By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
When a person calls the other a ‘racist’ there should be some discrimination on grounds of caste, colour, creed, sex, disability, family status, etc., challenging the principle of equality as enunciated in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Racism is the foundation for racial discrimination. Therefore different rules and standards cannot apply to individuals on their presumed identity.
The UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights address its concern in connection with the principles of equality. One of the undertakings of the International Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination is to prohibit and put an end to racial discrimination by persons, groups and organizations and also to prohibit organizations and propaganda that promote racial superiority, racial hatred, racial violence or racial discrimination.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ensures the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion opinion and expression and of peaceful assembly and association.
Moreover, the Declaration of Human Rights by Article 18 states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Upon an examination of the UN Charter, Universal Declarations and Conventions it is obvious the civil society expects every religion to comply with such provisions and avoid the use of violence. The concept of non-violence which stands as the core of many religions is given prominence in those International Declarations and Conventions. The principles of Equality enunciated in the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights coupled with the undertakings of the International Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination endorse that the principle of compassion and kindness should lie at the heart of all religions. The basic principles of the UN Charter shows that every country is under a moral obligation to promote and encourage universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms without discrimination as to race, sex, language or religion. Embracing a faith of one’s choice is a human right as well as a fundamental freedom which should be guaranteed. Since the freedom of religion or belief contribute to the attainment of the goals of universal peace, social justice and friendship among all the peoples, any ideologies that promote discrimination by means of barbarity should be eliminated. It has become essential to promote understanding, tolerance and respect in connection with the freedom of religion or belief and for those purposes such freedom of religions that shows consistency with the Charter of the United Nations should be ensured and guaranteed. Hence the dignity and equality inherent in all beings should not be tainted with the doctrine of violence which stands as its core of any religion.
When the Islamic terrorists Organizations such as Al-Qaeda, Al-Jihad, ISIS and other Islamic Organizations in South Asian countries are driven by radical ideology and call all peace-loving Muslims for the implementation of those barbaric ideologies such as beheading, stoning to death, chopping hands and limbs, enslaving teenage girls, crucifying of Christians, etc., then it is deemed that such barbaric acts reflect their radical ideology of hatred and oppression and even murder as against the democratic principle of equality. The element of showing compassion and kindness to fellow citizens is overshadowed. If such radical ideologies are condemned or criticized, the Islamic-affiliated group of people begin to cast slogans such as racists, bigots, Islamophobe, etc without any criteria. The vital issue is when they cast slogans ‘racist’, it is essential to determine whether Muslim is a race. The word ‘Muslim” is an Arabic word which means ‘one who submits to God’. Likewise everyone in their respective religion also submits to God. But Muslim is not a race, but an Islamic-affiliated group of people. A race is determined by the language and not by religionists. Similarly there are Buddhist-affiliated group of people, Hindu-affiliated group of people, Christianity-affiliated group of people, Catholicism-affiliated group of people, etc. The Islamic terrorists failed to realize that the peace-loving Islamic affiliated groups left their mother countries to seek refuge in Western democratic countries to live in peace and harmony with other religious-affiliated individuals or groups. Yet if the Islamic terrorists are driven by such radical ideology and call all peace-loving Muslims for the implementation of those aforesaid barbaric ideologies, then it is an indication that their tentacles stretches towards their religious affiliated groups to inflict harm on the Western democratic countries in defiance of the UN Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights.
Since the issue of race, religion and country are inter-twined, the allegation of discrimination as to race and religion becomes a complex issue, if the individual calls himself by the religious affiliation instead of his nationality. The values and beliefs that are embraced should form as an ideology in compliance with the United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a positive approach in shaping the vision of life of an individual for the contribution towards the betterment of the world and not for destruction.
The crux of the problem is that the people should address themselves by the country they belonged to and not by religion. Religion refers to individuals or groups engaged in religious tradition and should not mix it with nationality. Since religion is a personal matter, it automatically becomes a secondary issue and in its stead, country is given priority. There can be a number of religious-affiliated individuals or groups in a country. In many countries there are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Catholics, etc., but they stick to their nationality and call themselves either as British, French, Indian, Canadian, German, American, Swiss, Dutch, Danish, etc. depending on the country where they reside, because they are aware of the difference between the religious-affiliated group and race when it comes to nationality. Nationality takes precedence over religion. Race is not determined by the religion he or she embraces according to his or her choice, because it is his or her inherent right. If any religion states that if anyone departs from it and embrace another faith, it is his right and freedom. As such it is unfair on the part of Muslim Congress leader, Rauff Hakeem to insist for a ‘Muslim Administrative Unit for the Muslims in the Eastern Province’ if North-East Province is to be merged because it undermines the concept of ‘nationality’ and thus becomes detrimental to Sri Lanka and to all democratic countries. Both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithiripala Sirisena as Presidential candidates will have to answer the people on this issue. Every religion should comply with the provisions of the UN Charter & the Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore Islamic-affiliated group of people should stand up and give utmost importance to the country where they live. If this attitude is demonstrated by everyone, savage ideologies will just disappear automatically.
Since the idea behind the prayer of all religions is to develop compassion and loving kindness to all, the principle of compassion and kindness lies at the heart of every religion. The practice of compassion and abstinence from causing harm to others are central tenets of all religions. Compassion indicates sharing of suffering. Jesus Christ’s assertion ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ sends the message of compassion instead of developing hatred. Jesus suffered for the lives of others. Likewise there are similar aspects of sufferings for others are found in in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and in other religions. Compassion which implies alleviation of the sufferings of our fellow citizens, have become a must. But the Islamic doctrine of permanent hostility against the unbelievers has been instrumental for the death of millions of people since its invasions to other countries. The reason for such a large number of deaths can be attributed to the Quran which states ‘Fight them until idolatry is no more and religion belongs to Allah (2:193) and ‘Enmity and Hate shall reign between us until ye believe in Allah alone’ (60:4). Revelations are not confined to Islam alone, but found in every religion. It is unfortunate that these extremists failed to realize that religion is a relationship between God and an individual, as every individual is a soul which emanates from the Supreme Soul known as God.
Discrimination is in relation to race, colour, age, sex, language, family status, disability and creed. However ‘creed’ is interpreted to mean ‘religious creed’ by the Human Rights Commission. But ‘Creed’ does not extend to religions that incite hatred or violence against others. One of the Rights to equal treatment is that no person can force another to accept or comply with religious beliefs or practices. This is the underlying idea behind the concept of ‘discrimination’. But when there is a clear discrimination on the issue of embracing other faith other than Islam, which appear to be departure from Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights. There are no punishments for embracing from one religion to other or even if they criticize their religion in non-Islamic countries. But in Islamic countries the punishment is harsh if a Muslim coverts to other religion or criticize their religion. Such a Muslim embracing other faith is considered as ‘unbelief’ not believing in God, and labelled as a ‘traitor to the Muslim community, or as an apostate and even put to death. This is in direct contravention to Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom to change one’s religion. Freedom of Religion is considered as an unqualified right in the International Bill of Human Rights. Further it is unfortunate that the Islamic Human Rights Scheme restricts the rights of the individual especially women, non-Muslims and apostates. Even the Penal Code of Islamic countries stretches its tentacles to non-Muslims when found their ancestors had the good sense to convert from Islam. The persecution of Bahai’s in Iran in recent years is a case in point. One ponders whether Islamic radical ideology disregard principles of equality and promotes discrimination.
All humans in every country have the same potential. But ignorance or false perception of others remains the root cause for Racism. Religious extremists should give up radical ideologies that shape the vision of life an individual, because it is the social, cultural and ideological circumstances that groom the people in their outlook and their attitude. Racism relates to discrimination on the basis of race. Bigot is discrimination on the basis of personal opinion, which can include race, gender, religion or beliefs. There is a misunderstanding that anyone opposing Islamic savagery is labelled with ‘Islamophbic’ or ‘racist’. Racism has nothing to do with religion. Since Muslim is not a race, opposing Islamic Jihad does not amount to racism. The crux of this issue should be viewed on the struggle between love and hate or good and evil.
Though religious denominations have different approaches, they embrace certain values and beliefs in their social teaching, the impact of which should contribute for the betterment of the country and its people. It should promote its ideologies in compliance with the United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Briefly it should move towards a positive approach in a changing world and not to hand on to backward ideologies. What is required is diversity. [If affiliation is correlated to race, and ethnicity, and if affiliation is correlated to religion, then religion, race and ethnicity are correlated.
All religions have their accepted dogma or beliefs. But conflicts arise when majority of a specific religion have moderate views while the extremists stick on to the literal meaning of the averments in the teachings. It is impossible to compromise with the extremists when the world struggles to decide what is good and evil. The religious extremists (whether the Islamists, hardline Hindus, Sikh extremists, etc) tend to use the terminologies such as racist, bigot, etc on account of their ignorance. Even in Sri Lanka religious revivalism has produced a powerful illiberal nationalism which led to intolerance and discrimination. The protests by the Buddhist monks during the visit of Swami Vivekananda (who declared that Lord Buddha was a Great Master) at Anuradhapura and presently the protests launched by the BBS are cases in point. Similarly Islamic Terrorist Organizations consider violence as their duty and call for Jihad. It is time to realize that since religion has played a vital role in conflicting situations, some religious Missions (like the Ramakrishna Mission) should step out to find a remedy to promote awareness of the positive peace building and reconciliatory role. Moreover, educating other religions also facilitate understanding and respect for other faiths. What is essential is communication in a spirit of humility which has the force of discouraging religious extremism.
As Islamic–affiliated group of people never experienced the hard-won achievement of the European democratic countries towards the path of democracy (since period of Renaissance), there is a moral obligation for them to share the democratic values and denounce religious ideologies that promote doctrine of hate, oppression and murder.
Since the issue between promoting radical ideology of hatred, oppression and murder on the one hand and promoting freedom and human dignity on the other hand, there is an obligation on the democratic countries to monitor the activities of these suspected miscreants when passing the Immigration Section at the Airports on various pretexts. The Immigration Officials have a duty to observe their strange behavior, tone, code words in their languages, the original place of their departure (they can even travel with foreign Passports from third world corrupted countries), etc. They have to exercise their duties in such a manner because terrorism is a battle between the visible and the invisible. Moreover, the Islamic-affiliated Immigrants should be taught that they are entering democratic countries and that self-alienation has no place in the preservation of democracy and adhere to the principles of equality and human dignity. This is the way to remove the communal and separatist doctrine of Islam from the minds of its misguided followers.