Archive for January, 2015

News and Analysis (1/29/15)

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

“[P]olice prevented anyone from trying to help 32-year-old Shaimaa el-Sabbagh after she was shot. El-Sabbagh, a mother of a small boy, died Saturday after birdshot fired by police hit her in the head during a rally she took part in”:

“Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon targeted an Israeli convoy in a heavily militarized border region northwest of the Golan Heights with six anti-tank missiles, killing two soldiers … as a much-anticipated response to an Israeli drone strike Jan. 18 on the Syrian Golan that killed six Hezbollah fighters”:

“If an invader kills someone who is trying to resist the invasion, that does not count as heroic self-defense. The invader is the aggressor. The “invadee” is the defender. If anyone’s a hero, it’s the latter” — Sheldon Richman

As with the Bergdahl exchange,  “the principle of bringing soldiers home when you’ve sent them into harm’s way is a powerful one”:

“It really is not required for western women to wear a headscarf when they are in a Muslim country.  They could do it, certainly it is a sign of respect but it’s not a requirement” – Anita McBride, the former chief of staff to Laura Bush:

“The group, calling itself “Islamic State in Tripoli Province,” said it launched the attack Tuesday to avenge the death of Abu Anas al-Libi, who was snatched off a Tripoli street by U.S. special forces in 2013 and died in U.S. custody earlier this month due to complications from liver surgery”:

The girl who tweeted that she wanted to ‘pull a Mulan’ by heading to Syria, a cultural reference to a Disney movie, which the co-author of a recent study finds “fascinating because these people are Western, but also simultaneously loathe Western society”:

Afghanis are disappointed over the failure to establish a government, but still prefer the incumbents to  their predecessors:

News and Analysis (11/27/15)

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Dismissing speculation that a retaking of Mosul is imminant, an unidentified U.S. official said the Islamic State “wants to draw security forces into a prolonged, urban, street-by-street combat. We’re not going to fall for that”:

Carson has been congratulated by “rabbis, pastors, of course imams and other leaders …, because many of them know my law enforcement background… [W]hen folks have a true sense of what this country is about, I don’t think that they’re distracted easily by the few dissenters that are out there”:

“The release likely signals the Houthi rebels’ readiness for a de-escalation of the crisis that has gripped Yemen. Earlier, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had set his aide’s freedom as a top demand in order to reconsider his resignation”:

According the Philippine Secretary of Sate, the unit “strayed into territory controlled by the MILF …, and a ‘misencounter’ ensued. The government had not been seeking to sabotage the peace agreement with the MILF by carrying out the operation without their knowledge”:

“By decrying the sweep of eavesdropping on Palestinians, …the move opened a window on clandestine practices” such ‘as the gathering of Palestinians’ private information – [e.g.], sexual preferences or health problems “that might be used to extort people into becoming informants’:

Among the unIslamic activities Zakariyah denounced were “distorted implementation of Shari’a law”; “absence of any consultation”; “numerous human rights violations”; and “a distorted form of the Holy Jihad, which resulted countless innocent Somali citizens being killed”:

“Last April, a Cairo appeals court upheld the sentence given to Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel for taking part in an unauthorised protest. Tuesday’s ruling by the Court of Cassation meant all legal avenues had now been exhausted”:

“By distorting Islamic teachings and history, Graham promotes intolerance, encourages extremism and chills speech” — Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center …

… and, ironically, the bell tower of which the Muslim students were denied use “is a replica of the Islamic prayer-call minaret, brought to Latin-Europe by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) from which the Muslims were denied use m his missionary travels to the Islamic lands” …

… in any case, “the adhan can be good for everyone — even for those who aren’t Muslim, and for those who don’t believe in God…. The adhan can help us recall what gives our lives meaning, and can help us cultivate an attitude of gratefulness”:

Muslims and Bell-Tower Controversy

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Muslims and Bell-Tower Controversy

Duke University’s decision to rescind its earlier approval to allow the use of campus bell-tower for a weekly Islamic prayer call has drawn widespread attention. Among the chief opponents of this accommodation to campus Muslims is Reverend Franklin Graham. He says, “It is wrong because it’s a different god. Using the bell tower, that signifies worship of Jesus Christ. Using (it) as a minaret is wrong” (quoted in Atlanta Journal Constitution, 1/16/15).

It is ironic, however, that Franklin Graham’s father, Reverend Billy Graham, was more polite and tolerant about Islam and Muslims. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, the elder Evangelical preached, in true Christian spirit, that we “should regard Muslims not as the enemy but as fellow-believers who worshiped the same God” (Washington Post, 9/2/02). Of course, over the centuries, numerous non-Muslim authorities (religious and others) have acknowledged that.

As to the bell-tower, it is a replica of the Islamic prayer-call minaret, brought to Latin-Europe by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) from his missionary travels to the Islamic lands. While in Egypt , Francis “was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of Muslims, especially by their daily calls for prayer.” And, “the thrice-daily recitation of the Angelus that became current in Europe after this visit was precipitated by the impression made on Francis by the call of the muezzin (just as the quintessential Catholic devotion of the rosary derives from the Muslim prayer beads)” (see Thomas Cahill, “The Peaceful Crusade: Francis of Assisi,” New York Times, 12/25/06).

Incidentally, part of St. Francis’ mission was to convert Egypt’s Sultan al-Malik Kamil (reign: 1218-1238). He didn’t succeed, but he “came away from the peaceful encounter with revolutionary ideas
that called for Christians to live harmoniously with Muslims.” Amen. (See Paul Moses, The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, Image Publishers; 2009).

S.M. Ghazanfar
(Emeritus-Prof., University of Idaho)

News and Analysis (1/25/14)

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

The late Saudi monarch’s gradualist reform program proceeded at a glacial pace …

… and his successor “is largely seen as a place-holder king. Two kings from now is when some chance for change may come in. The current crown prince … will be the last of Abdul Aziz’s sons to hold the title. The deputy crown prince is Mohammed bin Nayef, a grandson of Abdul Aziz”:

“The timing of Abdullah’s passing also reinforces what has been the Saudi policy of containment: trying to limit the fallout from Yemen’s turmoil, rather than addressing it directly. The kingdom is currently building a fence along the two countries’ 1,060 mile land border” …

… but as Iran’s foreign minister goes to Saudi to prepare “the ground for more cooperation in all areas in this very sensitive region based on good neighborliness and rationalism'” …

… Netanyahu boasts he will “go anywhere” to achieve the opposite:

“Few people remember that back in 2002, the war in Iraq was projected to cost around $50 billion. White House economist Lawrence Lindsey actually got canned after he was quoted saying that the war in Iraq would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion”:

How the mainstream media gives the false impression that Palestinians are more violent than Israelis:

Kyle never understood that the Iraqis “were operating in defense. For him, any “Iraqi trying to kill an American soldier … [is] a terrorist. U.S. soldiers were automatically considered to be the good guys notwithstanding the fact that they were clearly violating the principles … set forth at Nuremberg” …

… and the ADC reports that a “majority of the violent threats we have seen over the past few days are result of how Arab and Muslims are depicted in American Sniper”:

“The theological tensions are generated by the division of authority – not between Muslims and Christians or between their sacred texts and doctrinal creeds – but between the Duke Divinity School and the religious life staff of Duke Chapel” — Dr Bruce Lawrence, Duke teacher:

“Although small and scattered, Sunday’s violence is likely to impact negatively on Egypt’s image just two months ahead of an international donors’ conference it will host and in which President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has high hopes for the ailing economy”:

“The reality is if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then a letter out of the blue to a mosque… with whom government has refused to engage creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic”

Reflections on “The Muslim Response to Charlie Hebdo: Understanding the Root Causes of Radicalization”

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Reflections on the CSID Conference “The Muslim Response to Charlie Hebdo: Understanding the Root Causes of Radicalization”

On Wednesday, January 22, I attended a two hour conference organized by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, DC. The topic was “The Muslim Response to Charlie Hebdo: Understanding the Root Causes of Radicalization,” and it featured an impressive panel of speakers.

What follows is a brief summary of the main points discussed by four presenters, and my thoughts on the issues raised.

Nihad Awad, National Executive Director and Co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was at the podium defended the Muslim response to the terrorism in France (and elsewhere). He cited the repeated condemnations coming from Muslim organizations that go largely unacknowledged by most of mainstream media. He also touched upon some of the internal and external factors that open the door to acts of terrorism; and, to his credit, briefly outlined some of the legitimate grievances felt by Muslims around the world vis-à-vis U.S. foreign policy.

It was a commendable presentation.

Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), began her remarks by citing some of the free speech contradictions emanating from the Charlie Hebdo controversy, and made mention of the attacks on innocent Muslims in the wake of the terrorist attacks in France. She noted that one of the central goals of the terrorists was the pursuit of religious and societal polarization, and that this objective was partially realized. She also made note of the marked difference in media, government and societal response to the far greater carnage committed by [European non-Muslim terrorist] Anders Behring Breivik, who took the lives of 77 people in Norway a few years ago, most of them children. Mogahed also noted the inspiration that Breivik reportedly drew from non-Muslim sources in the West! “The difference [in response] was like night and day,” she correctly opined.

Using the fictional character in the movie “Borak” as an example – a character whose blameworthy stereotypes of Jews was indicative of his social and intellectual backwardness – she noted that the cartoons at the heart of the Charlie Hebdo controversy, and French society’s defense of those cartoons, could be indicative of how backward France still is (despite what it thinks and says of itself).

It too was a commendable presentation.

Imam Talib Shareef introduced himself as a former career soldier in the US Military, and as the President and fourth imam of “The Nation’s Mosque,” – i.e. Masjid Muhammad, the Washington DC branch of “the oldest Muslim community in America” (I disagree with this characterization) – while noting the transition that took the community [formerly known as the Nation of Islam / World Community of Al-Islam in the West / American Muslim Mission] from where it began in the 1930s, to where it is today. He also referenced the Muslim Journal as the “oldest Muslim newspaper in America” – as he drew attention to the front page of the January 16, 2015, edition which features the caption: “Without Free Press There Would Be No Muslim Journal.”

Imam Shareef proceeded to read the statement that he and “The Nation’s Mosque” released in response to the terrorist attacks in France. He noted that a lot of the extremism within Muslim ranks has to do with “the fall of the Muslim world,” as exemplified by high illiteracy rates, poverty, political oppression, etc. He also noted that both “desperation and provocation” are rampant within the Muslim world, and that “proper attention is not being given to those who are suffering.” He advised the media that the perpetrators of terrorism should be designated as criminals (not Muslim terrorists, jihadists, etc.).

While this writer agreed with almost everything Imam Sharif said, it was the things left unsaid that left me more than a bit troubled. (Insha’Allah, I will come back to this later.)

Dr. James D. Le Suer, professor of history at the University of Nebraska (with familial roots in France), was the final speaker on the panel. He cited some of the socio-economic factors that feed the radicalization process in parts of France – specifically in the “projects” which, by his description are dismal and dangerous places, producing alienation, criminality and violence in large swaths of the French-Muslim population. He noted that while second and third generation Muslims are more integrated than widely perceived, they are not integrated enough.

During Q&A this writer was one of the last tier of folk in the room to raise a question (or comment). I referenced the legitimate grievances that Muslims around the world have with U.S. policy, citing the cases of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Mohamedou Ould Slahi – a Guantanamo Bay prisoner held for the past 12 years without charge (and under release orders!) – as examples. I then raised the question, shouldn’t more organizations and individuals of good will (both Muslim and non-Muslim) be drawing more attention to these types of issues that factor heavily into the “radicalization process?”

I really appreciated Dalia Mogahed’s response. She correctly opined that, “The terrorists haven’t hijacked Islam, they’ve hijacked Muslim grievances. We need to own them and give people peaceful and legitimate means to address them.” She also noted that Muslims (especially our young) need better “Islamic literacy.” She referenced the “moral rage of the Civil Rights Movement” as being something good; as being something that we [Muslims] must utilize and channel effectively.

I couldn’t agree more. As the sister was concluding her remarks I thought about the just released movie “Selma,” and how beneficial it would be for Muslim leaders in America (especially immigrant leaders, and young, clueless, indigenous leaders) to study the movie carefully and extract valuable lessons from it.

As the only African American on the panel, and as someone representing a community that in its original construct (NOI) was known for its biting criticism of America’s domestic and foreign policy, I hoped for a more balanced and forthright presentation from Imam Shareef (not one way condemnation). Given our people’s unique sociological experience, I believe that African American leaders (of all stripes) bear a special responsibility to speak truth to power whenever the opportunity arises, as effectively as they possibly can. We are uniquely positioned to open up doors of dialogue on some of the most difficult and contentious issues of the day…and we must.

Despite the fact that I began my journey to Islam through the community that Imam Shareef represents [i.e. Nation of Islam / World Community of Al-Islam in the West / American Muslim Mission], and still maintain ties with members of that community throughout the U.S., I have been politely but repeatedly rebuffed in my attempts to deliver a human rights presentation on the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, and the equally important peripheral issues that surround her case.

This writer has consistently maintained (and I’m not alone) that Aafia’s case is one of the saddest, most unjust and precedent-setting “war on terrorism” cases in America today – and that it represents a litmus test for committed Muslims throughout the world! The refusal of the leaders of “The Nation’s Mosque” (Masjid Muhammad) to open the door for dialogue on this Muslim woman’s case, and on how the campaign for her release can be assisted by members of this predominantly African American community, can only be described as callous and negligent.

I believe Imam Talib Shareef is fundamentally a good man, who’s better angels are being held in check by his US Military-related life experiences and the prism through which he views the world; and that other leaders within his community may be blindly following his lead. (ALLAH knows best.) What I know is that “The Nation’s Mosque” is in a strategically important city, and it should not be viewed as The Government’s Mosque. This community has a rich history of struggle and service, and this legacy of struggle should not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency. To whom much is given, much is required.

On a final note, also present at yesterday’s media conference was one of the veteran soldiers on the front line of Islamic struggle in America – Imam Latif Abdul Lateef of New York. Citing the huge demonstration that recently took place in France, he opined that we need to have a Million Muslim March on Washington, and that indigenous Muslims should lead the charge. (I couldn’t agree more!)

In the struggle for peace thru justice,
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

News and Analysis (1/23/15)

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

“His priority was to counter the influence of rival, mainly Shiite Iran wherever it tried to make advances. He and fellow Sunni Arab monarchs also staunchly opposed the Middle East’s wave of pro-democracy uprisings, seeing them as a threat to stability and their own rule” …

… “While mourning will last for three days during which kingdom’s flags will fly at half staff, businesses and shops will remain open”…

… “Our march is to undertake everything possible to keep the unity of our ranks and the unity of word and in defense of our nation’s issues, guided by the teachings of our true Islamic religion which was favored by the Lord to us, the religion of peace, mercy and moderation,” says his successor:

President Abdu Mansour “Hadi’s capitulation was meant to lead to the Houthis withdrawing from all state institutions and checkpoints and releasing the presidential aide. But by nightfall on Thursday, that had not happened” …

… instead “Houthi rebels called for the demonstrations to be held Friday, while still surrounding the homes of the president and government ministers in the capital”:

“[W]hile the jailhouse door has opened for the two brothers, pending a retrial, it remains shut for thousands of others who have been jailed under Egypt’s new regime, led by Abdel Fattah al Sisi”:

When does Islamophobia pay off so well that even a Rhodes scholar is willing to make a fool of himself? Hussein Ibish offers his opinion as to why Bobby Jindal would double down on allegations so absurd that even Steven Emerson backs away from them and Fox News apologizes for airing:

“The really dangerous part of this film is that it turns into a referendum on the character of a single soldier … and not about the Rumsfelds and Cheneys and other officials up the chain who put Kyle and his high-powered rifle on rooftops in Iraq and asked him to shoot women and children”:

“Kazan said she asked to have a female officer take her photo, which he refused to do, said the lawsuit”:

“Any new IS presence here is still mostly rumored; no accounting exists for its scale or projection. Yet scattered reports of the emergence of black-clad Afghans with IS ties have led to speculation that the … international jihadist group may gain a foothold in Afghanistan, as Al Qaeda did” before:

“In the past, when members of Congress have gone freelance on foreign policy there’s been a tradition of waving around the Logan Act,” but so far the White House has limited it’s criticism of Boehner’s politically motivated attempt to torpedo the Iran negotiation a breach of protocol” …

… “From Netanyahu’s point of view, he achieves several goals, strutting his stuff in front of an applauding Republican-led Congress two weeks before Israelis vote on March 17″, but will he accelerate the eroding American support for Israel, causing the Republican strategy to backfire?

News and Analysis (1/21/15)

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

“It’s really sad when we bow down to the threat of violence against those who want to implement freedom of expression. This is not about faith, it is an expression of xenophobia that can do more damage in the long term”:

And now some real satire, from America. John Stewart looks at the Fox news apology for allowing Steven Emerson’s assertion that non-Muslims dare not enter Birmingham and Aasif Mandvi looks at the threat of Sharia law in the U.S.:

“This is a huge win for religious freedom and for all Americans. What the Supreme Court said today was that government officials cannot impose arbitrary restrictions on religious liberty just because they think government knows best” – Eric Rassbach, co-counsel in the case:

“A source close to the president said Hadi had met an official of the Shi’ite Muslim rebel group and would soon issue decrees resolving all differences. The source denied Hadi was under house arrest inside the residence, surrounded since early morning by Houthi fighters” …

… some speculate that the Shiite group stopped short of overthrowing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Reuters says the reason for that decision could be “to keep the enfeebled leader at their mercy rather than claim the burden of seizing power”:

“Islamic civilization … at its peak was a tolerant society which produced some of history’s greatest scientists, poets, mathematicians, and scholars. [G]roups … such as ISIS or al-Qaeda, are … relatively modern … boosted by the power vacuums left in the wake of the frequent foreign interventions”:

“In the wake of the attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, media worldwide rallied in support of the magazine and its staff, citing the importance of free speech, but Bénisti acted quickly to ban “Timbuktu,” though he admitted he had not seen the film”:

“Two Turkish policemen have been jailed for 10 years for their part in beating a student to death during anti-government protests that the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan described at the time as a coup attempt…. Three other defendants were sentenced to nearly seven years in jail”:

Graham Fuller credits “four … major hstorical factors” for Muslim resistance to Western hegemony: the proximity of the West to the Middle East; the power of the concept of the Umma ; the cohesive power of modern communications; and the success of the Muslim historical model:

News and Analysis (1/19/15)

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Some see “a double standard …, citing France’s ban on publicly donning the full veil worn by conservative Muslim women” and  the magazine’s firing of “a former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist … for anti-Semitism after he commented on the son of French president Nicolas Sarkozy” …

… and “the Danish cartoons picked up by Charlie Hebdo were always intended to be part of the provocative local anti-Muslim campaign sweeping Denmark, not a statement about free speech”:

“The closure … points to a wider problem: Rouhani’s failure to expand freedom of the press in Iran more generally. The move reveals enormous divisions within Iran’s political landscape” – Iranian news website IranWire:

Sisi asks rhetorically, “Did anyone apply to demonstrate over the past few months and his request was denied?” “[T]he steady stream of Islamic and leftist activists and politicians who have been jailed in recent months” is the rhetorical answer?

“Thoughtful, faithful people have agreed and disagreed with the various decisions made this week. In the coming weeks, the Chapel will seek opportunities for constructive dialogue about these complex and important subjects as we all strive for deeper understanding and greater faithfulness to God”:

“This crime will not go unpunished but the leadership of the resistance [Hezbollah] is wise and knows how to respond” —  a Shiite source close to senior Hezbollah officials:

A Kurdish official speculates that the elderly and infirm prisoners were released because “[i]t probably became too expensive to feed them and care for them”:

“An Israeli helicopter strike in Syria killed a Hezbollah commander, who also happened to be the son of the group’s late military leader Imad Moughniyah, sources close to Hezbollah said. His killing could spark retaliation against Israel by the Lebanese Shiite army and political party”:

News and Analysis (1/17/15)

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

In the face of Duke’s reversal of permission for Muslims to give the call to prayer from the bell tower, “Duke’s Muslim chaplain, Imam Adeel Zeb, chanted the adhan over the portable speaker” from its base, saying “he would pray for those who had castigated Muslims, “because that’s what Muslims do”:

A concise expose of the proceedings that shut down the Holy Land Foundation and sent innocent men to die in prison:

“[H]ow Mohamedou Ould Slahi endured savage beatings, death threats and sexual humiliation”:

“Jon Stewart tonight noticed the hypocrisy in France celebrating free speech then arresting a comedian for” what Stewart described as “a despicable post.” Stewart asks shouldn’t the allegedly anti-Semitic tour have been cancelled for lack of ticket sales?

A Muslim hero will be awarded French citizenship. “Yes, I aided Jews. We’re brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, Christians, or Muslims. We’re all in the same boat. We need to help each other to get out of this crisis”:

The livelihoods of Palestinian farmers “were being threatened because they had to sell below the cost of production due to restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation”:

“Last week, President Hassan Rouhani caused a stir in Iran by calling for a public vote…. In the U.S. and Iran, polling generally points toward public support for a nuclear deal, with some major caveats”:

“The International Criminal Court opened an inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, thrusting it into one of the world’s most chronic, heated conflicts and opening a path to possible charges against Israelis or Palestinians”:

News and Analysis (1/15/15)

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Yemen’s Al Qaeda branch claimed responsibility Wednesday for the deadly assault on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo“ but not “for the actions of the third gunman … who killed a policewoman and the four grocery store hostages last week,” a self-described supporter of IS:

“An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that … 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.” Whose fault is it that you didn’t know that?

How does the womam who owns the Arkansas firing range she declared to be a “Muslim free zone” know who is a Muslim? Turning away two Hindus, she demonstartes that it doesn’t matter to her whether she can or not:

“Devout Muslims would not go around calling the prophet names or making pornographic caricatures of the prophet. But there’s a world of difference between saying, ‘I wouldn’t do it, I think it’s religiously bigoted or insensitive,’ and murder” — Khaled M. Abou El Fadl:

The Prophet (peace be  upon him) said Paradise lies at the feet of your mother. For journaist  Jason Rezaian, who has spent six month in Evin Prison freedom may lie there too …

… at the same time, the US “and Iran are expressing hope that nuclear talks can be accelerated in order to meet a March target for a framework agreement, as the countries’ top diplomats met Wednesday ahead of a resumption of full negotiations”:

“The US, Britain and other western governments had all called for the punishment to be dropped but there has been no sign of any diplomatic action against Riyadh” …

… but a blizzard of social media criticism prompts a Saudi cleric to back off his fatwa against snowmen:

“The United States and Iran are expressing hope that nuclear talks can be accelerated in order to meet a March target for a framework agreement, as the countries’ top diplomats met Wednesday ahead of a resumption of full negotiations”