Archive for June, 2014

News and Analysis (06/13/14)

Friday, June 13th, 2014

With the fall of Saddam Hussein’s home town to the most violent and anti-American wing of the terrorists, the prophecies of those who warned against intervention years ago are born out, but the architects of the disaster prescribe more of the poison that brought us where we are now:

“The UK is hosting a meeting about the security situation in north-eastern Nigeria and how to tackle the Islamist Boko Haram militants.” “Correspondents say attacks have increased since the kidnappings”:

For Fox News, a Muslim invocation of the Almighty uttered by the father of recently released POW Bowe Bergdahl constitutes a conquest of the White House for radical Islam …

… while a Muslim college student’s profession, “I am an American” elicits the response, “The question is, are you?” at a Republican convention; “I discovered a cult-like hatred that is simply disgusting”:

Abadi believes that there is no substitute to dialogue, “and it is unrealistic to try to ban religion and Islam from politics: It’s always been there, as choices are made on social and political values, and it will always be.”

“The UK will not be getting militarily involved in Iraq, despite Islamist militants gaining control of more of the country, William Hague has said…. Earlier Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he did not believe Western forces should go back into Iraq”:

“[I]n order to be accepted within the academia, the writings of Muslim academics must not be identifiable as Islamic thought, but just more expressions of ‘academic objectivity’. Put differently, if the primary role of the academy is to inculcate obedience to the state”:

“Muslims’ leaders in Kenya called for the imam’s killers to be found, and warned about further attacks on moderate Muslim clerics like Mr. Idris, who often spoke against the militant ideology of Al Shabab, the Somalia-based terror group”:

“Unlike his predecessor, who largely avoided commenting on shady politics, Mr. Sanusi has a history of speaking out against government corruption and presidential ineptitude. He was sacked by Mr Jonathan as the bank’s governor for alleging that oil revenue worth $20 billion had gone missing”:

News of “a disturbing sign of the increased cooperation between militant groups in Pakistan … came the same day that the U.S. broke its five-month hiatus on drone strikes with a strike in the Pakistan tribal areas that killed three militants”:

News and Analysis ( 06/11/14)

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

“Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Province, is the commercial hub of northern Iraq and a cornerstone of US post-war stability efforts.” Its loss demonstrates the weakness of the Iraqi Army and “casts doubt on the capabilities of the US- trained Iraqi security forces” …

… forcing a mass exodus …

… and “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has declared a state of emergency and asked parliament for a declaration of martial law”:

“According to the State Department, there is a 6 percent recidivism rate amongst Guantanamo Bay detainees released by the Obama administration. Under the Bush administration, … recidivism was 18.6 percent. [DoS] attributed the decrease to more stringent standards applied to detainee releases”:

“Protests against Nigeria’s former central bank governor as the country’s second-highest Islamic authority…. There is no automatic father-to-son succession for the position which has few formal constitutional powers but has significant influence over the region’s Muslims”:

According to a GWU professor, the Qur’an’s “teachings are better represented in Western societies than in Islamic countries, which have failed to embrace the values of their own faith in politics, business, law and society.” Malaysia ranks 33rd, “while the only other state in the top 50 is Kuwait at 48”:

“That we respect and honour our pupils’ Muslim faith is a source of pride to me. That this should be used by some politicians and some in the media as a slur that we are inviting extremism should be a source of deep shame to them” — Lee Donaghy, assistant principal of Park View School:

The Ambassador concurred with the delegation when it came to … the Quranic idea that there is no compulsion in religion” but “emphasized that … Sudan’s criminal law of 1991, which was used as the basis for the sentence.[,] … contradicts the constitution of 2005, which guarantees religious freedom”:

Police blame “a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, which has been fighting for a separate homeland for the ethnic Bodo people for decades,” but ” in an email to reporters on Saturday the rebel faction denied the charge and blamed the killings on the state government”:

“Maiduguri was long the center of Boko Haram until 2011 when government forces largely cleared the city of its operatives. It now may be seeking to retake the city, which in 2014 had an estimated population of about one million”:

“A separate team of U.N. investigators has drawn up four confidential lists of war crimes suspects on all sides in Syria, but declined to reveal any names”:

News and Analysis (6/9/14)

Monday, June 9th, 2014

“[A]ccounts by two Taliban sources as well as several U.S. officials and fellow soldiers raise doubt over media reports that he had sought to join the Taliban, and over suggestions that the deaths later that year of six soldiers in his battalion were related to the search for him” …

… but even though Bergdahl has yet to be charged with anything, terrorists are already threatening his family …

… and the Guantanamo prisoners released for his return, also never charged with anything, aren’t out of the woods either:

“The recent murder of a 26-year-old hardware and networking engineering Mohsin Shaikh led to riot-like situation in Hadapsar. However, the local Muslims living in Sayyad Nagar have vouched to protect the Hindu households residing in the area”:

The latest death sentences … come on the same day outgoing interim President … issued a decree … that “only designated specialists at the Ministry of Religious Endowments and authorized preachers from … Al-Azhar shall be permitted to practice public preaching and religious lessons in mosques or … public places”:

An investigation for insulting Morsi briefly interrupted his career as a satirist in 2013, but in the face of a military coup “sent tens of thousands … activists to prison” , Youssef has stepped down for good, citing “few details but allud[ing] to ‘harassment’ and other pressures on him and his broadcaster, MBC Masr”:

“The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack on Karachi airport in revenge for their late leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November. The … military said that at least 24 people – including all 10 attackers – had been killed”:

“Nigeria’s ousted central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, was named Emir of Kano on Sunday, making an outspoken government critic one of the most influential leaders in the largely Muslim north”:

“‘When they went to mainstream shelters … some said it was as if their identity had been stolen. They preferred to go back to their abusive husbands.” Traditional shelters … posed language barriers and were ill-equipped to meet needs such as a diet free of the pork products that Islam forbids, or a space … to pray”:

“Perhaps, it is a blessing in disguise that the grandniece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad — who fought diligently for the upliftment of disadvantaged people throughout his life — will be at the helm of a concerted effort to bring the socially and economically laggard segment of Muslim community”:

“[I]n the first official Iranian presidential visit to Turkey since 1996[,] …Rouhani is expected to sign agreements with Turkey aimed at improving ties that have been strained over the war in Syria, where Iran backs the government and Turkey the rebels”:

News and Analysis (6/6/14)

Friday, June 6th, 2014

“Boko Haram militants dressed as soldiers slaughtered at least 200 civilians in three villages in northeastern Nigeria and the military failed to intervene even though it was warned that an attack was imminent, witnesses said on Thursday” …

… while in another attack “attackers told villagers they had come to preach before firing on a crowd that gathered” …

… the “government continues to say that Boko Haram will ‘very soon’ be ‘history.’  But local officials say Boko Haram is gaining strength and appears to be fighting to occupy parts of the northeast region – despite the imposition of an emergency rule by the Goodluck Jonathan administration a year ago”:

… and a retired career West Africa watcher for various federal agencies suggests that “as long as nothing is done to improve the deteriorating socio-economic soil in which [Boko Haram’s roots grow, there will always be replacements for their fallen members and the group itself is not likely to be eradicated”:

“‘I don’t want compensation … I want punishment,'” said one man who says “his father … was dragged from the family’s Gaza City home … and shot in the head,” but a couple who lost their son “are ready to forgive,” saying, “Revenge will not bring him back alive, and division might bring us more sadness'”:

Israel, livid that the United States is speaking to the victims of its aggression after they said not to, decides the best response is to steal even more Palestinian land. The “announcement drew widespread rebuke from international powers including its main ally in Washington” …

… and “hundreds of Israelis gathered … to question the morality of the 47 years of Palestinian occupation…. At stake is not only Palestinian freedom, but the identity of Israel, says Yehuda Shaul”:

“Until now, Egypt has not had a law defining sexual harassment … [but] Fathi Farid, a founder of the “I Saw Harassment” campaign that documents assaults on women, said the new laws were “of no value” as they gave judges the right to choose between a fine or jail” …

… and Cairo-based policeman said police were part of the problem, admitting he still partly blamed women for the way they were treated:

Ford says the mess in Syria is the result of Obama’s failure to sufficiently arm the “moderates” among the rebels, but the CSM’s Dan Murphy notes that in Iraq, a sustained Islamist insurgency, important portions of it aligned with Al Qaeda, emerged despite … massive support for Iraqi allies on the ground”:

As that the public terrorism trial of “The Birmingham Six” made possible their eventual acquittal, Kahn asks,” If these two men have a trial completely in secret – we don’t know their names, we don’t know the evidence against them – how can we ever have the confidence they were convicted properly?”

“A rogue Libyan ex-general’s effort to eliminate the Islamist militias that have flourished in Libya since 2011 has unleashed a wave of violence and chaos. Reuters described the situation in Libya today as ‘anarchy,’ while The Washington Post warned of a ‘full-blown civil war'”:

“The Hindu group had been protesting against derogatory pictures posted on Facebook of a 17th century warrior king whom they revere. Patil said Shaikh had nothing to do with the posts but was caught by the armed men and fatally beaten”:

If “140,000 troops … haven’t been able to defeat the insurgency, it’s hard to see what 10,000 or so, with a mission limited to training and counterterrorism, would be expected to accomplish if they stayed indefinitely. But … a larger and longer deployment” is now “[n]early impossible”:

The Arab Spring and the Reformasi ’98: A Comparative Study of Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Indonesia

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

[This is the sixth in a series of my notes on the 2013 International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on Islamic Reform Movements After the Arab Spring held in Herndon, VA. These notes have only been lightly edited and represent my perception of the discussion. The proceedings will be published by IIIT at a later time. Responsibility for any errors in the notes is mine alone. Names of participants (other than mine) in the general discussion have been omitted by request of the organizers.]

“The Arab Spring and the Reformasi ’98: A Comparative Study of Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Indonesia”

Ahmad Najib Burhani, University of California – Santa Barbara

Why has Ennahda able to take power while the Indonesian Islamists failed? What are their similarities and differences? Why has moderate Islam been able to grow under Suharto and Ben Ali while the conservatives are able to grow during the democratic era?

Suharto came to power in 1966 after the failed Communist coup. Islamist hopes to come to power faded as Suharto adopted policies to blend all parties into the PPP, a development party. The Left and Right opposition groups (the Islamists belonged to the latter) were restricted while economic development was encouraged making Indonesia one of the Asian tigers. Parties were tolerated to make a show of democracy. Near the end of his reign he moved from an anti- to pro-Islam policy, thinking they could be allies in his bid to extend his regime. The first Islamic banks were established and he associated with the Muslim intelligentsia for the Islamization of Indonesia. Their acquiescence to this alliance contributed to their later failures. The 1997 crisis was the trigger for Suharto’s fall.

Ben Ali came to power by means of a constitutional coup against Bourguiba. At the beginning he allowed multiple parties to participate in the 1989 election. Although Ennahda got 15% of the vote, Ben Ali suppressed them and some leaders, including Ghannouchi went into exile. Further Ben Ali portrayed Islam as the binary opponent of democracy and modernity.

After the Uprising, Ennahda won a plurality of seats, 90 out of 217. Ennada rebuilt itself in a short time. The party symbolized opposition to authoritarianism rather than promising shari`ah or Islamic state. Indonesia was different. Secular parties won the elections. The surprise was the rise of political Islam. If we exclude PAN and PKB from the definition Islamic party, the Islamists only won 20% of the vote. In Indonesia the secular parties were seen as aspiring to Islamic values equally with the Islamist parties. The slogan was: “Islam, yes; Islamist Party, no.” In Tunisia, Ennahda is still perceived as associated with Islam.

The conclusion is that Ennahda benefited from its role as a symbol of opposition to the government. In Indonesia Madjid and Wahad desacralized the Islamist parties.

Usaama al-Azami: I would be interested in a reading lists from you.

Ermin Sinanović: I had hoped that we would not be limited to papers on the Arab world and was pleased to see these submitted. “After the Arab spring” really needs to be a global conversation. The trap of area studies is that it looks at different parts of the world as disjointed, and your paper draws our attention to the glocalized world with multiple discourses in conversations with one another, and I think you should even strengthen that aspect of your paper. Our approach must be more international. Look at Activists Beyond Borders. You are talking about activist entrepreneurship. Try to go beyond description into analysis and even theory development. There is no center there is no periphery, it is all transnational. Look at linkage as well.

Najib’s question is answered by the way the repression of Islamist movements made them symbolic of resistance, but we need to also look at the degree to which Islamism has been incorporated into the repressive regimes and become symbolic of repression. When we say secularism is good we need to clarify what we mean by it.

Burhani: Sometimes we may write something within the paradigm we wish to challenge. Geertz asked why Islamist parties have never won in Indonesia. Some Orientalists have said Indonesians are only superficial Muslims who remain Hindu or Buddhist underneath. There is a debate in Indonesia on secularism. Secular parties in Indonesia are those that use Pancasila as the basis. That’s why PKG and PAN are sometimes considered to be Islamist.  Society must be religious but the state must be neutral without judging theological disputes like the Ahmadiyya issue. Fazlur Rahman praised Indonesia under Suharto as a place that could implement his ideas.

Q: I see these as civil rights movements. We should go beyond these exceptionalisms. Taksim Square is not Tahrir Square, but there are similarities. And there are similarities to the Occupy movements in the Western countries. Civil Islam in Indonesia was a pioneer of progressive Islam or post-Islamism long before the Arab spring. Maybe IIIT can devote a workshop on the concept of secularity. Read Alfred Stepan on secularism around the world. We can also distinguish between philosophical secularism which is related to materialism and the practical notion that separates religious institutions from the state. I agree with challenging the notion that the Middle East is religious when the dominant mode of the Middle East has been secular. People in the Middle East do not make the distinction between religiosity and secularism that we make in academia.

Q: Islamic awakening is a process that started in the late 60s. The uprising is a result of the awakening.

Q: It seems that there is in Islamic studies in the Far East a dilemma to which you  have built a counter-argument that there is an Arabo-centricism that considers the real Islam is in the Arab world. You bravely try to counter the dilemma by showing that our understanding is not peripheral, and I ask what has this to do with the Arab spring? The term in the Arab world goes back to Damascus in 2000 when the opposition movement was called to write about reform, the Damascus spring movement, Before that was the Prague spring.

Q: The use of terminology usually occurs within a universe of discourse. Consider the Qur’an, which used some terms with which the Arabs were not familiar. It is important to unearth the underlying assumptions behind terms. Who introduced term “Arab spring” is less important than the end to which it is used.

Q: Are you familiar with Valerstein’s work on capitalism and the periphery and the center? Spring comes from Prague and the reference to repression, but all happened after neoliberalism. Don’t expect them in Saudi Arabia, etc.

Q: It doesn’t matter who used it first, what matters is how it is used in a particular setting. No one I’ve read says the Arabs are central.

Burhani: I am not trying to challenge the discourse from the Arab world, but rather the Western scholars who ask whether Islam in Indonesia is orthodox Islam.

Q. Geertz’s Islam Observed was a very imaginative approach comparing not two Islams but two Sufi approaches. In Religion of Java he was showing a variety of Islamic expressions.

Burhani: But Geertz only admits of the Muhammadi interpretation being close to real, “puritanical” Islam

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



News and Analysis (6/4/14)

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

“The long arc of Bergdahl’s deployment and captivity is being scrutinized in light of the rising, mostly partisan debate over whether President Obama gave up too much to the Taliban for the 28-year-old soldier’s release”:

The “manager of a bookstore in Jeddah, told al-Hayat that he received orders from the Saudi religious police to remove the books of Odah and Suwaidan from the shelves ‘immediately’ … [and] billionaire Prince al-Waleed Bin Talal … said his TV station has no place for Muslim Brotherhood members” …

… while the Egyptian court that previously sentenced 1,212 MB supporters to death “has sentenced 37 men to death and handed life terms to 492 others,” bizarrely claiming that “‘the accused came out of the depths of hell’ … and used mosques to promote the teachings of ‘their holy book, the Talmud'”:

“Today the Constitution prevailed. It shows that the Constitution upholds the rights of those who are in the minority” —  Prof. Saleh Sbenaty, longtime member of the Islamic Center:

If Muslim majority countries want to put an end to such embarrassing incidents as spoiling a Hindu wedding just because the bride has a Muslim name, the state must keep out of religious matters:

“We can’t take people to heaven by force and with a whip. We shouldn’t interfere in people’s lives to such an extent, even out of compassion. Let them choose their own path to heaven” — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani:

“These comments are just unfortunate and disappointing, but I know it does not reflect the mass majority of people in our society. I believe this country and society as a whole is above such comments.” — Dr.  Shahid Shafi, elected school trustee in the same election as Keller …

… while Peter Robinson, having publicly apologized, wants to move on, explaining, “I can’t spend the rest of my life apologising but what I can do is spend the rest of my life building a united community that I believe that we want in Northern Ireland”:

“Ten generals are under arrest for aiding the extremist group that abducted more than 200 girls in April, causing a global outcry. In Abuja, meanwhile, a ban on protests over the kidnapping was reversed”:

“Prof. Rashid Shaz, a senior faculty member, who is a former President of the Milli Parliament, said that for the first time in independent India, Muslims were able to see the ‘stark political realities that otherwise had been hidden by the secular hypocrisy of the Congress’ Party:

“Proposed legislation to permit the force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike is pitting Israel’s government against the country’s main doctors’ association, which says the practice amounts to torture…. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asking to fast-track the bill”:

News and Analysis (6/2/14)

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

“The US has gotten a soldier home. The Taliban have gotten something they wanted in exchange. And this just might – might – be part of a process of Afghan’s negotiating an end to the war in their homeland” …

… yet some Republicans and some Afghanis object:

“Turkish authorities quashed a protest commemorating the first anniversary of massive anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul, arresting 154 protesters, closing roads, and firing teargas and water cannons on the crowd”:

“Place 5 representative Jo Lynn Haussmann offered this statement to voters in Southlake: ‘Do you realize because SO FEW voters took the time and responsibility to VOTE in the municipal elections – YOU NOW HAVE A “MUSLIM” on the City Council!!! What A SHAME!!!!'” …

… while in Northern Ireland, an “equality commissioner” says the First Minister’s private apology accepted by Muslim leaders for offensive comments is insufficient:

” Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Abdelah Al-Azrak told Reuters[,] ”I expect her to be released soon’,” but her lawyer “Mohaned Mostafa, said neither he nor the woman’s husband had been notified about any release”:

“Statistics show that Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women to live in[i]. How’s that fora country claiming to live by the traditions of Prophet Muḥammad [peace be upon him],  whose last advice to men of his nation was ‘Treat your women well and be kind to them'” …

… and “[t]he arrest and jailing of Nasrin Sotoudeh prompted an international outcry. Here she speaks of her ordeal” …

… but the media’s misleading focus on the plight of women in Muslim-majority countries not withstanding, the abuse of women is epidemic and the shame of the whole world:

“A Libyan warplane under the command of a renegade former general targeted an Islamist militia base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Sunday but instead hit a university building, witnesses said”:

“Eliminating autocratic patterns of leadership in Arab countries will be a hard and long process. Reforms to public education systems, with the replacement of the culture of rote learning with one of questioning and analysis, would be a step towards encouraging open and rational public debate”:

“Philippine security forces have arrested a Muslim rebel responsible for the death of two U.S. servicemen in a September 2009 roadside bombing on the remote southern island of Jolo, a police general said on Monday…. Dozens of U.S. troops are still deployed there”:

“What we are doing here in Kano is to say that Western education is very relevant, Islamic education is very relevant and of course they have to go side by side…. That is the only way we can really make progress in this part of the country”: