Friday, March 18, 2011

Al-Shabaab Plagued by Defeats, Desertion

by IPT News

Al-Shabaab's stranglehold over Somalia appears to have weakened in recent months, with the al-Qaida ally suffering an ugly string of military losses to Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force.

Last month, government and African Union forces recaptured the Somali Defense Ministry in Mogadishu from the jihadists, and last week they repelled a coordinated al-Shabaab effort to retake the building. The facility is now a base for Burundian members of AMISOM.

The New York Times reported that ANISOM forces "have spearheaded the fighting, deploying tanks, armored bulldozers and artillery to pound insurgent positions in Mogadishu." African Union forces wrested several city blocks from al-Shabaab, uncovering an extensive system of trenches and tunnels used by the jihadists to stage attacks in the capital.

Al-Shabaab has also suffered losses near the borders with Ethiopia and Kenya. Witnesses describe al-Shabaab fighters fleeing towns that came under siege from advancing Somali and Ethiopian troops. Last week, government-aligned militias drove al-Shabaab out of several villages in southern Somalia near the border with Kenya.

The State Department, which has been sharply critical of the TFG, acknowledges the new reality. "One can no longer say, derisively, that only six or seven city blocks are controlled by AMISOM forces. AMISOM now controls 60 to 70 percent of Mogadishu and continues to make serious and significant headway against Shabaab forces in the area," Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said Tuesday.

It remains to be seen whether Somali or African Union forces are capable of translating this success into a larger strategic victory over al-Shabaab. The TFG is hampered by corruption and internal division, and ANISOM's effectiveness is limited by rules of engagement that prevent it from carrying out a sustained counterinsurgency campaign against al-Shabaab, said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization. Without a change in strategy, recent battlefield successes by pro-government forces could prove to be "just a short-term victory," Gartenstein-Ross told the IPT.

What's clear is that in recent months, the TFG and AMICOM forces have won a number of victories, while al-Shabaab has lost territory and suffered a series of high-profile defections from its ranks.

On Monday, Somali government officials announced they had captured six al-Shabaab militants, all of them under the age of 18, after the group launched a series of hit-and-run attacks against Somali Army and TFG forces in Mogadishu.

A day earlier, Somali intelligence officials displayed to reporters a 16-year-old boy they said had deserted from al-Shabaab. Adam Abdiwali said he had been kidnapped from his home in September and was trained at an al-Shabaab military camp in southern Somalia.

"I have seen with my own eyes some of my companions being killed by al-Shabaab after they retreated from [the] frontlines because of the extreme bombardments from Somali forces and AMISOM," Abdiwali told reporters in Mogadishu. "They want you to fight until you die."

The youth said he had not contacted his parents for six months and that they had no idea whether he was dead or alive.

It was just the latest in a series of high-profile defections from al-Shabaab. Mohammad Ibrahim Suley, a Somali, said he became disillusioned after seeing commanders send child recruits to the front lines while they stayed out of harm's way. Suley, who spent five years with the group, said he left after a foreign jihadist fighter shot him in the back for stopping to help a wounded friend.

On Dec. 19, the TFG presented six deserters from the group to reporters in Mogadishu, according to a report by the Jamestown Foundation.

The six described how al-Shabaab orders its military commanders to kill fellow soldiers who are seriously wounded in combat and has a policy of killing members who defect if they have served with the group longer than six months. One defector said had been forced to execute his deputy, who had been wounded in combat, on orders from Omar Hammami - an American citizen and al-Shabaab commander also known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki.

Ayanie Abdi, a Nairobi businessman, described the slaying of his brother Muhammad Abdi, a 21-year-old al-Shabaab official. Abdi was shot to death in Mogadishu in November, just weeks after deserting the group. He was recruited to join al-Shabaab in 2007 to fight against Ethiopian forces who invaded Somalia in order to oust the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamist group which dominated Somalia in 2006-2007.

In a desperate effort to replace soldiers lost through combat and desertion, al-Shabaab has been urging Somali mothers to send their children for training at jihadist camps and to register with the group for recruitment purposes. Somali journalists report al-Shabaab has stepped up efforts to recruit and train female suicide bombers.

Although al-Shabaab is reeling from recent setbacks, veteran observers of events in Somalia caution that much more sustained military action will be necessary to defeat the group.

The Somali government and military will continue to require substantial foreign military support from African Union forces for some time to come, and the Ugandan and Burundian governments (which comprise the bulk of ANISOM force and have taken substantial casualties in fighting al-Shabaab) may come under domestic pressure to limit their involvement in Somalia, said Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal.

Analysts say the AU's effectiveness is hampered by rules of engagement that prevent it from carrying out a counterinsurgency campaign against al-Shabaab and by a lack of air support. The United States (which supplies the Somali military and plays a major role in funding ANISOM), could play a larger role in assisting the Somali military through expanded use of Special Forces against al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab remains "one of the most successful jihadist products going on in the world right now," Roggio told the IPT. The Somali government will continue to need substantial foreign support, "including a long-term commitment of foreign troops" to continue its recent progress against the group. Roggio believes that, for now, the best-case scenario may be a "stalemate" between the Somali government and al-Shabaab.

Gartenstein-Ross expressed concern that Washington lacks a coherent strategy toward Somalia and al-Shabaab. Pointing to attacks like this July 2010 suicide bombing that killed 74 people in Uganda, Gartenstein-Ross said it is "foolish and myopic" to dismiss the idea that al-Shabaab could eventually become a transnational terrorist threat capable of striking outside Africa.

"Al-Amriki made clear in 2007 that their religious ideology is the same as that of bin Laden and Zarqawi," he said. He added that is in the U.S. national interest to take action to prevent al-Shabaab from keeping Somalia "a training ground for terrorists."

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IPT News

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Israel vs. the “Axis of Terror”

by Arnold Ahlert

On Tuesday, the Israeli navy stopped and boarded the “Victoria,” a German owned, French-operated ship flying a Liberian flag that was sailing from Turkey to Syria. It was loaded with weapons the Israelis believe were headed to the Gaza Strip, which is currently controlled by Hamas terrorists. The stop occured in international waters and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took full responsibility for the interception, claiming he had a “solid basis” to believe the ship was transporting arms “destined for terrorist forces in the heart of Gaza.” Netanyahu’s assumption proved true, and countless civilian lives were undoubtedly saved because of it.

“Last night, I granted permission to take over a ship for which we had the basis to think that there were weapons on it destined for Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “The source of the weapons is Iran, which continues to try to arm terrorist forces against Israel. It is our right and duty to stop the smuggling of these weapons,” he added. Mr Netanyahu also pointed out that while the ship’s journey originated in Turkey, that country “was not tied to the incident in any way.”

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich speculated that this incident was tied to last month’s passage of two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal for the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The Victoria, which set sail from the Syrian port of Lattakai and then stopped in Mersin, Turkey, was bound for Alexandria, Egypt. From there the weapons were to be transported to Gaza by land. The Jerusalem Post notes that Lattakai was the same port visited last month by the two Iranian warships. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel had been tracking the ship for days, and that the goal of this smuggling attempt “was to harm Israel’s security” and that his country would continue to pursue any challenge to that security “determinedly, and everywhere, to defend the country.”

The Victoria was escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod where Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz went to inspect the arms cache. The cache was comprised of six C-704 anti-ship missiles made in Iran with Chinese components, two radar control systems manufactured by British company Kelvin Hughes, and thousands of mortar shells for which the design specification had been sold to Iran by Israeli company Soltam in the early 1970s, when the two countries were still allies. Officials put all of the armaments on public display Wednesday. ”To all those who questioned and attacked and criticized Israel for stopping Gaza-bound ships in order to check them, here is the answer,” Mr. Netanyahu said, standing before the cache.

The Prime Minister continued. ”Every day there are efforts by Iran, Syria and terrorist organizations to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “There is an axis of terror in our region, and we have to confront it if we want to prevent terrorism and create a chance for peace…The weaponry discovered onboard the Victoria prove why Israel needed to prevent ships from sailing freely into the Gaza Strip.”

Iran denied the accusations. ”The Zionist regime’s diet is mixed with lies, lies and more lies,” said Iranian Army Commander-General Amir Ataollah Salehi ”We deny all false reports. The Zionist regime is a usurper. There is an Islamic awakening throughout the Middle East and North Africa that sees the damage…there is no doubt that Israel is calculating its losses since the departure of the Egyptian Pharoah. God willing, they will sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea…next year the armed forces of the Islamic Republic will be stronger than ever.” Unfortunately, for the general there was a rather inconvenient piece of evidence revealed with respect to the anti-ship missiles: the missiles themselves were labeled in Farsi, along with the operation manuals explaining how to use them. Farsi is the most widespread language used in Iran.

Israelis believe Iran is testing their country’s resolve in the wake of the various uprisings that have engulfed the region. No doubt they are also seeking to increase their influence as well, following the fall of Israel’s most reliable ally, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Although the Egyptian army claims it intends to maintain the status quo with respect to that alliance, Egypt’s own stability remains in question. Just over a week ago, 13 people were killed and 140 injured in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christian Copts triggered by the burning of a Coptic church.

Saudi Arabia shares a similar concern about Iranian ambitions. They have moved troops into the country of Bahrain to help suppress that country’s anti-government protests, where a Shi’ite Muslim majority population is seeking to remove a government run largely by Sunni Muslims. And while there is no direct evidence of Iranian involvement in the uprisings, their state media was highly critical of the move, characterizing it as ”an invasion” of a country sometimes referred to by the Iranian government as their “14th province.”

Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom spelled out the concerns shared by both Saudi Arabia and Israel. “Iran is trying again to shake up the regimes in the Middle East and to replace the moderate regimes with those that are ideologically close to them,” he said at the Negev Conference in Eilat. ”[Iranians were trying to show who] is in control of the Middle East,” he added. Dan Schueftan, a political science professor at Haifa University and a former adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry went further. ”The Iranians are more confident now. The upheavals in the Arab world are very good for them,” he said. ”The Iranians are trying every way to arm the region, and except for Israel, nobody is trying to stop them. When Egypt is weakened, even if Egypt wants to help Israel, I don’t think there is anyone in Egypt who can do it.”

The ship was intercepted 200 miles off Israel’s Mediterranean coast where its captain gave Israeli commandos permission to board. There was no resistance from the crew, and the commandos were provided with a manifest documenting the cargo, one which claimed the ship was transporting cotton and lentils. Israeli military analyst Ron Ben Ishai expressed the importance of the seizure. ”Had this shipment gone through to Alexandria and then to one of the Palestinian organizations in Gaza, it would have given them the capability that does not exist today, that is, to hit the Israeli navy at a distance of 35 kilometers,” he said.

Israel has been under mounting international pressure to abandon its blockade of Gaza ever since their raid on a ship bound for that region last June resulted the death of nine Turkish activists. The Obama administration, which has yet to publicly comment on the current seizure, waffled with regard to Israel’s attempt to maintain a naval blockade of Gaza back then. “The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all parties to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary confrontations,” offered Mike Hammer, spokesman for White House National Security.

No doubt the Obama administration will be equally “even-handed” this time, despite the fact that the so-called “humanitarian” aspect of last June’s attempt to run the blockade was revealed for the unadulterated fraud it truly was. And that’s assuming our terminally distracted president bothers to make any comment at all. Three days after the incident, we still have no idea what Mr. Obama thinks about it. On the other hand, we do know who his Final Four picks are for the NCAA’s March Madness college basketball tournament–even as Muammar Qadaffi exterminates his opposition, Japan is facing an existential threat to its well-being, the Dow is in freefall, food prices have jumped the most since 1974, and housing starts have seen their biggest drop in 27 years. Sadly, the Israelis and their problems would appear to be at the back of a very long line. One for which the Obama administration demonstrates an appalling lack of urgency or prioritization on every item.

Both our allies and our enemies are now witnessing the much-ballyhooed antithesis of George W. Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy.” Our enemies, especially the Islamic thugs who yearn for Israel’s destruction by any means necessary, are undoubtedly the most delighted by this “evolution” in American foreign policy.

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Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website

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UK Authoritarianism: "Terrified of People Thinking for Themselves"

by A. Millar

"Huge numbers of Britons would support an anti-immigration English nationalist party if it were not associated with violence and fascist imagery," The Guardian reported last week.

In a certain sense, English nationalism has emerged in opposition to the "neo-imperialism" or "neo-colonialism" of a militant wing that refuses to allow minorities to be English, preferring to keep them "minorities" to be used as political pawns. However, the association of English nationalism with anti-Islamism causes the most alarm: in hoping that radical, anti-Western Muslims would prove useful in instigating revolution, the far-Left has long allied with Islamist organizations.

The UK actually does have such a party: the English Democrats. Founded in 1998 by former Conservative Party member, and its current chairman, Robin Tilbrook, it won its first mayoral election in 2009, with Peter Davies elected mayor for the city Doncaster. In line with The Guardian's assertions, Tilbrook also believes his party has reached a "critical mass," and is poised to make further electoral gains.

The sudden interest in, and concern about, the possible appeal of an English nationalist party was almost certainly provoked by a recent Daily Star front-cover story a few weeks ago, in which the tabloid claimed that the English Defence League, an increasingly visible anti-Islamist protest movement, was about to form itself into a political party.

The Daily Star's reporting caused a considerable stir in the media and blogosphere, not least of all as the EDL's leader was quoted as saying only that they were not ruling out becoming a political party – which may have been an off-the-cuff remark. Since then, one of the tabloid's reporters has quit, claiming that the Daily Star peddled anti-Muslim bias and "hatemongering."

The Guardian's report on the potential appeal of an English nationalist party was based on a recently published Populus poll, commissioned by the Searchlight Educational Trust (an "anti-fascist charity" founded to collect data on neo-Nazism). The newspaper claimed that the findings showed "huge support for [the] far right" – even though it was forced to concede that more Asian Britons (39%) than White Britons (34%) wanted immigration stopped, at least until the economy improved. A "new anti-immigration party committed to challenging Islamist extremism," as well a regulations requiring that public buildings fly the English or British flag, would be supported by 48%.

It seems an extraordinary claim, and a gross exaggeration, to suggest that nearly half of the British public is "far-Right." However, hysteria over the EDL, and English nationalism more broadly, is becoming common. When David Cameron spoke at the Munich Security Conference a few weeks ago, Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary, was one among many who pointed out that the EDL had demonstrated in Luton on the same day -- an inference that the Prime Minister had been pandering to the anti-Islamist movement, even though, in this instance, the timing was clearly coincidental. Yet, with the December Stockholm bomber only the latest Islamist terrorist to be traced back to the UK, how could Cameron have left the subject unmentioned, or not have promised to tackle the expanding Islamist movement in the UK?

Why does the idea of an English nationalist party provoke such hysteria?

Robin Tilbrook, observes "Englishness" is now "a more powerful brand than Britishness." He notes that although The Guardian attempted to connect the idea of "Englishness" to the "far-Right," "those who are racist have tended to talk about British nationalism. English nationalism has no history of being racist." Tilbrook believes that tackling Islamism, immigration, and other problems facing the country is "not even Right-wing." "These are things that people on the street are feeling more and more concerned about," he says.

The English Democrats chairman believes Britain is becoming "authoritarian," with citizens now running the risk of arrest for disagreeing with "state orthodoxy" – which has its roots in the militant Left, and evidently intends to use minorities to undermine Western traditions. Unsurprisingly, the English Democrats would like to see a return to "traditional civil liberties."

In contrast, many of those who portray Englishness as "racist" appear to be terrified of people thinking for themselves. Despite constant protestations that racism is growing, English nationalism seems to frighten the far-Left for the opposite reason -- precisely because it is bringing people of all backgrounds together under the banner of the nation and its traditional liberty.

The English nationalist inclusion of minorities shows up in different ways: The flag of the EDL, for example, often incorporates others flags or emblems, such as that of the Sikh religion, the rainbow flag of the LGBT community, and the Israeli flag. Although it has no association with the EDL, the English Democrats has also always been open to people regardless of race or ethnicity, or other personal preferences, and has had several Asian members run as candidates.

Although Tilbrook sees differences between American and English nationalism, he agrees that, "one area where America does provide some inspiration is the idea of national identity. Americans are seen to be very proud of being American, and that, obviously, is not about race." He also says that his party has "been looking with interest at the Tea Party movement. The Anglo-Saxon tradition – whether American or British – of small government, of letting people lead their own lives without too much interference from the state, is something that we certainly treasure."

Local pride also appears to be a feature of English nationalism. Different towns have created their own EDL "divisions," while, Tilbrook says, the English Democrats "would like to see people consider their own [local] community in how they would be represented in constitutional structures."

As a political notion, then, "Englishness" stands for both the modern (multiethnic, and so on) nation, as well as for the concerns of communities. As Tilbrook puts it, "'British' is the state, whereas 'English' is the idea of nation [the people]."

Notably, the English flag is also associated with sports: soccer, rugby and tennis – but mainly because Britain has national teams for England, as well as Scotland, and Wales. The phenomenon appears, then, to have one root in the soccer stadium: in the idea of the team, and being a team player. "I tend to think in terms of community," Tilbrook say, "but a team is a community, isn't it?"

The English Democrats chairman also connects English nationalism to sports, noting that when England won the soccer World Cup in 1966, the crowd waved British flags. Today, he says, you will only see the English flag being waved.

"You are likely to be talking to someone pretty elderly if they are talking about Britishness, rather than Englishness," he says. Sports are not the only reason. "It's partly because Britishness originally had to do with big power politics, and part of imperialism." The term "little Englander," used today to describe English people who are small-minded or xenophobic, derives from the Second Boer War, when it was used to designate those that stood against British imperialism and opposed the British Empire.

Nearly half the nation can be described as "far-Right" -- a number demonstrative of how Leftward Britain has shifted. English nationalism, although not a homogenous or unified movement, highlights that the tide is turning. Probably only the introduction of draconian laws -- making supporting it a crime for example -- could prevent it from growing. In the hysteria that is being whipped up, we might ultimately hear calls for more hate speech legislation, which has the immense disadvantage of preventing warnings – possibly urgent ones -- from being expressed loud and clear. Even this, however, would.

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A. Millar

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Debate Heats Up Over Muslims In France

by Soeren Kern

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has fired a Muslim advisor he recently hired to promote "diversity" after the appointee openly attacked the president's plan to hold a debate about Islam in France.

The dustup reflects growing Muslim resistance to Sarkozy's efforts to protect the secular nature of the French state from Islamic Sharia law, namely by calling for the estimated six million Muslims living in France to be better integrated into French society.

Abderrahmane Dahmane, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, was let go after he spoke out against a plan by Sarkozy's center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party to hold a debate on secularism and Islam. The debate, which has been scheduled for April 5, is on the compatibility of Islam with the rules of the secular French Republic.

Dahmane, who was appointed to his post only in January, said Muslim members of the UMP should not renew their party membership unless the debate is cancelled. He compared the situation of French Muslims to that of Jews during World War II and said the debate had been planned by a "handful of neo-Nazis." Dahmane also called UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope a "plague for Muslims." Cope has been a strong supporter of government policies that impose secular values in public institutions such as schools.

One of the UMP's leaders, Valerie Rosso Debord, said Dahmane had been removed from his post for "outrageous comments" about Cope and the UMP and for making "odious comparisons" between the debate and racism in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.

France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. But a growing number of French citizens say the Muslims, who mostly hail from former French colonies in North Africa, are not integrating into French society. In response, the government has been pursuing policies aimed at remedying the problem. These include a recent ban on wearing the full-face Islamic veil in public.

In 2010, the French government passed a law banning Muslim women from wearing face-covering veils, such as niqabs or burqas, in public. The law, which comes into effect on April 11, 2011, imposes a fine of €150 ($200) and/or a citizenship course as punishment for wearing a face-covering veil. Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa will be punishable by a year in prison or a €15,000 ($20,000) fine. The government says that forcing Muslim women to cover up is "a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil."

French people back the ban by a margin of more than four to one, according to a recent survey published by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project. Some 82% of people polled approved of a ban, while 17% disapproved.

Picking up on the growing unease over Muslim immigration, Sarkozy on February 10 denounced multiculturalism as a failure. He also said Muslims must assimilate into the French culture if they want to be welcomed in France.

Joining other European leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who recently have spoken out against multiculturalism, Sarkozy declared in a live-broadcast interview with French Channel One television: "I do not want a society where communities coexist side by side … France will not welcome people who do not agree to melt into a single community. We have been too busy with the identity of those who arrived and not enough with the identity of the country that accepted them." Sarkozy also said that he does not want Muslims to pray on the streets.

Sarkozy's comments come as his popularity is at record lows just thirteen months before the first round of the 2012 presidential election, and as a new opinion poll shows that growing frustration over Muslim immigration is contributing to the rise of the far-right National Front party in France. According to a survey published by Le Parisien newspaper on March 8, National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, 42, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in January, could win the first round of next year's presidential election.

The survey gives Le Pen 23%, two percentage points ahead of both Sarkozy and Socialist leader Martine Aubry. On the basis of this opinion poll, Le Pen would automatically qualify for the second round run-off with one or other of the two mainstream party leaders.

Le Pen, who appeals to middle class voters, is riding high on voter dissatisfaction with the failure of the mainstream parties to address Muslim immigration. Since taking her post three months ago, Le Pen has single-handedly catapulted the twin issues of Islam and French national identity to the top of the French political agenda.

On March 14, Le Pen visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, a 20-square-kilometer island that has traditionally been as a major gateway for illegal immigration into the European Union. She told undocumented immigrants on the island that they were not welcome in Europe.

"I have a lot of compassion for you, but Europe cannot welcome you. We do not have the financial means," Le Pen said. Almost 10,000 mainly Tunisian migrants have arrived on dozens of boats in Lampedusa since the revolt in Tunisia in January -- more than the total for all of 2010.

On March 2, the French minister for European affairs, Laurent Wauquiez, warned that up to 300,000 illegal immigrants could arrive in the European Union from North Africa during 2011. The influx of immigrants from Libya is a "real risk for Europe that must not be underestimated," he said.

Meanwhile, the French Constitutional Court on March 10 struck down key aspects of a new law designed to crack down on Muslim-related urban violence. The court ruled that thirteen articles from security legislation passed by the Sarkozy government in February violated the French constitution. One of the articles removed by the court called for recent immigrants who attack police officers to be stripped of French citizenship.

Over the past several years, France has been the scene of countless Muslim uprisings, usually accompanied by riots and car burnings. Large swaths of Muslim areas are now considered "no-go" zones by French police. At last count, there are 751 Sensitive Urban Zones (Zones Urbaines Sensibles, ZUS), as they are euphemistically called. A complete list of the ZUS can be found on a French government website, complete with satellite maps and precise street demarcations. An estimated 5 million Muslims live in the ZUS, parts of France over which the French state has lost control.

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Soeren Kern

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A Jewish-Muslim Alliance?

by Isi Leibler

The proposed public hearings by House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King on the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community's response have created a heated media debate on the role of Muslims in Western countries.

