SUVA, Fiji (Jan. 5) - The treatment of Fiji Muslims wishing to send money overseas by authorities acting, so they say, on behalf of the United States security agencies is blatant discrimination and should stop at once.

It is said that all money transfers to or from people with Muslim-sounding names are held up for scrutiny by U.S. or local authorities.

Perhaps they expect Osama bin Laden to use his own name when transferring $1,000 from Fiji to Australia. Or perhaps this is anti-Muslim paranoia at its worst.

Whatever the motivation, the Government has a clear duty to ensure that the human rights of its citizens are respected at home as well as abroad.

There are treaties covering such behavior and it is very clear that somebody, somewhere, is in blatant breach of these agreements.

This practice of prying into people’s private affairs is a gross breach of privacy and must stop.

Of course, we all must play our part in the war against terror, but pestering people who simply wish to send small amounts of money to friends and relatives overseas has no place in that war.

Indeed, its only effect will be to turn more Muslims against the US and its allies.

The Government should move quickly to ensure that this practice is investigated and if found to be policy - forced or otherwise - among money changers, ended forthwith.

People who commit, connive at or contribute to such policies are acting in breach of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

Fiji’s Muslim community is a peace loving one. It enjoys the respect of the other religions in Fiji and has been a significant contributor to reconciliation in the wake of the events of 2000.

To now discriminate against them on the basis of their names is a gross breach of their rights.

Ill thought-out policies such as this hinder rather than help the war against terror. Whoever is responsible should be told to desist.

January 5, 2004



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