Multi-Faith Team Urges Repeal of Blasphemy Laws– in the Name of Religious Freedom

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Featured, Global, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Independent UN human rights experts condemned the death sentence of a university lecturer charged with blasphemy in Pakistan, calling the ruling “a travesty of justice”. December 2019. Credit: UNICEF/Josh Estey

NEW YORK, Sep 12 2022 (IPS) – In nations lacking certain religious freedoms, the bold multi-faith membership of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable’s Campaign to Eliminate Apostasy and Blasphemy Laws, would be forbidden.


This archaic, and at times, violent fact is driving a biblical justice authority, an international activist and a team of culturally and religiously diverse advocates to raise their voices with member states, just before world leaders arrive for the high-level segment of the 77th UN General Assembly session which commences in New York City September 20.

The trip will highlight the twelve nations currently imposing the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy charges, calling for its immediate repeal.

Freedom of religion or belief is universally regarded as fundamental human right and is protected by international covenants and national constitutions alike.

However, courts continue to mete out unjustifiably long prison sentences and even death sentences to individuals for non-violent, victimless conduct such as committing blasphemy or apostasy.

Recently, Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala was sentenced to an unimaginable 24 years’ imprisonment for an allegedly blasphemous Facebook post he made expressing his disbelief in an afterlife.

Though the death penalty is not actually imposed upon a convicted individual in a vast majority of cases, the sentence itself relegates convicts to years and decades of prolonged imprisonment on death row, denial of medical care while in prison, withholding of legal counsel, and endless interrogation.

Pakistanis rally in support of Mumtaz Qadri who was convicted and executed for a blasphemy-motivated killing of a former governor, in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 2016. Credit: Voice of America

Previously, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman, languished on death row for eight years on charges of blasphemy simply for drinking water from a canteen while picking berries with a group of Muslim women.

After her release and acquittal in 2019, Asia was forced to flee her home country in fear of reprisal attacks by radical Islamists.

In 2014, a pregnant Sudanese woman Mariam Ibrahim – who was imprisoned on apostasy charges for her marriage to a Christian man, and as a woman born to a Muslim father – was forced to give birth to her second child while her legs remained shackled to the cell floor.

As a Christ follower, I am reminded of times when God revealed his heart for justice through stories like that of Esther, whom was strengthened to boldly intercede for an oppressed group of religious minorities.

The time is now for United Nations Member States to do the same, through their set own of convictions, in an effort to create communities of human flourishing and safety for those who are persecuted for freedom of religion or belief.

Speaking on Islam’s position on blasphemy, there is much evidence that Prophet Muhammad pardoned his worst critics. Blasphemy laws and inhumane punishments for blasphemy have no legitimacy in the Quran.

The Quran does not command Muslims to kill blasphemers.
Surah (verse) 4:140 of the Quran states – “If you hear people denying and ridiculing God’s revelation, do not sit with them unless they start to talk of other things…”

There is no reference to killing and or issuing fatwas.

Even where moratoriums on the death penalty exist, faith minorities and individuals who express views and perspectives deviating from those prescribed by the majority religion can be in tremendous danger.

Mauritania, which has upheld a moratorium on the death sentence since 1987, convicted blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir of apostasy and sentenced him to death as recently as 2014 for an article he wrote criticizing the use of Islam to justify the caste system in his country. Fortunately, Mkhaitir was released from prison in 2019.

In Pakistan, where the death sentence is often issued to perceived blasphemers – most often Christian and Ahmadi Muslim minorities – but not carried out– laws criminalizing apostasy and blasphemy embolden state and non-state actors alike to commit acts of violence against innocent civilians.

In July 2021, a police constable slashed and killed a man named Muhammad Waqas who had been previously acquitted of blasphemy charges; the perpetrator explicitly stated perceived blasphemy as the crimes’ impetus.

A few months later, in December 2021, a Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara was lynched by a mob and had his body burned by an angry mob in the Pakistani city of Sialkot.

Kumara was a garment factory manager who had been accused of committing blasphemy after removing an Islamic poster from the factory’s walls to prepare for a renovation project.

These non-state actors, fortified by lackluster laws, pose a serious obstacle to human rights, free speech and dignity, creating a system where sometimes even state supported religious leaders call for the death penalty and other inhumane punishments.

A more recent and equally horrific incident occurred in Sokoto Nigeria, when young Christian college student Deborah Samuel Yakubu was stoned to death and set on fire by her very own Muslim classmates.

Days prior, Yakubu had angered the perpetrators by questioning why her school course’s WhatsApp chat was being used to discuss contentious religious affairs rather than focusing on academic issues.

Currently, twelve nations that maintain the death penalty for apostasy, blasphemy, or both; these include Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. * [New Penal Code implemented in 2022 in UAE removes hudud punishments – including apostasy from the penal code]

Additionally, approximately 40% of UN Member States – some of them holding seats in the Human Rights Council – criminalize apostasy and blasphemy, despite their lack of the death sentence for such ‘crimes’.

However, it is not without criticism and attention by human rights and religious freedom activists and even representatives of the United Nations who have emphasized the inhumanity of apostasy and blasphemy laws and called for their repeal.

This includes the UN General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Council, and the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, and on extrajudicial killings, respectively.

Now, civil society is taking matters into its own hands.

Efforts to work toward the abolition of the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy have been a bottom-up grassroots approach. Next week, a delegation of human rights and religious freedom advocates will travel to the United Nations to meet with representatives from the missions of numerous UN Member States, including Luxembourg, Canada, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Niger, and Australia.

Their goal is to increase support among UN Member States for the insertion of language in the UNGA Resolution on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions stating that “the death penalty should never be imposed as a sanction for apostasy, blasphemy, or other perceived religious offense.

As a capstone to the multifaith, multicultural and multidisciplinary United Nations advocacy fly-in, the group will host an issue briefing pointing to the critical proposed resolution language, calling for the immediate repeal of the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy charges.

The briefing, which is open to the press, will spotlight survivors in their own voice. The development of pluralistic resilient communities which uphold basic human rights and allow for human flourishing amongst inevitable interdependent globalized societies depend on the undaunted actions those in power.

We call upon all Member States to join us in this fight toward international religious freedom by supporting the IRF Campaign’s resolution language today.” More info here.

Dr. Christine M. Sequenzia, MDiv. is Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable Campaign to Eliminate Blasphemy and Apostasy Laws

Soraya Marikar Deen, is a Lawyer, Community Organizer, International Activist; HumanRights & Gender Equity Advocate. She is also Co-chair Women’s Working Group @ Int. Religious Freedom Roundtable and Founder MuslimWomenSpeakers

IPS UN Bureau

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Gender Equality & Women’s Rights Wiped out Under the Taliban

Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

The writer is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

Women receive food rations at a food distribution site in Herat, Afghanistan. Credit: UNICEF/Sayed Bidel

NEW YORK, Aug 15 2022 (IPS) – In the year that has passed since the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan we have seen daily and continuous deterioration in the situation of Afghan women and girls. This has spanned every aspect of their human rights, from living standards to social and political status.


It has been a year of increasing disrespect for their right to live free and equal lives, denying them opportunity to livelihoods, access to health care and education, and escape from situations of violence.

The Taliban’s meticulously constructed policies of inequality set Afghanistan apart. It is the only country in the world where girls are banned from going to high school. There are no women in the Taliban’s cabinet, no Ministry of Women’s Affairs, thereby effectively removing women’s right to political participation.

Women are, for the most part, also restricted from working outside the home, and are required to cover their faces in public and to have a male chaperone when they travel. Furthermore, they continue to be subjected to multiple forms of Gender Based Violence.

This deliberate slew of measures of discrimination against Afghanistan’s women and girls is also a terrible act of self-sabotage for a country experiencing huge challenges including from climate-related and natural disasters to exposure to global economic headwinds that leave some 25 million Afghan people in poverty and many hungry.

The exclusion of women from all aspects of life robs the people of Afghanistan of half their talent and energies. It prevents women from leading efforts to build resilient communities and shrinks Afghanistan’s ability to recover from crisis.

There is a clear lesson from humanity’s all too extensive experience of crisis. Without the full participation of women and girls in all aspects of public life there is little chance of achieving lasting peace, stability and economic development.

That is why we urge the de facto authorities to open schools for all girls, to remove constraints on women’s employment and their participation in the politics of their nation, and to revoke all decisions and policies that strip women of their rights. We call for ending all forms of violence against women and girls.

We urge the de facto authorities to ensure that women journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society actors enjoy freedom of expression, have access to information and can work freely and independently, without fear of reprisal or attack.

The international community’s support for women’s rights and its investment in women themselves are more important than ever: in services for women, in jobs and women-led businesses, and in women leaders and women’s organizations.

This includes not only support to the provision of humanitarian assistance but also continued and unceasing efforts at the political level to bring about change.

