Islamic leaders question non-Muslim rights
Several Islamic leaders have questioned the loyalty of non-Muslims in the country, declaring today the community’s rights must be re-evaluated if Malaysia is to call itself an Islamic state.
When an entire establishment – the state machinery, the political right and the corporate world – wants something, it gets it. But not now in Gujarat, where a 47-year-old IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt has denied such glory to the mighty establishment just because he stands on the bedrock of his family’s support.
Any other man would have buckled under pressure as perceived and real threats could bring about pressure from within the home to give up. But Bhatt is lucky. His wife, Shweta, mother and two children, a daughter in the final year of MBBS and a son in class XII understand him and his fight for justice.
“My children are absolutely supportive, for over the years they have known the values and principles I stood for. And despite everything (that has happened in my life), my son also wants to join the police,” says Bhatt with pride.
Family support: Wife Shweta and his children are standing by Sanjiv Bhatt as he takes on Narendra Modi in the Gujarat riots case.
The whistleblower took Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi head on by filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court on April 14 to bring on record certain aspects concerning the investigation being conducted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to go into the post-Godhra riots of 2002 that claimed around 1200 lives.
In his affidavit, Bhatt has stated that Modi instructed senior police officers and civil servants at a meeting on February 27, 2002, to let the Hindus vent their anger against an incident at the Godhra railway station where about 59 kar sevaks were burnt to death by pro-Pakistani elements.
Bhatt, who was Deputy Commissioner of Internal security in the state intelligence bureau during the riots that followed the Godhra incident, alleges that the SIT leaked his testimony to the Gujarat government.
“I had not talked about my testimony to anyone outside the SIT. But even as my deposition was on, I was receiving calls from people in the higher echelons of authority asking how I could say such and such things,” says Bhatt referring to his deposition before the SIT in November 2009 .
Though he had deposed truthfully and fearlessly with all documents and details, the SIT failed to conduct an impartial and thorough probe into the allegation of a larger conspiracy behind Gujarat riots of 2002.
“I was angry that the SIT was not living up to expectation and hence filed the affidavit. It is just a correspondence, putting things in perspective,” says Bhatt who is neither a petitioner nor a respondent in the riots case. He could not disclose information on such a sensitive matter earlier as he had to maintain confidentiality as a serving officer. However, Modi has denied that Bhatt was present at the February 27, 2002 meeting convened by him.
Bhatt reiterates there was complete subversion of the law during the 2002 riots and wishes such riots should never take place again. “People quote the riots of 1984 and 1993 to justify the 2002 riot; at least the 2002 riot should not be quoted as a precedent,” he adds.
The Mumbai born and Ahmadabad -bred alumnus of the reputed St Xavier’s High School, says it was an urge to bring about positive changes and make substantial contribution to society that motivated him to join the police. So, after doing his Post-graduation in Geotechnical Engineering (a specialized Civil Engineering branch) from IIT Mumbai and a stint in CMC Ltd, he joined the IPS in 1988.
In last 23 years he has served in different capacities in various districts, Police Commissionerates and Police Units. Now he is Principal of the State Reserve Police Training Centre in Junagadh.
Having done sensitive assignments, including being in charge of Chief Minister’s security, Bhatt is aware of threat perceptions. He has mentioned in his affidavit his concern for the safety of his immediate family members. “I have presently one PSO (Personal Security Officer) and one sentry, which is highly inadequate. The minimum requirement should be four more guards and one more PSO,” he says.
But that is not going to deter him from speaking the truth. Following summons, he is ready to face the Nanavati Commission – probing the Godhra case and the role of Modi in the post-Godhra riots – on May 16. We hope to hear more startling revelations from the man who knows too much and importantly, is willing to talk too.
The recent burning of two churches in Cairo’s Imbaba district reminded me of New Year’s Eve this year, when I was in Cairo. At the time, I heard about the bombing of the church in Alexandria, and I saw the outrage that took place on the streets of Cairo – and the solidarity it resulted in, with Muslim men and women standing guard outside of churches on 7 January, when Copts celebrated Christmas.
That solidarity between Muslims and Christians in Egypt was not short-lived, but a deeply felt, rooted expression. Anyone who had been in Tahrir Square during the uprising knows that – and anyone who had been outside the attacked churches during the uprising knows that too.
No one was outside attacked churches during the uprising – because no churches were attacked. At a time when there was complete lawlessness on the streets, as the regime pulled off the police forces, churches were safe. Had there been such a violent sentiment against Christians in Egypt, that would have been the time to pounce.
In the weeks after the uprising, the former interior minister was officially the subject of an investigation into that New Year’s Eve bombing. The accusation prompting the inquiry was that his ministry was responsible for the bombing in order to shore up support the regime. The investigation continues, although in the court of public opinion (if not in the judiciary system), the verdict was fairly clear. There’s a positive aspect to that – the anti-sectarian mood was clearly what Egyptians were feeling.
I sincerely hoped that would be the way things would continue indefinitely. In recent days, however, it’s been clear that will not be Egypt’s future – at least not for the short or medium term. The two churches burned in Imbaba have raised the spectre of continued religiously based sectarian violence.
When it comes to religion and the public sphere, the Muslim Brotherhood is probably the most influential group in Egypt in terms of bringing religion into it for political ends. Egyptians know that the Muslim Brotherhood sincerely and publically denounced the bombing in Imbaba. Yet, Egyptians also know that the Muslim Brotherhood did not descend on Imbaba to work directly on calming sectarian tensions. Perhaps in the future, it might intervene more through the masses it can bring out. It certainly would build trust in wider society for the movement. It’s never had to play this kind of bridge-builder role before – but Egypt now requires that it do so.
Indeed, Egypt requires all Egyptians do so. While the Muslim community needs to take a hard look at what it may or may not do in order to build trust, the Christian community would probably benefit from reconsidering some of the stances that a minority within it has taken, particularly vis-à-vis the indigenous nature of the Muslim community as well as American intervention to solve the sectarian issue. There have been inflammatory statements and acts of violence emanating from both Muslims and Christians, which will also need to be discussed in safe environments in the future – not for the purpose of playing the ”blame game”, but to establish the facts against a backdrop in which an overwhelming majority of Egyptians oppose sectarianism and want a future where all citizens can feel they are of Egypt, and not some sort of foreign or alien element.
At the moment, there are many in Egypt suspecting that this is not the case for some Muslims and some Christians – and that suspicion has to be put to rest, for once and for all. A new Egypt deserves, requires and demands no less.
The unity of Egyptians is far stronger than the forces of division – and the sense of Egyptian patriotism is more mainstream than the sense of Egyptian sectarianism.
Egyptians can drain the swamp – and they can remove the fuel for divisive forces to use. Tahrir Square, Egyptians were reminded time and time again, brought out the best of what it meant to be an Egyptian. Now all Egyptians must find the best within themselves, and together they must confront the worst – and defeat it.
Former president of Islamic Da’wah Foundation Malaysia (Yadim), Datuk Nakhaie Ahmad, said treatment of non-Muslims must be based on the social contract agreed and pointed out that the government has been too gracious to the community.
“In attempts to get vote and support of non-Muslims, we have been very gracious in giving them their civil rights. Civil rights given to them includes the rights to vote, participation in politics, hold office, involvement in the military and so forth but we cannot just willingly give them everything.
“Our offer must be based on religious practices. If we look at the prophet’s agreement in the Madinah constitution, civil rights were given to the Jews but the rights must be paid back with responsibility. They must have the responsibility and agree to defend our country and not insult the agreement,” he said during a forum here.
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared Malaysia an Islamic state a decade ago in a move to counter PAS’s growing influence among the country’s key Malay Muslim population.
The issue cropped up this month when several groups asked for amendments to the Federal Constitution to stipulate only Muslims can be the prime minister after Utusan Malaysia carried an unsubstantiated report of a Christian plot to usurp Islam’s position as religion of the federation.
Nakhaie stressed that non-Muslims that have broken the social contract must be expelled from the country and asked the government to adopt a tough approach in safeguarding Muslim interest.
“If the agreement is broken then actions must be taken against them. If they break our agreement then they are our enemy and must be expelled from the country. We must not compromise with them. We must be stern with them when it comes to the social contract agreed,” he said.
Nakhaie added it is important that high level government positions not be awarded to non-Muslims for national security.
“We cannot give them important government position as it is not allowed for non-Muslims to become ministers in a Islamic state. Head of military must also not be given to non-Muslims.
“Without thinking about the future of our country, we are so willing to give them everything. Granting them their civil rights must be balanced with Islamic preaching so they will understand justice in Islam and the Islamic system,” said the former PAS member who defected to Umno years ago.
He also warned Muslims to unite as non-Muslims will become stronger if the community continues to quarrel among themselves.
“They are brave now and are willing to say anything because they are becoming dominant. They (non-muslim political parties) are only working with us to only achieve their goals. It is a marriage of convenience. We know what is their programme. We are already losing economically and now we want to give political rights?” he asked.
Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia’s (ISMA) deputy president Zamri Hashim added that Muslims must look beyond political affiliation for a common greater cause.
“We must think outside of politics. The Malay agenda is too important to ignore and a majority of Malays are Muslims. This is no longer about PAS and Umno,” said the Perak deputy Mufti.
Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) deputy president, Dr Mohd Rumaizuddin Ghazali, also stressed that Malaysia must never become a secular state.
“This is why many non-Muslim politicians want to declare the country as a secular state because then the government will not have fund religious programmes.
“They are scared that if we accept Malaysia as an Islamic state then there are many implications which means that only Muslims have the right to lead the country,” he said.
Mohd Rumaizuddin added that the Malays are beginning to be trampled on and non-Muslims are starting to take advantage of the community.
“Because of politics, we are still not free after more than 50 years of independence,” he said.
Hizbut Tahrir Malaysia president Abdul Hakim Othman added the country’s constitution must be replaced as it has been stained by the colonial British.