Archive for November, 2007

News and Analysis (11/11/07)

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

In a letter to the Washington Post, MFI responds to the witch hunt against the Islamic Saudi Academy as immoral, ineffective and counterproductive to the efforts of the United States and Muslim organizations to promote religious freedom:

New York Times editorial slams certain congressional leaders for their soft-peddling on Mukasey’s inability to clearly state his legal views on waterboarding:

“Here the head of a corrupt government decides who can and cannot run for office… They want a Parliament that won’t hold the government accountable for corruption.”—Toujan Al-Faisal, former parliamentarian and critic of government corruption

Failure to finish off Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and support for dictatorship in Pakistan may come back to haunt the US in the worst way possible as a once imaginary scenario of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons now is no longer outside the realm of possibility:

Lebanon’s political paralysis and tensions continues to deepen, “with no indication” of getting closer to a resolution, force a third delay of its presidential elections and seeps into people’s everyday life by causing the politicization of its generally non-sectarian soccer clubs:

News and Analysis (11/10/07)

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Both the British State and the City of Los Angeles use Islamophobia and racial profiling as tools for dismantling liberties and real security in the name of fighting terrorism:

Seeking to assert some sort of competency and sovereignty within its own borders, the Iraqi parliament uses its democratic powers to work toward ending the legal immunities for mercenary organizations imposed on the country by the US-led occupation:

Musharraf effectively deploys massive police forces against political opposition and civil society activists to consolidate his martial rule, including most recently against opposition leader Bhutto, but continues to show his impotence against real military threats like the one that nearly killed political affairs minister Amir Muqam:

News and Analysis (11/9/07)

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Musharraf let’s Bhutto go only after quashing her party’s demonstration and blacking out the media and jeopardizing the U.S. plan for dealing with insurgents in the border provinces with Afghanistan…

… while Karzai seeks to reconcile with the Taliban:

An ex-Navy instructor declares waterboarding is torture as the Senate approves the man who won’t take a position on the issue to be the next Grand Inquisitor–oops, we mean Attorney General:

U.S. frees nine Iranians and hundreds of Iraqi detainees, but Iraqi refugees in the U.S. complain that it still feels like house arrest to them:

News and Analysis (11/8/07)

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Mukasey causes unease among some members of Congress by mimicking previous attorney generals by not only remaining ambiguous on waterboarding torture but also on his views of expanded presidential power:
· Wartime Powers and Mukasey (Christian Science Monitor)
In another shooting incident involving Blackwater in Iraq, the State Department conducts only a slipshod investigation of the deaths of three Iraqi bodyguards and finds the accused shooter innocent of killing with out provocation, but Iraqis themselves say otherwise and are outraged over the lack thoroughness in their investigation:
· How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled 3 Iraqi Guard (Washington Post)
Continuing to quash any potential dissent, Musharraf has hundreds of Bhutto supporters arrested in advance of a planned mass rally to prevent protest of on going martial law in the country:
· ‘Hundreds Held’ in Bhutto Raids (BBC News)
New head of Britain’s domestic spy agency, MI5, says radicalism continues to spread among British Muslims and PM Brown’s government proposes to increase time they can detain someone with charge, however other worry such measures “will sacrifice the very freedoms that terrorists are taking aim at; and terrorism experts warn that it will impair relations with the Muslim community”:
· Home-Grown Terrorist Recruitment Rising, Says British Spy Chief (Christian Science Monitor)

News and Analysis (11/7/07)

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

America’s ongoing saga with torture continues as Senators give Mukasey the green light despite his failure to give a definite opinion on whether or not waterboarding constituted torture and against the concerns of 24 former intelligence and national security officials, meanwhile the ACLU finds out that three, not two torture memos under Gonzales’ DoJ exist:

Congress approves a voracious $460 billion budget for the Pentagon that does not include funds for fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but provides for expensive weapons systems irrelevant to fighting the war on terrorism:

Ominous signs of civil war loom over Lebanon’s horizon as different parties are beginning to rearm themselves due to the ongoing political deadlock preventing the elections of the country’s next president:

In the ongoing battle over Pakistan’s tattered democracy, opposition leader Benazir Bhutto’s recent calls for protests, her demands to immediately lift emergency rule and her supporters’ physical clashes with the police now answer the question of whether or not she was going to choose confrontation or negotiation with Musharraf:

Seeking to continue on its path to EU entry, Turkey is set to vote on whether or not it wants to repeal an infamous law penalizing statements deemed overly critical of the country’s institutions and its Turkish identity:

News and Analysis (11/6/07)

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Scion of Pakistan’s resistance to Musharraf’s authoritarian rule, Iftikhar Chaudry, exhorts fellow lawyers and other opposition activists to continue their protests, meanwhile Bush continues to criticize the general over martial law, but stops short of saying he’ll cut military aid to the general and is likely to continue this stance:

Bush administration marginalized DoJ official who was concerned about waterboarding, had the technique tested on him and found it to constitute torture:

King Abdullah and the Pope meet at the Vatican and discuss issues of cooperation between Christians and Muslims and religious freedom for Christians in Saudi Arabia:

At least 80 people, including 5 parliamentarians, die in worst bombing for Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban:

“Let Islam be Islam. The United States possesses neither the capacity nor the wisdom required to liberate the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims, who just might entertain their own ideas about what genuine freedom entails. Islam will eventually accommodate itself to the modern world, but Muslims will have to work out the terms.”—Andrew Bacevich, professor history and international relations at Boston University

Report on Trip to Hartford University

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Recently I just came back from a trip to Hartford University, where, on November 1st and 2nd I gave four different presentations on Islam and contemporary politics, collectively entitled “Examining Islamic Politics and Culture” to various student and faculty groups.

The first presentation was an introduction to Islamic beliefs for an Honors Philosophy course taught by Professor Bernard den Ouden. Using the Five Pillars of Islam as my starting point, I proceeded to provide a more in-depth understanding of each pillar and how they overlap with important theological concepts like tawhid (Absolute Unity of God), its antithesis shirk (association of partners with God) and desired moral characteristics such as taqwa (God-consciousness) and dhikr (remembrance). Many questions followed suit to further clarify concepts presented, such as the practical applications of tawhid and taqwa in Muslims’ daily lives and the different lessons stressed during Ramadan fasts.

The next presentation, which followed almost immediately after the Honors class, was based on a paper I recently delivered at the 36th Annual AMSS Conference, on US Counterterrorism and civil liberties and human rights. Like my earlier presentation, I argued that the more US Counterterrorism policies deviate from civil liberties and human rights, the less effective such policies are at dismantling terrorist organizations. A series of questions were posed to me regarding the invasiveness and effectiveness of certain policies such as the NSA wiretapping and what are the real threats posed by terrorists vis-a-vis routine statements given by administration officials that some audience members felt to be “hype”.

The first day ended with a presentation of a forthcoming paper I’ll be delivering in London on Nov. 11 called “Sunni Structural Puritanism” which deals with Islamic religious authority and radicalism in contemporary international politics. I received a good reception from the class and answered questions about abuse of religious authority and used Al-Azhar in Egypt as my main example.

The next day I met up with a small group of professors over lunch and discussed some pressing issues facing the Middle East, especially concerning the Iraq War and the ongoing fighting between Palestinians and Israelis. After the meal I gave my main presentation for the day, entitled, “What You Need to Know About Islam, Muslims and Contemporary Politics and Terrorism.” While expressing my dislike for the lecture’s title because of the implied associations, I noted that it was important to address these issues head on. By putting issues into greater historical context, employing comparative analysis and citing empirical research, I aimed to disaggregate and demystify the topics discussed and provide the audience with an more enhanced and nuanced understanding. Audience members asked questions on other hot button topics like women’s rights, apostasy, Iraq, Iran and US counterterrorism policies. Again, these were tackled directly and without apology.

My experience at Hartford was amazing. The feedback I received from students and professors alike was entirely positive and some new friendship were formed. My sincerest thanks goes to everyone who attended my discussions and a special thanks goes out Professor den Ouden, who set up the speaking engagements and to professor Sandstrom for his engaging discussions with me on Third World and post-colonial politics.

Alejandro Beutel

News and Analysis (11/5/07)

Monday, November 5th, 2007

CBS investigation reveals that a key human intelligence source of fabricated and exaggerated claims about Iraqi biological weapons capabilities used to justify the 2003 invasion was a scientist with poor academic record and an arrest record for theft who simply wanted asylum in Germany:

Seen as too costly economically and invasive of peoples’ privacy, as well as ineffective against terrorists, at least 38 state legislatures across America have bills that are opposing a national identification card:

In spite of accusations leveled at Virginia Saudi school of “teaching religious extremism” and threats to shut down the institution, without specific evidence to back their case, State Department officials have yet to talk to school officials and investigate its curriculum:

Lawyers and other activists take to the streets in Pakistan protesting Musharraf’s martial law powers only to be put by down by police forces through physical assaults and arrests, meanwhile a Christian Science Monitor editorial examines US policies during Islamabad’s current political upheaval and finds that Washington should have “talked less” about promoting democracy in Pakistan and instead “acted more”:

Breach of Law, Breach of Security: A Muslim American Analysis of US Counterterrorism Policies

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Sarah Swick and I all had the opportunity to present papers at this year’s 36th annual conference held by the Association of Muslim Social Scientists. This year’s conference took place at the University of Maryland. Rather than go into detail about my paper, I’ve provided the abstract to my paper below. Keep checking the Minaret of Freedom Institute’s website (www.minaret.org) for the release of our papers!

– Alejandro

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Breach of Law, Breach of Security: A Muslim American Analysis of US Counterterrorism Policies

By: Alejandro J. Beutel*
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org
Abstract: Since 9/11 debates on terrorism and counterterrorism have been poorly informed. Fear and ideology rather than reason and facts have guided our policymakers’ decisions, creating a dichotomy between liberty and security. As a result, the US government has pursued policies that tend to be illegal, unethical and/or invasive. In this paper I argue that the dichotomy between civil liberties versus national security is unsubstantiated, but that the relationship between the two concepts is highly interdependent.

I argue this point in my paper by beginning with a brief history of terrorism and counterterrorism in the US prior to the September 11th attacks. Following that, I will use four case studies to examine current US counterterrorism policies: torture in interrogations, racial profiling, the NSA domestic surveillance controversy, and the use of FBI National Security Letters. Such policies not only erode civil liberties/human rights, but they also harm national security by obtaining dubious information via unethical means, diverting resources from real threats and eroding the important relations between law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens (particularly American Muslim communities). The paper concludes by offering a set of policy alternatives.

News and Analysis (11/4/07)

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

Under the pretext of security interests, Musharraf invokes “Emergency Rule”, but uses his de-facto martial law powers to crackdown on the political opposition instead:

As part of a move to avoid further legal setbacks and perhaps finally close the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison, the Bush administration decides it wants to start following the Constitution by allowing federal civilian judges to decide where detainees should be tried and giving prisoners the right to legal representation…

…meanwhile former military lawyer Evan Wallach provides historical examples from WWII, the Philippines and Texas to argue that waterboarding has been regarded as torture in American courts:

With Afghanistan falling into ruin, its parliament busies itself with stifling diversity of Islamic religious opinion:

Two lobbyists “accused of passing U.S. secrets to an Israeli official” have argued that Condoleeza “Rice and others can verify their claim that the United States regularly uses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to send back-channel communications to Israel:

Latest public opinion poll shows Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with Bush’s handling of the nation’s challenges, including his failed military adventure in Iraq, and seek regime change at home rather than abroad: