Archive for February, 2007

Do “Later” Verses of the Qur’an Abrogate “Earlier” Verses?

Monday, February 19th, 2007

I was asked once whether I would state that extremists hew to later Suras of the Qur’an and “ignore all the teachings of love and tolerance that came before that.” The question was repeated to me again recently in the form of whether “sweeter pre-Medina surahs” were “abrogated” by “vengeful later surahs.” As there is so much nonsense written about “abrogation” both my critics of Islam and by some Muslims as well, I want to share the substance of my response here.

I cannot accuse the extremists of following “later surahs” rather than “early surahs” because it is the later as well as the early surahs that call for justice. For example “Let there be no coercion in religion” is from a later, not an early, surah. I blame them for ignoring or distorting the Qur’an (as do Islam’s critics).

There can be no abrogation in Qur’an. The book is taken as a whole in which later Surahs may explain or qualify earlier ones, but not abrogate (i.e., repeal or annul) them. Further, there are no “vengeful” surahs in the Qur’an. Warfare is authorized in a just cause and by just means. There is a verse on revenge, but its purpose is to strike a moderate road between the Jewish and Christian views. Without mandating or rejecting either the Old Testament “eye for an eye” or the New Testament “turn the other cheek,” the Qur’an asserts that while you have a right to retaliation in kind for a wrong, it is better for YOU if you forgive. (5:45; the theme is echoed many other places, such as 2:194).

Further, there seems to be much confusion among critics of Islam as to which are the early surahs and which the late ones. It is quite incorrect to say the early ones are sweet and the later ones vengeful (even apart from the abuse of the term vengeful mentioned above). It is the early surahs that are apocalyptic and the later surahs legalistic. The apocalyptic surahs speak of God’s vengeance, not man’s. The legalistic surahs call for both mercy and justice. In fact one can find calls to peace and to (just) war within a single passage, as in this example:

“Let not the unbelievers think that they can get the better (of the godly): they will never frustrate (them). Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power including steeds of war to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of God and your enemies and others besides whom you may not know but whom God knows. Whatever you shall spend in the cause of God shall be repaid unto you and you shall not be treated unjustly. But if the enemy incline towards peace do you (also) incline towards peace and trust in God: for He is the one that hears and knows (all things). Should they intend to deceive you verily God suffices you: He it is that has strengthened you with his aid and with (the company of) the believers: And (moreover) He has put affection between their hearts: not if you had spent all that is in the earth could you have produced that affection but God has done it: for He is Exalted in might Wise. O Messenger! sufficient unto you is God (unto you) and unto those who follow you among the believers.” (8:59-64) Now one can easily quote one phrase or another from this passage out of context to argue that the Qur’an calls for terrorism or for pacifism, but intact the passage calls for neither, only for justice.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (2/19/07)

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Latest BBC poll shows polarization, but possibility for a ‘middle ground’ between Muslims and Westerners:

Middle East professor Juan Cole gives his analysis and opinion on why Muqtada As-Sadr most likely did not flee to Iran and provides a link to the draft law on Iraqi oil money:

The effects of the Iraq military distraction:

Attack on Indian train bound for Pakistan part of a “conspiracy… to disturb the peace process between India and Pakistan”

Fascism Watch: Editorial calls for the repeal of a passed provision giving greater executive authority to declare martial law in America

“What could have been done to Mr. Padilla in those seventy-two, or so, hours that the government turned off the camera when for almost four years every one of Mr. Padilla’s bowel movements were videotaped?” – Defense lawyer Anthony Natale

“While it is dispiriting to read about the bungling overzealousness of a government that has more often treated American Muslims as part of the problem of Islamic extremism than as part of the solution, there is nevertheless something oddly hopeful in Hussayen’s unflinching faith that the rights and freedoms for which the United States has for centuries been admired throughout the world would ultimately protect him from harm”–Reza Aslan reviews Paul Barrett’s new book:

News and Analysis (2/16/07)

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Alleged Madrid bombing mastermind condemns the bombings:

· Madrid Trial Suspects Deny Guilt (BBC)

Pastoral leader says he was rendered “to Egypt where he says he was tortured with electric shocks, beatings, rape threats and genital abuse:”

· CIA Agents to Stand Trial for Italy Kidnapping (Reuters)

Routine videotaping of political events could result in contempt proceedings:

· Judge Limits New York Police Taping (NY Times)

Over two centuries ago, Emerson called Americans firing on British troops “the shot heard round the world,” but in the 21st century these shots won’t be seen anywhere:

· ‘Friendly Fire’ Footage Not Shown (BBC)

· Coroner Won’t Show ‘Friendly Fire’ Video (ABC News)

With successes like this, who needs failure?

· Pressing Allies, President Warns of Afghan Battle (NY Times)

Much ado about absence of knowledge:

· Extent of Iraq-Iran Link ‘Unknown’ (CNN)

News and Analysis (2/15/07)

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks out about the future of US troops in Iraq: “the argument has been reduced to this: If we leave now Iraq will be left in a mess – implying the implausible that if we stay it won’t be a mess.”

U.S. to take 7,000 Iraqi refugees: what will happen to the other 2 million?

