News and Analysis (12/18/16)

December 18th, 2016

“Iraq’s Christian community has been persistently persecuted since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003”:

King calls “very effective in stopping terrorism and they really should be a model for the country” the surveillance program that the NYPD “was forced to admit in court … had yielded exactly zero leads into criminal or terrorist activity“:

Among the 142 pages of FBI documents on their surveillance is an expression of ironic “displeasure with an article … that the bureau was watching Ali” calling it “irresponsible journalism … with a total disregard for or lack of the true facts” …

… but in South Africa, Nelson “Mandela kept a photograph of himself with Ali on his desk and his favourite book, in his later years, was an autographed copy of Ali’s biography”:

Observe how wrong the Western press can get a story, giving a bar where men only come to drink alcohol and gamble as an example of “Sharia law.” Wait–what?

“Spokespeople from Microsoft and IBM say that their companies would not help create a registry of Muslims in the United States” …

One important holdout is Oracle, which declined “to comment when asked by BuzzFeed about a Muslim registry or whether it still works with the NSA” and whose CEO Trump yesterday appointed to his transition team:

“France came out on top of the ignorance table, guessing that 40% of people in France are Muslim. The actual number is just 8.3%”:

New York’s mayor is concerned that the college students lie intended to hide the fact that “she’d actually been out drinking with friends” from her father may mean that “real victims will now be met with more skepticism”:

News and Analysis (12/15/16)

December 15th, 2016

Taking “the debunking of the ‘official’ tale to a public and official level. Based on government documents from a Turkish court,” a Turkish MP refuted “the West’s long-running excited belief that Assad had ‘gassed his own people'”:

“Nearly nine out of ten Hindus in the United States and two out of every three Muslims were born outside the country…. With their relatively high levels of education, they qualify for higher paying positions”:

“While China’s constitution enshrines freedom of religious belief, authorities keep strict limits on it, recognising only five belief systems and seeking to control their messages”:

In America Church and State are separate; in France Religion in excluses from public life; in Germany “religions must organize themselves according to state standards … tailored toward the structures of the Christian religion”:

“President Obama has cancelled some arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of the Saudis’ conduct in the war in Yemen. His administration said it was concerned over ‘flaws’ in the way air strikes are targeted”:

“Nearly 1,000 civilians and 26 wounded people have been evacuated in buses and ambulances from a besieged rebel-held enclave in the Syrian city of Aleppo”:

“[E]ven though Iran-Russia squabbling interrupted what was supposed to be a final cease-fire, and images showed block after block of pulverized neighborhoods – punctuated by terrified citizens” pleading, “save Aleppo”:

After suspiciously vanishing for a day after reporting the incident the 18-year-old woman finally “she broke down and admitted that she had made the story up to cover for being out late with her friends”:

“Kulsuma Ali … praised the nurse who came forward to help her stricken husband, calling her a hero. And she said the person who attacked her husband was ‘shouting go back to Syria and things like that'”:

The Attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo

December 13th, 2016

[These are my answers to questions by Javier Méndez of El Mercurio newspaper on the Attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo.]

Q. Who could be the perpetrators of this attack against the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo and for what purpose they did?

A. Although ISIS supporters have celebrated the attack on social media, no group has yet taken credit for the attack. It is generally understood that the motive is anger by opponents of the military coup that overthrew elected President Mohamed Morsi over the Copts’ support for the Al Sissi regime, but the Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Hasm and Liwaa’ al-Thawra groups have all condemned the bombing.

Q. What could be the political effects in Egypt?

A. The Copts are already showing splits in their support of Al-Sissi as he has failed to protect them from increasing attacks against them. A witness to this attack was quoted by Reuters as saying, “Where was the security? There were five or six security cars stationed outside so where were they when 12 kg of TNT was carried inside? They keep telling us national unity, the crescent with the cross … This time we will not shut up.”

Q. Is the Islamic State (ISIS) a real danger for the regime of Al Sissi?

A. I don’t think ISIS can establish itself in Egypt in the same way it has in Syria and Iraq, but it can be an additional factor in the destabilization of the country.

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

News and Analysis (12/12/16)

December 12th, 2016

“In bold white letters, the hatemongering message blasted President Obama for firing Mattis “to please the Muslims” and that Trump will use his hawkish cabinet pick, Mattis, to commit mass genocide”:

The letter “notes … the ‘deep tensions’ following the ‘arduous national election that have resulted in a ‘disturbing and dangerous pattern of hate crimes’…” that has had a “particular impact on Jewish, LGBTQ and Muslim communities”:

“Tens of thousands of people are thought to be still living under siege there, with virtually no food or water” …

… but the Syrian government’s boast that the city’s fall to the Syrian forces was supposed to be the “fatal blow to Daesh” that would “usher in the start of its defeat and retreat'” turns out to have been, at best, premature:

“[T]he most effective weapon [is] the daily countering of IS’s and Al Qaeda’s brand of utopian mythology and misinterpretation of Islamic teachings – particularly among young disenfranchised Muslims willing to take up their call”:

“You’re already black and a woman in America. Now, Muslim?” Thirty black women were asked “why they continue to practice despite all the negative press about Islam”:

It’s  “the biggest U.S.-Iran deal since the 1979 Islamic revolution”:

“[T]wo Palestinians held without charges by Israel are “between life and death” after 73 days on a hunger strike.” Although Israel suspended their detention last month, they “continued their hunger strike,” demanding unconditional release”:

News and Analysis (12/9/16)

December 9th, 2016

“I … felt unwelcome in my homeland for the first time. It’s something I had never known before”:

The senior pastor said that one of their security “team called the school because they felt the students appeared older than than traditional college age … [but that] the church intends “to rectify and resolve this misunderstanding … soon”:

“‘[S]till shaken’ by the encounter … [, she] had a hard time wrapping her head around how ‘bold’ people are becoming in attacking Muslims”:

“Muslim women lead the charge in advocating for the rights of minority groups and taking America to task for its ongoing failure to uphold its founding values of ‘life, liberty and justice for all'”:

They denied the Muslim boxer the honor in 1966, but today, “political stances shouldn’t obscure his athletic success, the editors say. In fact, some argue Ali’s strongly-held beliefs are an example for athletes today”:

Lower courts rejected as false the girl’s assertion that “swimming in a burkini revealed the shape of her body” and the “constitutional court … further found there were ‘no binding rules in Islam’ to define appropriate clothing”:

For “Islam to flourish in this land, you have to find and create local clergy; you have to bring about a new generation of scholars who are fully Western and fully in sync with the tradition of Islam” — an imam trained in Medina and at Yale …

… and over “300 American Muslim leaders are imploring Donald Trump to reject the anti-Muslim policies he touted during his presidential campaign, as well as” Islamophobic White House appointees:

Those who object to having a Muslim on the show whose views the other mainstream Muslims reject seem to have no objection to programs on which the only Muslim depicted holds repulsive outlier views:

“If he becomes the next Dutch prime minister, Wilders has vowed to ban the Koran, close mosques and Islamic schools and stop immigration from Muslim countries”:

News and Analysis (12/6/16)

December 6th, 2016

“[T]he legend of Pearl Harbor, re-used on 9-11, is responsible … for the permanent war mentality of the past 75 years, as well as for how World War II was escalated, prolonged, and completed”:

“Elsokary, who regularly wears a hijab while on duty in Brooklyn, was praised for her heroism after she helped save a baby girl and an elderly man from a burning building in April 2014″ …

… and just two days later:

“If you’re looking for the true meaning of Christmas, you’ll find it at a Muslim-owned restaurant in London”:

“[T]he civil rights chief for Attorney General Maura Healey, says that under state law, a community – in this case, the town of Dudley – can’t ‘prohibit, regulate, or restrict the use of land or structures for religious purposes’:

Some Jewish leaders have joined Muslims in declaring, “The right to religious worship is God-given and not a matter of legislation”:

“The measure, which passed in a stormy Knesset session late on Monday, has been met with international condemnation, and has already strained relations within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing rightwing coalition“:

“Experts have pointed out that most perpetrators of mass violence in the United States are not Muslim, nor have any Syrian refugees been involved in violent attacks in the United States”:

“The defendants’ names were not made public and Amnesty International criticized the proceedings as ‘a travesty of justice and a serious violation of human rights‘”:

Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen, which killed 19 people and forced the international group to pull out from northern Yemen”:

News and Analysis (12/3/16)

December 3rd, 2016

Feds say the leader of one of New Jersey’s largest mosques should have called detention and harassment suffered at the hands of the Israelis a “conviction,” but Qatani insists that he “was never told that he was convicted of anything”:

“Nobody even offered to help an 18-year-old girl,” he said. “That means something. Her phone was dying. You offer help — it doesn’t matter the race, religion, or the country” — the victim’s father:

The good news is that Eric Trump says Muslims will not need to carry IDs, but then he ordered the pork chop for dinner that he never ate, causing the Allah Made Me Funny tour vet to ask, “Are you trying to mess with me here?”

Islamic teaching both promotes and benefits from women’s rights, forbids forced conversions, “requires Muslims to respect the Bible and the Torah, and … preaches universality and tolerance for all cultures and traditions”:

Persecuted in both the East and the West, the Ahmadis, in whose religious beliefs the return of Jesus (pbuh) plays a central role, are not allowed to call themselves Muslims in Pakistan and are denied a Christmas booth in Germany:

Rather than tear up the agreement, Foreign Relations Committee and a rumored candidate for secretary of state under Trump Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) , would prefer making the Iranians adhere to the agreement to keep our allies on board:

Small world? When Elizabeth I “sent a Lancashire blacksmith, Thomas Dallam, to Constantinople in 1599 with a [gift] … for the sultan … his Turkish guide turned out to be “an Englishman, borne in Chorley in Lancashire” named Finch:

If Keith Ellison becomes DNC chair, will the number of Muslims in Congress drop by 50%?

“The reshuffles affected the country’s top religious body known as the Council of Senior Scholars composed of 21 members … [and] the 150-member Shura Council,” of which thirty members remain women:

News and Analysis (12/1/16)

December 1st, 2016

Gorka “has pushed legislation to … impose sanctions on … mainstream civil rights organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America,” the largest association of American mosques:

“As she was looking down at her phone, a man came up to her and struck her in the face with a glass bottle. The attacker, a male in his 20s wearing a black hoodie and dark jeans, ran away laughing”

The ban together with laws restricting women’s access to “an education or having an independent identity… are all unjust acts by a traditional society, far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion”:

A Muslim cites history and quotes the Prophet (pbuh) to refute the Ohio attacker’s claim that he is not weak, saying, “You demonstrated your weakness by targeting and injuring 11 innocent people at Ohio State University’s campus”:

“Islamisation starts with a kebab and it’s already under way in Bratislava, let’s realise what we can face in five to 10 years … We must do everything we can so that no mosque is built in the future” — SNS chairman Andrej Danko:

“I can never, and will never, change any of the haters. It’s not about them. Not this time, and not here. This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us” …

… “This is a woman extending her hand to me, saying, ‘I want to get to know you. … I want to have your back because I know what you’re going through, because of what the Jewish community has been through…. [S]o compelling, so honest”:

Sen. Wyden objects to giving “unprecedented authority to hack into Americans’ personal phones, computers and other devices … [to] President-elect Trump, … ‘who has openly said he wants the power to hack his political opponents'”:

Alternative Responses to Violent Extremism: Islamic Approaches to Peacebuilding

November 30th, 2016

[This is a summary of the 16th Annual Tachmindji Event for Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding held on Sunday, October 30, 2016 at American University. It is not a transcript, but my paraphrase of Sr. Mohammed Abu-Nimr’s presentation.]

“Alternative Responses to Violent Extremism: Islamic Approaches to Peacebuilding”

Dr. Mohammed Abu-Nimer shared experiences of the past few years. A Palestinian who grew up in Israel, he brought many Israelis and Palestinians together in the 80s when it was fashionable, but he burned out, and in the First Intifada left the land of honey for the land of education. He finds the narratives of counter violence and counter extremism to be a poor approach.

There is a defensive and an offensive discourse of war and peace in Islam. The main objective has been to interrupt the radicalization and recruitment. They will introduce projects intended to stop recruitment but without improving the life if the community breeding suspicion and resentment. How shall we do prevention? It took twelve years to arrive at the conclusion that law enforcement alone is insufficient. The EU adopted a different language in 2005.

Dr. Abu-Nimer said it takes him years to convince local leaders that he is not there to gather intelligence for the US government. How can one do Islamic approaches to peace building without employing Qur’an or Hadith? We are afraid of religious identity. Occasionally you will find a Muslim leader highlighted by an American politician and that does not help the community because the objective is not to develop the Muslim community but to securitize the religion. If you are serious about engaging a religious leader you do do before and after the agreement. We have seen manipulation of religious identity for violence at far back as Cain and Able, or perhaps Adam and Eve. Those who have a war to launch ask the clergy to bless their war. It happens today and here; it is not an Islamic issue. We still don’t know how effective the CVE (“Countering Violent Extremism”) is. It has become an essential item on a Washington resume even for a clerical job in a hotel yet we have no evidence of its effectiveness.

We know violent Muslim extremist groups exist, but they have a constituency of 150,000 out of 1.5 billion Muslims. There are other Muslim establishments, reformers and minorities and sects. We refuse to work with the Muslim Brotherhood although in some areas they have 20-30% support.

There are three theological theories of wars: offensive war, just war, and nonviolence. The basic principles of Islamic peacemaking are:

  • Pursuit of Justice
  • Doing Good
  • Universality and Human Dignity
  • Equality
  • Sacredness of Human Life
  • Quest for Peace
  • Peacemaking
  • Forgiveness
  • Deeds, Actions, and Individual Responsibility
  • Patience

Arab societies often engage in reconciliation without forgiveness. The challenge is to show that forgiveness is an important element of Islam. Christians do not have exclusive ownership of mercy. Your sin is not greater than God’s mercy. The Islamic Sources of Forgiveness are:

  • afw – Pardon or amnesty
  • ghafara – covering up, erasing sin, absolution
  • samah  ease, generosity, allowing others to act
  • tasamuh – tolerance, forgiving attitude

In the Qur’an afw appears 35 times, safhu eight times, and ghafara 234 times. The Prophet Muhammad (pnuh) forgave his enemies in Ta’if despite their ving set their children out t stine him; he freed eighty people in Hudybiyya who ha been taken captive while attacking him;  and issued a general amnesty to his enemies in Mecca upon taking the city.

We did 600 surveys of teachers in Iraq Egypt Jordan Syria Lebanon and Palestine asking, “When do you forgive?” The Jordanians were least willing ti forgive, especially as regards family honor, principally due to tribal traditions.

We asked for role models for reconciliation. Many were mentioned (among them Nelson Mandala, St Frances, and Muhammad) on the historical level and examples from their family and local community, but they could not find a single example from the national and sub-national levels. We adopted 70 stories of forgiveness into our manual but must overcome the challenge of getting them incorporated into the curriculum.

In the Qur’anic schools we visited, they were pleased to teach about peace and conflict resolution, and asked only for desks and a roof in return. They already knew how to teach forgiveness, but none had received any training in pedagogy. Donor insistence that we must include gay issues in the curriculum miss the fact that this is not a priority for these people. There was no teaching of violence or killing. Major findings:

  • Religion was identified as important or very important for 92% of the Arbs surveyed
  • The role of faith in justifying forgiveness and reconciliation was central to 85% of the teachers interviewed
  • 89% of teachers acknowledge that they need skills and knowledge on how to teach forgiveness and reconciliation;
  • Responses on forgiveness in different situations differs according to faith with Christians

You have to engage the religious leaders, non-obstructively and not to instrumentalize them (demanding a fatwa to serve your own purposes). The religious leaders are only one of nine or ten sectors of society. Most often not they but the political leaders are the source of the problem. We put a great burden on the religious peacemakers but offer them no security or protection. The secular policy makers lack a basic literacy of religion yet seek to tell the mufti what to do.

Religious leaders are generally older men. When you go to community leaders the majority of workers are women. When we asked for examples of forgiveness motivated by faith we found more women.

The tools to teach forgiveness are: Critical thinking, emotional intelligence, skills in the process of dialog.

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

News and Analysis (11/28/16)

November 28th, 2016

“We’re not passive receptacles for bigotry; we fight back, we stand up for our rights. This is my country as much as it is John Smith’s…. [W]e’re not only giving ourselves the option to kick ass – we’re also giving ourselves the confidence to walk with our heads held high in this country”:

A great variety of women (including “a former Catholic nun, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, two Poles and a Sikh convert”), but are attracted to so-called “Salafism”, an authoritarian interpretation of Islam “as simple as ‘hear and obey‘” that relieves them of any need to think:

“The … case of Korematsu v. Supreme Court … held up the principle that the government’s need to protect against espionage outweighed an individual’s rights” and notwithstanding a Solicitor General’s “confession of error” for Japanese internment the ruling was never overturned”:

Competing for xenophobic voters with National Front, leader Marine Le Pen,  Fillon “has positioned himself as a staunch defender of French values, vowing to restore authority, honor the Roman Catholic Church and exert ‘strict administrative control’ over Islam”:

“Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, always was a figure admired across religious divides, so it seems only fitting that an international prize named in her honor went this year to a Muslim who died in Dhaka, Bangladesh, trying to save two friends from a terrorist attack”:

“Trump’s campaign has argued he never advocated for a Muslim registry nor will he. But Trump himself has yet to put an end to the discussion by rejecting the proposal outright, and his meeting with Kobach only further fanned the flames”:

“There’s a new sheriff in town — President Donald Trump. He’s going to cleanse America…. And he’s going to start with you Muslims. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews. You Muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge”:

“[O]fficials told The Associated Press on Monday that airstrikes hit two homes in rural areas … under control of the country’s Shiite rebels. Among the victims are women and children, according to a medical official in al-Thawra hospital”:

“One rebel official denied the report that al-Sakhour had fallen, an advance that would cut the rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo in two, while another said the situation was not yet clear. The Observatory said rebels had lost control of more than a third of eastern Aleppo” recently: