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2012年2月16日星期四

Struggle within Islam 伊斯兰内部的斗争

Date: Sat, Sep 11, 2010 at 12:14 AM
Subject: Struggle within Islam

http://ww4report.com/node/3227

Cheney: terrorists seek new caliphate

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sat, 02/24/2007 - 03:55.

Dick Cheney in Australia he gave an interview to the national ABC network's PM program Feb. 23, in which he invoked Anglo racial solidarity in the most blatant terms—and raised the threat of a new Caliphate stretching from Spain to Indonesia. The PM headline, actually not quoting Cheney verbatim, invoked a "terrorist caliphate." The relevant passage follows.

First, narrator Louise Yaxley notes that Cheney said the requisite nicities about Prime Minister John Howard.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Not surprisingly he's also had warm words for the US-Australian alliance.

DICK CHENEY: We were born in the same era, sprang from the same stock and live for the same ideals. Australia and America share an affinity that reaches to our souls. Over time that deep affinity has grown into a great alliance.

LOUISE YAXLEY: He's told his Australian audience it's vital to keep up the fight.

DICK CHENEY: The business of our alliance goes forward and it begins with the fundamental duty to protect our people from danger. Having stood together in every major conflict of the last 100 years, the US and Australia now stand together in the decisive struggle against terrorism.

And it is they, the terrorist, who have ambitions of empire. Their goal in the broader Middle East is to seize control of a country so they have a base from which they can launch attacks against governments that refuse to meet their demands.

Their ultimate aim, and one they boldly proclaim, is to establish a caliphate covering a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way around to Indonesia. And it wouldn't stop there.

Dick seems to be getting this angle from the National Intelligence Council, or maybe from Daniel Pipes.

See our last posts on Dick Cheney, Islamophobia and the struggle within Islam.


http://ww4report.com/node/3216

American Muslims issue Shia-Sunni unity resolution

Submitted by WW4 Report on Fri, 02/23/2007 - 06:10.

A resolution from a Dec. 25 conference in Chicago, "Sunni Shia Dialogue to Save Lives," online at The American Muslim:

Resolution: Shia-Suni Dialogue to Save Lives
To be signed by immams, khateebs, masjids, Muslim organizations and opinion leaders

Whereas, the Quran mandates Muslim unity in the verse: "And hold fast, all together, by the Rope of God, and be not divided among yourselves; And remember with gratitude God's favor on you when you were enemies, and He united your hearts so by His favor you became brothers; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it; thus does God make clear to you His signs that you may follow the right way." (Quran 3:103)

Whereas, the Quran makes an unequivocal stand for justice in the verse: "Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, God is a Better Protector to both (than you)" (Quran 4:135)

Whereas, although sectarian divisions and some conflicts have existed among Muslims, the magnitude of the Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq has little precedent in the Muslim history with the indiscriminate targeting of innocent men, women and children, and the destruction of ancient, venerated mosques

Whereas, the seeds for divisiveness for the entire Muslim world, including Muslims in the United States, are being sown through the Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq

Whereas, the Muslim community in the United States is composed of thoughtful, caring Shias and Sunnis concerned about the future of Shia-Sunni relations in this country and around the world

Whereas, the differences between Shias and Sunnis have not precluded Shias from making the annual Hajj to God's House in Makkah, Saudi Arabia or being accepted as Muslims by an overwhelming majority of past and present Sunni jurists

BE IT RESOLVED

That we call upon all Imams, Khateebs, Masjids, Muslim Organizations and Opinion Leaders in the United States to engage their local/national constituencies in critical intra-faith dialogue and education about Shia-Sunni relations and how to promote cooperation. Dialogue helps to isolate extremist fringes. Best practices should be shared

That Muslim scholars, from both the Shia and Sunni communities, including the various Fiqh councils and Imam organizations in North America, issue fatwas:

a) Reaffirming that the adherents of both Shia and Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence are Muslims
b) Condemning sectarian violence, killing, and destruction of property as un-Islamic and inhuman
That Muslims of Arab and South Asian origin residing in the United States organize intra-faith dialogue between Shias and Sunnis of their area of origin residing in this country, share best practices, and promote, finance, and transplant similar dialogues in their home countries with the help of relatives, friends, and leading Muslims

[...]

Please get as many Muslims as possible to sign the online petition to encourage our community leaders to act.

The call for the conference was issued by Abdul Malik Mujahid, chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC). The Militant Islam Monitor website paints Abdul Malik Mujahid as a "Wahabist." But we note that he issued a statement, "Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism: Bitter Fruits From the Same Tree of Hate," after a Chicago synagogue was defaced with swastikas last February. CIOGC organized a delegation to help wash clean the synagogue wall.

See our last posts on the Iraq war, the sectarian cleansing and the struggle within Islam.


http://www.ww4report.com/node/2964

Muslims appeal for prayers in Spain's Cordoba Cathedral

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 12/29/2006 - 02:56.

A potential opening for the kind of universalism that could go a long way towards chilling the planet out—and taking the wind out of al-Qaeda's Iberian franchise. But the local Catholic hierarchy isn't going for it. Maybe the Pope will exercise better judgement? From the Italian news agencyAKI, Dec. 28:

The Bishop of the southern city of Cordoba, Juan Jose Asenjo, has turned down a request from its Muslim community to be allowed to pray with Christians in its cathedral - a former mosque. Asenjo was quoted as saying the joint use of consecrated places of worship would "generate confusion" and lead to "religious indifference".

Asenjo also said that the Bishopric had valid legal documents entitling the Catholic Church to sole use of the building. Moreover, while Catholics are able to live in peace with other faiths, and the Cordoba Diocese wants to maintain its good relations with local Muslims, Cordoba's Christian roots should be respected, Asenjo argued.

Spain's Islamic Board, which represents a community of some 800,000 in a traditional Catholic country of 44 million, argued in a letter to Pope Benedict XVI that such a move in Cordoba could serve to "awaken the conscience" of followers of both faiths and help bury past confrontations.

The organisation stated that they were not aiming at re-establishing the Cordoba Mosque - now a Unesco world heritage site - nor reviving Andalusia, the pre-Christian Muslim civilisation of Spain, of which Cordoba was the capital. Rather, the demand should be seen as a move to encourage tolerance and reconciliation, the Islamic Board argued.

"What we wanted was not to take over that holy place, but to create in it, together with you and other faiths, an ecumenical space unique in the world which would have been of great significance in bringing peace to humanity," said its letter to the pontiff.

The Cordoba mosque was turned into a Catholic cathedral in the 13th Century after the city was conquered by King Ferdinand III in the war to drive the North African Moors from the Iberian peninsula.

See our last posts on Spain, the Vatican and the struggle within Islam.


Daniel Pipes makes it a tit-for-tat
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Mon, 01/08/2007 - 22:42.
>From his blog:

The Muslim demand is all very reasonable – but only if Muslims permit reciprocal rights to Christians. For example, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is built over a Byzantine church and to this day contains a shrine said to contain the head of John the Baptist; Christians should be granted leave to pray there. Or the grandest church of Byzantium, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, for centuries a mosque and now a museum – it too should be made available for Christian services. The Vatican has made reciprocity the cornerstone of its relations with Muslims, and this looks like a simple place to start implementing that policy.


http://ww4report.com/node/2941

Bahrain's top Shi'ite cleric, opposition figure dies; streets filled for funeral

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 12/22/2006 - 23:02.

Shaikh Abdul Ameer al-Jamri, a Shiite cleric who led pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in the 1990s, died Dec. 18 at the age of 67. Shiites throughout the small island state went into mourning, hanging black flags and banners outside their houses and pasting pictures of al-Jamri on walls and car windows. Over 10,000 poured in the streets of the capital, Manama, to escort al-Jamri to his final resting place at the Bani Jamrah graveyard. Black-cloaked women and young men beating their cheasts chanted slogans in his honor, as police sealed off the main streets of the city. "He was a father figure for Shiite Bahrainis," said his son, Mansour al-Jamri, a leading columnist and editor. "His legacy will start today."

A local rights group, the Movement of Liberties and Democracy (HAG), described al-Jamri as "the spiritual father" of Bahrainis and a figure "who struggled for real constitutional citizenship where people live in peace without distinction between Sunnis and Shiites." Al-Jamri was also mourned by the opposition Islamic National Accord Association (INAA), the main political society of Bahrain's Shiites. Bahraini state radio and television ignored his death on their news bulletins, but word quickly got around, with many receiving the news in cell phone messages.

Al Jamri, a graduate of the Shiite seat of learning in the Iraqi city of Najaf, led demands in the early 1990s for the restoration of the elected parliament which was scrapped by the government in 1975 after only two years. Al-Jamri, who sat on the short-lived parliament, joined leftist and Sunni Islamist figures in 1992 in a petition demanding the reinstatement of the legislature. The government still has no plans to reestablish the legislature. (Gulf News, UAE, Dec. 19; AP, Dec. 18; Library of Congress Country Stdues)

See our last post on struggle within Islam.


http://ww4report.com/node/2879

Islamic scholars condemn female genital mutilation

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 12/05/2006 - 02:12.

Here's a glimmer of hope. Emad Mekay writes from Cairo for IPS, via South Africa's Mail & Guardian, Nov. 30:

'I thought Islam told us to do so'

Om Samar didn't believe the news. "Muslim scholars banning [female] circumcision? This must be a joke," she said.

Samar, a mother of four who works as a maid cleaning apartments and houses for a daily rate, was planning to circumcise her five-year-old daughter, Shaimaa, when she turns eight or nine.

But an international conference in Egypt on female circumcision funded by the German government and sponsored by top Islamic scholars last week brought tidings she didn't expect.

Eliminating the Violation of Women's Bodies, as the conference was publicised in Arabic, was attended by some of Islam's most senior and influential scholars. Most of them spoke against the common practice. The main message was that "female genital mutilation was never mandated in Islam ".

"I thought Islam told us to do so," said Samar, one of many Muslims who believe that the practice is Islamic. She is not the only one who has been mistaken about what the religion says about circumcision.

Anti-circumcision activists say many parents actually believe the practice prevents their daughters from being unfaithful to their future husbands and draw links between Islam's emphasis on chastity and their own cultural beliefs.

Cultural tradition 
Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious university, said at the conference that "circumcising girls is just a cultural tradition in some countries that has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam".

"During my studies and research in Islam, I didn't find anything that I can trust as beseeching female circumcision," said the scholar, whose fatwas, religious edicts and words are followed by millions of Muslims around the world for direction in their lives.

The conference was attended by other heavyweights, whose endorsement of the public denunciation of the practice was seen as a landmark. Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Goma'a, considered the most senior judge of Islamic law, was a patron of the conference. Others included Hamdi Mahmoud Zakzouk, Minister of Religious Affairs in Egypt; Sultan Abdelkader Mohamed Humad of Djibouti; and Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfary of Ethiopia.

Participants also came from countries where the practice is prevalent, such as Somalia, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Eritrea, Nigeria, Djibouti, Morocco, Turkey and even the Russian Federation.

German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who addressed the gathering, said the statement issued from al-Azhar University, one of the most renowned theological academies in the Islamic world, "cannot be estimated highly enough in its significance for religious policy and with regard to the positive consequences for the inviolability of young girls and women".

Mutilation
The general perception in Egypt among Muslims is that female circumcision is required under Islamic law. But the scholars argued that this does not explain why female genital mutilation (FGM) is also so widespread among Egypt's Christian community. It also fails to account for why the practice is nearly non-existent in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf region.

The World Health Organisation puts the number of girls and women who have undergone female genital mutilation at between 100-million and 140-million. It says that each year, two million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM.

The procedure, which some experts say dates back 5 000 years, can cause massive and fatal bleeding. It can lead to chronic infections, sterility and serious complications in childbirth, doctors say.

Performed mainly in Africa but also in some Asian and Middle Eastern nations, FGM is often practised without anaesthetic on infants and girls by medically unqualified persons.

A 2004 report funded by the United States Agency for International Development found that the incidence of FGM in Egypt, for example, was as high as 97%, while it was 45% in Côte d'Ivoire, 89% in Eritrea and 34% in Kenya.

No backing 
In their statements, the Muslim scholars said "some Muslims were practicing female genital mutilation without any backing or evidence in the Qur'an or an authentic tradition of the Prophet [Muhammad]". The Qur'an and the Prophet's teachings and sayings are the two main sources for Islamic law.

Taking a rare proactive approach, the clerics collectively called upon international, educational and media institutions to "explain the damage and the negative effect of this practice on societies".

But while the clerics' call carries much weight, it is not clear if it will be sufficient to discourage parents from the practice. An official ban on circumcision enacted in 1996 remains ineffective in stopping it in this country.

"What will produce change is not just a fatwa or an opinion from clerics. What will change things is an alteration of the economic and social conditions that lead people to believe in the importance of circumcision," said Ahmed Abdallah, a professor of psychology at Zagazig University.

Abdallah appeared to fault the approach by the German human rights group that organised the conference because it assumed that religion was behind the practice.

"Fatwas will help but they will not do the whole thing," he added. "In this case, parents practising circumcision didn't do it because they received a religious edict asking them to do it in the first place. When they stop it they will not do so because of a religious edict either."

For Om Samar, this seems to make sense. "All women are circumcised and we do not see too many problems because of that," she said. "Nobody cares about my daughter like me. I will do what's best for her and I know what it is."

See our last posts on the struggle within Islam and female genital mutiliation.


http://ww4report.com/node/2850

Islamophobes exploit Islamist intolerance in Tulsa imbroglio

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 11/28/2006 - 19:29.

Around it goes. One Jamal Miftah, a Pakistani immigrant in Tulsa, OK, to his great credit, sent a letter to the Tulsa World Oct. 29 entitled "Message of Islam is not jihad, fatwahs," taking Ayman al-Zawahri and other al-Qaeda leaders to task for hijacking his religion. For this (as he related to Tulsa's News 9 in a video interview) he was expelled from his local mosque, the Tulsa Islamic Center, for publicly condemning Islam (which, of course, he didn't do). The affair was picked up, with predictable glee, by the right-wing Islamophobic blog Western Resistance (yuck!)—which, of course, will only fuel the ultra-defensiveness of folks like the Tulsa Islamic Center. So a plague on all their houses. Except Jamal Miftah.

Oklahoma Mosque Members Support Al Qaeda
News from Oklahoma, in the form of a video from News 9. Jamal Miftah (pictured) is a recent migrant to the United States. He wrote a letter to the Tulsa World newspaper after seeing a video by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second in command of Al Qaeda.

His letter, entitled "Message of Islam is not jihad, fatwahs" was published in Tulsa World on October 29. In this letter, which we reproduce below, he stated that Zawahri and bin Laden were cowards, getting young and ignorant men to become suicide bombers to kill innocent civilians.

His letter was impassioned, but it was well-intentioned. He said that Muslims throughout the world should stand up to those who advocate jihad, and to decry such behavior as being against Islam. But the letter caused only recriminations at his mosque, the Islamic Center at Tulsa.

He was threatened by several members. He protested, and then was told by the management of the mosque that he cannot return until he has apologized.

Miftah was told by members of the congregation that he should never have criticized Islam in front of non-Muslims. The thing is - he did not criticize Islam, only the radicals who preach jihad. It is a sad testimony to the fact that many Muslims in the West make no distinction between Al Qaeda and Islam. There is a concept in Islam called takfeer, which is the action of condemning a Muslim as a heretic.

Takfeer is a Muslim "crime" if not made by a senior cleric. Islam is a club which welcomes any members into the Ummah, no matter how despotic or murderous they may be...

This is the letter that Jamal Miftah sent to the Tulsa World:

Message of Islam is not jihad, fatwahs

By Jamal Miftah.

I moved to the United States in March 2003, with my four kids and wife from Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. There was a call by a local jihadi organization to fight the coalition forces in Afghanistan. One of my dearest friends, Mirza Kohistani, fell prey to that call and joined the group, despite my advice and that of his wife to him.

All the leaders of that organization returned safely after the fall of the Taliban empire, but they left behind the body of my friend and hundreds of other innocent people like him.

I am obliged to respond to Ayman al-Zawahri's recent video message, portraying himself as champion of Islam and others as liars.

My message to Ayman al-Zawahri and Muslims of the world: "Islam" means submission and is derived from a word meaning "peace." Islam, Christianity and Judaism have the same origin, the Prophet Abraham. The prophet of Islam has said that God has no mercy on someone who does not have mercy for others.

I ask that al-Zawahri look at his deeds and those of his master, Osama bin Laden, and other so-called Islamic jihadists.

Because of lack of knowledge of Islam, Muslim youth are misguided into believing by the so-called champions of the cause of Islam that the current spate of killings and barbarism, which has no equal in the recent civilized history, is jihad in the name of Islam. They are incited, in the name of Islam, to commit heinous crimes not pardonable by any religion and strictly forbidden in Islam.

Cowards like al-Zawahri and bin Laden are inciting the ignorant and innocent youths to commit suicide bombings to kill innocent civilians including children, women and the elderly, while they hide in spider holes and caves. They never send their own sons and daughters, born out of half a dozen of their wives, to get killed in the name of Islam. They are themselves hypo crites, cowards, thugs and liars. For 12 years they misappropriated aid received from the U.S. and the West to fight Russia. Now they are ensuring smooth flow of petro dollars from Arab countries in the name of jihad against the West.

Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in their hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.

They are the reason for branding the peaceful religion of Islam as terrorism. The result, therefore, is in the form of Danish cartoons and remarks/reference by the Pope.

I appeal to the Muslim youth in particular and Muslims of the world in general to rise up and start jihad against the killers of humanity and help the civilized world to bring these culprits to justice and prove that Islam is not a religion of hatred and aggression.

I appeal to the Muslim clerics around the world that, rather than issuing empty fatwas condemning suicide bombing, they should issue a fatwa for the death of such scoundrels and barbarians who have taken more than 4,267 lives of innocent people in the name of Islam and have carried out more than 24 terrorist attacks on civilian installations throughout the world. This does not include the chilling number of deaths because of such activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is well over 250,000.

I appeal to al-Zawahri and his band of thugs to hand themselves over to justice and stop spreading evil and killing innocent humans around the world in the name of Islam. Their time is limited and Muslims of the world will soon rise against them to apprehend them and bring them to justice.

See our last posts on Islamophobia and the struggle within Islam.


Letter backlash
Submitted by Jamal Miftah (not verified) on Wed, 11/29/2006 - 01:51.
I am Jamal Miftah and I stand by what I have written.

America is great country and so its people and I hope and pray that one day justice is done to the victims of 9/11, no matter what Mr. Kabbani, the Imam of Tulsa mosque or Mr. Abu Waleed, the spokesman for Islamic Society of Tulsa feel or say.

God bless America

»
reply
Jamal Miftah
Submitted by Carson McCullers (not verified) on Wed, 11/29/2006 - 18:49.
Dear Mr Miftah,

I have just read your excellent and peaceful letter and then your comment. You are a good man and a brave man. It must be hard for you now but I think in the long run it is people like you who will succeed. Well done for standing-up to be counted, and you will have plenty of other people who agree with what you say and who have noticed and admire your stand.

Bless you.

C.

»
reply
An In-Depth look into Mr. Jamal Miftah's Intentions
Submitted by Fooad Muhammad (not verified) on Sat, 12/16/2006 - 00:44.
As an American Muslim, born and raised, who has read the actual article that Mr. Jamal Miftah wrote, along with subsequent interviews, it seems that there is extreme ambiguity about why exactly Mr. Jamal Miftah was asked to leave his Islamic center. Mr. Jamal Miftah wrote an entire article denouncing terrorism, which every American Muslim already agrees with, but in the middle of the article Mr. Jamal Miftah accused American mosques of supporting terrorist when he said:
["Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in their hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs"].
I have personally been to many mosques around the U.S. and I have never seen any American Muslim who supports terrorism either financially or ideologically. Therefore, Mr. Jamal Miftah was most likely excused from his Islamic center because he accused all the Islamic institutions in the U.S. of supporting terrorism (financially), not because he was anti-terrorism.
Lastly Mr. Jamal Miftah has only been in the United States for a relatively short period of time: three years! Who is he to say whether mosques around the U.S. are supporting terrorism or not? Does Mr. Jamal Miftah even have a legal status in the United States, or is he looking for one!?
It is obvious that Mr. Jamal Miftah has twisted a seemingly harmless issue into one that has neither any credibility nor standing into one wherein he is the wronged one for being anti-terrorism. It is apparent that Mr. Jamal Miftah is either looking for a quick way to kiss up to the immigration officials to give him asylum by accusing innocent, hardworking, American citizens of supporting terrorism or looking to get his 15-minutes of fame; only God knows.
Can Mr. Jamal Miftah openly come out and reveal how he came to this country after being "dearest friend [with] Mirza Kohistani", an Al-Qaeda terrorist? Before he goes around accusing others, can he give us more information about his background? I don't know what's behind that baby face!

»
reply
My Dear Fooad Muhammad,
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/19/2006 - 21:20.
My Dear Fooad Muhammad,

It appears to me that you either ignorant about contents of my article, happenings at the mosque, subsequent interviews by myself and the self contradictory statements by mosque leadership or are attempting to confuse the serious situation with Tulsa mosque leadership with base less accusations.

Mirza Kohistani and many more like him have been the victims of deceits and treachery by AL Qaida and the like into believing that killing innocent people or terrorizing civilized world is Jihad and that was the main theme of my article.

There are confirmed reports of involvement of managers of mosques at Brooklyn (AlFarooq Mosque) New York, Albany New York, Bridgeview IL, Allentown PA, and a mosque in Texas were found to be involved in such activities, besides part of the funds collected for earth quake victims in Britain were funneled to the terrorist plotting to blow American bound Air Planes and as such was a general statement because Mosques are places for worship and their sanctity needs to be preserved and as such the statement was a reminder to the worshippers to watch for any such activities.

>From day one since the unfortunate incidence, I have the same statement! I was expelled from the mosque by the mosque leadership after accusing me of being anti Muslim and Anti Islamic because of the article.

Mosque leadership sent me messages through other members of the community to apologize in public for the article, which I refused.

- On the November 24th, 2006, the mosque leadership shifted their position from the earlier one and stated to the news on six reporter that I was asked to leave from the mosque for being loud, which is a false statement.

- On November 29th, 2006 Dr. Sandra Rana made the following comment about my expulsion from the mosque:
Quote, "Then, about the incident. The man was physically removed from the mosque's prayer center by the Tulsa Police Department after a discussion about the article became an argument which ended with the author cursing, threatening to hit someone and refusing to leave when requested. The building supervisor called the police at that time. A restraining order was filed but was ended after 2-3 days by request of the mosque's leadership. He can attend prayer services at the mosque without restriction as long as he acts in an appropriate manner during prayers" Unquote.

What are the names of Police Officers who came to remove me from the mosque?

No further comment on this one.

Then on December 01, 2006 following was published in Tulsa World on behalf of the mosque leadership:
Quote "The governing board of Tulsa's AI-Salam mosque ruled Wednesday night that a Pakistani native who had been banned from the mosque can return. Houssam Elsoueissi, president of the operating council at the mosque, said he would announce at Friday's service that Jamal Miftah is free to attend services as long as there is no disturbance, and that no one at the mosque should confront him. Elsoueissi said he talked to police about getting a restraining order against Miftah to prevent further incidents at the mosque. Mosque spokeswoman Sheryl Siddiqui said the matter should have been quietly resolved, but because of the media and the Internet, "It's had such legs."
The story was carried by local television and radio stations and spread nationwide on the Internet.

"This was not about the article; it was about a disturbance in the mosque," she said. "We agree with most of his article, except the one statement that American mosques support terrorists.
"Our mosque does not, and I don't know of any that do," she said.
Tulsan Mujeeb Cheema, executive director of North American Islamic Trust, said Miftah's views on bin Laden were "mainline views among American Muslims."

However, he said, "I was surprised that a person who has been in the U.S. for only three years, and not part of any national Muslim organization, would speak so confidently about Islamic institutions in the U.S." Unquote.

My response to the above generousity by Islamic Society of Tulsa leadership was as under, which Tulsa World preferred not to publish:

Quote "Mr. Joe Worley,
Executive Editor,
Tulsa World
Fax # 918 581 8353

Sub: Miss-representation of facts by Office Bearers of Islamic Society of Tulsa, Published in your Publication of date.

Dear Sir,
I am perturbed and disappointed by the comments made in today's publication of Tulsa World (copy attached for your ready reference) by Houssam Elsoueissi (Abu Waleed), president operating council of IST mosque and Mr. Mujeeb Cheema Executive Director of North America Islamic Trust. I will first take Mr. Hussam comment.

While attempting to appear very generous for having agreed to make the following announcement on Friday services (that is today):

Quote: Mr. Jamal Miftah is free to attend services as long as there is no disturbance and that no one at mosque should confront him" unquote.

-    Is it a conditional permission?

>From the tone of his language it appears that permission is conditional and that they have no remorse or regrets for the incidence.

-    Is he implying that I was responsible for causing disturbance, if any, in the mosque, while confronted by ordinary Muslims in the mosque?

He is trying to create the impression that I was responsible for causing disturbance. So far as this allegation goes I was only responsible to the extent of writing the article which was published in Tulsa World on October 29, 2006. Any subsequent disturbance or excessive actions were initiated by Mr. Kabbani, Imam (leader) of the mosque and Mr. Houssam Elsoueissi him self. The accused me of being traitor, anti Muslim and threaten me while inciting others to rise against me on the night of November 18, 2006.
I am also surprised why office bearers of IST are so defensive about channeling funds to illegitimate organizations by them. My article does not say anything to that effect by IST mosque in Tulsa rather it was reference to the mosque in Brooklyn (Al-Farooq Mosque) New York, California, Albany New York, Bridgeview Illinois, Allentown Pennsylvania and one Texas and the result of investigation on the London bombing plot leading its trails to funneling of earth quake donations collected in Britain to the terrorists involved. I have not yet made any allegation about IST on this count yet some of their activities that I am aware of and have evidence certainly create doubts about legality of some of their activities.

Now to Mr. Mujeeb Cheema's following assertion:

Quote "I was surprised that a person who has been in US for only three years and not part of any national Muslim Organization would speak so confidently about Islamic Institutions in US" Unquote.

-    Is he implying that for a Muslim, three years is too short a period to form an opinion and then in order for him to be confident, he has to be a member of national Muslim organizations to have knowledge any illegal activities!

Mr. Cheema, I was not born three year ago. I have been a reader of Times, Newsweek and World Economist since 1980. There was, off course, a small break during 2003 and 2004, when I was in the process of settling in US. I am very well informed about what's going on around the world and in US and especially with the internet revolution since 1990's; events around the world are only a click away. The current state of affairs of the Muslims around the world is a result of the typical psychology of the leaders of so called Muslim organizations where they are barred from expressing their views, as the leaders of such organizations for the fear of being exposed keep those voices suppressed by accusing them of being un Islamic or Anti Islamic, when they speak or protest and that's what exactly happened during the shame full incidence at IST's mosque in Tulsa.

After going through the current ordeal, I feel and believe that majority of the office bearers of IST that I have dealt or experienced are unfortunately liars and I would prefer to boy-cot them and rather say my prayers on my own instead of saying it after a hypocrite like Mr. Ahmad Kabbani, the Imam of Tulsa mosque.

Thank you very much Mr. Housam and Mr. Cheema!

I, however, thank Madam Sheryl Sidiqui from the depth of my heart for her honest efforts to diffuse the situation, but her efforts seem to have faded with the comments made by the others. She has also tried to communicate wrong impression by relating my expulsion from the mosque by suggesting that it was as a result of disturbance. If at all any one was to be expelled from mosque for causing disturbance, then it should have been Mr. Ahmad Kabbani and Mr. Houssam and the group of 10 to 15 Arabs incited by them against me on the night of November 18th, 2006 and in all fairness not me.

I expect from the Tulsa World to publish my clarification in its entirety.

Thanks and regards,

Jamal Miftah
[PHONE NUMBER DELETED PENDING VERIFICATION—WW4R ]
jamalmiftah@sbcglobal.net Unquote.

- On December 6th, 2006 Madam Sheryl Siddiqui in an interview with KRMG stated that she did not believe that the trouble was started by me, which is true. She further stated that I along with others was asked to leave, which is a false statement. I was the only one person, humiliated, terrorized and virtually kicked out from the mosque by Imam of the mosque, Ahmad Kabbani and President of the Operating Council of the Mosque Houssam Elsoueissi. They were the ones who started the trouble and they were the ones who were trying to incite others to cause harm to me.

I fail to understand why the mosque leadership is not accepting the blunders it made and instead of apologizing for the incidence, are continuously lying about the situation and changing keep on changing their statement every time they face a new question or person.
They are exploiting the wit, wisdom and connections of an influential IST member to cover their misdeeds and at the same time engaged in a propaganda campaign through their well established propaganda machine to tarnish my image with in the community.

Dear Fooad, I was sponsored by sister in late 80's and landed USA in March of 2003 and immediately after my arrival here was issued a green card and by the grace of Allah, will soon be a very responsible US citizen.

I hope that the above clarifies the situation and I request and urge you to use your influence and good writing skills to persuade IST leadership to acknowledge their mistakes in a dignified manner rather then continues lies and false statements, which is aggravating the situation and making them look like a laughing stock all around the world.
Wassalam


http://ww4report.com/node/2838

Islamo-creationism infiltrates Turkey's schools

Submitted by WW4 Report on Sat, 11/25/2006 - 21:28.

Now here's an hilarious conundrum for the idiot left that cheers on reactionary Islamism as heroic anti-imperialism. Are we supposed to oppose this garbage when conservative Christians do it in the US, but support it when conservative Muslims do it in Turkey? From Reuters, Nov. 23:

ISTANBUL - A lavishly illustrated "Atlas of Creation" is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism.

Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species.

At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of United States creationists, the Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible.

But the author's name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey which has an influence U.S. creationists could only dream of.

Creationism is so widely accepted here that Turkey placed last in a recent survey of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries -- just behind the United States.

"Darwinism is dead," said Kerim Balci of the Fethullah Gulen network, a moderate Islamic movement with many publications and schools but no link to the creationists who produced the atlas.

Scientists say pious Muslims in the government, which has its roots in political Islam, are trying to push Turkish education away from its traditionally secular approach.

See our last posts on Turkey and the struggle within Islam.


http://ww4report.com/node/3110

Saudis waging oil-price war on Iran?

Submitted by WW4 Report on Wed, 01/31/2007 - 04:36.

We have already noted rampant conspiracy theories in the fluctuating oil prices. We'll here's more grist for the mill. From NBC News, Jan. 26:

Oil traders and others believe that the Saudi decision to let the price of oil tumble has more to do with Iran than economics.

Their belief has been reinforced in recent days as the Saudi oil minister has steadfastly refused calls for a special meeting of OPEC and announced that the nation is going to increase its production, which will send the price down even farther.

Saudi Oil Minister Ibrahim al-Naimi even said during a recent trip to India that oil prices are headed in the "right direction."

Not for the Iranians.

Moreover, the traders believe the Saudis are not doing this alone, that the other Sunni-dominated oil producing countries and the U.S. are working together, believing it will hurt majority-Shiite Iran economically and create a domestic crisis for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose popularity at home is on the wane. The traders also believe (with good reason) that the U.S. is trying to tighten the screws on Iran financially at the same time the Saudis are reducing the Islamic Republic's oil revenues.

For the Saudis, who fear Iran's religious, geopolitical and nuclear aspirations, the decision to lower the price of oil has a number of benefits, the biggest being to deprive Iran of hard currency. It also may create unrest in a country that is its rival on a number of levels and permits the Saudis to show the U.S. that military action may not be necessary.

The Saudis firmly and publicly deny this, saying it's all about economics. Not everyone believes them.

"If under normal circumstances, the price of oil was falling this dramatically [17% in the last few months], Saudi Arabia would have already called for a special OPEC meeting," says one oil trader. "It's got to be something else and that something else has to be Iran."

Costs higher in Iran
The trader notes that Iran, OPEC's second largest producer, is "in trouble" both in the short and long term. Iran's oil reserves, he notes, are declining more rapidly than Saudi Arabia's and are more difficult to extract. While a barrel of oil costs the Saudis $2-3 to get out of the ground and to market, that same barrel costs Iran as much as $15-18.

"Iran does have some oil that costs them $8-10 but most of it is in that upper range," he said.

Moreover, Iran has a large domestic market for oil, particularly fuel oil, which Saudi Arabia, with its smaller population and milder climate, does not.

Perhaps more important, because Iran has limited refining capability, it must import more than 40 percent its gasoline, making it the second largest importer of gasoline in the world after the United States, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency.

And since Iran sells gasoline at a rate comparable to the rest of the Gulf states — around 33 cents a gallon — it must subsidize the price on a massive scale. In fact, say traders, Iran is paying about $1.50 per gallon to subsidize domestic gasoline consumption — the world market price of gasoline minus the tiny price per gallon — a practice that is costing Iran billions of dollars annually and eating up most of the state-run oil company's discretionary funds.

Iran has other problems that make it vulnerable. Inflation is officially running at 17 percent, the highest since the revolution, and unemployment is at 11 percent. U.S. intelligence, though, believes the real figures are much higher, with inflation as high as 50 percent and joblessness much higher among the country's restless youth). In addition, capital outflow is estimated at $50 billion annually and budget deficits are a chronic problem, leading to overseas borrowing.

And none of this takes into account the possibility that the United Nations will impose harsher sanctions if Iran continues its work on nuclear weapons technology.

Political fallout
There are domestic political consequences to such a convergence, note traders and officials in both the U.S. and Iran. Ahmadinejad was elected on campaign promises that he would end corruption and better distribute the nation's oil wealth. He has been unable to do either; now, with declining oil revenues, his job will be even more difficult.

One sign of this is the street demonstrations he has faced each time his administration has so much as floated the suggestion of a small increase in the price of gasoline. To counter his inability to fulfill his domestic promises, Ahmadinejad has played the nationalism/nuclear card, accusing the West of trying to stifle Iran's legitimate energy needs.

How long and how successfully he can play these cards is debatable. Municipal elections last month unveiled a lot of dissatisfaction as opposition parties swept through municipal majlises throughout the country. His rival in the 2005 presidential election, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, has criticized him publicly for the first time, as have others close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Student demonstrations and local newspapers are becoming increasingly critical of the "dictator."

See our last posts on Iran, Saudi Arabia, petro-oligarchical rule and the global struggle for control of oil.


http://www.ww4report.com/node/2915

Saudis: We'll arm Iraq insurgents

Submitted by WW4 Report on Wed, 12/13/2006 - 23:33.

From The Telegraph, Dec. 14, emphasis added:

Saudi Arabia would respond to an American withdrawal from Iraq by funding and arming Sunni insurgents to prevent them being massacred by Shia militias, the kingdom has told the White House.

The blunt warning, which diplomatic sources said was delivered by King Abdullah to Vice President Dick Cheney in Riyadh just over a fortnight ago, raises the spectre of an Iraqi civil war triggering a conflict between Sunni and Shia states across the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia fears that the United States might take the side of the Shia majority in Iraq or abandon the country altogether, leaving Sunnis at the mercy of Shias intent on vengeance for decades of Sunni domination and oppression.

Chas Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said that King Abdullah was also concerned that the US invasion of Iraq had "consolidated an Iranian hegemony in the northern tier of the Arab world".

The Saudi warning greatly complicates President George W Bush's plan for a fresh Iraq strategy. The White House this week announced that Mr Bush would not be addressing Americans about a changed Iraq policy until the New Year after previously indicating he would give a speech before Christmas.

Any Saudi intervention in Iraq would be fraught with difficulty because foreign al-Qa'eda fighters loyal to the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden are dedicated to bringing down the House of Saud.

The abrupt resignation this week of Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, after just 15 months in the post is believed to be connected to his opposition to the suggestion that the kingdom might intervene in Iraq.

The kingdom's hardening position is a reaction to what some Bush administration officials refer to as the "80 per cent solution" in Iraq — a US state department proposal to abandon moves to woo Iraq's Sunnis, who make up 20 per cent of Iraq's population of 26 million.

Mr Bush was at the Pentagon yesterday to discuss Iraq with senior generals, many of whom favour a "surge" in troop numbers in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad.

The president responded coolly to proposals by the independent Iraq Study Group last week to begin a gradual "draw-down" of US forces. Philip Zelikow, a senior aide to Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, is said to be the author of the "80 per cent" proposal, which argues that US attempts at reconciliation between Sunnis, who dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and Shia are too ambitious.

But Miss Rice is understood to oppose the plan and it has met stiff opposition from Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Baghdad, and military commanders in Iraq.

Miss Rice instead favours the creating of a "Sunni crescent" in the Middle East based on Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf states while building links between moderate Sunni tribal and provincial leaders in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki's Shia-led government.

This would isolate Shia-dominated Iran and Sunni-dominated Syria.

Saudi Arabia is particularly concerned about the growth of Iran and its client Hizbollah, which is also supported by Syria, in Lebanon.

See our last posts on Iraq and Saudi Arabia.


http://ww4report.com/node/2890

Jihadis attack Saudi cops in Jidda

Submitted by David Bloom on Sat, 12/09/2006 - 03:02.

From Reuters, Dec. 8:

Gunmen killed two security officers when they opened fire on a guard post outside a prison in Jidda, the Interior Ministry said. Residents said terror suspects were believed to be held at the prison. Al Arabiya television quoted a security official as saying that two suspects were arrested after a car chase. The kingdom said last week that it had detained 136 suspected militants, including a would-be suicide bomber. Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the interior minister, said Monday that the militants, who included foreigners, were planning a series of suicide bombings and assassinations.

See our last post on jihadi violence in Saudi Arabia.


http://ww4report.com/node/1716

Al-Qaeda: target oil infrastructure

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 03/08/2006 - 16:30.

From AP, March 2:

Al-Qaida has encouraged its followers to attack oil pipelines and facilities in Muslim countries and tankers but not wells, according to a document posted on a Web site by the group that targeted the world's largest oil-processing complex in Saudi Arabia.

The document was at least a year old, but al-Qaida's branch in Saudi Arabia posted it earlier this week on an Islamic militant Web forum to show the religious justification for the Feb. 24 attempt to blow up the Abqaiq facility.

"Targeting oil interests is legitimate economic jihad. In this era, economic jihad is one of the best ways to spite nonbelievers," said the document, written by Abdul Aziz bin Rasheed al-Anzy, described by Saudi authorities as one of al-Qaida's key "ideologues."

Saudi police wounded and arrested al-Anzy in May 2005. The document, though not dated, was written before then. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed.

"Oil is the basis of modern industry and the backbone of industries in infidel countries. With it, America was able to impose its dominance on the world," al-Anzy purportedly wrote in the 63-page document, titled "The Ruling on Targeting Oil Interests."

