Archive for the ‘Imran’s blog’ Category

Obama’s First Hundred Days

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Up until the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, the notion of measuring a president’s success within the first 100 days of office did not exist. In his attempts to capitalize on the zenith of political power coinciding with his election, FDR sprinted to enact as many reforms as possible with the urgency of the Great Depression motivating him. This custom of evaluating a president’s performance after 100 days has becoming a tradition in American politics but remains no less arbitrary.

After all, have any of the presidents following FDR accomplished their most influential actions in this 100 day time period? Was FDR greatest accomplishments within his first hundred days? After winning four consecutive elections, one would hope the pentacle of his presidency would lay outside those first 100 days. What is the Presidency of Bush junior before September 11? Richard Nixon’s presidency before his trip to China? Carter’s presidency before the Camp David Accords? Events that define ones presidency do not occur within this 100 day sample.

However, that fact does not negate the usefulness of such evaluations. Regardless of the unpredictable events which will occur during a president’s rule, the general tone and nature of the presidency rule becomes apparent within 100 days. The conclusion of the Iranian hostage crisis coinciding on the inauguration of Reagan certainly incorporated the same level of dramatics and staunchly pro-American sentiment found throughout Reagan’s presidential rule. A president’s style is defined immediately following an election.

Obama has demonstrated his cool demeanor while using his charisma and the excitement of his election to restore the US as a principle and respectable nation of the world. After the reign of Bush junior, rebuilding America’ image and restoring proper diplomatic relations must be the top priority of his administration. Focusing in on the implications of his foreign policy, Obama has spent these first hundred days fighting a public relations campaign across the globe.

In evaluating Obama’s performance in foreign affairs, the limitations of his circumstances must be addressed. As spectators, we can demand the immediate withdrawal from Iraq without thought to its consequences. Any new president not only inherits the problems of the previous administration but the entire spectrum of US history to deal with. As Obama stated in addressing the media, “I would love a nice, lean portfolio to deal with, but that’s not the hand that’s been dealt us.”

Many would argue that Democrats suffered due to their perceived weakness on military policy and combating terrorism. Addressing this concern in his inauguration speech, “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

Interestingly, Obama has taken this idea in two different directions. On one side, the release of Bush era memos and the prospect of prosecuting those who ordered such horrendous acts of torture bring hope for a hope for justice. From the other, Obama quickly increased our military present within Afghanistan, a battlefield supposedly won in 2001. What is particularly interesting about the Obama administration is how previously contradictory ideas have come into play under one unifying logic.

Although continuing the military-dominated strategy of the United States via Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama began his presidency with an interview with the Al-Arabiyya network. Using his charisma, Obama reached out the Muslim world appearing to be far less superficial than his predecessors and began a period of “new dialogue” with the Muslim world. This “new dialogue” allowed the US to continue to support the same ideas without the same inherent ramifications of those ideas. For example, the US can continue to support Israel without unconditional support for all Israeli policies.

The election of Obama was the first election in countries critical to negotiations among what I call  the “axis of aggravators”. Obama’s public relations offensive was enabled by the elections scheduled Iran and Israel. As the first to the negotiation table, Obama set a tone of reconciliation. Although he was justifiably criticized for offering no substantial change in policy, this point is ultimately moot. Obama does not have to offer any policy change until Iran is willing negotiate any more than an employee needs to commit to additional responsibly until his employer sits down to renegotiating his compensation.

It should come as no surprise the largest obstacle to peace is Israel. Realizing the potency of Obama’s calls for a Palestinian state, Israel immediately sought to defer that question by focusing on Iran. Without engaging in the semantics or debating justifications for Israel’s existence, one would be hard pressed to identify a more polarizing issue across the Middle East — including Iran. Simply put, the Palestinian question is at the root of the problem. While such a statement risks oversimplifying a complex question, ignoring the centrality of this issue is a clear-cut and more dangerous way of trying to simplify the situation.

In the first 100 days of Obama’s presidency, his rule has clearly been defined by a kind of calm swagger. Although he has not ended America’s unconditional support of Israel, nor made huge strides in reversing detrimental policy abroad, Obama has carefully chosen his battlefields for progress. The immediate closure of Guantanamo and commitment to transparent government illustrated in the release of CIA torture memos are steps in the right direction for a government recently removed from warranties wiretapping and other unconstitutional mean supposedly justified by the end.

Obama parlayed his international popularity into a major victory for America’s stature abroad. While his economic policies are only variations on the Bush Administration theme of borrow and spend, his signal of his willingness to engage a broader part of the world community than the Bush administration has had an immediate impact. Still, one must recall that 100 days can only provide a sample of what Obama will accomplish, or fail to accomplish, during his presidency. A president’s true agenda does not fully emerge until his second term, when concerns about reelection no longer exist.

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Wahabism in Salafi Thought

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Prof. Ahmad Moussalli’s purpose was simple, to clarify the distinction between the Salafi and the Wahhabi schools of thought. In essence, Wahabism is a subset of Salafism. Although very similar in nature, the basic difference can be understood in these terms, not all Salafis are Wahabis but all Wahabis are Salafis.

Reverting to what they consider the “golden age of Islam, “Salafis believe Islam was in its purest form during the time period of Muhammad and his companions and the two generations that followed. The belief is that these Muslims possessed an intuitive understanding of Islam through their direct association with the prophet.

Some points of divergence between Wahabis and Salafis occur in how the Qur’an is interpreted and the issue of jurisprudence. Wahabis believe in a literal interpretation of the Qur’an. The Qur’an says Allah created the earth in six days, then he created it in six 24-hour periods, not six stages. The Qur’an speaks about the face of Allah, then Allah must have a physical face whether or not we can imagine what the face looks like. The other branches of salafis believe the Qur’an can be interpreted metaphorically.

On the issue of jurisprudence, Wahabis are against theological development because it inherently contradicts their beliefs in following the companions of Muhammad. In the mind of a Wahhabi, there is no need to expand schools of thought to justify changes in society and culture.

Furthermore Wahabis believe in absolute adherence to the ruler, they are against democracy, plurality, and human rights. They do not believe in any political Islam or the division of powers. Ultimate authority controls both the religious and political aspects of the Wahabis’ ideal society.

The interpretation of text also provides a point of divergence between Salafis and Wahabis.  Salafis believe in using the interpretations from the first three generations of Muslims to understand the meaning of Qur’anic verse. Wahabis take this notion a step further, speaking out against Ijma (consensus). For example, although Muslims generally understand that the earth goes around the sun but the late Saudi mufti Shaikh Bin Baz denied it in print and reputedly even once claimed in a newspaper interview that the earth is flat, an obvious misreading of the Qur’anic verses that “it is He Who spread out the earth” (e.g., 13:3).

Just as one must distinguish between Salafis in general and Wahabis in particular, it is necessary to distinguish between the Wahabis and violent extremists. As was said, the Wahabis oppose revolt against the rulers, but the willingness to label those who reject your interpretation of Islam as “kuffaar” is a first step towards the endorsement of violence against them. Thus it is ironic, but unsurprising, that the violently anti-Saudi al-Qaeda is populated by so many schooled in Wahabi thought.

Except for the unity of God and the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), there is no one dogma for Islam, no single interpretation of the text of the Qur’an. By challenging over a millennium of Islamic thought, Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab was engaging in an act of ijtihad (original thinking) even if his conclusion was to call for imitation of the first generations of Muslims.

Prof. Mousalli conceded that Abdul Wahab wanted Muslims to engage in ijtihad, yet he and many of his followers seem to be intolerant of those who arrive at conclusions different from theirs. The Islamic faith encourages the intellectual debate and scientific discovery that emerge simultaneously with cultural challenges. It is therefore unfortunate that an estimated $70 billion in petroleum generated revenue has been expended in effect to promote a monopoly on Islamic thought.

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

Elections in Turkey

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Before the elections, which were believed to be local elections with national implications, Prime Minister Erdogan claimed anything under 47% for his AK party would be considered a failure. How then should carrying only 39% percent of the vote, the lowest performance since his party gained power in 2002 be interpreted?

Despite the considerable decline in support, a significant minority in Turkey stand behind the AKP’s performance. Economic issues stand at the heart of Turkish politics. The years of tremendous economic growth no longer characterize Erdogan’s rule with unemployment standing at an uncomfortable 13.6%. Moreover, the elections complete the push for an IMF loan worth as much as $25 billion, aiding Turkish companies to pay off foreign loans and compete in the face of the global recession.

For the first time since his party assumed power, Erdogan will no longer be able to dominate the political landscape. The nearest competitor, the secularist CHP, who accuses the AKP of having a hidden Islamist agenda, increased their winnings to 23%. The election results should make  Erdogan’s agenda to reform the constitution drafted in 1982 by the military and change the way the Constitutional Court works more difficult to complete.  These were largely seen as steps to help improve Turkey’s chances of becoming the first Muslim member of the European Union and are not completely out of reach.

In analyzing the results, the effect of Kurdish voters could not be ignored. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party won in a landslide victory over the AK party in Diyarbakir, 67% to 31% respectively. Incorporating Kurdish voters has been a top priority of Erdogan. Emphasizing equality among Turks and Kurds (also a key point the EU dwells on) Erdogan has initiated a state sponsored Kurdish language channel even offered washing machines for free. Regardless, the DTP’s campaign centered around improving services in the area rather than stressing the Kurdish identity.

Although the extent Erdogan will have to compromise is unknown, he will certainly be forced to be less confrontational. Several ministry changes will be made in response to the results and the opposition is unlikely yield their attacks, hoping to further dislodge support for the AK party. The future success of the AK party is completely dependent on Erdogan’s ability to lead them away from the status quo and into some resemblance of economic growth.

Local elections are very important to Turkish politics and the dramatic decline in support for the AK party could lead a push for early elections but that scenario remains highly unlikely. Severe economic declined requiring IMF loans and record breaking unemployment rates usually do not lead to victories for the ruling parties and I cannot imagine Erdogan conceding to elections before they are required in 2011.

Sorting through all the speculation surrounding the elections and the rule of the AK party, which includes an investigation into a plot to overthrow Erdogan, a clear warning has been sent. Constituting the most homogeneous ruling party in Turkey since perhaps the rule of Ataturk, the AK party is in serious jeopardy of losing control of the government. However, if Erdogan follows his own advise to “take lessons both from achievements and from failures”, the survival of the AK party will not be at stake.

Imran Malik
Program Assistant
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Sami al-Arian Brown Bag Lunch

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

The case of Sami al-Arian touches on many of the aspects of  liberty we at the Minaret of Freedom Institute seek to defend. Ashraf W. Nubani is an attorney and although he is not working on the al-Arian case, he follows it closely. At our most recent brown bag lunch  updated us on the status of his case.

By rights, al-Arian’s struggles with the US government should be over. The former professor at the University of South Florida was initially charged in 2003 and spent almost three years defending his innocence. Al-Arian endured grueling conditions in the maximum security prison where he awaited trial in Florida. Access to phone calls, visits from family members and lawyers were  severely limited as al-Arian struggled to gain access to government evidence in preparation of his defense.

When his circus of a trial was finally over, al-Arian was acquitted of the most serious terrorism charges and the jury deadlocked (two jurors failing to support acquittal) on all the other charges. The mistrial meant more time in prison awaiting a second trial and al- Arian decided to cut a deal. Pleading guilty to three counts to “providing services to individuals the government claims were associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad” and the prosecution agreed to a sentencing of time served and a quick deportation. However, Judge James S. Moody, Jr. decided to ignore these recommendations and imposed the maximum sentence allowed on al-Arian. Still, al-Arian was schedule to be released in April 2007.

The current controversy revolves around details of his plea agreement, specifically protection from having to further testify. Gordon Kromberg, a prosecutor for Eastern District of Virginia with a record of Islamophobic public comments, subpoenaed al-Arian to testify before a grand jury. Attorneys for al-Arian contend that since the clause mandating compliance was removed from the plea-bargain, al-Arian is legally protected from having to testify.

The plea bargain called for his speedy deportation after he finished serving time on the charges to which he plead guilty, but  Kromberg’s prosecution extends his detention. Ironically, Kromberg’s decision to charge Al-Arian with criminal contempt after repeated incarceration under civil contempt works in favor of al-Arian as he is now entitled to the protections given the criminally accused. Having spent a total of 2020 days in jail, al-Arian was recently moved from punitively harsh prison conditions he endured by Judge Leona Brinkema to house arrest. Although the defense has unable to get the criminal contempt charges dismissed, al-Arian would be allowed use the defense he relying on the advice of his attorneys that signing the plea bargain would immunize him from having to testify before a grand jury.

Since Nubani’s presentation, Judge Brinkema has drawn the line at the prosecutions repeated refusal to provide documentation regarding the government’s records regarding the meaning of the plea bargain and offered the defense ten days to file for dismissal on the grounds that prosecutors have not held to the promises of the original plea agreement, and that motion was filed earlier this week. Judge Brinkema correctly stated there is “something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department.”

Among the many topics discussed during the brown bag lunch, the idea of creating a Muslim attorney association was the most practical. Why don’t Muslim lawyers band together, create legal resources for Muslims across this country? It seems the easiest way to combat ignorance in the legal system is to fight from within.

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Pakistani-American Community Advocacy Day on the Hill

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Pakistani-American Community Advocacy Day was observed on February 26 on Capitol Hill with grand intentions and a less than clear plan of implementation. The objective was to bring members of Congress into a causus favorable to improved US/Pakistani relations. Prior to the scheduled meetings, representatives spoke about the current status of relations and the areas of improvement worth focusing on.

Improving relations with Pakistan boiled down to a few basic points, improving diplomacy, solving Kashmir, and empowering the Pakistani people by strengthening their civilian government. From the US standpoint, immigration and education were two points easily addressed. Open the US border to more Pakistani immigrates and you will vastly improve relations with the Pakistani People. Build more schools, educate more people, and you will see favorable results. Isolating Pakistan, that is to say treating it like a military target rather than sovereign nation, will only encourage the deterioration of democracy.

Several questions from the audience revolved around a study by RAND addressing an effective strategy to combat al-Qaeda. The study concludes that only 7% of terrorism can be rooted out by the military.  43% of terrorism ends with a transition to politics, but can be difficult for groups with broad agendas like al-Queda. Also, 40% of terrorism can be rooted out through police investigations at the local level. Essentially, the US cannot expect to fight terrorism through military means but can very successfully address the causes of terrorism through the techniques address in the RAND study. Progress cannot be made without avoiding civilian casualties.

There is nothing more important to the ‘war on terror’ [sic] than the US/Pakistani relationship was the basic message of Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski. He attributed the shortcoming of that relationship to its one sidedness. Problems were pushed over the Afghani border into Pakistan and only adopting new policies to improve Pakistan’s economy, education system, and energy and social needs can bring about progress.

Pakistan is perpetually the defensive partner and exchanges like this are important. This is highlighted by the issue of Kashmir, as long as the Kashmir issue exists, militants will exist. It seems that for Pakistanis, the original sin is Kashmir. Any comprehensive solution for peace needs to address this issue and India needs to be included on any future talks.

Congressman Al Green gave some of the most inspiring remarks of the early speakers. He advocated the US utilize its peace power instead of the police power. He emphasized that US actions must not hurt civilians, they must help the people. He talked about his visits to Pakistan and the difficulty in meeting the people. He believed a grass roots movement could bring democracy to Pakistan.

Congressman Green addressed the Swat issue as nothing new, declaring the style of the law is not important, but  how people are treated under that law is. In US relations with Pakistan, we cannot take a step back. That is message the US needs to send to the people of Pakistan. In his call for the US to embrace democracy in Pakistan, Congressman Green quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.”

However, the practical application of these ideas was less than clear. Carefully disguised behind powerful words and inspiring speeches was a lack of a plan with any substance. If it were really so easy to develop a pro-democracy grassroots movement and to settle Kashmir, why hasn’t it been done? While events such as this one can be of great value in opening a new dialogue for peace, they do not bring about immediately change. For the sake of its success, Congressional members of the pro-Pakistani Cascus need to remember this is only the first of many steps necessary to bring reconciliation and peace to Pakistan.

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

The Cost of Israeli Friendship

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

From Michael Hoffman’s and Moshe Lieberman’s book The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians

How expensive is the US’s relationship with Israel for the US taxpayer? Speaking at the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine (CPAP) briefing, Thomas Stauffer analyzed the overwhelming costs and organized them into six distinct categories. An exact total is very difficult to calculate given most the cost are considered consequential, or indirect; however, the explicit cost alone is approximately $5.5 billion per year. This cost is foreign aid sent directly to Egypt, Jordan and Israel and known as the “simplest and smallest” cost.

Additional costs are indirect costs, a result of our association with Israel. Stauffer argues that billions of dollars in aid sent to Turkey annually as well as billions sent to central Asian countries are directly connected to our support of Israel. The aid received by Turkey is a reward for it’s diplomatic relations which Israel. In central Asia, the aid is distributed under the guise of promoting democracy but is certainly an attempt contain Iran’s regional influence. Stauffer also notes that private contributions from US citizens to Israel (totaling between $1 and $1.5 billion) are tax deductible and therefore must be included in the costs of supporting Israel. Also subsidized is 60-100 million in funds for relocation of Jews from Russia to Israel.

US banking has been another large source of funds for the Israeli government. This includes a bailout of the Israeli banking system at a cost between 10-12 billion in the 1980’s. (Actually a relatively low figure when compared to the current bailout costs)  Additionally, the Israel has initialized $7 billion of a maximum $10 billion in loan guarantees, which Stauffer refers to as “contingent liability.”

However, trade discrepancies are responsible for the largest lost of revenue in the US’s relationship with Israel. In terms of military expenditures, Israel enjoys a discount on all “surplus” military equipment. In fact, for every dollar of military equipment given to Israeli, the United States buys back another 60 cents. Not to mention the US has agreed to provide oil to Israel in the event of an embargo. As Stauffer points out, this responsibility may potentially cost up to 30 billion dollars for the US.

Trade (rather lack of trade) with countries hostile to Israel as well as non-military trade with Israel must also be factored into the losses of the US. Stauffer’s data reveals that the United States experiences a trade deficit with Israel amounting to $5 to $5.5 billion. Trade imbalance, a result of our special relationship is the main reason behind the losses.

Israel does not pay “real money” for its imports from the United States. This results in an annual trade imbalance of just under $10 billion, easily translating into about a quarter of a million American jobs lost.

Stauffer argues U.S. sanctions on Libya, Syria, Iran all of which have links to Israeli politics costs the U.S. economy about $14 billion annually in potential trade and translate into 500,000 to 600,000 in lost jobs. The inability to make major trade contracts with Arab and Muslim countries, the 1980s aircraft sales contract with Saudi Arabia for example, cost the U.S. economy between $20-25 billion annually.

If the relationship between Israel and the United States is so costly, why does it exist? Stauffer blames the “public’s naiveté.” towards the U.S. government but surely someone must benefit from the relationship. Stauffer describes how Congress and presidential candidates make out “handsomely” from Zionist contributors. In total, about 20-40% of campaign contributions (equaling tens of billions of dollars) are donated by the Jewish community in the United States and directly benefit U.S. leaders.  Stauffer claims other benefits are “hard to find.”

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Internet Wars

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

A recent article published by the Associated Press highlights the growing struggle between political factions on online forms. The focus of this story is a video of Hamas rockets striking southern Israel that was flagged as offensive. After a brief review, the video returned with the disclaimer, “inappropriate for minors.” The media has always had a level on control regarding conflict but never before have individual users had such opportunities to influence and sway opinion.

Practically any type of ideologically driven propaganda can be found on the Internet and YouTube is no exception. (The Israeli Defense forces’ page can be found here). The content of these videos are exactly what you would expect, weak video evidence of Hamas’ ability coupled with an emphasis on humanitarian effort by the Israeli army.

This also brings attention to an apparent double-standard in YouTube’s censorship. While the IDF’s videos were restored almost immediately, countless tales of anti-Israeli videos being permanetly removed exist. It is conceivable that all YouTube videos illustrating the mistreatment of Palestinians by Israel really are too disturbing to host (which would in itself further emphasize the significance of these videos), but I imagine politics plays the largest factor. Yet, despite the absence of an official Hamas web page and the removal of anti-Israeli videos, plenty of pro-Hamas videos are still available.

The Internet also provides a means for professional media outlets to have distribution in areas that otherwise limit consumer access. Due to the Israeli expulsion of the foreign press, Al-Jazeera is the only international news outlet in Gaza and the Internet provides access to the many parts of America where its English language service is not on cable, providing coverage of the invasion otherwise hard to come by.

Beyond posts by official and professional organizations, amateur videos attempt to capture the glory of their cause and discredit their opponents. The battle, typically laden with foul language, poor grammar and petty insults, becomes evident on the message boards. Too often videos on both sides of any issue rely on evidence out of context or outright fabrications. Videos showing children training for warfare carry an emotional wallop, but so do videos showing children who have been victimized. On the other hand, videos aimed at propagandizing Arab children are heirs to a tradition of propagandizing American children that includes ethnic stereotyping.

However, the motivations behind these Internet struggles remain as diverse as the issues they encompass. Some are simply venting frustration, others seek academic means to solve issues, others seem to only incite more violence. The point remains that any ideology can receive worldwide recognition through a simple Internet video.

Although media portrayal has always been an important aspect to any issue, the Internet has transformed the conflict permanently. Newspapers, magazines and television programs were always limited in their ability to transmit content and keep parties continually updated. The lack of censorship on the Internet is a double edged sword. It is well known that almost anything can be found on the Internet and the sheer amount of content is testimony to its potential persuasive power. The Internet conflict allows groups to recruit, mobilize and influence at previously inconceivable rate; its importance cannot be overstated. At the same time, this freedom puts a greater burden on the user to learn how to distinguish credible sources from unreliable ones.

Providing a reliable interface between the user and the enormous data available on the Internet is an important element of our work at the Minaret of Freedom Institute. The Internet is a crucial tool used everyday to promote our mission and vocalize our opinion. Without it, we would be limited by heavy mailing costs, impediments to data access, and the censorious filter of the mainstream media. How would this blog be distributed, and how inconvenient would citations be without hyperlinks to witness firsthand the examples we chose? Our policies of Internet use aim to avoid the pitfalls of personal and propaganda blogs. We seek to provide people the kind of editing service they don’t get from sites like YouTube, a service that lies somewhere between that of newspaper’s editorial staff and an academic review procedure.

As the Internet generation becomes older and more involved in politics, the effects of online soapboxes will continue to grow. List-serves, blogs and BlackBerrys only serve to further expand an already diverse amount of material found online. Essentially, anyone can become a celebrity through the Internet and the potential effects of their influence are limitless. Without a doubt, the Internet has forever changed the notion of “freedom of expression.” We take seriously the notion that with freedom comes responsibility.

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

Hindu Terrorists

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Before the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Washington Post published an article addressing the growing threat of “Hindu terrorists” in India. The article focused on two central points, recognizing the category of Hindu terrorists and the implications of such accusations in Indian society. A review of the lessons of that article is particularly important in the aftermath of the atrocious attacks carried out in Mumbai.

Mistrust is highlighted throughout the article. One Muslim victim of a recent bombing was quoted saying, “We have always known that Hindu extremists were behind the blast, but we never thought the government would have the courage to arrest Hindus. The suspicion is always on Muslims.” With tensions between Hindus and Muslims increasing, conquering the paralyzing fear that government is incapable of impartial prosecution of guilty parties must be a top priority in providing a context for the investigations of the Mumbai attacks, if the deteriorating relationship between India and Pakistan is to be salvaged.

The article brings attention specifically to the group ‘Abhinav Bharat’ (‘New India’ in English) suspected of the Malegaon bombing. On an ideological level, this group advocates the desecularization of India and the creation of a Hindu nation coupled with a call for Hindus to strike against Muslim extremist in the country. Such radical beliefs pose enormous threats to any society, regardless of affiliation of the extremists.

It is interesting that the reaction of Hindus to the idea of Hindu terrorists reflects that of Muslims to the phrase “Islamic terrorism.” “’Hindus can never be terrorists,’ the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said, adding that terrorists do not have a religion.” Others suggest distinguishing between the terms Hindu and Hindutva, meaning Hindu chauvinism or pride. This may not be mere semantics. We at the Minaret of Freedom Institute have emphasized that while Muslims may commit terrorism, killing non-combatants is quite pointedly prohibited by Islamic law. Emphasizing that terrorism, or hiraabah, is contrary to the shariah has been of some help in fighting terrorism, and any such arguments that can be made with regard to Hindu law should be employed to the fullest.

Notwithstanding suspicions to the contrary, the investigation to date strongly indicates the Mumbai attacks originated in Pakistan with no local support. This can be helpful in calming intercommunity wrangling within India, but the urgency of Pakistani cooperation in the investigation is critical to Pakistan’s need to coordinate peaceful relations with India, including a comprehensive solution for Kashmir. While terror attacks of this scale are typically seen as a call for a military response, it would be better to seize the opportunity provided by common threat posed by the various terrorist elements in their respective populations to forge a lasting peace between these rival states.

We should also remember the risks associated with the IMF’s loan to Pakistan. Shall the international community continue to be the enabler for a failing state? Combining these issues with the continued chaos of Afghanistan, which extends into Pakistan’s northwest territory, the fragile condition of Pakistani authority is fully exposed. Additionally, India will continue to suffer if it does not promote stability within Pakistan. Until these neighbors form common cause against all forms of religious bigotry, extremists will have a natural outlet for promoting their violence.

Imran Malik and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Obsession: Neoconservatives Assault on the Islamic Faith

Friday, November 21st, 2008

In an outrageous attempt to raise fears and produce votes in favor of John McCain, the movie Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West was distributed to over 28 million homes with funding provided by Clarion Fund. A flagrant misrepresentation of Islamic beliefs, the film purposely undermines its own disclaimers in order to distort Islam and demonize Muslims.

Beginning with a disclaimer that “most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror,” the film immediately begins to contradict this statement. Organizing an A-list of Islamophobes, including Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, and Daniel Pipes, Obsession portrays the hostility of terrorists as a fundamental element in Islam. These self-proclaimed Islamic experts spew hateful rhetoric reflecting that which terrorists use against the West.

Among the many perversions of Islam in this film, false assumptions about the term Jihad are the most intolerable. For a Muslim, the term Jihad refers to a struggle which may be good or evil. Such a struggle is Islamic only if it is in the cause of God (Fi sabil Allah), which means both the ends and the means must be righteous. While there is no doubt that many Muslims have manipulated the word Jihad to fit their own bidding, the comparison of “Jihad” to “Mein Kampf,” simply because “jihad” and “kampf” both mean struggle is a gratuitous and abhorrent attempt to equate Muslim scripture with the paranoid ravings  of a fascist anti-Semite.

Furthermore, once the distorted definition of Jihad is established, the implication of quotes also becomes distorted. For example, Arafat is quoted in the movie as condemning acts of terrorism juxtaposed with a video of him chanting “Jihad! Jihad.” Obsession would have you believe he is calling for the use of terrorism against the West. However, a scenario in which Arafat is reminding the Palestinian people to remain committed struggle for a Palestinian State seems much more likely. In fact, Arafat was a secularist indicating a position inherently opposed to religious war.

Shortly after this scene, the experts of Obsession profess to evaluate the core of Radical Islam, but they completely dismiss any shortcomings in American foreign policy or provocative Western action, and simply pronounce Islamic militants illogical and unyielding. An unrelenting desire of Islam to conquer the West is cited as their lone motivation. Analogous to McCarthyism, panic is spread over an Islamic threat instead of a Communist threat. (At least McCarthy has the excuse that the Soviets actually occupied states like Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. The attack on the World Trade Center was despicable, but the notion that its objective was to occupy the United States is laughable.)

The Neoconservatives eventually resort to baseless comparisons to the Nazi regime as a shameless scare tactic. Obsession compares the propaganda of the Nazi regime, defined as “hate speech, paranoia and us against them” to the propaganda of the Arab world. Ironically, these characteristics perfectly embody the tone of Obsession. By using generalizations and weak evidence, this film egregiously portrays Muslims from around the world.

Notwithstanding the fundamentally wrong arguments of the film, the most offensive aspect remains the inability, or perhaps the lack of desire to distinguish between the common beliefs of most Muslims and the very small minority that collaborate in terrorist organizations. For me, the most shocking moment occurs with a video of Muslims praying at Mecca, the holiest site of Islam, and the narrator asking, “The question then becomes, what percentage of the Muslim world supports Jihad and could be considered radicals or Islamic fundamentalists?”

The movie informs the audience that there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world but chooses not to reiterate the fact most are not extremist. Pipes appears to pull figures out of thin air, claiming 10 to 15 percent of Muslims are radical. Orchestrating the same level of intolerance and ignorance as the very group they target, Obsession completely misrepresents the Islamic faith. A true Muslim is a believer in peace through justice, not a warmonger. The film’s hidden agenda aims to encourage a military centered strategy without examining the potential ramifications of such a misdirected policy.

Imran Michael Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Muslim Charities in the American Legal System

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

What is widely viewed as the flagship case for the US government’s assault on financing terrorism resulted in an embarrassing first act and illustrates the disingenuous practices of the Bush administration. The persecution of the Holy Land Foundation, previously the largest Islamic charitable organization in the United States, highlights the unrelenting efforts of the Bush administration to secure any conviction justifying their crusade against terrorism.

The trial began in July 2007 as prosecutors pulled together weak evidence and bold accusations that Hamas ran the zakat committees to which the organization distributed over 12 million dollars. Even with the defendants’ civil liberties hobbled by recent legislation, the government could not secure a single conviction. Now the government prepares for a second round of trials, once again focusing on vilification rather than finding the truth.

Evidence remains the main element of securing convictions in the United States and the key component often lacking in government cases against terrorism-finance. Despite “197 counts, years of investigation and preparation, almost two months of testimony and more than 1,000 exhibits, including documents, wiretaps, transcripts and videotapes dug up in a backyard in Virginia,” jurors issued only acquittals and deadlocked on the other charges. Additionally, the government’s key witness, testifying under the pseudonym “Avi”, did little to sway jurors. In Court, Mr. Avi appeared to lack a basic understanding of zakat fund distribution, which discredited his testimony.

The Bush administration repeatedly has targeted Muslim charity organizations with the intention of showing progress in the “war on terrorism,” but with only feigned success, depending on plea bargains to technical offenses. Although lacking substance, the case portrays the immediate dangers in the government’s ability to forgo civil rights and seek false convictions.

Rarely accepting defeat, even at their most inept, the government began the retrial of the Holy Land Foundation on September 22. Once again speculation, not evidence, is the highlight of the government’s case. Simply put, the government’s case is predicated on the assertion that charity sent to Palestine must be assumed to fund terrorism through Hamas. To the contrary, evidence indicates the committees which received money from the Holy Land Foundation were licensed by the Palestinian Authority, and any success in establishing underground cooperation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority would certainly be groundbreaking. With little creditability left to lose, the government has orchestrated another effort to convict a Muslim organization of terrorism; hoping that emotions and ignorance will prevail.

While the damage this trial has had on the defendants is devastating, the real victims are the Palestinian people. Serious improvements to the plight and livelihood of many Palestinians would have transpired except for the government’s intervention. However, that interpretation does not uphold the image of “democracy’s beacon” the Bush administration attempts to sell the people of America. Apparently, fighting the “war on terror” requires the distortion of truth, and the infringement of justice and freedom.

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute