Archive for February, 2013

News and Analysis (2/7/13)

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

How do you attack free speech by pretending to defend it? Alan Dershowitz leads a host of hypocrites in showing the way, embarrassing New York’s pro-Israeli mayor:

“Ennahda’s two secular coalition partners as well as the main opposition parties also rejected any move to a government of technocrats, demanding as well that they be consulted before any new cabinet is formed”:

“You [Americans] are pointing the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we will shoot. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats” — Ayatollah Khamenei:

“While Islamic militants have continuously refused to recognize or accept the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinians, a change of heart is producing an opportunity not only for national reconciliation in Gaza and the West Bank, but also the rejuvenation of the PLO” …

… but can they avoid the rise of the Palestinian monarch King Mahmoud I? “Human Rights lawyer Fareed Al-Atrash said the Palestinian judiciary applied a Jordanian law that criminalizes cursing the King. Abbas’s office declined to comment”:

Add to the horror stories of disgraceful treatment of veterans this one about the US Air Force vet who can’t even fly as a passenger for reasons no one will disclose:

Iran claims video allegedly taken by the downed American drone proves that Iran was only one of the regional countries spied upon and that it is now mass producing drones to shared with its regional allies, presumably including both Syria and Hezbollah:

“‘The ICC has ordered an immediate halt to Libya’s unseemly rush to drag Mr. Al-Senussi to the gallows before the law has taken its course,’ said Ben Emmerson, Senussi’s lawyer before the ICC. Judges also ordered Libya to grant Emmerson access to his client”:

“A communique drafted by OIC foreign ministers and seen by Reuters blames Assad’s government for most of the slaughter and urges it to open talks on a political transition”:

“Deals are structured so that the bank buys into the venture with the entrepreneur, who runs the company and buys the bank out, with payments structured so that the bank is compensated for its investment. Profits and losses are shared; the overall cost tracks with a traditional loan repayment at a standard interest rate”:

News and Analysis (2/6/13)

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

“The timing of the leak appeared aimed at intensifying pressure on the White House to disclose more-detailed legal memos that the paper summarizes — and at putting Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, on the defensive for his appearance on Capitol Hill”:

“The murder of Belaid is a political assassination and the assassination of the Tunisian revolution. By killing him they wanted to silence his voice” — Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali:

“In 1985, the NYPD agreed to a set of rules … promising to spy only when it had information of criminal activity, and only after it had vetted its surveillance operations with an overseer” and “also forswore the use of infiltrators. But … after Sept. 11, the NYPD” decided they couldn’t “live with that, it’s too restrictive'”:

Following its military strike on Syria, Israel takes advantage of Bulgaria’s suspicions (for which no reasons were disclosed) of Hezbollah involvement in last year’s suicide bombing in Burgas to marginalize another Iranian ally:

Ending Animosity between the two countries is a no-brainer for Iran, but Egypt must weight the costs against the benefits …

… while back at home Ahmadinejad’s attack on the Larijani clan is followed by the arrest and then release of a close ally:

As with the Egyptian girl “credited with co-founding the April 6 Youth Movement and igniting the Egyptian protests by stating, ‘If you think yourself a man, come with me on 25 January.’ Historically, the Muslimah played the role of protagonist in more than one screenplay of political change” …

… while in Kashimir, girls who just wanted to rock refused to be intimidated by the threats of Internet bullies, but they would rather disband than become a political football in the struggle between the quislings and the separatists:

“Chicago’s Muslim community” exhibits youth, “wealth, growth and political connectedness” and “signs of a kind of Muslim reformation …, not in any single watershed moment but in myriad significant movements that are utterly new”:

The racists “”turned on what they believe is ‘their’ team.” Is this Israel’s Jackie Robinson moment?

“[H]uge amounts of American and European money have flowed via contractors into the hands of the insurgency.” As the U.S. Afghanistan, expect much of $10 billion marked for reconstruction and military support to end up in “the hands of Afghan politicians, warlords, and politicians alike”:


Interview with Tasneem Press Agency on Iranian Revolution

Monday, February 4th, 2013

[These are my answers to questions put to me by Reza Saidi of Tasneem Press Agency on the occasion of the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution on Feb. 10.]

1. In your opinion, what changes in regional power has occurred as a result of the Islamic Revolution?

I believe that the Iranian Revolution was a catalyst that had at least some influence, in some cases a direct inspiration, in precipitating the important changes that followed, including, perhaps indirectly, the Arab spring. Because it demonstrated (1) that an Islamic based revolution could succeed against the puppet of the major world powers and (2) that there is no inherent contradiction between Islamic law and a republican form of government.

