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How to Campaign for

IHRC Student Workshop, 27 Oct 2002


Recently the Islamic Human Rights Commission held a workshop on how to campaign for human rights. It was primarily aimed at university students to provide them with knowledge of the plight of Muslims around the world and to equip them with skills on how to campaign for justice and human rights.

Here we present some of the seminars. There is something here for everyone to learn from.


No one is too young to stand for justice!
Some of IHRCs young volunteers manning the registration desk


Introduction to IHRC
Ethics of Campaigning for Human Rights
International Campaigning: Case Study of Palestine
Thematic Campaigning: Campaigning for Prisoners of Faith
Workshop on Publicity for Campaigns: Working with the Media
Further Information



Introduction to IHRC

by Demir Mahmutcehajic (IHRC Founder)

"... I remember one incident that happened in the Bosnian war after the fall of Srebrinica. It was related later on in the newspapers that a young [Bosnian] soldier, 21 years old, who stayed under the siege of Srebrinica all through the war. When Srebrinica fell [to the Serbs] he was detached from his unit. He was lost in the forest for three weeks he was going here and there - he couldn't find his way. He was bleeding, he was wounded, he was hungry and he became desperate. He was walking in one direction and then he stayed there.

Later on when the Bosnian soldiers found him, they found him dead in a small hiding place. And on a wall he had written in blood "Oh Allah, forgive me". He took his own life, he took his own life because he couldn't bear any more because he had seen such horrible things. He knew taking his own life was wrong, he knew that what he was doing is wrong and he asked for forgiveness. He just couldn't cope anymore.

The irony of this incident is that the friendly lines were only 50 metres away! He only needed to go 50 metres more.

Why is this so important to me and why should it be important to all of us?

Its the message that we should never give up - we should absolutely never give up. It doesn't matter how hard it is, it doesn't matter how few in numbers we are. If we are convinced that we are on the right path, we are doing the right thing, we should never give up. If the whole world turns against us, if the whole world calls us terrorist and what ever terms they use, we know that we are not, we know that we are on the right path, we know that we are campaigning for the justice, for the freedom, for the rights of people everybody else oppressed..."


Introduction to IHRC

Download (shift-click) lecture (real audio 7:48min 959Kb)

(Sorry first 3 mins of recording aren't very clear)



Ethics of Campaigning for Human Rights

by Sister Arzu Merali
(Director of Research, IHRC)

"... When Muslims talk about Human Rights there is always a group of Muslims who will say that 'you are just copying the West' and there is a group of people in the West that say 'oh at last you are catching up with us - your learning how to actually respect peoples rights'. Well none of that is true because if we look back at Islamic sources we know that we can actually set the agenda - we have a concept of rights which is for everyone. Now I'm not an alim but ulema will explain that justice is for all. The ayat that I have here, it says very clearly that when you judge between people you judge with justice, not just when you judge between Muslims and anybody else. [ Surah al-Nisa, verse 58].

Going back to the example of CampX-Ray [the treatment of prisoners held without charge and without evidence] and an example of an Islamic source [for comparison]:

When Harzat Ali [the leader of the Muslim Ummah around 1400 years ago] was struck with a sword when he was praying in the Mosque at Kufa, he called out to the people who were apprehending the person who had struck him. Now he didn't say "get that guy" or start talking about the fact that he was dying or anything. What he actually said was "do not tie the hands of this man so tight that it hurts him".

Now subsequent to this, because Hazrat Ali died after two days - he didn't die straight away, during that period of time he also sent provisions to the person who had been detained- the person who had struck him, in the prison because he had nothing.

Further he also gave advise to the people who'd be trying him that he should be tried fairly and if he was found guilty then he should be executed in a humane way - there shouldn't be any kind of vengeance taken against him. Now this was about a man that everybody had seen what he had done, there were so many witnesses that it was beyond dispute that this man had killed or struck the fatal blow..."


Ethics of Campaigning for Human Rights

Download (shift-click) lecture (real audio 11:42min 1.4Mb)




International Campaigning:
Case Study of Palestine

by Massoud Shadjareh (Chairman of IHRC)

"What is it that we want to achieve for Palestine?

There is no point of us having elaborate campaigns without being focused on what is it that we want to achieve. Do we want to achieve a reduction of children which are dying everyday in Palestine? Do we want a reduction of lets say destruction of homes - instead of a hundred every three months we want it reduced to twenty? Is it that we want to just want an end to all killing and all destruction? Or do we want to remove this oppressive regime of zionism? Or is it another sort of extreme, that we want to push all the Jews in to the sea as some claim we as Muslims want to do? Which one of these is it?

Because unless our own community is actually focused on why we want to campaign and what we want to achieve, then we are not really going to be able to benefit from the fruit of our work because we are not focused.

I put it to you that two-state solution is no solution what so ever. Many of our own brothers are worried to speak out against a two-state solution because the international community has put a situation saying that if Palestinians have got the right of a homeland, which they haven't got, then Israelis should have a right to a homeland as well - the Jews. Now the fact of the matter is that what we are opposing is Zionism Zionism is a racist ideology, we need to be very familiar with its nature and its effect.

The reality is that under zionist state, every Jew around the world has got the automatic right of becoming a citizen and going to Israel. According to the constitution, even if a Jewish person who is known to be going to destroy the state of Israel cannot be stopped from entering the country and taking residency, and no one else [non-Jew] has the right to go. One of these anti-Zionist Rabbis once told me that probably the solution is that we get all of the Palestinians to go and say that they all become Jews and they all move back to their homeland and take residency and then revert back to Islam afterwards!

The fact is that if we don't destroy this concept of racist ideology in the region, then there will be no hope, no solution. I put it to you that the situation in Palestine is not much different that the situation as it was in South Africa. Those of us that were campaigning against apartheid in South Africa were very clearly focused that we cannot accept even 1% of South African land to be under control of the apartheid regime because if the apartheid regime is given any legitimacy in the area then there will be no peace and future for the whole of South Africa. And indeed this is the same situation for Israel. We need to campaign for the destruction of Zionism and the return of all the Palestinians and their offspring back in to Palestine. And let them - all of them, decide what sort of future they want to have for themselves.

Two-state solution, do you know what it means?

Imagine that somebody comes into your home and pushes you into the box room (small bedroom) and saying that you can only live there. You have no right on turning the light on or off unless we allow you. You have no right on leaving your home without our permission, and every once in a while we just wont give you any permission to move for months out of your room even if you are hungry, even if your child is starving.

And then the international community and everybody else comes and says the solution for this is quiet clear - we just give a box room and another bedroom, and the rest of the house is still controlled by the zionists [two-state solution]. Those who have taken over, they will still have control of telling you when to go in and when not to go in, when to turn your light on and when not to turn your light on, how to use your utilities, when to put a shelf up in your room or not - you need to get their permission. And they say thats the solution! This is as ridiculous as the concept of the two-state solution.

I put it to you that anyone who's got any sense of justice, any sense of fair play, any sense of vision of what could be a solution for Palestine cannot accept to have Zionism and the supremacy of a racist ideology like that. That is what we need to be focusing on..."



"We have all seen this photo. This is brother Farish Odeh, for eleven days this young boy dressed up in his best cloths and went in front of the tank, and threw stones at the tank. For eleven days, every day he did that, until he became shaheed [martyr]. The least we can do is to actually model and follow on his example. Some people say that writing a couple of letters - it has got no impact, well tell this young man who threw stones at the tank. And believe me he has made an impact on the hearts and souls of every person who stands up for justice..."

Brave Farish Odeh - an example to follow

International Campaigning: Case Study of Palestine

Download (shift-click) lecture (real audio 17:15min 2.1Mb)




Thematic Campaigning: Campaigning for Prisoners of Faith

by Reza Kazim (IHRC)

"We have often been asked the questions [regarding letter writing]:

What difference will one letter make?

I remember reading of the time when the king had created this huge fire to burn Prophet Ibrahim in and there was this little frog who would get some water from a pond and go and put it on the fire. The rest of the community of frogs started laughing at him:

"What are you going? Do you really think that you are going to put out a fire by a mouth full of water?"

And the reply was "Its not whether I put out the fire that I'll be asked, its whether I tried to actually put out the fire".

I think that a very strong message for us to take.


Does the actual letter writing campaign work?

It is true to some extent that you could end up being ignored by the recipient. At least the person who sent it will be able to answer on the day of judgement that you yourself have made a stand to fight for justice. However letters sent in the hundreds cannot be ignored.

One MP stated that even if his constituency receives five letters on the same topic, a meeting is convened to answer the question at hand. Of course this is probably fairly rare, probably one of the better MPs, but the fact remains that hundreds of letters demanding to know why a certain prisoner of faith is being detained and tortured for no other reason than wishing to practice his or her religion must generate a response which can then be taken further..."


Thematic Campaigning:
Campaigning for Prisoners of Faith

Download (shift-click) lecture (real audio 10:38min 1.3Mb)




Publicity for Campaigns:
Working with the Media

by Faisal Bodi (Journalist)

Faisal Bodi serves on the board of advisors to IHRC
and is the editor of UmmahNews.

An informative seminar on how to campaign using the media - excellent practical advice on how to project our voice, our concerns across to the media in the most effective manner. Faisal Bodi takes us systematically through the whole process starting from identifying who your audience is, what is the message you are trying to get across and how to best encompass it in a press release, how to prepare for the interview so as not to fall in to line with the journalists agenda, etc. What makes the seminar special is that he uses a real life example, a campaign he has recently been involved in (Mauritius Prisoner of Faith) to show how the whole process works right down to the questions we have to ask ourselves and the steps we have to go through in thinking through the issues. Highly recommended.

The 30 minute talk was followed by 15 minutes of questions and answers.

In reply to a question on independent Muslim media:

"I say this time and time again that there is no getting round the necessity for an independent Muslim media. You can have as many voices as you like penetrating the western media but ultimately they are serving a different agenda. Unless and until you have Muslims dominating the mainstream media, in which case it wont be the mainstream media - it'll be the Muslim media, you are not going to have the influence in the mainstream media, you are not going to change peoples minds.

One of the great advantages of this IT revolution has been the ease with which people can use the new technologies to relay their voice using the internet, streaming methods. Somebody told me it costs about £20,000 to set up a satellite TV station. We are talking about economies of scale which have come crashing down in the IT revolution. And ultimately it is going to have to be the Muslim professional classes, the moneyed Muslims, who are going to have to support these ventures - okay they have become cheaper but even a satellite station or a website is outside the range of one person or a couple of individuals.

The main advantage is that you get an unadulterated Islamic voice across to people. And you would be surprised at the number of people, including non-Muslim, that access Muslim media and alternative media for their news sources. I run, we are not big - 75,000 hits a week, over the course of 18 months we've had a trickle of non-Muslim readers who've written back and said 'I don't agree with everything you carry here, some of it seems outrageous, some of it seems utterly rubbish but its a very important source of news for me, to get the other perspective as it were" .

So in order to get the Muslim perspective across we cant rely solely on the mainstream media, we have to support the attempts to create an independent Muslim media in this country - there is no two ways about it.

Its quiet disheartening to see that the number one complaint you get every where is ' Oh brother we have no influence in the media, the Muslims always get rubbished in the media, we're demonised, we have no journalists, we have no editors, how come when we have someone on Question Time is Jasmin Alibhai Brown - somebody whose not one of us?' My response to this is that you have got to create, you've got to generate your own spokes people, you know, you've got to strengthen them. And strengthening actually means supporting people, you know there are lots of Muslims journalists out there who are lost in the BBC, lost in the Guardian. They are keeping their head down, they've almost become west-toxicated - they've conformed because they need to get on in their career. But had they gone in the Guardian and the BBC from a position of strength and had a community, had some bodies behind them, had they known that if they adopt such and such a position, an anti-war position for instance or an anti-israel position they would have the support of the Muslim community and this organisation and that organisation and have got money behind them so they wouldn't have to worry about their mortgage being effected or how they are going to support their families, then these people would be more inclined to helpful. Muslims need to put their hands in their pockets and actually fork out and develop their own institutions - this is the only way..."


Publicity for Campaigns: Working with the Media

Download (shift-click) lecture (real audio 48min 5.9Mb)


After lunch, parallel workshops were conducted. Each consisting of a small group discussing a specific area of campaigning. This one is discussing the problems faced in campaigning for Palestine on University Campuses. One student reveals that Zionist groups on his campus recently tried to brand a student seminar on Palestine as anti-Semitic even though the leading speaker was a Jewish Rabbi (anti-Zionist)!



Further Information

The Islamic Human Rights Commission has members all around the world, all working together to fight for justice and human rights. If you would like to become a member of just find out more about the work IHRC is doing please visit their website or email them.