March 8, 2015

News and Analysis (3/8/15)

“Members of Egypt’s security services were due to be questioned on Sunday by defence lawyers over their claims that the Al-Jazeera English journalists had conspired with terrorists to falsify news reports. But for the second hearing in a row, the witnesses failed to attend court” …

… while a man “[s]ecurity sources have described … as a ‘radical Islamist’ who is not officially a Brotherhood member” is hanged:

“The pledge of allegiance offered to Islamic State (Isis) by the Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram over the weekend … may … be more of a cry for help, given a recent string of defeats sustained by Boko Haram”:

Netanyahu spoke “of Haman – (of ancient Persia) who tried to wipe out the Jews … [but] he didn’t mention Cyrus, the potentate … who … liberated the Jews from the Babylonian captivity” nor of the “Palestinian children that he himself has blown up while he’s having peace talks with the” PA:

The one-two punch of Iranian-back militias and Iraqi government troops is likely to prevail in the unfolding battle for Tikrit …

… “Sunni farmer Marwan al-Bayati fled his home to the nearby city of Kirkuk when Shiite militiamen approached his militant-held village last September. As he prepared to return a month ago, he received anonymous phone calls warning that death awaited him if he and his family returned”:

“The attack on antiquities by ISIS militants at the Nineveh Museum in Mosul, Iraq, last week might not have been as damaging as appears in the video. Experts say many of the statues destroyed in the propaganda piece were actually replicas”:

Tawfiq Abu Riala, 32, was killed and two other Gaza fishermen were arrested” for having “deviated from the designated [and overfished] fishing zone” close to shore:

“In 2007, when she was just 18, Saarah enrolled with a flying school in the US. ‘Those days most Muslim students were being denied US Visas. When she got the Visa without any trouble I saw it as a final message from God,’ says the deeply religious Ahmed:

Questionable motives. “Campaigning for re-election, world soccer body FIFA president Sepp Blatter … [called] on Iran to lift its ban on women attending male sports events in stadia [while ignoring] Saudi Arabia, which is even more restrictive given its refusal to promote woman’s sports”:

“Raif Badawi was arrested in 2012 after writing articles critical of Saudi Arabia’s clerics on a liberal blog he created…. His lawyer, prominent human rights defender Waleed Abul-Khair, is serving a 15-year sentence for insulting the judiciary, among other charges related to his political activism.”

March 6, 2015

News and Analysis (3/6/15)

“I was spying on innocent people. They were not involved in criminal activity.  They were not espousing terrorist rhetoric, but I was still spying on them and giving the FBI the information they wanted”:

“Iraqi forces pressed their offensive against the Islamic State group Friday, expecting to reach the outskirts of the militant-held city of Tikrit within hours, a day after the extremists reportedly ‘bulldozed’ a famed archaeological site in the area”:

“[M]ilitants with sledgehammers destroy[ed] ancient artifacts at the Mosul museum…. Last year, the militants destroyed the Mosque of the Prophet …  Jonah…. They also threatened to destroy Mosul’s 850-year old Crooked Minaret, but residents surrounded the structure” …

… “Islamic State militants have set fire to oil wells in the Ajil field east of the city of Tikrit to try to hinder aerial attacks aimed at driving them from the oilfield, a witness and military source said”:

“At least 121 deaths have been reported in police stations since the beginning of 2014, many caused by deprivation of medical care or torture, Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday that pointed to a “near total lack of accountability for abuses” by security forces”:

“Netanyahu would have us believe the Iranian regime wants to exterminate all Jews. But that’s hard to square with the continuous presence of a Jewish community in Iran—today the largest in the Muslim Middle East.” The “people who gave us the disastrous Iraq war and ISIS—must be repudiated”:

“Turkish law can play both ways, however. This week, a judge ordered Erdogan to pay 10,000 Turkish Lira ($4,000) in compensation for insulting an artist” and before election to national office Erdogan was once jailed for “inciting hatred based on religious differences“:

“[L]etters to parents said their children had been friends with [another girl who had disappeared by going abroad two months earlier], and asked for permission to take a formal statement. But instead of delivering the letters to the parents, police handed them to the girls themselves, who hid them”:

“[F]ormer extremists have a central role to play in the argument against radical temptations. They have a credibility that governments lack”:

March 5, 2015

“Jurisprudential Methodologies and Contemporary Challenges“

[This is the fifth in a series of my notes on the International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on Islamic Law and Ethics held in Herndon, VA in June  2014. 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 conference director.]

