More Persecution, More Protests -Abu Muaj and Teeab Tahzib
The more the regimes, the more the protests— has been the signature feature of our once peaceful planet where we are bound to live on. The more the persecution, the more the protesters. Number of demonstrations is in proportion to abuses of human rights. The more the deprived section protests, the more the regimes resort to policing as they are growing overarching with the dwindle of press and journalism too. Now regimes ask people not to talk to the press or journalists earlier establishments of Abu Jehel or Abu Lahab or Utba or Shaiba used ask people not to talk to the prophet (Muhammad).
Democracies along with independent press are dwindling, and regimes are robbing the rights of the common people off their franchising power as is the case with Muslim Rohingyas who were de-enfranchised by Myanmar, Palestinians Arabs voting rights abused by Israel and Muslims in India who are apprehending loss of franchising power. Secretly, terrorising the politicians, journalists, civil society members, conscious sections of the society, the regimes are being re-elected, getting more than 90 per cent of votes. But self-censorship of journalists are prompting them not to write against autocrats who are getting even 97 votes like Bashar al-Assad of Syria or Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
The first protest of the world was probably staged by Adam’s son Abel criticising the attitude of Cain and was thus killed. Prophet Yousuf or Joseph (Peace Be Upon Him) protested at the total consumerism of corrupt worshippers of Amun — ancient Egyptian god of sun and air. One of his 11 brothers Levi also protested at the torture of his brothers on Yousuf, who was later groomed up for leadership in the palace of Amenhotep III and his commander in chief Potiphar in Egypt (Aziz-e-Misr).
Prophet Musa or Moses (Peace Be Upon Him) protested at the molestation of a woman by a member of the clan of Pharaoh and killed the molester. Thus, he fled the Pharaoh’s constituency and palace where he was bred and groomed to know the nitty-gritty of leadership and loopholes of his future opponents.
And the spree of protests continues to this day, be it in Kashmiris or Palestinians. Palestinians best rhymes with protesters as Israeli oppression and occupation see no end. Prophet Ibrahim protested at first King of Babylon Nimrod. Similarly, Kashmir, which is often called a valley of curfews and martyrs, has been always a hotspot of protest for long sixty years as India denied rights of UN given chance of plebiscite. As such, this article delves into some of the more prominent protests of recent times around the globe and attempts to scrutinise their underlying causes.
Protests against former
colonial power France
Hailed as the land of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’, France and its incumbent President Macron have recently been the subjects of protests erupting in many Muslim-majority countries across the globe. The fiasco started with Macron’s comment suggesting ‘Islam to be in a crisis globally’, delivered during an address on the 2nd of October while unveiling legislation to uphold secular values in France, which was a colonial power in Algeria and killed over 1.5 million people.
Tensions, however, soared further when a French schoolteacher, who displayed caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his classroom, was beheaded by Islamist terrorists on the 16th of October. And to make matters worse, on the 29th of October, a Tunisian man, in what has now been deemed as a terror attack, fatally stabbed three worshippers in a French church in Nice.
While Muslims across the globe and certain heads of states have condemned these attacks, tens of thousands of Muslims still engaged in demonstrations against France and its incumbent President, concerning his earlier comments and the displaying of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Some of these major protests were held in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Palestine, with smaller protests being held in Indonesia, Turkey, India and certain other locations in the Middle East. Aside from marches, demonstrations, burning of the French flag and effigies of Macron, protesters have also called for a global boycott of French commodities, and in some extreme instances, a suspension of foreign relations with France.
Another key element in the latest demonstrations against France has been that (mostly autocratic and populist) government heads from certain Muslim-majority countries have voiced against France and condemned Macron’s words. The Turkish President Mr Erdogan suggested in his speech that ‘Macron needs some sort of mental treatment’ and the Pakistani premier Mr Khan accused Macron of ‘attacking Islam’. The fundamentalist Hindutva-inspired government of India, however, sided with Macron and condemned any personal attacks on Macron from other heads of states.
