February 5, 2008

The Other Religion

China sentences rights activist to four years in prison
Beijing - A court in eastern China's Hangzhou city on Tuesday sentenced a rights activist and freelance writer to four years in prison for subversion, his lawyer said.
Take action! Call for China to release human rights activist
Hu Jia, a Beijing-based advocate for AIDS sufferers as well as the environment and human rights, was arrested on 27 December and later charged with "inciting subversion of state power."... Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, also an outspoken human rights advocate, and their two-month-old daughter remain under house arrest in Beijing.
Woman Writer Released, but Crackdown Continues
The Vietnamese government released the award-winning writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy from prison yesterday, but continues to hold dozens of other peaceful activists in prison or under house arrest, Human Rights Watch said today.
Rank Country Score
149Gambia54,00
-Yemen54,00
151Belarus57,00
152Libya62,50
153Syria63,00
154Iraq66,83
155Vietnam67,25
156Laos67,50
157Pakistan70,33
158Uzbekistan71,00
159Nepal73,50
160Ethiopia75,00
161Saudi Arabia76,00
162Iran90,88
163China94,00
164Burma94,75
165Cuba95,00
166Eritrea97,50
167Turkmenistan98,50
168North Korea109,00

Take a careful look at the bottom 20 of the Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2008 published by the Reporters Sans Frontières. If you are in doubt about the predominant political and religious character of these countries, consult Wikipedia or any other encyclopedia. The map below gives you a starker picture. As you can see, the state of press freedom is abysmal in much of the Middle East, Central Asia, and East Asia.

RSF's press freedom index is based on the responses to a questionnaire that focuses exclusively on the state of the press and related media, including cyber media. It does not include any data on state suppression of individual rights or discriminatory laws. From a casual scanning of the countries in the bottom heap, I don't believe that the composition will materially change if, for example, discriminatory laws against women or ethnic groups were weighed in.

Religion to me is a non-separable collection of ideas that have neither logical nor empirical support. With this definition, I have held in several of my earlier posts that Communism is a religion, much as Islam is. Both claim to be founded on incontrovertible truths. States are inseparable from these religions, and necessarily totalitarian. Challenges to their authority are not taken lightly. Those who dare are convicted for blasphemy, and extreme punishments await them. Little wonder that, where these two religions are in the minority as in India, they have been drawn closer together to fight off liberal ideas.

The world cannot forever remain a silent spectator to the suppression of individual rights and inequality before law. The destabilizing effects of Apartheid and Nazism were not confined to South Africa and Germany. Spillovers into other regions of the world could not be avoided, until these religions were discarded into the ash heap of history. It's now the turn of Communism and Islam to follow them.

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