Islamic Human Rights Commission
|Islamic Human Rights Commission|
|Purpose/focus||Islamic Human Rights|
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is a non-profit organisation based in London. Its stated mission is to "work with different organizations from Muslim and non-Muslim backgrounds, to campaign for justice for all peoples regardless of their racial, confessional or political background.". The group is based in London and was established in 1997. The organisation, since 2007, has consultative status with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. It has been criticised for its silence about the treatment of Muslims in Islamic states, supporting extremists and for failing to live up to its stated mandate.
- 1 Philosophy
- 2 Activities
- 3 Controversies
- 4 Criticisms
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
The IHRC states its philosophy derives from:
Qur'anic injunctions that command believers to rise up in defence of the oppressed. "And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper." Qur’an 4:75
Jytte Klausen of Brandeis University writes that the IHRC forms part of the Muslim left in Europe. However, according to the now defunct Awaaz, the IHRC is "a radical Islamist organisation that uses the language of human rights to promote an extremist agenda including the adoption of shariah law". In a report entitled "The Islamist Right – key tendencies", Awaaz also states the IHRC is part of a corpus of right-wing Islamist and neo-Khomeiniist organisations, a charge the IHRC denies. Awaaz's claims were echoed by journalist Melanie Phillips, who stated in The Spectator that the IHRC was, "the most conspicuous promoter of Khomeini jihadism in the UK, ... [and] is said to be close to Iran."
The organisation states it is a campaign, research and advocacy organisation. It also engages in ad hoc and one-off projects.
The campaigns section features heavily on the organisation's website. This includes the Prisoners of Faith project, which has included campaigns to release various religious figures from imprisonment for their religious beliefs. Among these are Mu'allim Ibrahim Zakzaky released 1998, Gul Aslan released 1999, Nureddin Sirin, released 2004. The organisation also states the following have been released as a result of their campaigning: Mallam Turi, Zeenah Ibrahim from Nigeria; Sheikh Al-Jamri, Bahrain; Huda Kaya, Bekir Yildiz, Recep Tayyep Erdogan, Nurilhak Saatcioglu, Nurcihan Saatioglu,Turkey; Sheikh Ahmed Yassine, Abdul Aziz Rantissi, Rabbi Biton, Sheikh Abdulkareem Obeid, Mustafa Dirani from Israeli detention; Mohammed Mahdi Akef, Egypt; Dr. Muhammad Osman Elamin, Sudan; Cehl Meeah, Mauritius; Abbasi Madani and Ali Behadj, Algeria. Current campaigns for 'Prisoners of Faith' focus on USA detainees and include Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, his attorney Lynne Stewart, Ghassen Elashi and former Black Panther Imam Jamil Al-Amin, as well as Egyptian detainees including Khairet El-Shater.
Other campaigns work include thematic and country based campaigns e.g. for release of detainees in Bahrain, against brutalisation of immigrant women in France, and against nikab bans in France, Bosnia, Belgium and Spain.
In 2000 the IHRC "protested against a government-backed European directive, which, according to them, would force Muslim charities and schools to employ non-believers and homosexuals".
IHRC has promoted various boycott, divestment and sanctions actions, including a boycott of Israeli dates in the UK. In May 2010, IHRC organised and led a delegation of European Muslim organisations to Turkey to lobby the Turkish government to veto Israel's accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In 2006, IHRC began an emergency campaign against the imminent execution of British and Pakistani dual national Mirza Tahir Hussain. Other organisations, including Fair Trials Abroad and Amnesty International, joined the campaign.
The bulk of IHRC's advocacy work, it claims, is undertaken away from the public glare and involves helping individuals with discrimination cases involving Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism. Some public testimonies and case reports exist highlighting this section of IHRCs work. In 2004 PhD student Yasir Abdelmouttalib was viciously assaulted in a race hate attack and left severely disabled. His mother states:
‘Fortunately... I got support from... Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), the only community group in London with case workers to help Muslim victims of hate crimes like Yasir] and that helped us to pull through’.
In 2010, IHRC publicly advocated against the introduction of full body scanners at UK ports.
IHRC produces country reports on human rights abuses e.g. Nigeria. It also submits reports to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism at the United Nations. The list of countries it has submitted reports on in the period 2007 – 2010 are: Iraq, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Tunisia, Morocco, India, Bahrain, United Kingdom.
It also produces thematic reports e.g. on hijab and freedom of religious expression, even submitting some of these to UN committees such as the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
It has also produced several critical works overviewing anti-terrorism laws, particularly in the UK. Its 2006 report 'Anti-terrorism: A Modern day Witch-hunt' by Fahad Ansari was praised by Tony Benn and Bruce Kent. According to Benn:
Scholarly work of this kind helps us by emphasising the importance of Civil Liberties to all communities.
Kent stated it was a:
... most interesting – and shocking – terrorism report... it will do much good.
In 2004, IHRC launched the British Muslims' Expectations of the Government research project. It culminated in six reports on citizenship, discrimination, education, hijab, law and media and representation. The focus on theoretical aspects of citizenship in this project has become a key theme in IHRC research work. According to Professor D. Ray Heisey, the project:
... examined 1125 responses to a questionnaire and the responses from 52 personal interviews of Muslims living in various cities within the UK. They included a range of respondents in age, education, gender, and economic class... The strength of these studies is in the intercultural approach taken and the comprehensive nature of the investigation in looking at the topics as seen in the literature as well as the results of their extensive array of questions on numerous topics related to their perceptions of the consequences of living in a majority culture. Each volume ends with the views of leading citizens on the given topic and a list of recommendations for the British government to consider at the policy level as a result of the findings.
Other theoretical work includes papers on human rights discourse, as well as Islam and human rights represented in reports, papers presented at seminars, participation in wider research projects e.g. Trust Building in Conflict Transformation with the Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Contemporary Political Violence.
In 2006, IHRC issued a joint statement signed by various public figures calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon war, and calling on the British government to be evenhanded. Signatories included Vanessa Redgrave, various other MPs including David Gottlieb, Ann Cryer, Clare Short, Frank Dobson, Ian Gibson, John Austin and Jeremy Corbyn, as well as various Islamic, Christian and Jewish groups and individuals including Muslim Council of Britain, Jews against Zionism, Rev Fr. Frank Gelli, Rev Steven Sizer, Roland Rance, and Lord Nazir Ahmed. This statement and IHRC's research work and participation in protest events during the war attracted controversy in the right-wing press (see Controversy and Criticism below).
The IHRC has on a number of occasions organised joint statements with various Islamic groups about British terror legislation, and has collaborated with prominent civil liberties lawyers Gareth Peirce and Louise Christian.
Annual Islamophobia Awards
The Annual Islamophobia Awards were awards given annually from 2003 to 2006 by the Islamic Human Rights Commission to politicians and journalists whom the Commission judged to have expressed the most Islamophobic opinions in the course of the past year. An overall award was given to the 'Islamophobe of the Year'. In 2006 the Islamophobe of the year award was given to Condoleezza Rice.
Al-Quds Day, UK
Against Zionism: Jewish Perspectives
In 2006, the organisation brought together leading Jewish activists in London, for an international conference. The papers from the conference were published in English and Turkish. Speakers at the conference included Michel Warschawski, Uri Davis, Rabbi Yisroel Weiss, Rabbi Ahron Cohen, Roland Rance, Les Levidow, Jeffrey Blankfort, Professor Yakov Rabkin, and John Rose.
Towards a New Liberation Theology: Reflections on Palestine
In 2005, the IHRC brought Christian, Muslim and Jewish scholars, clerics and activsts together for an international conference discussing Liberation Theology in the context of Palestine. The papers were published as a book of the same name in 2009.
Genocide Memorial Day
In 2010, IHRC inaugurated an annual event commemorating genocides from modern history. The event, held in London in January included a Holocaust survivor speaking about his experiences during the period and his support for the Palestinian struggle. Other genocides that were commemorated, included the little known massacre of 10 million Indians by the British in the decade after the Indian Mutiny in 19th Century; the transatlantic slave trade; Srebrenica and the genocide of Native Americans. Speakers at the event included Imam Achmad Cassiem, Lee Jasper, Randeep Ramesh, Rabbi Beck, Rabbi Ahron Cohen, Sameh Habeeb. Messages were also sent from Ward Churchill and Hasan Nuhanovic.
Human Rights and Israel at 60
In 2008, IHRC organised the international conference 'Human Rights and Israel at 60'. Speakers included: Michael Warschawski (Alternative Information Center); Yehudit Keshet (Checkpoint Watch); Daud Abdullah (Palestinian Return Centre); Jennifer Loewenstein (University of Wisconsin); Michael Bailey (Oxfam); Meir Margalit (Israeli committee against House Demolitions.
2003 Award to Ariel Sharon for "interview"
During the 2003 Annual Islamophobia Awards, Ariel Sharon was announced as the "winner" of the "Most Islamophobic International Politician of the Year’", for an interview allegedly given in 1956. The interview's authenticity has never been verified and it is believed by many to be a hoax. The quotation was circulated in the Arabic media, and by several media outlets in the United States, including the Daily Illini, a student newspaper at the University of Illinois. The student columnist subsequently apologised. In a 9 June 2004 interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's The Religion Report, Stephen Crittenden challenged Arzu Merali, organiser of the Islamophobia awards, on this issue, pointing out that the IHRC's own website stated that the alleged interview could not be corroborated. Merali replied "Well you know, I can take that further with the people who researched that, but pretty much everything that went out last year was well researched. If you want, I’ll go out and dig up the verification for you. I’m happy to do it." As of 2012[update] the IHRC website still contained the disclaimer that the alleged interview had not been confirmed.
2006 Lebanon War
During the 2006 Lebanon War, IHRC undertook various actions in opposition to the war and called on the British government to be evenhanded in its treatment of the parties. It issued a briefing entitled The Blame Game: International Law and the Current Crisis in the Middle East.
Melanie Phillips wrote of the briefing in The Spectator that IHRC Chair Massoud Shadjareh asked "his followers" and "British Muslims" to provide financial assistance to Hezbollah, and called for the occupation of Israel and "regime change" by Hezbollah on self-defence grounds. She also highlighted that banners were seen at IHRC demonstrations saying "We are all Hezbollah now". Ilan Pappe supported the IHRC and its briefing in a letter to The Editor of The Spectator, asserting that it was accurate and similar to those "one can find in the annual reports of Amnesty international and the Israeli human rights societies reports", describing Philips' accusations as "vicious and unfounded".
The IHRC Chair was also reported to have been wrapped in a Hezbollah flag at a rally in Trafalgar Square in 2005. In a press release issued in response, the IHRC denied having advocated terrorism. Shadjareh defended having worn the Hezbollah flag as "neither uncommon nor controversial among human rights activists," and the IHRC asserted that pictures of rabbis with the flag had not been met with a similar response.
In a 2008 essay, "Brixton, Berkley and Other Roads to Radicalisation", Shadjareh states:
The primary slaughter was of a people of another nation, and for that reason, back in ’68, "We were all Ho Chi Minh", and for the same reason in 2006, aside from any other affiliations the authors may have, we authorised IHRC to add its name to the posters of dead and injured Lebanese children during the 33 day war, because then and now, "We are All Hizbullah." The Spectator and various parts of the right wing press declared that this was a sign that an Iranian backed spate of terror attacks on the UK were imminent, citing in particular the posters and IHRC. They failed to note that Hizbullah flags at said demonstrations were sported by many including orthodox Rabbis, and the now infamous banners held by amongst others middle class English women appalled at the slaughter.
Apology from The Sunday Times
On 2 December 2007, in The Sunday Times, Shiraz Maher wrote an article entitled "A failure to confront radical Islam". The article claimed that IHRC Chair Massoud Shadjareh, whilst appearing on the Today programme, made moral equivalents between Muslims in Guantanamo Bay and the fate of Gillian Gibbons in Sudan. The Sunday Times subsequently issued a correction, which held that this and other suggestions that Shadjareh had condoned the Sudanese government's actions were "totally untrue", and that he had in fact "condemned outright" Gibbons' treatment by the Sudanese government. Shadjareh brought a libel complaint against the newspaper which he won. The newspaper published an apology and agreed to pay Shadjareh "substantial damages".
The organisation supports Hezbollah, which the governments of the U.S. Netherlands, France, Gulf Cooperation Council, U.K., Australia, Canada, the European Union and Israel classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, in whole or in part.
Muddassar Arani an adviser to the IHRC tells Muslims not to speak to British Special Branch’s anti-terrorist team, her legal team also defended Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was convicted for inciting murder and stirring up racial hatred. IHRC's chairman, Massoud Shadjareh criticised the prosecution of Abu Hamza in 2006.
The IHRC has invested in the Baa Bar Group, a Liverpool-based bar chain that sells alcoholic beverages, even though the IHRC's has said alcohol is “The greatest underminer and saboteur of discipline and confidence is alcohol and so-called social drinking.” and “Not only is the oppressor making enormous profits from liquor” and urges Muslims to refrain from producing, distributing and consuming alcohol.
Conspiracism, support for jihad groups
According to the Stephen Roth Institute:
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is a radical Islamist organisation that uses the language and techniques of a human rights lobbying group to promote an extremist agenda. Formed in 1997 by its current chairman, Massoud Shadjareh, the IHRC supports jihad groups around the world, campaigns for the release of convicted terrorists and promotes the notion of a western conspiracy against Islam. Shadjareh and the IHRC subscribe to the radical Islamist belief that Jewish conspiracies are afoot to undermine Muslims, and they liken Jews and Israelis to Nazis. Members of the IHRC's board of advisors have even called on Muslims to kill Jews. They include the Saudi Islamist Muhammad al-Mas‘ari and Muhammad al-‘Asi, an American convert to Islam who was banned from preaching at his mosque in Washington, D.C., and has been a frequent visitor to Britain.
Selectivity and failure to fulfill its stated mandate
Anthony McRoy, in his 2006 book From Rushdie to 7/7: The Radicalisation of Islam in Britain writes that "... an interesting aspect of IHRC radicalism is that the group does not restrict criticism of human rights abuses to Western governments... it also condemns 'militant' Islamic regimes, such as Sudan for human rights abuses in Darfur..."
In a 2008 article published in the Harvard Human Rights Journal, Eric Heinze challenges the IHRC's credibility. He writes that it is legitimate for a human rights organisation to focus exclusively on abuses carried out against specific groups such as Muslims, but rejects the IHRC's method of generally condemning only non-Muslim perpetrators of abuses against Muslims. States officially identifying as Muslim, such as Iran, Syria, Libya, or Saudi Arabia, receive very little criticism, even for abuses perpetrated against Muslims. Heinze accepts the IHRC's criticism of states (such as Turkey or France) that limit women's rights to wear headscarves, but criticises the IHRC's failure to condemn Muslim-identified states that enforce the opposite dress codes, or that tolerate more serious abuses, such as female genital mutilation. He states that the IHRC does not fulfill its own stated mandate, and questions its honesty, concluding:
On the whole, the more oppressive an Islamic state is, and the more it officially propagates pro-Islamic doctrines or institutions, the less likely the Islamic Human Rights Commission has been to criticize it. That approach offends any concept of fairness in the application of human rights. The IHRC’s patterns of Perpetrator selectivity emerge, then, as highly disproportionate to its own declared mandate parameters. With respect to some of the world’s most oppressive states, which count Muslims among their primary victims, an organization holding itself out as concerned with the rights of all Muslims remains largely silent. That disparity between what the IHRC promises, on behalf of large numbers of victims falling within its own mandate, and what it delivers, raises serious questions about the IHRC’s honesty towards the victims whose rights it claims to advocate, and ipso facto towards the human rights norms which it purports to embrace, and towards the international human rights community. There is a substantial disproportion between the Perpetrators that IHRC actually selects for condemnation, and the full set of Perpetrators that would qualify under the organization’s own selected territorial, issue, victim, and temporal mandate. That disproportion cannot plausibly be seen as marginal or borderline. It is pervasive, fundamentally defining most of the IHRC’s press and policy statements and civic activities since its founding.
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- Phillips, Melanie. "Hezbollah cells await Iran’s orders". The Spectator. 5 August 2006.
- http://www.ihrc.org.uk/activities/alerts Activities / Alerts
- http://www.ihrc.org.uk/activities/campaigns Activities / Campaigns
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- e.g. PDF (1.48 MB)
- Upcoming Conference
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- " Stephen Crittenden: No prizes for Australian audiences guessing that the prize for the most Islamophobic international politician went to Ariel Sharon last year, but I was rather shocked to see that on your website, Ariel Sharon is nominated for an interview in which he described wanting to burn Palestinian children and encouraging his soldiers to rape Arabic girls, and describing Palestinian women as ‘slaves for Jews’, all of which you say yourselves on your website, comes from an interview that can’t be verified for its authenticity.
Arzu Merali: Well you know, I can take that further with the people who researched that, but pretty much everything that went out last year was well researched. If you want, I’ll go out and dig up the verification for you. I’m happy to do it.
The Religion Report, Stephen Crittenden, Noel Debien, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 9 June 2004.
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