UN Women has remained in country throughout this crisis and will continue to do so. We are steadfast in our support to Afghan women and girls alongside our partners and donors.

We are scaling up the provision of life-saving services for women, by women, to meet overwhelming needs. We are supporting women-led businesses and employment opportunities across all sectors to help lift the country out of poverty.

We are also investing in women-led civil society organizations to support the rebuilding of the women’s movement. As everywhere in the world, civil society is a key driver of progress and accountability on women’s rights and gender equality.

Every day, we advocate for restoring, protecting, and promoting the full spectrum of women’s and girls’ rights. We are also creating spaces for Afghan women themselves to advocate for their right to live free and equal lives.

One year on, with women’s visibility so diminished and rights so severely impacted, it is vital to direct targeted, substantial, and systematic funding to address and reverse this situation and to facilitate women’s meaningful participation in all stakeholder engagement on Afghanistan, including in delegations that meet with Taliban officials.

Decades of progress on gender equality and women’s rights have been wiped out in mere months. We must continue to act together, united in our insistence on guarantees of respect for the full spectrum of women’s rights, including to education, work, and participation in public and political life.

We must continue to make a collective and continuous call on the Taliban leadership to fully comply with the binding obligations under international treaties to which Afghanistan is a party.

And we must continue to elevate the voices of Afghan women and girls who are fighting every day for their right to live free and equal lives. Their fight is our fight. What happens to women and girls in Afghanistan is our global responsibility.

IPS UN Bureau

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The Politics of the Hangman’s Noose: Judge, Jury & Executioner

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

Young people take part in a pro-democracy demonstration in Myanmar. Credit: Unsplash/Pyae Sone Htun

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 2022 (IPS) – A spike in state-sanctioned executions worldwide – including in Iran, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and more recently Myanmar – has triggered strong condemnations from the United Nations and several civil rights and human rights organizations.


As Covid-19 restrictions that had previously delayed judicial processes were steadily lifted in many parts of the world, says Amnesty International (AI), judges last year handed down at least 2,052 death sentences in 56 countries—a close to 40% increase over 2020—with big spikes seen in several countries including Bangladesh (at least 181, from at least 113), India (144, from 77) and Pakistan (at least 129, from at least 49).

Other countries enforcing the death penalty, according to AI, include Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Belarus, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), China, North Korea, Viet Nam and Yemen.

In military regimes, such as Myanmar, the armed forces play a triple role: judge, jury and hangman.

Dr Simon Adams, President of the Center for Victims of Torture, the world’s biggest organization that works with torture survivors and advocates for an end to torture worldwide, told IPS the recent execution of four pro-democracy activists by Myanmar’s military junta represents a sickening return to the “politics of the hangman’s noose”.

Arbitrary detention and torture have also been committed on an industrial scale, he said.

The military regime has detained over 14,000 people and sentenced more than 100 to death since the (February 2021) coup. While many governments around the world have condemned the recent hangings, it is going to take more than words to end atrocities in Myanmar, he pointed out.

“People are crying out for targeted sanctions on the Generals, for an arms embargo, and for Myanmar’s torturers and executioners to be held accountable under international law”, said Dr Adams, who also helped initiate the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, where The Gambia is trying to hold Myanmar accountable for the genocide against the Rohingya.

The London-based Amnesty International (AI) said last May that 2021 “saw a worrying rise in executions and death sentences as some of the world’s most prolific executioners returned to business as usual and courts were unshackled from Covid-19 restrictions.”

Iran accounted for the biggest portion of this rise, executing at least 314 people (up from at least 246 in 2020), its highest execution total since 2017.

This was due in part to a marked increase in drug-related executions—a flagrant violation of international law which prohibits use of the death penalty for crimes other than those involving intentional killing, said AI.

Antony J. Blinken, US Secretary of State, said last week the United States condemns in the strongest terms the Burma military regime’s executions of pro-democracy activists and elected leaders Ko Jimmy, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms.

“These reprehensible acts of violence further exemplify the regime’s complete disregard for human rights and the rule of law.’

Since the February 2021 coup, he pointed out, the regime has perpetuated violence against its own people, killing more than 2,100, displacing more than 700,000, and detaining thousands of innocent people, including members of civil society and journalists.

The regime’s sham trials and these executions are blatant attempts to extinguish democracy; these actions will never suppress the spirit of the brave people of Burma, (Myanmar), he added.

“The United States joins the people of Burma in their pursuit of freedom and democracy and calls on the regime to respect the democratic aspirations of the people who have shown they do not want to live one more day under the tyranny of military rule,” Blinken declared.

Condemning the execution of the four democracy activists by the military regime in Myanmar, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said last week: “I am dismayed that despite appeals from across the world, the military conducted these executions with no regard for human rights. This cruel and regressive step is an extension of the military’s ongoing repressive campaign against its own people.”

“These executions – the first in Myanmar in decades – are cruel violations of the rights to life, liberty and security of a person, and fair trial guarantees. For the military to widen its killing will only deepen its entanglement in the crisis it has itself created,” she warned.

The High Commissioner also called for the immediate release of all political prisoners and others arbitrarily detained, and urged the country to reinstate its de-facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as a step towards eventual abolition.

Meanwhile, in a statement released August 2, Liz Throssell, a Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva said : “We deplore the hanging today of two men in Singapore and are deeply troubled by the planned execution of two others on 5 August.

The two, a Malaysian and a Singaporean, were hanged at Changi Prison this morning after they were convicted in May 2015 of drug trafficking and their appeals subsequently rejected.

Two other men, Abdul Rahim bin Shapiee and his co-accused Ong Seow Ping, are currently expected to be executed on Friday after Bin Shapiee’s family was notified of his fate on 29 July.

They were both convicted in 2018 of possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking and their sentences upheld on appeal. In the past, co-accused persons have almost always been executed on the same day.

“We urge the Singapore authorities to halt all scheduled executions, including those of Abdul Rahim bin Shapiee and Ong Seow Ping. We also call on the Government of Singapore to end the use of mandatory death sentences for drug offences, commute all death sentences to a sentence of imprisonment and immediately put in place a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty”, the statement said.

“The death penalty is inconsistent with the right to life and the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and there is growing consensus for its universal abolition. More than 170 States have so far abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice,” she noted.

Agnes Callamard, AI Secretary-General, said that “China, North Korea and Viet Nam continued to shroud their use of the death penalty behind layers of secrecy, but, as ever, the little we saw is cause for great alarm.”

The known number of women executed also rose from nine to 14, while the Iranian authorities continued their abhorrent assault on children’s rights by executing three people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, contrary to their obligations under international law.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia more than doubled its number of executions, a grim trend that continued in 2022 with the execution of 81 people in a single day in March, according to AI

As well as the rise in executions seen in Saudi Arabia (65, from 27 in 2020), significant increases on 2020 were seen in Somalia (at least 21, from at least 11) South Sudan (at least 9, from at least 2) and Yemen (at least 14, from at least 5). Belarus (at least 1), Japan (3) and UAE (at least 1) also carried out executions, having not done so in 2020.

Significant increases in death sentences compared to 2020 were recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (at least 81, from at least 20), Egypt (at least 356, from at least 264), Iraq (at least 91, from at least 27), Myanmar (at least 86, from at least 1), Viet Nam (at least 119 from at least 54), and Yemen (at least 298, from at least 269), AI said.

In several countries in 2021, AI said, the death penalty was deployed as an instrument of state repression against minorities and protestors, with governments showing an utter disregard for safeguards and restrictions on the death penalty established under international human rights law and standards.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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China’s Entry into the Muslim World

Civil Society, Democracy, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, Religion, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Apr 7 2022 (IPS) – The retrenchment of American power in the Middle East and the larger Muslim world, coupled with the war in Ukraine, has provided a geopolitical breather for China. Beijing is effectively deploying this to make strategic inroads into the region, given this vacuum and focus on Europe.


The recent invitation to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to address the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Islamabad is a ‘historic first,’ and a significant breakthrough for Chinese diplomacy. For the first time, the foreign minister of the Peoples Republic of China was invited to address the most representative platform of the 57-member body representing the 1.5 billion Muslims.

During his speech at the OIC conference in Islamabad on the 22nd March 2022, Foreign Minister Wang Yi talked about the “long standing relationship between China and the Muslim world” and reaffirmed that China would continue supporting Muslim countries in their quest for political independence and economic development.

Historically, China has always been etched in the Muslim consciousness as a country with a great civilisation based on knowledge, learning and development. For example, there is a famous saying of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him), 1,400 years ago, which urged Muslims to “seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China,” implying that although China was physically far away from Arabia, it was a land of learning.

Soon after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, a professor of the prestigious American university Harvard, Prof. Samuel Huntington, talked of a ‘clash of civilisations’ in which he implied that Western civilization would be at odds with both the Islamic and the Confucian civilisations. Interestingly, he also talked of a united front of the Islamic and Confucian civilisations.

During his speech at the conference on Dialogue among Civilisations, held in Beijing in May 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned the contribution of the Islamic civilisation to “enrich the Chinese civilisation” and also referred to the Holy Mosque in Makkah (Mecca) as well as the travels to China of the Muslim explorer, Ibn Batuta, who wrote favourably on China and the Chinese people.

China has a longstanding relationship with the Muslim world. After the Chinese revolution in 1949, Pakistan was the first country in the Muslim world to recognise the People’s Republic of China in May 1950. The first institutional interaction between China and the Muslim countries took place at the 1955 Afro-Asian Summit in Bandung, Indonesia.

It was hosted by the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia and Pakistan and China were among the countries attending this historic summit. China shares a border with 14 countries, five of which are members of the OIC and none of these have border disputes with China.

In January 1965, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), was formed, China was among the first countries who recognised it. And in the 1960s and early 70s, China also provided material support and aid to various Muslim countries that were facing economic and political pressures, including Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, South Yemen and Egypt.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China also has been in the forefront of countries that have a proactive approach to the Muslim world. China, for example, presented a Middle East peace plan and it was unveiled during visits to China in May 2013 by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mehmood Abbas, and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

During his meeting with the two leaders, President Xi Jinping presented the 4-point peace plan that called for an independent Palestine State alongside Israel, based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. While recognising Israel’s right to exist in security, the Chinese peace plan also called for an end to building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories of Palestine, cessation of violence against civilians and termination of the Israel blockade of Gaza.

The peace plan also called for resolving the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and sought more humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians, while underlining that these are “necessary for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority.”

China also has been principled on the issue of Syria urging an end to both interference in Syrian affairs and an end to the Syrian civil war. In January 2022, China invited Syria to be part of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).

China today is the largest importer of crude oil in the world and almost 50% of that oil comes from the Muslim countries of the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE. Saudi Arabia has also invited President Xi Jinping to visit the Kingdom and there have been media reports that China and Saudi Arabia are engaged in discussions to have their oil trade done partially in Yuan or the RMB, the Chinese currency.

Defence cooperation between China and the Muslim world is also expanding and the Chinese advanced jetfighter J10C is now in use in countries like Pakistan and the UAE. In January 2022, China and Iran signed a comprehensive Strategic Accord which will run for 25 years, worth well over $400 billion dollars.

The centre piece of China’s relationship with the Muslim world today is the BRI. Interestingly, the BRI was launched in two phases by President Xi Jinping, with two important speeches in two different Muslim countries. In September 2013, during the speech in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping announced the launch of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

During another speech in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, in November 2013, President Xi Jinping announced the launch of the Maritime Silk Road, both pillars of the BRI. And during his speech at the OIC conference on the 22nd March, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that “China is investing over 400 billion dollars in nearly 600 projects across the Muslim world under the BRI.”

He underlined that “China is ready to work with Islamic countries to promote a multi-polar world, democracy in international relations and diversity of human civilisation, and make unremitting efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind”. On the issue of Palestine and Kashmir, Wang Yi said that “China shares the same aspirations as the OIC, seeking a comprehensive and just settlement of these disputes.”

Another example of close ties between China and the Muslim world was the February 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where a majority of Muslim countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar had a high level of representation, despite the boycott called by certain Western countries. Also, only last week, on the 30th March, China hosted an important conference, the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighboring Countries, which was well attended.

China has also received support from Muslim countries on the issue of Xinjiang at the UN Human Rights Council. In fact, in July 2019, when a group of 22 nations led by the West sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Council criticising China on Xinjiang, not a single Muslim country was a signatory of that letter, while another group of 37 countries submitted a letter on the same issue defending Chinese policies.

These countries included all the six Gulf countries plus Pakistan, Algeria, Syria, Egypt, Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan — all Muslim countries.

Given the changing geopolitical scenario, where there is a shift in the global balance of economic and political power, away from West and toward the East, followed by calls for a New Cold War, China’s thrust for cooperation and connectivity, given the common threat of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need for connectivity through BRI, has a broad resonance in the Muslim world.

The Muslim countries see their relations with China as a strategic bond to promote stability, security and economic development in the Muslim world and the BRI has become the principal vehicle in the promotion of such an approach.

In the coming years, China’s partnership with the Muslim world is likely to be strengthened, given the mutuality of interests and the convergence of worldviews in upholding a world order based on International Law, the UN Charter and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

Ironically, thirty years after enunciating the Huntington thesis on the ‘clash of civilisations,’ which talked of the Islamic and Confucian Civilisations co-existence with each other but possible confrontation with Western Civilisation, recent developments may be pointers to a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Source: Wall Street International MagazineTop of Form/OTHER NEWS
https://wsimag.com/economy-and-politics/69117-chinas-entry-into-the-muslim-world

Chairman of the Senate Defence Committee Pakistani, Senator Mushahid Hussain was Bureau Chief in Islamabad of Inter Press Service (IPS) during 1987-1997 & later in 2014. He launched the first Public Hearings on Environment & Climate Change in the Pakistan Parliament. As Senator, he chairs the Senate Sub Committee on ‘Green and Clean Islamabad’ which has launched a campaign to ban plastic use in the Pakistani capital.

IPS UN Bureau

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Changing a System that Exploits Nature and Women, for a Sustainable Future

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, Environment, Gender, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, Women & Climate Change

Women & Climate Change

Peruvian farmer Hilda Roca, 37, stands in her agro-ecological garden in Cusipata, a town located at more than 3,300 meters above sea level in the highlands of Cuzco, where she grows vegetables for her family and sells the surplus with the support of her adolescent daughter and son. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Peruvian farmer Hilda Roca, 37, stands in her agro-ecological garden in Cusipata, a town located at more than 3,300 meters above sea level in the highlands of Cuzco, where she grows vegetables for her family and sells the surplus with the support of her adolescent daughter and son. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Mar 7 2022 (IPS) – “Pachamama (Mother Earth) is upset with all the damage we are doing to her,” says Hilda Roca, an indigenous Peruvian farmer from Cusipata, in the Andes highlands of the department of Cuzco, referring to climate change and the havoc it is wreaking on her life and her environment.


From her town, more than 3,300 meters above sea level, she told IPS that if women were in power equally with men, measures in favor of nature that would alleviate the climate chaos would have been approved long ago. “But we need to fight sexism so that we are not discriminated against and so our rights are respected,” said the Quechua-speaking farmer.

The link between climate change and gender is the focus of the United Nations’ celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, Mar. 8, under the theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.

The aim is to “make visible how the climate crisis is a problem that is closely related to inequality, and in particular to gender inequality, which is expressed in an unequal distribution of power, resources, wealth, work and time between women and men,” Ana Güezmes, director of the Gender Affairs Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), told IPS.

Latin America is highly vulnerable to the climate crisis despite the fact that it emits less than 10 percent of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

In addition, climate injustice has a female face in the region: lower-income population groups, where the proportion of women is higher, are more exposed to climate effects due to their limited access to opportunities, despite the fact that they are less responsible for emissions.

The extreme poverty rate in the region increased from 13.1 percent to 13.8 percent of the population – from 81 to 86 million people – between 2020 and 2021, according to data released by ECLAC in January. Women between 25 and 59 years of age are the most affected compared to their male counterparts. This situation is worse among indigenous and rural populations, who depend on nature for their livelihoods.

These aspects were highlighted at ECLAC’s 62nd Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women, held Jan. 26-27, whose declaration warns that women and girls affected by the adverse impacts of climate change and disasters face specific barriers to access to water and sanitation, health and education services, and food security.

And it is women who are mainly responsible for feeding their families, fetching water and firewood, and taking care of the vegetable garden and animals.

“That is why we maintain that the post-pandemic recovery must be transformative in terms of sustainability and equality,” Güezmes emphasized from ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

To this end, she said, this recovery “must untie the four structural knots of gender inequality that affect the region so much: socioeconomic inequality and poverty; the sexual division of labor and the unjust organization of caregiving; the concentration of power and patriarchal, discriminatory and violent cultural patterns; and the predominance of the culture of privilege.”

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people of Colombia. : Courtesy of Luz Mery Panche

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people of Colombia. : Courtesy of Luz Mery Panche

Reconciling with Mother Earth

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people, discussed the need to incorporate a gender perspective into the climate crisis. She talked to IPS from San Vicente del Caguán, in the department of Caquetá, in the Amazon region of Colombia, a country facing violent attacks on defenders of land and the environment.

For her, more than sustainable, “it is about moving towards a sustainable future.”

“We need to change the conditions that have generated war and chaos in the country, which is due to the hijacking of political and economic power by an elite that has been in the decision-making spaces since the country emerged 200 years ago,” she said.

Panche is a member of the National Ethnic Peace Coordination committee (Cenpaz) and in that capacity is part of the special high-level body with ethnic peoples for the implementation of the peace agreement in her country. She is a human rights activist and a defender of the Amazon rainforest.

She argued that to achieve a sustainable future “we must reconcile with Mother Earth and move towards the happy, joyful way of life that we deserve as human beings.”

This, she said, starts by changing the economic model violently imposed on many areas without taking into account the use of the soil, its capacities and benefits; by changing concepts of economy and the educational model; and by organizing local economies and focusing on a future of respect, solidarity and fraternity.

Panche said that in order to move towards this model, women “must have informed participation regarding the effects of climate change.

“Although we prefer to call Mother Earth’s fever ‘global warming’. And it is up to us to remember to make decisions that put us back on the ancestral path of harmony and balance, what we call returning to the origin, to the womb, to improve coexistence and the sense of humanity,” she said.

Uruguayan ecofeminist Lilian Celiberti carries a banner reading "Our body, our territory" in the streets of Tarapoto, a city in the central Peruvian jungle, during an edition of the Pan-Amazon Social Forum. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Uruguayan ecofeminist Lilian Celiberti carries a banner reading “Our body, our territory” in the streets of Tarapoto, a city in the central Peruvian jungle, during an edition of the Pan-Amazon Social Forum. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Changing times: another kind of coexistence with nature and equality

Lilian Celiberti, Uruguayan ecofeminist and founder of the non-governmental Cotidiano Mujer and Colectivo Dafnias, told IPS from Montevideo that governments have the tools to work on gender equality today in order to have a sustainable future tomorrow, as this year’s Mar. 8 slogan states.

But against this, she said, there are economic interests at play that maintain a development proposal based on growth and extreme exploitation of nature.

She called for boosting local economies and agroecology among other community alternatives in the Latin American region that run counter to the dominant government approach.

“But I believe that we are at a very complex crossroads and that only social participation will be able to find paths of multiple, diverse participation and collective sustainability that incorporate care policies and awareness of the eco-dependence of human society,” she said.

Celiberti said “we are on a planet of finite resources and we have to generate a new relationship with nature, but I see that governments are far from this kind of thinking.”

ECLAC’s Güezmes emphasized that social movements, especially those led by young indigenous and non-indigenous women in the region, have exposed the multiple asymmetries and inequalities that exist.

Ana Güezmes is director of the Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. CREDIT: ECLAC

Ana Güezmes is director of the Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. CREDIT: ECLAC

“We have an intergenerational debt, where young women have put at the center of the debate the unsustainability of the current development style that has direct impacts on our future at a global level and direct impacts on their livelihoods, territories and communities,” said Güezmes, who is from Spain and has worked for years within the United Nations in several Latin American countries.

She recognized the contribution of feminist movements that focus on a redistribution of power, resources and time to move towards an egalitarian model that includes the reduction of violence.

And she warned that from a climate perspective, the window of opportunity for action is closing, so we must act quickly, creating synergies between gender equality and climate change responses.

Güezmes said that “we are looking at a change of era” with global challenges that require a profound transformation that recognizes how the economy, society and the environment are interrelated. “To leave no one behind and no woman out, we must advance synergistically among these three dimensions of development: economic, social and environmental,” she remarked.

The expert cited gender equality as a central element of sustainable development because women need to be at the center of the responses. To this end, ECLAC plans to promote affirmative actions that bolster comprehensive care systems, decent work and the full and effective participation of women in strategic sectors of the economy.

She also raised the need to build “a renewed global pact” to strengthen multilateralism and achieve greater solidarity with middle-income countries on issues central to inclusive growth, sustainable development and gender equality.

“We have reiterated the urgent need to advance new political, social and fiscal pacts focused on structural change for equality,” Güezmes stressed.

She stated that in this perspective, the participation of women in all their diversity in decision-making processes is very important, particularly with regard to climate change.

To this end, she remarked, it is necessary to monitor their degree of intervention at the local, national and international levels – where asymmetry persists – and to provide women’s organizations, especially grassroots ones, with the necessary resources to become involved in such spaces.

“It involves strengthening financial flows so that they reach women who are at the forefront of responses to climate change and who are familiar with the situation in their communities, and boosting their capacities so that women from indigenous, native and Afro-descendant peoples participate in decision-making spaces related to the environment to promote the exchange of their ancestral knowledge on adaptation and mitigation measures,” she said.

Güezmes highlighted the contribution of women environmental activists and defenders to democracy, peace and sustainable development. It is necessary to “recognize their contribution to the protection of biodiversity and to development, despite doing so in conditions of fragility and exploitation and having less access to land, productive resources and their control,” she said.

For her part, Roca, who like other local women in the Peruvian Andes highlands practices agroecology to adapt to climate change and reconcile with Pachamama, calls for their voices to be heard.

“We have ideas and proposals and they need to be taken into account to improve the climate and our lives,” the indigenous farmer said.

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On Nuclear Weapons, Actions Belie Reassuring Words

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament/Henry Kenyon

WASHINGTON DC, Jan 13 2022 (IPS) – On Jan. 3, the leaders of the five nuclear-armed members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) issued a rare joint statement on preventing nuclear war in which they affirmed, for the first time, the 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev maxim that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”


The U.S., Chinese, French, Russian, and UK effort was designed in part to create a positive atmosphere for the 10th NPT review conference, which has been delayed again by the pandemic. It also clearly aims to address global concerns about the rising danger of nuclear conflict among states and signals a potential for further cooperation to address this existential threat.

The question now is, do they have the will and the skill to translate their laudable intentions into action before it is too late?

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price hailed the statement as “extraordinary.” A more sober reading shows that it falls woefully short of committing the five to the policies and actions necessary to prevent nuclear war.

In fact, the statement illustrates how their blind faith in deterrence theories, which hinge on a credible threat of using nuclear weapons, perpetuates conditions that could lead to nuclear catastrophe.

The statement asserts that “nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.” Yet, such broad language suggests they might use nuclear weapons to “defend” themselves against a wide range of threats, including non-nuclear threats.

Given the indiscriminate and horrific effects of nuclear weapons use, such policies are dangerous, immoral, and legally unjustifiable.

At the very least, if the leaders of these states are serious about averting nuclear war, they should formally adopt no-first-use policies or, as U.S. President Joe Biden promised in 2020, declare that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter or possibly respond to a nuclear attack.

Even this approach perpetuates circumstances that could lead to nuclear war by accident or miscalculation. The only way to ensure nuclear weapons are never used is “to do away with them entirely,” as President Ronald Reagan argued in 1984, and sooner rather than later.

But on disarmament, the statement only expressed a “desire to work with all states to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.” This vague, caveated promise rings hollow after years of stalled disarmament progress and an accelerating global nuclear arms race.

A year ago, Russia and the United States extended the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but they have not begun negotiations on a follow-on agreement. Meanwhile, both spend billions of dollars annually to maintain and upgrade their nuclear forces, which far exceed any rational concept of what it takes to deter a nuclear attack.

China is on pace to double or triple the size of its land-based strategic missile force in the coming years. Worse still, despite past promises “to engage in the process leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” Chinese leaders are rebuffing calls to engage in arms control talks with the United States and others. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, announced last year it would increase its deployed strategic warhead ceiling.

Fresh statements by the five NPT nuclear-armed states reaffirming their “intention” to fulfill their NPT disarmament obligations are hardly credible in the absence of time-bound commitments to specific disarmament actions.

At the same time, the five, led by France, have criticized the good faith efforts by the majority of NPT non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to advance the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Contrary to claims by the nuclear-armed states, the TPNW reinforces the NPT and the norm against possessing, testing, and using nuclear weapons.

Rather than engage TPNW leaders on their substantive concerns, U.S. officials are pressuring influential states, including Sweden, Germany, and Japan, not to attend the first meeting of TPNW states-parties as observers. Such bullying will only reinforce enthusiasm for the TPNW and undermine U.S. credibility on nuclear matters.

The leaders of the nuclear five, especially Biden, can and must do better. Before the NPT review conference later this year, Russia and the United States should commit to conclude by 2025 negotiations on further verifiable cuts in strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces and on constraints on long-range missile defenses.

China, France, and the UK should agree to join nuclear arms control talks no later than 2025 and to freeze their stockpiles as Washington and Moscow negotiate deeper cuts in theirs.

Instead of belittling the TPNW, the five states need to get their own houses in order. Concrete action on disarmament is overdue. It will help create a more stable and peaceful international security environment and facilitate the transformative move from unsustainable and dangerous deterrence doctrines toward a world free of the fear of nuclear Armageddon.

Source: Arms Control Today

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, Washington DC.

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