Posts Tagged ‘women’

“Liberating” the Women of Afghanistan

August 10, 2010

by Huda Jawad, Dissident Voice,  August 9th, 2010

Time magazine must be experiencing a severe case of amnesia, judging by the cover of this week’s issue which asks, “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan .” At best, this effort by Time is irresponsible slick journalism; at worst, it is one of the most blatant pieces of pro-war propaganda seen in years. The world owes Afghanistan’s women an honest answer as to why we apathetically allow their condition to deteriorate from horrible to simply unspeakable. Instead, Time is willingly deceiving readers into thinking that the condition of Aisha – the woman pictured on the cover – is a product of the Taliban 10 years ago. It is not. Aisha’s scarred face is a heart-wrenching reflection of the state of Afghan women today in the year 2010, and under the absurd assertion of democracy and the presence of thousands of US and NATO troops in the country.

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UN reveals 100m women ‘missing’ in Asia

March 9, 2010

Morning Star Online,  March 8,  2010

An Ahmedabad, India, demonstration  against gender violence

An Ahmedabad, India, demonstration against gender violence

Nearly 100 million women across Asia “disappear” each year because bias towards boys has fatally deprived them of health care and food, the UN has said.

It warned that 96 million girls in 2007 died either because of gender-selective abortions or disparity in health services.

The number of girls born in the region trailed well behind the global average of 100 to every 107 boys. East Asia has the biggest gap, with 119 boys born each year for every 100 girls.

And once born many women have far less access to proper health care and nutrition, leading to far higher death rates than men in the region.

The UN blamed the gender gulf on deeply entrenched traditions favouring men and half-hearted government efforts to counteract them.

“The efforts of individual countries have not yet been broad, deep, sustained or serious enough to undercut the severe forms of discrimination that persist,” the United Nations Development Programme found in a report timed to coincide with International Women’s Day.

China and India each accounted for about 43 million of the “missing” women, while Pakistan accounted for 6.1 million and South Korea for 200,000.

But the UN warned that disparities were spread across Asia and were also present in wealthy countries such as Japan.

In South Asia 500 women die for every 100,000 live births, the second-worst rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.

And just over half of adult women in the region manage to learn to read and write – the lowest rate in the world.

The Asia-Pacific region also lags behind every region but the Arab world in terms of women’s participation in politics.

In impoverished Nepal they comprise a third of the national legislature, but in Japan and South Korea just 10 and 14 per cent of parliamentary seats are held be women, the UN said.

WOMEN-PAKISTAN: Domestic Violence Bill Draws Mixed Reactions

September 8, 2009

By Zofeen Ebrahim, Inter Press Service News

KARACHI, Sep 7 (IPS) – A historic bill seeking to punish domestic abuse still raises doubts about its ability to meet the goal it sets out to do: end violence against women.

That is assuming the bill, which was approved by the National Assembly on Aug. 4, will be passed by the Senate to make it a law.

“Just as the proceedings began before the bill was put to a vote, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani got up to say his government supported the bill as it fell under their party manifesto’s purview,” said Yasmeen Rehman, a member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, who sponsored the bill. “I was elated.”

Civil society groups advocating protection of women against all forms of violence dubbed the passage a “historic move”.

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Afghanistan passes ‘barbaric’ law diminishing women’s rights

August 15, 2009

Rehashed legislation allows husbands to deny wives food if they fail to obey sexual demands

Women in Islamic dress, wearing the burka, AfghanistanWomen wearing the burka in Baharak town, Afghanistan. Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters

Afghanistan has quietly passed a law permitting Shia men to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands’ sexual demands, despite international outrage over an earlier version of the legislation which President Hamid Karzai had promised to review.

The new final draft of the legislation also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work.

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HRW: Saudi fails to honour women’s rights pledge

July 13, 2009

Middle East Online, First Published 2009-07-09


Restricted in many ways

Human Rights Watch urges Saudi government to stop requiring adult women to seek permission from men.

DUBAI – Human Rights Watch accused the Saudi government on Thursday of not honouring a pledge to end a male guardianship system which curbs the freedom of women in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.

“Saudi officials continue to require women to obtain permission from male guardians to conduct their most basic affairs, like travelling or receiving medical care, despite government assertions that no such requirements exist,” HRW said in a statement.

The New York-based watchdog said in June that Saudi representatives at a UN Human Rights Council review in Geneva had committed to take steps to end the male guardianship rule, give women full legal identity, and ban gender discrimination.

“The Saudi government is saying one thing to the Human Rights Council in Geneva but doing another thing inside the kingdom,” said HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.

“It needs to stop requiring adult women to seek permission from men, not just pretend to stop it.”

HRW said Saudi daily Al-Watan reported last week that Saudi doctors have confirmed that health ministry regulations still require a woman to obtain permission from her male guardian to undergo elective surgery.

It also said Saudi border guards at the causeway linking Saudi Arabia to Bahrain refused in June to allow renowned women’s rights activist Wajeha al-Huwaider to leave because she did not have her guardian’s permission.

Much of life in the desert kingdom is governed by the strict Wahhabi branch of Islam, and law is heavily based on sharia, or Islamic law.

Women are required to have male guardians to move in public, travel abroad, get married or even access many public services. They are also prevented from driving, making the country the only one in the world with such a restriction.

In February, Saudi officials submitted their rights record to the scrutiny of the UN Human Rights Council for the first time, defending some of the religious concepts behind Saudi law but arguing that conditions were improving.

Jimmy Carter: The words of God do not justify cruelty to women

July 12, 2009

Discrimination and abuse wrongly backed by doctrine are damaging society, argues the former US president

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status …” (Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when th e convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the holy scriptures – that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

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Chalmers Johnson on the Cost of Empire

May 27, 2009
Book Review
Truthdig.com, May 15, 2009
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book cover

By Chalmers Johnson

In her foreword to “The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts,” an important collection of articles on United States militarism and imperialism, edited by Catherine Lutz, the prominent feminist writer Cynthia Enloe notes one of our most abject failures as a government and a democracy: “There is virtually no news coverage—no journalists’ or editors’ curiosity—about the pressures or lures at work when the U.S. government seeks to persuade officials of Romania, Aruba or Ecuador that providing U.S. military-basing access would be good for their countries.” The American public, if not the residents of the territories in question, is almost totally innocent of the huge costs involved, the crimes committed by our soldiers against women and children in the occupied territories, the environmental pollution, and the deep and abiding suspicions generated among people forced to live close to thousands of heavily armed, culturally myopic and dangerously indoctrinated American soldiers. This book is an antidote to such parochialism.

Catherine Lutz is an anthropologist at Brown University and the author of an ethnography of an American city that is indubitably part of the American military complex: Fayetteville, N.C., adjacent to Fort Bragg, home of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School (see “Homefront, A Military City and the American Twentieth Century,” Beacon Press, 2002). On the opening page of her introduction to the current volume, Lutz makes a real contribution to the study of the American empire of bases. She writes, “Officially, over 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees are massed in 909 military facilities in 46 countries and territories.” She cites as her source the Department of Defense’s Base Structure Report for fiscal year 2007. This is the Defense Department’s annual inventory of real estate that it owns or leases in the United States and in foreign countries. Oddly, however, the total of 909 foreign bases does not appear in the 2007 BSR. Instead, it gives the numbers of 823 bases located in other people’s countries and 86 sites located in U.S. territories. So Lutz has combined the foreign and territorial bases—which include American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Johnston Atoll, the Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Wake Island. Guam is host to at least 30 military sites and Puerto Rico to 41 bases.

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In the Name of Mothers Around the World

May 8, 2009

By Jodie Evans | The Women’s Media Center, May 8, 2009

The author, co-founder of the grass-roots peace and justice movement CODEPINK and board member of the Women’s Media Center, calls on us to honor Mother’s Day as it was originally intended—by the abolitionist, feminist and pacifist Julia Ward Howe.

Women know that war is SO over. We know it in our hearts, in our guts, in our wombs. We know that the madness in Iraq and Afghanistan has to end, that we cannot keep sending our children to kill the children of mothers across the globe. Last month at an appearance in Turkey, President Obama himself said “…sometimes I think that if you just put the mothers in charge for a while, that things would get resolved.”

Mother’s Day pledge by Noo Dal Molin

It is nearly 140 years since Julia Ward Howe wrote her Mother’s Day Proclamation, a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco–Prussian War. It flowed from her feminist belief that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level.  Every year since CODEPINK began in 2002, we have worked to remind the public and media that Mother’s Day isn’t really about Hallmark and Teleflora, but was a call for women to gather in “the great and general interests of peace.” Howe knew then what we know now.  It will take women’s leadership to undermine what have become the USA’s greatest exports: Violence, Weapons and War.

This year we knew those who could attend our 24-hour weekend vigil outside the White House would be smaller than before, given the fiscal crunch we are all feeling.  We created a project so those who wanted could add to the activities.  In the past we have done an aerial image of thousands of bodies spelling Mother’s Say No To War photographed from the Washington Monument with the White House in the background.  But this year we put out a call for people to knit pink and green squares that we would sew together to read “We will not raise our children to kill another mother’s child” and place across the White House fence. Thousands of pink and green knitted squares have been filling the basement of the CODEPINK house in D.C.  They arrive with stories of how they were knitted with love, passion and conviction, with photos of the joys shared in knitting circles around the world.  The surprise has been that more women than ever want to participate, more women want to join together in community and engage in conversation.

They want answers. What they hear in the media makes no sense.  Why are we leaving more soldiers and private mercenaries in Iraq and not getting out on the date promised?  Why are we moving soldiers to Afghanistan when our military has told us there is no military solution?  How can we end the violence and protect the women? How can we turn our back on the women and children in Gaza?  Why is the military budget larger than under Bush (and that’s not counting another supplemental on Iraq and Afghanistan tacked on)? Why are we spending so much money on destruction, when Obama himself said in his inaugural address, “people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy”?

Women are fired up to gather together and expose the emptiness of the continued push for more weapons and more money for war.

We hope that our gathering on Mother’s Day will plant the seeds of new energy and new coalitions we will need to affect a world drunk on war.  It falls on us to bring peace to the table, to push our way to the table and not let up. Women know that instead of sending our young people overseas as soldiers, we need to send troops of doctors, teachers, business leaders, economists, farmers and peacekeepers who can build the economic structures for security to take root.

During our Mother’s Day weekend in DC, we will celebrate our sisterhood with song and poetry and fun, peace-building children’s activities, but we will also share our pain and grief by hearing the stories of women whose lives have been shattered by war—both women from war zones and mothers of American soldiers. When we bear witness to one another’s stories, we create a deeper, more compassionate foundation from which we can work together for peace.

Even if you can’t join us in D.C., you can send a rose to honor a mother whose life has been profoundly affected by war.  On Mother’s Day we will deliver the roses to the mothers and tie others to the fence outside the White House as a memorial to the dead and a moving call for peace.

However you spend your Mother’s Day, remember those women who have relentlessly stood for our rights in the past and know that we can bring peace. But first we MUST see it as possible and put our hoe in the ground.

Islam in Western mirror

April 26, 2007

Nasir Khan

Present-day images of Muslims and Islam in Western media vary considerably. However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union the general drift of Western concerns has been to portray Islam as the main enemy of the West and the Muslim world as a hotbed of terrorism that threatens Western civilisation and its democratic values. Thus in the present-day hegemonic world order — under which all norms of civilised behaviour in the conduct of foreign policy have been discarded by the Bush Administration and its allies in London and Tel Aviv — Muslims are associated with terrorism. We have seen over the last few years the expansion of Mr Bush’s destructive war, the inhuman treatment of captive population of Iraq and Afghanistan, rampant abuse of prisoners from Muslim countries by American and British forces, total indifference towards the human rights of prisoners of war or of those suspected of resisting or opposing the American occupation of their countries and false propaganda to cover up the real objectives of the neocon rulers in Washington and London.

Needless to say, the so-called ‘Islamic challenge’ is based on assumptions that have no basis in reality. They misrepresent, distort and mislead rather than enlighten and inform. Over the last fifteen years a number of publications have appeared that have borne sensational titles like ‘Sword of Islam’, ‘The Islamic Threat’, ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’, ‘Islam’s New Battle Cry’ and ‘What went wrong with Islam?’. They reveal the sort of preconceived image of Islam their writers had intended to convey to their readers. According to such projections, Islam is a challenge to Western values as well as to West’s economic and political interests. But in view of the real power wielded by the West in general and America in particular throughout the Middle East and beyond, the so-called ‘threat of Islam’ is quite groundless.

But right-wing political manipulators and Christian fundamentalists can very easily provoke major crises between the Muslim world and the West; we have only to recall the case of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The real aim of some Danish and Norwegian right-wing newspapers to publish these cartoons was to provoke hostile reactions from Muslims and thus cause more bitterness and resentment between the Muslims and Christians. They tried to cover up their anti-Islamic campaign behind the smokescreen of the argument that publishing the cartoons was a demonstration of the West’s freedom of expression. They were xenophobic, racist and disrespectful of immigrant cultures in Europe and the Islamic culture in particular. How could hurting the feelings of over one billion Muslims was to serve the interests of free Press, freedom of expression or civil liberties? An anti-Islam fundamentalist Christian by the name of Mr Selbekk, the Norwegian editor of Magazinet reprinted the cartoons which were first published in Denmark. He was asked if he would also publish any cartoons that insulted Jesus, said: No. Thus this gentleman’s vaunted ideal of ‘freedom of expression’ was limited to insulting the Prophet Muhammad and obviously did not extend to insulting the gods, prophets and spiritual avatars of any other major religion.

However, it is important to look at the strategic goals of such editors and publishers. They did succeed in their objective, which was to cause maximum provocation to Muslims worldwide and to create an atmosphere of contempt and hatred towards them among the followers of other religions. Muslims were predictably and understandably offended and their reactions led to some horrible incidents in various parts of the globe. What those who reacted violently did not realise was that they had fallen in the trap of anti-Muslim mischief-mongers, who, through provocation had achieved their goal. Now the stage was set to repeat the old charge: Muslims were fanatics, volatile and irrational — they were ‘terrorists’! The divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ as cultural opposites was reinforced and widened.

The anti-Muslim media keep on churning out the common stereotypes that portray Muslims, compared to Westerners, as more prone to conflict and violence than are Westerners. These media publish accounts of conflicts in the Muslim countries as self-evident truths to reinforce the image. There is a general tendency to oversimplify or ignore altogether diverse trends and complex socio-economic factors that lead to instability and conflicts in various Muslim countries. The explanations offered and conclusions drawn sometimes are based on implicit, but more often, explicit assumptions about the superiority of Western, ‘Judaeo-Christian’ culture, while the Islamic world is thought to be an epicentre of brutality and disharmony.

A very common stereotype in the Western media is that Islamic countries are inherently prone to violence, fanaticism, medieval ideas and prejudices. This means that Islam, both as a religion and as a cultural influence, is to bear the responsibility for all such regional ills. The West is the harbinger of sweetness and light (but occasionally also darkness and misery), peace and civility (but occasionally predatory wars and barbarism), rationality and open-mindedness (but occasionally irrationality, racism and prejudice, and always is focused on its own interests). All those who have taken the trouble to look at the last few centuries’ history of Western colonialism, extending from time of the so-called ‘discoveries’ of America by Columbus in 1492 and of India by Vasco de Gama in 1498 by sea routes, the ‘discovery’ of Africa by the European for slave trade show the ‘noble’ hands of Western nations that were extended to the people of Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia have left their marks on every continent. We cannot go into historical details here. But the global expansion of Western colonialism is the story of plunder and destruction across continents. No doubt, the seeds of Western civilisation were sown in this way. Within Western societies, the internal conflicts, violence and wars present us with a gory history. This superior culture when seen in the limited sphere of geopolitics and international relations in the last one hundred years only leaves a legacy of two World Wars, more wars (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq), invasions and coups (Guatemala, Grenada, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Congo, southern Africa), concentration camps, racist massacres undertaken on a large scale by the flag-bearers of Western civilisation.

It is obvious that cultural differences between nations and peoples of the world are a fact of history. And in this context generalising about cultural differences is unavoidable. But in no way can such differences be equated with mutual exclusiveness or inevitable hostility between different cultures. Where the initial instinct is not to enter into an anthropological or historical study of comparative cultures, but rather to foment strife and hatred between nations and religions for ulterior motives the consequences can be disastrous. Let us take the events in the aftermath of the bombing of Oklahoma City in the United States on 19 April 1995. The media rushed to spread rumours that a ‘Middle Eastern man’ [i.e. a Muslim Arab] was responsible for the carnage. As a result Muslims throughout the United States were targeted for physical abuse, rough treatment and social ostracism. Their mosques were desecrated, Muslim women ere harassed and cars belonging to ‘Middle Easterns’ damaged. A British newspaper Today published on its front page a frightening picture of a fireman carrying the burnt remains of a dead child under the headline In the name of Islam’. Identifying the perpetrator of such a reprehensible act alone would not be sufficient; Islam also had to be brought in to ignite the communal passions of people against members of another faith. However, it soon became evident that the bomber was a fair-haired American soldier, a decorated Gulf War (1991) veteran. The faith of this right-wing terrorist was not Islam but Christianity. But no one in either American or British media labelled him a ‘Christian terrorist’ or apologised to Muslims for the wrongs done to them. Once again the freedom to tell the truth and report events fairly had taken a back seat.

The second instance is the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon by a few persons, most of whom came from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a close ally of America. They saw the policies pursued by the US in the Middle East and its support for the anachronistic rule by the House of Saud as the stumbling block towards a fair social order in their country as well as the rest of the Middle East. No matter what the nature of their grievances, I regard this attack terribly wrong. It provided ammunition to the neocons and right-wing fanatics in Washington to unleash the reign of terror, war, death and destruction in the Middle East and the petroleum regions in the general vicinity. At the same time, we ask a simple question: What had these bombings to do with millions of ordinary Muslim citizens of Europe and America? The answer is: nothing whatsoever. We witnessed that they were victimised everywhere by many white Westerners in the most grotesque and despicable ways.

During my stay in Europe for more than four decades, I have become acutely aware that the negative images of Islam and Islamic civilisation need a serious historical analysis for general readers as well as academic scholars that enables us to rise above oft-repeated and worn-out clichés of media and partisan scholarship and thus show the facts of the problematic relations between the two world religions and their civilisations. My book Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms (2006) deals these themes and issues. It is clear that both Islam and the West suffer from the perceptual problems of adversary relationship going far back in history. Their mutual perceptions have been distorted by religious dogmas, political developments and traditional prejudices. If we take a look at the history of European colonial expansion in Americas, Australia and in the East (China, India, the Middle East and North Africa, etc.) the old balance of power between the East and the West had changed. The colonial power over other nations also strengthened the collective consciousness of the industrial West, or its assumption that it was more powerful and therefore superior to the rest of the world. The colonised and subjugated people also started to perceive the West as materially, culturally, and morally superior. It is true the West was superior in producing machines, modern weaponry and efficient armies to invade and subjugate other countries of the world. This made Western nations more powerful, but that did not mean they were morally or intellectually superior. But the subjugated races were not in a position to advance such challenging views. In such uneven power relations under colonialism no genuine communication was possible. The same is true of the current neo-colonial war in Iraq by the Bush Administration to achieve full control over the oil resources and assert political hegemony over the entire Middle East.

The Western ways to see Islam as a monolithic religious and political force is against all historical facts and contemporary political realities. Islam is not a monolithic force; the diversity within the Islamic world is wider than most Westerners think. Within three decades after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim community split into Sunni and Shia factions following a civil war. This division proved to be permanent, and further divisions within the two main branches have characterised Islamic faith and polity for fourteen centuries. The spread of Islam followed different paths in different countries and regions of the world. At present over one billion people of all races, languages, nationalities and cultures are Muslims. Their socio-cultural conditions as well as their doctrinal affiliations show much diversity and complexity. What this means is that Islam as a universal religion, like Christianity, is not a monolithic entity; this is despite the fact that Muslims share some fundamental beliefs in One God and His revelations through the prophets.

However, historical and religious traditions and myths have a life of their own. Once they have become part of a culture they continue to shape and restructure the collective consciousness of vast populations. The anti-Islamic tradition in the Christendoms has a long historical pedigree and it continues to be a dynamic factor affecting and determining international relations. The study of history helps us to see facts in their historical evolutionary process and thus lighten the cultural baggage that has often poisoned relationships between the two religious communities. An honest and balanced study of the past and the present-day geopolitical realities of the global hegemonic world order means that we no longer have to passively accept distorted legacies and close our eyes to what is happening in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and also in Pakistan at the hands of the United States, its allies and the marionette Muslim ruling cliques.

The question of ‘Islamic terrorism’, the denial of women’s rights under Islam and the alleged irreconcilability of Islamic and Western values appear all the time in the Western media. But such accusations reveal a deep-rooted ignorance and confusion. They have no relationship to reality. We should bear in mind that a follower of a religion is not necessarily a true representative or spokesperson of that religion. Neither can the individual acts of terrorism, state-terrorism or superpower-terrorism be imputed to religion whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Hinduism. If an individual or group from a Muslim community resorts to extremism in political or religious spheres for whatever reason or commits a crime, the general tendency is to hold the whole Islamic tradition responsible. What happens if someone from Western culture or a Christian right-wing extremist resorts to violence or commits a crime? He is held responsible as an individual and no one blames the Western culture or Christianity for his actions. Do we not have some powerful leaders in the West who are Christian right-wingers and are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslim men, women and children? Does anyone blame Christianity for that? We ask this question and expect our readers to ask this question and try to find an answer.

With regard to women, the Qur’an gave them legal rights of inheritance and divorce in the seventh-century, which Western women would not receive until the 19th or 20th century. There is nothing in Islam about obligatory veiling of women or their seclusion, either. In fact, such practices came into Islam about three generations after the death of the Prophet Muhammad under the influence of the Greek Christians of Byzantium. In fact there has been a high degree of cultural interaction between Christians and Muslims from the beginning of Islamic history.

The fundamental values of fraternity, respect, justice and peace are common in all the major civilisations and the five major religions. To call democracy ‘a Western value’ is simply bizarre; the monarchical system prevailed in Europe where the kings held absolute powers under the divine right to rule. The evolution of democratic and constitutional form of government took shape much later. Contrary to what the media and populist politicians assert, there is nothing in Islam that goes against democracy and democratic values.

Nasir Khan, Dr Philos, is a historian and peace activist.


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