This International Justice Day, stop the demonisation of Muslims — CENTHRA

JULY 17 — Today, July 17 has been declared as the annual Day of International Criminal Justice or International Justice Day by the Assembly of State Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The date is chosen as it represents the date the Rome Statute that created the court was adopted on 17 June 1998.

As we celebrate the day of the court’s creation as a permanent international tribunal to try serious crimes of an international reach, such as genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity and hail the same for the milestone it is, we note the many challenges that face the court still, such as its ability to exercise jurisdiction over crimes of aggression until the definition thereof, which includes amongst others invasion and occupation of a sovereign territory of a state by another state comes into force upon agreement by the Assembly of State Parties on or after 1 January 2017. CENTHRA notes that crimes of aggression had already been defined by the UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 adopted on December 14, 1974 and very much regrets that the adoption of this definition by the Rome Statute was not made earlier so that George W. Bush and Tony Blair, both the former President of the United States and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom responsible for the decision to go to war against Iraq in 2003, can be brought before the ICC to face charges over this aggression. The fact that the adoption of the definition will not apply retroactively is also much lamented. Also lamented is the ICC’s inability to look beyond the African continent in the prosecution of crimes already in force within the Rome Statute.

But much as the court faces its own challenges, we too must be mindful of the need to correct certain biased narratives that have been prevalent in the media as of late. False narratives, in particular concerning Muslims, have been peddled with the effect of labelling all Muslims criminals, when in fact it is but a handful of, if at all, Muslims that are involved in the perpetration of crimes such as terrorism and the like. The recent depiction of the Nice truck massacre occurring in France for example, bears testament to this, as well as the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in the United States was blamed on radicalisation, when the perpetrator was in fact taking revenge on account of unsettled scores within a homosexual relationship, which is a type of relationship not condoned by the religion.

CENTHRA therefore calls upon the media to cease criminalising all Muslims and exploiting Muslim issues as so-called ‘terror threats’. Let us declare war on propaganda disguised as news.

We also note with dismay the reaffirmation by the likes of Donald Trump, presumptive Republican nominee for election to the office of the President of the United States of America, that all Muslims should be considered potential security threats to be barred from entry into the US and the recent call by former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich to deport Muslims within the US who believe in shariah, as if it was shariah that is responsible for terrorism. CENTHRA calls for a permanent halt to the making of these proposals and any of their like, which we believe further alienate Muslims and violate their right to practise the Islamic faith.

Further, CENTHRA also takes the opportunity to condemn the labelling as ‘extremist’ numerous normative Islamic opinions on issues, ranging from the practice of Ramadan to the implementation of shariah law, which are founded upon the two highest authorities within Islam, the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w), and the patently false implication that there is a link between them and terrorism.

This International Justice Day, CENTHRA calls for the fair and accurate depiction of the faith and way of life adopted by Muslims nationwide as well as worldwide. It is time that the media, and this includes journalists, reporters, newscasters, columnists and opinion writers of all stripes and persuasions and of any kind, permanently and definitively cease tarring the faith of a 1.2 billion community of adherents with the brush of extremism and potential source of terrorism.

Islam never was, is not and never will be the cause of extremism nor terrorism and a fundamental change in the dominant narrative away from this goes a long way in the addressing of the root causes of the terrorist phenomenon.

*Azril Mohd Amin is a lawyer and the Chief Executive of the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA).

**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the view of Malay Mail Online.