PRESENTATION ON 23rd OCTOBER, 2007 BY MR JUSTICE RAJINDAR SACHAR, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF DELHI HIGH COURT AND FORMER U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON “RIGHT TO ADEQUATE HOUSING”. AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON “COUNTERING RADICALISATION: PERSPECTIVES AND STRATEGIES FROM AROUND THE GLOBE” HOSTED BY THE DUTCH MINISTER OF INTERIOR, AND THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE – AT HAGUE.
At THE AFTERNOON SESSION ON 23rd OCTOBER , 2007.
Religious Radicalization in Islamic World and intervention strategies.
But the controversial issue raised by some (but in my opinion without any basis) is that may be there is some trend of terrorism to be found in the philosophy and practice of all religions of the world. I submit there is none. Geo politics and energy syndrome may try to pervert the understanding of causes of terrorism – but any dispassionate observer would have to concede that to try to find a response to international terrorism by purporting to blame radicalization of any religion is to hunt for a black cat in a dark room which is empty. In order to make an objective assessment, it is necessary to have a short view of main teachings of Islam – does it differ in its spirituality, humanism from other religions? Now, the meaning of Islam is surrender and a religious call for complete submission and obedience to “God”, – it is the same principle of surrender to ‘God’, — in the most sacred Book of Hindus- “Bhagwat Gita”.
“There are three poisons that will destroy humanity: greed, anger and ignorance,” said the Buddha. Islam provides three antidotes to these poisons: Adl (Justice), Ehsaan (compassion) and Ilm (knowledge).
Every spiritual soul in each religion having reached the height of communion with the universal soul has the same message of universal love, common humanity and the acceptance – that same divine power runs through all human beings though outwardly professing different religions and practices.
Thus Hinduism’s “Vasudhaiva – Kutumbakam” (world is one family) is equally
reciprocated in the Quran which says, “All the created ones belong to the family
of God…so, an Arab has no precedence over a non-Arab, a White over a
Black”. And Christ said succinctly, “All are children of God”.
“U.N. Human Development Report (2004) repudiates the specific claim that tolerance is a special – and very nearly unique—feature of Western civilization, extending way back into history, is particularly hard to sustain. The Report says, “Political liberty and tolerance in their full contemporary form are not an old historical feature in any country or civilization. For example, Emperor Ashoka’s dedicated championing of religious and other kinds of tolerance in India in the third century BCE (arguing that “the sects of other people all deserve reverence for one reason or another”) is certainly among the earliest political defences of tolerance anywhere.
Similarly, when a later Indian emperor, Akbar, the Great Moghal, was making comparable pronouncements on religious tolerance at the end of the 16th century (such as: “no one should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that pleases him”), the Inquisition was in full swing in Europe. To take another illustration, when the Jewish philosopher Maimonides was forced to emigrate from an intolerant Europe in the 12th century, he found a tolerant refuge in the Arab world and was given an honoured and influential position in the court of Emperor Saladin in Cairo. His tolerant host was the same Saladin who fought hard for Islam in the Crusades.”
For a thousand years, that is, for much of the period from the eighth to the eighteenth century, the leading civilization on the planet in terms of spread and creativity was Islam. A great new cultural and economic nexus came to be developed which was able to draw on the knowledge and commodities of lands from China and India in the east, to Spain and Africa in the west, as well as those of the West Asian lands in which it was based. This new civilization commanded a substantial slice of the world’s area of cities and settled agriculture. In this region, there was a shared language of religion and law. Men could travel and do business within a common framework of assumptions. In its high cultures, they could express themselves in symbols to which all could respond. There were great achievements in scholarship and science, in poetry and prose, and in the arts of the book, building, and spiritual insight, which are precious legacies to all humankind.”
The people of Palestine have experienced the greatest injustice during these past fifty years and more. They represent symbols of injustice and oppression. Justice Brennan of the U.S. Supreme Court put it tersely, “Nothing rankles more in the human heart than a brooding sense of injustice, illness we can put up with. But injustice, makes us want to pull things down”. Thus, although there are many differences and distinctions amongst Muslims, there is a level at which they will unite, especially when confronted by bullying, interference, or invasion from outside.
This is exemplified in the way Palestine issue since 1948 has been handled by the U.S.A. and its allies. In resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) the Security Council has, expressed concern about the situation on the ground, declared null and void the measures taken by the Israeli government to change the status of Jerusalem, called for the cessation of Israeli settlement activity, which it determined to have no legal validity, reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem and called for the return of Palestinian deportees.
I had visited Palestinian in my capacity as “U.N. Special Rappoertuer on Right to adequate Housing” in 1995 – In my report I had said ; “The wanton destruction of Arab homes and the takeover of the lands where they have lived for generations to make room for Jewish settlements defies description”. “The Israeli Government stated that it would go ahead with the confiscation of this area, brushing aside the advice and warnings from Arab States that this might jeopradise the peace accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
Conditions continued to cause alarm all over the world. To evaluate depth, an Expert conference on “Residency in Jerusalem and international law” was hosted by The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, The University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, on 9th – 11th February 1999. I was one of the participants at that conference, which was followed by a delegation visiting Palestine consisting of some of the participants. I was one of them. We found the situation to be alarmingly explosive.
Again the Security Council in Resolution 1515/2003 adopted on 19th November 2003, expressed its grave concern at the continuation of the tragic and violent events in the Middle East , and emphasized the need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese tracks.
There is one more serious aspect which calls for deeper understanding of the status and role of the minorities and especially of Muslims in the Western world. I am somewhat disheartened by many well informed persons suggesting that solution lies in the minorities becoming not only part but in the course of time, lose their identity and merge in the country of its adoption. Put in such a way this is a recipe for disaster.
No doubt minorities who have settled outside and in the Western World have to be part of their new set up, appreciate the sentiments and way of their living; their familiarity with the language of the adopted country is a must. But that does not mean that the host countries should insist that the minorities give up all their customs of dress, eating, praying (all these can be different, and yet an underlying loyalty and pride toward the adopted country can flourish.) So too much irritant formalism of not permitting minorities to put on turbans in school (small mercy–the recent relaxation of U.S.A. Airport immigration authorities not to insist on Sikhs taking off their turbans during security checking) or covering one’s head by girl students, are unacceptable discriminatory provocations. Differences in dressing, eating does not make a minority citizen less loyal and less interested in the welfare and glory of the adopted country.
In India, minorities have not only been guaranteed all the Fundamental Rights by the Constitution, but have also been exclusively guaranteed rights for the minorities. Thus , the minorities are guaranteed freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion”.
- Every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right—
- to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
- to manage it own affairs in matters of religion;
- to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
- to administer such property in accordance with law.
- No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.
- All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
The philosophy and rationale of people of India flows from their intrinsic faith in the philosophy of “Unity in Diversity”. Indian Supreme Court has emphasized that; ”The purpose of law in plural societies is not the progressive assimilation of the minorities in the majoritarian milieu. This would not solve the problem; but would vainly seek to dissolve it.”, and also approved the test laid down by Lord Scarman of House of Lords UK:
‘The purpose of the law must be not to extinguish the groups which make the society but to devise political, social and legal means of preventing them from falling apart and so destroying the plural society of which they are members.’
I am far from suggesting that with all the safeguards, we do not have shameful incidents of discrimination, unfairness or complaints. But recognizing this is not the fallacy of the principles, but only the inadequacies of those entrusted with implementation of the philosophy enunciated above, a usual frailty in all human affairs.
Of course I recognize the basic difference between minorities in India, and in Europe or America – in the latter, minorities are immigrants and adjustments are naturally somewhat time consuming, while in India the largest minority, namely Muslims, are the original residents of India – Muslims of India constitute an integral part of the nation. Their history is a part of Indian history, and their blood has mingled with the rest of Indian blood in common causes. That difference may make somewhat of a difference in easing out the creases quickly – but the basic philosophy and principles which should govern all nations in their relation to the minorities remains the same – because this philosophy emanates from the mandate of Human Rights, which are universal in application.