RELIGION AND RACISM
(A critical assessment from a Muslim point of view)
By Ahmad Syafii Maarif, Indonesia
In the Qur'anic perspective racism is not only a poison for the
civilized world, but also a tainted denigration for human dignity and honor. Racism has
blocked man's spiritual enhancement to reach a noble position appropriate for humanity.
Though racism has never fully died for centuries in certain human communities, the curse
against it has plagued widely and has become stronger and more alive everywhere in this
globe than before. This means at the end that racism should be totally buried deeply once
and forever, though it would not be an easy task.-Otherwise, humanity would be
breathlessly imprisoned in its deadly continuing and tricky trap. Racism was originally
not inherent in human nature, but it was rather a historical fabrication. This brief paper
hopes to make a critical assessment on the problem of racism in the light of my
understanding of the Qur'anic injunctions concerning this burning, disturbing, but
relevant issue. For the Muslim, the Qur'an is the moral guidance to answer the question:
how should I behave in this temporal and terrestrial life?
The Qur'anic doctrine of monotheism and its logical
consequences in human collective life
The doctrine of an uncompromised monotheism (al-tauhid) constitutes,
according to the Qur'an, the very core of the Islamic belief system. Any doctrine and
practices deviating from this core should accordingly be categorized as un-Islamic.
"Say (O Muhammad): He is Allah, (the) One; Allah - the Eternal, the Uncaused Cause of
all being; He begets not, nor was He begotten; and there is nothing that could be compared
with Him". The doctrine of monotheism must necessarily result in the recognition
of the oneness of mankind. And this recognition can only be historically meaningful if the
principles of justice, egalitarianism, and brotherhood become manifest in our life.
Otherwise, it will lose its relevance and significance to human trembling and fearful
existence as we see at present juncture. As to the concept of the unity of mankind, the
Qur'an has made a clear statement: "Mankind was one community". In other
words, racism "... in which one group of people denigrates and subordinates another
solely on the basis of physical differences with which they are born" has no place
in Islam. The racism with all its ramifications should, therefore, be classified as part
That humans differ from one another in many ways is a historical fact.
They differ physically and mentally, "giving rise to tribalism, nationalism, racism,
and every kind of corporate particularism." But the Muslims regard none of these as
constituting grounds for inter-human discrimination. Islam has from the early period of
its history in the 7th century Arabia declared war against any form of racial and ethnic
discrimination. "The East and the West, the North and the South, the blacks and the
whites, the Asians and the Africans - all were equally the creatures of God, obliged to do
Historically, in terms of soclo-religious toleration, Islam was much
more tolerant toward other faiths. On this point, Bertrand Russell has rightly noted:
"The Empire of the Caliphs was much kinder to Jews and Christians than Christian
states were to Jews and Mohammedans. It left Jews and Christians unmolested, provided they
paid tribute. Anti-semitism was promoted by Christianity from the moment the Roman Empire
became Christian." For a committed Muslim, religious tolerance is part of his
belief in the Qur'an since this Book has clearly stated that "there is no compulsion
in religion." Or in another verse the Qur'an says: "And had your Lord willed,
those on earth would have believed, all of them together. So, will you (O Muhammad) then
compel mankind, until they become believers." From these two verses, and still
there are many others, clearly that the Qur'an has certainly admitted the fact of
socio-religious pluralism which, if it is correctly comprehended, will considerably enrich
the vision and wisdom of mankind.
And then comes the notion of particularism that is in itself actually
positive. But if it is deliberately misused and wrongly understood, it can consequently
demolish the house of human brotherhood, of something we are afraid. Cultural
particuiarism is in essence the manifestation of human natural creative achievement
influenced by certain cultural and geographical environment and therefore it should be
protected and fully honored. Particularism and racism are, in fact, identical in one
thing, that is, both relate to one person or thing as distinct from others. But
particularism has no connection with the belief in superiority of a particular race, as
does racism. From this perspective, one has to tolerate particularism and yet condemn
racism because it is no doubt destructive to the principles of justice and egalitarianism.
A.J. Toynbee who was extremely critical of the exponents of racial
intolerance in modern era had proposed Islam as a possible solution. This English
philosopher and historian wrote: "it is conceivable that the spirit of Islam might be
the timely reinforcement which would decide this issue in favour of tolerance and
peace." From this conference, it is my sincere hope that other faiths will also
share this spirit. If racism prevails, noted Toynbee, "it may eventually provoke a
general catastrophe." Toynbee was really an ardent enemy of racism in all its
The role of religions ini the midst of an uncertainty
All religions, I am sure, offer an absolute certainty to their
adherents. As to the question "what is the meaning of life and death" - this is
not a scientific or philosophical question. The answer to this type of question is solely
the authority and realm of religion. Regardless of the decline of the religious influence
in our era, we cannot imagine the future of mankind without religion and without
transcendental anchor. Of course, religions need fresh and creative interpretations.
