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Hijab wearing Costco employee files complaint alleging harassment and discrimination

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A Muslim woman in the US has filed a complaint against wholesaler, Costco, alleging workplace discrimination and harassment.

Wafa Aziz, 44, who had worked at two stores in Livonia in the state of Michigan, claimed managers were prejudiced against her for being visibly Muslim since she joined in November 2018.

“They view me differently,” she said. “They see what I wear on the outside but they don’t view me as a human being.”

Aziz, who is of Arab-descent and wears the hijab, said she was subject to rumours from her manager, who filed a false document to discipline her and prevented her from progressing to higher paying roles. She also claimed to have overheard managers saying her employment was to fill in “minority numbers”.

“We are living in America, where we have laws that protect citizens from this type of discrimination, but it’s still going on,” Aziz said. “At a corporation like Costco, that should not be OK…They should be held accountable for that.”

Still an employee of the corporation, the 44 year old said she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. But the mother of two, including a daughter who has scoliosis, will not quit.

“Why would I and why should I? Why should I have to leave because someone is trying to push me out because I’m simply different [from] them? Because they think me wearing my hijab is going to obstruct me from performing my job duties?” she said.

Islamophobia in the US has seen an uptick. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre in March this year revealed 78% of adults believe Muslims face discrimination, compared to 68% who believe Jews do, and 44% who believe Evangelical Christians are subject to mistreatment.

In May, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said there had been an increase of 9% in civil rights complaints it had received since 2020.

Just last month, US President Joe Biden condemned the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “These hateful attacks have no place in America.” he wrote in a tweet.

But discrimination against hijab-wearing American women is twofold. In 2019, a woman working at a detention centre in Delaware, Wilmington, was prevented from wearing her hijab on the grounds that religious clothing was “unsafe” at the facility that houses inmates. At the time, the agency worker, Madinah Brown’s attorney described the case as a “clear example of religious discrimination.”

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.

Religion

Arab Gulf States: “Remove content that violates Islamic values or face legal action, Arab Gulf states tell Netflix”

Six Arab Gulf States as well as Saudi Arabia have threatened Netflix with legal measures if they continue showing content with any kind of LGBTQ+ representation, since it does not align with ‘Islamic values’.

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Six Arab Gulf States as well as Saudi Arabia have threatened Netflix with legal measures if they continue showing content with any kind of LGBTQ+ representation, since it does not align with ‘Islamic values’.

A joint statement was published by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), consisting of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It did not mention any content specifically, but said that it “contradicts Islamic and societal values”.  The statement also mentioned that “the platform was contacted to remove this content, including content directed to children, and to ensure adherence to the laws.”

On Saudi state TV a woman, who was identified as a behavioural consultant, also called Netflix the “official sponsor of homosexuality”. Another segment also suggested that Netflix could be banned in Saudi Arabia due to programming deemed to negatively influence children.

“Even though it might seem harsh to some, these bans are understandable. Since countries like Saudi Arabia are Muslim countries, whose laws are also somewhat based on Islamic values, laws like this are justified. Just because the Western world is normalising these things, doesn’t mean we have to adapt our values to theirs.” Anisa Ali, a Saudi woman living in Germany, told Analyst News.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and 12 other countries have banned movies with gay characters before. Just earlier this year Walt Disney’s new ‘Buzz Lightyear’ movie, a movie based on the Toy Story franchise, was banned in the UAE, due to showing two women kissing. In 2020 the Pixar movie ‘Onward’, an animated movie set in a fantasy world with elves, was banned in Arab Gulf States such as Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, as it showed a female character saying she’s lesbian. Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’, which was released earlier this year, was also banned in some Muslim Arab countries, because it also featured America Chavez, a lesbian character. Some fans even blamed Xochiti Gomez, the actress that played America, for ‘ruining’ the movie, despite the character already being gay in the comics.

As well as content featuring LGBTQ+ themes, an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s show ‘Patriot Act’ criticising Prince Mohammed, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi as well as Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemeni war, was also removed off Saudi Netflix.

