News in Brief: 'Terrorism, Salafi Jihadism, and the West' + other news
- Terrorism, Salafi Jihadism, and the West
By Tariq Ramadan
Swiss Muslim Thinker
Thursday, 18 October 2012 00:00
When will it ever end? Month after month, year after year we are assured that extremist and terrorist networks have been uncovered and/or dismantled in the United States, in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Headline news and spectacular arrests carry a powerful symbolic impact. But our troubles are far from over; despite the killing of Usama bin Laden, fully operational cells remain capable of striking highly symbolic targets: public places, schools, religious institutions, sometimes specifically Jewish ones. “Islamic terrorism” is the specter that haunts our era, and is likely to do so for a long time to come.
I have frequently stated what must be tirelessly repeated: these tiny groups do not represent the values of Islam, their actions are overtly anti-Islamic, and can only be condemned. There can be no justification for the killing of innocents, for attacks on civilians and public institutions. While criticism of the State of Israel, like that of any other state, is legitimate and justifiable it cannot excuse—in any way, shape or form—anti-Semitism, which is likewise anti-Islamic.
In fact, recognized Muslim scholars (Sunnites and Shiites alike) along with the overwhelming majority of ordinary believers firmly condemn the violence of extremists and the actions of Salafi jihadists, wherever they raise their ugly heads. The world must hear this message, and the Muslims must repeat it continuously. About this we must be perfectly clear.
Gullible Youth and Political Agendas
Internationally, the Salafi jihadists and the extremists have long pursued dangerous political positions whose first victims, after those they have executed, are the Muslim populations as a whole. Extremism and terrorism do not afflict the West alone, but also Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Today such movements — standing ideologically between conservative literalism and jihadism — are gaining a foothold in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, and in northern Mali, while maintaining an active presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is imperative to confront the views of these groups, and above all to curtail their ability to promote unrest. Over the last fifteen years, but particularly during the last five years, they have demonstrated their capacity for bringing people into the streets in times of crisis. Though they remain marginal and opportunistic, the impact of their murderous and shocking acts on the perceptions and the imagination of a greater number
of people cannot be discounted.
The young people who join extremist groups are clearly suffering from massive deficiencies in religious knowledge, and are often politically gullible (when they are not attempting to salve pangs of conscience by cutting themselves off from a life of delinquency). They can easily fall victim to the kind of radical or populist rhetoric propagated by jihadist circles, just as they may become the instruments of predatory and manipulative government intelligence agencies. From Pakistan to the United States, by way of Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria, not to mention England, France, Germany and Denmark, informers and provocateurs have successfully infiltrated these groups.
Behind the religious sincerity and the political gullibility of youthful radicals often lurk religious or political authorities, or even government secret services. All are totally devoid of religious sincerity and driven by a political cynicism as blatant as it is deadly. The ideology of extremism and the organizations that embody it are dangerous in many ways; condemnation of them must be firm and decisive, accompanied by a rigorous analysis of their causes, their principle protagonists and their zones of darkness. There can be no room for naïveté.
To this analysis must be added the strategic connection between the presence of such groups in the West and in Muslim-majority countries. Confronting terrorism, and the cells that come into being in an apparently informal and disconnected manner, presents particularly forbidding obstacles, as can be observed in Germany, the US, England, France, and elsewhere. Above and beyond acts of terrorism that are followed by immediate political and military reaction by the affected countries, like the US in Afghanistan, then Iraq in the wake of September 11, 2001, the fact remains that operations against local cells, accompanied by intense media coverage, cannot be entirely disconnected from the foreign policies of the Western nations.
Behind the Fine Words
In fact, where terrorist actions occur, Western military intervention is never far behind. Terrorism has been successfully used to justify increased surveillance of citizens in the West and military operations abroad once public opinion had been primed to accept it (as the jihadist threat had become plausible at home). It may well be that France, whose president and its prime minister proclaim that they will combat Islamic extremism wherever necessary, will soon seek a pretext for greater involvement overseas, particularly in Mali, now that the threat has been felt on its own soil (and that French hostages are still being held). The region is a strategic one, and the petroleum reserves recently discovered there are at least as extensive as Libya’s: worth remembering in order to keep our feet on the ground.
Such considerations aside, we must remain focused on our responsibilities, and refuse to cast ourselves as victims. Once again Muslims — religious representatives, community leaders, and ordinary believers — must speak out loud and clear in condemning what is done in their name by the extremists. Likewise, politicians and the media must take pains to avoid guilt by association. Not only by affirming, in times of crisis or terrorist actions, that the jihadists and extremists do not represent all Muslims, but by finding ways to speak of Muslims in positive ways, and not only in time of crisis.
So intense is the demonizing of Muslim extremists today that, in dealing with individual suspects, everything seems to be permitted. While it is normal to detain persons who are acting suspiciously in order to forestall terrorist actions, the arrest and indefinite preventive detention of individuals without respecting their right to a legal defense cannot be considered legitimate. Today, men are imprisoned in England, Germany, France, Canada, and the United States who do not know what they are accused of and without judgment. They find themselves in a judicial “black hole” where all is permitted in the name of the “terrorist threat.” In any self-respecting democracy, not only must the jihadist-Muslim linkage be rejected, but the former must also be dealt with according to the rule of law. They must be allowed legal representation, a fair trial and an equitable verdict. These are the unalienable rights we all hold dear.
What we observe today in the West is a danger above all for the West itself, which appears to be abandoning its principles: extraordinary illegal renditions, detention without explanation nor reason, the sub-contracting of torture, incarceration and solitary confinement (as in the United States) or, in Europe, degrading treatment, are incompatible with the professed values of human rights and dignity. It is not because we fight against terrorists—or those accused of terrorism—that we can transform ourselves into monsters at the very heart of a system based on the rule of law, granting ourselves the extraordinary right to violate the very rules we claim to protect.
The treatment of prisoners is a case in point. Such is the climate of mistrust that to practice Islam in prison has become all but impossible. In many Western prison systems, in the United States and Canada, and more and more frequently in Germany, Britain, and France, treatment of Muslim prisoners (who account for between 20 and 50 percent of the prison population in some European countries) is blatantly discriminatory and frequently degrading. Inmates find it difficult to pray, their food is inappropriate, spiritual counseling is absent or left in the dangerous hands of uneducated, self-proclaimed preachers. The root of the problem lies within the system itself. What is the point of reacting with horror to the radicalization of Muslim prisoners unless specific measures are adopted to provide prisoners of all confessions with equal access to a chaplain’s services? The choice is a political one.
In the prison system the contradictions inherent in states themselves — particularly with regard to the oft-proclaimed equitable treatment of all citizens — are simply amplified. We may praise equal rights and equal status for all, but (as though seen through a magnifying glass) in everyday life and behind bars contempt, ordinary racism, and islamophobia are tangible realities. Were the intent to produce radicalism, a better way could not be found. Democratic citizens must demand, and states must institute reform on an urgent basis. The treatment of convicts tells us much about the realities that lie hidden behind the fine words mouthed in celebration of our democratic societies.
So Wealthy and Fearful, is a West Adrift
Likewise, it is essential that the public be fully informed about the incidents that recur again and again. When violence walks the land and our societies feel threatened, it is entirely legitimate — after terrorist attacks and/or failed attempts — to expect clarification and a basic explanation from the authorities. The question is not one of accrediting conspiracy theories, but of insisting on citizens’ fundamental rights to information and protection: rights that cannot be compromised. How to explain that in the wake of unfortunately successful terrorist acts there have been no independent commissions of inquiry to report on whatever investigation took place? How to explain that, in the name of the fight against terrorism, citizens are left adrift in the face of contradictory official statements from governments that admit no liability, since the terrorists are, by definition, “diabolical?” How to explain that arrested terrorists are
systematically killed or reduced to silence so that their version of events is never heard? No commission of inquiry has ever completed its work; no conclusions have been reached; no explanations offered. A dire threat hangs over our heads, and black holes surround us.
While conspiracy theories should be rejected, we must claim our right to information and security while at the same time defending the rights of accused or suspected persons. How often we have been wrong! In France, Germany, Canada and Italy, in Great Britain, and in the United States, women and men have served years in prison before it was realized that they had been unjustly incarcerated. Some were released without any apology or compensation whatsoever, and at Guantanamo persons known to be innocent continue to be held as criminals.
The suspicion of terrorism has transformed individuals into de facto “terrorists” enjoying no rights and being dealt with as such, whether guilty or not. Faced with terrorism our societies have been transformed; our freedoms have been sacrificed, and humiliating treatment has been normalized, and we must never forget it. Terrorism may well ultimately confront the West with its own dark image: in refusing to discuss the causes of terrorism, in doing no more than condemn actions, and in dehumanizing the guilty as well as simple suspects, we are normalizing fundamentally racist and discriminatory attitudes.
No amount of pious declarations after the damage has been done will change a thing. The belittling of Islam in public speech, the horrified condemnation of extremists and jihadists, and the shameful treatment of prisoners are forging a negative image of the Muslims among us. If we add the steady stream of crises (caricatures, videos, etc.) that fuel tension, we can grasp the outlines of a new enemy, both within and internationally. Islam suddenly explains everything involving Muslims, whether it be urban violence, social marginalization, unemployment, popular frustration, dictatorship, or opposition to Israeli policies, to name but a few. No need for political, socio-economic, or geopolitical analysis.
We have entered an age when all problems are being islamicized, while simultaneously crucial issues of governance and justice are depoliticized. When religion becomes the over-simplified reason, when we cease to consider the complexity of political life, we turn to a populism that narrowly defines the other, and holds him responsible for all society’s ills because of what he is: precisely the definition of racism and of the politics of fear. A West so wealthy and yet so fearful is a West adrift, so far from its ideals, so near to its demons.
François Hollande acknowledges 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris
Statement by Hollande is first time a French president has publicly accepted that the killings took place
Reuters in Paris
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 18 October 2012 10.30 BST
School astride the Kosovo divide
Thirteen years have passed since end of conflict in Kosovo, but Serbs and Albanians remain divided.
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2012 01:58
How the FBI got its man: the New York terror plot which was a trap
NIKHIL KUMAR NEW YORK THURSDAY 18 OCTOBER 2012
Meet Ayoub: The Muslim drone
Israel has entered the airspace beyond the Lebanon border with impunity, yet is in uproar over the existence of Ayoub.
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Britain's odious rapprochement with Narendra Modi
About 1,000 Muslims died in the Gujarat riots, under Modi's watch. Without justice, there can be no reconciliation
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 17 October 2012 12.35 BST
Last week, the British government asked its high commissioner in India to meet Narendra Modi, ending 10 years of international isolation for Gujarat's chief minister. Modi was delighted, of course, immediately tweeting "God is great".
His industries minister instantly promised to "fast-track" British investment projects. But many Indian political parties, including the ruling Congress, parties of the left, and Muslim organisations, have sharply criticised the decision. Ever since the massacre of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in 2002, Modi has been accused by jurists, secular political leaders and civil society in India, as well as by the governments of many countries, of taking no action to prevent the violence, delaying the deployment of police to protect victims and failing to investigate and punish those responsible for the killings. Despite his repeated denials of each of these accusations, Modi is a potent symbol of militant defiance of secularism and constitutional-democratic principles, and remains greatly feared by Muslims.
The decision by the UK to resume contact with him is seen as a cruel blow to the causes of justice for the massacre's victims (which included three British citizens), and of non-discrimination against India's 180 million non-Hindus.
Up till now, British officials have followed a "working policy" of no contact with Modi's government "because of our concerns over what happened in Gujarat". Modi was also refused a visa by the US and EU. Modi's global isolation has helped to sustain domestic civil society pressure to bring the massacre's perpetrators to justice. This in turn encouraged the Indian supreme court to intervene, by asking the Gujarat government to reopen criminal cases closed for "lack of evidence", and transferring some trials to Maharashtra.
The new British stand has been rationalised on the ground that it would allow the UK "to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer co-operation, in line with the … objective of improving bilateral relations …". In reality, it will deepen India's social and political rifts, and strengthen Modi's Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata party, for whose leadership he is making an aggressive bid.
Going by background briefings by British officials to the Indian press, the UK is attracted to "dynamic and thriving" opportunities in Gujarat, especially in "business", "science" and "education". Gujarat has emerged as a major investment destination thanks largely to the sweetheart deals Modi offers to businesses. Despite booming investments, Gujarat's social indices and poverty ratios remain appalling.
Evidently, the Cameron government doesn't want to lose out on Gujarat's business opportunities or support from Britain's prosperous Gujarati businessmen, described by the Foreign Office as "one of the most successful and dynamic communities in the UK" – even if that means sanctifying large-scale violence. The Foreign Office lamely added that it wants "to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed … [and] support human rights and good governance …" That cannot be done by relaxing moral-political pressure on Modi.
The 2002 massacre was conducted by Hindu fanatics, who speared and burnt Muslims to death, besides raping hundreds of women. Some particularly ghastly incidents were documented by Human Rights Watch and an Indian magazine . A witness told Human Rights Watch that the belly of a pregnant woman was slit open by a mob with swords, and both she and her foetus were torched. At Naroda-Patiya, 97 people were massacred, including 35 children and 32 women, by a mob directed by former minister and Modi confidante Maya Kodnani, who has just been sentenced to 28 years in jail. Police claim they recorded these cases but could not pursue them because of lack of evidence. This is contested by eye-witnesses.
The collective barbaric vengeance against a religious minority couldn't have occurred, says India's National Human Rights Commission , without "a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of the rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people". Although many more Sikhs were killed in Delhi after Indira Gandhi's assassination, the state's involvement was far deeper in Gujarat, making it the worst massacre of its kind.
The massacre followed riots, which were themselves a reaction to a fire in a train, declared accidental by a railway inquiry, in which 59 Hindus died. According to well-corroborated accounts, including some 40 independent reports, including one by the Concerned Citizens Tribunal, composed of former senior judges, Modi had the bodies of the train-fire victims brought over a long distance to Ahmedabad, and displayed in a procession. Unsurprisingly, this provoked violence in Gujarat's charged climate. Modi has denied this, saying that the bodies were taken to a hospital to avoid any tensions, and that the violence was simply a natural "reaction" to the train fire.
According to independent accounts, denied officially, police stood by as the killing proceeded, and refused to register the crimes properly. The BJP, in power nationally, did not use the constitutional powers they have which could have helped restore confidence. (In India, if there is a breakdown of order in any state, the central government can sack the provincial government and impose its own rule until the situation improves and fresh elections can be held. In March 2002, a majority of Indian parties demanded that Modi be sacked and central rule imposed in Gujarat, but the BJP-led government refused.) Gujarat's climate has remained vitiated ever since, allowing Modi to win two state elections.
Modi claims he's innocent and has never expressed remorse for the violence. His recent overtures to Muslims are viewed with suspicion.
Despite official efforts to shield the culprits, and corrupt or destroy evidence, more than 110 people have been found guilty and sentenced by the courts – a small fraction of the culprits' number. Some evidence, as in Kodnani's case, was provided by conscientious policemen, including a detailed mobile-phone log that establishes frequent conversations between ministers, Hindu fanatics and police at specific sites.
Gujarat's victims have still not received justice. Thousands haven't been rehabilitated. Large numbers have been driven into ghettoes, and effectively disenfranchised within a communally polarised climate. Without justice, there can be no reconciliation or forgiveness.
Violence of this scale should be an international concern. It shouldn't be treated lightly simply because India has the trappings of a democracy with free elections. What makes the British decision politically odious is its timing: the Gujarat state election is just two months away.
In search of a cooler, calmer Kashmir
For decades, the region's stunning beauty has been overshadowed by violence and unrest. However, a period of relative peace tempted Adrian Hamilton to visit – and he was entranced by what he found
ADRIAN HAMILTON WEDNESDAY 17 OCTOBER 2012
Meet Mansa Musa I of Mali – the richest human being in all history
A new study has produced an inflation-adjusted list of the richest people of all time
JOHN HALL TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2012
Vatican uproar over screening of Islam scare story video
Cardinal shows bishops footage featuring alarmist predictions about the growth of Islam in Europe
Reuters in the Vatican City
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 16 October 2012 00.47 BST
French right wing hijacks the pain au chocolat
First we had pasty-gate. Now an alleged incident involving the humble French pastry is being used by rightwing politicians in the battle to take over Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party
Philippines in peace deal with Muslim rebels
President Benigno Aquino says the "framework agreement" between government and MILF separatists will be signed shortly.
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Germany to introduce circumcision law
Move to appease Jewish and Muslim communities comes after a German court ruled circumcision was tantamount to bodily harm
Louise Osborne in Berlin
guardian.co.uk, Friday 5 October 2012 17.20 BST
Russia accuses al-Qaida of 'forest jihad' in Europe
Forest fires in EU countries should be considered part of al-Qaida's new strategy, says Russia's top security official
Miriam Elder in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 3 October 2012 17.08 BST
Buddhist temple destroyed in Bangladesh
"Islamic radicals" blamed for violence reportedly sparked by photos of Quran being desecrated.
Last Modified: 02 Oct 2012 01:02
These 'savages' created some of history's finest art
The Long View: It's true, I suspect, that "cultural" Islam, which includes a lot of Christian artists, is greater than the Islamic religion
Monday 1 October 2012
On sale outside the Louvre's spanking new exhibition of Islamic art this weekend was a magazine headline to engage any reader. "Les fanatiques," it read. The fanatics in question were not Texas pastors or Californian video-makers who burn Korans or insult the Prophet Mohamed. "Les fous de dieu" – the "madmen of God" as the French press usually calls them – are not the Midwest Christian Apocalypse-believers who support Israel and claim, if you believe the latest posters on the New York subway, that they are fighting "savages".
Oh no, indeed, the fanatics, crazies and savages in question are the chaps who created the Islamic treasury of golden chalices and crimson rugs and silver vases and marble friezes and bronze lions and stone-paste roosters and vast, brass candlesticks beneath the golden "desert" roof of the Louvre's latest exhibition hall. Even the sumptuous new catalogue that the museum has published to mark the occasion, while padded with the worst of academe's latest clichés – "dialogue" used as a verb, and far too much "inclusivity" and "interaction" and "spaces" – admits the importance of these glories "in these times preyed on by obscurantist aspirations and extremist tendencies of every kind".
These words were written by a Muslim – and he certainly wasn't talking about Mr Breivik or the torturers of Guantanamo and Bagram. For what lies behind the fervour with which we are expected to view these masterpieces of Islamic art in Paris is a simple idea: that Muslims are not all raving, bearded, hand-chopping ambassador-killing head-bangers, but inheritors of one of the world's greatest cultures, entwined within a tolerant religion, enhanced by learned men (alas, few women) who admitted Jews and Christians into their Islamic society and who produced some of the finest art in history.
"The history of art," as Sophie Makariou, director of the Louvre's department of Islamic art, said in an interview last week, "has been written in the West by Westerners."
Ask where are the Rembrandts and Poussins and Goyas of Islamic art, and Ms Makariou will roll off their names: 16th-century manuscript painters Behzad and Mohammedi, the Christian Georgian Siyavush, his pupil Sadiki, Reza-e Abbasi of Isfahan, and Muhammad Ibn al-Zain who created the baptistry of Saint Louis....
And it's true, I suspect, that "cultural" Islam, which includes a lot of Christian artists – not least in Andalusia – is greater than the Islamic religion.
For much of its history, Muslims were a minority in the Islamic world. Their leaders spoke Turkic or Persian as often as Arabic – the Mamluks were Turkish speakers in Arabic-speaking lands – and Christians spoke Arabic as well as Latin.
So what should be our reaction to this exhibition of "Islamic art"? Being a curmudgeonly journalist, I note the artefacts seized from French royalty after the Revolution – an event which inspired 19th-century Egyptian thinkers – and the rather large number of acquisitions which might have been looted during French archaeological expeditions or military campaigns in the Middle East. Bequests are one thing. Theft quite another.
Wonder, too, must be a reaction. The AD1144 celestial globe of Yunus ibn al-Husayn al-Asturlabi – an astrolabe, indeed, of the spheres, a three-dimensional model of the entire universe – in which Husayn has almost perfectly modified the sky's dimensions between Ptolemy's calculations and the era of the Prophet (15 degrees and 18 minutes), its 1,025 stars represented by inlaid silver dots. Ride across the 12th-century Middle East desert at night and you'd need one of these in your saddle-bag.
Yes, wonder. Ottoman calligraphy – did the West create anything to match this? – and flower paintings that could adorn any European medieval panel, and a carpet of the garden of paradise. And then there's a 1599 painting of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir holding a portrait of his father Akbar and while Jahangir looks sternly at his father, Akbar stares back at his son with an expression of frowning disapproval; Jahangir had vainly tried to depose Akbar 14 years earlier.
So humour, too. Perhaps Islam needed that to survive the devastation of Ghengis Khan. There's a tremendous sketch of an Iranian "religious figure" in the late 1880s, a turbaned divine, cross-legged beneath a thick woollen coat, a deeply dissatisfied man, his drooping eyes looking at us with a mixture of blindness and sheer distress.
Painted by Abu Turab Ghaffari – he committed suicide in 1890 – the old Imam looks disturbingly like the fous de dieu of popular journalism. And that – 1890 – is where the Louvre's exhibition comes to an end.
Which brings me to my saddest reflection. Has Islamic art produced anything that is non-derivative this past century? (Or Christian art, for that matter – and please don't talk to me about the "new" Coventry Cathedral.)
And if not, why not? Has technology taken over? Are we to conclude that Islamic culture could survive the horrors of Ghengis Khan – but not the invasion of CNN?
Zanzibar plagued by growing heroin addiction
Residents say it is relatively easy to smuggle the drug on and off the East African island.
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2012 07:28
Mali's rebels impose hardline Islamic law
Schools in Gao are now segregated by gender, and Arabic is taught instead of national language French.
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2012 02:58
In the town of Gao, in northern Mali, rebels who took over much of the country have imposed a hardline form of Islamic religious law.
Schools are now segregated by gender, with Arabic being taught instead of the national language French.
Alleged thieves and criminals have even had their hands and feet amputated.
The government of Mali is now asking for international help to deal with the rebels who are creating a power base in the north.
Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports.
Nigeria protests after Saudis deport female hajj pilgrims
Three planes turned back and 1,000 women detained after reportedly arriving without male chaperones
Monica Mark in Lagos
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 27 September 2012 17.41 BST
Why 'they' still don't hate 'us'
Mark LeVine discusses the myopic nature of the 'us' versus 'them' worldview.
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2012 08:07
I knew the title to my second book would be Why They Don't Hate Us before the last embers of what had been the World Trade Center had cooled. Life in New York City was just beginning to reanimate after two weeks in which everything seemed frozen in time. The only thing that seemed to move was the ash and dust from the wreckage of the World Trade Center which daily covered New York City with a fresh coat of death.
Walking through the bowels of the Times Square subway station I passed a Hudson News stand and caught sight of the just published September 28, 2001, issue of Newsweek, with the title "Why They Hate Us: The Roots of Islamic Rage" emblazoned across it over an image of a young boy dressed in traditional garb holding a toy AK-47. The absurdity of the title - as if the world could so neatly be divided into a "we" and a "they" each, playing our respective roles in some preordained clash of civilisations - provided the perfect foil to summarise the main argument of my research on the impact of globalisation in the Middle East during the last two years.
The similarity between that cover and the much-debated cover of last week's issue of Newsweek, with the title "Muslim Rage" boldly written over an image of screaming Muslim men, is striking. So is the fact that in each case Newsweek had a well-known nominally Muslim writer with little public connection to their faith - Ayaan Hirsi Ali in fact is a self-described atheist - explain what the "West" must do to win, or at least cope with the irrational masses about whom they claim authority to speak.
Whether in 2001 or 2012, the need to generalise about almost one-fourth of humanity, and the benefits of doing is, are evident from the opening sentences of the two articles.
Muslims or Arabs?
In the piercing aftermath of 9/11, Fareed Zakaria pointed out that "there are billions of poor and weak and oppressed people around the world. They don't turn planes into bombs. They don't blow themselves up to kill thousands of civilians... There is something stronger at work here than deprivation and jealousy. Something that can move men to kill but also to die". He went on to argue that the rage that motivated the 9/11 terrorists came "out of a culture that reinforces their hostility, distrust and hatred of the West - and of America in particular".
Zakaria did not blame Islam per se; his scorn was focused on its Arab heartland. He declared that while countries like Indonesia were dutifully following the West's advice on economic and political reform the Arab world was a cesspool of anti-American fury and suicide bombings. His misreading of his Pakistan as a relatively moderate country compared with Egypt or Syria remains as shocking as it is telling.
"By the late 1980s," he argued, "while the rest of the world was watching old regimes from Moscow to Prague to Seoul to Johannesburg crack, the Arabs were stuck with their ageing dictators and corrupt kings." Apparently the fact that all of these regimes were, as he pointed out, brutal dictatorships with long histories of torturing their peoples, apparently had little to do with their alleged "choice". Instead, it's "disillusionment with the West" and a "lack of ideas" that is "at the heart of the problem".
These views, according to the author, have "paralysed Arab civilisation", and led a region "that had once yearned for modernity" to "reject it dramatically".
Venality and carelessness, in spades
Zakaria admitted that the United States had been too cozy with the region's ubiquitous strong-men. But "America has not been venal in the Arab world", explained, "only careless". His ignorance - willful or not; the reader can decide which is worse - of American policies and their motivations in the Middle East is as astonishing today as it was on September 12, 2001. But it was absolutely crucial that America at worst be "careless" rather than "venal". If it turned out that decades of support for some of the most oppressive regimes in the world was the result of deliberate policies, what would that say about "us"?
Declaring himself part of the "we" against whom the Arab world is waging war, Zakaria stated that "we", "cannot offer the Arab world support for its solution [to the Palestinian problem] - the extinction of the state... Similarly, we cannot abandon our policy of containing Saddam Hussein. He is building weapons of mass destruction".
We might mention that the declared policy of the majority of Arab states in 2001 was to support the Oslo peace process while Saddam Hussein was not building WMDs. But the facts don't really matter compared with the powerful perception Zakaria's attitude helped to generate and sustain in the next decade. That "they" are fundamentally incompatible and unable to live among "us" is too self-evidently true to be challenged by mere facts.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch political activist and former Parliamentarian, similarly defines herself as part of the "we" against whom irrational Islam is rearing its ugly head. "Once again the streets of the Arab world are burning with false outrage. But we must hold our heads up high," she begins her article by declaring.
Like Zakaria a decade before, Ali sees little need to explain who "they" are. "Islam’s rage reared its ugly head again last week", and thus it is Muslims as a collective who are responsible. Ali argues that the murder of the Ambassador and members of his entourage was the result of a "raging mob" who under the watch of a "negligent or complicit" government. That the murders were the result of a well-planned attack by a terrorist group in a region that the government has yet to be able to bring under its control (in good measure thanks to all the weaponry released by the US-sponsored insurgency against Gaddafi) is irrelevant.
Islam is nothing less or more than an anti-Western and anti-modern mob. Whether in Libya or in Egypt, it's clear that Muslims are making a "free choice" to "reject freedom as the West understands it" in favour of governments that "stand for ideals diametrically opposed to those upheld by the United States".
Never mind that the "values" of the United States includes supporting corrupt and brutal dictatorships and occupations, launching wars of aggression based on lies, violating its own constitutional principles to detain indefinitely, torture and even murder suspected enemies (including its own citizens). Or that a small but politically powerful percentage of American citizens seem as determined to incite violence in the Muslim world as their counterparts there seem determined to launch violence against Westerners. If Islam is defined by the rage of a small part of its adherents, the West is defined by the abstract liberal ideals that never have to be actualised in practice to remain the standard against which others - but not the West - are measured.
Disaggregating us and them
Neither Zakaria in 2001 nor Ali today can offer any real advice for how "we" can deal with "them", for four reasons.
First, so many of their facts were and remain wrong that their larger arguments aren't very useful. The problem is actually more damaging to Ali because, unlike Zakaria, she has a very powerful personal story of suffering at the hands of an oppressive, violent and patriarchal culture in her native Somalia that deserves to be heard. Sadly, it is undermined by broad generalisations and inaccurate claims she makes.
Second, both authors completely leave out the history and ongoing realities of Western/US support for violent and even murderous regimes across the region, which lies at the foundation of much of the quite understandable anger and rage of Muslims against the US or European governments. It is not the only reason for it, and it doesn't excuse terrorism against civilians, whether Muslims or so-called "infidels", or the widespread religiously grounded prejudices or oppression across the Arab/Muslim world. But the rage for which they are attempting to account simply cannot be understood, never mind addressed, without placing such policies at the centre for any analysis.
Similarly, both authors make scant mention of the quite long history and ongoing reality of "irrational" rage among "Western" Christians or Jews against Islam which, aside from its role in the present video scandal, has had at least as profound an impact on the policies of the American or Israeli governments towards Muslims as Islamic rage has had on the policies of most Arab/Muslim governments towards the US or Israel.
Third, both Zakaria and Ali, and their colleagues (both fellow Muslims like Fouad Ajami and Irshad Manji and the broader mainstream and conservative punditocracy), generalise from the most extreme segments of Arab/Muslim societies to Arab/Muslim "civilisation" as a whole. The simple fact is that the vast majority of Muslims have not been engaged in an irrational hatred of the West or unwillingness to engage with the basic tenets of modernity. As with their counterparts in Western countries and globally, they are just trying to survive and build a better life for their children.
No matter how reprehensible is the behaviour of violent protesters during the most recent protests, they comprise only the smallest percentage of the world's Muslims, and their actions in fact have produced a wide backlash against them, from citizens attacking extremist headquarters in Benghazi to progressive Muslims writing detailed rebuttals to the ideologies underlying such actions. Moreover, no matter how unacceptable the ongoing oppression of women or minorities in the Muslim world is, such actions are neither unique to the Muslim world, nor are they the primary source of the rage these articles seek to explain.
Fourth, all the "rage" writers completely ignore the long history of interaction and support between people in the "West" and "Muslim" world - from interfaith jam sessions in medieval al-Andalus to kings and sultans, beys and deys, allying against common enemies on both sides of the religious divide in the unceasing great power games of the early modern era, to tens of thousands of European migrants building multi-ethnic, religious and linguistic communities in 19th century Alexandria or Tunis (in which former Christian slaves could rise to high government positions), to anarchist-inspired activist collectives conspiring together against authoritarian capitalist elites in early 20th - and now 21st - century Cairo, Madrid and Wall Street.
Of course, such collaborations also have had their much darker side, in the cozy relationships between Western and Arab/Muslim governments. Whether it's freedom fighters morphing into terrorists (a la Osama bin Laden), or terrorists becoming freedom fighters (as we've seen occur just last week with the Obama administration's decision to remove the MEK from the list of terrorist organisations), such policies are at the root of the broader distortions in the relationships between the Muslim majority world and the West that most "rage" writers fail to explain.
Observation, Reason, and the Quran
9/28/2012 - Religious Science - Article Ref: FM1209-5271
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By: Yuksel A. Aslandogan
Fountain Magazine* -
Humans are endowed with the faculties of reason and intellect, and to ask them to abandon their intellectual faculties in developing their faith and relationship with God would be inconsistent with their God-given autonomy. On the contrary, the Qur'an asks its readers to make observations, relate empathically, think logically, and arrive at conclusions that will pave the way to faith and worship. This approach, however, should not be confused with empiricism, rationalism or skepticism, in which everything is questioned and the only way to knowledge is through experience or reason.
The Qur'anic approach is to arrive at a position through observation and reason from which the intellect clears the obstacles for faith, allowing it to take hold in one's heart and preparing the way for dedicated worship of one God. After faith takes hold of one's heart, there will be many elements of creed as well as principles of personal and social life which may or may not be suitable for verification through scientific means. In such cases, it is sufficient that such beliefs and rules of conduct do not contradict observation or reason. Hence, the Qur'anic style combines philosophy, theology, and "all dimensions of our being." In the following I will give examples from the exegeses of Maududi, Yazir and Nursi that, in my opinion, support this view. Unless marked otherwise, the English rendering of verse meanings will be from the Maududi exegesis translated by Ansari.
Manila, Muslim rebels close to landmark peace deal in south
Monday 24 September 2012
MANILA/KUALA LUMPUR: The Philippine government and Muslim rebels are closing in on a peace deal after nearly 15 years of violence-interrupted talks, a potential landmark success for President Benigno Aquino that could pave the way for more investment in the country’s impoverished but resource-rich south.
Negotiators from both sides told Reuters that the major obstacles to a framework deal being signed this year appear to have been surmounted after a period of intense diplomacy.
The deal would formalize a cease-fire in Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao island and set in train a roadmap to create a new autonomous region in the mainly Catholic country before the end of Aquino’s term in 2016.
“What we are saying is that the whole thing will be completed this year,” said Marvic Leonen, a law professor who is the government’s chief negotiator, describing the deal as the “architecture” for the peace process. The deal to end the 40-year-old conflict, which has killed more than 120,000 people, could be signed as soon as the next round of talks in Malaysia, expected to take place in early October.
Tough negotiations still lie ahead and, analysts say, other dangers lurk, such as the threat posed by powerful clans who may disrupt a deal, fearing a loss of political influence.
“We are close to it, but there are still big elephants in the room, such as territory, internal security, and wealth-sharing arrangements,” the chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, Mohagher Iqbal, told Reuters.
The framework deal would signal a major breakthrough in trust between the government and the MILF separatists, who have long viewed Manila’s motives in the talks with suspicion.
It comes as the Philippines defies its reputation as an economic laggard with strong growth and a resurgence in investor interest.
In the latest sign of a policy shift toward Mindanao, the Aquino government has given the impoverished the state the biggest regional share of government infrastructure funds.
For the MILF leadership, a peace deal could simply be a matter of pragmatism. After four decades of conflict, they are ageing and, analysts say, eager to see some fruit from the grinding years of peace negotiations. An outbreak of violence last month when a small rebel faction opposed to the deal attacked army camps underlined how the MILF is struggling to control a younger, more radical generation.
The leadership may also be motivated by the prospect of royalties from huge untapped deposits of oil, gas and mineral resources in rebel areas, part of an estimated total of $312 billion in mineral wealth in Mindanao. France’s Total has partnered with Malaysia’s Mitra Energy Ltd. to explore oil and gas fields in the Sulu Sea off Mindanao.
“If the peace agreement will be signed this year, then I think we will see some benefits already trickling down next year. That’s how fast it is,” said Vicente Lao, president of Mindanao Business Council.
Ishak Mastura, former head of investments for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said a peace agreement would take more time to boost investment and trade in the conflict areas. He said the first phase would likely be an influx of development aid.
“There’s a lot of things to be done before we see these big companies coming in, such as legal environment, infrastructure, and security on the ground,” Mastura said.
Despite the prospect of a peace deal with the MILF, Mindanao is likely to remain one of the most violent places in Asia, plagued by a long-running communist insurgency, heavily-armed clans, and radical Islamic splinter groups.
The framework agreement will set up a 15-member Transition Commission, which has until 2015 to draft a law creating the new entity to replace the current autonomous region that has been in place since 1989 and which is widely seen as a failure.
“It’s not a Panacea,” said Bryony Lau of the International Crisis Group in Jakarta. “But it will be really significant because it is the first substantive text since 2008.”
Peace talks with the 11,000-strong MILF started in July 1997, but broke down three years later when then president Joseph Estrada ordered troops to seize rebel bases after a rebel attack on a ferry that killed dozens.
His successor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo re-opened talks in 2001, inviting Muslim-majority Malaysia to join. Peace appeared to be within reach in 2008, but the Supreme Court declared the deal unconstitutional in a decision that set off rebel attacks and a fierce military offensive that displaced 750,000 people.
The turning point came in August 2011 when Aquino held secret talks with MILF leaders at a Tokyo hotel, apparently convincing them of his sincerity in reaching a deal to end the conflict.
“The government has been determined all along to reach a deal that it could implement within Aquino’s term, and that emphasis appears to have resonated with the MILF,” said Lau.