 of chapter 49 of the Holy Quran states:
يٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اِنَّا خَلَقْنٰكُمْ مِّنْ ذَكَرٍ وَّاُنْثٰى وَجَعَلْنٰكُمْ شُعُوْبًا وَّقَبَآٮِٕلَ لِتَعَارَفُوْا‌ اِنَّ اَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللّٰهِ اَتْقٰٮكُمْ‌ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ عَلِيْمٌ خَبِيْرٌ‏
“O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.”Here Allah is putting all humans in one family, by starting the verse with the term, يٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ meaning ‘O mankind.’ There is mention of, or address to the believers, يٰۤاَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْۤا  five times before in this very chapter but when it came to this verse, Allah has chosen the broader term of يٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ‘O mankind,’ rather than  يٰۤاَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْۤا  ‘O those who Believe.’ There is clearly an invitation to the whole mankind that we all are a part of one human family!  The Holy Quran is not building a segregated society of the believers only but a ‘Universal Brotherhood’ of the whole mankind.

[1] The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe. Edited by John Clover Monsma.  GP Putnam’s sons, New Yrok, published in 1958.  Page 240.

[2] The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe. Edited by John Clover Monsma.  GP Putnam’s sons, New Yrok, published in 1958.  Page 240.

[6] “Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 21 Oct. 2009.

[7] George Makdisi.  Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West.  Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 109, No. 2. (Apr. – Jun., 1989), pp. 175-182.

[9] George Makdisi.  Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West.  Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 109, No. 2. (Apr. – Jun., 1989), pp. 175-182.

[10] Al Quran 49:14.

[11] Arnold Joseph Toynbee. Civilization on trial: Essays. Published by Oxford University Press, 1948. Chapter: Islam the West and the Future. Page 205.

[12] Arnold Joseph Toynbee. Civilization on trial: Essays. Published by Oxford University Press, 1948. Last page of the chapter: Islam the West and the Future.

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  1. Zia H. Shah

    ‘Everyone in this room a 100 years ago would have been a racist’: Prof. Richard Dawkins
    Here is a very interesting confession about the Western civilization by Prof. Richard Dawkins in his debate against Alister McGrath, ‘Everyone in this room a 100 years ago would have been a racist.’ Here is the relevant part of the debate:

    So, where does human equality come from? I suggest from the Holy Prophet Muhammad and Islam!

  2. Zia H. Shah

    Pope announces religious tolerance summit
    The Pope focussed on religious intolerance during his New Year address at St Peter’s Basilica. His comments came just hours after the Alexandria bomb in Egypt, the latest of several similar attacks recently in the Middle East, the Far East and Africa.

    ‘With discrimination, abuses and religious intolerances that are striking Christians today in a particular way, I renew my call not to give in to discouragement and resignation,’ the pontiff said.

    Benedict XVI announced a summit of world religious leaders later in the year to discuss how peace and tolerance can be better promoted.

    ‘Religious freedom is a fundamental part of the rule of law,” he went on. “You cannot deny it without, in time, hitting all fundamental rights and freedoms.’

    The Pope said ‘words were not enough.’ He called on everyone, from national leaders to those on a local level, to make a ‘concrete and constant commitment’ to push for peace in their daily relations with neighbours.

    http://www.euronews.net/2011/01/01/pope-announces-religious-tolerance-summit/

  3. Zia H. Shah

    What is the Pope afraid of in Turkey joining EU?
    The pope is responsible for the Vatican’s growing hostility towards Turkey joining the EU, previously secret cables sent from the US embassy to the Holy See in Rome claim.

    In 2004 Cardinal Ratzinger, the future pope, spoke out against letting a Muslim state join, although at the time the Vatican was formally neutral on the question.

    The Vatican’s acting foreign minister, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, responded by telling US diplomats that Ratzinger’s comments were his own rather than the official Vatican position.

    The cable released by WikiLeaks shows that Ratzinger was the leading voice behind the Holy See’s unsuccessful drive to secure a reference to Europe’s “Christian roots” in the EU constitution. The US diplomat noted that Ratzinger “clearly understands that allowing a Muslim country into the EU would further weaken his case for Europe’s Christian foundations”.

    But by 2006 Parolin was working for Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and his tone had distinctly chilled. “Neither the pope nor the Vatican have endorsed Turkey’s EU membership per se,” he told the American charge d’affaires, “rather, the Holy See has been consistently open to accession, emphasising only that Turkey needs to fulfil the EU’s Copenhagen criteria to take its place in Europe.”

    But he did not expect the demands on religious freedom to be fulfilled: “One great fear is that Turkey could enter the EU without having made the necessary advances in religious freedom. [Parolin] insisted that EU members – and the US – continue to press the [Turkish government] on these issues … He said that short of ‘open persecution’, it couldn’t get much worse for the Christian community in Turkey.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/10/wikileaks-pope-turkey-eu-muslim?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    If the rights of the Christian minority was the only concern the problem will be fixed as soon as Turkey becomes a member of the EU as the Muslims become a minority! Is the Pope afraid of open dialogue between the Christians and the Muslims and they having equal rights and equal humanity in the eyes of the Europeans?

  4. Zia H. Shah

    The New World Order of Islam
    A few excerpts from the book:

    If … defects are removed, a League of Nations could be constituted in accordance with the principles laid down in the Holy Qur’an. It is only such a League which can do any good, not a League which for its very existence is dependent upon the courtesy of different nations. …

    So long as people do not realise in accordance with the Islamic teachings that all mankind are one people, and that all nations are subject to the law of rise and fall, and that no nation has continued always in one condition, it will be impossible to establish peace. We must remember that the volcanic forces which raise and bring down nations have not ceased to operate. Nature continues to be active as it has been through the centuries. A nation that treats another nation with contempt initiates an unending circle of tyranny and oppression.

    In short, all these secular movements support and strengthen nationalism, but the Promised Messiah (a) has devised a system which tends to promote universal brotherhood. At present in Russia, a Russian is forced to give up his surplus for the benefit of other Russians, but under this system an Indian voluntarily contributes for the benefit of the whole of mankind, and the same applies to an Egyptian or a Syrian.

    Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, The New World Order of Islam (1942), Islam International Publications, Tilford UK 2005.

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/newworldorder/Nizam-e-Nau.pdf

  5. Zia H. Shah

    Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) – A Symbol of Universal Brotherhood
    The Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It is a declaration of Belief, a process of renovation, and an expression of inspiration, motivation and devotion. It is an acknowledgement of the command of God.

    The Hajj is an ancient rite, which was well established in Arabia long before Islam, It was one of the few traditions of the monotheistic religion of Abraham that survived the onslaught of pagan practices. The holy Qur’an relates the story of how the Father of the prophets’, Abraham, built the Qa’ba with the help of his son Ishmael and in obedience to Allah proclaimed the Hajj to all mankind. “Recall when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House, praying, our lord, accept this from us, you are All Hearing, All knowing. Our Lord make us submissive to you and make out of our descendants a community that submits itself to you and show us the ways of your worship and turn to us in Mercy. You are Much-Relenting. Most Compassionate.” (Al Quran 2:128) There are reports, which take the Hajj further back in history and associate it with man’s first steps on this planet. As Qur’an has said “The first House (of Prayer) established for mankind is the one at Bakkah it is full of blessing and a center of guidance for the whole world.” (Al Quran 3:96) The barren hills and inhospitable valleys of Arfat, Muzdalifah, Mina and Mecca have undoubtedly been held in great awe and reverence from the depths of antiquity.

    Islam took Hajj back to its original form. The idols were completely abolished and the holy places were purified for worship of the one God, Allah. The various aspects of Hajj consequently regained their significance. The throwing of the pebbles (j’amarat), which is part of the ritual, ceased to be an adoration of an idol and became once more a symbol of resistance to temptation and full surrender to Allah. The tawf, which was in paganism homage to the numerous idols and the Black Stone, became in Islam an act of glorification of the one God of Abraham.

    http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/november-2010-alislam-egazette/1qhnnhcumbuyp/291#
    http://ukim.org/details/?id=72
    http://www.themuslimtimes.org/

  6. Zia H. Shah

    Black and White

    A black couple living in the U.K. were shocked by the birth of a blonde haired, blue-eyed girl.

    Ben Ihegboro must have briefly questioned his wife, Angela’s fidelity after the birth of Nmachi, and he conceded: “We both just sat there after the birth staring at her”.

