Archive for November, 2016

Alternative Responses to Violent Extremism: Islamic Approaches to Peacebuilding

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

[This is a summary of the 16th Annual Tachmindji Event for Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding held on Sunday, October 30, 2016 at American University. It is not a transcript, but my paraphrase of Sr. Mohammed Abu-Nimr’s presentation.]

“Alternative Responses to Violent Extremism: Islamic Approaches to Peacebuilding”

Dr. Mohammed Abu-Nimer shared experiences of the past few years. A Palestinian who grew up in Israel, he brought many Israelis and Palestinians together in the 80s when it was fashionable, but he burned out, and in the First Intifada left the land of honey for the land of education. He finds the narratives of counter violence and counter extremism to be a poor approach.

There is a defensive and an offensive discourse of war and peace in Islam. The main objective has been to interrupt the radicalization and recruitment. They will introduce projects intended to stop recruitment but without improving the life if the community breeding suspicion and resentment. How shall we do prevention? It took twelve years to arrive at the conclusion that law enforcement alone is insufficient. The EU adopted a different language in 2005.

Dr. Abu-Nimer said it takes him years to convince local leaders that he is not there to gather intelligence for the US government. How can one do Islamic approaches to peace building without employing Qur’an or Hadith? We are afraid of religious identity. Occasionally you will find a Muslim leader highlighted by an American politician and that does not help the community because the objective is not to develop the Muslim community but to securitize the religion. If you are serious about engaging a religious leader you do do before and after the agreement. We have seen manipulation of religious identity for violence at far back as Cain and Able, or perhaps Adam and Eve. Those who have a war to launch ask the clergy to bless their war. It happens today and here; it is not an Islamic issue. We still don’t know how effective the CVE (“Countering Violent Extremism”) is. It has become an essential item on a Washington resume even for a clerical job in a hotel yet we have no evidence of its effectiveness.

We know violent Muslim extremist groups exist, but they have a constituency of 150,000 out of 1.5 billion Muslims. There are other Muslim establishments, reformers and minorities and sects. We refuse to work with the Muslim Brotherhood although in some areas they have 20-30% support.

There are three theological theories of wars: offensive war, just war, and nonviolence. The basic principles of Islamic peacemaking are:

  • Pursuit of Justice
  • Doing Good
  • Universality and Human Dignity
  • Equality
  • Sacredness of Human Life
  • Quest for Peace
  • Peacemaking
  • Forgiveness
  • Deeds, Actions, and Individual Responsibility
  • Patience

Arab societies often engage in reconciliation without forgiveness. The challenge is to show that forgiveness is an important element of Islam. Christians do not have exclusive ownership of mercy. Your sin is not greater than God’s mercy. The Islamic Sources of Forgiveness are:

  • afw – Pardon or amnesty
  • ghafara – covering up, erasing sin, absolution
  • samah  ease, generosity, allowing others to act
  • tasamuh – tolerance, forgiving attitude

In the Qur’an afw appears 35 times, safhu eight times, and ghafara 234 times. The Prophet Muhammad (pnuh) forgave his enemies in Ta’if despite their ving set their children out t stine him; he freed eighty people in Hudybiyya who ha been taken captive while attacking him;  and issued a general amnesty to his enemies in Mecca upon taking the city.

We did 600 surveys of teachers in Iraq Egypt Jordan Syria Lebanon and Palestine asking, “When do you forgive?” The Jordanians were least willing ti forgive, especially as regards family honor, principally due to tribal traditions.

We asked for role models for reconciliation. Many were mentioned (among them Nelson Mandala, St Frances, and Muhammad) on the historical level and examples from their family and local community, but they could not find a single example from the national and sub-national levels. We adopted 70 stories of forgiveness into our manual but must overcome the challenge of getting them incorporated into the curriculum.

In the Qur’anic schools we visited, they were pleased to teach about peace and conflict resolution, and asked only for desks and a roof in return. They already knew how to teach forgiveness, but none had received any training in pedagogy. Donor insistence that we must include gay issues in the curriculum miss the fact that this is not a priority for these people. There was no teaching of violence or killing. Major findings:

  • Religion was identified as important or very important for 92% of the Arbs surveyed
  • The role of faith in justifying forgiveness and reconciliation was central to 85% of the teachers interviewed
  • 89% of teachers acknowledge that they need skills and knowledge on how to teach forgiveness and reconciliation;
  • Responses on forgiveness in different situations differs according to faith with Christians

You have to engage the religious leaders, non-obstructively and not to instrumentalize them (demanding a fatwa to serve your own purposes). The religious leaders are only one of nine or ten sectors of society. Most often not they but the political leaders are the source of the problem. We put a great burden on the religious peacemakers but offer them no security or protection. The secular policy makers lack a basic literacy of religion yet seek to tell the mufti what to do.

Religious leaders are generally older men. When you go to community leaders the majority of workers are women. When we asked for examples of forgiveness motivated by faith we found more women.

The tools to teach forgiveness are: Critical thinking, emotional intelligence, skills in the process of dialog.

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

News and Analysis (11/28/16)

Monday, November 28th, 2016

“We’re not passive receptacles for bigotry; we fight back, we stand up for our rights. This is my country as much as it is John Smith’s…. [W]e’re not only giving ourselves the option to kick ass – we’re also giving ourselves the confidence to walk with our heads held high in this country”:

A great variety of women (including “a former Catholic nun, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, two Poles and a Sikh convert”), but are attracted to so-called “Salafism”, an authoritarian interpretation of Islam “as simple as ‘hear and obey‘” that relieves them of any need to think:

“The … case of Korematsu v. Supreme Court … held up the principle that the government’s need to protect against espionage outweighed an individual’s rights” and notwithstanding a Solicitor General’s “confession of error” for Japanese internment the ruling was never overturned”:

Competing for xenophobic voters with National Front, leader Marine Le Pen,  Fillon “has positioned himself as a staunch defender of French values, vowing to restore authority, honor the Roman Catholic Church and exert ‘strict administrative control’ over Islam”:

“Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, always was a figure admired across religious divides, so it seems only fitting that an international prize named in her honor went this year to a Muslim who died in Dhaka, Bangladesh, trying to save two friends from a terrorist attack”:

“Trump’s campaign has argued he never advocated for a Muslim registry nor will he. But Trump himself has yet to put an end to the discussion by rejecting the proposal outright, and his meeting with Kobach only further fanned the flames”:

“There’s a new sheriff in town — President Donald Trump. He’s going to cleanse America…. And he’s going to start with you Muslims. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews. You Muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge”:

“[O]fficials told The Associated Press on Monday that airstrikes hit two homes in rural areas … under control of the country’s Shiite rebels. Among the victims are women and children, according to a medical official in al-Thawra hospital”:

“One rebel official denied the report that al-Sakhour had fallen, an advance that would cut the rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo in two, while another said the situation was not yet clear. The Observatory said rebels had lost control of more than a third of eastern Aleppo” recently:

Don’t Blame the Victims: Colonialist Ecosavagery Is Behind the Fires in Palestine

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Over 200 forest fires are raging in Palestine (now renamed the Jewish State of Israel including its occupied Palestinian territories). Many countries are helping put out the fires including four teams of Palestinian firefighters (no body helped Gaza when it was being fire-bombed by white
phosphorous). But the fascist racist government of “Israel” blamed the Palestinians for the fires! Even some decent Israelis pointed out that fires are raging across Western Asia (aka the “Middle East”). Here is a map put out by one Israeli website of location of fires across the region including in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey:

Perhaps coincidentally or otherwise, right after war criminal Netanyahu blamed Palestinians, new fires erupted near Palestinian communities. If you really want to know who is to blame for the damage, it is clearly Zionism as I wrote in many articles and books before. In 1901 at the World Zionist Congress and despite objections of conscientious Jews, a Jewish National Fund (Keren Keyemet Li’Israel, or KKL) was established to further “Jewish colonization” (the term they used) of Palestine. One of the tasks was to raise money and they used the gimmick of collecting money for trees. Indeed they did plant trees but it was unfortunately the highly flammable European pine tree. After 1948-1949 when some 500 Palestinian villages and towns were depopulated, their lands (cultivated with figs, almonds, olives and other trees) were razed to the ground and again resinous and inflammable pine trees were planted. The same happened after 1967 when here Palestinian villages were demolished and their village lands planted with the same European pines, one of those villages is the biblical Imwas (see photos before and after here: ).

