How to practice your religion without the fear of being persecuted. (PART 3)

The last time I have wrote about religious persecution, what constitutes persecution, and how future persecution may not be avoidable even when one practices his/her religion discreetly and becomes a “pseudo-hypocrite” outside their homes in order to avoid persecution.

By now you should know that the only way for you to practice your religion publicly without being persecuted is by migrating to another country that either does not endorse a state religion or that their state religion is in favor with your beliefs, but not many people have the requirements to be recognized as a legal migrants to most countries (college degree holders/wealthy investors/migrants with exceptional skills). The other option for people to relocate or migrate is to enter a country either as a legal “tourist” or illegally by boat and apply for asylum according to the UNHCR’s 1951 Refugee Convention, 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees or both.

Many people think refugees are groups of villagers fleeing war or government tyranny in their home countries, but it’s not just that. There are government whistleblowers and individuals who are persecuted because of their race, religion and nationalities who are given asylum as well. There are five characteristics that most governments give out asylum status towards:

“A refugee is a person who is outside their country of origin or habitual residence because they have suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they are a member of a persecuted ‘social group’. Such a person may be referred to as an ‘asylum seeker’ until recognized by the state where he or she makes his or her claim.”

(Source: Wikipedia [cited from the Oxford English dictionary])

However, there are strict guidelines to whom the refugee/asylum claims are given out to. Most countries do an assessment on applicants on whether a person is a genuine refugee or not by using the “Well-Founded Fear” evaluation points. Reasons for this is to distinguish between those who are genuine in their fear of persecution and those who use the “refugee” claims just to abuse the immigration laws of a certain country so that they could reap the benefits given to genuine refugees such as a permanent resident’s benefit of residing, working and receiving welfare of that country without being detained and subjected to removal.

There are however cases where genuine refugees were denied of their claims because they did not present valid evidences pertaining to their claims, inconsistencies in their statements or did not show any evidence of a “well-founded fear” for their claims of past or future persecutions.

Below is a link to a PDF file from the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) for their asylum officer’s basic training in evaluating applicants for “well-founded fear” of future persecution. This is however not a legal advice or a cheat sheet for people to make false refugee claims, but you can use it as a guide as to how asylum officers evaluate refugee claims so that those of you who are fleeing your country of residence seeking refugee status elsewhere know what information you should provide your interviewing asylum officers with as to lower down your chances of getting your first claims rejected, and to decide if you are genuinely eligible for a refugee claim, because just by merely possessing one of the five protected grounds of character without fearing persecution will get you rejected instantly.

USCIS definition and eligibility of “Well-Founded Fear”

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How to practice your religion without the fear of being persecuted. (PART 2)

Now let’s see what constitutes persecution, according to the United Nations Refugee Convention:

Persecution and the Reasons for Persecution

“Although the risk of persecution is central to the refugee definition, “persecution” itself is not defined in the 1951 Convention. Articles 31 and 33 refer to those whose life or freedom “was” or “would be” threatened, so clearly it includes the threat of death, or the threat of torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

(Source: untreaty.un.org)

So let’s say you have apostatized from your religion (example: Islam), but your country’s laws (or unwritten laws) does not allow you to apostatize or convert, or else you’ll be facing severe punishments such as death, imprisonment or rehabilitation – right now you’ll be leading double lives. One religion when you’re outside, another when you’re inside your private homes. That’s fine, but how about the future, when you decided to fall in love with your partner who doesn’t share the same “supposed” religion as you do, and that “supposed” religion doesn’t allow inter-faith marriages? Or you’re already having kids by the time you decided to apostatize? Or you had already apostatized, went to another country, had a legal civil wedding, give birth to your child there, then decide you have to come back to your country with your kid?

Persecution is a serious thing, even if it does not involve injuries. Making someone stay in solitary confinement or rehab for an amount of time not specified and making them submit to your cause or turning them into vegetables, although no physical torture was present is a type of persecution. Try abducting a heterosexual man, placing him in a no-escape room secluded in a place he do not know of and forcing him to become gay. Keep throwing in gay pornography materials into his room/cell and demonstrate homosexual actions in front of him while someone else forces him to watch your acts. Although no acts of rape was done, do you think that the person forcing the victim has done nothing wrong?

This is where your compassion comes into realization. Or not. But most of us know what was wrong with the situation. Same thing goes to people who were persecuted based on their religious beliefs – they were forced to submit to something they never believed in their whole lives. What you think is true doesn’t necessary constitutes truth in other people’s belief system. This reminds me of a story written by Ajahn Bram, a Buddhist abbot of a monastery in Australia. You can read the story here.

Anyways, I have read a report from Australia’s Refugee Review Tribunal’s case file regarding a Malaysian lady who has converted from Islam to Christianity, and claimed asylum in Australia during the year 2008. As a Malaysian I thought that religious freedom reports regarding my country wasn’t enough to show evidence but as shown in the RRT’s report I am glad that a Malaysian’s plea for protection from religious persecution has finally come true.

RRT Case No: 0802390

How to practice your religion without the fear of being persecuted. (PART 1)

Centuries ago, according to history – people living in Christian states were persecuted for practicing religions other than Christianity, however not only non-Christian religions were banned but also other forms of Christianity that differs from Catholicism – Protestantism being the most popular Christian sect being persecuted, similar to the Shia sect of the Islamic religion.

In this century those Christian states has either been turned into a secular state or still retaining the power of a national religious figure while allowing religious freedom as an endorsement to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however there are several states replicating the old Christian state’s religious persecutions. I will not be biased while writing this blog post, but I am sure those of you who had lived/living in Islamic states know what am I talking about.

To argue whether a person should be given liberty or not is out of topic. Besides, it’s no use arguing when each debaters come from different worlds.

But if you’re living in a country where you’ll be persecuted for practicing a religion different from the state’s official religion, and you’re able to practice your religion quietly without the authorities or the community knowing, why should YOU read on?

I will give you an example of a country whose name and pride I shall not enclose for I feel it has already received enough tainting from international communities condemning its Constitution. This country has Islam as its official religion, has the clause “freedom of religion” written in it’s Constitution yet there are numerous cases where it’s Muslim citizens were denied permission to renounce the state’s official religion and were subjected to persecution by the community comprised of Muslim majorities and the government authorities themselves.

For a Muslim who wants to renounce his/her religion or convert into another religion he/she has to apply permission with the Sharia court. Reasons for this is because he/she wants the word “ISLAM” removed from his/her National Identity Card, and he/she would not be subjected under Sharia court’s jurisdiction if in the future he/she does something that would cause a Muslim to be punished such as eating during the day in the month of Ramadhan, having pre-marital sex in close-quarters without breaking any civil laws or marrying a non-Muslim without having their partner to convert into Islam first (Muslims are not allowed to marry non-Muslims according to Sharia law). Although there is no clause in any laws that forbids the action of renouncing one’s religion of Islam, however there are many cases where a Sharia court judge sentences the person applying for permission to renounce his/her religion to forced detention in Islamic Faith Rehabilitation Centers without issuing any warrants, thus taking away his/her freedom.

To avoid such unlawful detention some would agree that the ex-Muslim should practice his/her religion in private while going out in the world pretending he/she is still a Muslim by pretending to pray, fast and wearing garments that symbolizes Islam. This is true, for the present moment he/she will not be subjected to persecution but what happens in the future when he/she decides to marry a non-Muslim who wishes not to convert into Islam in order to be lawfully wedded? Or one day being found out by relatives that in close-quarters he/she is practicing a different religion? Or being questioned for possessing an object or ornament that belongs to a different religion?

A reminder: To claim that oneself is not a Muslim to the authorities in order to escape persecuting punishments could be possible, but if found out by authorities that the “offender” is a registered Muslim he/she is liable to a large sum of fine, caning and years of imprisonment.