Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Religious Freedom

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Religious Freedom

Religious freedoms have been one of the controversial issues and encountered serious restrictions around the globe. With the rise of religious radicals, who violate people’s fundamental rights on the basis of their faith and religion, this issue is debated hotly in recent years. A number of religious groups are not able to practice their religious beliefs or rituals freely in many parts of the world.
History shows that claiming religious superiority led to bloody wars around the human societies and millions of people were killed mercilessly for practicing certain religious tenets. People of different faith and religions slew one another in cold blood and curtailed their freedoms to a great extent. They never showed an iota of tolerance to one another. Hence, the cycle of violence and deadly wars continued unabated inflicting heavy casualties upon nations. To stop this cycle, the human societies approved a number of international instruments, mainly following World War Two, including the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states in article 18, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” A myriad of countries, including Afghanistan, endorsed the two international instruments to let people exercise their religious beliefs and rituals without barriers.
Virtually, this approach could mitigate violence to some extent and precluded from large-scale wars of religions. Nonetheless, a number of religious individuals or groups found international instruments in conflict with their religious tenets and could not reconcile their religious beliefs with secular ideas stated in the instruments.
Mainly, there were two kinds of approach regarding the secular ideas. For instance, a number of states prevented religious rituals and symbols in public places and adopted secular idea in all its form. Wearing scarf for Muslim women or turban for Sikhs were not allowed. This was against the content of the UDHR which said that everyone was able to practice their religion freely and should not be discriminated in this regard.
On the other hand, a number of radical groups resorted to armed conflicts to impose their own beliefs on people. Refusing to recognize international religious freedom, they continued violence and bloodshed. In recent years, religious radicals operated into systematic way, terrorizing people and stoking sectarianism. They are called terrorist groups which, currently, have been changed into a global threat. Although terrorist groups are changed into political pawns and continue proxy wars, they operate under the mask of religion and fuel sectarianism. Thus, religious freedom was curtailed once more and changed into a hot topic.
Recently, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that US allies did not uphold principles of religious freedom in 2016, while the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has carried out “genocide” against religious minorities.
Lashing out at the US close partner Saudi Arabia, Tillerson said that Saudi should “embrace greater degrees of religious freedom for all of its citizens”. He also singled out another Gulf Arab country, Bahrain, saying it “must stop discriminating against the Shia communities”. He also called Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, China and Sudan to protect the rights and freedoms of religious minorities.
More or less, religious freedom is violated in many parts of the world. Bombing mosque this month in Minnesota caused an uproar in social media when the US media or President Donald Trump did not call it terrorist attack. For example, Brown Saraah tweeted, “Someone bombed a mosque in Minnesota recently. You probably didn’t hear about this because mainstream media likes to demonize Muslims”.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said that the attack comes amid a dramatic rise in the number of anti-Islam bias incidents in the United States. The group found that there were 2,213 such incidents last year, a 57 percent increase from 2015. A recent report also said hate crimes spiked in 2016, which was the worst year on record for anti-Muslim incidents since the group began its documentation system in 2013.
To sum up, religious conflicts are likely to mount in the process of time with the intensification of sectarian violence and many religious group will be the casualty of their faith and beliefs. Terrorist groups will continue stoking sectarianism if the world does not adopt an effective mechanism to combat terrorism and militancy. The world must promote religious tolerance and the spirit of brotherhood to mitigate violence in this regard. Indeed, there will be peace and stability if all nations accept and tolerate one another and all be free to practice their religious beliefs and rituals without obstacles.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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