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India suspends spokesperson for insulting Prophet Muhammad

Government spokesperson in India suspended for Islamophobia

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India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party suspended its spokeswoman, Nupur Sharma for making Islamophobic comments on a live TV debate in India regarding Prophet Mohammed.

Sharma apologised on Twitter for the offense she caused:

“If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I unconditionally withdraw my statement,” she said.

Another BPJ spokesman, Naveen Jindal was also suspended for making Islamophobic comments on social media.

He claimed he made them as a response to insults against Hindu gods. The party released a statement condemning the acts by their spokespeople:

“The BJP strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion,” it said. Adding, “The Bharatiya Janata Party is also strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy.”

The offensive remarks caused a backlash from the international community. Nations like Qatar, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, and Pakistan demanded an apology for the derogatory comments. It also resulted in protests all over the country. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the comments while highlighting the country’s recent hijab ban and destruction of Muslim property.

“These insults come in the context of the increasing intensity in hatred of and insults to Islam in India and the systematic harassment of Muslims,” the organization said.

As a response, Arindam Bagchi, a government spokesperson stated, “Strong action has already been taken against these individuals by relevant bodies…It is regrettable that OIC Secretariat has yet again chosen to make motivated, misleading, and mischievous comments.”

A report released by the U.S in June, on international religious freedom said that there were attacks on minorities in India throughout 2021. Moreover, Antony Blinken, the secretary of the United States stated, that in India “we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship,” when talking about the report.

After Hinduism, Islam is the second-largest religion in India. It has over 209 million Muslim followers which form 14.6% of the population.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Human Rights

Indian National Security Adviser Encourages Religious Tolerance

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Ajit Doval

On Saturday, the Indian National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, spoke at a conference organized by the All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council (AISSC). Mr. Doval’s message promoted religious tolerance and unity among Indians: “To counter religious animosity we have to work together and make every religious body feel like they are a part of India. We sail and sink together.” Mr. Doval further added, “​​We have to make every sect of India feel that we are a country together, we are proud of it and that every religion can be professed with freedom here.” 

The AISSC interfaith conference resulted in the passing of a resolution, which called out radical “anti-national” organizations. “Organizations like the Popular Front of India (PFI) and any other such outfits that have been indulging in anti-national activities and creating discord among our citizens must be banned and action must be initiated against them as per the law of the land,” reads the resolution. It also says, “Targeting any God/Goddesses/Prophets in discussions/debates by anyone should be condemned and dealt with as per law.”

The intention behind the conference was a noble one, and Mr. Doval’s message is important for Indians. Nonetheless, these words must be accompanied by actions that reflect similar sentiments. In March of this year, for instance, a court in the Indian state of Karnataka upheld a school’s ban on hijabs. Such a ban prevents Muslim girls from upholding their basic religious practices, and it belies the notion “that every religion can be professed with freedom” in India. On a larger scale, the Indian national parliament has increasingly been marginalizing Muslims. In December of 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which enables expedited access to citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan — notably, Muslims are excluded. 

Now, the AISSC conference and Mr. Doval’s remarks are yet another important reminder for the Indian government to supplement words with action and support all its people. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis 

International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet

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“Winter is coming.”

That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.

“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”

Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.

After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.

A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.

On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet. 

“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”

And there are thousands of children like them.

“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”

A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior. 

“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.

“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.

Afghanistan abandoned


A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”

“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”

The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families. 

“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.

Prospects of famine remain

With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.

“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.

“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.

Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.

“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”

The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.

Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.

Need for international aid

At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing      over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”

“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.

“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.” 

He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”

The question of frozen assets

Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.

Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. 

However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.

The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.

Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.

“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”

Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis. 

“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington. 

She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.

“Don’t forget them,” she said.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

The Horrifying Abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China  

The horrifying abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China

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The Horrifying Abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China  

On a recent visit to the Xinjiang region, China’s President Xi Jinping said, ‘Islam in China must be Chinese in orientation.’ There he spoke to officials and said religions should adapt to ‘the socialist society.’  

With the tightened grip on society that the President has, his government has been repeatedly accused of oppressing Muslims and detaining them in “re-education camps.”  Ever since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) implemented its five-year plan to “sinicize” Islam, there have been countless Mosques across China that have been deconstructed or repressed. However, it does not stop there, an estimated ‘three million Uyghur Muslims have been unjustly detained in Chinese concentration camps.’ China has proclaimed that these facilities are so called ‘re-education camps’ however survivors have confirmed it to be ‘worse than prisons.’ 

The Human Rights Watch has said that Uyghurs – the largest minority ethnic group in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang – are subjected to intense surveillance and forced to provide DNA and biometric samples. Anyone who has relatives residing in at least twenty-six “sensitive” countries have been reportedly rounded up and swept into detainments. From there, they are made to learn Mandarin Chinese, and to criticise or renounce their faith. 

Approximately nearly half a million Muslim children have been torn and separated from their families and placed in boarding schools. The detainees have been subjected to forced labour, medicine is forcibly administered to women to stop their menstrual period and several women survivors – even during their teenage years – have reported being gang-raped by guards at their facilities.  

A recent article was released by the BBC revealing all the human lives that had been torn apart by China’s Uyghur concentration camps. These leaked secret CCP documents known as Xinjiang Police Files were obtained by unidentified hackers and exposed the prison-like nature of the concentration camps that officials insisted to be “Vocational Training Centres.”  

Amongst files upon files of rules and regulations, there were police manuals describing shoot-to-kill policies on any Uyghurs attempting to escape and the document also provided a solid amount of evidence towards a policy which was targeted to any expression of Uyghur identity, culture, or the Islamic faith – with a chain of command that ran all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.  

Many have been detained just for ordinary, apparent signs of their Islamic faith or for visiting countries with majority Muslim populations. Offences such as “growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism” have led people to become interments for more than sixteen years and the Chinese state have then determined their expression of Uyghur identity to be illegal.  

This ongoing rights issue has led to questions of consent and whether it has been applied to this situation. In Tumxuk, Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to create an image of a person’s face using a DNA sample. This facial recognition technology is advancing and being used to sort people by ethnicity and the usage of DNA is to tell if an individual is Uyghur.  

Ethics of science have been pushed beyond the barriers of privacy, China has been accused of creating “technologies used for hunting people.” 

Religious indoctrination is being forced upon Muslim Uyghurs; they are made to chant “Communist Party Akbar” instead of the traditional “Allah Akbar” (God is Great) that Muslims say to praise and glorify God. 

These “re-education camps” have led to slow, painful deaths for many Uyghurs. Physical and mental torture, beatings, crowded cells, no toilets, and forced medication. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Religion

What lies ahead after Pope Francis’ visit to Canada? 

Here are the highlights of the pontiff’s visit and what comes next after Pope Francis toured Canada

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis may have returned to Rome after a six-day tour of Canada, but the work of reconciliation with Indigenous communities will continue in his wake.

The visit was the fulfilment of the pontiff’s promise to visit Canada and deliver an in-person apology for Christians’ role in residential schools which saw thousands of Indigenous children ripped from their families, horrifically abused and often killed. 

Dubbed “Walking Together,” the tour continued despite the cancellation of the Pope’s tour of Africa earlier in July, owing to health concerns. 

The Pope began the visit in the Western province of Alberta, with his much-anticipated apology. He later held mass and performed other rites before travelling to Quebec to hold a prayer service in which he acknowledged victims of sexual abuse. His last stop was to the northern territory of Nunavut, where he met with residential school survivors in the capital of Iqaluit.

Here are the highlights of Pope Francis’ visit and what lies ahead:

Pope Francis’ apology 

The pontiff’s first formal event was his apology at Maskwacis, a community in central Alberta which is home to four Indigenous nations.

“When the European colonists first arrived here, there was a great opportunity to bring about a fruitful encounter between cultures, traditions and forms of spirituality. Yet for the most part that did not happen,” he told those gathered, recalling stories from survivors of “how the policies of assimilation ended up systematically marginalizing the indigenous peoples.”

Through the residential school system, their “languages and cultures were denigrated and suppressed,” the Pope noted. He also reflected on “how children suffered physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse; how they were taken away from their homes at a young age, and how that indelibly affected relationships between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren”.

“I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” he said.

The Pope noted that the apology “is only the first step” and “an important part of this process will be to conduct a serious search into the facts of what took place in the past and to assist the survivors of the residential schools to experience healing from the traumas they suffered.”

Moccasins returned

Screenshot 2022 08 01 at 13.01.31

When an Indigenous delegation from Canada visited The Vatican earlier in the year, they gave Pope Francis two pairs of children’s moccasins which he described “as a sign of the suffering endured by Indigenous children, particularly those who, unfortunately, never came back from the residential schools.” He was asked to return the moccasins on his visit to Canada, which he did after his apology.

“I would like to reflect on this symbol, which over the past few months has kept alive my sense of sorrow, indignation and shame,” the pontiff said. “The memory of those children is indeed painful; it urges us to work to ensure that every child is treated with love, honour and respect. At the same time, those moccasins also speak to us of a path to follow, a journey that we desire to make together. We want to walk together, to pray together and to work together, so that the sufferings of the past can lead to a future of justice, healing and reconciliation.”

Mixed reactions 

Pope Francis’ words were met with a range of responses, from anger or retraumatisation for some, to closure and healing for others.

“I see Pope Francis’s apology today as only the first step in the Church making amends with our People,” said George Arcand Jr., Chief of Alexander First Nation and Treaty Six Grand Chief, in a press release. “There’s a lot of work to be done. … I am hopeful — Pope Francis has shown grace. He can lead the change for his people and we are prepared to walk alongside them on their reconciliation journey. I thank him for honouring our requests to deliver this apology in person. It is a gift for many.”

“The church and the government, they need to step up. You can’t just say I’m sorry and walk away. There has to be effort, there has to be work and more meaningful action behind it,” said Desmond Bull, Chief of Louis Bull Tribe.

“This apology — we could take it. Accept it. And move forward the best we know how. Or we can be stuck,” added Chief Greg Desjarlais of Frog Lake First Nation. “I want to encourage the Survivors to move forward in a good way. Because we are the products of these Survivors. Some call them thrivers. They’re the drivers as well that are going to help change the landscape for our children and grandchildren.”

“There was no mention in his apology of releasing the documents that we desperately need across Canada,” said Evelyn Korkmaz, a residential school survivor and advocate. “These documents have our history. These documents hold where these lost souls were buried. These documents hold the identification of these children, it would give their families, loved ones, closure. Everybody needs closure in order to heal and move on.”

A meaningful gift

After the apology, Chief Wilton Littlechild of the Ermineskin Cree Nation outfitted Pope Francis with a traditional headdress made of eagle feathers. It was a significant gesture rich in meaning.

In an interview with journalist Brandi Morin (who is Cree, Iroquois and French), the chief revealed the headdress belonged to his late grandfather. 

“One of the things I learned … being raised by my grandparents, is you don’t criticize other culture’s traditions,” said the chief. “In our traditional way, you would welcome … dignitaries, and many other tribes have given headdresses to a lot of other people like ministers and senators and business people. 

“We decided at home, as a community, to welcome him with a gift because he came into our territory. And we were actually flabbergasted that he chose us … All across the country, and we were picked. We didn’t lobby for it. We were just chosen to be the one where he would give his apology.” 

What comes next?

At the end of the visit, the Bishops of Canada acknowledged the duties tasked to them by the pontiff, including helping survivors and families heal from their traumas. 

“We have heard this call,” the group said in a press release, committing to reviewing an updated action plan in the fall. Among the demands received from Indigenous communities were calls for more transparency for residential school records; help to address systemic injustices Indigenous people continue to face, and working to promote healing and reconciliation.

“It is our hope that the relationships forged in this planning process, particularly with Indigenous partners at both the national and local levels, will grow well beyond this visit and serve as the foundation for the work that lies ahead.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Indigenous Abuse in Catholic Canadian Residential Schools- Who is to Blame?

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Study period at Roman Catholic Indian Residential School Fort Resolution Northwest Territories 14112957392

Starting from the 1880s and up until much of the 20th century (till 1998) more than 130 Residential Schools which were created by the Canadian Government and supported by Catholic Church conducted a cultural genocide of indigenous children in Canada. 

Around 150,000 children of ages as young as three years old used to be forcibly separated from their parents and made to live in the residential schools where they faced physical, sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse. 

Children were forced to assimilate into the white Canadian culture and they were not even allowed to speak their native language.  The idea was to kill the native from within those children. 

Ever since the 1970s, the unmarked graves of children suspected to have died due to disease, neglect or other causes while in these residential schools have been found from time to time, a recent of 200 plus such graves of indigenous children were discovered last year.  

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have reported that graves of thousands of children have been found over the years.  They were buried on the school premises and parents were not even informed or their dead bodies were not sent to their homes apparently to save costs.  

Over the last 50 years there have been demands of an apology from the Catholic Church by the survivors of these schools and the families of the children who went through this dark period. The recent visit of the Pope to Canada is in fulfillment of one of the action items demanded by the survivors of these schools and other indigenous leaders. 

The Pope visited the site of a former residential school and apologized for the involvement of Catholic Church in government sponsored “projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation” during his current dedicated trip to Canada called as penitential pilgrimage.

“Understanding that survivors will each have their own vision of reconciliation, for many, anything less than an apology that includes an unqualified admission of the crimes committed, a full acceptance of responsibility, and a commitment to end the abuse and make full reparations will be just another empty apology and continuing injustice for First Nations, Inuit and Metis,” said an indigenous leader. 

The Pope in his speech offered apology multiple times  in different ways and said “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” He added “May Jesus be preached as he desires, in freedom and charity.”

Reacting to the apology, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada said, “a lot of mixed emotions at this point, where some people are happy with the visit and the intent and [others don’t] want to hear about it at all.”

“When he talks about the atrocities that the churches did on our people, he didn’t use the word ‘sexual abuse.’ … That’s what happened. It happened. And why did he not say that?”, a residential school survivor commented.  

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Pope Francis Apologizes for Indigenous Abuse in Canadian Residential Schools

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  • Pope Francis traveled to the grounds of a former residential school near Alberta, Canada and formally apologized for the Church’s role in the abuse of indigenous people and erasure of indigenous culture.
  • The majority of the schools were run by members of the Roman Catholic Church in the late 1800s and 1900s. Around 150,000 indigenous children were sent to the schools and more than 3,000 are estimated to have died.
  • In his speech, the Pope asked for forgiveness and highlighted the Church’s role in the schools system, stating, “I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities cooperated… in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools.”
  • Indigenous chiefs, survivors of the residential schools, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were some of the few in attendance for the Pope’s remarks.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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