The choice of European pine trees was because a) they grow fast, b) they give a European look to the otherwise “Arab” landscape, c) their leaves on the ground make  acidic preventing growth or regrowth of endogenous trees. In total KKL boasts that it planted 240 million pine trees. Resinous pine is like petrol and burns with a ferocity. This was not the only environmentally catastrophic decision by the Zionist movement in Palestine (others include draining the Hula Wetlands and the diversion of the water of the river Jordan and now the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal).  Environmentally, the current fires are deadly to all living creatures regardless of their
origins and they do spread to the remaining few indigenous forests and to human dwellings (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Atheist without distinction).

We environmentalists (Palestinian and Israeli) have longed warned of the catastrophic consequences of politically driven decisions guided by colonial ideology but devastating to native animals and plants.  So here we are the remaining native Palestinians watching our lands go up in flames and being blamed for it. This is not unusual and we are the victims of others from long ago. We even paid the price of what happened in WWII (by Europeans to fellow Europeans). I am thinking now if a meteor hits earth, we Palestinians will also pay a disproportionate price. 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people.

We in the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability ( urge protection of our nature. Environmental conservation is a priority for all decent human beings including guarding biodiversity (and human diversity).

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine

News and Analysis (11/25/16)

Friday, November 25th, 2016

All Muslims revere the Prophet Muhammad and the early Muslims, but the term is now being used to mean followers of Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahab, but “even Saudi Salafism, despite appearances, is no monolith”:

“The predominantly Muslim region, which has around 10 million Muslim Uyghurs, has been subject to a number of crackdowns in an effort to wipe out homegrown terrorists. But in the process of doing so, it’s also killed local protestors and cut mobile phone services of citizens”:

A Muslim woman asks, “If marriage is a contract, as they say, then how can it be annulled unilaterally?” Another notes, “Muslim women must form alliances with Muslim organisations, intellectuals and women’s groups so that they can reform this un-Islamic law from within”:

“The ominous calls went out earlier this week and were administered by Emerge USA, a nonprofit advocacy group for Muslims, South Asian and Arab Americans who outsourced a company to conduct post-election polling”:

“The deal is said to have prevented a new US war in the Middle East that, as the Monitor’s Howard LaFranchi wrote, at times, during the past decade, seemed near. But momentum has been building in the US and Iran to oppose the deal”:

Erdogan’s reforms made Turkey eligible for EU membership, but now, his “disproportionate measures under the state of emergency” threaten to undo the progress …

… and he threatens to use refugees as a tool of retribution:

Extremists? Do words have no meaning? Does the press call those who wantonly kill religious pilgrims are really more religious than the rest of us?

News and Analysis (11/22/16)

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Would-be Cabinet member Kris Kobach’s proposed Muslim registry and changes to voting laws would be ineffective, counter-productive, unconstitutional, and an intolerable attack on the values and fabric of American society:

Trump’s choice to head the NSA is open-minded about who is responsible for the chemical attacks in Syria but closed-minded about the need to destroy Islam:

We’ve had a rebirth into some of our older neighborhoods that were starting to decay. Refugees have come in here and revitalized them and made them a proud neighborhood once again.

“[T]he notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) … accused Ahok of insulting the Quran when he encouraged a small audience, during his work visit, not to be deceived by those who sought to use Quranic verse of Al-Maidah 51 to prevent voters selecting a non-Muslim leader”:

“‘This girl comes up to me then and puts her belt in my lap and says, “This is yours. They disqualified you. You’re the true winner. This is unfair,”‘ Zafar recalled…. Both girls will be going home with belts, Sugar Bert officials confirmed”:

Jehovah’s witnesses don’t wear orange vests labelled “Sharia police” when they warn people,”you should not drink, you should not gamble, you should not drink alcohol, you should not do this, you should not do that….” A German court says, “Machts nicht“:

Israel has a variety of machinations to circumvent International Law to expropriate Palestinian land, ranging from “National Security” claiming owners are “absentee landlords,” but the High Court balks at those settlers whose rapacity ignores even Israeli law …

… while Benjamin “Netanyahu himself has tried to put a damper on the Israeli right’s enthusiasm” over Trump’s election:

No longer facing a death sentence, the elected president deposed in a military coup still “remains in jail on separate convictions” …

… while in Turkey Erdogan moves closer to one-man rule:

A priest and an imam log into their respective Amazon accounts:



News and Analysis (11/20/16)

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

“As headlines like “President’s Trump’s Cabinet Will Be Filled With Deplorables” and “Trump’s Cabinet Is Going to Be As Bonkers as You Thought” make clear, the U.S. president-elect has chosen to undergo this transition with far-right and controversial people” …

… including the man who boasts, “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when [the liberals and media] get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing”:

The Muslim registry proposal sparks an”I am Spartacus” response:

“Trump’s early appointments are raising alarms that rhetoric about Muslims and Islam long rejected even by Republican leaders are finding a home in his administration, dimming already-faint hopes that his provocative campaign statements … were just political rhetoric”:

Contradicting himself within a single sentence Priebus says, “I’m not gonna rule out anything, but we’re not gonna have a registry based on a religion,” adding that “there are some aspects of that faith [Islam] that are problematic”:

“‘Members of US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture,’ the prosecutors’ office, wrote. It added that CIA officials appeared to have tortured another 27 detainees”:

“After a fierce backlash, Spencer released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that he was withdrawing his sponsorship of the bill … that, due to vague wording, the law could potential make the wearing of traditional Muslim clothing illegal on all public property“:

“This is not at all a reaction to Trump. It’s a reaction to divisions in our country. This is a group chaired by business people intentionally” – Robert Silverman, AJC director of Muslim-Jewish relations:

Out of control bigots attack a Sikh man and a Rajasthani woman trying to protect her from suffering due to Lupus:

… as incidents become more frequent, Muslim women prepare to defend themselves:

News and Analysis (11/17/16)

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

“There’s already deep fear in this country that he will try to make Muslims register, which brings up a traumatic history for Jews” – Rabbi Jill Jacobs:

“The program was widely viewed as a failure, and the Bush administration ended it after a year and a half. Critics said not only did it violate civil liberties and create unnecessary fear in Arab and Muslim communities, but it was also wholly ineffective as a counterterrorism tool”:

“[O]ver 200 nationalities call the UAE home. It is why different religions have built 40 churches and three temples (with a fourth on the way)”:

“The public Ishaa prayer, or nighttime prayer, was organized by the university’s Muslim Student Association. Club president Farhan Ali, a junior, told The Huffington Post that members of his group wanted to show the campus that they were proud to be Muslim”:

“The goal is to turn the page of despotic violations and reach a global national reconciliation and build a state of law” — Ben Sedrine’s deputy, Khaled Krichi:

“This is not at all a reaction to Trump. It’s a reaction to divisions in our country” – Robert Silverman, AJC director of Muslim-Jewish relations:

“The atmosphere on the campus is so tense right now that” TV reporters “had to meet Nathan Thomas — editor of UW Bothell’s student newspaper — off campus in order to do an interview”:

A Muslim physician from Long Island urges Trump to engage “primarily not with the Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, but with Muslims in America[,[ … d]istinguish between Islam and Islamism[, and tout] the extraordinary benefits of legal immigration”:

“[M]ore than 150 PakTurk students rallied in Islamabad as the Turkish leader arrived at parliament. In the eastern city of Lahore, hundreds of students blocked a main road to protest the expulsion orders”:

News and Analysis (11/14/16)

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Syrian refugees “would not be allowed into the country except for extraordinary circumstances”:

“Peaceful protest is good, but at a certain point, we have to sit down and talk. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. We’re all Americans” – Faisal R. Khan:

When the sermons took on “issues of social justice, such as the Black Lives Matter movement … the prayer service has begun to attract some Christian and atheist students”:

Rival for the position Howard Dean calls Ellison “a very good guy” but says, “There’s one problem: You cannot do this job and sit in a political office at the same time. It’s not possible”:

“[A]t the maternity clinic, Fatuma, 25, lies on a bed. After several weeks of reflection, and with her husband’s blessing, she readies herself for the insertion of a contraceptive device. ‘Since my religion accepts family planning, I’ll use it for the good of my health'”:

He expressed fear that “the Prince of Wales’ visit to the tiny kingdom could ‘whitewash’ an ongoing crackdown on dissent … [and] suggested the … ruling family should enter into a power-sharing agreement with political parties [in the face of] financial pressure from low oil prices“:

Muslim women immigrants “talked about the pressure they felt, in America, to be sexy. Razek said, “It’s the opposite of the expectation of modesty, but it almost feels the same” …

… while an American visitor to Saudi Arabia felt that although wearing a niqab “would have felt absurd[,] … after several weeks in Riyadh, going down to the lobby of my hotel without it felt like wearing a bikini top to the Met”:

In Egypt, flash protests arose over price increases and head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK charges a “disturbing wave of radicalism” has emerged:

News and Analysis (11/11/16)

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Are American Muslims under attack in the wake of Trump’s victory? Well, yes and no …

… “After Trump’s victory, non-Muslim allies let their Muslim and Sikh friends know they’re loved and supported”:

“An American drone strike thought to have struck Islamist militants in Somalia actually killed 10 members of a regional force allied with the United States, according to results of a Pentagon investigation” yet to be made public:

The protests have been “dubbed the “revolution of the poor” and authorities have accused Islamist groups like the banned Muslim Brotherhood of engineering the protests to cause chaos”:

“Obama has come to prioritize the counter­terrorism mission in Syria over efforts to pressure President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, as al-Nusra is among the most effective forces­­ battling the Syrian government”:

“The state which is built upon the ethnic cleansing of the majority of the indigenous Palestinian people is inching its way towards banning the call for prayer”:

Use government  funds to pressure Israeli artists to entertain violent extremists in the illegal settlements may backfire to intensify pressure for a cultural boycott of Israeli companies when they try to tour overseas:

“Ebrahim Sharif of the Waad Party, who himself has been detained by the island’s Sunni rulers, said he hoped the Prince of Wales brought up human rights issues behind closed doors with leaders here”:

“[M]ore than 110,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been suspended or dismissed and 36,000 formally arrested in a crackdown that President Tayyip Erdogan’s critics say is quashing legitimate opposition”:

“Although Afghanistan will likely have a difficult time caring for the potential influx of approximately 2.5 million refugees, Afghanistan’s president says that he welcomes their return”:

News and Analysis (11/7/16)

Monday, November 7th, 2016

“[T]he World Justice Project’s rule of law index placed Turkey 99th of 113 countries, just behind Iran and Myanmar. It has reclaimed its place as the world’s main jailer of journalists.” Some analysts now fear to be quoted …

… “authorities have arrested 37,000 people, … closed down more than 200 media outlets and publishing houses, more than 100 universities and hospitals, and expelled 100,000 teachers, academics and civil servants”:

“[B]ecause of their high concentration in key swing states such as Ohio, Florida and Michigan[, Muslims] … could help decide the outcome of an election, community organizers say”:

Skepticism surrounds the appointment of an ambassador to Saudi Arabia to a commission on the Muslim Brotherhood that overlooks such important things as its deposition by military coup and “subsequent repression of its supporters”…

… and a “report criticises the Foreign Office for using the term to describe both groups that embrace “democratic principles and liberal values” and others that instead hold ‘intolerant, extremist views'”:

“Kurdish-led Syrian forces backed by the U.S. … [are] clashing with the extremists north of the Syrian city and warning neighboring Turkey not to interfere in the operation”:

In MUSLIM GIRL: A Coming of Age, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh delovers a “potent message …, a skillful unraveling of the myth of the submissive Muslim woman and a timely introduction to … kids who bear the destructive burden of” 9/11:

The leader of the women’s group “said that rather than following the clerics, Muslims should abide by what is written in the Quran. This would also ensure that there is no tinkering with the basic spirit of the Muslim Personal Law”:

“[I]nstant triple talaq, which is called Talaq-i-Bid’ah, is the biggest sin in Islam. In the era of Hazrat Umar, a man giving such divorce was punished with 50 lashes. Today, the practice continues but lashes have disappeared”: