Foreign Policy Blogs

Minorities of the Islamic World, Unite!

At this critical hour, when the influence of radical Islamist groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Al Nusra Front, Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Taliban and Lashkar e-Toiba alongside the oppressive Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi regimes plague the Islamic world, the Hindu, Buddhist, Yezidi, Christian, Druze and Jewish minorities who are presently being oppressed across the Islamic world should unite and stand together against their common persecutors. The minorities of the Islamic world are stronger together than they are divided.

For the radical Islamists and the regimes that support them, it does not matter if one is Jewish, Yezidi, Hindu, Christian, etc. In their worldview, the Hindus are polytheists, the Christians are crusaders, the Yezidis are devil worshippers and the Jews are the sons of apes and pigs. As a result of these perverted beliefs, from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan to the Middle East, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Ahmadi Muslims, Sufis, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Yezidis and Druze are presently being gravely persecuted.

In Afrin, Syria, the Yezidis are currently being massacred by Turkish-backed jihadists as we speak. Hundreds of Yezidis have been forced to flee their villages after taking refuge in the Afrin region following the terror implemented by ISIS and other jihadist groups in the country. Turkish-backed jihadists have just arrived in the Afrin region but already, Turkish journalist Uzay Bulut reported that they have destroyed many Yezidi temples and converted others into mosques. There have been reports that Turkey has been ethnically cleansing Afrin of Christians, Kurds, Yezidis and other groups, hoping to replace them with Syrian Muslims who are presently refugees in their own country.

Under ISIS, Yezidi men and women too old to be sexually appealing were massacred. ISIS sold Yezidi women and girls into sexual slavery while indoctrinating young Yezidi boys into becoming ISIS cannon fodder. Over 3,000 Yezidi women and girls are still being held captive by ISIS despite the fall of the Caliphate. Christians under ISIS rule faced a similar fate. However, ISIS is not the only Islamist group to have persecuted Christians. According to Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Christian is slaughtered every 5 minutes in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Islamist groups other than ISIS in Syria have forcefully converted Druze to Islam, destroyed Druze holy sites and forced Druze to sell their properties.

The Islamic Republic of Iran hosts the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East but it is one that is gravely oppressed. In Iranian courts, the testimony of a Jew is worth half that of a Muslim. Muslim principals control what Jewish students learn in Hebrew schools, the Shabbat is not respected as a Jewish day of rest and according to Iranian Jewish author Sima Goel, it is difficult for the local Jewish community to obtain Jewish religious items due to the fear that they could somehow be associated with Israel, an enemy state. The constant fear that Jews can be arrested due to their association with Israel permeates Iranian Jewish society and the fear is justified. Recently, the Times of Israel reported that a Jewish grandmother was sentenced to death in Iran merely for running an underground organization that found housing solutions for women with abusive husbands that could not obtain a divorce. It is very likely that the penalty would not have been that severe had the grandmother been Muslim. As a result of this reality, Iranian dissidents report that Jews in Iran are afraid to protest and celebrate their holidays under wraps, with the Iranian Secret Police ensuring that non-Jews cannot join the festivities.

In Bangladesh, Hindus have been raped, murdered, assaulted, kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam and had their properties seized and their temples desecrated. The indigenous tribes of the Chittangong Hill Tracts, which are mainly Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Animist, face an especially horrific predicament. Routinely, the Bangladeshi military backed by Bengali settlers, who have burned down Buddhist and Hindu temples, have slaughtered and gang raped the population to the level that some describe it as genocidal.

While the conflict between the Bangladeshi government and the indigenous tribes officially ended in 1997, grave persecution of the Hindus of Bangladesh continues to date. According to local sources, JMB and ISIS, who are controlled by Sheikh Hasina, are in the process of ethnically cleansing Hindus and other minorities from the country. Not too long ago, a Hindu man and his wife were tortured within the same country. The victim related: “I cannot stretch my arms and legs. I don’t have any place in my body where he has not touched. Where is the law in the country?” In addition, the Dakeshwari Temple Committee reported that temple property was seized from them and handed over to the Muslims in order to destroy the property.

These are only a few incidents of the grave persecution experienced by the Hindu community in Bangladesh. The systematic persecution experienced by Hindus and other minorities such as Buddhists and Christians in Bangladesh is highlighted on a daily basis. For example, a Hindu man in Bangladesh was recently arrested merely for sharing a report on four women wearing a Burka playing cards in Mecca. According to local sources, no Muslim was arrested for sharing this report but as a Hindu, he was. The World Hindu Struggle Committee claims that Hindus are being ethnically cleansed from the entire region, noting that 39 Indian Hindus and Sikhs were killed by Islamists recently on the Indian Subcontinent merely for being born into the wrong faith.

As bad as the situation is in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, the situation is even direr for the minorities. The Blasphemy Law is spreading terror across the country and Christians as well as other minorities have fallen victim to it. Asia Bibi, a Christian field worker, was sentenced to death for no other reason than saying something that the witnesses around her considered blasphemous. In Pakistan, having a Muslim witness say that blasphemy was committed is sufficient evidence to arrest and charge someone. According to CNN, once blasphemy is alleged, Amnesty International claims that the accused is as good as dead for the legal system offers them zero safeguards to protect them against mob violence or to defend themselves in case they are innocent.

There also have been reports that the Pakistani Army is presently ethnically cleansing both the ethnic and religious minorities from the country at a much faster rate than what exists in Bangladesh. Whether one is Sufi, an Ahmadi Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Baloch, Bahai, Buddhist, Zoroastrian or a member of another minority group, the minorities have no future in Pakistan. Nadeem Nusrat, the president of the Free Karachi Campaign, told the Business Standard: “The Punjabi dominated elite of the Pakistani Army have carried out the systematic ethnic cleansing of every minority group in Pakistan and the intensity of the savagery continues to grow with every passing day. Thousands have been extra-judicially killed. Thousands have disappeared after being picked up by the Pakistani security forces and their families are living in a state of an unending fear and helplessness with no knowledge of the whereabouts of their kins.”

According to Shipan Kumer Basu, the President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, “The Hindu residents of the Sindh Province in Pakistan have suffered a serious calamity. These people from the border areas came to India seeking shelter but no one did anything to let them stay in the country. They have been sent back to Pakistan. Upon being returned, there, they are being pressured to convert to Islam. They are told that if they do not convert, the family members including the women cannot be saved. If they don’t agree, it will be ruthless torture. This is the situation in the Sindh Province, where more than 500 Hindus are being forced to change their religion.”

Israeli Druze diplomat Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Relations and Public Diplomacy, has emphasized: “The Hindu minority and the other minorities especially those living in the Middle East and in Asia are persecuted and threatened with ethnic cleansing. It is our obligation in the free world to stand against any attempt to harm the Hindus and other minorities such as the Buddhists, Christians, Druze, Yezidis and others.” The time has long since passed for the voices calling for justice in the free world united with the minorities in the Middle East and Asia as one voice seek to end the human rights abuses and to begin a new reality, where minority rights will be respected. As the Passover Haggaddah states, “Now we are slaves. Next year, may we be free men.”



Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East (under formation) and is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. She is also a fellow at the Haym Salomon Center, a news and public policy group. For over 6 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.