Amnesty International released Wednesday its 1999 annual report on the state of human rights in the world. As was to be expected, several Muslim countries made Amnesty's list of 142 nations where human rights abuses occurred during 1998. For the most part, the usual suspects appeared in the line-up: Turkey, for iron-fisted political control; Algeria, for the atrocious violence that ravaged that country; Pakistan, for the institution of military courts for civilian prosecution; Egypt, for the torture of political prisoners; and the list goes on.
But theses are countries that seem to always make headlines for these offenses, especially in the western media. And western publications are generally quick to quote Amnesty International as a reliable source for factual information concerning human rights abuses. But judging from the coverage of these issues, one might get the impression that Muslim countries have some sort of monopoly on human rights abuse. But thanks to Amnesty International being such a credible source of information, we know that is not the case. In fact, Amnesty's report went into considerable detail with reference to all regions of the world.
Did you know that in 1998:
The United States was the only country in the world known to execute a person under the age of 18?
The United Kingdom was criticized by the U.N. Committee Against Torture for the number of fatalities resulting from time spent in police custody?
"Death squads" in Brazil murdered hundreds of civilians and that those squads had ties to Brazilian security forces?
China imprisoned thousands of Muslims from its western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and that at least 14 Uighur Muslim political prisoners were executed?
The point of providing this small sampling of Amnesty's report is to show that the world is full of egregious human rights offenses and that no one nation has a corner on that market.
It is also important to point out that various media outlets will very selectively use an organization such as Amnesty International and will, as a result of this selectivity, paint a picture of the world in which chaos and mayhem prevail everywhere but at home.
So Muslims who consume an inordinate amount of western media, should be aware of this and should take the time to actually read the reports that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and other groups compile. By doing so, Muslims can gain better perspective on the state of humanity throughout the world and not just in some small corner of it where the inhabitants happen to practice Islam as their religion of choice.
But Muslims should recognize that in no way does knowledge of this less publicized information make the world any better. It is all too easy to succumb to a "misery loves company" mindset.
From a human perspective, knowing that the rest of the world shares human suffering with respect to violations of human rights, should act as an impetus towards exerting greater effort in helping to abolish environments in which such atrocities can occur. And if Muslims truly believe the "Golden Rule" that seems so consistent throughout religions of the world, then there can be no other response to such data than dogged action to change the condition of those who suffer unjustly.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com