Archive for July, 2013

Messages from Seven Egyptian-Americans to El-Sisi, Mursi, the Egyptian People, and the U.S. Administration

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

[Minaret of Freedom Institute supporter Safei Hamed has shared the following messages he and six fellow Egyptians have sent regarding the current crisis in Egypt]:

 1. A Message to General Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi:

With all appreciation to the men of the Armed Forces, the decision for the military coup against the elected civilian president, the suspension of the constitution and disbanding of the elected consultative chamber, are considered by international standards as serious destruction to the foundation of the civil society for which the revolution of January 25th started. These decisions have returned us to a period of history that Egypt had passed by several decades ago. Mixing the labels and names will not change the standing truth that the attack on the constitution which was approved by over 65% of the Egyptian voters is unacceptable on all grounds. We are distressed with the news and information about what is happening on Egypt’s street from abuses to the very fundamental human rights in peaceful demonstration without any protection from police or the army, in addition to shutting down several national media outlets that have different views as well as political arrests and detentions. Hence we call upon you to spare Egypt the scenario of Algeria and the slide into tearing the national fabric. This is a call to spare the Egyptian blood and to start an urgent national reconciliation initiative beginning with the cancelation of all the emergency/exceptional decisions and the return of the constitutional civilian rule.

2. A message to the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi:

We urge you Mr. President to take an immediate Presidential decision to start the process for an (parliamentary) election within six months and to form a transitional cabinet of the various political views until the completion of the parliamentary elections which will decide the details of the new government. We urge you to issue a presidential pardon for all those who participated in the coup nice the authority has been transferred peaceably to the freely elected parties.

3. A message to the Noble Egyptian people:

We urge you to unite and reject any insult to any Egyptian or any loss of human right to any citizen in Egypt or abroad. Remember your glorious revolutionin January when you went out collectively to bring Egypt to a new world where you will enjoy an honorable life and seek a bright future. Be sure that we were and are with you, and we know that the early election will be an exit from the current crisis. Let us put Egypt ahead despite the differences in our thinking and our methods by unifying the goal of establishing the civil state for which this nation has dearly sacrificed.

4. A message to the U.S. Administration:

We are Egyptian Americans, who are proud of our American nation and we care for offering sincere advice that will be good for the two countries. We urge President Obama to adhere to US laws, and principle, and not to deal or recognize the military coup or its people who they installed in place of the duly elected civilian president and his government. This is to follow the US’s own laws and in agreement with all international principles.

Signed:

Dr. Safei Hamed
Dr. Hamed Elfeky
Dr.
Magdy Hussein
Dr. Mostafa Howeedy
Mr. Helal Hashim
Mr. Jowhar A. Othman
Dr. Ahmed Hasan Mostafa

News and Analysis (7/10/13)

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

With the Muslim Brotherhood rejecting the imposed transition plan and their opposition denouncing the interim consdtiution as “new dictatorship,” a military crackdown has returned Egypt to Mubarak era levels of repression, unleashing a backlash on the Christian minority and making Turkey jittery:

“[A]mid a dispute over subsidy cuts and economic policy … the second-largest party in parliament after the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won elections held in late 2011”, has resigned. “The PJD will now have to find a new coalition partner or call elections”:

“Deutsche Welle reports that on Tuesday Russian envoy to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin gave UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Russia’s 80-page report, which he said “established” that rebel forces fired a sarin-loaded rocket at Khan al-Assal, a suburb of the battleground city of Aleppo, on March 19″:

“[C]alls are mounting on the IRIB to once again broadcast” Shajarian’s “breathtaking performance” of  “Rabana (Our Lord),” in which he sings “sections of four different Arabic verses of the Qur’an,” which was had played for thirty years on Iranian radio and TV until it was “banned after he sided with the Green Revolution three years ago”:

Around the same time that the Muslim Brotherhood began surrounding the Rabia El-Adawiya mosque [named for the woman who first articulated the Sufi concept of God as the Beloved] … a couple weeks ago, skirmishes broke out in Syria at the shrine of Sayyida Zeinab” named for Prophet Muhammad’s granddaughter”:’

Without apology, Israel continues its international kidnapping. This man’s “family charged he was abducted. The court partially lifted a gag order on the case, identifying the man as Wael Abu Reda, but did not say how he was detained or how he ended up in Israel”:

“One protester was reportedly shot dead at a demonstration on Tuesday, according to the UK-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group says it was not clear whether the man was shot by rebels trying to disperse the protest or killed by army sniper fire, as some civilians claimed” …

… meanwhile the Intelligence and Security Committee’s annual report warns, “Al-Qaeda could gain access to Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons with ‘catastrophic’ consequences”:

News and Analysis (7/8/13)

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Will Egypt turn into Syria?

“Mr Morsi’s 52% of the vote—a stronger endorsement than Barack Obama got five months later—gave him the right to rule. That is why we regard the events of the past few days with trepidation. Mr Morsi’s ouster by a combination of street power and soldiers sets a dreadful precedent for the region”:

“Mr. Morsi never believed the generals would turn on him as long as he respected their autonomy and privileges…. The Brotherhood was naturally suspicious of the military, its historical opponent, but General Sisi cultivated Mr. Morsi and other leaders, one of them said, including going out of his way to show that he was a pious Muslim”

Franklin Lamb’s anonymous White House source says ElBaradei’s lobbyists  offered full observation of the Camp David Accord, additional guarantees that “the Zionist regime occupying Palestine will be given prime estate for its Embassy” and a tougher stance on Iran’s nuclear program in return for help making him Egypt’s president:

“Journalists for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera have been kicked out of a news conference being held by Egypt’s military on the killing of at least 40 people, most of them supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, outside an army facility”:

“Two days after he became a U.S. citizen, Abdiwali Warsame embraced the First Amendment by creating a raucous Web site about his native Somalia…. Although he did not know it, Warsame had been caught up in a shadowy Defense Department counterpropaganda operation”:

The Sahrawi women attribute their prominent role to the indigenous people’s “moderate interpretation of Islam and the freedom they derived from their nomadic roots — but also, perhaps counterintuitively, to the prevalence of traditional gender roles, which they say give women the time to demonstrate”:

“The Afghan government has in the past said that Kandahari is Afghan-American, although his exact background remains unclear”

“Syria’s ruling Baath party announced Monday it elected a new regional command to replace its aging leadership, including the country’s longtime vice president, as government forces closed in on a key rebel-held neighborhood in central Syria” and “opposition prime minister Ghassan Hitto resigned from his post”:

“Faith-Based Diplomacy & Peacemaking”

Friday, July 5th, 2013

NOTES FROM THE IIIT CONFERENCE ON GOOD GOVERNANCE IN ISLAM: CLASSICAL AND CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES #11

[This is the eleventh in a series of my notes on the International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on Good Governance in Islam: Classical and Contemporary Approaches held in Herndon, VA. These notes have only been lightly edited and represent my perception of the discussion. The proceedings will be published by IIIT at a later time. Responsibility for any errors in the notes is mine alone. Names of participants (other than mine) in the general discussion have been omitted by request of the organizers.]

“Faith-Based Diplomacy & Peacemaking”

Dr. Douglas Johnston, President, International Center for Religion & Diplomacy

Our intention was to get the Muslim majority to assert the rights of the non-Muslim minority. We had a prayer team from the US whose sole function was to pray for the success of the negotiations. People who pray five times a day had no objection to this.

Is Pakistan the aim was to enhance rather than shut down the madrassas. The media gives the impression they are seedbeds of terrorism, totally unaware of the distinguished history of the madrassas and that European exposure to them led to the university system of the West even to the mortarboards an tassels at graduation. Our goal was to expand the curriculum to include arts and sciences and to teach tolerance and inclusion of women. 1611 leaders out of 20,000 have been engaged. There were four reasons for our success: 1. Ownership. It is their process, not imposed from the outside. 2. We remind them of their own heritage including education when the Christian world was dark and tolerance when the Christian world was intolerant. 3. We emphasize Islamic principles.  4. We operate from a posture of humility, aware it was the US that planted the seeds of jihad in the first place.

Five sects sponsored these schools; the Deobandi (75% of all schools) and Wahabi are hard line, the other three not so much. The head of the Deobandis asked us to help create a book on peacemaking and conflict resolution to put in heir 15,000 schools.

I explain that we are here to discuss our common values. I quote from the Qur’an that God chose to make us diverse so that we could compete in good works. I know Muslims believe some wonderful things about Jesus, whom we Christians profess to follow. If he were here how do you think he would want us to treat one another? A madrassa leader where we have not been able to hold a workshop responded that my question caused him ask himself every day, “What would the Prophet want me to do?” A young man was motivated to dissuade some village elders who wanted to disfigure a woman for talking to a man that nothing in the Qur’an prohibited her action. He did this with trepidation because of his youth, but he succeeded.

In the Punjab a madrassa leader asked is waging jihad in Kashmir sanctioned by Islam? Our project director asked our Wahabi partner to respond and he responded no, only to defend the faith, never to acquire territory. The exchange was reported as far away as newspapers in Balujistan.

In the SWAT valley a man who was member of the friendly folks who brought you Mumbai got up to say, “I came here to refute everything you say, but you have convinced t me that I was mistaught the Qur’an and now I shall teach the message of peace.”

I received an invitation to go to the Afghani mountains to tell them what America wants. A man stood up and said, “I can’t talk to you unless you become a Muslim.” I said no problem, “Islam is submission to God and we all do that.” Everyone laughed and we went on. Only later was I told that half the time that scenario ended with an alternative of conversion or death. Well, God does look out for fools and incompetents.

