Friday, June 14, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: The "Sushi" is Heating up




by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

Among scholars of the Middle East, the term "sushi" is used as a shorthand for the expression, "Sunni-Shi'a". Anyone interested in the history of Islam knows that the seeds of the Sunni-Shi'a conflict were planted the moment that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, closed his eyes forever in the year 632 CE, without leaving a mechanism for choosing a successor to lead the nation. The conflict that developed as a result, has become an open, bloody battle over the years, and it has been a thread in the fabric of Islamic history throughout all of its 1400 years.  This conflict has facets on many levels: personal, familial, political and religious. The battle between the two factions of Islam is "for the whole pot", and it continues to this very day.

In modern times, attempts have been made to bridge over the conflict and to find common ground between the factions of Islam in order to create a sense of calm between the factions, on the basis of which it will be possible to manage states such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where the two factions live side by side, Shi'ites and Sunnis, in one state. Even the Egyptian Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is the Mufti (religious arbiter) of the Emirate of Qatar, has expressed himself both verbally and in writing about the need to find a way to "bring the schools of thought closer together", as if Shi'a is another legitimate school of thought, in addition to the four Sunni schools: Hanafi, Maliki,
Shafi'i and Hanbali. In the good old days they used to call the Shi'a faction the "Jafari school" after one of the fathers of Shi'a.

The Golden Age between the Sunni and Shi'a was the year 2006, as a result of the Second Lebanon War, when Hizb'Allah managed to create the impression that it had won a "divine victory" over Israel. After all, Hasan Nasrallah had survived despite 33 days of heavy Israeli attacks, some of which were aimed at him personally. Hizb'Allah was compared with the armies of the Arab countries, which had failed in all of their attempts to destroy the state of Israel, and were defeated by Israel's army in only six days in 1967. As a result of the Second Lebanon War, Hasan Nasrallah declared in every public arena - especially in his  al-Manar ("the beacon") television channel - that the victory belongs to the whole Arab and Islamic nation, and in this way, he created for himself the image of being the only leader in the Middle East who knows what to do and does the right things, ignoring the objections of the infidel West and its paltry servants, meaning most of the rulers of the Arab states. Bashar Asad declared that Hizb'Allah's way is the only way to fight and the only method that can defeat the Zionist enemy.


During the war in the summer of 2006, great crowds of people of the Middle East erupted in emotional demonstrations where pictures of Hasan Nasrallah were held high, and those who wanted to make a point also carried pictures of Bashar Asad, the great supporter of Hizb'Allah. It was convenient for everyone - including religious figures such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi - to ignore the fact that Hizb'Allah was a Shi'ite group, backed up by Iran, because if the Sunni Hamas movement ended up in the same boat with Hizb'Allah what evil could possibly have sprung from
the Lebanese "al-Muqawama wal-mumana'a" ("Resistance and Defense") movement, which supports all of the "liberation movements" regardless of religious sect? The al-Jazeera channel, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood movement, embraced Hizb'Allah and dedicated many hours of positive programming to it, and in many Islamic societies - including Israel's - more than a few people crossed over from the Sunni side of Islam to the Shi'a. Only a small group of Saudi religious authorities were not overcome by the waves of sympathy for Hizb'Allah. They always view the Shi'ite dominance of Lebanon, as well as its influence on the collective Arab discourse, negatively.

But the enthusiasm for Hizb'Allah has not survived the storm that has been buffeting the Middle East ever since December 2010, known romantically in the media as "the Arab Spring", as if presently in the Middle East, the birds are chirping, the trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, the butterflies are fluttering, people are smiling and there is an air of rising optimism. The vicious war that has been raging in Syria since March 2011 has cost so far at least one hundred thousand fatalities and many thousands of wounded, has made millions of Syrians into displaced persons within their land and into refugees in neighboring lands, and  Hizb'Allah is totally engaged in fighting
this dirty war in support of the Asad regime. Information about the involvement of Hizb'Allah in the fighting has been leaking out for more than a year. At first they buried their fallen in temporary graveyards in the Valley of Lebanon, near the border with Syria, to avoid holding funerals in residential areas, thereby disclosing  Hizb'Allah's involvement in the events in Syria. Because of the need for secrecy, the families of the fallen were forbidden to observe rites of mourning and memorial services when the fighters died. 

With time, the picture has changed, and Hizb'Allah can no longer hide its involvement in the battles in Syria. In an effort to shore up his popularity, Nasrallah tried to say that the Hizb'Allah forces were in Syria only to defend a number of "Lebanese" villages, but some of those who heard this story understood that Hizb'Allah was actually defending Shi'ite villages  from attacks by the Sunni rebels. This story crumbled when faced with the reality that was reported by the media, describing Hizb'Allah as an integral part of the Asad regime's fighting effort. For the past year, public criticism of Hizb'Allah has increased in the Arab world because of its involvement in the murder of Syrians, and matters came to a head about a month ago, with the attack on the town of al-Qusayr, which is located on the border between Syria and Lebanon, and serves as a bridge for the transfer of support, weapons, ammunition and fighters from the Sunni area of Tripoli in Lebanon to the rebels in Syria. The rebels took control of al-Qusayr about a year ago, which enabled them to drive a wedge between the area of Damascus, the capital, and the Alawite area in the northwest of the country. From the photographs and the reports of the battle for Qusayr during the past month, it seems that it was Hizb'Allah and not the Syrian army that was fighting for the town.

This bloody battle was the straw that broke the Sunni camel's back. Since al-Qusayr fell into Hizb'Allah's hands, all the dams of criticism have burst, and the religious authorities of Sunni Islam have been attacking Hizb'Allah with their sharpest arrows of Islamic rhetoric, tipped with deadly venom. The expression they use as the name of the organization is "Hizb al-Shitan" - "the party of Satan" - hinting at the passage from the Qur'an "The party of Satan are the losers" (Sura 58, Verse 19), which is the opposite of the name "Hizb 'Allah" - "the party of Allah" - which is also based on the Qur'an (Sura 5, Verse 56). In homilies given in the mosques and in the media, Yusuf al-Qaradawi calls on all Muslims, male and female, to wage jihad against Hizb'Allah in Syria, and openly accuses Hizb'Allah and the Iranians of wanting to devour all of the Muslim countries. He accuses them of being infidels and of hiding their true identity.


Qaradawi does not restrain his tongue. He speaks with contempt about the change in the Syrian constitution that allowed Bashar Asad to succeed his father in 2000 when he was 34 years old, despite the fact that until then, the president was required to be at least 40 years old. He even mentions the original name of the Asad family - "al-wahsh" - which means "wild beast". Qaradawi calls on all the Islamic sages of the world to gather in Cairo on Thursday of this week, to discuss how to deal with the Shi'ites in general and Iran and Hizb'Allah in particular, and to take decisions on the matter. He views the ascent of Sunni Islam to power in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Yemen as a blessing, in addition to Gaza, which he visited recently.


Qaradawi clearly admits that he erred in 2006 about Hizb'Allah, and was fooled by its religious appearance. Qaradawi praises the religious sages of Saudi Arabia who even then, in the days of the Second Lebanon War, were right about Hizb'Allah and did not fall into the trap that Nasrallah had set for the Arab and Islamic world. He asked for pardon and forgiveness from those sages for supporting Hizb'Allah against their judgment.


But Qaradawi is not alone. When 1200 Kuwaiti jihadists were about to leave Kuwait and go to Syria to join the jihad against Hizb'Allah, the Kuwaiti Sheikh Shafi al-'Ajami encouraged them to slaughter their enemy and asked the jihadists to save ten Hizb'Allah fighters for him to have the pleasure of beheading personally.

Even Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic movement in Israel, openly speaks against Hizb'Allah, which acts against "our brothers" in Syria. It is important for us to remember that "our brothers" to Sheikh Ra'ad Salah might be the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, but could also be the Palestinian refugees in Syria, several hundred of whom were killed and injured in battles between Asad and his opposition, and many thousands of whom fled to Jordan and Lebanon.

In Iraq as well

The increasing tension between the Sunni and Shi'a takes its toll in Iraq as well. In the month of May this year, more than a thousand men, women and children were killed in Sunni attacks against Shi'ites, and in revenge attacks of Shi'ites against Sunnis. The increasing tension between the factions in Iraq has generated mutual declarations, each side against the other: "You had better get out of Iraq before it is too late", meaning before our knives separate your heads from your shoulders. Iran arms and equips the Iraqi army as well as the Shi'ite militias such as the Mahdi Army, while Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates support the Sunni minority with weapons, ammunition and funds. The "sushi" tension in the Land of the Two Rivers is increasing and a conflagration resulting in an all-out civil war is apparently just a matter of time.


And Lebanon


Many Lebanese object to the activity of Hizb'Allah in Syria because they fear that the civil war will overflow from Syria into Lebanon, and they will be its victims. This week the Sunnis held a demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in Beirut where the demonstrators called on Iran to bring Hizb'Allah out of Syria. Armed Hizb'Allah activists attacked the demonstrators with clubs and sticks and beat one of them to death. The fighting
continues in Tripoli in the north of Lebanon between the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabana and Jabal Mohsen, whose residents are Alawite, and this week too, people were injured there.  About two weeks ago Grad rockets fell in a southern neighborhood of Beirut, a Hizb'Allah stronghold, and all signs point to a "sushi" heating up in the Land of the Cedars too.

There are reports that Hizb'Allah has demanded the Hamas movement to take its people out of Lebanon because Hamas no longer supports Hizb'Allah.


The Sunni-Shi'a tension might result in a conflagration in many countries: Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and perhaps even Turkey, which also has a significant Shi'ite minority.


In Israel, we must take into account that in the Middle East the rule "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" does not always work. Just because
the Sunnis and the Shi'ites relate to each other with hostility and hatred, that doesn't result in love for Israel. In the best case, it may lead to a short-term coalition between Israel and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, but we cannot rely on such a coalition, because we are still the "Zionist entity" which, according to Islam - Sunni and Shi'a alike - has no right to exist.



===============

Dr. Kedar is available for lectures


Dr. Mordechai Kedar
(Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.


Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

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

The Caliphate on the Horizon



by Dr. Reuven Berko


The latest reports out of Syria on the successes of Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime in their push to regain control of the country, with Russian backing, are creating the false impression that the opposition's time is up. 

The truth, however, is that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is fighting for his life in Syria, far afield from his home in the Dahiya neighborhood of south Beirut. As the Syrian regime goes, so goes Nasrallah. If Syrian President Bashar Assad loses, Nasrallah and the remnants of his organization, exhausted from the fighting, will be targeted by the powers in Lebanon. In an act of desperation, Nasrallah is enlisting children, while evacuating his wounded and dead from the Syrian front.

Shiites, along with Nasrallah's rivals, are wondering how much longer he can continue fighting in Syria at the behest of the Iranians. This question is also being asked about the small Alawite minority in Syria (and about other small minorities as well), fighting for its survival while sacrificing its best sons and officers. It appears that resilience and the ability to endure hardships will be the basic determining factors inside Syria.

The Islamists in Syria are armed, primarily with patience. They are cognizant of these considerations and explain their manifest to all those who feel that Assad's fall is "a journey from the known to the unknown." The Islamist leadership has a clear doctrine. 

The leader of the rebel group Soqour Al Sham Brigades, Hassan Aboud, recently gave an interview. Heavily armed and dressed in khaki fatigues, Aboud spoke with chilling tranquility, declaring that his first order of business was against Iran (until its ultimate expulsion from Syria) and the destruction of Hezbollah, "who will return from the battlefield to Lebanon, where they came from, dead." The bearded sheikh isn't impressed by the regime's recent gains. His demeanor exudes patience and a confidence that Islam (the Sunni version) will prevail. 

Aboud's agenda is the foundation of an Islamic caliphate, with its center in Greater Syria. According to Aboud, the artificial states created by the West in the Middle East, within the framework of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, have disintegrated, ushering in the current return of the great Islamic state. Iraq, in Aboud's view, will be part of the future Islamic Syria, after the Shiites there are defeated. Along with the Iranians, the Russians will also be driven out of Syria and its ports.

Aboud's declarations point to the alienation between the other Islamist movements fighting in Syria, as well as between the secular elements in the Free Syrian Army. Indeed, Aboud rejects the participation of former Syrian military commanders, those who have defected, in the country's future leadership and denies them any piece of the future government pie -- because they are "outsiders." 

He does not conceal his Islamist agenda, which stipulates that Syria is only the beginning. The destruction of Israel, the enemy of the Islamic nation, is the next objective. After this the Islamic mission will focus on the rest of the world. 

It is now easier to understand why the Syrian opposition is divided over sitting down at the negotiating table for any future talks with the regime over the country's fate, and why the superpowers are concerned about supporting it. It appears the sides will continue to fight over who will lead the country in the future, all the while laying waste to that very country.

From an Israeli and global perspective, Assad is bad and the Islamist revolutionaries are no better, and it doesn't truly make a difference who survives. What is strange about the current situation, in which the artificially created Arab states are crumbling, is that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wants to grant the terrorist Hamas movement the ability to create yet another Islamist state, which is predicated on the stated goal of destroying Israel.


Dr. Reuven Berko

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=4641

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

The West’s New Syrian War



by Barry Rubin


One day people will ask how the United States and several European countries became involved in mass killings, genocide, corruption, arms smuggling, and the creation of another anti-Western and regionally destabilizing government. Even if a single Western soldier is never sent, the West is on the verge of serious intervention in Syria. The choices are unpalatable and decisions are very tough to make but it appears to be still another in a long history of Western leaps in the dark, not based on a real consideration of the consequences.

At least people should be more aware of the dangers. As I entitled a previous book on Iran (Paved with Good Intentions), the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. People are dying and suffering in Syria. That’s true. But will this make more people or fewer people die and suffer?

So now we are seeing the trial balloons rise. As the Bashar al-Assad regime proves to be holding on—but not recapturing the country or winning the war—the West is panicked into sending aid to the rebels.  In fact, the government is merely holding the northwest area (where the ruling Alawite group lives), the region along the Lebanese border (with Hizballah’s help), Damascus (where the best troops are based and there is a favorable strategic situation in the army holding the high ground), and part of Aleppo. It seems that U.S. decisionmakers are panicking over these relatively small gains. If the Syrian army plus Hizballah tries to advance too far it will stretch its resources then and face a successful rebel counteroffensive.

Understandably, the opposition is demanding arms. If the opposition did not consist mostly of al-Qaida, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood, that would be a good idea perhaps. But since the opposition is overwhelmingly radical—even the official “moderate” opposition politicians are mostly Muslim Brotherhood—this is a tragedy in which the West does not have a great incentive to say “yes.”

President Barack Obama is said to be close to sending weapons to carefully chosen rebel units who are moderates. Now, pay close attention here. The Western options for giving assistance are:

The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. This is Muslim Brotherhood type people including, most importantly, the Farouk Brigades from the Homs area and Aleppo’s Tawhid Brigade. Around 50-60,000 fighters in total who are autonomous.

Do you want to give arms to them? Weapons that might soon end up in the hands of (other) terrorists? Weapons to be turned against not only Israel, but Jordan, Saudi Arabia, U.S. diplomats, and who knows who else?

Or perhaps you like the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), an alliance of more hardline Islamist forces, including Ahrar al-Sham from the north.  Ahrar al-Sham is probably around 15,000 fighters. The SIF as a whole probably around 25,000.   These people are Salafists meaning that the Brotherhood is too moderate for them. They are the kind of people who attack churches in Egypt, who want to wage jihad alongside Hamas, and so on.

Do you want to arm them so they can establish another Sharia state?

How about Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise with around 6,000 fighters and reportedly the fastest growing militia.

Want to give guns to those who committed the September 11, 2001, attacks and the Benghazi attack?

Of course not! You want the Free Syrian Army (FSA), headed by the untested General Salim Idris, who Senator John McCain met with. Now those are moderates who, after all, are just led by former officers in the repressive, historically anti-American Syrian army. And the FSA is just not a serious factor in military terms.  The West will say it supports the FSA; the FSA will be pushed aside by an Islamist regime if it wins, its Western-supplied weapons seized even during the course of the war. Moderates–even if we define radical Arab nationalists as moderates–don’t have the troops on the ground. It’s too late to organize and train a moderate force now. That should have been done two years ago.