“Two Shi`i Jurisprudential Methodologies to Address Contemporary Challenges: Traditional Ijtihad and Foundational Ijtihad “

Presentation by Hamid Mavani, Ph.D., McGill University.

I will speak about the overtaxed and overused term ijtihad from the view of the Jafari school. The doctrine of imâma (leadership) is essential. You know that at the beginning there was no Sunni and no Shia. The two points of view emerged gradually over whether the ummah was to select Muhammad’s successor as community leader or whether he had selected his successor. In reality, Ali lived peacefully and compassionately with the other companions, but the dispute over whether Ali’s authority was usurped continues to fester. There is a story that Umar went to the house of Ali and demanded Ali’s bay`a (allegiance) coercively, even causing his wife to miscarry. This story fuels hostility. For the Twelvers the imamate goes through Hassan to Hussein, etc. to the twelfth imam, although there were many splinter groups as to who will be the Mahdi who will inaugurate the era of peace and justice. The 12th imam was born in the year 869 C.E. and went into a period of occultation under which he was not available directly to the public but indirectly through his intermediaries. For Shia jurists the hadith of the Imams have equal authority with those of the Prophet, both with regard to exoteric and esoteric knowledge. There is dispute as to whether they equal or are superior to the distinguished prophets. Prof. Mahmoud Ayoub has suggested that Shiism began radical and moderated beginning with the sixth imam. Later he went into occultation when he is unavailable directly or indirectly. This begins the process of indirect delegation, in which the jurists have the knowledge and piety to interpret even in the absence of texts. The jurists do not claim infallibility. Their enterprise is ijtihad. There is no more yaqîn (certainty) and we are now in the realm of (likelihood).

Shariah is the body of universal norms and principles and is static while fiqh is a human enterprise to try to understand the Shariah. Some use the term differently, but I use ijtihad to refer to deductive reasoning, clear cut analogy and other sources as well. Zamân (time), makân (place), darûrah (necessity), hâja (need), mashakka (hardship) are among the devices invoked, but these devices are removed from the usûl (fundamentals) and deal with contingencies that do not represent the norm. It is a band-aid that does not resolve the ethical dilemmas. We try to excavate the sources to support our position regardless with how distant they are from our situation. Some have argued that if you take a grain of rice in ribâ’ (usury) you have committed a sin equivalent to committing adultery on top of the ka`ba. To get around this, loopholes and stratagems and tricks are used under the rubric ijtihâd ad-darûr (original critical thought born of necessity) which may fool other people but not Allah. This is hîla shari`a, playing games with the law. Ayatollah Kadivar is on the cutting edge of structural ijtihad dealing with the furûd (mandates) and not just trimming the edges. Shabashtari also has some interesting ideas, and bookstores won’t even carry his books. Damad, Jannnati, etc., are to some extent dabbling in ijtihad at the structural level. Both would agree that essentials, ritual, and eschatology are exempt from review. We don’t know the `illa (purpose) of the number of raka in prayer, but if we can rationalize mu`alamât in the Qur’an we can do it with regard to prayer as well. This is a slippery slope. We need some structure from allowing this to turn into a completely open field. Those of us who favor ijtihâd al-usûl need to bring in the other sciences. Thus, the need for collegial ijtihâd. The term ayatollah al-`uzma (the grand jurists) raises the question of who is the grandest of all. We know mahr (bridal gift) changes with time and place. Ayatollah Khomeini, who was very sharp, realized that hands were tied in issues of governance, and he said the state has authority to transcend even the injunctions of prayer and fasting. Perhaps there is a better solution by including other sciences like hermeneutics and cosmology.

“Adapting Religious Tradition to the Modern Western Nation-State [Law and Ethics in the Wake of the Arab Revolutions]”

Second Presentation  by Usaama al-Azami, Princeton University

My dissertation deals with Islamist political thought. Jasser Auda would be considered an example, although atypical because of his Western education. Substantive ethics are inspired in part by extra-scriptural sources. Do human beings have the ability to assess good and evil? Auda represents a new trend that seeks accommodation with the West rather than rejection in the style of Sayyid Qutb, who holds Western values have no normative authority whatsoever.

One question that comes up is the question of justice. The Shariah is overall concerned with upholding justice. The Shariah is about wisdom that in every case aims at justice, and any ruling that leads to injustice or subverts mercy is not part of the Shariah even if it has been introduced into the Shariah. But what is justice? In the West, especially since Rawls, the definition of justice has merited much discussion, but Auda is satisfied to simply adopt justice as a standard. Is the Islamist concept of justice influenced by hard naturalism like the Mutazilite conception, as opposed to voluntarist conceptions like Asharite (although I am open to the argument that Asharism actually occupies a middle position)? Is x good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good?

The view of soft naturalism, the maslahah discourse of usûl al-fiqh, is that God made the world accessible to human understanding and therefore knowledge of the good is accessible outside the religious sources. Shatabi as well as many modern scholars embrace this discourse. Auda prefers mabâdi (principles) over ahkâm (provisions). Is it the principles of Shariah or the specific interpretations of the Shariah that should govern the constitutions of Muslim states? By using the term mabâdi he is opening new terrain and allowing a shift outside the juristic tradition, but as we saw yesterday, he will still seek precedence within the tradition because we must have continuity with the tradition in order to succeed practically. Auda is hardly new in this regard, but he has a fairly rigorously articulated usûl. I think he is taking into account pluralistic concerns brought about by modernity. One could argue that Auda is capitulating to Western pressure, but ironically his adoption of the term “human rights” frees him from a hegemonic definition of those rights to pursue a truly universal understanding of human rights that may go against certain interpretations of human rights but at the same time allows him to oppose the imposition of Western definitions of human rights on other cultures.

When we look at how the Prophet organized his armies we cannot consider them binding on us because circumstances are different, but Auda wants the same freedom to contextualize Qur’anic verses on the spoils of war. In the same way he says jizya is a maqasid-based consideration that need not be applied any longer. He treats hudûd in the same way. In some ways this is uncontestable. Even the most literalist reader of the Qur’an would agree that the command to prepare one’s horses for war must be understood contextually. In deciding what questions are decided by maqasid and what are to be decided by the tradition, Auda will defer to the ulama to decide.

RESPONDENTS.

Abdulaziz Sachedina, George Mason University. What is the purpose of taking up methodology in a discussion of imâma? We need a clearer picture of what ijtihad is. Ijtihâd ash-shar`i is deductive with only the limit that it should not contradict the clear text. The Hausa are probing sociology and psychology. They no longer wish to ignore modern knowledge. Rather than dwelling on the imâma you need to consider the historic period between the pre-modern and the modern and explain why you take up the distinction between tradition and modern ijtihad. The classical jurisprudence worked in the context of empire whereas the moderns operate in the context of the nation-state. Their judicial authority has been constitutionally enacted. This is the question raised during the Rushdi crisis. Mabâdi are based on precedents.

David Vishanoff, University of Oklahoma. We cannot know the Prophet’s intention from what he did. Zakat has a strong social, even political, dimension, yet it is considered a matter of ibâdat. We want to say that whether we are bound to imitate a certain action is based on the category in which it falls. Often times in Islamic legal theory our categorization (ibidât vs. mu`amalât) becomes a rhetorical strategy for promoting our end as to whether a rule should be permanent or contextual. You note that one can do almost anything with the traditional methodology and find that unsatisfying. You list other things, like egalitarian justice, that we need even more. Can the notion of justice evolve, or is egalitarian justice the universal principle? Are we to be guided by methodology or by Muslim popular opinion? We need to consider the role of culture, and not just Islamic culture, in determining what is Islamic.

GENERAL DISCUSSION.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad: Paradigm shifts are implemented by new generations. I understand that Auda is addressing Yusuf Qaradawi, but Tajdîd will come from young people when they accede to positions of authority. I do not see that it is necessary for ijtihad to operate within the nation-state. That paradigm is also eroding.

[Name Omitted]: The first Muslim community was, like the early Christian church, an eschatological movement. The Prophet deputized certain services. The Shia, in placing the imam out of history, have placed him into eschatology. While eschatology did not disappear in the Islamic view of the world, it plays a different role now than it did in early Islam.

[Name Omitted]: It seems to me that Jasser is seen as an outsider. David’s point on categorization is interesting and I would like to hear more about the matter in Jasser’s work.

[Name Omitted]: The imâma is foundational in the Twelver worldview. It shows the transmission of authority from the Imam to his disciples and this becomes more expansive in occultation and then is expanded even further by when Khomeini as head of the nation state gives himself authority equal to that of the Imam. Montatal-farâgh is the vacuum in which the state may operate. When the scholars changed their minds on organ donations on grounds of muslaha they said you can take an organ from non-Muslims but not give one to them. When it was pointed out this would give Muslims a bad name, they allowed leaving organs to non-Muslims in one’s will. When one jurist was asked about taqiyya (dissimulation) by the infallible imams, he said, we jurists do it because we fear the repercussions of our rulings on the masses that they may rebel against us. Many scholars are waiting for the proper time to reveal their actual opinions.

[Name Omitted]: I agree with Abdul-Aziz more on the importance of the nation-state. Conceiving of the Shariah bound within the nation-state is a radical departure. I deal with Jasser Auda’s ideas and approach, not with the question of how to implement tajdîd.

[Name Omitted]: What is it about Auda’s methodology that you seek to articulate that he has not articulated himself?

[Name Omitted]: I think we still operate within the boundary of the nation-state. I was intrigued that Auda is categorized as an Islamist when from the Indonesian point of view we see him as a moderate. Indonesians are tolerant of Christians and Hindus but not of Ahmadis. Auda wants to legitimize the maqasid in the precedent of fiqh.

[Name Omitted]: I want to address people’s rights to limit themselves. In Dubai you cannot have organ donations from living human beings. If we cannot take things from outside, we can’t take Al-Ghazali’s ideas of qiyas that come from Greek philosophy.

[Name Omitted]: Some people will idealize some scholars or demonize others. Muhammad Abdu, for example, was both idealized and denounced as a non-Musim. We know Sayyid Qutb’s views were affected by his imprisonment, but I see no discussion of this from the people contemporary with him.

[Name Omitted]: Jewish rituals were changed a long time ago from being public to being limited to the private sphere. German Muslims have changed their prayer time. Lived Islam is going on.

[Name Omitted]: I want to question the notion that our methods are not addressing our problems. Will we accept the outcome of our methodology even if we dislike the results? We must not lose the tradition as a source of critique of modernity.

[Name Omitted]: In Shiism the door of ijtihad is still open. Thus we see Shaikh Fadlullah as more liberal and modern. Is this not the case in Iran? I hear of the tyranny of tradition, but I thought that the individual scholars had more flexibility. You are saying that people are fearful of popular backlash.

[Name Omitted]: I agree there is more flexibility in the Shia approach, a more Mu`tazili approach. But tradition has its own inertia. Ayatollah Fadlallah has been reprimanded often for his scholarly opinions. Even Ayatollah Borujerdi had to restrain himself. We all censor ourselves. Is justice something that evolves?

[Name Omitted]: Jeffrey Stark says people who strongly believe in the truth of their faith tradition may approach their tradition with pre-commitments that make them uncomfortable within their own tradition. We need dialectic rather than a one-way street. I acknowledge Umar made changes in the spoils of war, but he had unusual leadership abilities.

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

March 4, 2015

News and Analysis (3/4/15)

Netanyahu’s “argument was long on appeals to emotion – he pointed out Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in the audience while calling Iran a ‘dark and murderous regime’ – and short on facts and reasonable alternatives” …

… “I’ve never seen anything like that press conference by House Democrats… Full rejection of the propriety & substance of Netanyahu’s speech” — Matt Lee of AP:

“The hawkish Israeli Lobby’s massive strength in Congress depends for its power upon a myth—that it represents nearly all American Jews. Instead, today it depends upon others, especially Bible Belt Republican evangelicals—… [but] the idea of imminent Armageddon is wearing thin” …

… “The [Israeli] lobby’s power is waning because … Jews are no longer monolithic on Israel. Ideas of Jewish nationalism and separation are as discredited by the Israeli experiment as Communism was by the Soviet one. Young Jews are bridling … and Netanyahu has fostered that, [G]od bless him”:

Last words form the beloved Jewish actor recall that as with the characters in Theodore Sturgeon’s Star Trek episode “Let This Be your Last Battlefield”, Palestinians and Israelis are “prepared to battle to the death to defend the memory of their people who died from the atrocities committed by the other”:

Why is it so hard for the press to admit that a beloved hero is a Muslim? A great athlete is now hailed as “a new kind of public intellectual” in an article whose single allusion to the beloved man’s Muslim faith is an oblique reference to his observance of the Hajj pilgrimage as “visiting Mecca” (!):

They call this secularism. Muslims “are estimated to be 60 percent of the 67,000 inmates in French prisons … [but only] about 182 Muslim prison chaplains [compared to] about 562 Christian chaplains, a disparity largely attributed to the country’s Roman Catholic history and traditions”:

“IS not only misreads the texts it cites, most clerics say, it also ignores Quranic verses and a long body of clerical scholarship requiring mercy, preservation of life and protection of innocents, and setting out rules of war — all of which are binding under Islamic Shariah law” …

… yet, “Saudi Arabia embraces the same capital punishment techniques on convicted criminals as the Islamic terrorist group does on innocent hostages”:

“Human Rights Watch accuses high-ranking officials of allowing extrajudicial killings and brutal practices to flourish after fall of Taliban”:

After past abuse of vaccination programs to gather intelligence for foreign assassins has terrified parents to the point that there were 306 new polio cases in Pakistan last year , the government resorts to incarceration to force parents to submit to the program:

March 2, 2015

News and Analysis (3/2/15)

Another case of government manufactured terrorism is added to the list:

“He smoked drugs, drank and was violent towards other boys. The fact he portrays himself as a strict Muslim is laughable and shameful. I never saw him pray or wear Islamic dress – he would not even mention religion at all…. [H]e is a total hypocrite” — a member the accused’s former gang …

… “Emwazi’s transition from angry teen to militant was a series of missed opportunities. Then, years of conflict and frustration with the British security services pushed him to act on his radicalism and leave Britain to join IS”:

“My tomatoes are Spanish, and so are the potatoes I sell. Please explain this to me! Do I need to sell pork to be a traditional Spanish business? Do I need to sell wine?” —  Nouari Benzawi, an Algerian immigrant who runs a kebab shop and halal grocery store:

On the “same day another Egyptian court listed the [entire] Palestinian group Hamas [and not just it’s armed wing]  as a terrorist organisation”:

“Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, could retain control of the country’s lawmaking process for the foreseeable future, after the supreme court ruled that a law governing upcoming elections was unconstitutional”:

“The weirdest question I got was if I’m showering with my hijab. And I’m just — no, I don’t shower with hijab, how should I do that? No one showers with their clothes on” — Danish Muslim Sarah al-Mousllie:

“The reality is people don’t abuse me just because I’m a woman or because my name is Mariam or because I’m Middle-Eastern. They abuse me because I have a scarf on my head and because I’m a Muslim”:

“[T]he Saudi blogger who was sentenced to a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, now faces being beheaded for renouncing the religion, his family have said” despite his already having been cleared of that charge …

… while a suspect arrested in 2013 “for threatening an imam who performed funeral prayers for an atheist blogger” and arrested Monday in the case of a Dhaka murder of an American blogger by “attackers wielding meat cleavers” had threatened to kill [the recent victim] in posts on Facebook”

The “campaign [is] aimed at driving them out of the mainly Sunni Muslim province of Salahuddin”:

February 27, 2015

News and Analysis (2/27/15)

Mostly unidentified sources claim to know who is the brutal and barbaric voice of IS with the British accent, but there is disagreement as to whether the well-to do Kuwaiti was radicalized by sympathy for Somalia militants or by harassment by MI5:

“Cage has caused controversy by suggesting that MI5 harassment could have contributed to the radicalisation of the Kuwaiti-born computer graduate who grew up in west London. Human rights groups say they are doing ‘vital work’ but critics have called the organisation ‘apologists for terror'”:

“Earlier … Isis targeted the tomb of Nabi Yunus (the prophet Jonah), and the grave of Abu al-Hassan al-Jazari, a 12th- and 13th-century historiographer known as ibn al-Athir…. Destruction of monuments that have been preserved through 14 centuries of Islam in Iraq is widely abhorred” …

…  “Unesco stressed that under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is a war crime”:

The “Law on Islam” singles out the “large Muslim minority for treatment not applied to any other religious group.” It “bans foreign funding for Islamic organizations and requires any group claiming to represent Austrian Muslims to submit and use a standardized German translation of the Koran”:

“Roy’s family said he had received threats in recent weeks because he maintained a blog, Mukto-Mona (‘Free mind’), that highlighted humanist and rationalist ideas and condemned religious intolerance”:

“Imad Enchassi, senior imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said, ‘As people of faith, we’re never discouraged. It was very refreshing to see our interfaith allies outnumbered the protesters'”

“Mr. Kurt had declared that he respected all holy books and wanted to swear on the holy book of the country in which he was residing”:

“More than 1,200 Assyrian families have fled the area in fear of IS, the majority of them finding shelter in the Kurdish-held cities of Qamishli and Hassakeh, according to the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights”:

“The trip was not approved by the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and the Foreign Ministry said it did not support the mission. Many European diplomats are saying privately it is time for communication with Damascus after a four-year revolt failed to overthrow Assad”:

 

February 25, 2015

News and Analysis (2/25/15)

“Among its lost collections were manuscripts from the [18th] century, Syriac books printed in Iraq’s first printing house in the [19th] century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early [20th] century and some old antiques like an astrolabe and sand glass used by ancient Arabs”:

“The statement echoed the opening remarks at the conference of the grand sheikh of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s respected seat of learning. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb called for educational reform to correct a historical misreading of the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad”:

” It isn’t just leaked cables that have undermined the Israeli PM’s speech to world leaders. According to his predictions, we should all be dead by now”:

Erdogan’s party has enacted “a slew of protections [including] criminalizing marital rape and increasing penalties for so-called honor killings. In 2012, Turkey became the first country in Europe to ratify a Council of Europe treaty on violence against women…” Is culture the problem?

“His family said he was a political prisoner who had been “tyrannised” and that his health was at risk in prison. The pardon bid means a delay in Anwar’s disqualification from politics. He has widely been seen as the only real threat to the ruling coalition”:

“CFCM has been unable to make progress on pressing issues such as training imams and chaplains or regulating halal slaughter. Its members cannot even agree on when to start the fast in the holy month of Ramadan”:

“Israeli settlers vandalized and set fire to a mosque in a village near Bethlehem on Wednesday, officials said, raising tensions in the occupied West Bank one day after Israeli soldiers shot dead a 19-year-old college student in a military raid on a refugee camp”:

Abercrombie’s policy “prohibited wearing headscarves or anything in black.” A “federal appeals court in Denver threw out [an EEOC $20,000] award and concluded that Abercrombie & Fitch could not be held liable because [the interviewer] never asked the company to relax its policy against headscarves”:

February 23, 2015

News and Analysis (2/23/15)

A local Jewish leader at the event called the Muslim “show of support for Norway’s tiny Jewish community … incredibly uplifting,” and is “upset” that Islamophobic propaganda outlets denied the fact that the  1200 people protesting anti-Jewish violence were “overwhelmingly Muslim”:

“Militants claiming loyalty to Islamic State said they were behind Sunday’s twin bomb attacks on the residence of the Iranian ambassador in the Libyan capital and a rocket strike on the eastern Labraq airport”:

“Israel opened water dams, without warning, last night, causing serious damage to Gazan villages near the border. More than 40 homes were flooded and 80 families are currently in shelters as a result” and affecting “poultry and animal farms” according to the chief of the civil defence agency:

“An Egyptian court has sentenced a prominent pro-democracy activist to five years in prison … in what rights groups describe as an ongoing clampdown on dissent” …

… reducing an earlier 15-year prison sentence for organizing an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer. But the ruling was condemned by defense lawyers and supporters who said he should have been set free”:

“Amnesty International says Egypt’s military failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties during airstrikes last week against what Cairo said were militant targets in Libya”:

“US security officials also said that the group was presumably trying “to take credit for inciting violence by otherwise independent lone offenders“:

“For the United States, the goal is to extend to at least a year the period that Iran would need to surreptitiously ‘break out’ toward nuclear weapons development”:

“Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb … linked extremism to ‘bad interpretations’ of the Koran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. ‘The only hope for the Muslim nation to recover unity is to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers,’ he said”:

 

February 21, 2015

News and Analysis (2/21/15)

Humorist Bassem Youssef has a surprising recommendation for how the US can help solve the crises in the Middle East: Do Nothing! …

… and policy wonk Graham Fuller reached a similar conclusion, calling on Washington to end “the actions that have been so incendiary in the region. First and foremost, begin with the removal of US boots on the grounds in Muslim lands”:

The Tennessee legislator who “introduced a bill in 2011 that would make following components of the Islamic code of Shariah law, like praying, a crime punishable by 15 years in prison” is back with a bill to ban non-existent “no-go zones”:

“[S]ince 2011, Yemen’s politics have been continually negotiated by a complex (often opaque) web of actors stretching from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Tehran to Washington and London … [largely] driven by anxieties over or misunderstandings of Islamic republicanism” …

… “Yemen’s … house of representatives … thought to be sympathetic to the Houthis, will stay in place. Instead of the traditional upper house, a new transitional council …. will consist of traditionally unrepresented sectors among Yemen’s formerly independent South, women and young people”:

“While [Graeme] Wood is correct to push back against the flawed notion that Islamic State has absolutely no relation to Islam, he neglects to engage the predominant view that the group embodies one of the heretical versions of the religion that have cropped up periodically [in] history” …

…  “Identity-based extremism and millenarian apocalyptic cults provide a far more useful framework for understanding ISIS than Islam does”:

“[A] parent governor at Bethnal Green Academy, said there was “absolutely not” any radicalisation at the school.” I believe it, but not actively radicalizing is not enough. The needs and concerns of the children must be met by relevance in education or they will turn elsewhere (remember the 60s?) …

… but in the US, “[s]ome Muslim reformers who have been struggling to combat radicalism in their mosques and communities have been willing to talk about the extremist ideologies they encounter“:

A “longtime promoter of Jewish-Muslim dialogue in Denmark, Naveed Baig … was part of a march by tens of thousands of Danes, including countless Muslims, who were shocked by an attack seen as underscoring the growing threat of anti-Semitic violence in the region”:

“Holocaust recognition among Arabs and Muslims, less noticed but equally divisive [than Holocaust denial], has … served as a means of delegitimizing Israel and Zionism. By this line of reasoning, … the Holocaust was a crime inflicted by Europeans for which Palestinians paid the price”:

The leader of “a group of teenage boys with weapons …, blocking the road[, …] said, ‘Every day we watch your car come and visit your centers for women and girls. They are learning to read. What about us? We have been fighting and living in caves since we were little boys … but we want to study”:

“The circumstances of their release are unclear but they were eventually handed over to the state authorities for counselling and rehabilitation…. 200 girls [kidnapped] from a boarding school in Chibok in Borno state, have yet to be rescued … despite [foreign] military” intervention:

February 19, 2015

Tasnim News Interviews Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad on the Chapel Hill Killings

[Original English Text of Tasnim News interview with Minaret of Freedom Institute President Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad]

Q. What is your own personal take on the Chapel Hill killings? Do you believe the initial police suspicion that it was rooted simply in a parking dispute?

A. While it may be true that the trigger for the murders was parking dispute, the suggestion that the perpetrator would have similarly killed anyone with whom he had a dispute over parking is a hard pill to swallow. It seems more likely that the dehumanization of the victims played a role. Otherwise why would the killer murder all three family members? Besides, the father of the Abu Salha sisters said that is daughter had told him before the murder that her neighbor “had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

Q. Can you notice any difference between the media responses to the Charlie Hebdo attack and the three murders in Chapel Hill?

A. There are differences, some of which may be justified by the fact that the Charlie Hebdo was clearly an act of terrorism while the murder in North Carolina was accompanied by no political demands and seems to have been an act of brutal violence whether bigoted or not.

Q. What do you think are the causes for the recent increase in violent Islamophobia in America?

A. The demonization of Muslims by media outlets like Fox News, by politicians like Bobby Jindell, and by the organized Islamophobia industry have redirected the anger Americans feel at the atrocities of the likes of ISIL and the killers of Charlie Hebdo staff against innocent American Muslims.

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