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How Gulen Triumphed
When Prospect and Foreign Policy drew up our list of the worlds top 100 public intellectuals a few weeks ago, none of us expected a Turkish Sufi cleric, barely known in the west, to sweep to victory
. Nor did we expect every name in the top ten would be from a Muslim background. (Noam Chomsky, who won the last poll in 2005, led the west in 11th place this time.)
The early running this year was made by Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian novelist, and Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster turned anti-Putin dissident. At one point Al Gore was on course to add the top intellectual gong to his Nobel peace prize and Oscar. But then, about a week into the process, Fethullah Gülen rocketed to the top of the list overnightand stayed there. Something had clearly happened: votes were pouring in for Gülen at a
staggering rate, and continued to do so for the duration of the poll. Initially we were convinced that a tech-savvy member of the Fethullahçithe collective noun for Gülens millions of worldwide followershad hacked into the system and set about auto-voting for his hero. We would identify the culprit, discount his votes, normal business would be resumed and Chomsky would grind his way to another victory.
The truth turned out to be more interesting. On 1st May, Zamanthe highest-selling newspaper in Turkey, with a circulation of over 700,000 and a string of international editionsran a story on its front page alerting its readership to the appearance of Gülen on the Prospect/FP list, and to the fact that we were inviting people to vote. Zaman is known to be close to the Gülen movement, and over the coming weeks the paper made regular reference to the clerics appearance on our list. The poll was also noted in other Turkish
newspapers, as well as on every single Gülen website, official and unofficial, we were able to find.
The efficiency and discipline of the Fethullahçi is legendaryso in retrospect, for them, a poll like ours was simple to hijack. The temptation for Gülens followers to elevate their man to the top of a poll organised by two influential western magazines will have been a strong one. In one respect, then, Gülens crushing win tells us little about what the world thinks about its intellectuals; it merely exhibits the organisational ability of one movements followers. On the other hand, perhaps we can see through Gülens victory the emergence of a new kind of intellectualone whose influence is expressed through a personal network, aided by the internet, rather than publications or institutions. The public intellectual template described by Christopher Hitchens in his article accompanying our listself-starting independents or
editors of minority-of-one-type magazinesor, in Edward Skidelskys formulation (Letters, Prospect June 2008), someone whose claim to attention rests
on a mastery of words and ideas, may in a generations time look rather old-fashioned. (Andrew Keen will be exploring this point in the next issue of Prospect.)
But there was probably also a specifically Turkish effect at play. When Time asked its readers to vote online for their person of the century in 1999, the blitz of support for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was so overwhelming that at one point he was leading Bob Dylan in the artist and entertainer category. And in our poll, there were other beneficiaries from the Turkey effect: Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist and Nobel literature laureate, and Bernard Lewis, the British historian who made his name researching the Ottoman empire, both performed strongly, finishing fourth and 13th respectively. Neither is likely to
have been an appealing figure to the Fethullahçi.
What about the rest of the top ten? We allowed voters to select five names, and the fact that most Gülen supporters would have been Muslims probably pulled up Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Amr Khaledwho had a Facebook group set up to urge his fans to vote for himAbdolkarim Soroush and Tariq Ramadan, all well-known religious figures, of various stripes, in the Islamic world. Muhammad Yunus, Shirin Ebadi and Aitzaz Ahsan are Muslims who have made their names as campaigners in Muslim countriesthe first two are Nobel peace laureates, the third in the vanguard of the anti-Musharraf protests that shook Pakistan last year. Mahmood Mamdani, a US-based political and postcolonialist theorist, is perhaps the odd one out, but he has a Muslim background (he was born in Uganda to an Indian family) and has spoken out forcefully against US foreign policy.
This Muslim effect seems to reflect the power
of connectivity in the Muslim world, especially its more liberal parts. You had to have access to the internet to be able to vote in the poll, of course, but, more to the point, email and websites allow news to spread and campaigns to be mounted within hours. Turkey now boasts almost 3m Facebook users, more than any country apart from the US, Britain and Canada. Farsi, the most widely spoken language in Iran, is by some counts the fourth most popular language in the world for blogs.
Not every attempt to influence the poll came off. Press stories featuring specific candidates in Indonesia, Canada, India and Spain had little impact. One of our candidates, Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev, was gracious enough to alert us to the fact that one of his countrys top newspapers was encouraging readers to support him, and to urge us to discount any votes for him from Bulgarian email addresses. But the campaign failed to rouse the
The dog that didnt bark this time was Chinathe five Chinese names on our list ended up mid-tablers at best. Yet this performance was much stronger than in 2005. At first the Chinese were on course to do even worse this time, but in the last week of voting, all five names started to move rapidly up the tableperhaps word of the poll had belatedly reached a department of the ministry of information. Next time, dont be surprised to see the Chinese walk the polla campaign to rouse a few million Sufis will pale against the might of the Chinese information machine.
FrrontPage is an on-line magazine better known for its harsh critique of Islamist organizations in North America.
This morning it carries a long interview with Tarek Fatah where he reminds the magazine's editor Jamie Glazov that the US is partly at fault in creating the current mess worldwide. Tarek also cautions against blaming Islam and mocking Prophet Muhammad, saying it is not Islam but Islamists who need to be challenged.
Here is Tarek Fatah in conversation with Jamie Glazov.
Aungust 8, 2008
Chasing a MIrage
FP: Tarek Fatah, welcome to Frontpage
Fatah: It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Fatah: It was a culmination of many factors. I was witnessing the unimpeded rise of the Islamist ideology among young Muslim men and women and the timid policy of appeasing them rather than challenging their fascist and supremacist doctrine. My religion was been used by extremists as a political tool and I felt I had to challenge them.
Decades before the West awoke to the threat posed to human civilization by the likes of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban; I had tasted the thuggery of the Islamofascists in the late 1960s in Pakistan.
The Islamists and Jihadis were partly a product of the West. They were born as a result of artificial insemination of Saudi Wahhabism into Pakistan and Afghanistan's more pluralistic societies. And when the Islamists had served their purposes, the US
discarded them like used condoms.
On the campuses of Pakistans universities, these supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood had a single purpose. Attack and beat up anyone with a liberal or secular frame of mind, label them as "communist" and, surprising as it may sound today, sing the praises of the USA. Two stints in jail as a political prisoner of pro-American military regimes in 1968 and 1970, allowed me time to understand the threat of the Islamist ideology that wanted to establish its goal of a world-wide Islamic caliphate governed by Sharia law as interpreted by Egyptians Syed Qutb and Hassan al-Banna as well as their Pakistani counterpart Syed Maudoodi whose works I had the chance to read in jail. These men had no problem using the structure and tactics of the communist party model, the U.S. as their strategic ally and rely on military regimes that at times protected them.
So while these termites worked their way inside every
aspect of society, both in Islamic countries as well as in the U.S., few people noticed. Those that did dismissed the Islamist enterprise as insignificant. Then came the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the world has never been the same again. The West has never really understood its predicament. caught between Iran as an enemy and Saudi Arabia as a supposed ally, the West has ended up paying heavily for its inconsistencies while the Islamists are consolidating with their eyes set not just on the Islamic world, but on the U.S. and Western civilization itself.
After 9/11, what shocked me was the naivety with which the U.S. confronted the challenge. While claiming to fight the so-called war on terrorism, the U.S. made allies with the country most culpable and with the dirtiest hands in 9/11 -- Saudi Arabia.
First, the U.S. allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape when it sub-contracted the war in Afghanistan to private warlords who sold out to
the highest bidder. Then it propped up General Musharraf in Pakistan who used the Taliban presence to extract billions from the U.S., and if all was not lost to Al-Qaeda, George Bush invaded Iraq instead of focusing on Afghanistan. The errors continue to mount.
As if these blunders were not enough, lately, in an attempt to appease American Islamists during an election year, the U.S. government is insisting
that words like "Islamists,jihad," and "Islamofacism" not be used. This is insane. Someone has to call a spade a spade and my book does just that.
I am going into these details to share with you the climate within which I made the decision to write Chasing a Mirage.
All around me in late 2005 I saw a flurry of books on Islam, most critical of my faith, many
hurtful and insulting to my Prophet and others simply to make a fortune in sales to whet the appetite of the market.
It seemed no one was addressing the core issue that the West needs to understand if it wishes to tackle the challenge: the distinction between the Islamist and the Muslim; the difference between Islam and Islamism and finally the tussle between those Muslims who work towards an "Islamic state" and those who merely wish to live in a "state of Islam," a struggle that has continued unabated since the seventh century.
As I grappled the challenge, I was asked by the now Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Prof. Husain Haqqani to put my thoughts in the form of a book. He almost said: "Build it and they will come". And sure enough. When word got out that I had resigned from the Muslim Canadian Congress after a spate of death threats, and that I was planning to write a book, John Wiley & Sons called me to say they were
interested in reading my proposal. They had come even before I had built it.
In my book I suggest to my fellow Muslims that their quest for an Islamic State is like chasing a mirage that has eluded Muslims for well over a millennium. I have outlined in detail the failed nature of the three countries that claim to be Islamic states, namely, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia and how the mullahs, military and monarchy in these societies crush the human spirit and oppress fellow Muslim in the name of Islam and only to cling on to power in the name of Allah. I have also demonstrated that the dynasties many Muslims look up to as their models for the future, the Abbasids of Baghdad (8th to 13th century), the Ummayads of Damascus (7th and 8th century) as well as the glorious civilization of Spanish Muslims, was nowhere close to being Islamic and were at best merely enlightened monarchies and at worst an unending power struggle.
my friend, we can't debate everything here today. But there is an argument to be made that far from being the West's children, al Qaeda and the Taliban were the children of the Soviet empire, which triggered a fanatical Islamic backlash to its ruthless imperialism in Afghanistan. It might also be very possible that al Qaeda and the Taliban are the children of Islamic theology and teachings, since that is what they point to as the sanctioning and inspiration of their vicious totalitarian journeys. It is also a myth that the U.S. created Osama and al Qaeda. The U.S. supported the Afghan resistance against the Soviets, but it did not fund the "Afghan Arabs" and other Muslims who came to fight in Afghanistan.
Far from being the children of the West, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were born from the Muslim Brotherhood and from the ideology of political Islam that made the Brotherhood an international movement. And the Brotherhood's appeal within the Islamic
world is a revivalist as well as a traditionalist one.
Overall, there is no doubt that American policy vis-ŕ-vis Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Taliban has been shortsighted on certain realms. But this shortsightedness, unfortunately, may very well consist precisely of overlooking the broad and deep appeal of the jihad ideology among Muslims, such that it underestimated the pitfalls of working with jihadist groups and the difficulty of dislodging them from power.
Also, the options the U.S. had after 9/11 vis-ŕ-vis Pakistan were extremely limited and the alternatives to Musharraf have always involved potential greater dangers. Furthermore, in terms of Iraq, there are many legitimate arguments to be made that it is a necessary war and that it bolsters, rather than detracts from, the war against terror, which involves the battle in Afghanistan.
Fatah: You are right to a certain degree and I don't mean to sound like those who
blame the U.S. for every ill in Muslim societies. It is true that had the Soviet Union not invaded Afghanistan the Taliban, its precursor the Mujaheddin and the Al-Qaeda would most probably never have been born, but it is also true that the U.S. government and the CIA did everything possible to arm these warriors and ease the arrival of tens of thousands of Arabs into Pakistan. The CIA -ISI nexus facilitated these Arab Afghans to ride roughshod over Pakistan. Americas blue-eyed boy in Islamabad, General Ziaul Haq was instrumental not only in making Pakistan a safe haven for every Arab Islamist and his uncle, he worked hard to Saudize the entire country and its institutions.
The US may not be directly implicated in what General Zia did, but they certainly did not stop him nor cared for the long-term consequences of his actions. So close was the U.S. tied to Pakistans Islamist regime that when General Zia was assassinated, the U.S.
Ambassador died with him in the plane crash.
As far as Iraq is concerned, its invasion was the greatest foreign policy blunder the U.S. has committed in its history. It has allowed for Iran to flex its muscle, its ruling ayatollahs continue to oppress the Iranian people while the Islamists, from hardcore terrorist to soft jihadis have strengthened their grip on the Muslim narrative.
FP: During the Cold War the U.S. faced the Soviet Union, one of the most evil regimes in history that posed a hazardous threat to freedom everywhere. The U.S. engaged in many means to defeat this Evil Empire and thank God that it did. It is somewhat questionable, on many realms, to criticize the U.S. in hindsight in this context.
We would disagree on your criticism of the Iraq liberation. The U.S. liberated 25 million people from a fascist tyranny and is today winning the war against jihadi terrorists in what al
Qaeda itself calls the front of the terror war. But this debate will have to occur in another time and place. Lets continue. What do you think you as a person with your own background and experience brings to a work like Chasing a Mirage?
Most people who have tackled Islamic extremism have had a political upbringing on the Right of the political rainbow. I come from the Left. Most critics of the Islamists are either non-Muslims or those who have walked away from the faith. I am a Muslim, faithful to my Prophet Muhammad who I believe was a revolutionary man who I admire as my Leader and who provides me with my moral compass. So I critique Islamodom with empathy, not derision. I have not written the book to launch myself into the speaker's circuit, but rather to awaken Muslims to their own follies and to educate the West to understand that the problem is not with Islam, but with those who wish to mix Islam with politics.
I have worked with Islamists, I have seen their brutality and their fascist approach and supremacist ideology. For 40 years I have confronted them and I know their strategy and tactics; their devious methods and their art of deception with which they have fooled people like Tony Blair and even George Bush or our former Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and our very own Canadian leader of the New Democratic Party,
Earlier you mentioned that there have been works that are hurtful and insulting to your Prophet. But how do you, as a Muslim, deal with the historical Muhammad? For instance, I have done interviews with scholars such as Bill Warner
and Abul Kasem
who have outlined the
historical record of Muhammeds life that is based on Muslim sources. Robert Spencer has also documented Mohammed's life in his book
which is also based on Islamic sources. Can you take a look at these interviews that I link to? Help us to understand how you interpret these things as a Muslim. Do you deny this history of Muhammad that is recorded by Muslims themselves? Are these things simply not true? Explain your own vision and faith to us in this context please. I think this is a vital conversation and that matters like this must be discussed rather than swept under the ground.
Fatah: I would be dishonest if I denied that Prophet Muhammad engaged in battle, both with his words as well as his weapons, as did David and Solomon and many prophets before them. Of course there are aspects of Islamic history that
greatly trouble me. For example, I have never truly reconciled with the collective punishment accorded to the Jewish tribes of Arabia, that resulted in the killing of all Jewish male adults and the enslavement of women and children.
As far as what Muslims have written about the times of the Prophet, yes, I have read what is written as the Hadith and by medieval Muslim historians. Some accounts embarrass me, but for better or worse, these accounts are part of my Muslim heritage and I have to live with it. There are verses in the Quran as well as parts of the Old Testament that reflect the times these texts were written in.
Prophet Muhammad earns the unquestionable love and affection of the world's billion plus Muslims. They adore him more than their own parents. When writers engage in depicting Muhammad as a child molester or a warlord, it causes deep anguish and hurt among Muslims whether they are suffering in the refugee camps of
Darfur or sitting in the ivory towers of Wall Street. This man is our hero. Attacking him can only satiate the critic's own appetite, not resolve the challenges we all face as humanity where we have to fight the challenge of jihadis, who today are governed by the ideology of Syed Qutb and Maudoodi more than the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. All I am saying is, save your derision for the 20th century monsters and focus your attention on supporting the Muslims who alone can defeat the Islamists. Attacking Prophet Muhammad or mocking Islam will get us nowhere.
FP: Well this isnt about attacking anyone. It is about telling the truth. And the historical record is the historical record -- and to sweep the truths of history under the rug for the sake of not hurting peoples feelings I am afraid may very cause more problems than it solves.
And so here is the problem: this isnt about attacking Muhammad. It is about the
fact that ignoring the truth about Muhammad and how Muslims regard him might make matters worse.
What I am getting at is that you state that jihadis are today governed by the ideology of Syed Qutb and Maudoodi more than the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. But upon whose teachings did the ideology of Syed Qutb and Maudoodi rely? If the Prophet Muhammad categorically rejected violence and jihad by word and deed would Syed Qutb and Maudoodi have been able to construct their ideology?
Are we sure that our problem is going to go away if we are not honest about the fact that jihadis get their inspiration and sanctioning for violence precisely from Muhammad and that is why they invoke Muhammad's example to justify acts of violence and terrorism?
For example, check out the below:
(*) On September 5, 2003, Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris invoked Muhammads battles when speaking of the Iraq war in another sermon broadcast by the Palestinian Authority, though his memory of the Battle of Tabuk was a bit faulty: If we go back in the time tunnel 1400 years, we will find that history repeats itself
. Byzantium represents America in the west
. America will collapse, as Byzantium collapsed in the west
.The Prophet [Muhammad] could, by means of unbroken ranks, conquer Byzantium, the greatest power compared to todays America -- and this without a single martyr falling from among the Muslims
. The Prophet could, by means of the unity of the Muslim ranks and its awakening, defeat the America of that time
.America is our No. 1 enemy, and we see it as our No. 1 enemy as long as we learn from the lessons of the Battle of Tabouk [which took place in October 630 AD]: Make ready for them whatever you can of armed strength and of mounted pickets [Koran 8:60]. We are prepared and ready, but victory is from Allah
. (Steven Stalinsky,
Palestinian Authority Sermons 2000-2003, Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Report No. 24, December 26, 2003.)
(*) On November 21, 2003, Muslims poured out of the Maiduguri Road Central Mosque after Friday prayers in the Nigerian city of Kaduna, demanding the implementation of Sharia law and distributing flyers stating: The only solution is Jihad, the type of jihad put into practise by Prophet Muhammed and exemplified by Shehu Usman Dan Fodio and the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. We Muslims should unite and embrace this concept of jihad that will undoubtedly empower us to destroy oppression and oppressors, and in its place establish Islam. (Adeyeye Joseph and Agaju Madugba, Bomb Scare in Lagos, This Day, November 22, 2003.)
(*) As late as November 2003, the website of the Islamic Affairs Department (IAD) of the Saudi Arabian embassy in
Washington, D.C. contained exhortations to Muslims to wage violent jihad in emulation of Muhammad: The Muslims are required to raise the banner of Jihad in order to make the Word of Allah supreme in this world, to remove all forms of injustice and oppression, and to defend the Muslims. If Muslims do not take up the sword, the evil tyrants of this earth will be able to continue oppressing the weak and [the] helpless
. It quotes Muhammad delivering Allahs words: Whoever of My slaves comes out to fight in My way seeking My pleasure, I guarantee him that I will compensate his suffering with reward and booty (during his lifetime) and if he dies, I would forgive him, have mercy on him and let him enter Paradise. (Steven Stalinsky, The Islamic Affairs Department of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Special Dispatch No. 23, November 26, 2003.)
As you are well aware Mr. Fatah, the list goes
on and on. But look, on the one hand, even this debate makes your point to a certain degree. There are many Muslims, and obviously you included, who may not like this particular conversation and let us say these points about Muhammad. And Muslims like you want to defeat the Muslim extremists just as much as people like me do. So why go at each other and even divide ourselves from one another when we should be fighting the main enemy? Yes, true.
Having said that, there is a reality about Muhammad. And many jihadis see him as their inspiration and legitimation for violent jihad. Will ignoring this phenomenon really make things better? Isnt a more realistic approach for Muslims worldwide to honestly come to terms with the violence that Muhammad practised in word and deed and to renounce it, reinterpret it and understand it in new ways?
Or is that even possible? Because what will it mean for Islam?
But in any
case, denial will surely not make the problem go away.
Fatah: Muslims are their own worst enemies. Some Islamists invoke the memory and teachings of Prophet Muhammad to validate their own bloodlust. They do a terrible disservice to Islam, Muhammad and above all, ordinary Muslims.
Let me share with you what Mahatma Gandhi wrote about Muhammad.
"I wanted to know the best of one who holds todays undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind....I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to this friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and
surmounted every obstacle."
Gandhi is not alone in making an objective comment on the life and legacy of the Prophet. Perhaps the best description of Prophet Muhammad came from the American Episcopal bishop Bosworth Smith, who in his book Mohammad and Mohammadism (1874) wrote:
"...he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope's pretensions, Caesar without the legions of Caesar: without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue; if ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Mohammed, for he had all the power without its instruments and without its supports."
Of course you are right that Islamic extremists and many Wahabbi Imams have a different view of Muhammad and they reduce him to mirror their own hateful personalities. In their quest to justify suicide bombings and the spread
of terror, they mention Muhammad, but trust me, their intellectual sustenance comes from Syed Qutb and Syed Maudoodi, both 20th century characters who have reduced Islam to nothing more than one endless Jihad to conquer the world. We will not let them succeed.
Well, the different positions on this issue I think have been made clear in our discussion. Overall, let us hope that Muslim such as yourselves will not let the jihadis succeed in what you have said above.What is your book about overall? What is the main argument?Fatah:
As I said earlier, Chasing a Mirage
is an attempt to do two things; one is to urge Muslims to understand their own history and to study it as such and not mistake history for theology. It's an attempt to bring to my fellow Muslims aspects of our heritage that has so far been considered taboo. The main argument I make is that there is a
huge difference between the "Islamic State" and the "State of Islam ". One requires the politicization of my faith while the other provides a moral compass for humanity. It's an attempt to help non-Muslims distinguish between the ordinary Muslim, who has nothing to do with the worldwide terror blitz by Jihadis, and the Islamists who are using Islam as a political tool inflicting tremendous harm on fellow Muslims.FP:
What kind of Muslim are you? How would you describe and label yourself?Fatah:
I am an ordinary Muslim, the typical 9-to-5 working class guy with a family and a mortgage who likes ice-cream, soccer, an occasional ball game, loves music and dance, CSI and X-files and who occasionally prays to God for forgiveness and strength, though I feel the good Lord is on a long leave of absence paying attention to another galaxy. But seriously speaking, my parents were Sunni Muslim, I am married to a Shia, I have done the
Hajj--twice--and am drawn to Islam by my fascination with Prophet Muhammad who within two decades turned a locust-eating primitive people to change the course of human history, demolishing the very clergy that is today holding the faith of Islam and one billion Muslims hostage. If you are asking for a label, then I am comfortable being known as a 'liberal Muslim' or a 'secular Muslim' or even a 'progressive' one. You take a pick. I am fighting to keep Islam and politics separate and this is what has kept me going for the last 40 years.FP:
How do you think the Left is handling itself in our confrontation with Islamofascism?Fatah:
The Left has betrayed its own principles of universal human rights and equality when it has put its lot with that of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian Ayatollahs and their bagmen in Hamas and Hezbullah. The Left should know these goons. They hunted us down and killed many of us secular and leftwing
Muslims. Now a demoralized and intellectually bankrupt Left has thrown in the towel and it seems it has accepted the defeat of socialism and kept its addiction to politics by marching under the flag of Qaradawi, Bin Laden and Nasrallah. How on earth this came about is still a puzzle to me.
The Left should have learnt its lessons in 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini slaughtered almost 50,000 Iranian comrades of various left factions ranging from communist to social democrats. They were wiped out. Next door in Afghanistan , the Taliban massacred the cadre of leftwing political parties--fellow Muslims--yet today the stalwarts of the Left who choose to live in the comfortable West that they hate, march in solidarity with the despotic Ahmedinejad and the Islamofacsist Nasrallah of Hezbollah.
All I can say is that the Left will be the first to be killed if the Islamists gain absolute power in the Muslim world. What a pity. The movement whose strength
lay in its appeal for a more enlightened and equal world has surrendered to those who are misogynists and homophobes, institutionalizing the second class status of women and the disabled while spreading hate against Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Christians while indulging in suicide bombings of fellow Muslims of different sects.
Barbarism should never have had appeal for the Left,
but it seems in its current people-starved existence, some in the Left have made allies with the devil. God bless them.FP:
We absolutely agree on the Left's behaviour in this terror war. Where we would disagree is that this behaviour, which you appear to see as a new departure, I would argue is simply a normal continuation of a sacred tradition of the Left. I have difficulty understanding your point that "barbarism should never have had an appeal for the Left," since the monstrosity of the communist experiments in the 20th
Century was made possible
by leftist ideals. And that is why the Left supported and excused many of the horrifying earthly incarnations of socialism in the 20th
The Left's devotion to tyrannies throughout the 20th
century has been documented by, among others, Paul Hollander in Political Pilgrims
When Michael Moore, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, George Galloway, Naomi Klein and other leftists reach out in solidarity to the Islamofascists, this is nothing new; it is simply an extention of the traditional leftist romance with communist mass murderers, despots and terrorists in the 20th
Century. Let's not forget, for instance, the fellow travelers, the venerators of tyranny, such as George Bernard Shaw, Anne Louise Strong, Jean Paul Sartre, Simon de Beauvoir, Susan Sontag, Mary McCarthy, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Chomsky etc., who represented the Left well in terms of how Western progressives reached out
in solidarity to the West's despotic enemies. Fatah:
Call me naive in this respect, but I was drawn to the Left as an answer to the horrible conditions of the poor that I saw all around me. The suffering of the teeming millions who faced horrible working conditions as their employers--my family included-- lived in a bubble of prosperity that would be the envy of the rich in the West.
For me the rights of the factory workers and the landless peasants brought me to the Left and made me fight the military dictators who nourished such blatant inequality. You are right about the atrocities committed under communism and history has delivered its verdict. However, seeing the fight for social justice purely through the lens of communism is also not fair. Today when we enjoy a 5-day workweek, annual vacations, a public education system and access to healthcare for all citizens, we have to give credit where it is due. These social rights came as a result of the work of European social democrats and I would say are rooted in the American and the French Revolutions of the 18th century.
FP: Well continue this discussion perhaps in another time and place. Suffice it to say, the Lefts position in this terror war is a shameless one and it is nothing new from the way the Left behaved vis-ŕ-vis the communist monsters of the 20th century.But lets move on. Why are Muslim countries failures in offering freedom, human rights and equality?
Fatah: There are multiple reasons why Muslim countries have failed to honour their obligations as signatories to the 1948 UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, or to provide equality, freedom and individual liberty to its citizens.
I risk boring you with a history lesson, but it is worth remembering that at the core of Muslim civilization is the Arab world. The Arabs may not constitute
more than 20% of the world's Muslims, but they form the cornerstone of our community. As the Arabs went so did the rest of us. Unfortunately for all of us the death knell delivered to Arab civilization in the 1258 burning of Baghdad and the1452 expulsion from Spain destroyed our intelligentsia and delivered the Arabs into the arms of the ultra orthodox clergy that rejected all learning.
Since then the Arab world has looked at the past for its sustenance, not the future. Of course, there were other Muslim empires like the Ottoman caliphate that took up the baton from the crumbling caliphate of the Abbasids, but they too were suspicious of the sciences and the Renaissance. In the east the Moguls ruled India while Indonesia and the Malays joined Islamdom. This was the time the world witnessed the voyages of the great Chinese Muslim Admiral Zheng as he sailed acorss oceans. However, no one could emulate the era of learning that the Arabs had triggered
under the Omayyads of Spain or the Abbasids of Iraq.
It is said the printing press took 200 years to travel 200 miles to reach the Ottoman empire and then too it was rejected as a challenge to Allah and Islam. Without the printing press, Muslims lapsed into stagnation while Europe went through the Renaissance and the Reformation to first knock out the Catholic Church's grip on society and then usher in new thoughts and innovation both in faith and science. The likes of James Watt and Stuart Mills on the other shook up the world while Muslim lands fell one by one to the colonial enterprise.
That was just one aspect of the lack of human rights in Muslim countries. In the 20th century as freedom touched the shores of Muslim countries like Pakistan , Egypt , Indonesia and Iran and Turkey demolished the last vestiges of the moth-eaten caliphate, there was tremendous hope. There was hunger for democracy and modernity. Turkey , Iran , Pakistan , Egypt
and Indonesia were led by people who looked to the future, not the past.
However, whether your readers like to read this or not, the USA played the most significant role in destroying the nascent democratic institutions that were starting to show signs of growth with roots deep into the countryside of these largely poor nations.
The Cold War had begun and the US needed to circle the underbelly of the USSR . Who else but the Muslim world was there to be used in this effort. One by one democratically elected governments were either overthrown by CIA help or were undermined by internal coups to install monarchs or military dictators who were willing to fight the communist Russian bear. First the popular elected government of Iran led by Mossadegh was overthrown in a CIA sponsored coup in 1953 and the Shah of Iran was flown in to take over. Next door in Pakistan in 1958 another US backed coup dissolved parliament and installed Field Marshal Ayub
In Iraq, the CIA spirited Saddam Hussein from Cairo to help overthrow the government in Baghdad. In 1965, in Indonesia a bloodbath took place where Islamists were used by the American backed military coup to hunt down and massacre hundreds of thousands of secular, liberal and left wing Indonesians. Thus, the very people who could have built the democratic institutions in the Muslim world were wiped out. On the other hand the US propped up the medieval kingdom of Saudi Arabia and even today serves as a guarantor to the 5,000 princes and princelings who occupy the Muslim holy lands as surrogates of the Empire.
Today, the people and the institutions that could have introduced democracy, freedom and human rights to the Muslim world, lay in tatters, chased out or killed by regimes that relied on US support. Today the only Iranian group that can provide a challenge to the Iranian Mullahs has been banned by the US and Canada. There are times the
West needs to look at itself in the mirror and ask, "Did we create these monsters?" The answer is Yes.
FP: The U.S. confronted a vicious and evil totalitarian enemy in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and it took many different approaches to defeat it, a victory that all people who treasure freedom and liberty, and especially their own, should be grateful for. American behaviour might not have been pristine during this battle with totalitarian evil, and some less than savory regimes and characters might have had to be supported to win this battle against evil. But blaming America for the failure of democracy in the Islamic world fails to take into account the all-encompassing nature of political Islam, no? Surely the Muslim world's lack of human rights has something to do with Islam's teachings. Has not Islam been a political and social system as well as an individual religious faith from the time of Muhammad until the abolition of the
caliphate? Doesn't the imperative to impose Sharia have much more to do with the failure of democracy in the Islamic world than American policy?
Fatah: Let me put it this way. If today the Catholic Church was allowed to interfere in the socio-political life of say Quebec, and we went back to the Duplessis era, would you then blame the suffocation inflicted on the Quebecois on Christianity?
Democracy and freedom can only flourish when religion is taken out of the realm of politics and governance of the state. Whether it is Islam or Christianity, as soon as the clerics run the state, and speak as interlocutors between human and God, say goodbye to liberty. Blaming Islam as fundamentally anti-democratic is unfair. What would be more accurate is to say that whenever law making is taken away from elected parliaments and placed in the hands of those who claim to speak directly to the Divine, the absence of human rights will be
Muslims themselves have to blame for their ills, but the role of the U.S. in propping up Saudi Arabia, the number one source of our problems, and the American appetite for Kings and dictators in the Muslim world throughout the Cold War, cannot be swept under the carpet.
FP: Fair enough, but can the fact that there is no separation of Church and State in Islam be swept under the rug?
Fatah: Well, there was no separation between Church and State in Christianity too. Didnt we overcome that about 200 years ago? Didn't the Catholic Church have an iron grip on much of Europe? Wasn't it the oppression of the 'official religion' of Britain that led to the 'pilgrims' landing on Plymouth Rock seeking freedom of religion?
It took the father of the American Revolution to trigger the freedoms we all take for granted in the West. It was the French Revolution that knocked the socks off the
Church's power in France and the rest of Europe. If this freedom and liberty is good enough for Christians and Europeans and Americans, then why not for Arabs, Iranians, Turks and Pakistanis, specially those who have chosen to move to the US or Canada. We too will throw out the Mullahs just as God fearing Christians told their clergy to keep away from pronouncing laws and selling passports to paradise. Our time has also come. We Muslims deserve better than the joy-hating cranky pretenders of piety who stand as guard dogs in our quest to take ownership of Islam.
FP: Islam has never developed the distinction between religious and secular law because Islam does not allow for it, and Christianity developed it because the principle of the separation is inherent in Christianity (i.e. render to Caesar what is Caesar's etc.)
In any case, let us hope that Muslims reformers like you can succeed in helping to reform
Islam in this context -- taking religion out of the realm of politics and governance of the state as you say.
Before we go, let's focus on an essential matter that your work focuses on: the "Islamic State" and "Jihad". Could you talk a bit about that?
Fatah: As far as the Islamic State is concerned, nowhere in the Quran is it obligatory for Muslims to work towards creating such a political entity. A Muslim is a person who believes in the unity of God, just like the Jews, and who is required to perform daily prayers, give charity, observe a dawn to dusk fast during the month of Ramadan and finally, if he or she can afford it, perform the pilgrimage of Hajj, once in a lifetime.
Nowhere is the creation of an Islamic State an obligation of a Muslim. Whether I live in Mecca or Montreal, I can be a Muslim irrespective of my surroundings. This notion of creating an Islamic State as an act of worship or religiosity has led to countless tragedies and wars with brothers killing brothers, mothers murdering stepsons and Kings brutalizing their subjects, all in the name of creating and maintaining an Islamic State. My book explodes this myth and I challenge the Islamists to debate me anywhere and anytime on this subject.
As far as Jihad is concerned, it has multiple meanings, but trust me, no matter what the Islamists chirp, when they use the word Jihad, they mean "Holy War" against deviant Muslims and the Infidel Christians, Jews and Hindus.
Islam permits such a war, but my contention is that it is an outdated construct that needs to be rejected by all Muslims just as they have rejected the institutions of slavery and concubinage--both of them permitted under sharia law and Islam.
Those Muslims who are unwilling to say that there is no place for the institution of armed Jihad in international relations,
have a lot to answer for. On one hand they condemn terrorism committed by jihadis, yet they are reluctant to distance themselves from the doctrine that drives the jihadis--Jihad.
Here again, it is Syed Maudoodi and Syed Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood who have endorsed and urged young Muslims to kill in the name of Islam.
In his book, Understanding Islam, which is available and distributed in Canada and US, Syed Maudoodi exhorts ordinary Muslims to launch jihad, as in armed struggle, against non-Muslims.
"Jihad is part of this overall defense of Islam," he writes. In case the reader is left with any doubt about the meaning of the word "jihad," Mr. Maudoodi clarifies: "In the language of the Divine Law, this word [jihad] is used specifically for the war that is waged solely in the name of God against those who perpetrate oppression as enemies of Islam. This supreme sacrifice is the responsibility of all
Maudoodi goes on to label Muslims who refuse the call to armed jihad as apostates:
"Jihad is as much a primary duty as are daily prayers or fasting. One who avoids it is a sinner. His every claim to being a Muslim is doubtful. He is plainly a hypocrite who fails in the test of sincerity and all his acts of worship are a sham, a worthless, hollow show of deception."
In addition, here is what Mr. Qutb, another Egyptian stalwart of the Islamist movement and the Muslim Brotherhood, writes in his classic book Milestones:
"Any place where Islamic Sharia is not enforced and where Islam is not dominant becomes the Home of Hostility (Dar-ul-Harb). ... A Muslim will remain prepared to fight against it, whether it be his birthplace or a place where his relatives reside or where his property or any other material
interests are located."
Syed Qutb reduces the message of Islam to the rejection of all laws made by parliaments. He says: "The basis of the message [Islam] is that one should accept the Shariah without any question and reject all other laws in any shape or form. This is Islam."
Well, I have a message for the late Syed Qutb: "This is NOT Islam."
You have bravely stood up against the Islamofascists and they have threatened you many times. But you continue to fight and speak out.
From where do you get your courage?Fatah:
Mine is not an act of courage; it is just doing my job. Trying to make sure that non-Muslims realize it is not Muslims who are the problem, it is Islamists they have to worry about. Islam is not a threat to the West; it is the Mullahs who mix Islam and politics who need to be watched. I have had my share of death threats and physical violence, and
sometimes I do get scared, but I am a follower of Gandhi and will not be cowed by schoolyard bullies. If they get me, so what. I am 58 and feel I have a good run.FP:
Tarek Fatah, thank you for joining us today.Fatah:
It was pleasure. I hope your readers realize that we are in this together. Muslim and non-Muslim, black and white, young and old, male and female. We have to come together to defeat the hate inspired Islamofascism that is a radical political ideology, not Islam.
Absolutely my friend, we are in this together and we have to do this together. Thank you very much for joining us. It was an honor to speak with you. I would like to remind our readers that anyone who would like to contact Mr Fatah can do so by emailing him at tarekfatah@...
August 8, 2008
As the West Sleeps, Islamists Work on
Establishing a Worldwide Islamic State
(Part I of II)
By Dr. Zuhdi Jasser
American Islamic Forum for Democracy
While we in the West sleep, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, is whispering in Arabic to hundreds of millions of Muslims how to establish Islamic states. In July he wrote two extensive columns (on July 13th and
July 22nd) on the subject of the Islamic state in Arabic.
Some Islamist apologists who remain ignorant of the threat of the Islamic state argue that the ascendancy of political Islam in the Muslim world is the better of other evils that could arise. Many Muslims and non-Muslims alike across the world, however, believe that it is self-evident that the ascendancy of political Islam will remain a significant security threat to the United States and to the West for decades to come as it has been so obviously so for anti-Islamist Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the Middle East.
This security threat is manifold. The attempt to create Islamic states which derive their laws from the theological interpretations of Islam and Sharia by clerics will always give rise to variant forms of internal and transnational movements which are supremacist in their worldview and thus justify various forms of terrorism against non-Muslims. Many in the state department believe that somehow Muslims are sentenced to live under the Islamist rule and rather governments which are pluralistic and are blind to a single religion are not possible under Muslims majority governments.
Many of us would beg to differ. While this may be the line which the Muslim Brotherhood would like us to accept without debate, the reality is that a plurality if not a majority of Muslims refuse to subscribe to the religio-political collectivism of the Muslim Brotherhood and the now archaic concept of the Islamic state.
Up to this point, we have done very little in the public space to expose and engage the real ideological motives of the Muslim Brotherhood. The discourse over political Islam continues to grow but without reviewing source material and their discourse in Arabic we will make little headway. Some have been doing this but real time debate among Muslims is sparse to nonexistent over the subject of political Islam.
The English discourse over issues related to political Islam by the MB is hypocritically filtered for the Western audience. One need just review the MBs English website and compare it to their Arabic website. They are not simple translations of one another. Same organization, same ultimate mission, very different messaging for very different fronts in the same conflict. A real debate over political Islam will only occur when we engage
the ideas they present to their Arabic audience, as well.
The English version of their message plays a mere peripheral cosmetic role based out of London. The Arabic version stems from deep within their soul and reflects their home base of operations. The major difference between them reflects their dissimulation and hypocrisy. Thus, true anti-Islamist activity must center on their deeply engrained ideologies which are expressed in Arabic.
This requires a Counter-Project to refute and confront the ongoing Project of the Muslim Brotherhood and it will certainly take some time in its development. MB and current day political Islam took over a century to develop. I pray our response can be developed much more quickly. Just as the MB early on devised a plan as outlined in their project and effectuated at numerous meetings such as the 1993 Philadelphia meeting, so too should anti-Islamist Muslims begin to meet in the West and in Arabic countries and devise mechanisms of exposing and countering the ideologies of Islamist movements most notable of which is the MB.
While the origins of the MB derive from the writings of Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna, todays spiritual leader of the MB remains Yusef Al-Qaradawi. He is the master of Islamist doublespeak. Yet, anyone with an iota of energy to search a few of his political commentaries will find a plethora of radical commentaries and outright militancy when speaking to Muslim and Arabic audiences. He has endorsed terrorist acts, suicide bombings against Israelis in Israel and against Americans in Iraq to name a few.
He has stated in April 2001 on suicide operations that these are not suicide operations but are heroic martyrdom operations." He has endorsed spousal abuse, death for apostates, a forward Jihad, and the reestablishment of the Islamic Caliphate as summarized by the Investigative Project.
In English he contributes to the Qatar-based IslamOnline providing fatwas (religious opinions) read by millions of Muslims like this one permitting women to perform suicide operations in Israel. He appears regularly on AlJazeera, also out of Qatar which is viewed by over 80 million daily spewing the same vacillation between
militancy and his hypocritical Middle Way (Wasatiya) making himself appear moderate when he is in fact a radical.
Al-Qaradawis site in Arabic lately seems to be trying to lay the groundwork for the latest iteration and foundations of political Islam. On July 22, 2008 he published a lead Arabic article explaining at length how the Islamic State is in line with the essence of democracy. And before that he also published a major piece at his website on July 13, 2008 stating that, the Islamic state is a civil state which derives its authority from Islam. (translation provided by AIFD)
Lets look at these columns and begin to dissect some possible Muslim responses to his Islamist worldview. Both of his columns seem to be laying out the strategy of how to counter the secularist argument being made for freedom by some Muslims. He feigns advancement in his writing claiming to be building upon his own MB ideological forefathers in Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of Jamaat Al-Islamayia in Pakistan, and his own mentor Sayyid Qutb from Egypt.
Make no mistake: while some MB leadership try to marginalize Qaradawis influence, he is the present day Godfather of MB philosophy. To quote from an MB site posting of an IslamOnline article from just a few weeks ago on July 18, 2008:
Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is a pure product of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. His only activist and ideological affiliation is to the Muslim Brotherhood and he has never frankly opposed it. Al Qaradawi has been defined by the Muslim Brotherhood Movement perhaps as much it is defined by him. They have been related in all stages of his life.
And earlier in 2006 he stated, "the MB asked me to be a chairman, but I preferred to be a spiritual guide for the entire nation"
In Qaradawis description of the Islamic state in his July 13, 2008 column on his website, he in detail describes how leaders in the Islamic state are selected by influential people. He tries to imply that they are democratically elected but it is clearly an oligarchy. He uses examples of the first Caliph in Islamic history and discusses concepts of shura as being equivalent to
democracy. This is quite insulting to any Muslim living in a real democracy in the United States.
Yet, he implies that shura is a consultation just among the scholars or ulemaa alone and makes no mention whatsoever of how such a system preserves the equality of every citizen. Again his concept of democracy is clearly an oligarchy. His concept of the rule of law is Islamocentric derived from Sharia with no mention of a secular humanist approach as other real reformers such as Mohammed Al-Ashmawy have bravely discussed.
Al-Qaradawi rather describes it as governments role to propagate morality and prevent immorality. Thus the ruling class will impose religious interpretations upon the general population. This is done through his interpretation of Sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) or that of a few clerics, one would presume. He clearly states that the ruler is governed by sharia whose provisions cannot be canceled by man, since they come from God. He then uses this verse from Chapter 33 in the Koran to justify the Islamic state:
Now whenever God and His Apostle have decided a matter, it is not for a believing man or a believing woman to claim freedom of choice insofar as they themselves are concerned: for he who [thus] rebels against God and His Apostle has already, most obviously, gone astray. Koran 33:36
Qaradawi uses this verse to explain the Islamist concept of the rule of law in an Islamic state and the need for Muslims to submit to the rule of the scholars. Many Muslims would vehemently disagree with such an interpretation of our scripture and that verse. I believe the verse Qaradawi draws upon actually refers to an individual in their personal relationship with God. Nowhere does that verse refer to government or our affairs on earth. It is purely a personal discussion between God and the Muslim reader of the Koran. Conveniently, Qaradawi ignores the previous verse which stated,
And bear in mind all that is recited in your homes of Gods messages and [His] wisdom: for God is unfathomable [in His wisdom], all-aware. Koran 33:34.
Among many salient points, the most significant is the fact that this refers to recitation at home in a personal relationship of a Muslim with God. Again, not about government. It is a classic technique of Salafists to inappropriately pull out passages which they believe empowers them while ignoring the much more limiting larger contexts which have nothing to do with government and are isolated toward the individual, the family, or a specific incident in Islamic history.
Herein lies the central failure of the Islamic state. Their authority is autocratically imposed by the narcissistic belief of the so-called scholars that supposedly know the rulings of God and are the self-appointed instrument of Gods ruling on earth. Qaradawi also later in the piece makes the paradoxical but true claim that in Islam there are no clergy or intermediaries between an individual and God. But yet, he insists upon a legal governmental framework which is Islamic.
To imply that all citizens of an Islamic state are free from the autocratic tendencies of a system which empowers Sharia experts to guide government is nonsensical. Clearly Qaradawi is confused, schizophrenic, or dissimulating - you make the call.
If Qaradawi were intellectually honest rather than deceptively promote his interpretations of the Islamic state, he would explain what he perceives as the drawbacks of Jeffersonian democracy for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. He would have addressed why secular liberal democracies like the United States are inferior to his utopian Islamic state. As an American and as a Muslim I believe that the most ideal system of government for humanity is that based on the American Jeffersonian model where our Constitution is founded under God, our government preserves the inalienable rights of its citizens guaranteed by our Creator, and our representatives argue law blind to the dogma of any one religion focusing on a humanistic natural discourse based in reason.
Qaradawi also, in his column, dismisses the European history of failed Christian theocracy as being vastly different than the Islamic state. But in perfect doublespeak never removes the imams or scholars from their position of interpreting Gods laws for government and he never removes the injunction of running government by the legal tradition of only one faith versus that of all humanity. Clearly Qaradawi realizes his epistemological dilemma in ignoring the far more appealing and successful Western secular government than the Islamic state to humanity. As long as liberty-minded Muslims are unable to have an effective voice promoting liberty-based political ideologies, the ascendancy of the Islamic state as advocated by the likes of Qaradawi will continue unabated.
Qaradawi is relying on the assumption that no one is going to call him out on the fact that his explanations are fraught with errors and a Salafist mentality stuck in the 7th century versus a modernist one looking into the 21st century. He claims free will for everyone and religious freedom but yet continues to advocate for the Islamic state as if its existence is an a priori assumption which cannot be disputed. Not only should it be disputed its existence in concept is the greatest barrier to religious freedom for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is this usurpation of the domain of God by government for their own corrupting power on earth which is typical of the MB and demagogues like Qaradawi.
Government should be established upon a reasoned debate between all citizens, not just Muslims, not just clerics (or scholars), and not just based upon any theology (i.e. Islam) but rather founded in reason. For those Islamists who attempt to argue that the evolution of Sharia can be based in reason, they have yet to answer why that doesnt then make their language and focus upon Sharia entirely irrelevant and archaic in the public sphere if it is to respect people of all faiths or no faith.
Real reform and counterterrorism will only happen when the entire existence of the Islamic state can be questioned and the a priori assumption of clerics like Qaradawi dismissed. Columns like this one in Arabic by Al-Qaradawi can be countered in their essence through the complete intellectual de-legitimization of the Islamic state.
I believe the concept of the Islamic state can be countered logically from a position of religious freedom, against oligarchy, and for enlightenment. When positioned against Western liberal democracies founded in religious freedom, the Islamic state will never be able to live up to the same human potential for equally preserving the human integrity of every citizen and the personal nature of ones relationship with God.
And unless these so-called scholars have some sort of direct communication with God, their interpretations of Sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) are just human and their laws are just theocracy no matter which way Qaradawi and his MB try to conceal it and peddle it as democracy. They may enjoy calling Sharia Gods law, but in reality it is a human interpretation of Gods laws.
Thus it is no different in its power than secular laws based in reason. By clerics like Qaradawi, using Sharia and their interpretation of Gods will as a means to control a society, they are in fact abrogating the free will of individuals in exchange for their self-empowering clerical oligarchy.
Al-Qaradawi then takes particular effort to claim that clerics are not involved in the Islamic state since Islam has no clergy and makes the following absurd statement that Establishing the Islamic state as the government ideology does not mean that it is a religious state. He then ends with three observations in which he tries to repackage the Islamist ideologies of Maududi and Qutb as being non-theocratic. One should not only look at what he states but also what he does not say.
Throughout his piece, Qaradawi continues to rest upon the need for societal law to be driven by Sharia and the Islamic state. He never answers the question of the assumed need for the Islamic state and the oligarchy it empowers by its sheer existence. He makes no convincing case for how Sharia can be implemented by non-clerics and also accommodate equal access to government by non-Muslims who are not schooled in Sharia. His entire diatribe seems to be predicated on a Muslim-only government founded in a common supremacist mentality of Islamists.
This is where our public diplomacy dollars need to be spent. How many of our State Department employees are following Qaradawis Arabic writings and its influence upon impressionable Muslims? How many anti-Islamist Muslims are we helping such that they can empower other Muslims to take on al-Qaradawi and offer an alternative to his Islamist deceptions? Slim to none.
Ayatollah Khomeini stimulated an Islamist revolution by shipping in tapes from France of his diatribes before 1979 while he was exiled in Paris. When will anti-Islamist Muslim think tanks in America begin to similarly ship in thousands upon thousands of tapes, YouTube clips, CDs, DVDs, columns, pamphlets, books, audio files and other mediums containing the ideas of liberty founded in an adherence to a personal, non-governmental Islam?
The only effective counter to the artfully deceptive description of the Islamic state by individual like Al-Qaradawi is a counter-project to express the comfort of pious Muslims with governments which are secular and classically liberal and not based upon Sharia but rather upon human reason and true religious pluralism in government.
Part II I will continue the discussion with a review Qaradawis next Arabic language defense of the Islamic state in his July 22, 2008 article entitled, Islamic State in line with the essence of democracy.
It is a sad day. The national poet of Palestine Mahmoud Derwish passed away today in a Houston hospital. He was 67. May his soul rests in peace and may his unfulfilled dreams come true.
Darwish was lifelong thorn in the side of Israel, decrying its occupation of Palestinian territories. A member of the Israeli Communist Party, he was exiled in 1970 but came back to Ramallah in 1996.
He bitterly criticized Hamas' takeover of Gaza and in 2007. Addressing an audience of over 2,000 in the Israeli city of Haifa, he said:
"We woke up from a coma to see a monocolored flag (of Hamas) do away with the four-color flag (of Palestine). We have triumphed. Gaza won its independence from the West Bank. One people now have two states, two prisons who don't greet each other. We are victims dressed in executioners' clothing."
Khuda Hafiz Derwish. You had no children, but today we have all lost a father.
August 9, 2008
Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish dies
WASHINGTON (AFP) Mahmud Darwish, widely considered one of the greatest Palestinian poets, died Saturday in a US hospital following open-heart surgery, hospital officials told AFP.
"Mr Darwish has died at 1:35 pm (1835 GMT)," Ann Brimberry, a spokeswoman for the Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, where he was being treated told AFP.
The 67-year-old writer was placed on life support two days ago following complications arising from the surgery, a friend told AFP in Jerusalem earlier, asking not to be named.
Darwish has published more than two dozen books of poetry and prose rooted in his experience of Palestinian exile and the bitter Middle East conflict, in a career spanning nearly five decades.
Widely considered one of the Arab world's greatest poets, Darwish has been harshly critical of Israel over the years and was detained several times in the 1960s before going into self-imposed exile in 1970.
Over the next 25 years Darwish wandered from place to place, spending time in several Arab capitals and briefly residing in Moscow and Paris.
He received numerous literary awards during his career, including the Ibn Sina Prize, the Lenin Peace Prize, the 1969 Lotus prize from the Union of Afro-Asian Writers, France's Knight of Arts and Belles Lettres medal in 1997, the 2001 Prize for Cultural Freedom from the Lannan Foundation, the Moroccan Wissam of intellectual merit handed to him by King Mohammad VI of Morocco, and the Stalin Peace Prize, according to the Academy of American Poets.
"Darwish is the essential breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging," the poet Naomi Shihab Nye once said of him.
Born in 1941 in an Arab village in what is now northern Israel, Darwish and his family were expelled during the 1948 war that followed the creation of the Jewish state, though they returned to Israel a few years later.
A sequence of poetic prose written about his experience living in Beirut during the Israeli invasion and bombardment of Lebanon in 1982 was translated into English in 1995 under the title "Memory for Forgetfulness."
In 1988 he wrote the official Palestinian declaration of independence and served on the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) until 1993, when he resigned in protest at the Oslo autonomy accords.
He has been living in the West Bank town of Ramallah since 1995.
In 2000, a proposal by then Israeli education minister Yossi Sarid to teach Darwish's works in public schools sparked a political firestorm and led the right-wing opposition to register a no-confidence vote in the government.
In July 2007, Darwish decried the Islamist Hamas movement's bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip a month earlier in his first poetry recital in Israel since quitting the Jewish state in 1970.
"We woke up from a coma to see a monocolored flag (of Hamas) do away with the four-color flag (of Palestine)," Darwish said before some 2,000 people who attended the reading in the northern port city of Haifa. "We have triumphed," he said with thick irony. "Gaza won its independence from the West Bank. One people now have two states, two prisons who don't greet each other. We are victims dressed in executioners' clothing."
"We have triumphed knowing that it is the occupier who really won."
Following news of Darwish's death, the Palestinian ambassador to Jordan said Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas would send a plane to repatriate the body. Atallah Kheiry also told AFP in Amman that Abbas had "asked Palestinian officials to contact the Israeli authorities to press them (to allow) for the burial of Darwish in his native Galilee," in northern Israel.
Darwish previously underwent heart surgery in 1984 and 1998, with the latter operation inspiring the following verse: "I have defeated you, death/ All the beautiful arts have defeated you/ The songs of Mesopotamia, the obelisks of Egypt, the carved tombs of the pharaohs on the altar have defeated you, and you are vanquished."
The Muslim Brotherhoodâs Divine Weapons
August 11, 2008
Al-Qa'eda in Iraq alienated
by cucumber laws and brutality
Al-Qa'eda is losing support in Iraq because of a brutal crackdown on activities it regards as un-Islamic - including women buying cucumbers.
They include a ban on women buying suggestively-shaped vegetables, according to one tribal leader in the western province of Anbar.
Sheikh Hameed al-Hayyes, a Sunni elder, told Reuters: "They even killed female goats because their private parts were not covered and their tails were pointed upward, which they said was haram. "They regarded the cucumber as male and tomato as female. Women were not allowed to buy cucumbers, only men."
Other farcical stipulations include an edict not to buy or sell ice-cream, because it did not exist in the time of the Prophet, while hair salons and shops selling cosmetics have also been bombed. Most seriously, Sheikh al-Hayyes said: "I saw them slaughter a nine-year old boy like a sheep because his family didn't pledge allegiance to them."
Such tactics have triggered a backlash among Sunnis, whom Al-Q'aeda had claimed to be protecting, the sheikh and military leaders said.
Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Albers, an American intelligence officer, told the news agency: "Al-Qa'eda's very heavy-handed killing of civilians backfired on them. The Sunnis just wouldn't stand for it any more.
"The self-described protectors of the Sunni community now kill more Iraqi Sunnis than anyone else."
May 10, 1996
Suitcase No Longer His Homeland, a Poet Returns
Staying in a modest hotel room here this week, Mahmoud Darwish seemed no more than a traveler passing through town.
But after 26 years in exile, the man Palestinians consider their national poet felt he was coming home.
Over several days, Mr. Darwish, a 54-year-old Israeli Arab, had returned to his native Galilee, visited the West Bank and seen Jerusalem. The poet of Palestinian dispersion who had once written, "My homeland is a suitcase," had begun to unpack years of emotional baggage.
"I went back to being a child," he said of his trip. "I touched the trees and the stones, and felt as if I hadn't left. Time had stopped, and the circle was closed."
Mr. Darwish had been permitted a brief visit to Israel to take part in a film documentary about the Israeli Arab author Emile Habibi, but arrived to find that Mr. Habibi had just died. Instead of being reunited with his mentor, Mr. Darwish eulogized him at his funeral.
The Israeli authorities had lifted a years-long ban, allowing Mr. Darwish four days in Israel and an unlimited stay in the Palestinian self-rule areas of the West Bank. He visited his family in the Galilee village of Judeida, went back to Haifa where he had once lived and edited a newspaper, and read his poetry to thousands of Palestinian listeners.
Mr. Darwish had left Israel in 1970 after he was repeatedly jailed and put under travel restrictions because of what Israel considered subversive activities in Arab nationalist groups and the Communist Party. He spent a decade in Beirut and joined the Palestine Liberation Organization, serving a few years on its executive committee. After living in Paris for 10 years, he moved several months ago to Amman, Jordan.
He has published more than two dozen books, and is admired by Palestinians for his intensely political poetry that evokes their collective history. In one poem about exile, he wrote:
We travel like other people, but we return to nowhere.
We have a country of words.
But his sometimes bitter verses condemning Israel, praising the stone-throwers of the Palestinian uprising and criticizing the P.L.O.'s accord with the Israelis have made them wary of letting the influential writer return to Israel.
Mr. Darwish calls his current visit a breakthrough, and says he now wants to reclaim his Israeli citizenship so that he can go back to the Galilee for good.
The demand reflects the paradoxes of Mr. Darwish's life. A nationalist who shaped the Palestinian Declaration of Independence adopted by the P.L.O. in 1988, he is now determined to obtain a new Israeli identity card so that he can live again in his country.
"For the Arabs in Israel there is always a tension between nationality and identity," Mr. Darwish said. "I accept any document that preserves my right to be there."
At a homecoming reception by throngs of well-wishers in Judeida, Mr. Darwish confronted his decision to go into exile. Life abroad had broadened his horizons in ways he would have never experienced at home, he said, but the gathering at the village was overwhelming.
"There were thousands of people in the soccer field, and they had signs that said, 'We love you, stay with us,' " he recalled. "I cried. I felt guilty, and for the first time I apologized for leaving. In my speech I said: 'I'm sorry I left you. I'll never leave you again.'
"I hadn't forgotten them, I had written about their place and their tragedy, but the boy in me felt that he has to go home."
Mr. Darwish visited the grave of his father, who died seven years ago and whose funeral he could not attend. He traveled to the coastal town of Acre, where people greeted him on the streets.
"I thought I was forgotten, but I discovered that they still love me and know my poems," he said. "The country is so beautiful. I was 27 when I left, and now I looked at it with new eyes, a new heart."
Although he believes that the self-rule accords are deeply flawed and leave Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza firmly under Israeli control, Mr. Darwish said he detected new hope there. He visited Gaza last September.
"For the first time people have something in hand," he said. "It's very small and very humble, but reality is richer than before. It's like a very big prison, but the prisoners have hope that they will be released." True freedom, he asserted, could only come through a Palestinian state on an equal footing with Israel.
In the meantime, Mr. Darwish said, Palestinians have to abandon the bravado of their years of resistance.
"We Palestinians badly need to shift from the heroic image to simple, normal life," he said. "The collective voyage is ending, the Palestinian cause is coming to its end. We gave thousands of martyrs in order to be normal. We have to be more human now, to work the earth, to grow flowers."
Mr. Darwish said he, too, wants to settle down. Although he is to return to Jordan in a few days, he plans to visit the West Bank often and help promote a project to build cultural institutions like museums, theaters and libraries. Eventually he wants to go back to where he once lived in Israel.
"I'm 54 now, I have to go home," he said. But then he added: "Maybe I'll leave again, maybe I'll find that the real exile is in my homeland. I'm not sure."
August 14, 2008
We need to stop being
such cowards about Islam
This is a column condemning cowardice including my own. It begins with the story of a novel you cannot read. The Jewel of Medina was written by a journalist called Sherry Jones.
It recounts the life of Aisha, a girl who was married off at the age of six to a 50-year-old man called Mohamed ibn Abdallah. On her wedding day, Aisha was playing on a see-saw outside her home. Inside, she was being betrothed. The first she knew of it was when she was banned from playing out in the street with the other children. When she was nine, she was taken to live with her husband, now 53. He had sex with her. When she was 14, she was accused of adultery with a man closer to her own age. Not long after, Mohamed decreed that his wives must cover their faces and bodies, even though no other women in Arabia did.
You cannot read this story today except in the Koran and the Hadith. The man Mohamed ibn Abdallah became known to Muslims as "the Prophet Mohamed", so our ability to explore this story is stunted. The Jewel of Medina was bought by Random House and primed to be a best-seller before a University of Texas teacher saw proofs and declared it "a national security issue". Random House had visions of a re-run of the Rushdie or the Danish cartoons affairs. Sherry Jones's publisher has pulped the book. It's gone.
In Europe, we are finally abolishing the lingering blasphemy laws that hinder criticism of Christianity. But they are being succeeded by a new blasphemy law preventing criticism of Islam enforced not by the state, but by jihadis. I seriously considered not writing this column, but the right to criticise religion is as precious and hard-won as the right to criticise government. We have to use it or lose it.
Some people will instantly ask: why bother criticising religion if it causes so much hassle? The answer is: look back at our history. How did Christianity lose its ability to terrorise people with phantasms of sin and Hell? How did it stop spreading shame about natural urges pre-marital sex, masturbation or homosexuality? Because critics pored over the religion's stories and found gaping holes of logic or morality in them. They asked questions. How could an angel inseminate a virgin? Why does the Old Testament God command his followers to commit genocide? How can a man survive inside a whale?
Reinterpretation and ridicule crow-barred Christianity open.
Ask enough tough questions and faith is inevitably pushed farther and farther back into the misty realm of metaphor where it is less likely to inspire people to kill and die for it. But doubtful Muslims, and the atheists who support them, are being prevented from following this path. They cannot ask: what does it reveal about Mohamed that he married a young girl, or that he massacred a village of Jews who refused to follow him? You don't have to murder many Theo Van Goghs or pulp many Sherry Joneses to intimidate the rest. The greatest censorship is internal: it is in all the books that will never be written and all the films that will never be shot, because we are afraid.
We need to acknowledge the double-standard and that it will cost Muslims in the end. Insulating a religion from criticism surrounding it with an electric fence called "respect" keeps it stunted at its most infantile and fundamentalist stage. The smart, questioning and instinctively moral Muslims the majority learn to be silent, or are shunned (at best). What would Christianity be like today if George Eliot, Mark Twain and Bertrand Russell had all been pulped? Take the most revolting rural Alabama church, and metastasise it.
Since Jones has brought it up, let us look at Mohamed's marriage to Aisha as a model for how we can conduct this conversation. It is true those were different times, and it may have been normal for grown men to have sex with prepubescent girls. The sources are not clear on this point. But whatever culture you live in, having sex when your body is not physically developed can be an excruciatingly painful experience. Among Vikings, it was more normal than today to have your arm chopped off, but that didn't mean it wasn't agony. If anything, Jones's book whitewashes this, suggesting that Mohamed's "gentleness" meant Aisha enjoyed it.
The story of Aisha also prompts another fundamentalist- busting discussion. You cannot say that Mohamed's decision to marry a young girl has to be judged by the standards of his time, and then demand that we follow his moral standards to the letter. Either we should follow his example literally, or we should critically evaluate it and choose for ourselves. Discussing this contradiction inevitably injects doubt the mortal enemy of fanaticism (on The Independent' s Open House blog later today, I'll be discussing how Aisha has become the central issue in a debate in Yemen about children and forced marriage).
So why do many people who cheer The Life Of Brian and Jerry Springer: The Opera turn into clucking Mary Whitehouses when it comes to Islam? If a book about Christ was being dumped because fanatics in Mississippi might object, we would be enraged. I feel this too. I am ashamed to say I would be more scathing if I was discussing Christianity. One reason is fear: the image of Theo Van Gogh lying on a pavement crying "Can't we just talk about this?" Of course we rationalise it, by asking: does one joke, one column, one novel make much difference? No. But cumulatively? Absolutely.
The other reason is more honourable, if flawed. There is very real and rising prejudice against Muslims across the West. The BBC recently sent out identically- qualified CVs to hundreds of employers. Those with Muslim names were 50 per cent less likely to get interviews. Criticisms of Islamic texts are sometimes used to justify US or Israeli military atrocities. Some critics of Muslims Geert Wilders or Martin Amis moot mass human rights abuses here in Europe. So some secularists reason: I have plenty of criticisms of Judaism, but I wouldn't choose to articulate them in Germany in 1933. Why try to question Islam now, when Muslims are being attacked by bigots?
But I live in the Muslim majority East End of London, and this isn't Weimar Germany. Muslims are secure enough to deal with some tough questions. It is condescending to treat Muslims like excitable children who cannot cope with the probing, mocking treatment we hand out to Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. It is perfectly consistent to protect Muslims from bigotry while challenging the bigotries and absurdities within their holy texts.
There is now a pincer movement trying to silence critical discussion of Islam. To one side, fanatics threaten to kill you; to the other, critics call you "Islamophobic" . But consistent atheism is not racism. On the contrary: it treats all people as mature adults who can cope with rational questions. When we pulp books out of fear of fundamentalism, we are decapitating the most precious freedom we have.
August 18, 2008
SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH GERHARD SCHRÖDER
'Serious Mistakes by the West'
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder discusses the war in the Caucasus, the possibility of Germany serving as an intermediary in the conflict and his belief in a constructive role for Russia.
Der Spiegel, Germany
SPIEGEL: Mr. Schröder, who is at fault for the Caucasus war?
Gerhard Schröder: The hostilities undoubtedly have their historic causes, as well, and the conflict has had several historic precursors. But the moment that triggered the current armed hostilities was the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia. This should not be glossed over.
Georgian soldiers after returning to Tbilisi from the Iraq war on August 11: Saakashvili "an obvious gambler"
SPIEGEL: You see no partial fault on Moscow's part, no lack of proportionality in the actions of the Russian military?
Schröder: That is something I cannot and do not wish to judge. But we know, of course, that military conflicts develop their own dynamics. The crucial issue now is that all parties involved will take advantage of the French president's six-point plan.
SPIEGEL: Do you believe that the American military advisors stationed in Tbilisi encouraged Georgia to launch its attack?
Schröder: I wouldn't go that far. But everyone knows that these US military advisors in Georgia exist -- a deployment that I've never considered particularly intelligent. And it would have been strange if these experts had not had any information. Either they were extremely unprofessional or they were truly fooled, which is hard to imagine.
SPIEGEL: The US government claims that it warned Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili against taking military action. But wasn't the whole thing only too convenient for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin?
Schröder: These are speculations in which I prefer not to participate. I assume that no one in the Moscow leadership has an interest in military conflicts. There are enough internal problems in Russia that need to be solved. For instance, corruption and abuse of authority must be addressed. Russia has plenty of deficits, an issue I've addressed many a time. President (Dmitry) Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin are addressing these problems -- together, by the way, in friendship and mutual respect, not in competition with one another, as journalistic fortune-tellers often imply.
SPIEGEL: That may well be, but something else is now at stake: Russia has never overcome the loss of its superpower status, and in recent years it has felt cornered and humiliated by NATO. During the wars in the Balkans, the Iraq invasion by the "Coalition of the Willing" under Washington's leadership, the Kosovo declaration of independence ...
Schröder: ... don't forget the development of an American missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic ...
SPIEGEL: ... the Kremlin has been forced to look on. Isn't it possible that an economically and militarily strengthened Moscow now sees US friend Saakashvili as the best possible opportunity to retaliate against the West? And that Putin wants to assert imperial claims?
Schröder: In my view, there have indeed been serious mistakes made by the West in its policy toward Russia. Can we conclude that this bears some relationship to the recent events in the Caucasus, as Russia's response, so to speak, to the Georgian provocation? I think it's wrong to combine these two notions.
SPIEGEL: You don't share the newly erupted fear among many in the West of a "Russian threat?"
Schröder: No, not at all. There is a perception of Russia in the West that has very little to do with reality.
SPIEGEL: Could the new, highly self-confident leadership duo in Moscow feel that the West needs them more than they need the West?
Schröder: It is a mutual dependency. There is not a single critical problem in world politics or the global economy that could be solved without Russia -- not the nuclear conflict with Iran, the North Korea question and certainly not bringing peace to the Middle East. The set of problems relating to the climate can also only be addressed universally. Incidentally, Moscow ratified the Kyoto Protocol to fight global warming, while we are still waiting for Washington to do so. And when it comes to energy policy, only dreamers can pursue the idea that Western Europe could become independent of Russian oil and natural gas. On the other hand, the Russians need reliable buyers for their energy shipments.
SPIEGEL: You see no reason, in light of the harsh actions in the Caucasus, to terminate the special German-Russian "strategic partnership," or at least to put it on ice?
Schröder: No. I don't see why this concept should be jeopardized because of Georgia. Mutual dependencies also create mutual securities. I am also opposed to criticism of Russian investments in Germany. Who should have a problem with Mr. (Alexei) Mordashov investing in the (tourism company) TUI, Mr. (Oleg) Deripaska owning 10 percent of (the construction company) Hochtief or another oligarch owning a share of the fashion house Escada? I would like to see more and not less investment in the German economy. Historically speaking, such economic integration has proven to be politically beneficial.
SPIEGEL: Now you sound like (former US Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger. Have you always thought this way?
Schröder: Certainly not in my Young Socialist days. But ever since I became professionally involved in foreign policy as chancellor, this sober approach has always been my preference -- and it's certainly the most reasonable one.
SPIEGEL: With all due respect to cool-headed realpolitik: Don't we have to draw a red line now, one that Moscow cannot cross if it wants to continue playing a role in international institutions and as a partner of the West? Immediate withdrawal of all troops from Georgia, for example, and recognition of its territorial integrity, as US Secretary of State Rice has vehemently demanded?
Schröder: I do not believe that Russia is pursuing a policy of annexation. And I also do not believe that there can be a return to the status quo ante in South Ossetia or Abkhazia. It's out of the question. In my opinion, this has less to do with supposed Russian expansionist interests than with the wishes of the civilian population.
SPIEGEL: Should Germany participate militarily in a peacekeeping force in the Caucasus?
Schröder: The German foreign minister has long been involved in the search for political solutions through his shuttle diplomacy, and he has astutely said that if the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were to play a role in coordination with the parties to the conflict, Germany could not be uninvolved. However, if there is a mission without express Russian consent, I do not want to see any German soldiers stationed there. This is simply a matter of our shared history.
SPIEGEL: Does Georgia belong in NATO?
Schröder: I thought that the German government -- and I certainly wish to compliment Ms. Merkel and Mr. Steinmeier in this regard -- together with the French government, took the smart approach at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April ...
SPIEGEL: ... because they opposed the Americans' and the Eastern Europeans' desire for fast acceptance of Georgia and Ukraine, and instead shelved the issue with what amounted to vague promises.
Schröder: Imagine if we were forced to intervene militarily on behalf of Georgia as a NATO country, on behalf of an obvious gambler, which is clearly the way one ought to characterize Saakashvili. Georgia and Ukraine must first resolve their domestic political problems, and they are still a long way off. I see the chances of Georgian accession becoming even more remote as a result of the recent events in the Caucasus and, in this connection, I have great difficulties following the rather ostentatious promises made by the NATO secretary general a few days ago.
SPIEGEL: The Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, followed up by saying: "Today we're all Georgians."
Schröder: I am not.
August 19, 2008
My city Sialkot
By Kuldip Nayar
The Nation, Lahore
I did not want to leave Sialkot city. This was my home. I was born and brought up here. Why could not I, a Hindu, live in the Islamic State of Pakistan when there would be hundreds of thousands of Muslims residing in India? True, the religion was the basis of the partition. But then both the Congress and the Muslim League, the main political parties, had opposed the exchange of population. People could stay wherever they were. Then why on August 14, 1947, I was unwelcome at a place where my forefathers and their forefathers had lived for decades.
Our family had other reasons to stay back. Most patients of my father, a medical practitioner, were Muslims. My best friend, Shafqat, with whom I had grown up, lived in Sialkot. At his mere wish I had tattooed on my right arm, the Islamic insignia, crescent and star. I was a graduate in Persian. Pakistan had declared Urdu as its official language with which I felt at home. We had a large property and a retinue of servants. Where would we go if we were to uproot ourselves?
Then our spiritual guardian was there. It was not a superstition but our faith that the grave in our back garden was that of a Pir who protected us and guided the family whenever it faced troubles. How could we leave the Pir? The grave was our refuge. We always found relief there. Our Maa, whenever harassed or after her quarrel with our father, ran to the grave for solace. We, three brothers and one sister, bowed before the Pir every Thursday in reverence and lit an earthen lamp. It was our temple. People of Sialkot were mild, austere and tolerant. They were cast in a different mould.
Our religions or positions in life did not distance us from one another. We numbered about a lakh, 70 percent Muslims and 30 percent Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. As far as I could remember, we had never experienced tension, much less communal riots. Our festivals, Diwali, Holi or Eid, were joint and most of us walked together in mourning on the Moharram Day.
Even our businesses depended on our cooperative effort. There was a mixture of owners and workers from both communities. Sport goods were the main industry and many labourers worked at home with their family to meet the order, given peace meal. Manufacturing surgical instruments was another vocation which engaged many. Such works had brought us together " Hindus and Muslims" in a common endeavour.
Yet, we had Hindus and Muslim mohallas, not by name but by the categorisation of population of both communities. Some people belonging to one community lived in the habitation of the other. Many houses shared common wall. It exhibited a sense of accommodation. Even in other parts of the city, there was normal activity, people did not know " nor did they care " who was Muslim or who was Hindu.
Women moved freely, a few in burqa, some in thick chaddar but most with just a dupatta, a mere scarf-like cloth. Every day was like any day and business was usual. Even at height of agitation over the demand for Pakistan, Sialkot did not experience any tension. Probably, there were two or three processions like the ones the Congress party had.
There was burst of happiness when Pakistan came into being. The Muslim population was at the top of the world. Sikhs depressed. Yet there was no tension, not even a twinge of enmity. We spoke the same Punjabi. The Punjabi we spoke in Sialkot had a peculiar accent. I discovered this when I met Nawaz Sharif, then chief minister, for the first time at Delhi after partition. It took him no time to tell me that I was from Sialkot. He said that the way in which I spoke Punjabi had a distinctive twang, a kind of accent, which was confined to the Sialkotees.
But why only I, subcontinentâs two great Urdu poets, Muhammed Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who were from Sialkot, spoke Punjabi in the same way. I had heard Iqbal one day at his mohalla, Imambara where Shafqat had taken me. I was a child then and I never went near him out of fear. Even otherwise I would not have approached him at that time because he was speaking angrily in Punjabi. All that I remembered about him was his huge girth, sitting on a stringed charpai(cot) which almost touched the ground because of his weight.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the other renowned Urdu poet, became a good friend but after partition we never met in Sialkot.
Probably the best in the Sialkotees flourished outside Sialkot. Faiz spoke Punjabi with the Sialkoteeâs accent. He was touchy about his Urdu pronunciation and gave up Urdu poetry for some time to switch over to Punjabi. He told me once that he did so because the Urdu circles made fun of his pronunciation. His much-talked trip to Lucknow was when he went there to meet a poet, Majaz, who would say ji han (yes please), in response while Faiz replied han ji, han jiâ, the typical way of Punjabis to say âyesâ.
Poets are primarily saints. But saints are real saints. Our city had honoured the visit of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikh religion, to Sialkot. He was on his way to Medina and by building a Gurdwara stopped at our city for a night. Scores of years before partition, Puran Bhagat, a well-known devotee, came to our city and healed many patients. We had dug a well in his memory. The city had also its ugly side. A dutiful son, Sharvan Kumar, became defiant when he entered Sialkot. He asked his blind parents, whom he had hauled across India for months, to pay him for his labour.
Yet the cityâs innate goodness asserted itself at the time of partition. Some tension was natural before the announcement of the Radcliffe Boundary Award ďż˝ďż˝" delineating lines between India and Pakistan. But there was not a single incident of violence. Even otherwise, everyone had taken it for granted that Sialkot would be part of Pakistan. The Jain mohalla in the heart of the city did not go to sleep for nights. Its fears were allayed when the Muslim localities surrounding the mohalla assured protection.
By then Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, had made the famous statement: âYou are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed ďż˝ďż˝" that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens of one state. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is a personal faith of each individual but in political sense as citizens of the state.â
The categorical assurance made all the difference. Already vacillating, this made up our mind. We decided to stay back at Sialkot. Once again material comforts had a lot to do with our decision. My two brothers had yet to finish their medical studies, although I had earned the law degree from Lahore.
The writer is a former member of the Indian Parliament and senior political analyst
August 20, 2008
Chasing a Mirage
A new book explores the tragic illusion of an Islamic state
Tarek Fatahs Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State is in many respects a courageous and edifying book whose bracing opposition to Left-liberal woolly-mindedness and the totalitarian mindset of political Islam is to be applauded. A member of the intellectual vanguard known as progressive Muslims, Fatah provides vigorous objection to the nuptials which a blinkered and opportunistic Left has celebrated with a sly Islamist aggressor whose purposes it has failed to understand is apt.
He is perfectly correct when he warns that we must be wary of segments of the non-Muslim community in the West, especially the guilt-ridden Left that comes out in support of sharia
under the garb of diversity. Fatah wants us to realize before it is too late that the liberal-left custodians of fair play and equity are being taken to the cleaners by the mosque establishment and the soi-disant Islamic civil rights organizations.
But the real strength of the book resides in its stout opposition to the wholesale takeover of Islam by feuding warlords, the devastation it has wreaked among its own peoples, the intrinsic conviction of the supremacy of Arab over non-Arab Muslims, and the duplicity of current Muslim leaders consolingly affirming that jihad is only a peaceful, interior struggle of the soul when it is, in effect, a many-pronged war against liberal democracy.
Fatah takes the measure of the Muslim Brotherhood and its covert operation to infiltrate the Western public space how it has become impressively adroit at gaming the system and camouflaging its real purposes beneath pluralistic rhetoric and the cultural shibboleths du jour. All this, Fatah regards as a clear and present danger to the way of life we lazily take for granted. It is also, in his estimation, a betrayal of the true spirit of Islamas is the Islamist dream that repudiates this world for either a fictitious past or the promissory notes of paradise in the hereafter.
Yet the book is not without its flaws, and there are many. As much as Fatah is to be admired for the principled stand he has taken against the so-called Islamist project and his laudable attempt to prick the bubble of Western naivety, his defense of an authentic Islam and his attempt to launder the Koran is part of a growing movement of rehabilitation founded more in desire than in fact. In the current ideological climate, those who adopt a jaundiced or skeptical view of Islam are often castigated as unfair, biased or even Islamophobic.
This is especially the case when it involves criticism of the Koran or many of its decrees, which is really the heart of the issue. One possible response from the Muslim community or its ostensible defenders is naked violence. Another is the recourse to what has been called legal jihad or lawfare, the attempt to muzzle adverse commentary through the medium of the courts.
And a third reactionperhaps the most effective in the long termis a presumably reasonable and balanced approach to sort out the intricacies of the Faith with the intent of demonstrating its inherently peaceful and beneficent nature, as based upon the Koran. This third option is Fatahs strategy.
For example. when Fatah writes that Muhammad would have wept to see how his message was misused to consolidate power and subjugate the people, he prettifies the image of the historical Mohammed, transforming him into a kind of benign movie hero, as in Moustapha Akkads The Message or Richard Richs animated Muhammed: The Last Prophet. At the same time, he blurs the dynamic thrust of an unabrogated Holy Book and an armigerous scriptural tradition.
He produces the same effect in discussing the celebrated Treaty of Hudabiyya of 628 C.E., which stipulated a truce period of ten years but was broken by Mohammed in 630; this resonant episode, which forms the basis of much Islamic jurisprudence regarding the supposed sanctity of treaties, is subtly desubjectivized as the Treaty
held only for two years. Apart from acquitting the Prophet, Fatah does not tell us that the Mohammedan precedent gave rise to the doctrine of Mukawama, or perpetual war, which permits Muslims to sign ceasefires with their enemies in order to attack when they determine the time is ripe.
And Fatah goes on by writing of the women newly empowered by the message of Islam. Koran 4:34 asserts the superiority of men over women and the right to administer punishment to fractious wivesthe Arabic word used in this passage, idribuhunna, derived from daraba, is variously translated as beat, hit, strike, flog. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali tries to soften the blow in his recent Amana translation of the Koran, opting for spank (lightly), and Laleh Bakhtiar in her The Sublime Quran, mentioned favorably by Fatah, decides for to go away from, substitutions that have been dismissed by many respectable scholars.)
The many verses specifying the inferiority of non-Islamic peoples and licensing their suppression or extirpation are similarly disregarded or mitigated. In this regard, Fatahs apodictic statement that Islams essence is its quest for equality and social justice is at the very least debatable.
A parallel tendency is to deflect the more disturbing portions of the Koran, such as its countenancing of slavery, by resorting to the strategy of temporal contextualizing. Perhaps Allah in his wisdom knows that socio-cultural progress is better achieved by evolution than by revolution
Perhaps we have to keep in mind the psyche of a desert society of the distant past. But the Koran is accepted by all true believers as an uncreated text, its physical embodiment only a reflection of the eternal original. It cannot be located along the timeline of a gradual progressivism. Today I have perfected your religion for you, reads Koran 5:3, an ayaa repeated several times in Fatahs book.
Just as disconcerting, Fatah passes far too lightly over the history of Islamic conquest across the centuries, the relentless warfare against the infidel, the massacres, the religious discrimination and persecution, the economic deprivation of its non-Muslim subject populations, the imposition of slavery and the eradication of entire peoples and cultures. Rather, he tends to focus on intra-Islamic strife, tragedies where Muslims killed fellow Muslimsa dangerous move within the Islamic framework but a safe one among the community of academics, intellectuals and readers who would prefer not to have to deal with the specter of Islamic imperialism.
Fatahs well-intentioned but problematic distinction between Muslims and Islamists, between a state of Islam (good) and an Islamic state (bad) and his belief that Islamists
have ridden roughshod over Quranic principles and the Prophets message of equality are not persuasive. All one has to do is read the Koran to put paid to his claim. His notion that Equity and social justice run through every fibre and gene of the Muslim psyche is a piece of untenable hyperbole that is deflated by Fatah himself when he later writes that So deeply ingrained is the idea of replicating the so-called Golden Age of the Rightly Guided Caliphs that few are willing to consider the implications of what they are asking for, or when he bemoans the permanent gash in the Muslim psyche, a festering wound brought on by the struggle for power. Which is
it, deeply ingrained error or enlightenment?
One is puzzled by the contradiction inherent in his admonition that Muslims stop chasing an Islamic State on the one hand and his evident approval of the Palestinian struggle for an independent and sovereign state, which would be nothing if not Islamic, on the other. Also troubling is his appreciative quotation from a Pakistani historian who speaks of the solemn averment that Islam spread peacefully in India when the carnage visited upon the subcontinent by the invading Islamic armies is an order of magnitude higher than the Holocaust itself.
Fatahs animus against the United States also seems rather facile and not altogether thought through. When he writes that The invasion of Iraq was manna from heaven for Al-Qaeda, it is clear that he has not been following the course of events or the evening Newsnothing has weakened al-Qaeda more than the Iraqi conflict and it is now, as the Press has it, on the run.
For Fatah, the US is no different from the Mongol hordes led by the savage Hulagu who in 1257 invaded Baghdad and pitt[ed] the Shia population against the Sunni caliph. The fact that the Sunni caliph of 2003 was Saddam Hussein, himself a contemporary Hulagu, is a matter of no consequence. Nor am I sure what he is getting at when he denounces American fundamentalism equally with bin Ladens species of fundamentalism; I cannot see even the faintest semblance of an equivalence between the two nor can I understand how American fundamentalism, whatever that may be, poses a threat to Western civilization.
These various instances of parti pris are not mere surface blemishes; they detract seriously from an otherwise timely and important work. Notwithstanding, Fatah is undeniably one of the brighter lights among the crowd of todays pro-Islamic intellectuals and polemicists, but the light is not sufficiently ambient to take in the geopolitical world outside of Islam proper.
As a history of Islam, its origins, its sects and schisms, its self-slaughterings, its major personalities, its formative texts, its trajectory across the millennia, Chasing a Mirage is a masterful achievement, hewing closer to the actual events which most Muslim writers are content to evade or fearful to record. Its critique of the millennial tendency to use [Islam] as an instrument of political power is acute and unflinching, and for this reason alone it is worth its price and more.
As I have indicated, however, there are several debilitating problems with this fascinating book. First, it sanitizes the impact of the Koran by too selective and convenient a reading of its pages. Secondly, its analysis of the wider historical tableau is too often skewed and oversimplified, or simply deficient in range. And thirdly, its version of the putatively real Islam is a fairy tale that exists nowhere except in the casuistry of the apologist or the imagination of the true believer.
There is no doubt that Fatah has taken a great risk in writing this book, which will surely earn him the influential animosity of the mainstream Left whose ineptitude he holds up to contempt, not to mention a possible fatwa from the Islamic extremists he dissects. (A 2006 death threat prompted him to resign as communications director of the
Muslim Canadian Congress.) At the same time, Fatahs forensics are compromised by the soft hermeneutics of his underlying methods and assumptions, which could lead to a subliminal restoration of precisely that which we are striving to demilitarize.
Tarek Fatah rightly takes exception to the current excesses of what is called Islamism, but he is nonetheless an apologist: back to the Koran, or rather an expurgated and watered-down version of it. In reading such attempts at bleaching clearly hortatory texts, one might be permitted to wonder on what doctrinal grounds centuries of invasive warfare and the current worldwide jihad are based.
Perhaps we are suffering from a collective delusion. Perhaps Islam really is a gentle, socially advanced and peace-loving faith that has been wrenched from the keeping of moderate Muslims by a small band of radical and bloodthirsty madmen. Perhaps the Koran really is the supernal book of sandaled amity and universal concord. Would that it were so.
Pervez Musharraf's resignation as president of Pakistan allows the country to move toward full democracy. Some in Washington view this as a threat -- the replacement of a reputedly stalwart ally in the war against terrorism with a democratic government responsive to the unpredictability of public opinion.
But with Mr. Musharraf gone, the United States need not take blame for his actions, particularly those unrelated to international cooperation in fighting terrorists. Mr. Musharraf's exit is not a loss. It is an opportunity to jump-start a much more durable and stable relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan as nations sharing democratic values.
In national elections on Feb. 18, the people of Pakistan spoke with an uncharacteristically unified voice, voting overwhelmingly for moderate, democratic political parties and rejecting not only Mr. Musharraf's political party, but those aligned with extremism and fanaticism. Less than 5% of the vote went to Islamist parties sympathetic to the Taliban.
The democratic coalition led by the party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was allowed to form a government, but Mr. Musharraf refused to step down as president or relinquish the lion's share of power within the government. His resignation this week under threat of impeachment has been celebrated by Pakistanis from all corners of the country.
Pakistan's greatest challenge now is to change its pattern of alternating between military strongmen and elected civilian governments that are ousted before their term is complete.
The Pakistani military appears ready to join civilians in changing that pattern. Civilian elites who in the past have supported suspension of the constitution on grounds of alleged incompetence and corruption of elected officials may also have learned their lesson.
There is no shortcut to building democracy. Reforms pushed through governments installed by coups d'état have repeatedly failed to bring stability, and Mr. Musharraf's much-trumpeted economic achievements are in tatters at the end of his nine-year rule.
In the final analysis, Pakistan will only be as strong as its political system. Pakistan's democratic parties, most notably the current coalition partners PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League (N), must be given a chance to lay the foundations of lasting constitutional governance. Like all transitions, the transition from one-man rule to a pluralist system will be tough. But Pakistanis have proven their commitment to the democratic ideal after four failed military dictatorships in 60 years.
The U.S.'s primary concern in Pakistan remains the ongoing war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, mainly in the country's northwest region bordering Afghanistan. With Mr. Musharraf gone, the war against terror will in fact be pursued with much more vigor and much less political manipulation.
Anti-Americanism among Pakistan's people may ease, now that Washington is not seen as backing an unpopular strongman. That should make it easier for the elected government to fight terrorism without being accused of doing America's bidding in return for economic and military assistance.
The assumption that dealing with a single, authoritarian leader is the best way to do business with a foreign government is erroneous. In a nation of 160 million, the U.S. should not count on only one man as its ally. Those who are American allies by conviction and a shared belief in democracy, tolerance and free markets are bound to be better allies than an ally of convenience seeking only aid and political support.
The elected government of Pakistan can and will turn its attention to the immediate and critical problems of our nation -- inflation, a looming energy crisis, food shortages, an educational system that doesn't work, and a civil society that has been dismantled by dictatorship. And of course, above all, the people and government of Pakistan must contain and destroy the extremist insurgency which threatens the very soul of the nation.
With the mandate of the people behind it, the new Pakistani government can muster popular support to restore the writ of law to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and to marginalize extremists all over the country.
As Joe Biden has argued, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship should no longer be "transactional," i.e., based largely on the "exchange of aid for services." An economically viable Pakistan is a stable Pakistan, and a stable Pakistan would be better positioned to end fanaticism in our region. Pakistanis have been encouraged by the recent, unanimous passage in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of legislation introduced this month by Sens. Biden and Richard Lugar that would help build a U.S.-Pakistan relationship based not only on shared battle plans but shared values and shared economic and political interests.
Another critical piece of legislation that works toward that end is the Afghanistan and Pakistan Reconstruction Opportunity Zones Act of 2008. Introduced by Chris Van Hollen in the House and Maria Cantwell in the Senate, and supported by the Bush administration, it would encourage economic investment and local factories and businesses in Taliban-infested areas through favored trade relationships with the U.S. The Biden-Lugar legislation and the ROZs are important signals to the people of Pakistan that the U.S. is indeed a genuine partner, not just a military ally.
Pakistan has weathered a very difficult period in our national history -- a near-decade-long dictatorship, the spread of terrorism, an economic crisis and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, our icon of democracy. But we have made it through. The Musharraf resignation is not anyone's loss; it could help turn Pakistan around and that would be the world's gain.
Mr. Haqqani is Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.
August 27, 2008
By Rob Breakenridge
CJQR Radio AM 770, Calgary
Does the Muslim Brotherhood have a foothold in North America? It's a difficult question. Certainly there are groups that don't disguise their connection, such as the Muslim Association of Canada
MACs roots are deeply enshrined in the message of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). Its modern roots can be traced to the Islamic revival of the early twentieth century, culminating in the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood. This movement influenced Islamic activities, trends and intellectual discourse throughout the world including those of Muslims who came to Canada in search of freedom, education and better opportunities.
We believe that, in the twentieth century, the approach of Imam Hasan Al-Banna [ed. an-Banna is the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood] best exemplifies this balanced, comprehensive understanding of Islam.
Other organizations in North America, though, are less candid about any existing connections. Given the nature of the Brotherhood's ideology (see here
, and here
), that shouldn't come as a surprise. However, the Brotherhood itself is making things uncomfortable
for some of the groups here in North America:
Mohammed Habib, the second-in-command of the Muslim Brotherhood. In an interview published by Pajamas Media, the Brotherood's Deputy Supreme Guide acknowledges the connection between his organization and CAIR. Habib spoke candidly about the Brotherhood's relationship with affiliates or, "Muslim Brotherhood entities," as he termed them outside of Egypt. The interviewer, a dissident Egyptian blogger, wryly named "sandmonkey," said he recorded the interview at the Brotherhood's leadership
He asked the simple question, "Is there a Muslim Brotherhood in the US?" Habib responded:
"I would say yes. There are Muslim Brotherhood members there."
The interviewer pushed him about what these members were doing there, and Habib elaborated:
there are already existing institutions; there are laws and a constitution that they operate under in order to have a role in serving the American society. They are part of the American society and they want to an active positive role in it, and a part of that is to spread a positive image of Islam along with its values, culture, history and teachings."
Habib responded evasively when asked who represents the Brotherhood in the United States:
"Well, there are there those who do represent us, who do that role."
At that point, the interviewer bravely pushed for specifics, mentioning the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and asking if the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) represented the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States. After another evasive answer in which Habib noted that this subject was "sensitive" and "kind of problematic, especially after 9/11," the interviewer pushed harder. At that point, Habib relented and admitted that it would be accurate to say that
there is a "relationship" between CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood.
August 30, 2008
Pakistani Senator defends burying alive of women
"It was part of our tribal customs"
ISLAMABAD: Balochistan Senator Sardar Israrullah Zehri stunned the upper house on Friday when he defended the recent incident of burying alive three teenage girls and two women in his province, saying it was part of Ąour tribal custom.˘
Senator Bibi Yasmin Shah of the PML-Q raised the issue citing a newspaper report that the girls, three of them aged between 16 and 18 years, had been buried alive a month ago for wishing to marry of their own will.
The incident took place in a remote village of Jafarabad district anda PPP minister and some other influential people were reported to have been involved. The report accused the provincial government of trying to hush up theissue.
Ms Shah said that the hapless girls and the women were first shot in the name of honour and then buried while they were alive. She also said that no criminal had been arrested so far.
Acting Chairman of Senate Jan Mohammad Jamali, who was presiding over the session, said: ĄYasmin Shah should go to our society and see for herself what the situation is like there and then come back to raise such questions in the house.˘
Maulana Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F said there was no tradition of burying women alive in Baloch society because it was against the teachings of Islam.
Jamal Leghari of PML-Q emphatically stated that there was no custom of burying people alive, adding that the Baloch people did not believe in it.
Senator Jan Jamali commented:
ĄThis is a provincial matter and it is being investigated at the provincial level and let us wait for the report of the investigation.˘ Leader of the Opposition Kamil Ali Agha accused the Balochistan government ofignoring the incident and said no jirga could order the burying of women alive and no law allowed anyone to commit such a crime and go unpunished. He urged the government to punish the people involved in it.
Leader of the House Mian Raza Rabbani said: ĄWe condemn the heinous act and assure the house that a complete report on the incident would be submitted on Monday.˘
August 31, 2008
Preachers of separatism at
work inside Britain's mosques
Britain's leading Muslim bodies say they are fighting extremism. In one of our most respected mosques, Sara Hassan came face to face with hardline female preachers of separatism. Here, she reports on the shocking results of her investigation
In a large balcony above the beautiful main hall at Regent's Park Mosque in London - widely considered the most important mosque in Britain - I am filming undercover as the woman preacher gives her talk.
What should be done to a Muslim who converts to another faith? "We kill him," she says, "kill him, kill, killâŚYou have to kill him, you understand?" Adulterers, she says, are to be stoned to death - and as for homosexuals, and women who "make themselves like a man, a woman like a man ... the punishment is kill, kill them, throw them from the highest place". These punishments, the preacher says, are to be implemented in a future Islamic state. "This is not to tell you to start killing people," she continues. "There must be a Muslim leader, when the Muslim army becomes stronger, when Islam has grown enough."
A young female student from the group interrupts her: the punishment should also be to stone the homosexuals to death, once they have been thrown from a high place.
These are teachings I never expected to hear inside Regent's Park Mosque, which is supposedly committed to interfaith dialogue and moderation, and was set up more than 60 years ago, to represent British Muslims to the Government. And many of those listening were teenage British girls or, even more disturbingly, young children.
My investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches came after last year's Undercover Mosque, which investigated claims that teachings of intolerance and fundamentalism were spreading through Britain's mosques from the Saudi Arabian religious establishment - which is closely linked to the Saudi Arabian government.
In response, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia denied it was spreading intolerance, while Regent's Park Mosque, which featured in the film, urged all mosques to be "vigilant" and monitor what was taught on their premises.
So earlier this year, dressed in a full Islamic jilbaab, I went back to Regent's Park Mosque to see what was being taught there. As a woman, I had to go to the main female section, where I found this circle preaching every Saturday and Sunday, eight hours at a time, to any woman who has come to pray.
The mosque is meant to promote moderation and integration. But although the circle does preach against terrorism and does not incite Muslims to break British laws, it teaches Muslims to "keep away" and segregate themselves from disbelievers: "Islam is keeping away from disbelief and from the disbelievers, the people who disbelieve."
Friendship with non-Muslims is discouraged because "loyalty is only to the Muslim, not to the kaffir [disbeliever]".
A woman who was friendly with a non-Muslim woman was heavily criticised: "It's part of Islam, of the correct belief, that you love those who love Allah and that you hate those who hate Allah."
One preacher even says Muslims shouldn't live in Britain at all: "It is not befitting for Muslims that he should reside in the land of evil, the land of thekuffaar, the land of the disbelievers."
Another, Um Saleem, says Muslims should not take British citizenship as their loyalty is to Allah.
"Some conditions can take you into disbelief, to take the British citizenship, whether you like it or not, for these people, you are selling your religion, it's a very serious thing, it is not allowed to give allegiance to other than Allah."
Their teachings shocked me. This was not the Islam that I and many other Muslims in the UK were taught as youngsters, nor is it a version that most Muslims follow.
I was amazed at how many young British women seemed to find this version of the faith attractive. One young girl told me that when she first attended the circle, she was dressed in jeans and that she had many non-Muslim friends. She now loves only those that are around her - "other sisters in the circle" - and only engages with non-Muslims to try to convert them. Many of the sisters had the idea of living as a separate community - a concept alien to me and many other Muslims I know.
Regent's Park Mosque has a major interfaith department, which arranges visits from the Government, the civil service, representatives of other religions and thousands of British school children a year.
I watched as an interfaith group was brought in to meet the mosque's women's circle for a civilised exchange. But when the interfaith group wasn't there, the preacher attacked other faiths, and the very concept of interfaith dialogue.
One preacher said of Christians praying in a church: "What are these people doing in there, these things are so vile, what they say with their tongues is so vile and disgusting, it's an abomination." As for the concept of interfaith live-and-let-live: "This is false. It does not work. This concept is a lie, it is fake, and it is a farce."
Like many of the other women at the circle, I was soon invited to private sessions in houses around London, to "learn more" about Islam - or their version of Islam. Um Saleem was also at some of these sessions. Here, the women were given strict restrictions on their lives: it is reiterated that British Muslim women cannot travel far without a male guardian, cannot mix with men, and have to remain fully covered up at all times.
One woman in the audience queried the strict rulings that she cannot travel without a mahram - a male member of the family - escorting her. She asked: "Sister, if me and my husband, we can't go together, what do I do if I want to go?"
She was told she cannot travel by herself.
She asked again: "So what do I do?"
"You go with your husband," Um Saleem replied.
There were also restrictions on education or work opportunities. One woman, who works for the NHS, was told she should leave her job as it meant mixing with men and not wearing a full Islamic garment.
"You know that working in an environment that is not Islamic, working with thekuffaar, all this takes you away from the religion and hardens your heart and it would be lying to you if I say it's OK," Um Saleem explained.
Um Saleem also criticised Muslim women who integrate into society - a view that is counter to the aims of the Regent's Park Mosque.
"You see Muslims in every sphere of everyday life in this country, I see Muslims, it breaks my heart when I see them working in banks, short sleeves, tight scarf like this, make-up, being with the kuffaar all the time, even speaking their language," she said.
The director general of Regent's Park Mosque is Dr Ahmed Al Dubayan, a Saudi diplomat. He has denied to Dispatches that his mosque promotes the Saudi version of the faith, often called Wahhabism. And indeed, the imams in the main hall are Egyptian, and the sermons I heard from them were tolerant and moderate when you listen to them on Fridays.
But the preachers I heard in the women's section took their theology directly from Saudi Arabia. One of them had recently returned from three years of study in Saudi Arabia, and the other preachers almost exclusively directed me to the works, sermons, fatwas and online sites of the scholars of the Saudi Arabian religious establishment and their adherents.
Confronted with these female preachers' comments, Dr Al Dubayan insisted that the views did not reflect those of the Regent's Park Mosque, and that Um Saleem was not an authorised teacher. "The ICC [the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, most commonly referred to as the Regent's Park Mosque] is committed to interfaith and cross-cultural understanding," he said. "It does not support or condone extreme views, racial hatred, violence or intolerance."
He said one of the preachers we filmed was unknown to him. Another, Um Saleem, had requested permission to be an authorised teacher at the mosque, but had been refused, as she did not supply references and written information about her teachings and views. Until I contacted him, both he and the mosque had not known of her teachings and views.
Um Saleem later told me that her comments that Muslims could not take British citizenship were "erroneous" and indeed apologised for them. As for comments that Muslims cannot live in a non-Muslim country, she agreed that the language used was "inappropriate". She continued: "Whilst it is recommended for a Muslim to migrate to a Muslim country, it is not obligatory."
She added: "We are not blind followers of any government or any 'clerics'. We do criticise other religions, just as other religions criticise IslamâŚwe encourage integration into society."
However, she stood by some of her other claims, stating that the rulings that women could not travel alone, and could not work if it conflicted with religious requirements, were "totally justified by Islamic texts".
"You may regard these juristic and textual rulings as 'extreme restrictions'," she said. "But we see them as our way of life and a liberation of the soul."
The Mosque's official bookshop was another focus for the Dispatches film last year when our reporters discovered intolerant and fundamentalist DVDs.
Dr Al Dubayan said they would be removed pending an investigation, but I found the same fundamentalist preachers' works still openly displayed and sold there. DVDs preaching that disbelievers are "evil, wicked, mischievous people ... they do the most evil, filthy things"; that men are in charge of women and should control them.
One speaker says of the Jews: "Their time will come, like every other evil person's time will come." Another speech, this time by Sheikh Khalid Yasin, who learned Arabic in Saudi Arabia, praised the deterrent effect of sharia law: "Then people can see, people without hands, people can see in public heads rolling down the street, people got [sic] their hands and feet from opposite sides chopped off and they see them crucifiedâŚthey see people put up against the pole and see them get lashed in public they see it, and because they see it, it acts as a deterrent for them because they say I don't want that to happen to me."
Sheikh Yasin responded to me that his comments should be considered in context. He said he did not support or promote Saudi Arabian government policy or religious rhetoric, and said capital punishments were carried out by many states and governments. "The lecture was aimed at reforming the Muslim people, the Muslim society and the Muslim worldââŚâto be adjudicated by the Sovereign Islamic State" when one exists.
The company that runs the bookshop, Darussalam International Publications, is a British company with links to Saudi Arabia.
Darussalam International Publications told me that the bookshop sells a wide range of material which they "do not necessarily agree with".
It said: "We try to represent a variety of... opinions through the products we sellâŚin order to spread peace, respect, tolerance and understanding."
Dr Al Dubayan reiterated that the bookshop was run by an independent company. "Despite having no control over the bookshop, we met with those running the bookshop after your programme was broadcast. We made it clear that it was not acceptable for the bookshop to stock materials containing extremist views. We were assuredââŚâall offending material had been removed."
Interviewees for the film explained that an ideology like this has spread throughout Britain's mosques from the Saudi Arabian religious establishment. One leading Muslim figure told me: "Petrodollar money coming from Saudi Arabia has basically distorted the growth and development of the Muslim community in Britain"; while a British imam accuses them of distorting Islam - "the abuse and misuse of this great faith of mine".
I share the imam's outrage at the way a peaceful monotheistic religion - so close to Christianity and Judaism in its essential beliefs - has been hijacked. To hear a call for the killing of someone because of his or her sexuality or for changing their faith in what is meant to be a place of contemplation is truly shocking.
The imam went on to say: "The underlying motive here is to find a way of continuously implanting this permanent wedge between the wider British society and the younger Muslims living in Britain."
As Professor Anthony Glees, who runs the Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies at Brunel University, explains: "To think, as I believe our government thinks, that it makes ideological sense to play patsy with the Saudi government is folly of the first order of magnitude. We will be paying for it for years to come."
The reporter's name has been changed. 'Dispatches: Undercover Mosque - The Return' will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 8pm on Monday
For those of you who do not know him, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser is Chair of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is one of the many American Muslim voices that have challenged the rise of Islamist agenda in the US.
Here he comments on the dangerous development that brought Ingrid Mattson of ISNA to the Democratic Party convention. Zuhdi Jasser's piece outlines Ingrid Mattson's Islamist orientation, but does not address her links to the Afghan Mujahideen, long after the Soviets had left the country. (I am attaching her own bio from the website ISNA before she became the organization's president.) She served as 'advisor' to an Afghan delegation to the UN in 1995. Was it not the year the worst of the butchers ruled Kabul? Does Hikmatyar ring a bell Ingrid?
September 1, 2008
When It Comes to Islamism,
the DNC Still Doesnt Get It
Family Security Matters
Last weeks opening festivities at the Democrat National Convention in Denver began with an interfaith prayer. As the Democrat Party searches for its newfound interest in faith, it quickly called upon one of the lowest hanging fruit in the American Muslim community - the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Ingrid Mattson, the President of ISNA gave a speech along with Adbur-Rahim Ali of the Northeast Denver Islamic Center. Some may dismiss the selection of nine speakers of faith at the political shindig as irrelevant and simply part of the pomp and circumstance of the DNC Convention.
But propping up ISNA in todays environment is akin to propping up the Legal Guild (a 60s Communist front group) to address the convention during the Cold War. Our civil servants will verify that they have prevented over 30 attacks by militant Islamists upon our nation and our citizens since 9/11. The only ideology that unites the groups set upon our destruction is not violence. It is political Islam - their Islamism. Unless we identify both violent and non-violent political Islam as a root cause of terrorism we will never win this conflict. Militant Islamists, much as non-militant Islamists, seek some form of a transnational Muslim, political movement. They both seek various forms of the ascendancy of Islam with respect to other religions culminating in the establishment of Islamic states.
It is not enough to condemn terrorism for politically active Muslims to be friends of American security interests or pillars of the representation of spiritual Islam. If Muslim organizations are to be lifted up as friends of government, they, at the minimum, need to share a common vision of ideal governance - that of a secular liberal democracy. It is against American interests and certainly an obstacle in the work of all anti-Islamist Muslims for the American establishment to lift up Islamists, manifestations of political Islam, as representatives of Muslims and especially as representatives of non-political Islam. ISNA is without question patently political. I would defy anyone to find evidence of its rejection of the ideology of Islamism and similarly its defense of the ideology of the secular liberal democracy in the writings and public work of any of its leaders. To do this ISNA would have to sponsor and distribute intellectual work against the foundations of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, Sayyid Al-Mawdudi, and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Not only do they not do this, the vast majority of the other imams, books, and tapes they promote all derive their ideology from the same Salafist political mindset.
If anyone had done their homework at the DNC they would have realized that the primary origin of political Islam in the early twentieth century is the Muslim Brotherhood - arguably the central nervous system of political Islam globally. Its imams and spiritual leaders over the past century from Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al-Banna, to the current Godfather, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi are ultimately the seeds of thought which have sprouted the vast majority of Islamist movements in the world whether militant or not. The means employed by Islamists may vary from nation to nation but in the end their goals of establishing an Islamic state are almost universally the same.
ISNA has demonstrated repeatedly that its goals in the United States are no different from the Muslim Brotherhoods goals in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, or England for that matter. Its leadership is generally either an outgrowth of the MB salafist ideology in the Middle East or an outgrowth of the similar Deobandi ideology of the Indo-Pakistani region.
As others have also noted, the Department of Justice did not coincidentally list ISNA as anunindicted co-conspirator in the federal Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas. All of the associated documentation and links to the MBs Project in the west and the implicated individuals who share the ideology of political Islam should cause great concern. Ingrid Mattson, an articulate Canadian convert to Islam, comes across superficially as a benign figure for the purposes of a DNC prayer gathering. But if her years of presidency of ISNA thus far have demonstrated anything, it has shown publicly that her role is nothing more than window dressing for a political organization whose mission of political Islam remains quite unchanged. Note ISNAs continued participation in the intensely political American Muslim Political Coordination Committee. If she is as modernized and apolitical a Muslim leader as her public pronouncements and packaging would purport, I would have expected to see major work from this Hartford Seminary professor marginalizing political Islam and the transnational goal of Islamists. If ISNA is truly not Islamist or the same ISNA as the Wahhabis who formed it out of the MSA in the 60s and 70s, its ideology against Islamism would be at the forefront - it is not. As the first woman and first convert of an organization with deep Wahhabi and salafist origins, I would have expected Dr. Mattson to have provided major testimony to the necessary reform and the long overdue sea change against salafism necessary in her organization. Without this and with all the evidence linking them to the Muslim Brotherhood, ISNA clearly remains wedded to the Islamist and Wahhabi origins of its founders and its directors. As many have already done, a review of her public commentary demonstrates no such sea change. In fact a review of her public pronouncements seems to basically verify that she tows the Islamist line.
From Mattson there has been no condemnation of the Islamic state or central tenets of Islamism. No public defense of womens rights against the medieval laws enacted by Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia or taught by many of the texts distributed by her own ISNA (i.e. of Mawdudi or Qaradawi) and its affiliated bookstores and bizarres. No condemnation of the OIC and its promotion of blasphemy laws and its blind promotion of authoritarian regimes including any criticism of the 57 so-called Muslim nations nearly all of which are some form of despotic dictatorships and monarchies which oppress their minorities. Her commentaries have repeatedly rather been apologetics wrapped in victimology and false moral equivalency between terrorism and American security efforts.
If you dont believe this commentary here, just check into the ISNA convention this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Their bazaars, attended by thousands, will be full of political Islamist literature. Rest assured, anti-Islamist literature against the formation of the Islamic state or public implementation of sharia will be nonexistent. The DNC and so many in the media continue to sadly miss how Mattson is simply window dressing to an organization whose mission remains at serious odds with the core values of liberty and our secular liberal democracy which are classically American. My own experience with ISNA solidified in my mind long ago that it was a political and an Islamist organization which covered itself in the spiritual language of Islam for the political promotion of its leadership. For example, in 1994 when I was on leave from the U.S. Navy, I naively attended an Islamic Medical Association (IMA) event with a U.S. Navy professor and mentor in order to present some research. We happened to attend the first day of the ISNA meeting which ran in succession with the IMA that September of 1994. The keynote address to open the ISNA meeting was given by none other than, Siraj Wahhaj, a long time ISNA and CAIR leader until today. Wahhaj most recently gained notoriety for his subway advertisements about Islam in New York City and was himself an unindicted coconspirator in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center who provided testimony in court defending the character of the blind sheikh- Omar Abdel-Rahman.
During his speech that year in ISNA, Siraj Wahhaj held up a Koran and stated clearly that it is his goal as it should be for every Muslim to replace the Constitution with the Koran and bring Islamic governance to the West. During question and answer I stood up and reminded the entire audience of thousands of Muslims of the seditious nature of his comments and admonished all military members to dissociate from ISNA immediately as I did. Until this day there is no ideological evidence whatsoever that ISNA does not remain on track with that mission vis-ŕ-vis the Islamic state and a soft Jihad.
Groups like the DNC can choose all they want to ignore the political mission of ISNA and all of its associated Islamist organizations. But at the end of the day ISNA is not simply a faith-based organization. It is an obvious manifestation of Islamism - political Islam.
Make no mistake. ISNA has a large membership and is linked to the funding of over half of the mosques in the United States through their North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). Their annual convention this weekend in Columbus will bring in tens of thousands of Muslims. Many Muslim members of these organizations get swept in by various publications, meetings, verbiage, and tribal techniques which take on a very Islamic and seemingly spiritual tone. But in reality, the core mission beneath the false veneer is political. This false veneer changes only based upon the particular setting. Mattson serves her purpose well for the Salafists running the organization as long as their core Islamist ideologies remain unwavering and her public projection gives the image of womens rights and modernity when in fact virtually no work is being done by ISNA to promote such needed changes toward modernity in the Muslim community. Attendees at ISNAs national convention last September noted that the panels on womens rights and domestic abuse were poorly attended while the panels on Islamophobia and victimization were standing room only. Look at Mattsons writings - slim pickings on anti-Islamist reform and strong suggestions of Islamism. Again, more window dressing with no real leadership.
Is it enough for the American establishment to engage Muslims who simply condemn the act of terror? Not only is the answer a resounding, no, but it is actually dangerous and gives a false sense of security against the ideologies we are countering. The elevation of ISNA by the DNC is a clear demonstration that they really have no idea whatsoever about the political ideology which that organization represents.
Its time to afford leaders of the Muslim community the same scrutiny we give any other political organization in the United States. Look at Dr. Mattsons own words and that of ISNAs and make an assessment for yourself about where she falls in the continuum between Islamism and liberty. What did Dr. Mattson for example mean when she said, People of faith have a certain kind of solidarity with others of their faith community that transcends the basic rights and duties of citizenship. Sounds like a central tenet of political Islam to me. As our nation faces a continued threat of radical Islamists, where is the wisdom in the elevation of Islamist organizations? In a written statement Fox News reported that the DNCC said,
She (Mattson) is part of an organization that has met with leaders like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and key Bush Administration adviser Karen Hughes. Under her tenure, ISNA has worked to build understanding and has been supported by the National Council of Churches and the Union for Reform Judaism which hosted Mattson at its biennial conference last year.
One can begin to see how ISNA gains its legitimacy not from any review of its core ideologies which remain wholly unchecked, but rather from the misguided associations of other parts of the American governmental, religious, and media establishment. One endorsement leads to another, leads to another and they all become mutually dependent on the endorsement of the other with no one doing any homework on ISNAs real core ideologies.
It may be the easiest short cut to placate the loudest arm of Islamism in the United States, but it does our efforts against the dangerous ideology of political Islam and the stranglehold of Islamists over the Muslim community no good whatsoever. Our own leading politicians are unable to clearly articulate and understand the central ideologies at stake in this global battle of ideas between political Islam and the West. So, it should not be a surprise when Islamist organizations continue to gain influence and legitimacy
The LRC has published a lengthy review of my book in which the Iranian-Canadian writer seems to go out of his way to avoid any reference to the crimes committed in the name of Islam by Muslims, including the massacres committeed by the Iranian clergy. Despite the fact Chasing a Mirage sets aside an entire chapter on Iran and the Ayatollahs, the reviewer cleverly side-steps any discussion about Iran, his country of origin, and instead dwells on Turkey, attacking secularism, when there was little mention of Turkey in my book. Talk of the classic straw-man argument.
Just thought I should share this review with you. It provides an interesting insight into the tactics employed by apologists of the Iranian regime when confronted with the truth. In side-stepping any discussion about either Iran or Saudi Arabia, or the premise of my book that Islam does not require an 'Islamic State,' he confirms my assessment that the best way to confront the Islamists is to hit at their solar plexus--Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is from where they draw their inspiration and their hate of the West. These are the two countries who represent the challenge to civilization. Unfortunately, these termites are lucky in that they are met not with a robust rebuttal, but with docile, naive and often guilt-ridden intelligentsia and politicians who would rather not stand up for Canada for fear of being accused of racism.
Read and reflect.
Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State
Wiley and Sons
410 pages, hardcover
Two Muslim-majority countries that have registered significant gains for liberal democracy in recent years are Turkey and Indonesia. This is reflected in the rankings of Freedom House, which publishes an annual survey measuring civil liberties and political rights worldwide. While their democracies are nascent and fragile, both countries have consistently obtained some of the highest scores for liberal-democratic development that clearly set them apart from other countries in the Muslim world. What is intriguing about these gains for democracy is the seminal role played by religious-based parties and Muslim intellectualsâââmany of them with roots in political Islam. Left-wing parties and secularist intellectuals cannot claim credit here.
These new developments from the Muslim world suggest several things. First, they require us to rethink long-standing assumptions about democratization, particularly the role that religion can play in this process. A concomitant that flows from this is that the âIslamists-equals-bad guys versus secularists-equals-good guysâ approach to Muslim politics is simplistic and distorting. Second, democratic gains in Indonesia and Turkey confirm the observations of political scientist Vali Nasr, in a famous essay on âThe Rise of âMuslim Democracyâ,â that conservative-based Muslim parties and politicians will likely lead the way toward a democratic transition in the Muslim world.1 Third, recent trends in Turkey and Indonesia suggest why Tarek Fatahâs new book, Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, is a fundamentally flawed study of the Muslim world.
Tarek Fatah is a Toronto-based broadcaster, polemicist and self-described secular Muslim activist. He has been a prominent and controversial voice in debates that pertain to Canadian Muslims and Islam. Recently, he has devoted himself to exposing an alleged Islamist agenda in Canada that he claims has infected not only the Muslim community but also the CBC, the Canadian banking system and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.2 âThere are within the staff [of the âŚ commission], and among the commissioners, hardline Islamic supporters of Islamic extremism,â he was recently quoted as saying.3
âFatahâs book seeks to demonstrate âthat throughout Islamic history, all attempts to use Islam to justify or validate political power âŚ have invariably ended in bloodshed and war.â
His argument in Chasing a Mirage revolves around the tension between what he calls the âstate of Islamâ versus âan Islamic State.â He praises the former and excoriates the latter. The âstate of Islamâ is the privatized form of faith that is spiritual, ethical, apolitical and based on the individual. Past contributions by Muslims to human civilization can be credited to this form of Islam. In contrast, an âIslamic Stateâ refers to all politicized forms of Islam that have emerged throughout human history, from the 7th century to the 21st. This variant of Islam, Fatah asserts, is uniformly puritanical and supremacist and seeks political power and mastery over not only the Muslim world, but over Europe and North America as well. His book seeks to demonstrate âthat throughout Islamic history, all attempts to use Islam to justify or validate political power âŚ have invariably ended in bloodshed and warâ and that âthe cause of violence that has engulfed the Muslim world is centred on the premise of an Islamic state or caliphate.â In short, there is a Manichean struggle taking place within the Muslim world between these two forms of Islam. The problem is politicized Islam in all its manifestations; the solution is a rigid form of Turkish secularism. Liberals and leftists in Canada are also criticized for not taking the threat of Islamic fascism seriously, which, we are told, threatens Muslim societies, as well as the West itself, if left unchecked.
âThere is much to criticize here: from the alarmist rhetoric that echoes the writings of Daniel Pipes, Bernard Lewis and Mark Steyn to Fatahâs monolithic and monochromatic portrayal of all forms of political Islam throughout history.â
There is much to criticize here: from the alarmist rhetoric that echoes the writings of Daniel Pipes, Bernard Lewis and Mark Steyn to Fatahâs monolithic and monochromatic portrayal of all forms of political Islam throughout history, without any nuance, context, qualification or variation, to the polemical ferocity of his writing style that scars this book and detracts from the important topic he is attempting to explicate. As the focus of Fatahâs inquiry is fundamentally about religion-state relations in the Islamic world, I want to focus my remarks on this aspect of his narrative.
In the widely acclaimed book The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West, Mark Lilla observes that historically almost every human civilization based its original understanding of legitimate political authority on the divine nexus between God, man and the world. Political theology, Lilla suggests, is the original condition of civilizations as they try to make sense of the relationship between religion and politics and the natural order of the world that surrounds them. The question that is germane for this discussion is how did this divine nexus between God, humans and society gradually eroded in the case of Latin Christendom, thus leading to political secularism and what are the comparative lessons today for Muslim societies.
âThe history of secularism in the West is long, complicated and generally misunderstood in intellectual debates in the West (especially when making cross-comparisons with Islam).â
The history of secularism in the West is long, complicated and generally misunderstood in intellectual debates in the West (especially when making cross-comparisons with Islam). Charles Taylorâs A Secular Age is a good place to start the discussion. In retrospect, four broad trends that had secularizing consequences for the West are discernible: the rise of modern capitalism, the rise of modern nation-states and nationalism, the scientific revolution and, most importantly, the Protestant Reformation and the Wars of Religion during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is this latter development that is central to the rise of political secularism, especially in the anglo-American tradition, and that is particularly helpful in illuminating the question of religionâstate relations in Muslim societies.
Post-Reformation Europe saw the emergence of new debates about religious toleration, not only between Catholics and Protestants, but also among the various Protestant sects. In an age of gross intolerance, most denominations were interested in enforcing religious uniformity on their societies, each of them claiming exclusive knowledge of Godâs will on earth and warning of the dangers of social disorder if religious toleration was allowed to flourish. In brief, religious toleration and political stability were thought to be negatively correlated. Uniformity of religious practice in the public sphere and the need for an established state religion were widely believed to be a prerequisite for peace, order and prosperity. This was the dominant view at the time, right up to the late 17th century, as discussed by Perez Zagorin in his magisterial work, the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West.
It was left to John Locke to rethinking the relationship between toleration and political order. In his famous A Letter Concerning Toleration, he rejected his earlier support for the firm union of church and state and posited a new solution to the core political problem that was plaguing Europe. Religious pluralism in the public sphere and political stability were indeed compatible, Locke newly argued, on the condition that we can âdistinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion and âŚ settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other.â In other words, a soft form of secularism was required. The key interpretive point here is that political secularism emerged in England as the direct result of an existential crisis that was tearing the country apart. This conflict had been raging for many years, and without a solution, Locke affirmed, Europe would not know peace, prosperity or stability. The colossal size of this crisis cannot be overstated. Mark Lilla rightly observes that without a resolution of this issue the self-immolation of the West was a very real possibility. The future political stability of the western world hung in the balance. Political secularism thus emerged in the anglo-American tradition due to critical crisis of survival. It was intimately and indelibly connected to these transformative events in the early modern period of Europe, or, as Taylor has written, âthe origin point of modern Western secularism was the Wars of Religion; or rather, the search in battle-fatigue and horror for a way out of them.â4 In short, the idea of a separation between church and state originates as a political solution out of this existential dilemma. A contrast between this picture and the case of the Muslim world, with respect to the relationship between religious toleration and political order, is most illustrative.
âMuslim societies and empires historically did not face the same all-consuming wars of religion and debates over religious toleration and political order that were so central to European political history in the early modern period.â
Historians are in broad agreement that, comparatively speaking, Muslim societies were more tolerant of religious pluralism than Christendom. The fact that until the mid 20th century, for example, the city of Baghdad had a population that was one third Jewish speaks to this point. I am not suggesting here that the Muslim world was a bastion of liberal tolerance as we understand this concept today, or that minorities were never persecuted; far from it. I am simply stating that Muslim societies and empires historically did not face the same all-consuming wars of religion and debates over religious toleration and political order that were so central to European political history in the early modern period. Comparatively speaking, SunniâShia relations and the treatment of religious minorities were far more tolerant in the Muslim world than comparative relations in Europe over the last millennium.
The key point that flows from this fact of relative Muslim tolerance is that no burning political questions emerged between state and society where religion was the key, all-consuming and overriding bone of political contention. As a result, no inner political dynamic emerged within the Middle East that would necessitate the development of intellectual or moral arguments in favour of religionâstate separation as a way out of an existentialist dilemma in the same way these arguments developed and were so critical to the rise of secularism in Europe during the 17th century.
The primary political problems facing Muslim societies that threatened socio-political order were the corruption and nepotism of the royal court, natural famines and disasters, and, most importantly, foreign intervention and invasions such as the Crusades of the 11th to 13th centuries, the Mongol invasion of 1258 (which sacked the Abbasid caliphate), the Castilian re-conquest of the Iberian peninsula and, increasingly in the modern period, growing Russian, French, British and later American penetration, colonialism and imperialism (to varying degrees depending on the country, region and time frame in question). Due to this significantly different historical experience with respect to religious tolerationâand this is key to understanding the relationship between Islam and secularismâMuslim societies never had the need to think about secularism, not in the same way the West did, as there was no existential crisis that resulted from debates on religionâstate relations where secularism might be posited as solution to a pressing political dilemma.
Moreover, as Noah Feldman argues in The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, religionâstate relations in the Muslim world were far more stable and amicable than they were in the West. For more than a millennium, religion played a constructive role as an agent of stability and predictability. In contrast to the European experience, where religion in the post-Reformation period became a source of deep conflict, in the Muslim world religion and the scholars who interpreted it managed to place restrictions on the personal whims and ambitions of the caliphs and sultans by forcing them to recognize religious limits to their rule in exchange for conferring legitimacy on the state. In short, the rulers were not above the lawâas they later became during the 20th centuryâbut they were often reined in by it, thus limiting autocracy and arbitrary rule. Religionâstate relations in the Muslim world has thus bequeathed different historical lessons and memories to the faithful, where religion is viewed by large segments of the population not as an ally of political tyranny and a cause of conflict, but as a possible constraint on political despotism and as a source of stability. According to Feldman, this partly explains why demands for a greater role for religion in politics have a broad following in the Muslim world today (where Islamists are not in power). This brings us to the modern period.
âFor the past 200 years, the Muslim worldâs experience with secularism has been largely negative.â
For the past 200 years, the Muslim worldâs experience with secularism has been largely negative. It is important to appreciate that in Europe secularism was an indigenous and gradual process evolving in conjunction with socioeconomic and political developments while supported by intellectual argumentsâand critically by religious groupsâthat eventually sunk deep roots within its political culture. By contrast, the Muslim experience has been marked by a perception of secularism as an alien ideology imposed from outside first by colonial and imperial invaders and then kept alive by local elites who came to power during the post-colonial period. In short, secularism in Europe was largely a bottom-up process that was intimately connected to debates from within civil society while in Muslim societies secularism was largely a top-down process that was driven first by the colonial state and then by the post-colonial state. As a result, secularism in the Muslim world has suffered from weak intellectual roots and, with a few exceptions, has never penetrated the mainstream of Muslim societies.
Furthermore, most states in the Muslim world by the end of the 20th century were developmental failures. A pattern of stateâsociety relations unfolded in the post-colonial era that further impugned the reputation of secularism. An autocratic modernizing state, often with critical external support, suffocated civil society thus forcing oppositional activity into the mosque, inadvertently contributing to the rise of political Islam. A set of top-down, forced modernization, secularization and westernization policies by the stateâwithin a short span of timeâgenerated widespread social and psychological alienation and dislocation. Rapid urbanization, changing cultural and socioeconomic relationships coupled with increasing corruption, economic mismanagement, rising poverty and income inequality undermined the legitimacy of the state. These developments reflected negatively on secularism because the ruling ideologies of many post-colonial regimes in the Muslim world were openly secular and nationalist.
âFor a generation of Muslims growing up in the post-colonial era, despotism, dictatorship and human rights abuses came to be associated with secularism.â
Thus, for a generation of Muslims growing up in the post-colonial era, despotism, dictatorship and human rights abuses came to be associated with secularism. Muslim political activists who experienced oppression at the hands of secular national governments logically concluded that secularism is an ideology of repression. This observation applies not only to Iran (under the shah), but also to Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Iraq (under Saddam), Yemen, Turkey and many other Muslim majority countries in the latter half of the 20th century. Summarizing this trend, Vali Nasr has noted: âSecularism in the Muslim world never overcame its colonial origins and never lost its association with the postcolonial stateâs continuous struggle to dominate society. Its fortunes became tied to those of the state: the more the stateâs ideology came into question, and the more its actions alienated social forces, the more secularism was rejected in favor of indigenous worldviews and social institutions, which were for the most part tied to Islam. As such, the decline of secularism was a reflection of the decline of the postcolonial state in the Muslim world.â5
None of this is recognized by Tarek Fatah. Instead, we are treated to a warped and deeply ideological reading of religionâstate relations that turns Muslim history not only on its head, but inside out as well. The problems of the Muslim world, both past and present, are exclusively attributed to political Islamâa marginal political current until the late 20th centuryâwhile the colossal failures of the secular post-colonial state are not scrutinized. For example, the religious opposition to the Mubarak regime is frequently attacked (sometimes justifiably), but not the regime itself. There is no discussion of its growing authoritarianism, corruption, torture and subservience to U.S. foreign policy diktats or the US$2 billion aid package that sustains the military dictatorship in Cairo and that fuels an Islamist opposition. Fatahâs discussion of the PalestineâIsrael conflict is similarly bereft of any recognition of the socio-political context that has allowed a religious-based opposition movement to rise to the forefront of Palestinian politics.
We are told that Palestinians remain stateless and under occupation because Iran and Hamas have âhijackedâ the struggle for Palestine while the âhopeâ lies with Mahmoud Abbas and the U.S.-sponsored peace process. Hamas should be rejected because it mixes religion with politics and wants to âwipe out the Jews,â Fatah explains, while President Abbas merits support because he is secular and pro-peace.
This narrative of the conflict is indistinguishable from that of the Bush administration. Prior to negotiations, the Palestinians are required to renounce violence and recognize Israel, yet no reciprocal demands are made of Israel to do the same. For example, Israel is not required to reject violence despite an almost five-to-one kill ratio between Palestinians and Israelis (including almost 1,000 Palestinian minors), nor is Israel required to a priori recognize a Palestinian state within its international legal borders (i.e., the West Bank and Gaza)âa position no Israeli government or political party has ever adopted.6Rather than challenge this interpretive framework of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Fatahâs book reinforces it.
Fatah seems unable to fathom topics that are openly discussed and debated within Israel. According to Neve Gordon, a human rights scholar at Ben Gurion University, the popularity of Hamas âstems from its being seen as the voice of Palestinian dignity and the symbol of the defense of Palestinian rights at a time of unprecedented hardship, humiliation, and despair.â7 Palestinians who voted for Hamas frequently cite its role in resisting Israeli occupation along with its reputation for honesty, modesty and clean government, attributes that contrast sharply with the corruption, nepotism and subservience of the U.S.-backed Palestine National Authority.
âAs in many other parts of the Muslim world, Palestinians are forced to choose between a dishonest, incompetent and unpopular establishment party and a grass-roots civil societyâbased religious movement.â
Palestinians who express support for Hamas are not by definition religious fanatics, nor have they been bought off by Iran or afflicted by Islamic fundamentalism. As in many other parts of the Muslim world, Palestinians are forced to choose between a dishonest, incompetent and unpopular establishment party and a grass-roots civil societyâbased religious movement. The latter has won a wide following by critiquing the status quo while simultaneously providing basic needs such as health care, food and other social services. As the prospects for a peace settlement diminish in Israel and Palestine, and while poverty increases to record levels in the Occupied Territories, accompanied by ongoing violence and Israeli settlement construction, it is not difficult to fathom why some Palestinians have turned to Hamas. In fact, given the political options available to Palestinians today, siding with Hamas is a perfectly rational and understandable choice, however regrettable it may be for Palestinian society after independence.
For Fatah, all that matters is Islamist ideology, not the social conditions that give rise to it. Although claiming to be influenced by socialist ideals, Chasing a Mirage reveals that if its author has in fact read Karl Marx, he has not understood him very well.
Marxâs famous statement that âreligion is the opium of the peopleâ is pertinent here. Taken at face value by left-wing activists who were shaped by the political convulsions of the 1960s, it continues to exist as a form of religious dogma for many. Marx, however, was far more insightful in discussing the role of religion in society. What is often forgotten are the words that precede this famous aphorism. The full paragraph reads:
âReligious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.â8
Moreover, this book is marked by a noticeable absence of any serious discussion of stateâsociety relations or of the relevant history, sociology or political economy that has generated a political Islamist opposition and that has been exhaustively analyzed by scholars such as Sami Zubaida, Carrie Wickham, Olivier Roy, Vali Nasr, Nikki Keddie and Gilles Kepel. For those seeking an alternative to Fatahâs analysis of political Islam, Mohammed Ayoobâs newly published The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World comes highly recommended.
Ayoobâs work dispassionately challenges several assumptions about political Islam that have been lost in the alarmist treatment of this topic: that religion exclusively dictates political behaviour in the Muslim world; that political Islam is monolithic, transnational and independent of a social, political and national context; that Islamists are all single-minded fanatics, obsessed with sharia and incapable of making political compromises or building coalitions; that Islamic formations are by definition anti-democratic and make use of democracy instrumentally; and that political Islam is inherently violent and is incapable of evolving and learning from its political experiences.
âFatah is unable to appreciate that long before there was religious fundamentalism in the Muslim world, there was a form of modernist fundamentalism.â
In brief, Fatah is unable to appreciate that long before there was religious fundamentalism in the Muslim world, there was a form of modernist fundamentalism, which was state-centred, authoritarian, paternalistic, repressive, often backed by foreign powers and widely perceived as secular. Calls for the creation of an Islamic state are thus in large part due to a reaction and rejection of the failures of the secular state (both colonial and post-colonial) during the 20th century. Rather than acknowledging this basic facet of Muslim politics, Fatah sees the world in black and white, suggesting that the Muslim world would be a wonderful place if only religion were to be removed from the public square. How more than a billion people, many of whom self-identify with religion as a key marker of their identity, could suddenly relegate religion to the private sphere, is a problem that the author is not prepared to expound on.
Returning to the theme of secularism, Chasing a Mirage is a perfect illustration of a problem that Akeel Bilgrami has discussed. Referring to the crisis of secularism in the Muslim world, Bilgrami perceptively noted that âsecularism has to be earned, not assumed.â Given the European roots of secularism and the differing historical experience of religionâstate relations in the Muslim world as outlined above, the challenge for Muslim democrats is to develop coherent and indigenous arguments in favour of religionâstate separation as part of a broader strategy for advancing democracy. Where Fatah stumbles, and stumbles badly, is that he assumes secularism rather than argues for it. His analysis is premised on the false assumption that because the West (after a long history) has democratically arrived at a consensus on the normative relationship between religion and government, the Muslim world must also have done so already. Thus anyone who challenges comfortable western political equations must be an Islamic fascist. In other words, he makes the critical error of projecting his own secularity and a western paradigm of political development onto the broader Muslim population that remains religious and has a different historical memory with respect to the relationship between religion and politics.
One reason why liberal democracy has made significant gains in Indonesia and Turkey is precisely because Muslim intellectuals have followed Bilgramiâs advice (and rejected Fatahâs). Indonesiaâs Nurcholish Madjid and Turkeyâs Fethullah GĂźlen, for example, are widely influential Muslim intellectuals who support the participation of religious groups in the public sphere. They have creatively developed an indigenous reconciliation between Islamic thought and liberal democracy (particularly secularism) that has allowed Muslim parties and civil society groups to make important contributions to democracy in their respective countries. This is a story has yet to be properly told. It serves as a potential model for other Muslim societies to study and to emulate.
One of the epigraphs at the start of Chasing a Mirage is a quote from Eqbal Ahmad, a Pakistani dissident intellectual, scholar and human rights activist who died in 1999. He was asked by Harvard University Islam expert Emran Qureshi to describe the strategies Muslim and Arab intellectuals should pursue to democratize their societies. He replied:
âOne must make an effort to understand the past âŚ with compassion, sympathy and criticism. The reason I am stressing that is that many Arab and Muslim intellectuals know more about the West, more about its modern history, more about the ideas of the Enlightenment than we do about our own [history and culture]. No significant change occurs unless the new form is congruent with the old. It is only when a transplant is congenial to a soil that it works. Therefore, it is very important to know the transplant as well as the native soil. [Emphasis added.] â
I am reminded of this observation after finishing Chasing a Mirage as it perfectly demonstrates Ahmadâs point. Unfortunately, Tarek Fatah reveals in this book that he does not know the transplant (the relationship between religion, secularism and democracy as it evolved in the western tradition), nor does he understand the native soil (the unique history of religionâstate relations in Muslim societies and the challenges of promoting religionâstate separation). Consequently, Chasing a Mirage substantially subtracts from our understanding of the Muslim world. In the end, it tells us far more about the idiosyncrasies of its author than it does about the topic under investigation. Although it will be welcomed by those who share Fatahâs ideological predisposition, those seeking a firmer grasp of the politics and history of the Islamic world and the numerous developmental challenges facing Muslim societies today are advised to look elsewhere.
1 Vali Nasr (2005), âThe Rise of âMuslim Democracyâ,â Journal of Democracy volume 16, number 2, pages 13â27.
2 See Tarek Fatah and Farzana Hassan (2007), âLittle Masquerade on the Prairie,â Toronto Sun, February 12; and Tarek Fatah (2008), âBanks Are Helping Shariah Make a Back-Door Reference,â Globe and Mail, January 25.
3 Joseph Brean (2008), âRights Body Dismisses Macleanâs Case,â National Post, April 9.
4 Charles Taylor (1998), âModes of Secularism,â in Secularism and Its Critics, edited by Rajeev Bhargava (New Dehli: Oxford University Press), page 32.
5 Vali Nasr (2003), âSecularism: Lessons from the Muslim World,â Daedalus, volume 132, page 69.
6 Statistics provided by BâTselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and cover the period from the start of the second Palestinian intifada on September 29, 2000, until June 30, 2008. See .
7 Neve Gordon (2006), âWhy Hamas Won,â Counterpunch, February 7, 2006 ; see also Neve Gordon and Dani Filc (2005), âHamas and the Destruction of Risk Society,â Constellations volume 12, issue 4, pages 542â560.
8 Karl Marx (1978), âContribution to the Critique of Hegelâs Philosophy of Right: Introduction,â in Robert C. Tucker editor, The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W.W. Norton), page 12.
The LRC welcomes letters. We reserve the right to publish such letters and edit them for length, clarity and accuracy. E-mail editor[at]lrcreview[dot]com.
Nader Hashemi is a professor of Middle East and Islamic politics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He is the author of Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
By this contributor:
Political Islam Versus Secularism, a review of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State by Tarek Fatah, LRC September 2008
September 3, 2008
Pakistan probes deaths of
alleged Canadian militants
By Colin Freeze
Globe and Mail
Diplomats in Pakistan are investigating a report that two Canadian militants were killed by a possible U.S. missile attack that blew up a house in a remote tribal region of the country.
Canadian Foreign Affairs officials, in conjunction with other agencies, are working with Pakistan to determine the identities of men killed Saturday after villagers said they saw U.S. Predator drones in southern Waziristan. As many as five suspected militants died in the attack, including two Arabs, Pakistan-based reporters said. Pakistan's Dawn news service specified that the ranks of the dead included two Canadians of Arab origin.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay gave a speech in Calgary on Tuesday expressing hopes that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan could help stanch the flow of Taliban militants from Pakistan. When asked about the reported missile strike, he said: I haven't had a chance to speak to [Foreign Affairs Minister] David Emerson directly about it. But I am aware of the situation, but I can't give you any more details.
The deaths in Pakistan are high on Ottawa's foreign affairs agenda.
The Canadian High Commission in Islamabad is aware of a news report that two Canadians have been killed in a missile attack in Wana, Pakistan, Foreign Affairs spokesman Rodney Moore said. Consular officials are in contact with local authorities in an attempt to confirm these reports. He added that due to the Privacy Act no further information can be released at this time. But he did not explain the specifics of why the act applies in this case.
Last month, Ted Gistaro, a senior U.S. analyst of terrorist threats, warned that al-Qaeda operatives from North America are training in Pakistan to attack the United States. In a speech in Washington on Aug. 12, Mr. Gistaro suggested that Canadian passport holders are among the biggest threats. Al-Qaeda has strengthened its safe haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Mr. Gistaro said. He is a 20-year U.S. Central Intelligence Agency analyst and is now the chief national intelligence officer for transnational threats.
Mr. Gistaro said al-Qaeda operatives include North American and European citizens and legal residents with passports that allow them to travel to the United States without a U.S. visa. The U.S. military has grown increasingly bold about sending its drone aircraft into Pakistan. There have been several attacks this year that claimed the lives of significant figures who had eluded capture since 9/11. A winter strike killed a field commander, Abu Laith al-Libi. This summer, an explosives expert, Abu Khabab al-Masri, was also killed.
The outgoing Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, Arif Lalani, spoke to The Globe and Mail editorial board on Tuesday. He argued that Pakistan must take border-management issues more seriously. However, he said afterward he was unaware of any missile strike.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which was formed primarily as a domestic agency 25 years ago, recently launched a legal bid to get formal powers to spy on Canadian citizens living overseas. CSIS asked a Federal Court judge to sign off on warrants against 10 individuals, alleging they were involved in international terrorism, but the bid was denied. The law fails to give Canadian courts any powers to endorse spying actions against Canadian citizens operating outside Canada, the judge ruled. With a report from Dawn Walton in Calgary
I don't know about you, but Sarah Palin scares me. Its as if Margaret Thatcher has had a reincarnation. Anyone who believes God authorized the invasion of Iraq should not be anywhere near any public office, let alone the White House.
While the Democrats were mocking McCain for making a silly choice, I feel the old man from Arizona made a brilliant move. McCain now has an attack dog on his side allowing him to act presidential and above the fray.
Here is a piece from The Nation about the woman they call "Sarah Barracuda" because of "her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness."
September 4, 2008
Everyone is trying to get the measure of Sarah Palin, the woman who was rocketed from small-state obscurity to the national stage when John McCain selected her as his running-mate on the 2008 Republican ticket. Republican senators and governors are admitting interviews, as former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, did with me a few minutes ago that: "Most of us don't really know her personally."
Well, Anne Kilkenny does know Sarah Palin.
Kilkenny's a good citizen of Wasilla, Alaska, the city where Palin got her political state as a city council member and then mayor. She's a self-described "housewife" who volunteers as a voter registrar, has been active in the PTA and regularly attends local government meetings.
She is, as well, someone who has clashed with Palin. More than a decade ago, when Palin was campaigning to ban books, Kilkenny says, "I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah's attempt at censorship."
What's Kilkenney's take? Here's a letter she has circulated
I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.
She is enormously popular; in every way she's like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won't vote for her can't quit smiling when talking about her because she is a "babe".
It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.
She is "pro-life". She recently gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.
She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.
She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.
Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin's kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.
Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.
Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.
During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.
Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a "fiscal conservative." During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.
The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren't enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn't even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later -- to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.
While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.
These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.
As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.
In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today's surplus, borrow for needs.
She's not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren't generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren't evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.
While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.
Sarah complained about the "old boy's club" when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of "old boys". Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal--loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State's top cop (see below).
As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla's Police Chief because he "intimidated" her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.
She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn't like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.
Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.
When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the "old boys' club" when she dramatically quit, exposing this man's ethics violations (for which he was fined).
As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the "bridge to nowhere" after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.
As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects--which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance--but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as "anti-pork".
She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.
Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her "Sarah Barracuda" because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.
As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as "AGIA" that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.
Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned "as a private citizen" against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State's lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior's decision to list polar bears as threatened species.
McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President.
There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.
However, there's a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.
Finally, all you wanted to know about Jihad, but were too afraid to ask!
On August 14, 2008,on Pakistan's Independence Day, the Islamist group Jamatud Dawa the new name of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba held a conference in Lahore. At the opening of the conference, a duo of Hafiz Abdul Wadud Hasan and Hafiz Abdur Rauf sang the following song, titled the ''Jihadi Tarana (Jihadi anthem).'
Jihad is the destruction of heretics;
those who fight against it will die.
(Jihad alhad ki tabahi
Ise mitayega jo mitega)
Jihad is the Eagle's attack; falsehood will be victim.
(Jihad shaheen ka jhapatna
Shikar batil bana rahega )"
Here is the entire anthem.
The Jihadi Anthem
"Jihad will continue till the Day of Judgement; jihad will never stop.
(Jihad jari rahega ta qayamat
Jihad hargiz naheen rukega)
It has forced oppressor's head to bow; it will end oppression and torture.
(Is se zalim ka sar jhuka hai
Is se zulm-o-sitam mitega)
Jihad is the order of Allah; jihad is the path of the Prophet
(Jihad farman hai Khuda ka
Jihad rasta hai Mustafa ka)
Jihad is the assurance of loyalty; every true Muslim will be loyal.
(Jihad paiman hai wafa ka
Her ek momin wafa karega)
Jihad is mentioned in the Koran; jihad is the eternity of faith.
(Jihad Qur'an mein likha hai
Jihad Eiman ki baqaa hai)
This is the Will [of God], this is [His] happiness; no one can change it.
(Yahi masheeat, yahi raza hai
Jise na koi badal saekga)
Only Jihad has always cut the head of evil from the earth
(Zameen se fitno ka sar hamesha
Jihad hi se qalam huwa hai)
If jihad has the power in it; mischief will have no substance.
(Rahega dam kham jihad mein to
Fasad mein dam naheen rahega)
Jihad alone gives voice; respect comes to the helpless.
(Jihad hi se zaban milti
Hai aan milti hai bekason ko)
Jihad will make the gods of falsehood naked.
(Jihad jhooti khudaion ko
Ulat kar be abroo karega)
Avoidance of jihad has given birth to subjugation.
(Jihad se ijtniab hi ne
Ghulamion ko janam diya hai)
Enemies of Jihad will be dishonoured; they will sink into an unending abyss.
(Jihad dushman zaleel hoker
Athaah pasti mein ja girega)
Jihad is the protection of the Ummah; jihad is the symbol of self-respect.
(Jihad millat ki pasbani
Jihad ghairat ki hai nishani)
Jihad is a Revealed gift; only the lucky ones will get it.
(Jihad tuhfa hai aasmani
Naseeb walon ko hi milega)
Jihad destroys terror; jihad brings good news.
(Jihad dehshat mitane walaa
Jihad muzde sunane walaa)
Jihad teaches how to live; only those will live who learn to die.
(Jihad jeena sikhane walaa
Jo marna seekhega wo jiyegaa)
Jihad is the state of ecstasy; jihad is the army of the brave.
(Jihad alam hai bekhudi ka
Jihad Lashkar bahaduri ka)
Jihad is the flag of truth; Never has it bowed, nor will it bow.
(Jihad parcham hai rasti ka
Kabhi jhuka, na kabhi jhukega)
Jihad is the kingdom of faith; jihad is the depth of emotions.
(Jihad eiman ki hai shahi
Jihad jazbon ki hai bepanahi)
Jihad is the destruction of heretics; those who fight against it will die.
(Jihad alhad ki tabahi
Ise mitayega jo mitega)
Jihad is to stand for truth; not go back once you have taken the step.
(Jihad Afazan haq per hai datna
Qadam barhaker ne peechhe hanta)
Jihad is the Eagle's attack; falsehood will be victim.
(Jihad shaheen ka jhapatna
Shikar batil bana rahega )"
(1) Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), May 28, 2008.
(2) Jamatuddawa.org (Pakistan), accessed August 20, 2008.
September 11, 2008
Seven years after 9/11 danger endures
Canada's security forces should use moderate Muslims to root out radicals
By Farzana Hassan
The Gazette, Montreal
Seven years after the 9/11 tragedy, Canadians are still unsure about how to tackle the problem of growing extremism in our midst. The debate over who to shun and who to court in this ongoing struggle is compounded by a policy of appeasement that many in the West have adopted toward Islamists and their radical supporters.
Moderate Muslims who challenge the quintessentially religious are put immediately on the defensive. They must soften their concerns about the growing radicalization of Muslim youth with tirades against other ethnic communities and their radical elements. A recent public meeting organized by CSIS and the RCMP was a case in point. It erupted into often bitter exchanges among Muslims.
There is no doubt the aboriginal, Sikh, Tamil and African-Canadian communities have their share of troubled youth, as do other ethnic and religious groups living within Canadian borders. But the present and more pervasive threat to the security of Canada, including its largely law-abiding Muslim population, comes from radical Islamist fundamentalism.
These extremists continually work to undermine Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance, while openly pursuing an agenda to quash the reasonable voices of moderate and progressive Muslims. Within the Muslim community, the culture of silence and fear has produced some strange ironies. It has allowed a topsy-turvy view of victim and oppressor, of who deserves an apology and who is best able to deliver viable solutions to the problem of growing radical ideologies.
Islamist assaults on Canadian values might surface in a variety of forms: the institutionalizing of sharia as parallel Muslim courts; the establishment of sharia-based state-like entities in Canada, such as the one just south of the border in Buffalo, N.Y.; increases in misogynistic practices like wife-beating, and the radicalization of Muslim youth. Like their mentors, who self-righteously but disingenuously pose as moderate Muslims, these radical youth consider violence and terrorist attacks against innocent people as acceptable means to extremist ends.
In a rather naive approach, CSIS's solution is to pair aggrieved youth with the same clergy who believe violent jihad to be a core doctrine of Islam. This is not to equate the classical understanding of jihad - one's personal quest for enlightenment or "greater jihad" - with terrorism. However, let us be honest. In today's bellicose, highly politicized environment, the lines between violent and spiritual jihad are often blurred, particularly in the minds of the radicals. Sadly, our intelligence service appears unfamiliar with this important insight, and seems to regard Islam solely the preserve of the bearded and veiled.
In the words of author/activist Tarek Fatah, who attended the public event in the Toronto-area last month, "They are seeking solutions from individuals who are part of the problem."
CSIS and the RCMP would be better advised to seek help from Muslims who have come forward with an unapologetic repudiation of the doctrine of violent jihad. This is an ideology that seeks to subjugate and condemn anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, who refuses to subscribe to its myopic view of world domination under radical Islamist principles. Indeed, its primary victims are the majority of law-abiding Muslims themselves, who wish no part of the fundamentalist ideology so often touted as the only authentic version of Islam.
Need one remind Canadian Muslims that the growth of such worldviews will spell only disaster for them, more so than for any other community?
Yet all is not lost. Courageous Muslims have stood up to Islamist threats undeterred. They have openly declared: "not in my name, not in the name of my faith."
Any attempts to engage closet radicals in dialogue to counter the threat of radicalization will amount to nothing more than a bandage on festering wounds. It will turn out to be a feckless exercise that does little to check the spread of extremism and religious bigotry. Let CSIS and the RCMP engage progressive Muslims in this endeavour and get the real deal rather than the dog-and-pony show the Islamists and radicals are ever so ready to offer.
Farzana Hassan is president of the Muslim Canadian Congress. She is author of Prophecy and the Fundamentalist Quest.
Naser Khader is a Danish Muslim, immigrant of Syrian background, and member of the Danish parliament. He is the founder of the Danish Muslim organization, Democratic Muslims and has tirelessly opposed radical Islamists in his country, often at great personal risk. He currently heads the political party Liberal Alliance, which has five members in the Danish Legislature.
In this article published on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, Naser Khader says quite explicitly that Islamism is equivalent to racism. Islamism or "al-'islÄmiyya" as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-e-Islami refer to their political program, is the use of Islam as a doctrine to pursue political goals. Professor John Esposito defines Islamism as "Islam interpreted as an ideology to support political and social activism."
Read and reflect.
September 11, 2008
Islamism is the Racism of our Times
Member of Parliament
Today marks the seven year anniversary of the attack on World Trade Center in New York. At least 2,986 people lost their lives in the terrorist assault, which was planned and executed by Al Qaeda. The tragedy came as a shock to the free and democratic world, and the response was swift. The War on Terror was declared, and also Denmark volunteered to join battling the evil that terrorism is an expression of.
Today, on the 7th anniversary of 9/11, we face the fact that the War on Terror is not won. It is, however, not lost either. Itâs more like a draw. And we are facing the fact that while the democratic world, using its superior firepower, has been able to keep the terrorists at bay, we have failed in a different battle.
This battle is one we have not launched in a similar decisive fashion. This is the battle against political Islam. Today, the Islamists are stronger than ever. While we shoot at terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Islamists are winning still more souls for their cause. Both in the Arab world, in the Muslim countries in Asia, and amongst the Muslim minorities in the Western countries.
Everywhere the Islamists are advancing. Their influence in international organizations, in international business and through Islamic lobbying, is advancing on all levels on a daily basis. Islamism as a political ideology is now a more serious threat against democracies than the violent terrorism that Al-Qaeda have been advancing. We simply need to wake up. As Islamists gain a footing in still more countries, the very values that our soldiers fight for in Afghanistan are repressed. Freedom of expression is the first to go, and freedom of religion with it. In societies adhering to Sharia, fundamental civil liberties are suspended, and laws discriminating against ethnic and religious minorities are passed, with reference to religious doctrine.
Islamism is the racism of our time. It can be said no more clearly than this. And as such, a united democratic world must turn against Islamism â not seeking âdialogueâ or âunderstandingâ, but in rejection and concrete resistance.
Later this year, the United Nations will hold a conference on racism. Durban II in Geneva. In spite of this conference, which, like the first, is being hijacked by Islamic countries to support Sharia, the Danish government has chosen to participate. Other countries, including Canada, will boycott it. Now that Denmark chooses to participate, this opportunity must be seized to make a firm stand.
I believe that the Danish government should use Durban II to propose a condemnation of political Islam as a racist ideology. We owe it to ourselves and to our soldiers, who set their lives on the line fighting terrorism on the battlefield, that we at the lofty conferences in the international society act equally firmly and with principle against Islamism.
The Islamistsâ assaults and threats against authors, cartoonists, and other intellectuals, who challenge their monopoly on the right teaching, are increasing in strength. We experience it in Denmark with the threats against cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, and this goes on worldwide.
Recently, at a conference in France, I had the opportunity to meet some of the victims of Islamist intimidation. They were brave people standing firm in their criticism of religion â and for that reason were forced to live a life with security guards and insecurity for themselves and their families.
It is time that we discard the velvet gloves and make this clear: There exist religious practices that are not compatible with fundamental human rights. Islamism is one of those, and must therefore be fought.
It is not sufficient to keep killing Taliban warriors on the battlefields of Afghanistan, if we do not simultaneously put our fullest efforts into the other battle. If our souls are lost to the Islamists, we will eventually lose the War on Terror. Democracy must learn to strike hard.
Naser Khader is a Danish Muslim, immigrant of Syrian background, and member of the Danish parliament. He has tirelessly opposed radical Islam in his country, often at great personal risk. Khader is chairman of the political party Liberal Alliance.
For sometime now Saudi Arabia has been using the UN Human Rights Council to water down the 1948 UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights and introduce Sharia law into the UN. Riyadh is using Egypt and Pakistan as well as Iran in using the 57-nation OIC to pursue the Saudi agenda. This week the International Humanist and Ethical Union sponsored a talk at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to oppose the OIC move. The IHEU was also joined by the Cairo Centre for Human Rights in opposing the introduction of Sharia Law into the Human Rights discussion.
This was the first time the OIC move was opposed by Muslims at the UN. Also there was Naser Khedar, the Danish MP and head of the Danish political party, the Liberal Alliance.
Here is the text of my speech at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which sent the Arab League delegate into a fit.
18 September, 2008 - 10:09
The OIC does not speak for Muslims
I speak to you as a Muslim who was born in Pakistan and lived there for 30 years and moved to Saudi Arabia where I worked for 10 years. Since 1987 I have called Canada my home. As an author, journalist and Muslim activist, I have seen the role and agenda of both the soft and hardcore jihadis unfold before my eyes and across the Muslim world.
I approach the issue of freedom of speech and freedom of expression embodied in the 1948 UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights
as defending a treasured right that few of my co-religionists can dream off, let alone cherish or possess. We are over a billion strong, but almost all of us live under varying forms and degrees of dictatorship and oppression. Barring a few exceptions such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, and very recently Pakistan, Muslims live under the tyranny of rulers like those of Iran and Saudi Arabia who have used the religion of Islam as a tool to secure absolute power, and to trample all over the human rights of their citizens.
Barely a day goes by without news of gross violations of human rights of Muslims living in so-called Islamic countries. Whether it is honour killings of sisters and mothers or the harassment of gays and calls for their death; whether it is imprisonment of political opponents or attacks on minorities, we Muslims who live in the West are constantly reminded of the rights we enjoy under secular parliamentary democracies as individual human beings.
It is our lives as Muslims in the West that compels us to step forward and expose the duplicity of the OIC when it seeks to water down the 1948 UN Human Rights Declaration and substitute it with so called Islamic human rights. We are alarmed that not only is the UN declaration under attack, but that the Rappateur on Freedom of Expression is being asked to report back on those who are brave enough to question medieval superstitions that challenge the elementary norms of reason and rationalism
. Allowing the OIC States to oversee individual human rights is like putting the fox to guard on the chickens.
Life in the OIC countries is the reason why millions of Muslims have escaped and taken refuge in Europe and North America. We are testament of their failures. They rule their populations with a sense of entitlement that they believe is their God-given right, and millions suffer under their tutelage. I urge you to not fall for the charm offensive of those who falsely claim to speak on behalf of Muslims and Islam. They do not, and their record speaks for itself.
While the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran claims he is answerable only to Allah, the King of Saudi Arabia claims to rule in Gods name. Next door in Egypt, a military dictator has monopolised power for 30 years, jailed his critics and his opponent Ayman Nour continues to rot in prison. The difference is that while Iran and Saudi Arabia oppress Muslims in the name of Islam, the Egyptian dictator does so in the name of American sponsored moderation. The result for the ordinary Muslim is the same: the complete absence of human dignity that can only be guaranteed if the 1948 UN Declaration is honoured and implemented in letter and in spirit.
The use of Islam to slaughter fellow Muslims is not a new phenomenon. In 1965 Islamist vigilantes massacred a million of their fellow countrymen in Indonesia; in 1971 Pakistani armed forces conducted a genocide that killed one million Muslim Bangladeshis in the name of Islam. In 1979 an Islamist Military man, General Zia ul Haq who presented himself as the ultimate saviour of Islam, hanged the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. Five years later, the Sudanese Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood hanged the great Islamic scholar Muhammad Mahmood Taha after accusing him of apostasy.
After stifling individual liberty and freedom of thought and debate that would include even discussing Islam and how it has been used to oppress and plunder, the Islamists, led by Saudi Arabia and Iran, have brought their agenda to the United Nations Human Rights Council
with the aim of legitimising their suffocating ideology. After depriving their own populations of the rights the rest of humanity seeks to embrace; after creating failed societies, the Islamists are using the OIC to validate the crimes that have led to trauma and dysfunctional societies across the Muslim world. We should not let them succeed.
As a Canadian, I am deeply proud of my countrys contribution in the drafting of the 1948 UN declaration. As a Canadian Muslim I am conscious of the fact that the 1948 declaration gave me the rights to practise my faith as I deem fit in a country where my community is less that 3% of the population, yet is treated as equals.
Why should Muslims only enjoy human rights and freedom of expression to discuss their own religion where they live as minorities, yet never be able to do so where they form a majority? Why should I fear for my life simply because I ask why so many Muslim societies have failed despite their enormous natural wealth?
Today the same people who have smashed human rights with an iron fist where they govern, and oppress Muslims under their rule, have the audacity to appear before the UN and demand that that their vile policies be validated by the Human Rights Council and that anyone who dares to criticise the principles under which they govern as absolute monarchs, dictators or self-anointed guardians of Allah, be silenced. This should not happen. I as a Muslim urge you to not abandon the millions of Muslims who do not have a voice.
To suggest that any criticism of Islamism
, the political ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian Ayatollahs, is anti-Islamic is a bogus and fraudulent position. I would contend that my religion Islam demands that I stand up to these bullies and take away from their right to put padlocks on poetry and chastity belts on independent thinking.
People who were not insulted or offended when the Saudis demolished the Prophet Muhammads 1400-year-old House in Mecca, but who ran wild at the sight of Danish cartoons, can at best be described as men who have got their priorities wrong, and at worst as hypocrites.
These Islamists and the governments they control propagate man-made Islamic shariah laws as an alternative to western secular democratic law, yet they oppose any scrutiny of the very same shariah laws that sanction slavery, racism, misogyny and homophobia. My message to these dictators is this: If you continue to pour millions into Canada and other Western countries to promote Islamism, then dont complain if we Muslims join our fellow citizens and put your political ideology to scrutiny.
Islam is a religion, but Islamism is a political ideology. They are not the same despite what the OIC claims. Everyone has a right to practise Islam without fear of persecution. However, Islamism is nothing more than the use of Islam to secure power over an already marginalized community of Muslims. Proponents of Islamism had better be prepared for criticism, not just from non-Muslims, but from Muslims, who have been the primary victims of this totalitarian ideology.
My message to the OIC is this: Please clean your own house before trying to subvert the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. Go first and end the slave-like conditions of dark skinned Muslims in the Persian Gulf before spreading your failed ideology and recipe of failure to the UN.
Those who behead people in public and stone women to death, practise apartheid in their Kingdom and wave the sword of apostasy over the heads of their fellow Muslim critics, should be the last people to speak on behalf of their victims. Too many Muslims have fallen victim to your rule. We do not want the UN to be tainted by sanctioning these practices.
If the agenda of the OIC is allowed to succeed, and so-called Islamic Human Rights is allowed to deviously compliment the 1948 UN Declaration, then ladies and gentlemen, my speech today would be in violation of the Charter of Islamic Human Rights because I have spoken against the Shariah.
Equality of all human beings, not just in their dignity and respect, but equality of their rights before the law must remain sacrosanct. Otherwise you would have failed the one billion Muslims of this world who live under regimes that implement thought control as a holy doctrine.
Perhaps, I could best explain the relationship between Islam and Islamism this way. Islam is to Islamism, as Uranium is to weapons of mass destruction.
In closing, I want you to imagine a scenario from the good old days of the Cold War. How you would have reacted if the Warsaw Pact countries came to this session and said: We want the rest of the world to embrace communism. However, there cannot be any discussion about the demerits or flaws of our political ideology because we feel offended when the rest of you discuss it; you are not experts?. You would have laughed in their faces. You certainly would not have said: We agree, there can be no discussion of communism in this forum.
Today you have to reject the OIC demands with the same vigour that the free world rejected the Gulags.
Tarek Fatah is founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State (Wiley 2008).
This speech was given at the IHEU
parallel conference "An analysis and Discussion of Religion and Freedom of Expression at the Human Rights Council" held at the UN Human Rights Council on 17 September 2008.
The blood of the dead and wounded in Islamabad had barely dried up before the conspiracy theorists in Pakistan started churning out reports about US responsibility in the terrorist attack. It seems the country's intelligentsia has become collectively blind to the Jihadi threat and the mayhem created by Taliban terrorists. Whenever anything is unexplained, they can only see the hidden hand of the US and Israel. It reminds me of the banner I saw across a Karachi street in 2006, which read: "Bird Flu is a Jewish Conspiracy."
But there is still hope. Here is Amina Jilani in the Lahore newspaper, The Nation.
Read and reflect.
September 21, 2008
Tora ! Tora ! Tora !
By Amina Jilani
Media sabres having rattled mercilessly in the railing against General Pervez Musharraf, once he departed were directed at a new target - the United States of America. The press rattling poses a minimum danger but the electronic media is lethal, reaching out as it does to the largely illiterate and easily-influenced masses, stirring up the popular but short-sighted prevalent anti-Americanism.
Some of the efficient promoters of this latest attack campaign are a few disgruntled retired army generals, the latest recruit to their ranks being the former CGS Lt General Shahid Aziz who served under Musharraf. He is now trying to tell us that all decisions regarding waging the War On Terror were taken unilaterally by Musharraf, without the knowledge of his fellow generals. This is almost impossible to believe, particularly in the case of the ISI chief, who is now our COAS. What point he is attempting to make, or how he is helping the overall situation, is unclear.
The people, of course, do not know the truth, neither do our brave drawing-room and TV studio flame throwers - though the fiery generals must be privy to many a fact regarding the 'agreement' made by the US and Musharraf and the new 'agreement' made with Asif Zardari prior to his planned elevation. According to news reports, small numbers of American troops have been operating in Pakistan for years in conjunction with the Pakistan army. So, there is not much that is new.
Zardari, thankfully and obviously, is reluctant to utter on the 'crush America' movement (which seems to have replaced the 1971 'crush India' cry). His prime minister has, sadly for the battle criers, declared that Pakistan will not declare war upon America. They may however find some consolation in the avowal of the army chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, that Pakistanwill return fire with fire.
This reckless war-mongering is merely strengthening the hand of the local Taliban who as of now are responsible for far more death and destruction than the American forces. Pakistani Taliban are killing hundreds of their fellow Pakistanis all over the frontier area with impunity, displacing thousands more, yet our belligerent drawing-room and TV studio preachers direct no guns at them.
The would-be warriors have a seriously distorted sense of Pakistan's size and strength. David and Goliath may be an example they look to, but then Pakistan is not even a David in comparison to today's Goliath. Should the stress not be on cooling down an inflamed nation rather than stoking its fires? In this state of ignorance, does wisdom not dictate that caution and dialogue rather than shooting from the hip, be the order of the day?
Pakistan has been paid over USD 10 billion over these seven years of the WOT for its participation in fighting the terrorists of this world concentrated in the northern areas of Pakistanand in Afghanistan. If it accepts payment, it must play its part. That is what the Americans are asking it to do. And if it is incapable of doing so, then logically it needs help.
It is not clear at what our armchair and TV studio war mongers are really aiming. It may be mere rhetoric, but whatever it is, it is dangerous. Do they want President Zardari to throw down the gauntlet, do they want the unfortunate prime minister to retract his words and declare war.
A number of guns have been aimed at Pakistan's ambassador in Washington who, in the light of what emanates from the homeland, has a tough job on his hands trying to control the situation. Would the sofa-studio wallahs have it that rather than using diplomatic argument and discussion he marches into the White House and threatens to nuke Washington?
Ad hominen attacks upon a country's representative who is trying to do his job, and who is appreciated by the Washingtonians seem counter-productive. Is it not in our favour to have a man with unlimited access, whose mission is to pacify rather than inflame? Is it not better to engage the US diplomatically and say, "May we suggest you do not escalate," rather than to threaten war which is sheer stupidity - a case of pride trumping reason?
Reportedly, the mood in Washington is ugly. Unless there is a change over here, Pakistan will end up being viewed as the enemy - a recent poll indicates that even the ordinary Joe inIowa now considers Pakistan to be a source of danger to the US.
Should we not at least try to dispel this image? A truth must be realised, and that is that though there are those who erroneously believe that that US would pay a heavy price for its 'incursions', it can cause irreversible damage to Pakistan if provoked. Dreams and delusions about future triumphs should not goad the nation into a potential disaster.
If the Pakistan army can take care of things on its side of the border, the US will not need military operations inside Pakistan. For the present, we are incapable of even waging a successful war against our local Taliban so what is the point in getting carried away with jingoism and vitriolic rhetoric against what is accepted as an 'ally'? We must show effectiveness and commitment in the containment of the Jihadis who cover and prowl the frontier regions, but this will not be possible if we continue to make distinctions amongst the various groups, thereby inviting retaliation.
The national mindset is in need of an urgent readjustment.
The writer is a freelance columnist
September 21, 2008
Islamabad Marriott Bombing
MCC denounces terrorism;
Jihadi apologists promoting conspiracy theories
TORONTO - The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has strongly condemned the truck bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, labelling it as yet another act of terror aimed at destabilizing the nascent democratic forces in the country. While evidence is still emerging, the Islamabad attack has all the fingerprints of Islamist terrorism.
The MCC has also expressed dismay that even though the dust has barely settled, apologists of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have started spreading conspiracy theories in an attempt to deflect criticism from the Jihadis. Rather than categorically denouncing the terrorists and their Islamist Jihadi doctrine, many Islamists are portraying the Jihadis as if they were some sort of a liberation movement.
As Muslims, we are dismayed by voices within our community that apologize for these dastardly acts and view the Taliban as some sort of latter day Sandanistas. As Canadians, we are concerned for a Pakistan that is gradually succumbing to Islamist terror groups armed and aided by ideology and finances from the Middle East.
For too long, members of various ethnic and sectarian Muslim communities have chosen to fence-sit or worse, provide statements of support to the Taliban and their nexus of supporters. The latest suicide bombing in Islamabad is yet another reminder that regardless of Muslim grievance, real or imagined, such nihilistic acts of violence have further marginalized Muslims globally.
We urge individuals of conscience to exert pressure on Pakistani groups and institutions who still view the Taliban as a viable foreign policy imperative in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The Taliban are instead domestic enforcers and supporters of reactionary, anti-democratic Islamist groups. It is the dishonest posturing of pseudo-liberal elite Pakistanis and their fascist Islamist allies that provides sustenance to the militant groups responsible for such acts.
While Pakistan's liberal elites have succumbed to the most vile conspiracy theories that blame every ill on the USA, the Islamists profit immensely from this intellectual bankruptcy and work to sabotage the new government in Islamabad. We urge people of conscience to speak out against this dishonest narrative of false victim-hood that seeks to obfuscate the barbaric acts of the Taliban under the guise of pseudo-liberal double speak.
Murderers who cannot even respect the sanctity of the month of Ramzan, a month of physical abstinence and spiritual introspection for millions of Muslims, and in stead continue to engage in their savagery should be prosecuted and their apologists confronted at any and every debate possible.
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For more information, please call Farzana Hassan, president of the MCC at (647) 504-5650
If more Islamic scholars were willing to take on the Islamists in the Arab World, the rest of us would not have to go through the torment of fighting these jihadis on our own. Reading this report from Doha gave me hope that all is not lost to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood among the Arab intelligentsia.
September 24, 2008
Arab Scholars urge Islamists to
abandon goal of an Islamic State
By Anwar Elshamy
Gulf Times, Qatar
TWO leading Islamic thinkers have urged Islamic movements in the Arab world to conduct a radical intellectual revision to their convictions, saying that these movements should abandon the idea of establishing a religious state.
Dr Radwan al-Sayed, a professor of Islamic Studies at the Lebanon University, said that Islamists should stop thinking of setting up an Islamic state, which he said, is not possible because it is dogmatic.
While the religious state is not possible, it is the civil state, where the law rather than the Sharia rules, which we all should stick to. It is the insistence of Islamic movements to establish an Islamic state which triggered a horrendous clash with the Arab counties regimes. Any Islamic state would have a problem with democracy because Islamists seek to create a religious state in which the infallible Islamic Sharia would replace the law though Sharia is merely a way of life. Even the Islamic caliphate state was not a religious state at all, al-Sayed said at the Islamic Movements and Democracy: Lebanon as an Example seminar yesterday. The seminar was organised by the Doha-based Arab Democracy Foundation (ADF).
Al-Sayed, who is also a visiting professor at Harvard and Chicago universities, slammed both Hamas movement and Hezbollah party for what he called resorting to violence to attain their goals.
Islamic movements should denounce violence and ban it by all means because when they exercise it, they do that in the name of God. Though Hamas has developed its approaches as an Islamic movement, it has relapsed into violence against the Palestinians who voted for it. The same practice committed by Hezbollah when it swept Beirut and controlled it by the force of weapons this year just to obtain more advantages over the other rival factions, he said.
He also blamed the rise of Islamic movements around the Arab world on what he called the weakening of the religious institutions by the Arab regimes, saying that this has created a vacuum, which Islamists sought to fill. A main obstacle to democratisation in the Arab countries is the ruling regimes themselves. They suppress all the civil society movements including the Islamists. In Egypt, as an example, Islamic movements flourished only after the Al Azhar authority has been sidelined and weakened by the State. One can easily notice that the violent fundamentalists appeared in every Arab country where the traditional religious institution was weakened, he explained.
Any democratisation in the Arab world would be impossible without involving Islamists who constitute 40mn around the Arab world and difficult to be ignored. But at the same time all the current Islamic movements need to conduct some sort of intellectual reform for their approaches.
About the prospects of democratisation in Lebanon, al-Sayed ruled out the possibility of establishing any democratic system in Lebanon, saying that the different sects making up the country make it impossible to have any type of democracy. It is sects which exchange power in Lebanon rather than parties. I believe that there would be no future for democracy in Lebanon because of this. We have two armies, one for the government, and the other for Hezbollah. The aircraft of a Lebanese pilot was shot down only because he entered the zone controlled by Hezbollah. I cant perceive any democracy in a country where sectarianism prevail the concept of the state, he added. He slammed the military regimes that assumed power in the region during the last decades, saying they undermined all the values of the Arab communities.
Dr Salah al-Din al-Jurashi, a Tunisian Islamic researcher and analyst, called on Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to abandon theme of Islam is the solution, saying this slogan creates confusion and make them seem to be in monopoly of Islam.
I hope that Islamists can give up the idea that application of the Sharia will solve all the problems of our societies and do some sort of calm revision of their approaches. Without a radical revision made by Islamists, a relapse would remain possible, he said. He also warned against the aggravation of conflict among the Lebanese parties saying that any conflict with Hezbollah would mean an all-out war between the Sunnis and Shias. I hope that we can denounce the inevitability of the conflict between the Sunnis and Shias as this will only benefit the enemies of Islam including the US and Israel, he added.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
20-year-old convicted in Toronto terror plot
An Ontario Superior Court judge has convicted a 20-year-old man of conspiring in a group plot to bomb several Canadian targets, including Parliament Hill, RCMP headquarters and nuclear power plants.
Judge John Sproat gave his ruling Thursday on the first of 11 people accused in the plot at a courthouse in Brampton, Ont., saying evidence that a terrorist conspiracy existed was "overwhelming."
"Planning and working toward ultimate goals that appear unattainable or even unrealistic does not militate against a finding that this was a terrorist group," Sproat said. "I also reject the argument that [the alleged ringleader] was a hapless fanatic who posed no risk." Sproat had heard arguments from the defence that the accused had no knowledge of the plot, which was a "jihadi fantasy" brewed by its leaders, while prosecutors maintained he was a willing participant.
Accused first to be convicted under anti-terror law
The accused, who was 17 when he committed his alleged offences and therefore cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has become the first person in Canada to be convicted under the Anti-terrorism Act passed by the government in 2001. The accused stood motionless as the verdict was read, even as emotions overcame the man's family members, who broke down outside the court, said CBC's Muhammad Lila from the courthouse in Brampton.
Although the accused was found guilty, the judge agreed to hold off on entering a formal conviction until a defence appeal is heard in December. The man potentially faces a 10-year sentence.
The remaining 10 suspects face charges that stem from allegations they participated in militia-style training camps north of Toronto. They are also accused of plotting to blow up hydro installations and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and CBC buildings in downtown Toronto.
"In terms of the actual terrorism offence, the judge says that the young man did not actually have to be involved in a specific plan
but that he just had to know that this was their intention generally," said the CBC's Ron Charles, who is also covering the trial.
Key witness convinced of innocence of accused
Mubin Shaikh, an RCMP informant in the trial of a member of the 'Toronto 18', speaks to reporters outside the Brampton courthouse on Thursday. (CBC)
The Crown's key witness, paid RCMP informant Mubin Shaikh, had said earlier in the trial that the accused was a recent convert from Hinduism to Islam, and was friendly, respectful of others and eager to please. Testifying on June 16, Shaikh said the youth was otherwise totally ignorant of Islam, world events, or even the plans the group was hatching.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom on Thursday, Shaikh said, "I don't believe he's a terrorist. "I don't believe he should have been put [through] what he was put through."
But Sproat believed the accused "knew what he was doing and continued his association with these people even after he found out what they were all about," said Charles. In what has come to be known as the "Toronto 18" case, 17 Muslim suspects were arrested in a series of dramatic police raids in and around Toronto in June 2006, with an additional man picked up two months later. Police also seized a variety of materials that apparently could be used for making bombs.
The Crown has dropped or stayed charges against seven of the suspects since their arrests.
September 26, 2008
MCC welcomes conviction
in Toronto terror trial
Acquittal would have been huge victory for Jihadis
TORONTO - The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has welcomed the conviction of a Toronto man accused of belonging to a home-grown terror cell that was allegedly plotting a deadly attack on Canadians.
In the guilty verdict, Justice John Sproat said he was "satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a terror group existed" and that the Muslim youth "clearly understood that the camps were training for a terrorist purpose."
The vice president of the MCC, Salma Siddiqui thanked Judge Sproat for the clarity of the verdict. "Had Justice Sproat found the young man 'not guilty', such a verdict would have been a huge victory for the world-wide jihadi movement. This decision should be welcomed by all Muslim Canadians as it puts an end to the myriad of conspiracy theories being spread within the community about so-called Islamophobia in CSIS, RCMP and other law enforcement agencies."
In welcoming the verdict, Ms. Siddiqui appealed to the court for a lenient sentencing of the youth if he expresses remorse and distances himself from Islamist extremism and the Jihadi doctrine. "The young man now needs to be rehabilitated through the correction system and be made to realize the folly of the world-wide jihadi enterprise," she added.
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More on this story:
|September 27, 2008|
In the name of faith
Taliban supporters in Bajaur area.
IN a moving article on this page (Not in the name of faith, Sept 21), Kunwar Idris reminded us of the treatment being accorded to the Ahmadis in Pakistan. He mentioned the three murders that took place this month in the aftermath of a television talk-show in which one of the participants said Ahmadis were wajib-ul-qatal, or deserving of death.
A few days later, the Marriott hotel in Islamabad was targeted by a suicide bomber, killing around 60 people, most of them Muslims. Before and since, many other innocent victims have been murdered in the name of faith. So what do all these deaths have in common? Two things: firstly, these people are killed because one group believes it has a monopoly on faith, and anybody who does not subscribe to their version of it should be killed; and secondly, those who murder in the name of their faith are rarely caught and punished, unless they are suicide bombers.
According to Kunwar Idris, 105 Ahmadis have been killed since the community was declared non-Muslims in 1974. In the recent murders, the motivation seems to have come from the popular religious talk show, Alim Online, in which the participants vilified Ahmadis without anybody present explaining or defending their viewpoint. This kangaroo court was presided over by the smarmy presence of Dr Amir Liaquat Hussain, who was seen constantly rubbing his hands in delight during the proceedings, without once interrupting his guests who were virtually inciting viewers to murder.
When private TV channels began to sprout across the airwaves, I had high hopes that they would alter the political and social landscape. Given the power of the medium, it can act as a major agent of change. However, while many of these channels have challenged the political establishment, they have seldom questioned the intolerance that holds sway in our society. Indeed, more often than not, they have reinforced existing prejudices.
Most analysts and commentators seem to feel that the freedom of the press is to be used only to criticise the government of the day. But thats the easy bit. Although useful, the true test of independence lies in the ability and willingness to take on rigid beliefs that have resulted in most of the country remaining backward and ignorant. And this, I am sorry to say, is a test the Pakistani media have failed.
When I am in Pakistan, I frequently flip across the spectrum, hoping to see an intelligent, iconoclastic talk-show. Time after time, I am disappointed. Mostly, guests agree with each other, and the hosts seldom provoke them by asking tough, probing questions. Even here in England, the wonders of satellite technology allow me to watch several Pakistani TV networks, and I am struck by the lack of controversial topics raised in these programmes.
Over the years, I have received literally hundreds of emails from readers accusing me of towing the western line over the war against extremism. I suppose this is the result of arguing consistently that this is not Americas war, but ours; and irrespective of what Washington does, we need to fight this battle for our own survival. By and large, this kind of anti-western sentiment is echoed across our television channels and our print media. Our talk-show stars and our newspaper pundits sing from the same hymn-book as they repeat their jingoistic mantra of sovereignty and nationalism.
I can understand the thought process of the Taliban in their different manifestations as they wreak mayhem across Pakistan. They believe in a cause, and are willing to kill and die for it. I happen to abhor everything they stand for, but at least I know where they are coming from and what they want.
However, what I cannot grasp is the position so many of our urban elites have adopted. They appear to want Pakistan to be a modern, prosperous country that is part of the rest of the world. They also seem to want to live in the 21st century with the rest of us. So why is it that they think we should not be fighting the Taliban? Basically, their hatred for America has blinded them to the real threat these extremists pose. Perhaps they imagine that if western troops were to leave Afghanistan tomorrow, peace would return to the region overnight.
Wake up and smell the danger out there. The Taliban want nothing less than the imposition of the Sharia. And obviously, they are not going to tolerate any dissent, such as the kind of anti-government commentary so common in the media today. In a very real sense, our commentariat are making the task of the Taliban easier. By equating opposition to the Taliban with pro-western opinion, they are, consciously or unconsciously, preparing the way for an extremist victory.
Oddly, many of my online critics are women who accuse me of taking a belligerent line when it comes to fighting the Taliban menace. When I ask them if they would like to live under a benighted version of Islamic law such as the one the Taliban imposed in Afghanistan, they immediately say they dont. Basically, all these people would like their cake and eat it too. They want to vent against the Americans, and they want the extremists to stay a long distance away, too. Sorry, friends, but you have to choose: no neutrals allowed in this war.
Over the years, intolerance has hardened and become a murderous element that is now threatening to break up Pakistan. Whether this is expressed in the form of a truck of explosives detonated outside the Marriott; an Ahmadi killed because his beliefs do not conform to mainstream orthodoxy; a Christian attacked on the grounds of his faith; or a Hindu girl kidnapped because she has no protection in a Muslim state, it all leads back to the same strain of intolerance that says: I am right, and you are wrong. And because you are wrong, I have the right to kill you.
We need to be very clear that all these everyday examples from contemporary Pakistani society reveal a nation at war with itself. More than ever before, this violent zeal needs to be fought by moderates. We need to hear more voices of reason and sanity that oppose the simplistic, black-and-white worldview of the fundamentalists. And the media has a duty to promote this peaceful vision.
Just address an email to MuslimChronicle@yahoogroups.com
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