Besides the fact that a society discriminating against minorities almost invariably turns against Jews, the persecution and discrimination we suffered throughout history instinctively compels us to oppose all manifestations of discrimination and persecution.

However, that surely does not require us to defend groups who harbor hostility against us or seek to undermine open society.

This is very relevant in relation to the new global industry of Jewish alliances with Muslim groups purportedly opposing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. It is exemplified by the highly publicized US launch of a joint Jewish Muslim campaign to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism initiated by Rabbi Marc Schneier, head of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

His principal ally and sponsor in this venture is Russell Simmons, the Afro-American hip-hop mogul, who publicly expresses adoration for Louis Farrakhan, the viciously racist anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader.

In Brussels last December, in combination with the World Jewish Congress and the World Council for Muslim Interfaith Relations, Schneier expanded this body to include European representatives forming a Global Coordinating Committee to combat "Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism."

This organization has already issued problematic statements, condemning as "totally unacceptable" the absorption of "extremist" right-wing political parties into the mainstream without defining explicitly whom it was targeting. It also made no reference to the greater threats to Jews emanating from far Left and radical Islamist groups.

It also expressed disquiet concerning recent pronouncements of major European leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, conceding that the policy of multiculturalism has proven to be disastrous and failed to integrate some major migrant groups into an open democratic society.

It is surely bizarre for a body including Jews to condemn a long overdue criticism of radical Islam's abuse of multiculturalism, especially since European Jews bore the brunt of the violence generated by the anti-Semitic hostility of these groups.

IT ALSO ill behooves Jews confronted with the current tsunami of violent anti-Semitism to indiscriminately endorse campaigns condemning frequently exaggerated allegations of Islamophobia without referring to the fact that radical Muslims represent the prime dissemination of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement and violence.

We should call a spade a spade. The majority of vocal Muslims in Europe and to a lesser extent the US, regrettably do not display goodwill toward Jews. Many, who ritually condemn anti-Semitism, simultaneously demonize Israel and distinguish between "Jews" and "Zionists."

And alas, few are inclined or sufficiently courageous to publicly condemn the brutal behavior of Islamic states toward other minorities.

A critical prerequisite of an alliance with a Muslim group is surely that the organization expresses a clear-cut repudiation of the global anti- Semitic filth which pours out of Islamic countries.

And decency also demands that those demanding equal rights for Muslims in Western countries also condemn the persecution, murder, religious cleansing and denial of human rights that non-Muslim minorities endure in Islamic states.

For the World Jewish Congress (which did dissociate itself from Schneier's attacks on King's inquiry into the radicalization of the American Muslim community) to be party to such initiatives without demanding such commitments from its Muslim partner is a lamentable example of Jews being more concerned about their political correctness than acting to protect Jewish interests.

The majority of Muslims in Western countries, especially in America, are law-abiding. But that does not invalidate the reality that cries of Allah akbar accompany most terrorist attacks, many of which are directed against Jews.

IT IS thus deplorable to see Jews engaged in campaigns seeking to deny profiling of people undergoing security checks. The reality is that while Muslims only represent 1 percent of the American population, 80% of all terrorist convictions since 9/11 were motivated by Islamic extremism, and homegrown Muslim terrorists are emerging in greater numbers. The facts demonstrate beyond doubt that there are certain profiles that are more inclined to be associated with terrorist attacks. Refusing to implement profiling thus not only represents an appalling form of political correctness, but endangers innocent life and lacks any moral justification.

If even a handful of rabbis had encouraged second-generation Jewish immigrants in Western countries to initiate bombings and suicide attacks against non-Jews, the most vociferous demands for action against such deviants would be emanating from the Jewish community itself.

Yet, the perception is that while most Muslims distance themselves from the radicals, they are often reluctant or fearful of exposing them. Some purportedly "respectable" American Muslim organizations have actually urged their members not to collaborate with the FBI.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is the largest US Islamic umbrella organization and has access to high-level government officials. Yet the FBI had cause to expose its founders for having ties to a Muslim Brotherhood created Hamas network.

Last year a Justice Department official reaffirmed that no new evidence had emerged "that exonerates CAIR from the allegations that it provides financial support to designated terrorist groups".

And when Schneier provocatively proclaims, "Today, I am a Muslim, too," he should ask himself whether he and Jews in general should really be expressing solidarity with all Muslims, including the majority who reside in states which deny freedom of worship and persecute and murder infidels.

We are obliged to fervently oppose discrimination or persecution of law-abiding Muslims and collaborate with genuinely moderate Muslim leaders. But there is no justification for us to champion the rights and display love to those who seek to harm us or are indifferent to our destruction or refuse to expose and condemn extremism within their ranks. Failure to insist that such groups take a stand on "sensitive" issues will not only alienate our genuine friends, it will also strengthen extremist Muslims who despise, but happily exploit, bleeding heart Jews to gain a cloak of respectability while they promote their evil objectives.

We should seek out and encourage alliances with courageous Muslim moderates who share our commitment to an open and democratic society and avoid patronizing or providing respectability to groups who either endorse or refuse to condemn the local and international excesses of Islamic extremism.

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Isi Leibler

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Morocco's Berbers and Israel

by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

In recent years, small groups of Moroccan Berber activists, particularly younger people, have challenged the enforced silence regarding Israel, expressing an interest in both the state of Israel and Jewish history, including the Holocaust. They even linked this interest to the alleged historic connections between Jews and Berbers in ancient times, including the initial resistance to Arab conquerors by the Kahina, a supposedly Jewish-Berber queen, and the multilayered, more recent relations existing until the mass departure of Jews for Israel in the 1950s and 1960s from Berber villages and towns.

The Berber flag represents the pre-Islamic indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. In pre-Islamic times, there were Christian, Jewish, and polytheist Berbers. Most present-day Berbers are Muslims.

How has this extraordinary phenomenon come to pass, and what are its possible consequences? In the past, Berber activists maintained a strict separation between their struggle for political and social rights and the Arab-Israeli conflict even if there were those who quietly admired Israel's achievements. By contrast, some members of the present generation of activists and intellectuals view Israel as a partner in adversity—a vibrant, anti-pan-Arab force mirroring their own opposition to Arab-Islamic hegemony and the subjugation of the Berber language and culture—which could help, however tacitly, in their struggle for official recognition and against Morocco's burgeoning Islamist movement.

Islamist Currents and Public Opinion

Notwithstanding Morocco's benign and positive image in the West, polling data in recent years shows considerable support for Islamist and anti-Western positions. While only a small percentage of Moroccans expressed support for al-Qaeda's attacks on U.S. civilians, and 64 percent held a favorable view of the American people, most Moroccans believed that the United States was seeking to weaken Islam and spread Christianity in the region, with 72 percent supporting al-Qaeda's goal to force U.S. withdrawal from Muslim countries. Almost the same number of people believed that the United States or Israel, rather than al-Qaeda, was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and large majorities approved of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf.

In addition, 76 percent of Moroccans favored the imposition of strict Shari'a or Islamic law; 64 percent supported keeping Western values out of Islamic countries; and 61 percent stated that being Muslim was their most important identity as opposed to only 25 percent who declared their Moroccan identity most important. Eight-five percent of people stated that their primary reaction when watching a movie about the Holocaust was resentment over the sympathy that it generated for Israel and Jews at the expense of Palestinians and Arabs; over 50 percent believed that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would be a positive development for the region while only a small percentage thought that the outcome would be negative.[1]

This Islamist current, embodied by both the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which accepts the supremacy of the Moroccan monarchy as enshrined in the country's constitution and holds 14 percent of the seats in parliament, as well as the officially banned but grudgingly tolerated Justice and Charity movement, seeks the Islamization of society and, ultimately, of the state.

The Berber Movement and the Jews

The other side of the ideological divide is comprised of a variety of political parties and civic groups, some with explicitly Western-liberal orientations, others less so. One of them is the Amazigh (literally "free men") or Berber culture movement, which advocates the recognition of the Berber underpinnings of Moroccan culture and calls for remedial steps, including constitutional change, particularly with regard to recognizing their language, Tamazight, as an official state language. An estimated 40-45 percent of Morocco's 32 million-strong population speak one of the three main Berber dialects; in Algeria, the estimated numbers are 20-25 percent; in Libya, 8-9 percent; in Tunisia, 1-5 percent.

The Berber component of Moroccan identity has already been given official recognition by the state as it seeks to address at least some of the movement's symbolic and material grievances in order to maintain a balance of forces within the Moroccan political fabric. Islamists and pan-Arabists have repeatedly clashed with Berber activists in recent months, mainly through polemical exchanges in a variety of media outlets. The specifics have varied, but they have had a common theme: Jews and Israel.

From the Islamist and pan-Arab perspective, this should come as no surprise. Hostility to Zionism, which all too often has morphed into anti-Semitism and Holocaust belittlement and even denial, has long been instrumental for many opposition groups and Arab regimes seeking to mobilize public opinion.

The Berber engagement in the debate, by contrast, is far less self-evident given their past evasion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Initial indications of these changing attitudes were afforded by the 2007 announcements of plans to create two complementary Berber-Jewish friendship associations in the Souss region of southwestern Morocco, the region where, according to tradition, Jews first settled after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. Their purpose, said one of the founders, was to promote the various aspects of Morocco's cultural heritage—Berber, Jewish, African, and Arab; disseminate the culture of coexistence and respect of the "other" while rejecting violence and intolerance toward others; give real standing to the Berber and Hebrew languages inside Morocco, in order to make it a homeland for all, and to build bridges with Moroccan Jews, both inside the country (approximately 3,000) and overseas, particularly "Amazigh Jews in various countries."[2]

Although support for contacts with Israel was not explicitly expressed, the announcements immediately provoked sharp reactions from a number of Moroccan associations supporting the Palestinian cause and opposing U.S. actions in Iraq. They also prompted a heated debate on Iran's Arabic-language al-Alam television channel between the veteran militant Berber activist Ahmed Adghirni and an Algerian writer hostile to both Israel and North African Jews, whom he claimed were utterly foreign to the region and eager collaborators with French colonialism.[3]

One year later, another Berber-Jewish friendship association, "Memoire Collective," was founded, this time in Morocco's northern coastal city of al-Hoceima. Led by Muhammad Moha, the association's declared focus was the need to struggle against anti-Semitism in Morocco as part of the larger need to promote individual rights, tolerance, and democracy. Moha was prompted to create the association in response to attacks by leftist, pan-Arab, and Islamist groups when his daughter and another Moroccan teenager participated in an international youth seminar at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. The association's creation drew further harsh responses, including the intimidation of the family of the other teenager who had joined Moha's daughter in Jerusalem. Moha was demonstratively expelled from the leftist group to which he had belonged, al-Nahj al-Dimuqrati (Democratic Path), for "crossing all of the party's red lines in contributing to the normalization [of relations] with Israel" while al-Tajdid, the newspaper of the Islamist PJD, even accused Moha of receiving €300,000 from Israel in order to set up the organization and called for acts of violence against him.[4]

Berberist Views on Israel

Israel's military operation against Hamas forces in Gaza in the winter of 2008-09 sparked another round of polemics and mutual invective between Morocco's Islamists and Berber movement figures. A commentator in al-Tajdid castigated Amazigh associations for not joining in the series of demonstrations held in solidarity with the Palestinians, wondering what was behind their failure to condemn Israel. One of the Berber movement's leading intellectuals, Ahmed Asid, replied caustically that no one had the right to question their identification and solidarity with the Palestinians, yet with the Islamist and pan-Arab currents in Morocco having a complete monopoly on organizing the demonstrations, the Berbers had no choice but to avoid them, not least since the protests had contained both anti-Jewish as well as ethnic Arab themes, which the Berber movement completely rejected.[5]

In November 2009, Yad Vashem became a more explicit site for Berber activism against the prevailing pan-Arab and Islamist currents in their own society and in the region when an 18-member delegation of the movement's educators and advocates participated in a week-long educational seminar there. One of their declared purposes was to begin incorporating the study of the Holocaust and its lessons into the Moroccan school curriculum, a subject that has been almost entirely neglected.[6] Beyond that, though, it was clear that the visit was designed to openly challenge the conventional taboos regarding contact with Israel.

The matter quickly became public knowledge and provoked a number of articles in the Moroccan press, many of them negative. But space was also given to delegation members to defend themselves, an indication of Morocco's increasingly pluralist and competitive press. One of them, Boubker Outaadit, a Berber activist for more than fifteen years, who had been involved in the formation of one of the Berber-Jewish friendship associations, was interviewed by a Moroccan weekly news magazine against the backdrop of the Israeli, Moroccan, and Amazigh flags, a picture that was worth a thousand words. Defending the educational and humanitarian value of the seminar, he declared the participants' readiness to answer those critics who "traded in foreign problems … such as the Palestinian issue," which could not be classified as a Moroccan national problem. The Arab-Israeli conflict, he declared, could have been settled sixty years earlier had the Arab side not rejected the right of the Jewish people to return to their land and defend it.[7] Another, Abdellah Benhssi, justified the delegation's visit in terms of furthering the promotion of tolerance and universal brotherhood and the rejection of fanaticism and racism, universal values which, he said, both the Amazigh and Israeli cultural systems shared.[8] In a lengthy and trenchant analysis, the Moroccan scholar Muhammad Elmedlaoui, who actually deplored what he viewed as the Yad Vashem visit's use of the Holocaust for political purposes, nonetheless characterized the anti-Amazigh diatribes emanating from certain Moroccan urban nationalist circles as constituting an updated version of the older, unfair branding of Berbers as collaborators with French colonialism. These attacks, he said, were essentially an alibi being used to promote a certain cultural vision for the country.[9]

Anti-Semitism Rears Its Ugly Head

Recent months have been marked by a number of incidents that further sharpened the contours of the debate. On March 17-20, a high-profile conference designed to promote the memory and heritage of Moroccan Jewry as part of the larger Moroccan fabric was held in the southern coastal town of Essaouira. One participant was Andrei Azoulay, one of Moroccan Jewry's most prominent figures, an Essaouiran native son and long-time financial adviser to both the late King Hassan and his son, King Muhammad VI. Currently the president of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Azoulay, a self-defined "Arab Jew," has been active for decades in promoting Palestinian rights within the context of overall Arab-Israeli peace.[10] Ten days later, members of the local branch of the Moroccan Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AMDH) organized anti-Israel demonstrations that included a brazen, verbal attack on Azoulay, chanting "Hada Ar, Hada Ar, Khwi l'Blad Ya Mustashar" (Shame, shame. Leave the country, counselor). This was not the first time that the king's adviser had been charged with disloyalty to Morocco: Some months earlier, during the visit of former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni to the Tangier MedDays 2009 conference, Khalid Soufyani, a lawyer and self-promoting president of the National Association for the Resistance in Iraq and Palestine, had declared that Azoulay had to choose between being Moroccan and being "Zionist."

Similar slogans were voiced against a local Israeli-Moroccan businessman, Noam Nir, who responded with a letter of complaint to AMDH, which was ignored.[11] Following an additional confrontation in late July, Nir filed a defamation suit against three AMDH officials, accusing the organization of anti-Semitism, particularly in light of the attacks against Azoulay. Further demonstrations were held outside of Nir's restaurant, in which he was accused of espionage and personally threatened, and another round of press attacks on him ensued. AMDH vigorously denied the anti-Semitism charge. However, as is often the case, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are easily conflated in the Moroccan discourse, a fact that an AMDH official himself acknowledged to an American journalist. For example, Soufyani has led a number of anti-Israeli protests in which demonstrators chanted "Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud, Jaysh Muhammad Sa-ya'ud" (Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Muhammad's army will return), referring to the Qur'an's account of Muhammad's destruction of the Jewish community of Khaybar. And in late May 2010, Soufyani headed up a new organization in Morocco, made up of a cross-section of Islamists and pan-Arabists, which rejected all forms of normalization with Israel and reportedly circulated a black list of some twenty-five Moroccans who supported normalization.

The authorities and the Moroccan Jewish leadership adopted a low profile regarding the affair. But Berber activists in the area, some of whom had participated in the visit to Yad Vashem, came to Nir's defense, organizing a small solidarity demonstration in Essaouira and publishing articles in support of his actions and in condemnation of AMDH and its parent political party, the left-of-center Socialist Union of Popular Forces. The Simon Wiesenthal Center also voiced its concern, calling on the governor of Essaouira not to respond to AMDH's calls to halt the judicial proceedings.[12]

The Fight for Berber Rights

The coda to this account of the ongoing contestation between Berber activists and their opponents was actually triggered by the author of these lines. In August 2010, the Portuguese Institute of International Relations published an analysis of mine on the prospects and limitations of Israel's relations with the Maghreb states.[13] It included a brief mention of the Berber factor in Morocco and the Maghreb in general, including the affinity among some members of the movement toward Jews and even Israel. It also referred to its primary opponents, the Islamist and pan-Arab currents, for whom rejection of any semblance of normalization with Israel is a sacred principle.

This academic analysis was picked up in a wildly distorted form by the pan-Arab and Moroccan media, from al-Jazeera television to al-Quds al-Arabi, and the Istiqlal Party's al-Alam, which announced the existence of an Israeli "plan," drawn up by the Moshe Dayan Center (this author's home institute at Tel Aviv University) to promote Israel's "penetration" of the Maghreb through the manipulation of the Berber movement.[14] The reports touched off yet another round of heated exchanges in the Moroccan press and various Internet talk forums. To its credit, one liberal French-language Moroccan weekly, Actuel, sought me out for a response and printed the full text of my answers to their questions.[15] A special section of the monthly Le Monde Amazigh included the interview, translated into Arabic, along with a number of articles rebuffing the accusation that the Berbers were a tool of the Zionist movement. The real purpose behind the campaign, said Berber activists, was to divert attention from a concurrent damning report by the U.N.'s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Issued on August 25, the committee took the Moroccan state to task for its failure to recognize the Berber language as an official language and called on it to ensure that the Berbers would not be subject to discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment and health services. It also recommended that the state give special attention to the development of Berber-inhabited regions and ensure that Moroccan Berbers have the choice to give Berber names to their children, a long-running issue for the Amazigh movement.

However amorphous, the Berber movement's core demand in both Morocco and Algeria is clear-cut: state recognition of the Berber demographic, historical, and cultural underpinnings of North Africa; constitutional recognition of Tamazight as an official language of the state; and remedial economic, social, cultural, and educational measures to begin redressing decades of neglect and injustice.

In both countries, the authorities have made some gestures toward the movement with the Moroccan monarchy, in particular, legitimizing Berber culture as an integral part of the Moroccan patrimony even as it tries to contain it within acceptable parameters. Given that the essential parameters of Moroccan political life remain circumscribed, these competing movements are engaged in a kind of para-politics, limited in their capabilities but nonetheless energetically pursuing the reshaping of Moroccan society in their preferred images. It is in this context that the debates regarding Israel, Zionism, and the status of Moroccan Jewry, both past and present, are taking place. However secondary to the main issues facing Morocco, they are clearly hot button subjects for political activists, being useful as a mobilizing tool, especially for the Islamists while Berber militancy has now reached the point where activists are willing and able to verbally give as good as they get. With Morocco's evolution toward greater political openness moving forward, however unevenly, this public dynamic of contention will bear watching.

[1] "Muslims Believe US Seeks to Undermine Islam,", Apr. 24, 2007. Data drawn from a 2007 survey published by and the University of Maryland/Zogby International 2010 Arab public opinion poll.
[2], Sept. 14, 2007.
[3] Al-Alam TV (Tehran), July 21, 2007, trans. Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Washington, D.C.
[4] TelQuel, Mar. 3, 2008; "The Past Two Months Were Hell," Jungle Word, Apr. 3, 2008.
[5] Hassan Bouikhf, in al-Tajdid (Rabat), Jan. 15, 2009; Ahmed Asid, in Bayan al-Yawm (Casablanca), Jan. 23, 2009, quoted in "Berbers, Where Do You Stand on Palestine?" MEMRI, Special Dispatch no. 2262, Feb. 26, 2009.
[6] Arièle Nahmias, "Moroccan Educators at Yad Vashem," International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Jan. 2010.
[7] Maghrib al-Yawm (Casablanca), Nov. 27, 2009.
[8] Al-Watan al-An (Casablanca), Oct. 25, 2010.
[9] Muhammad Elmedlaoui, "Al-Karru Ba'da al-Farru Fi al-Masalat ath-Thaqafa al-Amazighiyya fi al-Maghrib,", Oct. 27, 2010.
[10] See interview with Azoulay, al-Mushahid al-Maghribi (Casablanca), Nov. 12-25, 2010.
[11] AHN Global News Agency (Washington, D.C.), Aug. 26, 2010.
[12] "Wiesenthal Center Urges Moroccan Authorities to Act against Antisemitic Insults, Threats, and Intimidation," Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles, Aug. 19, 2010.
[13] Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, "The Limits and Potential of Israel-Maghreb Relations," IPRIS Maghreb Review, July 2010, pp. 15-8.
[14] Sept. 5, 7, 8, 2010.
[15] "Israel ne soutient pas les Amazighs," Actuel, Sept. 18-24, 2010, pp. 47-8.

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Bruce Maddy-Weitzman is the Marcia Israel Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. His book The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States will be published by the University of Texas Press in 2011.

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

Forced Marriages in Our Own Backyard

by Phyllis Chesler

On February 22, 2011, Jessie Bender, a 13-year-old southern California girl, ran away from home. No, Jessie was not into “sex, drugs, or rock n’ roll.” On the contrary. Jessie was terrified that her American-born mother, Melissa, a convert to Islam, and her mother’s Pakistani boyfriend and acting stepfather Mohammed “Mo” Khan, had decided to send her to Pakistan to be married against her will. Had Jessie gone, her mother and “Mo” would have received $3000.00.

Initially, her mother told police that Jessie had been abducted by a Facebook predator. Melissa, in full hijab, made a tearful plea for the television cameras. ”If you are holding my daughter, please let her go…Please, I beg you to let my daughter go. She’s just 13 years old.”

This tearful, public, pseudo-honesty reminds me of the Afghan-Canadian Safia family who wept in public, mourning their three dead honor murdered daughters: 13 year-old Geeti, 17 year-old Sahari, and 19-year-old Zainab, and Safia’s first wife, 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammed. In a bid for sympathy, and to throw the police off their trail, the three murderers shed copious tears, grieving, loudly.

Jessie Bender’s mother went on television and lied about her daughter. Yes, it is true, Jessie had communicated with an adult male on Facebook, but that is not where she ran. Jessie’s uncle had hidden her at an Apple Valley motel. Within a week, it became clear that Jessie’s mother, Melissa, and her pseudo-stepfather “Mo, ” had both been lying. Melissa herself had visited Pakistan and may be seen in a photo smiling broadly, wearing very serious hijab and standing next to a turbaned tribal elder who is holding a gun. Possibly, she is also standing next to “Mo.”

Patricia “Tissy” Said in Dallas, assisted her Egyptian-born husband Yasir who honor murdered their two daughters, Sarah and Amina, for refusing such arranged marriages.

Like Texas’s “Tissy” Said, California’s Melissa Bender also seems a bit…dim-witted, easy prey for a smart or charming Muslim man who wants (or needs) to bring his Pakistani brother over to America. “Mo’s” brother is, apparently, in some kind of trouble and has to get out of Dodge City pronto.

Yasir Said hatched a similar plan: He wanted to marry his American-born, American-citizen daughters off to hand-picked Egyptian men who would then be able to become American citizens. Whether Said was doing this for money, “honor,” or jihad is unknown. Tunisian-born Samia Labidi, who lives in France, describes such marriages between under-age Western girls and older Muslim foreign men as part of a larger jihadic plan. This may not be true in the California Bender case, but it may be true in other cases.

And, by the way, “Tissy” Said herself married Yasir in Texas when she was only 14 years old. She did so with her father’s permission. I have no doubt that both she and her father believed that Yasir was the Sheikh of Araby and would provide for “Tissy” royally. Instead, he did what many Muslim Arab men do: He sent his wife out to work and lived off her pitiful earnings.

Melissa has six children from six different fathers. She has also lost custody of two children to their maternal grandmother. I do not justify her stupidity and cruelty but it is clear that she may not be in good mental or intellectual health. Nevertheless, her children are at her mercy.

Jessie was found hiding about 30 miles from her home. Since then, Jessie and her siblings have been in child protective custody.

An estranged family member confirms that Jessie indeed “was going to be married off to [the stepfather’s] brother over in Pakistan because he was in some trouble and they wanted to bring him over to the states. They were going to get paid $3000 for this.”

It is common for Pakistani fathers to sell their young daughters into marriage in order to make a quick buck. Bride prices range from Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 200,000 (1,400-3,500 USD), and younger girls receive higher prices. For example, one ten-year-old Pakistani girl was sold into marriage by her father in order to settle an outstanding debt. According to Amnesty International, a medical examination showed that she had been subjected to rape and torture. I am sure there are thousands of such cases throughout the Islamic world.

According to one blogger, “Had [“Mo”] Mohammad Khan taken [Jessie] to Pakistan and married her off, it would have been almost impossible for the child to escape again. Particularly from a rural area. She would have been repeatedly raped by her ‘husband’, beaten by her in-laws and turned into a slave. And Khan would have likely profited from the exchange. Khan didn’t just marry or live with a middle aged American woman; he married a woman with at least one girl at home. And in Pakistan that translates into a salable commodity.”

This is not the first time that young American girls have been spirited away as unwilling brides to a Muslim-majority country. In 2004, 26-year-old Philadelphia resident Omar Rashaad Bey, an American citizen, entered into an “Islamic marriage” with a 14-year-old girl and then moved with her to Cairo. While in Egypt he had an affair with her sister. He then “married” another 15-year-old Philadelphia girl via the Internet and brought her to Cairo too. American officials started an investigation after the first “wife” brought their one-year-old son to the Embassy to register him for an American passport. Bey eventually returned to America, where he was arrested and indicted on three counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. In March, 2011, he was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender.

Europe is plagued by many more such cases of forced child marriage. According to the BBC, the police in South Wales have dealt with 49 cases of forced marriage in the past year (2010) alone.

“Strategies for helping victims included supplying them with a secret mobile phone if they feared they were being lured to their family’s country of origin as a prelude to a forced marriage….The [special police] force had also set up a ‘buddy’ system where forced marriage ‘survivors’ were a role model to those who were now going through the trauma.”

Even Saudi Arabia, which is rife with child marriage and has no law against it, has begun taking baby steps to stop the practice. According to the Saudi newspaper Al Watan, 40 cases of child marriage were prevented in the eastern part of the country when authorities spoke out against it. In 2009, the Saudi Minister of Justice issued a statement saying that it would soon implement a ban on the practice, although it has failed to do so. The Facebook group, Saudi Women Revolution, which I have written about before, has a petition on its website demanding that the Justice Ministry follow through on its initial promise.

While the American State Department occasionally rattles its rusty saber on behalf of Muslim women’s rights, if our government has, so far, refused to get involved in Libya, (even after the Arab League has asked for such involvement), and refused to get involved in Darfur—then I doubt our country will go to the mat for women in Muslim countries.

According to Newsweek, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton favors women’s rights everywhere. She is quoted as saying:

“I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century….We see women and girls across the world who are oppressed and violated and demeaned and degraded and denied so much of what they are entitled to as our fellow human beings.”

When challenged by Egyptians who argued that her many references to women’s rights in Egypt constitute meddling in Egyptian internal affairs, she responded: “If a country doesn’t recognize minority rights and human rights, including women’s rights, you will not have the kind of stability and prosperity that is possible.”

However, on her watch, the American State Department is backing away from its verbal commitments to women in Afghanistan.

In 2010, when the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sought bids for a land reform program in Afghanistan, it initially insisted that the winning contractor meet specific goals to promote women’s rights: “The number of deeds granting women title had to increase by 50 percent; there would have to be regular media coverage on women’s land rights; and teaching materials for secondary schools and universities would have to include material on women’s rights.”

Later, however, USAID backtracked and eliminated the requirements. According to J. Alexander Thier, the director of USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, “If you’re targeting an issue, you need to target it in a way you can achieve those objectives….The women’s issue is one where we need hardheaded realism…if we become unrealistic and overfocused . . . we get ourselves in trouble.” Another “senior official” said: “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities.”

Brava to California’s Jessie Bender for saving herself and at least two of her siblings. She lives in America and believes that she has certain rights. So young—so brave. But what will become of her? She has a mother—the only mother she will ever have—who was ready to sell her down the river for $3000.00. Who can, who will, ever take her mother’s place? The cruelty of this American-Muslim mother to her American (probably non-Muslim) daughter is breathtaking. I have written about this phenomenon in Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman.

Child marriage is opposed by the Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It is a toothless document. The United Nations does not enforce individual rights over the objections of its member nation states.

Child marriage is an abomination. Think of the girls you know who are 10, 12, 14 years old. Can you imagine how a forced, arranged marriage to a much older stranger, probably one who believes it is his absolute right to rape and beat his wife, would psychologically cripple them for life, stunt all growth, demoralize them forevermore?

Who can ever forget the film Osama? It is set in Afghanistan and concerns an 11- 12 year-old girl who must dress as a boy in order to work to feed her widowed mother and younger siblings. (Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to work; they starved or turned to prostitution which meant degraded and dangerous lives).

However, the dreaded Taliban drag the girl Osama away from her job in a small shop and into a madrasa. She is only found out when she begins to menstruate. The imam who runs the madrasa is old enough to be her grandfather. He is fat, gross, coarse, cruel, and ugly. However, he is very attracted to this 12 year-old boy/girl, marries her, and locks her up together with his other, three much older wives.

We should not want to consign young American girls, Muslim and non-Muslim to such cruel fates.

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Phyllis Chesler

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Ankara Forces Iranian Plane to Land for 'Routine Inspection'

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Turkey denies it forced an Iranian cargo plane because of suspicions that it carried material for nuclear weapons to Syria.

Turkey maintained that it occassionally conducts searches of Iranian planes entering its air space and that the downing of the plane was not unusual. However, it has not stated what the plane was carrying.

The cargo plane from Iran was ordered to land after it entered Turkish air space. Two F-16 fighter jets escorted the cargo plane to a southeastern Turkish airport, where it was searched for nuclear materials, according to the Doğan news agency.

Turkey has forged close ties with the Islamic Republic and Syria the past two years, discarding its former close relationship with Israel. Iran has been using various means to arm Syria, Iran and Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon.

Syria previously has been suspected of building nuclear facilities, one of which was bombed by Israel while under construction four years ago.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How Does It Feel To Be a Victim? Ask Prof. Bayoumi

by Cinnamon Stillwell and Rima Greene

Moustafa Bayoumi, associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, gave a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) last month titled, "How Does It Feel To Be a Problem: Why Arabs and Muslim Americans Are at the Heart of Today's Culture Wars."

Bayoumi is the editor of How Does it Feel To Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America, a collection of biographical stories about young, Brooklyn-based Arab-Americans that the CMES website describes, among other things, as "a catalog of mistreatment and discrimination."

Baymoui's narrative of Arab victimhood extends beyond America's borders—he is also the editor of Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: the Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How it Changed the Course of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict, as well as co-editor of The Edward Said Reader; victimization has long been a staple of his academic career.

CMES's Sultan Room—so-named for its Saudi patron, the Sultan bin AbdulAziz Al-Saud Charity Foundation—was full. The audience of approximately 75 students and adults acted like fans; they laughed in all the right places, appeared to be in full agreement with Bayoumi throughout, and offered no challenging questions.

At the time, Egypt's recent revolution was dominating the headlines and Bayoumi was on his way to speak on a UC Berkeley panel on the subject directly afterward. As a result, his lecture seemed rushed and, at times, the wording sounded remarkably similar to his October 24, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education article, "My Arab Problem."

Referencing the situation in Egypt, Bayoumi began his talk by quoting from The Autobiography of Malcolm X: "How is it possible to write about your life when it's changing so quickly?" Later, he paraphrased Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison: "We are surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass." He noted that his book's title, How Does It Feel To Be a Problem, originated with a quote from W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk:

I stole the title from Du Bois; it resonated with me . . . what to do about the increasing dehumanization of the Arab American population.

Clearly, Bayoumi is heavily influenced by African-American literature—the chapters of his book are prefaced by quotes from famous black authors—but in equating African-Americans with Arab-Americans, he is conflating two very different historical experiences.

To support his position that Arabs, including Muslims, in America are "dehumanized," Bayoumi cited polls conducted by the Economist and the Washington Post, which found—not coincidentally—a steady rise in negativity towards Islam beginning with the 9/11 atrocities and culminating in the Park51 (ground zero mosque) controversy. He omitted any possibility of a rational basis for these negative perceptions and later rejected what he called "the rhetoric of the opposition to the ground zero mosque." Echoing theproject's organizers, he claimed that:

the idea behind Park51 was to improve our image; model our image along successful lines like the 92nd Street Y [92nd Street Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association] a major Jewish cultural institution.

This comparison is inapt in that the 92nd Street Y—in the secular tradition of Jewish community centers—does not include a synagogue, while Park51 is intended to include a mosque. Also, 92nd Street is not near a site where Jews massively attacked New York City.

Bayoumi next addressed the controversy that erupted in August 2010 after Brooklyn College assigned his book as its "common reader," thereby making it required reading for all incoming students and setting up a "meet the author" discussion. Complaints poured in that the book was too lopsided and the debate eventually—as Bayoumi claimed the college feared—went "viral," pulling him into "the center of a small culture war."

Citing retired Brooklyn College philosophy professor Abigail L. Rosenthal, who, in a letter to college president Karen Gould, alleged that "the book smacked of indoctrination," Bayoumi responded:

Is my writing that powerful? No. They have not actually read my book, but only the Amazon page.

He blamed the "tabloid media" and "conservative bloggers" such as Bruce Kesler—a Brooklyn College alumnus who broke the story by publicly cutting his bequest to the college over the Bayoumi decision—for the controversy. In fact, a variety of publications ran articles on the subject, including the Jewish Week, the New York Daily News, theNew York Times, and the Huffington Post.

Summing up his thoughts on the matter, Bayoumi remarked that:

Opposition to my book seems symptomatic of our times . . . all things Muslim or Arab are called radical.

Bayoumi decried FBI counterterrorism efforts involving Brooklyn's large Arab-American population, comparing it to investigating "the mafia; investigating family structures" and calling it "patronizing."

Seeking to interview members of the community for his book, Bayoumi "was concerned about [appearing to be] a suspicious questioner" because, he explained, "it was around the time of the Times Square bomber." Tapping into his inner conspiracy theorist, he then added, ". . . which was a fake, by the way." He provided no evidence for thisoutlandish claim, nor did his audience request it.

Bayoumi brought up the Texas State Board of Education's resolution last year curtailing pro-Islamic, anti-Christian bias in new social studies textbooks:

The Texas revolution [sic] is another attempt to create controversy where really there is none. It's contrived to give the idea that Islam is on the ideological march in the country. It bears little relation to reality. Those who point this out are accused of political correctness, of being duped, liberal, ideological warriors of political correctness.

He scoffed at "allegations of Arab investors taking over the American [textbook] publishing industry," while his audience tittered. They were only too happy to mock such notions, despite significant evidence of these worrisome trends.

Bayoumi moved on to another favorite target of the Islamophobia-phobes, Middle East forum director Daniel Pipes. Selectively quoting from Pipes's article on Brooklyn's controversial Khalil Gibran International Academy, "A Madrasa Grows in Brooklyn," Bayoumi stated:

Daniel Pipes wrote that 'Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with Pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage.'

Predictably, he neglected to cite any of the examples that Pipes used to buttress this statement.

Bayoumi continued:

What is going on here? As soon as Muslims like myself are on the cusp of entering the mainstream fully, we are hit with a wave of opposition attempting to render us or our work invisible. . . . The trick is simply to attach the word 'radical' in front of a Muslim name, and, like a magician, make the actual person disappear in a cloud of suspicion.

Then he joked, "If you happen to be the president of the United States, 'First Muslim' will suffice," to which the audience chuckled knowingly.

During the question and answer period, an audience member—perhaps referring, however inaccurately, to Pipes's 2001 quote, "I worry very much, from the Jewish point of view, that the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims, because they are so much led by an Islamist leadership, that this will present true dangers to American Jews"—asked:

Daniel Pipes says he fears Muslim expansion in America from the Jewish point of view. How much are these cultural wars intertwined with the fear among a segment of the pro-Israel, rightwing alliance of wanting to maintain a reflexive fear of Arabs and Muslims?

Bayoumi responded with a torrent of insults, buzz words, and generalizations:

There's a nexus, and a major part is the Israel conflict. Pipes, David Horowitz—it all has to do with the production of Islamophobia. [It's a] pro-Israel right wing attack; it's a continuation of the rightwing, Christian attack on liberal education; a culture wars place where they've all arrived at that junction.

In response to an audience member's question regarding the upcoming hearings on radical Islam in the U.S. convened by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY), Bayoumi concluded that, "It's part of the paranoia of today."

Expanding on this theme, he then read aloud an oft-repeated quote from Richard Hofstadter's 1964 essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, about the alleged paranoia and bigotry of the "modern right-wing," which, he claimed, "you can hear in 2011." Bayoumi has apparently bought into Hofstadter's always dubious and now thoroughly discredited equation of conservatism with mental illness.

Moreover, chalking up the rational fears of the American public in a post-9/11 world to paranoia displays contempt and willful blindness. Such attitudes only allow apologists to delay indefinitely much-needed theological and cultural reforms within Muslim and Arab communities.

Bayoumi seems oblivious to the religious, economic, and cultural freedom that the U.S. offers. If America is such an intolerant, discriminatory country, why do countless Arabs and Muslims keep immigrating to its shores? According to statistics compiled by the Department of Homeland Security and the Census Bureau and cited by the New York Times, more people from Muslim countries became legal permanent U.S. residents in 2005 than in any year in the previous two decades. In addition, a 2007 Pew survey found thatMuslim Americans, including many Arabs, are equally, if not better, educated and more affluent than the national average.

Instead of proclaiming a culture of victimhood, Bayoumi might acknowledge this encouraging reality. He could start by turning his book into a series and titling a forthcoming volume, How Does It Feel to be a Fabulous Success? Being Young and Arab in America.

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Cinnamon Stillwell and Rima Greene

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

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