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Is it Time to Rethink Human Rights?

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Much has been written about the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara peace flotilla. But, as things move on the world stage, the issue is still piping hot and will remain so for some time. It was indeed a bloodshed that claimed the lives of nine innocent peace activists and wounded dozens of others. While Israel has been condemned to the core by the international community -and rightly so- I have a bone to pick with those Muslim activists whose own countries are the biggest violators of human rights. Pakistan presents an ideal case to delve deeper into this phenomenon of self righteousness that has plagued Muslim human rights activists. The recently liberated Pakistani media was at the forefront to decry the attacks and there were many protests and seminars.

What is the point of campaigning for human rights when there are serious human rights violations in your own backyard? In Pakistan, the ethnic Balochs have been facing a brutal military operation for the last eight years. According to figures released by independent human rights organizations, hundreds of people have been killed while hundreds are languishing in secret detention centers.

And it is not just Balochistan that has seen a massive violation of human rights. Swat, which has been cleared of the militants but is still observing some clashes, is an excellent example of what has gone wrong with Pakistan and its society.

Although the Pakistani Army has wrested control of the valley from the militants, it has failed to bring peace to the region. While it is an outward feeling of peace brought by high-
handedness and extreme violence perpetuated by the military, people are not living happily. There have been accusations of extrajudicial killings and mass arrests, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch in April.

Things are also not good in mainland Pakistan. Security agencies round up men suspected of terrorism and incarcerate them at secret detention centers, as Amnesty International has mentioned in its report. Inhumane and massively brutal torture is, of course, a common affair and deaths while in custody are not uncommon. Last month's bloodshed in Lahore is but another example of the conditions in which religious minorities are living in Pakistan.

It is not just Pakistan where human rights are violated with an almost religious passion. Turkey, which remained at the forefront of the recent peace flotilla campaign and lost eight of its citizens, does not have a very clean human rights record. Extra-judicial killings and disappearances - the popular name for secret state detentions - have seen an upsurge along with reports of torture in prisons.

Egypt does not need any elucidation when it comes to the state of human rights. Apart from the Copts, who remain on the fringes of the society and discriminated against, the majority Muslims have also been denied their basic human rights: freedom of speech, internet access and free and fair elections.

Malaysia has its own dirty little human rights secrets to hide. Muslims, who are just around 60% of the total population, are given preferential treatment, women are caned for drinking beer, churches are bombed and minority populations live constantly under the fears of violence. So much for speaking for the human rights in other countries.

Human rights is a very contentious issue. Countries that need to address their own demons should not speak so openly about human rights violations elsewhere. The same can be said about the United States given its history of invasions, wars and genocides. Blood spilled anywhere in the world is as wrong as in the Muslim World.

Maybe it is the time for rethinking human rights and thorough soul searching. Yes, we need a major human rights movement, but it should be spearheaded by the citizens of countries with a clean record, not hypocrites and bigots. Or, they could join in after they have forced their governments to change their policies and have extracted apologies from the countries that have a long history of colonialism and bloodshed. A little self introspection is must.