Nepalese Muslims claim their rights in new constitution
by Kalpit Parajuli
A campaign to raise awareness among political parties. Fear of anti-conversion laws. Muslims, Catholics and Protestants united against discrimination and persecution.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Nepali Muslims have launched campaign to defend and respect the rights of all minorities in the new constitution. They threaten protests if the new constitution does not comply with such requests. In view of the deadline for submission of the text intended for May 27, Muslim community leaders have launched the National Muslim Alliance (Nmsa). The group consists of 31 representatives of various organizations and politics. Among them are also members of the Maoist and the Nepali Congress Party (Conservative Party). Yesterday, leaders of Nmsa handed over a memorandum to the Constituent Assembly complaining about the marginalization of minorities, including Christians, Catholics and Protestants.

Rahamutullah Miya, Nmsa secretary, said that "for years Muslims and Christians, were the country's most affected minorities. The new constitution must secure our identity and our rights in the name of the secular state. Nepal is a confessional country, but the religions other than Hinduism continue to be persecuted. " "The various religious groups - he adds - must unite into a single force. We invite all religious minorities, including Christians, to fight this battle with us."

With the fall of the Hindu monarchy in 2007, Nepal became a secular state. The interim constitution guarantees freedom of worship, but prohibits proselytizing. However in recent years there have been several murders and attacks against religious minorities, usually at the hands of Hindu extremists. In 2008, gunmen of Nepal Defense Army (NDA) shot dead Fr. Prakah John, a Jesuit priest. On 26 April 2008, the NDA detonated a bomb inside the Birantnagar mosque, killing two people. On May 23, 2009, the same group, placed a bomb in the Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption in Kathmandu. The toll was two dead and 13 wounded. The threat of anti-conversion laws, proposed by some conservative parties, are also hanging over minority communities, which if approved will be included in the new penal code under consideration in parliament together with the constitution. The penalties include arrest and sentence of five years for those who preach and disseminate religious material that might offend the Hindu religion. Among the acts that could lead to arrest is the slaughter of cattle near Hindu sacred areas.

Before proposing the new laws the government failed to consult the religious minorities. The Catholic Church has learned of the law from the Nepali media. To lobby the authorities and raise public awareness, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Baha'is organized several events in 2011 and handed over a memorandum to the authorities asking for a revision of laws. In August, the Catholic Church translated the drafts of the new code and circulated the articles that violate religious freedom on the Internet.