The French reaction to these protests has been mixed. Macron has since repeatedly asked for understanding from the Muslim world and emphasised that the caricatures were not from any agency affiliated with the French government. He, however, also noted that it was his duty to uphold French values, such as that of free speech in his country. Ms Pen, a far-right politician, widely infamous for her ‘anti-immigration’ stance, has in the meantime called for a ban on immigrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan, in reaction to the anti-French demonstrations held in these countries.
Black Lives Matter Movement and
No other protest perhaps gained as much traction in 2020 as did the George Floyd Protests, named after a 46-year-old African American whose brutal killing by the Minneapolis Police during arrest, sparked a global reaction.
The protests in this instance began in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area but spread rapidly to over 2000 cities and towns across the globe. Although these recent rounds of protests were sparked by a widely circulated video of the brutal killing of Mr Floyd, their essence originate from much deeper roots of police brutality, going as far back as the civil rights movements of the late 19th century. The brutal killing didn’t bode well for the Donald Trump rather the issue coupled with the chaotic management of coronavirus collaborated to collapse in the following of the republican.
The civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s hosted several protests, notably the Watts Riots, exclusively as a response to police brutality. That sentiment, having transformed with time, reignited in 2013 as the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on social media, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman (charged for shooting dead an African-American teen Trayvon-Martin in February 2012), before growing into an international socio-political movement advocating racial equality for black people. Since its inception, the campaign has demonstrated against various forms of police brutality on African-Americans on numerous occasions.
Multiple studies confirm the existence of a racial bias in police operations in the US. A study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics using data from 2002 to 2011 showed that ‘blacks were 2.5 times more likely than whites and 1.7 times more likely than Hispanics to experience the threat or use of non-fatal force.’ Another notable study determined that ‘unarmed African-Americans had 3.49 times the probability of being shot compared to unarmed white Americans by police’, going up to 20 times higher in certain jurisdictions.
The fact that racial undertones affect implicit decision making for the police is confirmed by a study conducted by Stanford University utilising data from 100 million traffic stops nationwide. This study showed that ‘black drivers were less likely to be stopped after sunset’ given that racial features were less distinguishable after dark.
Cases involving direct altercations with the police are, however, just the tip of the iceberg. Many experts would point out the existence of a racial disparity in the judicial system in itself that makes African-Americans 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated compared to white Americans. However, some form of structural racism is faced by African-Americans in almost walks of life, from work, to housing, to education, to health care, and perhaps most notably in terms of income and wealth, which also makes it harder for African-Americans to escape their cycle of poverty.
Protests in Asia
2020 also saw protests grip the streets of Southeast Asia as well, with protests against the Thai Monarchy, the autocratic ruler Duterte in the Philippines and against the omnibus job laws in Indonesia.
In Thailand, there is an ongoing protest against the government and the monarchy, which was triggered when the progressive Future Forward Party (FFP) was forcefully dissolved by Thailand’s Constitutional Court in February this year. Since then, protesters have taken part in both daily demonstrations and online activism, via memes, music, and social media. While the military-inspired Thai government carried on with its usual method of propaganda, detentions, intimidations, water cannons, arrests and charges, the protesters, mostly consisting of youths with progressive ideals, used innovative means such as music and orchestrated themed demonstrations, such as holding umbrellas in unison against tear gas canisters.
The direct causes of the protest can be attributed to the fact that the present government, headed by Prayut, latched onto the seats of power not through people’s mandate but a coup. Further, to add salt to injury, he approved a military-drafted constitution in 2016 which put not the political parties, but the military at the helm of politics.
However, the reason as to why the dissolution of FFP sparked outright protests has to do with some of the deeper issues facing the modern Thai society. The Thai millennials of today who no longer are a fan of yesterday’s conservative values want sweeping social reforms, like that of abortion rights, educational reforms, ability to form trade unions, reduction of the budget for the military and better rights for women.
Beyond that, the Thai King’s interference into politics, transfer of public assets worth 40 billion in USD in his name and the consolidation of the Privy Council are some of the monarchy-related aspects that added fuel to the fire. Additionally, the increased enforcement of the Thai lese majeste law which carries with it harsh penalties of up to a decade or more in prison terms, for those insulting, defaming or threatening the monarchy, also enraged the protesters.
Meanwhile, major protests were held in multiple parts of Indonesia originating in Java as early as January of this year, against what is now popularly termed as the Indonesia Omnibus Law. This bill was passed originally with the aim of job creation and increasing foreign and domestic investment in the country. While the more business-oriented Indonesian Chamber of Commerce has been in favour of the bill, human rights groups, environmentalists and workers’ unions have, from the very beginning, opposed its draft, and are now the major groups protesting against it.
While the Indonesian government maintains that this bill is needed to boost investment and removal of red tape from the economy, the fact that this bill abolishes sectoral minimum wage, reduces severance pay to a maximum of 19 months (from what was 32 months of pay) and cuts weekends to only one day among other practices that hurt labourers, it therefore comes as no surprise that nationwide protests have hit the streets. Further, this bill also removes the need for companies to file environmental impact analysis, should the business deem their operations to be low risk.
Hong Kong Protests
No other protests perhaps captured the essence of anti-authoritarianism in recent times as that of Hong Kong’s. The trigger, in this case, was the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill, which would have allowed extradition agreements with China.
Although the protests started in March last year, it gained significant traction in June, when hundreds of thousands of protesters marched unto the streets of Hong Kong, and gathered outside the Legislative Council Complex, catching global attention. While the coronavirus pandemic did subside the protests for some time beginning 2020, protesters again took to the streets in May of this year, after Beijing tried expanding its autocratic influence in Hong Kong through the promulgation of a national security bill.
While the direct cause of the protests can be attributed to the extradition treaty with China, which by extension erodes the ‘one country, two systems principle’, there remain deeper underlying themes that influenced protesters to take to the streets in such numbers. One way to view this protest is as an extension of the umbrella revolution of 2014, which was against attempts at stifling Hong Kong’s democracy by only letting half of the legislative council to be elected.
Another more urgent theme to have influenced protesters, however, is the CCP’s ambitions to unjustly assert its dominance over the region and in particular on Hong Kong, by not respecting the Sino-British Joint Declaration of the two systems principle. Since Xi’s ascent to power and his adoption of a hard-line authoritarian approach in 2012, the youngsters of Hong Kong, well aware of the CCP’s gross violation of human rights and liberties in the mainland, felt less and less Chinese and increasingly caught in the struggle to protect themselves from Beijing’s black grip.
Given these pre-existing tensions, it came as no surprise when all hell broke loose in May 2020, at Beijing’s announcement of its intention to instil a new national security law for Hong Kong, causing not only protesters to march back into the streets but also an international outcry from major powers including the US, Norway, and the UN. The UK went a step further by providing Hong Kong residents (with a British National Overseas passport) a path to obtain eventual British citizenship.
Passed in December last year, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) had sparked protests across India, albeit for different reasons in different states. This Act essentially allows any non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to become Indian citizens. Muslims, who are already marginalised under the current Modi administration, are protesting against this law for reasons that historian Mukul Kesavan points out, that ‘it delegitimises Muslims’ citizenship’.
Delhi protested against this Act along the lines that faith cannot be a basis for citizenship in a country that champions secularism, while Assam and other bordering states demonstrated against the Act fearing an influx of immigrants from neighbouring countries and destruction of their local cultures. One of the leading anti-CAA protesters, Ms Bilkis, who became the face of the Shaheen Bagh protests in Delhi, was recognised as one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2020 by US-based TIME magazine. Jawharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid has become a poster boy of protests in India against Citizenship Amendment Act.
Protests and protesters across the globe come in different forms and with very different demands, yet, when critically analysed, there almost always lay a common theme. In a nutshell, that theme always happens to contain a group in the role of the oppressor, who uses their influence and/or privilege to oppress another (less privileged) group and the existence of a struggle (of the oppressed), to gain some leverage through an outburst.
In a world plagued by dictators, fake news and an unfortunate rise of autocratic and/or fundamentalist powers with questionable values and records in protecting the rights and liberties of commoners (such as Xi’s China or Modi’s India), not only would violent protests become the norm, but perhaps end up being the only avenue left for expressing dissent and forcing change.