Ebadi: Islam distorted to deceive Muslims

Bangkok Post - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The world’s indifference to undemocratic and dictatorial regimes in the Middle East has left oppressed Muslims being reared in a violent environment and becoming exporters of terrorism, visiting Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi said yesterday.

She presented her views at a public lecture on “Cultural Pluralism and Democracy” that was organized by the International Peace Foundation and the Chulalongkorn University.

Some of these Muslim groups also advocated the belief that Islam was not compatible with democracy and the human rights concept had originated in the West. “These misinterpreted teaching have resulted in oppression of the people’s freedom of speech.” said the 58-year-old Ebadi.

“Violence is contagious. The Middle East has long been engaged with unrests and violence and innocent civilians have become victims of civil wars as well as perpetual wars waged by the westerners because of the region’s rich natural resources like oil,” said the first female judge in Iran and also the first Muslim Nobel laureate. People in most of the Middle-East have been living in violence and unrest for so long that they no longer are just silent observers but also active participants and sponsors of terrorism, said Ms Ebadi through an interpreter.

New colonizing powers have also not acted differently from what they were doing 50 years ago, she said. “They keep saying the former regimes were oppressive and intolerant. But when they themselves completed their invasion, they also looted the domestic natural resources,” she said, obviously referring to the United States.

Punishing and killing terrorists would not result in terrorism being eliminated unless you fight the fundamental question of injustice and undemocratic systems, she said.

“Islam is a religion of equality and not compatible with dictatorship. Muslims should know that they are being deceived in the name of Islam,” said Ms Ebadi, whose autobiography is to be released in New York in the next few months.

She said proper interpretation of Islam could only take place under a truly democratic government. “Peace would reign in the Middle East if all the undemocratic governments were replaced.”

On the southern situation in Thailand, Ms Ebadi said the basic thought was the same: “The Buddhist majority must respect the minority Muslims. You should not link your problems to religion as Islam does not condone violence and is not a religion of terror. A real Muslim will never resort to violence to achieve his goals.”

On the deteriorating democratization in Burma, the 2003 Nobel laureate said she was frustrated and disappointed that Aung San Suu Kyu, the 1991 Nobel laureate, was still under house arrest, but believed that with her strong character and will, Suu Kyi would succeed in her conviction. The reading of opening statements on the treason and terrorism case against eight Islamic teachers, or ustazes, was delayed from yesterday until April 29 due to the lack of lawyers to represent some of the defendants.

Last month the eight were formally indicted in Criminal Court with being members of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), an outlawed southern separatist group, and involvement with a string of killings, weapons theft and arson attacks in the deep South during 1993-2004. They pleaded not guilty to treason, terrorism and other charges.

The eight are Waeyusoh Waedueramae, Muhamad Kanafi Doloh and Abdulrohseh Hayidoloh, formerly teachers at Thammawitthaya School in Yala; Ahama Bula, an assistant headmaster at the same school; Masukri Hari, manager of Pattana Islam Witthayalai School; Salae Deng and Hama Jehteh, religious teachers at private schools; and Torleh Disa-eh, a Bahasa Malayu language teacher at a private school.

The Criminal Court ordered yesterday’s reading of the opening statements on the case against the eight ustazes postponed until April 29 as requested by some of the defendants.

Mr. Waeyusoh and Mr. Salae told the court they still had no attorneys for their defence, while the lawyers for defendants Mr. Muhamad and Mr. Hama requested a delay because they had other appointments.

The venue for yesterday’s hearing was changed from a regular-sized courtroom to the largest one available, to accommodate nearly 100 relatives and friends of the defendants from the South who turned up to show moral support for the defendants.