"God's wisdom has decreed that the oil wealth be concentrated in the Arabian peninsula and Iraq. This, in addition to some religious reasons, is the reason for the American occupation of Saudi Arabia decades ago and its latest occupation of Iraq."

He continued: "Pipelines may be the front line in a long-term war of attrition on oil and its interests. There is a great benefit in targeting oil pipelines to spite enemies in a way not realized by other means. Pipelines are an easy target militarily. Their protection is virtually impossible because of their length."

Oil facilities and tankers also are fair targets, the document said.

"Targeting refineries and oil factories is not very different from targeting oil pipelines" as long as they are owned by the state or "a nonbeliever," he purportedly wrote.

However, oil wells should not be attacked as long as there are other industry targets.

"The harm caused by targeting oil wells in the lands of Muslims outweigh the benefits because of health and environmental damages and because this will deprive Muslims of the benefit (of the oil wells) when God allows victory," the document said.

Another reason not to attack oil wells, al-Anzy purportedly wrote, was that "the apostate governments exploit these operations to tarnish the image of jihad and mujahedeen.

"The benefits attained by targeting oil wells can be realized by targeting other oil facilities and interests."

He argued that attacks on oil facilities owned by the governments of Muslim Saudi Arabia and Iraq were legitimate, saying those governments are dominated by the United States.

"Oil interests owned by the Muslims include the oil wells that are now in the lands of Muslims such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq as well as the refineries and factories owned by the Saudi government and the oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which are all in the hands of the nonbelievers," he wrote.

"Targeting oil interests owned by nonbelievers is permissible as long as this will spite and shame them. Oil interests owned by nonbelievers include American and Western oil tankers."

The Saudi Interior Ministry said at the time of al-Anzy's arrest that he was one of the editors of online al-Qaida periodicals that call for jihad, or holy war, and incite aggression.

The Feb. 24 bombing at Abqaiq was the first attack on an oil facility in the kingdom, which has been battling al-Qaida militants since 2003 and is the birthplace of Osama bin Laden. That raised fears militants in Saudi Arabia could begin a campaign against the oil infrastructure similar to that launched by insurgents in Iraq _ a campaign that has severely hampered the rebuilding of Iraq's vital oil industry.

Suicide bombers tried to crash two explosives-laden vehicles through a gate of the sprawling facility. One collided with the gate, but guards opened fire, detonating them before they could get through, Saudi officials have said.

At least two militants and two security guards were killed.

Days afterward, Saudi security forces launched a raid in Riyadh, killing five militants _ including two who were involved in the Abqaiq attack and the leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia, according to the Interior Ministry.

The Saudi branch of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the Abqaiq attack and warned it would continue targeting oil facilities.

See our last posts on al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and the oil shock.


http://ww4report.com/node/1558

Propaganda and the cartoon controversy

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 03:35.

A round-up on the Feb. 7 BBC shows how the crisis over the anti-Islam cartoons published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten (and since reprinted in Norway and other European countries) is spinning out of control. The protests sweeping the Muslim world have now claimed at least six lives: five were killed in Afghanistan when protesters turned on the US airbase at Bagram, while a teenage boy was killed when protesters clashed with police in Somalia. In Tehran, hundreds hurled stones and fire-bombs and were forced back by police with tear gas, as Iran announced it is cutting all trade with Denmark. Protesters also attacked the Danish and Austrian embassies in Tehran, breaking windows and starting fires. Denmark is holding Iran's government responisible

Norway is demanding compensation from Syria after its embassy in Damascus was set on fire Feb. 4, a day before the Danish embassy in Beirut was sacked. Shops and businesses across Indian-administered Kashmir are closed by a general strike.

An overlooked insight into the political origins of the outburst is provided by blogger "Soj" on the Daily Kos Feb. 5:

The issue has been framed by the traditional media as "Free Expression/Speech" in contrast with "Sensitivity to Religion". Do newspapers in democratic societies have the right to publish offensive images? Well that's something definitely worth debating, but it's overlooking an important step... [T]hese cartoons were published on September 30, 2005. What the traditional media has failed to explain is why the protests are occuring now... What CNN and the other traditional media failed to tell you is that the thousand gallons of fuel added to the fire of outrage came from none other than our old pals Saudi Arabia.

While it was a minor side story in the western press, the most important of Muslim religious festivals recently took place in Saudi Arabia - called the Hajj. Every able-bodied Muslim is obligated to make a pilgrimage once in their lifetime to Mecca, which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia... [M]ost pilgrims arrive during the Muslim month known as Dhu al-Hijjah... The most recent Hajj occurred during the first half of January 2006, precisely when the "outrage" over the Danish cartoons began in earnest. There were a number of stampedes, called "tragedies" in the press, during the Hajj which killed several hundred pilgrims. I say "tragedies" in quotation marks because there have been similar "tragedies" during the Hajj and each time, the Saudi government promises to improve security and facilitation of movement to avoid these. Over 251 pilgrims were killed during the 2004 Hajj alone in the same area as the one that killed 350 pilgrims in 2006. These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.

And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media's radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.

Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.

Many European papers, including the right-wing German Springer media group, fanned the flames by reprinting the cartoons. And now you have the situation we are in today, with lots of video footage of angry crowds and the storming of embassies and calls for boycotts of Danish and European products.

"Soj" says he picked up this angle from The Religious Policeman, sarcastically-named blog of an extremely alienated Saudi ex-pat in England. "Policeman" has a color-coded alert system on his homepage poking fun at that of the Homeland Security Department. His monitors the "MOL Condition"—for "Muslim Offense Level." We are, of course, currently at MOL Condition Orange: "Highly Offended."

The endless media positing of the "free speech"/"sensitivity to religion" dichotomy is all the more tiresome because it is often presented as an either/or. It reminds us of the incessant blather during the OJ Simpson affair as to whether the episode was "about" gender or race—as if God had specially designed the debacle to teach America one, and only one, lesson.

Yes, the cartoon controversy is "about" sensitivity to religion. Yes, the cartoons are racist. An image portraying Muhammed with a bomb for a turban clearly sends the message that Islam is a religion of violence (puting aside the question of Islam's prohibition on any graphic representation of the Prophet). This is particularly sinister propaganda in the age of Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and the destruction of Fallujah.

And yes, the controversy is also "about" free speech. Yes, readers have the right to view racist images—even if only to see what the furor is all about. For precisely this purpose, Wikipedia has posted a facsimilie of the 12 cartoons (and, of course, suffered cyber-vandalism attempts on the page). Ironically, the whole affair has taken on a snowballing tendency: the more protests are held, the more global audiences will want (and have a right) to view the images—which will, in turn, fuel further protests. This is not to say that Muslims shouldn't protest. However, torching embassies and sending death threats to newspaper editors are rather poor ways of demonstrating that Islam is not a religion of violence.

Meanwhile, if you want to be regaled by endless examples of ugly Jew-hating cartoons that seem to appear regularly in the Arab press, just go the page of the Anti-Defamation League (they have a wide sampling from both 2002 and 2003). No, we don't like the ADL's politics either—that's not the point. And no, this doesn't let Jyllands-Posten off the hook. That's not the point either. The point is that if the protesters want to have real legitimacy they might consider examining the offensive images in the Muslim media as well.

Finally, we note that the whole sordid affair might be viewed with a sadly bemused irony by the Syrian film producer Moustapha Akkad, famous for his classic Al Risalah ("The Message") about the life of the Prophet Muhammed. Because the film was said to show images of an actor portraying the Prophet (it didn't), it won him death threats from Muslim fundamentalists. And because the film was released just as the 1980 Iran hostage crisis broke out, it also won him death threats from Zionists and anti-Islamic bigots. (See bios at The American Muslim and Visit Syria)

Unfortunately, Akkad cannot now warn us of the dangers of this kind of unthinking extremism. He was killed, along with his daughter, in last November's suicide attack on a wedding party at Jordan's Radisson Hotel.

See our last posts on Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the crisis of contemporary Islam.


"Cartoons reflect Europe's Islamophobia"
Submitted by David Bloom on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 11:05.
'Cartoons reflect Europe's Islamophobia'
by Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Sunday 05 February 2006 6:53 AM GMT
al-Jazeera.net

After Hamas's electoral triumph, Palestinians are in the news again, with thousands of them demonstrating against Denmark and European countries for publishing cartoons that they say depicts the Prophet Muhammad in an unfavourable light.

Last week armed Palestinian groups briefly surrounded a European Union office in Ram Allah.

Aziz Duwaik, professor of urban planning at the Najah University of Nablus, won a parliamentary seat in the recent Palestinian legislative elections.

His Change and Reform (Hamas) list won all nine contested seats in the southern West Bank town of Hebron at the district level, defeating the dominant Fatah party.

Aljazeera.net spoke with Duwaik at his Hebron home. The following are excerpts from the interview.

Aljazeera.net: Why have Palestinians been so strongly protesting against the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad?

Duwaik: These cartoons have been insulting to our religion and injurious to our feelings. They were meant to insult, provoke and offend Muslims. And they have succeeded. I call on the government of Denmark and the people of Denmark and the rest of Europe to stop insulting other people in the guise of press freedom.

We respect press freedom, but ridiculing and besmirching our religious symbols is not press freedom. There is a conspicuous malicious intent here, and people's right not to be insulted and offended overrides a Danish newspaper's right to insult the prophet of Islam. Besides, we are living in a global village now, and we should respect each other.

People in Europe value their liberties ...

And we value our religion and our prophet (peace be upon him). Press freedom is a great ideal. However, could one argue that Hitler and the Nazis were practising their freedom prior to the Holocaust? We know the Holocaust started with cartoons like this against Jews, and with books like Mein Kampf, and then came Kristallnacht ... and then we know what happened.

These cartoons are a reflection of rampant Islamophobia in Europe, which is very similar and nearly as virulent as the anti-Semitism that existed in Europe, especially in Germany, prior to World War II. This anti-Semitism eventually led to the Holocaust and the deaths of millions of human beings.

You see, when you send out thousands of hate messages against a certain ethnic or religious community every day, you make people hate these people, and when mass hatred reaches a certain point, nobody would object to the physical extermination of the hated community when it happens.

Do you fear a Holocaust against Muslims similar to what happened to the Jews?

Why not? The Holocaust was committed by human beings, not by citizens of another planet, and Germany, where Nazism thrived, was probably the most culturally advanced European country in the 1930s and 1940s.

But Europe is now democratic, unlike Nazi Germany?

Yes, but who told you those democracies don't commit genocide? America is a democracy, but we saw recently how this democracy invaded and destroyed two small and weak countries based on lies, while most Americans were duped into believing that Bush was doing the right thing.

Let's talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Do you still want to destroy Israel?

You are asking the victims of Israeli oppression, occupation and racism if they are interested in destroying their oppressors and tormentors? This is a tendentious question that should be asked to Israel, which is occupying our country and oppressing our people and carrying out ethnic cleansing against us.

In fact, all that we want is to be free. Is freedom for the Palestinian people tantamount to destruction of Israel?

Are you not are evading the question?

I am not evading anything; it is you who is evading and ignoring reality here. Just take a look and see for yourself who is destroying whom, who is stealing whose land, who is savaging and persecuting and brutalising whose people, and who is practising ethnic cleansing and slow-motion genocide against the other.

But the question remains, how can Israel possibly talk with Hamas as long as Hamas refuses to recognise Israel's right to exist?

Why on earth should we recognise Israel while Israel refuses to recognise Palestine? Indeed, we can't understand why the international community, strangely enough including some Arab leaders, is demanding that we recognise Israel but making no similar demands on Israel that it ought to recognise Palestine.

But Israel is a reality while Palestine is not.

Palestine is also a reality. There are nearly five million Palestinians living in Palestine and these people have an inherent right to self-determination. Do you think that we are children of a lesser God or something?

Israel has recognised the PLO and said it will accept President Bush's vision which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state that would live in peace alongside Israel?

The important thing is not what Israel says but what Israel does. Israel has built hundreds of Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank and transferred hundreds of thousands of its citizen to the occupied territories. This alone shows the mendacity of its claims regarding Palestinian statehood.

Are you implying that the creation of a Palestinian state is no longer possible or realistic?

Precisely. Israel has effectively killed all prospects of a genuine and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank. In a nutshell, there is no room left for a true and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank. The implanting of so many Jewish colonies has made the creation of such a state utterly impossible.

Will you be willing to negotiate with Israel?

Negotiation in itself is not the issue. The issue is our rights as human beings and as a nation. If Israel is willing and ready to come to terms with our human, civil and political rights, then we can negotiate, otherwise we will not allow ourselves to repeat the same failed process of the past 10 years all over again. We maybe weak politically, but we certainly are not stupid.

The Oslo process was not a peace process. It was a process of deception and cheating and lies which enabled Israel to truncate our homeland with settlements and separation walls and roadblocks and closed military zones. We will not deceive our people as the Palestinian Authority did for 10 years.

Will you form a government of national unity, a government of technocrats, or a Hamas government?

We certainly prefer a government of national unity which we think would best serve the interests of our people. I believe that eventually Fatah will join the government.

But Fatah leaders have ruled out joining a Hamas-led government?

These statements by some Fatah leaders are mostly post-election reflexes; we understand how our brothers in Fatah feel after their electoral defeat. But I am sure that eventually some Fatah leaders will join the government.

What would you say to Palestinian Christians, some of whom might be worried about the aftermath of Hamas' election victory?

I think if these fears are real, and I don't think they are, they must be phobic in nature. The Christians of Palestine are our brothers, compatriots and countrymen. We are languishing under the same occupation and experiencing the same pain and suffering, hence it would be preposterous to even contemplate harming or even hurting these people.

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Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons
Submitted by David Bloom on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 13:05.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5392866-119665,00.html

Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons
Gwladys Fouché
Monday February 6, 2006
MediaGuardian.co.uk

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.
The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."

The illustrator said: "I see the cartoons as an innocent joke, of the type that my Christian grandfather would enjoy."

"I showed them to a few pastors and they thought they were funny."

But the Jyllands-Posten editor in question, Mr Kaiser, said that the case was "ridiculous to bring forward now. It has nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons.

"In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That's the difference," he said.

"The illustrator thought his cartoons were funny. I did not think so. It would offend some readers, not much but some."

The decision smacks of "double-standards", said Ahmed Akkari, spokesman for the Danish-based European Committee for Prophet Honouring, the umbrella group that represents 27 Muslim organisations that are campaigning for a full apology from Jyllands-Posten.

"How can Jyllands-Posten distinguish the two cases? Surely they must understand," Mr Akkari added.

Meanwhile, the editor of a Malaysian newspaper resigned over the weekend after printing one of the Muhammad cartoons that have unleashed a storm of protest across the Islamic world.

Malaysia's Sunday Tribune, based in the remote state of Sarawak, on Borneo island, ran one of the Danish cartoons on Saturday. It is unclear which one of the 12 drawings was reprinted.

Printed on page 12 of the paper, the cartoon illustrated an article about the lack of impact of the controversy in Malaysia, a country with a majority Muslim population.

The newspaper apologised and expressed "profound regret over the unauthorised publication", in a front page statement on Sunday.

"Our internal inquiry revealed that the editor on duty, who was responsible for the same publication, had done it all alone by himself without authority in compliance with the prescribed procedures as required for such news," the statement said.

The editor, who has not been named, regretted his mistake, apologised and tendered his resignation, according to the statement.

·

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Lip service
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 18:11.
We respect press freedom, but ridiculing and besmirching our religious symbols is not press freedom. There is a conspicuous malicious intent here, and people's right not to be insulted and offended overrides a Danish newspaper's right to insult the prophet of Islam. Besides, we are living in a global village now, and we should respect each other.

In other words, you respect press freedom except when your religious symbols are ridiculed and besmirched. Like Bush respects freedom of expression unless someone is burning the American flag. This is what is known as "lip service."

And has Prof. Duwaik ever protested the Nazi-like anti-Semitic cartoons that routinely appear in the Arab press?

Just asking.

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And if there's any doubt...
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 23:28.
...that there is propagandistic manipulation of the cartoons at work here, here's something to keep in mind. From a Feb. 7 timeline on the controversy in The Guardian:

A group of ultra-conservative imams went to Saudi Arabia and Egypt with a dossier of the cartoons. According to Jyllands-Posten, they also took three unrelated images which showed Muhammad with the face of a pig, a dog sodomising a praying Muslim and Muhammad as a paedophile - it is not clear who drew these or where they came from.

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A strange new wrinkle...
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Thu, 02/09/2006 - 23:40.
...in this theater of the absurd. The New York Press, Manhattan's reactionary and relentlessly ironic "alternative" (read: yuppie) weekly, suddenly develops a conscience, we are supposed to believe. I think the better word might be "cowardice." Note that this Feb. 9 AP account appears in, of all places, India's Hindustan Times:

New York Press editorial team resigns after cartoons held

The editorial team at the New York Press resigned after the alternative weekly newspaper decided not to run the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have set off a worldwide furore.

Editor in chief Harry Siegel, managing editor Tim Marchman, arts editor Jonathan Leaf and City Hall bureau staffer Azi Paybarah resigned Tuesday. The four were among the small number of Press employees who put out the paper with free-lance contributors.

Paybarah said that the package of stories about the cartoons was put together on Monday and was read by management. On Tuesday, toward the end of the day, the editorial team was told that the cartoons would not run.

Since the package would have included criticism of other newspapers for not running the cartoons, for the Press to do the same would have made the writers appear to be hypocrites, Paybarah said. There also was concern about editorial control, he said.

"Whenever there's interference with the ability to tell a story of this magnitude, it puts in jeopardy all future stories," he said.

In a statement, New York Press General Manager Peter Polimino said the newspaper had come to the same conclusion as many other "responsible newspapers and media outlets" that have chosen to not run the cartoons.


http://ww4report.com/node/2687

Cleared of terror plot, fighting deportation —and genital mutilation

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Thu, 10/26/2006 - 21:17.

Remember the two immigrant girls who got caught up in a bogus suicide-bomber scare in the New York metro area last year? An update on one in the Oct. 26 New York Times says a great deal about the general global predicament. Adama Bah is caught between official Islamophobia in the United States and reactionary political Islam in her native Guinea—like, to a degree, all of us.

Adama Bah's schoolmates were jubilant when she returned to 10th grade at Heritage High School in Manhattan in May 2005 after six weeks in a distant juvenile detention center. Her release put to rest the federal government's unexplained assertion that Adama, a popular 16-year-old who wore jeans under her Islamic garb, was a potential suicide bomber.

But a year and a half later, with many of her friends planning proms and applying to college, Ms. Bah, now 18, was still wearing an electronic ankle bracelet and tethered to a 10 p.m. government curfew, restrictions that were conditions of her release. And she was still facing deportation to Guinea, where she has not lived since she was 2.

Today, at a closed hearing in Manhattan's federal building, she will plead for political asylum from Guinea's entrenched practice of female genital mutilation, which has marked all the women in her extended family, including her mother. An immigration judge could decide her fate on the spot.

"I'm worried about being sent back," Ms. Bah said on Tuesday in her first extended interview about the lasting consequences of a case that briefly became a cause célèbre in the debate over government vigilance and the protection of individual liberties. "I'm worried about being separated from my family. This is all I have left now — what hasn't been taken."

Officially, she and a 16-year-old Bangladeshi girl arrested in Queens the same day were detained solely because their childhood visas were no longer valid. That remains the only reason Ms. Bah is in deportation proceedings, and the sole legal basis for an order last year that released the other girl, Tashnuba Hayder, on the condition that she leave the country immediately.

Even now, Ms. Bah says she has no idea whether her slight acquaintance with Ms. Hayder was what caused agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to hold her for questioning. Though a document provided by a federal agent at the time said the F.B.I. considered the girls "an imminent threat" to national security, it provided no evidence, and officials refused to discuss the matter.

"Why me?" she asked, before her volunteer lawyers warned that a judicial order limits what she can say about the experience. "Nobody answers, why me?"

She has had little time to dwell on the question, however, because she has been struggling to replace her father as the family's primary breadwinner. Her father, a cabdriver who was arrested along with her and held on immigration violations, stayed in detention until his deportation last month. Her mother, illiterate and speaking little English, soon lost the family business, a trinket stand.

But under the strictures of the government's curfew, Ms. Bah found she could not continue her education and at the same time earn enough to feed her four younger siblings, all American citizens. Last year, she dropped out of Heritage High, where teachers had praised her intellectual curiosity and generous spirit, and took up office work at Bellevue Hospital Center for $6.75 an hour.

Her income fell far short of needs. And though a few community agencies tried to help with diapers for the youngest and trips to a food pantry, she said, the financial crisis deepened. In the end, it was an Islamic political activist in Maryland who came through, taking three of Ms. Bah's siblings into his home for the summer, and paying $500 a month toward household expenses so she could attend summer school and re-enroll in Heritage this fall.

"We were looking for other options, but nothing was working out," Ms. Bah said. She added that she knew little about the politics of the activist, Mauri Saalakhan, 53, whom she met for the first time last fall when she and her mother stopped to pray at a downtown mosque after a session with lawyers at Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, which is handling her asylum case without fee.

Her family's association with Mr. Saalakhan raised eyebrows this spring when he invited her to join spectators at the trial of a Pakistani immigrant accused — and eventually convicted — of plotting to blow up the Herald Square subway station in 2004. Ms. Bah, who was recognized by some reporters in the courtroom, said later that she went out of curiosity because people told her that the young man's case was like hers. It was not, she said, and when she realized that, she did not go back.

Mainstream Islamic groups have looked askance at her family's link to Mr. Saalakhan, an African-American who often accuses such groups of timidity, and whose criticism of government policies dates to a youthful stint with the Black Panthers. But, she said, "He's somebody who stepped up and helped" when others seemed afraid or only offered services like counseling instead of money to pay the rent.

For his part, Mr. Saalakhan says he is "a provocateur for truth and justice," who loves America and has police officers in his family. He was happy to have Ms. Bah's siblings Mohamed, 14, Mariama, 12, and Abdoul, 8, join him, his wife and teenage daughter for the summer near Washington, where he directs the Peace and Justice Foundation, "a grass-roots human rights organization."

"What our government has put this family through is unconscionable," he said.

But the volunteer lawyers who took over Ms. Bah's asylum case last fall are leery of any effort to make her emblematic of larger issues, when government lawyers are raising no national security questions.

"Right now all we have is a straightforward asylum claim," said Bryan Lonegan, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society's immigration unit who is advising Hughes, Hubbard lawyers on the case. "This is a life and death situation for her."

The petition draws a grim picture of what she would face in Guinea as a young woman with intact genitalia who opposes the painful and dangerous practice of female genital mutilation.

In Guinea, "If a girl's genitals are not mutilated, she is considered dirty, repulsive, unfit for marriage and motherhood, and devoid of morals and monetary value," an expert, Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, wrote in an affidavit. Male relatives consider themselves dishonored, and will beat her until she submits, the affidavit added. "Elder women perform the procedure on dimly lit floors, with dull kitchen knives, glass shards, scissors or razor blades," the affidavit said.

Ms. Bah's mother, Aissatou Dalanda Bah, who has separately applied for asylum, had her clitoris excised by her grandmother with a kitchen knife when she was about 10, the court papers said. Later, she watched helplessly as one of Adama's cousins bled to death from the procedure.

For Ms. Bah, who grew up absorbing American values and believing she was a legal immigrant, the prospect is terrifying and unreal. Genital mutilation "has nothing to do with my religion," she said. "You can't just circumcise a woman against her will, to take away her pleasure. That's my right as a woman." Her fear has become one more part of a day-to-day struggle to hold the family together, she said, as she repeatedly interrupted the interview to respond to her youngest brother, Saeed, 2.

"It's hard to concentrate in school," she said, explaining that she has missed many days this fall tending to the needs of her siblings, who now get public aid.

"In front of people," she added, "you have to be this happy person, even though inside, it hurts." At night, alone, she said, she allows herself to cry when she thinks about her family's collapse, and about her judge: "Somebody who's meeting me once, and making a decision for my lifetime."

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown and the struggle within Islam.


In related news...
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 10/27/2006 - 20:08.
>From the New York Times, Oct. 27:

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- The trial of an Atlanta-area father accused of circumcising his 2-year-old daughter with scissors is focusing attention on an ancient African practice that experts say is slowly becoming more common in the U.S. as immigrant communities grow.

Khalid Adem, a 30-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, is charged with aggravated battery and cruelty to children. Human rights observers said they believe this is the first criminal case in the U.S. involving the 5,000-year-old practice.

Prosecutors say Adem used scissors to remove his daughter's clitoris in their apartment in 2001. The child's mother said she did not discover it until more than a year later.

"He said he wanted to preserve her virginity," Fortunate Adem, the girl's mother, testified this week. "He said it was the will of God. I became angry in my mind. I thought he was crazy."

The girl, now 7, also testified, clutching a teddy bear and saying that her father "cut me on my private part." Adem cried loudly as his daughter left the courtroom.

Testifying on his own behalf Friday, Adem said he never circumcised his daughter or asked anyone else to do so. He said he grew up in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and considers the practice more prevalent in rural areas.

Adem, who removed a handkerchief from his pocket and cried at one point during his testimony, was asked what he thought of someone who believes in the practice. He replied: "The word I can say is 'mind in the gutter.' He is a moron."

His lawyer, Mark Hill, acknowledged that Adem's daughter had been cut. But he implied that the family of Fortunate Adem, who immigrated from South Africa when she was 6, may have had the procedure done.

The Adems divorced in 2003, and Hill suggested that the couple's daughter was encouraged to testify against her father by her mother, who has full custody.

If convicted, Adem, a clerk at a suburban Atlanta gas station, could get up to 40 years in prison.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, using figures from the 1990 Census, estimated that 168,000 girls and women in the U.S. had undergone the procedure or were at risk of being subjected to it.

The State Department estimates that up to 130 million women worldwide had undergone circumcision as of 2001. Knives, razors or even sharp stones are usually used, according to a 2001 department report. The tools often are not sterilized, and often, many girls are circumcised at the same ceremony, leading to infection.

It is unknown how many girls have died from the procedure, either during the cutting or from infections, or years later in childbirth.

Nightmares, depression, shock and feelings of betrayal are common psychological side effects, according to the federal report.

The report estimated that 73 percent of women in Ethiopia had undergone the procedure, based on a 1997 survey.

Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now, an international human rights group, said female circumcision is most widely practiced in a 28-country swath of Africa. She said more than 90 percent of women in Ethiopia are believed to have been subjected to the practice, and more in places like Egypt and Somalia.

"It is a preparation for marriage," Bien-Aime said. "If the girl is not circumcised, her chances of being married are very slim."

The practice crosses ethnic and cultural lines and is not tied to a particular religion. Activists say the practice is intended to deny women sexual pleasure. In its most extreme form, the clitoris and parts of the labia are removed and the labia that remain are stitched together.

"I had maybe read about it in Reader's Digest or some other journal, but not really considered it a possibility here," said Dr. Rose Badaruddin, the pediatrician for the Adems' daughter.

Many refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia come to Georgia through a federal refugee resettlement program.

"With immigration, the immigrants travel with their traditions," Bien-Aime said. "Female genital mutilation is not an exception."

Federal law specifically bans the practice, but many states do not have a law addressing it. Georgia lawmakers, with the support of Fortunate Adem, passed an anti-mutilation law last year. Khalid Adem is not being tried under that law, since it did not exist when his daughter's cutting allegedly happened.


http://ww4report.com/node/2632

"Free Muslims" condemn cab drivers' boycott of tipsy passengers

Submitted by WW4 Report on Sun, 10/15/2006 - 01:37.

From the Free Muslims Coalition, Oct. 12:

Free Muslims Condemn Muslim Cab Drivers who Refuse to Pick Up Alcohol Carrying Passengers

The Free Muslims Coalition, a national Muslims organization, condemns Muslim cab drivers who refuse to pick up passengers who carry alcoholic beverages.

Recently a dispute arose over a large number of Somali taxi cabdrivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport who are refusing to take passengers who carry wine or alcoholic beverages. These drivers are claiming that Islam prohibits them from driving passengers with alcohol. The cab drivers also asked dispatchers not to call them to pick up passengers heading to liquor stores and bars.

The drivers, whose beliefs are not shared by most Muslims, say the airport should accommodate a deeply held religious tenet. Others say the Muslims are discriminating against people of other faiths and attempting to impose Islamic law on non-Muslims.

For two years the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which regulates taxi service at the airport, had been in discussions with cab drivers about how to accommodate them. The commission said it had agreed to let cabbies use lights on top of the cabs to identify drivers who won't transport alcohol so airport employees could direct passengers with alcohol to a willing driver.

However, the proposal created a public backlash by non-Muslims and Muslims who don't agree with the cab drivers. Consequently, the commission rejected the proposal. That means those drivers who will not transport alcohol must go to the back of the taxi line which can force a cabbie to wait another three hours for a fare.

Most Muslims don't agree that cab drivers are prohibited from transporting alcohol. Islam merely prohibits Muslims from drinking alcohol and those drivers are seeking to impose their religious values on others. The Free Muslims Coalition is disgusted by their behavior.

When the cab drivers chose to drive a cab they interred into an agreement to perform a public service that is essential to the economy of any city. They have no right to refuse a fare because the passenger is holding a bottle of wine or other spirits.

The Free Muslims Coalition believes that the cab drivers should be banned all together from picking up passengers at the airport and we would even support the cancellation of their taxi permits.

These Somali drivers are choosing to impose a minority view in Islam on the general population and this is simply unacceptable.

See our last post on the struggle within Islam.


A plague on all their houses

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sun, 10/15/2006 - 02:04.

Which is more appalling: the seemingly endless upsurge of intolerant Muslim puritanism, or the rush by right-wing Islamophobes to exploit it for their own propaganda? It seems they are throwing a few purely fictional instances into the mix for good measure--such as the supposed jihadist outrage at New York's new "Apple Cube" (which happens to be really fucking ugly). From the Apple Gazette (arguably not the most objective source--the "Apple" in question is the computer, not the Big Apple):

The website that originally "cited" the story about Muslims raging over the Apple Cube is the Middle East Media Research Institute, an oft-criticized group that supposedly translates Arabic media into english. Now MEMRI recently put out a republished/translated statement claiming that somebody in the Muslim community was offended by the Apple's NYC Cube store, supposedly because it looks like the Ka'ba (the House of Abraham). Sites like ZDNet and TUAW soon followed suit, spreading the story–particularly in the Apple user community–that the Muslim community was offended by Apple's NYC cube.

Apple lovers and armchair social scientists alike were quick to the draw with their criticisms of the Muslims who were allegedly offended by the Cube. The "issue" has just started an all-out flamewar.

What really makes me angry is that under the guise of news about Apple (which we all love), a blatant flat-out lie was perpetuated. The reality of the matter was that it was a random post on a random website, without a single supporting name or organization to reflect the "muslim community's outrage." The MEMRI article did not even link to, nor identify, the Arabic news source it was supposed to be citing or translating!

If you look again into MEMRI's background, the organization seems to be a source not known for being unbiased.

Now I wouldn't be one to pass judgement quickly, but given these irregularities, I would tend to think that this is plain propaganda aimed at discrediting the Muslim community.

What's even worse is that some people have exploited our passion for Apple for political purposes. There is no place for that crap.

hmmmmm....
Submitted by David Bloom on Thu, 10/19/2006 - 08:01.
it seems MEMRI has pulled the article

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A plague on all their houses
Submitted by Steeley (not verified) on Sat, 10/28/2006 - 20:33.
"Which is more appalling: the seemingly endless upsurge of intolerant Muslim puritanism, or the rush by right-wing Islamophobes to exploit it for their own propaganda?"

How about not doing anything 'cept bitching until "intolerant Muslim puritanism", in the name of embracing multiculturalism, becomes the law of the land? Transporting alcohol against someone's religion? Ban it so that all religions can be cab and bus drivers without conflict. Bare women's faces in public offends? All women must wear veils so that none among us might be offended.

Don't complain about those who oppose unless you are willing to embrace the wishes of those being opposed.

On the battlefiled, the middle-ground is known as no-man's land. Squat there at your own peril.


http://ww4report.com/node/2606

The hijab: never voluntary

Submitted by WW4 Report on Sat, 10/07/2006 - 18:52.

Houzan Mahmoud, UK-based overseas chair of the Iraq Freedom Congress, writes for The Guardian's Comment is Free blog, Oct. 7:

It's not a matter of choice
More than ever, women are claiming that wearing the veil, burqa or niqab is their own decision. I totally reject this view.

The veil is not merely a piece of "cloth", but a sign of the oppression of women, control over their sexuality, submissiveness to the will of God or a man. The veil is a banner of political Islam used, to segregate women born by historical accident in the so-called "Islamic World" from other women in the rest of the world.

I could never have imagined having anything in common with Jack Straw, but I find myself in agreement with him about how it feels talking to a woman covered up in hijab or the "niqab" that covers women fully.

However, I think he has discovered this rather late; in fact, the whole British government is late in drawing attention to this growing phenomenon. Women covering up their entire bodies, young boys becoming suicide bombers and the ever growing demands of religious organisations in the UK to implement Islamic sharia law when it comes to "Muslim family affairs".

Jack Straw's government has always been proud of its "multicultural society", in which all kinds of backward and anti-human cultures are respected and given space by the state. Women from an Islamic background will be among the most oppressed.

Celebrating "different cultures" the existence of mosques and religious schools is a place for brainwashing the young people with Islamic values which can only produce political Islamists.

A ghettoised lifestyle, isolated communities, lack of integration and institutionalised racism are all part and parcel of this growing number of brain-washed young generation of girls and boys defining themselves by their religious identity.

Political Islamists are seeking to unify youth from a variety of backgrounds around the project of a "jihad" under which the whole world will be dominated and ruled according to the "ethics" of Sharia law.

More than ever, women are claiming that wearing the veil, burqa or niqab is their own decision. I totally reject this view. Not wearing the veil can create harsh problems for women - if it doesn't cost them their life, as in Iraq, it can cost them long-term isolation from their community, with those considered "loose women" having less chance of getting a "decent marriage", and less chance of going out and entering education. When a family sees this as a threat to their "honour", it can have disastrous consequences. The policies of cultural relativism have claimed the lives of many women in the UK, with their killers not properly brought to justice because "culture" and "religion" are taken into account by the courts. Women's rights are universal. A criminal must be sentenced according to the law, not on religious and cultural grounds.

Imagine if a girl has been told to wear the veil from as early as four or five years old, where is the choice in this? If you are born and open your eyes in an environment that imposes Islamic values, norms and lifestyles, alienated from the rest of society, how easy is it to make another choice? I understand why girls would veil, but I cannot see it as anything other than a solitary confinement prison.

The government's endless funding to promote religious activities and run religious schools must be ended. We need a secular education system: universal standards must be applied to all schools and educational institutions. I want my daughter to learn about the wealth of human art, literature, music and science, not religion and the joys of "different religious cultures". Children know no colour, race or religious segregation; they are all friends and part of the same community - until parents impose their beliefs on them.

The veil should be banned for under-aged girls and children must be protected from abusive - yes, that is right, abusive - parents who seek to impose their religion on them.

Having a society free from politicised religion is the precondition for women's freedom and progress. In the west where religion has been pushed back and separated from the state, we see women are more free and equal to men as compared to the countries where Islam is dominant.

In Iraq we have witnessed widespread terror and violence against women who refuse to wear the veil. In Iraq the veil is being imposed at gunpoint - the only choice women are offered is to obey.

In Iran women are lashed or sometimes stoned to death for expressing their simple right to exercise human desires. The Islamic Republic has been repressing women for almost three decades now. Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia: we witness how women's oppression and terror against women is top priority for every Islamic regime, whatever its stripe.

Therefore: the veil is not merely a piece of cloth, but a political statement, the banner of a political movement, political Islam, in the Middle East, Europe and worldwide. We must take a firm stand against this by demanding secular laws, secular education and equality for all.

Religion must be privatised! Religion is a personal matter and should not be brought into everyday life. Criticising all religions is our right; freedom of expression should not be compromised.

See our last posts on Iraq's civil resistance, the struggle within Islam, Islam in the UK, and other feminist criticism of the left's embrace of Islamism.


I think it would be wise for
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 10/29/2006 - 23:39.
I think it would be wise for you to do some research next time about your topic before actually writing the article, because obviously you know nothing about the religion, or muslim women. Firstly, its not true that women who do not wear hijab are isolated from their societies. In fact it is very common that women do not wear them in their respective countries. In your article , you only refer to two of the most extreme countries, not taking into account the various Muslim countries that exist. And I know you dont realize this, but they arent all the same. Also, take into account that this "evil" religion, is the fastest growing in the world, and that all world religions have been responsible for great atrocities, christianity as much as Islam. Your article does nothing but promote hate. You are free to say it, just like the KKK is free to say hateful things about blacks and jews, and muslims for that matter, but you have committed the crime of generalizing an entire religious population, that really you dont seem to know anything about. Your hate is obvious in your writing, and it is hate that promotes violence, not religion.

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Forgive me....
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 11/01/2006 - 00:12.
If I trust Houzan Mahmoud more than I trust you. She is a woman who grew up in a conservative Islamic environment. Are you? I am interested in promoting neither violence nor religion, thank you.

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http://ww4report.com/node/2557

Islamic Society of North America accuses Pope of poor scholarship

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 09/27/2006 - 03:25.

In a Sept. 18 statement on the Papal controversy, the Islamic Society of North America—which recently made headlines by electing a woman (and Canadian ex-Catholic), Ingrid Mattson, as president (LAT, Sept. 21)—calls out His Holiness on some shabby scholarship.

PLAINFIELD, IN – In a major speech delivered at the University of Regensburg, Germany last Tuesday, September 12 , Roman Catholic Pope Benedict deeply offended Muslims by citing demeaning remarks about the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and by asserting incorrect statements about Islam. However, ISNA welcomes the Pope's recent remarks stating that he did not mean to offend Muslims by his September 12 speech. The Islamic Society of North America appreciates the Pope's apology as an indication of a sincere desire for respective dialogue. In addition, ISNA believes it is important to correct the erroneous information that Pope Benedict cited regarding Muslims and Islam.

In his lecture, Benedict cites medieval Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus who wrote, "Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new, and there you will find only evil and inhuman [sic], such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." In his interpretation of Islam, Pope Benedict relied upon the work of German Catholic writer, Adel Theodore Khoury, to declare that Islam is a religion that encourages conversion by force and rejects the use of reason in understanding scripture. Citing Khoury's work, Benedict declared that the Qur'anic statement, "There is no compulsion in religion" is an early verse revealed "when Mohammad was powerless and under threat."

It is unfortunate that Benedict relied on Khoury's error-ridden "scholarship" to form his understanding of Islam. In fact, the clear and emphatic Qur'anic statement, "There is no compulsion in religion" was revealed during the Medinan period, after the Muslims had established a secure city-state. Freedom of religion remained a bed-rock principle of Islamic jurisprudence. It is true that some Muslim rulers deviated from Qur'anic principles by using political or military power to oppress other religious communities. However, such actions were exceptional, which is why the oldest and most diverse Christian and Jewish communities were found in Muslim lands up to the modern period.

It is a historical fact, on the other hand, Catholic-ruled countries, like Spain, were forcibly "cleansed" of non-Catholics, and that for five centuries the Inquisition ensured that Muslims, Jews and non-Catholic Christians had no refuge in Catholic lands. To its credit, the Catholic Church has previously acknowledged and apologized for this unfortunate historical reality. Under Pope John Paul II, Catholics and Muslims together made great strides towards a new, more positive engagement between these two great world religions. Although both Muslims and Catholics need to acknowledge and reject historical and contemporary injustices done in the names of their great faiths, we simply cannot afford to return to medieval polemics. Our faith communities demand more wisdom from us. More importantly, God, under whose judgment we all fall, expects nothing less than that.

We reject and decry all violence committed by Muslims against Christian and Catholic individuals and institutions. Such violence is sinful and unlawful. We urge Muslim authorities to increase their protection of Christians and their houses of worship, and to prosecute anyone who commits such acts of violence.

Muslim Americans welcome the gestures of friendship and understanding that have been made by their Catholic friends and colleagues, and express our sincere interest in continuing our dialogue with the Catholic Church to build the bridges of understanding between us.

See our last posts on Islamophobia and the papal affair and the struggle within Islam.


Khoury

Submitted by Bartholomew (not verified) on Wed, 09/27/2006 - 08:58.

This isn't quite fair on Khoury: Ratzinger cites Khoury's translation of the dialogue, then mentions the Koranic verse and adds "According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period". So Khoury isn't actually given as the source for the historical context of the sura.

The Ratzinger Fanclub forum features the translation of an interview with Khoury; one has to laugh:

Did you ever expect that your book would cause such an uproar?
An edition of Byzantine sources in French that appeared in 1966? Please.


http://ww4report.com/node/2432

Berlin mosques commemorate 9-11

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 09/06/2006 - 03:50.

From DPA, Sept. 5:

BERLIN - At 40 Berlin mosques, imams are to lead prayers this Friday for the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Guenter Piening, the state of Berlin's commissioner for ethnic minorities, said Tuesday there had never been a joint condemnation of terrorism on this scale before in the mosques of Germany's biggest city and capital.

The prayers "for peace and responsibility" will remember about 3,000 people killed in the suicide plane attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the four plane crashes and are expected to be attended by some 10,000 Muslims.

Berlin not only has a sizeable ethnic Turkish community, but also many Arab residents. Six mosques will also invite non-Muslims to pray.

Piening said the project, coordinated by the city Islamic Forum, was the biggest interfaith gesture ever by city mosques.

Groups taking part comprise the city Islamic Federation, Turkish-based group DITIB, the IBMUS group of Berlin Muslims, the VIKZ federation of Islamic culturem and Ahmadiyya Muslims.

Germany's Muslims seem to have more sense than certain academics within the United States.

See our last post on the struggle within Islam.


http://ww4report.com/node/2401

Bush sees "Islamic fascism"; world misses irony

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 08/30/2006 - 19:42.

The below Aug. 30 AP account notes the growing use of the term "Islamic fascism" by the Bush administration and its amen chorus in recent days. The response has been predictable in the extreme, with lefties (e.g. The Huffington Post) calling it a "false historical analogy", and righties (e.g. the neo-interventionist William Shawcross on the website of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council) insisting "Yes, the Problem is 'Islamic Fascism'." Both, we fear, are missing the point. We've noted before the western left's unseemly illusions about Islamic extremism, and we don't think the term "Islamic fascism" is necessarily all that inaccurate. We just think it is hilariously ironic coming from Bush.

Republicans Target "Islamic Fascism"
WASHINGTON — President Bush in recent days has recast the global war on terror into a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wis. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in a tough re-election fight, drew parallels on Monday between World War II and the current war against "Islamic fascism," saying they both require fighting a common foe in multiple countries. It's a phrase Santorum has been using for months.

And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday took it a step further in a speech to an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, accusing critics of the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism."

White House aides and outside Republican strategists said the new description is an attempt to more clearly identify the ideology that motivates many organized terrorist groups, representing a shift in emphasis from the general to the specific.

The White House on Wednesday announced Bush would elaborate on this theme in a series of speeches beginning Thursday at the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City and running through his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19.

"The key is that all of this violence and all of the threats are part of one single ideological struggle, a struggle between the forces of freedom and moderation, and the forces of tyranny and extremism," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One.

Depicting the struggle as one against Islamic fascists is "an appropriate definition of the war that we're in," said GOP pollster Ed Goeas. "I think it's effective in that it definitively defines the enemy in a way that we can't because they're not in uniforms."

But Muslim groups have cried foul. Bush's use of the phrase "contributes to a rising level of hostility to Islam and the American-Muslim community," complained Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

[...]

The tactic recalled the first President Bush's 1990 likening of Iraq's Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler.

"I caught hell on this comparison of Saddam to Hitler, with critics accusing me of personalizing the crisis, but I still feel it was an appropriate one," the elder Bush later wrote in a memoir.

It was one of the few times the younger Bush has followed his father's path on Iraq.

[...]

Stephen J. Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University, suggested White House strategists "probably had a focus group and they found the word `fascist.'

"Most people are against fascists of whatever form. By definition, fascists are bad. If you're going to demonize, you might as well use the toughest words you can," Wayne said.

After all, the hard-line Iranian newspaper Jomhuri Eskami did just that in an editorial last week blasting Bush's "Islamic fascism" phrase. It called Bush a "21st century Hitler" and British Prime Minister Tony Blair a "21st century Mussolini."

If you ask us, while neither Bush nor Ahmadinejad are precisely (or "classically") fascist, they are both way too close for comfort. On both sides, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

And while we really hate to vindicate Poppy Bush, we have pointed out before that Saddam himself recently compared himself to Mussolini, if not Hitler.

Inconvenient to anti-war propaganda? Don't blame us.

See our last posts on politics of the GWOT and the struggle within Islam.


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Italy: xenophobes make hay from (apparent) honor killing

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Mon, 08/28/2006 - 17:21.

As we noted in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Europe's xenophobe right is appropriating the causes of feminism and secularism. Through the proverbial looking glass. From the New York Times, Aug. 24 (emphasis added):

BRESCIA — A series of unrelated killings here this month has pushed this elegant city to the center of a national debate on the challenges of immigration and cultural integration.

The trigger was the gruesome killing on Aug. 11 of Hina Saleem, a 20-year-old woman whose family moved here from Pakistan and who was found buried, with her throat slit, in the garden of her family home in a small town about 12 miles north of Brescia.

The tragedy ballooned into a cause célèbre after media reports alleged that Ms. Saleem had been killed because her traditionalist Muslim father objected to her Western lifestyle. She smoked and wore revealing, low-slung jeans like many young women. News reports said she had been living with an Italian man. Her body was found after her boyfriend reported her missing.

Her father and uncle have been arrested in the case. [A brother-in-law turned himself in on Thursday, and an unidentified fourth man, also of Pakistani descent, was arrested Friday and accused in the case, the ANSA news agency reported.]

"She was always happy," said Multani Gurmail, her boss at the Antica India restaurant, where she had worked as a waitress. "I knew she had some problems. I didn't realize how bad they were."

The killing, and a series of other unrelated slayings involving immigrants that followed, has stirred anti-immigrant statements from some residents and groups. It also has prompted front-page debate about what can happen when conservative beliefs collide with the mores of more permissive societies, and has highlighted the generation gap between parents who have immigrated to Italy from countries with conservative social and religious traditions and their Westernized children.

Muslim leaders, who have condemned the killing, say they resent accusations that Ms. Saleem was murdered as a result of her family's religious beliefs.

"For us, murder is a sin, not only a crime," said Mahmood Tariq, the director of the Muhammadiah Islamic Cultural Association in Brescia. "This is an exceptional case," he added, describing the murder as a question of tension between members of the Saleem family. "Cases like this happen in all societies."

[On Thursday, Ms. Saleem's mother, Bushra Bakum, dismissed notions that religion had played a role in the killing. She told reporters that Ms. Saleem had been a constant worry to her parents.

"She stayed out without explanation, we never knew where she was and with whom, she was simply a daughter who did not obey," Ms. Bakum said. She also said she would not forgive her husband. "It's his fault and no one else's."]

A few days after Ms. Saleem's body was found, a young Italian woman was found dead in a Brescia church. A Sri Lankan immigrant who assisted the priest has been arrested in the case.

On Aug. 21, an immigrant from Morocco was arrested and charged with killing a notable painter here, and this week a Pakistani man was knifed to death during what appears to have been a robbery. It is still unclear whether the assailants were immigrants.

The result has been a round of anti-immigrant talk. A lawmaker from the anti-immigration Northern League, Angelo Alessandri, told ANSA that immigration to Italy should be limited to people who "are socially, culturally and religiously compatible with our way of life and legislation." Some residents of this wealthy provincial capital east of Milan, in one of Italy's most industrialized areas, have been venting their anger to the news media.

"The mayor tells us we have to live with them, but the immigrants don't reciprocate, and this isn't their city," said Gloria Gatta, the owner of a cafe on the Via San Faustino, a street lined with shops catering to the neighborhood's growing African and Asian population.

Things in Brescia have gotten so bad, she said, that "people are afraid to go out after dark."

Comments like these prompted the mayor's office to issue a statement addressing the recent deaths and pledging increased security measures.

Citing Ms. Saleem's case, the statement said the city would work to ensure that women's rights were respected "against any tribal or fundamentalist point of view."

The anger has Brescia's residents of Pakistani descent worried.

"People used to be more tolerant; they used to be less allergic to seeing someone from a different race," said Sajid Shah, the founder of the Muhammadiah association, which is building in Brescia what will be the second-biggest mosque in Italy.

When a foreigner does something, the reaction is immediate, Mr. Shah said, adding that since the wave of crime he has felt as though he were under surveillance.

"Now people don't want to see us outside the factory," he said bitterly. "They just want us to produce."

Most Pakistani immigrants to the area came for similar reasons. Mohammed Saleem, Hina's father, moved to Italy in 1989 to work in a factory. He shared a cramped apartment to save money to send home. Then, as his economic situation improved, he brought his family over from Pakistan. Ms. Saleem reportedly came over in 1999.

Mr. Saleem's lawyer, Alberto Bordone, said that Mr. Saleem was physically fine after 10 days in prison, but that psychologically his state was worsening. Under Italian judicial procedures, he has not yet entered a plea.

Several Pakistani leaders here said it was their responsibility to try to soothe the tensions that led to the case, in particular because there was a real chance that the strains could re-emerge.

According to the Catholic charity Caritas, there are about 110,000 immigrants among the 1.1 million people living in the province of Brescia. Pakistani leaders estimate there are about 10,000 people of Pakistani origin in the area.

"This is the story of a social problem between two cultures within the same family," said sociologist Farhat Hussain Naqvi, who heads the local chapter of the Pakistani Welfare Club, explaining that many of his fellow Pakistanis who immigrated here in the 1990's came from small towns and were not well-educated. Most still do not speak much Italian. "They have a closed mentality," he said.

Their children, on the other hand, grew up going to Italian schools and having Italian friends. More problems were imminent, he said, because "most are just becoming teenagers now," adding that there is a need to help Pakistanis deal with children they might not understand or relate to. The problem within the Saleem family "was not something that happened overnight," he said.

"We don't live in Pakistan, we live in Italy, and it's about finding a middle way," Mr. Naqvi said. It was, above all, a question of accepting reality and opening a dialogue. "Maybe it will change something. Maybe the situation will improve."

The Italian press is even clearer on how the xenophobe right is making hay of these atrocities. From AGI, Aug. 26:

LEGA NORD: LEFT TO BLAME FOR SECURITY EMERGENCY IN BRESCIA
Brescia, Aug. 26 - "The immigration issue must be dealt with by helping foreigners in their countries. The entrances must be controlled and proportional to the capacity to receive them and the jobs available in a territory." This was stated during a press conference by the provincial citizen secretaries of Lega Nord (Northern League) in Brescia, Stefano Borghesi e Fabio Rolfi, who took advantage of the recent bloody incidents to bring Brescia's "security emergency" to the forefront. According to the Lega Nord members, the Left is to blame both on a national and local level because they favour an "indiscriminate entrance policy without knowing if these people will have a home, a job, a normal life." According to Rolfi and Borghesi this is a "goody-goody behaviour that does not resolve anything." "The government proposes the immigrants to be reunited with their relatives in Italy and to lower the 5 year requirement for citizenship, to then grant them the voting right." This is a move that the Northern League members consider a system "to guarantee the Left an electoral base." The Northern League repeats its strong opposition. Tomorrow a national demonstration will be held in Val Brembana, for which Umberto Bossi will participate. If the bill on citizenship passes, then we will go to the squares and gather signatures." According to Rolfi, "Castelli hit the nail on the head: this political coalition that governs Brescia has enormous responsibilities for the climate of insecurity perceived by the people from Brescia for many years. Here security policies are inexistent." According to the Northern League's citizen secretary, "immigrant monetary assistance is carried out with taxpayers' money. In the city there are well over 26,000 immigrants. The message that this gives to foreigners is that in Italy you can do anything. All you have to do is go look at what happens in some neighbourhoods where there is no social cohesion and there is delinquency. And not only, in 10 years the administration has not hired a local police officer, instead it preferred to increase speed limit checks in order to torment drivers." The Northern League members continued, all this is a sign of "carelessness and inefficiency." The shared request is: "The local police must change their functions and must commit themselves more to patrolling the area. A patrolling that even if decentralized has been up to now blocked by the night closure of police stations." The control of immigration, according to the Northern League members, should at least go through a selective entrance only for those cultures and religions that are compatible with ours."

See our last posts on Italy and the struggle within Islam.


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India: Muslim moderates declare jihad on terrorism

Submitted by WW4 Report on Mon, 08/21/2006 - 20:55.

India's pro-secular website "Citizens for Justice and Peace" carries the following story on a July 27 fatwa jointly issued by a Muslim mufti (revered scholar) and a Hindu mahant (temple leader) in response to the Mumbai bombings.

Chief Mufti issues fatwa against terrorism
A mahant from Varanasi and a mufti from Punjab came together on a common platform in Mumbai on Thursday to jointly declare a holy war (jihad) against their respective co-religionists who preach hatred and perpetrate violence against innocent citizens.

Issuing a fatwa against terror, the mufti saheb proclaimed that a religion that expressly prohibits any targeting of unarmed civilians and others places of worship can never, never sanction terrorist activities. "In Islam, as in every other civilised social order, acts of terror are nothing but heinous and despicable crimes" declared the mufti. Asserting that there was "a world of a difference between an Islamic jihad and terrorism" the fatwa pointed out that "a jihad secures for people their basic rights while terrorism snatches away these very rights and freedoms from them."

"Hindu dharam mein ghridaan aur krodh ke liye koi sthan nahin ho sakti"" ("There can be no place for hatred and rage in Hinduism") declared the mahant. In an obvious reference to Hindutva's current malicious propaganda, "Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims", the mahant recited shlokas from the Ramayana to point out that Ravana was "the original terrorist". He warned Hindus not to fall prey to the politics of hatred and violence.

The Mahant was no ordinary mortal and the Mufti was no small fry either.

Dr. Vir Bhadra Mishra is the Mahant of the ancient Sankat Mochan Mandir at Varanasi that was established by none less than Tulsidas and which was targeted by terrorists on March 7 this year. The attack was clearly meant to trigger a communal bloodbath. But if Varanasi responded with an exemplary show of inter-community solidarity and amity, the principal credit for it goes to Mahant Mishra. At the meeting he recounted how he managed to frustrate the designs of Hindu communal forces from making political capital out of a human calamity.

Mahantji and the Mufti Saheb were in Mumbai at the invitation of Citizens for Justice and Peace for a public meeting ("Citizens Against Terror") it had organised along with Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD) and some others to felicitate Mumbaikars who went out of their way to the rescue and relief of the victims of the July 11 serial blasts, without consideration of caste or creed.

"Main garv se kahta hoon ki mere area (Mira Road) mein jin logon ne zakhmiyon ko mere aspatal tak laya sab Musalmaan the," ("I say with pride that those who rushed to help and brought the injured to our hospital were also Muslims"), Raghuvanshi told the gathering. Speaking in chaste Marathi, Pramod Patil narrated how he and his colleagues pushed hard before victim Habib Ahmed's name got registered among those injured in the blasts. Each one of the "heroes" who recounted their experience in rescuing and rushing the injured and the deceased to the hospitals in different areas expressed their determination stay united and thus defeat the prime objective of the perpetrators of terror: creating a communal divide.

Addressing the gathering, Teesta Setalvad, secretary CJP, said her commitment was relief, succour and justice to the victims of violence, be they the victims of "mob terror" as in case of the Gujarat genocide or "bomb terror" as in case of Mumbai, Varanasi, J&K and elsewhere. English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati translations of the mufti saheb's fatwa organised by the CJP was distributed among the large gathering. CJP plans to translate the fatwa in other Indian languages soon for wide circulation.

Poet, lyricist Javed Akhtar who excelled himself as compere of the meeting recited his evocative poem against terrorism written after the Mumbai blasts. The meeting was also addressed by Kamal Farooqui, spokesperson All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Rahul Bose, actor, Kumar Ketkar, editor Marathi daily, Loksatta and columnist Hasan Kamaal.

Text of the fatwa:

Fatwa on Terrorism issued by Mufti Fuzail-ur-Rahman Hilal Usmani

(Pronounced in person at a Public Meeting, "Citizens Against Terror," organized by Citizens for Justice and Peace, Muslims for Secular Democracy and others in Mumbai on July 27, 2006).

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

There is a world of a difference between an Islamic Jihad and terrorism. In Islam, a Jihad is that ultimate stage when, struggling in the path of Allah in pursuit of a noble and sacred task, a Momin [believer] stakes his very life. He does this to break the shackles of slavery so that human beings can be free, so that they enjoy the freedom of expression, the freedom of conscience and all those other fundamental rights that the Almighty in his Grace and Mercifulness has with a special purpose willed for all mankind. Jihad in Islam is a temporary, reformative instrument intended to establish enduring peace and social security.

In total contrast to this, terrorism is aimed at terrorizing people, at creating a climate of terror that snatches away from people their right to life and the right to move around freely.

In other words,

A jihad secures for people their basic rights while terrorism snatches away these very rights and freedoms from them.

Every human life is precious in Islam. The killing of even one innocent person is akin to the massacre of all mankind. Terrorism on the other hand, plays with the lives of innocent people who have done no wrong. In Islam, as in any other civilized social order, acts of terror are nothing but heinous and despicable crimes.

It is oft said that everything is permitted in love and war. But Islam strictly prohibits transgressing the boundaries of human decency even in situations of war. By establishing a code to be followed in battle, Islam has shown to the world that a war must be seen as nothing more than an unavoidable surgical operation for a patient in dire need. That is why, even during war, Islam expressly forbids the targeting of others places of worship, of innocent civilian population, or of hospitals. The destruction of standing crops, the chopping of trees, the poisoning of water sources or of the atmosphere is also strictly prohibited.

Islam aims to create a just and peaceful social order so that the spring sources of terrorism may be capped. It is the duty of compassionate people all over the world to come forward and help create a fair and just social order so that mankind is freed from the curse of terrorism.

Mufti Fuzail-ur-Rahman Hilal Usmani
(Darus Salam Islamic Center Maler Kotla Punjab).

Darul Uloom, Deoband; Chief Mufti, Punjab.
Founding Member and Member, Executive Committee, All India Muslim Personal Law Board; Member, Executive Committee, All India Muslim Majlis Mashawarat. Member, All India Milli Council; Member, Court, Aligarh Muslim University.

For further information please contact:

javedanand@gmail.com or teestateesta@gmail.com.

See our last posts on the Mumbai terror and the struggle within Islam.


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Irshad Manji's myopia

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sat, 08/19/2006 - 03:13.

Irshad Manji, the notorious "Muslim Refusenik" who supposedly advocates a principled, pluralist and secular Islam, has an op-ed in the Aug. 16 New York Times—where she once again betrays her disturbing flirtation with the very imperialism that fuels the fundamentalist backlash. The maddening thing about her is that she makes some vital points—only to blow her own credibility with obvious double standards. She is correct to call out the silence of (most) Islamic leaders on the Darfur genocide and the mutual Sunni-Shia carnage in Pakistan. But then she blows it by repeating the Dick Cheney line that terrorist attacks cannot be motivated by "foreign policy grievances" because the US hadn't invaded Iraq when 9-11 happened. How can she say this with a straight face while accusing others of "myopia"? There were "foreign policy grievances" galore in September 2001. The two al-Qaeda communiques in the immediate aftermath of the attacks (Oct. 7, 2001, Oct. 9, 2001) both invoked the US troop presence in Saudi Arabia, the Iraq sanctions and Washington's support of Israel. Just because the US has made the situation much worse in the intervening years doesn't mean that there were no "foreign policy grievances" behind 9-11! And however criminal al-Qaeda's tactics and however totalitarian its ideology, these grievances are legitimate—a reality we ignore to our own peril. Indeed, it smells like Manji fails to invoke the Sunni-Shia carnage in Iraq (which is even worse than in Pakistan), because there it is so evidently the fruit of Bush's blundering military adventure...

Muslim Myopia

by Irshad Manji

LAST week, the luminaries of the British Muslim mainstream — lobbyists, lords and members of Parliament — published an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair, telling him that the "debacle" of both Iraq and Lebanon provides "ammunition to extremists who threaten us all." In increasingly antiwar America, a similar argument is gaining traction: The United States brutalizes Muslims, which in turn foments Islamist terror.

But violent jihadists have rarely needed foreign policy grievances to justify their hot heads. There was no equivalent to the Iraq debacle in 1993, when Islamists first tried to blow up the World Trade Center, or in 2000, when they attacked the American destroyer Cole. Indeed, that assault took place after United States-led military intervention saved thousands of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.

If Islamists cared about changing Iraq policy, they would not have bothered to abduct two journalists from France — probably the most antiwar, anti-Bush nation in the West. Even overt solidarity with Iraqi suffering did not prevent Margaret Hassan, who ran a world-renowned relief agency in Baghdad, from being executed by insurgents.

Meanwhile, at least as many Muslims are dying at the hands of other Muslims as under the boots of any foreign imperial power. In Sudan, black Muslims are starved, raped, enslaved and slaughtered by Arab militias, with the consent of an Islamic government. Where is the "official" Muslim fury against that genocide? Do Muslim lives count only when snuffed out by non-Muslims? If not, then here is an idea for Muslim representatives in the West: Go ahead and lecture the politicians that their foreign policies give succor to radicals. At the same time, however, challenge the educated and angry young Muslims to hold their own accountable, too.

This means reminding them that in Pakistan, Sunnis hunt down Shiites every day; that in northern Israel, Katuysha rockets launched by Hezbollah have ripped through the homes of Arab Muslims as well as Jews; that in Egypt, the riot police of President Hosni Mubarak routinely club, rape, torture and murder Muslim activists promoting democracy; and, above all, that civil wars have become hallmarks of the Islamic world.

Muslim figureheads will not dare be so honest. They would sooner replicate the very sins for which they castigate the Bush and Blair governments — namely, switching rationales and pretending integrity.

In the wake of the London bombings on July 7, 2005, Iqbal Sacranie, then the head of the influential Muslim Council of Britain, insisted that economic discrimination lay at the root of Islamist radicalism in his country. When it came to light that some of the suspects enjoyed middle-class upbringings, university educations, jobs and cars, Mr. Sacranie found a new culprit: foreign policy. In so doing, he boarded the groupthink express steered by Muslim elites.

The good news is that ordinary people of faith are capable of self-criticism. Two months ago, 65 percent of British Muslims polled believed that their communities should increase efforts to integrate. The same poll also produced troubling results: 13 percent lionized the July 7 terrorists, and 16 percent sympathized. Still, these figures total 29 percent — less than half the number who sought to belong more fully to British society.

Whether in Britain or America, those who claim to speak for Muslims have a responsibility to the majority, which wants to reconcile Islam with pluralism. Whatever their imperial urges, it is not for Tony Blair or George W. Bush to restore Islam's better angels. That duty — and glory — goes to Muslims.

Irshad Manji, a fellow at Yale University, is the author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith."

It is also highly questionable at best that the US "saved thousands of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo." As we have noted, the US rewarded the Bosnian Serb ethnic cleansers in the Dayton Accords, and the 1999 bombing of Serbia only prompted the Serb militias to dramatically escalate their attacks on the Kosovar Albanians.

See our last posts on Irshad Manji and the struggle within Islam.


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Sufis under attack in Kashmir

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 07/07/2006 - 18:57.

The Times of India reported June 22:

SRINAGAR: Terrorists on Thursday tossed a grenade at the house of a holy man in Sopore, north Kashmir, killing two of his devotees and injuring 15, even as the saint escaped unhurt.

This was the second attack on the 'darvaish', Abdul Ahad, alias Ahad Bab, from the time militancy took root in the state. The ascetic lives a simple life and sits in an iron cage, clad in rags, while his devotees, who belong to different faiths, sit around him.

No terrorist outfit has claimed the responsibility for the attack. According to a senior police officer, radical Muslim terrorists are believed to be behind the attack. "The saint was attacked earlier too, but the terrorists failed to harm him," added the officer.

Former cabinet minister and Tangmarg MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir condemned the attack. Mir said Ahad Bab is revered saint not only in Sopore but in the entire state and to attack such a personality is the assault on humanity.

The Hindu reported June 25 that witnesses had identified the attacker as local Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Qayoom Nassar. The report also noted widespread attacks on Sufi targets in Kashmir recently:

Islamists here have long opposed the influence of Ahad Sa'ab Sopore, a one-time policeman who left his job and became a mystic after undergoing what he describes as a spiritual experience three decades ago. As early as 1991, the Hizb ul-Mujahideen carried out a near-successful assassination attempt on the mystic. However, he escaped unhurt.

While mystics like Ahad Sa'ab Sopore have enormous religious and temporal power — their followers include several prominent politicians, bureaucrats and police and military officers — Islamists have repeatedly attacked their authority. Ahad Sa'ab Sopore, notably, has been criticised for appearing naked in public, a practice the mystic defends by asserting that the world, not he, needs to feel ashamed for its behaviour.

Battle over faith

At the core of the conflict are ideological disputes between folk religion and Islamist groups, which believe that practices such as veneration of holy relics and belief in intercession between humans and god through mystics are heretical. Both the Jamaat-e-Islami, from which the Hizb ul-Mujahideen emerged, and the Jamaat Ahl-e-Hadith, the Lashkar's patron, have long been locked in battle with Sufis for the best part of a century.

Terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir have long targeted Sufi shrines, which they assert are antithetical to Islam. As early as June 1994, Lashkar terrorists stormed the historic Baba Reshi shrine at Tangmarg and fired on pilgrims.

Dozens of similar attacks took place through the Kashmir valley as part of an Islamist campaign to stamp out folk Islam.

Perhaps, the most prominent incident in the campaign was the October 1995 siege of the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar, which houses a relic claimed to be a hair of Prophet Mohammad.

The terrorists threatened to blow up the shrine unless troops, who had surrounded them, were withdrawn.

A similar siege at Chrar-e-Sharif in May 1996 led to the destruction of the town's famous 700-year-old shrine.

While the scale of such attacks has diminished in recent years, they none the less continue. In 2000, Lashkar terrorists destroyed sacramental tapestries Bafliaz residents had offered at the shrine of Sayyed Noor, one of the most venerated Sufi saints in the region.

Last year, in June, Lashkar operative Bilal Magray threw a grenade at a Sufi congregation in Bijbehara, injuring 15 persons.

Lashkar cadres are also thought to be responsible for a May 2005 arson that led to the destruction of the 14th century shrine of saint Zainuddin Wali at Ashmuqam in south Kashmir. It was set on fire after the armed men chased away guards. Earlier Ashmuqam was subjected to several grenade attacks, leading to disruption of festive days there for several years.

See our last posts on Kashmir and the struggle within Islam.

See also our in-depth report, Sufism and the Struggle within Islam.


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Iran, Denmark host religious dialogue conferences

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sat, 03/25/2006 - 14:40.

Things are more complicated than they look—in the world generally, and especially in Iran. As the intransigents in Iran and Denmark alike line up for a depressing and potentially apocalyptic "clash of civilizations," conferences on inter-religious dialogue are held in response to the crisis in both countries. True, the "dialogue" seems to have been rather harshly proscribed at the Iran conference, and the Danish one seems to have been very low-profile. Still, a glimmer of hope that they were held. We wonder: were they at all coordinated? From Iran's official agency IRNA, March 19:

ISFAHAN — The "Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International Order" concluded work in this historical city in central Iran Sunday.

The two-day event which hosted 160 scholars from 38 world countries aimed at safeguarding the sublime position of divine religions in today world and highlighting the need for protecting religious sacred sites from terrorist attacks and destruction.

As the first in the kind to be held in world, the conference provided an apt opportunity for scholars belonging to different divine religions including Muslims, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians to express their views on inter-faith dialogue and raise their voices to condemn any forms of sacrilegious acts against holy religions.

Isfahan was designated as the Cultural Capital of the Islamic World on January 1, 2006.

Was this just a propaganda-fest for the regime? We hope not, although this clip, also from IRNA March 19, is less than encouraging:

ISFAHAN — A Spanish scholar here Sunday stressed that the conflict between Iran and the US was indeed a war between "good and evil."

A researcher and writer on theological topics Raol Gonzales made the remark in an interview with IRNA on the sidelines of the two-day "Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International Order," which opened here Saturday morning.

Gonzales blamed the tyrannical nature of the US President George Bush, who believes that every single person who is not with him is surely against him, as the main cause of the most of the conflicts underway in different parts of the world today.

Describing victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran as wonder which shocked the whole world, Gonzales said it was only a miracle that a country, which relied heavily on the US aid and followed its policies unquestioningly, managed to confront and fight it.

Referring to the Iraqi imposed war on Iran, the scholar said the attack launched by Iraq against Iranian nation was not a mere war in its usual sense but rather an event which was supported by many hegemonic powers in the world to suppress the justice-seeking voice of Iranian Muslim nation.

He further believed the recent attacks on the Holy Shiite shrines was a plot hatched by the US to sow discord among Muslims and followers of other religions.

This one, again from IRNA, smells a bit better:

ISFAHAN — The Archbishop of Armenian Christian Church Nerses Buzabolyan here on Sunday stressed that the identical origin of all monotheistic faiths is the element of convergence among all divine religions and said any insult to the sanctities of each of them would hurt the feelings of the followers of other faiths as well.

The archbishop made the remark in an interview with IRNA here Sunday on the sidelines of the "Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International order," which opened here Saturday with participation of 160 scholars from 40 countries.

Buzabolyan commented that the spiritual tenets, shared by all the divine religions, provide them with a common background in that all the religions, believing in God as the central part of their faith, share the basic principle that the oneness of God means all human beings are equipped with wisdom to "feel and see" the presence of God in every moment of their lives. That, he added, would definitely prevent them from committing such silly acts as undertaking sacrilegious actions against any of the divine religions.

He further hailed the ongoing inter-faith dialogue conference as the first preliminary step towards establishing dialogue among divine religions because, he said, it would certainly help promote unity and solidarity among followers of different faiths in a number of practical ways.

He believed the interaction and exchange of views among scholars during the event would help them remove walls and barriers and wipe out many baseless and hollow prejudices.

Archbishop Buzabolyan went on to express hope that the present gathering would encourage many other similar events in other countries resulting in establishment of a lasting dialogue among religions.

Of course inerfaith unity in opposition to free speech and secularism is also less then encouraging. IRNA, March 18:

ISFAHAN — An Iranian priest stressed that insulting Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) would in fact be an offensive act towards all divine prophets.

Talking to IRNA at the sideline of the 'Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International Order' here on Saturday, Hacoop Arekelian said all prophets tried to convey a common message which was revealed to them by single God.

He believed the conference was of great importance in that it aimed at consolidating unity among followers of all divine religions and institutionalizing respect to divine religions among people.

At least Jews were invited. And at least they are acknowledging that the Holocaust happened. IRNA, March 19:

ISFAHAN — A leading Austrian Jewish Rabbi said here that holocaust catastrophe in Europe, which victimized millions of Jews, is nowadays used as an instrument for suppressing the rightful demands of the world nations.

Rabbi Moishe Fridmann, who leads the Association of Anti-Zionist Jews in Austria, made the remark late Saturday on the sidelines of the two-day "Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International Order".

Now, did the one in Denmark ever happen? This AP account is from Feb. 23:

COPENHAGEN — Denmark will host a conference next month to promote religious dialogue following the uproar over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, the Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday.

The government will also give "a significant financial contribution" to a U.N. programme aimed at overcoming prejudice between Islam and the West, and support an Islamic festival in Copenhagen, Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, said in a statement.

The conference on religious and cultural dialogue will take place in the Danish capital on March 10, ministry officials said.

"This conference will bring together the prominent Islamic preacher Amr Khaled, two Islamic scholars from the Arab world and three Danish experts," Moeller said.

He said the government was planning a range of initiatives to promote "respectful dialogue," partly drawing on advice given by Muslim countries.

"In Denmark there is a genuine respect for the religious feelings of other people and we acknowledge that many Muslims felt gravely insulted by these controversial drawings," the foreign Minister said.

Ministry officials said they would contact Arab and international media to spread the Minister's message, and posted a link of his videotaped statement on the ministry's Web page.

See our last posts on Iran, the cartoon crisis, European Islamophobia, and the struggle within Islam.


http://ww4report.com/node/2151

SUFISM AND THE STRUGGLE WITHIN ISLAM

Paradoxical Legacies of the Militant Mystics

by Khaleb Khazari-El

One of the many ways in which the planetary struggle has gone through the proverbial looking glass since the 9-11 attacks is the seeming reversal in the juxtaposition of Western imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism. In the Cold War, the United States was allied with fundamentalist regimes like Saudi Arabia and fundamentalist movements like Afghanistan's Mujahedeen against the threats of communism and radical nationalism. The US, in fact, continues to back fundamentalists—in Saudi Arabia, in Afghanistan, in occupied Iraq. But it is perceived, at least, to be protecting secular modernity from fundamentalist assault. This perception is shared by both the "neo-conservative" policy wonks and the fundamentalists themselves—at least those on the wrong end of Washington's firepower.

If we look to the roots of Islamic fundamentalism, however, we find that it came into existence alongside another tradition which was a wellspring of resistance in the colonial era but is now largely forgotten to history. These twin traditions were two branches of the same tree: one throve, the other ultimately withered. Fundamentalism prevailed over the threats of nationalism and communism in the long 20th-century contest as to which ideology would bear the anti-imperialist mantle in the Islamic world. The other tradition did not survive to wage this struggle—but now that the contest has been clearly decided, may be worth a close re-examination. This forgotten tradition is militant sufism.

The story of militant sufism is replete with paradox. Sufism initially represented a proto-universalism, and was opposed by orthodoxy. But revolutionary sufism was, in its day, allied with fundamentalism, itself orthodoxy's backlash against modernity. Yet, the fundamentalists today attack the surviving sufis, seeing their struggle as a unified jihad against both imperialism and heresy.

There are, however, signs that point to the potential for the emergence of a universalist yet localist and autonomist anti-imperialism embodied by neo-sufis and related esoteric or dissident Islamic traditions. As the sufis of the medieval era formed a bridge between Islam and the indigenous spiritual traditions of those areas conquered by Caliphate, today's neo-sufis could serve as a bridge between a non-fundamentalist Islamic anti-imperialism, and more open-minded and libertarian elements of the secular anti-imperialist left in the Islamic world, which is now in danger of being completely marginalized or crushed—especially in places like Iraq, where it is needed most.

Under the pressure of 19th-century European colonialism, sufism broke with the apolitical quietism which had generally characterized the tradition. Today, surviving sufis have similarly rethought the alliance or convergence with fundamentalism which often characterized the era of militancy. It remains to be seen if the surviving secular left elements can overcome the dogmatic rejection of all spiritual traditions as either quietist opiate or fundamentalist reaction—a perception which contributes to their own marginalization, as long-suppressed spiritual thirsts dramatically re-assert themselves.

In his 1988 book The Struggle Within Islam: The Conflict Between Religion and Politics, Indian scholar and statesman Rafiq Zakaria traces the tension to the very beginning, noting that the Prophet Mohammed was both a religious and political leader. This conflict is now at the center of the world stage: a violent struggle within world Islam as to what its stance should be before the assaults of gobalization, secularism and capitalism.

A new radical sufism could offer an alternative to the actually-existing jihad of Wahhabi totalitarianism. But to understand the contemporary juxtaposition of sufism and the jihad, it is necessary to take a brief look at how the struggle between sufism and the more doctrinaire and orthodox manifestations of Islam played out...in the 13th century. We cannot understand where we are without understanding how we got here. Certainly, the 13th-century struggle against the Crusaders weighs very heavily on the mind of contemporary radical Islam; we are unwise to assume that this history doesn't concern us.

After the Fall of the Caliphate: How Sufism Saved Islam

Zakaria calls the medieval sufis "bridge builders," who, persecuted as heretics, paradoxically saved Islam following the decline of the Caliphate. As the scene opens, the Abbasid dynasty has fallen. Baghdad, the Caliphate's seat, has been sacked by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan, as had principal centers of learning and commerce like Aleppo. The long war with the Crusaders was followed by a shorter but far more destructive war with the Mongols and Turkic peoples displaced from the Central Asian steppes by the Mongol irruption. The Seljuk Turks, initially a military slave caste that fought for the Aabbasid Caliphate, had long since become the real power behind the throne, and now they had inherited a disintegrating realm. After 500 years and more of a unified Islamic empire which had reached heights of centralized power, culture, learning and wealth, the Caliphate (although continuing to exist in name) has collapsed into fragmented mini-states divided by sectarian strife.

The two main factions were the Sunnis and Shi'ites, but even within these broad tendencies various sects vied—Hanafis, Hanbalis, Ismailis, Kharijites. Each claimed their teachings to be the only true Islam, and seas of blood were spilled over the narrowest of doctrinal distinctions—a symptom of the general social breakdown. Local communities were run by the ulema, the body of scholars (mullahs). As long as they had local control and sharia law was enforced, the mullahs would play along with whatever faction was in power and provide young men to fight. Doctrinal rigidity, therefore, actually abetted the general disintegration.

And yet within a century, three new Islamic empires had emerged onto the world scene, and become new centers of commerce, learning and political power. The Arab world was no longer the imperial center, but the empires of the Ottoman Turks, Safavid Persia and the Moghuls of India would survive into modern times.

How did this come to pass? Zakaria credits the sufis, despite the fact that their doctrines were deemed apostasy by the ulema and nearly all of the ruling factions, and they were at times bitterly persecuted.

Sufism, Islam's mystical tradition, stood in contrast to the ossified ulema. While the ulema split hairs (and the ruling factions split skulls) over doctrinal correctitude, the sufis offered a relaxed attitude towards form and ritual, emphasizing instead spiritual experience. The mullahs of the ulema declared that the "doors of ijtihad (free-thinking or interpretation) were closed," and that taqlid (imitation or precedent) should rule in daily life; the sufis bypassed the debate, holding that good behavior should arise through direct experience of jabarut, or divine power. While the mullahs proscribed music and dance, the principal sufi ritual was the zikr (or dhikr)—literally "recital," but often incorporating use of vigorous rhythmic chanting (hal) and movement to achieve a trance-like state. While the mullahs prohibited alcohol, the sufi poets often used wine as a metaphor for this state of mystical intoxication Despite the best efforts of the mullahs, the sufis attracted wide followings.

In a world of war, their often remote sanctuaries were refuges of peace. Their asceticism and simple piety were also attractive following a long period of decadence. The word "sufi" comes from the name of their tradition in Arabic, tasawuf, which in turn comes from the word su'f, or wool—a reference to their coarse woolen garments. Their basic social unit was the halka, or "circle," a small group of brethren around a particular teacher.

In the declining years of the Caliphate, the great jurist Ghazali (1058-1111), a Persian of Central Asian birth who had become Baghdad's most respected scholar, had sought a rapprochement between the sufis and the ulema. In his work The Savior From Error, he wrote, in a clear and courageous criticism of the ulema, that "those who are so learned about rare forms of divorce can tell you nothing about the simple things of spiritual life, such as the meaning of sincerity towards God or truth in Him." In the implicit truce which was accepted as a result of his work, the mullhas took responsibility for maintaining form and ritual, and punishing transgressors, while the sufis concerned themselves with spiritual uplift.

The sufis were aloof from the palace intrigues and factional jockeying which were endemic in the long decay of the Abbasids. (In one grimly hilarious episode in the ninth century, the Mutazilite schism, which upheld free-thinking and disdained orthodoxy, won over the Caliph Mamun; those who dissented from the doctrine of free-thinking were purged, imprisoned and tortured!) By disdaining riches and power, rather than vying for them, the sufis won a unique moral authority.

While many sufis claim their tradition goes back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed, the first sufi is generally held to be Hasan al-Basri (d. 728), who actually waged public campaigns against corruption in high places in Baghdad. A famous saying attributed to him is: "He that knoweth God loveth him, and he that knoweth the world abstaineth from it."

The second great sufi, disciple of the first and also of Basra, was a woman—Rabia al-Adawiyyah (d. 801), whose teachings emphasized the power of love. The idea of a woman as spiritual leader was itself an affront to the ulema, and to make matters worse, she was a former slave. Dhul Nunal-Misri (d. 861) was arraigned before Caliph Mutawakkil for espousing the doctrine of irfan—direct knowledge of the divine, usually translated as "gnosis." Hussain b. Mansur, better known as al-Hallaj, a wool-carder, was accused of heresy and beheaded for his veneration of Jesus and his declaration "I am the truth." His followers thereafter disavowed—and often defied—all worldly authority. The noted sufi theoretician Yahaya Suhrawardi was executed on the orders of the great Saladin for of his refusal to adhere to orthodoxy. In the face of such repression, some sufis, such as Nuri (d. 907), preached renunciation from the world.

Ghazali himself was forced to flee Baghdad following a political upset and wandered as far west as Egypt. His ideas reached Muslim Spain (ruled by the rival Ummayad Caliphate), where they influenced the jurist and physician Ibn Rushd (known to the West as Averroes) and especially the great sufi scholar and mystic Ibn al-Arabi (1165-1201), who enunciated the doctrine of wilayah (also rendered vilayat, literally "friendship"), identification of human and creator. This non-dualism was mirrored in an even more daring and prescient universalism. Al-Arabi wrote: "Beware of confining yourself to a particular belief and denying all else, for much good would elude you—indeed, the knowledge of reality would elude you. Be in yourself a matter for all forms of belief, for God is too vast and tremendous to be restricted to one belief rather than another."

When he passed through Baghdad on his pilgrimage to Mecca, these controversial teachings won Arabi an attempt on his life. But his sojourn in Baghdad also afforded Arabi the opportunity to meet Jalaluddin Rumi, the Persian poet and perhaps the best-known of the medieval sufis today. Rumi's masterwork of mystical poetry, the Masnavi, was held by many to be the "Pahlavi (Persian) Koran"

As sufism's popularity grew, the schools around various teachers congealed into more formal tarikas, or orders. Ghazali's disciple Abd al-Qadir Jilani (1077-1166), also known as Ghuath al-Azam or the "Sultan of Saints," preached in Baghdad and founded the Qadiri Order. As the mullahs meted out death and justified war over perceived heresy, one of Jilani's aphorisms was "Never accuse anyone of religious infidelity." His tomb in Baghdad draws thousands of pilgrims annually. So does the tomb of his own disciple Umar al-Suhrawardi (d. 1234), who went on to found the Suhrawardi Order. Another Iraq mausoleum is that of Ahmad al-Rifa'i (d. 1183), founder of the Rifa'i Order (the Howling Dervishes). Abd al-Qadir's own disciple Shuayab Abu Madyan became the patron saint of Algeria. The Naqshbandi Order claims a lineage back to Abu Bakr, the first caliph after the Prophet Mohammed, but its popularity among the Turkic peoples suggests a Central Asian origin, and it was likely brought to Baghdad from Bukhara by the sufi Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani (d. 1179). Abu Hanifa (699-767), the founder of one of the four great schools of Sunni thought (Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafii), is held by many to also be founder of the Banna Order (the Builders), which the 20th-century scholar Idries Shah links to the origins of the Masons. Hanifi certainly propounded an activist doctrine: "Practice your knowledge, for knowledge without practice is a body without life."

Writes Rafiq Zakaria: "It is paradoxical that though these sufis refused to bow down to authority, their teachings made the task of governments, especially in states with mixed ethnic and religious populations, much easier. Had it not been for the environment of peace, goodwill and mutual understanding that they generated, Islam would not have become so readily acceptable to non-Muslims nor would Muslim rulers have been able to run their administrations as peacefully as they did."

This paradox became even more the case after the collapse of the Abbasids, when the very survival of Islam seemed in doubt. But the conquered converted the conquerors, and the Mongols, who had been the scourge of Islam, became patrons of Islam under the Il-Khan dynasty in Persia and Iraq and, later, under the Moghuls in India. The sufis served as the bridge that preserved the learning of the Abbasid period for the new empires that arose in Anatolia, Persia and India, bringing "a second youth to Islam"

As the new centers of Islam arose beyond the Arab heartland, it was the missionary work of sufis rather than the Muslim rulers, which spread the faith. The latter were usually content to collect the jaziya, the special tax imposed on non-believers—which actually became an economic incentivenot to convert the conquered. Moreover, the sufis respected indigenous traditions and customs, and even incorporated them into their practice of Islam.

The Persian sufi Abu Yazid (also rendered Bayazid) Bistani (804-874), grandson of a Zoroastrian, traveled from Delhi to Damascus, conversing with scholars of many traditions. The Indian scholar RM Zaehneer has linked Bayazid's concepts of whadat al-wujud (unity of being) and wahdat al-shuhud (unity of consciousness) with the Vedanta tradition of the Hindu sage Sankara. Bayazid's concept of fana ("annihilation"—of the ego, in modern terms) has parallels in the Hindu moksha or samadhi, and the Buddhist nirvana.

Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti (1142-1236), founder of the Chishti Order, was a Persian from Khorasan, but settled among the Hindus of Rajasthan. His followers adopted the saffron color of the robes of the Hindu sages for their own coarse robes, and generally interchanged ideas and rituals with and even adopted the habits of the Hindu sadhus (mendicants). Like the sages of the Upanishads, he preached under a tree. He consciously spurned Delhi, seat of the Moghul court, for provincial Rajasthan. His disciple, Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia, did preach in Delhi, but also shared the spirit of quietistic anarchism. He is purported to have told his devotees: "My room as two doors. If the sultan comes through one door, I leave by the other."

Nearly a thousand years after Bayazid, the poet and saint Mazhar Jan-i-Janan of Delhi (1699-1781), who was responsible for all the sufi orders—Naqshbandi, Qadiri and Chishti—in India, wrote in a letter to disciple: "You should know that the Merciful Being, in the beginning of creation, sent a book named Ved; this is apparent from the ancient scripture of the Indians. This book is in four parts [Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda] [and is] meant to regulate the duties of the people in this world and the next through the instrumentality of the divine Brahma, who is omnipotent. Now it must be borne in mind that the Koran states: 'And there is not a people to whom a warner has not been sent' [35:24]; and further, 'To every land we have sent a warner' [25:51] Hence there were prophets in India as in other countries and their accounts are to be found in their books. How could God, the Beneficent, the Merciful, have left out of his grace such an extensive portion of the globe?"

Eventually, the rulers began to see the utility of the sufis in both keeping peace and spreading Islam. While the Qadiris and Chishtis generally remained far removed from the seats of power, the Suhrawardis and Naqshbandis became important advisors to the Moghul and Ottoman courts. The Naqshbandis, or Silent Dervishes (so known for their rejection of the vocal zikr), achieved a kind of officialdom as the favored order of the Ottoman state. Another popular Turkish order are the Mevlevi, the classical "Whirling Dervishes," thusly known for their ecstatic dance ritual. The Mevlevi are the order most closely associated with Rumi, who is buried in Konya, Turkey.

While sufism was primarily a Sunni phenomenon, there were significant Shi'ite orders as well. The founder of the Shi'ite Safavid dynasty, Shah Ismail, embraced the sufis, although there was a backlash against them in Persia after his death in 1524. The Alevi Order took hold in Anatolia, merging Shia with ancient Turkic traditions from Central Asia. In contrast to the "official" Naqshbandis, the Alevis were more of a popular and rural phenomenon, seeing themselves the "true Turks," who kept alive indigenous Turkish culture and folklore against the "Arabized" Sunni Ottomans.

Throughout the medieval period there had been twin manifestations of sufism's disdain for authority: the quietist strain, which sought retreat to remote sanctuaries, and the activist tendency, which consciously challenged authority. In the 19th century, the assaults of modernism and imperialism would force the matter—giving birth to a not only activist but actually militant and revolutionary sufism.

Sufis in the Vanguard of Anti-Imperialist Struggle

After another 500 years of glory, Islam is once again on the decline as this new chapter opens. The Ottoman empire has come to rule over most of the Arab world and still claims to be the new Caliphate, but the court at Constantinople is riven with intrigue between traditionalists and modernizers, and the realm is being eaten away. Algeria falls to the French in 1830 and the far greater prize of Egypt to the British in 1882 (retaining merely nominal Ottoman suzerainty). In Persia, the fall of the Safavids in 1729 leads to a succession of lesser dynasties which allow the country to become a pawn in the imperial "Great Game," with the south under increasing British control and the north under growing Russian sway. In India, British colonialism has completely supplanted the Moghul empire by 1868. In all cases, wealth and power are flowing out of local and Muslim hands to the new imperial centers of London, Paris, Moscow and other European capitals.

We have noted the irony that militant sufism came into being at the same time as Islamic fundamentalism, which was orthodoxy's backlash against modernism and imperialism. Initially, as might be expected, the fundamentalist upsurge meant a new wave of attacks on the sufis. When the followers of Sheikh Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-92) took power in the Najd, the remote desert interior of the Arabian peninsula—an area claimed but never controlled by the Ottomans—sufism was brutally suppressed, orders banned, shrines and the graves of saints demolished and desecrated. The harshly intolerant Wahhabist doctrine influenced the Deobandi school in India, and the Salafists in the Fertile Crescent and North Africa. This was the groundwork for the contemporary Islamist movement.

Yet by the mid-19th century, there was a confluence of sufism and fundamentalism. The germinal pan-Islamic thinker and activist Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1837-97)—who agitated against British rule in Egypt and India, and against Western cultural and commercial inroads in Ottoman Turkey—was influenced by both. In India, he called for Muslim-Hindu unity against the British. He bitterly opposed Britain's favored Muslim leader in India, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who was harshly intolerant of Hindus, accusing him of being a pawn in a divide-and-rule strategy. Although revered by today's fundamentalists, Afghani in many ways presaged secular nationalism.

But intolerance towards Christianity—the religion of the oppressor—was inevitable, and took a toll on sufi universalism generally, laying the groundwork for the sufi-fundamentalist convergence. Rafiq Zakaria: "It is ironic that the sufis, who were originally so liberal and tolerant towards followers of other faiths, should have been in the forefront of a militant jihad against them. Yet, this was understandable because they feared that the non-Muslims were bent on destroying Islam by taking advantage of the ineptitude and weakness of corrupt Muslim rulers."

In country after country, fuqara (dervish) armies rose to drive out the colonialists. Degrees of Wahhabi influence varied from none at all to an uneasy alliance of convenience with the fundamentalists to a conscious effort to reconcile and unite the two seemingly opposite tendencies.

The first and most successful of the sufi revolutionaries was Amir Abd al-Qadir (also rendered al-Kader) al-Jazairi (1808-1883), of the Qadiri Order, who from his base in Oran began resisting the French almost immediately upon their 1830 arriveal in Algeria. The French originally saw in him a proxy force to fight the Ottoman Turks and signed treaties granting him wide autonomy over much of the country. His followers proclaimed him Nasir al-Din, champion of the faith, dey of Algeria. France retained real control only over a few coastal enclaves. When Paris realized it had actually lost control of the land it had wrested from the Turks, the treaties were broken and new military campaigns launched. Alas, as the sufi tarikas became military orders, violent factionalism also emerged, and al-Qadir was soon waging a civil war with the rival Tijani, Tayyibi and Darqawa orders. These divisions were skillfully exploited by the French, who especially groomed the Tayyibi of Morocco as a proxy force against al-Qadir. As Tayyibi forces invaded al-Qadir's realm from the west, French fleets arrived on the coast and colonial troops pressed inland. Fighting on two fronts, al-Qadir was forced to surrender to the French in 1847. It was France's first counterinsurgency war on foreign soil.

In Sudan, then under Anglo-Egyptian control, Muhammed Ahmad was declared by his followers the Mahdi, or "divinely guided one." In the 1885 Battle of Khartoum, his dervish army defeated British forces under Gen. Charles Gordon. The Mahdi died unexpectedly in the immediate aftermath of his triumph, but his successor Khalifah 'Abd Allah (actually proclaimed caliph, as his name implies) ruled an independent sufi state from Omdurman, just across the Nile from Khartoum, and in 1888 even attempted an invasion of Egypt. The rebel state persisted until 1898, when Gen. Horatio Herbert Kitchener led a force of 8,200 British troops and 17,600 Sudanese and Egyptians up the Nile to take the city. For all this, they were still vastly outnumbered by the dervishes, but British automatic artillery won the day, mowing down the waves of sufi horsemen. British rule was restored to the Sudan.

In Somalia, where the British had also extended control, Mohammed Abdullah Hasan of the Salihiyah Order, one of the more puritanical, emulated the Mahdi's example and launched an insurgency in 1899. Dubbed the "Mad Mullah" by the British, he succeeded in wresting a large area of northern Somalia from their control. The uprising was not put down until Hasan's death in 1920, when a Royal Air Force squadron recently returned from action in World War I was deployed to bomb the dervish capital at Taleex.

In Libya, the last Ottoman holding in North Africa, Mohammed Ali al-Sanusi (1787-1859), the "Grand Sanusi," established the Sanusi Order in the 1840s, which also evolved into a military order as protector of the caravan routes, and soon became the real power in the interior, with the Turks controlling only the coast in more than name.

The ferment spread throughout the Maghreb and even into sub-Saharan Africa. In Morocco, where the sultanate fell under growing French sway, the sufi Ahmad Ibn Idris (1760-1837), founder of the Idrisiya Order, attempted to reconcile sufism and Wahhabism.

The Moroccan sufi Ahmad al-Tifani (1737-1815) founded Tifani Order, which spread its message of armed struggle against non-Muslim rulers throughout North and West Africa. The Tifani militant Hajji Umar Tali (1794-1864) founded an Islamic state in Senegal, dispatching the French who had reduced the local rulers to mere proxies. This state survived until the French wrested it from his successors in 1893. Further down the coast, the black sufi Samori Ture founded an Islamic state that extended through much of what is now Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire. It lasted from 1882 until his capture by the French in 1898.

In 1885, the sufi warrior Mohammed Mustafa Ould Sheikh Mohammed Fadel—known as Ma el-Ainin ("Water of the Eyes")—took up arms to drive the newly-arrived Spanish from Rio de Oro. He fought both the Spanish and French with aid from the Moroccan sultanate. But, angered by perceived Moroccan subservience to the French and insufficient support for his movement, he finally made his own bid for power. In 1910, his supporters rose in Tiznit and declared him sultan; he then marched against Fez, where he was defeated and killed by French forces.

In India, Shah Wali Allah (1702-62) also represented a sufi-Wahhabi convergence. One of his followers, Sayyid Ahmed, launched an insurgency against the British-protected Sikh state in Punjab. In Bengal, Hajji Sharjat Allah (1781-1840), launched an uprising against the newly-arrived British, which was put down with much bloodshed.

The ferment also extended to the Caucasus and Central Asia. The North Caucasus realms of Chechnya and Dagestan had been under official Ottoman rule but effectively independent until the armies of the Czar began their drive for conquest in the 18th century. The Naqshbandi warrior Shaykh Mansur Ushurma declared a jihad and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Russians at the Sunzha River in 1785. He was briefly able to unite much of Chechnya and Dagestan under his rule. Shaykh Mansur's followers continued their insurgency against the Czarist forces even after his death in prison in 1793. Full-scale armed revolt resumed in 1824, this time under the Naqshbandi Shaykh Imam Shamil, who rebuilt an Islamic state in Chechnya and Dagestan before his capture in 1859.

Peace didn't last long, but it was Russia's own intolerance of sufism which broke it. In 1861, a Daghestani shepherd named Kunta Haji Kishiev became the first in the region to embrace the Qadiri order, which, unlike the Naqshbandis, allowed vocal zikr, ecstatic music and dancing. Initially, Kunta Haji counseled peace with the Russians. But as his popularity surged, many veteran fighters from Shamil's disbanded army fell into his orbit—so alarming the Russians that he was arrested and exiled in 1864. That same year at Shali in Chechnya, Russian troops fired on over 4,000 Qadiri dervishes, killing scores and igniting a fresh wave of violence. Together with the rejuvenated Naqshbandis, the Qadiris rose up against the Romanovs repeatedly, hasrassing Czarist forces in the Caucasus through the Bolshevik Revolution.

In the revolutionary years, a Qadiri-Naqshbandi movement led by Shaykh Uzun Haji battled both the White and the Red armies to create a "North Caucasian Emirate." The intransigent Uzun Haji—whose tomb remains a pilgrimage site for Chechen Muslims—purportedly said: "I am weaving a rope, to hang engineers, students and in general all those who write from left to right." His movement was crushed in 1925, but the Soviets, branding the sufis "bandits," "criminals" and "counter-revolutionaries," continued to arrest, execute and deport the "zikrists." In World War II, Stalin accused the sufis of still-unproven collaboration with the Nazis, and in 1944 forcibly relocated six entire Caucasian nationalities, including the Chechen and Ingush, to camps in Central Asia. More than a million Caucasus Muslims were deported.

In Russian-controlled Tartarstan, Bahal Din Vaishi (1804-1893) launched an unarmed and peaceful movement of non-cooperation with the Czarist forces. He was nonetheless arrested, declared insane and interned in an asylum. His followers were deported to Siberia, and many were tortured.

In far Xinkiang, Chinese-ruled Central Asian homeland of the Turkic and Muslim Uighur people, these dynamics were also felt. Naqshbandi sufis led repeated Uighur uprisings from the 1820s onwards against China's reigning Manchus, who were under the increasing sway of Western and especially British imperialism. Finally, the sufi warrior Yaqub Beg succeeded in driving out the Manchus and establishing an independent Uighur state, dubbed East Turkestan, which lasted for ten years from 1867. A second short-lived Eastern Turkestan Islamic Republic was declared in Kashgar in 1933, and a decade later, a third such republic was proclaimed near Yili, surviving as an autonomous zone loyal to Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang until the Communists took over in 1949. There were precedents elsewhere in China, where Ma Ming-hsin (d. 1781) had launched an Islamic revival movement in the 18th century. In Yunan, the warrior Tu Wenshin, inspired by his teachings, had driven out the Manchus and established a Muslim state, declaring himself "Sultan Sulayman."

In short, virtually no part of the Islamic world was untouched by the surgence of militant mysticism. But the movement ultimately represented a final rebellion on the part of an old order that was inexorably passing away. The next and ultimately more successful anti-colonialist surgence, especially gaining ground in the post-World War II era, would embrace rather than reject modernity—seeking to harness rationalism and nationalism against the hegemony of the very European societies which had given them birth. Perhaps the key moment of transition was the formal abolition of the Caliphate in 1924 by the Turkish nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk, who came to power after the Ottoman empire collapsed at the end of World War I.

But when nationalism's successes were sullied by military defeats and political reversals, it would be fundamentalism that would reap the backlash—this time with the Wahhabis in clear ascendance, purged of any taint of sufi apostasy. The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was for the Arab nationalists a grave humiliation; for the fundamentalists it was an abomination before God, and the failure of the ruling nationalists to destroy it a sign of their godlessness. Perhaps more intrinsic to the rise of the fundamentalists was the increasing accommodation of the nationalists to the structures of neo-colonialism—the IMF, World Bank and, later, the World Trade Organization—providing a level of social misery and rage for the fundamentalists to harness.

Nationalism vs. Fundamentalism: Post-Sufi Anti-Imperialism

The militant sufi upsurge was waning by the dawn of the 20th century, but it laid an important groundwork for the national liberation struggles of the post-World War II era, and there is often a direct lineage linking the two.

A key turning point was the 1925 Syrian revolt against French mandate rule, which historian Michel Provence sees as the formative moment in the forging of an Arab nationalist consciousness. The revolt began as a Druze uprising in the mountainous hinterland, but was soon joined by the Sunni Arabs of Damascus. As Druze and Bedouin guerillas marched on Damascus from the countryside, a coordinated urban insurrection was organized. The French responded with aerial bombardment of the city. In a key moment in the rise of secular nationalism, the pro-independence forces mobilized brigades to protect the city's Christian and Jewish enclaves from reprisals. Interestingly, the leader of this effort was Said al-Jazairi, grandson of Amir Abd al-Qadir al-Jazairi, the Algerian sufi resistance leader who had been exiled to Ottoman Damascus after surrendering to the French. Wrote the British consul in Damascus: "These Moslem interventions assured the Christian quarters against pillage. In other words it was Islam and not the 'Protectrice des Chrétiens en Orient' which protected the Christians in those critical days."

The revolt was suppressed by the year's end, and Syria would not gain full independence until 1946. But re-emergent sufi universalism arguably played an important and generally unacknowledged role in the transition to a secular anti-imperialism.

The failed Syrian revolt was a taste of things to come. In 1954, when the revolution against French rule in Algeria was launched, al-Qadir was acknowledged as an important forebear. But the National Liberation Front was socialist and secular; its nominal embrace of Islam was more as a symbol of unifying nationalism, devoid of real religious fervor. Independence was won after a long struggle in 1962. Similarly, the "Mad Mullah" Hasan was looked to as a symbol of national pride when Somalia achieved independence in 1960, without any embrace of his ideology.

The sufis played a more direct role in Libya, which was taken by the Italians in World War I. The Sanusi Order continued to have real control of the desert interior, and in 1917 loaned assistance to the Tuareg revolt against the French in what was then French West Africa to the south. When armed struggle against Italian rule broke out in Libya following Mussolini's ascension to power in 1922, Sanusi dervishes led the insurgency. After independence in 1952, following a period of joint Anglo-French rule, the head of the Order, Sayyid Amir Mohammed Idris (grandson of the Grand Sanusi) became King Idris I. Col. Mommar Qaddafi's coup of 1969 brought a distinctive Islamic-tinged Arab nationalism to power, and his followers were also adherents of an anti-monarchist wing of the Order.

In Spanish Sahara, the former Rio del Oro, the heirs of Ma el-Ainin fought on into the 1930s, when they were finally subdued by combined French and Spanish forces. Resistance re-emerged as the struggle for Algerian independence was intensifying in 1958. That year, the French intervened to back up Spanish forces with air power in crushing a rebellion by Sahrawi desert tribes. But veterans of that struggle passed the torch to the Polisario Front, which launched its guerilla struggle against the Spanish in 1973. (Now known as Western Sahara, the territory was occupied by Morocco when Spain pulled out in 1975, and is considered Africa's last colony.)

At least from 1926, when Abd al-Aziz b. al-Saud united most of the Arabian peninsula under his rule as Saudi Arabia and imposed Wahhabism as the state religion, through the mid-1960s, the struggle in the Islamic world appeared to be between Western-backed conservative monarchs (who made oil available on relatively easy terms) and modernizing, secular nationalists—who tilted to the Soviet Union, sought to nationalize oil resources and tended to be OPEC "price hawks," seeking to use petro-dollars for programs of social uplift. But the perceived failure of the nationalists would redefine the terms of the struggle.

The case of Iran is instructive. When the popularly elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq nationalized the British-owned oilfields in 1952, British intelligence and the CIA organized a coup that ousted him and restored the Shah to near-absolute power. The conservative and authoritarian US-backed monarchy persisted until Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution of 1979—which installed an even more conservative and authoritarian but bitterly anti-US fundamentalist state, in which the mullahs had veto power over all legislation. This was the first contemporary Islamist state—but something of a special case due the official supremacy of Shia in Iran.

It was Egypt that really set the template for the new struggle. In 1952, a nationalist military coup ousted the monarchy that had been installed thirty years earlier. A republic was established and in 1954 Gen. Gamal Abdel Nasser emerged as its uncontested leader. In 1956, he seized Suez Canal from the joint British/French company that controlled it, precipitating war with Israel. That same year he granted independence to Sudan, which had remained under lingering joint Anglo-Egyptian rule. Nasser turned to USSR for aid following a break with the West, and became a leader of the world non-aligned movement. In 1958, he united (albeit briefly) with Syria to form a United Arab Republic. That same year a Nasser-inspired revolution unseated the British-installed monarchy in Iraq. Many others would emulate (and envy) Nasser, including Libya's Qaddafi.

However, within Egypt, contradictions were becoming evident in his system. Nasser's rule was periodically confirmed by election, but he consolidated an authoritarian political machine. Islamist opposition emerged, influenced by Wahhabi/Salafist fundamentalism; Sayyid Qutb, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was executed in an alleged plot on Nasser's life in 1966. Nasser charged—perhaps with reason—that the Muslim Brotherhhod was being covertly aided by the CIA to undermine his regime. But Qutb would become the iconic martyr and, posthumously, the founder of the new Islamist movement.

Renewed war with Israel resulted in loss of Sinai Peninsula in 1967, a bitter humiliation for Nasser and the ideology he represented. Upon Nasser's death three years later, his heir-apparent Anwar Sadat succeeded to power. A new war on Israel in 1973 failed to win back Sinai, although US-brokered talks following the war lead to an Israeli withdrawal. The 1978 Camp David Agreement resulted in formal peace with Israel. Sadat shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Israel's Menachem Begin, but Egypt was expelled from Arab League, which moved its headquarters from Cairo. Sadat was assassinated in 1981—symbolically, while overseeing a military parade celebrating the 1973 war (which Egypt officially if illogically claimed as a "victory"). Islamist militants who had succeeded in infiltrating the parade opened fire and hurled grenades as they passed the reviewing stand. In addition to killing the president, they injured 20, including four US diplomats.

Sadat was succeeded by Hosni Mubarak, who tilted strongly towards the West. The Islamist opposition gained strength in reaction. Egypt was restored to the now more moderate Arab League in 1989. That same year, a coup d'etat brought the Islamist movement to power in Sudan. Egypt participated in Operation Desert Storm against Iraq in 1991. A "dirty war" against an increasingly violent Islamist movement followed. The harsh crackdown saw the use of indefinite detention, military tribunals, torture; hundreds were imprisoned, and over 50 executed. The Islamist movement was largely crushed in Egypt—even as it re-emerged strongly in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In the '90s, as the Algerian regime turned post-socialist and came to be dominated by a "mafia" of corrupt generals, the new populist mantle was likewise assumed by the Islamic fundamentalists. Their electoral victory in 1992 only prompted the regime to annul the elections and declare military rule—which in turn prompted the Islamists to take up arms, precipitating nearly ten years of civil war in which 200,000 Algerians lost their lives. The struggle in Algeria today is largely one between corrupt post-socialist pseudo-nationalists on one hand and fanatical, reactionary Salafists on the other.

Within Palestine itself, the supplanting of Fatah, the old Palestine Liberation Organization leadership, by the fundamentalist Hamas symbolized the same transition.

History has appeared to be repeating itself in Chechnya over the course of the long and brutal wars which have ensued there since Russia crushed the new separatist state in 1995. Even the feared and honored name Shamil has been resurrected in the rebel warlord Shamil Bassayev, who continues to lead the resistance movement. But unlike his 19th-century namesake, this Shamil embraces hardline Wahhabi fundamentalism, not sufism.

The Uighur separatist movement in Xinkiang has also revived since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) one of the latest additions to the US State Department "foreign terrorist organizations" list. Again influenced by Wahhabism, the ETIM has maintained a low-level insurgency in the region, separatist unrest and Chinese repression fueling each other in a vicious cycle.

India and Pakistan witnessed the potential for a universalist Islamic anti-colonialism in the struggle against British rule, when Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1889-1988), dubbed "Badshah Khan" (the king of chiefs) and the "Frontier Gandhi", organized non-violent resistance among the Pashtuns of the rugged tribal lands along the Afghan border. A friend and ally of Mohandas Gandhi, he joined him in championing Muslim-Hindu unity and opposing India-Pakistan partition after independence was won in 1947. But of course it was separatism that won the day—and so, ultimately, did fundamentalism.

The puritanical Deobandi school gave rise to the Jamiat-i-Islami (Society of Islam) founded by Maulana Maududi (1903-1979) of Hyderabad—who, although said to be a direct descendent of that exemplar of sufi universalism Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, emphasized a harsh and intolerant puritanism. His ideas came to dominate the Islamic resistance in India-controlled Kashmir, sponsored by the Pakistani state—and then, ironically, the increasingly militant opposition within Pakistan itself, including the contemporary resistance to Gen. Pervez Musharraf's dictatorship.

Maududi's ideas also held sway over the Jamiat-i-Islami militia in Afghanistan, the powerful ethnic Tajik wing of the Mujahedeen insurgency that resisted the Soviet occupation of the country in the 1980s, with massive aid from the CIA. It was during this long campaign that Osama bin Laden, the contemporary face of the jihad, arrived on the scene, organizing a clearing-house for Mujahedeen volunteers from throughout the Islamic world in Peshawar, the Pakistani city from where the insurgency was coordinated.

It should be noted that among the profusion of sectarian and ethnic militia that made up the Mujahedeen, there were two that were led by sufis—the National Islamic Front, led by Pir Sayed Gailani of the Qadiri Order; and the Afghanistan National Liberation Front, led by Sibghatollah Mojadeddi of the Naqshbandi Order. Gailani was a loyalist of the exiled king, Zahir Shah—which by the standards of 1980s Afghanistan made him a moderate, practically a liberal. Mojadeddi was briefly appointed interim president by Rabbani when the Russian-backed regime fell and the Mujahedeen took Kabul, the capital, in 1992—but he was shortly removed for confronting Rabbani over human rights abuses. Rabbani, of course, subsequently arranged to have himself declared president by the victorious warlords in an Islamic Jihad Council. Both Gailani's and Mojadeddi's factions were, predictably, isolated by the Mujahedeen's American, Saudi and Pakistani underwriters, and therefore remained marginal. The dominant factions—principally the Tajik Jamiat-i-Islami and the Pashtun Hezbi-Islami—embraced unrestrained brutality and rigid fundamentalism.

The Mujahedeen factions quickly collapsed into civil war, with the Jamiat-i-Islami clinging precariously to power in Kabul. In 1994, the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban, which recruited among the teeming Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, invaded the country, pledging to restore order. Adhering to the strictest interpretation of Wahhabism yet witnessed, the Taliban took Kabul after a two-year war. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia recognized the Taliban regime, alone among the world's nations. Where the medieval sufis had sought links between Islam and Buddhism, the Taliban denounced as idolatry and ordered destroyed the giant stone Buddhas of Bamiyan—world cultural treasures dating to the Greco-Buddhist Kushan empire (130-420 CE). All music, dance and (of course) sufism were harshly suppressed.

But it was only the 9-11 attacks that prompted the US to intervene. Washington once again turned to the Jamiat-i-Islami and its leader Burhanuddin Rabbani as proxies—this time against the Taliban. Rabbani, still officially recognized as Afghanistan's president by the UN, now emerged as leader of a loose federation of warlords, the Northern Alliance, which, backed up by US air-strikes and special forces, drove the Taliban from power.

On Dec. 1, 2001, the New York Times ran a photo of Naqshbandi dervishes dancing ecstatically at a Kabul shrine for the first time in years. But the Jamiat-i-Islami and its Northern Alliance partners only seemed liberal by comparison; the situation for women, Shi'ites, secularists and sufis alike would improve but marginally in "liberated" Afghanistan. The showdown between the Taliban and Northern Alliance revealed how degraded the struggle in the Islamic world had become: the conflict was now fundamentalist versus fundamentalist.

This whole horrid history now seems to be repeating itself in Somalia, which has been without an official government since the dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre collapsed in 1991. In June 2006, after 15 years of nightmarish warlord violence, an ultra-fundamentalist cleric-led militia, the Islamic Courts Union, seized power in the capital, Mogadishu. The warlords, in turn, have banded together in an Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-terrorism—a name obviously chosen in bid for support from the West. The bid seems to be working, as newspaper accounts indicate the warlord alliance has been receiving aid from the CIA. Upon taking the capital, the Islamic Courts Union elected a new leader—Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is officially listed as an al-Qaeda suspect by the US State Department.

US troops in neighboring Djibouti have been poised for action in Somalia since the 9-11 aftermath, when the State Department added a Somalia-based group, al-Itihad al-Islamiya, to its official list of terrorist organizations. The US appears to be again playing sides in an intra-fundamentalist civil war. Few have noted that the atmosphere also seems to have given rise to ascetic Islamic movements that reject coercion and militarism. A 2002 overview of Somali factions in Janes Defense Weekly noted that one "leading Islamic group in the country is the Pakistan-based Tabliq. This group recruits missionaries willing to espouse strict adherence to the Islam of the Koran. In Somalia, these wandering preachers have not engaged in any militant activities, and are widely perceived as something akin to pacifists."

The most ghastly irony is, not surprisingly, in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, whatever his real and horrific abuses (and acts of genocide against the Kurds and Shi'ites), represented to many a last hold-out of intransigent but secular Arab nationalism until his ouster in the US invasion of March 2003. Today, his Ba'ath Party may play some small role in the armed resistance against the US occupation in Iraq, but it has overwhelmingly been supplanted by the fundamentalist jihadis. The US is backing a regime led by Shi'ite fundamentalists against an insurgency of Sunni fundamentalists. Having invaded Iraq in the name of a "war on (Islamic) terrorism", it has (if unwittingly) turned Iraq precisely into a haven for Islamist terrorism.

The Contemporary Struggle

Scholars generally view sufism as a quaint and irrelevant anachronism in the contemporary world. J. Spencer Trimingham wrote in his classic work,The Sufi Orders in Islam (Oxford 1973): "The older sections in a changing society feel a nostalgic longing for elements of the past. The poetry and humanism of a Rumi influence many new men too. But these must be placed within the whole setting of the secularization of society. These are 'survivals' from an old way of life; they are no longer the ruling forces in men's lives"

But Trimingham could not have anticipated the voluble fundamentalist reaction against secularism which the Islamic world has witnessed since he wrote those words. Sufism, like related deep-rooted doctrines of Islamic universalism, is under violent attack by ascendant fundamentalism today. Meanwhile, a vulgar Islamophobia holds ever-greater sway in the West, especially represented in the US by the so-called "neocons" who have charted the Bush administration's hyper-imperialist adventures. While spectacular jihadist attacks in New York, London and Madrid make global headlines, the far more frequent manifestations of what is essentially a violent struggle within Islam are buried in the back pages.

On March 19, 2005, up to 50 worshippers were left dead and twice as many wounded in a bomb blast at a shrine to the 19th-century sufi saint Pir Rakhel Shah at Gandhawa in Pakistan's conflicted province of Baluchistan. The bomb went off as pilgrims at the shirne had lined up for a meal and were being served food. Although the shrine is at a Shi'ite mosque, it is revered by Sunnis as well. The explosion left a two-foot-deep crater at the shrine. Thousands of pilgrims who had arrived to commemorate the death of the saint fled the area, overwhelming local bus service. "Everyone comes here, even Hindus. There is no distinction here between a Shi'ite and a Sunni," said the shrine's caretaker, Syed Sadiq Shah. "God's curse be on those who did this. They have killed innocent people."

On May 27, 2005, at least 25 were left dead and some 200 wounded in a suicide bombing at the Bari Imam sufi shrine at Nurpur village outside Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Thousands of devotees were attending the last day of a five-day festival at the time of the explosion. Worshippers had been waiting for a prominent Shi'ite cleric to address the gathering when the bomb went off. "Today was the annual festival of Bari Imam. Devotees had come from all over Pakistan. Shi'ites and Sunnis were praying together. As soon as prayers started, there was a blast. Many devotees were martyred and many more injured," said Qamar Haider, a Shi'ite imam.

The popular shrine to Bari Imam, who helped bring Islam to region in the 17th century, is visited by both Shi'ites and Sunnis and has traditionally been seen as a symbol of harmony between the two communities. But both sects claim the shrine, which has been controlled by Sunnis for the past two decades, and it had recently been subject to growing tensions. The Sunni custodian of the shrine and two other people were shot dead near the compound in February 2005.

The urs, or festival, marked the death anniversary of Bari Imam, who was born Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi in 1617 in Jhelum, and traveled widely to learn with scholars of various schools, visiting Kashmir, Badakhshan, Bukhara, Mashhad, Baghdad, Damascus and Mecca. His spiritual master Hayat-al-Mir (Zinda Pir) gave him the title of Bari Imam. He went on to convert thousands of Hindus to Islam, and the Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir is said to have come there to pay respects at at Nurpur. Bari Imam died in 1705 and was buried at Nurpur Shahan, where his urs is held every year with great fervor.

The sufi shrines are likely targeted precisely because they are venerated by Sunnis and Shi'ites alike in a Pakistan, which has witnessed a bloody dialectic of terror between Sunni and Shi'ite fundamentalists. In October 2004, 36 were killed in a car-bomb attack on a Sunni congregation in Multan, Punjab province. A bombing of a Shi'ite mosque in Sialkot, Punjab, earlier that month killed 19 people. In March 2004, 46 were killed and 160 injured in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province, in an attack on Shi'ite pilgrims. Gunmen sprayed bullets and lobbed grenades at crowds of pilgrims gathered in the city for celebrations of Ashura, marking the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. In April 2002, a bomb exploded near midnight at a Shi'ite mosque at Bukker, Punjab, killing 12 worshipers, all of them women and children. The explosion went off in the women's section of the mosque, where thousands of Shi'ites had gathered from around the country for the Ashura festival. In February 2002, 11 were killed when gunmen fired on worshipers at a Shi'ite mosque in the northern city of Rawalpindi.

The sectarian violence continues. In February 2006, a suicide bomber struck in Hangu, near the Afghanistan border, at a festival marking the opening of the Ashura holy period, triggering a riot that left the town in flames and leaving a total of at least 37 dead. In neighboring Afghanistan that same week, hundreds of Shi'ites and Sunnis clashed in the western city of Herat, hurling grenades and burning mosques. At least five people were killed and 51 wounded.

Nor is the sectarian strife confined to Pakistan. The Ashura celebrations in Iraq occasioned massacres in 2005, when a string of suicide attacks left 74 worshippers dead, and in 2004, when over 140 pilgrims were killed in attacks by suicide bombers and gunmen with mortars and grenades at the Karbala shrine to Imam Hussein. By 2006, terror attacks on Shi'ite civilians at public markets and shirnes had become a nearly daily affair, inevitably sparking retaliatory attacks on Sunni civilians—including by elements of the official security forces, which heavily overlap with the Shi'ite fundamentalist Badr militia. The violence reached a climax in the February 22, 2006 explosion that destroyed the gold-domed sanctuary at Samarra that holds the tombs of two of Shia's 12 imams, the 10th, Ali al-Hadi, and the 11th, Hadi al-Askari. Since then, of course, the sectarian carnage has only escalated.

There have been some glimmers of hope. In a gesture of goodwill, Sunnis in Samarra organized brigades and went to work to help rebuild the Golden Mosque in the wake of the attack. There have also been joint Sunni-Shi'ite protests calling for unity against the US occupation. But such gestures require ever-greater courage in the escalating atmosphere of sectarian hatred.

Sufis, of course, are also coming under attack in Iraq. On June 2, 2005, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a gathering of sufis north of Baghdad, killing 10 and injuring at least 12. The attack took place at a house in the village of Saud, near the northern town of Balad as the dervishes gathered for zikr. Ahmed Hamid, a sufi witness, told the AP: "I was among 50 people inside the tekiya [sufi gathering place] practicing our rites when the building was hit by a big explosion. Then, there was chaos everywhere and human flesh scattered all over the place."

In Iran, which appears to be next in US imperialism's crosshairs, sufism is also under attack. On Feb. 13, 2006, security forces in the Iranian holy city of Qom used fired tear gas to break up a gathering of sufi followers who had converged in front of their house of worship to prevent its destruction by the authorities. Up to 1,000 were arrested. Officials said the sufis had illegally turned a residential building into their tekiya, and had refused to evacuate it. They also charged that some of the dervishes were armed with knives and stones. But representatives of the dervishes denied the accusations, asserting they were targeted due to the increasing popularity of sufism. The regime did not fail to imply the sufis were agents of imperialism. Qom's governor Abbas Mohtaj told the newspapers: "The arrogant powers are exploiting every opportunity to create insecurity in our country and [the sufis'] links to foreign countries are evident." The previous September, Ayatollah Hossein Nouri-Hamedani openly called for a clampdown on the sufis of Qom, calling them a "danger to Islam."

In the North Caucasus, sufis are caught between both sides in the ongoing war—although there are recent signs of change. On May 24, 2006, the New York Times carried a story on the revival of the Kunta-Haji sufis in Chechnya—with the unlikely encouragement of the Russian authorities. The writer attended a zikr at a newly-opened mosque named for Akhmad Kadyrov, the Russian-backed Chechen president who was assassinated in 2004. The reporter could not refrain from a condescending description of dervishes' chanting as "grunts," but correctly noted in the headline that the sufi revival has "unclear implications." In an implicit acknowledgement that their harsh repression of Islam in the North Caucasus is backfiring, the Russian authorities are embracing the indigenous peaceful sufi tradition as an alternative to the violently intransigent Wahhabism imported from the Arab world. But this could also backfire—as the sufis themselves likewise seek independence from Russia, even if they aren't willing to blow up civilians to achieve it. Meanwhile, the fact that they are now tolerated by the Russians will leave them open to the inevitable charge of collaboration.

Other Islamic tendencies with ethics of peace and universalism are meeting with repression in the growing atmosphere of intolerance. In January 2004, the government of Bangladesh banned all publications of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, an unorthodox Islamic sect—one day before the deadline of an ultimatum by fundamentalists to declare the sect "non-Muslim." The demands came from the Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), a partner in the government's ruling coalition, and its affiliated Hifazate Khatme Nabuwat Andolon (HKNA), fundamentalist organizations that consider the Ahmadiyya movement heretical. Abdul Awal of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Bangladesh, said: "We are shocked. The government has bowed down to religious terrorists." IOJ/HKNA calls for Ahmadiyya mosques to be shut down, and is accused of contributing to an atmosphere of terror. On Oct. 8, 1999, a time bomb exploded at the Ahmadiyya mosque in Nirala during Friday juma prayers, leaving seven worshippers dead and 27 injured. Sale, publication, distribution and posession of Ahmadiyya literature was banned under the new decree. "The ban was imposed in view of objectionable materials in such [Ahmadiyya] publications which hurt or might hurt the sentiments of the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh," said a Home Ministry press release—although the government stopped short of actually declaring the Ahmadiyyas "non-Muslims."

The Ahmadiyyas are regarded as heretics by orthodox Islam because they believe their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet—contradicting the orthodox dogma that Mohammed was last prophet. Additionally, their teachings see links to other faiths, rather than rejecting them as mere infidelity. Ahmadiyyas hold that the Lost Tribes of Israel are the contemporary Afghans (Pashtuns), and that Jesus survived the crucifixion, resumed his ministry after escaping to the East and is buried in Srinagar, Kashmir. Like the medieval Chishtis, they also view the Hindu Vedas as divine scriptures, seeing a concordance between many Vedic and Koranic verses. Their spiritual leader Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, fourth successor to their prophet, died in 2003 in London, where he had been exiled since in 1984 because of government persecution in his native Pakistan.

Iran's Bahai religious minority report that the government has intensified a campaign of arrests, raids and propaganda aimed at eradicating their faith in the country of its birth. On May 19, 2006 in Shiraz, 54 Bahais who were involved in a community service project were arrested, many of them in their teens and early 20s. They were mostly released without charge days later. It was the largest mass arrest of Bahais since the 1980's, when thousands were imprisoned and more than 200 were executed by Ayatollah Khomeini's regime.

Bahais also face persecution elsewhere in the Islamic world. In May 2006, judicial authorities in Egypt overturned a ruling to allow official recognition of the Bahai faith. Dubious charges of Bahai background were recently used against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas by his political opponents.

With an ethic of universalism which holds that all faiths and prophets are derived from the same divine source and that humanity is evolving towards world unity, the pacifistic Bahais are successors to the Baba movement declared in 1844 by Sayyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850), also known as the Bab (the gate). Declaring himself a prophet, the Bab was executed on orders of the Shah, and many of his followers, known as Babis, were massacred. The Baba movement evolved into Bahai when Husayn-Ali (1817-92), the Bab's successor, declared himself Baha-Ullah, or "The Glory of God," in 1852. Baha-Ullah also faced long years of prison and exile, but his followers brought the faith to Europe and America, and it now claims five million followers worldwide.

Another schism viewed as heretical by jihadis are the Ismaili Shi'ites. A scion of the sect's hereditary leadership, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, was a leader in what is called the "international community," and held to a higher ethical standard than many of such privilege. A descendent of the Prophet Mohammed and a wealthy private philanthropist, he held several UN humanitarian posts, and died in May 2003 at the age of 70 in Boston. He was both the youngest and longest-serving UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and spearheaded UN responses to the wars in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Uganda at the UNHCR. He also headed humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan from 1988 to 1990, and following Operation Desert Storm. Holding French, Swiss and Iranian passports, and considered himself a "citizen of the world," and his famous motto was to keep a "cool head and warm heart without getting cold feet." Sadruddin was son of Sultan Mohammed Shah, or Aga Khan III—spiritual leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims—and later became the uncle of Karim Aga Khan IV, the current Ismaili leader.

But even as Prince Sadruddin tread the corridors of power, Ismailis in remote parts of Central Asia and Afghanistan faced persecution and far worse. In Afghanistan's remote and mountainous central Bamiyan province, the Hazara ethnicity—said to be the descendents of a remnant of Genghis Khan's Mongol army—constitute one of the world's largest Ismaili populations, and were, of course, targeted for extermination by the Taliban. Some 20,000 Hazaras are believed to have been massacred as heretics under the Taliban, and over 100 mass graves were exhumed in Bamiyan after the Taliban's fall. But Hazaras still face a precarious situation. Hazara warlords resisted Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani when he was president in the mid-1990s. Hazara militias later joined the fractious Northern Alliance against the Taliban, but also battled the Northern Alliance's Tajik and Uzbek militias—who now control northern Afghanistan. It should also be said that whatever the liberal proclivities of Prince Sadruddin, the Hazara militia Hizb-i-Wahdat generally shared the Mujahedeen's brutal and reactionary consensus.

The Ismailis of Pakistan are in a particularly ironic position. They inhabit Hunza, Gilgit and Baltistan—Himalayan enclaves, now collectively known as the "Northern Areas," that India charges were arbitrarily separated from Kashmir by Pakistan so as to exclude them from negotiations over the divided territory. Pakistan, in turn, maintains it did so to give these enclaves local autonomy in response to the desires of the populace, who are ethnically and religiously distinct. Bizarrely, Hindu nationalist publications and websites (and, we may assume, political groups) are supporting Ismailis in the Northern Areas who, not content with autonomy, seek actual independence from Pakistan. The Ismaili separatists call the Northern Areas "Balawaristan," and hope to establish it as an independent nation. The Ismaili separatist struggle hasn't reached the point of open war, but it is headed in that direction. January 2005 saw deadly riots in Gilgit following an armed atttack on a local Ismaili leader that left him wounded and his two bodyguards dead. This is definitely a case of strange bedfellows: Hindu nationalists supporting Islamic separatists because they share a common enemy in Pakistan. The Ismaili separatists of Balawaristan should beware that they could easily outlive their usefulness to the Hindu nationalists: if they ever achieve their aim of an independent state, the inclusion of the Northern Areas in negotiations over the future of Kashmir would be a more remote possibility than ever.

The Ismailis differ from mainstream Shia in recognizing seven imams (or successors to the Prophet) rather than twelve, and waged a resistance struggle against the caliphates of Damascus and Baghdad for centuries before establishing their own caliphate under Egypt's Fatimid dynasty in 909. The Ismaili Fatimids led the struggle against the Crusaders until being overthrown by Saladin's Sunni armies in 1171. In addition to Bamiyan and "Balawaristan," small Ismaili communities survive throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and India.

Turkey's Eastern Anatolia, long the scene of a brutal counterinsurgency war against the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), is home to a profusion of small ethno-religious minorities—who reject either Turkish or Kurdish identity, and see themselves as caught between both sides. Among these are the Yazidis, whose highly esoteric beliefs contain echoes of Zoroatrianism, Manichaeism and Gnositicism. They have fared poorly in the war, which has been at a lower level since the capture of the PKK's leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999. There were 22,632 Yazidis in Turkey by official count in 1985; today there are 432. The Yazidis were especially singled out for terror by Turkish Hezbollah, an armed Islamist group that was groomed by the Turkish state as a proxy force against the PKK.

Yazidi leaders still protest that their children are forced to study Islam in school by local village authorities—that a practice a letter of protest posted to the Internet charges is part of the "Turkish state's assimilating policy against other ethnic and religious groups in general and Ezidis [sic] in particular." The writers charged: "The Turkish state is demanding many cultural rights for Turkish citizens who are living in Europe including religion, mother tongue courses etc. On the other hand, it is not allowing any rights for Kurds, Ezidi Kurds, Alevi Kurds or any Christian groups living within the borders of Turkey. So, how can the Turkish state integrate with the modern world?"

The Yazidis sect was established by a 12th-century Lebanese-born Arab mystic, Sheikh Adi Musafir. They have traditionally been derided by their Muslim neighbors as "devil-worshippers," although it is more accurate to say that they revere angels—as discussed by the famous Greek-Armenian mystic GI Gurdjieff in his autobiographical Meetings With Remarkable Men. They are mostly ethnic and linguistic Kurds, and their heartland largely overlaps with that of the Kurds, straddling eastern Turkey and northern Iraq. The largest Yazidi town of Bashiqa and holy site of Lalish (where Sheikh Adi is buried) are both near Mosul in Iraq.

The Yazidi sect is led by an hereditary prince and has no written text, but keeps its historical memories alive through elaborate rituals interwoven into daily life. These rituals especially recall centuries of bloody campaigns to exterminate the sect by the Ottoman Turkish authorities. The Yazidis eat no lettuce in remembrance of massacres carried out by Turkish troops in the lettuce fields that covered much of northern Iraq in the 19th century, and the wearing of blue is taboo during religious festivals in remembrance of the uniforms of Ottoman military units.

The Alevi sufis of Eastern Anatolia are both Turkish and Kurdish, but recently many so-called "Alevi Kurds" have been rejecting that label, asserting a distinct ethnic and linguistic identity, the Zaza. In 1917, the Zaza took up arms against the Turks and briefly declared an independent state. Resurgent Zaza ethno-nationalists are seeking to rebuild an independent Zazaistan in the area of Erzurum and Sivas. The Zaza are generally known to historians as the Qizilbashi ("red-heads"), a Turkish pejorative. In the long wars between the Ottoman empire and Persia, the Qizilbashi served as mercenaries for the Safavid shahs against their mutual Turkish enemy. The Zaza/Qizilbashi began their career as a semi-autonomous martial caste for the Persian empire when they revolted against the Ottomans, expelling them from their lands. The Ottoman-Safavid border went back and forth through their territory over the centuries, and some of the Zaza/Qizilbashi seem to resettled in Persia when their homeland was re-taken by the Turks. The British later inherited this tribal fighting force as Persia fell under their influence in the nineteenth century, and moved them still further east for imperial policing in Afghanistan. There are still scattered Qizilbashi communities in Afghanistan, left over from the Anglo-Afghan Wars—and because of their historical association with the British they have faced persecution.

Some contemporary Zaza of Anatolia consider themselves the inheritors of the ancient Sassanids—the last great Zoroastrian dynasty of ancient Persia (c. 100-637 CE), which briefly extended its rule to Jerusalem and Egypt before being overrun by the Arabs under Caliph Umar. The modern Zaza language is closer to Kurdish than Persian, but the ethno-linguistic differentiation may have been less advanced in the Sassanid period. The postulated cognate relation between Zaza and Sassa-nid bears further study.

It is instructive to note that these submerged peoples are equally threatened by nationalism (Turkish, Kurdish or Arab) and fundamentalism (Sunni or Shi'ite), as well as by the very globalization the fundamentalists ostensibly reject. Whether they realize it or not—and many doubtless do—they are part of a struggle for the soul and future of the Islamic world. The dead of 9-11 were ultimately casualties of this same struggle.

There is really a three-way civil war underway throughout the Islamic world. The three inter-related conflicts are: 1.) Sunni v. Shia, 2.) fundamentalism v. secularism, and 3.) national liberation v. imperialism. The sad irony is that it is the social iniquities that underly this last contradiction that provide the raw material of endemic rage—which is increasingly exploited, siphoned off as it were, into the prior two. Fundamentalists conflate secularism and imperialism (given a propaganda boost by their neocon enemies, who do likewise), and pose the only alternative as a purified, hegemonic Islam which must, of course, crush internal heresy.

A further tragic irony is that sufism, once in the vanguard of anti-imperialist struggle, is now rejected as heresy or, worse still, conflated with imperialism by the new jihadis.

From its origins, sufism was a populist tradition that drew the disaffected who distrusted the leaders of the day as too worldly and corrupt, and sought something more spiritually pure. In its embrace of local and even pre-Islamic traditions, it arguably represented a certain proto-universalism, even pro-secularism. The contemporary Indian spiritual thinker Maulana Wahiduddin Khan actually traces the roots of the Western Enlightenment to the Islamic revolution of the seventh century, in which the successors of the Prophet overthrew the shirk (idolatry) of the absolutist Persian and Byzantine empires. The possibly pseudonymous American writer Hakim Bey has even credited sufism with a kind of proto-anarchism, in its extreme suspicion of and often outright opposition to authority, both political and religious.

Sufism continued to be a wellspring of populist sentiment right through the anti-colonialist struggles—yet somewhere along the way, the situation was reversed. Today it is Wahhabism—ironically, the official state doctrine of that most worldly and wealthy of all the Muslim states, Saudi Arabia—which has assumed the mantle of populism and resistance. All over the Islamic world, the disaffected flock to Wahhabism and related doctrines as the alternative to the corruption of official leaders and their supine stance before imperialism and globalization. And because imperialism and globalization have appropriated the mantles of secularism, pluralism, tolerance, universalism—these are also being rejected. This final reality has much to say aboutwhy it is Wahhabism rather than sufism that now provides the wellspring of resistance.

Is the situation reversible? The glimmers of hope lie in the possibilities for the de-coupling of the notions of imperialism and universalism. Contrary to current depressing dogmas of global polarization, a "clash of civilizations," indigenous Islamic dissidence to both fundamentalism and imperialism does exist. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan rejects the terrorist "jihad" as fasad (error, illegitimacy) and poses a "true jihad" of non-violent activism that embraces rather than rejects pluralism.

Progressive in the West can aid this de-coupling by loaning solidarity to threatened indigenous traditions and micro-ethnicities. Instead, too many so-called "progressives" have been led into an idiotic and unseemly tail-ending of the very fundamentalist jihadis who would love to exterminate them as apostate Marxists and feminists. The equal and opposite error is to view the brave new ultra-imperialists as the lesser evil, neo-Napoleons bringing the light of modernity by military force—and the body-count be damned.

Further challenges lie in the possibilities for remnant secular left forces in the Middle East to build broad fronts against both imperialism and fundamentalism—fronts that could include dissident and liberatory Islamic currents. And, finally, in the possibilities for the re-emergence of a political, activist sufism—this time allied with secularism rather than fundamentalism, but equally clear in its anti-imperialism.

These admittedly look like long shots. But the only alternative, ultimately, is apocalypse.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850, Cornell University, 1989

Ageron, Charles-Robert, Modern Algeria: A History from 1830 to the Present, Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ, 1890

Easwaran, Eknath, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan, A Man to Match His Mountains, Penguin Books, New York, 2001

First, Ruth, Libya: The Elusive Revolution, Holmes & Meier, New York, 1974

Griffin, Michael, Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, Pluto Press, London, 2001

Hodges, Tony, Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War, Lawrence Hill, Westport, CT, 1983

Inayat Khan, Pir Vilayat, Awakening: A Sufi Experience, Putnam Books, New York, 1999

Provence, Michel, The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism, University of Texas, Austin, 2005

Shah, Idries, The Sufis, Anchor Books, New York, 1965

Vikor, Knut S., Sufi and Scholar on the Desert Edge: Muhammad B. Ali al-Sanusi and his Brotherhood, Northwestern University, 1993

Wahiddudin Khan, Maulana, The True Jihad: The Concepts of Peace, Tolerance and Non-Violence in Islam, Goodword Books, New Delhi, 2002

Zakaria, Rafiq, The Struggle Within Islam: The Conflict Between Religion and Politics, Penguin Books, New York, 1988

RESOURCES

Naqshbandi Homepage
http://www.naqshbandi.org/

Ahmadiyya Islam on Vedic references in the Koran
http://www.alislam.org/library/links/in_vedas.html

"The Religious Roots of Conflict: Russia and Chechnya" by David Damrel
Religious Studies News, September 1995, online at Belfast Islamic Center
http://www.iol.ie/~afifi/Articles/chechnya.htm

From our weblog:

"Mass graves unearthed in Bamiyan," Feb. 17, 2002
http://ww4report.com/static/21.html#6afghan

"U.S. to intervene against pacifists in Somalia?" Sept. 23, 2002
http://ww4report.com/static/52.html#horn1

"Prince Aga Khan dead at 70; led Afghan aid efforts," June 2, 2003
http://ww4report.com/static/88.html#afghan2

"Bangladesh: Ahmadiyyas face persecution," February 2004
http://ww4report.com/static/95.html#subcontinent1

"Terror in Baluchistan," March 20, 2005
http://www.ww4report.com/node/322

"Yazidis in the news," April 9, 2005
http://ww4report.com/node/376

"Pakistan: more sectarian terror," May 27, 2005
http://www.ww4report.com/node/516

"Iraqi 'resistance' blows up Sufis," June 3, 2005
http://www.ww4report.com/node/558

"Hindu nationalists support Pakistan's Ismaili separatists," July 6, 2005
http://ww4report.com/node/717

"Next: Free Zazaistan?" Sept. 26, 2005
http://ww4report.com/node/1122

"Ashura violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan," Feb. 10, 2006
http://ww4report.com/node/1573

"Iraq: Samarra's al-Askari dome destroyed," Feb. 22, 2006
http://ww4report.com/node/1642

"Iraq: another Shi'ite shirne bombed," Feb. 27, 2006
http://www.ww4report.com/node/1655

"Iran: police attack women's day march, crack down on Sufis," March 14, 2006
http://ww4report.com/node/1732

"Chechen Sufi revival--between Russian occupation and Wahhabis," May 24, 2006
http://ww4report.com/node/2005

"Iran: Bahais under attack," June 1, 2006
http://ww4report.com/node/2039

"Somalia: Afghanistan redux?" June 9, 2006
http://ww4report.com/node/2039

"Al-Qaeda suspect to lead Somalia," June 25, 2006
http://ww4report.com/node/2127

See also:

"Eastern Anatolia: Iraq's Next Domino" by Sarkis Pogossian
WW4 REPORT #115, November 2005
http://ww4report.com/node/1238

"Jihad Revisited" by Hakim Bey
WW4 REPORT #99, June 2004
http://ww4report.com/static/hakim.html

-----------------------
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1780

Multicultural Iraq: possible?

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sat, 03/25/2006 - 03:34.

A March 23 commentary from Lebanon's Daily Star:

A foolish new attraction to oppressive Arab nationalism

By Rayyan al-Shawaf

We are at a critical juncture in the history of the Middle East and North Africa. The continuing and oftentimes violent debate over Iraq's national and religious identity has revived the fortunes of diehard Arab nationalists, who are now clamoring for a return to the old formula where Iraq was identified as a purely Arab country.

The irony of this is the obvious unsuitability of any ethnic-based ideology for the multiethnic societies of the Middle East and North Africa. If Islam under the Ottoman Empire proved unviable as a political bond because not all the subjects were Muslim, and not all Muslims were religious, how can Arab nationalism be any good for the non-Arab citizens of the region, or even for Arabs who do not identify strongly with their ethnicity?

Fully 20 percent of Iraqis are not Arab, as is the case with a similar percentage of Algerians, half the Sudanese population, and a majority of Moroccans. Syria and Egypt also are home to significant minorities - Kurds and Copts respectively. Yet all these peoples are officially relegated to second-class status in their societies. The solution to such systemic discrimination is abandoning the idea that the state must be Arab or Islamic or anything else. After all, coloring the state with an ethnic or religious hue serves to create one or more social underclasses.

Though the problem is to a large extent the marginalization of non-Arabs and non-Muslims in a predominantly Arab and Muslim region, this is not the whole story. Even minorities that are both Arab and Muslim, for example Shiites in Saudi Arabia and in other Gulf countries, have been oppressed for decades in countries that derive their legitimacy from Sunni Islam. Similarly, certain Arab nationalist regimes have oppressed not only non-Arabs, but fellow Arabs of a different sectarian persuasion. The Shiite Arab majority in Iraq was disenfranchised under the former, Sunni-led Baath regime, despite the latter's Arab nationalist orientation. In Syria, which is run by a Baath regime under Alawite authority, participation by the Sunni Arab majority remains controlled.

Non-Arab countries like Israel, Turkey and Iran, where the state often identifies itself with a specific ethnic or religious group, are no better. Israel discriminates not only against the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories, but even against its own Arab citizens, who make up 20 percent of the Israeli population.

Modern Turkey emerged following the widespread massacre of the Armenian community, and has in the name of Turkish nationalism sought to erase the cultural identity of Kurds, who constitute 25 percent of the population. Alevis, a heterodox Muslim sect, make up 20 percent of the Turkish population, and like Kurds have traditionally gone unrecognized.

Islamic Iran not only assigns an inferior status to its Christian and Jewish citizens, it also discriminates against non-Shiite Muslims. There is not a single Sunni mosque in all of Tehran, despite the presence of a large Sunni Muslim minority in the Iranian capital.

As for Arab nationalism, it began as an attempt to forge an alternative socio-political bond to that represented by Islam, the ideological underpinning of the Ottoman Empire. Many of its earliest proponents were Christians, who as subjects of the empire had two principal reasons for being disaffected: they were neither Muslim nor Turkish. Though Arab nationalism itself ended up undergoing a process of "Islamization," this was but one of many self-defeating characteristics ingrained in an ideology based entirely on ethnic affiliation. For while Arabism may have theoretically succeeded in placing Muslim and Christian Arabs on an equal footing, and can be credited with making possible the rise of individual Christians to positions of prominence in countries such as Syria or Iraq, it also proved a disaster for non-Arabs.

Non-Arab Muslim minorities such as the Amazigh, or Berbers, Kurds, and Turkmen found themselves officially out of favor. They faced the prospect of becoming "Arabized" or of being denied political and even civil rights. Groups that identified themselves as neither Arab nor Muslim had it even worse: Southern Sudanese, Copts, Jews, and Assyrians were plunged into a protracted nightmare that saw their communities ground into anonymity, forcing many to emigrate permanently. Even Maronites, whose retention of political power in Lebanon immunized them from utter marginalization, watched with alarm as Arab nationalist propaganda increasingly portrayed them as a foreign and sinister element in the heart of the Arab nation.

So Arab nationalism, but also Syrian nationalism and communism (which were no less destructive), proved to be just as tyrannical and intolerant as the political Islam of the Ottoman Empire. Despite this reality, many Arabs continue to cling to these supposedly secular ideologies as the only buffer against resurgent Islam. Indeed, too often Christian Arabs and secular Muslims have gravitated toward nationalism and communism as an attempt to banish the terrifying specter of an Islamic state.

After all, when democracy is allowed to flourish, they argue, it results in successes for intolerant Islamic parties, whether in Iraq, Palestine, or Egypt.

Are Arabs forever doomed, then, to fight one totalitarianism with another? Will they always be obliged to choose between the lesser of two evils? Not necessarily. Though it is unwise to ban political parties with clear religious and ethnic biases, societies can ensure that the state remains above the fray. They can make it unconstitutional for any party, regardless of popularity and election results, to associate the state with a particular religion or ethnicity. Indeed, states should avoid identifying themselves with Arab or Turkish or Jewish ethnicity, and Islam or any other religion.

Only then will Arabs and non-Arabs in Middle Eastern societies, regardless of ethnic and religious affiliation, attain freedom and equality. Only then will states become states for all their citizens.

See our last posts on Iraq and the crisis of Islam.


http://ww4report.com/node/1643

Exiled Sufi scholar: military action strengthens Islamists

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 02/22/2006 - 20:30.

How frustrating that a secular anti-imperialist perspective which has been virtually purged from the so-called "alternative media" finds its way onto the front page of the New York Times Metro Section. Peter Applebombe in his "Our Towns" column features a profile of Shemeem Burney Abbas, a professor at Westchester County's Purchase College and author of works such as The Female Voice in Sufi Ritual: Devotional Practices of Pakistan and India. The profile is aptly entitled "Lecturing on a World She Cannot Lecture In." Prof. Abbas has been effectively censored in her native Pakistan. Excerpts, links and emphasis added:

After earning a Pd.D. from the University of Texas in 1992, she returned to Pakistan to teach at the giant Allama Iqbal Open University in Islamabad. But she soon found that being a woman edcuated at an American university and writing on the populist Sufi traditions of Islamic spirituality was extremely hard in a society increasingly dominated by Islamic orthodoxy. She left in 1999 and returned to Texas to write, and then after 9-11 felt she could not continue her work in Islamabad.

Through a group called the Scholars at Risk Network, which has found teaching opportunities and housing for more than 150 scholars since its founding in 2000, she was able to teach at Texas... Last year she relocated to Purchase College, where she teaches Islamic law and courses on gender, free speech and literature in the Islamic world. She's giving a public lecture on March 2.

Dr. Abbas said she wanted to maintain her links to Pakistan, but would rather teach here—she can write what she wants, and she relishes the opportunity to educate Americans, still mostly in the dark about Islam.

Dr. Abbas finds troubling elements in both places. At home, she worries about the doors closing on speech and thought, the struggles of scholars, particularly women, who raise topics that challenge Islamic orthodoxy. Here, she's convinced that American military actions in the Muslim world are only strengthening the Islamists. "They have taken on the role of being the voice of anti-imperialism," she said, "and everyone else has no choice but to let these people represent them."

Dr. Abbas exiled from fundamentalism-plagued Pakistan to the US, seat of the empire; secular anti-imperialism exiled from the supposed "left media" to the New York Times, organ of the empire. Once again, dizzying irony.

Annoyingly, this article is only available online to paid subscribers of the "Times Select" service. We have typed in these excerpts, copied directly from the print edition, in protest of this elitist policy.

See our last post on the struggle within Islam.


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1642

Iraq: Samarra's al-Askari dome destroyed

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 02/22/2006 - 04:33.

From a late-breaking AP account, Feb. 22. A day after the bombing of a Shiite market in Baghdad's Dora district, killing 22, comes the destruction of one of Shia's most sacred shrines in Samarra. Somebody is apparently hell-bent on plunging Iraq into civil war at any cost...and perhaps igniting sectarian warfare throughout the Islamic world.

On Wednesday, a large explosion destroyed the golden dome of one of Iraq's most famous Shiite religious shrines in Samarra, the U.S. military said, sending protesters pouring into the streets.

Police believed there were victims buried under the debris of the Askariya Shrine but had no immediate casualty figures. The attack on a major Shiite religious symbol raised fears of an escalation in sectarian violence.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered near the shrine, waving Iraqi flags, Shiite religious flags and copies of the Quran.

"This criminal act aims at igniting civil strife," said Mahmoud al-Samarie, 28-year-old builder who was among the crowd. "We demand an investigation so that the criminals who did this be punished. If the government fails to do so, then we will take up arms and chase the people behind this attack."

Religious leaders at other mosques and shrines throughout Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, denounced the attack.

[...]

The car bombing...in...Dora...was the deadliest bombing in Baghdad since Jan. 19, when a suicide attacker blew himself up in a coffee shop, killing 22 people and injuring 23.

The Dora bombing was the second major attack in as many days against a Shiite target in the capital. Twelve people died Monday when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt on a bus in the heavily Shiite district of Kazimiyah.

At least 969 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence this year and at least 986 have been wounded, according to an Associated Press count.

However, large-scale attacks against civilians have declined in recent weeks amid widespread public criticism, including from Sunnis clerics and others sympathetic to the Sunni-dominated insurgency.

A roadside bomb exploded Wednesday near a primary school in a mostly Shiite area in southern Iraq, killing two boys and injuring four others, police said. The incident happened at about 7:45 a.m. in the Bashrogiya area near Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, police Lt. Othman al-Rawi said.

Some Sunni insurgent groups are believed to be holding back to give Sunni Arab politicians a chance to negotiate concessions from Shiites and Kurds during talks on a new government.

However, talks among parties that won parliamentary seats in the Dec. 15 elections have bogged down...

The Interior Ministry has denied running or sanctioning death squads. On Thursday, however, the ministry announced an investigation into alleged death squads after U.S. military officials announced the arrest last month of 22 policemen who were about to kill a Sunni Arab north of Baghdad...

A coalition of Shiite Muslim religious parties won 130 of the 275 seats in the new parliament, and Shiite leaders insist their strong showing in the election gives them the right to control key ministries.

A Kurdish alliance won 53 seats and two Sunni Arab blocs together took 55 seats - a major increase over Sunni representation in the outgoing parliament.

Sunni Arabs have accused the Shiite-run Interior Ministry of kidnapping and murdering Sunni civilians, a charge the ministry denies. Shiites and Kurds dominate the army and police, while most of the insurgents are Sunni Arabs.

As we noted in WW4 REPORT #94, Samarra was the scene of a November 2003 bloody firefight between US forces and Shiite guerillas, the details of which were hotly contested. The al-Askari mosque suffered minor damage in this battle. As we wrote in WW4 REPORT #93:

Samarra's gold-domed sanctuary holds the tomb of two of Shia's 12 imams, the 10th, Ali al-Hadi, and the 11th, Hadi al-Askari. A second shrine in Samarra indicates where the 12th imam, Muhammed al-Mahdi, went into "concealment" or "occultation" according to Shiite tradition. Below the blue-tiled dome there is a cellar, said to be the last place the 12th imam dwelled. Samarra was also the seat of the Abbasid caliphate for 56 years after it relocated from Baghdad in the 9th century, and still holds Abbasid-era relics, such as the Great Friday Mosque, with its distinctive spiral minaret. (Encyclopedia of the Orient)

This attack has implications far beyond Iraq, and could have devastating impacts throughout the Islamic world. As we noted in regard to the recent violence around the Ashura holy day in Pakistan and Afghanistan:

There is really a three-way civil war underway throughout the Islamic world. The three inter-related conflicts are: 1.) Sunni v. Shia, 2.) fundamentalism v. secularism, and 3.) national liberation v. imperialism. The sad irony is that it is the social iniquities that underly this last contradiction that provide the raw material of endemic rage—which is increasingly exploited, siphoned off as it were, into the prior two. Fundamentalists conflate secularism and imperialism (given a propaganda boost by their neocon enemies, who do likewise), and pose the only alternative as a purified, hegemonic Islam which must, of course, crush internal heresy.

See our last post on Iraq, and on the struggle within Islam.


Shia's sacred mosques as political pawns

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 02/22/2006 - 18:18.

More details from Reuters:

No one was killed in the attack on the mosque in Samarra. However a Sunni cleric was killed, police said, at one of 17 Sunni mosques in Baghdad fired on by militants. One mosque was damaged by fire, though most damage appeared relatively minor.

Is this Sunni insurgents attacking moderates and non-collaborators, or Shiite revenge violence?

A powerful Shi'ite political leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, also called for calm and unity among Iraqis but said recent U.S. pressure on Shi'ite leaders had encouraged the attackers, whom the government suspects are Sunni followers of al Qaeda.

The Shi'ites' reclusive and ageing senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani made a rare, if silent, television appearance that underlined the gravity of the crisis; he appealed in a statement for protests but restraint as protesters outside his office in Najaf chanted: "Rise up Shi'ites! Take revenge!" ...

Armed Mehdi Army militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took up positions on streets in Baghdad and Shi'ite cities in the south, clashing in Basra and elsewhere with Sunnis; a Sadr aide said: "If the Iraqi government does not do its job to defend the Iraqi people we are ready to do so."

Negotiations over the government composition have exposed divisions among Shi'ite leaders, with Sadr gaining influence, and mixed responses to the crisis may reflect jockeying for power.

The leading Sunni religious body condemned the attack.

After gunmen attacked offices of his party in Baghdad and Basra, Sunni political leader Tareq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Islamic Party said: "We will pursue anyone who attacks Sunnis." ...

[Iraq's] national security adviser accused al Qaeda followers of the bombing and said 10 people wearing the uniforms of police commandos had been arrested in Samarra; police said such a group had overpowered mosque guards and laid charges which brought down the 20-metre wide, 100-year-old gilded dome, shattered mosaic wall coverings around the complex and littered it with debris.

"For the Shi'ites ... this is a major assault comparable to an attack on Mecca for all Muslims," said Hazim al-Naimi, a political scientist at Baghdad's Mustansiriya University.

"It could push the country closer to civil war."

CLAMPDOWN

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shi'ite, declared three days of mourning and called for Muslim unity. He said the interim government had sent officials to Samarra.

Residents said police sealed off the mainly Sunni city, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad; police fired over demonstrators' heads as they chanted religious and anti-American slogans.

Hakim, leader of the SCIRI Islamist party which also has an armed wing, the Badr organisation, accused U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad of encouraging Sunni insurgents with comments on Monday insisting that the new cabinet must include Sunnis and others.

While this is the most dramatic and serious incident by far, Shia's most sacred mosques have long been pawns in the wars for Iraq, and have suffered damage in fighting and bombardment.

In May 2004 fighting between US forces and the Shiite insurgency led by Moqtada al-Sadr at Najaf's Shrine of Ali, the gold dome was hit by gunfire, and a courtyard wall was damaged in a shell blast. (WW4R #99)

The Shrine of Ali has long been the center of political conflict, and was damaged by Saddam in repression against the Shiite rebellion of 1991. It has more recently been contested by al-Sadr's forces and rival Shiite factions. (WW4R #94)

On Aug. 29, 2003, a car bomb exploded at the Shrine of Ali mosque during Friday prayers, killing 75--including one of Iraq's most important Shiite clerics, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, 64, who had just delivered a sermon calling for Iraqi unity. The mosque suffered minor damage, with some mosaic tiles blown off. Ayatollah al-Hakim was leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). His borther Abdel Aziz al-Hakim became SCIRI's new leader. (WW4R #92)

That same month, the dome of the shrine of Imam Ali Zein Abeddine, an important Shiite saint, was destroyed in Kurd-Turcoman violence in Kirkuk. (WW4R #92)

During the US aerial bombardment and invasion of Spring 2003, pro-Saddam resistance fighters took refuge in Najaf's Shrine of Ali. The city's Shiite residents spontaneously mobilized to protect the mosque, demanding that the fighters abandon it and that US troops not enter it. Citizens also gathered at the Imam Hussein Mosque in Karbala to protect it from war damage. (WW4R #80)

On Aug. 31, 2005, up to 1,000 were killed in a stampede on Baghdad's Al-Aaimmah bridge sparked by rumors that a suicide bomber had infiltrated a crowd of one million pilgrims had marching toward the Kadhimiya mosque, the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim, one of the twelve Shiite Imams. (Wikipedia)


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1576

"Defend the right to blasphemy"

Submitted by WW4 Report on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 21:14.

Sent by Mahmood Ketabchi, an exiled follower of the Worker Communist Party of Iran now living in New Jersey and active in support work for workers' and women's movements in Iran and Iraq. Emphasis added.

Defend Freedom of Press—and the Right to Blasphemy

by Mahmood Ketabchi
February 9, 2006

The publication of cartoons of Muhammad by several European newspapers has given the political Islamists an opportunity to launch a brutal international assault against freedom of press and the right to blasphemy. Islamist demonstrators attacked and burned a few European embassies, launched sectarian attacks on people from other religions, and threatened the lives of European citizens. In the streets of London, they called for murder and beheading of the cartoonists and anyone who insults Islam and threatened a special 9/11 massacre for Europeans. It went so far that a demonstrator in front of the Danish Embassy in London wore suicide bomber's gear. The US and European governments declared their regrets over the cartoons and apologized to the Islamists. Even the Pope, representing the Catholic establishment, pitched in his two cents condemning the cartoon, maybe out of fear that someone might draw caricatures of the church's collusion with pedophilic Catholic priests raping little children. The apologies only added more fuel to the Islamist's rage and outcry, for they saw it as justification for their actions.

It is naive to believe that these protests were "spontaneous" movements of Muslims against Islamophobia—as some Islamists and their western apologists would like to tell us. This assault has been in the making for a few months. In September a right-wing Danish newspaper publishes 12 drawings of Muhammad. Islamist groups in Denmark began a campaign against the caricatures of Muhammad. Then, despotic and reactionary Arab regimes, friends or foes of the west, in solidarity with their brethren in Denmark, mounted diplomatic pressure on Denmark. In fact in December the issue was discussed at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (made up of 57 "Islamic countries") that later condemned the cartoons as an "act of blasphemy." In January, Copenhagen prosecutor refused to press charges against the paper. After all efforts to silence the Danish press failed, the Islamist attack dogs were unleashed to commence a violent protest campaign to teach the west a lesson. Professional Islamist hooligans and paid agents of authoritarian and fascist nationalist and Islamist governments and organizations for the most part formed the core of these protests. As the Islamists and the nationalist forces find themselves in a growing conflict with the US and western governments, the cartoons of Muhammad gave them a chance to try to gain advantage over the European and the US government in order to reinforce their position internationally and specifically in the Middle East.

The fascist mobs who are asking the world to hold their prophet in reverence and are expressing outrage at the mocking of Muhammad are the same people who waste no time to impose their reign of terror and barbarity when they come to power or gain any significant political strength. They do not hesitate to spit on and trample upon every bit of human decency and values. These are the same currents that commit daily crimes against humanity. They are the same criminal club- and knife-wielding crowd, resembling the brown-shirt fascists, who beat up protesters and progressive forces that dare to stand up for freedom, equality, and human dignity. They are the same misogynists who brutalize women and regard them as subhumans, the same homophobics who kill and maim those who do not fit their man-fuck-woman-only lifestyle, the same anti-worker forces who suppress any independent workers' protests and organizations, the same people for whom child molesting is a law of god—the list of atrocities has no end. Islamism is not a "protest movement of oppressed nations"; it is an offshoot of the US and western governments' campaign against communism, freedom, human decency, and a better world, in collusion with the nationalist bourgeoisie in Islamism-stricken countries.

The Islamist campaign to impose their taboos and intimidate the world into submission must be confronted head on. It is an attempt to spread their message of hate and brutality across the world. Since long ago, when Ronald Regan called Afghani Islamic criminals "freedom fighters," Islamist regimes and forces, with the knowledge and clear understanding of the western powers and the US government and oil money behind them, have started a quiet but concerted effort to spread their propaganda machinery across the world (including Europe), build political power, and shape Islamist hate groups that are now being instrumentalized to their advantage.

Benefiting from "multiculturalism" and "moral relativism" in the west, they have sought to create and maintain Islamist ghettos and implement their oppressive and reactionary practices. Islamism is a dreadful and grim political movement. The recent uproar over the cartoons only helps highlight the challenges political Islam pose to progressive humanity. The western powers and the US government, as they have demonstrated repeatedly, have no intention to confront this movement. In fact, they have no problem to work hand in hand with the Islamists as long as their cooperation can be secured. They are concerned with their capitalist economic and political interests and domination over the world, not anyone's freedom.

Islamism must be defeated in a political arena. First and foremost, the Islamist's call to limit and suppress freedom of expression must be strongly opposed. Religion and for that matter Islam should not be above criticism. No religion, no god, and no prophet should hold any special privilege. Islamists are free to praise their prophet as long as and as much as they want. However, that is the limit. To demand that the freethinkers must succumb to their taboos is outrageous and preposterous. Islamists should not be allowed to impose their ignorance, taboos, and superstitions on humanity. The right to blasphemy, to question and protest against god, to criticize religious beliefs, to mock religious personalities, is not just equally as important as freedom of worship and religious beliefs—but is rather moreessential given the rise of sectarian religious tendencies in the world. Religion as an oppressive industry continues to be a human malaise and catastrophe. It does nothing but propagate ignorance, superstitions, human bondage and submission, bloody conflicts, sectarian wars, and genocides. Freedom from religion is an important safeguard for human liberation and dignity. Requesting respect for "religious sensitivities" as an argument to curb freedom of expression is as preposterous and dangerous as any attempt to silence freethinkers. Freedom has no boundaries and the religious sectarians and fundamentalist fanatics should get used to it. Putting limits on freedom under the pretext of "respect for religion", "emergency situation", "national interest", "security", "war", etc. can only give brutal forces the opportunity to suppress people.

Moreover, separation of religion and the state must be vigorously enforced. Religion and for that matter Islam should be pushed out of public life into mosques, churches, and synagogues where they belong. Reactionary and brutal religious practices that undermine and denigrate human life have to be prohibited. Religious bigotry and discriminatory practices must be outlawed. Children need to be protected from religious proselytizing and industry. Religious teachings should be banned from education, public or private. Children rights and women rights should be expanded and strongly implemented. No public money, not even a cent, should go to religious institutions. Tax laws should be equally applicable to all properties and revenues belonging to religious institutions. To fight religious movements it is inseparable that we fight against bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant policies, and ghetoization of immigrant communities, all of which feed into the Islamist movement. Islamism grows in a swamp; that swamp must be dried up.

Freedom from religion and the right to blasphemy must be of particular importance for progressive forces, socialists, and communists in the US. Bush calls himself a "Born Again Christian." Some of his followers believe god chose him to become president of the United States. He is a man who believes his "War on Terrorism" is his "Holy Mission." Bush's ascendancy to power became possible to a large extent due to the growing power of Christian religious bigots who are dreaming of their own apocalyptic Christendom. These reactionary forces, with their vast resources, as well as public money at their disposal through "Faith Based Initiatives," and with their president in office, are chipping away slowly but steadily at our freedom, particularly women's rights, under the guise of "religious sanctities." These are the same people who unleashed criminals to bomb abortion clinics, murder physicians, and assault women seeking abortions, all in defense of "sanctity of life." These messengers of hate have enough taboos and "sanctities" that can create a hellish life if enforced upon the society. To the extent that the power of religion and religious movements grows, freedom and human dignity become its inevitable casualty. Stopping Islamists from imposing their taboos on us is inseparable from our struggle to prevent the Christian bigots from forcing their sanctities on society.

It is similarly crucial that we defend freedom of press and expression. This is a hard-won achievement for humanity that is under a brutal assault by the Islamists. Succumbing to the Islamists' demands will be a dangerous precedent. Not only will it allow them to come up with other outrageous demands, it will also create a fertile ground for all other reactionary forces to make the same argument that such and such "sanctity" or "interest" is in jeopardy, and therefore demand their own limits on press freedom.

It is no secret that the US mainstream media are by and large in the pocket of the US government. We know that without their help, for example, the Iraq war could not have happened. They deliberately refused to publish information that challenged the lies about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. We know that under the pretext of "national security", they withhold crucial information from people, or only reveal a a very insignificant part of it. As the Islamists mount an attack on freedom of press, the US media once again have shown their cowardliness by refusing to take a stand in defense of freedom of expression. It is a no-brainer that fighting for press freedom here in this country is of significant importance and that includes beating back the Islamists who want to impose their taboos on the world.

See our last post on the cartoon controversy.


Congratulations
Submitted by alf (not verified) on Mon, 02/13/2006 - 04:58.
I feel the need to congratulate Mahmood Ketabchi on his amazingly well thought through article. It represents the form of thinking that is needed not only within the middle east but anywhere were oppressive regimes (be they religious or other) exist.

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So, do you defend this Muslim's right to free speech too?
Submitted by Samera Hussain (not verified) on Tue, 02/21/2006 - 14:10.
Student slapped down for defending Palestinian right to resist

by RICHARD SEYMOUR

Axiomatically, leading academic institutions involve intense and varied debate over a variety of topics, and some of that debate ranges over territory that mainstream conversation often misses. SOAS, a prestigious higher learning institution in the centre of London, would appear to have a defender of free and open discussion in head Colin Bundy. In the last month, the Director & Principal has openly defended the right of an apologist for the Uzbekistan regime, Shirin Akiner, to speak at SOAS, rejecting calls for reconsideration by former British ambassador the dictatorship, Craig Murray. He previously overturned a ban imposed by the Student Union on the attendance of Israeli embassy counsellor Roey Gilad: the students have an anti-racist policy, and consider Zionism to be in practise a form of racism. Bundy has expounded an heroic Voltairean dedication to free speech in defence of these actions.

Yet, one glaring exception renders the rule absurd: the treatment of a student named Nasser Amin. Amin had written an article for a student magazine arguing that Palestinians had the right to use force against Israel's occupation. Instantly, this issue was used alongside a clutch of others by some right-wingers and pro-Zionist students who insisted that SOAS was guilty of anti-Semitism. The broadsheets in the UK were joined in coverage of this claim by American far right website FrontPage magazine and Campus Watch, the former run by David Horowitz and the latter by Daniel Pipes, an anti-Muslim bigot. Gavin Gross, the SOAS student who had been most involved in pressing these claims, was given a glowing interview by FrontPage in which he dragged Amin's name through the mud. David Winnick MP raised the possibility in parliament that Amin should be charged with incitement to racial hatred. Finally, Bundy succumbed to the pressure and issued Amin with a formal reprimand, without even informing him of it or why he was being reprimanded.

Professors Richard Falk and Ted Honderich have referred in the past to a right to violence – Honderich has gone further, suggesting that on the basis of present realities, the Palestinians are entitled to their terror. Professor Michael Neumann uses similar arguments to Amin. These are public intellectuals, and so are in some position to defend themselves. Amin, by contrast, is a student. He is almost entirely defenceless. As a Muslim, he belongs to a community that is subject to calumny and extraordinary scrutiny of its every word and gesture. His academic freedom was sacrificed to the exigencies of an urgent political struggle by defenders of Israel to curtail the scope of anti-Zionism on campus. Some staff at SOAS spoke out on Amin's behalf, including his tutor Dr Mark Laffey, who said "It is part of the job description of an academic institution that you are willing to give offence. Our job is to seek out the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant for various groups or interests." Another member of staff, John Game, circulated an open letter condemning Bundy for giving in to such pressure. The Islamic Human Rights Commission said a word or two on Amin's behalf, demanding that Bundy explain why the reprimand was issued without Amin being given the chance to defend himself, and also demanding that the reprimand be retracted.

Yet, Bundy's impressive dedication to free expression continues to elude him on this issue. Answer came there none, and Amin still has an official reprimand to remind him of just what commonplace argument he may not articulate in mixed company. He also has an MP who'd like to see him face jail for up to seven years. And he has American rightists accusing him of "Jew-hatred" for the benefit of audiences whom he may never address. Amin, for his part, feels that the article was "selectively misquoted" by the media and that he has been misused for political purposes. Further, just when he hoped the college would defend him from "Islamophobia, bullying, racism, harassment and slander", they instead acceded to the bullying, slapped him down and made him a scapegoat on their website.

This is not an isolated story. Campus Watch has been behind the hounding of a number of pro-Palestinian academics in the United States, including Professors Joel Beinin and Rashid Khalidi. The website has a page inviting students to tell on teachers who are insufficiently supportive of Israel. It attacked a professor named Joseph Massad who was falsely accused of bullying pro-Israeli students. In part, this is happening because the issues surrounding Israel-Palestine are becoming more urgent, while at the same time a decades-long pro-Israel consensus is eroding. There is also a vast gulf between what is academically known about the Israel-Palestine conflict and the picture generally presented in the media. This has produced a climate in which pro-Zionists and right-wingers feel compelled to try and rein in academic discourse. The treatment of Nasser Amin is a small introduction to that trend, one which began in America and is gathering pace in the UK. So the story is, if you like, about all students and their right to argue points of view that are controversial in mainstream discourse.

Anyone feeling the urge to defend his or her own intellectual integrity could do worse than contact Colin Bundy and protest against the mistreatment of Nasser Amin: cb3@soas.ac.uk

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Absolutely, but...
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/21/2006 - 14:36.
Could you please post the source for that article?

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Sure, Bill, the link is below:
Submitted by Samera Hussain (not verified) on Sun, 02/26/2006 - 14:12.
http://www.iwitness.co.uk/uk/1105u-06.htm


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1575

Violence escalates in cartoon imbroglio

Submitted by WW4 Report on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 19:55.

Violence continues to grow throughout the Muslim world in protests against the anti-Islamic cartoons published in Denmark. In Nairobi, police opened fire as hundreds of protesters advanced on the Danish ambassador's residence, leaving one injured. Another was killed and four more injured in an apparent accident involving the ambulance taking the wounded protester away. (AP, Feb. 10) A German journalist from ARD Radio was also reportedly assaulted by protesters in Nairobi, and had his car windows smashed as he tried to leave the scene. (Expatica, Feb. 10)

Police in Bangladesh beat back about 10,000 people marching on the Danish embassy in Dhaka. In Morocco a government-sponsored march attracted tens of thousands, while, in Latin America's first protests, around 200 people burned Danish and American flags in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. (Reuters, Feb. 10) The Venezuelan protesters, mostly Muslim, left a prayer session at a Caracas mosque and marched, chanting in Arabic, to the Danish embassy, burning the flags on the building's steps. (Reuters)

Violence also continued in Tehran, where protesters hurled petrol bombs at the French embassy and threw stones at the Danish and British missions—despite calls by a senior cleric to stop the attacks. "I am calling on all religious men not to attack the embassies of the foreigners," Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told Friday prayer worshippers in comments broadcast live on state radio. "Chanting slogans, staging protests and condemning such measures are holy...but I feel that they want their embassies to be set on fire so they can say that they are innocent. Take this excuse away from them." (Reuters)

One wonders how sincere Iranian authorities are in trying to restrain the violence. A prominent Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, has announced it will hold a competition for cartoons on the Nazi Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the principle of freedom of expression as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. The contest is to be launched Feb. 13, co-convened by Hamshahri and the House of Caricatures, a Tehran exhibition center. Both the paper and the exhibition center are owned by the Tehran municipality, dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?" Hamshahri wrote.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also said the publication of the anti-Islamic cartoons was an Israeli conspiracy. The cartoons were a "conspiracy by Zionists who were angry because of the victory of Hamas." Khamenei was speaking at a ceremony to mark the air force's decision to join the Islamic revolution in 1979. His speech was broadcast on state radio. (AP, Feb. 8)

In Gaza City, about 7,000 attended a demonstration organized by the Islamic Jihad group, which threatened armed retaliation for the cartoons. "Until now we have limited our action to demonstrations, but if they did not stop their assault on Prophet Mohammed we will defend the prophet with our souls and blood," Islamic Jihad leader Khader Habib told thousands of supporters after Friday prayers. "So far we have demanded an apology from the governments. But if they continue their assault on our dear Prophet Mohammed, we will burn the ground underneath their feet."

In Jerusalem, about 2,000 chanted "Bin Laden, strike again" as they marched around the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, trampling a homemade Danish flag. Police tried to prevent protests by barring all men under the age of 45 from attending Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa, Islam's third-holiest site. (Haaretz, Feb. 10)

In Pakistan, protests erupted around the country after prayers, with some burning foreign-made cheese, breaking windows and clashing with police. Thousands also demonstrated in India, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, while smaller rallies were reported from Indonesia and the Philippines.

In Egypt, thousands protested across the country and some clashed with police who tried to disperse them with water canons and tear gas. About 2,000 Muslim worshippers marched in Jordan under tight security.

The editor of a small Christian newspaper in Norway - the second to publish the drawings, on Jan. 10 - offered an apology for offending Muslims. Magazinet editor Vebjoern Selbekk said he failed to foresee the pain and anger the drawings would cause Muslims. (AP, Feb. 10)

See our last posts on the cartoon controversy, Iran and the struggle within Islam.


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1573

Ashura violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan

Submitted by WW4 Report on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 05:05.

From AP, Feb. 9:

A suicide bomber struck Thursday in Pakistan on the holiest festival for Shiite Muslims, triggering a riot that left a provincial town in flames and at least 27 people dead and more than 50 wounded.

After the bombing, which appeared to be a sectarian attack, security forces battled enraged worshippers who torched shops and cars and took up positions on hills overlooking Hangu, where the sound of gunfire echoed through the smoky streets.

In neighboring Afghanistan, hundreds of Shiites and Sunnis clashed in the western city of Herat, hurling grenades and burning mosques. At least five people were killed and 51 wounded.

The Shiites were marking Ashoura, when they pound their chests and flail their backs with chains and blades to mourn the 7th-century death of Imam Hussain, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Hussain's death fueled a rivalry between Shiites and Sunnis over who should succeed the prophet.

In Iraq, tens of thousands of Iraqis marched and beat themselves in blood-soaked processions through the holy city of Karbala, but no holiday-related violence was reported amid tight security to prevent Sunni Arabs from attacking the event, as they have the previous two years, killing more than 230 people.

Sectarian attacks have also often marred the annual rite in Pakistan, but rarely in Afghanistan. Two years ago, a suicide attack on a Shiite procession by Sunni militants in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta killed 44 people.

Pakistan declared a curfew and deployed its army to restore order in Hangu, a market town of about 200,000 people.

District police chief Ayub Khan said 23 people died in the bombing and riots that followed. Three other three men and a woman died in a separate shooting on a minibus on the outskirts of town, according to a commander of the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary, Aziz ur-Rahman. Security officials said Shiites protesting the bombing had blocked a road and fired on the vehicle.

Akram Durrani, the top elected official in the province, said a preliminary investigation showed the attack in Hangu was a suicide bombing, but he gave no further details.

Witnesses said a procession of about 300 people in black mourning clothing had come out of the Imam Barga Quami, a Shiite mosque, at about 9:45 a.m. and were passing the town bazaar when the explosion went off.

"The procession started and we were beating our chests. All of a sudden there was an explosion in the procession," said Asar Hussain, 45, who suffered shrapnel wounds to his torso, head and legs. He believed it was a suicide attack but did not see the bomber.

Vegetable vendor Mohammed Jamil said panic followed.

"Some people rushed to the injured and dead bodies, others went to houses and took out weapons and knives and kerosene oil and started setting fire to shops, destroying everything," he said.

An Associated Press reporter who evaded police roadblocks to enter Hangu saw most of the bazaar destroyed, some shops still in flames and thick smoke drifting through the streets. Soldiers patrolled the streets, some in armored personnel carriers.

There was an occasional sound of gunfire, and sometimes the boom of heavier weapons, as troops fired at protesters who took up positions on hilltops surrounding the town.

"Curfew has been imposed. People should stay in their houses and not come out," a police officer announced through a loudspeaker mounted on a van in Hangu.

Helicopters landed at a police training college in the town and took 27 of the more than 50 wounded away for treatment at an army base.

In Afghanistan, where like Pakistan, about 80 percent of the population are Sunnis and most of the rest Shiites, sectarian violence swept through Herat.

The fighting followed three days of rioting in Afghanistan over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in Europe. Those riots left 11 dead.

Thursday's violence in Afghanistan began after 300 Sunnis threw stones at a Shiite mosque, said Ismatullah Mohammed, a senior police officer. Shiites retaliated by attacking a camp for displaced people. Violence spread, with both sides throwing grenades, burning about a dozen cars and two mosques, he said.

Mohammed said Islamic extremists were suspected of inciting the violence, and security forces fanned out across Herat, blocking roads into the city amid reports hundreds of young men were coming from outlying areas to join the fighting.

Dr Barakatullah Mohammedi at Herat Hospital said at least five people were killed and 51 wounded.

The Pakistani city of Quetta, in the resitive region of Baluchistan, saw a similar massacre of Shi'ites at the Ashura celebrations in 2004, and Pakistan has seen continuous outbursts of Sunni-Shiite violence ever since. The Ashura celebrations in Iraq occassioned massacres in 2005 and 2004. Iraq was spared this year, whether due to high security or political reasons.

There is really a three-way civil war underway throughout the Islamic world. The three inter-related conflicts are: 1.) Sunni v. Shia, 2.) fundamentalism v. secularism, and 3.) national liberation v. imperialism. The sad irony is that it is the social iniquities that underly this last contradiction that provide the raw material of endemic rage—which is increasingly exploited, siphoned off as it were, into the prior two. Fundamentalists conflate secularism and imperialism (given a propaganda boost by their neocon enemies, who do likewise), and pose the only alternative as a purified, hegemonic Islam which must, of course, crush internal heresy.

See our last posts on Pakistan and Afghanistan.


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1571

Propaganda and the cartoon controversy, Pt. 2

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 02:23.

An informative and insightful, if somewhat problematic, commentary from Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly. Anjali Kamat argues that the cartoons are not merely "offensive" but propagandistic, and that leaving racism out of the simplistic "free speech/Islamic intolerance" equation is to miss the critical point:

Prophetic misreading
The row over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, far from quietly subsiding, has grown more impassioned with every passing day. Regardless of how the issue is eventually resolved—and it will disappear from the headlines—the controversy reveals a dangerous and virulent anti-Muslim racism that will almost certainly return to haunt us. While the United States has recently distanced itself from the "free speech at all costs" position, this is a pragmatic move aimed at sustaining its military ambitions and must not obfuscate the decisive role that US media and policy have played in demonizing both Muslims and their faith.

The twelve cartoons, originally published last September in Denmark's largest-selling daily--the conservative Jyllands Posten, drew the ire of Muslim diplomats and a section of Scandinavian Muslims, but the controversy seemed to have died a largely unnoticed death until they were republished in the Norwegian Christian publication, Magazinet, last week and protests erupted across the so-called "Muslim world." In response to the official condemnations, the closing of Saudi Arabian, Libyan, and Syrian embassies in Denmark, threats against the editors, protests from Gaza to Yemen, and an incredibly well-orchestrated boycott of Danish goods in the Gulf states, newspapers across Western Europe republished the cartoons "in defense of the freedom of expression." Also at stake, according to these editors and the defenders of the cartoons, are the core values of a democratic, modern society -- the most crucial of which, judging by the current furor, is a keen sense of humor. "Yes, we have the right to caricature God!" screamed the front-page headline of the French newspaper France Soir on February 1, 2006.

To frame the issue as a battle between free secular democracies and an Islamic world defined by narrow religious orthodoxies and a crisscross of indelible "red lines" limiting the freedom of expression, is to be trapped within a claustrophobic vision of humanity. Such a vision infuses Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" theory with the renewed vigor of a self-fulfilling prophesy. The debate raging across Europe, blinded by its discourse of a humorless Islam versus a playful Freedom, is unwilling and unable to see the cartoons for what they are: hateful and racist.

Depicting the Prophet as a wily blind sheikh with a sword and flanked by two wide-eyed veiled women or, with a bomb growing out of his elaborate turban, is not offensive simply because it "hurts the religious sentiments of Muslims" or because it is an affront to the Prophet. The images are violent, and they incite and rationalize further violence against Muslims. They are inseparable from overused platitudes about Islam as a ticking time bomb, which in turn cannot be understood apart from policy and national security decisions based on a tacit understanding of all Muslims as potential terrorists who have no rights under the law.

Jyllands Posten commissioned the twelve cartoons in defiance of "the self-censorship which rules large parts of the Western world" after a Danish author completing a book on the Prophet could not find a single artist willing to illustrate his work--apparently for fear of reprisals along the lines of the infamous murder of [Dutch] filmmaker Theo van Gogh. When Muslim diplomats demanded an official apology last October, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was quick to draw a line separating European from Muslim governments: "The Danish government cannot apologize on behalf of a Danish newspaper. That is not how our democracy works ... and we have explained that to the Arab countries."

This past week, as protests grew within and beyond Europe, and the boycott proved remarkably successful (causing Danish firm Arla Foods to lose over $1 million each day) theories of a civilizational schism between "European" culture and the "Muslim" culture of a quarter of the world's population, including some twenty million first- and second-generation Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian immigrants in Western Europe, grew apace. Jyllands Posten's culture editor offered the following explanation: "This is about the question of integration and how compatible is the religion of Islam with a modern secular society -- how much does an immigrant have to give up and how much does the receiving culture have to compromise."

Neither the trope of Islam as intolerant nor the intolerance with which Islam has been portrayed is by any means unique to the specifics of today's debate. These are old tropes. The picture of Europe and the Islamic world as two fundamentally distinct entities pitted against each other stems from a medieval Christian worldview that was honed to secular perfection during the British and French colonization of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent global "war(s) on terror" have emboldened an anti-Muslim racist politics, but the specific stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists or intolerant fundamentalists have been fairly consistently deployed since at least the 1970s.

What is relatively new about the current impasse is the defiantly resentful tone of those supporting the publication of the cartoons, who present themselves as a besieged and dwindling community of free speech advocates defending freedom against a violent horde of Muslim fundamentalists gathering at the gates of European capitals. The debate on the cartoons tells us less about fanatic Muslims than about how Europe is choosing to deal with its "Muslim question" and its growing anxieties about Muslim demographics. The recent riots in the poorest slums of France and the violent anti-immigrant policies of right-wing political parties across Western Europe speak volumes about the sordid reality of repression, racism, and poverty that most European Muslims contend with. The hysterical tone of some free speech defenders comparing official apologies for the cartoons to a dangerous form of appeasement thus betrays a fantastic sense of delusion. Wake up, Europe! This is not Munich in 1938. The real siege is in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other sites of the U.S-led war on terror, not in the editorial offices of European capitals. Indeed, if a comparison must be made to that era of impending fascism, then recalling the anti-Semitic cartoons of the 1930s and 1940s would be more appropriate.

It should not bear repeating, but to depict the most revered figure in Islam as essentially and fundamentally violent, to reduce the Prophet to the level of media-spewed images of terrorists and Islamic radicals, is deeply offensive and about much more than distorting the life and teachings of the seventh-century figure. Leaving aside the fact that many devout Muslims through history have seen no contradiction between their faith and visually depicting the Prophet, fixating on the rigidity of Islam and over-simplifying its impact on the lives of Muslims avoids a crucial point. It is, after all, Muslims who are overwhelmingly at the receiving end of Western violence.

When protestors burn down embassies and hard-line clerics call for "a day of rage," one need not to turn to crude explanations of "Muslim rage" that echo the influential Orientalist Bernard Lewis -- notorious for his impact on the neoconservatives. A cursory glance at the recent history of European and American violent interventions and overt support for repressive dictatorships across the largely Muslim populations of the Middle East, North Africa, and South and South East Asia would be a far better place to start.

The point that these cartoons are not merely "offensive" but war propaganda is indeed a critical one, and it is terrifying how completely it is overlooked. But Kamat seems to loan credence to the propagandistic notion that the West stands for "free speech"—and perhaps the corollary, which has been argued too frequently on the left, that free speech is therefore a tool of oppression. She characterizes the Western position as one of "free speech at all costs"—which is rather an irony as Britain imprisons Islamic clerics for thought crimes and every protest mobilization in the United States turns into a First Amendment struggle.

Kamat calls out France Soir for the "screaming" headline "Yes, we have the right to caricature God!" Yet that was precisely the position that progressives took in the controversy over art photographer Andres Serrano's Piss Christ. It is true that Christians are not oppressed and marginalized in the US (or Europe) as Muslims are—but does that entirely justify the double standard?

Ceding the mantle of free speech to the xenophobes like Jyllands Posten and the imperialists like Bush and Blair plays into the hands of both.

The demoralizing thing about this highly dichotomized debate is that in nearly every commentary the outrage goes all one way. If the racism and propagandistic aspect of the cartoons is invisible to those who pose it as a "free speech" issue, the escalating and often xenophobic violence in reaction against the cartoons (for instance, in Turkey) is too often invisible to their opponents. The "picture of Europe and the Islamic world as two fundamentally distinct entities pitted against each other" may "stem from a medieval Christian worldview," but it certainly seems to have been embraced by many in the Islamic world. And invocation of Nazi propaganda cartoons by way of analogy to the Jyllands Posten caricatures is slightly ironic given the anti-Semitic cartoons that seem to appear routinely in the Arab press, as has been pointed out repeatedly.

Kamat's last paragraph is correct that it is oppression under a Western-enforced order in the Muslim world that provides the raw material of popular anger for such violent outbursts. But while a generation ago that anger was harnessed by Marxists and Arab nationalists, today it is increasingly exploited by Islamist clerical reactionaries—just as racist fears of imperial and demographic decline in the West are exploited by scapegoaters and Christian fundamentalists.

See our last post on the cartoon controversy.


Danish cartoons
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 11:50.
Dear Commentator,
You mentioned that Muslim clerics were being imprisoned in England for thought crimes. I believe that inciting people to riot violently, and to an Islamic jihad are more than just thought crimes.
The Muslims can run any kind of caricature in their newspapers against Jews and Christians, but when half a dozen cartoons appear in a little country in Europe, they find it a pleasure to riot in the daytime, and hope the West`s reaction will be to curb their (the West`s) freedom of speech and of the press.
Jesus` words are supposed to be sacred also to Muslims-if they take his word seriously, they would never kill for their beliefs, Matthew 26:52: "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword", and would not be so hypocritical as to not allow others to do what they practice: Romans 7:15,"For that which I do I allow not...",

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Are you're implying....
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 15:30.
...that Christians never commit violence?

And didn't Jesus also say "Think not I come to bring peace on Earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34) and "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one" (Luke 22:36)?

Just asking.

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are YOU'RE implying....
Submitted by N. J. Poling (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 19:13.
Nice use of scripture out of reference... Jesus in Matt 10:34 is talking about the judgement He will bring upon the earth as is His right as ordained to Him by God. As they are one in the same. "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and who ever loses his life for my sake will find it." Now I must apologize for Christians of all denomations in the past misrepresenting Christ's character to the world. Christ came into this world that all should be saved, unfortunately everybody doesn't want to be saved. If someone dies with out being saved God cries over His lost child whom He died to pay the price for their eternal soul.

True disciples of Christ do not commit violence in worldy ways, as Jesus did not. We wage war against spirits and principalities. You should maybe try reading more than one verse at a time... You might learn something.

Peace Love and Dove,
me
Luke 22:36 and what happens when Peter uses said sword? Jesus heals the man whom the sword was used against and told Peter "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword."

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I believe you mean...
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 20:43.
"out of context." Look, we can play this game all day. For every reference to peace, love and understanding in the Bible, there is at least one justifying war and bloodshed. The good book even says as much. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

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My scripture
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 21:22.
"The Bible says a lot of things."

Chief Clancy Wiggum

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Racist Cartoons Are The Norm In Islamic Countries
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 18:57.
MUSLIMS ARE AMONG THE MOST RACIST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, AND THEIR SPEW IS DAILY FARE IN THEIR DICTATORSHIPS.
http://www.jcpa.org/phas/phas-21.htm
http://www.hasbara.us/anti_semitism.html
http://www.pmw.org.il/tv%20part6.html
http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/sib/4_04/as_egypt.htm
http://www.judeoscope.ca/IMG/jpg/naz_jew.jpg

And Muslims have no problem with that? Well, I do. Islam is the problem, and we have no reason to apologize to such violent and deceitful thugs.

ALSO, THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE DANISH CARTOONS. IT IS ABOUT THE 3 MUCH WORSE CARTOONS THAT WERE ADDED BY THE IMAMS WHO STARTED THIS MESS, AND THEIR LIES UPON WHICH IT WAS BASED.
http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2006/02/islamic-society-of-denmark-used-fake.html

IT ISN'T DENMARK THAT OWES THE APOLOGY TO ISLAM, IT'S ISLAM WHO SHOULD APOLOGIZE TO DENMARK. THEY MOCK THEMSELVES BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE EVER COULD.

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Reader survey
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sat, 02/11/2006 - 19:11.
Rather than taking the irresponsible "open-posting" position of the IMC, WW4 REPORT has a policy against hate speech. (We don't support censorship of hate speech from the Internet or the public sphere generally, but neither do we wish to provide a forum for it.) However, it is sometimes a little ambiguous where to draw the line. So, dear readers, please give us your feedback: is the above post hate speech? It strikes us as borderline. What do you think?

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Well it's not exactly pleasant
Submitted by David Bloom on Sat, 02/11/2006 - 21:40.
Anyhow, mr. angry anonymous should check this out: http://www.islamdenouncesantisemitism.com/

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CARTOON
Submitted by R THOMPSON (not verified) on Mon, 02/13/2006 - 19:53.
FREE SPEECH APPLIES TO EVERYONE INCLUDEING DENMARK. iSLAMIS PREACHED EVERYWHERE AND MYSELF i THINK THEY SHOULD APPOLIGIZE TO THE WORLD FOR THERE HIPOCRACY. tHEY HAVE NO PROBLEMS MAKEING FUN OF BUSH OR ANYONE ELSE. LET THEM SUFFER THE SAME RIDICULE

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Cartoonish posting
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Mon, 02/13/2006 - 23:09.
I think you should apologize to the world for your poor spelling and writing in all caps.

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Islam is the problem
Submitted by wiseone (not verified) on Tue, 02/14/2006 - 17:00.
Islam is the problem, and our hyperextension of multiculturalism to excess is what feeds it.


http://islamistheproblem.blogspot.com/

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No, idiocy is the problem
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/14/2006 - 17:32.
And you are living proof that it is an equal-opportunity employer.

Isn't it nice to know that Islam is the problem? I guess we don't have to worry about George Bush anymore, or Pat Buchanan or Pat Robertson or Jean Marie LePen or Slobodan Milosevic or Alexander Lukashenko or Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong Il or the Colombian paramilitaries or the Tamil Tigers or the Bharatiya Janata or Opus Dei or Exxon or Verizon or Microsoft, because Islam is the problem! How comforting!

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microsoft?
Submitted by JG (not verified) on Wed, 02/15/2006 - 10:38.
Microsoft is the problem?
Which problem? (now don't get too technical on me)
Is there an substantiated link between LePen and Bill Gates? I'm pretty sure Putin is on a Mac.

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no, islam is the problem
Submitted by wiseone (not verified) on Mon, 02/20/2006 - 22:02.
Bill,

You are missing the point. There are no moderate or mainstream Muslims to speak of. Our media is tip-toeing around the facts that Muslim religious leaders and their followers are the ones who are causing these acts of terrorism and violence. You cannot pin it down to a single fringe element. The whole "religion" is out of the norms of decency.


http://islamistheproblem.blogspot.com/

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No, idiocy is the problem
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/21/2006 - 02:28.
http://www.muslimwakeup.com/

http://www.secularislam.org/

http://www.alrisala.org/

http://www.sufiorder.org/

http://drhassaballa.blogspot.com/

http://www.muslim-refusenik.com/

Get lost, willya?

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why should I get lost Bill when your facts are incorrect.
Submitted by wiseone (not verified) on Tue, 02/21/2006 - 21:40.
You post the cites of a couple of blogs from secular people who are only nominally Muslim. That is like saying "my family is in the Klan, but I do not hate black people." If anything it shows that persons in the Middle East should be an important part of the condemnation of this gutter "religion" because they do not believe it themselves.

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OK, that was your last post. Happy?
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 02/22/2006 - 07:04.
I guess Mother Theresa was "only nominally" Christian, and "real" Christianity is represented by Torquemada. Who the hell are you to arbitrarily say what is the "real" Islam? "Gutter religion"? You just crossed the line unequivocally into hate speech, and none of your future posts will be approved. I only approved that one to give you enough rope to hang yourself with.

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Wiseone almost had it; religion is the problem.
Submitted by Pete Best (not verified) on Sat, 03/04/2006 - 09:11.
Mother Theresa? Please. Read Christopher Hitchens' "The Missionary Position". Wiseone and Hitchens are both on hateful, militant anti-religious crusades, which I'm very much against. But maybe there's a little bit of truth in wiseone's crtique of "moderates". There's a problem with these relgious "moderates" of all stripes- they beat the hell out of the fundamentalists to be sure, but why don't they formally reject the immoral garbage that pollutes their 'sacred' texts? I'll leave Islam out of it for the moment; have you ever read that stuff in Leviticus and Exodus - about how it's ok for a priest to murder his daughter if she acts like a whore, or when it is and isn't ok to murder your slaves, and so on? Doesn't this show the fundamental immorality and irrationality of religion? Doesn't religion then necessarily lead to or encourage the kinds of problems we're seeing? I know you're an atheist, but what about these specific points?


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1570

UK: Iraqi feminists for free speech

Submitted by WW4 Report on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 01:53.

A statement, apparently not yet posted elsewhere on the Web, from the UK branch of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) and allied groups:

Civilised humanity must take a stand in defence of freedom of expression, against Islamists and racists
The recent controversy over some caricatures of Mohammed gave the Islamists an opportunity to wage a hysterical protest internationally. In many cases, this took a violent form and was clearly aimed at silencing those who dared to even portray Mohammed. In these demonstrations - across the world and in London, the very heart of Europe - many of the banners on show were emblazoned with shameful slogans. These included - "Those who insult Islam must be beheaded" and "Freedom go to hell" plus various other fatwas and threats against cartoonists and others who have the temerity to "insult" Islam.

This is not the first time these forces have attacked people's rights in the Middle East and Europe. Many writers, singers, even barbers and doctors have been targeted in the last 30 years let alone the enslavement of women in the Middle East under the pretext of the defence of the "honour" of Islam. The furore over these caricatures is simply an excuse to stage another worldwide campaign to attack the right of freedom of expression.

They want to turn Europe into yet another battlefield for their foul ideas. It is vital for all decent people to be aware of the agenda behind these attacks on the rights to expression, and belief - the aim is to impose Islamic law all over the world. Political Islam is coordinating on an international level to gain momentum in a campaign against the achievements of progressive social movements who, after centuries of struggle, have won many advances for secularism. They now want to gain a privileged status under the umbrella of "multiculturalism" to excuse their crimes against Muslims, people of other faiths as well as non-believers.

This reactionary campaign complements and serves to provoke further racist responses from people like Nick Griffin, the leader of British National Party, a fascist organisation that targets non-indigenous people and non-whites in the UK.

Western governments have nurtured political Islam, helped the Iranian regime come to power and then maintained Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Their hypocritical "tolerance" and embrace of regressions of "cultures" under the auspices of "multiculturalism" has promoted religious divisions and raised a generation of brain-washed fanatics with identity crises that adhere to political Islam. These compromised governments cannot stop such groups and cannot silence them any further via compromise.

The only forces that can successfully stand against these attacks on human achievements are those of civilised humanity of the world. Our task is to organise a front of progressives, secularists and leftists to defend these precious achievements of humanity - including freedom of speech, expression and freedom of choice, personal rights and liberties. This must be unconditional and universal and that must also mean that Islam, like any other religion or belief system, must be prepared to be criticised, questioned and critically evaluated.

We call upon all freedom loving people, organisations and individuals to join us in this struggle to defend civil liberties and strengthen the progressive camp against the two poles of racism and Islamic fascism in Europe and worldwide.

Join our campaign.

There will be a series of activities in London and elsewhere to publicise our fight for the protection of freedom of expression.

The details of these activities will be announced soon.

-Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq-UK (OWFI)
-Middle East Centre for Women's Rights (MECWR)
-International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR)
-International Organisation for Iranian Refugees (IOIR)
-Iranian Civil Rights Committee (Iran CRC)
-Organisation for Emancipation of Women Iran (OEWI)

In the same e-mail message:

In defence of freedom of expression join our protest

To defend the rights of all individuals to be able to think freely, criticize, be able to use their imaginations, to have right to freedom of speech, and of expression then join us in our protest in front of BBC TV station in London.

Date and time: Saturday 11/02/2006 at 2.00-5.00PM
Venue: BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ
Underground - White City (Central line) is opposite
Bus - Routes 72, 95, 220 and 272 stop outside

We call upon all organisations and freedom loving people in UK to join our protest.

Houzan Mahmoud

Email: houzan73@yahoo.co.uk

Tel: 079 56 88 3001
Tel: 079 51 433386

See our last posts on the cartoon controversy and related free speech issues in the UK.


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1568

Muslim Brotherhood appeals for calm

Submitted by David Bloom on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 00:04.

From the website of The Muslim Brotherhood [Ikhwan]:

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Statement
by Khairat el-Shater, Feb. 7

"Rage spread all over the Islamic world over defaming caricatures of Prophet Muhammad PBUH published in a Danish newspaper. We emphatically believe that those who allowed this dispecable behavior on assumption of freedom of expression, are indeed tarnishing the concept of liberty, in whose name such repulsive and shameless acts are committed. We, however, appeal to Muslims not to let their furor drag them to attack properties, to expand the scope of protest, or to turn it into a clash between civilizations. Enraged Muslims should adhere to the Islamic ethics and principles in showing their outcry. Presently, the world suffers from an evil band that dedicates its capacities to ignite religion and civilization clashes, hoping to exercise further economical and political domination. We, in addition, express our hope that this mishap triggers an international initiative on passing a U.N. law that makes the respect of holy symbols of all nations and cultures binding. Therefore, such acts will not recur."

See our last post on the cartoon crisis.


In Defense of Enlightenment

Submitted by David Bloom on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 02:37.

Statement of Palestinian and other Middle Eastern academics

The publication of a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a number of European newspapers has led to official protests by Islamic governments, boycotts of European products, demonstrations, and attacks on several western embassies in the Middle East. Appearing when memories are still fresh about reports, later denied, of the desecration of the Qor`an by American troops at the Guantanamo prison, the drawings have strengthened the perception among many Muslims that not only are they being exploited economically and manipulated politically by the Western powers, but they are also insulted by the West culturally.

At the same time, troops from several Western countries are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq; Israel continues its occupation of Palestinian Territories; the West has threatened to stop its financial support for the Palestinian Authority now that parliamentary elections have been won by the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas; and tension is rising over Iran`s nuclear program. In the West itself, many Muslims, and other minority communities, have for a long time been facing what they see as the erosion of cultural diversity and increasing prejudice. In such a highly polarized world, the continuation and escalation of this new conflict can have disastrous consequences.

The publication of the cartoons has been defended by some in the West on the grounds of freedom of expression. However, freedom of expression can only increase understanding if it is exercised with intellectual rigor and social responsibility. To present the Prophet Mohammad as a symbol of terrorism, as is done in one of the cartoons, is no different from presenting Moses as the symbol of right wing Israelis' actions against Palestinians, an association that would be rightly condemned as anti-Semitic and is prohibited by the laws of many European countries.

We call for a serious treatment of Islamic values by the West in line with the tradition of commitment to facts and rational analysis that have distinguished the best in Western thought since the Enlightenment. Writings on Islam by secular authors such as the late Maxime Rodinson, and the late Montgomery Watt - French and British biographers of the Prophet Mohammad, respectively - are regarded by many Muslims and non-Muslims as models of scholarship.

At a time when humanity is in dire need of understanding to ensure peaceful coexistence, the propagation of a set of ill-conceived drawings in several European countries has reinforced ignorance and hatred towards Muslims, and incited, albeit inadvertently, violence against European citizens and interests in Arab and Islamic countries. In defense of all those who have been aggrieved, we call on the authorities in all the countries concerned to prosecute those who have inflicted harm, either by abusing freedom of expression, or by seeking redress through violence, rather than through the rule of law.

(The opinions expressed in this statement are the signatories` personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions to which they may be affiliated.)

Initiators:

Hossein Shahidi, Assistant Professor of Communication, American University of Beirut, Sari Hanafi, (hanafi@p-ol.com) Visiting Associate Professors of Sociology, American University of Beirut

First Signatures:

Hassan Hanafi, Prof. of Philosophy, University of Cairo

Nabil Dajani, Professor of Communication, American University of Beirut

Armando Salvatore, Research fellow in Sociology at Humboldt University, Berlin

Ray Jureidini, Associate Prof. of Sociology, American University in Cairo

Lisa Taraki, Prof. of Sociologist, Birzeit University

Georges Giacaman, Prof. of Philosophy, Birzeit University

Omar Nashabe, Assistant Prof. of sociology, American University of Science and Technology

Baudoin Dupret, CNRS/IFPO, Damascus

Benois Challand, Senior researcher, European University Institute, Italy

Lena Jayyuisi, Prof. of Communication, American University of Sharqa

Michael Warschawski, Human rights activist, Jerusalem, Israel

Joss Dray, Photographer, France

Micheline Garreau, Human rights activist, France.

**********************
Please mail your support&signature to Sari Hanafi: hanafi@p-ol.com or
sh41@aub.edu.lb

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Palestinians in Lebanon urge Al-Qa'idah to "take revenge"

Submitted by David Bloom on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 02:40.

Palestinians in Lebanon urge Al-Qa'idah to "take revenge" over cartoons

6 February 2006

Text of report in English by Muhammad Za'tari headlined "Thousands protest Prophet outrage", published by Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star website on 4 February

Sidon: For the first time ever, Danish and French flags were burned in protest of the 12 caricatures insulting Islam and Prophet Mohammad. As the situation worsened, angry Islamists in Lebanon went as far as calling for help from Al-Qa'idah leader Usamah Bin-Ladin and Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi (Al-Qa'idah's leader in Iraq).

Thousands of Palestinian refugees in Ayn al-Hulwah refugee camp in Sidon, the largest Palestinian camp in Lebanon, staged a protest Friday [3 February].

Their voices filled the air when they were shouting phrases supporting Islam. "God is Great! Sacrifice yourselves!" they told Muslims.

Attacking the Danish newspaper which published the depictions, they yelled: "Blow up the newspaper! Kill the Danish! Kill the French! Kill the Americans! Hold your weapons high!"

The protest was attended by several of the smaller Palestinian factions, in addition to members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad also made an appearance. Fatah did not attend. It started from Al-Nur Mosque in the camp and protesters slowly joined in from other mosques within the camp.

A ceremony was held during which the imam of Al-Nur Mosque, Shaykh Jamal said: "The insult of Prophet Muhammad requires all Muslims to take revenge." He added: "Islam is under attack. This demonstration is an expression of the Muslim nation that will score a victory and liberate the lands of Muslims."

They called on Al-Qa'idah leader Usamah Bin-Ladin "to take revenge immediately!"

Speaking on behalf of Usbat al-Ansar group, Shaykh Abu-Sharif called for "beheading the blasphemers and all those who abuse Islam and the divinities." He addressed Bin-Ladin, Al-Zarqawi and Abu-Muhjin (leader of Usbat al-Ansar) asking them "to take revenge." He said: "There is no one on earth that is able to respond to such events and defend Islam." He said: "The Association of Muslim Scholars in the world has called on the Islamic nation to boycott European products."

Amongst the demonstrators was a group that called itself "The Martyrdom Group Sacrificing for God's Messenger." Their heads were covered in black masks and they carried green banners reiterating: "Muslims, take revenge!"

Pictures of Bin-Ladin and Al-Zarqawi were held high, as the protesters called on them to "kill the dirty Danish people." They said: "Every Muslim should kill the Danish and the Norwegians. The Europeans have signalled a Crusader war!"

Danish and French flags were also scattered around the entrance to the mosque for worshippers to step on them as they entered.

In a separate development, the President of the Association of Jabal Amil Ulemas Shaykh Afif Nabulsi asked the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI "to take a firm stand and stop these heinous campaigns so that matters don't develop into a war between Christians and Muslims." He stressed the need for the Pope's intervention in order "to bridge the relations between the West and Muslims."

Source: The Daily Star website, Beirut, in English 4 Feb 06

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Palestinian imam: Islam permits killing maligners of prophet

Submitted by David Bloom on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 02:42.

Palestinian imam says Islam permits killing those who malign prophets
9 February 2006

Excerpt from report by Rumil Shahrur al-Suwayti from Nablus headlined "Shaykh al-Hanbali issues fatwa condoning the killing of anyone that insults any of God's messengers", published by Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah on 7 February

Dr Abd-al-Rahim al-Hanbali, the preacher of the Al-Hanbali Mosque in Nablus, has said that the rules of shari'ah permit the killing of anyone that maligns any prophet belonging to any faith. He stressed that this provision can be found in all the history books and in the jurisprudence of all religions. Al-Hanbali was speaking at a meeting that was attended by all the representatives of the three faiths (Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans) and held in the Latin Convent in the city yesterday. Abd-al-Rahim al-Hanbali asserted we will not remain silent at all to any insult directed against Prophet Muhammad, may God's prayers and peace be upon him. He added we in Nablus are meeting today as one united unit representing all the religious sects and strengthened by our Arab and Muslim unity to condemn such acts that harm all human beings. [Passage omitted]

The meeting of the three sects was held to denounce the images and pictures that were published in some western newspapers and that insult Prophet Muhammad, may God's prayers and peace be upon him. [Passage omitted]

Source: Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Ramallah, in Arabic 7 Feb 06

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Curious about Euro law

Submitted by JG (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 02:44.

> presenting Moses as the symbol of right wing Israelis` actions against Palestinians, an association that would be rightly condemned as anti-Semitic and is prohibited by the laws of many European countries.

Would a depiction of Moses as a Zionist or a Nazi be illegal in the EU? I know Germany has laws about Nazi imagery.

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Just for the record

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 08:05.

WW4 REPORT is on record opposing European laws against Holocaust denial and anti-Jewish hate speech.

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so if I'm reading this right...

Submitted by David Adler (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 12:42.

"In defense of all those who have been aggrieved, we call on the authorities in all the countries concerned to prosecute those who have inflicted harm, either by abusing freedom of expression, or by seeking redress through violence, rather than through the rule of law."

The signatories of this statement are calling for democratic governments to prosecute people in the media. Let's just be clear about it.

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about Muslim Brotherhood

Submitted by Fared Mohammed (not verified) on Tue, 09/19/2006 - 08:35.

IKhwanweb is the Muslim Brotherhood's only official English web site. The Main office is located in London, although Ikhwanweb has correspondents in most countries. Our staff is exclusively made of volunteers and stretched over the five continents.
The Muslim Brotherhood opinions and views can be found under the sections of MB statements and MB opinions, in addition to the Editorial Message.
Items posted under "other views" are usually different from these of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ikhwanweb does not censor any articles or comments but has the right only to remove any inappropriate words that defy public taste
Ikhwanweb is not a news website, although we report news that matter to the Muslim Brotherhood's cause. Our main misson is to present the Muslim Brotherhood vision right from the source and rebut misonceptions about the movement in western societies. We value debate on the issues and we welcome constructive criticism.
www.ikhwanweb.com
Dr. Mohamed El-Sayed Habib, First Deputy of the Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood, affirmed that the artificial uproar over the feared establishment of a so-called religious state and the related allegations concerning a resulting threat to Copts' rights and to arts and creativity, following the big Brotherhood electoral victory in the latest legislative elections in Egypt, is no more than an artificial, unfounded controversy.
He talked about the Brotherhood's vision of the political and economic reform, how to bring about development in its broadest sense, the Brotherhood's relations with the U.S. administration and other topics that we discussed with him in this interview.
Q: The latest period has witnessed a clear ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood on the political scene as a result of which it garnered 88 seats in the People's Assembly -Egypt's parliament. What are the issues that the Brotherhood will be interested in raising in the People's Assembly?
A: I would like first to confirm that the presence in the People's Assembly of 88 Muslim Brothers will not substantially affect the form or composition of the assembly where the ruling party enjoys, in its own words, a more than comfortable majority. The difference there is that the debate will be serious, the discussions will be fruitful and constructive and the oversight and law-making roles will be more distinguished. This could have a favorable effect on the decisions of the People's Assembly, enhancing its effectiveness and restoring citizens' confidence in it.
Regarding the main issues that preoccupy the Brotherhood deputies, they revolve around three major questions:
First, the question of political reform and constitutional amendment, bearing in mind that it represents the true and natural point of departure for all other kinds of reforms;
Second, the question of education, scientific research and native development of technology since this constitutes the mainstay of resurgence and the basis for progress and advance.
Third, the question of comprehensive development in all its dimensions: human, economic, social, cultural, etc.
In this regard, we cannot fail to emphasize the societal problems from which the Egyptian citizenry suffers, i.e. unemployment, inflation and increasing prices, housing crisis, health problems, environmental pollution, etc.
Q: There are some people who accuse Muslim Brothers of being against arts and creativity and are concerned that your deputies in parliament will take an attitude against everything implying culture and creativity. What do you think?
A: In principle, we are not against culture, arts and creativity. On the contrary, Islam strongly encourages refining the public taste and confirms the need to shape one's mind, heart and conscience in such a way as to bring forth man's potentialities and prompt him to invent and innovate in all fields of life. There is no doubt that the atmosphere of freedom is conducive to a creative culture and creative arts, particularly if the latter express the daily concerns of the citizen and the challenges he faces and if they reflect the values of society and the public morality observed by people of good nature and sound minds.
On the other hand, the atmosphere of dictatorship and despotism produces a kind of culture and art that is more inclined towards abject trivialities, indecencies, depreciation of people's minds and deepening their ignorance. A nation that is capable of innovation and creativity is necessarily capable of bringing about resurgence, advance and progress. Some people consider that creativity is born from the womb of suffering. Every society has peculiar cultural identity and has its values, traditions and customs. I think it is the right of the people's deputies, or rather their duty, to maintain that peculiarity and to play their role in bringing to accountability those bodies or institutions that promote pornography, homosexuality or moral perversion under the guise of creativity. It is essential to subject those so-called creative works to examination and review by specialized and expert people in various fields. Ultimately, it is the judiciary that has the final say as to whether or not those works should be allowed.
Q: Do you have an integral program for the uplifting of the political and economic situation of Egypt?
A: We believe that the political reform is the true and natural gateway for all other kinds of reform. We have announced our acceptance of democracy that acknowledges political pluralism, the peaceful rotation of power and the fact that the nation is the source of all powers. As we see it, political reform includes the termination of the state of emergency, restoring public freedoms, including the right to establish political parties, whatever their tendencies may be, and the freedom of the press, freedom of criticism and thought, freedom of peaceful demonstrations, freedom of assembly, etc. It also includes the dismantling of all exceptional courts and the annulment of all exceptional laws, establishing the independence of the judiciary, enabling the judiciary to fully and truly supervise general elections so as to ensure that they authentically express people's will, removing all obstacles that restrict the functioning of civil society organizations, etc.
We cannot forget in this regard the need to make constitutional amendments, including modifying the text of article 76 of the Constitution with a view to ensuring equal opportunities and free and true competition among all citizens, through the annulment of all impossible conditions that were arbitrarily inserted in the latest amendment of that article - conditions which have emptied that amendment from its substance. The reform should also include changing the wording of article 77 of the Constitution so as to limit the tenure of the presidency to just one four-year term, extendable only by one more term; changing the articles which grant the president of the republic absolute and unlimited powers and establishing his accountability before the legislative council in view of the fact that he heads the executive branch of government.
As to our program for reviving the economy, it comprises several basic mainstays:
1. Reviewing the role of the public sector and the privatization process;
2. Providing social welfare through the subsidies scheme and the restoration of the institution of Zakat (poor dues in Islam);
3. Reforming the State's public finance (public expenditures, fiscal policy, public borrowing, deficit financing);
4. Correcting the monetary policy track;
5. Balanced opening up to the world economy (liberalization of foreign trade, promoting exports and foreign investments);
7. Intensifying popular participation, through providing support to local councils and reinstating the rights of Islamic Wakfs (religious endowments);
8. Seeking urgent solutions to the unemployment problem till grow becomes self-propelled;
9. Supporting the private sector as a spearhead for the realization of development objectives;
10. Confronting corruption decisively; and
11. Catching up with scientific and technological progress.
Q: The political reform program put forth by Muslim Brothers does not differ from those of other political parties, what is then the advantage of your program?
A: Muslim Brotherhood shares most elements of political reform with other political and national forces. This is due to the joint efforts that political parties and forces have deployed during the past decades, which had culminated in the adoption in 1997 of a common document for political reform called "Political Reform and Democracy".
Certainly, there are differences among political formations as to the priority to be assigned to those elements, as well as the mechanisms to be employed. There is also a semi-agreement among all political forces on the need to introduce some constitutional amendments- as was mentioned earlier- although some secularists want to change the Constitution in a comprehensive and drastic way, including article 2 of the current Constitution which states that Islam is the official religion of the State and that the principles of Islamic sharia (law) are the main source of legislation. Such a change would be in complete conflict with the desire of the entire people, who are characterized by their strong religious attachment and their willingness to be governed by the provisions of Islam. We must not, however, forget the belief and morality dimension which the Muslim Brotherhood insists on observing in their practice of politics as well as its compliance with Islamic legal rules and precepts such as the discipline of jurisprudence dealing with priorities and balances, etc.
Q: Some segments of the elite in
Egypt and abroad are worried that the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to establish a theocracy. How would you react to that?
A:This concern stems from a wrong understanding of the nature of Islam. To those who speak about a religious state, in the same ecclesiastical meaning given to it in Europe in the middle ages, when the church had hegemony over a State's authorities, we wish to say that the issue here is completely different.
The Muslim Brotherhood has gone through the latest legislative elections on the basis of a clear-cut program under the slogan "Islam is the Solution", given the fact that Islam, as Imam el-Banna said, is a comprehensive program that encompasses all aspects of life: it is a state and a country, a government and people, ethics and power, mercy and justice, culture and law, science and justice, resources and wealth, defense and advocacy, an army and an idea, a true belief and correct acts of worship (Imam el-Banna's Teachings Message). In fact, this conforms fully to the Constitution which states, in its second article, that the State's religion is Islam and that principles of Islamic sharia (law) are the main source of legislation. We say that the State that we want is a civic state, i.e. a state of institutions, based on the principles of constitutional government.
Imam el-Banna states: "the principles of constitutional government consist of: maintaining all kinds of personal freedom, consultation and deriving authority from the people, responsibility of the government before the people and its accountability for its actions, and the clear demarcation of power of each branch of government. When a scholar considers those principles, he would clearly find out that they are all in full agreement with the teachings, disciplines and norms of Islam concerning the system of government. Consequently, Muslim Brothers think that the constitutional system of government is the closest system of government in the world to Islam. They prefer it to any other system of government." (Message to the 5th Conference).
Q: Although the Brotherhood refuses to submit an application for the establishment of a political party under the pretext that the Political Party Committee is unconstitutional, some people submitted similar applications which were approved, what do you think about that?
A: Along with other political and national forces, we seek to amend or change the Political Parties Law. Consequently, the so-called Political Party Committee is unconstitutional and acts as both adversary and judge. It creates more problems than it solves and interferes in the internal affairs of parties in such a way as to paralyze their movement and curb their effectiveness. This is one of the reasons why those parties are weak and fragile. Furthermore, we don't want to set up a political party to face the same destiny as existing parties. The problem lies in the general political atmosphere and unless that atmosphere is changed things will remain what they are now. Briefly, we want the party to be established when people want to have it established, just through notification.
Q: Your discourse sometimes mixes between religion and politics which means that you are neither purely religious people nor purely professional politicians. What is the nature of that dichotomy?
A:Politics is part of religion. I remember in this regard Imam al-Banna's statement that "If Islam is something different than politics, sociology, economics and culture, what is it then?" He also says "A Muslim is not fully Muslim unless he engages in politics, thinks over the state of affairs of his Umma and concerns himself with it."
Q: Some Copts in Egypt were so alarmed by the recent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood that some of them declared that they would leave Egypt as a result! What is the nature of the Brotherhood's relations with Copts?
A: We consider our Coptic brothers as citizens enjoying all rights associated with citizenship and as part of the fabric of the Egyptian society. We consider them as partners in the country, in decision-making and in determining our future. Consequently, the basis for filling public posts shall be efficiency, ability and experience, not religion or beliefs.
On that basis, we see no justification or logic for the concern of some Copts over the rise of Muslim Brothers. But this is due to the bad political atmosphere in which the Egyptian people live and which has led to a general state of apprehension and tension. It has been aggravated by the self-imposed isolation of our Coptic brothers and their failure to integrate in public life.
>From our side, we are conducting dialogues with them and are trying to take them out of their isolation, by encouraging some individuals among them to take part in the activities of syndicates, conferences and symposiums dealing with public affairs. In addition, we support some of them in legislative and syndicate elections.
Q: From time to time, the question of your relations with the U.S. surfaces. Do you have any relation with them? Have you contacted them through direct or indirect channels?
A:There is no relation whatsoever between us the U.S. There is no contact of any kind with them. We have repeated that several times before. We are not a state within a state and we are very much interested in reinforcing the independence and prestige of our State and in respecting its institutions. We cannot permit anyone to compromise that prestige nor can we allow ourselves to be a reason for that. If the U.S. administration wants to enter into a dialogue with us, they first would have to get the approval of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. And then what are we going to discuss with them?
Q: Your attitude with regard to Jews is not clear: at times you declare that you are not going to cancel treaties concluded with them if you take power, and at times you say that the holocaust is a myth, what is exactly your attitude?
A: The Zionist entity (Israel) has usurped the land of Palestine, the land of Arabs and Muslims. No proud people can accept to stay put when their land is occupied and their sacred places are assaulted. Resisting occupation is required by Islam and sanctioned by international law, agreements and customs. As to the Camp David Accord and the peace treaty that were concluded by Egypt with the Zionist entity (Israel) in the late 1970s, they are presumed to be thoroughly reviewed periodically by international lawyers, strategists and national security experts, taking into account the local, regional and international dimensions of the question. The outcome of their review should be submitted to the democratic institutions of the Sate for decision.
As to the reported statement describing the holocaust as a myth, it was not intended as a denial of the event but only a rejection of exaggerations put forward by Jews. This does not mean that we are not against the holocaust. Anyway, that event should not have led to the loss of the rights of the Palestinian people, the occupation of their land and the violation and assault of their sacred places and sanctities


http://www.ww4report.com/node/1558

Propaganda and the cartoon controversy

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 03:35.

A round-up on the Feb. 7 BBC shows how the crisis over the anti-Islam cartoons published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten (and since reprinted in Norway and other European countries) is spinning out of control. The protests sweeping the Muslim world have now claimed at least six lives: five were killed in Afghanistan when protesters turned on the US airbase at Bagram, while a teenage boy was killed when protesters clashed with police in Somalia. In Tehran, hundreds hurled stones and fire-bombs and were forced back by police with tear gas, as Iran announced it is cutting all trade with Denmark. Protesters also attacked the Danish and Austrian embassies in Tehran, breaking windows and starting fires. Denmark is holding Iran's government responisible

Norway is demanding compensation from Syria after its embassy in Damascus was set on fire Feb. 4, a day before the Danish embassy in Beirut was sacked. Shops and businesses across Indian-administered Kashmir are closed by a general strike.

An overlooked insight into the political origins of the outburst is provided by blogger "Soj" on the Daily Kos Feb. 5:

The issue has been framed by the traditional media as "Free Expression/Speech" in contrast with "Sensitivity to Religion". Do newspapers in democratic societies have the right to publish offensive images? Well that's something definitely worth debating, but it's overlooking an important step... [T]hese cartoons were published on September 30, 2005. What the traditional media has failed to explain is why the protests are occuring now... What CNN and the other traditional media failed to tell you is that the thousand gallons of fuel added to the fire of outrage came from none other than our old pals Saudi Arabia.

While it was a minor side story in the western press, the most important of Muslim religious festivals recently took place in Saudi Arabia - called the Hajj. Every able-bodied Muslim is obligated to make a pilgrimage once in their lifetime to Mecca, which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia... [M]ost pilgrims arrive during the Muslim month known as Dhu al-Hijjah... The most recent Hajj occurred during the first half of January 2006, precisely when the "outrage" over the Danish cartoons began in earnest. There were a number of stampedes, called "tragedies" in the press, during the Hajj which killed several hundred pilgrims. I say "tragedies" in quotation marks because there have been similar "tragedies" during the Hajj and each time, the Saudi government promises to improve security and facilitation of movement to avoid these. Over 251 pilgrims were killed during the 2004 Hajj alone in the same area as the one that killed 350 pilgrims in 2006. These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.

And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media's radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.

Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.

Many European papers, including the right-wing German Springer media group, fanned the flames by reprinting the cartoons. And now you have the situation we are in today, with lots of video footage of angry crowds and the storming of embassies and calls for boycotts of Danish and European products.

"Soj" says he picked up this angle from The Religious Policeman, sarcastically-named blog of an extremely alienated Saudi ex-pat in England. "Policeman" has a color-coded alert system on his homepage poking fun at that of the Homeland Security Department. His monitors the "MOL Condition"—for "Muslim Offense Level." We are, of course, currently at MOL Condition Orange: "Highly Offended."

The endless media positing of the "free speech"/"sensitivity to religion" dichotomy is all the more tiresome because it is often presented as an either/or. It reminds us of the incessant blather during the OJ Simpson affair as to whether the episode was "about" gender or race—as if God had specially designed the debacle to teach America one, and only one, lesson.

Yes, the cartoon controversy is "about" sensitivity to religion. Yes, the cartoons are racist. An image portraying Muhammed with a bomb for a turban clearly sends the message that Islam is a religion of violence (puting aside the question of Islam's prohibition on any graphic representation of the Prophet). This is particularly sinister propaganda in the age of Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and the destruction of Fallujah.

And yes, the controversy is also "about" free speech. Yes, readers have the right to view racist images—even if only to see what the furor is all about. For precisely this purpose, Wikipedia has posted a facsimilie of the 12 cartoons (and, of course, suffered cyber-vandalism attempts on the page). Ironically, the whole affair has taken on a snowballing tendency: the more protests are held, the more global audiences will want (and have a right) to view the images—which will, in turn, fuel further protests. This is not to say that Muslims shouldn't protest. However, torching embassies and sending death threats to newspaper editors are rather poor ways of demonstrating that Islam is not a religion of violence.

Meanwhile, if you want to be regaled by endless examples of ugly Jew-hating cartoons that seem to appear regularly in the Arab press, just go the page of the Anti-Defamation League (they have a wide sampling from both 2002 and 2003). No, we don't like the ADL's politics either—that's not the point. And no, this doesn't let Jyllands-Posten off the hook. That's not the point either. The point is that if the protesters want to have real legitimacy they might consider examining the offensive images in the Muslim media as well.

Finally, we note that the whole sordid affair might be viewed with a sadly bemused irony by the Syrian film producer Moustapha Akkad, famous for his classic Al Risalah ("The Message") about the life of the Prophet Muhammed. Because the film was said to show images of an actor portraying the Prophet (it didn't), it won him death threats from Muslim fundamentalists. And because the film was released just as the 1980 Iran hostage crisis broke out, it also won him death threats from Zionists and anti-Islamic bigots. (See bios at The American Muslim and Visit Syria)

Unfortunately, Akkad cannot now warn us of the dangers of this kind of unthinking extremism. He was killed, along with his daughter, in last November's suicide attack on a wedding party at Jordan's Radisson Hotel.

See our last posts on Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the crisis of contemporary Islam.


"Cartoons reflect Europe's Islamophobia"

Submitted by David Bloom on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 11:05.

'Cartoons reflect Europe's Islamophobia'
by Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Sunday 05 February 2006 6:53 AM GMT
al-Jazeera.net

After Hamas's electoral triumph, Palestinians are in the news again, with thousands of them demonstrating against Denmark and European countries for publishing cartoons that they say depicts the Prophet Muhammad in an unfavourable light.

Last week armed Palestinian groups briefly surrounded a European Union office in Ram Allah.

Aziz Duwaik, professor of urban planning at the Najah University of Nablus, won a parliamentary seat in the recent Palestinian legislative elections.

His Change and Reform (Hamas) list won all nine contested seats in the southern West Bank town of Hebron at the district level, defeating the dominant Fatah party.

Aljazeera.net spoke with Duwaik at his Hebron home. The following are excerpts from the interview.

Aljazeera.net: Why have Palestinians been so strongly protesting against the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad?

Duwaik: These cartoons have been insulting to our religion and injurious to our feelings. They were meant to insult, provoke and offend Muslims. And they have succeeded. I call on the government of Denmark and the people of Denmark and the rest of Europe to stop insulting other people in the guise of press freedom.

We respect press freedom, but ridiculing and besmirching our religious symbols is not press freedom. There is a conspicuous malicious intent here, and people's right not to be insulted and offended overrides a Danish newspaper's right to insult the prophet of Islam. Besides, we are living in a global village now, and we should respect each other.

People in Europe value their liberties ...

And we value our religion and our prophet (peace be upon him). Press freedom is a great ideal. However, could one argue that Hitler and the Nazis were practising their freedom prior to the Holocaust? We know the Holocaust started with cartoons like this against Jews, and with books like Mein Kampf, and then came Kristallnacht ... and then we know what happened.

These cartoons are a reflection of rampant Islamophobia in Europe, which is very similar and nearly as virulent as the anti-Semitism that existed in Europe, especially in Germany, prior to World War II. This anti-Semitism eventually led to the Holocaust and the deaths of millions of human beings.

You see, when you send out thousands of hate messages against a certain ethnic or religious community every day, you make people hate these people, and when mass hatred reaches a certain point, nobody would object to the physical extermination of the hated community when it happens.

Do you fear a Holocaust against Muslims similar to what happened to the Jews?

Why not? The Holocaust was committed by human beings, not by citizens of another planet, and Germany, where Nazism thrived, was probably the most culturally advanced European country in the 1930s and 1940s.

But Europe is now democratic, unlike Nazi Germany?

Yes, but who told you those democracies don't commit genocide? America is a democracy, but we saw recently how this democracy invaded and destroyed two small and weak countries based on lies, while most Americans were duped into believing that Bush was doing the right thing.

Let's talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Do you still want to destroy Israel?

You are asking the victims of Israeli oppression, occupation and racism if they are interested in destroying their oppressors and tormentors? This is a tendentious question that should be asked to Israel, which is occupying our country and oppressing our people and carrying out ethnic cleansing against us.

In fact, all that we want is to be free. Is freedom for the Palestinian people tantamount to destruction of Israel?

Are you not are evading the question?

I am not evading anything; it is you who is evading and ignoring reality here. Just take a look and see for yourself who is destroying whom, who is stealing whose land, who is savaging and persecuting and brutalising whose people, and who is practising ethnic cleansing and slow-motion genocide against the other.

But the question remains, how can Israel possibly talk with Hamas as long as Hamas refuses to recognise Israel's right to exist?

Why on earth should we recognise Israel while Israel refuses to recognise Palestine? Indeed, we can't understand why the international community, strangely enough including some Arab leaders, is demanding that we recognise Israel but making no similar demands on Israel that it ought to recognise Palestine.

But Israel is a reality while Palestine is not.

Palestine is also a reality. There are nearly five million Palestinians living in Palestine and these people have an inherent right to self-determination. Do you think that we are children of a lesser God or something?

Israel has recognised the PLO and said it will accept President Bush's vision which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state that would live in peace alongside Israel?

The important thing is not what Israel says but what Israel does. Israel has built hundreds of Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank and transferred hundreds of thousands of its citizen to the occupied territories. This alone shows the mendacity of its claims regarding Palestinian statehood.

Are you implying that the creation of a Palestinian state is no longer possible or realistic?

Precisely. Israel has effectively killed all prospects of a genuine and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank. In a nutshell, there is no room left for a true and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank. The implanting of so many Jewish colonies has made the creation of such a state utterly impossible.

Will you be willing to negotiate with Israel?

Negotiation in itself is not the issue. The issue is our rights as human beings and as a nation. If Israel is willing and ready to come to terms with our human, civil and political rights, then we can negotiate, otherwise we will not allow ourselves to repeat the same failed process of the past 10 years all over again. We maybe weak politically, but we certainly are not stupid.

The Oslo process was not a peace process. It was a process of deception and cheating and lies which enabled Israel to truncate our homeland with settlements and separation walls and roadblocks and closed military zones. We will not deceive our people as the Palestinian Authority did for 10 years.

Will you form a government of national unity, a government of technocrats, or a Hamas government?

We certainly prefer a government of national unity which we think would best serve the interests of our people. I believe that eventually Fatah will join the government.

But Fatah leaders have ruled out joining a Hamas-led government?

These statements by some Fatah leaders are mostly post-election reflexes; we understand how our brothers in Fatah feel after their electoral defeat. But I am sure that eventually some Fatah leaders will join the government.

What would you say to Palestinian Christians, some of whom might be worried about the aftermath of Hamas' election victory?

I think if these fears are real, and I don't think they are, they must be phobic in nature. The Christians of Palestine are our brothers, compatriots and countrymen. We are languishing under the same occupation and experiencing the same pain and suffering, hence it would be preposterous to even contemplate harming or even hurting these people.

»

Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons

Submitted by David Bloom on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 13:05.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5392866-119665,00.html

Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons
Gwladys Fouché
Monday February 6, 2006
MediaGuardian.co.uk

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.
The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."

The illustrator said: "I see the cartoons as an innocent joke, of the type that my Christian grandfather would enjoy."

"I showed them to a few pastors and they thought they were funny."

But the Jyllands-Posten editor in question, Mr Kaiser, said that the case was "ridiculous to bring forward now. It has nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons.

"In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That's the difference," he said.

"The illustrator thought his cartoons were funny. I did not think so. It would offend some readers, not much but some."

The decision smacks of "double-standards", said Ahmed Akkari, spokesman for the Danish-based European Committee for Prophet Honouring, the umbrella group that represents 27 Muslim organisations that are campaigning for a full apology from Jyllands-Posten.

"How can Jyllands-Posten distinguish the two cases? Surely they must understand," Mr Akkari added.

Meanwhile, the editor of a Malaysian newspaper resigned over the weekend after printing one of the Muhammad cartoons that have unleashed a storm of protest across the Islamic world.

Malaysia's Sunday Tribune, based in the remote state of Sarawak, on Borneo island, ran one of the Danish cartoons on Saturday. It is unclear which one of the 12 drawings was reprinted.

Printed on page 12 of the paper, the cartoon illustrated an article about the lack of impact of the controversy in Malaysia, a country with a majority Muslim population.

The newspaper apologised and expressed "profound regret over the unauthorised publication", in a front page statement on Sunday.

"Our internal inquiry revealed that the editor on duty, who was responsible for the same publication, had done it all alone by himself without authority in compliance with the prescribed procedures as required for such news," the statement said.

The editor, who has not been named, regretted his mistake, apologised and tendered his resignation, according to the statement.

·

»

Lip service

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 18:11.

We respect press freedom, but ridiculing and besmirching our religious symbols is not press freedom. There is a conspicuous malicious intent here, and people's right not to be insulted and offended overrides a Danish newspaper's right to insult the prophet of Islam. Besides, we are living in a global village now, and we should respect each other.

In other words, you respect press freedom except when your religious symbols are ridiculed and besmirched. Like Bush respects freedom of expression unless someone is burning the American flag. This is what is known as "lip service."

And has Prof. Duwaik ever protested the Nazi-like anti-Semitic cartoons that routinely appear in the Arab press?

Just asking.

»

And if there's any doubt...

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Tue, 02/07/2006 - 23:28.

...that there is propagandistic manipulation of the cartoons at work here, here's something to keep in mind. From a Feb. 7 timeline on the controversy in The Guardian:

A group of ultra-conservative imams went to Saudi Arabia and Egypt with a dossier of the cartoons. According to Jyllands-Posten, they also took three unrelated images which showed Muhammad with the face of a pig, a dog sodomising a praying Muslim and Muhammad as a paedophile - it is not clear who drew these or where they came from.

»

A strange new wrinkle...

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Thu, 02/09/2006 - 23:40.

...in this theater of the absurd. The New York Press, Manhattan's reactionary and relentlessly ironic "alternative" (read: yuppie) weekly, suddenly develops a conscience, we are supposed to believe. I think the better word might be "cowardice." Note that this Feb. 9 AP account appears in, of all places, India's Hindustan Times:

New York Press editorial team resigns after cartoons held

The editorial team at the New York Press resigned after the alternative weekly newspaper decided not to run the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have set off a worldwide furore.

Editor in chief Harry Siegel, managing editor Tim Marchman, arts editor Jonathan Leaf and City Hall bureau staffer Azi Paybarah resigned Tuesday. The four were among the small number of Press employees who put out the paper with free-lance contributors.

Paybarah said that the package of stories about the cartoons was put together on Monday and was read by management. On Tuesday, toward the end of the day, the editorial team was told that the cartoons would not run.

Since the package would have included criticism of other newspapers for not running the cartoons, for the Press to do the same would have made the writers appear to be hypocrites, Paybarah said. There also was concern about editorial control, he said.

"Whenever there's interference with the ability to tell a story of this magnitude, it puts in jeopardy all future stories," he said.

In a statement, New York Press General Manager Peter Polimino said the newspaper had come to the same conclusion as many other "responsible newspapers and media outlets" that have chosen to not run the cartoons.


http://ww4report.com/node/1372

King Abdullah: Islam in crisis

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 12/07/2005 - 20:29.

Nice sentiments. Now we wonder if the good king will abolish public flogging, as demanded by Amnesty International. Dec. 7:

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah appealed to Muslim leaders on Wednesday to unite and tackle extremists who he said have hijacked their religion.

At a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) -- the world's biggest Muslim body -- in the holy city of Mecca, Abdullah said the world's 1 billion Muslims were weak and divided, a description echoed by other leaders.

"It bleeds the heart of a believer to see how this glorious civilization has fallen from the height of glory to the ravine of frailty and how its thoughts were hijacked by devilish and criminal gangs that spread havoc on earth," Abdullah said.

Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 al Qaeda hijackers who killed 3,000 people in the United States on September 11, 2001, is battling a wave of militant violence at home.

U.S. critics have blamed the kingdom's strict Wahhabi school of Islam for fostering extremism but Saudi officials say they are tackling the militants through a tough security crackdown and a campaign to win over militant sympathizers.

Abdullah called for greater educational efforts to promote tolerance. "I look forward ... to the spread of a moderation that embodies the tolerance of Islam," he said.

The king was speaking at the start of a two-day summit in Mecca of the 57-member OIC, convened to address what he said were grave dangers facing the Muslim nation.

DISUNITY AND DISCORD

"We don't have the luxury of blaming others for our own problems," OIC Secretary-General Ekmelettin Ihsanoglu said in a speech which also portrayed the Muslim world confronting one of "the most critical eras of its history".

"Helplessness dispossession, marginalisation, all of these lead to the growth and spread of extremist ideas," he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also issued a solemn warning, saying Muslims across the world were in a state of "disunity and discord" worse than an any time in 14 centuries of Islamic history.

See our last posts on Saudi Arabia and the crisis of Islam.


http://ww4report.com/node/1377

Film director's death in Jordan terror sparks Arab outrage

Submitted by WW4 Report on Thu, 12/08/2005 - 19:38.

A Dec. 6 commentary by Jalal Ghazi on Pacific News Service notes that last month's Jordan suicide attack killed a film director beloved throughout the Arab world—making Arab commentators more vocal and daring than ever in condemning terrorism.

One month after the deadly suicide bombing attacks in Amman, Jordan, Arab media continue to mourn the loss of Moustapha Akkad, a beloved director in the Arab world who was killed in the blast. His death and that of his daughter may mark the first time a unanimous outpouring of grief and condemnation over a suicide bomb attack has spread across the spectrum of Arab media.

The Syrian-born Akkad is known in America for producing the first "Halloween" film, released in 1978. He also produced the eight subsequent "Halloween" films.

In the Arab and Muslim worlds, however, Akkad is known as the man who directed "Al Risalah," or "The Message," a film about early Islamic history that was released in both Arabic and English versions. It known as the most widely viewed films about Islam and is considered the cinematic pride of the Muslim world. "Al Risalah" has been translated to more than 12 languages.

The film is banned in Syria, Akkad's native country, and Saudi Arabia, whose leaders declared it violated strict Islamic codes. The Pentagon reportedly has bought many copies of "Al Risalah" to show to its troops in Afghanistan to help them better understand Islam.

Akkad also directed "Lion of the Desert," released in 1981 and an instant hit in the Arab and Muslim world. It depicted real events about the Libyan struggle for freedom against Mussolini's army in World War II, which killed one-third of the Libyan population.

Akkad, who lived in Los Angeles, traveled in November to Jordan to meet his daughter and attend a wedding party at the Radisson hotel in Amman. On Nov. 9, an explosion in the hotel killed Akkad's daughter Rima instantly. Akkad sustained injuries in his neck and chest and died in the hospitable two days later. A total of 63 people, including three suicide bombers, were killed in the blast.

Ghazi goes on to quote several prominent commentators in the Arab press (particularly the London-based pan-Arab newspapers like Asharq Al Awsat) who condemn the attack as "evil," a "a manifestation of ignorance," and contrary to true Islamic principles. This observation is particularly saddening:

Firas Al-Atraqchi, a contributor to Al Jazeera, wrote on the Al Jazeera Web site that Akkad died before being able to achieve his dream of making a film about the Muslim hero Salahdden. Akkad, Al-Atraqchi wrote, thought that the invasion of Iraq was analogous to the political climate in the 11th century before Jerusalem was sacked. Akkad, Al-Atraqchi wrote, thought that the current geopolitical chessboard reminded him of "all the Muslim city-states which colluded with Crusaders and allowed not only the fall of Jerusalem, but also led to Muslim infighting."

Frustrated with the unwillingness of rich Arab leaders to fund his films, Akkad said that it would take only as much as the cost of a warplane to make a film, which would have much more far-reaching effects than the strongest Arab army. Akkad always used to say that the best tool that Arabs and Muslims could use to influence the West was the Western media, not weapons.

Arabs and Muslims have huge admiration for Akkad, not only because he was able to establish himself as a successful international filmmaker, but also because he was able to do that without compromising his love to Islam and pride in his Arabic heritage. As with his past works, his film on Salahdden no doubt would have been a magnificent third epic, a window into the 1,400 years of Arab and Islamic civilization and a clear contrast to today's dark ages of extremism and suicide bombings.

WW4 REPORT, in our recent review of Ridley Scott's Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven, noted that it is long overdue for Saladin's life to be brought to the silver screen. Perhaps some courageous young Arab director will pick up Moustapha Akkad's torch.

See our last posts on the Jordan attacks and the politics of Islam.


http://ww4report.com/node/2525

Feminist dissent from Chavez embrace of Ahmadinejad

Submitted by WW4 Report on Fri, 09/22/2006 - 20:33.

From our correspondent Jennifer Fasulo:

Chavez's Shameful Embrace of Iranian President Ahmadinejad:
Show Solidarity with the Women and People of Iran, not their Oppressors!

Hugo Chavez, one of the key important figures in the left populist movements spreading throughout Latin America, has publicly lauded and embraced Iranian president Ahmadinejad. (See "Two anti-US nations heap praise upon each other," AP, Sept. 17) It is moments like this, when feminists and any activists who care about women's liberation, are reminded of just how little women's lives matter in the world of patriarchal nationalist politics.

One expects Chavez to condemn all US war-mongering and threats against Iran. We can applaud as he uses the public stage to denounce Bush as a criminal who is out to dominate and destroy the world. But there is no excuse for declaring solidarity with a misogynist theocrat like Ahmadinejad. By embracing Ahmadinejad, Chavez is adding steam to the growing and dangerous alliance between left-wing and right-wing anti-imperialism. In this equation, the only thing that matters is one's opposition to US imperialism. Women's rights, worker's rights, student's rights-- the things that are supposed to matter to socialists and progressives-- be damned.

Apparently, Chavez, appears not to have noticed that the Iranian government has created one of the most brutal and misogynist regimes in modern history—turning Iran into a country where gender apartheid and sexist hatred of women has been enshrined in law, where women are still TODAY stoned to death for the "crime" of adultery, buried up to their necks and pelted in the face and head with stones until they die, where women have no right to divorce or child custody, are legally forced to veil under threat of physical beating or imprisonment, can't travel without the permission of a husband or father, where their testimony in a court of law is considered half that of a man, and where political dissent of any kind, for women and men, is punishable by imprisonment, often torture and death. This is the government that Chavez compares to his own as a "heroic nation," one which he deems, "revolutionary."

Chavez's lack of concern for women's rights under Islamic governments is reflective of the male left generally. The issue is not on the radar screen. If an ethnic or racial group were treated the way women in Iran or Afghanistan have been treated for the last 30 years, it would be widely and routinely denounced. But if its happening to women, its dismissed or excused as an issue of "culture." This insidious use of the word "culture" implies that women are brutally subjected not through force and violence, but because they or their "culture" wants it that way, and therefore it's okay and nothing to get upset about. This argument, aside from insulting the human spirit, which never passively accepts subjugation, is also profoundly ignorant of the actual conditions and historical facts in Iran. Any cursory investigation of Iranian society will show that the Iranian people are a people in utter revolt against their despotic rulers, with women leading the way.

For 27 years women have resisted and defied the Islamic regime's persecution of them, often at great risk to their lives. Along with an inspiring women's movement, there are strong, secular workers and student movements, all of them opposing not only the Islamic regime, but also the US threats of military attacks and sanctions on Iran.

How can Chavez, who considers himself a socialist and a defender of the downtrodden, align himself with the leader of such a reactionary regime, rather than the inspiring socialist and feminist movements which are fighting against it? It is a terrible political choice that he need not make. Chavez can and should renounce his solidarity with Ahmadinejad and place it with the people of Iran where it belongs. He should be standing, not by the side of the executioner, but by the side of the unjustly accused and condemned, like 17-year-old Nazanine Fatehi who awaits execution for the crime of defending herself and her niece from a gang of rapists. Or Kobra Rahmanpour who also awaits execution and writes in a public letter, "I have suffered enough… Please help me! I don't want to die. But right now I am more like a lifeless body who has forgot happiness and laughter in the scare from the execution rope… My only hope lies in people and my fellow humans." (see the International Committee Against Executions) How must Kobra, and Nazanine feel to see Chavez throw his arms around their excecutioner?

Chavez's stance needs to be condemned by all progressive forces within the international community. One group that has already issued such a condemnation is the Worker Communist Party of Iran (WPI). In a statement issued on September 14, they write, "We see the attempts by right-wing pro-America forces to overthrow Chavez and we value every bit of positive reform by the Chavez government in the interest of deprived and hungry people, but defending the murderous and terrorist leaders of the Islamic Republic, rolling out the carpet for them under the guise of anti-imperialism is nothing but throwing dust in the eyes of the people and covering up the brutal reality of the Islamic regime."

The WPI goes on to challenge the very notion that the Islamic Republic is an anti-imperialist force. "We must make it clear to Chavez and Castro that the Islamic current, without the support of the US government and western powers, could not have come to power—and without their help could not have stayed in power."

In these bleak times, many on the left see Chavez as the great hope for the world and are loathe to call into question his commitment to revolutionary politics. Chavez does deserve credit for the things he's done to improve the lives of poor people and curb the abuses of capitalism in Venezuela. Many feminists have also praised his economic initiatives for women and willingness to recognize the contribution of women's unpaid labor in the home. Recently, he passed a historic bill which would compensate women for their unpaid housework, something that socialist feminists have been fighting for decades. Yet these facts must also be balanced by other disquieting aspects of Chavez's politics. He has frequently been criticized for his authoritarian leadership, including by the Venezuelan women who are pushing him to make good on his promises.

In a manner disturbingly close to Bush and Ahmadinejad, he likes to claim that he has "god on his side." After the recall election in which Chavez triumphed over efforts by the opposition to unseat him, he declared, "God has spoken." And while some feminists have praised him as a champion of women's rights, others have pointed to his strong anti-abortion stance, which included an attempt to create an anti-abortion amendment to the Venezuelan constitution.

Even the issue of paying women for housework is not clear cut. There has long been a debate within feminist circles as to whether this will have a liberating effect (raising women out of poverty) or whether it will further institutionalize women in the role of domestic servitude. All of these issues deserve to be reconsidered in light of Chavez's alliance with an anti-feminist fundamentalist like Ahmadinejad.

We have to ask ourselves, what hope does Chavez represent, especially for women, if he's willing to align himself with a government that treats women like sub-humans? What hope do we have if we can't distinguish between revolutionary movements and the forces which seek to destroy them?

Precisely because things are so bleak right now and the forces of reaction and religious bigotry are on the rise around the world, we must not tolerate leftist alliances that seek to legitimize them. We must not allow the undermining of the women's liberation movement in Iran that is tirelessly fighting to save women's lives and break the chains of their legal imprisonment, nor the progressive revolutionary movements that are charting a third course between US domination and right-wing opposition to it. These are the movements that represent the true hope for the ideals of justice, equality and human liberation. Now, more than ever, we must stand up and defend them.

See our last posts on Iran, women in Iran, and the Venezuela-Iran alignment.


A rebuttal...

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Thu, 11/09/2006 - 03:55.

...from ZNet. Our readers are encouraged to weigh in.

Who supports Iranian women?
A reply to Jennifer Fasulo

by Eleanor Ommani

An Iranian friend drew my attention to the September 29, 2006 ZNet article "Chavez's Embrace of Iran Leader Insults Women" by Jennifer Fasulo, under Feminism/Gender, to which I feel compelled to respond. While purporting to support women's rights, Ms. Fasulo's article contains some arrogant and injurious statements about Iran and Venezuela, misinformation about the condition and position of women inside Iran, and shows deep ignorance about Iran's domestic realities.

Ms. Fasulo's initial efforts to ensure readers of her progressive, left "credentials" began with the condescending and loaded statement: "Of course Venezuela and Iran have strategic political and economic interests in each other based on their roles as oil producers." My first thought: if their reason for alliance is based on being oil producers, then Chavez should have been hugging King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Then came Fasulo's next clairvoyance: "And one expects Chavez to condemn all U.S. military threats against Iran." Now that statement presumably puts Jennifer in the anti-imperialist camp, but behind the "Of course" and "one expects" statements, Fasulo's real intent is to slander both countries' leaders. We have only to read on to be confronted with a crescendo of childish statements, misinformation and outright lies about Iran, first of all, and secondly about Venezuela's revolutionary president, Hugo Chavez.

To quote Ms. Fasulo: "But there is no excuse for declaring solidarity with a theocratic regime that treats women like sub-humans." Apparently, Ms. Fasulo does not realize that the solidarity expressed by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela towards Iran is based on the broad and dominant issue of the defense of the sovereignty of nations who are confronted by a ferocious war machine that threatens their very existence by regime change. Who doesn't know that Chavez has already faced a coup attempt executed from Washington, and Castro has always faced plots and plans and a near 50-year-old embargo against the people of Cuba? Their solidarity with President Ahmadinejad of Iran is based on that reality. Ms. Fasulo's claims and position goes far beyond the question of women; it falls within the category of revolution and counter-revolution. The question, Ms. Fasulo, is which side are you on?

Facts and Fiction

Let's examine Ms. Fasulo's first accusation: "Chavez appears not to have noticed that the current government of Iran has turned Iran into a country where gender apartheid and hatred of women are enshrined in law." I couldn't help but wonder when was the last time Ms. Jennifer Fasulo (or those who supply her with such descriptions) was inside Iran, or at least investigated some of the socio-economic changes that have been documented by credible, international organizations with access to people and statistics of Iran. How does our writer explain that over 60 percent of university students in Iran are women? In a summary entitled: "Iranian women in the workforce" on BBC radio's "Woman's Hour," the Tehran reporter stated: "It's one of the biggest social shifts since the 1979 Revolution. Iran's Islamic government has managed to convince even traditional rural families that it's safe to send their daughters away from home to study." Today's Iran sees women participants in every field: scientific, technological, trade, and environmental.

Is our defender of feminist values aware that under the government of the Islamic Republic, according to Article 77 of the Labor Law, employers are obliged to accommodate pregnant workers, without wage cuts, by providing them with less strenuous work, as determined by a medical practitioner of the Social Security Organization? Furthermore, women of Iran are entitled to maternity leave for a total of 90 days, at least 45 days of which have to be taken after childbirth. For multiple births, 14 days are added to the leave. After her maternity leave has ended, the female worker returns to her previous position and her period of absence will be factored into her future entitlement benefits. (Above Excerpts from the book, Women's Rights in the Laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran by Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Published in Iran in 2002.)

According to research conducted by Shamsosadat Zahedi, female researcher and professor of management at the Allameh Tabatabai University in Tehran, Iran, in an article entitled: "Women's Resources are wasted in Iran": "There are measurable improvements in women's situation since 1979. And Iran has surpassed other countries with respect to women's progress in some areas. Women's life expectancy has increased to 70 years. Women's literacy has increased to 79%. Attendance at elementary school is now at 94% for all girls. For young women age 14 to 17, school attendance has reached 65%. Women now comprise 38% of all the work force in the public sector."

http://kilden.forskningsradet.no/c17224/artikkel/vis.htm.?tid=25043

Western readers should bear in mind such statistics have come about since the overthrow of the Shah's despotic government, and rival many other developing countries' statistics on women, especially with large Muslim populations, such as Pakistan, India, Sudan or Indonesia, for example. In June 2002, the Population Reference Bureau, (PRB), located in Washington, D.C., released a report entitled: Iran's Family Planning Program: Responding to a Nation's Needs which documented the stunning results of the Islamic government's Family Planning Program and the Rural Health Care Network:

"Iran has experienced dramatic demographic change in the last decade. Levels of childbearing have declined faster than in any other country, and maternal and child health have greatly improved. These changes have coincided with the revival of the national family planning program, which is delivered through a nationwide network of primary health care facilities. Many observers have wondered how such a dramatic increase in contraceptive use could have occurred in a traditional society ruled by Islamic law."

"The program has succeeded in removing both cultural and economic barriers to family planning, and the information and education campaign has assured the public that family planning is consistent with Islamic tenets and does not threaten family values (see Box 2, page 6). By providing free family planning services, the program has given low-income couples in both rural and urban areas access to services that would otherwise be too expensive for most families. In 2000, the ministry of health and medical education provided 75 percent of all family planning services (91 percent of services in rural areas and 67 percent of services in urban areas)."

Instead of an honest presentation, Znet's readers are presented with an example of abuse as the rare and out-dated practice of stoning. And she goes on to write: "A cursory example of Iranian society will show that the Iranian people are in utter revolt against their despotic rulers, with women leading the way." Well, in fact, a statement like this "shows" nothing as much as it shows Fasulo's utter ignorance. In an opinion poll conducted earlier this year by the U.S.-based firm Intermedia, 71% of the Iranian respondents expressed satisfaction with the general direction of the country.

Preferring to give her readers a fast-track lesson in fighting imperialism, Jennifer's next gem was an "eye-opener": "By embracing Ahmadinejad, Chavez is adding steam to the growing and dangerous alliance between left-wing and right-wing anti-imperialism." This statement is contradictory. Isn't imperialism itself a right-wing force? How could a right-wing be fighting another right-wing, defeating its own purpose? Ms. Fasulo has to show how, when and where in history a right-wing force has been anti-imperialist? This is a frivolous concept benefiting imperialism in fact. It appears that Ms. Fasulo gets some of her information from the so-called Workers Communist Party of Iran, the WPI, calling it "a leading leftist group in Iran." As far as we know, not one of their activists here in the U.S. has been in Iran in a quarter of a century, and even more telling, this group has not been an integral part of the anti-war movement here!

According to Toofaan, the official monthly of Iran's Labor Party, the WPI praises and condones the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the cover that it will result in the weakening of political Islam, which WPI brands as a form of terrorism. One of WPI's spokespersons, Mansour Hekmat, defined the recent struggle in the Middle East as "civilized America" against "barbaric Islamists." Ms. Fasulo holds up the WPI as a beacon of hope for Iranian women, yet its leaders have joined Britain's far right politicians in a vicious campaign against London's socialist Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who alone hosted Hugo Chavez earlier this year (the Queen and Tony Blair refused to see Chavez, too). The same British tories had proudly welcomed Chile's mass murderer Augusto Pinochet to London a few years ago. We're looking for genuine anti-imperialists, Ms Fasulo!

If Ms. Fasulo has no agenda other than the defense of women, why doesn't she address the problems facing women here, such as the dismal statistics regarding women prisoners in the United States (a report by UCLA Center for the Study of Women and of women's legal issues in the United States?

http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=13036

• the U.S. is number one in the world in the number of woman prisoners;
• children of imprisoned parents are more likely to get in trouble;
• there are 1.5 million children in the U.S. with at least one parent in prison;
• over 200,000 women are incarcerated in the U.S., and their children, instead of getting help, often end up in prison too.

According to a report released by Amnesty International, "There are 148,200 women in state and federal prisons in the U.S. In federal women's correctional facilities, 70% of guards are male. Records show correctional officials have subjected female inmates to rape, other sexual assault, sexual extortion, and groping during body searches…Male correctional officials retaliate, often brutally, against female inmates who complain about sexual assault and harassment."

http://www.amnestyusa.org/women/womeninprison.html

Subjugation and violence against women anywhere is a crime, and such statistics documenting the conditions facing women inside U.S. prisons presents Ms. Fasulo with an opportunity to defend women's rights right here, but choosing to use the woman question to criticize the leaders of two nations directly in the cross-hairs of U.S. imperialism raises a question. Why has Ms. Fasulo not chosen to write about the recent horrendous crimes against the women and children of Lebanon who are facing bombs, displacement, degraded infrastructures necessary to support life and family? Are these not crimes we in the American progressive community should be shouting about? And isn't it clear that the spokespersons for U.S. imperialism have been raising the cry about "women's rights" and "authoritarian control" in the U.S. media to justify intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Iran? It seems Ms. Fasulo's vision of progress does not go beyond her opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Equality and the Emancipation of Women

The struggle for equality and the emancipation of women, and the working class as a whole, of which women are a critical and integral part, is an on-going task under global capitalism, in all countries both advanced imperialist nations like the U.S. and in the held-back, developing nations like Venezuela and Iran. In today's situation, U.S. imperialism is threatening not only the national sovereignty of Iran, but also the relative security of its working and middle class, including women from both classes. Individuals, groups or some ill-informed organizations who stand on the slippery slope with the neo-cons and old monarchists, repeating their charges and accusations that dominate the media regarding life in Iran, creates confusion as to the political identity of the Iranian women protagonists in the U.S., not to mention among the American progressive community.

If Ms. Jennifer Fasulo's intention is to defend women, how is it that the countries she has spotlighted to condemn and "expose" for their "anti-women, student and worker abuses," are the two countries that have made the most advances in the shortest historical time for the vast majority of the working and poor people – Iran and Venezuela? Wouldn't her time be better spent railing against the condition of women in Saudi Arabia, America's ally, where women can't even drive or vote, or exposing the horrendous conditions facing women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan where the social and economic fabric has been torn to shreds by the U.S.-British and Nato occupation armies. Why isn't Ms. Fasulo crying out against the total destruction of the life support systems by the Zionist IDF forces in the assault on Lebanon and the daily attacks in Gaza and the West Bank, where the lives of thousands of women and children worsen by the day and hang in the balance between life and death? That would be a real contribution to the defense of women and the struggle against imperialism.

Eleanor Ommani, is a retired NYC educator, peace and justice activist with Wespac, Nowarwestchester, Progressive News Network, and the American-Iranian Friendship Committee. Ms. Ommani lived in Iran 1979 -1980, and returned this past March 2006 to visit family in Shiraz, Esfahan, Saman and Tehran. She can be reached at: KlosRtoGod@optonline.net and readers can listen to her brief report on changes in Iran at www.progressiveportals.com/aifc.

»

OK, I'll go first

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Thu, 11/09/2006 - 04:09.

This is typical of the mindless prattle we have come to expect from ZNet, which loves nothing more than to wave pom-poms for whatever odious regime happens to be on the White House shit-list this week. The most obvious flaw is the zero-sum thinking: If women are oppressed in Saudi Arabia (or the US) then they can't be in Iran. If imperialism is a right-wing force (no kidding), then anything which purports to oppose it is not. It is this kind of thinking which has led ZNet to actually support genocide where Bosnia is concerned. If Ommani would take the time to look for it, there is evidence galore of women's oppression in Iran. Especially hilarious that she should cite Amnesty International to back up her obvious assertion that women are oppressed here in the US–which she cynically uses as a mere distraction from the oppression of women in Iran. One could also, of course, turn to Amnesty's reports on women's oppression in Iran. If one were concerned with the truth, that is.

»

And a counter-rebuttal...

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Thu, 11/09/2006 - 22:36.

Again from ZNet:

Reply re: Iranian Women

by Jennifer Fasulo

Eleanor Ommani's response to my editorial "Chavez Embrace of Iran Leader Insults Women" is a perfect illustration of the kind of left thinking I was critiquing in my original article. She again positions women's rights as a side issue, and regards any anti-imperialist posture worthy of support, even when assumed by a virulently misogynist and repressive government. Nothing in my article suggested that I support the Bush administration. To the contrary, my thesis was and is that in order to stop US domination of the world, we need people who consider themselves socialists and progressives to support the women and social movements in Iran, not the clerical state which is brutally repressing them.

Since Ms. Ommani's implication that I must be pro-Bush is not based on anything I actually wrote, I can only conclude that it derives from the dualistic mindset of which she is captive: that one is either pro-US government or pro-Islamic Republic. According to this mindset, anyone who condemns the Islamic Republic, must therefore, support the US government and its bloody wars of intervention. She can't conceive of someone being against both the endless brutality of US capitalism and the horrific misogyny of Islamic theocracy. Yet this is precisely the stand that's been taken by women's rights activists throughout the Middle East. The Iranian and Iraqi women activists I know refer to these two patriarchal beasts as the "twin sides of terrorism." No matter who wins this fight, women will lose. That is why it is not surprising that women are leading the way in charting a third course.

Bush Record on Women's Rights Abysmal

While it is true that the Bush administration and their corporate media allies have exploited women's suffering in countries like Afghanistan and Iran to gain support for their war-mongering policies, this does not make the suffering of Afghani and Iranian women any less real. The answer to Bush propaganda on women's rights is to expose the utter hypocrisy of it, not to demand that women shut up and allow themselves to be brutalized and killed!

The Bush administration has an abysmal record on women's rights. At every level of government he has installed right-wing fundamentalists who are intent on overturning all the gains women have won over the past 30 years. Internationally, he has joined forces with the Catholic Church and Islamist governments, to eliminate progressive programs and policies for women and children around the world.

In Iraq, the US invasion and occupation has been a disaster by all accounts, but the greatest travesty is what has been done to women. Due to a strong women's movement in the 1950's, Iraqi women once enjoyed more rights than women in other Middle Eastern countries. Today, thanks to the US occupation, they have been pushed into the terrifying abyss of state sponsored religion and misogyny shared by women in Afghanistan and Iran. They are no longer free to walk the city streets without the accompaniment of a male; they are routinely attacked by religious vigilantes and brutalized by US soldiers; forced out of work and school, and forced to veil and cover themselves. Bush's record on Iraqi women's rights alone should be a primary target upon which to attack and expose his bogus claims to be a defender of women's rights. It should be a major plank of the anti-war movement. Instead, it's barely mentioned. One reason why the Right is able to manipulate the issue of women's rights to their advantage is because so much of the Left is shamefully silent, repeatedly failing to confront the issue of women's rights in the Middle East.

The Islamic Republic as a Paragon of Women's Rights?

Ms. Ommani would have us believe that there is no mass resistance to the Islamic Republic. She undertakes the extraordinary feat of presenting the Islamic Republic as a champion of women's rights. She does so, not by refuting the facts I presented about women's legal and social status in Iran: that women are considered in Islamic law to have half the status of men, have no right to divorce or child custody, can't travel or work without a husband or father's permission, are forcibly made to veil, that the legal age of marrying for girls is nine, and the "crime" of adultery is punishable by death, to mention a few of my examples. She has not a word for Nazanine Fatehi, the 17 year old I wrote about who awaits execution in an Iranian prison for having defended herself against a rapist. Instead, Ms Ommani points to the important things she claims I left out, such as women's maternity leave benefits and the state's "family planning" initiatives. Or she attempts to refute my argument by misinterpreting the signs of women's mass resistance as signs of the regime's benevolence.

On the issue of maternity leave, Ommani selectively quotes from Shirin Ebadi's book, Women's Rights in the Laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She omits Ebadi's interpretation of the ideological framework for such laws. Ebadi writes:

A closer look at the place of women as viewed by cultural policymakers will reveal their emphasis on family values; a woman's independence, her social situation, and the discriminations leveled against her are never at issue. Policymakers view women as wives and mothers, who need cultural reinforcement and guidance to better fulfill their domestic roles (Cultural Policies and Iranian Women: Ch 5).

In discussing the practical application of the maternity law, Ebadi also explains that the law keeps employers from hiring women, thus forcing women out of the job market or into the black market (Social Realities: Ch 6 Section I). While the dynamic of discrimination is at play in many countries where women have maternity benefits, in Iran it must be looked at in light of women's overall legal status. Women have no legal recourse for pursuing claims of gender discrimination. To the contrary, the law codifies such discrimination, and bases it on cultural ideology, also written into the law, that women's primary role is as mother and carrier of "Islamic purity."

Shirin Ebadi is no radical. She is a woman who has made her compromises with the Islamic Republic in order to function inside it. However, even her writings, when looked at as a whole, totally contradict the picture Ommani paints of women in Iran. Ebadi herself was a victim of the Islamic Republic's misogynist laws. She was stripped of her judgeship and forced to veil. In her book Iran Awakening: a Memoir of Revolution and Hope, she recounts one of her legal cases in which two men are convicted of raping and murdering a nine year old Kurdish girl. The presiding judge rules that by Islamic law, the life of each rapist is worth double, or four times that of their victim. Ebadi is unable to win any justice for the girl's parents; in fact, the mother of the victim is then prosecuted for making a scene in court and Ebadi is almost held in contempt for appearing dissatisfied with the court's verdict.

These are the stories that Ms. Ommani ignores and omits in order to deliver the good news of women's maternity benefits in Iran.

Ommani also celebrates the Islamic Republic's efforts at population control. Efforts by the state to control women's reproduction, whether it's to restrict or promote women's childbearing, is never motivated by concern about women's rights. Since the 1979 revolution, the population of Iran has doubled, leading to massive social and economic problems for the state. While women were once forced to "have babies for the Islamic revolution," the plan has long-since backfired. The Islamic state must now contend with massive unrest from a young and defiant new generation. Half the population of Iran is under the age of 30. Efforts to curb population growth is the Islamic Republic's response to these growing crises, not the pro-women initiative Ms. Ommani would have us believe. Certainly, it is absurd to believe that a government which considers any act of sexual freedom by women to be a capital crime is somehow interested in promoting women's sexual and reproductive freedom.

Islamic law in Iran punishes any woman who is suspected of sexual relations outside of marriage to death by stoning. It even specifies the size of the stone (it shouldn't be too large, so the woman will suffer longer and not die too quickly) Ms. Ommani claims this is a "rare and outdated practice." Perhaps she should tell this to the six women whom the Islamic Republic has condemned to death by stoning in the past year (Death Penalty/Stoning/IranWomen
http://www.azadizan.com/english/archive/2006/10/1004_2_stoning.htm).

Women-led organizations, like the International Committee Against Stoning, and the International Committee Against Executions( (http://www.adpi.net/) have staged demonstrations, initiated media campaigns and gathered millions of signatures to save the lives of women being condemned to stoning and execution, as well as to stop the executions of gay men, political activists and intellectuals. Because of these effective campaigns, the Islamic Republic has been forced to back off some stonings. But this does not erase the fact that more than 2000 women have been stoned to death since the Islamic Republic came to power. Do their lives matter so little? Will no one be made to answer for these heinous crimes?

Women's Gains Owed to Women Themselves

On the issue of women's increased enrollment in college, Ommani again erases women's resistance in Iran. It is at best, a sad mistake to attribute women's small, but hard-won gains to the benevolence of the regime. At worst, it is an attempt to apologize for and cover up the crimes of a regime that has so restricted women's lives that simply getting an education is an act of feminist defiance. Women's determination to educate themselves can be compared to the changes we see in women's dress: the wearing of colorful chadors and make-up allowing hair to show from under veils or clothes from under the chador—which are all in defiance of laws regulating women's dress. These are some of the powerful examples of women's mass resistance in Iran. As Haideh Moghissi writes in Populism and Feminism in Iran: Women's Struggle in a Male-Defined Revolution:

Women have succeeded in pushing back the offensive of the Islamists inch by inch, reappropriating spheres of public life that were lost immediately after the Revolution. Their success in forcing the government to remove, at least on paper, the ban on certain fields of higher education is a case in point… Women and the politics of gender continue to be the Achilles' heal of the clerical state (preface ix).

Or as Azar Majedi, veteran woman's rights activist from Iran, said recently in a speech in Düsseldorf, Germany:

Despite all the laws governing dress code and observing the veil, despite prison sentences, fines and lashings, women in Iran ridicule the veil and in their demonstrations have also burned it. The new generation cannot be silenced, cannot be forced back home.
(The Reality of the Women's Liberation Movemen in Iran: http://hammerandbroom.blogspot.com/2006/11/mass-resistance-is-other-side-of-large.html)

When I read Ms Ommani's arguments, and see the rosy picture she creates of the Islamic Republic, I am reminded of the right-wing women's groups in the US, such as the Independent Women's Forum, that seek to portray Bush and his criminal regime as great promoters of women's rights. It is a common practice, especially today, to use propaganda about women's rights to promote a right-wing agenda, and both the Iranian and US governments are masters of this type of deception. But we would never see a leftist publication print an article by an apologist for the US government that sought to cover up the Bush regime's assault's on women's rights and laud it as a pro-woman government! This is an indication that the racist double-standard of cultural relativism is still alive and well in the US left.

It is not surprising that after pages of praising Islamic theocracy in Iran, Ms Ommani then precedes to attack the secular Iranian left. She disparages the Worker Communist Party of Iran (WCPI) in much the same way she builds her entire argument—through obfuscation, quoting out of context, and counting on the readers lack of knowledge of the subject. I don't agree with all the positions of the WCPI, but they are an important Iranian party, and they deserve, at the very least, a fair hearing by the US left.

The WCPI has never supported the US war in Iraq and Mansoor Hekmat is the late founder of the party, not a spokesperson. Hekmat was a leftist scholar who wrote over a dozen books analyzing the Middle East from a Marxist perspective. Ommani's unsourced assertion that he "defined the recent struggle in the Middle East as 'civilized America' against 'barbaric Islamists'" is as false as it is ludicrous. In fact, the WCPI consistently condemned US threats against Iraq and predicted that such attacks would bolster the Islamist movement (which is has). They take the same position against US threats on Iran.(On the USA's Military Threat http://www.wpiran.org/English/WPI%20Briefing/188-9wpibriefing1.pdf)

What makes the WPI unique is its willingness to learn from the mistakes of the past and refashion a more progressive vision of revolution with a strong emphasis on women's rights and human freedom.

Without the Liberation of Women, Revolution Does Not Make Sense*

Ms. Ommani thinks I don't understand the anti-imperialist alliance—which is based on "the broad and dominant [emphasis mine] issue of the defense of the sovereignty of nations" She tells me that my position goes "far beyond the question of women [emphasis mine]: it falls within the category of revolution and counter-revolution." In fact, I understand perfectly well, because it's the same thing leftists have told women throughout history: women's rights are secondary to the "larger struggle." As if women, who make up more than half of the population, are not fundamental to the structuring of a society. As if we can build a revolutionary movement while women are still relegated to the margins.

This is the same equation that allowed religious fanatics to hijack the Iranian revolution in the first place. Instead of supporting the women's movement which spontaneously rose up against Khomeini, the secular left chose to make a fatal alliance with the Islamists against "the greater threat" of US imperialism. As Moghissi writes:

Because of its refusal to see through the Ayatollah Khomeini's 'anti-imperialist stance' and its infatuation with Islamic populism, the left ended up not only participating in the suppression of the women's movement, but also in hastening its own elimination.

Moghissi is referring here to the mass jailing, torture and execution of tens of thousands of Iranian communists after Khomeini came to power. Those Iranian revolutionaries who managed to survive learned the hard way that savage repression, inequality and brutality can emerge from within as well as without national borders.

Women Need Solidarity in Order to Win

Ms. Ommani's attack on me is very personal. It's the kind of attack routinely leveled by many on the left against anyone, but particularly feminists, who dare to express solidarity with women's liberation movements in the Middle East. We are called arrogant, ignorant, racist, cultural imperialists and unconcerned about women's rights in our own country. This creates a taboo that few dare traverse. It serves to silence and intimidate anyone who cares about the lives of women. And most importantly, it functions to cut off vital support for women's rights organizations, like the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan (RAWA), the Organization of Women's Liberation In Iran (OWLI) and Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) that are waging life and death struggles to free women from enslavement.

I show solidarity with women's liberation struggles in the Middle East for the same reason I support any revolutionary movement fighting for justice, equality, and an end to domination and exploitation-- because I believe in these movements as the only hope for our world. I write about the heroic struggle of Iranian women because it's inspirational and it makes contemporary US feminism pale in comparison. Women need the solidarity of other women, and all those who care about women, in order to win their battles. While there are real differences among women based on race and class and national origin, the universality of women's oppression is undeniable. One does not have to go back far in US history to find the same kind of legal rightlessness imposed on women by the "founding fathers," and justified by the exact same misogynist logic. When the Islamic clerics moralize about women's "purity" and her "proper place in the home" who cannot hear the echo of the 18th century Christian ministers who said the same about American women? (or the fundamentalist preachers who say the same today) What is the difference between the Iranian mullah telling a woman she must cover herself so as not to arouse men's lust, and the US judge telling a rape victim that she must have provoked her rapist by the manner in which she was dressed? There's a difference in degree; but it's the same ideology.

The women of Iran have been battling the Islamic Republic's violent persecution of them for 27 years. Now they must also contend with the increasing threat of attack from the US war machine. This threat only helps the Islamic Republic intimidate and crack down on women and workers' mass movements. On International Women's Day, March 8, 2006, Iranian women again served as a model of courage for the women of the world when they took to the streets despite government prohibitions against "unapproved demonstrations." They marched, demanding equality and freedom; they chanted against both the Islamic Republic and the US threats of attack. Hundreds of women were badly beaten by the "morality police" and thrown into jail. ("Iran's Brutal Assault Yesterday on Iranian Women Celebrating International Women's Day"http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2006/03/irans_brutal_as.html). As US threats against Iran intensify, the question remains: will we understand that opposing US war on Iran does not mean supporting the oppressive regime of the Islamic Republic? Will we show solidarity with the women's liberation movement, or will we again sacrifice women's aspiration for freedom, equality and human dignity, to the "either-or" paradigm of the dominant male left?

*The phrase "without women's liberation, revolution does not make sense" was a slogan chanted by Iranian women during the massive women's demonstrations in 1979.


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