News and Analysis (12/15/17)

December 15th, 2017

The U.S. hopes its allegations of evidence that Iran assisted Houtis to defend themselves from Saudi aggression will divert attention from its disastrous Syrian intervention, that “arms secretly sent to rebel factions fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad in his long civil war” …

A University of Washington law professor with a husband, children, two stepchildren, and who teaches yoga, is among the many “Arabs, Muslims, and people with Muslim-sounding names” in the U.S. to have had their Global Entry clearances revoked:

“British troops breached the Geneva conventions and subjected Iraqi civilians to cruel and inhuman treatment by hooding them and taking turns to run over their backs … [and] in the way in which it detained civilians”:

In the wake of the Trump embassy move announcement most of the violence in Palestine-Israel continues to be perpetrated by the Israelis:

“[T]he amount of hate I’ve gotten is like a drop in the bucket to the amount of love and the amount of support I’ve gotten from people”:

Though some Muslims disapprove, there is nothing new about Muslims wishing Christian neighbors a “Merry Christmas”:

“As long as corrections officers fail to treat Muslim inmates as human beings … we will continue to sue corrections personnel,” said Attorney David Lane, who represents Ashaheed”:

“Suspect Shambu Lal Regar arrested in Rajasthan over film of labourer being hacked to death and burnt, which earned £3,473 in crowdfunding donations”:

Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh organizations have signed a letter to Trump that retweeting hate videos as official Presidential statements “carried a dark and unmistakable message: Muslims are to be feared; Islamic practices pose a danger to society; Muslims can never be truly equal citizens under the law'”:

News and Analysis (12/14/17)

December 14th, 2017

“The Justice Department is trying to push away legal challenges to his detention by claiming that nobody … outside the feds knows who he is, therefore nobody could claim to represent him in court. That the government itself is the reason why we don’t know his identity is just the icing on the cake”:

Netanyahu went to Europe to drum up support for Trump’s embassy move but only his fellow racists are on board, and they are not in power (yet) …

… but will the Muslim nations of the OIC have the courage to stand up to Donald Trump or will they once again fall back on empty rhetoric?

“Mike Pence will be visiting the Holy Land and Egypt later this month, but none of the local Christians will have anything to do with him” …

… and the Muslim guardians of their holy site is on their side:

“The possible transfer could spark a new arms race in the Middle East and constitutes one explanation why Saudi responses to President Donald J. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were muted and limited to rhetorical statements”:

“Authorities are gathering DNA and blood types through free medical checkups, and [Human Rights Watch] said it is was unclear if patients were aware that their biometric data was being collected for the police during these physical exams”:

Policies of “slashing the refugee program, banning all immigration and travelers from several majority Muslim countries, and imposing new burdens on all visa applicants as part of “extreme vetting” initiatives … appear to have “worked,” strongly reducing Muslim immigration and travel to the United States”:

“Trump shrewdly draws on already-circulating certainties about Muslim men as violent, animalistic, and mercurial. Historian Sophia Arjana notes that Muslims have historically been viewed as a source of contamination, unraveling the (White) racial integrity of Christendom”:

The crazy man responsible for subway explosion in NYC “was inspired by the Islamic State group but had apparently not had any direct contact with the group and probably acted alone” and seriously injured himself:

“[S]tudents returning from Saudi Arabia after studies … “brought back with them this sectarian attitude:

News and Analysis (12/11/17)

December 11th, 2017

“With his declaration, the Christmas lights turned off. The Christmas music has quieted. The Christmas tree in Nativity Square in Bethlehem has gone dark. The Christmas spirit has been drowned out with the mourning of our stolen capital — a Palestinian Christian”:

Since Trump’s announcement that he would move the American embassy in Jerusalem, “Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, has said that Mr. Trump’s move was a violation of United Nations resolutions,” and  the Israelis have “killed four Palestinians, who continue to demonstrate in the West Bank and Gaza” …

… and Netanyahu bid for Europe to join in Trump’s folly “was met by a firm rebuff from EU foreign ministers who saw the move as a blow against the peace process” …

… but despite their condemnation of the move, Hezbollah delayed its first demonstration, Lebanon refuses to recognize Palestinians’ refugee states, Turkey won’t sever relations with Israel, and Arab foreign ministers have dumped the problem in the lap of the U.N. Security Council where the U.S. will veto:

(With apologies to Mort Sahl,) George Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Richard Nixon couldn’t tell the truth, and Donald Trump can’t tell the difference:

In the face of evidence of “sweeping and methodical” rape against the Rohingya …

… the Burmese military continues to refuse to “investigate reports of systematic brutality — murders of children, gang rapes, the torching of scores of villages — … insisting that its troops are innocent of any offense”:

The scholarship honors Tasneem Essader who “was most passionate about her science and Islam”:

Starting in March, the Saudi government will allow its people to take their minds off its ongoing slaughter of their Yemeni neighbors by going to the movies:

“This is a very good initiative. We may have different views, but it is important we can have a normal conversation and speak to each other” — Freddy Gellberg, spokesperson for Malmo’s Jewish community:

“Fadel … described Taylor as her ‘hero” but wonders why “so many people watched as I was being attacked and assaulted simply because of a man who knew nothing of me but chose to judge me based on the hijab I wear”:

News and Analysis (12/8/17)

December 8th, 2017

Trump’s Jerusalem declaration is a declaration of “war against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians,” crosses a “red line,”  prompts a “call for another intifada,” could provoke Iranian-backed militias “to target American forces,” and yet “will change nothing on the ground” …

… and “a senior official in Mr Abbas’ Fatah party, said Mr Pence was “not welcome” in the Palestinian territories”:

“Thousands took part in angry anti-U.S. demonstrations around the Muslim world Friday over the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”:

Palestinian protests were met with “water cannons and tear gas to disperse a crowd, in clashes that cloud the upcoming Christmas celebrations in the town of Jesus’ birth” …

… “Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man near the Gaza border, the first confirmed death in two days of unrest”:

With the U.S. having abandoned any pretense at impartiality, “[n]ow may be the time for another power to be a third-party facilitator that can bring fresh thinking to both sides”:

“With no explanation, the court gave the Trump administration legal cover, for the time being, to separate U.S. citizens from their spouses overseas, from their elderly parents suffering from life-threatening illnesses in war-ravaged countries and even from their own children” …

… as Trump retweets anti-Muslim propaganda videos and anti-Muslim hate crimes break out around the world:

“[T]he Trump administration’s new restrictions have proven to be a far greater barrier to refugees than even his temporary ban, which was limited in scope by the Supreme Court.” The percentage of Muslim refugees has dropped from 25 to 10:

News and Analysis (12/5/17)

December 5th, 2017

“The Saudi-led coalition had hoped that Saleh’s break with the Houthis would be a turning point, isolating the rebels” but instead he has been killed as a traitor with a brutality recalling the murder of Qaddafi:

“If Washington recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it would be the first country to do so since the foundation of the state in 1948” …

… ” Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, … President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and … King Salman, who all received phone calls from Trump, joined a mounting chorus of voices warning that unilateral U.S. steps on Jerusalem would derail a fledgling U.S.-led peace effort and unleash turmoil in the region”:

Relationships such as grandparents and cousins “will no longer provide a blanket exemption from the ban, although visa officials can make exceptions on a case-by-case basis”:

“[A]uthoritarian modernizers cannot simply command a new attitude among their citizens. Opening cinemas and relaxing gender segregation may impress Saudi youth, but a new economy requires far more”:

“[T]he British royal family is descended from Mohammed through the Arab kings of Seville, who once ruled Spain”:

“Pompeo has close ties with Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, who has argued that following Islamic law is ‘an impermissible act of sedition, which has to be prosecuted'”:

News and Analysis (12/3/17)

December 3rd, 2017

Stephen Walt attempts to explain why military occupations and slaughter do not endear you to the victims in a way that even an American columnist can understand:

More than a story of unintended consequences, Israel’s near elimination of the black goat shows the delusional self-destructiveness of Zionism’s goal of “erasing Palestinians and creating a slice of Europe in the Middle East”:

He was trying to stop a resolution condemning Israel’s “‘flagrant violation under international law’ that was ‘dangerously imperiling the viability’ of a future peace settlement establishing a Palestinian state”:

His parents say allegations that the boy “kept repeating the words ‘Allah’ and ‘boom’ class” as impossible because “he doesn’t speak at all” and has “the mental capacity of a one-year-old”:

“Trump provoked a wave of anger and disgust from politicians in Britain and human rights groups in the [U.S.] when he shared anti-Muslim videos posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the group Britain First” …

… while Fransen threatens reporters seeking interviews her with ‘home visits of their own'” and a former member of her group describes talk about “damaging mosques up and down the country” and kicking in doors …

… and “the share of all Americans who say there is not much or no support for extremism among US Muslims has risen to 54 percent, up from 45 percent in 2011”:

Keep your eye on Muhammad Bin Salman and you won’t miss Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood:

Since the Saudi invasion, more than 10,000 people have died, more than two million have been displaced, and a cholera outbreak has infected “nearly one million people and led the country to the brink of famine”:

News and Analysis (11/30/17)

November 30th, 2017

“A politician would have to be blind not to understand that this is a particularly nasty far-right organization that is in trouble with the law, electoral authorities, and reviled by 99 percent of the population”:

After an anti-Muslim krystallnacht, “Warsaw police say they are searching for attackers who have smashed windows in the city’s Muslim cultural center“:

Many women said “Islam is ‘very’ important to them … and also felt that young women should have more freedoms than they now do, and also a stronger voice in their communities and in local and national government”:

MbS’s concept of a tolerant Islam is very counter-intuitive:

Turkey’s rubber-stamp religious authority declares anything “not under the state’s audit and surveillance” against the Islam, even though the Qur’an says Allah hears and knows all things:

The founder of the Hip Hop dance trio “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic” says, “I can still practice my faith and be a powerful woman because inherently we’re given that in our faith tradition. We are given that power”:

To be seen as normal Israel must either abandon racism or convince the rest of the world racism is normal. Its opposition to the BDS movement demonstrates its preference for the latter option:

“Even if all migration into Europe were to immediately and permanently stop … the Muslim population of Europe still would be expected to rise from the current level of 4.9% to 7.4% by the year 2050”:

News and Analysis (11/27/17)

November 27th, 2017

“Sufism has shaped literature and art for centuries…. In modern times, the predominant view of Sufi Islam is one of ‘love, peace, tolerance,'” but some “fundamentalists see the reverence for saints … as a form of idolatry”:

“A global network of anti-Muslim activists is using Twitter bots, fake news and the manipulation of images to influence political discourse, new analysis reveals”:

“Marwan … worries that some mosque members, with no imam to guide them, could soon turn elsewhere for direction, with possibly radical consequences”:

“Critics say the coalition could become a means for Saudi Arabia to implement an even more assertive foreign policy by winning the backing of poorer African and Asian nations with offers of financial and military aid”:

“[D]elayed response is not considered best practice in dealing with bullying”:

“The pressure campaign has shown some signs of success. After an earlier delay, Zeid’s office said the release of the ‘report’ has been pushed back again, from December to early next year”:

“Muslim scholars agreed on five main objectives to be considered the Sharia’s high objectives…: the preservation of the self; … of reason; .. of the religion; … of property; and … of lineage”:

“Earlier, Muslims were stereotyped… [N]ow, with Hindutva rising, there is pressure for Muslims to remove markers that are visually distinct”:

Muslim feminists protest treating violence against women “if we were only legitimate to denounce the violence by Muslims. As if the violence we suffer only comes from Muslims…. News flash: this is not the case!”:

Putting Sectarianism in Perspective

November 26th, 2017

[The following are my notes from a panel discussion with Nader Hashemi (Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies) and Danny Postel (Assistant Director of the Middle East and North African Studies Program at Northwestern University), editors of the new book Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East. presented at the Middle East Institute on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. The program was moderated by Paul Salem, senior vice president for policy research and programs at MEI.]

Nader Hashemi  argued that ancient sectarian hatred is a lazy orientalist explanation. He offered “sectarianization” as a better term than that static trans-historical term “sectarianism.” You cannot understand the current crises unless you understand authoritarianism rather theology as the root of the current conflicts in the Middle East. It is the perpetuation of political rule by the employment of sectarian identity.

There are three ways of approaching the issue: Primordialism,  constructivism, and instrumentalism. Constructivism occupies the middle ground recognizing (as does primordialism) some immutable features of religious identity but recognizing also (as does instrumentalism) the roles of elites in mobilizing religious identity. The questions that must be addressed are: Why are these conflicts intensifying now and why in some places more than others? Why have Sunni-Shia conflicts erupted recently?

Vali Nasr notes that in the past the state was viewed as a passive actor responding to struggles between subgroups. Drawing on research from South Asia, Nasr argues that state actors see political gain in the conflict between sectarian groups. The key claim of the book is that sectarianism in itself fails to explain the complex realities of the conflicts in the region that are rooted in development issues explained by political actors in pursuit of political gain. The refusal of political elites to share power below is a better explanation. Ruling elites are not necessarily committed to defending a theological view or the interests of a particular religious group. Sectarianism is not an inherent quality of Middle Eastern history. Rather, political entrepreneurs capitalize on sectarian divides. Recent conflicts in the US have been more racial than sectarian, but demonstrate a similar point. Trump played the white nationalist card to mobilize people around his political agenda. Politics in the Middle East and U.S. are not the same but they have this in common.

Danny Postel noted that in 2006 the most popular political figure in the Sunni Arab world was HassanNasrallah. This seems inconceivable today. 1979, 2003, and 2011 are critical turning points. There is nothing intrinsically religious in the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. The Yemeni conflicts of the 1970’s had nothing to do with sects but with ideology, with Iran and Saudi Arabia siding with monarchs and Egypt with the leftist rebels.

Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in the 1980’s and the U.S. encouraged transnational Jihad in Afghanistan. To say that the bombing of the Imam Hassan shrine in 2003 started the current sectarian strife is an exaggeration, but it has a point. After Saudi execution of Imam Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in 2016, Iran vowed holy revenge on the Saudis.

Scholars say there was a Sunni uprising in Syria in 2011, but the demands were bread and freedom and had nothing to do with sects. Alawis, Kurds, Atheists, etc., all joined the rebellion. The crisis was precipitated by live ammunition fired at peaceful demonstrators. The same thing is happening in Bahrain. In Syria the regime blames Sunnis and in Bahrain the regime blames Shias. The Saudis engage in a classic scapegoating move, it is not us but the other sect that is the source of your problems. Within three days of the Trump-Saudi “Orb fest” in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Egypt read the love fest as a declaration that “America has our back.”

Paul Salem noted that 1979 was the final stage of Egypt’s departure from leadership of the Arab world as well as the rise of Iran. Until then socialism and Arab nationalism were the central issues. As people turned away from economic and ideological markets did religion replace them? Iran turned a religion perspective into a political project. The same can be said of ISIS which claims that its religious interpretation is profound. For the Shi’a in Iraq and Syria, sect was a means of advancement. He conceded that authoritarianism is the pattern of the region, but asked how to distinguish those regimes for which it is not a tool, such as Sisi or Algeria?

Hashemi responded that in Egypt the Sunni-Shia divide doesn’t exist because there is no mix of populations there. 1967 is the main turning point at which the promises of secularism started to fail, and you see the turn to politicized religion. Socialism and nationalism had cross-sectarian support. The sectarianism card is the regimes’ favorite card to play against the demands for democracy. The narrative they offer the international community is that the problem in their country is not authoritarianism but external intervention and in some cases extremism.

Postel noted that now there is a kind of nostalgia for Arab nationalism, but it failed for a number of reasons including that it never ran deep. The masses never really embraced it. If they were really salient could they have been defeated by a single military defeat (the ’67 War)? Hezbollah redefined itself by its involvement in the Syrian crisis. There was no ISIS when Iran and Hezbollah sided with the Syrian regime.

Hashemi says the first step is for the killing to stop. There must a vision for how to exit the authoritarian status quo, some constitutional vision. The international community must play a more constructive role. We must realize that the Faustian bargain we struck with these regimes is the source of, not the solution to, the problem.

Postel observed that the U.S. had signed off wholesale on the Saudi narratives that all the problems are due to Iran. The Iran nuclear deal is related indirectly to the sectarianism because both the Saudis and Israelis flipped out over the deal.

In the Q&A I remarked that the it is interesting that the one group relatively most committed to Arab nationalism had been the Palestinians who lost most directly from the ’67 War. I also mentioned the role of the West in encouraging the Syrians to resort to armed rebellion against the Assad regime by predicting that he would fall within months. (The Israelis said “within weeks.”)

Postrel took strong exception to my observation insisting that comments about Assad falling from power were “aspirational” rather than predictive. In a conversation with Postrel after the event ended, I informed him of my personal knowledge of how the Syrian opposition took such predictions seriously and that they posed an obstacle to those of us who thought that the best strategy against Assad was to keep the opposition peaceful until he lost the support of the Syrian Army. Such was the pattern of the fall of a number of Middle Eastern dictators from the Shah of Iran to Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia. Postrel insisted that the pattern could not have worked in Syria because Assad’s family is too closely intertwined with the military establishment. On that he and I shall have to agree to disagree and it is my position that brutal as Assad’s attacks on peaceful demonstrators were, the use of violence (albeit in self-defense) by demonstrators and the subsequent civil war that opened the door not only for Assad’s continued military slaughter of his civilian population but for the air and ground forces of a variety of foreign actors as well as the terrorist activities of ISIS and other such groups has been a more tragic consequence for the Syrian people. I do not believe that Assad by himself could have killed so many people in the absence of a civil war without losing the support of the people he would have had to in order to do the killing. I also do not believe the “sectarianization” problem would be as bad as it is at this moment.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (11/24/17)

November 24th, 2017

“[M]edical units have now been installed in the Ritz-Carlton hotel where the beatings have taken place … to prevent torture victims from being taken to hospital” …

… while in an act of stupefying supreme act of hypocrisy the man who invaded Yemen declares that appeasement doesn’t work as an argument why the world and the region should appease him:

… and “a former senior Israeli military figure speaking in London … report that … senior Saudi princes … said to him words to the effect that, ‘you are not our enemy any more'”:

The suspension of his resignation “lends weight to the theory that Hariri was forced to resign,” but the Lebanese know that “they lack the military and political might to hold foreign powers at bay”:

“The climate for this type of attack is made possible by the pernicious influence of Sri Lankan hard-line Buddhist groups such as Bodu Bala Sena”:

“The idea that Burma will now welcome them back to their smoldering villages with open arms is laughable” — Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch:

A focus on “employment, career and material advancement” yields a “deficit of criticality in education … [and an] inability to cope creatively with ambiguity, the predisposition to seek black and white answers”:

The 1753 Marriage Act “limited ceremonies to registered buildings, … [with notable exceptions “for Quakers and Jewish people, … but today renders hundreds of thousands of women outside the protection of our courts”:

The group seeks to address “polygamy, nikah halala, minimum age for marriage etc.” with “new legislation which is comprehensive and is as per the Quran as well as the Constitution”:

“Abdul-Jabbar recounts the tremulous time surrounding his decision to change his name from Lew Alcindor to Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, which means ‘noble servant of [the Most Compelling],’ after” converting to Islam:

“Rabita had closely analyzed Islamic State videos and found they sometimes used quite unreligious bait to entice youths to join their jihad”: