Friday, August 5, 2011

Land for War


by Efraim Karsh and Asaf Romirowsky

As September approaches, many are waiting with bated breath to learn if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will deliver on his threat to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state and seek recognition of it through the U.N. But in putting the Palestinian demand for statehood to a vote, Abbas will end up subverting the international organization's longstanding solution to the Arab Israeli-conflict—U.N. Security Council Resolution 242—with unpredictable results.

Passed in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War, resolution 242 established the principle of "land for peace" as the cornerstone of future peace agreements between Israel and the Arabs, to be reached in negotiations between the two sides. Israel was asked to withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict"—the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

The absence of the definite article "the" before "territories" was no accident: Issued a mere six months after Israel's astounding triumph over the concerted Arab attempt to obliterate the Jewish state, the resolution reflected acceptance by the Security Council of the existential threat posed by the 1949 armistice line, memorably described by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban as "Auschwitz borders." The Security Council expected negotiations between Israel and the Arabs to produce a more defensible frontier for Israel, one consistent with, in the words of the resolution's other key formulation, the right of every state in the region "to live in peace with secure and recognized boundaries."

In the 44 years that have followed, Israel has persistently striven to make peace with its Arab neighbors. It withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, constituting more than 90% of the territories occupied in 1967, as part of its 1979 peace agreement with Egypt. Repeated efforts to persuade Syrian President Hafez Assad to follow in Egypt's footsteps came to naught, however.

As for the Palestinians, their rejection of resolution 242 was absolute. In 1967, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) rejected the U.N. proposal as a plot "concocted in the corridors of the United Nations to accord [with] the Zionist racist colonial illegal occupation in Palestine," acceptance of which constituted "a treasonable act not only against the Palestinian people but against the whole Arab nation." When the Carter administration informed Arafat of its readiness to inaugurate Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, should he accept resolution 242, the PLO chairman categorically turned the offer down. "This is a lousy deal," he told an intermediary. "We want Palestine. We don't want bits of Palestine."

It was not until 1988, more than two decades after the resolution's passage, that the Palestine National Congress grudgingly accepted resolution 242. While this marked a major shift in PLO public diplomacy, Arafat remained committed to the PLO's phased strategy of June 1974, which stipulated that any territory gained through diplomacy would merely be a springboard for the "complete liberation of Palestine." Shortly after the PLO accepted 242, Arafat's second in command, Salah Khalaf (better known by his nom de guerre of Abu Iyad), declared that "the establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of Palestine is but a step toward the whole of Palestine." Two years later, he reiterated this view at a public rally in Amman, pledging to liberate Palestine "inch by inch from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river."

Arafat remained committed to the PLO's phased strategy even after signing the 1993 Oslo Accords. Five days before the signing, he told an Israeli journalist that one day there would be a "united state in which Israelis and Palestinians will live together"—that is, Israel would cease to exist. Even as he shook Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's hand on the White House lawn, Arafat was assuring the Palestinians in a pre-recorded Arabic-language message that the agreement was merely an implementation of the PLO's phased strategy.

The public diplomacy of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, also ran contrary to the letter and spirit of 242. The Palestinians have consistently misrepresented the resolution as calling for Israel's complete withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines, while claiming that its stipulation for "a just settlement of the refugee problem" meant endorsement of the Palestinian "right of return"—the standard Arab euphemism for Israel's destruction through demographic subversion. They also sought to undermine the resolution's insistence on the need for a negotiated settlement, seeking time and again to engineer an internationally imposed dictate despite their commitment to a negotiated settlement through the Oslo process.

When Israel offered at the American-convened July 2000 peace summit in Camp David to cede virtually the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the nascent Palestinian state and made concessions with respect to Jerusalem, Arafat responded with a campaign of terror unmatched in the history of the Jewish state. Seven-and-a-half years later, at yet another U.S.-sponsored summit, Mr. Abbas rejected Israel's offer of a Palestinian Arab state in 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and categorically dismissed the request to recognize Israel as a Jewish state alongside the would-be Palestinian state, insisting instead on full implementation of the "right of return."

Since the inauguration of the Obama administration, Mr. Abbas has dropped all remaining pretenses of seeking a negotiated settlement, striving instead to engineer international enforcement of a complete Israeli withdrawal without a peace agreement, or, indeed, any quid pro quo. Were the U.N. General Assembly to fall for the Palestinian ploy, it will not only reward decades of duplicity, intransigence, and violence and betray its own formula of "land for peace," but will be introducing a new and dangerous stage in the century-long feud between Arabs and Jews: that of "land for war."

Efraim Karsh and Asaf Romirowsky

Mr. Karsh is director of the Middle East Forum (Philadelphia) and professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London. Mr. Romirowsky is adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum and a doctoral student at King's College London.


Source: http://www.meforum.org/3001/land-for-war

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

The Palestinians' Imaginary State


by Steven J. Rosen

In a few weeks, an overwhelming majority in the United Nations General Assembly will likely vote for collective recognition of a Palestinian state. But which Palestinian state? Of the three Palestinian states the assembly could recognize, two are real and arguably could meet the requirements for statehood. But it is the third, purely imaginary one that the assembly will endorse, one that neither has a functioning government nor meets the requirements of international law.

According to the prevailing legal standard, the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, a "state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states." Both the Hamas-controlled Palestinian entity in Gaza and the rival Fatah-governed Palestinian entity in the West Bank can be said to meet all four of these criteria of the law of statehood. The one on which the United Nations will vote does not.

In Gaza, Hamas controls a permanent population in a defined territory (i.e., Gaza within the armistice lines of 1949). Gaza has a functioning, if odious, government. And Hamas-controlled Gaza already conducts international relations with a large number of states. From a narrowly legal point of view, the Hamas Gaza entity could become a state, another miserable addition to a very imperfect world.

Of course, a Hamas state in Gaza is not something most of the world wants to see. A Hamas state allied to Iran would be a severe blow to international peace and security, and it would not be a state deserving of recognition by any democracy. It would be a state arising from the military coup of June 2007, a state that engages in large-scale violations of treaty obligations and human rights. Nor does Hamas seek statehood for Gaza alone. Hamas wants eventually to rule the whole of mandatory Palestine, comprising not just the West Bank along with Gaza, but all of today's Israel too. Gaza alone is too small a prize for so grand an ambition. So this possible state is not on the table.

The Fatah Palestinian entity in the West Bank also could meet the legal requirements for statehood, and it would have more international support. It has a functioning government in the Palestinian Authority (PA), a permanent population, and international relations with a very large number of states. It also controls a defined territory, which comprises what are called areas A and B as defined under the Oslo II agreement of September 1995, plus additional territory subsequently transferred by Israel in agreed further redeployments. (Area A is the zone of full civil and security control by the Palestinian Authority, and Area B is a zone of Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control.) The Fatah West Bank entity within these lines also could be recognized as a state under international law.

But Fatah, the PA, and the broader PLO do not seek statehood for this West Bank entity that arguably could meet the legal requirements. Their minimum demand is a state that includes Gaza along with the West Bank, the eastern part of Jerusalem, and all the other parts of mandatory Palestine that were under Jordanian and Egyptian control before 1967. Fatah, the PA, and the PLO are demanding title to lands and authority over populations they do not control, being as they are under the rule of Hamas and Israel.

Unlike the two Palestinian entities that already exist, either of which could be recognized as a Palestinian state because they seem to fulfill the legal requirements, the Palestinian entity that a General Assembly majority will recognize as a state this September does not actually exist on Earth. It is imaginary and aspirational, not real. And it does not meet the legal requirements.

First, it will have two rival presidents pursuing incompatible policies. Mahmoud Abbas is presenting himself as the president of the Palestine that is pressing the claim in the U.N. General Assembly, but he is not considered to be the president anymore by Hamas, the largest political party in the putative state. And Hamas has Palestine's own laws on its side in this dispute. Abbas was elected in 2005 to serve until January 2009, so his term has expired. In 2009, he unilaterally extended his term for another year until January 2010 (an extension that also has expired), but that extension did not adhere to Article 65 of the Palestinian constitution, the Basic Law. Hamas, which controls a majority in the now defunct Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), opposed the extension. According to Article 65 of the Basic Law, the legally empowered president of Palestine, since January 2009, has been PLC Speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik, a deputy representing Hamas. Palestine's ruling party, Hamas, considers Dweik, not Abbas, to be the legal president of Palestine, and it has a strong case.

Second, the Palestine that the General Assembly will recognize also will have two rival prime ministers pursuing incompatible policies. Hamas denies that Abbas has the authority to appoint Salam Fayyad as prime minister, because Abbas is not legally the president of Palestine under Article 65 and because Fayyad has not been empowered as prime minister by the Palestinian Legislative Council as required by Article 66 of the Basic Law. Neither his first appointment, on June 15, 2007, nor his reappointment on May 19, 2009, was confirmed by the PLC as required. Hamas, which controls the majority in the PLC, considers the legal prime minister of the Palestinian Authority to continue to be Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political leader of Hamas. Haniyeh was empowered by the PLC to be prime minister of Palestine in February 2006. Abbas dismissed Haniyeh from the office on June 14, 2007, after the Gaza coup, but Haniyeh counters that this decree violated articles 45, 78, and 83 and that he continues to exercise prime ministerial authority under Article 83. The PLC also continues to recognize Haniyeh's authority as prime minister. Here again, Hamas has the law on its side.

Third, this putative state of "Palestine" will also have a legislature that never meets. Elected on Jan. 25, 2006, for a term of four years, the PLC has enacted no laws, passed on no ministers, and conducted no meetings since 2007. Instead, Abbas says, "It is my right as a president to legislate laws and decisions that are called decrees. These decrees are legal, as long as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is not able to convene."

It is common for Palestinian observers and their supporters in the West to attribute the PLC's inaction to the fact that Israel arrested 21 of its more radical members in June 2006 after the abduction of Gilad Shalit, most of whom are still in detention. The Carter Center, for example, states, "With most of its representatives in Israeli prisons, the Palestinian Legislative Council never assembled the required quorum for meetings and hence was unable to carry out legislative functions designated to the PLC." But the PLC has 132 members, of whom fewer than 20 are detained by Israel, and a quorum of the PLC requires only one more than half the members -- 67 -- to be present. So it is not Israel that is preventing a quorum.

In fact, neither faction contending to rule Palestine actually wants the PLC to meet, for different reasons. Hamas does not want it brought to session to enact new laws or amendments to existing laws when its majority has been diluted, especially because it fears unfavorable amendments to the election law. And Fatah is only too happy to see the Hamas members in jail, because it too does not want the PLC to meet, lest it enforce the Basic Law by replacing Abbas and Fayyad. PLC Speaker Dweik, whom Hamas considers to be the legally empowered president of Palestine, has said of his own arrest by Israel, "Any action that put an end to our activity in the parliament was welcomed by many, among them the Palestinian Authority."

Fourth, this Palestine that the General Assembly will recognize will also lack the ability to hold presidential or legislative elections as required by Article 47 of its Basic Law -- not because Israel will prevent them, but again because the rival Palestinian rulers will not allow them to happen. Abbas's constitutionally defined term expired in January 2009, and the terms of the PLC representatives expired on Jan. 25, 2010, so new elections for both are overdue. The 2005 Palestinian Elections Law No. 9, Article 2, which Hamas recognizes as legally binding, and the replacement Elections Law unilaterally decreed by Abbas on Sept. 2, 2007, Articles 2 to 4, which Hamas considers an unlawful usurpation of power under the constitution, require elections by now, but no such elections are in sight. Neither of the rivals wants an election to be held under the electoral rules recognized as legally binding by the other, and neither will permit the other to compete freely on territories it controls as required by both sets of regulations.

So there you have it. The General Assembly will make a remarkable decision about all this in the next few weeks. Instead of recognizing either of the two state-like entities that already exist, each having many of the attributes of statehood required by international law, the General Assembly will create an imaginary state that has two incompatible presidents, two rival prime ministers, a constitution whose most central provisions are violated by both sides, no functioning legislature, no ability to hold elections, a population mostly not under its control, borders that would annex territory under the control of other powers, and no clear path to resolve any of these conflicts. It is a resolution that plants the seeds for civil and international wars, not one that advances peace.

Steven J. Rosen served for 23 years as a senior official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He is now the director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum.

Source: http://www.meforum.org/3000/palestinians-imaginary-state

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

New Muslim 'Reality' Show Is Anything But


by Raymond Ibrahim

The American TV network TLC recently announced that it is making a reality series following the lives of Muslims living in America. The program—called "All American Muslim"—will follow five Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan, hoping to expose the "misconceptions and conflicts" they face "outside and within" their own community…In a statement TLC's general manager Amy Winter said:…"Through these families and their diverse experiences, we will explore how they blend their values and traditions with everyday life in America." She added the program would provide: "Insight into their culture with care and compassion."

In other words, at a time when the need for objective knowledge concerning Islam is at a premium, many Americans are to be subliminally indoctrinated on what Islam is really about—not through Muslim theology or history, nor yet politics and current events—but rather by a "reality" show of a handful of American Muslims.

One of TLC's goals in airing this program is to show us "diversity" in Islam: According to the network's statement: "The families featured in the series share the same religion, but lead very distinct lives that oftentimes challenge the Muslim stereotype."

For example, there is a girl that "sports piercings and tattoos"—as if the fact that a tattoo-wearing American female who identifies herself as a Muslim is supposed to tell us anything about Islam. Other characters are not so colorful, but are formulated simply to gain sympathy for Muslims: their claim to fame is that they are "trying to find the balance between their traditional Muslim roots and American culture," or working "tirelessly to educate … about the Muslim religion in an effort to reduce discrimination and ignorance."

In short, through five families who supposedly represent a religion of over one billion, the show is dedicated to depicting Muslims as "just like us." Indeed, one might argue that these five families are not even representative of their own Muslim neighbors in Dearborn, chosen by the producers for having "one of America's largest Muslim populations and has the largest mosque in North America."

In fact, Dearborn is also a hotbed of Muslim extremism, where the FBI had a shoot-out in the streets with jihadists; where a former resident was indicted in a Hezbollah terror plot targeting Israel; where one American politician says Sharia law holds sway; and where a Christian preacher was threatened by shouts of "Allahu Akbar!"

Will these sorts of "diverse experiences" find their way into the reality show?

What is more ironic is that TLC's motives appear superfluous and unnecessary: the same report does not conclude by saying that, because anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise in America it needs to be combated by such shows, but quite the opposite: "The announcement comes as positive attitudes in America towards Muslims appear to be on the rise. Earlier this year CNN found that 46 percent of Americans have a positive view of American Muslims, while 26 percent have an [sic] negative view. In 2002, the number of Americans with a positive view of Muslims stood at 39 percent."

One may argue that this is just a show, and that people should know better than to base their opinions of Islam on it. While this is true, it is also true that the ideas and images that the media presents to us tend to condition people's perceptions and opinions— a consequence especially critical at a time of war.

If one truly wished to understand the differences between the Muslim and Western mindsets, one need only look to their respective medias. Far from trying to depict the "other"—the infidel—as "just one of us," the Arab media is devoted to making the West look as if it is on a "crusade" to destroy Islam, and that the Jews are "pigs and monkeys" who are behind any number of animal-related conspiracies. Meanwhile, here is America's media, floating in an idealistic, Utopian bubble, conditioning minds accordingly.

Raymond Ibrahim, a widely published author on Islam, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Source: http://www.hudson-ny.org/2314/muslim-reality-show

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

Muslim Countries Financing Jihad in Spain


by Soeren Kern

Muslim countries in the Persian Gulf and North Africa are funnelling large sums of money to radical Islamic groups in towns and cities across Spain in a competing effort to exert control over the estimated 1.5 million Muslims in the country.

A newly leaked secret report prepared by Spain's National Intelligence Center (CNI), excerpts of which were published by the Madrid-based El País newspaper on July 31, says the Spanish government is struggling to stop the flow of tens of millions of dollars to Islamic groups in Spain from Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and above all Saudi Arabia.

The CNI report states: "The financing is having negative consequences for [multicultural] coexistence in Spain, such as the emergence of parallel societies and ghettos, Islamic courts and police that operate outside of Spanish jurisprudence, removing girls from schools, forced marriages, etc."

It continues: "There is insufficient control of financial flows involving grants and aid from other countries that are being funnelled to the Islamic community in Spain. For the most part donors are using alternative channels to ensure that their donations escape the control of the regular Spanish financial system. Donors should be made fully aware of the risks associated with such financing."

According to El País, two high-level officials from the Spanish Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs travelled to the Persian Gulf in June seeking cooperation from Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. In May, the Spanish Justice Ministry summoned the ambassadors of several Gulf Arab states to a meeting in Madrid in which Spanish officials requested their cooperation in bringing order to the financing of Islam in Spain.

At the meeting in Madrid, Spanish officials distributed a document titled "System of Channelling the Flow of Funds to Islamic Communities in Spain." The document, which is in Spanish, English and Arabic, explains that henceforth Spanish authorities want all donations from the Gulf Arab states to be channelled through the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), a group the Spanish government says should be the official representative for Muslims in Spain.

Spanish authorities say Arab countries are flooding mosques in Spain with a host of anti-Western literature. For example, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Qatar has distributed a document in Spanish titled "Mohammed: The Ideal Prophet" which states: "Europe today still considers that the white race is superior to that of color. Europe, with all its pretensions to enlighten and lead … is still behind Islam."

The leaked CNI document says Kuwait is one of the worst offenders. Through the Society for the Revival of Islamic Heritage (RIHS), the Kuwaiti government has funded the construction of mosques in the Spanish municipalities of Reus and Torredembarra (Catalonia), from which Islamic preachers are "spreading a religious interpretation that opposes the integration of Muslim into Spanish society and promotes the separation and hate towards non-Muslim groups. … In the medium term, the RIHS plans to open a delegation in Spain." In June 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the RIHS for bankrolling Al Qaeda.

Qatar, by contrast, funnels most of its donations through the Islamic League for Dialogue and Coexistence in Spain, a group the CNI says is "linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria" and which controls the Catalan Islamic Cultural Center. Qatar recently paid €300,000 ($450,000) to renovate that center, which is based in Barcelona.

The United Arab Emirates is focussing its efforts on providing financial support to Muslims in the southern region of Andalusia. Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to the parts of Spain ruled by Muslim conquerors from 711 and 1492. Many Muslims believe that the territories they lost during the Spanish Reconquista still belong to them, and that they have a right to return and establish their rule there – a belief based on the Islamic precept that territories once occupied by Muslims must forever remain under Muslim domination.

In this context, the United Arab Emirates, together with Libya and Morocco, paid for the construction of the Great Mosque of Granada. Says Abdel Haqq Salaberria, a spokesman for the mosque: "It will act as a focal point for the Islamic revival in Europe. It is a symbol of a return to Islam among the Spanish people and among indigenous Europeans."

The United Arab Emirates, together with Kuwait, Morocco and Egypt, are also involved in a project to make Córdoba the "Mecca of the West" by turning the ancient city into a pilgrimage site for Muslims throughout Europe. Muslims in Córdoba are demanding that the Spanish government allow them to worship in the main cathedral, which had been a mosque during the medieval Islamic kingdom of Al-Andalus and is now a World Heritage Site.

The CNI report says Saudi Arabia is the most generous donor to Muslim causes in Spain and many of its donations to a never-ending list of Islamic groups and causes are funnelled through the Saudi Embassy in Madrid. Much of the Saudi money is for the construction of mosques in Spain.

Riyadh, for example, built the six-story, 12,000 square meter (130,000 square feet) Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid, which opened in 1992 and is one of the biggest mosques in Europe. Saudi Arabia also built the €22 million ($30 million) Islamic Cultural Center in Málaga, a small city in southern Spain that is home to almost 100,000 Muslims. (The center's website includes "news" with headlines such as "Christian Palestine under Zionist Occupation.")

Saudi Arabia, which also built the "great mosques" in the Spanish cities of Marbella and Fuengirola, has been accused of using the mosques and Islamic cultural centers in Spain to promote the Wahhabi sect of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism rejects all non-Wahhabi Islam, any dialogue with other religions and any opening up to other cultures. By definition, it also rejects the integration of Muslim immigrants into Spanish society.

In December 2000, the Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid was expelled from the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI) to "frustrate the attempts of Saudi Arabia to control Islam in Spain." Most Muslim immigrants in Spain are from the Maghreb (especially Morocco and Algeria) or Pakistan; analysts say their low standards of living and low levels of education make them particularly susceptible to the Islamist propaganda promoted by Saudi Arabia.

Not to be outdone, Morocco recently co-sponsored a weeklong seminar in Barcelona titled "Muslims and European Values" during which it was proposed that the construction of big mosques would be "a useful formula" to fight Islamic fundamentalism in Spain.

According to Noureddine Ziani, a Barcelona-based Moroccan imam: "It is easier to disseminate fundamentalist ideas in small mosques set up in garages where only the members of the congregation attend, than in large mosques that are open to everyone, with prayer rooms, cafes and meeting areas." He also said it is absolutely necessary to accept Islamic values as European values and that from now on, Europeans should replace the term "Judeo-Christian" with term "Islamo-Christian" when describing Western Civilization.

Meanwhile, the Madrid-based ABC newspaper reports that more than 100 mosques in Spain have radical imams preaching to the faithful each Friday. The newspaper says some imams have established religious police that harass and attack those who do not comply with Islamic law. ABC also reports that during 2010, more than 10 Salafist conferences were held in Spain, compared to only one in 2008.

Salafism is a branch of revivalist Islam that calls for restoring past Muslim glory by re-establishing an Islamic empire across the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe. Salafists view Spain as a Muslim state that must be re-conquered for Islam.

The irony (or maybe not) is that all of the Muslim countries supporting Jihad in Spain also support the Alliance of Civilizations, a post-modern initiative proudly launched by Spain's Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2005 as a way to "bridge the divide" between the West and Islam.

In practice, however, the Alliance of Civilizations has turned out to be a one-way bridge: Islam has been invited to cross over into the West and the West has been invited to stand by and watch. As for Spain's belated efforts to control the spread of Islam on the Iberian Peninsula, it is probably too little too late.

Soeren Kern

Source: http://www.hudson-ny.org/2320/financing-jihad-in-spain

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

A Caged Mubarak in the Dock


by Rick Moran

In a scene most Egyptians believed would never happen, former President Hosni Mubarak, confined to a stretcher, was wheeled into a cage in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, located in a suburb east of Cairo. He is to stand trial for corruption and for the murders of nearly 850 protesters slain during the uprising last winter. As many Egyptians revel in the dramatic event, other spectators cannot overlook troubling changes in their country’s political landscape. For even if justice is served in the trial, the fear remains that the fall of Mubarak heralds the rise of something much worse.

The trial begins just days after hundreds of thousands of Salafists poured into Tahrir Square calling for Egypt to become an Islamist state and adopt Sharia as the law of the land. The demonstration, which shocked many analysts with its organization and discipline, raised the specter of a union between the Salafists, represented by their political party Al Nour or “The Light,” and the Muslim Brotherhood. The alliance threatens to sweep Islamic extremists into power when the elections are held in November or December.

The prospect of such a catastrophe coming to pass weighs heavily on the military, which has delayed elections in order to give secular parties more time to organize. And it points up the dilemma in which secular Egyptians find themselves. Mubarak — a brutal tyrant who tortured opponents and suppressed the political opposition, while playing a double game by cozying up to Islamists — might be a devil, but he’s a devil they know. The frightening possibility that a union of extremists might come to power, establish Sharia law, abrogate the treaty with Israel, and become an implacable foe of the West, is one that has both secular parties and the nation’s military on edge.

Regardless, Mubarak’s trial is unprecedented in the Arab world and is being closely watched in the region. Aside from the trial of Saddam Hussein that occurred thanks to American intervention, the idea of holding a dictator accountable for his actions in a court of law rather than being shipped off into exile or murdered in a bloody revolution is entirely new. And the spectacle of the once nearly omnipotent Mubarak in a cage wearing prison whites has riveted the Egyptian people as perhaps nothing else since the protests against the dictator began last February.

The former dictator, rumored to be suffering from cancer, looked pale and weak, but answered the judge’s query about his guilt or innocence in a defiant voice. “I deny all these accusations completely,” he said, wearily waving his hand.

Whether or not Mubarak is suffering from cancer or simply playing for sympathy, his appearance in a wire cage, lying on a stretcher, shielded from cameras by his two sons who are also on trial for corruption, has electrified the country as millions watch live on television. “I am dreaming,” Hossam Muhammad said as he watched the trial. “Somebody pinch me.” The mother of a 17-year-old girl murdered during the protests said, ”This is the dream of Egyptians, to see him like this, humiliated like he humiliated them for the last 30 years.”

Judging by the long speeches made by attorneys for both sides, the trial may very well degenerate into a circus, or worse, a show trial, where the powerful emotions of Mubarak’s many victims will be given free reign, and the proceedings will appear to be an exercise in revenge. The military and the reformers can ill-afford for that to happen, since it may even generate sympathy for Mubarak if he is seen as being railroaded to a guilty verdict.

Hundreds of pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters demonstrated outside of the trial venue. One source told The Telegraph that 54 people were injured when the two sides threw stones and bottles at each other. The pro-Mubarak protesters were especially emotional, screaming, “We will demolish and burn the prison if they convict Mubarak.” Many wore T-shirts with the slogan, “I’m Egyptian. I reject the insulting of the leader of the nation.”

Defense attorneys have already made it clear that they will slow the proceedings to a crawl. They want to call more than 1,000 witnesses, including Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, who is current head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Mubarak’s lawyers claim that Tantawi was in charge of security after January 28, which is when most of the deaths occurred.

That line of argumentation will probably fall on deaf ears with the Egyptian people. They endured 30 years of Mubarak’s brutality and corruption. Not only were Egyptians oppressed by the dictator politically, but the economic life of the country was stunted by his cronyism, handing the directorships of companies to his friends in the military, while denying economic opportunities to ordinary people by decreeing monopolies and steering government contracts away from rivals. Most Egyptians would agree that no fate that befalls Hosni Mubarak would be too horrible.

But after all that is said and the justice system has its way with him, exactly what is it that the Egyptian people will have won? Will they trade a somewhat secular dictator for the religious oppression guaranteed by the Islamists? One woman, upon seeing the hundreds of thousands of extremists demonstrating in Tahrir Square last week, said, “I think I will have to leave Egypt.” Despite the airy assurances of President Obama and other Western leaders in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of Mubarak that Egypt was on the way to “democracy,” the facts on the ground are far murkier and, in fact, threaten the kind of scenario that was brushed aside by the US State Department as unrealistic just a few short months ago.

No one knows precisely how much support the Muslim Brotherhood and its Salafist allies might get in the upcoming elections. The estimate that the Salafists make up only 10-20% of the population seems low when contemplating the results of a Pew poll from April of this year. Some of the results from that survey are extremely disturbing. Pew found that 54% of Egyptians want to end the peace treaty with Israel. Another 62% support the imposition of Sharia law on the country. Also, 18% say they will support the Muslim Brotherhood in the elections, the second highest total for any party. A previous Pew poll from last December shows widespread support for traditional Islamic punishments such as lopping off hands for thievery and stoning for adultery.

That same poll revealed that almost half the country had a favorable opinion of Hamas. Indeed, since the SCAF took power, the flow of guns into Gaza has increased, as one of the first major acts of the new government was to open the border crossing of Rafah.

What these surveys appear to show is that support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist extremists is wider, deeper, and stronger than anyone assumed when Mubarak was kicked out of power last February. And while the trial of Hosni Mubarak may give a lot of satisfaction and act as an emotional catalyst for most Egyptians, it may also symbolically usher in a new, darker chapter in Egypt’s history — one that not only threatens to destroy any hope for real democracy, but also threatens Israel and Egypt’s neighbors with the worst kind of Islamic extremism and oppression.

Rick Moran

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/08/04/a-caged-mubarak-in-the-dock/

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

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Creeping Islamism in Scandinavia


by Ryan Mauro

The despicable but successful attacks in Norway by Anders Breivik stand in contrast to Al-Qaeda’s difficulties in carrying out similar dramatic acts of terror. This may cause the threat from anti-Muslim extremism to rise above radical Islam in the minds of the Western public. There is a risk that growing Islamist trends in Scandinavia will be overshadowed because of the shock caused by Breivik’s attacks.

Denmark has been a top terrorist target since the publication of the cartoons denigrating Mohammed. On January 1, 2010, a Somali member of al-Shabaab tried to murder the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, with an axe at his home. Two terrorists connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba were arrested in Chicago in November 2009, one of which had conducted surveillance in Denmark in preparation for an attack. In September 2010, a Chechen accidentally set off his letter bomb in a hotel bathroom in Copenhagen. He was found with the address of the newspaper that published the cartoons.

Norway is understandably fixated on right-wing extremism following Breivik’s attacks, but it is also dealing with a serious Islamist problem. In September, three members of Al-Qaeda were arrested while planning attacks in Norway. The cell was tied to a plot to bomb New York City subways in 2009, and to attack a British shopping mall in April 2009. In February 2008, six suspected terrorists were arrested in Oslo and Stockholm, Sweden for financing terrorism and planning attacks. At least five Somali-Norwegians have been recruited by al-Shabaab, with one killed in Somalia in March.

In late 2008 and early 2009, Muslim riots occurred in response to Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Participants made anti-Semitic remarks and called for the destruction of Israel. In February 2010, there were protests against the publication of cartoons mocking Mohammed in a Norwegian newspaper. One of the speakers, Mohyeldeen Mohammad, warned that Norway could experience its own 9/11 for the act. He is now being educated in Saudi Arabia. Luckily, a small group of Muslims protested his remarks.

There is also concern about extremism in Norwegian Islamic schools. In June 2009, an imam in Drammen was arrested for striking students between 6 and 12 years old with a cane. He had been abusing the children since 2002, and was also violent towards children at several mosques. Law enforcement suspects that other imams are abusing the children. This is a problem that is not isolated to Norway. Undercover journalists in Britain discovered abuse and extremist indoctrination at a school in Birmingham and a mosque in West Yorkshire. Similar abuse was discovered at other Islamic schools in 2008.

The story is the same with Sweden. Over 30 Somali-Swedes have joined al-Shabaab in the past two years. The Al-Qaeda affiliate is known to be fundraising in the country. On December 11, there were two bombings in Stockholm, killing the Iraqi perpetrator and injuring two civilians. Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility. Journalist Per Gudmundson estimates that there are at least 1,500 Islamic extremists in Sweden, about 100-200 of which are involved in terrorist-related activity.

In June 2010, there were riots for two days in Rinkeby, a city often referred to as “Little Mogadishu” because of its large Somali immigrant population. About 100 youth rioted for two days when they were not allowed into a school dance. Cars were set on fire, and the school was burned down. Policemen and fire fighters had stones thrown at them, and the rioters also tried to set the local police station on fire. One eyewitness described it as a “war zone.” The Swedish Prime Minister had to personally appeal for calm.

Sweden’s third largest city, Malmo, is quickly changing because of its fast-growing Muslim population. The Jewish community feels intimidated, and is now only half the size of what it was 20 years ago. On the other hand, Malmo is now one-fourth Muslim. When CBN did a report on Malmo, no Jewish leaders felt safe enough to go on the record. One Holocaust survivor, Judith Popinski, said “The hatreds of the Middle East have come to Malmo.”

“Muslim schoolchildren often ignore me now when I talk about my experiences in the camps. It is because of what their parents tell them about Jews,” she told the Telegraph.

In Rosengard, the Muslim-majority part of the city, crime is out of control and up to 70 percent are unemployed. It is common for emergency personnel to require police escort in order to enter the area. The lack of assimilation by the Muslim minority in Sweden must be dealt with, as journalist Lars Hedegaard predicts that a majority of the country’s population will be Muslim by 2049.

The fact that anti-Muslim extremists do exist should not result in a dismissal of the problems Scandinavia and Europe as a whole face with Islamism and assimilation. Individuals like Breivik deserve no sympathy, and must be swiftly dealt with before committing acts of terror. However, if extremists of his ilk get all the attention, then Breivik will have unwittingly strengthened their hand.

Ryan Mauro

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/08/04/creeping-islamism-in-scandinavia/

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

Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam?


by Raymond Ibrahim

"There is far more violence in the Bible than in the Qur'an; the idea that Islam imposed itself by the sword is a Western fiction, fabricated during the time of the Crusades when, in fact, it was Western Christians who were fighting brutal holy wars against Islam."[1] So announces former nun and self-professed "freelance monotheist," Karen Armstrong. This quote sums up the single most influential argument currently serving to deflect the accusation that Islam is inherently violent and intolerant: All monotheistic religions, proponents of such an argument say, and not just Islam, have their fair share of violent and intolerant scriptures, as well as bloody histories. Thus, whenever Islam's sacred scriptures—the Qur'an first, followed by the reports on the words and deeds of Muhammad (the Hadith)—are highlighted as demonstrative of the religion's innate bellicosity, the immediate rejoinder is that other scriptures, specifically those of Judeo-Christianity, are as riddled with violent passages.

Medieval times: The Crusades were violent and led to atrocities by the modern world's standards under the banner of the cross and in the name of Christianity. But the Crusades were a counterattack on Islam. Muslim invasions and atrocities against Christians were on the rise in the decades before the launch of the Crusades in 1096.

More often than not, this argument puts an end to any discussion regarding whether violence and intolerance are unique to Islam. Instead, the default answer becomes that it is not Islam per se but rather Muslim grievance and frustration—ever exacerbated by economic, political, and social factors—that lead to violence. That this view comports perfectly with the secular West's "materialistic" epistemology makes it all the more unquestioned.

Therefore, before condemning the Qur'an and the historical words and deeds of Islam's prophet Muhammad for inciting violence and intolerance, Jews are counseled to consider the historical atrocities committed by their Hebrew forefathers as recorded in their own scriptures; Christians are advised to consider the brutal cycle of violence their forbears have committed in the name of their faith against both non-Christians and fellow Christians. In other words, Jews and Christians are reminded that those who live in glass houses should not be hurling stones.

But is that really the case? Is the analogy with other scriptures legitimate? Does Hebrew violence in the ancient era, and Christian violence in the medieval era, compare to or explain away the tenacity of Muslim violence in the modern era?

Violence in Jewish and Christian History

Along with Armstrong, any number of prominent writers, historians, and theologians have championed this "relativist" view. For instance, John Esposito, director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, wonders,

How come we keep on asking the same question, [about violence in Islam,] and don't ask the same question about Christianity and Judaism? Jews and Christians have engaged in acts of violence. All of us have the transcendent and the dark side. … We have our own theology of hate. In mainstream Christianity and Judaism, we tend to be intolerant; we adhere to an exclusivist theology, of us versus them.[2]

An article by Pennsylvania State University humanities professor Philip Jenkins, "Dark Passages," delineates this position most fully. It aspires to show that the Bible is more violent than the Qur'an:

[I]n terms of ordering violence and bloodshed, any simplistic claim about the superiority of the Bible to the Koran would be wildly wrong. In fact, the Bible overflows with "texts of terror," to borrow a phrase coined by the American theologian Phyllis Trible. The Bible contains far more verses praising or urging bloodshed than does the Koran, and biblical violence is often far more extreme, and marked by more indiscriminate savagery. … If the founding text shapes the whole religion, then Judaism and Christianity deserve the utmost condemnation as religions of savagery.[3]

Several anecdotes from the Bible as well as from Judeo-Christian history illustrate Jenkins' point, but two in particular—one supposedly representative of Judaism, the other of Christianity—are regularly mentioned and therefore deserve closer examination.

The military conquest of the land of Canaan by the Hebrews in about 1200 B.C.E. is often characterized as "genocide" and has all but become emblematic of biblical violence and intolerance. God told Moses:

But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them—the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite—just as the Lord your God has commanded you, lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God.[4]

So Joshua [Moses' successor] conquered all the land: the mountain country and the South and the lowland and the wilderness slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord, God of Israel had commanded.[5]

As for Christianity, since it is impossible to find New Testament verses inciting violence, those who espouse the view that Christianity is as violent as Islam rely on historical events such as the Crusader wars waged by European Christians between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The Crusades were in fact violent and led to atrocities by the modern world's standards under the banner of the cross and in the name of Christianity. After breaching the walls of Jerusalem in 1099, for example, the Crusaders reportedly slaughtered almost every inhabitant of the Holy City. According to the medieval chronicle, the Gesta Danorum, "the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles."[6]

In light of the above, as Armstrong, Esposito, Jenkins, and others argue, why should Jews and Christians point to the Qur'an as evidence of Islam's violence while ignoring their own scriptures and history?

Bible versus Qur'an

The answer lies in the fact that such observations confuse history and theology by conflating the temporal actions of men with what are understood to be the immutable words of God. The fundamental error is that Judeo-Christian history—which is violent—is being conflated with Islamic theology—which commands violence. Of course, the three major monotheistic religions have all had their share of violence and intolerance towards the "other." Whether this violence is ordained by God or whether warlike men merely wished it thus is the key question.

Old Testament violence is an interesting case in point. God clearly ordered the Hebrews to annihilate the Canaanites and surrounding peoples. Such violence is therefore an expression of God's will, for good or ill. Regardless, all the historic violence committed by the Hebrews and recorded in the Old Testament is just that—history. It happened; God commanded it. But it revolved around a specific time and place and was directed against a specific people. At no time did such violence go on to become standardized or codified into Jewish law. In short, biblical accounts of violence are descriptive, not prescriptive.

This is where Islamic violence is unique. Though similar to the violence of the Old Testament—commanded by God and manifested in history—certain aspects of Islamic violence and intolerance have become standardized in Islamic law and apply at all times. Thus, while the violence found in the Qur'an has a historical context, its ultimate significance is theological. Consider the following Qur'anic verses, better known as the "sword-verses":

Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way.[7]

Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day, and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden – such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book – until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled.[8]

As with Old Testament verses where God commanded the Hebrews to attack and slay their neighbors, the sword-verses also have a historical context. God first issued these commandments after the Muslims under Muhammad's leadership had grown sufficiently strong to invade their Christian and pagan neighbors. But unlike the bellicose verses and anecdotes of the Old Testament, the sword-verses became fundamental to Islam's subsequent relationship to both the "people of the book" (i.e., Jews and Christians) and the "idolaters" (i.e., Hindus, Buddhists, animists, etc.) and, in fact, set off the Islamic conquests, which changed the face of the world forever. Based on Qur'an 9:5, for instance, Islamic law mandates that idolaters and polytheists must either convert to Islam or be killed; simultaneously, Qur'an 9:29 is the primary source of Islam's well-known discriminatory practices against conquered Christians and Jews living under Islamic suzerainty.

In fact, based on the sword-verses as well as countless other Qur'anic verses and oral traditions attributed to Muhammad, Islam's learned officials, sheikhs, muftis, and imams throughout the ages have all reached consensus—binding on the entire Muslim community—that Islam is to be at perpetual war with the non-Muslim world until the former subsumes the latter. Indeed, it is widely held by Muslim scholars that since the sword-verses are among the final revelations on the topic of Islam's relationship to non-Muslims, that they alone have abrogated some 200 of the Qur'an's earlier and more tolerant verses, such as "no compulsion is there in religion."[9] Famous Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) admired in the West for his "progressive" insights, also puts to rest the notion that jihad is defensive warfare:

In the Muslim community, the holy war [jihad] is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force ... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense ... They are merely required to establish their religion among their own people. That is why the Israelites after Moses and Joshua remained unconcerned with royal authority [e.g., a caliphate]. Their only concern was to establish their religion [not spread it to the nations] … But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.[10]

Modern authorities agree. The Encyclopaedia of Islam's entry for "jihad" by Emile Tyan states that the "spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general … Jihad must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam … Islam must completely be made over before the doctrine of jihad [warfare to spread Islam] can be eliminated." Iraqi jurist Majid Khaduri (1909-2007), after defining jihad as warfare, writes that "jihad … is regarded by all jurists, with almost no exception, as a collective obligation of the whole Muslim community."[11] And, of course, Muslim legal manuals written in Arabic are even more explicit.[12]

Qur'anic Language

When the Qur'an's violent verses are juxtaposed with their Old Testament counterparts, they are especially distinct for using language that transcends time and space, inciting believers to attack and slay nonbelievers today no less than yesterday. God commanded the Hebrews to kill Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—all specific peoples rooted to a specific time and place. At no time did God give an open-ended command for the Hebrews, and by extension their Jewish descendants, to fight and kill gentiles. On the other hand, though Islam's original enemies were, like Judaism's, historical (e.g., Christian Byzantines and Zoroastrian Persians), the Qur'an rarely singles them out by their proper names. Instead, Muslims were (and are) commanded to fight the people of the book—"until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled"[13] and to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them."[14]

The two Arabic conjunctions "until" (hata) and "wherever" (haythu) demonstrate the perpetual and ubiquitous nature of these commandments: There are still "people of the book" who have yet to be "utterly humbled" (especially in the Americas, Europe, and Israel) and "idolaters" to be slain "wherever" one looks (especially Asia and sub-Saharan Africa). In fact, the salient feature of almost all of the violent commandments in Islamic scriptures is their open-ended and generic nature: "Fight them [non-Muslims] until there is no persecution and the religion is God's entirely. [Emphasis added.]"[15] Also, in a well-attested tradition that appears in the hadith collections, Muhammad proclaims:

I have been commanded to wage war against mankind until they testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God; and that they establish prostration prayer, and pay the alms-tax [i.e., convert to Islam]. If they do so, their blood and property are protected. [Emphasis added.][16]

This linguistic aspect is crucial to understanding scriptural exegeses regarding violence. Again, it bears repeating that neither Jewish nor Christian scriptures—the Old and New Testaments, respectively—employ such perpetual, open-ended commandments. Despite all this, Jenkins laments that

Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions … all are in the Bible, and occur with a far greater frequency than in the Qur'an. At every stage, we can argue what the passages in question mean, and certainly whether they should have any relevance for later ages. But the fact remains that the words are there, and their inclusion in the scripture means that they are, literally, canonized, no less than in the Muslim scripture.[17]

One wonders what Jenkins has in mind by the word "canonized." If by canonized he means that such verses are considered part of the canon of Judeo-Christian scripture, he is absolutely correct; conversely, if by canonized he means or is trying to connote that these verses have been implemented in the Judeo-Christian Weltanschauung, he is absolutely wrong.

Yet one need not rely on purely exegetical and philological arguments; both history and current events give the lie to Jenkins's relativism. Whereas first-century Christianity spread via the blood of martyrs, first-century Islam spread through violent conquest and bloodshed. Indeed, from day one to the present—whenever it could—Islam spread through conquest, as evinced by the fact that the majority of what is now known as the Islamic world, or dar al-Islam, was conquered by the sword of Islam. This is a historic fact, attested to by the most authoritative Islamic historians. Even the Arabian peninsula, the "home" of Islam, was subdued by great force and bloodshed, as evidenced by the Ridda wars following Muhammad's death when tens of thousands of Arabs were put to the sword by the first caliph Abu Bakr for abandoning Islam.

Muhammad's Role

Moreover, concerning the current default position which purports to explain away Islamic violence—that the latter is a product of Muslim frustration vis-à-vis political or economic oppression—one must ask: What about all the oppressed Christians and Jews, not to mention Hindus and Buddhists, of the world today? Where is their religiously-garbed violence? The fact remains: Even though the Islamic world has the lion's share of dramatic headlines—of violence, terrorism, suicide-attacks, decapitations—it is certainly not the only region in the world suffering under both internal and external pressures.

For instance, even though practically all of sub-Saharan Africa is currently riddled with political corruption, oppression and poverty, when it comes to violence, terrorism, and sheer chaos, Somalia—which also happens to be the only sub-Saharan country that is entirely Muslim—leads the pack. Moreover, those most responsible for Somali violence and the enforcement of intolerant, draconian, legal measures—the members of the jihadi group Al-Shabab (the youth)—articulate and justify all their actions through an Islamist paradigm.

In Sudan, too, a jihadi-genocide against the Christian and polytheistic peoples is currently being waged by Khartoum's Islamist government and has left nearly a million "infidels" and "apostates" dead. That the Organization of Islamic Conference has come to the defense of Sudanese president Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, is further telling of the Islamic body's approval of violence toward both non-Muslims and those deemed not Muslim enough.

Latin American and non-Muslim Asian countries also have their fair share of oppressive, authoritarian regimes, poverty, and all the rest that the Muslim world suffers. Yet, unlike the near daily headlines emanating from the Islamic world, there are no records of practicing Christians, Buddhists, or Hindus crashing explosives-laden vehicles into the buildings of oppressive (e.g., Cuban or Chinese communist) regimes, all the while waving their scriptures in hand and screaming, "Jesus [or Buddha or Vishnu] is great!" Why?

There is one final aspect that is often overlooked—either from ignorance or disingenuousness—by those who insist that violence and intolerance is equivalent across the board for all religions. Aside from the divine words of the Qur'an, Muhammad's pattern of behavior—his sunna or "example"—is an extremely important source of legislation in Islam. Muslims are exhorted to emulate Muhammad in all walks of life: "You have had a good example in God's Messenger."[18] And Muhammad's pattern of conduct toward non-Muslims is quite explicit.

Sarcastically arguing against the concept of moderate Islam, for example, terrorist Osama bin Laden, who enjoys half the Arab-Islamic world's support per an Al-Jazeera poll,[19] portrays the Prophet's sunna thusly:

"Moderation" is demonstrated by our prophet who did not remain more than three months in Medina without raiding or sending a raiding party into the lands of the infidels to beat down their strongholds and seize their possessions, their lives, and their women.[20]

In fact, based on both the Qur'an and Muhammad's sunna, pillaging and plundering infidels, enslaving their children, and placing their women in concubinage is well founded.[21] And the concept of sunna—which is what 90 percent of the billion-plus Muslims, the Sunnis, are named after—essentially asserts that anything performed or approved by Muhammad, humanity's most perfect example, is applicable for Muslims today no less than yesterday. This, of course, does not mean that Muslims in mass live only to plunder and rape.

But it does mean that persons naturally inclined to such activities, and who also happen to be Muslim, can—and do—quite easily justify their actions by referring to the "Sunna of the Prophet"—the way Al-Qaeda, for example, justified its attacks on 9/11 where innocents including women and children were killed: Muhammad authorized his followers to use catapults during their siege of the town of Ta'if in 630 C.E.—townspeople had refused to submit—though he was aware that women and children were sheltered there. Also, when asked if it was permissible to launch night raids or set fire to the fortifications of the infidels if women and children were among them, the Prophet is said to have responded, "They [women and children] are from among them [infidels]."[22]

Jewish and Christian Ways

Though law-centric and possibly legalistic, Judaism has no such equivalent to the Sunna; the words and deeds of the patriarchs, though described in the Old Testament, never went on to prescribe Jewish law. Neither Abraham's "white-lies," nor Jacob's perfidy, nor Moses' short-fuse, nor David's adultery, nor Solomon's philandering ever went on to instruct Jews or Christians. They were understood as historical acts perpetrated by fallible men who were more often than not punished by God for their less than ideal behavior.

As for Christianity, much of the Old Testament law was abrogated or fulfilled—depending on one's perspective—by Jesus. "Eye for an eye" gave way to "turn the other cheek." Totally loving God and one's neighbor became supreme law.[23] Furthermore, Jesus' sunna—as in "What would Jesus do?"—is characterized by passivity and altruism. The New Testament contains absolutely no exhortations to violence.

Still, there are those who attempt to portray Jesus as having a similarly militant ethos as Muhammad by quoting the verse where the former—who "spoke to the multitudes in parables and without a parable spoke not"[24]—said, "I come not to bring peace but a sword."[25] But based on the context of this statement, it is clear that Jesus was not commanding violence against non-Christians but rather predicting that strife will exist between Christians and their environment—a prediction that was only too true as early Christians, far from taking up the sword, passively perished by the sword in martyrdom as too often they still do in the Muslim world. [26]

Others point to the violence predicted in the Book of Revelation while, again, failing to discern that the entire account is descriptive—not to mention clearly symbolic—and thus hardly prescriptive for Christians. At any rate, how can one conscionably compare this handful of New Testament verses that metaphorically mention the word "sword" to the literally hundreds of Qur'anic injunctions and statements by Muhammad that clearly command Muslims to take up a very real sword against non-Muslims?

Undeterred, Jenkins bemoans the fact that, in the New Testament, Jews "plan to stone Jesus, they plot to kill him; in turn, Jesus calls them liars, children of the Devil."[27] It still remains to be seen if being called "children of the Devil" is more offensive than being referred to as the descendents of apes and pigs—the Qur'an's appellation for Jews.[28] Name calling aside, however, what matters here is that, whereas the New Testament does not command Christians to treat Jews as "children of the Devil," based on the Qur'an, primarily 9:29, Islamic law obligates Muslims to subjugate Jews, indeed, all non-Muslims.

Does this mean that no self-professed Christian can be anti-Semitic? Of course not. But it does mean that Christian anti-Semites are living oxymorons—for the simple reason that textually and theologically, Christianity, far from teaching hatred or animosity, unambiguously stresses love and forgiveness. Whether or not all Christians follow such mandates is hardly the point; just as whether or not all Muslims uphold the obligation of jihad is hardly the point. The only question is, what do the religions command?

John Esposito is therefore right to assert that "Jews and Christians have engaged in acts of violence." He is wrong, however, to add, "We [Christians] have our own theology of hate." Nothing in the New Testament teaches hate—certainly nothing to compare with Qur'anic injunctions such as: "We [Muslims] disbelieve in you [non-Muslims], and between us and you enmity has shown itself, and hatred for ever until you believe in God alone."[29]

Reassessing the Crusades

And it is from here that one can best appreciate the historic Crusades—events that have been thoroughly distorted by Islam's many influential apologists. Karen Armstrong, for instance, has practically made a career for herself by misrepresenting the Crusades, writing, for example, that "the idea that Islam imposed itself by the sword is a Western fiction, fabricated during the time of the Crusades when, in fact, it was Western Christians who were fighting brutal holy wars against Islam."[30] That a former nun rabidly condemns the Crusades vis-à-vis anything Islam has done makes her critique all the more marketable. Yet statements such as this ignore the fact that from the beginnings of Islam, more than 400 years before the Crusades, Christians have noted that Islam was spread by the sword.[31] Indeed, authoritative Muslim historians writing centuries before the Crusades, such as Ahmad Ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri (d. 892) and Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari (838-923), make it clear that Islam was spread by the sword.

The fact remains: The Crusades were a counterattack on Islam—not an unprovoked assault as Armstrong and other revisionist historians portray. Eminent historian Bernard Lewis puts it well,

Even the Christian crusade, often compared with the Muslim jihad, was itself a delayed and limited response to the jihad and in part also an imitation. But unlike the jihad, it was concerned primarily with the defense or reconquest of threatened or lost Christian territory. It was, with few exceptions, limited to the successful wars for the recovery of southwest Europe, and the unsuccessful wars to recover the Holy Land and to halt the Ottoman advance in the Balkans. The Muslim jihad, in contrast, was perceived as unlimited, as a religious obligation that would continue until all the world had either adopted the Muslim faith or submitted to Muslim rule. … The object of jihad is to bring the whole world under Islamic law.[32]

Moreover, Muslim invasions and atrocities against Christians were on the rise in the decades before the launch of the Crusades in 1096. The Fatimid caliph Abu 'Ali Mansur Tariqu'l-Hakim (r. 996-1021) desecrated and destroyed a number of important churches—such as the Church of St. Mark in Egypt and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem—and decreed even more oppressive than usual decrees against Christians and Jews. Then, in 1071, the Seljuk Turks crushed the Byzantines in the pivotal battle of Manzikert and, in effect, conquered a major chunk of Byzantine Anatolia presaging the way for the eventual capture of Constantinople centuries later.

It was against this backdrop that Pope Urban II (r. 1088-1099) called for the Crusades:

From the confines of Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians [i.e., Muslim Turks] … has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures; it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion.[33]

Even though Urban II's description is historically accurate, the fact remains: However one interprets these wars—as offensive or defensive, just or unjust—it is evident that they were not based on the example of Jesus, who exhorted his followers to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."[34] Indeed, it took centuries of theological debate, from Augustine to Aquinas, to rationalize defensive war—articulated as "just war." Thus, it would seem that if anyone, it is the Crusaders—not the jihadists—who have been less than faithful to their scriptures (from a literal standpoint); or put conversely, it is the jihadists—not the Crusaders—who have faithfully fulfilled their scriptures (also from a literal stand point). Moreover, like the violent accounts of the Old Testament, the Crusades are historic in nature and not manifestations of any deeper scriptural truths.

In fact, far from suggesting anything intrinsic to Christianity, the Crusades ironically better help explain Islam. For what the Crusades demonstrated once and for all is that irrespective of religious teachings—indeed, in the case of these so-called Christian Crusades, despite them—man is often predisposed to violence. But this begs the question: If this is how Christians behaved—who are commanded to love, bless, and do good to their enemies who hate, curse, and persecute them—how much more can be expected of Muslims who, while sharing the same violent tendencies, are further commanded by the Deity to attack, kill, and plunder nonbelievers?

[1] Andrea Bistrich, "Discovering the common grounds of world religions," interview with Karen Armstrong, Share International, Sept. 2007, pp. 19-22.
[2] C-SPAN2, June 5, 2004.
[3] Philip Jenkins, "Dark Passages," The Boston Globe, Mar. 8, 2009.
[4] Deut. 20:16-18.
[5] Josh. 10:40.
[6] "The Fall of Jerusalem," Gesta Danorum, accessed Apr. 2, 2009.
[7] Qur. 9:5. All translations of Qur'anic verses are drawn from A.J. Arberry, ed. The Koran Interpreted: A Translation (New York: Touchstone, 1996).
[8] Qur. 9:29.
[9] Qur. 2:256.
[10] Ibn Khaldun, The Muqudimmah: An Introduction to History, Franz Rosenthal, trans. (New York: Pantheon, 1958,) vol. 1, p. 473.
[11] Majid Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam (London: Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 60.
[12] See, for instance, Ahmed Mahmud Karima, Al-Jihad fi'l-Islam: Dirasa Fiqhiya Muqarina (Cairo: Al-Azhar University, 2003).
[13] Qur. 9:29.
[14] Qur. 9:5.
[15] Qur. 8:39.
[16] Ibn al-Hajjaj Muslim, Sahih Muslim, C9B1N31; Muhammad Ibn Isma'il al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari (Lahore: Kazi, 1979), B2N24.
[17] Jenkins, "Dark_Passages."
[18] Qur. 33:21.
[19] "Al-Jazeera-Poll: 49% of Muslims Support Osama bin Laden," Sept. 7-10, 2006, accessed Apr. 2, 2009.
[20] 'Abd al-Rahim 'Ali, Hilf al Irhab (Cairo: Markaz al-Mahrusa li 'n-Nashr wa 'l-Khidamat as-Sahafiya wa 'l-Ma'lumat, 2004).
[21] For example, Qur. 4:24, 4:92, 8:69, 24:33, 33:50.
[22] Sahih Muslim, B19N4321; for English translation, see Raymond Ibrahim, The Al Qaeda Reader (New York: Doubleday, 2007), p. 140.
[23] Matt. 22:38-40.
[24] Matt. 13:34.
[25] Matt. 10:34.
[26] See, for instance, "Christian Persecution Info," Christian Persecution Magazine, accessed Apr. 2, 2009.
[27] Jenkins, "Dark_Passages."
[28] Qur. 2:62-65, 5:59-60, 7:166.
[29] Qur. 60:4.
[30] Bistrich, "Discovering the common grounds of world religions," pp. 19-22; For a critique of Karen Armstrong's work, see "Karen Armstrong," in Andrew Holt, ed. Crusades-Encyclopedia, Apr. 2005, accessed Apr. 6, 2009.
[31] See, for example, the writings of Sophrinius, Jerusalem's patriarch during the Muslim conquest of the Holy City, just years after the death of Muhammad, or the chronicles of Theophane the Confessor.
[32] Bernard Lewis, The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years (New York: Scribner, 1995), p. 233-4.
[33] "Speech of Urban—Robert of Rheims," in Edward Peters, ed., The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), p. 27.
[34] Matt. 5:44.

Raymond Ibrahim is associate director of the Middle East Forum and author of The Al Qaeda Reader (New York: Doubleday, 2007).

Source: http://www.meforum.org/2159/are-judaism-and-christianity-as-violent-as-islam

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