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Party vs Faith: China drafts restrictions for all religions

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China intends to extend aspects of its crackdown on Islam in the north-western province of Xinjiang to all religions as is evident from the publication of proposed restrictive guidelines for online religious activity.

The guidelines, according to Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times, would ban online religious services from “inciting subversion, opposing the leadership of the Communist Party, overthrowing the socialist system and promoting extremism, terrorism and separatism,” identified as the three evils China say it is combatting in Xinjiang.

The guidelines would also forbid livestreaming or broadcast of religious activity, including praying, burning incense, worshipping or baptism ceremonies in the form of text, photo, audio or video.

The guidelines, published on China’s legislative information website, are likely to be adopted after October 9 when the window for public comment closes.

The newspaper quoted Zhu Weiqun, former head of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as saying that the guidelines were designed to regulate online religious information and protect the legal rights of religious people and religious freedom.

“Some organizations, in the name of religion, deliberately exaggerate and distort religious doctrine online, and some evil forces, such as terrorism, separatism and religious extremism, and cults, also attempt to expand their online influences,” Mr. Zhu said.

By applying the guidelines to all religions, the government hopes in part to take the sting out of an increasing number of media reports as well as assertions by the United Nations that its policy in Xinjiang involves massive violation of religious and human rights. China has denied any violations.

While the crackdown on Islam in Xinjiang is the most severe because of Chinese concerns about Uyghur nationalist aspirations as well as Islamization and Arabization, references to more conservative, if not ultra-conservative strands of Islam, and the potential return to Central Asia of militant Uyghur foreign fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq, it reflects a wider Chinese effort to control religion.

Similar to Xinjiang where Uyghurs report that mosques are being destroyed, authorities elsewhere in the country have destroyed what allegedly were ‘underground churches,’ including a massive evangelical church in China’s northern Shanxi province that services a congregation of 50,000.

A rare, mass protest last month by Hui Muslims, who together with Uyghur’s account for the bulk of China’s estimated 20 million Muslims, forced local authorities in the northern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to suspend plans to demolish a newly built mosque.

Former inmates of re-education camps as well as family members of  detainees assert that re-education involves subjecting religious views to the precepts of the Communist party, putting allegiance to the party above that of God, and breaking with religious dietary rules and other Islamic legal requirements.

The drafting of the guidelines come as China is finding it increasingly difficult to keep a publicity lid on developments in Xinjiang. The Global Times announcement came a day after Human Rights Watch issued a damning report and two days after a detailed expose in The New York Times, part of a flurry of media and academic reports published despite probable Chinese efforts to suppress critical reporting where it can.

Independent Media, publisher of 18 major South African titles with a combined readership of 25 million, recently refused to publish a column by foreign affairs columnist Azad Essa on a United Nations report asserting that up to one million Uyghurs were being detained in the re-education camps. Mr. Essa was told his column had been discontinued because of a redesign of the groups’ papers and the introduction of a new system.

China International Television Corporation (CITVC ) and China-Africa Development Fund (CADFUND) own a 20 percent stake in Independent Media through Interacom Investment Holdings Limited, a Mauritius-registered vehicle. There was no immediate indication that Chinese stakeholders were responsible for the cancellation of Mr. Essa’s column.

China’s ability to keep its lid on the crackdown is nonetheless slipping. US officials said this week that the Trump administration, locked into a trade war with China, was considering sanctions against Chinese senior officials and companies involved in Xinjiang in what would be the first US human rights-related measures against the People’s Republic.

The administration was also looking at ways to limit sales of US surveillance technology that could assist Chinese security agencies and companies in turning Xinjiang into a 21st century Orwellian surveillance state.

Deliberations about possible sanctions gained momentum after US Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the chair of the congressional committee, called for the sanctioning of Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary and Politburo member Chen Quanguo and “all government officials and business entities assisting the mass detentions and surveillance”. He also demanded that Chinese security agencies be added “to a restricted end-user list to ensure that American companies don’t aid Chinese human-rights abuses.”

With the media reporting and UN and US criticism putting pressure on the Islamic world to speak out, cracks are emerging in its wall of virtually absolute silence.

Rais Hussin, a supreme council member of Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) party and head of its Policy and Strategy Bureau, cautioned in an editorial this week against deportation of 11 Uyghurs wanted by China.

“Being friendly to China is a must, as China is a close neighbour of Malaysia. But it is also on this point that geographical proximity cannot be taken advantage by China to ride roughshod over everything that Malaysia holds dear, such as Islam, democracy, freedom of worship and deep respect for every country’s sovereignty… On its mistreatment of Muslims in Xinjiang almost en masse, Malaysia must speak up, and defend the most basic human rights of all,” Mr. Hussin said.

Mr. Hussin’s comments may not be that surprising given that Mr. Mahathir, since returning to power in May in an upset election, has emerged as a point man in a pushback by various nations against Chinese-funded, Belt and Road-related infrastructure projects that are perceived as risking unsustainable debt or being potential white elephants.

Mr. Mahathir has, since assuming office, suspended or cancelled US$26 billion in Chinese-funded projects in Malaysia.

Echoing Mr. Hussin’s statements, Ismailan, a Hui Muslim poet, posted pictures on Twitter of Bangladeshi Muslims protesting in the capital Dacca against the crackdown in Xinjiang.

“They are the first people of Islamic world to stand up for brothers and sisters in #china. Muslims, our fate is connected!” Ismailan tweeted, insisting that his opposition to the crackdown and “the use of concentration camps to solve the problem” did not amount to support for Uighur nationalism.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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Who are genuine Muslim moderates? Separating the wheat from the chafe

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If you think Islamic scholars discussing the religious legitimacy of the United Nations and the nation-state will put you to sleep, think again.

A call by Nahdlatul Ulama or the Revival of Islamic Scholars, arguably the world’s most moderate Muslim civil society movement, to anchor the nation-state as opposed to a caliphate and the United Nations in Islamic law is at the forefront of the ideological fight against extremism and jihadism as advocated by groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

The call, launched on Tuesday at a mass rally in the Indonesian city of Surabaya commemorating the Indonesian group’s centennial and a gathering a day earlier of Islamic scholars from across the globe, lays down a gauntlet for the Muslim world’s autocratic and authoritarian leaders.

Anchoring the United Nations and its charter in religious law would legally oblige non-democratic regimes to respect human rights.

The charter compels states to honour “fundamental human rights…the dignity and worth of the human person, (and)…the equal rights of men and women” and makes it legally binding for its Muslim signatories, according to religious law.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo seemingly endorsed the call by speaking at the rally immediately after senior Nahdlatul Ulama leaders read it in Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia at the gathering.

The call constitutes the latest move in a sustained Nahdlatul Ulama effort to spark reform of Islamic jurisprudence and inspire other faiths to take a critical look at their potentially problematic tenants as a way of countering extremism and religiously motivated violence.

“Nahdlatul Ulama believes it is essential to the well-being of Muslims to develop a new vision capable of replacing the long-established aspiration, rooted in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), of uniting Muslims throughout the world into a single universal state, or caliphate,” the group said in the declaration read out at the rally.

“It is neither feasible nor desirable to re-establish a universal caliphate that would unite Muslims throughout the world in opposition to non-Muslims. As recently demonstrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, attempts to do so will inevitably be disastrous and contrary to the purposes of Sharia (Islamic law): i.e., the protection of religion, human life, sound reasoning, family, and property,” the declaration went on to say.

Yahya Cholil Staquf, the chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama’s executive council, framed the group’s proposition in questions about the need for jurisprudential reform that he posed at the scholars’ conference.

Mr. Staquf’s questions were based on an unpublished discussion paper that asserted that the view that Muslims “should have a default attitude of enmity towards non-Muslims, and that infidels…should be subject to discrimination is well established within turats al-fiqh (the tradition of Islamic jurisprudence.”

The attitude towards non-Muslims described in the paper is at the core of the response of the Muslim world to religious extremism and jihadism.

An open letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the late leader of the Islamic State, written after he declared in 2014 a caliphate with himself as caliph, signed by 126 prominent Islamic scholars, including participants in this weeks, insists that “there is agreement (ittifaq) among scholars that a caliphate is an obligation upon the Ummah (Muslim community).”

The letter was typical of Muslim leaders, parroted by their Western counterparts, who, for more than two decades since 9/11, have insisted that Islam and Islamic jurisprudence need no reform. Instead, they assert that jihadis misrepresent and misconstrue the faith.

In doing so, autocrats drown out criticism of their brutal, repressive rule that brooks no dissent and potentially provokes violence.

Moreover, casting jihadists as deviants rather than products of problematic tenants of jurisprudence that justify violence stymies criticism of the justification of autocracy as a necessary means to combat violence and promote moderate Islam.

As a result, the Nahdlatul Ulama challenge goes to the core of a battle for the soul of Islam that involves a competition for religious soft power and leadership in the Muslim world as well as who will define what constitutes moderate Islam.

The ideological rivalry pits Nahdlatul Ulama’s concept of Humanitarian Islam, which calls for religious reform and unambiguously endorses pluralism, the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights against an autocratic definition of moderate Islam that rejects religious and political reform but supports a formalistic, ceremonial form of inter-faith dialogue and the loosening of social restrictions long advocated by orthodox Islam.

Among the letter’s signatories were proponents of autocratic forms of moderate Islam.

They included Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam; Egypt’s former grand mufti, Ali Goma, who religiously endorsed the killing on a Cairo square in 2013 of some 800 Muslim Brotherhood protesters by security forces; several members of Egypt’s state-controlled Fatwa Council; and scholars At Al Azhar, Cairo’s citadel of Islamic learning.

Also among the signatories were Abdullah Bin Bayyah, the head of the fatwa council of the United Arab Emirates, and one of its other members, popular American Muslim preacher Hamza Yusuf, men who do the Gulf state’s religious bidding.

The strength of the Nahdlatul Ulama challenge was evident in the fact that some of the world’s foremost opponents of the Indonesian group’s reformism felt the need to be represented at this week’s conference in one way or another, even if some backed out of the conference after initially suggesting that they would attend.

Messrs. Bin Bayyah and Goma chose not to attend. Mr. Allam used his video remarks to express opposition to Nahdlatul Ulama’s call for replacing the caliphate with the notion of the nation-state and endorsing the United Nations.

Muhammad Al-Issa, the head of the Muslim World League, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vehicle for propagating his autocratic version of moderate Islam, chose to ignore Nahdlatul Ulama’s proposition. Mr. Al-Issa made his remarks on video after cancelling his attendance.

Nahdlatul Ulama threw down its gauntlet by asserting that Muslims need to choose between maintaining the obligation to create a caliphate or reforming Islamic jurisprudence so that it would “embrace a new vision and develop a new discourse regarding Islamic jurisprudence, which will prevent the political weaponization of identity; curtail the spread of communal hatred; promote solidarity and respect among the diverse peoples, cultures, and nations of the world; and foster the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order,” according to the declaration.

In its unpublished paper, Nahdlatul Ulama asserted that “Muslims should acknowledge that a socio-political construct (or imperium) capable of operationalizing these normative views across the Muslim world no longer exists” and that “as a consequence of choosing to retain the established fiqh view and norms associated therewith…would automatically be a religious duty incumbent upon Muslims to revive the imperium. This, in turn, would necessarily entail dissolving any and all existing nation-states, under whose governance Muslims currently live.”

With one-third of Indonesia’s 270 million inhabitants identifying themselves as Nahdlatul Ulama and a religious authority of its own, the group is likely to formally announce its reform of relevant Islamic jurisprudence, potentially supported by various non-Indonesian scholars, mosques, and other Muslim associations, irrespective of opposition to its moves.

While the group’s legal move would not be binding in a Muslim world where legal authority is decentralised, it lays down a marker that other Muslim legal authorities will ultimately be unable to ignore in their bid to be recognised as proponents of a genuinely moderate Islam.

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How divine books guide and socialize an individual into society

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When an individual born it  interact with social group in which it is present. The term socialization refers to the process of interaction through which the growing individual learns the habits, attitudes, values and beliefs of the social group into which one has been born. … Socialization prepares people to participate in a social group by teaching them its norms and expectations. But why there is need of socialization ? The answer is we are born there is something in our DNA that make us feel there should be some one who we need to follow, that there is someone who make us, who is very superior to us.

Very interesting question. what a religion actually is. As per the Oxford dictionary, “religion” is:   “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.”

That is what religion is very simply put .strictly speaking, all “religions” in the world revolve around this same concept: a belief in a superhuman controlling power. They all build on this central concept, assigning various different attributes and holy books to this superhuman controlling power.

In Hinduism, this “power” is called Brahman and has many forms, manifesting itself in every sentient being, In Islam it is called “Allah” and so on so forth. But the bottom line of all these religions is: There is a god.

There is God who have sent us and give us the way to live the life. Through the learning process one give  priority to the religion it follow. The religion guide us through holy book. Divine books are four in numbers revealed to different Prophets i.e.

Tawrat to  Prophet Musa

Zabur to Prophet Dawud

Injil to Prophet Isa

Quran revealed to Prophet Muhammad SAW

but Muslim believes that they all carry a same message or guidance for humanity. Divine books provide set of rules to live a life. They can also act as a source of history and motivation for the followers. Quran is last Divine book but it contains some  references of all other Divine Books.

Divine books act as source of religion provider. Beliefs, values and practices related to spiritual concerns are described by religion. It is also known as crucial roadway of socialization for many people. In many religious institutions like temples, churches and mosques individual of many religious communities assemble to glorify and to grasp knowledge. Many ceremonies related to structure of family like marriage and birth are also related to religious celebrations. Shared set of socialized value which passes through society are foster by organized religion. Each social theorist define religion according to their own perspective

The purpose of sending divine books to the followers of certain religion was to give them the principles of religion. The teachings of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity are very similar to each other. The conflict occurs in their ideology and oneness of God. Reforms in individual life and society’s life like harmony and unity are brought by these books. They act as a balance between life of both the individual and society by safeguarding rights, assigning individual responsibilities which are guided by Divine books. Divine books deals with the demand of society and behave as building block of thinking and behavioural processes and lay stress on Faith  , through this human hearts and minds are completely transformed and remodelling  of our thinking and behavioural pattern occur  which as a result changes the whole society.

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Pakistan On Its Way to Promote Interfaith Harmony

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People from various cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds live in Pakistan.  96.28 percent of the country consists of a Muslim population. Minority groups make up 4% of the population, with Christians at 1.59%, Hindus at 1.60%, and Ismaili and Qadianis make 0.22 %. Unluckily this diversity is now being mistreated. Whether it is the ongoing violence against non-Muslims or the sectarian violence among Muslims across the nation, these misperceptions about other religions are a major contributor to violence among religious communities. Unfortunately, Pakistan has fallen prey to these social ills.

The government of Pakistan has contributed significantly by carrying out numerous initiatives and plans to guarantee all of Pakistani society with various religious and ethnic backgrounds the opportunity to socialize with one another.  The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan specifically mentioned the rights of minorities to preserve interreligious harmony.  To represent religious minorities’ voices Article 51 (2A) of the Constitution grants ten additional public services to the Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi religious communities in the national assembly. The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan mandated the establishment of a National Council for Minorities. The prime objective of the Council is to oversee, the effective application and protection of rights guaranteed to minorities by the Pakistani Constitution. The Council also demands from the Federal and Provincial Governments to structure the policy proposals to uphold and defend the rights of minorities as per the 2014 Jurisdiction of SC.

Since the last decade Pakistan has been working on the issues of protection of religious minority’s rights however, the process speeded up in 2018.  The Ministry of Human Rights created the Action Plan against Religious Persecution in 2016. The election campaign of the political Party “Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf” introduced, in their manifesto to establish a “legally empowered, well-resourced, independent National Commission on Minorities, followed by provincial Commissions/Departments”.The strategy outlines a strenuous effort to be undertaken with numerous stakeholders to protect and advance religious minorities so that they are better able to contribute to the peace and development of the nation and become a part of Pakistan’s mainstream social fabric fearlessly. It constitutes a task force at the federal level for developing a strategy for promoting religious tolerance. Curb hate speech in social media. The creation of an endowment fund for student scholarships, development of a complaint/redress mechanism, review/proposal of amendments for discriminatory laws, and protection of places of worship are just a few of the initiatives mentioned in the Action Plan. Others include raising awareness and providing training on interfaith harmony, reviewing and revising education curricula at all levels to foster a peaceful and inclusive society, and raising funds for student scholarships.

Subsequently, it is pertinent to mention here that religious harmony is crucial for maintaining interreligious relations. For this purpose, On January 16, 2018, a National Narrative (Paigham e Pakistan) for Peaceful and Moderate Pakistani Society based on Islamic Principles was presented under the watchful eye of government officials. In January 2019, the Paigham-e-Pakistan Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies released a fatwa (verdict) signed by over 1800 Pakistani religious scholars denouncing suicide bombings, armed uprisings, and other acts of terrorism committed in the name of Sharia.

One of the main issues facing minorities, which is being echoed around the world, is the forced conversion of young girls. The Hindu Marriage Act of 2017 was passed by the National Assembly in response to this challenge, covering all of Pakistan except Sindh. To make it easier for the Hindu community to get married under the Sindh Hindu marriage Rules, 2019, the Sindh government passed the Sindh Hindu Marriage Act 2016 (amended in 2018). Additionally, to resolve the issue and dispel any negative perceptions about forced conversion, the Pakistan Hindu Council and Ulema confined an agreement. According to this agreement, the law approved by the Parliament will be adopted regarding conversion. Any Hindu who approaches ulema for conversion will be reported to the local Hindu community leader, to meet with their parents (in absence of Ulema), until the law is approved. Still, if he/she wishes to convert will be allowed to do so.

The Pakistani religious and political elite have used religious segregation by emphasizing “divide and rule” and discouraging the idea of “unity in diversity to effectively consolidate their power. Segregation based on religion has become a major tool for encouraging violence against non-Muslims. This encourages extremism by instilling the desire in jihadist groups to commit acts of religious terrorism against members of other faiths. It is therefore essential to oppose any misuse of religion. Likewise, we must guard against religious fanaticism and extremism to promote interfaith harmony. Under the guise of religion, encourage hatred or even terrorist acts are destructive and poses a serious threat to the peace and prosperity of Pakistan.

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