Minority Rights in Muslim Countries Forum Recap

By: Shirin Nouh

On Sunday, April 15 at noon, the Muslim Public Affairs Council hosted a forum at the Islamic Center of Southern California entitled “Minority Rights in Muslim Countries: Majority Rule, NOT Majority Tyranny,”  where a dynamic panel of religious leaders and human rights experts examined rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries.  The discussion was moderated by Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, Chairperson of KinderUSAand a former presidential  appointee to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Dr. Maher Hathout, MPAC Senior Advisor and Spokesperson of ICSC was the first speaker.  He discussed the meaning of democracy and religious freedom in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.  He laid the Islamic foundation for how Muslim minorities should be treated and the historical forces that have limited their rights in the Muslim majority countries.  Dr. Hathout also shed light on the rights of religious minorities and the struggle for democracy in Egypt. Mr. Ted Stahnke, Human Rights First and former Deputy Executive Director for Policy at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom spoke about the unfortunate discriminatory rights of minorities and how they are manipulated and oppresses by the majorities in Muslim countries. Imam Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County said that unfortunately every conceivable violation of minority rights has taken place in Muslim minorities.  It is important to note that these violations are not in accordance with Islamic laws.  He also spoke about the situation of the Shia minorities in Bahrain, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and their struggles.
Eliz Sanasarian, Professor of Political Science and author of “Religious Minorities in Iran” shed light on minorities in that region, i.e. the Sunni Muslim and non-Muslim minorities in Iran.
The forum ended with a question and answer session. Volunteers from the MYG helped circulate postcards and pens to the audience. Dr. Hathout pointed out that any act that stripes people of their rights and dignities is unconstitutional and there is not justification for that.  The appropriate way to deal with minorities is with kindness and justice regardless of his religion, color, race, or ethnic background.  The major focus should be on how these minorities are contributing to the individual and to the society at large.

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