Muslim and non-Muslim victims of radical Islamic attacks around the world plan to demonstrate at the United Nations in New York tomorrow.
An umbrella group called the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights wants U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a special rapporteur to assess the status of non-Muslim and moderate Muslim minorities in nations plagued by jihad violence.
The coalition also wants the United Nations to condemn “radical Islamism’s jihad ideology,” which “divides humankind into ‘Muslims’ and ‘infidels.'”
“The message that the world should hear is that there are victims of jihad other than the victims of Sept. 11,” Walid Phares, a spokesman for the group, told WorldNetDaily. “It’s the same persecution. Now, finally, Americans who were shielded from jihad terrorism because of American power unfortunately have been victimized.”
The coalition’s general secretary, Keith Roderick, an Episcopal priest, noted that the U.S. government has been careful to say that Americans are not in a war against Islam.
“But I think they need to understand, and be realistic, that a good portion of the Islamic population in the world perceives it as a holy war against the West,” said Roderick. “It doesn’t necessarily mean we have to respond in the same way, to make a holy war ourselves, but we have to draw attention to the fact that these instruments of jihad … have had detrimental results on the indigenous societies which have come in contact with Islam over the centuries.”
At the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across the street from the U.N. building, victims from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Egypt and Sudan will speak, along with Americans who suffered in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Maria Sliwa, a representative of the coalition, said she is one of five people who plan to block the U.N. entrance shortly after noon on Wednesday. She expects to be arrested along with Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, chaplain for the New York City Fire Department. The speakers will begin at about 11:30 a.m.
The coalition includes nearly 60 groups, including the Ibo tribe of Nigeria, where northern states are imposing Islamic law, and Christians of the Maluku islands in Indonesia, where a group called Laskar Jihad is trying to eliminate Christianity from the region. Muslims in the coalition include people of the Nuba Mountains in Sudan who are under threat from the militant Islamic regime in Khartoum.
Other members include the American Coptic Association, advocates for Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Christians, and the Egyptian Human Rights Association.
In a declaration presented in September at the controversial U.N. World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, the coalition called on Islamic scholars to condemn the violent interpretation of jihad held by many groups and movements worldwide. Phares, a Lebanese-born professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University, said that for many Muslim scholars, rejecting groups such as al-Qaida, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah is not difficult.
But wrestling with the theological interpretation of jihad is a challenge, Phares said, because its violent manifestations are found in the early Muslim conquests, going back to the Prophet Muhammad.
“So there should be at this point a reinterpretation of the events that took place in the early (centuries of Islam) by modern Muslim scholars,” Phares said, “so that they are readjusted with international law and relations.”
But defining jihad, which can include the concept of a personal spiritual “struggle,” is a task for Muslims, he points out. “What we can do together – non-Muslims and Muslims – is to reject terror based on jihad.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations told WorldNetDaily, however, that it tried to join the coalition, but was rejected. Roderick confirms that the Washington, D.C.-based Muslim advocacy group was not accepted because of its defense of militant Islamic regimes such as Sudan’s.
“The groups didn’t want them,” said Roderick. “I think (CAIR) has been at least tacitly supporters of radical positions that are contrary to our perspective and what we are trying to do.”
Roderick said that in a phone conversation CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper denied that the Khartoum regime had anything to do with slavery, contrary to the claims of human rights groups.
“There are human rights abuses all over the world, including the Muslim world – these are done in spite of Islam, not because of it,” Hooper told WorldNetDaily.
“Muslims are more than willing to cooperate with those who are sincere and don’t have political and religious agendas to carry out, which I believe these people do,” said Hooper, referring to Roderick’s coalition.
Roderick believes the definition of Islam is for the Islamic community itself to decide.
“What the victims of jihad have to deal with is how to survive and how to resist, and that’s what we’re concerned about,” he said. “We can’t define Islam for Muslims, but what we can do is define what is necessary for a strong Jewish, Hindu or Christian community in an Islamic culture.”
The Episcopal priest insists that “Christianity has always understood how to make accommodations in places where Islam has found itself in the minority.”
But when the roles are reversed, he contends, “Islam has never been able to make those accommodations. There is a built-in triumphalism, and I think that becomes a serious issue.”
Hooper disputes that view of history, pointing to Christian communities that have lived at peace under Islamic regimes.
The coalition’s declaration at Durban got no response from the United Nations, according to Roderick.
“I just don’t think it was on their agenda,” he said. “I think in fact it was contrary to the movement of the whole meeting and probably would have provoked even more controversy.”
The coalition hopes in two years to hold a congress of “dhimmi,” the term for minority groups that live under an Islamic regime. It would invite politicians, economists, religious leaders and human rights activists to talk about how the minority communities can “build a sense of cultural integrity, which is the best form of resistance, and how to build the instruments that will preserve your society.”