Saturday, August 5, 2017

Indoctrinating America's youth against Israel - Richard Baehr

by Richard Baehr

The pattern of indoctrination and ‎pressure to adopt narratives hostile to Israel are now common in high school, if not ‎even earlier.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East ‎Reporting in America has published a new monograph: "Indoctrinating Our ‎Youth," a case study of the bias in the high school curriculum in one U.S. city ‎when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and teaching about Islam.‎

The booklet is of interest because it helps explains a dramatic shift in the attitudes ‎toward Israel among younger Americans.‎

According to a study by the Brand Israel Group, in just six years, support for Israel ‎has dropped from 73% to 54% among U.S. college students. The drop-off in support among Jewish college ‎students has been particularly steep -- from 84% to 57%. It is no great secret that the environment for pro-‎Israel students on many if not most college campuses has become quite hostile. ‎The movement to create an intersectionality of interests among various purveyors ‎of identity politics -- the LGBT community, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims, among others -- ‎now seems to have adopted anti-Zionism among its key tenets. The exclusion of ‎Jewish women in Chicago from various rallies because they carried rainbow flags ‎with the Star of David is typical of the increasingly fierce attempts to banish ‎anything remotely connected to Israel from the movements on the Left.‎

Elements of the organized Jewish community have been working to fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement ‎on college campuses and to support, train and educate pro-Israel activists. It is ‎clearly difficult for pro-Israel students to isolate themselves from accepted ‎‎"wisdom" or belief among their peers and push back with an alternative ‎viewpoint. 

But the CAMERA study reveals that the problem begins earlier than ‎college. The pattern of indoctrination and ‎pressure to adopt narratives hostile to Israel are now common in high school, if not ‎even earlier. 

In a typically comprehensive, carefully footnoted ‎study, CAMERA staffers took the time to evaluate all the materials used in teaching ‎about Israel, as well as the Islamic faith, in the two high schools in Newton, ‎Massachusetts, an affluent, heavily Jewish suburb of Boston. In some cases, ‎materials had to be obtained through Freedom of Information requests. School ‎administrators did what they could to impede efforts by local ‎parents and a few local groups who pushed back after learning about the heavily ‎slanted curriculum. Promises were made about changes in the class ‎materials that proved to be false. The school system seemed committed to ‎advancing a point of view, if not just circling the wagons when challenged. ‎

One has to ask how this happened, and why. Newton, of course, is part of the ‎Boston metropolitan area, which is densely populated with colleges and ‎universities, including some of the most elite institutions in the country, if not the ‎world. Not surprisingly, given the current orientation toward Israel on campus, ‎the Newton school system relied on materials from the Outreach Center at ‎Harvard University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and invited a BDS ‎supporter from the center, Paul Beran, to conduct teacher training activities to ‎help develop the curriculum in the Newton high schools. The center also ‎mainstreamed a textbook, "The Arab World Studies Notebook," by ‎Audrey Park Shabbas, as a resource for teachers and students. This notebook ‎was described as "replete with factual errors, inaccuracies and misrepresentations" ‎in a study by the American Jewish Committee after parents in Anchorage, Alaska, ‎complained about the book's bias against Israel back in 2004. ‎

The AJC found the book to be riddled with "overt bias and unabashed ‎propagandizing," such as depicting Israel as the aggressor in every Arab-‎Israeli war, and praising Muslim conquerors throughout the ages for their ‎‎"gentle treatment of civilian populations."‎

The CAMERA analysis makes clear that the high schools presented a picture ‎of the Arab-Israeli conflict in which Arabs had no agency, but were always victims ‎of displacement and occupation. The Palestinian Arabs were shown as the ‎indigenous people, dating back to the Canaanites, and the Jews the modern ‎interlopers as a result of the Zionist movement and then European guilt over the ‎Holocaust, leading to the 1947 partition resolution at the United Nations. Palestine Liberation Organization heads Yassar Arafat ‎and Mahmoud Abbas were depicted as leaders who have always sought peace but were stymied by Israeli intransigence ‎and reluctance to share the land. The dispute was always about land, not ‎religion. ‎
Discussion of terrorism as a political tool is almost entirely absent from the ‎materials, and when mentioned, it is explained away as a ‎product of frustration that the plight of the Palestinians was being ignored by the ‎world. 

The teachings about Islam naturally soft-pedal the violent history during the Prophet Muhammad's time, the meaning of jihad, and the growing strength of radical and ‎violent movements within the religion in recent decades. The real threat today is ‎always virulent Islamophobia. ‎

In Newton, there was significant pushback against the school system, though some ‎major Jewish institutions seemed fearful of rocking the boat. But in the time ‎between the complaints by the Anchorage parents and the brouhaha in Newton, a ‎large number of school systems have adopted the textbook, and similarly biased ‎supplemental readings, maps and films, as their blueprint for teaching about the ‎conflict and the region. Thousands of high school history teachers have been ‎introduced and trained in presenting the materials. Other than Anchorage and ‎Newton, there are few instances where parents objected in other locales. Tulsa, ‎Oklahoma, is one of these. ‎

The author of the "Arab World Studies Notebook" has bragged about its wide ‎distribution and influence. ‎According to a Jewish News Service report, "Shabbas has claimed that the Notebook has been distributed to more than ‎‎10,000 teachers, and 'if each notebook teaches 250 students a year over 10 ‎years, then you've reached 25 million students.'‎"

JNS quotes Curriculum Watch's Dr. ‎Sandra Alfonsi as saying that "the most important statistic is the number of workshops that Shabbas has ‎given to instruct teachers in how to use the book. She has conducted hundreds of such three-day ‎teacher-training sessions." 

Further, JNS reports, "Shabbas' website names 211 schools where she ‎ran teacher workshops from 2000-2006. Other years are not listed."

In essence, an entire generation of high school students has been exposed ‎to this propaganda, with virtually no alternative views offered, nor any ‎critical analysis of the bias in the textbook. ‎

CAMERA's monograph is an important first step in providing such a critical ‎commentary on the textbook and other materials that are now in wide use. ‎Hopefully, both parents and the organized Jewish community will show ‎more sustained interest in battling this insidious corruption of the ‎curriculum, which has but one goal: to create a new generation of ‎Americans far less favorably disposed toward Israel.

Richard Baehr is the co-founder and chief political correspondent for the American Thinker and a fellow at the Jewish Policy Center.


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McMaster’s NSC Coup Against Trump Purges Critics of Islam and Obama - Daniel Greenfield

by Daniel Greenfield

The National Security Council is becoming a national security threat.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.

Derek Harvey was a man who saw things coming. He had warned of Al Qaeda when most chose to ignore it. He had seen the Sunni insurgency rising when most chose to deny it.

The former Army colonel had made his reputation by learning the lay of the land. In Iraq that meant sleeping on mud floors and digging into documents to figure out where the threat was coming from.

It was hard to imagine anyone better qualified to serve as President Trump’s top Middle East adviser at the National Security Council than a man who had been on the ground in Iraq and who had seen it all.

Just like in Iraq, Harvey began digging at the NSC. He came up with a list of Obama holdovers who were leaking to the press. McMaster, the new head of the NSC, refused to fire any of them.

McMaster had a different list of people he wanted to fire. It was easy to make the list. Harvey was on it.

All you had to do was name Islamic terrorism as the problem and oppose the Iran Deal. If you came in with Flynn, you would be out. If you were loyal to Trump, your days were numbered.

And if you warned about Obama holdovers undermining the new administration, you were a target.

One of McMaster’s first acts at the NSC was to ban any mention of “Obama holdovers.” Not only did the McMaster coup purge Harvey, who had assembled the holdover list, but his biggest target was Ezra Watnick-Cohen, who had exposed the eavesdropping on Trump officials by Obama personnel.

Ezra Watnick-Cohen had provided proof of the Obama surveillance to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. McMaster, however, was desperately working to fire him and replace him with Linda Weissgold. McMaster’s choice to replace Watnick-Cohen was the woman who helped draft the Benghazi talking points which blamed the Islamic terrorist attack on a video protest.

After protests by Bannon and Kushner, President Trump overruled McMaster. Watnick-Cohen stayed. For a while. Now Ezra Watnick-Cohen has been fired anyway.

According to the media, Watnick-Cohen was guilty of “anti-Muslim fervor” and “hardline views.” And there’s no room for anyone telling the truth about Islamic terrorism at McMaster’s NSC.

McMaster had even demanded that President Trump refrain from telling the truth about Islamic terrorism.

Another of his targets was Rich Higgins, who had written a memo warning of the role of the left in undermining counterterrorism. Higgins had served as a director for strategic planning at the NSC. He had warned in plain language about the threat of Islamic terrorism, of Sharia law, of the Hijrah colonization by Islamic migrants, of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of its alliance with the left as strategic threats.

Higgins had stood by Trump during the Khizr Khan attacks. And he had written a memo warning that "the left is aligned with Islamist organizations at local, national, and international levels" and that “they operate in social media, television, the 24-hour news cycle in all media and are entrenched at the upper levels of the bureaucracies.”

Like Harvey and Ezra Watnick-Cohen, Higgins had warned of an enemy within. And paid the price.

McMaster’s cronies had allegedly used the NSC’s email system to track down the source of the memo. The left and its useful idiots were indeed entrenched at the upper level of the bureaucracy.

Higgins was fired.

Like Harvey and Watnick-Cohen, Higgins had also become too dangerous to the Obama holdovers. Harvey had assembled a list of names and a plan to dismantle the Iranian nuclear deal. Watnick-Cohen had dug into the Obama surveillance of Trump officials. And Higgins had sought to declassify Presidential Study Directive 11. PSD-11 was the secret blueprint of Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Pete Hoekstra, the former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, linked PSD-11 to the rise of ISIS and called for its declassification.

Replacing Harvey is Michael Bell. When the Washington Post needed someone to badmouth Dr. Gorka, they turned to Bell: the former chancellor of the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University.  Bell suggested that Dr. Gorka was an uneven scholar. And Dr. Gorka was accused of failing to incorporate other perspectives on Islam.

The pattern has never been hard to spot.

McMaster forced out K.T. McFarland from her role as Deputy National Security Advisor. Slotted in was Dina Habib-Powell.

McFarland was an Oxford and Cambridge grad who had worked at the Pentagon for the Reagan administration. Dina Habib-Powell had no national security background. She was an Egyptian-American immigrant and former Bush gatekeeper whose pals included Huma Abedin and Valerie Jarrett.

Powell, who has been described as the Republican Huma, said that Abedin “feels a deep responsibility to encourage more mutual understanding between her beliefs and culture and American culture.”

When visiting Egypt, Habib-Powell had assured the locals of how Bush, after September 11, “visited a mosque, took off his shoes and paid his respects.” "I see the president talk of Islam as a religion of peace, I see him host an iftar every year,” she gushed.

K.T. McFarland had written that “Global Islamist jihad is at war with all of Western civilization.”

It’s not hard to see why McMaster pushed out McFarland and elevated Habib-Powell.

Habib-Powell had attended the Iftar dinner with members of Muslim Brotherhood front groups. You can see her photographed at the American Task Force of Palestine gala. The ATFP was originally Rashid Khalidi’s American Committee on Jerusalem. She was there as a presenter at the Middle East Institute after a speech by Hanan Ashrawi. Her achievements under Bush included cultural exchanges with Iran, as well as cash for the Palestinian Authority and for Lebanon after the Hezbollah war with Israel.

While President Trump fights to restrict Muslim immigration, at his side is the woman who had once bragged on CNN, “Over 90% of student visas are now issued in under a week, and that is in the Middle East.”

But that is typical of the McMaster revamp of the NSC. It’s populated by swamp creatures who oppose the positions that President Trump ran on. And who are doing everything possible to undermine them.

President Trump promised a reset from Obama’s anti-Israel policies. McMaster picked Kris Bauman as the NSC’s point man on Israel. Bauman had defended Islamic terrorists and blamed Israel for the violence. He had urged pressure on Israel as the solution. Ideas like that fit in at McMaster’s NSC.

Meanwhile Derek Harvey, who had tried to halt Obama’s $221 million terror funding prize to the Palestinian Authority, was forced out.

This too is part of the pattern. As Caroline Glick has pointed out, the personnel being purged in the McMaster coup “are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal.”

When Adam Lovinger urged that “more attention be given to the threat of Iran and Islamic extremism,” his security clearance was revoked.  Robin Townley was forced out in the same way.

Meanwhile, McMaster sent a letter to Susan Rice, Obama’s former National Security Adviser, assuring her that the NSC would work with her to “allow you access to classified information.” He claimed that Rice's continued access to classified information is "consistent with the national security interests of the United States."

Why does Susan Rice, who is alleged to have participated in the Obama eavesdropping on Trump people, need access to classified information? What national security purpose is served by it?

The same national security purpose that is served by McMaster’s purge of anyone at the NSC who dares to name Islamic terrorism, who wants a tougher stance on Iran, and who asks tough questions.

And the purge of reformers and original thinkers is only beginning.

The latest reports say that McMaster has a list of enemies who will be ousted from the NSC. And when that is done, the NSC will be a purely Obama-Bush operation. The consensus will be that the Iran Deal must stay, that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism, that we need to find ways to work with the aspirations of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that Israel must make concessions to terrorists.

If you loved the foreign policy that brought us 9/11, ISIS, and billions in funding to terrorists from Syria to Libya to the West Bank, you won’t be able to get enough of McMaster’s brand new NSC.

And neither will America’s enemies.

The swamp is overflowing. The National Security Council is becoming a national security threat.

President Bush was a good man. And he meant well. But he was surrounded by officials who lied to him. They filled his administration with appeasers and paraded Islamists through the Oval Office. And by the time they were done, thousands more Americans had died and Islamists had developed an even bigger foothold on American soil than they had before September 11. This cannot be allowed to happen again.

If you love America, if you believe that Islamic terrorism needs to be fought, not appeased, then it’s time to take a stand against the McMaster coup and his Obama holdover allies, for our security and future.

It’s not just about a bunch of names. It’s about the survival of America.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.


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Colossus of Corruption: Ben Rhodes Unmasked - Daniel John Sobieski

by Daniel John Sobieski

[Ben Rhodes] has tentacles deep into the media and knows how to manipulate it and use it as a disinformation tool. And even though he has gone from power, he has left behind moles that continue his dirty work.

Somehow it does not surprise that former Obama Deputy Security Adviser Ben Rhodes is now a “person of interest” in the probe of who illegally leaked for political purposes the names of Team Trump players allegedly collected inadvertently in intelligence reports. He joins others on Team Obama such as Susan Rice and Samantha Power in the unmasking designed to subvert the Trump administration in what amounts to a silent coup. As Fox News Politics reports:
Ben Rhodes, the longtime aide to former President Barack Obama who once bragged he didn’t “know anymore where I begin and Obama ends,” is the new focus of a House probe examining whether Obama staffers improperly requested the identities of American citizens during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Ben Rodes, 2013, cropped from White House photo

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes wrote to National Security Agency head Adm. Michael Rogers on Aug. 1 requesting “the total number of unmasking requests made by” Rhodes in the 13 months preceding President Trump’s inauguration….
An Obama foreign policy speechwriter who became an adviser and later emerged as the key force behind creating a self-proclaimed Iran nuke deal “echo chamber” to push the controversial agreement across the finish line, Rhodes freely boasted about his success spinning information to reporters in a controversial New York Times Magazine article.
He was also known for his access to the former president. Dubbed “Obama’s foreign policy whisperer” by The Washington Post, Rhodes is the newest ex-Obama team member to have his name emerge in the slow-developing unmasking investigation.
The “Obama whisperer” has quite a track record. Rhodes was up to his eyeballs in the Benghazi corruption, helping to cover up the Obama administration’s criminal negligence that got four Americans killed and helping to craft the video lie that was repeated to the parents of the dead in front of their son’s caskets by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

That was no accident, but a calculated part of the Obama administration’s disinformation campaign to protect President Obama’s reelection chances and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chances to be Obama’s successor in the White House. As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized:
Newly obtained emails on Benghazi show then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was coached by a key White House aide to lie and ignore the facts known and reported on the ground to make the administration look good.
The fish rots from the head, as the saying goes, and no further proof is needed than a Sept. 14, 2012, email from Ben Rhodes, an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, contained in more than 100 pages of documents released by Judicial Watch and obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.
That email, with the subject line: "RE: PREP Call with Susan: Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET," was sent to other key White House staffers such as then-Communications Director David Plouffe and Press Secretary Jay Carney the day before now-National Security Adviser Susan Rice made her whirlwind tour on five Sunday news show appearances to specifically and emphatically blame an Internet video for the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other nationals were killed.
One of the goals listed in the emails was the need for Rice "to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy." She was also to "reinforce the President and Administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges." Her job was not to tell the truth, but to put lipstick on the Obama administration's Benghazi pig.
Now we see both Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes involved together in another scandal. During the Benghazi cover-up, it helped for Ben Rhodes to have a brother, David Rhodes, who was President of CBS News.
When you're Ben Rhodes, an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and you've been tasked to prep U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on how to deflect blame from the Obama administration for the Benghazi massacre, it's good to have a brother who happens to run a TV network quite willing to push the White House spin.
David Rhodes was the boss of Sharyl Attkisson, the CBS reporter who left the network after it became well nigh impossible to continue the same dogged reporting on Benghazi as she had done on the Fast and Furious administration gun-running operation and get the truth beyond the CBS firewall.
On Monday's "Fox & Friends" program, Attkisson said she believes a concerted effort is under way to divert investigations into the deadly Benghazi attack, an effort that's being orchestrated by people close to the White House. Could she have meant Ben Rhodes and his CBS News president brother David?
If he had worked for Richard Nixon, Ben Rhodes would have been the consummate “plumber” He has tentacles deep into the media and knows how to manipulate it and use it as a disinformation tool. And even though he has gone from power, he has left behind moles that continue his dirty work.

While it does not surprise that Ben Rhodes may be involved in the unmasking scandal, it does surprise that H.R. McMaster has retained all of Ben Rhodes’ staffers as the question of who is leaking classified information for political purpose remains. That under covered story was brought up by retired U.S. Army Col. Tony Schaffer on Lou Dobbs show on Fox Business:
Ben Rhodes and Barack Obama’s staff are still in the National Security Council. H.R. McMaster has not fired any of them. Instead he fired the man who agrees with Trump’s agenda, Col. Harvey.
McMaster doesn’t see it as a problem.
“There’s no such thing as a holdover,” H.R. McMaster said back in July, referring to the career professionals who stayed on the council after the presidential transition. McMaster added that career staffers are loyal to the president.
Lt. Col. Schaffer reacted on Fox Business.
“One of the things I heard today was H. R. McMaster has not fired a number of people who worked for Obama. In fact those who worked for some of the staffers, Ben Rhodes for example, well Ben Rhodes has got his staff is still there. It’s like having a rattlesnake next to your bed and thinking somehow if you’re just nice enough to the snake it’s going to be nice. It’s not like that.”
In a Facebook post, Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, in a has also noticed McMaster’s keeping of Ben Rhodes staff members while purging Trump loyalists:
McMaster disagrees and actively undermines Trump's agenda on just about every salient issue on his agenda. He fires all of Trump's loyalists and replaces them with Trump's opponents, like Kris Bauman, an Israel hater and Hamas supporter who McMaster hired to work on the Israel-Palestinian desk. He allows anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Iran Obama people like Robert Malley to walk around the NSC and tell people what to do and think. He has left Ben (reporters know nothing about foreign policy and I lied to sell them the Iran deal) Rhodes' and Valerie Jarrett's people in place.
The colossus of Rhodes' corruption and lingering influence must be dealt with. His people remaining in the Trump administration must be fired if not investigated, prosecuted, and incarcerated. His people are undoubtedly among the criminal leakers and part of Obama’s fifth column within the Trump administration.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.


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The failure of liberalism - Dr. Mordechai Kedar

by Dr. Mordechai Kedar

The liberal mindset has taken over the thought processes of large sectors of Israeli society, just as it has taken over the thought processes of Western society as a whole. And it leads to disaster.

It is an undeniable fact that the Israeli government caved in to the religious tenacity of the Muslim side in the Temple Mount dispute. It took less than two weeks of violence to force Israel to admit to the error made by its Cabinet and all the experts with whom it consulted about probable Islamic reactions to placing security apparatus at the entrance to the Temple Mount and the gates of the Old City. There is no question that Israel's backtracking was humiliating and that it granted a significant victory to Israel-haters.

Desperate to end the violence, Israeli public relations sources publicized a document showing similar security measures in Mecca and Medina, where not a single Muslim complains or protests at the Saudi checkpoints. They seem to have hoped that the Muslims here would agree to have Jews inspect them the way pilgrims on the Haaj to Mecca allow the Saudis to inspect them. The government and its public relations people's basic error lay in thinking that a magnetometer in Jerusalem is the same as one in Mecca, ignoring two fundamental differences.

1. The Saudis are Muslim and the Israelis are Jews, "sons of  apes  and pigs" according to the Quran, "murderers of prophets" and the "objects of Alllah's wrath," while their religion is a false creed - meaning that there is no way they can be allowed to inspect Muslims, whose religion is the only true one. 

 2. The Islamic world recognizes the Saudi Monarchy's hegemony over Mecca and Medina, but there is not even a shred of acceptance of Jewish hegemony over the Temple Mount.

The government's failure stems from something more insidious than simple misjudgement, its source is the liberal mindset that has taken over the thought processes of large sectors of  Israeli society – rightist and leftist – just as it has taken over the thought processes of Western society as a whole.

This inherently secular liberal mindset claims that religion has no part to play in the modern world, and that if it does seem to be playing a part, we – that is, the liberal and secular West – must push it to the sidelines, along with its representatives and institutions, laws and customs, and its role in any aspects of life in the Middle East. Liberal circles refuse to recognize the role of religion in our region; the violence is explained by tangible factors such as persecution, occupation, poverty and unemployment  

A liberal is incapable, and possibly unwilling, to understand that there are people on the globe whose world of ideas differs from his. That is why liberals comfort themselves with the words MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said when denigrating my opinions: "Everyone wants more happiness and less suffering."  Everyone, according to Gilon, includes Muslims and religious Jews,. He refuses to accept the fact that for believers, religious commandments are more important than their personal and collective happiness, that they are willing to suffer while performing Heavenly commandments, convinced that it is His will. Adding to happiness and reducing suffering are on the bottom of their wish list.

Every time I am interviewed by the media, I try to convince listeners that the basis of the conflict between our neighbors and ourselves is a religious one; because the Islamic religion sees Judaism as a false religion, meaning that the Jews have to be dependent on Muslim mercies and cannot be masters of themselves. The religious theme does have a nationalist element – our neighbors do not accept the definition of the Jews as a people but see them as discrete communities belonging to whatever country they are in, those countries to which the Jews presently in Palestine must return.   

Our territory, the Land of Israel, is actually "Falestin," the property of Islam since the 7th century Islamic Conquest, and as is well known, every country has an entrance ticket to Islam, but no way to exit it. That explains why the conquest of "Falestin" by the people of  a false religion – who are not really a people anyway – cannot possibly be accepted by those loyal to Islam..

When I appear in the media and try to describe the delegitimizing of Israel through Islamic eyes, I get a standard response from every interviewer: "Don't change the national, territorial conflict into a religious one!!" Me? Is it me who is changing the conflict to a religious one? The problem is that the mostly liberal secular interviewers are at a loss when faced with religious arguments because they have neither the cognitive nor the psychological tools needed to deal with religious issues, especially those that cause suffering, and do not even agree to hear a description of the present conflict's religious elements.

One of the people who is constantly "warning" the Israeli public not to allow the situation to "degenerate into a religious conflict" is Tzipi Livni. This warning has become a mantra Livni repeats every time she is handed a microphone. I would expect a respected and talented lawyer who once filled key positions in the Israeli government to be somewhat more familiar with the materials used to build the barriers of hate with which our enemies have encircled us, let alone realize the dominance of the religious element in their decision-making processes. 

But Tzipi Livni is in good company, because I estimate that most self-defined liberal or secular Israelis suffer from the identical problem – an intellectual and psychological inability to enter the mind of a true man of faith, someone whose life – and in the case of Islam, also his death - is geared to doing what he believes is expected of him by He who sits on high.

Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Alon Liel and many other liberals believed that the Oslo Accords would trump Muslim hatred of the Jewish State, and that Arafat, whom they considered "secular," would deal with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two Islamist religious terror organizations, without the interference of the courts and human rights NGOs. "Without Bagatz and without B'Tselem" were Rabin's oft-repeated words during the heady days of Oslo 1993. They actually believed that Arafat himself was liberal, secular, progressive and modern – just like them – because, after all, he uttered lovely words of peace and even smiled at them.

This liberal disability is not limited to Israelis, it is to be found all over Europe and the United States. A good many Western states simply refuse to believe that Muslims – some of them, at least – immigrate to the West in order to Islamize it, no matter if it takes tens or hundreds of years to do so. This unpleasant truth about Islamic migration appears in a good many books, pamphlets, articles, sermons, interviews and is openly written on signs at demonstrations, so that  the Western liberal does not have  to expend much effort in searching for proof. But why confuse his liberal theories with unpleasant facts that do not mesh with them?

A liberal  believes in free speech, free expression of opinions and a free press. The Islamic world's reaction to a set of caricatures criticizing Islam that appeared in Denmark;s Jyllands-Posten  was a violent explosion that took the lives  of nearly 200 people. The liberalism of France's Charlie Hebdo publication cost many of its editors their lives, and the liberalism of whoever produced The Innocence of Muslims caused a great wave of protests in the entire Muslim world.  No matter, liberals continue to believe that their ideology will bring an end to all the world's ills, even if at first it infuriates the Muslims, pushing them towards radicalism and ensuing destruction, murder and terror. 

Liberalism freed western man from the constraints of family and marriage. Fewer and fewer men and women maintain traditional marriages in the West, resulting in a drastic reduction in the birth rate and leading the way, within several generations, to the relegation of Europe's nations to the status of museum exhibits – but why should that interest a liberal whose main worry is where and in whose company he is going  to enjoy himself this very evening? 

The conclusion is clear. When liberals run a world which is, for the most part, still attached to tradition and religions, Islamic in the main,  the unavoidable result is a long chain of disasters and disastrous mistakes that will lead the world to the edge of a bottomless abyss. The Western countries, with Israel at their head, must rouse themselves from their liberal dreams to face the reality of a world where religion is the main actor, even if this contradicts the liberal values upon which generations of philosophers, scientists, jurors and politicians were raised and educated.

The sooner we awaken, the faster we learn how the religious mind works and the more rapidly we internalize the reality surrounding us, the more successful our efforts to deal with it will be.

Translated from the Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Senior Consultant to Arutz Sheva's English site, Op-ed and Judaism editor.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.


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The Foreign Press Association's Unlimited Bias - Bassam Tawil

by Bassam Tawil

Are the journalists saying that Israelis have no right to safeguard their own lives?

  • The truth is that in nearly most Arab and Muslim countries, there is no such thing as a "Foreign Press Association." That is because Arab and Islamic dictatorships do not allow such organizations to operate in their countries.
  • The second question that comes to mind in light of the Foreign Press Association's opposition to Israel's security measures is: What exactly are the foreign journalists demanding from Israel? That Israeli authorities allow them to run around freely while Palestinian rioters are hurling stones and firebombs at police officers? Are the journalists saying that Israelis have no right to safeguard their own lives?
  • Outrageously, the FPA is nearly stone-deaf when it comes to wrongdoing by Palestinians. Where is the outcry of the organization when a Palestinian journalist is arrested or assaulted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Where is the outcry over PA President Mahmoud Abbas's recent decision to block more than 20 news websites?
The Foreign Press Association (FPA), an organization representing hundreds of foreign journalists who work for various media outlets in Israel, is upset. What seems to be the problem? In their view, recent Israeli security measures in Jerusalem are preventing reporters from doing their jobs. The FPA's position, expressed in at least two statements during the past three weeks, came in response to Israeli security measures enforced in the city after Muslim terrorists murdered two police officers at the Temple Mount on July 14. 

Earlier this week, the FPA, which has often served as a platform for airing anti-Israeli sentiments, went farther by filing a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice challenging the actions and behavior of the Israeli security forces toward journalists during Palestinian riots in protest against the installation of metal detectors and cameras at the entrances to the Temple Mount. The petition demanded that the Israeli security forces stop restricting journalists' entry to the Temple Mount compound. It also complained of verbal and physical abuse against journalists by the police.

The FPA protest should come as no surprise to those familiar with the anti-Israel agenda of its leadership. This organization has a long record of black-and-white thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and somehow, the Israelis always come out in the wrong.

While the FPA is teeming with self-proclaimed "open-minded" journalists, their minds seem closed to facts surrounding Palestinian violence. Funny how enlightened folks -- generally ready to side with the underdog -- become suspiciously overcome by intellectual darkness when the underdog might be an Israel trying to manage Palestinian terror in the most humane manner possible.

Surprise or no surprise, the latest FPA onslaught against Israel serves as a reminder that many of the foreign journalists have no shame in advancing an anti-Israel agenda.

The journalists so distraught over Israel's recent security measures are the very ones who refuse to enter Syria out of fear of being beheaded by ISIS. These are the journalists who have stopped traveling to Iraq, fearing for their lives. Many of these journalists, particularly the women among them, will not report in Egypt, lest they be raped, let alone targeted by a terror group.

These journalists, when they travel to most Arab and Islamic countries, are assigned government "minders" who accompany them, openly and covertly, 24/7. They will wait in vain to receive a visa to enter Iran or Saudi Arabia -- or be made to wait and beg for months before receiving it.

What does one do, then, when one's journalistic options in the Middle East are constrained by a rather realistic fear for one's life? One stays where one feels safe -- in Israel.

It is no secret that Middle East correspondents prefer their residences and bureaus in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv than in Ramallah, Amman, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran and Riyadh. In Israel, no matter what they write today, they will live to write again tomorrow.

Unlike with most of the Arab and Islamic countries, most journalists do not need advance permission to visit Israel. Any journalist -- or, more accurately, anyone even claiming to be a journalist -- can disembark at Ben Gurion Airport and start reporting.

How is this relevant?

The FPA's stance on the recent Israeli security measures in Jerusalem, which came in response to the murder of two police officers and violent Arab riots, reeks of hypocrisy and a severe misrepresentation of reality.

The first question that comes to mind in this regard: Would foreign journalists based in an Arab or Islamic country dare to go to the High Court of the land to challenge security measures and restrictions by the authorities there? The truth is that in nearly most of those countries, there is no such thing as a "Foreign Press Association." That is because Arab and Islamic dictatorships do not allow such organizations to operate in their countries.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel, which has often served as a platform for airing anti-Israeli sentiments, this week filed a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice (pictured) challenging the actions and behavior of Israeli security forces toward journalists during Palestinian riots. (Image source: Almog/Wikimedia Commons)

The second question that comes to mind in light of the FPA's opposition to Israel's security measures is: What exactly are the foreign journalists demanding from Israel? That Israeli authorities allow them to run around freely while Palestinian rioters are hurling stones and firebombs at police officers? Are the journalists saying that Israelis have no right to safeguard their own lives? Or that people should allow themselves to be injured by stones and firebombs? Some have indeed by injured during the Palestinian riots.

The third question that begs an answer is: How was it that during the recent riots, the number of journalists covering the events often surpassed the number of rioters? This was the case many times in the Old City of Jerusalem, particularly at the Lion's Gate, where you would find two journalists for each Palestinian rioter.

Where did all these foreign -- and Palestinian -- journalists come from? Someone must have given them access to the scenes of the clashes between the rioters and security forces. The "someone" is Israeli authorities, who saw no reason to stop the reporters from doing their jobs.

The hypocrisy of the journalists reaches new heights when they are injured as they are covering the riots. You cannot go to the swimming pool and later complain that you do not know how you got wet. A journalist who stands in the line of fire is knowingly putting his or her life at risk.

You cannot stand among the rioters and then complain that you got hit by a rubber bullet or tear gas canister fired by a policeman. What do you expect the policeman to do? Not to defend himself because there is a journalist in the crowd?

Outrageously, the FPA is nearly stone-deaf when it comes to wrongdoing by Palestinians. Where is the outcry of the organization when a Palestinian journalist is arrested or assaulted by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Where is the outcry over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's recent decision to block more than 20 news websites?

But perhaps such fair-minded reporting would demand too much of the FPA's time: were it to follow assaults on public freedoms and the freedom of the media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it would have to issue a statement of condemnation every two hours. Hardly a day passes without a Palestinian journalist or blogger or Facebook user being detained or beaten up for expressing his or her views.

The FPA and its members are well aware that Israel has been and remains a paradise for the foreign media in the Middle East. They also know that, unlike many of its Arab and Islamic neighbors, Israel does not have a policy of targeting journalists. If there were such a policy, most of the foreign journalists would not be in Israel in the first place.

Their rhetorical attacks on Israel are not only a sign of hypocrisy, but should also be seen as a policy of appeasement to Arabs and Muslims -- a ticket that gives you access to the Arab and Islamic countries. The more you prove that you are against Israel, the better are your chances of getting a visa to enter Iran or Saudi Arabia.

It is time for the FPA to change its name to the FHA -- the Foreign Hypocrites Association. At least in that one respect, then, it would be living up to its name.

Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.


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

Dispute Over Takfir Rocks Islamic State - R. Green

by R. Green

Takfir is a key issue, since, in Islam, heresy is punishable by death. Hence takfir constitutes religious license to target and kill an individual.


Even as the Islamic State (ISIS) is involved in fierce battles in Iraq and Syria, its official organs, clerics and supporters are engaged in an intense internal dispute over issues of theology. There are indications that the top ISIS leadership has adopted a new and even stricter view on the issue of takfir – accusing fellow Muslims of heresy or unbelief – and that senior ISIS clerics, as well as many ISIS supporters, disapprove of this change. Takfir is a key issue, since, in Islam, heresy is punishable by death. Hence takfir constitutes religious license to target and kill an individual.

The shift was apparent in a memo published on May 17, 2017 by the organization's top executive council, the Delegated Committee, which redoubled ISIS's commitment to takfir. The memo asserted that takfir is a fundamental tenet of Islam, as important, or even more important than basic obligations such as prayer, and  adopted a radical position regarding the collective status of citizens of Muslim countries, casting doubt on whether they should be considered true Muslims.

The Delegated Committee also pulled textbooks on theology from training camps and religious institutes, apparently in order to correct them and tailor them to the new theological line. Furthermore, ISIS's official newspaper attacked a late Al-Qaeda leader who in the past was effusively praised by none other than ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi himself, which was seen by ISIS supporters as another example of the organization's new, tougher line.

The apparent change in the official ISIS position on takfir drew criticism from ISIS clerics, including from its top mufti. They slammed the Delegated Committee's memo, noting that the ISIS leadership was pandering to extremist elements within the organization and contradicting its previous views. ISIS's online supporters also joined the fray. Some echoed the clerics' criticism of the Delegated Committee's memo and its new stance on takfir, even suggesting that the committee, or the ISIS official media organs, have been infiltrated by extremists. Others vehemently rejected the criticism, noting that ISIS members and supporters were duty-bound to submit to the Delegated Committee and accept its views. They denied the claims of infiltration and suggested that the critics were traitors and infiltrators themselves. 

One likely catalyst for this shift is the constant challenge posed to ISIS by a small but strident camp of hardliners who consider its official ideology insufficiently radical. Some of these hardliners who left ISIS due to these disagreements have gone so far as to accuse its leadership, including even Al-Baghdadi, of heresy. ISIS purged itself of many members of this camp in the past, and recently there have been reports of a new wave of executions of extremists.[1] However, elements of the camp still exist within ISIS or in its orbit, and their views seem to have a degree of influence on the organization's leadership.  
This report reviews the current controversy within the movement on the issue of takfir.

ISIS fighters attending a lesson on religion

Background: ISIS And Takfir

The questions as to who is considered a Muslim and who ought to be excluded from the Islamic fold,  and under which conditions and circumstances, are critical questions for Salafi-jihadis in general and for ISIS in particular, and are dealt with extensively. They are fundamental questions for jihadis, since takfir is pivotal to identifying the enemies who must be fought and killed, and to justifying the aggression against them. 

The issue of takfir was one of the major points of contention in the conflict between Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Al-Qaeda holds the more moderate position, according to which takfir should be reserved for selected individuals, whereas ISIS leaders and ideologues apply it more freely, and do not hesitate to brand as heretical entire movements, communities or sects, such as the Shi'ites. That said, even ISIS has thus far eschewed the most extreme positions, such as making a blanket accusation of heresy against the citizens of Islamic countries. In its publications that outline the conditions for accusing others of heresy and unbelief, ISIS consistently insists that it takes the middle road between the position of the "extremists," who apply takfir excessively, and that of the "postponers" who fail to apply it straight away when it is justified.[2]

However, some jihadis and ISIS supporters consider this position too lax. A crucial point of controversy is the status of Muslims who are not themselves guilty of heresy but who refrain from denouncing others who are, on the grounds that their apparent heresy may stem from ignorance of Islam and may therefore be excusable. The mainstream ISIS position has been that such "refrainers" should not be targets of takfir, but the radicals within the movement contest this view. The ongoing friction created by these theological disputes turned them into a political problem that the leadership felt it had to address.

One Year Ago: ISIS Religious Oversight Organ Issues Statement In Attempt To End The Disputes Over Takfir

One attempt to quell the controversy was made more than a year ago, when the Central Office for Monitoring the Shari'a Bureaus issued a statement – Statement No. 155 from May 29, 2016 – by the director of ISIS's media wing Abu Muhammad Al-Furqan. The statement reaffirmed ISIS's commitment to the takfir of "polytheists" (i.e., to accusing them of heresy). However, it rejected the application of takfir to Muslims who are not themselves guilty of heresy but who refrain from making this accusation against people who are, since this would lead to an endless chain of takfir. The statement forbade ISIS members to engage in theological disputes that can lead to accusations of heresy against fellow members of the organization.

Ideological Dispute Reignited 

However, the Central Office's statement was not sufficient to end the ideological dispute within the organization. Therefore, the Delegated Committee – a higher authority, second only to the "Caliph" himself – stepped into the fray, apparently with Al-Baghdadi's blessing, and issued the memo that sparked the latest round of controversy.[3]

Al-Baghdadi's Letter To The Delegated Committee 

In late April, 2017, shortly before the issuing of the memo, Al-Baghdadi addressed a letter to the Delegated Committee in which he provided general guidance and exhorted the committee members to carry out their duties in good faith (for a full translation of the letter, see Appendix III). In the letter, which was distributed to all the ISIS provinces, Al-Baghdadi wrote to the Delegated Committee: "We have entrusted you with the great task and responsibility of establishing the religion and of protecting the Muslims and caring for them. In this you are deputies of the Caliph, each of you according to the position he was appointed to and entrusted with." [4]

ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

Some ISIS supporters see this letter as proof that Al-Baghdadi gave the Delegated Committee a carte blanche to revise ISIS's ideological positions. Clearly, whoever leaked it to the online forums of ISIS supporters did so with the intention of proving that any step by the Delegated Committee had been taken with Al-Baghdadi's approval and blessing.[5]

Delegated Committee Releases Memo Reflecting New Stance

On May 17, 2017, ISIS's Delegated Committee published the aforementioned memo setting out its new stance on takfir, titled "That Those Who Perish Would Perish upon Proof and Those Who Live Would Live upon Proof"[6] (for excerpts from the memo, see Appendix II). A condensed version of the memo was published in Arabic in ISIS's weekly Al-Naba and translations of this condensed version appeared in its Rumiyah magazine. The version in Al-Naba stressed that the document reflected the views of the ISIS leadership, calling it "an important memo from the Delegated Committee on behalf of the Commander of the Faithful [Al-Baghdadi]."[7]

The memo was meant to clarify once and for all ISIS's official stance on takfir. As Al-Naba put it, "The memo completes a series of memos and statements by the Delegated Committee and its Central Office for Monitoring the Shari'a Bureaus aimed at settling controversies over the Islamic State's creed and methodology."

As usual in ISIS statements, the document stressed that ISIS takes the middle road between leniency and extremism in the application of takfir. Nevertheless, certain parts of it appear to reflect a tightening of the position on takfir by making it a central pillar of ISIS's creed.

The Delegated Committee's memo on takfir

The seven-page memo, addressed to "All provinces, departments and authorities," outlines two camps that differ from ISIS in their view on takfir:
  1. The camp of "irja (postponement)" or "murjia" (those who postpone), whose members refrain from directing accusations of heresy at those whom ISIS deems guilty of it.
  2. The camp of "ghuluw" (extremism), whose members falsely accuse ISIS of laxity in the application of the shari'a, of espousing an unsound religious creed and of diffidence in pronouncing takfir.
The memo then denounces the "camp of postponement" in very explicit terms, stating: "Everyone knows that the Islamic State has not hesitated for a single day to acknowledge the heresy of polytheists, and that it regards this issue to be one of the clear principles of the religion, which must be known [to a Muslim even] before he knows [the rules of] prayer and other religious obligations that are necessarily known..."
Even more noteworthy is a passage in which ISIS clarifies its opinion on the citizens of Islamic countries, countering the charge made by the extremist stream that it views them as Muslims. The memo states this is a "lie" and "slander" against ISIS, implying that it views the Sunni citizens of Islamic countries as apostates or infidels, a very extreme position.

At the same time, a considerable part of the memo is dedicated to denouncing the extremist camp, especially ISIS members who left the organization because it did not live up to their religious standards, castigating them as deserters and as insubordinate.

Further Indications Of ISIS Leadership's Increasing Extremism

Another indication of the shift in ISIS's official stance on takfir was a directive issued by the Delegated Committee instructing religious officials to remove several textbooks that were used to teach basic theology to new ISIS recruits in the organization's training camps. The move is especially noteworthy as the books, published by ISIS's Department of Da'wa and Mosques or by its Office of Studies and Research, were used to teach thousands of fighters in the past years, and at least one of them is said to be by Abu 'Ali Al-Anbari, a former deputy of Al-Baghdadi and a fire-breathing ideologue himself, who was killed in 2016.[8]

Two of the books removed under the Delegated Committee's directive

Extremists burned copies of the banned books in celebration of the Delegated Committee's directive to remove them

A further indication appeared in an article in the organization's official weekly Al-Naba, the sixth installment in a series titled "Symbols or Idols?", dedicated to a polemic with ISIS's ideological rivals such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The article, which caused a stir among ISIS supporters, slammed the slain senior Al-Qaeda leader Atiyyatallah Al-Libi, calling him one of the "imams of misguidance and heads of fitna."[9] This, despite the fact that Al-Baghdadi previously praised him as "the scholar who practiced his knowledge, the jihad warrior... the man of knowledge and dignity."[10] This verbal attack on an Al-Qaeda leader in ISIS's official mouthpiece indicates that the organization is trying to distance itself from Al-Qaeda and highlight the ideological differences between the two organizations. Furthermore, it was meant to show that ISIS has no qualms about denouncing Al-Qaeda leaders as unbelievers, in accordance with the principle of takfir against the polytheists.

Atiyyatallah Al-Libi (left) alongside Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Bana, on the cover of the ISIS weekly Al-Naba

Top ISIS Clerics Denounce The Delegated Committee's Memo

The Delegated Committee's memo sparked controversy among ISIS followers and scholars. The most important criticism came from senior ISIS cleric Turki Al-Bin'ali, who was killed shortly after the publication of the memo[11] but not before he penned a letter to the Delegated Committee expressing his strong objection to it (for excerpts from the letter, see Appendix II). According to some, his letter reflected the opinion of ISIS's Fatwa Department. It should be mentioned that Al-Bin'ali provided the religious sanction for the purge of extremist ISIS members in the summer of 2014.

Turki Al-Bin'ali delivering a sermon in Raqqa, July 2015

The letter was apparently meant for the eyes of the Delegated Committee only, not for the general public. Since it is unsigned and bears no official logo, many ISIS supporters have questioned its authorship, but there are indications that it was indeed written by Al-Bin'ali. In the letter Al-Bin'ali complained that neither he nor other senior religious officials had been consulted about the new positions or shown a draft of the memo. He also expressed dismay over the fact that "extremists" were touting the memo as a victory and as vindication of their views.

However, his main reservation was that the memo espoused the radical view that takfir is "one of the clear principles of the religion." This phrase, he explained, contradicts the text of the Central Office's May 29, 2016  statement, which said that the takfir of some of the polytheists who regard themselves as Muslims is an issue that has "fallen into obscurity" (i.e., was clearly understood by Muslims in the past, but today is unclear to some of them). The latter language provides some leeway regarding Muslims who are not themselves guilty of heresy but who fail to brand others as such, implying that their reluctance may stem from an incomplete understanding of the laws of takfir and may thus be excusable. The position in the memo, on the other hand, obligates ISIS to apply takfir against all these Muslims, thus precipitating an endless chain of takfir, argues Al-Bin'ali.[12]

Another prominent ISIS scholar, Abu 'Abd Al-Barr Al-Salehi, did not mince words in criticizing the Delegated Committee's memo. In a letter he penned, [13] he called it a "disgrace" that a memo was published so full of "fallacies," "mistakes," and claims unsubstantiated by Sunni books of scholarship. He added that the memo contradicts itself, as well as previous statements of the Central Office with which the memo purports to concur. Furthermore, "this memo turns some leaders of jihad into unbelievers, and others into proponents of [forbidden] innovation, even some [prominent ISIS leaders] mentioned in the memo itself, such as Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi and Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani. The memo contradicts what was stipulated in the [Central Office's] statement that preceded it regarding takfir of the polytheists... The issuing of such a shallow and poorly-phrased memo, citing weak hadiths while disregarding reliable ones, bearing the seal of the committee delegated by the Imam [Al-Baghdadi] brings disgrace upon our State... in front of the [entire] Muslim nation..."

Al-Salehi paid a heavy price for his criticism: he was jailed by ISIS' internal security apparatus in Raqqa and was killed when an international coalition airstrike destroyed the building where he was held.

Abu 'Abd Al-Barr Al-Salehi in a 2015 ISIS video

Appendix I – Excerpts from Al-Baghdadi's Letter To The Delegated Committee 

Al-Baghdadi's letter to the Delegated Committee, dated April 22, 2017, was published along with an introductory letter by the committee itself, reading:

"To: all provinces, bureaus and departments.

"Re: a letter from the Commander of the Faithful, may Allah protect him...

"May Allah the Blessed and the Exalted protect you... Attached is a letter by the Commander of the Faithful, may Allah support him with His victory... "

Al-Baghdadi's letter reads:

"To the honorable brothers in the Delegated Committee and to those they are charged with supervising – the emirs of the departments and the regional governors, may Allah help them and direct their steps to the path of truth:

"May Allah have mercy upon you. Know that we have entrusted you with the great responsibility of establishing the religion and protecting and caring for the Muslims. In this you are deputies of the Caliph, each of you according to the position he was appointed to and entrusted with. Each of you is a guardian responsible for his subjects, and will stand in front of his Lord [on the Day of Resurrection] and will be asked what he sent forward, and what he left behind [i.e., he will be accountable for his conduct in this world].[14]

The Delegated Committee's letter introducing Al-Baghdadi’s letter (left) and Al-Baghdadi's letter to the Delegated Committee (right)

"Beware of oppression, for it [yields] a bad outcome. Establish justice and equity among people, let me not find one of you harming his subjects or governing them with violence, for [as is said in a hadith] 'the worst of shepherds [leaders] are the harsh ones.' The [Prophet Muhammad] warned and cautioned, saying 'Oh Allah, whoever leads my nation and treats them harshly – treat him harshly, and whoever leads my nation and treats them gently – be gentle with him.' It is appropriate for one who leads the Muslim [nation?] to comport himself with kindness, tenderness, clemency and moderation. Our Lord said [in Quran 3:159]: 'So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you.' And Allah's Messenger told Al-Ashaj bin 'Abd Al-Qais: 'You have two qualities that Allah loves: forbearance and patience.'

So guide, bring together, bring good tidings and do not put people off. We renounce before Allah any act of injustice which is covered up and not brought to us, and whose victims are not given [justice].

"[As is said in a hadith]: 'Beware the prayer of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allah. Forgive righteous people their transgressions.' Your brother Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi."

Appendix II – Excerpts From The Delegated Committee's Memo On Takfir 

The Delegated Committee's memo begins by stressing the centrality of the concept of monotheism (tawhid) in the Islamic faith: "Allah the Blessed and Exalted sent the Prophets and Messengers to call their peoples to [embrace] monotheism, reject the false gods of the earth, leave jahiliyya, and fight the leaders of unbelief until there is no more strife and religion is Allah's alone." It mentions the Prophet Muhammad and the first caliphs as ideal champions of monotheism, but says that after them, "monotheism declined, and its traces were nearly wiped out and its lights were almost extinguished... Despite this, the Prophet's promise that a fighting Sunni group would remain [loyal to] the truth was realized, as he said: 'This religion shall continue to exist. A group of Muslims will keep fighting for it until the Day of Resurrection.' This came [to be] when Allah permitted the emergence of the state founded by the scholars and leaders of the Najdi da'wa [the Wahhabi scholars of the first Saudi state], who fulfilled their obligation to Allah by fighting the idolatrous worship of graves.[15] They called people to Allah with insight, with their tongues and their spears. They published and compiled books, traveled through the land, and called for monotheism and jihad. Their state maintained this character for nearly 70 years...

"The Islamic State, may Allah glorify it with monotheism, was established along the same lines, having put forward tens of thousands of its sons to fight the idolatry of the constitution[16] embodied by the global order which converged upon it from the east to the west to fight it. Everyone knows that this State fights in order to apply shari'a law and uproot the inferior man-made law... Everyone knows that we acknowledge the heresy of the tawaghit [false gods, tyrants] who legislate and those who elect them... [17] 

"This is what the Islamic State has called for since its initial establishment by the sheikh Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi. It rejected the tawaghit of the land, their laws, their borders, their norms and their rituals. It waged war on polytheists of every kind: the rafidha [Shi'ites], secularists and democrats, after pronouncing them to be unbelievers and showing hostility to them. It also proclaimed to be infidels all those who defend them, and today it continues to fight for this cause, and is fought because of it..."

ISIS founder Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi

The document then presents statements by Al-Zarqawi, Al-Baghdadi and ISIS's former spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani in which they set out their views on takfir, and declares: "This is the Islamic State's methodology, may Allah glorify it with monotheism. As for statements that dilute the faith of al-wala' wal-bara' [loyalty to Muslims and renouncement of non-Muslims] and bury [the ideal of] millat Ibrahim[18] with the doubts of the people of irja and tajahum[19], or [alternatively] the claims of the extremists who have strayed from the religion as an arrow veers away from the bow – the [Islamic] State renounces these [statements and claims]. No one is authorized to speak in its name or attribute to it statements that it did not make. Its stance is what was said by its leader [Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi], may Allah glorify him with monotheism, and his delegates [the Delegated Committee] or its official spokesman. As for fabricating lies and making capricious statements, this is speaking without knowledge, which Allah forbade us to do..."

Elaborating on the two groups that ISIS denounces, the memo first addresses "the people of irja", i.e., the group which espouses over-lenient positions and which attributes these positions to ISIS: "The first type [of people we denounce] are those who attribute to the Islamic State stances of irja which contradict its [actual] methodology, or who claim that their own [lax] positions are the positions of the Islamic State... Among them are those who accept as Muslims [i.e., refrain from excommunicating] those people who refrain from proclaiming the taghout [false gods, tyrants] of their country to be infidels, and those who treat the takfir of [certain] polytheists as an obscure or controversial matter [rather than a clear-cut issue]. Even worse, these people claim this to be the Islamic State's [official] stance. This is a pure fabrication. Everyone knows that the Islamic State has not hesitated for a single day to acknowledge the heresy of polytheists, and that it regards this issue to be one of the clear principles of the religion, which must be known [to a Muslim even] before he knows [the rules of] prayer and other religious obligations that are necessarily known... [emphasis added]"
Moving on to the second group – the extremists – the memo says: "The second type [of people we denounce] are those who defame [ISIS] and even accuse it of heresy because they are influenced by the deviant innovations of the Khawarij [20] or the Mu'tazila.[21] Some of them, ignorant of the beliefs of the people of Sunna, condemn [ISIS simply] for espousing stances which are pure stances of the people of Sunna. Others attribute to ISIS stances it never adopted...  

"Among them are those who accuse [ISIS] of heresy because they claim it allows committing explicit [acts of] unbelief if this benefits the war [effort]. This is a lie. The explicit belief of the Islamic State on this matter is that it is forbidden to commit explicit [acts of] idolatry and unbelief, unless this is done under duress...;

"[Also among these people are] those who return to where they came from [i.e. leave ISIS territory] and renege on their oath of allegiance [bay'a]. They return to the lands of unbelief, citing the mistakes, shortcomings, negligence or oppression of [ISIS] commanders as an excuse. This is the very essence of [Khawarij-like] behavior... Did these deserters consider what they had come to when they sought a land ruled by the laws of unbelief instead of a land ruled by the laws of Islam and [chose to] live among the people of unbelief and immorality rather than among the people of religion and righteousness?...

"As for those who claim to be providing 'sincere advice' to the commanders in the form of slander, denunciation, lies and desertion, which please no one but the enemies – namely the infidels, the apostates and the hypocrites – the best that can be said of them is that they are acting in contradiction to the Quran, violating the Sunna, and shunning the path of the Salaf [the predecessors] with regard to providing sincere advice to the commanders...

"Do these agitators who purport to be reformers not know that obedience to the [rightful] authority in obeying Allah is one of the foundations of the Sunni community?... The boundaries of obedience are laid down by the shari'a, namely the obligation to obey and submit to the leader in [all] matters that are permitted,[22] whether one is strong or weary, in times of ease and in times of hardship... As long as the leader's commands are compatible with [Islam] he must be obeyed. [Even] if he commands something deplorable, he must be obeyed. [Even] if he commands something that people abhor – he must still be obeyed, since obedience applies whether people like [the command] or hate it...

"The people of Sunna are patient with their leaders, they provide them with sincere counsel and admonish them discreetly. They do not seek to incite the general public and the subjects against the leaders. They do not help the infidels against their state and leaders. It is a well-known [fact] that mentioning the shortcomings of the commanders and their mistakes in private or public meetings leads to nothing but bad outcomes..."

Appendix III – Excerpts From Turki Al-Bin'ali's Response To The Delegated Committee's Memo

ISIS mufti Turki Al-Bin'ali's letter to the Delegated Committee consisted of an introduction followed by 20 objections to the positions expressed in the memo. While it did not bear an official logo, the letter is said to reflect the opinion of ISIS's Center for Research and Studies, responsible for issuing papers on religious matters.[23]

In the introduction Al-Bin'ali presents his reasons for writing the letter, most of them pertaining to the religious duty of advising and counseling and fulfilling one's duty toward the martyrs. The fifth reason cites the need to refrain from playing into the hands of the extremists who criticize ISIS:

"[The Delegated Committee's memo on takfir] exacerbated matters. The extremists on the Internet celebrated it. Some of them delivered sermons from mosque pulpits, saying, 'Allah akbar! Truth has appeared and falsehood has departed. Today the Islamic State has repented and returned to the truth by saying that takfir is among the clear principles of religion.' Some extremists on the Internet said that 'this memo is a step forward. It compels Al-Baghdadi to renew his Islam and repent his heresy,' Allah forbid [such talk]. Those who follow the media of friends and foes alike will find that this memo gave a green light to defame the Islamic State, may Allah glorify it with monotheism. Dozens of brothers have informed us of this..."

Al-Bin'ali's letter to the Delegated Committee

The following are excerpts from some of Al-Bin'ali's 20 objections:
  • "Why was a memo of this kind issued in such haste?...
  • "Why wasn't the memo shown to scholars fully versed [in Islam] – which, praise Allah, are numerous? [For the sake of comparison,] Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Furqan, may Allah have mercy on him, issued his statement [the May 29, 2016 statement by the Central Office] only after conducting 19 meetings with dozens of scholars, and even this statement evokes criticism to this day... Moreover, we have been informed that the author of the memo did not even consult the members of the Doctrinal Committee – which was established to discuss such matters – such as Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Masri, may Allah grant him success.
  • "Is it conceivable that the Caliphate State's memos and statements should be reactions to pamphlets and audio messages circulated by the extremists? The basic principle is that such matters should be published in well-founded books, not in hasty memos that may contain mistakes and errors, especially if they are meant for distribution among all the soldiers...
  • "All the brothers I met recently noticed that the memo was [apparently] published out of fear of the extremists' recklessness... As evidence they pointed to the fact that this memo contradicted the statement of Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Furqan, may Allah accept him... This... is unlike what we have come to expect of our sheikhs and leaders since the establishment of the Islamic State, may Allah glorify it, [namely a stance that] does not fear the reproach of critics...
  • "Why [was a memo addressing] such sensitive matters published with the second most important seal in the Islamic State, inferior only to that of the Imam [Al-Baghdadi], may Allah glorify him?..." Al-Bin'ali goes on to explain that, if the memo had been issued by a lesser authority, such as the Doctrinal Committee, for example, correcting its errors would have been less problematic. He adds that the style of the memo, the legal argumentation and the way it proceeds from one thought to the next [all] indicate that it was prepared by Abu Zaid Al-Iraqi (this is apparently the kunya of a senior member of ISIS's leadership, whom Al-Bin'ali does not hold in high regard as a scholar).
  • "How can a weak, inadequate, hadith be used to prove such grave matters, without [presenting] any correct hadiths? [This is] especially [puzzling] given that this memo was issued by the [body directly] subordinate to the Imam [Al-Baghdadi, i.e. the Delegated Committee]." Al-Bin'ali goes on to discredit several hadiths mentioned in the Delegated Committee's memo.
  • "In memos and statements of this sort that address the most profound religious matters, it would have been possible to avoid many grammatical mistakes by showing them to competent scholars who would edit them, and [such scholars] are numerous, praise Allah...
  • "The following is the most important remark: How could the memo be issued with such an obvious contradiction? The memo contradicts what was firmly established in sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Furqan's statement [i.e., the Central Office's Statement No. 155, from May 29, 2016], in which he said that 'the claim that declaring the heresy [of those who refrain from excommunicating others] is a principle of religion involves an invalid interpretation [of the shari'a]...' Then along comes this memo and says explicitly that 'the Islamic State... regards the issue of proclaiming the heresy of polytheists to be one of the clear principles of the religion...' One can either speak of 'principles of religion' or of 'clear issues.' But [the memo] combined the two, producing a new position that contradicts the previous statement [by Al-Furqan] and goes farther than the position of the extremists themselves."

    Explaining the basic problem he identifies in the Delegated Committee's memo, Al-Bin'ali argues that regarding takfir as a clear principle of the religion leads to an endless chain of takfir: "A clear principle of religion is something that is known prior to the Prophetic proof [i.e., an elementary theological concept known to mankind even before and regardless of the revelation of holy scripture]. This means that [two sinners] – one who says that another god exists besides Allah and one who refrains [from takfir, i.e., from proclaiming the heresy of one who is guilty of it] – are on the same level. The implication of this is that a person who refrains [from takfir] has violated one of 'the clear principles of the religion,' and therefore he [himself] is a polytheist who cannot be excused on [the grounds of] ignorance or according to any interpretation. The same goes for a second person who refrains [from proclaiming takfir against the first person], since he too has violated one of the clear principles of religion, and the same goes for the third, fourth, and one-hundredth, until one is forced to proclaim takfir against oneself..."
To underscore his point, Al-Bin'ali says that the Delegated Committee's position would force ISIS members to proclaim even ISIS founder Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and his successors to be unbelievers, since they accepted as Muslims certain scholars who ISIS now regards as heretics. He adds: "We have not seen a single scholar of the Islamic State, may Allah glorify it with monotheism, either among those who died or among those who are still alive, who says that takfir is one of the clear principles of religion"...
  • "The author of the memo asserted that the Islamic State, may Allah glorify it with monotheism, does not believe that 'as a rule, people in a [country] that has recently become part of the Abode of Unbelief[24] [dar al-kur al-tari'] are considered Muslims,' and that attributing this position to ISIS is a lie and slander. This is a rash assertion, because whoever is familiar with the Islamic State's actions since its establishment knows that it targets only those whose heresy and unbelief have been proven." Al-Bin'ali quotes statements by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani which clearly indicate that they regarded the Sunnis of Syria and Iraq as Muslims.
  •  "The author of the memo... did not denounce the [above] assertion – that 'as a rule, people in a [country] that has recently become part of the Abode of Unbelief are considered unbelievers' – although [denouncing it] is necessary as a part of refuting the extremists' [claims]. One of the extremists' basic tenets is that [these people] are considered unbelievers. This is an invalid principle, as the mujahid sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani pointed out..."
Al-Bin'ali concluded his remarks:

"In sum, we have written these lines containing the most important remarks and comments, and we place them before the sheikhs of the Delegated Committee, may Allah grant them success, in hope that they consider them carefully and correct what they must correct... especially since the correctness and clarity of creed are among the most important prerequisites for victory...

"It is imperative to fix this great error, which we believe is a [mere] slip of the pen, Allah willing... especially considering that this error was published in the name of the Delegated Committee, and therefore thousands of Muslims worldwide might adopt it. The mistake of the scholar is the mistake of the whole world, as the saying goes. Remember that you will stand before Allah on the Day of Resurrection, when neither titles nor positions of power [have any meaning]."
[1], June 4, 2017.
[2] For a detailed discussion of ISIS's official position on takfir as it was spelled out in a 2015 pamphlet titled "These Are Our Creeds and Ways," see Ella Landau-Tasseron, "A Self-Profile Of The Islamic State: The Creedal Document," MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1253, June 2, 2016.
[3] The Delegated Committee is ISIS's top executive body, which assists the organization's leader in supervising its regional branches (or "provinces") as well as the departments (dawawin) and committees in charge of finances, recruitment, military procurement, etc. See: ISIS Video Sets Out Structure Of Caliphate State, July 5, 2017.
[4] It should be mentioned that two versions of the letter have been circulated by ISIS supporters online. One bears no legible date but is accompanied by a letter from the Delegated Committee dated April 22, 2017. The second bears Al-Baghdadi's seal and is dated May 1, 2017. In any case, the letter was circulated by the Delegated Committee several weeks before it issued its memo., May 6, 2017;, May 15, 2017;, May 16, 2017.
[5] Some ISIS supporters on Facebook claimed that Al-Baghdadi had been actively involved in drafting the memo and had personally approved it. 
[6] Quran 8:42.
[7] Al-Islamiyyah, May 19, 2017; Al-Naba  82, May 25, 2017, p. 15; Rumiyah 10, June 8, 2017, pp. 12-14.
[9] Al-Naba' 85, June 15, 2017, p. 12.
[10] See JTTM report In First Audio Message, Released Day Prior To Widespread Attacks Throughout Iraq, ISI Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Says ISI Is Alive And Well, Threatens U.S. And Shi'ites, July 24, 2012. It should be noted that, regardless of Al-Baghdadi's public statements, there was no love lost between ISIS and Al-Libi, who was a fierce critic of Al-Baghdadi's organization, as evident from internal Al-Qaeda correspondence uncovered by the US military. By denouncing him in Al-Naba, ISIS was not only signaling a certain shift in its ideology but also settling an old score.
[11] Al-Bin'ali was killed in an airstrike in Syria, near Al-Mayadeen, on May 31. See,, June 20, 2017.
[12] Al-Bin'ali's letter was circulated via Telegram channels and Twitter. See e.g.,, June 29, 2017.
[13] The letter is unsigned, but Abu 'Abd Al-Barr Al-Salehi's students have attributed it to him and to his teacher Abu Al-Nassar, both of them ISIS clerics of Kuwaiti origin. Ahbab, July 14, 2017.
[14] Based on Quran 75:13.
[15] Referring to the first Saudi state and the early Wahhabis' campaign against Sufism and the veneration of saints' tombs.
[16] Referring to modern regimes, which the jihadis consider antithetical to the Islamic faith. In Arabic the phrases "idolatry of graves" and "idolatry of the constitution" rhyme:  shirk al-qubour and shirk al-dustour.
[17] Taghout, pl. tawaghit: lit. false god, idol. In jihadi parlance this usually refers to rulers and administrations that do not apply shari'a law but rather "man-made" laws, which the jihadis consider an act of heresy.
[18] Millat Ibrahim – the religion of Abraham – in Salafi-jihadi discourse this refers to the obligation to renounce polytheism and disassociate from polytheists.
[19] Tajahum or jahmiyya – a pejorative applied by radical Salafis to the more moderate ones. The term refers to an early Islamic theologian, Jahm Ibn Safwan, who argued that no Muslim has the ability to judge the quality of another's faith, for only Allah can see what is in people's hearts.
[20] Khawarij/Kharijites – an early Islamic sect that advocated excommunicating Muslims even for minor sins and was proclaimed heretical by the mainstream Sunna. Today the term is used to brand Muslims groups as extremist, and is often applied to ISIS itself and to other Salafi-jihadi groups by their critics in the Muslim world.
[21] Mu'tazila – a school of Islamic philosophy and theology which was prominent during the 8th century. Following Hanbali scholars and Ibn Taymiyya, Salafis consider the Mu'tazila to be heretical, inter alia due to their belief that Muslims who are guilty of major sin are sentenced to hell for eternity, a position which Ibn Taymiyya considered to be very similar to that of the Kharijites.
[22] This refers to the Islamic principle that the rightful leader of the Muslims must be obeyed under all circumstances, unless obeying him involves committing clear acts of heresy.  
[23] For a discussion of Al-Bin'ali's letter, see:
[24] There is a debate among Salafi theologians as to whether residents of dar al-kufr al-tari' – i.e. countries that were originally subject to shari'a law (and were therefore considered part of the Abode of Islam) but are no longer subject to this law (and are therefore considered to be part of the Abode of Unbelief) – should be considered Muslims by default, or not.

R. Green


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