These bans are happening due to the contradiction with Islamic values. People of the LGBTQ+ community are seen as sinful, which is why most Muslim countries have not legalised homosexuality. However, countries like Bahrain, which have legalised homosexuality for citizens above the age of 21, still maintain anti-gay views, since they also joined the GCC’s recent statement and have not legalised same-sex marriage.  In Qatar, along with several other Muslim countries such as Kuwait and Somalia, homosexuality is punishable by law for up to 10 years. Other countries such as Sudan or Mauritania have the death penalty for same-sex relationships.

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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Business

Hijab-Wearing Muslim Women Face Discrimination in Hiring Practices

Muslim women around the world find themselves in the middle of heated political and social debates, because of their choice to wear the Muslim veil.

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Muslim women around the world find themselves in the middle of heated political and social debates, because of their choice to wear the Muslim veil. Their Hijab is a barrier towards their participation in a western society, not because of any barrier the head covering presents, but because of the discrimination and prejudice surrounding it.

A new report from a group of researchers at the University of Oxford, Utrecht, and Berlin revealed that Muslim women in the Netherlands and Germany are less likely to get hired for high customer-contact jobs if they wear the Hijab. The field experiment also included Spain, where they found less discrimination compared to the other two countries.

In an interview with Analyst News, senior University of Oxford researcher, and co-author of the paper, Mariña Fernández Reino said that the funding and reason for publishing this paper comes from a push from the European commission “to assess and measure discrimination against ethnic minorities.”

The paper reports that the average callback rate for native women in the Netherlands who did not wear the Hijab in their application photo, was around 70%. But for women who did wear the Hijab in their photos the callback rate was only 35%.

For a country like the Netherlands, known as one of the more accommodating nations towards religious minorities, these statistics are concerning. This shows that employers take Hijabi women at face-value, in a country that is normally known for its progressive practices towards people of all backgrounds.

The ongoing politicisation of visible Muslim women has prejudiced people — customers and employees alike — against those that choose to wear the veil. The Netherlands, despite its otherwise progressive stance on religious freedom, has policies in place that discriminate against Muslim women, such as the burqa ban. But the discriminatory practices that have been proven to exist in employment fields further ostracize Muslim women who wear the Hijab from participating in society.

Germany had a similar, albeit, less staggering, difference than the Netherlands: 53% of native German unveiled applicants received a callback for their job applications, whereas the veiled applicants received callbacks at a rate of around 25%.

Khola Hübsch, a German journalist known as the “face of Muslim women” in Germany tells Analyst News that, “In Germany we had public discussions on the hijab for years.”

In these discussions, however, she points out that Hijabi Muslim women were never included themselves. This meant many prejudices were perpetuated through one-sided dialogue. She says, “As a consequence, we had hijab-bans for teachers and public servants.”

Although these bans were later rescinded, they left their impact, ostracising Hijabi women in society — and thus, the workplace.

Spain which was described in the paper as a country with “high competition for jobs in a context of high unemployment” had a 25% average callback rate for non-Hijabi native Spanish women compared to 15.8% for Hijabi applicants.

Reino says that in addition to competition and unemployment, the lack of discussion surrounding the Hijab on a political level in Spain as compared to Germany and the Netherlands could be a reason it didn’t matter much in employers’ decision for callbacks.

The study further looked at the difference in discrimination in callback rates between non-Hijabi Muslim women and Hijabi Muslim women, to see at what extent employers consider the veil as a barrier to a job.

For high-contact jobs, such as front desk reception, the average callback rates among non-Hijabi Muslim women were 42%, 52%, and 14% for the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. These rates are still less compared to the native majority callback rates, perhaps showcasing a general discrimination towards Muslim women.

But for Hijabi women, the callback rates for these jobs were 18% for both the Netherlands and Germany, and 10% for Spain, showing an even greater disparity.

Reino tells Analyst News the logic they put behind the numbers is that human resource officers during the hiring process consider that, “women that wear a Hijab will be seen and contacted by customers.”

Due to negative societal beliefs surrounding the Hijab in countries like the Netherlands and Germany, she says, “customers might discriminate against employees, and thus businesses, so having public Hijabi employees might be considered bad for business.”

Reino says, “The main take of all this discrimination study is that what happens in the labour market reflects what happens in society.”

To change the inequality and discrimination in hiring practices, the change must start at a societal level. The larger anti-Islam narrative in the West must be studied and addressed.

To do that, Hübsch says “It is important to give those a public voice who are affected. Hijab-wearing women must be involved in the debate.”

Both Reino and Hübsch say that in addition to training employers to remove their prejudices, educational work to debunk the myths surrounding Islam and the Hijab must also be implemented.

The change in the labour market will have to be in tandem with the change in society.

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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I am a student from Ontario, Canada, and an aspiring journalist. I enjoy reading, writing and learning about the world around us - the issues with it and how we can make it a better place.

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Crime

“Log kya kahenge?”: Is colonialism to blame for the rise in honour killings and honour culture in the South Asian community?

Family reputation has huge implications for many South Asian families and is regarded as a very precious asset.

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Honor Killing

“Log kya kahenge?” or “What will people say?” in Urdu and Hindi is a common enough phrase heard by many South Asians.  No doubt Sania Khan, a Pakistani American may also have had to hear this too many times before she was murdered by her ex-husband whilst going through a divorce. Khan, 29 left her bad marriage as she felt unsafe with her husband due to his long-standing mental health issues. She shared her experience on TikTok recalling how “going through a divorce as a South Asian woman feels like you failed at life sometimes”. However, on 18th July 2022 her ex-husband shot her in the head then shot himself.  Sadly, Sania Khan was pronounced dead at the scene.

But why has there been a rise in honour killings in the South Asian community and why is this toxic honour “culture” so important?  Family reputation has huge implications for many South Asian families and is regarded as a very precious asset.  Analyst News spoke to psychoanalyst Shukriya Mahat about how honour is all about abiding by family rules. “Honour is the highest level of integrity you have.  When you are born into a family you have to abide by a certain set of rules and principles that come with that family, so you end up carrying a name of a family, you are not yourself.” That is exactly how the families of honour victims Sania Khan, Qandeel Baloch and Shafilea Ahmed viewed their daughters. For some South Asian families they are more than willing to kill one of their own when they do not abide by these “rules” to preserve their family’s honour.

“For women in the South Asian community, they gain respectability if they get married as their name becomes attached to a male,” says Neha Gill, executive director of Apna Ghar, a Chicago-based human rights organisation working to end gender-based violence. It offers services to predominantly South Asian women facing intimate partner abuse. Gill told Analyst News that divorced women still carry the stigma of unrespectability within the community – they begin to symbolise sexual impurity, leading to their shaming and shunning.  The definition of what a “respectable woman” is, continues to be used today, because the community is obsessed with creating a woman who is the “marriageable type”.

Gill goes on to say, “Women like Sania Khan are not trusted to make their own decision of leaving a marriage or not” because, she believes, they are not trusted to uphold their family’s honour. “Many women are expected to ‘compromise’ in their marriage, and this can mean many women are expected to tolerate abusive behaviours solely to preserve honour.  That is why we find when abuse victims leave their marriage, that is when the most homicides occur as the abuser loses power and control over their honour,” she explains.

According to the Sri Lankan author and activist Kumari Jayawaradena, the idea of “respectability” is a throwback to colonial times when missionaries who settled in India and Sri Lanka claimed they were bringing “salvation and the light of true faith”.  By trying to convert the native populations, the Christians created female missionaries in schools with the aim of providing  “good Christian wives and mothers” for male converts to uphold the principles set out in the Bible. A family’s honour was tied to whether their daughter was ‘sexually pure’. Thus rules for what a ‘respectable’ woman was, were rooted in fundamentalist Biblical ideas of abstinence before marriage and sexual purity.  But Gill opines that colonialism probably made an already deeply patriarchal society even worse and compounded women’s low status.  Indeed when missionaries were first placed in schools in India and Sri Lanka during British rule it was difficult to persuade parents to send their daughters to school as ‘reading and writing were not considered to be traits of a female’.

Gill explains how the culture is steeped in patriarchy. From the beginning of someone’s life “we praise a woman if she gives birth to a boy but then wishes them to receive a boy ‘next time’ if they give birth to a baby girl.”  Unfortunately this attitude still exists today.   A recent study found that there would be 6.8 million fewer female births recorded across India by 2030 because of sex selective abortions, where a baby is more likely to be aborted if it’s female. This cultural preference exists and is perpetuated through the generations, as a boy means he’s more likely to earn and become a breadwinner and girls are just seen as a “burden from day one” because someone needs to provide for them.  And if you’re unlucky enough to have a girl, then the onus is to ensure she’s of a “marriageable type” so she can be married off as soon as she’s of age.

But why are these blatant discriminatory practices perpetuated today?  Psychoanalyst Mahat believes that the patriarchal system continues to be upheld by the older generation which “instils these rules because for many of their generation, honour is much more important than life.” The problem then becomes that the community is stuck in a constant cycle of successive generations being taught that these backward-looking, paternalistic standards are the cultural norm.

Is there any way to stop this vicious cycle, change attitudes and restore women’s status? Shukriya Mahat feels one way to cut through is education.  She suggests that by simply teaching younger generations that there is no shame in getting a divorce if marriage does not work out and setting better examples for them to follow would be a huge breakthrough. “However, re-educating South Asian adults can be the hardest challenge when they have been taught all their life to abide by these rules,” she says. But it will be women who have suffered at the hands of their partners, who will likely have the courage and agency needed to change the cultural mindset into one which truly values the fairer sex.


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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Human Rights

‘Stateless and homeless’ – 5 years of Rohingya mass exodus

Nearly one million Rohingya continue to live under squalid conditions in refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazaar and Bhasan Char in Bangladesh, uncertain about their future.

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Five years have passed since Myanmar’s military operation against Rohingya Muslims, driving 740,000 refugees into neighbouring Bangladesh. Nearly one million Rohingya continue to live under squalid conditions in refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazaar and Bhasan Char in Bangladesh, uncertain about their future.

August of this year marked the fifth year of the ferocious military operation carried out against the Rohingya Muslim minority in  2017. The state-backed ethnic cleansing in Rakhine saw thousands raped, burnt and killed.

The 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Myanmar are further subjected to systemic oppression and abuse. 130,000 of them are living in internal displacement camps, where they are confined, denied freedom of movement, access to good healthcare and education. Following the military-seized control in the February 2021 coup, conditions of Rohingya in detained camps have become extremely vulnerable. As per reports, 28,000 Rohingyans were left in unfit camps posing ‘life threatening risks’.

According to a United Nations report, the military operations in 2017 were carried out with ‘genocidal intent’. The Myanmar military’s attacks, which lasted weeks, executed targeted killing, sexual violence and the burning of Rohingya houses. Later, in March 2022, the U.S. State Department formally declared the situation as genocide.

Over the years, Myanmar government has strategically stripped  the Rohingyan Muslim minority of their citizenship status. Though challenged by historians, Myanmar’s leadership generally maintains the Rohingya community to be descendants from India and Bangladesh. Under the 1982 Citizenship law, Rohingya were denied citizenship, making them one of the world’s largest stateless population. The ethnic-based Citizenship law leaves Rohingya with no legal protection or fundamental rights.

Muhammad Hussein, a 65 year old who fled Myanmar during the attacks says, “My heart longs for our repatriation to Myanmar. Today, we have no country of our own despite being human. We are requesting the world to help us live as humans. My wish is to have rights, and peace.”

As five years pass by, the Rohingya remain in a stateless purgatory awaiting justice and their rights. The international community needs to make a concerted effort to charge the grave crimes committed by the military against the minority. The Human Rights Watch recommends that “the UN Security Council should end its inaction borne of anticipated vetoes by China and Russia and urgently pass a resolution that institutes a global arms embargo on Myanmar, refers the military’s grave crimes to the International Criminal Court, and imposes targeted sanctions on the junta and military-owned conglomerates.”

Furthermore, governments need to impose restrictions on the funding of Myanmar’s military, primarily the gas revenues totalling around US$1 billion in annual profits. Global communities need to support the case filed by Gambia against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice in 2019 to hold the military accountable for its crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocidal acts.

Described as “the most persecuted minority in the world” by United Nations; Rohingyas live

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

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi blames Prime Minister Modi For The Hate Crimes In India 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi blames PM Modi for rise in hate crimes in India.

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Modi and Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi, member of the Indian National Congress, lambasted Prime Minister Modi at a rally at the Ramlila Ground in the capital New Delhi. Speaking to a large crowd of his supporters before setting off on a long march across the country next week, opposition leader Gandhi accused Modi of pursuing big business at the expense of smaller industries, poor farmers and workers and for creating a 2-tier society – where the rich get richer and the poor are unable to escape poverty. He also raised concerns about increased hate crimes being driven by an atmosphere of fear and division created by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) policy of Hindu-Muslim polarisation, where the main objective seems to be to push a Hindu nationalist ideology. 

Gandhi claimed the prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and essential food items like wheat, have shot up 40-175 percent since Modi came to power 8 years ago. And rising food and energy prices have pushed inflation to an 8-year high. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, unemployment rose to nearly 8.5 percent, with the third largest economy in Asia suffering from several waves of covid outbreaks and nearly half a billion working age Indians worryingly no longer interested in working

Narendra Modi has overseen a very definite shift to the right since his success in 2014 with the BJP which is strongly affiliated with the fascist-inspired Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In 2019 for instance, the passing of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Bill paved the way for legitimization of anti-Muslim sentiment and “explicitly and blatantly seeks to enshrine religious discrimination into law” contrary to the original secular Indian constitution. The impact of Hindutva supremacist policies against left-leaning, socialist and pluralist supporters have begun to be felt in all sections of Indian society including education and universities, police, the media and the judiciary. Violent attacks and lynchings against all minorities including Christians have risen particularly in states ruled by the BJP. And BJP politicians openly engage in hate speech, being responsible for 297 out of 348 incidents since 2014, increasing by a huge 160% in just three and a half months. 

These divisive and extreme ideas have even reached UK towns and cities. A recent Hindutva gathering was held in Leicester – an area with a large multi-ethnic population. Speakers attempted to stir up hatred against the Pakistani community by announcing a boycott of their restaurants. And the recent Indian cricket win over Pakistan in the Asia Cup at the end of August, also led to violence between the two sets of fans, with racist anti-Pakistani videos being shared on social media. 

Despite Gandhi’s promise to “defeat the ideology of the BJP and the RSS”, Modi – almost Trump-like – still remains vastly popular. A recent poll showed 53% of those surveyed want him to remain PM in 2024 with just 9% supporting Gandhi, signalling either the nation’s approval of extremist and racist policies or its disapproval of the Congress party’s establishment agenda. Since losing heavily in 2014 to the BJP, Congress and in particular Gandhi has “demonstrated a total lack of connection with the public and has not a shred of credibility left” according to Baijayant Jay Panda, a national vice-president of the BJP. Congress will need to ensure that the 5-month long, end-to-end Unite India March through all 12 states, appeals to the masses’ desire for unity and an end to the division “on the basis of religion, caste and language that is being promoted by the ruling party”, Otherwise India could be heading for a distorted vision of its original secularist and pluralist dream where some Indian citizens are more equal than others, purely based on religious identity.

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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Human Rights

Author of “Jinnah: A Life” Yasser Latif Hamdani laments Pakistan’s persecution of minorities

Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah would “give up on the idea” of Pakistan if he saw the condition of minorities today, says lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani, as we look at the state of minorities in the country 75 years after it was founded.

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Muhammad Ali Jinnah

When Pakistan was founded in August 1947, its founding fathers had a vision of a free country, with full religious freedoms and equality. In his first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, which was formed to write its constitution, the founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah famously declared:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

75 years on, Pakistan is a hotbed of hate, religious intolerance and state persecution against minorities. 

To understand what went wrong with Jinnah’s vision, Analyst News spoke to human rights lawyer and author of “Jinnah a Life”, Yasser Latif Hamdani about the state’s treatment of minorities.

Blasphemy laws

Pakistan’s minorities are subjected to extreme blasphemy laws, often resulting in fines and sometimes even capital punishment. These blasphemy laws can be filed against any “recognisable” religions. 

The laws originated from colonial British India which were originally created to prevent “intentional damage or defilement of a place or object of worship” and protect the peace of a society. 

But later, hard-line clerics who were against the formation of Pakistan, used the law to separate Ahmadi Muslims from other Muslim sects and officially declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim. Other minorities also fell victim to these laws, which are now being used as a tool for discrimination.

“These laws are absolutely the worst laws that are imaginable in the world right now, completely contrary to all the fundamental rights, not just in the Pakistani constitution but also in all the treaties that Pakistan has signed, including the UN charter,” Hamdani said. 

“They have absolutely no place in the modern 21st century.” 

Yet the laws are used to this day, creating a climate of terror and anguish for those in its fold. 

One infamous case is that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who was accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death. She was released in 2018 following an international outcry. 

But persecution also takes the form of vigilantism.

Last year, a Sri Lankan migrant worker, Priyantha Kumara was lynched to death, in Sialkot over blasphemy accusations by a violent mob. 

Khatme Nabuwat discrimination

Muslims must also sign a ‘Khatme Nabuwat’ form that declares Ahmadis as non-Muslim when getting their ID cards or passports. In March of this year, the Khatme Nabuwat declaration was made compulsory in Nikah forms, the legal marriage document. In Pakistan, to be considered a Muslim, you must declare Ahmadis to be non-Muslim.

Hamdani says this requirement is another form of oppression: “The members wanted to raise the Khatme Nabuwat issue for politics. It is something that they have used time and time again, anytime there is a civilian government in danger, they turn around and make a meal out of the Ahmadi issue.”

“This is not a question of being evidence based, it is not really evidence based,” he added.

Pakistan has been an Islamic Republic since 1957. However, it does not represent true Islamic values and what the country’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah fought so hard for. This point is mentioned by Hamdani in his paper titled “Why Pakistan must be a secular state”.

He argues in the paper that: “Pakistan must be a secular state because by pretending to be an Islamic state and then purporting to legislate in the name of Islam, Pakistan has done more disservice to Islam than any other entity in history.”

According to him, religion is not the root cause for the growing violence against Ahmadis but this is just a “lazy excuse”. He says, “Islam has had a tradition of pluralistic discourse and pluralistic societies within its history. The root cause is simply the intolerance that has been bred because of the global context in the 1980s.”

What can the world do?

In 2020, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet expressed how the blasphemy laws in Pakistan should be amended when she stated: “Religious minorities in Pakistan continue to face violence, repeated attacks on their places of worship, and discrimination in law and practice.” But beyond such calls, neither the UN nor the world has done much to better protect the rights of minorities in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a very important trading member with Generalized System of Preferences (GSP+) rating, which gives developing countries a special incentive to pursue sustainable development and good governance. The countries selected must implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, environment, and good governance. 

Pakistan is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), so it can be held accountable by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) under the human rights council of the UN. Pakistan’s largest trading partners are the UK, the US, and the EU. To help minorities in Pakistan, “these trading countries can make trade contingent upon the upholding of human rights,” says Hamdani.

“Of course, it is not their job or responsibility but the West, as a trading partner, can exercise their influence, if they want to.”

 “The country is entirely contradictory due to its blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws. So, the fact that the West is overlooking this, is just hypocrisy.”

But he points out that despite the impunity with which these laws are used, no one has ever faced death at the hands of the law courts as a result of a blasphemy allegation.

“One of the reasons why the West turns a blind eye is because, inevitably in blasphemy cases, the Supreme Court or the high courts acquit the person accused of blasphemy, so there never has been an execution under [these] laws,” Hamdani adds. 

Instead accused minorities are trapped in a vicious cycle: “Pakistan plays a very interesting game. They bring it to that point and then back off. This is playing to the masses,” he says. 

Article 20 of the Constitution of 1973 gives every citizen, “the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion”. However, when the second constitution in 1974 became part of the original constitution, it declared Ahmadis as non-Muslim. After the Ordinance XX blasphemy law was passed, it prohibited Ahmadis from calling their place of worship a mosque or using any Islamic gestures or symbols. These laws were seen as constitutional by the supreme court. 

These laws would not be upheld by the founding father of Pakistan. 

“Jinnah’s vision as expressed on several occasions was that of an inclusive state where every citizen would be an equal citizen, where religion would be a personal matter, a personal faith of an individual,” said Hamdani.

“His entire struggle had been for the minorities, as he said, since Pakistan was created by minorities it could not turn around and be unmindful of its own minorities.”

“I would go as far as to say that if he could travel to the 21st century and see what has become of Pakistan, he would go back and give up on the whole idea.”

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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