Posts Tagged ‘ Sharia law ’

Sharia Law Surprise for Secular-Minded Libyans

By Mary Fitzgerald for The Irish Times

ANALYSIS: The role of Islam could prove to be a contentious issue in the new Libya

LIBYA’S INTERIM authorities formally declared liberation yesterday with soaring speeches that praised their revolution’s victory over tyranny, paid tribute to the fallen and offered clues as to what kind of state might emerge from the ashes of Muammar Gadafy’s idiosyncratic rule.

The long-awaited declaration, made in front of tens of thousands of jubilant Libyans gathered in Benghazi, the eastern city where the uprising against Gadafy began in February, came more than two months after Tripoli fell to revolutionary forces, allowing them to seized control of most of the country.

It ushers in a process agreed by the interim body known as the National Transitional Council which will see the NTC move its headquarters from Benghazi to Tripoli and form a transitional government within 30 days. A 200-member national assembly is to be elected within 240 days, and this will appoint a prime minister a month later who will then nominate a cabinet. The national assembly will also be given deadlines to oversee the drafting of a new constitution – none existed under Gadafy – and the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections.

Already the process of forming a united and representative government promises to be fraught. With Gadafy dead, the fissures that always existed within the revolution, whether along regional or tribal lines or between Islamists and secular liberals, threaten to widen.

Even the fact that liberation was declared in Benghazi, rather than Tripoli, points to friction between leadership figures in the two cities – many of the NTC’s members, especially those from eastern Libya, have remained in Benghazi, the second-biggest city.

The question of who did what, whether during the war of the last eight months or during the four decades Gadafy was in power, will also determine much in the new order.

On Saturday, the de facto prime minister Mahmoud Jibril said progress would hinge on two things. “First what kind of resolve the NTC will show in the next few days, and the other thing depends mainly on the Libyan people – whether they differentiate between the past and the future,” he said. “I am counting on them to look ahead and remember the kind of agony they went through in the last 42 years.” Jibril also warned that Libya needed to swiftly find another source of income because the country had already consumed 62 per cent of its oil under Gadafy.

Those seeking hints as to what the new Libya may look like seized on particular sections of NTC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil’s speech in Benghazi yesterday, in which he went into some detail about the place of Islam in the post-Gadafy scenario.

“This revolution was blessed by God to achieve victory,” Jalil, who is considered devout but moderate, told the crowd. “And we must go on the right path.”

Libya, he said, would be a state where Sharia law would be the “fundamental source” of legislation and any existing legislation that contradicted Islamic principles would be immediately annulled.

It was not the first time Jalil had made such statements, and many other Arab countries have similar constitutional provisions, but Libyans of a more liberal bent may have baulked at what came next.

The new state “will not disallow polygamy” Jalil said, and charging interest will be forbidden. Some Libyans point out that polygamy was practised discreetly under Gadafy, while others interpreted Jalil’s remarks as a practical measure to address the issue of the thousands of women left widowed during the war.

These declarations, though met with cheers from the crowd, will have raised eyebrows among more secular-minded Libyans who would prefer to have such matters decided through a democratic process rather than presented almost as a fait accompli at such an early stage.

The Islamist tint to Jalil’s speech could be interpreted in different ways: it may have been an attempt to undercut the influence of more hardline elements while Libya finds its feet after Gadafy, or a bid to keep the grassroots on board as one of North Africa’s most conservative societies enters what will be a challenging period.

Either way, it shows that questions over what role Islam should play promise to be among the most pressing in the new Libya.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteWe are happy for the Libyan people for overthrowing a brutal and oppressive dictator. We condemn however his killing and not being brought to justice and the treatment of his corpse to not be treated to Islamic last rites and custom. We are also concerned by the announcement by the revolution’s leadership that Sharia Law will be the new form of law in Libya. This is not acceptable as a secular democracy is the form of government similar to Turkey that must be the model. We urge the US and other NATO benefactors that made the overthrow of Gaddafi possible to insist on a secular democratic government in Libya, otherwise all is for naught.

Saudi Arabia to Allow Women to Vote

By Jeffrey Fleishmam for The Los Angeles Times

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia surprised his ultraconservative nation Sunday by announcing bold reforms that for the first time will give women the right to vote, run for local office and serve on the Shura Council, the king’s advisory board.

The measures by an aging monarch who has battled Islamic hard-liners for years will marginally improve the standing of women in a country that still forbids them to drive or leave the house without their faces covered. The moves appear likely to enrage religious conservatives while advancing at least a veneer of change in one of the world’s most repressive states.

“Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia [Islamic law], we have decided … to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from the next term,” the king said in a five-minute speech to his advisors.

He added: “Women will be able to run as candidates” in the 2015 municipal election “and will even have a right to vote.”

The announcement suggests that the ailing 87-year-old king seeks a legacy as a reformer, despite making only modest inroads on human rights. Abdullah built the country’s first coeducational university and has granted 120,000 scholarships to students, many of them women, to study outside the country. Each move was opposed by clerics and religious ultraconservatives in the royal family.

Allowing women to vote is “hugely significant,” said Lubna Hussain, a Saudi writer. “The king is implementing the reform promises he made when he became leader. It shows he is not willing to pander to religious fundamentalists … who are quite weakened and don’t seem to have the voice they used to.”

The new rights for women come as Saudi Arabia has bristled at demands for political freedoms that have sparked spirited rebellions across the Arab world and toppled such longtime allies of the king as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. When rumblings of revolt echoed in Saudi Arabia, the government, whose security forces are omnipresent, promised $130 billion in salary raises and spending for social and religious programs.

Such largesse and attempts at modernization have kept Abdullah popular even as challenges to the royal family have been quickly crushed. Saudi dissidents and human rights groups have condemned the government for crackdowns that have occasionally damaged the king’s image and led to criticism that his family’s reliance on religious conservatives to stay in power makes him too cautious a reformer.

The king is the counterbalance to influential anti-reformist forces, including Prince Nayif ibn Abdulaziz, the interior minister, who many believe may succeed Abdullah. Nayif is sympathetic to fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics who uphold the segregation of sexes and have resisted the monarch’s attempts at modest reforms to ease religion’s grip on schools, courts and other institutions.

Yet discriminatory laws, such as those preventing women from driving, have become an international embarrassment for the kingdom, a key U.S. ally that relies on oil wealth to expand its diplomatic stature. A number of women were arrested over the summer for defying the driving ban. Analysts predicted that by allowing women to vote the king has opened the possibility for wider rights debates.

But others said the latest reforms were diversions that did little to change the plight of women in a country where they can be flogged for adultery and cannot travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian.

“It’s a mixed feeling. On one hand he opens the door for her and on the other hand she is still banned from driving,” said Mohammad Fahad Qahtani, a college professor and human rights advocate. “It doesn’t save her from horrible treatment by government agencies and the courts. It’s a symbolic gesture, but it is in no way enough to improve the lives of women.”

He added: “These rights to vote are still, if you see how it’s worded, are contingent on Islamic jurisprudence. So we’ll have to see in coming years what happens. The devil could be in the details. But maybe it’ll get some international praise for the regime.”

Sunday’s announcements “represent an important step forward in expanding the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, and we support King Abdullah and the people of Saudi Arabia as they undertake these and other reforms,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.

The change will not alter the Saudi power structure. Municipal councils have little authority and only half their members are elected. The Shura Council, a body akin to a parliament but with no legislative power, advises the king on economic, social and international affairs.

But liberals and activists believe that even a little nudge forward in the kingdom is significant.

“It’s almost like a watershed,” said Hussain, who has written eloquently over the years on women’s rights. “You’ll now have women in [the Shura Council] taking up women’s causes. Before it was men talking for us. It’s quite revolutionary and it will open up a Pandora’s box.”

Taliban 201- The Rise of The Pakistani Taliban

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Peshawar, Pakistan- Taliban militants attacked the U.S. consulate in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, using  powerful bombs and rocket launchers in a sophisticated and daring attack killing 8 people, just hours after a suicide bomber killed 48 people elsewhere in the Swat valley. The attacks came as the United States has increased its airstrikes on targets both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The nearly decade long war waged against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan since 9-11 has created safe areas inside Pakistan for these militants to regroup and band with Pakistani militants sympathetic to their cause. Often, the militants on the Pakistani side and the Afghani Taliban share the Pashtun tribal and ethnic links among the border areas of both countries.

The US bombing of Afghanistan since late 2001 had pushed the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants to the mountains near the border with Pakistan. With help from sympathetic militant tribal warriors from the Pakistani side, the Taliban were able to dig in and have been able to fight the American forces for nearly a decade now. The onslaught by US and NATO forces continues in Afghanistan, but now for most of last year and certainly this year, the war has shifted to the streets and cities of Pakistan.

Now, much like Afghanistan, Pakistan too is a country that finds itself engulfed in the flames of religious extremism at the hands of determined and highly disciplined thugs. It used to be back during the Soviet-Afghan War, the only place perhaps not entirely safe inside Pakistan was Peshawar. Now, not one city or town of Pakistan has been spared from the violence by the Taliban. Back then, Peshawar was a city where attacks would happen frequently and often. During the 1980’s, the city became a haven for both jihadi militants fighting against the godless system of communism, and a base for spies as both the United States and Saudi Arabia funded a mujahedeen guerrilla war to defeat the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. President Reagan and General Zia of Pakistan used the fervor of religion to incite able bodied boys and men of Afghanistan and their distant cousins from the border area in Pakistan, along with thousands of volunteer Muslim fighters from across the Arab and Muslim world, to come and fight the Soviet Red Army. It was seen as a duty to come defend a Muslim land from occupation by a regime that would not allow the worship of Allah as communism discourages religion and encourages a sectarian society.

That strategy by General Zia ul Haq to promote the fight against the Russians as a holy war or jihad was brilliant at first. It mobilized not just every Muslim male in Afghanistan to stand and fight for his faith and their way of life, while also defending the country from invaders, but it also garnered the sympathy and enlistment of thousands upon thousands of Pakistani and Arab Muslim fighters to join the cause of these mujahedeen, as one who engages in jihad is called. The riling up of religious fervor and militant Islam was deemed necessary by both Reagan and Zia at the time as they sought to defeat the communists at all costs from succeeding in Afghanistan. It would not seem likely at the time, that this very same entity would become enemy number one of both the US and Pakistan a decade later.

It was monumental, it was historic,” retired Pakistani general Hamid Gul, who headed the ISI military spy agency from 1987-1989, said of Reagan’s role in defeating the Soviets. “We were receiving arms and logistics from the CIA, we were partners in this struggle,” Gul said, estimating the CIA spent up to $7bn in supplying arms and logistics to Islamic fighters or “jihadis.” “The jihadis he supported. It was their resistance against the forces of occupation and repression – that’s what jihad is – that Reagan identified himself with,” Gul said. “His greatest achievement was that he stood behind the Islamic world when it was arrayed against the Soviet empire.”

Pakistani analyst Hasan Askari Rivzi stated that “Al-Qaeda and the Taliban took shape later on, but they grew from this period of jihadism against the Soviets and with the initial help of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia along with the military and economic assistance from the United States to fight the Soviets during the ‘80’s. Rizvi sees the roots of the militancy that now ravages Pakistan and Afghanistan as having its beginnings from this period of war against the Soviets army.

That war with the Russians lasted almost 10 years. By the time the USSR pulled out all its troops from Afghanistan in 1989, the country had been completely destroyed. What was left of any government or authority of any sort was now held in the hands of a few militias and various warriors who commanded thousands of tribal and other ethnic fighters under them. These militias immediately started warring amongst themselves for more and more control of the country. The already weak, nonexistent central government of Afghanistan, post Soviet pullout was not able to cope and quickly capitulated. During the power vacuum that resulted, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, realized the chance to wield power inside Afghanistan and threw its support behind a religious student movement based out of Kandahar. The ISI had previously assisted the cause to fight the Soviets by helping gather and organize radical Muslims from around the world to come and assist the Afghani mujahedeen in fighting the Soviets and had therefore developed good contacts with various religious groups including the young Taliban students and the fast growing movement.

The Afghani population initially welcomed the Taliban as they represented fairness and a rule of law over the notorious corruption, brutality and constant infighting of the warlord militias. Soon, with popular citizen support, along with Pakistan’s help, the Taliban became the dominant group within the country and soon held the seat of power in Kabul. Its leader Mullah Omar, was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and when the US forces came to Afghanistan in the hunt for Bin Laden, he gave the Al Qaeda leader refuge and in essence, became a fugitive of the US in the process for harboring America’s Most Wanted.

Fast forward to nearly nine years later as the war in Afghanistan continues against the Taliban and remnants of Al Qaeda responsible for the 9-11 attacks. However, the Taliban have grown and laid roots inside Pakistan also now as the nearly decade long war at the border with Afghanistan has ratcheted up sympathy by locals Pakistani Pashtun tribes for their brethren being bombed by both Pakistani and American forces. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan known as the Pakistani Taliban formed soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan and the Pakistani army’s offensive at the tribal areas near the border to combat the militants. The Pakistani Taliban led by the recently killed Baitullah Mehsud, has been largely responsible for hundreds of attacks in all major cities of Pakistan including Monday’s bombing of the American consulate in Peshawar.

The war in Afghanistan by the US against the Taliban that harbored and sheltered Bin Laden and the 9-11 killers of Al Qaeda is much the same as the war between the Pakistani army and the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley and the North West Frontier Province as well as in various cities of the country. This war has been brought home to the citizens of Pakistan. Over the last few months, bomb blasts in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and various other cities have now personalized this conflict for the average Pakistani as no longer a battle or skirmish at the border far away in the northwest of Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan.

No, the nearly daily attacks all over the country by the militants on government installations, public institutions like universities, factories and residential areas as well as markets and restaurants has made the country much less safer than at any time in its 63 year history. Many Pakistanis now are beginning to realize that the Taliban, operating with impunity all over Pakistan, pose a much bigger threat to the sovereignty and republic of Pakistan than any threat from anywhere else, including from that eternal archrival to the east, India. It is now well understood by both partners in this fight that only a sustained and vigorous fight taken to the militants inside both countries by the US and Pakistan over a long period of time can hope to defeat this disease known as the Taliban.

For an earlier report titled Taliban 101- Origins and History, Please click on this link:

https://pakistanisforpeace.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/taliban-101-origins-and-history/

Pakistan Poised to Finally Outlaw Domestic Violence Against Women

Islamabad, Pakistan- The Pakistani legislature is poised to at last outlaw domestic violence as a bill has passed the lower house of parliament and needs passage by the Senate prior to signing into law by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Those individuals that are found guilty of beating women and or children could face a maximum six month in jail and also be fined up to 100,000 rupees  or a little more than $1200 US , a considerable sum for the average Pakistani.

The law will classify domestic violence as any act of physical, mental or sexual assault, force, harassment, hurt, confinement, and deprivation of economic or financial resources. For years, many Pakistani and International Human Rights groups have complained that Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, violence and “honor killings” where a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing any perceived shame or dishonor to their family. In many villages rape is commonplace and used as a form of punishment against a family or clan by ones who have been “wronged” to settle scores.

Women have been increasingly isolated and marginalized by the spread of fundamentalism in many parts of Pakistan where the Taliban have brought a strict and narrow minded interpretation of Islam and the roles of women in it.

“This is very good news. Introducing a law against domestic violence was long a demand for this country’s women,” said Farzana Bari, a women’s activist who told a reporter for the Associated Press that as many as one in three women were subject to domestic violence.  “We want to put pressure on the government to implement this legislation in the true letter and spirit, despite social, feudal and tribal norms which do not facilitate women’s empowerment,” she said. “In our society, many women and children are not protected even inside their houses, this law will help them,” she added.

The passage of this bill is long overdue and necessary as Pakistan’s society needs to enact what is considered a basic law in many countries and one that treats women and children as individuals rather than the property of men. It is hoped that the Senate of Pakistan quickly passes the bill and Zardari signs it into law as women in Pakistan need to be protected by the rule of law in this very paternal and still very much feudal society.

 

Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Pakistan government accepts defeat by Taliban in Swat Valley and allows Sharia Law in region

 

Swat Valley, Pakistan- In a move roundly criticized around the world, Pakistan announced that it had reached a deal with the Taliban militants to allow them to implement Sharia, or Islamic Law, in the Swat Valley of Pakistan in return for a truce with the Taliban militants in the region. Sharia law refers to the Islamic system of law and the totality of the Islamic way of life. An example of Sharia law is the allowance of getting revenge by an injured plaintiff to exact revenge-physical eye for a physical eye, and a tooth for a tooth. It allows for a thief to be punished by cutting off their hand. It allows for adulterers to be stoned to death by a mob as another example of what is allowed under Sharia law.

The Swat Valley which is a naturally beautiful area of Pakistan has for many years been immensely popular with domestic and foreign tourists. However in recent months, increased offensives by the Taliban and attacks on girls schools, civilians appearing to be too western in attire and mannerisms and anything or anyone that is deemed anti-Islamic has come under indiscriminate attacks by them. The once popular tourist industry in the area has all but evaporated as foreigners and Pakistanis alike are staying away from a region that is now engulfed in violence.

There has also been a rash of beheading by the Taliban of locals who have spoke up against their bullying and their savage tactics. This violence is not only isolated to the people living in the Swat region. Recently, a New York Times article reported that even Pakistani Americans living in the New York area from the Swat region are now being signaled out for ransoms and kidnapping by the Taliban in the region. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/nyregion/17swat.html

According to a former CIA official, the Taliban in the region perhaps number 3000 militants. They have been able to take on a force of roughly 12,000 Pakistani Army soldiers due to their brazen and indiscriminate attacks. Also, the Pakistani Army has not helped matters by firing at the Taliban positions from a great distance and often in the process killing local civilians who now do not know which side to trust for their safety. This decision by the Pakistani government to capitulate to the Taliban and agree to impose Sharia law in the region leads some international observers to claim that this demonstrated the weakness of the Pakistani army in facing and defeating the much smaller Taliban fighters. The Information Minister of Pakistan, Sherry Rehman, denied that the state made any “concessions” to the militants. “It is in no way a sign of the state’s weakness. The public will of the local population of the Swat region in wanting Sharia law is at the center of all efforts and it should be taken into account while debating the merits of this agreement.” The Pakistani government is now hoping that the agreement with the Taliban will prompt them to now disarm in the Swat valley and the violence will stop.

Unfortunately, two previous agreements with the Taliban have failed to materialize any peace in the region and each time the treaty was broken in exchange for fresh violence. Each time, the Taliban have gotten very brazen and they are acting with impunity knowing that they now have the upper hand in the fight with the Pakistani army. US and NATO forces have criticized previous deals with the militants and stated that each time they saw an increase in suicide attacks on international and Afghan forces across the border in Afghanistan. It seems obvious to this reporter that each time the Taliban reach an agreement with the Pakistani forces they are then able to better concentrate their attacks and and violence against the US, NATO and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan. Allowing the Taliban to circumvent the rule of law in Swat and parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in exchange for a fragile peace is a foolish policy that not only does not work in the long run but actually allows these militants to become emboldened and stronger as a result. Also, this sends a clear message to the Taliban and militants in other parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan that the state is willing to compromise their principles and given enough of a fight, will relent and accept defeat.

We at Pakistanis for Peace are extremely disappointed by the government of Pakistan’s decision to acquiesce to the demands of these same militants who on one hand behead people who disagree with them and on the other hand destroy girls schools because somehow in their narrow and closed minded interpretation of Islam, teaching girls education is deemed by them to be un-Islamic. This decision not only makes these militants stronger but also further has the effect of having people in the region and around Pakistan lose faith in the government’s ability to fight and protect the civilians from what are nothing more than thugs with guns who profess to be “Talibs” or students of Islam. If one was truly a student of Islam and a follower of the religion of peace, then brutal acts of violence against women, foreigners, and Pakistani citizens would not be a routine course of action by them.

The Taliban are enemy number one for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan and of Islam itself and of Islam and Islam’s image both at home and abroad. How else but to categorize them as savages after they bombed two of the oldest Buddhist statues of Bamyan Afghanistan in 2001? Does Islam not teach respect for all religions and respect for differences of opinion? Where in the Koran does it say it is okay to throw acid on a woman’s face so you can intimidate other women in not attending school? Where does it say it is okay to behead a young man and make an example out of him because he did not repeatedly heed your warning to stop listening to western music? All these actions by the Taliban is a clear indication of the absence of logic in the minds of these people. And for the Pakistani government to fool itself into thinking that any agreements with them will bring peace to the region is absurd. We at Pakistanis for Peace urge the Pakistani government to break this foolish treaty with the Taliban as there should never be any compromises with these people as one can not reason with someone who has no reason. Common sense in not very common among the Taliban and the Pakistani government is doing itself and the people of Swat and of Pakistan a disservice by compromising with these militants.


Reported for www.PakistanisforPeace.com by Manzer Munir

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