The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is deeply concerned over a lawsuit filed against Sisters in Islam (SIS), a group of women human rights defenders advocating for women’s rights in Malaysia. We received information that on 22 March 2010, the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youths (MAMY) filed a lawsuit against SIS through its lawyer, Mr. Sahlan Saruddin. The MAMY is questioning the use of the word “Islam” in the website and publications of SIS. It claims that “Islam” is a word controlled and limited by the Registrar of Companies and can only be used after obtaining permission from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) and related government agencies which deal with Islamic affairs. The MAMY also claims that SIS only uses the word “Islam” to attract people’s attention and its use of this word causes confusion to the public. The letter to Prime Minister’s Office is attached.
High Court Directs Government to Immediately Implement Sexual Harassment Guidelines in all Educational Institutions, and ensure that Women Not Forced to Veil or Cover their Heads. Advocate Salahuddin Dolon v Bangladesh, Writ Petition No. 4495 of 2009. Summary: The High Court today directed the Ministry of Education to take immediate steps to implement the Guidelines on Sexual Harassment declared earlier in BNWLA v Bangladesh, and to ensure that no woman working in any educational institution, public or private is forced to wear a veil or cover her head, and may exercise her personal choice whether or not to do so. The Court also observed that Section 27A of the Government Servants Discipline and Conduct Rules 1979, must be read alongside these Guidelines, to ensure that public officials are held to account for any acts of sexual harassment.
On Friday 9th April, 2010 Amnesty International announced Gita Sahgal's departure from Amnesty International. You can read her statement in full here. On 29 March 2010, the initiators of “The Global Petition: Restoring The Integrity of Human Rights” responded to Amnesty International's letter in which Claudio Cordone, InterimSecretary General of Amnesty International (AI), stated "Moazzam Begg and others in his group Cageprisoners also hold other views which they have clearly stated, for example on whether one should talk to the Taleban or on the role of jihad in self-defence. Are such views antithetical to human rights? Our answer is no, even if we may disagree with them...". Reiterating the imperative today for the public accountability of an organization such as Amnesty International, the initiators of the Global Petition set out why they believe that AI's attitude to defensive jihad raises very serious concerns: "The call for ‘defensive jihad’ is a thread running through many fundamentalist and specifically ‘salafi-jihadi’ texts. It is mentioned by Abdullah Azzam, mentor of Osama bin Laden, and founder of Lashkar e Tayyaba. It is the argument of ‘defensive jihad’ that the Taleban uses to legitimise its anti human rights actions such as the beheading of dissidents, including members of minority communities, and the public lashing of women..."
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Response from Amnesty international to the global petition and a Response from the petitioners:In a letter in response to the Global Petition to Amnesty International, the Secretary General of Amnesty International makes a shocking and incredible claim that "Defensive Jihad not antithetical to Human Rights". If this is the official position of the world’s leading human rights organisation, this would gravely undermine the future of the human rights movment.
On March 10, the Global Campaign To Stop Killing and Stoning Women (SKSW Campaign) hosted a forum to introduce the Women Re-claiming and Redefining Cultures (WRRC) programme and a screening of two video documentaries on violence against women and girls justified in the name of ‘culture’.
This month in two consecutive events, the Saudi King and a Saudi woman took on the Wahabi religious establishment. A simple gesture by the king and a poem by the woman set off another clash between the palace, which is trying gradually to take some steps toward liberalization, and an intransigent religious establishment that is fighting them every inch of the way, particularly on issues related to women’s rights.
For the last seven years, since its launch in 2004, the London-based Islam Channel has been hugely influential in the British Muslim community, where it has played a pivotal role in the development of a British Islam. Every night, thousands of British Muslims, many of them young, tune into the channel to watch programmes dealing with news, current affairs and religion from a distinctly Islamic angle. In addition, every few years, the channel organises a conference called Global Peace and Unity, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors, both Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as a smattering of senior politicians.
The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network expresses its solidarity with Gita Sahgal, a longstanding ally of the network who is active in various organisations, collectives, and movements committed to upholding universal human rights. WLUML has learned that she has repeatedly raised internal inquiries into Amnesty International’s association with the organisation Cageprisoners, headed by Moazzam Begg, around the Counter Terror with Justice Campaign. On 7 February 2010, Sahgal was suspended from her position as Head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International. You can take action by signing the Global Petition in support of Gita Sahgal which now has over 1,800 signatories.
On February 7, 2010 Gita Sahgal, head of Amnesty International’s Gender Unit, was suspended from her job. This was hours after the publication of an article in The Sunday Times, UK, where she made public her concerns about Amnesty International’s legitimisation of Moazzam Begg, a former Guantلnamo Bay detainee, as a human rights defender. This is not the first time that Amnesty International’s policies towards fundamentalists have been confronted from within and this is not the first time that AI has taken action, drastic action, against those who dare to voice their dissent, even if internally, about such policies.