Otherwise, they may become obsolete. In case of Islam, new and fresh interpretations of
its doctrines and teachings remain open forever. Under the light of these interpretations,
the Muslim hopes that his religion will never be out of date and be able to response the
challenges of ever-changing time and space. With this in mind, Islam will take its
necessary role to shape the future and offer certainty to humanity. I think other faiths
have the same position and will for sure follow suit.
Then, let's turn to the religious development in its relations to
cultural diseases. If we observe closely the socio-moral phenomena of modern era, racism
is only one of many acute threats to religions. Secular humanism, injustice, xenophobia,
neo-imperialism, and other cultural diseases are, in my understanding, the true enemies of
all religions. Those religions that deliberately side with these diseases, as happened in
the past, in my view, should be critically questioned about the authenticity of their
claim as true faiths. The Muslim, for instance, who does a deliberate injustice to anyone,
Muslim or non-Muslim, should be labeled as a pseudo believer.
For a Muslim, Islam is certainly a total way of life in which he finds
the final answer of the meaning of life and death, of the definition of justice and
injustice, of the principles of universal brotherhood and egalitarianism, and of the clear
vision of social and racial toleration. But unfortunately, most Muslims today throughout
the world have long ignored consciously or unconsciously the fundamental teachings of
their religion. Consequently, the Muslims now are not in position to shape the future of
mankind in the light of prophetic transcendental values as the Qur'an has strongly
required them to accomplish such a mission. We read the following:
"And strive hard in Allah's Cause as you ought to strive (with
sincerity and with all your efforts that His Name should be superior). He has chosen
you..., and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship; it is the religion of your
father Ibrahim (Abraham)... It is He (Allah) Who has named you Muslims both before and in
this (the Qur'an), that the Messenger (Muhammad) may be a witness over you and you be
witnesses over mankind."
The position of the witnesses over mankind has long disappeared from
the hands of the Muslim world. Albeit the Muslims outnumber one billion out of the total
world population, due to their ignorance and deep slumber for centuries, the main stream
of humanity has ceased to side with them. For how long? There is not a single Muslim at
present time who has the capacity to answer this crucial and challenging question. The
true answer to this of course still lies in the womb of history. But who knows the other
faiths in this conference will help the Muslims to clear a road for them to cope with the
A concluding remark
According to Islam, the very aim of the creation of mankind with
different colors, tongues, racial, and cultural backgrounds is that they may know one
another, exchange experience, and live in peace. For this point the Qur'an has made clear
"O men! Behold, We have created you out of a male and a female,
and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.
Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of Cod is the one who is most deeply conscious of
Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware."
Knowing one another is the key words here in order that we live in
peace, honesty, harmony, and in an everlasting universal human brotherhood.
1. See the Qur'an s.112:14.
2. See the Qur'an s.2:213.
3. Jennifer L. Hochschild, "Racism" in Seymour Martin Lipset (ed.), The
Encyclopedia Democracy, vol. III. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1995, p.
4. Isma'il R. al-Faruqi and Lois Lamya al Faruqi, "The Cultural Atlas of Islam".
New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. 1986, p. 159.
6. Bertrand Russell, "Why I Am Not a Christian". New York: Simon and Schuster,
1957, p. 202.
7. Sec the Qur'an s.2:256.
8. See the Qur'an s.10:99.
9. A.J. Toynbee, "Civilization on Trial and the World and the West". Cleveland
and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1963, p. 182.
11. Set the Qur'an s.22:77-78. The translation of these verses is taken from Muhammad
Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, "The Noble Qur'an" in the
English Language. Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers and Distributors, 1996, p. 622.
12. See the Qur'an s.49:13. The translation of this verse is fully cited from Muhammad
Asad, "The Message of ihe Qur'an". Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus Ltd., 1980, p. 794.
**[The above article was presented at the CCA-FMU/WCC Forum on Anti-Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerances -Bangkok, 16-20 May 2001]
MP-Elect Released from Prison
By Zarny Win
June 14, 2001 - Soe Thein aka Maung Wuntha, a well-known journalist and
elected Member of Parliament, has been released from prison, according to sources inside
Burma. The 56-year-old magazine editor and National League for Democracy (NLD) MP, who has
been behind bars since May 1996, went free yesterday evening. His release was immediately
hailed as a sign of progress in talks between the NLD and Burma's ruling junta. An NLD
member in Rangoon, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Soe Thein's release was
"a result of the ongoing dialogue between NLD leaders and the military regime."
Soe Thein, who is the MP-elect for Pegu's Waw Constituency (2), was one of hundreds of
party activists arrested in May 1996, just before the sixth anniversary of the NLD's 1990
electoral victory. He had previously served two years in prison after he and hundreds of
other MPs-elect were arrested in November 1990 for demanding that the military recognize
the results of Burma's first elections in decades.
According to close friends, Soe Thein's health has deteriorated during his five years in
prison. Earlier this year, he was transferred from Insein Prison to Rangoon General
Hospital's guarded ward to receive treatment for a host of medical problems. International
human rights groups concerned about his failing health had campaigned for years to win his
In Burma, Soe Thein is best known as the editor of Ah Twe Ah Myin ("The
Thought"), a magazine that he founded in 1984. He was also editor of the Botahtaung
daily newspaper until 1988, when he was forcibly pensioned off for actively participating
in Burma's nationwide pro-democracy uprising.
While NLD activists said they welcomed news of Soe Thein's release, they noted that 53
other MPs-elect are still serving long prison terms. Another three MPs-elect are under
house arrest, and 29 others have been detained in military "guest houses" around
the country, according to party sources.
Around 40 other writers are also believed to be behind bars in Burma's notorious prisons,
including Ohn Kyaing (penname Aung Wint), a journalist who is serving an 18-year prison
term in Taungoo Prison.
Norwegian factor, Tigers ban Thwarting
Sri Lankan peace
It is always difficult to tell when the Sri Lankan government is going
to take peace efforts seriously in the country. It was expected that after the recent
military debacle in northern Jaffna, the Sri Lankan government would use the good office
of the special Norwegian peace envoy Eric Solheim to talk with the Liberation Tamil Tigers
of Eelam (LTTE). But like elsewhere peace is seems to become more and more elusive in the
There are two reasons why the peace initiative has bogged down. One is the general
reluctance of the Sri Lankan government to lift the proscription on the LTTE. While the
government is always urging the LTTE to come forward for peace talks, the pre-conditions
for talks are not there.
While the LTTE is open to discussions, it insists that it cannot engage in any meaningful
participation without the government lifting the ban imposed some years ago. Even
suggestions by some independent parties for the government to remove the restriction have
fallen on the deaf ears of the government.
Within the Tamil circles, it is widely acknowledged that without the LTTE's participation
in peace talks, permanent peace will never materialise in the country. Thus, for peace to
happen, they feel strongly that the government should lift the ban on the LTTE.
The government's position on the proscription is one of general murkiness. While it
constantly calls on other countries to pressure the LTTE to come for talks, it is not
prepared, at least for the time being, to lift the ban on the LTTE.
It is argued that since the LTTE is a "terrorist" organisation, the question of
lifting the ban does not arise. It is not that the government does not realise the folly
of such an argument; but the need to please Sinhala right-wing reactionary forces makes it
difficult for the proscription to be lifted, even for a temporary period.
The present impasse on peace talks have been complicated by a second factor - the
sidelining of Eric Solheim as the chief peace negotiator by the Sri Lankan government.
Apparently this move to sideline Eric Solheim was done without any consultation with the
It has been argued in some circles that the move by the government to marginalise Solheim
was undertaken to ensure that the Norwegian party is not too sympathetic to the Tamil
cause. It is not that Solheim was not objective in his role, but rather his integrity and
independence were not very desirable to the government that wanted the Norwegian party to
back it on some issues. The sidelining of Solheim has not gone well with the LTTE because
it was not consulted on this matter.
From the beginning of the Norwegian involvement in the peace process, the Sri Lankan
government has not been very happy with the role of the Solheim. His visits to the country
and talks with the various people including government officials, LTTE personnel, and
others gave him an objective picture of the total situation.
The random killings of civilians and the legtimacy of the Tamil cause ensured that he
would pursue peace talks with objectivity and sincerity. But the government was not very
happy with these qualities and they expected Solheim to go along with it on some issues,
even though these were antithetical to the Tamil cause.
More importantly, it was the failure on the part of the Sri Lankan government to solicit
agreement from Solheim that made the former unhappy with the latter.
Contrary to the government, the LTTE saw in Solheim an experienced and a very objective
diplomat committed to the peace cause. He might not have understood the Tamil cause in the
manner the LTTE would have wanted him, but nonetheless it was very impressed by the
sincerity of the diplomat.
His few visits to the Vanni areas and talks with various groups of Tamils could have given
him the rare insights that often elude diplomats and peace negotiators. If the Sri Lankan
government was not happy with Solheim, the matter could have been conveyed to the LTTE,
but the former took no responsibility in doing so.
Rather, they took the rather unusual step of removing Solheim from the peace process by
appealing to a higher authority in Norway. So it would be rather difficult for the LTTE to
accept another Norwegian party just because the government finds it desirable to do so.
Meanwhile, the LTTE has come out with many statements criticising the government for
sidelining the peace process by belittling the role of Solheim. Over the last eighteen
years or so, Sri Lanka has been oscillating between war and peace. Every time peace came
within grasp, something takes place to make it difficult.
The matter of Solheim could be resolved if the new party from Norway shows the same
sincerity and commitment shown by the former, but the problem of proscription of the LTTE
will remain. This will be the crucial issue that will determine whether the LTTE enters
into peace negotiations.
The LTTE is not opposed to a peaceful and meaningful settlement of the Tamil problem. It
showed its sincerity earlier by declaring a unilateral ceasefire which lasted nearly four
months and at the cost of losing more than 160 cadres and imposing terrible inconvenience
on the civilian Tamil population in the north and east of the country.
The question is simple - if the government can invite the LTTE for peace negotiations than
what is the necessity for the proscription? India, the United States and the United
Kingdom might have their reasons for the proscription of the LTTE, but Sri Lanka is not in
the same boat.
It has no choice but to sit down with the LTTE to thrash out the Tamil problem once and
Military Warns President to Control
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid replaced four top Cabinet
members June 1 and threatened unspecified action if the national assembly does not within
one week halt plans to hold impeachment hearings. The political maneuverings, while
signaling Wahid's desperation to remain in charge, will have no significant effect on the
president's diminishing political security. A possible declaration of a state of emergency
by Wahid will incite riots and increase the parliament's resolve to remove him from
Indonesian police arrest a protestor after a clash in Pasuruan, May 30.
The top Cabinet officials replaced include the security minister,
attorney general, fisheries minister and the minister in charge of economic restructuring.
Presidential spokesman Yahya Staquf announced the changes are intended to "improve
the effectiveness and coordination of the running of the government." Wahid also
reportedly planned to fire national police chief Gen. Suroyo Bimantoro, who responded by
saying he would not resign as his removal from office required the approval of parliament.
The Cabinet reshuffling will not save Wahid from impeachment or removal from office.
Political opponents of the president number far too many and he does not have the support
of the military. Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri rejected a power sharing deal from
Wahid May 25, illustrating her support for the termination of Wahid's presidency.
Wahid also issued a veiled threat to carry out unspecified actions should the People's
Consultative Council (MPR) fail to stop impeachment hearings against him by June 8. Such a
threat will not deter the MPR, as the political body voted 365 - 4 in favor of holding the
hearings, which are scheduled to begin August 1.
The declaration of a state of emergency would be the most likely course of action for
Wahid to pursue should the MPR hold the hearings. Wahid claimed the restive state of Aceh
would declare independence should he resign, and that it would only be natural to issue a
decree on a state of emergency if the country were in a state of danger. Defense Minister
Mohammad Mahfud, however said he would resign if the president declared a state of
emergency and that other Cabinet officials and top military officers would also have to be
An issuing of a state of emergency by Wahid would likely accomplish little other than
inciting riots, possibly leading to a state of emergency. The military, however, will not
allow Wahid to create a state of danger in order to avoid impeachment. The former security
minister said in an interview that as recently as this week Wahid was prepared to declare
a state of emergency and dissolve parliament, but was opposed by the country's armed
Military Fires a Warning Shot
Outbreaks of violence could further hurt Wahid's position. Indonesia's elite Kostrad
troops parachuted six miles east of Pasuruan May 30 to quell rioting by 10,000 supporters
of WahidPresident Abdurrahman Wahid, ahead of the decision by parliament that day to go
forward with impeachment proceedings, AFP reported. Officials in East Java - Wahid's
hometown province - said some of the demonstrators had been paid to riot. The military
deployed the troops to warn the president he cannot send his supporters to the streets and
cause chaos. If need be, the army will use force to put down Wahid supporters and
stabilize the country.
Wahid will probably call for peace among his supporters, most of whom belong to Nahdlatul
Ulama, a 40 million-strong Muslim organization that Wahid chaired for 15 years until he
became president in 1999. If Wahid can control his supporters, he will probably stave off
an eruption of violence until Aug. 1, when the hearing to impeach him is scheduled. But if
his supporters do go through with threats of a holy war, parliament may speed up
impeachment efforts in order to restore security to the country.
Before each of the president's two censures by parliament this year, Wahid supporters have
vowed to form death squads and flood Jakarta with up to 300,000 demonstrators to prevent
any effort to remove him from office. The violence following the votes was subsequently
minimal however, as Wahid's supporters heeded his call for calm. However, since before
this week's approval of the August impeachment session Wahid supporters have taken to the
streets by the thousands in Jakarta, Surabaya, Pasuruan and other cities.
In Pasuruan rioters attacked the office of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party for
Struggle, which has given crucial support in the effort to impeach Wahid. One person was
killed in clashes with police, while 4,000 supporters tried to occupy the parliament
building before leaving peacefully. More than 40,000 security force personnel are in
Jakarta in preparation for any further violent outbursts from protesters, and police
chiefs have already delivered a warning that they will shoot troublemakers.
The president's political reputation would not improve should some his supporters rise up
violently in his favor and be killed as a result. For that reason, Wahid is likely to heed
the military's warning and urge his backers to remain peaceful. Other forces, however, may
have more influence over Wahid's supporters than he does. According to the Jakarta Post
May 30, East Java Police Chief Inspector Gen. E. Sutanto said third parties are inciting
many protesters and many have said they have received between $2.24 and $4.48 to join the
Regardless of the motives of Wahid's supporters, violence will come to a head should they
clash with anti-Wahid protesters. Supporters of anti-Wahid forces -- Vice President
Megawati Sukarnoputri's political party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the
Golkar Party and the United Development Party -- have yet to take to the streets. Should
the two forces clash, however, the military and police in Jakarta will have a highly
volatile and possibly deadly situation on their hands, strengthening parliament's resolve
and eliminating any chance for Wahid for retain power.
Signs of Rising Islamic Militancy
15 June 2001
Nine Islamic militants are being held in the Malaysian capital of Kuala
Lumpur on suspicion of being involved in several killings - including that of politician
Joe Fernandez, a member of Malaysia's ruling coalition. Other crimes the group allegedly
committed include the murders of two ethnic Indians; an armed robbery; an attack on a
police station; and the bombings of a church, an Indian temple and a video center.
The June 7 arrests came almost a year after a raid on a Malaysian military facility by a
group linked to the Al-Ma'unah Islamic sect. The group took more than a hundred machine
guns and small arms as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition by truck. Though not
connected to the Al-Ma'unah sect, the nine suspects have fought in Muslim uprisings in
Afghanistan and Indonesia, Malaysia's national police chief has said.
The alleged activities of the Malaysian jihad warriors taken into police custody show the
increasing violence Islamic fundamentalists are using to achieve their goals. Though only
a fraction of Malaysian Muslims have called for a purist Islamic state, the arrest of
reportedly foreign-trained and warfare-experienced fundamentalists may reveal a new strain
of violence among Islamic militants - and a growing threat to Malaysian stability and
It is possible the Malaysian government or its ruling coalition used the raid on the
military facility as an excuse to turn up pressure on the Islamic fundamentalist movement.
The ruling coalition faces a political threat from the fundamentalist Muslim party Parti
Islam Se Malaysia (PAS), which made surprising gains in the Nov. 29 elections. If the
government links the recent violence to PAS, the party's political following could
If the suspects actually were trained in Afghanistan and Indonesia, Malaysia could be
headed down the path of instability already trod by neighbors such as the Philippines and
The allegations may be substantive. Saudi millionaire Osama Bin Laden, an alleged
terrorism sponsor, has many connections to Malaysia. Bin Laden reportedly used $3 million
from a bank account in Malaysia to aid the Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas in the
Philippines, Philippine Headline News Online reported June 21, 2000. Malaysia also serves
as home to many Bin Laden followers and reportedly has been used as a trans-shipment point
for arms by Bin Laden.
Malaysia historically has remained relatively peaceful, largely due to the prosperity of
its majority Muslim population. But in the Philippines and Indonesia, financial problems
have plagued the minority Muslim populations, leaving them desolate and easily open to
calls to action from Islamic fundamentalists.
Malaysia's economy, however, is suffering and will continue to do so, especially as the
global economy founders and the Asian economy sinks.
Should the militants recently arrested in Malaysia turn out to have the same foreign
training and experience as those in neighboring countries, Kuala Lumpur's internal
security problems could begin to resemble those of the Philippines or Indonesia. Though
only nine were arrested, they probably have many more contemporaries.
No! To the Distorted History Textbook
A Declaration and Action Plan of the Asian Solidarity
Conference on Textbook Issues in Japan
Nationalism, which attempts to justify past war atrocities and
colonialist rule, is on the rise in Japan. The influence aims to make Japan into a nation
which can go to war. Those who are deeply concerned about this grave situation as well as
concerned about the history and civics textbooks published for this purpose, by the
Society for New History Textbook (Tsukurukai), held "The Asian Solidarity Conference
on Textbook Issues in Japan. - No! to the Distorted History Textbook." on June 10th
and 11th 2001, in Tokyo. Included were the total of 250 participants from ROK (South
Korea), DPRK (North Korea: due to the refusal of entry into Japan, participated by
submitting their papers), China, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan
(including Ainu, Okinawa, and Koreans in Japan).
During the two-day conference, valuable testimonies were shared from the stand point of
the "comfort women" who were forced to become sex slaves of the Japanese
military, survivors of village massacres who experienced unimaginable suffering during the
war with Japan, Ainu people, Okinawan and Koreans in Japan. We exchanged our ideas and
opinions on how we can take joint action to prevent the adoption of the Tsukurukai
textbooks and to establish new visions of history education for the future. We declare
that we strengthen solidarity among Asian people in order to achieve these two aims.
The criticism has been on the rise about the Tsukurukai textbook in Japan and more than
300 nationwide meetings on the textbook issue have been held this year. The Korean and
Chinese Governments have already made demands to the Japanese Government to make
corrections on the Tsukurukai textbook that passed official screening. In addition a
member of the Korean Parliament, and former "comfort women" did a sit-in in
front of the Diet building to protest against the Japanese Government. And there have been
other protests voiced from various countries around Asia. This simply and clearly implies
that how dangerous the Tsukurukai textbooks are for people in Asia.
The first problem with the Tsukurukai history textbook is its attempts to justify Japan's
aggression and invasion as a war of liberation, liberating Asia from Western colonialist
rule. It legitimates its own colonialist rule by pointing out that other Asian countries
benefited by their rule. Second, it is written by Emperor's historical view
(kokokushikan); instead of pursuing the responsibility of the emperor for the war, it in
fact glorifies the emperor. Third, it questions the actuality of the Massacre of Nanjing,
and erases from its records any mention of the Japanese military sexual slavery system,
which was largest war violence in the 20th century (the Comfort Women System), (the editor
stated that writing about the "Comfort Women" was like writing about the history
of the toilet - adding insult to insult). Fourth, the subject of history is portrayed as
the nation-state and the people and minorities are absent and not represented. Fifth, it
defends the family system, !
and emphasizes the "good wife, wise mother" mold of traditional gender
role-based division of labor, thereby revealing a discriminatory attitude toward women. In
other words, it is a self-race centered, nation state centered, power politics centered,
male chauvinistic view of history that pervades its pages.
Such a view of history can also be seen in the Tsukurukai civics textbook. First it
unabashedly calls for the need to build a nation that can go to war, by revising the
constitution, glorifying the Self-Defense Force, encouraging overseas dispatchment of
forces, insisting on the right to " collective self-defense ", emphasizing the
threat of DPRK (North Korea) and China, teaching respect for the national anthem and flag
and national interest and national order, insisting on the obligation to protect ones own
nation from outside aggression, and affirmation of the need for nuclear armament. Second,
in order to create a militaristic nation, it plays down the rights and freedoms of
individual citizens, lifting up the priorities of public welfare. It sees family unity as
more important than the individual. It discriminates and looks down on foreigners and
minorities. And it takes a hostile position toward citizen's movements, placing national
interest over human rights. They proc!
laim a nation centered, anti-foreign, and racist philosophy. Third, there is no
sensitivity to the violence done toward women, or honoring human rights and male-female
equality education, thereby revealing its discrimination toward women.
These history and civics textbooks need to be understood together. An understanding of
history based on the legitimization of past war aggressions in the history textbooks,
leads to the affirmation of war in the civic textbooks. These textbooks also are contrary
to the spirits of UN Human Rights Law such as UN Covenant on Human Rights and other UN
Recommendations. We can not estimate what could be the impact of these distorted textbooks
Along with the move of revision for Education Basic Law and Constitution and planned
official visit of Yasukuni shrine under the Koizumi cabinet, the Tsukurukai textbook issue
is another step to build a nation that can go to war. And unless there is some way with
the cooperation of people beyond national boundaries in Asia, to put a stop to the growing
nationalism in Japan, this could spell danger and bring more atrocities and damages to
other Asian countries.
The dangerous nationalism, however, spreads and provokes conflicts and violence all over
the world as a counteraction of globalization. We need to stop this occurrence in Asia. To
this end, we need to examine history in our own countries, to bring education back to
people from the power of the nation and to promote history education for peace.
First, we strongly protest to the Japanese government for allowing the Tsukurukai textbook
to pass the screening process. And we hold the Japanese government accountable for passing
these textbooks which clearly contradict the recent official Japanese government policies
reflected in speech done by Chief Cabinet Secretary, Miyazawa and " the provision
concerning neighboring countries "(1982), the 1995 speech by former Prime Minister
Murayama, the 1998 Japan-Korea Joint Declaration and the Japan-China Joint Declaration of
the same year. And we strongly demand that the Japanese government sincerely consider and
comply with the demands for corrections presented by the ROK (South Korea) and China.
Second, we are committed to a joint action in Japan and in other Asian countries, to
oppose the adoption of Tsukurukai textbooks by any local Committee of Education for use in
Third, we strongly desire that we work together toward creating an Asia of peace and human
rights for all, on the basis of trust and reconciliation. And we commit ourselves to
creating the kind of history textbooks that will help to nurture children who will be able
to take on such a role in the future. Toward this end we commit ourselves to work
In order to reach these goals, we agree to form the Asia Network on History Education
(tentative name) and propose the following action plan:
1 To stop adoption of Tsukurukai textbooks
- In the community and schools
- At the national level and throughout Asia
2 To establish history education to create a common future of Asia
- From a gender based perspective.
- As historian and scholars of education.
- International cooperation of history education
3 International campaign
- Pursue the responsibility of those companies, which sponsor the Tsukurukai textbook:
Publicize the names of companies, boycott campaign against their products.
- Movement against Japan to become permanent member of UN Security Council.
- Review bilateral agreements such as Japan Korea Joint Agreement.
June 11th, 2001
Participants of "The Asian Solidarity Conference on Textbook Issues in Japan -No! to
the Distorted History Textbook."
** For more information on the Japanese Textbook Issue, write to the
National Christian Council in Japan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thailand - 45 Almond Jewelry
This is a request received from the Committee for Asian Women for
International Solidarity to support the Almond Labour Union and 45 dismissed Almond
Jewelry Workers in Thailand.
Thai Labour Campaign and the Paper and Printing Federation of Thailand have been assisting
the struggle of Almond Labour Union since March 2001.
Almond (Thailand) Company Ltd is a subsidiary of Almond International Company, based in
the US which began operations in Thailand since 1988. The company is owned by Jonathan
Mandelbaum, the 88th wealthiest man on Long Island. The company produces jewelry for
stores such as Wal-Mart, Piercing Pagoda, QVC, JC Penny, and Marks Brothers. In January
2001, Michael Anthony Jewelers became the sole distributor for Almonds gold jewelry.
Almond Company directly employs 600 workers and indirectly employs another 150 through
subcontracting through another company.
The workers of Almond (Thailand) formed a union on December 16, 2000. As soon as the union
was formed, the company began an aggressive suppression campaign and pressured union
members to resign from the union. On 8th January 2001 the company dismissed 45 union
members before the union committee election, expecting to it would break the union. The
union members, however, refused to give up, elected new leadership and conducted their
first general congress 23 January 2001.
The 45 dismissed reported their case to the Labour Relations Committee asking for
reinstatement and back wages. Though the committee eventually ruled in favor of 41 of the
workers, the owner refused to reinstate them and has appealed the case to the Central
Labour Court. It will take many months for the case to work its way through the court
Throughout this whole period, management still refuses to negotiate with or recognize the
union. Moreover, they have applied constant pressure to and have been directly threatening
union members. The company falsely accused 2 union members of stealing gold and demanded
their resignation from the factory, to show the companys power and scare other union
members. Management follows and harasses the chairman of the union and has begun timing
bathroom breaks of the workers and is limiting them to 5 minutes at a time.
Despite the actions of the company, the union has been in a consistent effort to educate
its membership and maintain membership and to apply pressure on management. In the
beginning of the struggle, membership fluctuated as the employer was able to scare off
members. However, at the moment membership have been increasing due to trust of the
workers in the union.
Almond Labour Union has sent a letter to the customers appealing for their support in
their case, however, there has not been a positive response. It is very hard for new
unions to form in Thailand as employers simply fire the leadership and harass those
involved while court cases drag on for years. It is thus crucial that we support this
We are asking friends to please send letters to the president of
Almond, Jonathan Mandelbaum and urge him to implement the union's demands. The demands of
the union of the employer at this point are as follows:
Reinstate the 47 fired union members to their previous positions and
compensate wages lost since the firing.
Drop the charges against the 2 employees accused of stealing.
Stop workplace threats and harassment of union members.
Negotiate with the union in good faith.
Background Information: Almond (Thailand) Ltd.
Almond (Thailand) Ltd. is receiving increasing international
attention for its violations of workers rights.
Almond (Thailand) Ltd. is a subsidiary of Almond International INC.
Almond International is an American owned company with its major production site in
Thailand and offices in Japan, Italy and New York. The owner, Jonathan Mandelbaum,
declared his business in Thailand to be worth only 76 million Baht, yet his revenue
declared in America was US$75 million. Therefore, although he has received benefits from
the Board of Investment and the Export Promotion Department of Thailand, in reality he has
paid taxes on only a small portion of his profits in Thailand, not doing much for bringing
income into the country. According to Newsday.com, Mr. Mandelbaum ranks 88th on the list
of the most wealthy Long Island businessmen.
The company boasts a product line of 15,000 designs. Major customers
of Almond Jewellers in March of 2001 included Piercing Pagoda, Leo Frank and Son, J.
Vincent, Aurafin, QVC, Michael Hill, Abbeycrest and Select Jewellery. JC Penny, Marks
Bros, Quality Gold, Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer Inc. have also placed regular orders with the
company. Products include silver, gold and diamond jewellery, including religious symbols.
The 600 workers at Almond (Thailand) Ltd. earn between 165 - 303 baht
[$4-$7] per day, and work 6 days a week, 7 am to 4 pm when they are not working overtime.
On 16th December of 2000 workers at Almond Thailand formed a union
following a dispute in which the company refused to pay the workers their annual bonus.
Immediately following the registration, the employer fired 45 union members, mostly the
leadership of the union. This firing was illegal as he did not give notice and did not pay
severance. The employer also falsely charged two union activists with stealing from the
company and subsequently fired them. The union was forced to raise bail to secure their
release and the case is still pending.
Tthe union conducted its first election of their leadership, yet the
company refuses to recognize or bargain with the union. The union also took their case to
the Labour Relations Committee of the Ministry of Labour.
The company has utilized all sorts of tactics to destroy the union
including harassing and antagonizing union members, threatening firings, relocating
employees, timing bathroom visits, issuing warnings (so as not to have to pay severance if
the company chose to fire workers), refusing to upgrade union members to monthly wage
status, refusing to allow union members to work overtime and employing other divisive
tactics. These tactics have forced several members to withdraw from the union.
On January, Almond International signed an agreement giving Michael
Anthony Jewelers the sole rights to market and distribute gold jewelry products for
Since February the company has started employing subcontracted labor
in the factory. Though these employees perform the same duties as Almond workers, they
receive lower wages and are prohibited from being union members. There are currently about
100 subcontracted employees working in the factory. This is an obvious attempt by the
employer to replace the unionized workforce with temporary and flexible labor.
On April 19th, the Labour Relations Committee ruled in favor of the
union that 41 fired workers had been illegally terminated and had the right to return to
work and receive back wages. The employer has thus far refused to reinstate the workers
and has mentioned that he will appeal the case to the Central Labour Court.
The demands of the union of the employer at this point are as
1) Reinstate the 47 fired union members to their previous positions and compensate wages
lost since the firing.
2) Drop the charges against the 2 employees accused of stealing.
3) Stop workplace threats and harassment of union members.
4) Negotiate with the union in good faith.
Somchai Sahachaisere, Managing Director
31 Bangchan Industrial Estate
Minburi, Bangkok 10510
Tel (66)2 517-0042-3
Fax (66)2 517-0044
Almond Labor Union:
Mr. Arun Kealwon
c/o Ms. Junya Yimprasert
Thai Labour Campaign
Tel/Fax (66) 2-538-6366
Mr. Jonathan Mandelbaum, President
111 Cantiague Rock Road
Westbury, N.Y. 11560
Tel (516) 933-6000
Fax (516) 933-6092
Michael Anthony Jeweler
115 S. MacQuesten Pkwy
White Plains, New York
Fax: + 1 914 664 4884