Making discrimination easier and differences prominent
The Nazi regime in Hitler’s Germany barred Jews from holding public office, and from marrying persons of another race. Later of course many Jews were shot, and others gassed in concentration camps, and the Jewish Holocaust came to pass.
But in the beginning, before all this took place Jews in Germany were simply issued with special identity cards, and made to wear six-pointed star badges. The reason? So they could be ‘easily identified.
Authorities in the Island of Mindanao in the Philippines today are also recommending special identity cards for Muslims living on that Island. And they are suggesting that the rest of the country take similar measure. The reason for this recommendation for special ID cards is the same as in the time of Hitler: so that Muslims can be ‘easily identified.’
More than 70% of Mindanao’s population consists of Christians, mostly Catholics. Muslims constitute the second largest group, at more than 20%. There are rebel groups among this Muslim population, groups that are fighting for autonomy. Therefore the island has witnessed clashes between police and militants. The militants are also said to have links to IS, the so-called Islamic State. This is why the Philippine President Duterte declared martial law in Mandanao this year in May for a period of 60 days. This is also the reason behind the suggestion for special identity cards made by authorities in Mindanao.
History,” as Eduardo Galeano said, “never says goodbye. It only says: ‘see you later’.” And honestly, if one sees nothing beyond the cycle upon cycle of life and death except the life and death, if one fails to perceive the results of all those acts in between, acts committed by those who once lived and are now dead, all of humanity can be said to have lived and died in a kind of perpetual and futile re-enactment of tragedy.
If on the other hand history is studied, there is a wealth of lessons to be learnt from this knowledge. A huge lesson is that discriminatory measures and collective punishments, measures that pick on an entire community and make it pay for the crimes of the few achieve nothing at all. That is to say they achieve nothing positive.
In the case of Germany, this massacre by the Nazi government resulted in nothing but tragedy in which more than six million Jews were killed. Some estimates put that figure at more. Today, Germans continue to hang their heads in shame at the atrocities committed by their forefathers.
Internationally, the Human Rights Watch website notes that: ‘The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties to which the Philippines is a party prohibits discrimination based on religion. The IDs could also violate the rights to equal protection of the law, freedom of movement, and other basic rights. Requiring Muslim-only IDs in response to a perceived failure of Muslims to prevent Islamist fighters from entering Marawi City (on Mindanao) is a form of collective punishment.’
In Pakistan, following the recommendations regarding identity cards in the Philippines, many people expressed anger, and rightly so.
However, what is considered to be an unfair act when performed by the goose should also be considered unfair when performed by the gander. In which case let’s consider our own identity cards in Pakistan, the application forms for which contain a column that requires you to specify which religion you subscribe to. The choices are: Muslim, Christian, Ahmedi, Hindu, Parsi, Sikh, Others.
Surely, asking such questions is trespassing on Divine Ground. It is also, once this column is filled out, akin to a special ID card.
To make matters worse, in some other forms in the Punjab, there is even a column where you are required to specify your caste. There is really nothing to say with regards to this question except: What?! Those who consider this section valid should NOT check ‘Muslim’ for themselves on the ID card form.
There are no repercussions for mainstream Muslims in filling out the ‘religion’ section on forms. But it must cost minorities a pang to state their allegiance so openly in a country where sectarian violence is a daily occurrence. You would think, that for that very reason the least and the first thing authorities would do is remove this question from all forms throughout the country. A government too scared to do that, or a government that doesn’t agree this should be done is ineffectual and/or unqualified to govern.
Forms in Jordan used to ask this question. As of this month, they do not. The question has been removed, expunged, deleted from forms in that country. Well done people and government of Jordan.
What, after all, do such questions achieve? Why would anyone wish to know what a person believes in? There are elections to find out what people think politically. There can be referendums to find out their views on particular questions. Why would their allegiance to this God or that come into the public domain? When did our method of worship become the province of mortal rulers? When was this information taken away from the divine database and made the business of men?
And so you know what religion David belongs to. Or Harjit, or young Bapsi. What are you planning to do with this information? Will it be used to provide more facilities for people, to make more temples and churches? Will it be used to provide more jobs for Christians if there are more Davids than Harjits in society, but less Davids in employment? Will it be used to build more Dakhmas for Bapsi’s people, or more stupas or mosques, depending on the answers on those forms?
We know this is not so, because none of this happens, so one can only presume that the reason for this question is something else, something more insidious. What do you suppose it can be? Do you suppose the reason is that people outside the mainstream ‘can be easily identified?’
Special ID cards, anyone?