January 13, 2004

ERP KiM Newsletter 13-01-04

Three Albanians suspected of the attack on Serbs arrested - UNMIK police denies

Jean Leroux the UNMIK police regional commander for Lipljan, told Serbs at a protest gathering in Novo Naselje today that the police have arrested three Albanians suspected of the attack yesterday in which six people were seriously injured. Very soon the UNMIK police spokesperson Derek Chapel denied the news. The KFOR checkpoint has been reestablished in Novo Naselje but the perpetrators of the public lynch have not been identified yet although local Serbs who were wounded said their names to the police.


An old Kosovo Serb with the former chief of UNMIK (Micheael Steiner)
after an Albanian terrorist attack on his home in Klokot, July 31, 2002
The perpetrators of the crime have never been arrested, two US soldiers who guarded
the Serb village were wounded. One of numerous acts of ethnic violence in the UN administered province of Serbia which have never been fully investigated.

CONTENTS:

Three Albanians suspected of the attack on Serbs arrested - UNMIK denies
Jean Leroux the UNMIK police regional commander for Lipljan, told Serbs at a protest gathering in Novo Naselje today that the police have arrested three Albanians suspected of the attack yesterday in which six people were seriously injured. Very soon the UNMIK police spokesperson Derek Chapel denied the news.

Kosovo Serbs not participating in working groups
IRepresentatives of Kosmet Serbs - Rada Trajkovic, Marko Jaksic, and Momcilo Trajkovic have pointed out that for Serbs it is not acceptable to participate in the working groups for applying standards for Kosovo-Metohija. It is UNMIK that has announced establishment of those groups.

By attacking Serbs Kosovo Albanians realize aims of independent Kosovo
IPresident of the Executive Board of the northern Kosovo Serb National Council (SNV) Milan Ivanovic said on Monday that the latest attack on Serbs from the Kosovo village of Lipljan proved that UNMIK, KFOR and interim Kosovo institutions offered a tacit backing for the realization of ethnic Albanians' aims of an independent Kosovo, since they had done nothing to prevent it.

Albanians in Montenegro form Army on the Internet - the Site is finally closed
Albanians from Montenegro formed an army on the Internet. The Deutsche Welle program in Macedonian was the first that learned about this Internet page. The interior ministry of Montenegro finally issued the statement regarding a group calling itself the "Montenegrin National Army" threatened to target important buildings and state interests in Montenegro. The threat was published on the group 's Web site, which has since disappeared.

Coordinating Center adopts 2003 statement of operation assets and liabilities
The Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija adopted statements of operations and assets and liabilities for 2003 at a Monday session chaired by Nebojsa Covic.

Bulgaria dismantles Islamic Centers
Bulgaria has dismantled Islamic centres with possible links to Saudi-funded extremist movements, the head of military intelligence, Plamen Stoudenkov, said on Monday. "There are religious centres in Bulgaria that belong to Islamic groups financed mostly by Saudi Arabian groups, that possibly have links to radical organisations like the Muslim Brothers in Egypt," General Stoudenkov said in an interview with the daily newspaper Dvevnik. He said the centres were in southern and southeastern Bulgaria, where the country's Muslims, mainly of Turkish origin, are concentrated, and "had links with similar organisations in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia. For them Bulgaria seems to be a transit point to Western Europe."

Forum 18 - Religious Freedom under Islam
Henrik Ertner Rasmussen, General Secretary of the Danish European Mission http://www.daneu.dk , draws on his experience of living and studying in the Muslim world to examine how Islam understands religious freedom. He believes Muslims' attitudes to religious freedom have been shaped by the concept of Dhimmitude, under which proselytism by non-Muslims was banned, and Jews and Christians have become second-class citizens with only limited rights. He notes that a "religious supermarket" with a free choice of different products and brands has not been introduced in the Muslim world, but sees signs of hope that intellectuals and religious officials in the Muslim world are discussing new ideas openly and are suggesting reforms which could lead to greater religious liberty.


More News Available on our:

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KDN Archive

This newsletter is available on our ERP KIM Web-site:
http://www.kosovo.net/erpkiminfo.html


Three Albanians suspeced of the attack on Serbs in Novo Naselje arrested

The UNMIK police regional commander for Lipljan, told Serbs at a protest gathering in Novo Naselje today that the police have arrested three Albanians suspected of the attack yesterday in which six people were seriously injured. "This is not true, says UNMIK police spokesman Derek Chapel. KFOR and the police have conducted house searches at three Kosovo Albanian homes in the village of Suvi Do but there have been no arrests made."

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Beta News Agency, Belgrade
January 12, 2004

LIPLJAN - Jean Leroux, the UNMIK police regional commander for Lipljan, told Serbs at a protest gathering in Novo Naselje today that the police have arrested three Albanians suspected of the attack yesterday in which six people were seriously injured.

Following the attempted murder of Aleksandar Nastic of Novo Naselje on Saturday evening from a moving automobile, the Serbs of that village wanted to block the road as a sign of protest; however, when they set out for a meeting with local representatives of KFOR, a group of Albanian locals attacked them with sticks and pitchforks.

Six protesters were hospitalized primarily as a result of head injuries. Dojcin Rasic of Novo Naselje told Beta news agency that they were attacked by a group of about 20 Albanians from the village of Ashani near Lipljan.

Police representatives said today that they did not confiscate iron bars, bats, pitchforks and other objects used to attack the Serb delegation.

Leroux said that KFOR, the UNMIK police and the Kosovo Police Service failed to adequately secure yesterday's protest because the gathering was not announced.

A KPS patrol has been stationed at an intersection of a local road leading to the village of Ashani and the Lipljan-Kosovo Polje road, where traces of blood are still visible. Local residents are unsatisfied by this move and complained to Leroux.

The UNMIK police representative, however, said that the KPS patrol was placed there because the Albanians are also frightened and do not feel safe.

At the other end of the village there were several military and police vehicles with Finnish KFOR soldiers inspecting the identification of all passers by.

The Serb protesters have asked that the Finnish KFOR contingent restore control checkpoint at the entrance and exit of the village. After a meeting with representatives of UNMIK police and KFOR, village representative Ljubisa Vasic told the gathered Serbs that these requests were accepted.

Vasic said it was also agreed that international forces would reinforce patrols through the village in the next 24 hours and that they would provide protection for children going to school in Lipljan and Suvi Do.

Police representatives promised that they would conduct a detailed investigation into the armed attack on Nastic and yesterday's beating of a group of Novo Naselje locals. Today's protest ended peacefully following notification of the results of negotiation.

During the protest relatives of the injured Serbs refused to allow Radio Television Kosovo to shoot footage, complaining that they were not on the scene yesterday but broadcasted instead a "warped" version of events.

The medical condition of Aleksandar Nastic, as well as of Kosara Nikolic and Aca Nastic, the two people most seriously injured yesterday, remained stable today. The other injured persons will be released to recuperate at home during the course of the day, said the director of Simonida Hospital in Gracanica, Dragan Peric.

UNMIK police denies arrests

Regarding the incidents in Lipjan on the weekend, Serbian press have reported today that three people have been arrested. This is not true. KFOR and the police have conducted house searches at three Kosovo Albanian homes in the village of Suvi Do but there have been no arrests made.

Derek Chapel, Spokesperson
UNMIK Police HQ, Pristina, January 13, 2004

 

KFOR promises to return Checkpoint - Police to step up control

Tanjug News Agency, Belgrade
January 12, 2004

A meeting was held on Monday at the request of Serbs of Novo Naselje near Lipljan with representatives of the international forces, and KFOR promised to return the control checkpoint at the entrance to this town and that police will step up controls, town resident Rade Smiljic confirmed for Tanjug.

Yesterday, in this district where about 130 families live, six Serbs were gravely assaulted.


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Kosovo Serbs Not Participating in Working groups

Representatives of Kosmet Serbs - Rada Trajkovic, Marko Jaksic, and Momcilo Trajkovic have pointed out that for Serbs it is not acceptable to participate in the working groups for applying standards for Kosovo-Metohija. It is UNMIK that has announced establishment of those groups.

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Radio Serbia and Montenegro
Belgrade, January 12, 2004


Representatives of Kosmet Serbs - Rada Trajkovic, Marko Jaksic, and Momcilo Trajkovic have pointed out that for Serbs it is not acceptable to participate in the working groups for applying standards for Kosovo-Metohija. It is UNMIK that has announced establishment of those groups.

The POVRATAK coalition MP Rada Trajkovic has criticized head of UNMIK Harri Holkeri because he assigns statehood attributes to the southern Serbian Province thus breaching the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. I expect the new Government of Serbia to take a firmer position regarding the Kosmet issue than the previous one did, and the Security council to pay more attention to the problems of Serbs living in the Province if it wants to have a lasting peace in this part of the Balkans - concluded Trajkovic.


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By attacking Serbs, ethnic Albanians realize aims of independent Kosovo

President of the Executive Board of the northern Kosovo Serb National Council (SNV) Milan Ivanovic said on Monday that the latest attack on Serbs from the Kosovo village of Lipljan proved that UNMIK, KFOR and interim Kosovo institutions offered a tacit backing for the realization of ethnic Albanians' aims of an independent Kosovo, since they had done nothing to prevent it.

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Tanjug News Agency
Kosovska Mitrovica, 12 January, 2004

President of the Executive Board of the northern Kosovo Serb National Council (SNV) Milan Ivanovic said on Monday that the latest attack on Serbs from the Kosovo village of Lipljan proved that UNMIK, KFOR and interim Kosovo institutions offered a tacit backing for the realization of ethnic Albanians' aims of an independent Kosovo, since they had done nothing to prevent it.

"Yesterday's brutal attack on the Serbs in Lipljan clearly shows that violence and crimes against Serbs represent the ethnic Albanians' contribution to the implementation of standards with the sole aim that Kosovo be independent," Ivanovic told Tanjug.

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Albanians from Montenegro form army on the Internet

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Epoka e re, Kosovo Albanian daily
Pristina, January 12, 2004

Albanians from Montenegro formed an army on the Internet. The Deutsche Welle program in Macedonian was the first that learned about this Internet page.

The Montenegrin internal affair ministry hasn’t made statements yet about the real existence of the Montenegrin National Army-UKM.

According to “Malesia” sources, “Epoka e Re” learned that not even Montenegrin Albanian political parties has any knowledge about the existence of this Albanian army.

UKM in its official Internet page (http://www.aksh-france.fr.st/) has also published its objectives: “A joint country federalized, where Albanians and Montenegrin Slavs will have equal rights by the constitution, guaranteed internationally, including also the right of the sides for self decision to separate”. Otherwise, according to a declaration from UKM, “every effort for an agreement that goes under this level of presentation will be unacceptable and war will escalate with all forces with the final intention-creation of the Albanian unique country and liberation of the Albanian lands in Montenegro”.

According to the UKM declaration “foreigners, but also the official policy in the Albanians lands puts some absurd barriers. They mention the Helsinki Chart for not changing of the borders with violence, and are saying that this takes our right to ask for the reconnection with our families even in peaceful way! But the worst is that the ones that are most zealous in this theory for our national not-reconnection are from the offices of the Albanian policy”.

In their declaration is also added and at the same time they are asking:” How is it that the Helsinki Chart didn’t obstruct the reuniting of the Germany? Why is not obstructing the separation of 15 other countries that changed the borders of ex-USSR, the union of two Yemens? How come the Helsinki Chart didn’t stop the change of the borders of ex-Yugoslavia and the creation of the mini states as Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia even the creation of a Frankenstein state such is Macedonia? Or maybe the Helsinki Chart was wrote down for Albanians only?”

So this is the newest army presented in the Internet. Anyhow in their two pages often was presented that someone was shut, someone killed, someone detained…Anyhow those are consequences of the terrible unjust that were done to the Albanians.

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ERP KIM Comment:

Secession from a sovereign county is possible only under negotiated settlement and without force

 Obviously the writer of the proclamation had in mind the Helsinki Final Act HFA (1975) (which is also mentioned as one of the principles for the settlement of the final status of Kosovo in so called Rambouillet Accords. Anyway, the HFA is guaranteeing the sovereignty of any internationally recognized state and explains that the borders may be changed but only on the basis of nonviolent methods and agreement. In other words, the borders of the Former Soviet Union were changed by the agreement and the reunification of Germany was accomplished by agreement between West and East Germany. Regrettably this principle was blatantly ignored only in the case of disintegration of Former Yugoslavia in which only Republics had right of secession but with consensus of other members of the Federation. The arbitration of the Badenter commission arbitrarily revised the basic international principles which together with a hasty recognition of secession of Slovenia, Croatia and finally Bosnia and Hercegovina contributed the the wars during the nineties because Serbs were not ready to accept the position of the second-rate minority in secessionist republics mostly based on ideologies of the Nazi Ustashe movement or Islamic fundamentalism.

The problem in the case of Kosovo Province, Eastern Montenegro, South-east Serbia, North-east Macedonia and eventually north-western Greece, the territories which Albanian nationalists would like to occupy and unify with Albania or with Greater Kosovo (whatever) is that for the change of borders it is necessary to reach a peaceful negotieated agreement with Belgrade-Podgorica, Skoplje and Athens to which these aforementioned territories officially belong, which is, very hard to expect. Forceful change of borders, secession with ethnic cleansing of non-Albanian population gives right to the internationally recognized countries of the Balkans to use force to legally protect their sovereign territories and stand in defense of their population and cultural heritage.

On the other hand, the right of self-determination and the right of preserving sovereignty are not mutually exclusive and can be reconciled in different forms of autonomy, economic and other kinds of integration, particularly within the wider framework of the EU.

Helsinki Final Act: http://www.hri.org/docs/Helsinki75.html


No signs of new guerilla group, say Montenegrin police

The interior ministry issued the statement after a group calling itself the "Montenegrin National Army" threatened to target important buildings and state interests in Montenegro. The threat was published on the group 's Web site, which has since disappeared.

www.b92.net

Beta News Agency, Belgrade
January 12, 2004


PODGORICA -- Monday - Montenegrin police said today they had no indications that an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group had been formed in the republic.

The interior ministry issued the statement after a group calling itself the "Montenegrin National Army" threatened to target important buildings and state interests in Montenegro. The threat was published on the group 's Web site, which has since disappeared.

The police said they would continue taking "sufficient measures" to prevent activities that might threaten the security of the republic.

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Guerrilla Web site deleted | 17:26 | Beta

PODGORICA -- Monday - An Albanian-language Web site purporting to represent the "Montenegrin National Army" has mysteriously disappeared.

The site has caused a stir over the past few days after it called for action against Montenegro's essential building and interests "if there is continued experimentation with the fate of Albanians" in the coastal republic.

A system administrator said it had probably been deleted by the organisation presenting itself as the Montenegrin National Army.

The site was registered via a public Internet provider based in northern California.

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Montenegro investigates guerrilla Web site | 13:13 | Beta

MONTENEGRO -- Monday - Montenegrin authorities are investigating the appearance of an Internet Web site published by the Montenegrin National Army, a new Albanian extremist organisation which emerged for the first time last week.

The organisation threatened to take action against Montenegro's essential buildings and interests "if there is continued experimentation with the fate of Albanians in Montenegro".

Police said they would check the origin of the Web site, while the director of the republic's Broadcast Agency, Abaz Dzafic, said the Telecommunications Agency would also investigate.

There was no need for over-reaction, Dzafic said, but added that it was essential to discover which Internet provider was hosting the site.

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Coordinating Center adopts 2003 statements of operations assets and liabilities

The Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija adopted statements of operations and assets and liabilities for 2003 at a Monday session chaired by Nebojsa Covic.

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SERBIAN GOVERNMENT


Belgrade, Jan 13, 2004 - The Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija adopted statements of operations and assets and liabilities for 2003 at a Monday session chaired by Nebojsa Covic.

The Centre said it fully justified its existence last year, successfully expanding the form of its activities.

It also strongly condemned the Jan 11 incident in Lipljan in which six Serbs were injured, describing it as yet another proof of the permanently worsening security conditions in the province.

The Centre also discussed a draft statute of Kosovska Mitrovica University and said it will ask for the Serbian government's opinion on the matter.

The session also touched on proposed programmes for the allocation of funding for the Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija and the Coordinating Body for Southern Serbia next year.


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Bulgaria Dismantles Islamic Centers

Bulgaria has dismantled Islamic centres with possible links to Saudi-funded extremist movements, the head of military intelligence, Plamen Stoudenkov, said on Monday. "There are religious centres in Bulgaria that belong to Islamic groups financed mostly by Saudi Arabian groups, that possibly have links to radical organisations like the Muslim Brothers in Egypt," General Stoudenkov said in an interview with the daily newspaper Dvevnik. He said the centres were in southern and southeastern Bulgaria, where the country's Muslims, mainly of Turkish origin, are concentrated, and "had links with similar organisations in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia. For them Bulgaria seems to be a transit point to Western Europe."

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NOVINITE (Bulgaria)

For the Record: 13 January 2004, Tuesday.
Daily Times


"There are religious centres in Bulgaria that belong to Islamic groups financed mostly by Saudi Arabian groups, that possibly have links to radical organisations like the Muslim Brothers in Egypt," General Stoudenkov said in an interview with the daily newspaper Dvevnik.

He said the centres were in southern and southeastern Bulgaria, where the country's Muslims, mainly of Turkish origin, are concentrated, and "had links with similar organisations in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia. For them Bulgaria seems to be a transit point to Western Europe."

Stoudenkov said the centres were dismantled by the authorities in September and November 2003.

He said the steps were taken to prevent terrorist groups gaining a foothold in Bulgaria, which shares a border with Turkey.

Senior interior ministry official Boiko Borissov on Thursday played down the events, saying the police had "launched two or three operations against Muslim missionaries at Velingrad and Pazardik" in the south.

In an interview with foreign media, he stressed, "there are no problems concerning Islam or terrorism in Bulgaria."

Bulgaria's Turkish minority accounts for 10 percent of the country's eight million people. Younal Loufti, one of the leaders of the Turkish minority Movement for Rights and Freedom, the junior partner in Bulgaria's governing coalition, said in late November that the party was guarding against extremism taking root in Bulgaria.

He said five years ago that "sects" from Arab countries that tried to recruit followers in Bulgaria were "chased away by the population,"
adding: "We are very careful."

Members of the Turkish population near the southern town of Kardjali confirmed that foreign groups had tried to recruit members there.


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Forum 18 (Oslo) Commentary: Religious freedom under Islam

Henrik Ertner Rasmussen, General Secretary of the Danish European Mission http://www.daneu.dk , draws on his experience of living and studying in the Muslim world to examine how Islam understands religious freedom. He believes Muslims' attitudes to religious freedom have been shaped by the concept of Dhimmitude, under which proselytism by non-Muslims was banned, and Jews and Christians have become second-class citizens with only limited rights. He notes that a "religious supermarket" with a free choice of different products and brands has not been introduced in the Muslim world, but sees signs of hope that intellectuals and religious officials in the Muslim world are discussing new ideas openly and are suggesting reforms which could lead to greater religious liberty.

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Tuesday 13 January 2004

By Henrik Ertner Rasmussen, General Secretary of the Danish European Mission http://www.daneu.dk/

At a conference on Christian-Muslim dialogue, the question of religious freedom came up. "In our country, the Christians have more religious freedom than the Muslims," one Muslim leader declared, "because they have the right to convert, while Muslims haven't." At another conference, where the topic was aired, the Muslims in one working group agreed with the Christians that of course, there should be religious freedom. When challenged by the Christian representatives, who said that it would mean that Muslims should have as much right to convert to another religion as Christians, the response was: "Of course not!"

The question of religious freedom under Islam has historically been connected with the concept of Dhimmitude. In regions conquered by Muslims after the death of the prophet Muhammad, Christians and Jews as so-called "People of the Book" were allowed to keep at least most of their church buildings and synagogues, conduct their worship and other religious activities, including burials, according to their own rites, and they enjoyed a certain autonomy concerning matters under canonical law. They would enjoy the protection of the Muslim government provided they paid the Jizya, a poll-tax levied on every member of the Dhimmi community (a Dhimmi being a member of a group under the Dhimma, or pact of conditional protection).

However, as soon as Muslims were involved in any legal dispute with the Dhimmi community, Sharia, or Islamic law, would be applied. Non-Muslims were allowed freedom of worship, but not of missionary activity. Proselytism among Muslims was forbidden.

The concept of Dhimmitude has had an overwhelming and pervasive influence on societies which have for centuries been part of the Muslim world. This influence is still felt today, even though the express outward rules that made discrimination against Dhimmis mandatory have long disappeared. Under these rules Christians and Jews were obliged to wear special clothing that made them easily distinguishable from Muslims. They were not allowed to ride horses, only donkeys, and had to adopt a humble and abject demeanour.

Concerning conversion from Islam to another religion, Islamic law usually forbids this, calling it ridda, or apostasy. A Hadith, a record of a saying or action of the Prophet or his followers, records that he once said: "If a man changes his religion, kill him." Later traditions have added some conditions, and a widely accepted understanding is that an apostate male should be persuaded three times to return to Islam and, failing this, be put to death. An apostate female should also be persuaded three times, failing which she should be locked up for the rest of her life. The more modernistic view, shared by senior Muslim scholars in Egypt, is that an apostate is granted the rest of his life to repent and return to Islam.
Meanwhile, the government seems intent on making life as difficult as possible for the convert.

The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the International Islamic Council in 1981, includes sections on freedom of religion, but the Arabic text, which differs on several points from the English one, includes the traditional prohibition against leaving the umma, the fellowship of Islam. This section is omitted in the English text.

The topic of religious freedom has been widely discussed in many parts of the Islamic world, and some scholars have, at least in theory, supported an understanding derived more directly from the text of the Qur'an itself, understood to be the very word of God, where it says: "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). This is understood to mean that an individual cannot be forced to accept Islam as his or her religion. By wider implication, some argue, it can be taken to mean that someone who decides to leave Islam cannot be forced to return. This understanding contrasts with the hard-line Islamist understanding, derived from other Qur'anic verses (9:12; 29; 36; 123): "Fight the unbelievers" is the message of all these verses. The term "unbelievers" is popularly and among hardliners understood to mean all non-Muslims. Moderate and modernist scholars, however, will say that these verses apply only to certain specific cases where non-Muslims have taken the initiative in aggression towards Muslims. According to this view, none of these verses can be understood as a general order to fight non-Muslims. Likewise, according to the moderates and the modernists, the term ridda, or apostasy, should not be understood in terms of inner religious conviction, but rather in terms of political and military treason.

Indeed, during the last fifty years or so, few examples of death sentences for apostasy from Islam have been documented. The applications of the old laws concerning Dhimmis have likewise lapsed. Only in Yemen did these laws continue to be in force until the departure of practically all the Yemeni Jews in 1950. Christian missionary work in the Islamic world including attempts at proselytism among Muslims has been conducted on a considerable scale since the 19th century and through the height of colonial rule, but has met increasing restrictions since such rule ended during the 1940s and 1950s.

Legislation on the issue of apostasy has, in general, been unclear. In Egypt, for instance, there is no law saying that it is forbidden to change one's religion, but a convert from Islam to Christianity risks being arrested and imprisoned when his or her conversion becomes known. By law, a person who wishes to convert to another religion (only Islam, Christianity and Judaism are considered legal religions) must meet with a person of religious authority in the community, a priest, a rabbi or an imam, who must make sure that the conversion is not forced and should even try to persuade the person who wants to convert to give up the conversion and stay in his or her own original community. However, this law is not always applied, and Christians are encouraged in various ways to adopt Islam. A Christian can change his or her name officially to a Muslim name and easily obtain a new identity card, whereas it is legally impossible for a Muslim who has become a Christian to change his or her name officially. In some other countries in the Islamic world there are clear laws against apostasy, which carries the death penalty.

Wherever Sharia is adopted as the basis of national or regional law, or even where adherence to Sharia is the expected norm in a sub-culture, the whole idea of religious freedom as described in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is problematic, to say the least. Sharia as traditionally understood runs counter to the ideas expressed in Article 18.

There are countries traditionally belonging to the Muslim world, however, where a long history of religious tolerance has made it easier to accept the ideas of Article 18, even among Muslims. The best example is Indonesia, but even in Indonesia the legislative process is at present strongly influenced by a conservative Islamist agenda.

In the post-Soviet societies which were historically part of the Muslim world, the very idea that a Muslim could be free to choose his or her religion is often viewed with suspicion, if not outright condemnation. Apostasy from Islam is tantamount to treason, even from the point of view of Muslims who are Muslims by culture rather than by faith and spiritual conviction.

Here as in the Middle East Muslim opinion is, of course, informed not only by religious texts, but also by a long history of perceived victimisation at the hands of crusaders, be they Franks or Russians. Conversion to Christianity is seen as joining the enemy.

All this being said, there is reason for concern because we are all living in a world characterised by massive change, including a shift from old community-based concepts of rights and duties to more individualistic ones.

This change comes as a result of the influences of globalisation made possible by the advances of the means of mass-communication. Even in conservative, tribally oriented societies like those of the Arabian Peninsula, young adults will be influenced by what they hear and see from East and West, North and South, by satellite TV and on the Internet, and a civilisational clash seems inevitable. The reason for this clash is that, in general, Islamic law is still being applied in ways that do not take deeper layers of societal change into consideration, and by people who see no way of changing the "letter of the law" to suit those changes.

Dr Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid, an Egyptian history professor, was condemned as an apostate by an Egyptian court in 1995 for having proposed changes to Islamic inheritance laws clearly defined in the Qur'an. Dr Abu Zaid's argument was based on the fact that the Qur'anic text as such was a great step forward for women's rights, whereby instead of having no right to inherit from their deceased fathers, they were given the right of half of what their brothers inherited. By consequence, women - whose place in society has changed in such a way that they are, in actual fact, breadwinners on equal terms with their husbands - should now be given the right to inheritance on equal terms with men, who were formerly supposed to be the breadwinners and therefore would inherit a double portion of what each of their sisters would inherit.

When a professing Muslim can be condemned thus as an apostate, one wonders how the attitude to a Muslim who apostatises in favour of Christianity - not to speak of other religions - can change. Seeing groups of Egyptian youths in the streets of Cairo chanting Hare Krishna ritual chants is still unthinkable. Jehovah's Witnesses are outlawed in all Arab countries and most of the Muslim world. Only the three traditional monotheistic religions are allowed to exist officially. Foreign non-affiliated churches or churches which have not previously existed in Egypt can only set up missions there if they are accepted by one of the country's existing denominations. For instance, a mission of a Pentecostal denomination at odds with Assemblies of God in the United States must register with the Assemblies of God counterpart in Egypt in order to exist.

In my examples, I have focused almost exclusively on Egypt, but similar conditions obtain elsewhere in the Middle East. In the Arabian Peninsula, conditions are generally worse, especially in Saudi Arabia, where government representatives have repeatedly stated that Christian churches or buildings of any other faith community except Islam will never be built anywhere in the country. Christian worship in private houses is said by one government minister to be admissible, but the fanatic religious police "Muttawa'" seem to interpret this differently. They have interrupted Christian prayer meetings in private homes and arrested the participants. This practice is "justified" by a saying by the Prophet that Islam cannot co-exist in the Arabian Peninsula with any other religion.

As most of the countries in the Muslim world in theory claim to defend human rights, including religious freedom, even claiming that Islam was the first religion to codify human rights, it is obvious that their understanding of religious freedom differs greatly from the general western understanding. The "religious supermarket" with a free choice of different products and brands has not been introduced in that part of the world yet, and governments are not interested in introducing it, probably partly because of a fear of anything that threatens stability and predictability.

Governments also feel a great need to paternalistically protect their citizens, especially the illiterate or those with little education, from new ideas that do not belong in the religion that they have "inherited" from their parents. The main reason, however, is that Islam is seen as the ultimate truth, and its prophet Muhammad is "the seal of the prophets", meaning the last one who brought the final and perfect revelation for all mankind. Governments in the Islamic world see themselves as defenders of the true faith, and the Islamists who accuse them of not doing enough to fulfil that role stand ready to take that role upon themselves.

Regrettably, much remains to be done in the realm of religious liberty in the Muslim world. If governments and their agencies could be persuaded to pay international conventions more than mere lip service, much could be gained, especially if their educational systems would instil respect for human rights into their students. Especially respect for the individual's personal convictions needs to be promoted, together with respect for those religious traditions which belong to the cultural and national heritage of the countries of the Muslim world.

At the same time, it must be underscored that there are signs of hope, especially since intellectuals and religious officials in the Muslim world are discussing these subjects openly and are suggesting reforms which could lead to greater religious liberty.



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