2. Is victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran considered as a challenge to USA?

Most observers will agree that the success of the Iranian Revolution is a threat to American imperialism. There are a few extremists who believe, with no evidence but there own paranoia, that it is also a threat to the American way of life.

3. How would you describe differences in pre-Revolutionary Iran and current Iran?

Iran is now more independent of foreign powers than in it was immediately before the revolution. The status of women has improved significantly, especially in education, but in many areas things are worse, especially in terms of academic freedom. In terms of political freedom it seems to be  a tradeoff, with the supporters of the religious establishment much better off, and those critical of it much worse off.  The most negative change is the status of religion among the young who before the revolution saw religion as a rallying point against tyranny and now perceive it as oppressive.

4. Why did both the governments of East and West (ie the US and its allies and the former Soviet Union) make continual efforts to deter the efforts towards completion of establishing the Islamic Republic? A few examples of these efforts include the planned (and failed) helicopter attack in the dessert of Tabbas, initiating the war with Iraq over a bogus border dispute continuing until today’s efforts of supporting regional “revolutions” in Bahrain and Syria.

The outrageous and unIslamic detention of American diplomats by Iranian students, overly approved by Imam Khomeini, played a major r9ole in sustaining Anerican anti-Iranian feeling at that time, and that feeling persists even today as can be see in the popularity of the movie Argo. Beyond that, the US did not want to lose its pro-Israeli ally in the region and the Soviets feared the rise of an independent regional power, especially one which might inspire the large Muslim population in the Soviet republics of central Asia to revolution.

5. What distinctions can you make between the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the French and Bolshevik Revolutions?

The Iranian Revolution itself was primarily a peaceful resistance operation unlike the French and Bolshevik Revolutions, although its aftermath demonstrated some of the same post-0revolutionary violence of those revolutions once the new regime was in power.

6. What are similarities can be found between the Islamic Revolution in Iran and other recent regional uprisings, such as the Arab Spring?

Like the Arab Spring Tunisia and Egypt, the Iranian Revolution was mainly peaceful resistance, and was composed of a board coalition of anti-regime elements, not limited to Islamists. Like the revolution in Tunisia, but not Egypt, the Islamic faction took the lead in the Iranian Revolution.

7. Could it be said that the recent uprisings and attempts to establish so-called democracies in the region arose as a result of the precedent set by the Islamic Revolution’s overthrow of the Shah’s monarchy?

The Iranian precedent was an important factor because it proved that such revolution is possible.

8. What are the basic disagreements that the West, specifically the USA, holds against the Islamic revolution ?why do they have fear from Islamic revolution? In  1979 , the USA  used their utmost pressure to stop  Islamic revolution of Iran and today Britain and USA are supporting Bahrain’s government against the populist Islamic revolution. Could you elaborate on this?

The main American concern is losing a militarily powerful ally in the region, especially one that has turned from an ally of Israel to a forceful critic.

9. What is your take on the political position of America in the Region due to recent Arab Spring? do you think their position has been shattered?

America has reluctantly sided with the masses in Tunisia and Egypt only because it saw the writing on the wall, that the regimes would not stand and that their opportunities for influence on the new regimes were enhanced by switching sides. Their support for rebels in Libya and Syria , however, are completely different and based on the belief that they will have a chance to acquire an ally, or at least to overthrow regimes with overt enmity to Israel. I do not see America’s imperial ambitions shattered, only that they have become more cautious as the current administration is substantially more realistic than its predecessor.

10.    How do you predict and assess the future revolutions in this region? do you think America will be successful to continue their support of the region’s dictators such as Saudi and Bahrain and others?

Only Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala, knows the future. I can only say that while the persistence of those regimes in the near future would not surprise me, I cannot believe they will remain in the long run. As we like to say in the West, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

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

News and Analysis (2/4/13)

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The beaten man said police coerced him into blaming the protesters; Mursi has called for an inquiry:

“Israel received a ‘green light’ from the United States to carry out further attacks in the future” …

… but “the exiled leadership back in Cairo” are unhappy with SNC leader Moaz Alkhatib for “saying he would be willing to talk to representatives of the Assad regime on condition they release 150,000 prisoners and issue passports to the tens of thousands of displaced people who have fled to neighboring countries but do not have documents”:

“A Milan appeals court … vacated acquittals for a former CIA station chief and two other Americans, and … convicted them in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect from a Milan street as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program” so now “all 26 Americans tried in absentia for the abduction now have been found guilty”:

“The lawyers said the NYPD’s actions violate rules, known as the Handschu guidelines, that a court had imposed as part of a 1985 landmark settlement with the NYPD to a lawsuit they filed”:

“[T]here have been conflicting reports about the documents in Timbuktu, some of which date back to the 10th Century. However, the majority of the manuscripts in the new South African-funded institute appear to have been protected”:

In its continuing vontempt for rile of law and democracy, Israel;s latest round of early morning arrests includes an official “in charge of reconciliation talks between Hamas and its rival, the secular Fatah, according to the Hamas officials”:

Karzai is “unclear if western forces were leaving Afghanistan because they felt they had achieved the aim of making their own countries more secure by tackling international terror groups – or because they had realised the mission was mistaken” and “the greatest long-term threat to the country was not the insurgents but meddling by foreign powers”:

“The Tamil Nadu government had banned Hassan’s film ‘Vishwaroopam’ in the state following protests from several Muslim groups objecting to the film’s portrayal of Islam. Indian media reports say Hassan and Muslim leaders reached an agreement Saturday after more than five hours of talks”:

The US VP and the Iranian foreign minister both welcome direct talks to end the impasse on Iran’s nuclear program, but both doubt the other side is serious:

The Muslim Vietnam War draft resister who was once the most loved athlete in the world may be near death:


Prospects and Dimensions of Conflict Resolution Programs in the Islamic Context

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Prospects and Dimensions of Conflict Resolution Programs in the Islamic Context

Amr Abdalla, Ph.D., Professor and Vice Rector, University for Peace

[This is a summary of a talk given by Amr Abdullah at the International Institute of Islamic Thought on February 1, 2013. These notes have only been lightly edited and represent my perception of the presentation and discussion. Responsibility for any errors in the notes is mine alone.–Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad]

Issues of interest to conflict resolution include social, political and family matters. We do not want to be limited to academic discussion, but to provide tools that are effective in the field.

Our departure point from Western secularism is to ask what is the role of Islam? Consider the 1975 Egyptian movie Urîdu hallan (“I Need a Solution”) relating to women seeking divorce in the Egyptian courts. A traditional looking-lawyer’s advice to a modern-looking woman requires her to go through hoops she doesn’t want to jump through. But it is he who is arguing secular law and she who is arguing her rights under Islamic law. People at all levels of Egyptian society to look to Islam for the protection of their rights.

We are finally at the civilizational and historical moment in which we can put dictators and minority status behind us, to develop methods for applying Islamic law in modern times. We must always remember fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is a human effort to understand the divine law. Over history we find fiqh has adopted a very legalistic approach. As great as our fiqh has been, the view of our sources has been highly legalistic and needs reform. A second problem is the cultural influence that has come from different cultures as Islam has spread. During our first Ramadan, I, an Arab, was waiting for the soup, and my wife, from Bangladesh, gave me piaju (or pakûra), a fried, very spicy dish instead.

There are more complex matters than this, especially when it comes to gender issues highly influenced by patriarchal practices. Consider the story of Joseph in the Qur’an in which the prime minister says to his wife “Behold! It is a snare of you women! truly, mighty is your snare!” (kaidahunna, i.e., his wife and her friends) but people have misunderstood this as “a snare of all women ….” This is clear evidence of cultural deviance.

Time is forcing us to deal with the necessity of generalizing rules so they can apply to all times and all places. I find four elements that are usually present in every discussion of conflict resolution in the Quran. The first is condition. Consider 2:189, “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you.” The ruling to fight is predicated on the condition of being fight against. It also proposes limitations on fighting, that it must be “fî sabîl Allâh, wa la ta`tadu” which also implies the manner of conduct, and it concludes with accountability, “Allâh lâ yuhibbul mu`tadîn.” The fuqaha have done a pretty good job explaining this verse (“Don’t harm women children, trees, etc.”), but in other cases they have limited themselves to situations and conditions but ignored manners and accountability. The element of manners was relegated to being between the individual and God.

A problematic example is 2:226-242. All these verses except two in the middle refer to family disputes. The exceptions say remember to keep your mid-day prayer. This exception   should be understood to emphasize the importance of interrupting the busiest part of the day to restore one’s connection to God and by extension, to defuse the emotional turmoil of divorce proceedings with prayer as well. Consider 2:229 that if you divorce a third time either divorce or keep your wife. The fuqaha have produced enough books to fill this room as to how do you count “three” times. (How much time between each pronouncement, etc.) But the words ma`rûf and ihsân have been relatively ignored. But ihsân means the highest level of kindness and decency! And what does ma`rûf, an unusually complex term, mean? It is about shared knowledge so commonly practiced that it is custom, but not just any custom, only one reflecting shared KINDNESS.  This word is repeated 13 times and when another word is substituted for it, that word is ihsân. We have lost sight that the Qur’an is even more about manners than about legality. It is to these that the passage goes on to state, “Do not transgress the hadûd-Allâh.”

This conceptual framework applies well to all Qur’anic discussions of conflict of all sorts from war to family matters. Manners means we must never let our anger take us over, and this is the key to applying ma`rûf to resolve all kinds of conflicts. We have given courses and seen how this transforms people. Without understanding ma`rûf we do not have a complete view of our own religion.

I distinguish four “wheels” of conflict (distinct but overlapping). The first is over value parameters (e.g., adultery, drinking, gambling, racism). In this we have red lines and we need to stand up for them without being intimidated.

The second is juristic matters (inheritance, divorce settlements, custody). About these we have a rich history [which are in need of rediscovering in a contextualized manner, through which we may understand the higher objectives of the law that enables us to apply it in a modern context.]

Cultural issues are cases in which cultural practices are confused for religious practices. Examples include female genital mutilation and arranged (in the sense of forced) marriage.

The biggest area of conflict is the area of needs and interests (property disputes, workplace disputes, political and economic policies). There is not necessarily a legal formula to address this area. It is in this area that the rich literature of the West can be most helpful and we need to be open to it.

I think that individualism and secularism are so powerful in the West that they are reflected in their approaches to conflict resolution. We should understand and learn from these, but in our culture we have tools that should not be neglected. For example, in the West there is a tendency to separate the subjects of a conflict resolution from their affinity groups, but those affinity groups can be helpful in resolving disputes, If we know how to do it.

Q. What about maqâsid-ash-ahari`a (the higher objectives of the law)?

A. It is part of contextual approaches to scholarship. We need to strike the balance between the historical context of verses and the Prophet’s practice on one hand and shaping things for different conditions. Consider the Qur’anic verse: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war…” (8:60). If we apply this today, we are forced to resort to maqâsid, lest it be interpreted we must prefer horses to F-16s.

Q. What about people who do not wish to follow our values?

A. Allah says we will differ on some things and He will resolve those differences on the day of judgment, but he says of any that do not fight us, not only should we be just, but we should engage in birr, which is a kindness even beyond ihsân.

Q. In American society values depend on material things. We are all equal under the first amendment. Values are changed by material conditions.

A. This field is multidisciplinary and that is why I caution against legalism. Psychology is a complex part of it and I can’t count on a lawyer to deal with it.

Q. In Christian ethics we are told to speak the truth with love and to seek peace with justice. As individuals are the real locus of conflict, it seems to me spoilers can often frustrate the approach to reconciliation worked out by the interested parties and even their allies.

A. The story of Jafar Abu-Talib and how he responded to the Quraish attempts to sow discord between the Christians and Muslims is an example of how to deal with spoilers. He quoted from the Qur’an of the high status of Mary and Jesus to the Christian king of Abyssinia to deflect the Quraishi attempt to incite him against giving asylum to the Muslim refugees.

Q. How can one resolve some of the undesirable consequences of the Arab spring, Mali or Afghanistan?

A. As to Tahrir Square, Mali and Afghanistan, we must think beyond conflict resolution to conflict transformation. It requires an educational framework as in the case of the ending of racial segregation here in America.

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

News and Analysis (2/1/13)

Friday, February 1st, 2013

As Syria’s rebels agree to peace talks on the condition Asaad has no role in the transitional government, Israel’s continuing big stick policy provokes rhetorical reactions in Syria and around the region, but no real consequences for Israel:

On the same  day that the U.N. publishes its findings on Israeli war crimes in violation of the Geneva conventions …

… Lindsey Graham ironically challenges Chuck Hagel to “[n]ame one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing due to pressure by the Israeli or Jewish lobby.”  For starters, Mr. Graham, how about your attempt to  intimidate Chuck Hagel?

With the recent violence threatening Egypt’s efforts to establish democracy and the opposition has renounced violence and the government wants talks without preconditions:

Robert Spencer is typical of those who “want the First Amendment to work only in their favor. They cry foul any time anyone writes something critical of their work, condemning the supposed infringement on their freedom of speech, yet they turn around and try to bully critical voices in far more aggressive ways than any action directed at them:”

“University of North Carolina sociologist Charles Kurzman … doesn’t deny that law enforcement plays a role in disrupting and deterring homegrown U.S. Muslim terrorism…. But he remains surprised by the disconnect between the scale of the terrorism problem and the scale — and expense — of the government’s response”:

Between a rock and a hard place, the Mali natives are glad to be rid of the puritanical Islamists, but now fear massacre at the hands of the army:

Organisers of this event … reject the notion that women only wear hijabs at the insistence of a father or a radical member of the family. This day, then, is about showing the world that women can choose the hijab willingly”: