Archive for February, 2008

News and Analysis (2/29/08)

Friday, February 29th, 2008

A “TV journalist, filmmaker and Muslim, set[s] out to capture a different story:”

House members raise privacy concerns after unclassified details of classified cyber-security program go public:

Iraq’s Presidency Council approves executing “Chemical Ali”, but can’t agree on major legislation to facilitate national reconciliation, meanwhile Turkey finally withdraws its troops from northern Iraq and extremists kidnap a prominent Christian cleric in Mosul:

Despite Pakistan’s electoral mandate against Musharraf, Bush continues his failed policy of supporting the dictator:

For the first time in centuries, Egypt breaks with tradition to appoint a woman to authorize marriage and divorce contracts:

Declassified FBI documents timelining the 9/11 attacks reveal possible official Saudi connections to the hijackers:

News and Analysis (2/28/08)

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

As former intelligence officials and civil liberties experts debunk Bush’s fearmongering in pursuit of continuation of warrantless wiretapping, names on the Terror Watch List are expected to surpass one million in July:

Bush names his envoy to Muslim nations to “burnish” US image, but terrorism analyst Marc Sageman argues America needs to deflate the hype surrounding Muslims and terrorism and pursue wiser policies:

Amnesty International reports the Iranian government targets activists supporting greater women’s rights, meanwhile lingering questions over Tehran’s nuclear program remain in the minds of non-proliferation experts:

Rejection of draft law on regional powers lands a major blow against achieving political reconciliation in Iraq:

Gallup Poll Lets Muslims Speak for Themselves

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Jim Clifton’s ears picked up when he heard Donald Rumsfeld answer the question “Why do they hate us?” with the remark that you can’t do a Gallup poll of Muslims. Clifton is the CEO of that prestigious organization, and he asked his experts if they could do a poll of the Muslim world, and they were sure they could. Clifton thought it was necessary. If Wal-mart assumed their customers were monolithic in their desires, they would go out of business. If America tries to fight extremism among Muslims without understanding the segmentation of perceptions and desires of the Muslim world, they would fail.

The preliminary results will be published in Who Speaks for Muslims?, by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, challenges the prevailing mythology and stereotypes. Yesterday, I heard the two authors summarize the results of what will be an ongoing study.

Esposito expressed enthusiasm that his project would now “Let the data lead the discourse” that had hitherto been dominated by ideology and stereotypes. He noted that the media is concerned with explosive and sensational events and the discussion is politicized. The new study goes beyond that to answer questions like: How widespread is radicalism? How are the radicals different than the mainstream? It turns out that radicals believe even more strongly than moderates in democracy, but are more pessimistic about getting it. They want “neither secularism nor theocracy but democracy with religious values.” Women want “rights with religion.” The majorities of both women and men want equity in the workplace, government, etc.

According the study, alienation from the West is due to political grievances, resentments are over occupation and hegemony. Esposito noted that “Bush talks about military economic and diplomatic” approaches, but “public diplomacy has too often been propaganda.” While Americans don’t want to talk about foreign policy and fear of dependency, those policy issues are what matter to Muslims. Politics is the driver of suicide bombings, Esposito observes, while religion can be used as a mobilizer and legitimizer.

Dalia Mogahed noted the study unveils a “silenced majority.” They polled forty Muslim majority countries as well as countries with significant Muslim minorities, making this the largest and most comprehensive study of world opinion. It was not restricted to easy-to-get-to urban centers. Interviews were oral in order to equally count literate and illiterate subjects and both male and female interviewers were used to avoid cultural obstacles.

It turns out that religion is an important part of life for Muslims in general, with no significant distinction between the radicals and moderates. The distinction between the two groups was based on whether they condoned the 9/11 attacks. The seven percent who did were deemed “politically radicalized.” The overwhelming majority did not condone the attacks.

There was no statistically significant difference in religiosity between the two groups, but there was a telling difference in the reasons given for their position on the defining issue. Those who condemned the 9/11 attacks did so on specifically religious grounds: that the Qur’an forbids killing innocents and that murder is hated by God. Those who condoned the attacks did so on political grounds, charging the American government with imposing dictatorships and occupation on the Muslim world.

Mogahed concluded that “They don’t hate our freedoms,” but envy them. Asked what they admire most about West, Muslims responses technology and democracy/liberty. (Americans gave the same answers, but switched the order). Asked what they would do if asked to draft a constitution for a hypothetical new country both radicals and moderates would include freedom of speech (political, social, economic), freedom of press, and freedom of assembly.

The main complaint against the West is disrespect of Islam. Muslims feel both humiliated and threatened. Moderates talked about the desire for economic development and other help from the West, while the radicalized spoke of the desire to be left alone by the West. Radicals even more lopsidedly disagree that U.S. is not serious about supporting democracy. Both professed concern about better relations, but radicals were more skeptical about Western commitment to positive relations. Religious language is not the differentiator between the two groups, skepticism and a sense of being controlled are. According to the study, terrorist sympathizers don’t hate our freedom, they want our freedom.

The fear of cultural corruption is real, but it does not differentiate between the two groups. It is not what they think of the West but what the West thinks of them. People don’t view the West monolithically. Technology and democracy are most linked with America, so they most admire and are most disappointed by America.

The Palestinian issue was not a differentiator. Mogahed noted that when asked “What do you admire least about the Muslim world,” Muslims answer corruption and intolerance. Esposito added that no religion considers itself intolerant, so this question must be judged by actions and not self-perception.

Mogahed says that people surveyed want the West to get out of the way of the development of indigenous democracy, but they do want technology transfer and economic development. Esposito commented that it’s about “soft power.” They don’t deny they want assistance, but they don’t want control. Majorities see the U.S. as arrogant and dominating. “Perception is reality,” says Esposito, and often is rooted in reality.

In general, support for terrorism is going down, but support for America is not going up. Currently, the researchers have no data for Iraq on this question due to the security situation there. Mogahed said that other polls show a decline in support for terrorism, but one that does not translate into increased support for the U.S. presence.

Interestingly, Americans as people are not perceived as disrespectful of Islam. Mogahed reports that the Muslims surveyed incorrectly believe that the American public opposed the war on Iraq from the beginning, although Esposito adds that some ask, “Why did Americans vote for Bush a second time?”

The need for Muslims to be able to speak for themselves is self-evident. The methodology and the thoughtfulness of the analysis shown by these researchers is most impressive. The fact that Gallup is committed to continuing the work in the future means that we shall be able to discern trends as well as fill in such gaps as Iraq. The Gallup organization is doing a great service to the world.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (2/27/08)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Lebanon Daily Star columnist Rami Khouri gives his analysis of the latest polling data on Muslims by Gallup and contrasts with the ignorant rhetoric of the current American presidential candidates:

Waterboarded Gitmo detainee Abu Zubaydah finally gets a lawyer after being held for 6 years, meanwhile one of the administration’s chief legal defenders of torture and anti-habeus corpus resigns:

Big Brother gets beaten back by parliament, rejecting a bill to detain terrorism suspects for 42 days without charges:

Egypt political motivations perpetuate the delay 40 Muslim Brotherhood members and cause the detention of another 16:

President Bush uses fear-mongering to goad the House of Representatives into renewing the warrantless spy law, however one telecom lawyer finds “he had seen little practical effect on the industry’s surveillance operations since the law expired”:

News and Analysis (2/26/08)

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Turkey’s relationship with Islam continues to evolve by relaxing the headscarf ban while supporting an effort to use new methodologies to interpret the Qur’an and Hadith:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is accused of violating Fourth Amendment protections while conducting workplace raids:

Elections in conservative Malaysian states become a battle of which party is more “Islamic”, creating divisions among local residents:

Nigerian judges slap down a legal petition challenging recent elections of dubious credibility according to the local press and international observers:

Skillful adaptation by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to create problems for NATO and Pakistani forces seeking to re-establish their authority in volatile areas:

News and Analysis (2/25/08)

Monday, February 25th, 2008

White House supporters retreat earlier fear-mongering claims of “lost intelligence” after the unchecked powers under the Protect America Act expired:

Thousands in Gaza line up along main road to peacefully protest Israel’s siege of Gaza:

Fueling perceptions of “widespread corruption in the public and private sector”, increased inflation exacerbates ongoing political problems in the Middle East:

Scholars from archconservative Muslim movement that some link with the Taliban issue statements denouncing terrorism:

New parties in power in Pakistan means new policies and opportunities…

…however authoritarian interests are at still play as the government uses the cloak of religion to justify banning access to YouTube and the PPP vice-chairman, expected to be the next Prime Minister, rejects calls to impeach Musharraf:

News and Analysis (2/23-24/08)

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

“They wanted a vote in the name of Islam,” says a voter in the Northwest provinces, “but it was not for Islam, it was for Islamabad …”

… while back in the U.S. the administration ponders dealing with the new realities by, what else, throwing more money at the Pakistanis:

Abbas calls for an investigation into torture allegations against his forces…

… while the British role in CIA renditions comes into the light:

“[N]orthern Serbs are aiming to undermine the Kosovo institutions that the UN mission has tried to build since 1999:”

“US Defense Secretary Robert Gates – who will visit Ankara this week – said Sunday that Turkey’s campaign would not solve its problems with the rebels:”

… but it does compicate America’s alliances …

… and the violence escalates as a suicide bomber kills 40 pilgrims:

News and Analysis (2/22/08)

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Verdict against wikileaks the free speech concerns it raises shows the difficulties of enforcing national laws in transnational cyberspace:

Canadian politicians reach a bi-partisan consensus and likely to pass a bill in parliament for withdrawal of troops in 2011:

Israelis can easily get permits to build new settlements and confiscate more Palestinian land, but Palestinians seeking to build on their own land get their request permits denied by the occupiers:

Iraq’s fragile security gains are given an extra lease on life as Sadr will extend his force’s voluntary drawdown for another six months:

Moroccan gets arrested and beaten by security forces for setting up a spoof Facebook profile of a royal family member:

Saudi rap group makes it to the final of regional hip-hop contest, but faces cultural pressures from family against their musical performance:

News and Analysis (2/21/08)

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Islamic-oriented AKP leads parliamentary charges to undo a secular law violating religious minorities’ property rights:

Semi-independent Saudi press and UN agency slam latest abuse of the religious police for arresting a woman due to “‘sitting with a man who is not a relative and exchanging words and laughter with him’”:

Mubarak cracks down on the Brotherhood ahead of local elections, arresting over 100:

Sadr uses the voluntary draw down time to purge his Mahdi military of “Iranian influences” and other reckless criminals:

Despite certain irregularities that election observers say may have skewed election results more in favor of Musharraf, Pakistan opposition leaders begin talks over impeachment and restoring judicial independence:

Muslim Student Associations across the country differ on how and who to include in their college chapters:

News and Analysis (2/20/08)

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Refusing to hear the ACLU’s case, the Supreme Court lets a catch-22 stand: You can’t protect yourself against illegal spying unless you can prove you were illegally spied upon (huh?):

Report from the East-West Institute finds that the free market place of ideas and partnerships with civil society, not censorship, is the best way to counter web-based extremism:

Citing the precedent set by Kosovo, a senior Palestinian official says Palestinians ought to unilaterally declare a state if peace talks with Israel don’t work out, meanwhile Israeli peace activist Ran HaCohen analyzes the propaganda used by Tel Aviv to justify continuing the occupation of the Palestinian Territories:

After trouncing Musharraf and radical religious parties at the polls, opposition leaders say they will end the crackdown on the media, restore independence to the judiciary and pursue more dialogue rather than military confrontation to fight terrorism:

Fragile gains made by the so-called surge could be threatened if Muqtada As-Sadr refuses to extend his voluntary force draw down: