WASHINGTON— International Human Rights Day, December 10, received scant world attention this year, apart from a handful of people and cities around the globe. In the nation’s capital, a few people spoke at a forum at the National Press Club, using this occasion to call attention to what they said were particularly egregious violations of human rights.
Sixty-one years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, following the horrors and human tragedies associated with World War II and the Holocaust.
“Universal human rights” has become an accepted concept that encompasses all nations, religions and elasticities. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said last year that the UDHR acknowledged the “inherent dignity and equality of all human beings."
On Dec 10, we not only remember to support universal human rights, “but also we remember those who have denied them, including totalitarian and supremacist nations and ideologies of the world…,” said Jeffrey Imm, representing “Responsible for Equality and Liberty (R.E.A.L.),” which sponsored the event held at the National Press Club.
R.E.A.L., consisting of all volunteers from the U.S. Canada, UK, and Europe, is a new organization that started this year. R.E.A.L. also sponsored a public meeting acknowledging human rights day in Nuremberg, Germany as well as private meetings in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Many Islamic countries in violation of universal human rights
Individuals and nations violate universal human rights when they don’t make “equality and liberty” their number one priority, according to Imm. This is a high standard to meet in today’s world. This forum focused on two major violators of universal human rights: the governments of Moslem majority countries enforcing religious or Sharia law, and totalitarian communist China.
Two countries mentioned most frequently in this event, Pakistan and China, were declared by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)—a list of 13 nations that are the worst offenders of religious freedom. Egypt, also mentioned often, is on the Commission’s “Watch List.”
The use of blasphemy laws against Christians in Pakistan beginning in the 1980s has damaged the harmony among religious communities, according to Nazir Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress. Bhatti cited more than 7000 cases of these laws that occurred from 1984 to 2009. “Thirty-two [persons] accused of blasphemy were murdered in jails, police lockups or in streets by hands of radical Islamic elements,” said Bhatti.
Pakistan was declared an Islamic Republic in 1973, and their constitution and legislation proclaimed Pakistan to be home to Muslims only, according to Bhatti. The USCIRF states that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws “commonly involve false accusations and result in the lengthy detention of and violence against Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and Muslims on account of their religious beliefs.”
In the 1980s, amendments were added to the blasphemy laws that imposed capital punishment, said Bhatti. Apparently, the law may influence public opinion. Imm cited a Pew Global Research poll conducted in Pakistan last Aug, which found that 78 percent believe in the death penalty for those who made the choice to leave Islam.
“The blasphemy law was used by the Muslim majority in Pakistan to settle personal disputes and business rivalries against Christians…after 1986, said Bhatti. Christian villages “were attacked by Muslim mobs and hundreds of homes set on fire.” He cited 10 towns where the churches were attacked and worshippers gunned down. The Holy Bibles were desecrated, pastors were gunned down and moreover children and women were burnt alive,” said Bhatti. He would like to see the rppeal of the blasphemy laws and the Sharia law on the 20 million Pakistani Christians.
No less incensed by the imposition of Sharia law was Ashraf Ramelah, President of Voice of the Copts, and an Egyptian. He spoke on behalf of Christians of Egypt (known as Copts). “We demand an end to kidnapping minor Christian girls, forcing them to convert to Islam. Those girls are often raped and tortured using inhuman techniques by Muslim extremists.”
Ramelah said: “Any crime committed against a Coptic woman[in Egypt] is treated without morality, conscience and legal deterrence….In examining what happened only in [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak’s era, it’s effortless to point out no single kidnapper was brought to justice, in spite of the gravity of the crime and its frequency.”
Ramelah charged that the reason that nothing is done and why there is no official count of the number of girls harmed is due to the complicity on the part of Egyptian law enforcement and the kidnappers.
Imm expressed his strong disapproval of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)—an organization of 57 nations with mostly Moslem majorities—when in 1990, it created the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI). Imm said the CDHRI is an attack on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bhatti said the adoption of the CDHRI was expressing “no confidence in UDHR” and the supremacy of Sharia law.
“[The OIC] made a conscious decision to deny our unqualified universal human rights, other than those rights allowed by interpretations of Islamic Sharia law,” said Imm.