Archive for February, 2009

News and Analysis (2/27/09)

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Parties agree to the immediate release of all political prisoners, and five committees will address the issues of forming a unity government, rebuilding institutions, establishing presidential and legislative elections, security services, and reconciliation:

The rebellion was motivated by the belief that the paramilitary members get second-class treatment, denied promotion and adequate living conditions:

Marri’s attorney says the criminal charges should have been files seven years ago and the issue before the Supreme Court “of whether the government may indefinitely detain legal residents or those in Guantánamo remains alive:

Further complicating the plight of Rohingya Muslims:

Even a kindergarten school designed to integrate Jewish and Arab students has seen the repercussions of the Gaza war on its students:

A U.N. special investigator holds foreign agents from Australia, Britain, China, France,  Germany, Italy Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Spain, Tajikistan, Tunisia and Uzbekistan “in breach of their legal obligations in regard to the prohibition on torture and arbitrary detention”:

Positive signs emerge as both sides hope to improve relations:

What Does Islam Teach About Apostasy?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Andy Derkson asks:
Does Islam teach and support freedom of conscience, so that if a Muslim decides to convert to another religion, he is free to do so without fear of reprisal?

The case in point is the claim that apostasy is punishable by death. Non-Muslims must be excused for believing this, when so many Muslims (most recently including the Afghani professor of law quoted in the Washington Post, “For Afghans, Allies, A Clash of Values”) have made assertions to that effect. Non-Muslims are not in the position to appreciate, as Muslims should, that legal opinions based on debatable interpretations of traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) cannot abrogate the teachings of the Qur’an that are clear and unambiguous upon the following relevant points: (1) that a person’s choice of religion can not be coerced and that (“Let there be no compulsion in religion….” 2:256) and (2) capital punishment applies only to acts of murder or waging war against society (e.g., terrorism, “… if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people…” (5:32).

Without doubt renegades who abandoned Islam to join the enemy forces in war against the Muslims were punished by early generations of Muslims with the death penalty, as those engaged in treason have been subject to the death penalty throughout history around the world. Treason, however, is distinct from mere conversion. According to the BBC, Abdul Rahman’s response to the charges against him was, “I am not an infidel or a fugitive. I am a Christian.” His conversion is not subject to hudûd punishments. As Muslims, by definition, believe that the Qur’an is the word of God, we must submit to the Qur’anic commandment, “Leave Me alone (to deal) with the creature I created (bare and) alone” (74:11).

The recent call for the release of Abdul Rahman by the Council on American Islamic Relations citing the opinion of the Fiqh Council of North America (an association Islamic legal scholars) is a welcome sign that Muslims may be ready to challenge intemperate rulings born out of historical periods of conflict to return to the recognition that our belief that “there is no god but God” has as its corollary that no one has the right to interpose himself between the individual and his Creator in matters of belief.

Minaret of Freedom Institute president Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is one of 100 prominent Muslims who have affirmed “The freedom of faith and the freedom of changing one’s faith” in Islam. They have signed a proclamation that “In light of the Qur’anic guidance and the Prophetic legacy, the principle of freedom of faith does not lend itself to impose in this world any punishment or retribution solely for apostasy; thus there ought not to be any punishment in the name of Islam or fatwa calling for the same.” Dr. Ahmad notes that to argue that the fact that most traditional jurisprudents have taken the position that conversion is a capital crime makes such a position part of shariah is as faulty as claiming that as most Western philosophers and legal scholars denied equal rights to non-white races makes racial inequality part of natural law. It is rather an error that members of particular schools are now working to correct. For example, the Hanafi scholar Shah Abdul Hanan, a member of the Editorial Board of Bidhiboddho Islami Ain (Codified Islamic Law) published by Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh writes, “On this issue of punishment of apostasy I hold the same view as that of Dr. Jamal Badawi, Dr. Hashim Kamali, Dr. AbdulHamid AbuSulayman and such scholars. Those who are familiar with my activities have seen how I have forwarded all the articles/interviews of scholars who hold that apostasy has no punishment unless in conjunction with rebellion or violence.”

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (2/26/09)

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Activists believe it amounts to ethnic cleansing, Israel claims its for tourism:

The first challenge to Hasina’s fragile government as border guards protest killing at least 49:

Ahmed Alwani argues constitution was violated as Daini’s plane was ordered to turn around before his immunity was officially lifted:

As a sign of good faith before reconciliation talks, 80 Hamas detainees in the West Bank were freed:

How effective are the attacks if they completely disregard the feelings of the Pakistani citizens:

Iraq fights over the most pressing issue in stabilization, the budget, as oil prices and American aid plummet:

Are Men and Women Equal in Islam?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Andy Derksen asks: Are men and women considered equal in Islam?

Absolutely men and women are considered equal in Islam. Several Qur’an verses (the ultimate authority for Muslims) emphasize this point:

“And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: ‘Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another:…’ (3:195)

“If any do deeds of righteousness, — be they male or female — and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.” (4:124)

“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise, for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward.” (33:35)

“The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey God and His Messenger. On them will God pour His mercy: for God is Exalted in power, Wise.” (9:71)

Some point to disproportionate inheritance laws as justification of the inequality of men and women in Islam; however, the context is that Islam has overthrown Arab tradition by giving women a share of the inheritance. The share of men is in some cases larger because they are required to spend part of their share in support of women. The point of the verse is it is only fair that men support women from their bigger share of the inheritance.  (Not to mention that in modern America married men earn almost double the wages of married women in similar positions.)  The woman’s share, though smaller (though not in all cases), belongs totally to the woman and she is not required to support men out of it.  Some scholars have interpreted the “more” given to men as more strength than women. This ignores the context of inheritance, but perhaps they have a point and the Qur’an may be subtly alluding to the broader context of the social relationships between men and women that have been the case in every society in history. But in no case does this verse in any way imply any spiritual superiority of men over women whatsoever. Nor can such an interpretation be defended. (1) It is against the simple meaning of the text; (2) it is violates the context; (3) it contradicts the numerous other verses in the Qur’an insisting on the spiritual equality of men and women (as in 33:35 quoted above). Indeed, the opening verse of the surah named “Women” exalts the status of women demanding: “Revere the wombs that bore you” (4:1).

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (2/25/09)

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

The proposed 19 month withdrawal leaves a “residual force” of up to 50,000 soldiers behind:

The Syrian “court” lacks basic elements of a fair trial like unfettered access to counsel, a systematic examination of evidence, and investigations into confession by torture:

The lawyers for the Sharif brothers claim Mr. Zardari controls the Supreme Court and the decision was “ordered”:

A resounding victory for women’s rights in the Arab world:

“Protesters say they fear that the government will use the presence of war graves on campuses as a pretext for official suppression of demonstrations, political or otherwise “:

Technically, censorship laws make viewing this film illegal in Lebanon:

The Ross Appointment

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Today I was interviewed by Javier Méndez Araya of El Mercurio newspaper, in Santiago, Chile, regarding the appointment of Dennis Ross to advise Secretary of State Clinton on “Gulf and Southwest Asian” (read:  Iranian) affairs. Here are my answers.

1) In your opinion, why was Ross appointed as “adviser to the secretary of state for the Gulf and Southwest Asia?”

A: The Obama administration’s general approach to the Middle East has been to step away from the Bush administration’s contempt towards the Muslim world while retaining an extremely strong pro-Israeli position by appointing Clinton era personnel. Ross will reassure Israel’s supporters that whatever difference in tactics are employed by Obama, the consideration of Israeli concerns and perspectives in dealing with “the Gulf and Southwest Asia” will at least match the status quo ante of the Clinton administration.

2) What is the Ross’s diplomatic history (or record)? His failures? His achievements?

A: Ross was most successful in his dealing with the Soviet Union. His efforts in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute were a complete failure due to the Clinton administration’s successful policy of intimidating Yasir Arafat from bringing up the Palestinians’ right of return for discussion. When the last-ditch effort to force an agreement at the close of President Clinton’s last term failed mainly due to that strategic error, Ross tried to throw the blame on Arafat, despite the fact that Arafat had been seduced into attending the second Camp David summit with the promise that he would not be blamed if it did fail.

3) What will the strategic of Ross in delicate issues as Iraq, Iran and India?

A: Ross has articulated his belief that the U.S. can prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power by negotiating from a position of strength, in which one first lines up American allies committed to increasing economic sanctions and leaving the threat of war on the table if negotiation fails. The strategy seems to be that one can neutralize Iran’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah by a combination of threats and promises regarding Iran’s material interests. This strategy is doomed to failure. Abandoning the Palestinians, especially at a time that the invasion of Gaza has laid bare the moral bankruptcy of the Israel occupation would cause the Iranian regime to lose its remaining credibility at a time when its people are already impatient with the regime over issues of economics and civil liberty. Iran will never give up its claim to the right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and can only be expected to submit to verifiable safeguards against the development of nuclear weapons when its own concerns about the fact that it is surrounded from three directions by nuclear armed Israel, Russia, and Pakistan. In any case, Ross is in no position to distance himself from the policies of the Bush administration after co-founding the organization “United Against a Nuclear Iran” in which he joined forces with the neoconservatives in order to advocate a hard line on the main issue on which he seeks to negotiate. Ross is perceived by Iran as a pro-Israeli hawk. The only way he could be effective is if he were to use his pro-Israeli capital to negotiate a deal tilted favorably towards Iran, something that his failure at Camp David II suggests is out of the question. On India and Iraq, to whatever degree his new position deals with them, I think Ross will advocate the same position as prevailed during the Clinton administration.

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

News and Analysis (2/24/09)

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Analysts fear the truce  will allow the Taliban to “carve out Swat as a political enclave for their influence and rule” and provide sanctuary needed to further destabilize surrounding areas:

A strategy to cut the national deficit, stop funding the destruction (through the Israeli army) and consequential reconstruction of Gaza:

The appointment of Dennis Ross’ as the “adviser to the secretary of state for the Gulf and Southwest Asia” may indicate diplomatic relations with Iran in the near future:

France, Germany, Russia, China and even Iran are seeking lucrative contracts and hope to profit in the rebuilding of Iraq:

“To win the insurgency, we’re not going to bomb our way out of this” — Col. Harry A. Foster, instead forces fly low, make “a lot of noise to scare the Taliban — and say they drop bombs as a last resort”:

Detailing 7 years of torture, Mohamed requests “only that the truth should be made known, so that nobody in the future should have to endure what I have endured”:

The extremist “al-Shabab” group claims responsibility for “the deadliest [bombing] so far against the African Union Mission in Somalia:”

News and Analysis (2/23/09)

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Under an Iraqi law similar to America’s “Congressional immunity,” Mohammed Daini remains free to vote his conscience:

“Those arming both sides in the conflict ‘will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated'”:

“It is difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways — all orchestrated by the United States government”:

War and sectarian violence has left an estimated 740,000 widows threatening the stability of Iraq’s society:

Amos Gilad was fired for publicly criticizing Olmert about the policy linking Schalit’s release to a Gaza cease-fire:

Despite a population growing increasing hostile to American support, the Pakistani government seems to welcome the military support from the US:

Almost six years after the invasion of Iraq, security concerns limit the museum’s reopening to a few hours and will only display pictures of the most valuable treasures:

News and Analysis (2/20-21/09)

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

As the saga enters its 7th year, the judge denies a government motion to reconsider her decision to reexamine the 2006 Plea Negotiations in the Sami al-Arian case:

If anything  motivated Abdallah Saleh al-Aj, it was certainly his time spent in Guantanamo:

“As major banks in America and Europe were shuttered or partly nationalized and thousands of people in the U.S. financial sector were laid off, Lebanon’s banks had one of their best years ever”:

While public opinion of the US continues to dwindle …

… For any chance of success, Obama must figure how to persuade  militants to lay down their arms, coax help from NATO allies and eliminate extremists havens on the Afghan-Pakistan border:

Musharraf’s decline may have undermined Kashmir resolution:

Obama would be wise to follow the advice of the letter, “the Palestinian issue is the key to resolving all the problems in the area… There can be no peace without Hamas”:

Thanks to $1 billion in help from Russia,

Why No Success in the Egyptian Mediated Negotiations?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Why no Success in the Egyptian Conducted Negotiations?

Here are my answers to questions from PressTV as to the negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

Q.  Why is Israel unable to achieve any viable conclusion in it’s conversation with Hamas?

A. The most important of the many impediments to a viable negotiation between Israel and Hamas is that they are not speaking directly but rather through the Egyptian intermediary. The pressure that Egypt is under from the United States to favor Israel combined with the Egyptian administration’s own fear that any success Hamas may achieve may give credibility to its own domestic Islamist opposition makes them incapable of being an honest broker.

Q. Given the U.S economic crisis, is it possible for the U.S. to have an effective role in this crisis?

A. The U.S. cannot be effective until it abandons its policy of unconditional aid to Israel. This aid to Israel, as well as reckless imperialist adventures conducted at the behest of the neoconservative supporters of Israel, have contributed to America’s financial crisis. Placing America’s own interests first can help solve both America’s financial crisis and restore to America the respect it needs to be an effective intermediary in the crisis.

Q.  Do you think Egypt is will regain it’s lost position status by mediating between Hamas and Israel, what do you think about that?

A. Egypt has an opportunity to gain prestige from a successful intermediation, but for the reasons stated above, such success seems unlikely at this time.

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