    As there is no mixed race in either of the parents’ families, geneticists are baffled by the newborn’s surprise appearance.

    Nmachi is the couple’s third children with Dumebi, 2, and Chisom, 4, bearing a strong resemblance to their parents, and with doctors rejecting the possibility of the baby being albino. The real cause is unknown, with the only explanation being a ‘genetic quirk’.

    Professor Bryan Sykes, head of human genetics at Oxford University, described the birth as ‘extraordinary’. He said that for the baby to be completely white both Ben and Angela would need to have ‘some form of white ancestry.’ The explanation for this is that mixed race women carry some eggs containing genes for white skin and others for black; similarly men carry the same range of genes in their sperm.

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/07/20/black-parents-shocked-to-give-birth-to-white-baby-girl/?hpt=C2

  7. Zia H. Shah

    The Holy Quran does not prescribe stoning for any crime what so ever
    The Islamic republic of Iran’s London embassy issued a statement, saying “according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani will not be executed by stoning,” according to Britain’s Times daily.

    But the statement did not say whether the 43-year-old would be spared or executed by hanging instead, added the paper.

    Human rights group Amnesty International has said she was convicted in 2006 or 2007 and has previously received a flogging of 99 lashes.

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/44-iran-says-will-not-stone-woman-to-death-after-outcry-fa-03

    The United States and Britain have led global condemnation of the planned stoning execution. – AFP

  8. Zia H. Shah

    Former official executed by lethal injection
    CHONGQING – Wen Qiang, the former top justice official in the southwestern city of Chongqing, was executed on Wednesday July 7, 2010, for corruption.

    Wen, 55, was the highest ranking official among 100 caught in the city’s massive crackdown on violent gangs and the corrupt officials who protect them.

    The Municipal High People’s Court on May 21 rejected an appeal by Wen, who was sentenced to death by a lower court on April 14 for accepting bribes, shielding criminal gangs, rape and failing to account for both his cash and assets.

    Wen served as the city’s deputy police chief from 1992 to 2008 and later as the justice chief until he was arrested in September 2009.

    The death sentence had been forwarded to the Supreme People’s Court and was approved, according to a statement released by the Municipal High People’s Court at 10:45am on Wednesday.

    File photo, Wen Qiang, former top justice offi cial of Chongqing, was executed on Wednesday after being convicted for corruption and rape. [China Daily]

    The statement did not specify the time of execution, nor how the execution was to be carried out.

    Local media reported that Wen received a lethal injection.

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-07/08/content_10078791.htm

  9. Zia H. Shah

    Queen dedicates stone to Canada’s human rights museum

    The Queen has praised Canada’s commitment to preserving basic freedoms as she continues her tour of the country.

    During a visit to Winnipeg the Queen dedicated the corner stone of the country’s new human rights museum and attended a celebration concert.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/us_and_canada/10500850.stm

  10. Zia H. Shah

    Muslims for Peace

    This is a website describing the political and social philosophy of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:

    Love for all and hatred for none.

    http://muslimsforpeace.org/

    A minute and a half video clip on the topic:

  11. Zia H. Shah

    UN to set up agency promoting women’s rights

    The UN is to set up a single agency dedicated to promote the rights of women and girls around the world.

    The UN General Assembly voted in favour of the body after four years of negotiations.

    The new UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women will be referred to as UN Women, officials said.

    It will start work at the beginning of next year and unify four existing UN divisions dealing with women’s issues.

    “UN Women will significantly boost UN efforts to promote gender equality, expand opportunity and tackle discrimination around the globe,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

    Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro called the vote “historic”.

    The new body would for the first time give the UN a “single recognised driver” for the empowerment of women, Ms Migiro said.

    A new post of under-secretary general will be created to head the new body.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/us_and_canada/10496864.stm

  12. Zia H. Shah

    Freedom of Conscience and Expression in Islam

    By Nadeem Ahmad Siddiq – Canada
    BA, JD, LLM – Toronto

    Introduction
    In light of events of the past few years, notably, the publication of the cartoons in Denmark caricaturing the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) and the recently dismissed criminal prosecution for apostasy in Afghanistan, I will discuss freedom of conscience within the context of the Islamic legal view regarding: (1) freedom of expression, where I discuss the issue of blasphemy, and (2) freedom of religion, where I will discuss the issue of apostasy.

    Freedom of expression
    According to Western legal standards, freedom of expression or speech means the absence of restraint upon the ability of individuals or groups to com-municate their ideas to others, subject to the understanding that they do not in turn coerce others into listening or that they do not invade other rights essential to the dignity of individuals.i This freedom also connotes the freedom of the press and the ability to communicate ideas through words and pictures in order to reveal truth or to clarify or eliminate doubt. This is similar to the definition mentioned in the Holy Qur’an.
    Although the Qur’an does not explicitly state “thou shalt have freedom of expression”, it does place obligations on Muslims which presuppose this right. According to the Qur’an, the ultimate goal of all speech is to promote the discovery of truth and to uphold human dignity. One of God’s attributes is Al-Haqq (True and Right One), and all Muslims must endeavour to emulate this attribute by forwarding the cause of truth; tell the truth, even if it be unpleasant. (Al-Suyuti, I, p.111) Therefore, restrictions on freedom of speech and expression necessarily inhibit the discovery of truth and thus degrade humanity. For example:

    …So what would you love after discarding the truth except error… (Ch.10:V.33)

    This last verse signifies the one major restriction on freedom of speech, namely, when it is unseemly. Speech is unseemly or evil when it is obscene, immoral or hurtful. Evil speech interferes with the discovery of truth and thus violates human dignity. Therefore, restricting evil speech is justifiable on freedom of expression.

    Allah likes not the uttering of unseemly speech in public, except on the part of one who is being wronged… (Ch.4:V.49)

    However, even the most insulting type of speech, namely, blasphemy, is not criminally sanctioned and thus not restricted under Islamic law.

    http://www.reviewofreligions.org/2342/freedom-of-conscience-and-expression-in-islam/

  13. Zia H. Shah

    Jesus Christ’s saying about the human rights
    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

    Bible, Matthew 22.36-40.

  14. Zia H. Shah

    Caste census: Opening a Pandora’s box?
    So is caste, the complex social order which assigned people a place in the social hierarchy based on their occupation, poised to make a comeback in the Indian census? The government is making noises that it will agree to a demand by a host of caste-based regional parties to include it in the census, 80 years after it was dropped; and the media is abuzz with reports that a formal announcement will be made soon.

    It is still unclear how the government plans to go about the caste headcount. Affirmative action in areas like work and education is often used to help caste groups seen as disadvantaged. So how do you ensure that people don’t lie about their caste so they can claim such benefits? As I wrote in a previous post, there is no way of knowing whether someone has lied about their caste by dropping a surname or committing fraud. Checking such claims may take years.

    More importantly, the reintroduction of caste in the census is certain to trigger off a larger debate on whether it is necessary at all. Most people agree that caste is the most regressive feature of India’s social system. It is repressive, reinforces hierarchy and breeds inequity.

    Some analysts feel a proper count of members of the country’s caste groups would help the government target affirmative action benefits better. They cite the substantial example of the lower caste group also known as Other Backward Castes – or OBCs in official language – who receive some of the most controversial benefits. In the absence of current data, official estimates suggest this group includes anywhere from 37%-52% of the population. For example, in southern Tamil Nadu state, more than half the population are OBCs, way over the federal government’s cap that quotas should not exceed 50% of the population.

    At the same time, as another Dalit writer Meena Kandasamy eloquently says: “The readiness to destroy caste requires us to destroy a part of ourselves… finally it will culminate in the end of imagined or assumed inferiorities and superiorities.” It takes a “personal rebellion” to defy caste, she says. I suspect that the million such mutinies are maybe brewing already. Could India one day be truly meritocratic and caste-free, with thriving inter-caste marriages and no caste ghettos in towns and villages?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/

  15. Zia H. Shah

    A Message of Peace
    Paigham-e-Sulh (A Message of Peace) is the last written work of the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It was completed on May 25, 1908—just a day before his demise. The citizens of Lahore, present day Pakistan, were the primary audience for this address; however, its subject matter is in no way confined to them alone and is of vital importance to the entire population of the world. The general principles laid down in the work are applicable to all countries which host multiple religions.
    The Messiah passed away on May 26, 1908. The address was read out on his behalf at a conference held on June 21, 1908 at the Punjab University, Lahore for which it was intended. The book lays down the principles of human compassion and religious tolerance. He wrote in this booklet:

    A religion which does not inculcate universal compassion is no religion at all. Similarly, a human being without the faculty of compassion is no human at all. Our God has never discriminated between one people and another. This is illustrated by the fact that all the potentials and capabilities which have been granted to the Aryans have also been granted to the races inhabiting Arabia, Persia, Syria, China, Japan, Europe and America. The earth created by God provides a common floor for all people alike, and His sun and moon and many stars are a source of radiance and provide many other benefits to all alike. Likewise, all peoples benefit from the elements created by Him, such as air, water, fire and earth, and similarly from other products created by Him like grain, fruit, and healing agents, etc. These attributes of God teach us the lesson that we, too, should behave magnanimously and kindly towards our fellow human beings and should not be petty of heart and illiberal.

    To read the booklet go to:

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Message-of-Peace.pdf

  16. Zia H. Shah

    INDONESIA: RELIGIOUS GROUPS AT ODDS OVER BLASPHEMY LAW
    Several NGOs and promoters of pluralism have requested the Constitutional Court review several articles they believe discriminate against certain religious groups, specifically minority groups that have been denied their right to practice their beliefs.

    The five contentious articles, they said, involved the government’s authority to dissolve religious groups whose beliefs and practices were deemed blasphemous by religious authorities, such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the Religious Affairs Ministry.

    Under the law, the government also has the authority to charge leaders and followers of suspected heretical groups.

    Article 1 of the law stipulates that it is illegal to “intentionally publicize, recommend or organize public support for a different interpretation of a religion practiced in Indonesia or a religious ritual resembling that of another religion”.

    It is also states that “practising an interpretation of a religion that deviates from the core of that religion’s teachings” is illegal.

    Benny argued the article had the potential to trigger conflict, citing the expulsion of the Ahmadiyah congregation that led to it being officially banned by the government as a clear example of how the
    law could be used to persecute certain groups.

    The Ahmadis have seen their mosques burned down in recent years and some of them are now living as refugees after the MUI declared their beliefs contrary and blasphemous to the “true” teachings of Islam.

    “It is dangerous if a religious interpretation that is different from mainstream views is regarded as blasphemous.

    “As long as those religious sects are not preaching violence or duping their followers, they have right to have their own interpretations,” Benny said.

    http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/02/04/militant-groups-ready-defend-controversial-law.html

  17. Zia H. Shah

    The Holy Quran and one human family
    The verse 14 of chapter 49 of the Holy Quran states:

    “O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.”

    Here Allah is putting all humans in one family. There is mention of, or address to the believers, 5 times before in this very chapter but when it came to this verse, Allah has chosen the start of ‘O mankind,’ rather than ‘O those who Believe.’ There is clearly an invitation to the whole mankind that we all are a part of one human family!

  18. Zia H. Shah

    Also see my articles about Umar Farooq, may Allah be pleased with him.

  19. Zia H. Shah

    So says the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani

    I want to make it clear to Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Aryas, that I have no enemy. I love all men as a merciful mother loves her children. Nay more. I am enemy only of false beliefs, beliefs subversive of truth. To sympathize with all humans is my duty and to preach against falsehood, disloyalty to God, tyranny, evil conduct, injustice, immorality is my mission.

    My motive for this height of sympathy is that I have discovered a gold mine, have had access to an unlimited supply of precious stones. In the mine I have found a bright and priceless jewel. So priceless that if I divide it between all of my fellow men, every one of them will become richer than the richest among them in gold and silver. What is this jewel? It is the true God. To reach Him is to know Him, to become really aware of Him, to have true faith in Him, to be united with Him in true love. To receive true blessings from Him in return. Having found such a priceless treasure it will be cruel on my part if I let not my fellow-men know about it. Could I let them go hungry while I have plenty. No, it will not be so, while I can help. My heart burns over their want and hunger. My soul becomes depressed over their dark and straitened existence. I want to see their homes filled with riches divine. I want to see them full with faith and truth. Full to capacity.

    (Arbain No. 1, pg. 2-3)

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