Saturday, June 16, 2012

Five Reasons Why Romney is the Favorite


by Peter Wehner

Why is Barack Obama’s road to re-election so steep and uncertain at this stage?

There are five important reasons.

1. An indefensible record. Every election which features an incumbent is, at least in good measure, a referendum on the record of the incumbent. The problem facing Obama is that he can’t offer a convincing case that his policies have succeeded. Recall that at the outset of his presidency, Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer, “I will be held accountable. I’ve got four years… If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” Yet last October, Obama had to concede to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “I don’t think [people are] better off than they were four years ago.”

In addition, the main achievements of the Obama presidency – including the Affordable Care Act and the stimulus package – are deeply unpopular. By virtually any measure, then, the president has presided over a failed first term. He cannot reinvent, and therefore he cannot successfully defend, his record.

2. A weakening economy. The Obama campaign rested its hopes on the American economy getting stronger rather than weaker. This would have allowed the president to argue that while things haven’t improved as quickly as Americans had hoped, the trajectory was encouraging, that progress was being made, that the building blocks to prosperity were in place. From there, Obama would say he needed a second term to complete what he (belatedly) started in his first. But the data this year – including dismal economic growth, job creation, and factory orders – have left the Obama narrative in ruins. In the fourth year of his presidency, Obama is presiding over a weak economy that is becoming weaker still. The issue the public cares most about (the economy) is the issue the president is most vulnerable on.

3. Intellectual exhaustion. The Obama campaign is out of ideas. On the economy, Obama has used virtually everything in his progressive toolkit. Nothing has worked. And so the president, unable to defend his record in the first term, is left with no compelling vision to offer in a second term. Witness his speech in Ohio yesterday. It was billed as a “major” address on the economy. But it was widely panned even on the left for being empty and uninteresting. The president himself cannot articulate why his agenda in a second term would be more effective than what he’s done in his first term. He’s running on empty.

4. A formidable opponent. The Obama campaign’s attempt to disqualify Mitt Romney on grounds that he’s too extreme to be president has fizzled. Whatever complaints one may have about Romney, being an extremist is not a plausible one. As Bill Clinton admitted, Romney has been a governor, had a “sterling business career,” and “crosses the qualification threshold.” Since securing the GOP nomination, Romney has made few unforced errors. He’s begun to repair the damage he had sustained. He’s shown impressive discipline and focus as a candidate. He’s outraising the president. And Governor Romney’s campaign is, at least as of now, clearly superior to the president’s.

5. The late break. In most presidential elections, undecided voters break in large numbers for the challenger. If someone is undecided about an incumbent they know well, they will usually cast their ballot for the challenger. That’s particularly true when the country is suffering from economic difficulties and the political fundamentals are bad for the person occupying the Oval Office, which is certainly the case today.

Craig Shirley’s book Rendezvous With Destiny reminds us that 10 days before the 1980 election, Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan by one point in a CBS News/New York Times poll; and the morning of the presidential debate (October 29), a Gallup Poll reported that Carter had a three-point lead over Reagan. Yet Reagan outdueled Carter in the debate and ended up winning 44 states and defeating Carter by almost 10 points.

I have long believed, and continue to believe, that the durable dynamic in this race will be that a majority of the public, and a large majority of independent voters, (a) consider Barack Obama’s tenure to be a failure and (b) are inclined to vote against him. They are bone weary of his presidency, and they want it over.

The challenge for Mitt Romney is to sufficiently reassure these voters that he’s up to the task of being president and that he would be an improvement over Obama. There have been higher bars to clear in the history of American politics, and at this stage in the race – with less than 150 days to go – the former Massachusetts governor is on course to do just that. Which is why he should be considered the favorite in the race.

Peter Wehner

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/06/15/five-reasons-why-romney-is-the-favorite/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

No Honor Among Thieves: Infighting Dooms New Hamas Convoy


by IPT News

Participants in the latest convoy to deliver supplies to Hamas-controlled Gaza are lashing out at British MP George Galloway and his aides for "incompetence" and "increasingly bizarre and dangerous decisions" after the effort fell short of crossing into the Palestinian territory.

Original plans called for the convoy to leave England in April and cross into Gaza from Egypt by May 15. That date marks the "Nakba," or the "catastrophe" of Israeli independence in 1948. Instead, the sixth Viva Palestina convoy never reached its destination.

Egypt refused to let the convoy pass despite weeks of effort.

It clearly caught Galloway off guard. He wrote that the Arab Spring power change in Egypt erased a ban on his entry into the country and he promised to lead the convoy as it crossed the border into Gaza to deliver "50 packed vans and lorries."

Galloway, voted back into Parliament in March representing Bradford after being defeated in 2010, said his return to office "will be a boost to me in the fight for Gaza and Palestine and for all Arab and humanitarian issues. I will invest all the opportunities available to raise issues that we both believe in it."

Representatives of several countries bailed on Viva Palestina's "Right of Return Convoy" even before it stalled in Jordan after Galloway refused to chart a course avoiding Syria, where government forces continue to massacre civilians rising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The New Zealand delegation unanimously withdrew, saying it didn't want Assad's regime "making political capital from any humanitarian mission to Gaza."

But that's exactly what happened. Syrian officials, including military officials, feted the convoy. A governor of a major town greeted the convoy and an organizer wrote that the Syrian government "will provide us complete protection and security" while in the country.

Galloway has long enjoyed warm relations with the Assad government, working closely with it on past convoys. Last summer, he told Hizballah's Al-Manar channel that Assad was drawing international criticism "because of the good things that he did such as supporting Palestinian and Lebanese resistance and rejecting to surrender to Israel."

Galloway hailed Assad in a 2005 speech as "the last Arab ruler, and Syria is the last Arab country. It is the fortress of remaining dignity of the Arabs." "Syria," he said in a separate appearance that July, "is lucky to have Bashar Al-Assad as her president."

Galloway and his Viva Palestina (VP) acolytes seem to be in agreement, however, that Gaza is lucky to have the terrorist group Hamas in control. From Galloway's infamous display of a bag of cash given to a Hamas minister in 2009 to his and VP's frequent meetings with Hamas leaders, the group works to enhance Hamas' place as "the elected government of Palestine."

Galloway's refusal to avoid dealing with the unelected government of Syria prompted Turkish and Jordanian groups to distance themselves, too.

"I don't understand the purpose of those criticisms," Galloway said. "We travel through all countries that lead to Palestine."

"By going into Syria," a London-based supporter said, "they ARE taking sides" with the government.

A state-run Syrian news agency quoted a convoy official demurring about the country's strife. "What is taking place in Syria is a Syrian affair," the unnamed official reportedly said, "and we are guests of the Syrian people and respect their right to determine their destiny without foreign interferences."

The Syrian excursion may not have been the sole cause of Egypt's rejection. An analysis by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center pointed to violence that broke out between convoy participants and Egyptian officers during a January 2010 trip. "At that time they confronted the Egyptian security forces in a kind of rehearsal for the events aboard the Mavi Marmara a few months later."

That led Egypt to declare Galloway unwelcome in the country, a move since rescinded after Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year.

The Mavi Marmara was part of a Turkish-led flotilla which, deliberately aimed to confront Israel's embargo on shipments to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Nine people on the ship died in May 2010 after they attacked Israeli commandos with knives, clubs and other weapons as they soldiers tried to board.

Though a United Nations report found that the embargo is legal and rooted in "a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza stopping weapons from being smuggled," Galloway and flotilla organizers persist and provoke more confrontations.

Galloway's mishandling of the itinerary doesn't mean supplies aren't flowing into Gaza. A similar effort dubbed "Miles of Smiles" was greeted Sunday by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

"The arrival of the convoy is a new page of the Jihad against the occupation of the Palestinian territories," said the group's leader, Jordanian Sheikh Hammam Saeed, in an article published on the Hamas military wing's website. Saeed also heads the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Miles of Smiles convoy includes leaders from Interpal, a British organization designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2003 for supporting Hamas. Interpal is also a member of the Union of the Good, designated by the U.S. in 2008 for supporting and transferring funds to Hamas.

The convoy's general director, Essam Yusuf, also known as Essam Mustafa, is the managing trustee and vice chairman of Interpal.

The convoy also includes members of the New Zealand and Malaysian groups which broke off from Viva Palestina's latest convoy over the Syria issue.

One participant described meeting Haniyeh for lunch, calling the Hamas leader "a seemingly humble man with a kind face that emanates sincere respect for whoever he is speaking with."

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya welcomed the 13th Miles of Smiles convoy, presenting participants with a plaque showing "a shield surrounding Jerusalem, stressing that liberation has become closer than ever before."

Efforts like this helps them "feel that the date for the liberation of Jerusalem is soon," al-Hayya said, "and when you come and express solidarity with us, we feel that we are not alone but the entire free world is helping us and standing with us."

The convoy also met with Hamas hardliner Mahmoud al-Zahar, who told the group, "Today we begin a new cycle of civilization without injustice nor occupation nor colonization. The Arab revolutions today are the best proof to unity of peoples and their rallying around the choice of resistance and liberation. These convoys are only miles away from stepping towards the liberation of the man and Palestine from the filth of the occupation."

Despite Galloway's failure, the episode further reinforces that his Viva Palestina operation and those like it are rooted in an ambition to prop up the Hamas regime in Gaza more than in a desire to help Palestinians. Since its inception in 2009, Viva Palestina has sought to elevate Hamas politically and financially and has delivered millions of dollars to the Hamas government. Similarly, the Miles of Smiles convoys have met with Hamas leaders during their trips to Gaza, beginning in 2009. Interpal has played a key role in dispatching the Miles of Smiles convoys, and in providing funds to Hamas' infrastructure.

Earlier this month, the UK Charity Commission again cleared Interpal of any wrongdoing, despite the U.S. designation of the group. And the Commission cleared Viva Palestina for its support of Hamas in March 2010, despite the mounting evidence that Viva Palestina and Galloway delivered aid to the terrorist group.

IPT News

Source: http://www.investigativeproject.org/3626/no-honor-among-thieves-infighting-dooms-new-hamas

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Excluding Israel from Counterterrorism Conference


by Eileen F. Toplansky

In a letter penned on June 11, 2012, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Mark Kirk wrote to Secretary of State Clinton to "express [their] surprise and disappointment of the absence of ...Israel, from the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF)" which she attended in Istanbul last week.

Established in 2011, the Global Counterterrorism Forum:

is a new multilateral counterterrorism body with 30 founding members (29 countries plus the EU) from around the world. Launched by Secretary Clinton on September 22, 2011, the GCTF is a major initiative within the Obama Administration's broader effort to build the international architecture for dealing with 21st century terrorism. It will provide a unique platform for senior counterterrorism policymakers and experts from around the world to work together to identify urgent needs, devise solutions and mobilize resources for addressing key counterterrorism challenges. With its primary focus on capacity building in relevant areas, the GCTF aims to increase the number of countries capable of dealing with the terrorist threats within their borders and regions. In addition to the adoption of the GCTF's founding political declaration and remarks from GCTF Foreign Ministers, the launch included the announcement of two deliverables - one on the rule of law and one on countering violent extremism - thus highlighting the GCTF's action-oriented focus from the outset.

The founding members of the GCTF are:

Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Conspicuously absent is Israel, a country which has been the brunt of terrorism since its inception in 1948 and whose expertise in dealing with terror is unsurpassed.

Equally alarming is the fact that:

The United Nations is a close partner of and participant in the GCTF and its activities. The GCTF serves as a mechanism for furthering the implementation of the universally-agreed UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and, more broadly, complements and reinforces existing multilateral CT efforts, starting with those of the UN.

Given the unrelenting anti-Israel stance of the United Nations, this close partnership should raise credible suspicion that the GCTF will not serve as a counterterrorism forum by any means. At Anne Bayefsky's website, she explains that after the horrors of World War II:

The foundational UN principles of equality, universal human rights and fundamental freedoms emanated from a real and immediate sense of wrong and responsibility. As the Nuremberg Tribunal taught, 'Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities.' The UN was to play a central role in the so-called 'naming and shaming' of transgressors, and where necessary, was to garner the political will to stop egregious violations of dignity and freedom. The UN, however, has not lived up to the task of 'naming,' let alone shaming or intervening. [Sadly], the 'UN human rights system has squandered the commitment and passion of its original benefactors.'

The United Nations regularly condemns Israel and from1967 to 1989 alone the UN Security Council passed 131 resolutions directly addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict. They are rife with overwhelming bias against Israel and completely ignore the ongoing aggression of Arab countries. Recall also that arch-terrorist Yassir Arafat and Iran's genocidal President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad have been cordially received at the U.N.

According to Peter Collier, Jeane Kirkpatrick, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Reagan showed her mettle and commitment to Israel when she charged that the:

Arab-Israeli conflict at the world body 'has nothing to do with peace, but is quite simply a continuation of war against Israel by other means.' [In essence] she said that the UN, as a result, had become a place where 'moral outrage was distributed like violence in a protection racket'; a place where Israel is regularly and routinely attacked for manufactured crimes amidst deafening silence 'when 3 million Cambodians died in Pol Pot's murderous utopia... when a quarter million Ugandans died at the hands of Idi Amin... and when thousands of Soviet citizens are denied equal rights, equal protection of the law; denied the right to think, write, publish, work freely or emigrate.'

Peter Collier, author of Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick asserts that Kirkpatrick repeatedly pointed out that:

hatred of Israel deformed all aspects of UN operations: 'A women's conference is suddenly transformed into a forum for the denunciation of Israel' because of assertions that 'the biggest obstacle to the realizations of women's full enjoyment of equal rights in the world is Zionism....A meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency becomes so absorbed in negotiations and debate over a resolution to expel Israel that it almost forgets to worry about nuclear non-proliferation.'

These entrenched attitudes have become stronger and they are certainly emboldened by the anti-Israel animus of Obama advisors who openly disdain Israel. There is no "passionate indignation" over the treatment of Israel at the U.N. under the Obama presidency. After all Obama ignores the fact that "Turkey opposes calling Hamas a terrorist organization, even though Hamas is included on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations."

According to Globes, "the US blocked Israel's participation in the Global Counterterrorism Forum's first meeting in Istanbul...even though Israel has one of the most extensive experiences in counterterrorism." The reason given was that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan objected to Israel's presence.

A top US official stated that "the GCTF sought from the outset to bridge old and deep divides in the international community between Western donor nations and Muslim majority nations." One surely hears echoes of Obama's reaching out to the Muslim world to the detriment of the West. The latest information that Obama is secretly involving the jihadist terrorist group The Muslim Brotherhood in direct talks and information sharing is no secret any more.

Thus, it is no great surprise, given the affinity of Obama's desire to downplay Islamist terror that he would "deepen ties with the Muslim world at Israel's expense." Ironically, "Saudi Arabia, long known for spreading the radical Wahhabist ideology to which many terrorists adhere" is a member of the GCTF. Can one posit that the U.S.-Turkey Alliance tossed Israel under the bus?"

According to Sharona Schwartz, of the Blaze, "Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palor stated that Israel "never planned to go [to the conference] and it wasn't on the schedule." Palmor would 'not say if any Israeli officials had asked to attend, but pointed out that Israeli and U.S. officials held [their] own counterterrorism dialogue...days before the Istanbul meeting.'" Yet, an unnamed Israeli official blamed Israel's exclusion on Turkey and stated that "[t]he Turks have been behaving with irrational rage when it comes to Israel."

When questioned as to whether Israel requested membership to the Global Counterterrorism Forum and whether the United States, as a co-host of the forum, sought to get Israel involved, the State Department responded with the following:

Answer: Our idea with the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) was to bring together a limited number of traditional donors, front line states, and emerging powers to develop a more robust, yet representative, counterterrorism capacity-building platform. A number of our close partners with considerable experience countering and preventing terrorism are not included among the GCTF's founding members.

We have discussed the GCTF and ways to involve Israel in its activities on a number of occasions, and are committed to making this happen.

Don't hold your breath!

Eileen F. Toplansky can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/06/excluding_israel_from_counterterrorism_conference.html

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Obama Lurching Toward Tyranny


by Mark J. Fitzgibbons

As reported at The Daily Caller, in one of President Obama's campaign speeches this week he said that "Republicans are 'in favor of a no-holds barred, government is the enemy, market is everything approach.'"

This comes from the man who in a speech to Latinos once referred to Republicans as "the enemy."

Constitutional conservatives, who decry big government more than establishment Republicans, consider tyranny as the enemy. Government that increasingly violates the Constitution under Republicans or Democrats is, in measure, increasingly tyrannical.

Obama's government is the biggest violator of law in our history. His very methods of governing, which include bypassing Congress's constitutional authority to make law, actually show contempt for the Constitution and the American rule of law.

By executive orders, Mr. Obama both violates the law against his own American-citizen "enemies," such as Catholic institutions when it comes to abortion and birth control, and grants unlawful privileges for his supporters or potential supporters, such as his immigration amnesty order this week.

HHS Secretary Janet Napolitano called the latter not amnesty but "deferred action," and "an exercise of discretion." Yes, that's the same Secretary Napolitano who put veterans and opponents of abortion and illegal immigration on her terrorist watch list in 2009. Yet they wonder why they're increasingly seen as the enemy?

Congress won't pass the DREAM Act? No problem. Who needs the consent of the governed or their elected representatives?

By the scope and consistency of their lawbreaking, the Obama administration is Public Enemy Number 1.

Government, however, is supposed to protect us against lawbreakers in society. We need government. Conservatives understand that government per se is not the enemy.

There is no need to remind constitutional conservatives about James Madison's quote from Federalist 51: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

Instead of controlling itself, however, government has become the biggest and most pervasive lawbreaker in America.

Nearly everything bad that government does seems to be exponentially worse than the bad done in the private sector. Think JP Morgan's losing $2 billion in private investments is bad? Fox Business uncovered a JP Morgan report disclosing that public pension plans are not under-funded by just $1 trillion, but by $3.9 trillion.

If one's definition of "enemy" is someone trying to do you harm, then of course government is perceived as the enemy. But whose fault is that? Government is harming our liberties and our economy. Is it the fault of those who state the case against government, or is it the fault of lawbreaking government? The further we get away from the Constitution as the law that governs government, the greater the sense that government is the enemy of the people. It need not be that way.

The fact is that government no longer treats the Constitution as law binding it. As a result, government not only violates the Constitution with greater frequency and even more contempt, but government bureaucrats violate the very laws they enforce that are subordinate to the Constitution.

The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, violates the Clean Water Act and other laws the agency is charged with enforcing. It's not just the EPA. In my experience, every government agency I've dealt with has violated laws that they are charged with enforcing.

The backlash by the Tea Party and constitutional conservative movements is not just about lawbreaking by the Obama administration. It's about defeating Republicans who are constitutional lawbreakers, or who through their passivity refuse to enforce the Constitution on government. The Obama administration's contempt for the Constitution highlights what passive and lawbreaking Republicans have wrought. Big-government Republicans were like the gateway drug to Obama.

Those in government who want Americans to stop thinking of the government as their enemy should focus on stopping government's violating the law.

Mark J. Fitzgibbons is co-author with Richard A. Viguerie of The Law That Governs Government: Reclaiming The Constitution From Usurpers And Society's Biggest Lawbreaker

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/06/obama_lurching_toward_tyranny.html

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Despots' Collaborator


by Shiraz Maher

So, while Israel is "barbaric" and a "slaughter," Syria is merely an "internal problem." This is boilerplate hypocrisy for Galloway who has spent his career in obsequious servitude to any tyrant on condition that he has money, is anti-Israel, and anti-Western.

Viva Palestina is a charity that was started in the UK and which has spread to several countries around the world, including the United States. Conceived by George Galloway after Operation Cast Lead, the group is ostensibly concerned with delivering aid – which, according to the Israelis, could include weapons to be used against them – to Gaza.

The charity also claims to support the promotion of peace between Palestinians and Israelis, although little has been done in this regard. On the contrary, far from promoting peace, the group has frequently provoked conflict – not least in 2010 when it supported the illegal and ill-fated flotilla led by the Mavi Marmara to enter Gaza by sea.

The sixth Viva Palestina convoy left Britain last month bound for Gaza, revealing the organizers' overwhelming obsession with Israel. Without a hint of irony, it was announced that their supposedly urgent humanitarian convoy would be passing through Syria en route to Gaza. There was no discussion, however, of aiding the tens of thousands of Syrians who have been systematically tortured, abused, or displaced in that country. The convoy is to pass straight by the thousands of Syrians who are now forced to live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.

When the War in Gaza took place George Galloway said the following:

The barbaric Israeli assault on Gaza will go down in infamy alongside Deir Yasin and Sabra and Shatilla as one of the defining events of the Palestinian tragedy and resistance.

The atrocities are continuing – so too must the world-wide protests.

[…]

Our government arms the quisling Arab regimes whose cowardice and greed are as necessary to Israel's murder as its US supplied weapons.

[…]

Let's unify our efforts. Stop the Slaughter in Gaza.

No such evocative language is extended to Bashar al-Assad whose regime is indiscriminately massacring its own people – not least in Homs, the town which was shelled relentlessly for just under a month. Syrian activists suggest that more than 15,000 civilians have now been killed. Instead, Galloway glossed over atrocities there in the following terms:

I reject any foreign intervention in Syria's affair or in any other country. Western interference in Arab affairs is rejected…I am convinced that the Syrian people are able to solve their internal problems without any foreign interference.

So, while Gaza was a "barbaric" and a "slaughter," Syria is merely an "internal problem." This is boilerplate hypocrisy for Galloway who has spent his career in obsequious servitude to any tyrant on condition that he has money, is anti-Israel, and anti-Western. In Iraq he famously told Saddam Hussein, 'Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability – a man who arguably killed more Muslims and Arabs than any other leader in the region. But Saddam is no more, so on to the next. In Iran, where President Ahmadinejad crushed the "Green revolution" Galloway has showered the regime with fawning praise and unfettered encomiums. In Damascus, where no political parties are allowed, where no elections take place, and where human rights are a mere fantasy, he told a handpicked audience, "Syria is lucky to have Bashar Al-Assad as her president."

The problem within Viva Palestina extends beyond Galloway. So deep is its institutional hypocrisy that Kevin Ovenden – who sits on the leadership of both Viva Palestina and Galloway's Respect party – accompanied the latest Viva Palestina convoy through Syria. He told Syrian television:

The primary goal of the convoy is to remind the people that the Palestinian cause is an essential cause, and to carry aid to the Palestinians and the continuation of the efforts to lift the siege from them. The date which was chosen for the convoy to arrive at Gaza was the 15th of this month. This is to coincide with the occasion of Nakba day, to remind the world that the Palestinians who where displaced from their homes have to return to them and to their homeland.

No word on the thousands of Syrians who have not just been displaced from their homes, but have had them destroyed through relentless shelling. No word either on Syria's sponsors, Iran and Russia. All of this has, of course, played directly into the hands of the Syrian regime which has exploited the convoy for maximum propaganda value. The Syrian press reported Viva Palestina's arrival in the following terms:

The humanitarian aid convoy "The Right to Return" heading to Gaza entered the Syrian territories through Kasab crossing point on Wednesday.

The convoy is organized by a group of Europeans who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and Syria and headed by the British MP George Galloway.

Receiving the convoy, Lattakia Governor Abdel Qader Mohammad al-Sheikh and Secretary of al-Baath Party Branch in Lattakia, Mohammad Shreitah, expressed Syria's gratitude to the convoy members' stances in support of the Palestinian Cause which is the Arabs' central cause.

Spokesman of the convoy members thanked the Syrian government and people for facilitating their mission in conveying aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and continuing efforts to lift the siege imposed on them.

The unspoken corollary is clear – a British parliamentarian supports the Syrian regime, focuses on Israel, nothing to see here. This is something Bashar al-Assad has consistently tried to achieve since the revolution began over a year ago. He is keen to project himself as having international support, while trying to divert domestic unrest towards Israel, a time-honored strategy of Arab despots.

That an experienced politician and his supposedly humanitarian activists should have played into al-Assad's hands in such a way is no mistake. An agenda so myopically obsessed with Israel, the West, and "anti-imperialism" is necessarily blind to any reality challenging that worldview.

Shiraz Maher

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3113/despots-collaborator

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Can Muslims Reopen the Gates of Ijtihad?


by Harold Rhode

Until Muslim countries and Muslim communities in the West allow their people to express themselves freely -- without fear of reprisal -- it is unlikely that the Muslim world will be able to think creatively and again become a center of science and knowledge, as it used to be in the early centuries of Islam.

The exercise of critical thinking and independent judgment – or Ijtihad --was an important way to address questions in the early centuries of Islam. After approximately 400 years, however, the leaders of the Sunni Muslim world closed the "Gates of Ijtihad;" Muslims were no longer allowed use ijtihad to solve problems. If a seemingly new problem arose, they were supposed to find an analogy from earlier scholars and apply that ruling to the problem that arose. From the 10th century onwards, Sunni Muslim leaders began to see questioning as politically dangerous to their ability to rule. Regrettably, Sunni Muslim leaders reject the use of ijtihad to this day.

As questioning could very likely upset the established order and bring down the autocracies and despotic regimes which rule most of the Muslim world, even Muslims who live in freer Muslim countries such as Turkey often hesitate to exercise ijtihad. How did the Muslim world succumb to this situation, and is there a way out?

Ijtihad in historical context

Ijtihad was important in early Islam: when questions arose - even while Muhammad was alive - for which there were no answers, Muhammad would call the Muslims together in their mosque. They would discuss the issues at hand, reason them through, and come to a consensus -- so came into being the Islamic concept of ijma' (consensus among the scholars).[1]

After Muhammad died, however, the Muslim community rapidly expanded; the community of scholars became too large, and ijma' no longer practical. What developed was a body of traditions – called hadiths – sayings and deeds attributed to their prophet Muhammad. When new questions arose, people would seek out individuals who had known Muhammad and ask them whether they had seen or heard Muhammad address the matter at hand.

Within 200 years, the number of hadiths was thought to be in the hundreds of thousands, but people had no way of knowing which were true and which were fabricated. The great Muslim scholar, al-Bukhari (810 -870 CE), who analyzed them, concluded that only a few thousand were reliable.[2]

Later, when still more questions arose, diverse schools of thought developed. The Quran, the hadiths, and those schools of thought were collected into Islamic law. This body of Islamic religious guidance is known as the Shari'a, or "The Path."

During the first four centuries of Islam, Muslim scholars seem to have exercised independent judgment freely, and debated rigorously new issues that arose. The Muslim world at that time seems to have been inclusive and flexible; it accepted differing views, differing conclusions and differing sorts of influences that arose as part of the cultures of its large empire.[3]

Muslim scholars studied Arabic translations of ancient Greek texts which they thought might help them understand the nature of mankind as well as other aspects of life. These texts, though clearly non-Islamic, nevertheless provided scholars with useful insights. There were also intellectual interchanges with Jewish scholars, particularly in the fields of science, medicine, language, and geography. There seems to have been, however, little discussion with Christians.[4]

With time, however, the situation became unwieldy. Certain groups (called ghulat) were accused of extremism – going too far -- and attempts were made to rein them in.[5] Questions arose as to the limits of divergent views, and whether "extremist elements" could still be considered Muslim. The many schools of Islamic thought were reduced to four; these became the basis of the Sunni Shari'a.

As Islamic rule started to become more autocratic, Islamic rulers began to see discord as potentially able to undermine their rule.

All four schools accepted the Quran as the divine word of God, and the hadiths as the source for legal decisions. But it soon became apparent that the larger the number of hadiths a school of thought accepted, the more restrictive and rigid this school became. The Hanafi school of law, for example -- the most liberal school of thought, founded by Abu Hanifa (699-767 CE) -- accepted over a few thousand hadiths. In contrast, the most restrictive of the four schools – founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal (778-863 CE) -- accepted tens of thousands. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the 18th century Wahhabism -- probably one of the most restrictive forms of Islam -- developed out of the Hanbali School of law.

The Islamic authorities possibly still worried that despite four schools of thought, dissent would become unmanageable. Towards the end of the eleventh century, therefore, they officially closed the "Gates of Ijtihad." There may have been too many different answers to the same questions, leading to confusion. Possibly this, in turn, may have made it difficult for the authorities to maintain order as well as to justify their autocratic rule.

Muslim scholars also appear to have decided that as all questions had been addressed, there was no longer any need to exercise independent judgment. The result was that exercising independent judgment became no longer permissible.

During the twelfth century, nevertheless, there were still attempts to use rational and deductive reasoning. In Muslim Spain, for instance, Averroes (aka Ibn Rushd, 1126-1198 CE), one of the founders of secular reasoning in Europe, refused to accept the closing of the Gates of Ijtihad. He continued to use Arabic translations of classical Greek sources, and preferred strictly rational methods to decide matters in contention. As in the Muslim world the Gates of Ijtihad had been closed, however, his rulings proved unacceptable.

What happened once the Gates of Ijtihad were closed: The Ottoman example

What followed the closing of the Gates of Ijtihad in the Muslim world were centuries of intellectual and political decline. At the same time, Europe, with its many states constantly at war with each other, was on the ascendancy. One of the major reasons Europe advanced appears to have been that its warring political entities needed to find new methods of defeating their adversaries. The Europeans were therefore drawn to study science and technology to enable them to produce weapons -- powerful naval vessels, for instance, that could be used in war both at home and overseas. The Muslims, on the other hand, who had fewer internal wars, had no incentive to invent new techniques to survive.

Yet all was not lost for the Muslims: European businessmen had weapons to sell and were perfectly willing to sell them to Muslims. Additionally, after many European wars, a continuous flow of refugees fleeing Europe brought their skills and knowledge to the Ottoman Empire. The Muslims were then able to take advantage of many of the technological and scientific developments in Europe. This was essentially how the Ottoman Empire (ca. 1389-1918) was able to hold its own land -- and even capture European land -- until the seventeenth century, when it began to lose battles and was forced to retreat from territories over which, for centuries, it had ruled.

Ottoman literature and chronicles are filled with descriptions of the Europeans who fled to the Empire, and the technologies they brought with them. The Ottomans, however, never seem to have asked why it was that the Europeans invented these technologies while the Muslims did not.

Why didn't the Ottomans invent these technologies? So long as the Ottoman Empire expanded, it did not need to invent them. Could the answer be -- even in retreat and today –- that, as of Gates of Ijtihad are still closed, Muslim culture does not allow the necessary creativity?

What happened once the Gates of Ijtihad were closed: The Muslim world today

From what one reads and hears in the media among other places, many Muslims quietly ask themselves this question, but are afraid to state it publicly for fear of being ostracized, arrested, or even killed by their co-religionists. Why, these Muslims ask, can Muslims who emigrate to the West – especially to the U.S. and Canada – invent and innovate in the fields of science and technology, but not in their native lands?

When one looks at which Muslims succeed in the West and which do not, it seems that Muslims who live outside Muslim communities in the West, or who have, at best, only marginal connections with these communities, are the most likely to succeed. By examining the lives of successful Muslims in the West, it seems clear that those who live in Muslim communities -- and whose social life revolves around these communities -- seem to suffer from the intellectual constraints just as their fellow Muslims do in their lands of origin.

According to one Palestinian Muslim who has chosen to live outside the Muslim community in the U.S., the answer is, "They don't allow us to think." ("They" refers to the leaders of the community back home and abroad.) Muslims, he states, are subjected to intellectual oppression at home: they are not allowed to question. When young Muslims do ask questions, their elders usually humiliate them – often publicly -- a sure-fire way to discourage intellectual development and curiosity. If Muslims repeat what is proscribed, they are praised; if they question, they are chastised.

The political despotism that characterizes their governments also seems to filter down to lower levels to suppress dissent, keeping every individual and group both intimidated and dependent. The same appears to apply to Muslim communities outside the Muslim world. On paper, young Muslims who live in the Western world have the freedoms that any other Western citizens enjoy. In practice, though, this is not what takes place.[6] Those who speak out, or who do not conform to Islamic rules as dictated by their communities and families, suffer greatly.[7]

During the twentieth century, there were countless attempts, by Muslim scholars and non-Muslims, to address this problem; but little seems to have come from them.

The Chinese peasants who went to work as laborers for the British in Singapore in the 19th century managed to produce the economic marvel that Singapore is today. Similarly, South Korea went from a semi-medieval kingdom 50 years ago to the tenth largest economy in the world. The Muslims of Aden in southern Arabia, however, lived under British rule, like the Singaporeans, yet they remain as underdeveloped as their neighbors who never lived under foreign domination. Singapore's Lee Kuan Yu, for example, once asked a well-known scholar of Islam, "Why is it that whatever we do to help our Muslims advance fails? We provide them with educational opportunities, give them financial incentives, and so on, but nothing works. They still remain at the bottom. Why?"

Ijtihad among the Shiites

Shiites have a different approach to the problem of questioning -- an approach which might help solve the Muslim dilemma of how to remain Muslim yet take part in the modern world. For Shiites, the Gates of Ijtihad have never been closed. Shiite religious figures also have the title mujtahid, or "one who engages in the exercise of independent judgment and critical thinking to try to solve contemporary problems."

There is a noticeable difference between how Shiites in Iran, for example, and those in Iraq or Lebanon approach exercising independent judgment. Most Iranian mullahs – (especially those involved with the government) even those who are known as mujtahids -- rarely use ijtihad. The Iraqi and Lebanese Shiites are more likely to engage in independent judgment than their counterparts in Iran. As the Shiites are the dominant group in Iran, they never needed to worry about what those around them might do to them; hence they had less incentive to innovate or think creatively. The Shiites under Sunni rule in the Arab world, however, always had to be concerned about what the Sunnis might do to them -- a situation that induced these Shiites to find ways to survive, and possibly be more open to exercising ijtihad.

If one compares different modes of exercising judgment: in the West, Judeo-Christian thinking is based on divinely-revealed law, but with a heavy dose of critical --

mostly Aristotelian -- deductive thinking, closer to the Shiite approach. The Western tradition also sees modern science and technology as gifts from God, developed by man -- and encourages their use.

When, for example, a medical question recently arose over whether to abort large numbers of fetuses (over three) to protect the life of the mother to enable the others more successfully to be brought to term, senior Shiite religious authorities responded that although they had not really studied the problem, these were questions to consider. The Sunnis, however, said that embryos turned into fetuses because of the will of Allah, so abortion would be unacceptable -- even if the mother and all the fetuses were to die, there was nothing to be done. Only one Sunni agreed with the Shiite approach – a Sufi mystic who refused to accept that the Gates of Ijtihad were ever closed – but his is not the prevailing approach in the Sunni world.

Even though both Sunni and Shiite religious leaders approach ijtihad differently, neither encourages their followers to think creatively. Although in theory Shiite religious leaders can exercise independent judgment, in practice only a few do so -- and rarely, at that. The rest of the Shiite community is encouraged instead, in a process known as taqlid, to choose a religious leader to follow, then "imitate" him. Although these leaders are allowed to question, the masses are not encouraged to think, but to follow. So on a fundamental level, neither Shiites nor Sunnis really approaches ijtihad all that differently.

Even if, on the surface, the Shiites appear to offer a solution to the problem of independent thinking, it is hard to imagine, given the present political climate, how the Sunnis, who constitute about 85% of the 1.3 billion Muslims of the world, would be prepared to borrow anything from their Shiite enemies.

Muslim attempts to re-open the Gates of Ijtihad

Most of the governments of the Muslim world are despotic regimes run by autocrats who do not allow their citizens to question them. Questioning might lead to insurrection; governments might be overthrown. These leaders, therefore, make sure to appoint "official" religious leaders who will endorse the government line. Ijtihad might lead people to question regimes; a situation that cannot be tolerated. It is not surprising that calls for re-opening the Gates of Ijtihad fall on deaf ears, as the Saudis, Egyptians, Emiratis, and others all do their utmost to stamp out individual thought.

Because questioning religion -- and much else -- is not allowed, some young Muslims who grow up in Islamic lands find much of what was forced down their throats meaningless, then reject Islam. When some of them come to the West, often their first reaction is to stay as far away from Islam and Muslims as possible. Some, after they remain in the West for a while, stumble upon books about Islam in libraries; they start reading and realize that there is a lot of beauty and knowledge in Islam – just not when forced down their throats. They read, but find almost no one with whom they can share their newfound curiosity.

If and when they do find a kindred spirit, there is often a sort of dance – a tiptoeing around the real questions – mostly out of fear and suspicion. With time, when they realize that other people might have similar interests and feel safe enough to open up, they introduce each other to other men who think like them, but as if these are secret societies: there is a fear that if others, who may not agree, find out what they are discussing, both they and their families back home could suffer. They know well that organized Islam, even in the West, is controlled overwhelmingly by forces that strongly oppose ijtihad.

The internet has offered many the anonymity to pursue an interest in Islam. A surgeon from Malaysia now living in California who says he is happy with his life there, writes on the internet extensively about his fascination with Islam and ijtihad. (See his blog at http://www.bakrimusa.com) His daring has attracted others who write on his blog about Islam. He also boldly states that he could never have engaged in these types of discussions about Islam in his native Malaysia. Could the internet be a way out of this Muslim predicament?

There is also a remarkable group called the Ahl al-Quran[8] which originated in Egypt. The group's adherents maintain that the only true source of Islamic law is the Quran, the only divine text of Islam. The hadiths and the legal exegesis which constitute Shari'a law, they argue, are just interpretations of the Quran. The interpretations were made by man, and occurred because of problems Muslims had after the Quran was revealed. The scholars addressed problems Muslims faced centuries ago. Muslims in the 21st century, they state, face different problems and should use the Quran – and only the Quran, just as the earliest Islamic scholars did – to find solutions to modern problems. They see no reason why Muslim scholars today cannot think creatively as the scholars of early Islam used to do.

As it is more comfortable to find Quranic material that can be used to address modern situations, and not then feel encumbered by the enormous weight of the hadiths and other legal and interpretive material from ancient religious scholars, an Egyptian organization, Ahl al-Quran, maintains that science and technology are Allah's gifts to man, to be used to address contemporary problems.

After Egypt's religious establishment ordered the Ahl al-Quran banned, arrested, or expelled, the group was forced to flee; it is now based in the United States. Why was it forced out? Its adherents, well versed in the Quran, rejected the imposed decision-making of Egypt's al-Azhar religious establishment,[9] and stated that Islam strongly opposes dictatorship in both its political and religious forms. Instead, this group has been using the Quran to demonstrate that the original Muslim community was inclusive and that it encouraged discussion,[10] both of which today are absent in Egypt and throughout the Muslim world.

When Western officials ask Egyptian political and religious officials about the Ahl al-Quran, the Egyptians laugh and smear the group, labeling its members as crazy extremists with no following. Sadly, because of our ignorance of Islamic culture, or political pressures, we usually accept what the Egyptian government officials tell us without subjecting their remarks to "our own ijtihad," thereby closing our eyes to a force which could help save the Muslim world from itself, and possibly even help prevent a clash between the Western and Muslim worlds.

Conclusion

Is there a chance that the Muslims could reopen the Gates of Ijtihad? For the foreseeable future, the answer seems to be a resounding no. The mislabeled "Arab Spring" has turned into an "Arab Winter" in which the forces who apparently want to recreate an imagined, glorious past society modeled after what they believe their prophet established. Add to that the huge amounts of money Wahhabi "allies" of the U.S. are spending throughout the Muslim world, to propagate their militant version of Islam, and things do not look promising.

Those who understand that without itjihad, they have no future, are being forced underground, and, if they are lucky, then emigrate. These emigrants who think critically rarely move into Islamic communities where critical thinking is discouraged.

The way things look now, only if the forces which want to bring back seventh century Islamic society were to suffer a massive defeat, could there be much hope. Only then, after the anti-ijtihad forces were defeated and no longer had access to unlimited financial resources with which to spread their anti-critical thinking, can things change.

Until then, the Gates of Ijtihad will almost assuredly remain tightly shut, and the forces which now control Islam will see to it that they remain so.

Regrettably, if this analysis is correct, the future does not look able to be transformed for the Muslim world or its adherents in the near future. Until Muslim countries and communities in the West allow their people to express themselves freely -- without fear of reprisal -- it is unlikely that the Muslim world will be able to reopen the Gates of Ijtihad and again become a center of science and creativity as it used to be in the early centuries of Islam.

Notes:

[1] According to early Islamic doctrine, so Muslims as a community could not go wrong, decisions were made by discussing problems which faced the community. But as the community grew in size, it became unwieldy to call the community together in one meeting.
[2] The Sunnis (about 85% of the Muslim world) accept al-Bukhari; but the Shiites have their own collections of hadiths.
[3] For example, when the Muslims reached India about 100 years after Muhammad's death, they came across a culture not mentioned in the Quran. While Islam is fiercely monotheistic, Hinduism has many gods and idols, anathema to Islam. The Quran demands that polytheists be enslaved, then offered the choice of conversion to Islam or death. During the early Muslim conquests of India, Hindus were massacred or enslaved, but there were simply too many Hindus for the Muslims to be able to comply with what was required by the Quran. The Muslims therefore devised the following solution: The Quran lists three groups of people who had received a revelation from God prior to Islam, and were therefore allowed to live under Islamic rule: the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabi'ah. No one knew who the Sabi'ah were, so the Muslims seem to have decided that that this term referred to other large groups such as the Hindus and Zoroastrian Persians. This decision evidently enabled the Muslims to allow Hindus live as Hindus under Muslim rule.
[4] The Jews, who did not have a state of their own, seem not to have constituted a threat to the Muslims. Moreover, unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism is not a triumphalist religion – one whose adherents believe they have the final revelation from God to mankind, and therefore the obligation to bring that religion to the rest of humanity. Christianity and Islam, on the other hand, were rivals.
[5] For example, a certain ruler of Egypt, the Fatimid (Isma'ili Shiite) ruler al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, (985- ca. 1021) declared himself God. The Druze still regard him as divine.
[6] When, for instance, the Canadian Muslim woman, Irshad Manji, as a teenager, questioned her imam about his sermons, she was chastised by the imam, and ostracized by her family and community. She said she clearly respected Islam and considered herself an observant Muslim, but that her thoughts on re-opening the Gates of Ijtihad as a way of saving Islam fell on deaf ears.
[7] This shows why surveys done in the Muslim world, especially in the more totalitarian countries, on topics involving politics or questioning authority, are meaningless: the consequences of telling anyone that you think differently from the prevailing trend could be devastating. Western academics and officials might do well to keep that in mind when they speak with locals about their thoughts.
[8] Probably best translated as "Quranics": those who believe only in the Quran.
[9] …which almost everyone in Egypt sees as a tool of the Egypt government. It repeats whatever the government tells it to say.
[10] See footnote 1 on ijma' – the concept of consensus in Islam.

Harold Rhode

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3114/muslims-ijtihad

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Islam in Germany: "Germany Does Away With Itself"


by Soeren Kern

"The values represented by Islam must correspond to our constitution. What applies here is the constitution, not Sharia law.... Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here." — Chancellor Angela Merkel

German President Joachim Gauck recently said in a newspaper interview that Muslims living in Germany are a part of the country, but that Islam is not.

The comments -- Gauck is the ninth prominent German politician to voice an opinion about Islam -- have sparked a new round in the on-going debate over the role of Islam and Muslim immigrants in Germany.

During a May 31 interview with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Gauck was asked about a quote from the previous German president, Christian Wulff, who during a keynote speech to mark the 20th anniversary of German reunification in October 2010, proclaimed that "Islam belongs in Germany" because of the four million Muslims who now live there. Germany has Western Europe's second-biggest Islamic population after France, with Turks the single biggest minority.

Gauck responded by saying that Wulff had wanted to encourage Germans to open themselves up to the reality that "many Muslims live in this country," but that he, Gauck, would have worded things differently than did Wulff.

Gauck continued, "I would have simply said that the Muslims who are living here are a part of Germany," but that religion should not be the defining mark for immigrants there. "Anybody who has come here," he said, "and does not just pay their taxes, but also likes to be here, partly because there is a level of justice and freedom not available in their country of origin, they are all one of us; so long as they adhere to our basic rules."

The 72-year-old Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor, also said he could understand people who might ask, "Where has Islam made an impression on this Europe? Did it experience the Enlightenment, or even the Reformation? … I am highly anticipating the theological discourse about a European Islam."

The leader of the environmentalist Green Party, Cem Özdemir, a German of Turkish descent, told the daily newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten that he could not understand Gauck's differentiation between Islam and Muslims. "When the president states that Muslims who live here belong to Germany," Özdemir said, "then of course Islam it part of Germany too."

Alexander Dobrind, however, the general secretary of the Christian Social Union (CSU), a conservative political party based in the southern German state of Bavaria and a partner in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right ruling coalition, said, "Gauck has clearly found the right words. Germany is a country with a Christian character, a Christian history and a thoroughly Christian value system."

Dobrindt's comments directly contradicted those of fellow CSU politician Markus Söder, the finance minister of the state of Bavaria. On May 31, Söder surprised an audience of Turkish immigrants by declaring that "Islam is an integral part of Bavaria."

Söder made the comments at a Muslim cultural festival sponsored by an organization called the Turkish-Islamic Union for Islamic Affairs (DITIB), which is controlled by the Turkish government. According to Fikret Bilir, the Turkish chairman of DITIB in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg, Söder was met with "great applause. We hope that he remains steadfast."

In April 2012, German parliamentary spokesman Volker Kauder, in an interview with the newspaper Passauer Neue Presse, said: "Islam is not part of our tradition and identity in Germany and it therefore does not belong to Germany."

Previously, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said that Islam is not a part of Germany. Speaking to reporters at a news conference in March 2011, Friedrich said: "To say that Islam belongs in Germany is not a fact supported by history at any point." He also said that although Muslims should be allowed live in Germany, Muslim immigrants ought to be aware of Germany's "Western Christian origins" and learn German "first and foremost."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that Germany's roots are Judeo-Christian. She said: "Now we obviously have Muslims in Germany. But it is important in regard to Islam that the values represented by Islam must correspond to our constitution. What applies here is the constitution, not Sharia law."

Shortly thereafter, Merkel addressed an October 16 meeting of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Potsdam outside Berlin, where she conceded that Germany's efforts to build a post-war multicultural society had "failed utterly."

In a landmark speech, Merkel said: "We are a country which at the beginning of the 1960s actually brought [Muslim] guest workers to Germany. Now they live with us and we lied to ourselves for a while, saying that they will not stay and that they will have disappeared again one day. That is not the reality. This multicultural approach -- saying that we simply live side by side and are happy about each other -- this approach has failed, failed utterly."

Merkel also told the CDU annual conference in Karlsruhe that the debate about immigration "especially by those of the Muslim faith" was an opportunity for the ruling party to stand up confidently for its convictions. "We do not have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind."

Merkel continued: "Germany needs more public discussion about the values that guide us and about our Judeo-Christian tradition. We have to stress this again with confidence. Then we will also be able to bring about cohesion in our society." Merkel added: "We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity -- that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here."

In November 2010, the CDU passed a resolution stressing that Germany's cultural identity (Leitkultur) is based on the "Christian-Jewish tradition, ancient and Enlightenment philosophy and the nation's historical experience." The resolution also states: "Our country benefits from immigrants who live and work here. But Germany does not benefit from a minority that refuses to integrate, does not want to learn our language, and denies participation and advancement to their children.… We expect that those who come here respect and recognize our cultural identity."

The previous Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, rejected calls from some center-left Social Democrats and Greens for Islam to be recognized as a state religion along with Christianity and Judaism. Speaking on Deutschlandradio Kultur, he said: "If you now ask: Will Islam be put on the same level as the Judeo-Christian understanding of religion and culture that we have, then my answer is: not for the foreseeable future."

The president of the state of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, has called for a halt to immigration from Turkey and Arab countries. In an interview with the German newsmagazine Focus, Seehofer said it was time for Germany to begin looking elsewhere for qualified workers, at a time when many parts of the labor market were facing grave shortfalls. "It is clear that immigrants from other cultural circles like Turkey, and Arab countries, have more difficulties," he said, " From that I draw the conclusion that we do not need any additional foreign workers from other cultures."

The current debate over the role of Islam in Germany was launched in August 2010 with the publication of a book entitled, "Germany Does Away With Itself."

The best-selling book shattered Germany's long-standing taboo on discussing the impact of Muslim immigration. It also resonated with vast numbers of ordinary Germans, who are becoming increasingly uneasy about the social changes that are transforming Germany, largely due to the presence of millions of non-integrated Muslims in the country.

The book, authored by 67-year-old Thilo Sarrazin, a renowned German banker who is also a long-time member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), is now on its 22nd edition. At the last count, it has sold more than two million copies, making it one of the most widely read titles published in Germany since the Second World War.

Polls show that almost half of the German population (from across the political spectrum) agree with Sarrazin's view that German immigration policies have produced a deeply divided society.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3111/germany-does-away-with-itself

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Shame on Ha’aretz


by Ronn Torossian

Reading a recent Ha’aretz article was stupefying — headlined: “The settler behind shadowy purchases of Palestinian land in the West Bank,” one may think that Ha’aretz had discovered a mass scandal worthy of a “shadowy” headline. In reality, what the newspaper “exposed” were the Jews who work to purchase homes for Jews to live in – because Arabs won’t sell to Jews. Sad that Ha’aretz proudly exposing patriots is a headline in the Jewish State – while anywhere else in the world not selling to someone because they are Jewish would be deemed racism.

Unfortunately, in the 21st century Jews can’t use their real names to purchase homes because Arabs kill other Arabs if they dare sell to the Jewish infidel. Reporting the story: Uri Blau (who was recently charged by Israel’s attorney general with unauthorized possession of stolen classified documents from the Israel Defense Forces), who proudly ran the first photo of a Jewish patriot who did the valiant work of ensuring Jews live in all areas of the holy State of Israel. Exposing a man who works privately to defeat racism would win awards in many countries — in Ha’aretz it’s deemed “shadowy” and “mysterious.” What’s glossed over is that every single activity they mention is completely 100% legal.

Assisting Ha’aretz and Blau shamefully in aiding the enemy is New Yorker Evelyn Hayes, who claims to be very passionate about the Land of Israel and Kever Rachel – but clearly is more concerned about Evelyn Hayes than anything else. From reading this article, one learns that Evelyn Hayes refused agreed upon nationalist mediators to collaborate with Blau and Ha’aretz – in an action which can only harm Jewish residents of these areas. Shame on Ha’aretz, Blau and Hayes.

The great Jewish religious leader Hillel, one of the most important figures in Jewish history, said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” Reading this article, one can only say words of thanks to brave men like Benny Elon, Tzahi Mamo, Chaim Silberstein, Matti Dan, Shlomo Zwickler, and others who work to ensure that Israel remains the Jewish nation and on a daily basis fulfill the words of Hillel. These people act and work tirelessly for the people of Israel. And they do it with tremendous self-sacrifice, facing perpetual negative publicity and threats to their safety.

Why is it that the media has this sick obsession with Jewish “settlers” – or people who simply work in their people’s best interest? I have yet to read features of this length exposing the Arab who killed his fellow Arab for being a collaborator – where is that article? Why doesn’t Ha’aretz publish the first photo of the proud Arab who made a better life for his family financially and sold a home to a Jew in the interest of mutual co-existence? Indeed, only 70 years after the Holocaust what could be more natural than Jews working to help the Jewish state?

A Jew can buy a home in Kiev or Paris, Chicago or Tokyo – what’s the issue with Jews buying homes anywhere they choose in the Holy Land? Does not the whole world speak of human rights, equality amongst people and recognize the rights of Jews as equals? The great Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky declared that settlement of the “land” is the only “law.” He declared: “There is no justice, no law, and no God in heaven, only a single law which decides and supercedes all — [Jewish] settlement [of the land].”

Shame on Ha’aretz, Uri Blau and Evelyn Hayes for working against those putting facts on the ground and putting them and their efforts in danger. The next time you see more Jews living in Israel we have people like Elon, Mamo, Silberstein, Dan and Zwickler to thank – and worldwide, Jews should stand up and say: “Thank you to all the brave Jewish patriots working to support the land and people of Eretz Israel.”

Ronn Torossian

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/06/15/shame-on-haaretz/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Egypt’s High Court Tries to Stave Off Sharia


by Robert Spencer

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that one-third of the parliamentarians had been elected illegitimately; as a result, “the makeup of the entire chamber is illegal and, consequently, it does not legally stand.” The court dissolved the parliament entirely, dealing a major blow to the pro-Sharia forces in Egypt that had dominated it since elections last November.

Will the court’s action be enough to prevent Egypt from becoming an Islamic state? For that, it may be too late. Many see the upcoming runoff presidential election between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and secularist Ahmed Shafiq, a longtime friend and associate of Hosni Mubarak, as the great showdown that will determine whether Egypt will embrace Sharia and become an Islamic state, or whether it will continue on the relatively secular path it has been on for decades. But in reality, even if Shafiq is elected, it is unlikely that the Islamization of Egypt is going to be stymied in any significant way.

The transformation of Egypt from a Western-oriented state to one dominated by Islamic law has been proceeding for decades. The Muslim Brotherhood’s societal and cultural influence has long outstripped its direct political reach, and shows no sign of abating. One highly visible example of this influence is the fact that while in the 1960s women wearing hijabs were rare on the streets of Cairo, now it is rare to see a woman not wearing one.

Meanwhile, since the presidency of Gamel Abdel Nasser (1956-1970), the Egyptian government has practiced steam control with the Brotherhood, looking the other way as the group terrorized Coptic Christians and enforced Islamic strictures upon the Egyptian populace, but cracking down when the Brotherhood showed signs of growing powerful enough actually to seize power. Nasser’s successor Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) not only released all the Brotherhood political prisoners who had been languishing in Egyptian prisons, but also promised the Brotherhood that Sharia would be fully implemented in Egypt.

Sadat didn’t live long enough to fulfill that promise; he was murdered by members of another Islamic supremacist group that was enraged by his peace treaty with Israel. Sadat’s successor Hosni Mubarak didn’t keep that promise to the Brotherhood either, and so it remains unfulfilled to this day, and the Muslim Brothers still want to see Sharia in Egypt.

So do most Egyptians. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in Spring 2010, before the Arab Spring and the toppling of Mubarak, found that no fewer than eighty-five percent of Egyptians thought that Islam was a positive influence in politics. Fifty-nine percent said they identified with “Islamic fundamentalists” in their struggle against “groups who want to modernize the country,” who had the support of only twenty-seven percent of Egyptians. Only twenty percent were “very concerned” about “Islamic extremism” within Egypt.

Another survey in May 2012 found little difference. 61 percent of Egyptians stated that they wanted to see Egypt abandon its peace treaty with Israel, and the same number identified the hardline Islamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the country that should serve as Egypt’s model for the role Islam should play in government. 60 percent said that Egypt’s laws should hew closely to the directives of the Qur’an.

Morsi would be happy to oblige them: “It was for the sake of the Islamic sharia that men were…thrown into prison,” he recalled at a recent rally. “Their blood and existence rests on our shoulders now. We will work together to realize their dream of implementing sharia.” In an ugly hint of what might happen if he loses, Morsi’s supporters have pelted Shafiq with stones and shoes, and set fire to his campaign headquarters. Campaigning for Morsi, Muslim preacher Safwat Hegazy warned Egyptians: “If you choose a man who corrupted the country, you will be responsible with him for his corruption and will be held accountable with him [before God]. But if you choose a man who abides by the law of God and establishes justice, you will be rewarded with him. Everyone will be held accountable [by God] if the next president is ill-chosen, and we should not blame but ourselves.”

A Muslim cleric, Shaykh Usamah Qasim, was clearer about what this meant when he warned of violence if Islamic supremacists were denied power and Shafiq or anyone else but Morsi were elected president: “The fate of any of them who reaches the presidency will be like that of former President Anwar al-Sadat, who was assassinated.”

Egypt’s Coptic Christians are understandably worried. Yousef Sidhom, a Christian newspaper editor, said flatly: “There is a Brotherhood strategy to work toward building an Islamic country.” He said, according to the Associated Press, that Christians were concerned that “the Brotherhood will keep Christians out of some government positions, tax non-Muslims, base education around Islam and create a foreign policy that favors Muslim over non-Muslim nations.”

The Brotherhood and the Salafis may still get a chance to do this, despite the Egyptian high court’s Thursday action. The court may have just been trying to stave off the inevitable.

Robert Spencer

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/06/15/egypt%E2%80%99s-high-court-tries-to-stave-off-sharia/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

BREAKING: Court Dissolves Egyptian Parliament; Army Takes Over; Civil War?


by Barry Rubin

The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court has just invalidated the parliamentary election there. The parliament, 75 percent of whose members were Islamists, is being dissolved. The military junta has taken over total authority. The presidential election is still scheduled for a few dozen hours from now.

In short, everything is confused and everything is a mess. All calculations are thrown to the wind. What this appears to be is a new military coup.

Yes, it is under legal cover, but nobody is going to see it as a group of judges — appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak, remember — looking deep into the law books and coming up with a carefully reasoned decision based on precedent. This will be seen by every Islamist — whether Salafi or Muslim Brotherhood — and by most of the liberals — who feel closer to the Islamists than to the government — as if the 2011 revolution has just been reversed.

Prediction: massive violence.

With typical journalistic “neutrality,” CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported from Cairo: “Those who don’t want to see a return to the oppression of the past … are very unhappy with this ruling.” What about the people who don’t want a radical Islamist regime and a Sharia state to become the oppression of the future?

Still, the fact that the court ruled that “establishment” candidate Ahmad Shafiq can run for president will further a perception that this is a conspiracy to return to the pre-revolutionary situation.

I’m not saying that the armed forces told the justices to make such a ruling. But clearly by backing it up the generals are declaring their willingness to confront the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists rather than let them take power. Is there a precedent for this? You bet there is:

Algeria.

In 1991 the Islamic Salvation Front was on the verge of gaining victory. Before the second round of voting could be held, the army staged a coup to stop the election. The resulting war lasted more than a decade — in some respects, it’s still continuing today. Cost in lives? About 150,000 — 200,000 in a country whose population was about one-third that of contemporary Egypt. You do the math.

That doesn’t mean Egypt will be the same, but this is something to be taken seriously. Consider:

– The decision virtually wipes out the much-vaunted “Arab Spring” and all the claims that a basic transition was being made in Arab societies. On al-Jazira, for example, the reporters were visibly in a state of shock.

– This event poses a huge problem for the Obama administration — and I’ll bet it caught them by surprise. Does the U.S. government condemn the military and put sanctions on it, demanding that the Muslim Brotherhood be put into power? There is no easy solution. But we are likely to have the strange situation of an American president fighting to put into power an anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic political force that is opposed to all U.S. interests, because — after all — they did win the election. Once again, Arab leaders have rebelled against Obama’s–and I don’t say this lightly–pro-Islamist policy.

In a first reaction a State Department spokesperson said:

“We want to see the Egyptian people have what they fought for, which is a free, fair, democratic, transparent system of government – governance that represents the will of the people, a parliament so elected, a president so elected.”

That’s predictable and “nice” but it isn’t a policy, much less a strategy, and avoids all of the real issues involved. For example, is the administration going to rush aid to an Egyptian military junta now?

– What if Shafiq wins the presidency? Will the armed forces line up behind him, and put us back in 1952 when the military created a dictatorship and suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood? In other words, the entire “Arab Spring” would have been a temporary detour, and things will return to the path they would have taken if there had been no revolution and an ailing Mubarak was simply replaced in 2011 by the establishment’s choice for president.

– And what if the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate wins the presidency? Is the military really going to let him rule in any meaningful sense? No.

[Pure speculation here but I wonder if the military's actions were influenced by secret estimates that a Brotherhood president was about to be elected, too. And how will this event affect a presidential election? On one hand, there might be a reaction against the army leading to a victory for the Brotherhood. On the other hand, though, people might want to be on the winning side and put restored order over the promise of more freedom (albeit, "freedom" within an Islamist regime, which might not look so ideal to a good proportion of Egyptians).]

–If there’s no parliament then there’s nobody to write a Constitution. So parliamentary elections and the writing of a new Constitution are put off by–at the barest minimum–six months and probably for much longer.

Barry Rubin

Source: http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/06/breaking-court-dissolves-egyptian-parliament-army-takes-over-civil-war/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Euro's Collapse Is Not Just About the Euro


by Gene Schwimmer

How do you say Schadenfreude in French? Or Spanish? Or Greek? Because, three years into the failed economic policies of a failed president, Schadenfreude -- knowing that, however bad our situation may be, the state of affairs in the Eurozone is much worse -- is all that is left to us.

And it is worse, make no mistake about that. And, it increasingly appears, irreversible. Which is why those of us who saw this day coming must resist the urge to gloat now that the poulets européens have come home to roost. Let us instead, let out a sigh of relief as we observe the Euro-debacle from a safe distance and draw what lessons we can, lest their fate become ours. For the euro's increasingly probable collapse is about more, much more, than the euro.

George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen almost gets it when he writes, in the May 26 New York Times:

We thus face the danger that the euro, the world's No. 2 reserve currency, could implode. Such an event wouldn't be just another depreciation or collapse of a currency peg; instead, it would mean that one of the world's major economic units doesn't work as currently constituted.

Note the qualifiers, "could," and "would." In fact, the euro is imploding and said implosion does mean that "one of the world's major economic units doesn't work as currently constituted." And it's a pretty sure bet that whatever new constitution the Euro-elites conjure up for their "newly constituted unit" won't work, either -- certainly not if it's "newly constituted" by the same people who constituted the current one.

The good professor writes: "The final lesson of this debacle is that smart nations with noble motives can make very big mistakes." But at the same time Cowen states the obvious, he also misses the obvious by failing to name the Euro-debacle's true culprits. For regardless of what "smart nations with noble motives" may or may not do, the guilty parties here are not "smart nations," but arrogant, soi disant "experts," who consider themselves accountable to no one due to their self-perceived brilliance, but who in fact are not nearly as smart as they think (and would like us to think) they are. Conversely, had, say, "the first 2,000 names in the Berlin telephone directory," been allowed to vote on whether they wanted to surrender their national currencies, and the control thereof, into euros that would be out of their control, a large majority of them almost certainly would have voted no and the whole Euro-mess that was shoved down their throats and must now be vomited up, could have been avoided.

Cowen continually dances around issue, coming close, but never making the real point and I suspect that the reason for the fancy footwork is because Cowen is a liberal, or at least one who is rooting for the euro to succeed. So allow me to state clearly what Cowen would not.

The plain and simple fact is that the euro's failure is about more, much more, than the euro. For it is not just the euro that is failing, but the entire liberal, elitist worldview that underlies it. That worldview, in a nutshell, is the notion that human nature is as malleable as a lump of clay and that any utopian society one can imagine can be created in the real world simply by writing it down on a piece of paper and voting for it.

And so here we are, leaving the world, including we Americans, divided, essentially, into two groups: those who understand that liberalism's day of reckoning has come, that the debate is over, that collapse is inevitable and that the only course now is to manage, as best we can, the process of changing direction; and those who do not.

Abandoning a currency, as we are learning, is no easy task. But it's a far easier task than abandoning a worldview upon which literally millions if not hundreds of millions of people have built and lived their lives, and which has held a considerable hold on political thinking -- and governance -- for almost a century.

Europe may or may not succeed in arresting its decline. But we Americans, paradoxically, are made of both sterner and more flexible stuff and so one can confidently predict that it is only a matter of time before the old guard is cast out, to be replaced by a new generation of leaders with a vision that looks forward, not back.

One senses that that day is not far off. In the meantime, protect your assets, do what you can to avoid the falling debris as the old order collapses, and prepare for a hard fight in the years ahead.

Gene Schwimmer is the pundit-proprietor of Schwimmerblog and the author of The Christian State.

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/06/the_euros_collapse_is_not_just_about_the_euro.html

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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