Addressing the Root Causes of Conflict-Driven Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia


September 13, 2017

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Number 396 | September 12, 2017
ANALYSIS

Addressing the Root Causes of Conflict-Driven Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia

by Ruji Auethavornpipat

On July 19, 2017, Thailand witnessed its largest human trafficking trial. This court case involved 102 defendants and resulted in 62 convictions for crimes committed against migrant asylum seekers mostly from Myanmar (Burma). While this is a high-profile case signaling Thailand’s serious commitment to combatting human trafficking, the conversation is still missing a discussion about the root cause of trafficking in the region – conflict in Myanmar. More attention is needed to alleviate and inhibit circumstances that drive migrant populations in Myanmar to use smuggling networks, where they are vulnerable to trafficking.

The aftermath of the largest human trafficking trial in Thailand

The trial took place following the May 2015 discovery of mass graves in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border. Human Rights Watch reports that at least 30 bodies were found and that the victims – mostly migrants identified as ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladesh – lost their lives due to inadequate food and disease while traffickers were waiting to receive ransoms from the families before smuggling them into Malaysia.

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The unearthing of mass graves occurred one week prior to the humanitarian “boat crisis” that took place in May of 2015, during which regional governments pushed back the boats carrying Rohingya migrants, leaving them stranded at sea. The development also came at the height of international criticism on the prevalence of human trafficking in Thailand. The US government downgraded Thailand to Tier 3 – the lowest tier – in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in 2014 and again in 2015 for not complying with the US standards for the elimination of human trafficking. While Thailand’s anti-trafficking efforts are assessed based on the “3P” approach (prosecution, protection, prevention), the issue of official complicity is among those consistently raised by the United States. Most recently, the 2017 TIP Report, published before the July 2017 trafficking trial, states that Thailand “did not aggressively prosecute and convict officials complicit in trafficking crimes, and official complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts.”

Meanwhile, from the Thai government’s perspective, progress has been made against official complicity in human trafficking. For example, the discovery of the mass grave in 2015 was followed by an investigation by senior police officer Paween Pongsirin, which implicated “influential figures” in the Thai government, military, and police in human trafficking. Subsequently, due to the fear for his life after the investigation, Paween left for Australia to claim political asylum. Then, in 2016, the government reported increasing numbers of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.

In July 2017, the court delivered the 500-page verdict which took over 12 hours to read. Many of the 62 defendants were found guilty on charges of forcible detention leading to death, trafficking, rape, and membership in transnational organized criminal networks. Moreover, the jail sentences for the convicted officials range from 27 to 78 years and those convicted of human trafficking are also required to pay 4.4 million baht or approximately USD $132,000 to 58 victims.

The severe punishment of perpetrators has been welcomed not only by civil society but also foreign governments such as that of the United States. Lengthy prison terms are undoubtedly imposing higher risks for the “business” of trafficking, and sending a strong message to traffickers that human trafficking is a heinous crime. It also illustrates that state officials no longer have impunity. Prosecution consequently seems to serve its purpose of deterring or at least disrupting future trafficking activities.

Image result for the rohingya's of myanmarBangladeshi villagers covered the bodies of Rohingya women and children who died when the boats in which they were fleeing violence in western Myanmar

 

Although these developments are rightly regarded as a step forward, it is questionable whether the root cause of trafficking, among the Rohingya migrants in this case, is being effectively addressed. This thus casts doubts as to whether the emphasis on prosecution can effectively eradicate human trafficking.

Conflict in Rakhine State and the roots of trafficking

The trafficking of the Rohingya is clearly driven by violent conflicts in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Without tackling this root cause, human trafficking networks may continue to operate in the shadows.

The United Nations (UN) describes the Rohingya population as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. As of 2014, there were estimated to be 1 to 1.5 million Rohingya Muslims and 2 million Rakhine Buddhists in Rakhine. The waves of communal violence since 2012 have resulted in numerous cases of injury and death, the destruction of property, and the displacement of 140,000 people. The escalation of conflict in October 2016 saw unidentified militants attack three local police posts, killing nine officers. This incident led the Myanmar military to initiate a four-month “clearance operation” to uproot the suspected Rohingya militants. The upsurge of violence led the UN to call for an investigation into allegations of abuses committed against Rohingya civilians. In the midst of the crackdown, hundreds tried to flee to Bangladesh, with many reportedly being gunned down, and those arriving by boat being pushed back by border guards or stranded at sea. At least an additional 92,000 people have been displaced.

These circumstances further exacerbate the risk that the Rohingya will be exploited by smugglers and traffickers during their journey. Addressing trafficking problems entails the prevention of conflict and reconciliation among various groups of people in the Rakhine State. The conflict cannot be perceived simply as an ethno-religious one, but local contexts such as years of armed conflict, deep-seated grievances of the locals, economic impoverishment, and authoritarian rule should be taken into account. While there is tremendous work to be done to protect the stateless Rohingya population, it should also be noted that one major concern among Rakhine people is that international attention has heavily focused on assisting the Rohingya to the detriment of the Rakhine people.

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Her apparent indifference could lead to a return of military dictatorship in Myanmar. 

Rakhine is one of the least developed states in Myanmar with the highest poverty rate of 78 percent and years of inter-communal violence deteriorating the socio-economic development. Moreover, the International Crisis Group indicates that the whole Rakhine community tends to be viewed as violent extremists and as such ignores the fact that the Rakhine themselves are “a long-oppressed minority.” There is also an insufficient attempt to understand the diversity of Rakhine community concerns. Similar to other ethnic minorities, the Rakhine grievances are caused by discriminatory practices, economic stagnation, a lack of political power, and constraints on language and cultural expression.

The conflict in the Rakhine state is complicated and has no easy solution. However, a more balanced conversation that acknowledges the grievances of different stakeholders could play a crucial role in creating a constructive dialogue that not only addresses peacebuilding, but also prevents the vulnerable and stateless Rohingya from falling into the hands of human traffickers.

About the Author

Ruji Auethavornpipat is a Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington and a PhD Candidate in the Department of International Relations of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at Australia National University. He can be contacted at ruji.auethavornpipat@anu.edu.au.

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

 

Human trafficking: Malaysia moves out of US’ Tier 2 watch list


June 28, 2017

Human trafficking: Malaysia moves out of US’ Tier 2 watch list

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for state department human rights reports 2016 Malaysia
Human Rights–More needs to be done

 

Malaysia has moved out of the “Tier 2 watch list” in the US State Department’s latest Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).

“Countries on the Tier 2 list are countries that do not fully meet the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to meet those standards.”

However, being on the Tier 2 watch list subscribes to the same definition above, in addition to having a significant increase in the absolute number of victims and failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to prevent human trafficking, among other yardsticks.

“The government (of Malaysia) demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Malaysia was upgraded to Tier 2.”

The government demonstrated increasing efforts by expanding trafficking investigations, prosecutions and convictions,” the TIP report states. However, the report noted that efforts to protect victims of human trafficking were “largely inadequate”.

It noted that newly implemented laws to shelter victims while providing free movement and right to employment were flawed due to bureaucratic delays.

“Of the 1,558 victims identified, the government conducted only 106 risk assessments and ultimately granted six victims work visas and 12 special immigration passes for freedom of movement. An additional 28 victims were approved for freedom of movement, but delays in obtaining required passports from their home countries meant that they either had returned home or remained waiting at the end of the reporting period,” reads the report.

The report urged Malaysia to improve on the implementation of laws related to human trafficking and to smoothen the process to allow victims freedom of movement and employment. The TIP is a diplomatic tool by the US, used to engage with other governments on methods to tackle human trafficking. It is published annually.

Malaysia was placed on the “Tier 2 watch list” between 2010 and 2016, save for 2014 when the country was placed on the “Tier 3” list, alongside countries such as North Korea and Libya.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has criticised the report for having whitewashed Malaysia’s poor to mediocre record on combating human trafficking for the second year in a row.

“The reality is that Malaysian officials identify very few victims compared to the numbers present in Malaysia. Foreign workers from Southeast and South Asia are debt-bonded and controlled, and the government’s efforts to shelter and care for victims is really sub-par and marred by bureaucratic red-tape,” Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson (photo), said in a statement today.

Robertson said Malaysia only needs to look next door to Thailand to see how to run an effective shelter system. Yet, the government was instead busy outsourcing its responsibilities to NGOs and then dragging its feet on providing the funding needed.

However, he said, in adopting that approach, Malaysia was aligning with the poor practices of Cambodia in dealing with trafficking victims.

“Malaysia has also made no effort to untangle wholly different concepts of ‘people smuggling’ from human trafficking in Malaysia’s anti-trafficking law, leaving frontline officials with a buffet line choice of whether to designate a person as an illegal immigrant or a trafficking victim.

“Not surprisingly, effective identification of trafficking victims falters in all but the most obvious cases, and the Malaysian anti-trafficking efforts stumble at the first hurdle. Amendments to the law in 2015 to create an inter-agency committee are far from sufficient to deal with the larger problems the law creates,” Robertson said.

Malaysia’s failure to prosecute lambasted

He also lambasted the Malaysian government’s failure to prosecute Malaysian officials for their involvement in the Rohingya smuggling camps, which he said was a testament to odious impunity to commit trafficking abuses, and demonstrates a fundamental lack of political will by the Malaysian government.

“It’s a joke to say that ‘investigation is continuing’ into the Rohingya cases when, for all intents and purposes, the investigations have finished in Malaysia and Thailand.

“Corruption of Malaysian officials, failures to identify victims, overcrowded shelters, moderate reforms not yet implemented – these are all indications of a problem still not fully addressed.”

Thus, he said, it is no exaggeration to say the section on Malaysia undermines the credibility of the TIP report. Robertson urged the US Congress to call Secretary Tillerson up to Capitol Hill and demand for an explanation.

“Progress can constitute many things, but calling a move from near zero to 10 percent still means that you’ve got 90 percent of the way to go – a fact which seems to be lost on whoever decided to upgrade Malaysia’s ranking to Tier 2.

“In fact, some of the justifications for ‘progress’ in Malaysia’s record are as clear as mud, and would be laughable if the rights issues at hand were not so serious,” he added.

Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Problem: Corruption hinders Decisive Action against Traffickers


May 26, 2017

Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Problem: Corruption hinders Decisive Action

by Rebecca Schectman

http://www.newmandala.org/malaysia-must-wake-human-trafficking-problem/

 

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This is pure and unadulterated bullshit, coming from Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Laureate.  The Rohingyas are powerless and stateless. But push them in a corner, they will fight back in order to survive. Malaysia is equally to blame for lacking the political will to deal with human trafficking. Our Police Force is incorrigibly corrupt.

On Sunday, 21 May, Rohingya community members, local leaders, and NGOs working on human trafficking gathered at a Rohingya graveyard near Alor Setar, Kedah to commemorate the second anniversary of the discovery of mass graves and trafficking camps at Wang Kelian. I attended the event representing Tenaganita, an organisation that has worked on migrant rights and human trafficking issues in Malaysia since 1991.

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Image result for Wang Kelian rohingya cemetery

 Some 300 Rohingya gathered at Kampung Kepala Bendang near here today(May 21, 2017)  to pay tribute to the discovery of several mass graves in Perlis, thought to contain bodies of fellow migrants.

Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign and Tenaganita have called on Malaysian authorities to address the corruption that allows Malaysia to be a trafficking hub in the region. At the Wang Kelian memorial, Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid of MAPIM, the Malaysian Consul­tative Council of Islamic Organisation, stated that authorities should work with trafficking survivors to identify the ‘big fish’, the leaders of trafficking syndicates and the corrupt Malaysian officials who allow them to operate. Tenaganita recognises that the camps and bodies found at Wang Kelian are just the tip of the iceberg—currently, the Global Slavery Index estimates 128,800 individuals are trapped in modern day slavery in Malaysia. That’s about 0.4% of Malaysia’s total population, putting Malaysia among some of the least responsive countries to combat human trafficking.

While the trafficking camps and mass graves found two years ago are potent reminders of the deadliness of trafficking, it is also important to note that there are multiple trafficking schemes seen in Malaysia. Beyond forced labour and sex trafficking, Tenaganita has uncovered cases of marriage trafficking, the sale of babies, organ harvesting, child prostitution, and child marriage. Not all trafficking happens across the Malaysia-Thai border. Traffickers often use budget flights to bring men, women, and children into Malaysia for exploitation. Many of Tenaganita’s cases involve women trafficked to Malaysia for forced labour as domestic workers, which counters the stereotype of trafficked women only being victims of sex trafficking. Like refugees and migrant workers, domestic workers are not adequately protected under Malaysian law. Traffickers know this and often exploit people who are eager to come to Malaysia, such as asylum seekers fleeing their countries or women desperate to support their families.

Corruption, inadequate training of enforcement officers, and limited awareness of trafficking dynamics all contribute to the lack of enforcement of Malaysia’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Act (ATIPSOM). Only a fraction of all prosecutions for trafficking crimes result in convictions according to the 2016 US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, which states, ‘accountability for traffickers remained disproportionately low compared to the scale of the human trafficking problem in the country’.

Trafficking prevention has not been adequately addressed at the national or regional level. For example, there are no mechanisms for safe repatriation, or the protection of trafficking survivors upon return to their country of origin to ensure they are not re-trafficked. Traffickers nimbly operate across borders—governments and enforcement agencies must also work closely together when prosecuting traffickers, protecting survivors, and preventing trafficking crimes. The newly ratified ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP) takes steps in the right direction, but does not incorporate cooperation by civil society organisations like Tenaganita who have been fighting human trafficking for decades.

 

At the graveside memorial, I saw that the lives lost at Wang Kelian had not been forgotten, at least by the Rohingya community and organisations working on the issue. But despite some efforts to enact legislation, the Malaysian government still lacks the political will to address issues that mostly affect non-Malaysian workers, migrants, and refugees, all of whom are acutely vulnerable to trafficking, forced labour, and debt bondage. It is now time for Malaysia to get serious about enforcing existing legislation and especially going after the collusion between authorities at all levels and trafficking syndicates. The horrors of Wang Kelian must not be allowed to continue, whether through the trafficking of refugees across the Thai border or the trafficking of young women into domestic servitude within Malaysian homes. Unless there is a concerted effort to tackle the human trafficking business in the country, Malaysia will continue to be a trafficking destination.

Rebecca Schectman has worked with UNHCR and Tenaganita in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as a 2016-17 Luce Scholar. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2016 with a degree in International Relations and Latin American Studies. She has worked on issues ranging from preserving memory of human rights abuses in Argentina to studying citizen feedback platforms in Uganda. Her research interests include migration, forced displacement, development, and human rights.

 

Australia-Philippines Relationship Status: “It’s Complicated”


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Number 364 | December 14, 2016

ANALYSIS

Australia-Philippines Relationship Status: “It’s Complicated”

by Charmaine Deogracias and Orrie Johan

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The Philippines and Australia fought side by side in the 1944-1945 campaign that liberated the Philippines from Japanese occupation. After the war, both countries forged alliances with the United States, as Australia and an independent Philippines became increasingly friendly. Today, with their overlapping and proliferating security partnerships, Australia and the Philippines have built on seven decades of bilateral ties to become comprehensive partners.

The two countries share an interest in the continued security and stability of the region and in freedom of navigation of the seas. The rising strength of China also looms large in the security calculus of each country. Both are trying to navigate the vast economic benefits and security concerns that China’s rise presents in the region, and this focus has brought the two countries much closer together. A major difference between the two is that the Philippines has a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea while Australia does not.  This means that for a time Australia was more worried than the Philippines about being entrapped into a war against China. Now that friendly relations between China and the Philippines have been restored under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who vowed to rely on China economically, there is greater convergence with Australian interests in avoiding conflict with China. But Philippines-Australia relations are now being undermined by the new Philippine government’s allergic reaction to human rights and resulting criticisms by Australian and U.S. governments. Relations are also affected by Duterte’s skepticism of Australian and U.S. resolve in supporting the Philippines, and by Australia’s concerns about a shift by Duterte away from the U.S. and towards China. These trends pose major challenges for Philippines-Australia relations and risk causing them to deteriorate.

Australia’s Cautious Bilateralism

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Australia has chosen to respond to the risk of increased regional instability by pursuing closer ties with many of its neighbors in the region, including with the Philippines. Until recently, Australia relied on its close alliance with the U.S. for its security and did not pursue strong security relationships with many other countries in the region. China’s growing challenge to U.S. predominance in the Asia-Pacific has led Australia to shift its approach by bolstering its ties with other regional powers, such as Japan and India.

This trend was strongly encouraged by the U.S., which under the Obama administration has advocated a similar approach to others throughout the region to help develop an Asia-Pacific Principled Security Network and boost regional stability. However, this approach has also become more attractive for Australia because of concerns that the U.S. could reduce its regional presence or even surrender its regional leadership role in the long-term, given growing opposition to international engagement within the United States. In such a scenario, strong Australian ties with other countries in the region could provide additional leverage in future interactions with China.

Among these bilateral partnerships, Australia’s relationship with the Philippines has been one of its fastest growing. Bilateral security cooperation began in earnest in 2005 when the Australian government expressed interest in assisting the Philippines with counterterrorism challenges. The relationship has since deepened to include a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), which went into force in 2012.

Australia now conducts joint military drills with the Philippines, and has participated in the annual Philippines-U.S. Balikatan exercises since 2014. Australia has also supported the Philippines’ right to pursue an international arbitration tribunal’s judgement on its disputes with China in the South China Sea, over Chinese objections. However, despite these major bilateral advances, there have been signs that Australia is less willing than the Philippines to consolidate strong ties. Australia chose to sign a comprehensive partnership with the Philippines rather than the stronger strategic partnership that the Philippines sought, even as it chose to ink such an agreement with Singapore.

The reason for this appears to be that Australia has historically avoided escalating tensions in the region and chosen to refrain from pursuing a strategic partnership or alliance with the Philippines due to concerns that such an action could undermine stability in the South China Sea or force Australia into a conflict with China.

The Philippines’ Pivot to China 

Given the foreign policy shifts that Duterte is seeking, Australia’s calibrated form of security engagement with the Philippines is the kind that Duterte favors for now. His independent foreign policy is shaping up to have Russia as an ally, China as an economic partner, and have Japan compete with China to provide economic benefits and regional security for the Philippines.

Duterte would prefer to keep the status quo with the US alliance and the Australian comprehensive partnership, but their criticisms of his controversial anti-drug campaign will complicate this. Australia and the U.S. have provided a great deal of support to the Philippine military but Duterte has questioned Australian and U.S. resolve against China. He also criticized the US and Australia for meddling in Filipino affairs by condemning his anti-drug campaign that has so far resulted in over 3,000 extra-judicial killings. But his anti-U.S. sentiments are more deep-seated for personal and ideological reasons.

Changing the rhetoric on the South China Sea issue post-arbitration ruling, Duterte has chosen to take a more conciliatory approach in resolving territorial disputes with China and is poised to settle the contentious issue of sovereignty bilaterally. He has not sought a complete overhaul of his predecessor’s policies, as he expressed willingness to maintain close ties with Japan, which has become concerned at Duterte’s talk of radical shifts by the Philippines towards China. He is open to joint military exercises with Japan, but has redirected the focus of bilateral drills with U.S. armed forces from maritime security to humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism, and scrapped naval drills such as amphibious landings and boat raids altogether.

Duterte has not yet spoken of abandoning Australia or reducing the already low scale military exercises with it the way he has about the United States. But the fact is that Australia’s criticisms of Duterte’s extra-judicial domestic policies and controversial comments have put Australia on Duterte’s watch list alongside the European Union and the United Nations. It appears that under Duterte, Australian ambivalence towards stronger ties with the Philippines is beginning to be reciprocated.

Until recently, the main factor complicating Australia-Philippines relations was a divergence in attitudes to the risk of conflict against China. While that is no longer the case, differences over the Duterte administration’s policy approaches are now the primary obstacle to strengthening Australia-Philippines ties. These concerns will prevent the bilateral relationship from improving and may even undermine it in the future.

About the Authors

Charmaine Deogracias is  a journalist writing for Vera Files in the Philippines. She can be reached at charmdeogracias@gmail.com.

Orrie Johan is a researcher at the East-West Center in Washington. He recently obtained a master’s degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University. He can be contacted at orrie.johan@gmail.com

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

East-West Center in Washington, 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036

Zakir Naik: Peace Preacher or Hate Monger


April 20, 2016

(@KLIA on the way back to Phnom Penh)

Zakir Naik: Peace Preacher or Hate Monger

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Dr. Zakir Naik, the controversial Muslim televangalist, is no stranger to Malaysia. He was here first in 2012 to deliver lectures in Johor Baru, Shah Alam, Kuantan and Kuala Lumpur. According to the organizers of the first lecture series, their objective was to promote harmony among people of various religions.

He is now into his second lecture tour series here. Presumably his objective to spread the message of peace, love and brotherhood among the various religions and Islam remains unchanged.

But perhaps his presence is also to emphasise the superiority of Islam over other religions; and as stated in the website of the Islamic Research Foundation of which he is President and founder, “about the truth and excellence of Islamic teachings – based on the glorious Qur’an and authentic Hadith, as well as adhering to reasons, logic and scientific facts”?

His main claim to fame (and contrariety)  in Malaysia comes from being recipient of the Ma’al Hijrah Distinguished Personality award by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah in 2013 for his significant service and contribution to the development of Islam. He has also received various other awards and honours – all from Islamic governments or organizations.

That said, his standing with some non-Muslim governments and organizations is less creditable and more controversial. The religious television channel, Peace TV, which acknowledges him as its main ideologue as well as driving force, has been banned by his own government, the Indian government, for its anti-Indian malicious content.

This is a reasonable statement

The station has also been in trouble with various broadcasting authorities for some of its content and Dr. Zakir himself has been banned from entry to the United Kingdom, Canada and Singapore – in the UK, for allegedly “engaging in unacceptable behaviour by making statements that attempt to justify terrorist activity and fostering hatred.”

It could be that Dr. Zakir has been unfairly targeted and victimized for his religious zealotry and popularity with the Muslim community. He has claimed, for example, that he has been quoted out of context for his views on terrorism.

But if he has been misquoted or has recanted for his earlier views on Al Queda and his support of Islamic terrorism, what are his perspectives on Islam and other religions which have enabled him to gain such a huge following among Muslims all over the world, and have him placed so high up on the pedestal?

Peace Preacher or Hate Monger.

Critics who have followed his lectures and preaching – Dr. Zakir, following the example of Christian telemarketers, describes himself as “a dynamic international orator of Islam and comparative religion – have expressed concern over his conservative and extremist views on a wide range of subjects, including apostasy and the propagation of other faiths in Islamic states, both of them major issues in Malaysia.

On the former, he is said to have argued that Muslims who convert from Islam should not necessarily receive death sentences, but that under Islamic rule those who leave Islam and then “propagate the non-Islamic faith and speak against Islam” should be put to death. Another source states that according to Dr. Zakir “there is no death penalty for apostates in Islam, until the apostate starts to preach his new religion; then he can be put to death.”

On the latter, Dr. Zakir has noted that while he appreciates that people of other religions allow Muslims to freely propagate Islam in their country, “the dissemination of other religions within an Islamic state must be forbidden because (he believes) other faiths are incorrect, so their propagation is as wrong as it would be for an arithmetic teacher to teach that 2+2=3 or 6 instead of 2+2=4.”

Similarly Dr. Zakir has argued, “regarding building of churches or temples, how can we allow this when their religion is wrong and when their worship-ping is wrong?”

Similarly, The Times of India in a profile piece on Dr. Zakir has argued that “the Wahabi-Salafist brand of Islam, bankrolled by petro-rich Saudi Arabia and propagated by preachers like Naik, does not appreciate the idea of pluralism.”

The article quotes Muslim scholar Wahiduddin Khan: “Dawah, which Naik also claims to be engaged in, is to make people aware of the creation plan of God, not to peddle some provocative, dubious ideas as Naik does.”

He adds: “The wave of Islamophobia in the aftermath of 9/11 and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have only added to the Muslims’ sense of injury. In such a situation, when a debater like Zakir Naik, in eloquent English, takes on preachers of other faiths and defeats them during debates, the Muslims’ chests puff with pride. A community nursing a huge sense of betrayal and injustice naturally lionises anyone who gives

A community nursing a huge sense of betrayal and injustice naturally lionises anyone who gives it a sense of pride. Never mind if it’s false pride.”

Whether Dr. Zakir should have the right to be in Malaysia and to speak on comparative religions may be controversial but in our part of the world apparently lacking appropriate Islamic “wise” men and leaders to look up to, hopefully it is not false pride that Dr. Zakir is peddling but the doctrinal and institutional re-caliberation of the religion so that Malaysians can be reassured of its contribution to our religious and racial peace and harmony.

 

State Dept Accused of Watering Down Human Rights Ratings


August 14, 2015

by Common Dreams

US State Department 2014 Human Trafficking Report

State Dept Accused of Watering Down Human Rights Ratings to Advance Obama Trade Agenda

Reuters investigation shows American diplomats played politics with annual human trafficking report

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The U.S. State Department is being accused of playing politics with human rights after a damning new Reuters investigation published late Monday revealed that high level officials watered down the opinions of rights experts hired to evaluate nations’ human trafficking records seemingly to advance a number of the Obama administration’s key agenda items.

Exposing a “degree of intervention not previously known,” according to the investigation, there were 14 instances where senior American diplomats overruled the analyst opinions to inflate the record of “strategically important countries” for this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report, released last week.

John Kerry -HT

Among those cases, Malaysia had its status upgraded from the lowest level “Tier 3” to the “Tier 2 Watchlist,” which is one rung down from “Tier 2,” despite analysts finding no improvement in the country’s trafficking record. Rights observers charge that this was a deliberate move to pave the way for the passage of the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

In June, Congress passed a provision barring the U.S. from entering into trade agreements with “Tier 3” countries. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez (D), who had spearheaded that effort, issued a statement after the investigation was published, saying: “If true, the Reuters report further confirms what I, along with the human-rights community, have feared all along: The State Department’s trafficking report has been blatantly and intentionally politicized.”

Reuters reports:

Congressional sources and current and former State Department officials said experts in the [Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, or J/TIP] had recommended keeping Malaysia on Tier 3, highlighting a drop in human-trafficking convictions in the country to three last year from nine in 2013. They said, according to the sources, that some of Malaysia’s efforts to end forced labor amounted to promises rather than action.

The country has been cited for having a robust sex slavery industry as well as forced labor camps.Though the news of Malaysia’s pending status change first broke last month, human rights groups reiterated their discontent.

“The vultures circled,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia Division for Human Rights Watch, told Huffington Post. “What you are seeing is significant damage to the credibility of that report because of these political games played back in Washington.”

Other countries where the State Department issued such “inflated recommendations,” according to human rights analysts, included: China, India, Cuba, Mexico, and Uzbekistan.

Reuters notes that “while a Tier 3 ranking can trigger sanctions limiting access to aid…such action is frequently waived.” However, the real power of the trafficking report “is its ability to embarrass countries into action.”

Lawmakers, including Menendez, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are convening to review the State Department report.