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International | Anti-War

Muslim anger and the ethical human rights approach.
by Anthony Ravlich ( anthony_ravlich [at] yahoo.com )
Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 5:44 AM
Discusses the recent riots in Bangladesh. Argues that Muslim anger is better directed towards supporting an ethical approach to human rights, development and globalization for World Peace - it would replace neoliberalism whose many human rights omissions are likely, more than religious differences, to be the underlying cause of much of the conflict.
Muslim anger and the ethical human rights approach.



Anthony Ravlich
Chairperson
Human Rights Council (New Zealand)
10D/15 City Rd.
Auckland City.
Ph: (0064) (09) 940 9658



Statement by our council on the recent riots in Bangladesh.


Greater freedom not less freedom. Muslims could direct their anger towards supporting a peaceful fight for an ethical approach to human rights, development, and globalization for World Peace – it would replace neoliberalism.

According to AFP News: “Thousands of rioters torched Buddhist temples and homes in southeastern Bangladesh on Sunday over a photo posted on Facebook deemed offensive to Islam, in a rare attack against the community.

“Officials said the mob comprising some 25,000 people set fire to at least five Buddhist temples and dozens of homes in Ramu town and its adjoining villages, some 350 kilometres (216 miles) from the capital Dhaka.

"Although Bangladesh, where nearly 90 percent people are Muslims, has witnessed deadly clashes between Muslims and Hindus in the past, sectarian clashes involving Buddhists are rare" (see ‘Rioters torch Buddhist temples, homes in Bangladesh’, AFP News, Oct 1, 2012, http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/15001232/rioters-torch-buddhist-temples-homes-in-bangladesh/ ).

I consider the many human rights omissions required to implement neoliberal policies are very likely to be the underlying cause of such conflict much more so than religious differences and, if not in certain circumstances, it is still more positive, peaceful and eventually productive to focus on including the omitted rights.

Neoliberalism has, in my opinion, resulted in the gross neglect and ignorance of very large numbers globally and its replacement by the ethical human rights approach could mean improving the lives not only of Muslims but others in the country and the world.

The ethical human rights approach means that all should have, at the very least, the core minimum of the rights in the UDHR which also includes a duty to the community (Article 29(1), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR).

Without such core minimum human rights people are subjected to extreme violence, including ignorance, consequently there is a duty by individuals and groups, including religious groups, and States not to violate the core minimum rights of others such as by the use of direct violence or gross neglect.

In addition, to address ignorance there is also a duty to inform people of important truths, including human rights truths, particularly in a democracy which claims to have a free press and informed voters but also in a world where nearly all States would claim the UDHR as their authority for domestic human rights law.

A major international human rights NGO, the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning (PDHRE) in conjunction with the NGO Committee on Human Rights at the UN plan to use a short version of the UDHR to reach one billion people ‘to know and own human rights as a way of life’.

They state that on December 10th 2012 (UDHR anniversary) they will announce a 3 to 5 years program ‘to have one Billion people have the short version of the UDHR in their hands, in their language, having read and discussed it in their homes, in public places, in the workplace and in community meetings including houses of worship’ (Pdhre, People's Movement for Human Rights Learning http://www.pdhre.org/ , July 7, 2012 )
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Consequently, with the likely increasing awareness of people throughout the world of the relevance of human rights in their lives the ethical human rights approach is also very likely to become far better known.

For any Muslims seeking a greater understanding of the ethical human rights approach the foundations of this approach can be found in my book, ‘Freedom from our social prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights’, Lexington Books 2008, which was recommended on the United Nations website for about two years.

Also, many articles have been written since (see anthony ravlich’s blog, guerilla media). But I am more than happy to make myself available face-to-face, perhaps using video conferencing, to further explain this approach.

The ethical human rights approach is now becoming known in Bangladesh.

On September 27 about four days prior to the riots I was contacted by Narayan Charmakar, a criminal and human rights lawyer, described as a ‘well-known’ Dalit Human Rights Activist in Bangladesh. He is also a founding member of the International Commission on Dalit Rights.

He stated: "You are working on a very important issue for a free World of humanity. I shall write on your ethical human rights approach in the media".

On September 30 on Facebook he added: “Ethical human rights theme can ensure freedom of life in any corner of the World. United Nations should take ethical human rights as “movement for change” in the MDGs [millennium development goals]”.

The MDGs, which are not defined in human rights terms, very largely target the world’s poorer regions such as Bangladesh.

By ensuring, at the very least, all the core minimum rights in the UDHR the ethical human rights approach ensures survival with dignity as well as having the added dignity of being able to help oneself (requiring no discrimination of any kind).

While the MDGs, such as the goals to ‘end poverty and hunger’, and relating to ‘child health’, ‘maternal health’ help address ‘survival with dignity’ their goals fail to sufficiently address ‘the added dignity of self-help’ (see ‘End Poverty 2015’, United Nations, http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ ).

Such ‘self-help rights’ exist in both sets of rights in the UDHR, civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, which are regarded as interdependent.

For example, an MDG goal could be a ‘voice of their own for the poor’ in the mainstream media. Affirmative action for the poor, most likely involving only a very small cost, could enable such a ‘voice’ which could be almost immediately implemented if the political will existed to do so.

In my view, the MDGs, represent a very inadequate attempt to address the core minimum obligations (see General Comment No.3, UNCESCR) with respect to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Such core minimum obligations apply to all States rather than just the poorer regions of the world.

While economic, social and cultural rights are concerned mainly with ‘survival with dignity’ and are reflected in the MDGs the latter largely ignore such ‘self-help rights’ in the covenant as human rights education, those covenant rights which form part of ‘the right to development’ as well as failing to prohibit all forms of discrimination which can seriously suppress self-help e.g. I see discrimination on the grounds of descent, caste, social class, socio-economic status (wealth) as having come considerably to the fore in today’s world.

The ethical human rights approach by ensuring the core minimum rights i.e. both ‘survival rights’ and ‘self-help rights’, in the UDHR enables individuals to reach their full potential, follow their dreams, and use their new/radical ideas and ability to create a future for themselves, the country and the world while also, again without discrimination, having a voice in the mainstream.

What I see as the neoliberal exclusion of ‘tall poppies’, including independent minds seeking truth, leads, in my view, to a lack of originality and so any really significant progress taking place (see my article how much dissent, which is not State condoned, has been ‘shut down’, New idea for a better world, Scoop NZ, 25 July, 2012, http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1207/S00319/new-idea-for-a-better-world.htm ).

The above outlets i.e. a ‘voice’ and achievements, for anger and frustration could help considerably to avert future riots.

In New Zealand, and as is likely to be the case in nearly all other States given the global dominance of neoliberalism, a way has been found to implement neoliberal economic policies.

In New Zealand more than half of the rights in the UDHR have been omitted from domestic human rights law. For example, it omits economic, social and cultural rights as is the case with nearly all other States.

The fight for the ethical human rights approach domestically means including all the human rights in the UDHR in domestic human rights law and their ethical i.e. non-political, interpretation.

Given what I see as the desperate position the country is in I am advocating that New Zealand, and which other States concerned for human rights may seek to emulate, should follow an independent path (but includes an ethical globalization) from the neoliberal economic policies of the IMF (although the full implications of this are still to be explored).

But I am very concerned that the rebuilding of Christchurch following some massive and ongoing earthquakes (as well as 185 deaths) is following neoliberal policies without residents being informed of the ethical human rights approach which emphasizes bottom-up rather than what I see as a neoliberal extreme top-down control of development.

Because I think there is still a chance I am traveling again to Christchurch on October 9, 2012, in an attempt to attract mainstream media attention so people can have this choice (see my letter to political party leaders, ‘War or Peace: an ethical human rights approach’, 18 September 2012, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/war-or-peace-ethical-human-rights-approach ).

In the above letter I state that the inclusion (in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990) of such rights as the right to property, non-discrimination with respect to property, social origin, birth (includes descent i.e. family lineage or whakapapa), the individual and collective rights to pursue economic and social development and the right to self-determination would very likely allow us to break free from IMF neoliberal economic policies which fail to abide by many human rights.

This might also help encourage the bureaucratic elites who meet at the UN to remove the right to property from the hands of the IMF and World Bank and include it in international human rights law where, I consider, it is meant to be (see my book, cited above, chapter 5, pp146-7).

The ethical human rights approach is gaining some high-profile support on the social networking sites. For example, the United Nations, the US State Department, the Open Democracy Initiative of the White House, and Save the Children (US) have embedded tweets of support stating: ‘ethical human rights, development, and globalization to replace neoliberalism’.

While a number of professionals, including the former New Zealand Chief Human Rights Commissioner, have joined my linkedin in support of the ethical human rights approach. Also some top academics are now beginning to discuss the omitted human rights, one giving much support for the ethical human rights approach which seeks the inclusion of all rights while others want the inclusion of the omitted children’s rights (see my article, ‘Top academics rebel against State capture in favor of truth and ethical human rights’, 18 Aug, 2012, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/top-academics-rebel-against-state-capture-favor-truth-and-ethical-human-rights) .

In my view, the failure of many States to ensure core minimum human rights for their people sows the seeds of war because of the mass neglect of many and ensuing ignorance throughout society.

In my experience, this ignorance is largely because of the extreme conformity of the establishment, which excludes 'tall poppies', is required in order to contain of those at the bottom of the social scale coupled with a mainstream media which excludes truths deemed ‘unsafe’.

This, in my view, fulfills the real purpose - the ‘shutting down’ of dissent but that this is more likely out of ignorance of the ethical human rights alternative (see my article, ‘Hope in Chch rebuilding and ethical human rights despite all attempts to crush human potential’, 5 May, 2012, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/hope-chch-rebuilding-ethical-human-rights-despite-all-attempts-crush-human-potential ).

Because of this nearly all-pervading ignorance and mass neglect such States, which would be numerous, are, in my view, a serious threat to world peace as extremely disturbed leaderships could well eventually arise from societies which are conflict-ridden and/or contain a severely down-trodden people and take violence to a new level.

Consequently, I see the world, under neoliberalism, as being on a war trajectory, either within or between States, but that the ethical human rights approach gives people a choice.

In my opinion, Muslims could do themselves, their country and the world much good if they directed their anger towards support for an ethical human rights approach to be included in domestic and international human rights law - the truth is hard to beat and must eventually prevail.