Archive for November, 2015

News and Analysis (11/29/15)

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

“While ecstatic crowds celebrated the pope’s visit and message of reconciliation, thousands of Muslims remained essentially blockaded in their neighborhood of PK5, unable to leave because of the armed Christian militia fighters”:

“Westerners have speculated that the drug is being used by Islamic State fighters, the biggest consumer has for years been Saudi Arabia … and is popular among those Syrian fighters who don’t follow strict interpretations of Islamic law”:

UN Head calls for de-escalation, Erdogan expresses regret of plane downing, and Turkey warns citizens to avoid Russia as Russia drafts sanctions and curtails visas:

“Turkey will help the European Union handle the flow of migrants that has called into question the future of Europe’s passport-free travel in exchange for cash and restarting stalled talks on EU accession”:

CAIR lost it battle when “U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom ruled the policy did not represent an imminent and concrete threat to Muslims therefore she did not have the authority to make a decision in the case” and has 30 days to appeal:

MENA Capital Markets as a “Smart” Investment Opportunity

Friday, November 27th, 2015

[On October 19, 2015, I  attended the 2015 C3 US-Arab Business Summit in New York City. The following is summary of a panel on finance. The affiliations of the speakers are for identification only and they were not speaking on behalf of their respective institutions. In any case, this is a report only of my subjective impressions of the panel and is not intended as an exact transcript. Any errors are mine alone. ]

MENA Capital Markets as a “Smart” Investment Opportunity

Robert Michael (New York City Bar Association). I wrote the first Islamic loan notes by substituting the word “commission” for “interest.” Yusuf de Lorenzo calls me the godfather of Islamic finance. Three principles of Islamic investment are no interest, no unquantified risk, and no financing of prohibited activities. Seeking profit as long as it does not involve harming others (socially responsible investing) is permitted.  Sukūk are incorrectly called Islamic corporate bonds, but unlike corporate bonds they are secured.

Ken Dorph (Sag Harbor Consulting). What we think of as modern finance came from trade between Egypt and Venice. In the 1940s the Egyptian stock market was one of the largest in the world. The birth of modern Israel, the rise of socialism in the Arab world, and the US refusal to finance the Aswan dam led to the rise of nationalization of finance in the Arab world and one of the worst records of finance in the world. Islamic finance should lead to a move away from bad debt, but it hasn’t. There is reform, but it is slower than in Asia or Europe. The emergence of Islamic finance has complicated matters. Its frequency is badly underestimated. The Arab Spring has caused disasters as well as opportunities. Reform of state banks has gone nowhere. Iraq could be an opportunity especially if the IS were to be pushed back. Syrians are natural business people but now all we can do is pray for peace. Much of the business community is Palestinian. Palestine has a stock exchange but it is hard to have an independent financial sector without an independent country. The UAE has a dynamic financial sector. Things are down now because of oil prices, but I remain bullish long term. Saudi is the sector I know the best. In the 70s when the bans were nationalized in the Arab world the Saudis wisely allowed foreign banks to continue operations, and they have  benefited from it. Foreign indirect ownership is now allowed. With the emergence of ETFs etc there is hope that Saudi’s non-royal economy will continue to grow. Libya after the revolution is not as vicious as Iraq as the violence there is of the “Hatfield-McCoy” variety, but I will be optimistic once they put down their guns. In Tunisia they have mandated the state banks operate like private banks. Rather than privatize state banks we ought to commercialize them. I think Tunisia is undervalued.

Paul S. Homsy (Eaton & Van Winkle). Saudi Arabia has changed its investment rules allow direct foreign investment in their stock market which is the largest exchange in the Middle East. Most of the market is banks, construction companies, and insurance companies. They have been open to foreign investors in privately owned companies for fifteen years with only a few exceptions (mineral mining and insurance), They hope Saud Arabia will be part of the MSCI index. CMA is the Saudi’s SEC. A local Saudi company (AAP) licensed by the CMA must file the application of any foreign company which puts them on a fast track, and if you have not heard within thirty days you are approved. Foreigners can’t own more than 49% of a local company. Any single QFI (Qualified Foreign Investor) is limited to 20% ownership of a particular company or 10% of market value (this is ambiguous).

John P. Desrocher  (US Dept. of State). This administration developed a new model of bilateral investment treaties in 2012. Issues that obstruct investment include local content requirements, limits on taking funds out of country, etc.  Such treaties help to level the playing field. A positive list treaty applies only to specified sectors of the economy while a negative list applies to everything except a negative list (e.g., media).

Karim Babay (Intrinsic value Investment Partners). We were founded to invest primarily in North America but after the Arab Spring we are making significant investments in the MENA region.  It’s an economy comparable in size to Italy’s but while Italy’s is declining MENA is growing. The population is growing at 2.2%. The other factor is productivity, which is very low and we anticipate a growth rate of 5%. It is a (un?)leveraged market. Debt to GDO is less that 12%. Libya is at 4%. Tunisia at close to 50% is still better than the US or Japan.  The markets are illiquid, which is bad, but an opportunity. Hedging capacity is limited at present. We have generated a return above 12% since formation. Undervalued companies tend to remain undervalued because of investment barriers. We anticipate institutionalization of the markets in the future which will increase value. We anticipate positive structural changes. Oil prices are likely to rise. Governments are likely to withstand changes in dollar value. The region is systematically sound, notwithstanding the headlines.

Robert Michael. Outside the US it is very difficult to buy on consumer credit. To the extent that laws are reformed in this region that will change.

Paul Homsey. The Saudis know they have to get people out of the public sector and into the private sector and they know small business is the way to do that.

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

News and Analysis (11/26/15)

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

“The hospital’s location was known to the U.S. military, and officials from MSF (also known as Doctors Without Borders) repeatedly phoned U.S. and Afghan military officials during the attack, trying desperately to stop the heavy fire”:

“Such a use of the missile, made by Marconi and sold to Saudi Arabia during the mid-1990s, was “depressingly predictable”, said Amnesty International, which conducted the investigation alongside Human Rights Watch”:

The “Palestinian artist sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for apostasy has told a local news website in an interview from inside prison that he isn’t an atheist and that his case centers around a personal dispute he had with someone”:

The OIC’s secretary general “expressed his solidarity with Tunisia and said such acts of terrorism were seeking to alter the country’s ‘moderation and tolerance-driven model of society'”:

“Despite a half-day off the Egyptian government granted its employees … [p]olitical apathy has been on the rise since President … el-Sissi, who was then military chief, led the 2013 army overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected leader”:

The regime tries to have it both ways, charging the journalists with both printing lies and revealing state secrets:

The exchange of threats of economic sanctions, spoken and implied, between Russia and Turkey is growing :

“Tehran had accused Saudi Arabia of kidnapping Ghazanfar Roknabadi because he previously held sensitive positions for the Iranian government, such as the post of ambassador to Lebanon”:

A 50 million member group proclaims extremists “justify their harsh and often savage behavior by claiming to act in accord with God’s commands, … [but] every aspect and expression of religion should be imbued with love and compassion”:

News and Analysis (11/23/15)

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Justification of “Labott’s suspension with reference to a supposed CNN standard that reporters are not supposed to be ‘predictably partisan’ … is an utter crock…. Glenn Greenwald has drawn up an extensive list of partisan opinions that caused no suspensions”:

“Al-Watan reported that he was charged with blasphemy, spreading atheism and having long hair, along with other charges. New York-based Human Rights Watch said Monday that Fayadh has denied the charges”:

Setting “an important international legal precedent,” South Africa will enforce Turkey’s warrants  “seeking the arrest of the Israeli commanders for their involvement in the 2010 Israeli attacks on the Mavi Marmara aid ship, which led to the deaths of nine humanitarian activists”:

“Wearing a [Mercedes] logo does not make you” a Mercedes:

Many ISIS “supporters rejected the group’s extreme violence and radicalism, they saw the group as a formidable opponent of Iran—’the real enemy,'” and “in fact, most didn’t even pray daily. They were Sunnis who cared about their group: us versus them”:

“The length of Rezaian’s imprisonment is unspecified and has not yet been finalized, according to Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, the spokesman for Iran’s judiciary”:

“I got borderline angry that he would make such a comment and try to drive a wedge between Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces and people who aren’t Muslim. I felt the need to call him out — particularly because Trump himself has never served”:

“The Brotherhood, which swept every vote held after Mubarak’s ouster until Morsi was overthrown, are boycotting the election, along with most secular, liberal and left-wing activists”:

“The terrorists want us to hate one another. They want to drive a wedge between Muslim communities and the wider society. So I think we really need to double up on our efforts to not let these divisions occur”:

There are “concerns that the legal proceedings against them were flawed and threats of violence by their supporters. A reporter was shot and wounded after covering the funeral of one of the men, though it was not clear who was responsible”:

News and Analysis (11/20/15)

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Until joining ISIS, Hasna Ait Boulahcen was “deep into alcohol, drugs and sex” and “her purported pre-radicalization behavior fits with other female extremists” …

… exemplified in the fact that “the terrorists — they are not part of the institutions of the Muslim [community], they don’t go to mosques. They don’t recognize the French Muslims as true Muslims. We are also seen as the enemy” …

…yet “[e]ven as some confront a backlash, Muslims are noting a sense of belonging – feeling part of a society that is mourning collectively and standing behind the French government in bringing attackers to justice”:

It’s not just Republicans; “the Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Va., cited the internment of Japanese Americans in camps during World War II, under suspicion because of their race, as a positive lesson for dealing with Syrian refugees”:

“The U.S. military has rarely acknowledged causing civilian casualties in the fight against Islamic State militants, but is investigating several dozen strikes in which civilians were reported killed. In May, it concluded two children had been killed in an air strike in Syria in November 2014”:
“Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its offshoot al-Murabitoun said they carried out the attack…. An unnamed UN official has said at least 27 people have been killed”:
“While the Islamic State offers its adversaries a geographical target for reprisals, the group may still perceive a win-win scenario: It deters the West or receives a ‘recruitment gift'”:

“Our greatest chance of severely curtailing the pipeline of the scores of young men and women flocking to Isis and other jihadi groups is to have them in communities that provide them with a sense of belonging and acceptance in their adopted countries”:

“[A] large group of strangers surrounded the man and then proceeded to hug him one after the other. Bystanders watching the moment wiped away tears”:

News and Analysis (11/18/15)

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Juan Cole takes exception to persistent comments about IS that are “exaggerated or just incorrect” about its place in Islamic history, the piety of its membership, its numbers, its influence, and how to fight it:

“[T]he West’s veneer of civilization has been peeled away, leaving in its place, a renewed commitment to barbarity and retribution against the monsters known as ISIS … [yet] incidents of terrorism have increased by 6,500% since the “War on Terror” began in 2001″:

“Many of the benefits from keeping Terrorism fear levels high are obvious. Private corporations suck up massive amounts of Homeland Security cash …, while government officials … can claim unlimited powers, and operate with unlimited secrecy and no accountability“:

Zaman publishes results of a research study proving that “the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal”:

“Muslim victims of the indiscriminate multiple attacks were all in the prime of their lives. They included a violinist, an architect, a receptionist and a shop assistant”:

“We have to reinforce our borders while remaining true to our values”:

News and Analysis (11/16/15)

Monday, November 16th, 2015

“ISIS isn’t just at war with much of the world, or, especially, the Muslim world. The Islamic State is at war with how Muslims understand Islam” …

… “Islam’s position is very clear … [against] the killing of innocent people, … these acts do not respect war as it is decreed in the Muslim tradition and … these suicide bombers are convinced they’re going to heaven when they actually risk finding themselves in hell” …

… “Muslims have used social media to demonstrate that they want no part in the extremism and violence that terrorists commit in the name of Islam. The hashtags #NotInMyName and #IAmAMuslim are being used to say that extremists will not be tolerated ‘” …

… “This savagery is no more Muslim than the Ku Klux Klan represents Christianity. The Islam we know emphasizes that the taking of one innocent life is as if one killed all of humanity and …not to hate one another. It also clearly dictates that there is no compulsion in religion” …

Was the coordinator of the Paris murders a Belgian national?

The author of a viral post “liked more than 15,000 times, ended his account by saying he did not want it to be ‘some kind of statement. I just want to tell you about my brief random conversation with a sad Muslim Sydney Uber driver, whose religion is being taken from him”:

ISIS subscribes to the view that music is prohibited in Islam, so imagine how angry they will be when they see these imams singing “To arms citizens! Form you battalions! March, march, let impure blood waters our furrows”:

Remember Freedom Fries? “The U.S. should treat France as France treated the U.S. 14 years ago—by helping the other wage prudent fights and warning its leaders against the rash decisions that trauma can lead to”:

Amir and Nehal Elmasri said when they returned home to their gated community from feeding the homeless Sunday morning, they noticed a bullet hole in their garage door. The family said that the bullet went through their garage and into their master bedroom”:

“There is still no sign of agreement, however, on the key question of the future of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad”:

Egypt’s civil aviation minister says … that a copy of the recording needs to be analyzed with technology ‘unavailable in most countries….’  He didn’t identify the country”:

 

Muslim Condemnations of Today’s Paris Attacks

Friday, November 13th, 2015

A Jewish college classmate of mine asked me if there are any Muslim voices willing to condemn today’s barbarous attacks in Paris. I told him that almost all Muslims condemn it. Here  are links to a couple of major Muslim organizations that have already published their condemnations:

http://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/13236-cair-condemns-paris-terror-attacks.html

http://www.icna.org/

Over the coming days virtually every Muslim organization will have condemned the attacks, but don’t expect to see that fact mentioned in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

For the record, everyone here at the Minaret of Freedom Institute condemns these attacks regardless of what the religious or political affiliations of the perpetrators proves to be.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.

Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

News and Analysis (11/13/15)

Friday, November 13th, 2015

“This huge effort to go after this deranged man filled with hate when they can’t make half that effort to save the hostages while … [they] were still alive. It’s unfortunate that the government doesn’t get it. They think it gives us solace, but it doesn’t” — mother of IS victim James Foley:

“Robert F. Dees … has indulged in anti-Muslim bigotry and … described the military as a vehicle to eventually ‘indoctrinate’ the American public at large to evangelical Christianity” and then “to transform the nations of the world through the militaries of the world”:

Fired “from his tenured position over his personal tweets criticizing the Israeli government’s assault on Gaza in 2014. Professor Salaita” says the $875,000 “settlement is a vindication for me, but more importantly, it is a victory for academic freedom and the First Amendment”:

“While skeptics may dismiss this turnaround as a mere deflection from Sisi’s human rights violations against the Muslim Brotherhood and secular youth activists, a better explanation lies in the seismic political changes under way in the region”:

Freedom of speech doesn’t include “reposting names and addresses of 100 U.S. service members, all with the intent to have them killed”:

“[H]ow US colonel James Steele, a veteran of American proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, played a key role in training and overseeing US-funded special police commandos who ran a network of torture centres in Iraq” that launched the Iraqi civil war and rise of ISIS:

Daniel Polisar’s virtual denial of the context of the occupation and any data contrary to his preconceive conclusions as well as the “mirror of support for violence” and threat perceptions on the Israeli side disappoints and somewhat frightens public opinion researcher Dahlia Scheindlin:

Criminally invading a hospital “Israeli forces disguised in Palestinian clothes – including one impersonating a pregnant woman in a wheelchair – have raided a hospital in the flashpoint city of Hebron, shooting dead a relative of a man suspected of carrying out a stabbing attack”:

“Apparently, it’s hard to find someone who is not only compatible, but also shares a mix of Muslim and American values” says the woman who “jokingly said, ‘Why don’t I make a website to connect all of you, because you all seem really cool.’ Then the emails started pouring in”:

News and Analysis (11/11/15)

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

“We have realized this now, that under an Islamic system all rights of human beings — both men and women — need to be implemented 100 percent” — Abdul Manan Niazi, the deputy head of the breakaway group:

“So how does a former FBI agent who has left the bureau dishonorably make a living? Easy, bash Muslims…. People like Shoebat and Guandolo have the right—which I defend—to spew hate, just as the Klan does.  But these lessons in bigotry shouldn’t be paid for with our tax dollars”:

“Like other Afghans seeking refugee status whom I’ve interviewed across Germany, Rahimi is quick to affirm his Muslim faith. After some prodding, he nervously admits he might convert to Christianity to avoid deportation… Those who are baptized here … get to stay in Germany”:

Netanyahu has a point. Labeling where Nazis got their soap would have “emboldened” enemies  of the Third Reich:

Advocates say that including a woman on every panel is an easily achievable metric to resolve the “dire consequences for our communities” rising from panels without women “discussing important social, policy, and theological questions at Muslim centered events”:
“The U.S. Embassy in Amman said two American civilian security contractors and a South African contractor were shot to death, and one slain Jordanian was a translator. It was ‘premature to speculate on motive at this point’ with the investigation proceeding, it said”:

“[P]arliamentarians wrote to the president last week complaining that the deactivation of centrifuges contradicted the directives … Khamenei … that the deal should only be implemented once allegations of past military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program had been settled”:

“At one point, he was taken to an empty field, told to take off his shirt and trousers, and was then inspected superficially by a doctor, he said. He was also held temporarily in ‘a narrow, dark cell void of anything but two blankets on the floor'”:

“Since the 1960s, the way of avoiding conflict was power-sharing among a set of prince. Salman has upset the tradition by consolidating a lot of power in those two princes and now we are seeing this playing out” — Gregory Gause, professor of international affairs at Texas A&M: