14, September, 2012
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, on the first visit of a democratically elected Egyptian President to the EU, declared that he was fully supporting the implementation of Fundamental Freedoms and Human Rights in Egypt. This is certainly good news for non-Muslim minorities. The Copts (descendants of the Egyptians before the Arab invasions) who make up some ten percent of the population, complain of constant discrimination, persecution, killings, burning of their property, kidnapping and selling of their young women, forced marriages and islamization. Egypt was one of the most populous Christian-professing countries before the Islamic invasions.
Copts, other Christian groups, the Baha’is and the Jews, now disappearing after being one of the most ancient communities, complain that the Egyptian authorities take no action against such crimes because of article 2 of the Constitution. This places Sharia law centrally for all the population. Many officials interpret such actions against kafirs (unbelievers), dhimmis (taxed as second or third class citizens) or non-Muslims to be fully applicable within Islamic law.
Can the Mediterranean become a Sea where all the border countries respect Human Rights? It is clear from Robert Schuman’s action that he was attempting to make the Mediterranean a lake of peace, exchanges and enlightenment.
Democracies do not go to war against each other but prefer the rule of law, talking out problems to find a solution and going to arbitration if necessary by a mutually agreed intermediary.Schuman also set up an anti-cartel system so that democracies could not abuse the citizens or worse begin to control governments as they had done in various times in European history. The same applies to dominant religions that abuse minorities. They can be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.
In the 1950s Algeria was still a part of France, Tunisia and Morocco protectorates. If the Convention of Human Rights had been properly applied it would have avoided much of the bloodshed that was later stirred up by nationalists and Gaullists. When Schuman pointed out in 1950 that the French Constitution required that the French Government lead the protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco to independence, he was roundly attacked by Gaullists, as if he had said something treasonous. France was divided in government, in Parliament and in the countries by the irresponsible action of Residents-general.
It is worth repeating what Robert Schuman wrote about the path to follow:
‘If we want to avoid an unbridgeable gap opening up between French and the native peoples; if a real confident and active association is to be established between all elements of the population for the common safety of all the interests involved; if we wish that the youth come along to us and with us to be able to construct a political and social structure compatible with freedom and human dignity, we the French, must by loyalty to our commitment leave aside prejudices and resentments, and propose a comprehensive programme provided with all the necessary stages.
For such a policy, it is necessary to show courage and a clear vision, together with as much goodwill as firmness. Our worst enemy in that as elsewhere is to follow a routine which cannot trust anything but the past and closes its eyes to the demands of the future. ‘
The future demanded freedom for all. Freedom and human dignity were lacking in Europe during the Hitler period. Hitler wanted to eliminate or subjugate all races that were not ‘Aryan’. Curiously he made an exception with some Arabs such as the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj al-Husseini who raised over 100,000 Muslims for several SS divisions. During the Mandate period, Al-Husseini had gained the post of ‘Mufti’ from the British High Commissioner under the influence of anti-Semitic British officials. This decision to appoint the violent rabble-rouser was described as ‘sheer madness‘ by more clear-headed diplomats. Husseini called the World Islamic Conference in 1931. After the war, Husseini escaped being tried as a war criminal, finding refuge in Egypt. There he joined forces with the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Later he helped train his young distant relative, the Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat, an active Muslim Brotherhood member.
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new president, is an engineer by training. He earned his PhD from a US university and taught there for a few years. He was a member of the Guidance Office of the Muslim Brotherhood until the founding of the Freedom and Justice party in 2011. He was its head but resigned this position on becoming president. The famous slogan of the Brotherhood used world wide is ‘Islam is the Solution‘. The brotherhood has spawned a network of organizations, including terrorist groups banned in the EU and the US. The Brotherhood’s credo is: ‘Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.‘ Islamic law, Sharia, makes all those who think Islam does not represent the truth about history, belief and the Godhead, at best second class citizens and subject to penalties, taxes and worse.
Schuman’s vision was to stop Europe entering into a further phase of internal death and destruction. He saw to it that Germany did not descend into a new Hitlerism or start another war in Europe. He wanted Europe to arise into a new era of not only prosperity but intellectual honesty that would outshine its achievements in previous centuries. This was an extraordinarily positive vision, as at the time of his proposal, 9 May1950, many saw Europe descending again into an area of war and conflict.
We need the same for European-Islamic relations across the Mediterranean. The instrument to re-establish Human Rights was the Convention of the Council of Europe which Schuman signed in December 1950. Schuman encouraged the secular State of Turkey to adhere to the Convention of Human Rights. This was a key player to make the Mediterranean to be a zone of peace. The borders of New Europe, he said, should not be set by geography but be defined according to how far freedom and human rights is respected.
Schuman had long considered what the relation of Europe should be in relation to Muslim majority countries such as Turkey. The origin of Schuman’s thoughts on the subject goes back to before the First World War. It culminates in the agreement of nations from Iceland to Turkey to use Human Rights as the legal definition of the New Europe.
Wars between European States had been continuous for more than 2000 years. Those with Islam only a little less. Schuman also drew on the important researches of ‘the great Belgian historian’ Henri Pirenne. This is how Wikipedia summarizes his work on Islam.
According to Pirenne, the real break in Roman history occurred in the 8th century as a result of Arab expansion. Islamic conquest of the area of today’s south-eastern Turkey, Syria, Israel, North Africa, Spain and Portugal ruptured economic ties to western Europe, cutting the region off from trade and turning it into a stagnant backwater, with wealth flowing out in the form of raw resources and nothing coming back. This began a steady decline and impoverishment so that by the time of Charlemagne western Europe had become almost entirely agrarian at a subsistence level, with no long-distance trade.
Pirenne used statistical data regarding money in support of his thesis. Much of his argument builds upon the disappearance from western Europe of items that had to come from outside. For example, the minting of gold coins north of the Alps stopped after the 7th century, indicating a loss of access to wealthier parts of the world. Papyrus, made only in Egypt, no longer appeared north of the Alps after the 7th century: writing reverted to using animal skins, indicating an isolation from wealthier areas.
In a summary, he famously said, “Without Islam, the Frankish Empire would probably never have existed, and Charlemagne, without Muhammad, would be inconceivable.” That is, he rejected the notion that barbarian invasions in the 4th and 5th centuries caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. Instead, the Muslim conquest of north Africa made the Mediterranean a barrier, cutting western Europe off from the east, enabling the Carolingians, especially Charlemagne, to create a new, distinctly western form of government.
Pirenne’s careful statistical and scientific work has been reinforced by recent archeological work and examination of underwater wrecks. Trade virtually halted across the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean, the gateway for Africa, Europe and Asia, became a barrier, shutting the gates between three continents.
Compare this with the trade at the time of emperor Nero in the first century CE. The Mediterranean was full of ships, many of them transporting hundreds of tons of grain. Egypt and North Africa were the granary areas for the Roman Empire. For Rome alone, 420,000 tonnes of grain was sent by ship (equivalent to 520 million litres). Of this Egypt supplied 140,000 tonnes.
With the Islamic invasions, the land across North Africa became depopulated and barren. When Arabs settled there, the Mediterranean became a barrier to trade as all trade shipping was pillaged in continuous warfare. This can be shown by the periodic outbreaks of plaque and pandemics. In the past plague reached the area of Egypt from Asia and took only four months to spread around the Mediterranean.
After the Islamic invasion of North Africa and elsewhere the Mediterranean, it took four YEARS to spread around the Mediterranean. Shipping stopped. The internal lake was an area of warfare, pillage and later Barbary pirates. Previously thousand of ships plowed their trade. Afterwards the traders had to take the much more difficult and slow routes by land across the Alps and broken roads.
The Center for Islamic Political Studies has made a historic analysis of Europe’s relations with Islam bringing in the latest scientific information from archaeology relative to battles and statistics. For a realistic understanding of our common history, I recommend Dr Bill Warner’s easy to understand review of the most recent data on Islam- European interactions.
It is important that Europeans and Muslim-thinkers should be on the same page when it comes to human rights. After all, Adolf Hitler had his own definition of Human Rights that distorted Christianity and opposed ‘the Jewish spirit‘. Usual European concepts such as ‘human rights‘ and ‘defamation of religion‘ mean something different to the Muslim organizations.
The founding document of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, OIC, (now the Organization of Islamic Cooperation) is its Charter. Article 15 states:
The Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights shall promote the civil, political, social and economic rights enshrined in the organisation’s covenants and declarations and in universally agreed human rights instruments, in conformity with Islamic values.
‘In conformity with Sharia values‘ is a red flag of danger for non-Muslims. What are the ‘universally agreed human rights instruments‘ referred to here? Don’t assume that the OIC is referring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of the United Nations. It has nothing to do with Europe’s legally-binding Convention of Fundamental Freedoms and Human Rights
The OIC considers the UDHR inadequate and un-Islamic. To codify the human rights of Muslims, the OIC created the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, commonly known as the ‘Cairo Declaration‘. It is a formal legal instrument put together by the OIC on behalf of OIC member states in 1990, and was formally served to the United Nations in 1993.
Article 22 of the Cairo Declaration states:
(a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.
1. Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari’ah.
(c) Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical Values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.
(d) It is not permitted to excite nationalistic or doctrinal hatred or to do anything that may be an incitement to any form or racial discrimination. [emphasis added]
If the Mediterranean is to become a Sea where Human Rights flourish, European diplomacy must insist on freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom to choose and to change one’s religion, as laid down by the Council of Europe. It must involve supranational values of honesty, truth and justice not sectarian concepts of law, binding every aspect of life, like the Sharia.
Europeans for their own security and defence against rabid, mob violence related to cries of self-defined ‘sacrilege‘ must be able to analyze and criticize dispassionately any religion. Why is such an intrusive right needed? Why should such a right against the sensibilities of others be so necessary?
Europe’s citizens must be able to retain or discover the most precious product of any civilization:
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