Fringe Festival 2015: Scottish human rights organisation defends freedom of religion and expression

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Edinburgh: A Glasgow based human rights organisation, Global Minorities Alliance (GMA) was invited to participate in a discussion panel during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015. The programme addressed the question “Are there limits when it comes to religion and free speech?” and was hosted by the Edinburgh Interfaith Association which promotes respect and understanding among all faiths in Edinburgh and across the world.

The event was organised as a response to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in France earlier this year, to discuss and debate the global issues of religious freedom and free expression.

The panel consisted of Shahid Khan, a journalist from Pakistan, Fadel Soliman, an Imam from Egypt, and Thiago Alves Pinto, a legal expert from Brazil, who shared their thoughts about religion and freedom expression in the contemporary world.  Continue reading

Tackling militant Islamism means also confronting its non-violent forms

Sept 11

By Elham Manea

#Islamism #Extremism #HopeNotHate #Radicalisation #GMABlog

The call is often from a worried teacher. They are noticing changes in students from immigrant backgrounds. Before, they defined themselves by nationality, as Kosovars, Bosnians or Turks, now they say they are Muslims. Before, they took part in art classes, now they insist their religion prohibits art. Then there’s a second change: these young men and women start to talk of a war against Islam that targets Muslims – targets them.

When I listen, I remember myself as a 16-year-old, the daughter of a diplomat from a secular family, coming back to my home country, Yemen, after four years in Morocco. It was 1982 – a period that saw the mushrooming of Islamist ideology in North Yemen. I was fascinated by a religious group led by a charismatic young woman of 17. The group met in the schoolyard. I would later learn it was part of a strong Islamist movement that saw Salafists work hand-in-hand with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The sessions were fascinating. Our leader explained about the love of God. The moment we enter into Islam, she said, all our sins are washed away and we become equal. The fate of those who are not Muslims was never mentioned. She told us that we could be better people if only we embraced the message of Islam – the true Islam, not the corrupted form of our society. For a teenage girl, lacking direction, the message was mesmerising, and I embraced it wholeheartedly.

The changes in me were gradual. It started with language. Instead of greeting others with ‘good morning’ or ‘good evening’, I used only the salute of Islam: ‘assalamu alaikum’, peace be upon you. Later I would learn that this salute is only reserved for Muslims. “Do not use it with non-Muslims,” I was told.

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Lahore Church blasts: the beleaguered Christian citizens of Pakistan

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By Shahid Khan

#blasphemy #GMABlog #Youhanabad #Pakistan #Christianity

A few years ago I visited Youhanabad, one of the largest Christian neighbourhood in Punjab, Pakistan. I remember the endless houses and an acute sense of love and unity in the air. Today this sense of a peaceful community has gone and instead blood, violence and destruction show their grim presence after 15 innocent people, including seven Muslims, died last week in the wake of suicide Church bomb attacks on 15 March 2015.

The unfortunate history of minorities in Pakistan is littered with violence and institutional discrimination at all levels. Minorities are ‘othered’ by the land they belong to. Their patriotism is questioned and their loyalty to the country is often mingled with doubt and suspicion. Are Christians alienated in their own country?

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