Archive for July, 2006

News and Analysis Updates

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Despite Bush declaring his wish to see Guantanamo Bay detention facility close, a new maximum security prison built by Halliburton will be opening in the next few weeks at Guantanamo

More information revealed about CIA abduction of Muslims in Italy

Reporter tells of a more moderate Hezbollah than is currently portrayed in Western media:

Syria raises troop readiness as South Lebanese try to flee the fighting:

Iranian student originally sentenced to death for leading an anti-government protests dies in prison apparently due to a hunger strike

Bombing brings civilian Lebanese death toll over 500:

As sectarian violence increases, cooperation from Iraqis wanes:

U.S. soldiers in Iraq “claim they were operating under orders to ‘kill all military age males.’ Military spokesmen have declined to respond to the charge”:

Moroccan Female Religious Leaders Featured on PBS’ Wide Angle

Monday, July 31st, 2006

By Sarah Swick, Minaret of Freedom Institute, www.minaret.org

Last week’s episode of PBS’ “Wide Angle” chronicled the newest program in Morocco’s path towards reform. “Class of 2006” told the story of Morocco’s first official female religious leaders, or murchidates. Fifty women graduated along side their male counterparts from the year of intensive religious studies. The film follows a couple of women through the final stages of the process and into their new posts where they will serve as teachers and counselors in local mosques.

As someone who lived and studied in Morocco, I was not surprised by the story of these women. I have seen the strength, courage, and conviction of ordinary Moroccan women; so unlike what is usually portrayed in the West.. The changes occurring in Morocco would not be possible without these women. However, the initiative must be placed in context before predicting its success.

As the film showed, much of the motive behind the King’s initiative was political. Seeking to secure his own power, he has used the issue of female empowerment to rally support. However, I believe this is a sign of the female empowerment that had already been born in Morocco. Only in showing their strength did the King realize the potential influence women could have in Moroccan politics and society. Therefore, I think to portray these women as pawns in the King’s political game is to drastically underestimate the power of persuasion women already have in Morocco. In addition, as one can see in the film, the murchidates, themselves, refuse to bow to the political motives of the initiative; instead they courageously seek to serve their fellow Muslims and God.

Another motive for the initiative that the film highlighted was the hope that having females serving in mosques would curb extremism. I’m not sure that it will succeed at this, as extremism is rarely spread in the mosques in Morocco. In fact, from my experience, Moroccan society inherently shuns extremists. Where I lived in Fez, there was one building that housed “Saudis” (which I took to mean Saudi-influenced Moroccans). I recognized them because them because the men wore Saudi white robes and the women wore black head to toe. Many times, I was warned not to go near them, and I soon realized that Moroccans, in general, avoided and shunned them. Therefore, I’m not sure if women working in mosques curb extremism.

However, as the film showed, one area where the murchidates will play a vital role is educating women about the new family code reforms. The reforms to the Moudawana, or Family Code, were the result of a long struggle of women’s groups to update the law to reflect Morocco’s modern and Islamic identity. The new code as compared to the former code provides women the rights guaranteed to them by Islam but which were taken away by traditional practices. The murchidates will help women understand these rights and ensure that women are protected as Islam has envisioned.

Two issues that the film did not adequately address were Moroccan men’s general opinion of the women and how their male classmates viewed and treated them. In my research about female members of Parliament, I was encouraged by the many men who had a positive opinion about females serving in Parliament, and I can only hope that they have the same opinion when it comes to women serving in mosques.

I encourage readers to check out the Wide Angle website for clips and more information about the initiative. Also, check out the Washington Post’s online discussion with the director and producer of the film.


News and Analysis Updates

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Starting today we shall send our news and analysis links from our website (www.minaret.org) in a daily blog post. Enjoy these informative news stories and provokative analyses touching on issue sof liberty and Islam.

Michael Neumann argues that humanitarianism is the last refuge of the imperialist scoundrels:

Lebanese prime minister refuses to see Rice, who still opposes an immediat ecease-fire after Israeli bomb kills mostly women and children:

Commons leader gireves over both innocent Israeli deaths and the “10 times as many innocent Lebanese men, women and children killed by Israeli fire”:

An Israeli’s Realistic Assessment of American Middle East Policy Failures

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D., Minaret of Freedom Institute www.minaret.org

Today Leon Hadar was at the CATO Institute promoting his book Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East. Commentators suggested that “quagmire” was a more appropriate term than sandstorm giving that sandstorms blow over fairly quickly while our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan just goes on and on.

Hadar noted how much higher the price of gasoline is than we realize given that the costs of policies like the war in Iraq are not listed on the pump but are hidden in our tax bills. He argued that in reality we are more dependent on South American oil than Middle East oil, yet no one seems to be concerned about that.

Hadar suggested that under Bush I and Clinton I we had a cost-free hegemony, while we now have a competition of imperial visions: the outright called to empire of the neoconservatives versus belonging for an imperialism-lite by the establishment liberals.

Hadar called for a “consortium of power,” a northern alliance (in his rather curiously chosen phrase) harking back to the Congress of Vienna. Some attendees challenged what seemed to be a suggestion that Europe become more interventionist. Hadar responded that he was not calling for a return to European imperialism, but simply acknowledging that Europe, being closer to the Middle East, than America has some real interests there.

I especially appreciated his analogy of the Middle East to a kaleidoscope in which any intervention brings about a completely new configuration dominated by unintended consequences. Applying this analogy to the Bush administration’s rejection of an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon, one imagines trying to remove a small green fleck (Hisbullah) from the kaleidoscope’s field of view and in consequence ending up with a flaming red blob (al-Qaida) at the center.

We have seen this movie before, Hadar opined, saying that the neocons are trying to provide a Wilsonian soundtrack to “Lawrence of Arabia.” He placed responsibility for the rise of a pro-Iranian Shi`a regime in Iraq and the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections squarely on the policy decisions of the Bush administration.

Hadar dismissed the suggestion that the enforcement of U.N. Resolution 1559 (requiring the disarmament of Hisbullah) would have prevented the present outbreak of violence in Lebanon, by comparing it a claim that the enforcement of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of the League of Nations (which effectively banned warfare) would have prevented World War II. Things that are unenforceable, he suggested, are better off not being passed.

What’s Next in Iraq?

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

The Iraqi prime minister wants U.S. troops to stay.

The Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament says they must leave.

With the nascent civil war now forcing troop redeployments to Baghdad, we still have seats available for our intimate meeting with Sabah Al-Jadooa at the Minaret of Freedom Institute brown bag luncheon at noon today, July 26. Mr. Al-Jadooa’s subject is the prospets for free enterpise in Iraq, but due to the small intimate and private setting you may tyake advantage of his presence in the U.S. ask whatever questions you like.

Mr. Al-Joodooa is currently a Senior Consultant and Advisor to Creative Associates International Inc, a professional services firm in Washington, focusing on rebuilding the educational system in Iraq.

Call 301-907-0947 to RSVP.

Admission is free.

Soft drinks and cookies will be provided.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
Minaret of Freedom Institute

A Muslim’s Personal Account of a Week Exploring Liberty

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

by Sarah Swick, Minaret of Freedom Institute, www.minaret.org

I recently had the opportunity to attend a weeklong seminar on “Freedom, Tolerance and Civil Society” sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. The seminar solidified my understanding of liberty and classical liberal thought. Through lectures by philosophers, lawyers, and an economist along with discussion with a wide-spectrum of participants, I realized that while Islam guides my personal moral behavior, classical liberal thought (which is, generally, compatible with Islamic principles) could provide a solution allowing Muslims to co-exist and thrive in this diverse World.

Some of what was discussed was difficult to discuss from a Muslim perspective. Issues over sexuality, alcohol and drug use, and gambling are areas which in Islam is clear about what is and what is not pleasing behavior to God. As Muslims, we voluntarily obey these laws knowing that every person will be judged for his/her behavior on the Day of Judgment, but God also tells us “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Some of the wisdom behind this command is evident in the Muslim world today. As one of the lecturers stated, “Because vice threatens, virtue grows.” In societies where the State has legislated morality, immorality seems to thrive behind closed doors. In the Islamic context, for example, if someone else forces a person not to drink that person no longer receives the reward and virtue of voluntarily submitting to God’s laws. Issues surrounding legislating morality are especially important for Muslims living as minorities. If Muslims were to try and force their morals on non-Muslims, it would seem quite probably and fair for the non-Muslims, in return, to try to force their morals on Muslims. At the seminar, we discussed a possible solution to this dilemma, which was explored in the writings of Friedrich Hayek. In this view, society would have an overarching principle that people have the liberty to do with their person and property what they like as long as they do not harm other’s person or property. Under this idea, a small group wishing to live by their own moral codes would be able to voluntarily enter a social contract permitting and forbidding what they like in their own community, as long as they do not force their views on their neighbors.

There are still areas and issues that need to be resolved and explored between classical liberalism and Islam. But that is why the work of the Minaret of Freedom Institute is so important. It is through Islam that I came to classical liberalism, and I believe it is through liberty that people of various backgrounds and persuasions can come together and agree to live peaceably together.

Is There Religious Neutrality in the Enforcement of the Neutrality Act?

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

The Washington Post’s Jerry Markon (‘Va. Jihad’ Case Hailed As Key in War on Terror, June 8, 2006) quoted chief Alexandria federal prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg as dismissing any suggestion of anti-Muslim bias in the highly criticized “Paintball 11” convictions because, he claims, the government does “not prosecute people because they are Muslims or Catholics or Jews. We prosecute them because they have committed criminal acts that warrant prosecution.” This astonishing statement prompted me to send the honorable prosecutor an e-mail asking how many American citizens who violated the same law (the “Neutrality Act”) by going to Israel to fight against Arab countries against whom the United States has not declared war have been prosecuted? Other than the religious difference Mr. Rosenberg dismisses, the main difference between those scofflaws and the Paintball 11, it seems to me, is that the latter only talked about violating the act while the former actually did so. This seems to bolster rather than resolve the suspicion of religious bias.

It’s been weeks since I sent Mr. Rosenberg my e-mail and he has yet to respond to my e-mail or to my follow-up telephone call. While my own inclination is to suspect this is due to the fact that the inquired-after perpetrators are so rarely indicted, perhaps I sent my e-mailto the wrong federal prosecutor’s office. Perhaps the prosecutor who made this remarkable statement lives in some alternative universe, one where violators of the neutrality act are prosecuted with the same fervor regardless of religion. Perhaps it is the same universe in which Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, where George Bush has fired those who leaked the Valerie Plame’s identity, and Bill Clinton did not have sex with “that woman.”

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

Minaret of Freedom Institute

www.minaret.org

Law Journal Publishes Article on Freedom of Religion in Islam

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

My article on “American and Muslim Perspectives on Freedom of Religion” has been published in the May 2006 issue of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.

From the introduction:

My aim is to compare the legal and cultural perspectives on the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses from American and Muslim vantage points.

From the conclusion:

In the classical era of Islamic civilization, a “completely free and unorganized republic of scholars”[1] outside of government defined the religious law. What is remarkable about Islamic history is not that Islamic civilization declined, but that it lasted for so many centuries before it declined. Islamic civilization’s success is in large part attributable to the existence of a rule of law that was sufficiently fixed to provide for rational calculation, yet sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing circumstances, with the balance of these factors determined outside the domain of the rulers, who had the greatest incentive and power to distort the balance to serve their own interests. A renaissance of Islam in the modern era will require that it develop independent of the government. That would be best assured by an adoption of the disestablishment principle by Muslims.



[1] S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts Through the Ages 59 (Schocken Books 1964).

For the complete text Click here.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad