International Conference on Prisoners of Faith


Islamic Human Rights Commission

Press Release

14th February 2002

International Conference on Prisoners of Faith
Academics, activists and former prisoners convene to discuss the dark side of civil society
Sunday 17th February 2002, London, UK

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims languish in prisons world-wide, criminalized and persecuted simply for their profession of the Islamic faith. They are the victims of a hidden war, every bit as pernicious as the “war on terror”. Instead of using Daisy Cutters and F-16’s this war employs the weapons of secular fundamentalism, military juntas, one-party states and secret police. Its perpetrators have the backing of the latest satellites, eavesdropping equipment, undercover hit squads, legal systems, and when these fail they have torture chambers and jails.

These victims have dared to defy the abuse and repression of their fundamental rights, and their experiences, as well as their ideals and goals, need to be listened to if western civil society is to remain a credible forum for addressing human rights abuses.

Muslims like Merve Kevakci, the young Turkish MP stripped of her citizenship after she refused to comply with a state order to remove her headscarf in Parliament.

Kevakci is a symbol for the 30,000 women in Turkey who have been denied access to university, employment and civil service simply because they wear the hijab. Her citizenship revoked, Kevakci is a ‘prisoner of faith’ in the US.

Ahmed Cassiem is another such figure. Cassiem is a veteran campaigner for human rights in South Africa. In the fight against apartheid he spent many spells in prison, including on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. He now heads the Islamic Unity Convention based in Cape Town.

And there are people like Aydin Koral, a Turkish journalist who was sentenced to prison for writing an article critical of the growing military alliance between Israel and Turkey. Koral managed to escape to Switzerland and continues to campaign against Turkish state abuses of power.

These are just three of the figures who will address the IHRC’s International Conference on Prisoners of Faith on 17th February 2002. The aims of this conference, in addition to heightening Muslim awareness of Prisoners of Faith, are to provide a platform for Muslim and non-Muslim activists to address issues of political and/or religious persecution.

Further the conference hopes to dispel stereotypes that surround issues of Islamic thought, law, standards and norms, in a discussion of international and Islamic standards of imprisonment. Though not an issue related to the Prisoners of Faith concept, the recent television images of Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay have brought home the horror of life in detention for one group of Muslim prisoners. Refused the status of Prisoners of War by their captors their plight epitomises the relativity of a human rights discourse that claims to be universal. This again needs to be addressed.

Venue: Islamic Centre, 140 Maida Vale, London, W9 from 10.30 a.m. – 7.00 p.m.

For more information, please contact:
Islamic Human Rights Commission
Tel: +44-20-8902-0888