Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Question of Islamic Reform

by David Solway


Perhaps the major theological problem confronting the revisionist Muslim community today—i.e., those whom we call “moderates”  or “secular-oriented intellectuals”—is the canonical scriptures which define their faith and without which Islam would cease to exist. The dilemma for these “enlightened Muslims” is the Koran itself, with its ubiquitous summons to warfare, conquest, enslavement and social and economic persecution of vanquished peoples, which is why they are preoccupied, to the brink of obsession, with the twin concepts of re-interpretation and contextualization.

These meliorists are convinced that Islam is diametrically opposed to something called “Islamism,” that Islam is essentially a “religion of peace” rather than a bellicose imperial movement and that its founding texts therefore invite reinterpretation. This belief can be readily demolished by anyone with a cursory acquaintance with the Islamic literature and a modicum of common sense. For once the incendiary and violent passages are expurgated from the Koran and the Hadith, and the philosophical and political curriculum appropriately bowdlerized, there is far too little left over on which to base a credible and authoritative, world-historical faith. Indeed, as I have argued before, the result would resemble a version of Baha’i’ and could no longer legitimately be called Islam. Re-interpretation is effectively a dead end, a theological placebo swallowed by the naïve or the willfully ignorant who find the strong medicine of reality unpalatable or even abhorrent.

The notion of contextualization fares no better. Here the thesis is that one must adopt a historical or dialectical perspective on the progressive evolution of belief systems. The repugnant portions of the scriptures are understood to apply only to the times in which they were conceived and written. Of course, there is some truth to this contention. The Bible also contains offensive passages which have been despumated with the passing of time. But the difference between the Bible and the Koran is categorical. The former is largely narrative and parabolic in structure and the parts we would regard as objectionable are comparatively few. The Koran, on the contrary—especially the longer, Medinan section—is almost unrelentingly belligerent and exhortative, commanding the believer to slay, conquer, oppress and impose draconian taxes on those who have been subjugated.

To say, as did reformer Salim Mansur, an apostle of contextualization, that Jesus should not be held responsible for the actions of his followers and therefore, by implication, neither should Mohammed is to miss the point entirely. Jesus commanded the faithful to turn the other cheek, not to “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” (Koran 9:5). Jesus is in no need of contextualization. Judaism differs inasmuch as the messiah has not yet arrived and the fundamental commandments are both few and benign. In Christianity, as we have noted, Jesus is a harbinger of peace and love, and his exegetes, like Saint Paul, are fallible human beings whose utterances are seen to be open to debate. In Islam, however, the word of the Prophet, transmitted by Allah via the angel Gabriel, is set in theological stone; it cannot be reinterpreted or contextualized, only abrogated by Mohammed himself. Its directives are neither locally nor temporally specific. They are meant to be understood as having general and timeless application, constituting the default position of Islamic belief. Efforts to neuter such clearly unmistakable and bloody imperatives, which ramify throughout the Koran—as, for example, in the Muslim Access website which strenuously labors to sanitize the intractable—are embarrassingly disingenuous.

The abiding, if not insoluble, problem with the seductive hypothesis of contextualization is a kind of prolepsis, an anticipation of change before it happens—which in this case would then render the original event tolerable. Are we to assume, in other words, that the beheading of 600-900 Jewish males of the Banu Qurayza and the enslavement of their women and children at the Battle of the Trench is perfectly understandable because it occurred in 627? That the annihilation of 60-80 million Hindus during the conquest of India is historically unexceptionable because it occurred between the 11th and 16th centuries? Need we merely contextualize such atrocities—without apology—in order not to be unduly disturbed by them? Were Islamic warriors more primitive in the unenlightened past but are now well on the way toward civilized behavior and international standards of just conduct?

In that case, how are we to process the myriad commands and injunctions to kill, brutalize and devastate that remain “on the books,” are reckoned as mandatory, and are regarded as perennially valid by the majority of the world’s practicing Muslims. How are these rules and ukases to be contextualized in the present, let alone re-interpreted? How does one reinterpret and contextualize the manifold orders to slaughter, mutilate, enslave and exploit the infidel that are rife throughout what is considered a holy and eternal text coeval with the Creator? To agree that such recalibration is possible without expunging the Islamic faith from the ledger of the world’s major religions or turning it into something unrecognizable is a delusion that flies in the face of reality.

A corollary argument we often come across is that Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, only needs time in which to reform itself. I have contended that Islam cannot be reformed and yet perdure as Islam. But even were renovation possible, the issue is that, in a nuclear age in which terrorist organizations diligently seek the acquisition of WMDs and will, most likely, eventually get them, we no longer have the time to wait upon an Islamic “higher criticism” to disarm an aggressively militant faith—which is also a political ideology. Ayaan Hirsi Ali believes that Islam will undergo a positive transformation, a necessary “cultural change,” in another hundred years or so. Were this even remotely possible, the predicament would persist: we do not have another hundred years in which to exercise our patience. I doubt if we even have a decade before a widespread conflagration is ignited and casualties reach astronomic proportions, a consequence that follows in the wake of Islamic virulence.

Roger Kimball, parsing Charles Hill’s new book, Trial of a Thousand Years: World Oder and Islamism, suggests that “there are millions upon millions of Muslims outside the Mideast who have made their peace with modernity.” But such a metamorphosis strictly implies that these moderates are not really Muslims any longer, and certainly not Muslims in good standing. They are nominal Muslims, dissembling members of the faith, Stanislavsky Muslims engaged in a species of method acting, imagining themselves to be what they are not, for Islam as such is not amenable to assimilation into the Western, post-Westphalian world order. Re-interpretation is predicated on deliberate negligence just as contextualization is a sop to the intellectual conscience, and both are instances of theological fraud and the desire to retain a venerable designation or a cultural habitus (French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s term) to which they are neither logically nor honestly entitled.

“Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards,” wrote Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations, and events appear to have proven him right. But it is even worse than that. The blood has spilled copiously from the borders of Islam across the borders of the West and into the very nexus of our private and public lives. If Islam were reformable, I would be in the vanguard of those encouraging the anti-jihadist activists and the sparse handful of moderates who have attempted to establish a new synthesis. But it is not reformable. It cannot be re-interpreted, contextualized and transformed while still remaining the religion of Allah and his Prophet.

We need to know and name what we are dealing with and devise an appropriate strategy to contest and defeat a determined adversary if we intend to ensure our survival. It is as simple—and uncompromising—as that. Otherwise we will sink into the Spenglerian abyss as merely one more civilization that has grown weary of conflict and the requisites of perpetuation, and has wished itself, as Spengler wrote in The Decline of the West, into the featureless dark.

David Solway


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Tsarnaev, Hasan and Deadly Political Correctness

by Lloyd Billingsley

New York Primaries 

On Wednesday Dzhohkar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to 30 counts in the Boston Marathon bombings and jury selection began in the case of U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, accused of murdering 13 at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. The Hasan and Tsarnaev cases emerged the same day in testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, where the first witness, Rudy Giuliani, said that political correctness hinders efforts to stop terrorists before they strike.

Guiliani, mayor of New York during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, told the committee “You can’t fight an enemy you don’t acknowledge.” To confront the terrorist threat effectively, “we have to purge ourselves of the practice of political correctness when it goes so far that it interferes with our rational and intellectually honest analysis of the identifying characteristics that help a discover these killers in advance.”

Giuliani said that a reluctance to identify violent Islamic extremists could have played a role in the FBI’s failure to track Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhohkar’s older brother, who last year returned to Dagestan for six months. “There would have been a much greater chance of preventing Fort Hood, and possibly — and this I emphasize is possibly — the Boston bombing,” Giuliani said, “if the relevant bureaucracies had been less reluctant to identify the eventual killers as potential Islamic extremist terrorists.”

In the 2009 Ford Hood case, Major Nidal Hasan is charged with killing 13, more deaths than in the first attack on the World Trade center in 1993, a year before Giuliani became major of New York.

“The elevation of political correctness over sound investigative judgment certainly explains the failure to identify Maj. Hasan as a terrorist,” Giuliani told the committee. “That political correctness has been extended so far that the current administration describes his act as ‘workplace violence.’ This isn’t just preposterous. What we fail to realize is, this is dangerous.”

The next witness, Michael Leiter, former head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, denied that political correctness was hindering U.S. efforts against terrorism. Such a claim, he testified, “is simply beyond me.” No member of the committee asked Leiter to explain what dynamic might lurk behind the “workplace violence” explanation. Committee members did explore cases where government agencies had failed to communicate, particularly with local law enforcement.

The hearing was called to examine intelligence breakdowns in the Boston Marathon bombings, but any threat from Islamic extremism failed to emerge in the statement of ranking member Bennie Thompson. He cited the Southern Poverty Law Center about a growing domestic threat from right-wing groups.

That theme emerged in Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Far-Right, a recent report from the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy. The report links white supremacists, Aryan Nations, skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan and such with those who “espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights. The groups also support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self-government.” As Mark Tapson noted, “that pretty much describes every conservative I know.”

Meanwhile, a military judge on Wednesday entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Nidal Hasan, whose court martial trial is set to begin August 6. Also on Wednesday the New York Times reported mounting evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar’s older brother, participated in a gruesome 2011 triple murder in Boston. The bodies were discovered on September 12, 2001, a day after the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Victims Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken were Jews and some Jewish publications consider the murders a hate crime.

According to the Times reporters, some law enforcement authorities “contend that if the local murder investigation had been more vigorous it could have led to his [Tamerlan’s] apprehension well before the bombings left 3 dead and more than 260 wounded — in short, that the bombings might never have happened.”

Lloyd Billingsley


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Egypt Punishes the Palestinians

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Egypt is allowed to strangle the entire Gaza Strip and deny its people food and fuel, especially on the eve of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, but one hardly hears about these anti-Palestinian measures: they are being carried out by an Arab country, not by Israel.
The Palestinians often complain that Israel, the US and other countries keep intervening in their internal affairs. These complaints often draw much attention from the Western media and many in the international community.

But when the Palestinians meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries, sometimes triggering acts of violence and instability, the international media and public opinion tend to look the other way.

And when the Arab countries retaliate by punishing the Palestinians, as is happening these days between the Palestinians and Egypt, the international community and human rights organizations rush to bury their heads in the sand.

Egypt is allowed to strangle the entire Gaza Strip and deny its people food and fuel, especially on the eve of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, but the media and human rights groups are missing in action. This, by the way, is happening at a time when Israel has announced a series of gestures toward the Palestinians on the occasion of Ramadan.

Each time they are punished for poking their nose into other people's business, the Palestinians start whining and crying, accusing the Arab countries of turning against them.

Today, it is Egypt's turn to punish the Palestinians for meddling in that country's internal affairs.

Following the military coup that ended President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood regime, the first decision the new rulers of Egypt took was to ban Palestinians from entering their country without prior permission from Egypt's security authorities.

As these security forces rarely issue permits to Palestinians to enter Egypt, this decision means that thousands of Palestinians will not be able to continue their studies, receive medical treatment or visit relatives there.

The Palestinians have a long history of meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries, even if that always proves to be counterproductive and harmful to Palestinian interests. Now, the new rulers of Egypt are extremely angry with the Palestinians, especially Hamas, for supporting Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

But instead of punishing Hamas and its leaders, the Egyptian authorities have resorted to collective punishment against the Palestinians, particularly those living in the Gaza Strip.

One hardly hears and reads about these anti-Palestinian measures: they are being carried out by an Arab country, not by Israel.
The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, January 2009. (Source: International Transport Workers' Federation)
Since the ouster of Morsi, the Egyptians have closed down the Rafah border crossing along their shared border with the Gaza Strip, leaving thousands of passengers stranded on both sides of the border.

About 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims who were in Mecca have not been able to return home because of the closure of the Rafah terminal.

In addition, hundreds of Palestinian university students and patients have not been permitted to leave the Gaza Strip.

Thousands of Palestinians living in various countries, who were planning to spend the summer vacation with their relatives, have also been deprived of entering the Gaza Strip.

The closure of the border crossing has also been accompanied by an Egyptian military offensive to destroy dozens of smuggling tunnels along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. This offensive, which began last week, has resulted in a severe shortage of basic goods, fuel and gas inside the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians are now paying a heavy price for Hamas's and others' intervention in the internal affairs of Egypt.

Further, Hamas's rivals in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are now repeating the same mistake by supporting the military coup against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

If and when the Muslim Brotherhood returns to power, they will do to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority what the Egyptian authorities are doing now to Hamas and Palestinian supporters of Morsi.

Sadly, the Palestinians have not learned the lesson from previous mistakes they made when they pushed their noses into other people's business. Each time the Palestinians get involved in internal conflicts in the Arab world, they always end up being the biggest losers

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been killed, injured and displaced in Syria over the past two years. Again, because some Palestinians have either joined the "rebels" or the pro-Assad forces, this is a self-inflicted tragedy.

In the past, the Palestinians paid a very heavy price for meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and other Arab countries, but this price has not deterred them.

That meddling is also the reason most Arab countries have long despised the Palestinians, subjecting them to Apartheid laws and other punitive measures, including travel bans and deprivation of financial aid.

For earning the enmity and contempt of their Arab brethren, the Palestinians have only themselves to blame: they shoot themselves in the foot and then blame others for their misery. They would be better served if instead they would start directing their energies toward solving their own problems and improving their living conditions -- exactly what the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas governments are not doing.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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Is Islam Compatible With Democracy?

by Alon Ben-Meir

The question raised by the ouster of Egypt's President Morsi is whether Islam is compatible with democracy or any form of government that empowers the people and limits the power of leaders to hold merely representative offices with limited terms of public service.

Islam is the most recent of the Abrahamic religions to emerge on the world stage. Monotheism in general, and specifically as it developed in the Dark and Middle Ages, in principle reflects extremely authoritarian regimes.

Theologically, it posits a cosmic or heavenly hierarchy with absolute authority in God, angels in go-between positions, and a fallen humanity in need of salvation at the base of the pyramidal power structure.

It is no surprise then that in the centuries wherein the Catholic Church was at its zenith of influence in the West, political power was held by kings, popes, emperors, and powerful nepotistic and despotic elite with huge economic chasms between the people and their rulers.

Obviously, these structures were not compatible with democracy.

Christianity and Judaism, being monotheistic, are no less inheritors of this stratified and centralized power paradigm, but unlike Islam these religions were effectively secularized and toned down during the century of the European Enlightenment.

Thinkers like Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Kant, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, and Hegel paved the way for Marx, Schopenhauer, Buber, and Sartre to challenge conventional approaches to religious ideologies and political formations.

Traditional monotheism, with its highly categorized view of man and God, may not in itself be wholly compatible with democracy, but modern Western monotheism gradually molded itself to new ways of thinking during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and was certainly forced to do so amid rapid scientific and technological advances.

The Islamic world enjoyed its own renaissance during the Islamic Golden Age (mid-8th to mid-13th century) with advances in the sciences, mathematics, and literature, yet the period declined and has never been restored to its former glory.

Where are Islam's corresponding great modern philosophers and scientists who can pave the way for a similar transformation of both radical and even secular Islam in the Arab world?

In the Arab world today, the majority of its intellectuals are clerics, imams, and thinkers emerging from the core of Islamic values. Radical Islam simply does not routinely nurture free thinkers willing to brave the fires of what might otherwise become an Islamic Inquisition.

Is it even possible to transition from hierarchical religious authoritarianism to a modernized and even secularized form of Islamic democracy -- one that accepts the separation of church and state?

While the possibility and harsh eventuality remains, this is a tall order since Islam, perhaps more than other monotheistic religions, invites itself into every aspect of social life. More specifically, Islam is inherently and by definition inconsistent with the separation of church and state.

It is instructive that the seeming separation between the two occurred under ruthless secular dictators such Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad's family in Syria, and Qaddafi's Libya. In all these instances, the authoritarianism seen in the rule of the Islamist Morsi was still there.
The Middle East is not the only place where religious ideology might compel people to vote against their own social, economic, and political interests. But history teaches that if there is any prospect in wedding Islam to democratic ideals, efforts to do so must concurrently work on religious, economic, and political levels.

Religiously, the concept of the separation of church and state has practically no hold in Islamic thinking. The idea is entirely foreign to most Islamic orthodoxy, and even if a political party were secular in name, they dare not forsake the basic tenets of Islam.

The strong religious identity currently imposed on the average citizen would effect a transposition of Islamic views on political affairs, thus nullifying this vital separation of powers and coloring political discourse.

Turkey provides us with a perfect example of the failure to wed Islam to democracy. While Erdogan was supporting economic advances and paying lip service to liberty, he was imprisoning journalists and drawing to himself more and more power, leading the country increasingly by Islamic ethos rather than democratic principles.

As such, Turkey under Prime Minister Erdogan's stewardship, who claims to have found the perfect formula that balances Islam and democracy, provides a poor model that deeply disappointed the liberal-minded Arab youth who are now fighting against Islamic despotism in Egypt.

Citizens of the Arab world first require a change from the ground up in the way their religion is approached and instituted socially, politically, and economically.

With the rise of free-thinking youth and exposure to new ways of interpreting Islam, a secularized and modernized Islam adapted to modern democratic principles must emerge.

Second, the Arab world needs egalitarian economic development that distances itself from tribal, clannish, and centralizing hegemonic models and seeks to build a strong middle class provided with basic social support in education and health care.

Third, the Arab world needs, perhaps more than anything, time. We must bear in mind that it took centuries for the Western world to free itself from the bondages of religious ignorance and the divine right of kings.

But it won't take centuries for Arab states to emerge from the past and grow into functioning democracies because unlike the West, it does not need to wait for the concurrent advances in social, physical, and political sciences that paved the way for the industrial revolution and the information age.

The Arab youth are already exposed to new technologies, thus accelerating their ascent to democracy and the supremacy of reason, not revelation, in political discourse.

But that acceleration comes with its own pitfalls, making the current situation doubly serious and potentially calamitous for millions of innocent men, women, and children who are already suffering heavy fallout.

Hence, it is not enough, in the long term, for a country to have just economic development, like Saudi Arabia, or just elections, like Egypt and Iraq. Without balanced development, extremism in even one of the three social institutions will, left unchecked, color the other two.

Even if elected democratically, radical Islamic parties invariably presume upon themselves forms of power reminiscent of tyrannical kings. They simply have few other models for their political might or personal manliness other than monarchical rule. Egypt's Morsi and Iraq's Maliki provide telling examples.

I disagree with the notion that the ouster of the freely-elected Morsi will encourage opposition Islamic parties throughout the Arab world to dismiss democratic forms of governing and violently pursue their socio-political agenda in the streets as they lose faith in a free electoral system.

On the contrary, Islamic parties that seek power will do well to learn from the Egyptian experience. Being elected democratically does not bestow authoritarian powers, and governing must be inclusive, representing all the people while equally caring about their welfare, regardless of any political affiliations.

Morsi was not ousted because he is a devout Muslim; everyone who voted for him knew that only too well. Rather, by acting from a radical Islamic bent, he betrayed the premise of a freely-elected leader, which requires accountability, inclusiveness, and the responsibility to live up to the spirit of the revolution.

Moreover, Morsi failed to separate between his Islamic instincts and the democratic principles by which he was empowered to govern.

Morsi repeatedly rejected appeals from the military, the U.S., and even the Salafists to form a new inclusive government to end the crisis.

Intellectuals as well as ordinary Egyptians want their country to be modern, pluralistic, and outward-looking, and do not wish to replace one dictator with another, albeit elected.

Indeed, the blame falls squarely on Morsi's shoulders; he subordinated politics to religion and succumbed to the conservative and religious branch of Islamists who view political Islam as the answer to centuries of deprivation and of injustice.

He worked tirelessly to consolidate his powers while doing next to nothing to save the economy from pending collapse. He placed himself above judicial review and largely appointed fellow Brothers into key posts while allowing Brotherhood hooligans to beat up liberal opponents.

If this was not enough, he undermined the core of freedom of speech by intimidating the media and failing to build democratic institutions. Moreover, he pushed for a new constitution fully reliant on Sharia law, expanded blasphemy prosecutions, and supported discrimination against women.

To be sure, Morsi surrendered to Islamic siege mentality and authoritarianism in a time when the nation was demanding inclusiveness and political freedom, which was the essence of the revolution against his predecessor in the first place.

Yes, political Islam and democracy can work, but not by pushing for early elections. A transitional government, led by a respected leader who is not shackled by a strong ideology and who can cultivate consensus and has wide public appeal, must take at least two years to allow secular and Islamic parties to develop their political platforms and make the public fully aware of their socio-economic policy and other urgent issues facing their nation.

In the interim, a new constitution should be written based on freedom, democracy, and equality with separation of church and state constitutionally enshrined. Any new constitution written in Egypt that does not clearly separate church and state will be doomed to fail, potentially ushering in yet another revolution.1

Brighter days will yet come to Egypt as long as Tahrir Square remains true to its name, "Liberation Square." The Egyptian people have now acquired the ultimate weapon that prevents despotism -- be that military, religious, or secular -- from rising to power. Those who seek to lead will do well to remember that.

1. This point will be expanded in a following article, which will model a separation of church and state in Egypt that still provides a prominent role for religion in daily life.

Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. Web:


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Three Cheers for TAG [Together Against Grooming]

by Douglas Murray

If you congratulate people for speaking out against the gang-rape of children, your society may be in something of a mess.
Last week in the UK, a gang of seven men from Oxford -- British Muslims of largely Pakistani descent -- were sentenced to a total of 95 years in prison for the sexual exploitation of a number of girls as young as 11. The gang had subjected their victims to harrowing years of ordeals including gang-rape. Though responses to these outrages was universally, "Horrified!" the events did not, sadly, come as a surprise. On the contrary this is just the latest in a set of similar cases that have come to light in the United Kingdom in recent years. In each case -- in Derby, West Yorkshire, Rochdale and Telford -- the victims have been underage white girls, generally from disturbed backgrounds and often from children's homes. The perpetrators have been Muslim men, overwhelmingly of Pakistani heritage.

It seems that for years nobody wanted to do anything about this. A police force and prosecution service, terrified of accusations of racism or "Islamophobia," failed to act; as a result, many more girls were assaulted than they might otherwise have been. Even now, in reporting the case, there seems a desire to overlook what links these cases lest anyone feed into savory peoples' unsavory ideas. People are rightly careful to stress that we are talking about a minority of Muslim males. And they are rightly eager to stress that most of the Muslim communities in the UK are also horrified by such cases.

That the girls were selected by their abusers because of their different racial and religious background is not in doubt; it has even been confirmed by the sentencing judges.

But until now -- amid the outrage -- there has been among many people an unmistakable element of denial. Although there have been good, outspoken individuals, certain Muslims have been uncomfortably over-fulsomely praised for their "courage" in speaking out against the crimes -- as though it were something remarkable for a Muslim to speak out against a rape-gang. What a low place to put the bar of praise. If you congratulate people for speaking out against the gang-rape of children, your society may be in something of a mess.

Alyas Karmani of "Together Against Grooming". (Source:
Abysmally, until now there has been no serious attempt to engage with the underlying issues -- until this past week, that is. Last Friday, an organization calling itself TAG [Together Against Grooming] arranged for 500 mosques across the country to read the same Friday sermon. This was a wholesale condemnation of the act of child-grooming. Written by a Bradford-based imam and local councillor called Alyas Karmani, the sermon condemns the "disgraceful actions" of the convicted men and calls for other British Muslims to condemn the actions of the men. Part of the released text of the sermon reads:
"Allah commands us to undertake all matters to the highest standard of excellence. As Muslims we are commanded to be just, fair and shun evil, wrongdoing and all forms of indecent and immoral behaviour. Failure to remember and act on this results in the society that we are part of declining in social and moral terms. Addressing every man today, I will speak to you of sexual grooming.
"There has been a lot in the news recently about men of Pakistani and South Asian backgrounds in Derby, Rochdale, Telford, Oxford and West Yorkshire who have been convicted of this evil and wicked crime. These actions are reprehensible and we condemn those involved and support the victims who are innocent children.
"Islam is a religion of mercy and compassion and places a strong obligation on safeguarding and protecting the weak and vulnerable from abuse - particularly women and children."
All this strikes me as rather good news, in a period fairly lacking in the same.
Unfortunately not everybody who could have done with getting involved in this initiative actually did so. Oxford's local paper, the Oxford Mail, did some solid investigative reporting and discovered that a number of mosques in the area -- precisely the area which the latest rape-gang had come from -- failed to read out the sermon.

For instance, at the Central Oxford Mosque, instead of reading out the message categorically condemning the abuse, the imam apparently spoke about "Ramadan and charity." According to one of those involved, the TAG-proposed sermon was a "publicity stunt" which merely fed into a "far-right agenda." He went on to say, "I have always felt it is not a race or religious issue. They are talking to the converted. Every single Muslim knows it is abhorrent."

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Madina Mosque was quoted as saying that it was unnecessary to address the problem in mosques. "It is not a specific subject that you need to talk about in the mosques. As far as grooming issue [sic] is concerned I think that is now history. This pattern of child abuse has finished. This sentencing I am sure has assured that." Other mosques in the area had the same resistance to the anti-rape sermon and refused either to read it out or address the issue.

It is a good thing that TAG got any mosques at all to unite in reading out the same condemnation at the same time across the country. That is how one would want any Muslim-led campaign to look. Of course there are others who would rather this did not happen.

Douglas Murray


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US intel: Iran's Long-Range Rockets could Reach America by 2015

by Yoram Ettinger

The Quran-derived "taqiyya" concept is a core cause of systematically-failed U.S. peace initiatives in the Middle East; 1,400 years of intra-Muslim/Arab warfare and the lack of intra-Muslim/Arab comprehensive peace; the tenuous nature of intra-Muslim/Arab agreements; and the inherently shifty, unpredictable and violent intra-Muslim/Arab relations, as currently demonstrated on the chaotic, seismic Arab street.

The taqiyya concept constitutes Islam-sanctioned dissimulation, deception and concealment of inconvenient data, aimed at shielding Islam and "believers" from "infidels" and hostile Muslims. It is a tactic utilized by Muslims during times of strategic inferiority, intended to achieve provisional accords, only to be abrogated once conditions are ripe for vanquishing adversity. 

For example, Iran’s president-elect, Hasan Rouhani, who was hand-picked by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, demonstrated his taqiyya capabilities during his term as Iran’s chief negotiator with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Rouhani perfected double-talk, misleading the "infidel" IAEA negotiators, thus providing Iran with extra time to acquire nuclear capabilities, while systematically violating commitments made to the IAEA. In September 2002, Rouhani stated, in his capacity as the chairman of Iran's Supreme National Security Council: "When we sign international treaties, it means that we are not pursuing nuclear weapons. We are not pursuing chemical weapons. We are not pursuing biological weapons. Iran is not interested in any of these."

Rouhani’s talent for taqiyya earned him the image of a moderate in Western circles, in defiance of his track record: an early supporter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; he represented Khomeini at the Supreme National Security Council; he served as National Security Advisor to presidents Hashemi and Khatami; and he was one of the planners of the AMIA Jewish community center bombing in 1994, which murdered 85 civilians in Buenos Aires. 

Quran-based taqiyya was initially adopted by the Shiite minority, then by the Sunni majority. According to the Quran’s Sura 3 verse 28, Muslims may appease "infidels" with their lips but not their hearts. Sura 3:54, Sura 8:30 and Sura 10:21 state that "God is the best schemer… ." Sura 16:106 emphasizes that Muslims may be coerced by adverse circumstances -- as a precautionary measure -- to pacify "infidels," by pretending to depart from Islamic values and goals. Sura 2:225 determines that "Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts."

Hence, Arab leaders have spoken moderately to Western media, while speaking their minds to their own media. Mahmoud Abbas, like Arafat, has implemented "taqiyya," double-talking to Israelis, Americans and Arabs, while hate-educating Palestinian youngsters and inciting Palestinians via the Abbas-controlled media and mosques.

The essence of taqiyya is reflected through the 628 C.E. Hudaybiyyah Treaty, which is pivotal in contemporary Islam, since it was concluded by Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam. It stipulates that truce with the "infidel" is a temporary, noncommittal tactical step, enabling Muslims to gather sufficient force to overwhelm the enemy and achieve the strategic goal -- subordinating the Abode of the Infidel to the Abode of Islam.

According to Raymond Ibrahim, a researcher of Islam, "The practice of taqiyya is mainstream Islam. … Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era. … War against the infidel is a perpetual affair until, in the words of the Quran, all chaos ceases, and all religions belong to God. … Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs… A struggle continues until the realm of Islam subsumes the non-Islamic world. … Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. … Deception directed at non-Muslims falls within the legal category of things that are permissible for Muslims. … According to Shariah -- the body of legal rulings that defines how a Muslim should behave in all circumstances -- deception is not only permitted in certain situations but may be deemed obligatory in others."

The imploding Arab street has demonstrated the destructive power of taqiyya -- Arabs dissimulating and violently violating commitments made with one another, reaffirming the illusive nature of intra-Arab agreements in the Middle East. Intra-Arab agreements have been signed in ice, not in stone. Can one really expect agreements concluded with the "infidel" Western democracies and Jewish state to be less illusive?

Yoram Ettinger


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Egypt: Sinai Unrest Spiraling out of Control

by Mohamed Abdu Hassanein

Army spokesman says terrorist attacks seek to undermine Egyptian national unit
Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi are seen through an Islamist flag as they chant slogans during a rally near the University of Cairo, Giza, Egypt, Friday, July 5, 2013.

Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi are seen through an Islamist flag as they chant slogans during a rally near the University of Cairo, in Giza, Egypt, on Friday, July 5, 2013.

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The security situation in the Sinai Peninsula has deteriorated even further following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, with a series of terrorist attacks being carried out by suspected Islamist militants. 

Egyptian army spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali stressed that “terrorists have escalated their planned operations against the police and armed forces in the Sinai over the last few days. Their aim is to spread chaos and undermine Egyptian national security.”

Unknown gunmen in northern Sinai attempted to assassinate the commander of the Second Field Army, Gen. Ahmed Wasfy, late Wednesday. A bystander was killed in an exchange of fire between the gunmen and the convoy guarding the senior military official. One of the assailants was reportedly captured, while the others escaped. Wasfy was not hurt in the clashes.

While Egyptian security officials reported on Friday that suspected Islamist militants attacked a police checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula, killing one officer. The attack happened south of the city of El-Arish, and saw militants reportedly firing a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at an armored car at the checkpoint, killing a 40-year-old Lieutenant Colonel. The attack also wounded a policeman who was taken to hospital and is reported to be in critical condition. 

An Egyptian Central Security Forces (CSF) soldier was killed on Thursday, reportedly by smugglers. A security source in North Sinai revealed that the soldier was killed after smugglers shot him when he attempted to stop them south of the Rafah land crossing and Karm Abu Salem crossing.

Elsewhere, an Egyptian border guard and five soldiers were injured when a jeep they were riding in overturned while they were chasing a group of armed militants in central Sinai.

Egyptian authorities abruptly shut down the Rafah border crossing—the only border crossing not controlled by Israel—on July 5 in response to the intensification of unrest on the Sinai Peninsula following Mursi’s ouster. Egypt reopened the border crossing on Wednesday, July 10. 

The Sinai Peninsula, near Egypt’s border with Israel, has suffered from a lack of security since the January 25 revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Criminal elements and others have sought to take advantage of the security vacuum on the strategically important peninsula to attack police stations and security convoys, and to escalate smuggling operations. Unrest on the Sinai Peninsula only intensified following Mursi’s ouster. 

As soon as the military announced the Islamist president’s ouster and the transitional roadmap, Islamists took to the streets across the Sinai Peninsula to protest the “coup.” Armed Islamists also appeared on the scene to guard the protesters, some of whom were reportedly waving the black flags of the Tawhid wal Jihad group, which claims to be an Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood condemned the assassination attempt targeting Egypt’s Sinai military commander and rejected all acts of terrorism. In a statement released Thursday, the group said that the Muslim Brotherhood “does not depart from its principles, especially peaceful principles. This is not a matter of politics or activism, but is based on the principles of religion and legitimacy.” 

The statement called for “the continuation of peaceful resistance against the bloody military coup” on the grounds of “constitutional legitimacy,” in reference to the ousted president Mohamed Mursi. “We are confident that the peaceful will of the people will prevail over force, oppression and injustice, attempts to obscure the facts, lies and fabrications, and military dictatorship,” the statement added. 

Hussein Ibrahim, the general secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party—the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood—stressed that “The [Freedom and Justice] party strongly and categorically rejects any use of violence to express the rejection of the military coup.”

“Our peaceful resistance of the military coup . . . will be victorious in restoring freedom,” Ibrahim added.

Mohamed Abdu Hassanein


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The State Department Under-Estimates Iranian Threat in the Western Hemisphere

by Luis Fleischman and Nancy Menges

 Last year a bill titled “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act” sponsored by Congressman Jeff Duncan was passed into law. This law mandated that the State Department issue a yearly report on Iran’s influence and activities in all of North, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. As a result, on June 27 the State Department released their report to Congress on Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

 The State Department released an unclassified summary of policy recommendations, but it assessed that “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.” According to the report, the main reason this occurred is that international sanctions against Iran “have limited the economic relationship between the Western Hemisphere and Iran.”

The report cites the fact that the Treasury Department designated the Venezuelan Banco Internacional de Desarrollo as an entity targeted for sanctions as well as the state-owned oil company PDVSA. PDVSA was sanctioned for sending petroleum products to Iran. Likewise, sanctions were imposed on the Venezuelan Military Industry Company.

 The report also points out that agreements between Iran and Western Hemisphere countries went unfulfilled.

 The report also stresses that the United States has used diplomacy to work with regional allies to help isolate Iran.  They have cited as successes the fact that Brazil, Chile and Mexico voted for a UN Human Rights Commission Special Rapporteur for Iran and that Canada, Colombia, Panama and Mexico voted in support of a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly condemning Iranian involvement in the plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.

The report states that the U.S. will continue to build a robust coalition of Latin American governments to focus on Iran’s human rights records and will continue to share information about Iran’s missile and WMD programs with relevant Western Hemisphere countries

 The State Department’s analysis presents a number of problems that are important to note.
For one, it is not clear how international sanctions have affected relations between Iran and Latin America.

Iran’s trade with Latin America tripled between 2005 and 2008. Such an increase was not only with the ALBA countries, namely Venezuela’s allies, but mainly also with Brazil and Argentina. According to Iranian sources, Iran had exported around $43.7 billion worth of non-oil goods and imported some 61.8 billion worth of goods in 2011, thus reaching $105 billion in annual trade.

 Furthermore, we have seen countries such as Uruguay sending a legislative delegation to Iran and its president stressing the idea that relations with Iran are good for the country. Moreover, the foreign minister of Uruguay is a former ambassador to Iran and a strong advocate of Iran-Uruguayan relations.

 Argentina, whose own government once accused Iran of having been involved in the 1994 terrorist attack against the Jewish headquarters in Buenos Aires (AMIA), has signed an agreement with the Iranian government to include Iran in the investigation of the case. Argentina’s government initiative is very absurd as it expects the perpetrators to indict themselves. It is clearly not an attempt to solve the case but an attempt to normalize relations with Iran.

Along the same vein, the conservative president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera met with the Iranian ambassador and pledged further relations with the Iranian government.

 Brazil, under the government of Luis Inazio Lula Da Silva, attempted, along with Turkey, to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis by offering a deal to the Iranians that exempted them from key responsibilities and avoided placing any practical limits on Iran’s nuclear program.

 Even when the SD declared diplomatic victories (such as Canada, Colombia, Panama and Mexico’s support for a UN resolution condemning the Iranian involvement in the plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.,) the simple question to ask is where were Brazil, Chile, Peru and the majority of the countries of the region? Perhaps what the State Department calls a success is only marginal and very limited in scope.

It is not clear how sanctions isolated Iran in the Western Hemisphere.

 The State Department report seems to focus on imminent dangers rather than long -term dangers.

If the State Department claims that Iran does not constitute an immediate and impending danger to the United States, they have not provided sufficient arguments to prove this claim.

In the long run, the Iranian threat should be seen as the result of an alliance between two revolutions that are hostile to the United States. Both revolutions, the Islamic and the Bolivarian aim at eliminating American influence from the region and from the world.

In the context of a revolution that seeks to become a nuclear power, we need to think that Venezuela could become a strategic partner for Iran. In other words, if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it is possible that Venezuelan soil could be used to post nuclear missiles or that Iran’s alliances in Latin America could provide Iran with a strategic card that can turn into a threat to the United States. Similar in manner to the way the Cuban posting of Soviet nuclear missiles on its soil almost led to a major confrontation between the two superpowers in the early 1960’s.

Another dimension deserving of consideration is Hezbollah’s increased presence in various Latin American countries. For example, Venezuela and Ecuador have eased visa and citizenship requirements, making it easier for Islamists to become citizens of their countries.

 What is more, Venezuela openly cooperates with Iran’s terrorist activities. The case of Ghazi Nasr El Din, a former business liaison at the Venezuelan embassy in Damascus is a case in point. El Din is Lebanese but acquired Venezuelan citizenship in 2002. He helped Hezbollah raise money and repeatedly met with Hezbollah officials in Lebanon in order to facilitate the travel of its operatives to and from Venezuela.

Hezbollah continues to recruit individuals in Latin America by reaching out to local Muslims and Arabs in the region. Training camps run by Hezbollah have been reported by several sources. The dangerous alliance between two revolutions hostile to the United States should not be ignored.

 The claim made by the SD report, that most agreements between Iran with ALBA countries have not been implemented, should not be a source of relief. The reason is that the non-implementation of agreements may indicate that perhaps these agreements were mere facades for another type of cooperation, even more dangerous. Roger Noriega and his associates have denounced the presence of bicycle and other “civilian” factories as possible facades for more dangerous activities carried out by Hezbollah. There have also been reports of uranium extraction in Venezuela aimed at furthering Iran’s nuclear program.

 By the same token, Hezbollah has clear connections with drug cartels and is involved in criminal activities that mainly involve drug trafficking. Hezbollah and the drug cartels help each other as drug cartels have strategic knowledge and access to the United States. The attempt by a member of the gang-cartel “Zetas” to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in October 2011 proves the danger of such a connection. Hezbollah at the same time has used its expertise to help the drug cartels build tunnels that enabled them to transport drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border.

The question is whether the U.S. security, military and diplomatic establishment is working to counter these potential threats to our national security. Have we made the Iranian presence a priority in our interaction with countries of the region; or are we tolerating everything that is occurring in Latin America just because we are avoiding an open confrontation with these countries because we want to vindicate ourselves from past “sins” or because we expect nothing from most of them? Do countries in the region really view Iran with the same concern as we do? If not, what are we doing to persuade them?

 Congressman Jeff Duncan, who introduced the “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act” pointed out that the SD did not consult with our allies in the region before they wrote the report. The question is why the SD did not do this. The answer is probably that those countries do not want to talk about the issue and we do not want to raise it. As long as the left dominates key countries in the region, the United States appears to be hesitant to voice its concerns and backs away from discussing issues of national security. For countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, Iran is an ally. For other countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, a policy on Iran has a symbolic meaning. It has become a symbol of independence from U.S. dictates. This, in itself, is a challenge for the U.S. that is not clear if the State Department report has taken it into account.

 A more complete and accurate report would have taken into account the long-term consequences of the Iranian presence in Latin America, and particularly the troubling relationship between the Islamic and Bolivarian revolutions. Given all the factors mentioned above, the danger needs to be considered as a gradual advance of the Iranian presence and needs to be tied to the degree for radicalization of the Bolivarian revolution, a factor that is not considered at all in the report. At the same time, the diplomatic activity necessary to persuade Latin American countries of the dangers posed by Iran and seek their cooperation is far higher than the one currently conducted. The United States has lost leverage and influence in the region. With the exception of Colombia, Mexico and a few others, most countries in Latin America are likely to ignore the U.S., unless the U.S. shows more determination in demanding cooperation.

Luis Fleischman is the author of the book, “Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Security Threat to the United States.” 
Nancy Menges is the co-editor of the Americas Report.

Luis Fleischman and Nancy Menges


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IPT EXCLUSIVE: Pro-Morsi Rally in D.C. A Grand Deception

by Frank Spano

A rally outside the White House Friday offered a clear example of the Muslim Brotherhood's "Grand Deception" in action in America. To a casual observer, it appeared that a few dozen people came out to support ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Protesters shouted his name and spoke passionately about democracy and how they think it was violated in Cairo.

Signs like "We love Morsi" and "Egyptian Americans Support Democracy" made it seem Morsi was a beloved and unifying figure. In Egypt, opposition to his rule triggered massive street demonstrations considered among the largest in history.

Nobody at the White House rally mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi emerged a year ago to become president. No one referred to Morsi's attempts to monopolize power for the Brotherhood via edicts and appointments – moves that fueled widespread discontent and drove millions of protesters to the streets of Egypt.

But an examination of the rally's organizers and speakers shows deep connections to the Brotherhood, an 80-year-old religious and political movement that seeks to establish a global Islamic Caliphate governed by Shari'ah, or Islamic law. Its motto: "Allah is our goal, the Quran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle [jihad] is our way, and death in the service of God is the loftiest of our wishes."

The July 5 rally was organized by the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center of Falls Church, Va. mosque that has been home to some notable Islamic extremists. Law enforcement records obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism in 2010 show it has served as "a front for Hamas operatives in U.S.," and "has been linked to numerous individuals linked to terrorism financing."

It was home to the late American-born terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki before he left the United States.

9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour attended the mosque, as well as Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan.

Dar al-Hijrah also has a long history of supporting both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. One of the mosque's founders and former imams, Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Adam el-Sheikh, also founded the Brotherhood-related Muslim American Society (MAS) along with former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef. (Reports claim that Akef was among the Muslim Brotherhood leaders arrested during the July 4 roundup.)

MAS and Dar al-Hijrah have shared several leaders. For example, former MAS President Esam Omeish served on the mosque's board of directors. Omeish had to resign from a Virginia immigration board in 2007 after he was seen on videotape praising Palestinians who chose "the jihad way" to liberation. And Imam Shaker Elsayed is a former MAS secretary-general. In a 2004 profile of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, Elsayed praised Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna, saying that his ideas are "the closest reflection of how Islam should be in this life." Earlier this year, Elsayed told an Ethiopian group that Muslim men should be "the first in jihad line."

At the White House rally, the former director of the MAS political arm, Mahdi Bray, spoke first amid chants of "Democracy!" and "[in Arabic] Wake up Al-Sisi, Morsi is President!"

"We will join our voices, we will join them together, we will join them together as Muslims, Christians, Jews, secular, wherever there are people, wherever people care about democracy and justice, we'll raise our voices together," Bray said.

Bray has repeatedly defended alleged terrorists and, during a previous rally near the White House, proudly raised his hands in support of both Hamas and Hizballah.

Joining Bray at the pro-Morsi rally was Mauri Saalakhan, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist who has defended former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and blames Israel and its supporters for a host of global problems. Like Bray, his message seemed benign.

"We don't want to see more bloodshed in Egypt," Saalakhan said. "We don't want to see more hardship in the way of how we are viewed in this country and around the world as a result of our wrongheaded policies in that part of the world."

What Saalakhan left out was that he views Hamas as a "resistance organization – whose armed resistance is legitimized by clearly established international law!" He previously appeared on Iranian television to say that Nidal Hasan's shooting massacre at Fort Hood was "not an act of terrorism, it was an act of war on the soldiers of a military installation."

Given the organizers' connections and the speakers' histories, the July 5 rally appears to be more about rallying to defend the Muslim Brotherhood than about any high-minded rhetoric about democracy. Islamists must believe they can't persuade Americans with a direct appeal, so they continue with their Grand Deception and hope no one will notice.

Frank Spano serves as the Director of National Security Policy for The Investigative Project on Terrorism.


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