When you have an out of control blaze sometimes the best way to fight it is a counter-fire. The antidote for religious conflict is religious peacemaking, spiritual engagement. The stakes are too high to give it anything but our very best. At one point a seven page jihadist communiqué emerged targeting our work. The good news is we’re having an impact. The bad news is we’re having an impact.

Discussant: Ahmad Kazemi Moussavi

My first experience with conflict resolution was when the “Hanafi Muslims” took hostages in DC. The Iranian ambassador Zahidi brought them a Qur’an and sought the verses on the ahl-l-kitab, but the police stopped him saying they might take you as a hostage. He embraced and kissed one of the hostage-takers and showed him the Qur’anic verse and managed to get the hostages out safely. The next was coup d’etat. A colleague from McGill, Khutbi Ahmad, during the Iranian hostage crisis, was seen as an ambassador for the ambassadors and he was the liason between them and the Iranian government. How do you get the Pakistanis to feel ownership?

A lot of people, especially on Capitol Hill don’t think the madrassas are important because there are only a couple of million students. They forget that a few people can make a lot of trouble, and the heads of these schools are often imams who give the sermons in the mosque. In fighting the ideas behind conflict, bullets and bombs are counter-productive and only feed the hatred. How did you find the Taliban? They are usually very hospitable.

During the Shah’s time there was no good relationship between Iran and Iraq and they wanted to search my personal effects despite my diplomatic status. When I refused, he offered a coca cola which I refused. He insisted that I at least pretend to drink, and I realized he was trying to be hospitable. When I accepted the hospitality, his attitude changed and I was not searched.

Discussant: Prof Muhammad Nimer

What about Syria?

Johnson: With respect to Syria, we had a meeting at the end of August. After the Arab League attempt failed we were asked to try again and we will go in two weeks to try to reconcile some differences. Our goals are to reconcile among the opposition elements so They don’t start a civil war with one another and also to try to prevent massive retribution against those who didn’t join the opposition especially the Christians and Alawites. I am hopeful this can lead in a positive direction.

The reason for our success is twofold. The real hero is our project director who is an American and a Shia, who is not only an excellent director, but one of the most likeable people on earth. He doesn’t use the title Sayyid but he is a descendent of the Prophet. We have critical people in Afghanistan as well turning this into an indigenous operation.

GENERAL DISCUSSION

Tell me more of the four Syrian factions you are negotiating with. My experience is the factions are political not religious, the National Council and the National Coordinating Committee and its offspring.

Johnston: We engage people in faith-based seminars that bring faith to bear against the secular obstacles to faith. You try to be shrewd. In Kashmir we start with the moderate Muslims, move on to the more radical ones. Then the same on the Hindu side and finally bring them all together. It starts out tense but at the end they are all hugging one another. I have never seen it fail. In the Middle East, religion has never been brought to the table. I think that’s what went wrong with the Oslo accords.

What Syria needs now is not reconciliation, but for the government to stop the carnage.

Johnston: In all due diligence I must tell you that I initially opposed working with the Syrian opposition because it taints your neutrality, but then I realized the high probability of civil war after the regime leaves—that’s what we are told by the opposition. If you don’t plan ahead you will always be surprised.

I think in Syria the bigger picture is the regime killing the people. How does reconciliation fit with that bigger picture?

Johnston: If the opposition is unified it is easier for them to prevail.

In Sudan the initial intention was for an interfaith council that allowed Muslims and Christians to iron out their differences, but it became more than that, for example preventing clashes between Muslims and Christians when John Garang died.

I can see that in Sudan, not in Syria or Afghanistan.

Johnston: We did work in Afghanistan beyond the freeing of hostages. We brought together religious and political leaders from different regions to get them to work together in supporting development assistance which the Taliban was sabotaging. The religious leaders played a big role. They were important under the Taliban but had been marginalized afterwards. You must never let the big picture intimidate you from taking action.

I like your answer that you don’t necessarily need a political answer to a political problem. What is the role of the UN?

Johnston: I have mixed feelings about the UN. They do bring religious leaders together but it often leads nowhere. The focus is not peace for peace’s sake but peace for justice’s sake. The US has woken up after fifteen years and we are trying to approach the religious dimension of foreign policy. So far it is a band-aid approach, but at least they have awoken to its importance.

How are you able to do that at which every other Muslim intellectual has failed?

Johnston: I don’t know all the reasons you can’t do something. I’ve never had a single course in my life or any experience as a diplomat. I came out of the political military community. That’s where the life and death decisions are made. If you can traverse that minefield you can make almost anything work. I think that now experts in those fields could step in.

I studied in a Deobandi madrassa and studied a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy.

Johnston: One of the things we did to develop a curriculum for the madrassas was to develop a curriculum based on best practices from around the Muslim world. We sent madrassa leaders to schools in Turkey and Egypt and they were inspired. They saw, particularly in Turkey, a model they liked.

Honerkamp: Morocco as well has a 1200 year history in education.

Johnston: Our advantage is the people there have knowledge of the Qur’an, like that terrorist whose eyes were opened.

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

News and Analysis (7/5/13)

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Repression returns to Egypt:

The muted reaction to the military overthrow of an elected government is explained by the tacit assumption in the West that the Arabs are unworthy of democracy …

… but not everyone agrees:

France thinks Egyptians should look to Tunisia and puts its money where its mouth is:

“Although his government failed to compromise with opponents and sought to concentrate its power, it made only modest attempts to impose its Islamic ideology on the country and did not seek to alter Egypt’s capitalist economy, which was slowly sinking but not imploding”:

The “government said it is withdrawing proposed legislation that would have allowed single parents to convert their children to Islam without their partner’s consent … after several ministers and the leaders of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s biggest coalition partners openly spoke in the Muslim-majority nation on behalf of religious and ethnic minorities”:

“Located some 200 miles north of Montana, the western city has long been condescended to by eastern elites in metropolitan cities like Toronto and Montreal, who cringed at its cowboy heritage, oil corporations, and conservative politics. But these days, with Toronto’s mayor stumbling through scandal and the now ex-mayor of Montreal facing corruption charges, many in the east look with envy at the wildly popular … first Muslim mayor of a major North American metropolis”:

“[T]he attacks are growing and so are the targets, which include not only Muslims in the West Bank and Israel, but left-leaning activists, as well Christian schools, churches and monasteries”:

News and Analysis (7/3/13)

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Is Egypt unraveling?

“Rouhani, who has promised to put the Islamic republic back on the path of moderation after eight acrimonious years under the outgoing president, … warned that citizens’ rights had been neglected” and that Iran’s republicanism “is overshadowed by a specific interpretation of its Islamic [character]'”:

“Husic said the attacks on his social media site were just ‘a natural part of democracy’ and that ‘it’s important that we not necessarily jump because of harsh words out of dark corners'”:

“It is highly unlikely that the TTP would ever recognize the current government as legitimate, or that the rest of Pakistan would accept the group’s particular interpretation of sharia (Islamic law). Others say ending the US alliance – a major demand from the TTP – is untenable”:

“I think most of the people of Newport would share my views in saying that it’s a disgraceful act. But it is very misguided as well. The people at the graves and their families were not responsible for Lee Rigby’s death” — David Phillips, chief executive of South East Wales Equality Council:

“Customs department spokesman Leslie Gamini says they have confiscated 400 copies of Time’s July 1st edition because of a story on a prominent Buddhist monk in Myanmar bearing the headline ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror'”:

“[T]he Arabic term for ‘Arab Idol’ evokes the idea of the beloved of the Arab world, not the idolized. ‘These people here are not coming here for the person Mohammed Assaf, they’re here because they love Palestine and they feel he represents Palestine,’” says a recent Birzeit University grad:

News and Analysis (7/1/13)

Monday, July 1st, 2013

“A small crowd attacked the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo this evening as elsewhere in the capital large crowds called peacefully for President Mohamed Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, to step down”:

“Perhaps she couldn’t stop it, people say, but at least she could have taken a stand.” Does politics explain why the author of the “influential essay … titled A Revolution of the Spirit remains :silent as Muslims are slaughtered?”

“Moderation in foreign policy is neither submission nor antagonism, neither passivity nor confrontation. Moderation is effective and constructive interaction with the world…. The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a major regional power or the biggest regional power…, must play its role and for this we need moderation”:

First they spied on the Arabs. Then they spied on the Europeans. How long before they get around to you?

For Cyprus McGoldrick  “it’s important to show that our decisions definitely refer back to an idea of right and wrong. Those core concepts, principles, if they come through in the music that resonates with people, that unites rather than divides”:

“Islamic extremism is growing rapidly in Egypt, this has been notable after the revolution, and more clear after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi took office a year ago today. Gaza is ruled by an Islamic party, but there is no extremism”:

“The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which has chargesheeted Hindutva radicals in connection with the case, is likely to tell a Mumbai court that the arrested men do not stand accused in the Malegaon blast case”

“Even though the case against her was thrown out, people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are often subject to vigilante justice. Mobs have been known to attack and kill people accused of blasphemy, and two prominent politicians who have discussed changes to the blasphemy laws have been killed”:

“Local residents said protests turned violent after the army refused to return one of the bodies to the villagers” …

… while in neighboring Pakistan, “Bombings killed at least 49 people in three different areas of Pakistan on Sunday, just as Britain’s prime minister David Cameron was in the capital pledging to help fight extremism”: