Archive for February, 2015

News and Analysis (2/27/15)

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Mostly unidentified sources claim to know who is the brutal and barbaric voice of IS with the British accent, but there is disagreement as to whether the well-to do Kuwaiti was radicalized by sympathy for Somalia militants or by harassment by MI5:

“Cage has caused controversy by suggesting that MI5 harassment could have contributed to the radicalisation of the Kuwaiti-born computer graduate who grew up in west London. Human rights groups say they are doing ‘vital work’ but critics have called the organisation ‘apologists for terror'”:

“Earlier … Isis targeted the tomb of Nabi Yunus (the prophet Jonah), and the grave of Abu al-Hassan al-Jazari, a 12th- and 13th-century historiographer known as ibn al-Athir…. Destruction of monuments that have been preserved through 14 centuries of Islam in Iraq is widely abhorred” …

…  “Unesco stressed that under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is a war crime”:

The “Law on Islam” singles out the “large Muslim minority for treatment not applied to any other religious group.” It “bans foreign funding for Islamic organizations and requires any group claiming to represent Austrian Muslims to submit and use a standardized German translation of the Koran”:

“Roy’s family said he had received threats in recent weeks because he maintained a blog, Mukto-Mona (‘Free mind’), that highlighted humanist and rationalist ideas and condemned religious intolerance”:

“Imad Enchassi, senior imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said, ‘As people of faith, we’re never discouraged. It was very refreshing to see our interfaith allies outnumbered the protesters'”

“Mr. Kurt had declared that he respected all holy books and wanted to swear on the holy book of the country in which he was residing”:

“More than 1,200 Assyrian families have fled the area in fear of IS, the majority of them finding shelter in the Kurdish-held cities of Qamishli and Hassakeh, according to the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights”:

“The trip was not approved by the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and the Foreign Ministry said it did not support the mission. Many European diplomats are saying privately it is time for communication with Damascus after a four-year revolt failed to overthrow Assad”:


News and Analysis (2/25/15)

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

“Among its lost collections were manuscripts from the [18th] century, Syriac books printed in Iraq’s first printing house in the [19th] century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early [20th] century and some old antiques like an astrolabe and sand glass used by ancient Arabs”:

“The statement echoed the opening remarks at the conference of the grand sheikh of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s respected seat of learning. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb called for educational reform to correct a historical misreading of the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad”:

“ It isn’t just leaked cables that have undermined the Israeli PM’s speech to world leaders. According to his predictions, we should all be dead by now”:

Erdogan’s party has enacted “a slew of protections [including] criminalizing marital rape and increasing penalties for so-called honor killings. In 2012, Turkey became the first country in Europe to ratify a Council of Europe treaty on violence against women…” Is culture the problem?

“His family said he was a political prisoner who had been “tyrannised” and that his health was at risk in prison. The pardon bid means a delay in Anwar’s disqualification from politics. He has widely been seen as the only real threat to the ruling coalition”:

“CFCM has been unable to make progress on pressing issues such as training imams and chaplains or regulating halal slaughter. Its members cannot even agree on when to start the fast in the holy month of Ramadan”:

“Israeli settlers vandalized and set fire to a mosque in a village near Bethlehem on Wednesday, officials said, raising tensions in the occupied West Bank one day after Israeli soldiers shot dead a 19-year-old college student in a military raid on a refugee camp”:

Abercrombie’s policy “prohibited wearing headscarves or anything in black.” A “federal appeals court in Denver threw out [an EEOC $20,000] award and concluded that Abercrombie & Fitch could not be held liable because [the interviewer] never asked the company to relax its policy against headscarves”:

News and Analysis (2/23/15)

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

A local Jewish leader at the event called the Muslim “show of support for Norway’s tiny Jewish community … incredibly uplifting,” and is “upset” that Islamophobic propaganda outlets denied the fact that the  1200 people protesting anti-Jewish violence were “overwhelmingly Muslim”:

“Militants claiming loyalty to Islamic State said they were behind Sunday’s twin bomb attacks on the residence of the Iranian ambassador in the Libyan capital and a rocket strike on the eastern Labraq airport”:

“Israel opened water dams, without warning, last night, causing serious damage to Gazan villages near the border. More than 40 homes were flooded and 80 families are currently in shelters as a result” and affecting “poultry and animal farms” according to the chief of the civil defence agency:

“An Egyptian court has sentenced a prominent pro-democracy activist to five years in prison … in what rights groups describe as an ongoing clampdown on dissent” …

… reducing an earlier 15-year prison sentence for organizing an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer. But the ruling was condemned by defense lawyers and supporters who said he should have been set free”:

“Amnesty International says Egypt’s military failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties during airstrikes last week against what Cairo said were militant targets in Libya”:

“US security officials also said that the group was presumably trying “to take credit for inciting violence by otherwise independent lone offenders“:

“For the United States, the goal is to extend to at least a year the period that Iran would need to surreptitiously ‘break out’ toward nuclear weapons development”:

“Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb … linked extremism to ‘bad interpretations’ of the Koran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. ‘The only hope for the Muslim nation to recover unity is to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers,’ he said”:


News and Analysis (2/21/15)

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Humorist Bassem Youssef has a surprising recommendation for how the US can help solve the crises in the Middle East: Do Nothing! …

… and policy wonk Graham Fuller reached a similar conclusion, calling on Washington to end “the actions that have been so incendiary in the region. First and foremost, begin with the removal of US boots on the grounds in Muslim lands”:

The Tennessee legislator who “introduced a bill in 2011 that would make following components of the Islamic code of Shariah law, like praying, a crime punishable by 15 years in prison” is back with a bill to ban non-existent “no-go zones”:

“[S]ince 2011, Yemen’s politics have been continually negotiated by a complex (often opaque) web of actors stretching from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Tehran to Washington and London … [largely] driven by anxieties over or misunderstandings of Islamic republicanism” …

… “Yemen’s … house of representatives … thought to be sympathetic to the Houthis, will stay in place. Instead of the traditional upper house, a new transitional council …. will consist of traditionally unrepresented sectors among Yemen’s formerly independent South, women and young people”:

“While [Graeme] Wood is correct to push back against the flawed notion that Islamic State has absolutely no relation to Islam, he neglects to engage the predominant view that the group embodies one of the heretical versions of the religion that have cropped up periodically [in] history” …

…  “Identity-based extremism and millenarian apocalyptic cults provide a far more useful framework for understanding ISIS than Islam does”:

“[A] parent governor at Bethnal Green Academy, said there was “absolutely not” any radicalisation at the school.” I believe it, but not actively radicalizing is not enough. The needs and concerns of the children must be met by relevance in education or they will turn elsewhere (remember the 60s?) …

… but in the US, “[s]ome Muslim reformers who have been struggling to combat radicalism in their mosques and communities have been willing to talk about the extremist ideologies they encounter“:

A “longtime promoter of Jewish-Muslim dialogue in Denmark, Naveed Baig … was part of a march by tens of thousands of Danes, including countless Muslims, who were shocked by an attack seen as underscoring the growing threat of anti-Semitic violence in the region”:

“Holocaust recognition among Arabs and Muslims, less noticed but equally divisive [than Holocaust denial], has … served as a means of delegitimizing Israel and Zionism. By this line of reasoning, … the Holocaust was a crime inflicted by Europeans for which Palestinians paid the price”:

The leader of “a group of teenage boys with weapons …, blocking the road[, …] said, ‘Every day we watch your car come and visit your centers for women and girls. They are learning to read. What about us? We have been fighting and living in caves since we were little boys … but we want to study”:

“The circumstances of their release are unclear but they were eventually handed over to the state authorities for counselling and rehabilitation…. 200 girls [kidnapped] from a boarding school in Chibok in Borno state, have yet to be rescued … despite [foreign] military” intervention:

Tasnim News Interviews Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad on the Chapel Hill Killings

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

[Original English Text of Tasnim News interview with Minaret of Freedom Institute President Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad]

Q. What is your own personal take on the Chapel Hill killings? Do you believe the initial police suspicion that it was rooted simply in a parking dispute?

A. While it may be true that the trigger for the murders was parking dispute, the suggestion that the perpetrator would have similarly killed anyone with whom he had a dispute over parking is a hard pill to swallow. It seems more likely that the dehumanization of the victims played a role. Otherwise why would the killer murder all three family members? Besides, the father of the Abu Salha sisters said that is daughter had told him before the murder that her neighbor “had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

Q. Can you notice any difference between the media responses to the Charlie Hebdo attack and the three murders in Chapel Hill?

A. There are differences, some of which may be justified by the fact that the Charlie Hebdo was clearly an act of terrorism while the murder in North Carolina was accompanied by no political demands and seems to have been an act of brutal violence whether bigoted or not.

Q. What do you think are the causes for the recent increase in violent Islamophobia in America?

A. The demonization of Muslims by media outlets like Fox News, by politicians like Bobby Jindell, and by the organized Islamophobia industry have redirected the anger Americans feel at the atrocities of the likes of ISIL and the killers of Charlie Hebdo staff against innocent American Muslims.

News and Analysis (2/19/15)

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Violence against women evokes no outrage when the victims are Muslims:

“[T]he leader of Oslo’s Jewish community at first said that he would support the event only if at least 30 Muslims promised to attend – nearly 800 people have said they will attend the planned ‘peace ring’ … according to the event’s Facebook page“, which adds, “Islam is about rising above hate”:

U.S. military commanders thought the former Chicago cop’s “knack for getting confessions” was just what they needed. Unfortunately his “knack” was nothing moire than brutal torture that extorted false confessions from helpless captives:

“The Israeli Supreme Court’s rejection of an appeal for damages by the family of Rachel Corrie … ‘sends a dangerous message to Israeli armed forces that they can escape accountability for wrongful actions,” Human Rights Watch, based in New York, said this week in a statement“:

It’s hard to swallow Erdogan’s claim that the bill, criticized by opponents for violating civil liberties,  is only “aimed at protecting social order and social peace” when Turkey can’t even keep order and peace in its parliament:

“Despite Qatar’s concerns, the Arab League put out a statement on Wednesday expressing its ‘complete understanding’ over Egypt’s air strikes and threw its weight behind Cairo’s call for a lifting of the arms embargo on the Libyan army”:

“Until now, Egypt has barely registered in the US-led coalition against IS, insisting it needs to needs to reserve its military might for the fight in Sinai, which is under de facto military occupation”:


News and Analysis (2/17/15)

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

IS’s exploitation of NATO’s unraveling of the Libya leads to slaughter of Christians, an Egyptian invasion, and a call for more intervention …

… while in its home base, the self-styled caliphate continues burning people alive despite the unanimous condemnation of the practice in Islamic law and history:

“Many … veterans said that they had not been warned by their units about the risks posed by the chemical weapons and that … military doctors seemed unaware that chemical munitions remained in Iraq. In some cases, victims of exposure said, officers forbade them to discuss what had occurred”:

“The Islamophobia network has real consequences” and the Chapel Hill murders may have been among them …

… “83 percent of Americans say people who commit violence and claim to be Christians are not really Christian, while less than half of Americans (48 percent), think that self-proclaimed Muslims who commit violence in the name of Islam aren’t truly Muslims” …

…  “The more likely a person is to know a Muslim, the more likely she is to express positive feelings toward Muslims as a group” except  for “Jewish respondents, who express negative feelings …. and Hispanic Catholics, who express positive feelings despite saying they don’t personally know a Muslim”:

“There has been no new letter from Iran’s side. The claim made by the Wall Street Journal is an unprofessional media game” – Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham:

Erdogan says, “I will personally follow the case so that they will be given the heaviest penalty. I am already following the case. Violence against women is the bleeding wound of our country” …

… but “gender violence is such a widespread and deeply rooted problem that it can only be improved via efforts that transcend ideological lines. Turkey, however, is so deeply politicised and polarised that no one is willing to do that”:

“[H]e was arrested after writing that the UAE’s rulers lacked legitimacy. His lawyer denounced the jail sentence as politically motivated, reported the Associated Press news agency, while rights groups also criticised his arrest”:

The murderer, killed by police, had a history of criminal violence:

IS is the main seller, but “[e]veryone from the Lebanese police to … the smuggler and … the go-between said the main market was Europe. In the UK there have been no prosecutions or arrests for selling looted Syrian artefacts”:

Among “federal laws … violated by the US … [are prohibition of] most U.S. foreign aid to any country found trafficking in nuclear enrichment equipment or technology outside international safeguards … [and termination of] U.S. foreign aid to countries that import nuclear reprocessing technology”:

News and Analysis (2/15/15)

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

“There are so many different people from so many different places, … backgrounds and religions. But here we’re all one. It’s beautiful to see. People of different areas interacting and being family, one community.” Obama has denounced the murders and the FBI will investigate if federal law applies …

… hate crime “happened to the Japanese, blacks, Hispanics, Jews, and now we are in an era where it is happening to Muslims. We have to stay strong and stay together because that’s only way we will be able to survive” …

… but it’s not just the South. A Kroger employee in Michigan claimed he was only trying to break up a fight, but a witness insists he held that victim so the that the attackers could keep punching. A store manager declined to comment:

“Instead of allowing his spirit to be crushed and giving up, instead of allowing himself to be filled with anger and frustration, Jafar Panahi created a love letter to cinema. His film is filled with love for his art, his community, his country and his audience” – Darren Aronofsky, Berlinale jury president:

“We were abducted and tortured to pressure us to confess falsehoods” — defendant Amin al-Serafy, a secretary in the presidency under Mursi:

“Zarif admitted that he has often raised his voice … sometimes so much their bodyguards would enter the room to make sure everything was all right. Zarif said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, told him to speak softly and with a smile – the same as he would in public” …

… and at the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports that Khamenei sent Obama a “respectful but noncommital” letter “in recent weeks in response to a presidential letter sent in October”:

“[T]he Burmese envoy in Hong Kong, hoped to dissuade others from feeling sympathy for the Rohingya. His method for doing this was by revealing his shocking racism. The Rohingya, he said, “are as ugly as ogres” and do not share the “fair and soft” skin of other Burmese ethnic groups”:

“[M]ilitants from Ansar al-Sharia had warned the station to stop broadcasting music. The group … is accused of being involved in a deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. mission and annex in Benghaziz. Its branch in the city of Derna has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group”:

“Malaysia next election must be held by 2018 and sympathy for Anwar could stoke support for the opposition.” Wan Saiful Jan (the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs) says this gives the  broader, diverse opposition alliance an “opportunity to show they can function without Anwar”:

It is common in Lebanon for supporters of political groups to celebrate by firing guns into the air whenever their leaders give speeches. Supporters of Hezbollah’s rival, Saad Hariri, unleashed a round of celebratory gunfire after Hariri started to speak on Saturday”, but Nasrullah wants none of it:


News and Analysis (2/12/15)

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

The fatal shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Tuesday afternoon has prompted uproar around the world …

… mourners “held candles, while students from the school of dentistry – where Barakat was studying, and where his wife was set to enroll in the autumn – wore their white coats in an act of solidarity” …

… but the killer’s family insists that the motive was a dispute over a parking space (meaning he wold have murdered anyone over a parking dispute regardless of race, creed or color?):

The political nature of the trial is clear as the allegedly sodomized man “met with the prime minister and senior officials before making a police complaint, medical records had shown no penetration, and one of Anwar’s lawyers was charged twice with sedition for criticizing the Appeals Court judgment”:

“We are squeezed between only bad choices, between the state-controlled worship of God and the state-controlled worship of Atatürk. Neither side is acceptable”:

“The court’s decision comes ahead of an investment conference in Sharm al-Sheik scheduled for March, which authorities hope will help improve Egypt’s image”:

‘[T]he drive to pretend that sympathy for the victims of violence requires one to embrace their bigoted and hateful cause actually undermines the right of free speech…. [A] right to offend does not of necessity translate in to a duty to offend”:

Commentators predict modest reform, consolidation of power, continued alliance with the U.S., and no tolerance for peaceful protest:

“Houthi forces advanced far into the south … , continuing their expansion of recent months which is raising fears of an all-out civil war. Leaders and Sunni tribesmen in the southern and eastern regions … are in some cases making common cause with Yemeni Al Qaeda militants”:

“There are new conditions in the world…. If the West will not work with Russia, we will find new partners and do whatever it takes to ensure that Russian national interests are taken care of” — Yevgeny Satanovsky — president of the independent Institute of Middle East Studies in Moscow:

“The White House has already twice adjusted its plans to cut U.S. troops to about 5,000 by the end of this year and draw down to a ‘normal’ U.S. embassy presence in Kabul at the end of 2016. Ashton Carter, Obama’s pick to lead the Pentagon [has said] that he was open to adjusting the drawdown plan”:


A Muslim Libertarian Defends of Freedom of Expression

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

The murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo was an embarrassment to all Muslims and the strong condemnation of the attack by Muslims around the world is a reflection of the fact most Muslims realize this. Freedom of speech is not incompatible with Islamic values, and I am a believing Muslim who does not compromise on this point. Unfortunately, one aspect of the expressions of sympathy with the victims of that attack, the drive to pretend that sympathy for the victims of violence requires one to embrace their bigoted and hateful cause actually undermines the right of free speech. This point is extremely important, so I feel it is my duty to spell out the issues and clear up the confusion.

That we must share, or even find acceptable, the views of those whom others would silence is fallacious and actually undermines the whole point of free expression. An implacable champion of free speech H.L. Mencken correctly observed, “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” When the ACLU defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, a town in which many Holocaust survivors resided, they felt no need to defend the bigotry of the marchers, even as they defended their right to display their bigotry. As to those who have accused news outlets with too much good taste to reprint the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of cowardice, I would point out that a right to offend does not of necessity translate in to a duty to offend.

The irony of the misdirected commentary on this attack on freedom of speech has been the pretense that France has freedom of speech. France has no First Amendment. On the contrary, many types of speech are prohibited in France and can lead to jail time. The commitment to freedom of expression France is one-sided: against religion, but not for it. Charlie Hebdo is an opponent of all forms of organised religion, but has no interest in opposing French secular fundamentalism that prohibits women from wearing a niqab. Charlie Hebdo has a right to freely express its venom but should have the honesty to admit that it has no interest in the freedom of expression of Muslims.

Freedom of speech, as enshrined in America’s First Amendment, is not about whether or not fighting words may inspire a violent reaction from the offended party but about the fact that a legislature may pass no law abridging the freedom of speech. The U.S.  Supreme Court has ruled that the only time that may be done is when the government has “a compelling interest” and that even then it must be done in the least restrictive means possible.” I side with those who say government has no right to prior restraint. Contrary to popular understanding of metaphor used by Oliver Wendell Holmes, you can shout fire in a crowded theater, although you will suffer the consequences if your act causes a stampede. (I attended a Broadway production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in which an actor shouted “Fire!” to the audience and after a beat observed, “Not a muscle!”) In France not only can one be imprisoned for denying the Holocaust, but Roger Garaudy, a veteran of the French resistance, was sentenced to a fine and imprisonment for merely questioning the precise numbers killed in the Holocaust.

The French government is tone deaf on the issue of freedom speech, arresting 54 persons for “hate speech” shortly after delegates from all over the world demonstrated in Paris for Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech. Among the detained was the controversial comic Dieudonné M’bala, who posted “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” on his Facebook account. In an open letter to the Minister of the Interior Dieudonné charged, “You consider me like Amedy Coulibaly [murderer of shoppers in a Kosher supermarket] when I am not any different from Charlie.” In France the key distinction between “hate speech” and “free speech” is its target.

Except when advancing its own leftist agenda, Charlie Hebdo only knocks down icons that are unpopular in France. It’s hatred of Muslim extremists was strong enough to brave death, but its love of free expression is not so strong as to brave the imprisonment that would come from defending such scoundrels as anti-Semites. The newspaper fired a columnist who refused to apologize when accused of provoking “prejudice about Jews and social success.”

Muslim extremists are wrong to persecute those who disrespect Islam. The blasphemy laws in Islam, although rooted in some weak hadith [reports from the early Muslims], are contradicted by the Qur’an [which Muslims accept as God’s word]. Yet, most Muslims are not hypocritical, at least, and oppose mockery of any religion. I recall having to explain to a nonreligious acquaintance who proposed that Muslims should respond to the burning of Qur’ans by desecrating a Bible why no self-respecting Muslim would ever consider such a shameful act.

Those who charge that the problem is that Muslims lack the Christian and Jewish indifference to attacks on their religious symbols miss the point. Believing Christians and Jews are not indifferent, but merely resigned in the face of a society where the sacred cows are not religious but political.  Zionists do not protest attacks on Moses or Abraham, but they get very upset by attacks on Netanyahu. As Voltaire put it: “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?”

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