Problems in U.S. evidence on Iran’s support of ‘terrorist’ groups in Iraq:

Iran accuses U.S. of supporting ‘terrorist’ group in Iran:

Palestinian PM resigns and is asked to form a new government of national unity

Gun ban has Baghdad residents worried:

Heated Sunni-Shi’a ‘dialogue’ on Al Jazeera

Political motivation behind renewed offensive against the Muslim Brotherhood

News and Analysis (2/14/07)

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Sunni ‘rebel’ group claiming responsibility for car bomb attack in Iran: 

If you’re going to attack Iran, here are the consequences: 

Syria’s Grand Mufti condemns murder and calls for legal reform after news of “honor” killing: 

Why aren’t the government ‘authorities’ stealing millions of dollars being convicted too? 

“In the face of a global rise in religious extremism, it is time to promote Muslim leadership in social and economic development, because development has been historically linked to peace and security.” – Sultan A. Azis 

US will continue to provide military aid to Indonesia in order to protect the trade routes along the Malacca Strait 

Ham-fisted tactics in July 2006 raid receives condemnation from government police watchdog report: 

Free to Choose Madrasas (A Tribute to Milton Friedman)

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Our website now has a copy of my tribute to Nobel prize winning eocnomist Milton Friedman in which I at the application of his ideas on choice and education to the issue of Muslim madrasas.

This may seem like an odd pairing of topics. Milton Friedman was an intellectual who
championed freedom of choice and, if one goes by the analysis on Fox News, madrasas
are kindergartens for terrorism. Of course if you believe Fox News, you also believe that
Barack Obama attended a terrorist kindergarten. In reality, “madrasa” is an Arabic word
that simply means “school” any kind of school, charter school, government school,
private school, or religious school. When I was a youth attending the Durkee Street
elementary school in Pennsylvania, my Arab-speaking parents would inform anyone who
asked of my whereabouts that I was “at the madrasa.” No doubt everyone in this room
attended a madrasa.

But there is more to the story than pathetic Fox propaganda. To the contrary the classical
madrasa demonstrates the reality that underlies Friedman’s ideas and the causes of the
problems with certain madrasas today can also be explained with the aid of some of
Friedman’s ideas.

To read the complete article click here.

News and Analysis (2/13/07)

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

“People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen,” – Tony Lagouranis, former US Army interrogator

One year since the major sectarian bloodletting began, the state of the ‘Askariya mosque is symbolic of Iraq’s political, religious conditions, …

…Lebanon teeters on the brink of an all-out sectarian-based civil war after bus bombs go off, …

… and “Syrians are speaking of Shiitization,” – Redwan Ziade, Syrian political analyst

Mapping the path to common roots:

Iran’s state-run gas and petroleum industries strained by increased domestic consumption, inefficiency and international sanctions:

OIC pushes Indonesia to use its position on the UN Security Council to pursue Mideast peace:

Breach of Law, Breach of Security – Racial Profiling

Monday, February 12th, 2007

Prior to 9/11 a national consensus outlawing the use of racial profiling was emerging. After the attacks occurred, “…this consensus evaporated… The federal government immediately focused massive investigative resources and law enforcement attention on Arabs, Arab Americans, Muslims, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim, such as Sikhs and other South Asians” [The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Racial Profiling: Wrong Then, Wrong Now, Feb. 27, 2003]. Since then, public calls for racial profiling of Muslims – and others who “look Muslim” – by various pundits has now become common fare in public discourse. The logic of racial profiling supporters – both pundits and some public officials – rests on the faulty premise that it is “a matter of survival” against terrorists. To the contrary, I argue that, like the warrantless NSA wiretapping, racial profiling is not only unethical, it also compromises America’s legal foundations and its national security.

Before presenting my arguments over “racial profiling,” it is important to define the term. I have slightly modified Congressional Research Service’s description of the term to define it as: the practice of targeting individuals for police or security interdiction, detention or other disparate treatment based primarily on their race, religion or ethnicity in the belief that certain racial, religious and/or ethnic groups are more likely to engage in unlawful behavior.

In spite of racial profiling’s unethical nature, there are very few domestic laws that specifically prohibit racial profiling. In June 2003, the Department of Justice (DoJ) released a document entitled, ‘Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies’ which gives outlines to Federal officials on the use of race in law enforcement and national security matters. In the section under national security, race is only to be used as factor when there is intelligence indicating that terrorists or criminals of a particular ethnicity will imminently attack a target and/or suspects must exhibit “suspicious behavior.” Profiling someone simply because of stereotype and not based on intelligence and/or suspicious behavior is to be considered prohibited.

Unfortunately, there are several problems with the document: 1) Its guidance is just advice and thus is not legally enforceable among any federal law enforcement agencies, in spite of recognizing that the 14th Amendment and subsequent legal precedent bans subjective law enforcement based on race; 2) it does not discuss profiling based on religion or religious appearance, in spite of the Equal Protection Clause within 14th Amendment and later legal precedent; 3) it does not give provisions for oversight or redress against discriminatory practices inconsistent with the document’s advice; 4) it fails to define what is an issue of “national security”, leave it up to wide discretion; 5) it does not define “suspicious behavior” – in spite of specific guidelines used by the FBI and local law enforcement agencies; and 6) it does not pertain to state and local levels where most racial profiling takes place, where there is very little legal protection and where terrorist plots are very likely to be prevented.

There are also practical reasons why racial profiling should be banned for policing/counterterrorism purposes, particularly when this relates to Muslims. If counterterrorism could be compared to finding needle in a haystack, then racial profiling simply adds more hay to the stack. The American Muslim community is extremely racially and ethnically diverse, reflecting the cultural pluralism of the larger global community. This includes groups such as South Asians, Southeast Asians (Indonesians and Malays), Arabs, Sub-Saharan Africans, Caucasians and large groups of Caucasian, African-American and Latino converts. (In fact the second largest group of American Muslims are African-American converts, making up approximately 30% of the community.) So how can one tell who is a Muslim and who is not? The only possible way to discern someone who is Muslim is by their possible “religious” clothing.

However not all Muslims may dress “religiously”, whatever that may mean. Integral to a terrorist’s ability to strike and survive is secrecy and the element of surprise. If Al-Qaeda operatives dressed “religiously” they would fit into stereotypes that make them stick out like a sore thumb. Unsurprisingly, the 9/11 attackers dressed like Westerners and some had shaved beards. That is why they have consistently sought after elite operatives who would best blend into their target societies. Their recruits are secular, western educated people (with little religious education) who easily become indoctrinated by an ideologically-tainted version of Islam. Furthermore, they are not just from “traditional” Muslim groups like Arabs and South Asians, but include others like Caucasian converts. Even operatives from a “traditional” group may try to manipulate their ethnic features in order to look like a “non-Islamic ethnicity” – like Latinos – in order to avoid suspicion, such as one foiled terror plot in New York City. The use of East Africans on 7/21, as opposed to majority-Pakistanis on 7/7, is another example of race-switching tactics to avoid being ensnared by the clumsy trap of racial profiling.

In addition, racial profiling of Muslims can undermine critical sources of intelligence needed to prevent an attack. The best people who understand and truly know the difference between peaceful law-abiding citizens and the tiny minority of bloodthirsty fanatics are Muslims themselves, whether as intelligence officers or anonymous informants. By profiling against individuals or groups from a specific racial, religious and/or ethnic background, it not only has a huge negative impact on civil liberties, it fails to smash terrorist networks and alienates the community law agencies need most to obtain the necessary intelligence to prevent an attack. Furthermore, at best it will make people hesitant to constructively cooperate with law agencies and at worst become disillusioned with American society and become more receptive to extremist messages. A good relationship between law enforcement and Muslim communities is not just a great photo-op for politically correct purposes; it has extremely important strategic implications that enhance national security.

Also, racial profiling is ineffective because terrorists may not directly attack a target with their own operatives. Terrorist organizations, as well as common criminals, have been known to use women and children to unknowingly transport a weapon to its intended destination. Just ask Anne-Marie Murphy or the two-year old child whose teddy bear was stuffed with a gun. Moreover, Muslim terrorist networks are not the only threat facing America. While not receiving as much attention as international Muslim terrorists have, domestic terrorism primarily from Neo-Nazis/White Supremacists and Christian extremists is still a major threat to American security. According to statistics from the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least 60 terrorism plots by domestic extremists have been foiled between July 1995 and May 2005. Of these 60 plots, 19 have been thwarted since September 11, and of these 19, 2 have involved possession of, or conspiracy to possess chemical weapons.

In sum, racial profiling is not only violates legal-ethical norms set within America’s constitution and laws; it is ineffective and counterproductive to national security. Focusing on certain people’s racial, ethnic and/or religious appearances instead of their suspicious behavior, overlook other methods and threats at great risk to public security and civil liberties. The terrorists score a major victory by letting the government commit a double sin by unraveling the nation’s civil liberties and compromising its national security.

Wa Allahu ‘Alim

Alejandro Beutel

Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (2/12/07)

Monday, February 12th, 2007

‘Criticism’ of intelligence isn’t the same thing as manipulation:

Abducted by CIA, extremist imam is set free after being tortured Egyptian authorities:

“At the end of it, people are going to look back and say, ‘What the hell was this all about?’ ” – Jamil Mroue

Editorial by prominent Iran expert sees the Islamic Republic as a rational state actor, not a revolutionary:

“They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,” – Hillary Mann

“In many ways the assault against Al-Arian is an assault against the judicial system that lies like a barrier between us and despotism.” – Chris Hedges

News and Analysis (2/10-11/07)

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

Israeli government finances project to encircle Palestinian private property with settlements:

· Jewish Inroads in Muslim Quarter: Settlers’ Project to Alter Skyline of Jerusalem’s Old City (Washington Post)

Ahmadinjad repeats Iranian claim that its seeks nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons:

· Iran Says Wants to stay Within Nuclear Rules (Reuters)

The probable victor in the country’s first contested election has called for reforms:

· Turkmenistan Votes For Successor To Late Dictator (AFP)