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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Update on the Goldstone Report!

On Friday (26 February), the United Nations' General Assembly passed, by 98 to 7, a resolution "put forward by Muslim countries that once again urges the two sides to undertake independent investigations into allegations of war crimes raised by the Goldstone Report last year". Ban Ki-Moon, the UN's secretary general, has been asked to report back to the assembly "within a period of five months on the implementation of the present resolution, with a view to the consideration of further action".

According to The National, the previous deadline for independent investigations passed in February with Mr. Ban acknowledging that he could not determine whether each side had fulfilled its obligations.

While many have sharply criticized Mr. Ban's 'inaction' - I can agree that I am disappointed that the deadline was not met, though I will decline to comment about Mr. Ban - some progress is better than no progress at all!

Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, said on Thursday that further delay would only lessen the likelihood of any war criminals being held accountable. "The delays remove the reality of what happened in Gaza from the collective memory of world society".

Riyad Mansour, the PLO's representative to the UN, however, rejected this criticism and said that the process was a long one. "The Goldstone report is like a bulldozer and it is moving. Sometimes it is moving fast, sometimes is is moving slow."

According to Geroge Giacaman, a Ramallah-based analyst, the next five months will thus probably prove "crucial", though not necessarily for any outcome of investigations. He said, "Israel will use this time to lobby governments against taking any action on the Goldstone report. This, is much better equipped to do than the Palestinian side. It is nevertheless an open contest because the Palestinian side, in urging that action be taken, will be joined by human rights organizations from across the world."

The Goldstone report is not yet "dead and buried", he said, but the next five months will determine is faith.

Iran attempts to defends its human rights records at the UN

I am a little behind in reporting this 'tid bit', but I wanted to put it out there before it was completely old news. Also, withe the Human Rights Council's March session starting tomorrow (March 1st-26th), it is very relevant.

On February 15th, Iran "brushed aside allegations that it has resorted to torture, executions and mass detentions to crush political opposition" and "made a defiant appearance" before the UN Human Rights Council, saying that it promoted and defended human rights and that Western critics were "exploiting the issue for political ends". Mohammad Larijani, secretary general of Iran's High council for Human Rights, told the Council, when it was conducting its first review of the country (Universal Periodic Review (UPR)), that Iran is "in full compliance with the relevant international commitments it has taken on in a genuine and long-term approach to safeguard human rights".

Peter Gooderham, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, called on Iran to invite Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to investigate post-election violence and assess the state of human rights and accept a visit by Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights

In his statement to the Council, Mr. Larijani said that Iran had fully cooperated with the United Nations' human rights mechanisms and had invited Ms. Pillay to visit the country. Ms. Pillay's spokesman, Rupert Colville, confirmed this issuance and that stated that Ms. Pillay had responded that she would be unable to visit before 2011 and suggested that a team from her office be allowed to visit Iran first. Mr. Larijani has reportedly not yet responded to the suggestion. (Note that no Human Rights Council official has visited the country since 2005 and numerous requests from special investigators have remained unanswered.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grim News from Burma

On Friday, Burma's Supreme Court rejected pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal to overturn her house arrest. 

Last August, following an incident in which an uninvited American, John Yettaw, stayed at her house, Aung San Suu Kyi was accused by Burma's ruling military junta of breaching the terms of her house arrest and thus extended it by 18 months.

According to CNN, Suu Kyi, 64, has one final avenue for appeal to a special court. However, not to be pessimistic or anything, but I am somewhat doubting that this road will be met with success. Perhaps, if it is actually held, after the elections, there might be hope for her then. And I do hope! 

Suu Kyi has spent more than 11 of the past 19 years in some form of detention under Burma's military regime.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Iraq, Can a true democracy exist without freedom of the press?

According to The Washington Post, Iraqi lawmakers have not yet passed legislation to enforce freedom of the press guaranteed by the 2005 constitution, while a commission the report to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently unveiled guidelines that present "an alarming return to authoritarian" - last month Iraq's Communications and Media Commission prohibit journalists from withholding the names of sources and threaten action against those who publish information that incites violence.

Before the war, journalists were able to publish controversial stories if they could provide evidence. However now, in more recent years, as political competition has intensified, litigation against journalists has amplified. Violence has been reverted to in attempts to hinder journalists. For instance, journalist Imad Abadi was shot at in the head after publishing articles about government corruption. In a nutshell, there is no freedom of the press.

If the world was already concerned about Iraq's future, given Iraq's election campaign delay (Iraq's electoral commission delayed the start of campaigning for next month's parliamentary elections following a court decision to overturn a ban on candidates barred because of alleged affiliations with Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party.), a definite blow to election credibility, what do you think now? 

Also note the withdrawal of Saleh al Mutlaq and his party from Iraq's election, and his call to boycott the Iraq election. 

Can a true democracy (assuming that is the goal) exist without freedom of the press? Personally I think not.

New Release! Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela

On Wednesday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a report entitled Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela. The report effectively charges Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government with various human rights abuses, including penalizing opposition media, politicians and protesters and wielding powerful influence over the country's judiciary.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another notch on the 'bedpost' against human rights in China

China's Ministry of Education has "ordered colleagues to cut ties with Oxfam and prevent it form recruiting on campuses, accusing Oxfam's Hong Kong branch of a hidden political agenda - seeking to infiltrate the mainland". 

According to The Guardian, the notice appears to refer to an internship programme started in 2006 that has placed 40 students working at the NGOs into sectors such as supporting migrant workers. Charlotte Kong, communications manager of Oxfam Hong Kong, said the project was part of its broader attempts to contribute to the development of civil society. Kong said in a statement, "We believe it is in line with the central government's policies encouraging more students to enter the field of social work. In the past four years we never received any warning that this programme was sensitive."  

Although some officials have reportedly sought to encourage the development of NGOs and welcomed their potential to complement the work of the state, Beijing remains wary of the country's emerging civil society and its potential to challenge the government. Domestic groups often register themselves as companies because of the difficulties in establishing themselves legally. Foreign organizations also operate under tight restrictions. 

As civil society continues to develop independently of the state, Beijing remains distrustful, suspicious and largely apprehensive. While this action on the part of the Chinese government may seem like an overreaction, its logic is comprehensible. Beijing fears any potential challenge to the government. Another notich on the 'bedpost' against human rights in China.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Egypt: Preferential Treatment? Or Just Low-Priority?

According to TIME, while the U.S. government has not reserved its judgment on Iran over its human-rights record, it has avoided criticism of Egypt, Washington’s biggest Arab ally in the region, when it “exercises similar bad behavior”.

Preferential Treatment? Or Just Low-Priority?

“For Egypt, which receives an annual $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, the equivalent of Iran's election drama hasn't unfolded yet. Parliamentary elections are still several months away, and presidential elections aren't slated until next year. But there are signs of an imminent crackdown on opposition groups. U.S. silence on the issue suggests that Cairo may be able to avoid the international spotlight in a way that Tehran did not. “

On Feb. 8, for example, Egyptian security forces arrested 16 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most popular opposition group. The government does not seem to "want them participating in legislative elections or syndicate elections or generally," and it would rather see the Brotherhood "withdraw."

Analysts reportedly say the 2005 electoral reforms that allowed for such a large Brotherhood win were induced, at least in some part, by pressure from the Bush Administration — a policy that many say strained relations between the two countries. The new U.S. Administration is playing its cards differently. Michele Dunne, editor of the Arab Reform Bulletin at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, contends that the first round of the parliamentary elections in 2005 constituted the freest and most transparent election Egypt has ever experienced. But, Dunne adds, "Up till now, I see very little interest on the part of the Obama Administration in raising these issues."

Egypt ranks low on the Obama Administration's list of regional priorities. The war in Iraq, the Arab-Israeli peace process and a growing al-Qaeda threat in Yemen are all outranking concerns. And the Administration has also sought to distance itself from some of the more aggressive policies of its predecessor, which Dunne says damaged bilateral relations with important allies like Egypt. "But I don't think they realize that there is real, observable backward movement when it comes to democratization and human rights in Egypt right now," she says. "And I think that the Obama Administration is going to bear some of the blame for this if they don't get engaged in these issues. Read more here.

So what do you think? Preferential treatment or is Iran just a higher priority to the U.S.? Moreover, where do you think this leaves Egypt? I suppose we will have to wait to see what the future holds! Hopefully Taha Ali, a political analyst at the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, a Cairo NGO, is correct and "this time, we're going to see the parliamentary election in the upcoming period, so it's a historical moment for the regime and the Brotherhood." I am somewhat dubious, however, as to whether this will be the outcome. Politics! We will see.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Australia to Join the Ranks

So it seems Australia now plans to fingerprint and face-scan visitors from about 10 high-risk countries in attempts to combat extremism. The countries are yet to be identified.  

According to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, "Terrorism continues to pose a serious threat and a serious challenge to Australia's security interests. That threat is not diminishing."

"In fact, the government security intelligence agencies assess that terrorism has become a persistent and permanent feature of Australia's security environment. These agencies warn that an attack could occur at any time."

I cannot say I anticipate being face-scanned, however I still stand by my belief that security trumps human rights.

Going too far or do you feel safer?

Israel breaches citizens' rights?

The Identities of EU Citizens were Stolen
In light of the fraudulent EU passports used to assassinate Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, the EU has both condemned their use and declared the assassination as “profoundly disturbing” and its citizens’ rights as violated. What do you think? Share your thoughts!

Note: the Israeli agents who carried out the killing forged the identities of 11 people, traveling on British, Irish, French and German passports. For a greater understanding of the issue, read here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Has the Islamic debate in France crossed the line?

It seems that the debate over French identity and I believe the concern over religion in France, Islam in particular has turned a corner. Though, when I say “turned a corner”, I do not mean in a good/positive way by any means.

The French are now debating over halal burgers?! I mean really. After disputing burqas and Muslim rights and France’s national identity, French politicians are actually taking on the burger.

The French fast food chain, Quick, has decided to serve only halal meat in eight restaurants (Please note that this is 8 out of 362 in neighborhoods that are predominantly Muslim.) with a strong Muslim clientele. This has seemingly “sparked a wave of criticism from politicians decrying the step as unacceptable”.  The whole idea of a business like this is to serve the customer, no? I.e., create good business?  While the rational side of me can slightly grasp the idea, I am not sure I understand how or even why this is unacceptable.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, “to many Frenchmen, a halal Quick seems odd and perhaps not quite right in a society where religion should not stand out in ordinary life, under the strictly secular principles of laicite, or separation of church and state. As with the burqa question, support for secular France are found on the socialist left and strongly on the right, as well.” According to socialists, this new policy is discriminatory. “Quick customers should be able to order what is on the menu”, said socialist mayor of Roubaix, Rene Vandierendonck. Luc Chatel, the Sarkozy government spokesman in Paris, said he opposed halal Quicks since they supported ‘communitarianism’, a French term for identifying with a particular ethnic or religious group rather than egalitarian principles of the republic., a Muslim consumer website, shot back, saying that irrespective of the merits of the case, Muslims were being unfairly targeted: "Would there have been as many media reactions if, instead of halal, Quick had chosen another niche, like bio [or organic whole foods]? Would a theme Quick with only Mexican or Chinese menus get such media reaction? No, of course not.”

In a statement issued Thursday, Quick France says the decision to go pork-less “is not religious” and notes that the eight restaurants are not authentically halal, since beer is also served there. In the eight, smoked turkey is substituted for bacon in what would ordinarily be a bacon burger. Note that Kentucky Fried Chicken apparently already sells halal chicken in France, though does so with no advertising.

I really just wonder if they are going too far this time. That is my concern.


Today’s BBC News revealed that Saudi Arabia is planning to bring in a new law to allow women lawyers to argue cases in court for the first time.”

While I do not want to preach about human rights nor do I seek to criticize a system that revolves around tradition, I do believe this is quite a big step with regards to women’s rights. The woman is coming to the forefront. Restrictions are being eased.  I believe this is all positive news.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Timothy Bayl Reports on the 7th Session of the Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council that aims to improve the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 192 U.N. Member States. Having started only recently, in April 2008, the Working Group on the UPR has reviewed the human rights practices of half of the 192 States during its first 6 sessions, and will continue in reviewing all States in the world once every four years. When the UPR completes its first four-year cycle in December 2011, all UN member States will have been reviewed under this human rights mechanism.
The 16 States under review in this session are Qatar, Nicaragua, Italy, El Salvador, Gambia, Bolivia, Fiji, San Marino, Kazakhstan, Angola, Iran, Madagascar, Iraq, Slovenia, Egypt and finally Bosnia and Herzegovina. More information about the reviews of these States can be found on the UPR page of the OHCHR extranet, some information is also available on the OHCHR website.
Each review consists of
  1. a National Report, prepared by the State under review;
  2. a Compilation Report, prepared by the OHCHR on “information contained in the reports of treaty bodies, special procedures, including observations and comments by the State concerned, and other relevant official United Nations documents" (Resolution A/HRC/5/1); and
  3. a Summary Report, prepared by the OHCHR based on all information on the human rights situation of the State under review sent to them by “other relevant stakeholders to the UPR” such as NGOs with or without U.N. Consultative status as well as local associations, for which the submission deadline is generally six to eight months before the relevant session of the UPR.
The result of each review is published in the form of a report containing the summary of the interactive dialogue that takes place during each review, responses by the State under review, recommendations by other States and voluntary commitments by the State under review. 

Check Human Rights Nexus website regularly for updates on the 7th Session of the Universal Periodic Review, 8-19 February 2010. The Session is also webcast live.

Special Report by Timothy Bayl on the 4th Session of the Human Right Council Advisory Committee, 25-29 January 2010

The Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council met from 25-29 January to discuss topics as requested of it by the Human Rights Council. These requests were regarding: human rights education and training; the right to food; human rights of women; the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; missing persons; human rights of persons with disabilities; the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members; and human rights and international solidarity. The week-long meeting produced a number of recommendations to the Human Rights Council that were adopted at the end of the session. 

Discussions on first day of the meeting focused on the draft declaration on human rights education and training, with a large amount of debate on the nuances of translations both of the draft declaration and on the wording of the theme "education and training" itself, referred to as "education and learning" in the mandate of the Human Rights Council. See paragraph 16 of the working paper on the draft declaration for a discussion on wording. The Rapporteur of the Working Group on the draft declaration stated that the end of the technical phase had been reached and that the political phase is now underway with the document to be considered at the 13th Session of the Council in March. More discussions on human rights education and training will be available on our website soon. In the mean time, feel free to check out the human rights education and training page of the OHCHR website and the website of Human Rights Education Associates (HREA).

In their consideration of discrimination in the context of the right to food, the Advisory Committee requested for views and comments on the good practices and anti-discriminatory policies and strategies set out in the preliminary study to address discrimination in the context of the right to food of vulnerable individuals and groups. The Advisory Committee also expressed its desire for a study on the rights of peasants, particularly rural women, and other people living in rural areas, including those engaged in traditional fishing, hunting and herding activities to be requested of it.

Further recommendations called for a revised draft set of principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members to be considered at the next Advisory Committee session.  It was also recommended that the Council to take note of the Advisory Committee's progress report on best practices in the matter of missing persons and that a member of the Advisory Committee to attend the second expert consultation on the issue of protecting the human rights of civilians in armed conflict in preparation for a study with potential recommendations on this question. Finally, the Advisory Committee expressed its hope that they be entrusted with preparing a study on the application and comprehensiveness of existing UN human rights instruments in regards to older persons.

See the OHCHR website for more information and documentation or news items on the 4th Session of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.

Special Report by Timothy Bayl on the 6th session of the High-Level Task Force on the Implementation of the Right to Development, 14 - 22 January, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

The High-Level Task Force on the Implementation of the Right to Development recently completed its 6th session at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, focusing on refining the right to development criteria in relation to Millennium Development Goal 8, in particular on access to essential medicines, technology transfer and debt relief. The mandated objective of the task force is to provide expertise to the Working Group on the Right to Development so that it may make appropriate recommendations to various actors on issues significant for the implementation of the right to development. In addition to its institutional members - the World Bank, IMF, WTO, UNDP, UNCTAD and UNESCO, the institutions responsible for relevant global partnerships were also invited to the meeting.
In opening the session, the Task Force highlighted the need for the Right to Development to be mainstreamed in policy at local, national, regional and international levels, an intention reiterated by many Member States. The session continued with reports and presentations from the number of consultations made with the range of programme partners such as WHO, The Global Fund, WIPO, UNFCCC, The World Bank, IMF as well as the Center for International Environment Law (CIEL). More information and documentation is available on webpage of the Task Force's 6th Session.
The meeting was also presented with a consultant report on right to development criteria (which can be accessed here) and the corresponding operational sub-criteria authored by a Human Rights and Development academic and a Development Economics academic, which led to some participants of the meeting to comment on the problematic issue of how to measure the implementation of the Right to Development.
Following each presentation and report, there was an encouraging amount of dialogue between the Task Force, its institutional members and observers and the representative or expert presenting their findings. The Task Force had five days of the seven-day meeting scheduled for drafting their findings and recommendations. The outcome of this 6th session will be submitted to the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development for consideration at its next session in early April 2010.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Celebration of Valentine's Day, Interview with Ms. Angela Li Rosi, UNHCR Senior Policy Advisor

At the end of 2009, I got the chance to sit down with Ms. Angela Li Rosi, a UNHCR Senior Policy Advisor, to talk about current issues facing refugees and trends in attitudes towards refugees from the states in which they live.

1) What do you think are the major issues and problems that the international community is facing right now in respect to refugees?

What has happened since 9/11 has affected the way states deal with refugees. As a consequence, today, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are generally seen as a threat to security. In this context, states are debating on whether they should or should not tell asylum seeks to seek asylum elsewhere. Developed countries are controlling their borders more stringently and, consequently, access has become more difficult. People who arrive spontaneously are no longer able to access developed countries unless they use illegal channels, like smugglers or traffickers.

In this way, the main challenge for the international community concerns the identification of refugees, the movement of mixed migrants who move for different reasons, and being able to assist them once identified. The debate right now is in trying to analyze the reason for movement from the moment of flight and assessing the reasons for stopping in certain countries.

2) What do you think are the major concerns of the High Commissioner right now? And what do you think are the difficulties that the office is encountering in insuring that their rights are upheld?

The protection space is shrinking and, in seeking to preserve that space in the context of combating terrorism, trafficking, and illegal migration, states are clamping down on irregular migration and smugglers. That is the main concern. However, of course there are wider concerns regarding how to work with other agencies in the states in making sure that what we call stranded migrants are protected, as they may be being exploited during the movement or having difficulties. How do we tackle that gap? The High Commissioner is trying to see how we can be a bit more cooperative with others and how can we try together to find a way to address all the different needs of all the different categories. This is quite a challenge because it dredges up the old issue of who is responsible for what.

3) How do you currently perceive states’ attitudes with regards to refugees? Do you think these attitudes can have a negative impact on refugee rights?

With regards to refugees, attitudes have changed. They are less tolerance towards refugees, and maybe less understanding of the refugee problems. The impact of these attitudes depends on the context. For instance, Xenophobia is rampant in Eastern Europe and parts of North Africa. This has a huge impact because, while there may be provisions and assistance for refugees, most of the time refugees are denied access to a territory or even to services in that territory and the right to seek asylum; they are frequently sent back to a place where their life is threatened. Although we do not have evidence to support this claim, the economic crisis is having a major impact in Eastern Europe. We are already seeing many coming back to Russia from the Central Asian Republic and other areas where they used to work. This, in turn, is affecting the informal labor market because that is usually where most of the refugees in Eastern Europe would find ways of surviving. Now we see more police raids and checks, and sometimes even those who already have refugee status have difficulty renewing their permits.

We also see industrialized states being less and less welcoming. For example, with regards to minors and children, they don’t have the same approach as before. They check the children’s age to make sure they are not 18, and then, if they are minors, the minors are allowed to stay until they are 18 and then, when it is legal to do so, they are sent them back to their country of origin. This occurs because when a child is under 18 there are certain protections and rights that apply to children across the board. This is more evident now than before, largely because more and more children are arriving in Europe; this is also an issue in the US.

4) What trends do you foresee in the future with respect to refugees and attitudes towards refugees, especially from the perspective of receiving countries?

The criteria will be more restrictive. Countries may be more inclined to provide temporary protection, also known as subsidiary protection in Europe. Temporary protection basically entails protection under human rights treaties, as opposed to under the refugee convention, because the individual does not qualify under the five criteria of the refugee convention. States are able to review this status much faster and more regularly, and eventually send people back. These days, states are much less inclined to provide refugee status because of the general implications, financial implications and long-term implications, and because people are more protected under refugee status than under humanitarian status or others.

5) At the Expert Seminar on “Linking Human Rights and Migrant Empowerment for Development” you mentioned the necessity for the inclusion, protection, and acceptance of refugees and others of concern by states and the local population. Taking these attitudes into account, how do you see this issue being addressed? How doe UNHCR aim to tackle this issue?

We could be a bit more proactive. UNHCR has not been as good in public awareness on the refugee cause. The term, ‘refugee’, is a very abstract. Those not in the business might not fully understand what it means. We haven’t been able to get both the governments and public opinion closer to what it means to be a refugee and what exactly the issue is there.

Media can be used as a tool, both positive and negative, as it is quite influential. In Europe, for example, it has political colors. It is used as a mechanism against illegal migrants and foreigners who come and ‘snatch the jobs’ from the citizens. In this way, for the most part, the media has not been helpful in presenting a message that would make civil society more supportive of refugees. That said, it is a two way street. Maybe UNHCR has not been able to get through to the media in a way that would make it more supportive.

6) At the Expert Seminar you also mentioned some of the major obstacles concerning refugees right now, like lack of knowledge of local language and culture and discriminatory and negative attitudes towards foreigners. How is UNHCR attempting to tackle these challenges?

There are major obstacles for refugee integration. Even when legislation exists, such as providing language training or other certain services provided to the refugees, most of the time the practices on the ground are completely different than what the legislation dictates, usually for discriminatory purposes. Also, some countries have different approaches. In Europe some are great at integration, for example the Nordic countries, while others should have the same type of legislation, at least on paper, and should be able to do the same, but do not. Greece is an example, however it is not only Greece. Most of the central European area is much less tolerant, largely because it is not in their cultural traditions. The mentality of dependency, the view that we will feed you and provide you services but that you should not be there and should not be an active participant in society, still presides. In this perspective, instead of capacitating the refugees and making them self reliant, they prefer to subsidize the system. Moreover, it is not only an issue of cultural approaches, but an issue of funding and lack of resources as well. The resources you have in Sweden are not comparable to those that you have in other countries, like Romania for example. It is a combination of factors that vary across the board.

Perception is one of the broader themes that UNHCR cannot tackle alone. A state cannot say that someone is entering illegally. A state can say that someone is entering irregularly, but that doesn’t make him illegal. Nevertheless, there is a fine less between illegal and regular migrants, and thus states use the term, illegal migrant, to give this negative perception. If one looks at the figures, one will find that the number of those entering in an irregular manner is quite small, especially compared to those who overstay their visas. But, this is not publicized.

It is public perception that counts the most. The average person does not know the difference between an economic migrant, illegal or regular migrant, and refugee. But, irrespective of that, freedom of movement and the right to seek a better life should be taken into consideration. This does not necessarily mean that everyone should be allowed to enter, but there should be more opportunity to immigrate. At the moment, there are not many opportunities. The only big countries with who have traditionally been countries of immigration are the United States, Canada, and Australia, all of which have very sophisticated systems of immigration. It is a wider and bigger issue than just the refugee problem. In fact, refugees would not be an issue at all. They are only a tiny percentage of the movement and the migratory flows. But, they make for good headlines.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Need to Tread Carefully

In light of my recent post on the banning of veils in France, I thought I would write a follow-up piece on the far reaching consequences of this ban, or potential ban. It is more than just an issue of human rights.

It seems that in Pakistan, Conservative Sunni activism has reemerged in the heart of Pakistan. The Washington Post reports that “In recent weeks, even as conservative Sunnis have targeted Muslim minorities, they have also launched a high-profile campaign against Western European laws and practices that they allege are anti-Muslim. They have held peaceful rallies in downtown Lahore, met with journalists and sent delegations to the provincial legislature. Their movement opposes recent bans on veils in Denmark, a prohibition on new minaret and the republishing of controversial.” 

While I do not seek to address this movement, I do mean to insinuate that these actions by Western governments are forms of discrimination against minority Muslim communities. Moreover, they can potentially feed Islamic extremism.  

"We are against terrorism and the Taliban, and we don't want any conflict with other religions, but the West is playing with our emotions and trying to destroy the peace. They are the real terrorists," said Asim Makhdoom, a cleric from the Jamiat-e-Islami party, who preached against the cartoons and other European actions at a mosque one recent Friday.

"We believe this is the right time for Muslims across Pakistan and around the world to stand up and show they will not tolerate disrespect," Khalid Hafiz, a political adviser to cleric Hafiz Saeed, the spiritual leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, said in a recent interview; the group is affiliated with the anti-Indian insurgent militia known as Lashkar-e-Taiba and was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and banned by Pakistan several years ago.

According to the Washington Post, “In raising alarms against anti-Muslim discrimination abroad, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its allies have chosen a distant cause that resonates with Pakistanis nationwide. People here were outraged when a Danish newspaper first published the offending cartoons several years ago, and a TV talk show recently featured two veiled women calling for European governments to "respect civil liberties" and curb "Islamophobia”.”

There is a need to tread carefully.  

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