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Need for Reconciliation with Justice: Babri Demolition and aftermath

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court in a 2-1 majority verdict refused to refer the Dr. Faruqui verdict to Constitution bench. This said verdict had stated that Mosque in not an essential part of Islamic practice. In recent judgment the dissenter judge felt that matter needs to be referred to the seven judge Constitution bench. There was a feeling that “mosque not being a part of essential Islamic practice” might have had an impact on the 2010 Allahabad Court verdict which had divided the Babri mosque land into three parts, Sunni Waqf Board, Ram Lalla Virajman and Nirmohi Akahada. The argument in favor of the Faruqui case was that Namaz can be offered in an open place as well so mosque is not an essential part of Islamic practice. On the other side the argument is; worldwide there are so many mosques, why are mosques there if this is not a part of Islamic practice? Surely this point did deserve a deeper consideration as it has larger implication on the society. Now the path is paved for the hearing of the land dispute related to Ayodhya case. Though the Allahabad High Court had divided the land into three parts, the basis of that were not the land records but the faith of large number of Hindus; that Lord Ram was born there. How do we solve land disputes; through land records or through the faith of the people? This faith has been an outcome of the political campaign for Ram temple orchestrated by RSS combine, led initially by VHP and later by BJP. Can this faith determine the direction of our judicial system? As far as claims of Ram Temple having been destroyed there over five centuries ago is very doubtful. One recalls that the time when Ram Temple is supposed to have been demolished, one of the biggest devotees of Lord Ram, Goswami Tulsi Das, was living in Ayodhya. He never recorded it in any of his writings. On the contrary Tulsi Das, in one of his couplets writes that he can very well live in a mosque. The faith that Lord Ram was born there has been constructed over a period of time, intensified during last few decades. Nation witnessed the journalists being beaten and their cameras being broken when they were recording the act of crime. Surely, the crime of demolition must be punished. Second; the land dispute needs to be sorted out on the basis of land records. The land has been in possession of Sunni Waqf Board from centuries. In 1885, the Court did not permit the Hindus for Construction of Chabutara (platform), in the land adjoining the mosque. Even now the land records should be clear on the issue. There are attempts by some to bring in ‘Peaceful solution’ ‘out of Court settlement’ to the issue. Some of these initiatives are totally articulating what RSS combine wants. They are asking Muslims to forgo their claim on the land to let the temple come up there. In lieu of that they will be given the land to build the mosque somewhere else. There are also threats that through a legislation of the Parliament a Temple will be constructed there, when BJP gets suitable majority. Reconciliation is a process where both parties are listened to and with some ‘give and take’ issue is undertaken for resolution. This formula to give up all the land for temple construction is very high handed attempt to brow beat the Muslims into a total submission. What we need is an honest attempt to punish the guilty and abide the law to solve the problem. There can’t be peace without justice. The crime of Babri demolition is being presented as ‘Hindu Shaurya Divas’ (Hindu Bravery Day) by RSS combine. As such it a shame for our democracy! It is an outcome of the divisive communal politics, throwing our society in to dark abyss of stagnation and diversion. Our core issues relate to bread, butter, shelter and employment. The RSS combine has built its social and political strength around emotive issues like Ram Temple and Holy Cow at the cost of the genuine issues of society. We do need to built hospitals and schools; we do need to build industries for giving employment. Ayodhya issue coming up at the time of forthcoming elections is so unfortunate. Rather than discussing the core issues of society, what will at center stage will be the question of Temple and Mosque! How we as a nation can bring back the people’s agenda should be the central concerns for all those committed to march towards society with equality as the central focus.

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Contemporary INGOs: Hegemonic Proxies

When governments abdicate their basic responsibilities towards their people in terms of disaster management, healthcare, education, nutrition etc, the void is filled by NGOs and INGOs, and then host country has to bend backward to accommodate these entities. Hence, it is necessary that beside scrutinizing the INGOs, government of Pakistan takes essential steps to fill the capacity gaps in disaster management, health, education, social security etc.Modern warfare is characterized by calculated ambiguity, controlled chaos and perplexing complexity. It is envisaged that the future hybrid conflict in the region shall be fought by the foreign sponsored non-state actors and inserted proxies under the overall goal of influence operations so as to achieving the strategic end state rather than conventional military to military conflicts. It is no secret that some International Non-government organisations (INGOs) harbour foreign agents working against the interests of the host country with or without the knowledge or complicity of their parent organisation. Such INGOs provide an excellent cover for clandestine activity by hostile foreign agencies such as intelligence-gathering and subversion in the country in which they operate. International organizations and selected NGOs offer diversity of means available for international coercion. Non state actors will continue to play an important role in the future. Due to the technological advancement and globalization, a number of non-state actors and groups, transnational networks and even think tanks have influence against nation states or certain parts of it. Pakistan has asked 18 (INGOs) to wind up their operations within 60 days. During surveillance of these INGOs, it was revealed that they were involved in suspicious activities. They were doing things which were beyond their given mandate. Certain foreign funded organisations which were conducting surveys, were routinely sharing their data with hostile agencies. Some of the INGOs were also operating near sensitive installations.So far 145 INGOs have applied for registration. During scrutiny it was revealed that 63 INGOs are working against Pakistan’s security and solidarity. Ministry of Interior served notices to 49 INGOs (in November 2017 and August 2018) for closing their operation in the country; out of these, 18 filed representation against the decision and they were given ample opportunity to clear their position. Their appeals were unanimously regretted by a special committee constituted for the said purpose. Forty INGOs have not even bothered to get themselves registered and they continue to, work. Legal action against such INGOs is being contemplated.

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What to believe in: RSS Words or deeds?

Post form India: Ram Puniyani. Do organizations say what they intend to do? Not necessarily. This came out clearly from the three long lectures by RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. The event was supposed to be a dialogue, but the maximum of dialogue one could see was his answering few questions at the end of lectures. This normal practice of answering the questions was underlined strongly, as probably this must have been novel thing for this organization. So has RSS changed? In case of most of the organizations, they should be judged by their actions, or by the outcome of activities and the programs of the organizations which come into being due to RSS ideology. That’s what will tell us the true character, real agenda of RSS and help us assess why a pleasant face is being presented now? One must say that RSS, as it has got renewed confidence during last four years is now trying to spread its net by mouthing liberal language. This velvet glow is the contribution of Mr. Bhagwat to the deepening divide created in the society due to the all round work of the progeny of RSS, which while sounding independent is totally loyal to the trainings it got while attending shakha baudhhiks. So we know that when the Jansangh component of Janata Party was asked to severe its links with RSS, they preferred to break the party and reemerge as BJP. So the late Prime Minister Vajpayee in Staten Island, while talking in front of NRI Indians reaffirmed his primary loyalty to RSS. Its respect of Indian Constitution is a sham as; for Indian Constitution; we are a secular democratic India, in contrast to Hindu nation, the soul of RSS agenda.

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Do we need NACTA?

Expectations from National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) had all along been unrealistic; it was over-projected as panacea for all societal shortfalls leading to mushrooming of terrorism. NACTA, for years, has been marred by a dearth of human resource. During the heat of counter terrorism operations, this entity often came under severe criticism for its inaction. NACTA never spoke for itself, at least publically, and found safety in silence. As on September 30, 2017, NACTA was a parking place for 47 (BPS17-22) officers and 90 personnel (BPS1-16). And recruitment of 53 core personnel and 198 (BPS 1-19) was under process. Now, once counter terrorism activities are nearing their fag end, another revival of NACTA is being attempted. Since its inception, there has been a tussle between the Prime Minister’s Office and the interior ministry over operational control of NACTA. Prime Minister has reportedly decided to retain control over Authority. It is a good decision because countering terrorism is a multi-disciplinary activity and interior ministry alone cannot handle it. Other problem is that law and order is a provincial subject and NACAT neither has its provincial extensions nor has control over provincial counter terrorism departments. And unless rules of business are amended, in the role of authority, NACTA would invariably come in conflict with federal and provincial interior ministries. Viable options are: have provincial extensions of NACTA and amend the rules of business governing working relationships between federal and provincial law ministries, create a provision to have countering extremism and terrorism as common responsibility of federation and provinces; Or, disband NACTA at federal level and devolve its functions to provincial NACTAs; Or, reconfigure NACTA from Authority to Commission format with a mandate to define horizons for counter terrorism effort and perform an advisory role to federal and provincial interior ministries. Whatever model is adopted, there is a need to change its composition from an extension of police department and give it a look of a body with national representation. It should have a Chairperson, and slot should be filled by a person of national repute. Beside other tasks it should act as a think tank mandated to keep an eye on all factors leading to mind-set of violence and extremism within segments of Pakistani society; and give viable recommendations for preventing it well before reaching terrorism threshold.

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Talks Can Diffuse the Tension Between India & Pakistan

There was a high level of optimism when India and Pakistan announced on September 20, 2018 to meet in New York on the sidelines of the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. But the dreams were shattered when Government of India unexpectedly announced the cancellation of these talks. Major international and neutral human rights agencies have documented harrowing human rights violations committed by Indian military and paramilitary forces. The draconian laws, like ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) grants virtual legal immunity to any type of war crimes against humanity perpetrated in Kashmir. Human rights atrocities committed against civilian population are commonplace, world powers need to endorse the recommendations of the report submitted by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights for an impartial investigation about the situation in Kashmir.

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Statement by Foreign Minister at the 73rd Session of the UNGA

Statement by Foreign Minister  at the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly: 29 September 2018 Madam President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I begin by felicitating Madam Maria Fernanda Espinosa Graces upon her election as President of the General Assembly.  The stewardship of this session by an accomplished leader of her ranking and stature,would undoubtedly …

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Turns and Twists of Afghan Peace

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah said on September 17 that some politicians were pushing for the review of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the US in pursuit of their own interests. “They once again brought it up for debate for their personal objectives; I don’t think that this will help the security situation of our country. In the wake of a sharp increase in fatalities among security forces in numerous provinces, a number of parliamentarians had called for the BSA to be assessed. They said the agreement has not been successful in the fight against insurgency; and the US has failed to enforce the agreement when it comes to the mobilization of Afghan Security and Defence Forces (ANDSF). The call by Afghanistan’s influential politicians and some political parties to review the BSA with the US has been met with mixed reactions by the Afghan government, members of parliament and political experts. Among those who defend the BSA is General Abdul Raziq, the police chief of southern Kandahar province who said that the BSA had been approved by over 5,000 members of the Loya Jirga who represented the people of Afghanistan from all provinces. Sustained direct Taliban-US talks are the current reality of Afghan peace process, though to the chagrin of Afghan government who had been insisting to remain the front face of peace negotiations. At least for now, it is Taliban steered peace course. Latest inputs indicate that Taliban are preparing to send a delegation for further talks with the US officials about ending the conflict in Afghanistan, this would be the second round where Taliban are likely to put forward substantive proposals. Supposedly lot of mileage was covered during three sessions of the first round. Taliban are ready for a second round, possibly this month, which is likely to focus on prisoner exchanges, confidence building measures, and ways to move from back-door meetings to formal negotiations, said Taliban officials in separate interviews. Whether or not the peace talks will gain momentum in the midst of increasing violence in Kabul remains an open question. Negotiating peace, reconstruction and a stable polity in Afghanistan amid a raging violent conflict continues to be an uphill accomplishment. First vice-president, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, aptly said on September 13 that the ongoing war in Afghanistan was “in no one’s interest and called for a responsible end to the conflict”. Afghan peace should not be lost in processes.

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UN Can Stop Carnage in Kashmir

Dr. Ghulam N. Mir, President, World Kashmir Awareness Forum expressed his anguish and grief over the continued killing by Indian forces in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. He lamented the passive role of the United Nations towards the loss of human life in Kashmir, and urged both the world body and the United States Administration to help stop the carnage in Kashmir. He said that a just and lasting settlement of the dispute is possible only through tripartite negotiations between the Governments of India and Pakistan and the legitimate leadership of the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Dr. Mir was speaking on the subject of, “Kashmir: tale of Subjugation & Resistance” during the 55th Convention of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), that was held in Houston, Texas.Dr. Mir underscored that the scale of the popular uprising in Kashmir can be judged from the established fact, that on many occasions during the month of July-August 2018, virtually the entire population of Srinagar came out on the streets in an unparalleled demonstrations to protest the attempt by the Government of India to scrap the Article 35 A of the Indian constitution which gives the special rights and privileges to the state subject of Jammu and Kashmir. He said that the abrogation of this constitutional provision is a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of the state. However, the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearting of Article 35-A till January 2019. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum said, “Could there be any tragedy more despicable for a people than to see their homeland, once known as paradise on earth, turn into hell? Where peace once reigned and communal harmony prevailed. The once evergreen valleys and snow-capped mountains have been marred by blood. How long will India be allowed to go on killing the people of Kashmir and denying them their fundamental right of self-determination is a question which the international community has to address?” Ms. Hedaya Saadi, of Seattle, Washington said the people of Kashmir have suffered long and needlessly because of this brutal conflict. They demand and they deserve peace. Peace in the region of South Asia remains elusive because of the Kashmir dispute. The inalienable right to self-determination enshrined in the United Nations Charter and promised to the people of Kashmir by the international community, continues to be denied. She said that the whole world knows the magnitude of carnages committed by Indian army in Kashmir but they have yet to utter a word of condemnation.

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Selective Assessments of Human Rights Status

These times are witnessing increasingly selective assessments regarding Human Rights status across the World. And slogan of Human Rights has become a tool for furthering hidden strategic objectives. In response to the letter, written by HRW Asia Director Brad Adams to Prime Minster Imran Khan, on August 24, Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari responded: “I hope that you would also raise your voice against a massive human rights violations, carried out in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, Palestine and in some European States against Muslims citizens.” Minister also urged HRW to take up the issue of the violation of human rights by some European states against their Muslim citizens in the form of curtailing their right to practice their religion freely and in the form of abuse of Islam and its Prophet (PBUH), in direct contravention of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. “Since HRW claims to monitor human rights across the world, I would like to be informed on how you are ensuring the rights of Muslim citizens to have their mosques and be able to dress and practice their religion freely and without ridicule in European states,” she added. She went on to ask that since the HRW claims to monitor human rights violations in over 90 countries, “I hope that would include the massive human rights violations being carried out as a matter of state policy by India in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Minister also said that she would like to be informed on how the NGO is “ensuring the rights of Muslim citizens to have their mosques and be able to dress and practice their religion freely and without ridicule in European states”, which have seen an upsurge of xenophobia in recent years. Pakistan government would always welcome positive suggestions, but “an NGO’s institutional credibility will rest on its commitment to ensure human rights across the globe and not just in selective states.” She added. In a blatant violation freedom of information norms, India’s home ministry abruptly withdrew the security clearance granted to Qatar’s Al Jazeera network after a documentary on Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) was aired by the channel. Now, matter is under consideration at appellate level. According to Times of India, the report leading to this action had highlighted the protests after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016 and the brutal use of pellet guns against protesters amongst other Human Rights violations in IoK. Report was deemed by Indian government as biased. The Economic Times has added that “the television channel will be taken off air if the Home Ministry strikes down the review petition filed by Al Jazeera”. Moreover, Indian government has also rejected recent reports by Amnesty International and Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) on atrocities being committed by the Indian security forces in IoK. “Once again we find out that Kashmiris are the ones having to pay the price for the political battle”. In a related development, Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), has “urged the Indian leadership to admit that human rights violations are taking place on their side of the Line of Control (LoC), and they must work with Pakistan to find a solution that puts the interests of Kashmiris first”. She said it is about time leaders in both India and Pakistan realized that Kashmiris are living in a conflict zone and suffering human rights violations. “They must understand and acknowledge this and ensure that human rights of these people are not violated anymore. It needs to happen right now… this should be about Kashmiris who are suffering.” When asked to comment on misuse of special powers given to the Indian military, Ganguly said that not only the UN but also other groups and commissions, including those, formed under the Indian government have also appealed to the government to repeal such laws. Commenting on the role rights groups like Amnesty and OHCHR could play to make India more accountable over Kashmir issue, especially when Modi government is targeting almost all minority ethnicities in the country, she commented that the voice of dissent should not become the political tool. “Unfortunately this is what happens way too often”. Commenting on increasing communal violence by pro-BJP vigilantes against religious minorities in the country, Ganguly said the environment of an extreme form of nationalism violates religious freedom. Prime Minster Imran Khan has recently said that little noteworthy progress has been made in the past to find a solution for the Kashmir issue. He said so while meeting Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi before assuming office, adding that through the UN resolutions on Kashmir a solution must be found for this intractable issue. Now an extraordinary situation is developing in IoK in the wake of BJP government’s attempts to abrogate Article 35-A of the constitution that grants special status to the occupied territory and its citizens. India is using all cheap tactics from brute use of force to political and constitutional aggression for forcing the occupied territory completely to its fold. The Kashmiri leadership has made it clear that they will fight with full resilience to foil the nefarious designs of India. Pakistan government must approach not only the International Court of Justice (ICJ) but also the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to prevent the Indian government from going ahead with its plans of changing demographic nature of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Blasphemy issue needs a permanent solution

The good sense has prevailed, an imminent catastrophe has receded. In a written statement issued on August 30, Geert Wilders announced "not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.” The contest was to be held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building. Meanwhile, the Netherlands government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister Mark Rutte questioned Wilders' motive for organising the contest. Pakistan’s foreign minister congratulated the nation and Muslim Ummah on their moral victory and termed the cancellation of the contest a victory for Pakistan on the diplomatic front. Cancellation announcement came within days after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement saying the act was hurting the sentiments of Muslims living all around the world. Condemning the blasphemous cartoon competition in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Imran Khan had blamed the recurrence of such incidents a collective failure of the Muslim world, saying he would take up the matter at the United Nations General Assembly’s upcoming session. After the publication of Salman Rushdi’s blasphemous book ‘Satanic Verses’, it has become very easy to malign Muslims in the West, the prime minister said. “And they have been successfully doing it.” If they [Western countries] feel pained discussing the Holocaust, why haven’t we been able to convey to the West how much we feel pained when they do blasphemous things against Islam and our beloved Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?” Pakistan’s foreign office is undertaking a hectic diplomatic campaign to avert the exhibition of profane cartoons in November. Hopefully the good sense would prevail. Time and again, Western Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment. While earlier such incidents in Netherlands were an act of non-state actors, this time parliamentary permission to hold the forthcoming exhibition inside parliament premises had made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious extremism. Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, according to him, sweeping the continent. Wilders also urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and urged his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also stands for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools. Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky and thoroughly mired in populist rhetoric, where both the government and the opposition are, more often than not, competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was defeated in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and claimed “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Close to end of his previous tenure as Prime Minster, Rutte thought that being tough on Turkey would fetch him more votes, therefore he “happily sparked a mini-international crisis for the sake of votes”. While during the electoral campaign, Rutte said stopping Wilders was about stopping the “wrong sort of populism”. Situation is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to articulate more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank. Pakistan had approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn had written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch Ambassador to Pakistan and the EU Ambassador, who represents 28 European countries, to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said. Pakistan’s new government had taken forth the process. During its first meeting, cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level. Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands over an announcement of holding a competition of blasphemous caricatures. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August 13, and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam. “Pakistan’s ambassador in Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add. Foreign minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi also spoke to his Dutch counterpart. Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva were directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. Though the triggering issue is behind us, OIC should not lower its guards, it should firm up an action plan if any individual or government attempts such a misadventure in future. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering. Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to find a permanent solution to this recurring issue. Matter should be persistently raised at the relevant international fora until a sustainable way is found by the international community for preventing such abhorrent acts.

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