On the political level, U.S. pressure failed to force the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated exile leadership to add the real political moderates! Even as financial aid is being (temporarily?) withheld the “official” opposition won’t expand its base. How about withholding all money and aid until they yield or choosing a new official leadership?  If the United States can’t stop–or doesn’t want to–the Brotherhood from dominating an exile leadership how is it ever going to do after a victory in the civil war?

So that’s not a solution either. Because the FSA is closely aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood forces. Many of its soldiers are Brotherhood, Salafists, or even al-Qaida sympathizers. Some have even been defecting to al-Qaida, presumably with their weapons. The FSA is not ideologically moderate, consistent, or—except for its officers—anti-Islamists. And it is very weak, weaker even then the al-Qaida supporters.

Yet that’s not all. Given the mixing up of the groups and their strategic requirements, a weapons’ system that is given to the FSA may easily end up in the hands of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, Syrian Islamic Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra. That may happen due to the necessities of war or sheer bribery or defections.

And when the war is over or deadlocked, those arms are going to flow out of Syria to every terrorist group in the world.

Finally, how many arms will be needed to bring a rebel victory? You can predict what will happen: more and more will be demanded; if just a bigger force is supplied the rebels will promise victory. It’s a slippery slope. And then will the need for direct intervention be demanded since just the supply of weapons alone isn’t sufficient? How directly is the United States willing to confront Russia, Iran, and Hizballah? Is it prepared to do so? Maybe it should be but it’s not.

So the supposedly simple concept—alas, two years too late—of let’s support the moderates doesn’t mean much anymore. Granted if you want to find the least bad solution, backing the FSA sounds good. In the end, though, what will actually happen?

Ethnic massacres? How is the United States going to stop them? The Alawites, Shia (there are a few) Muslims, and Christians are in the greatest danger, so is anyone not sufficiently a pious Sunni Muslim, and perhaps also Kurds and Druze. The FSA cannot or will not prevent massive killings.

Wasn’t it UN Ambassador Samantha Powers the genocide expert (which shows how little you need to know to be hailed as an expert) who talked about “responsibility to protect?” Didn’t she, and U.S. government policy begin by talking about saving Libyan civilians and end with a Libyan murder of American officials?

Meanwhile the UN has asked for $5 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria, much of which will go to neighboring countries to help refugees. There are now said to be 1.6 million refugees with that number perhaps to double by the end of the year. The need is desperate. Up to one-half the population of the country needs help.

But who would administer that help? Presumably, no aid would be handed out to the regime to use in areas it controls so other than Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon to help refugees the money would end up in the hands of al-Qaida, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood to steal, pay their own people salaries, and use to consolidate their power over different areas.

The United States is considering taking in hundreds of thousands of people who would probably be mostly resettled in California, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Power and National Security Council director Susan Rice are known to favor receiving many refugees.

Yet the policy is based on an illusion. Let’s say that weapons are given to the rebels. Will they win the war? Will that reduce civilian casualties? Which side will kill more people? Is a rebel victory going to make Syria a better place, more of a democracy? How many more refugees would a rebel victory generate? Say about 30 percent are Alawites, Christians, and Druze who would be oppressed by a rebel triumph, as would relatively secular Sunni urban middle class Muslims. They might flee the country. How many new wars will come out of the Syrian civil war?

This does not in any way mean one should want the Assad regime—which is a pro-Iran, pro-Hizballah, oppressive and anti-American government—to win. Yet it isn’t winning the war but merely making local gains to control the minimum territory for its survival.

Let’s put it this way: a U.S. and Western intervention in Syria is more problematic than the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya put together. It very well might produce a worse political solution than in Egypt (where cabinet members discuss how the United States is an enemy against which war might be waged) or Tunisia. It can almost be guaranteed to be worse than Iraq.

This is a very dangerous, risky, and likely failed policy that is being set in motion here.

Published on PJMEDIA


Barry Rubin

Source: http://www.gloria-center.org/2013/06/the-wests-new-syrian-war/

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

Barry Rubin: How to Understand Islamism: Read What its Leaders Really Say



by Barry Rubin


640px-Islamists

To read Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s 1984 book, Islamic Education and Hasan al-Bana, is to get an Islamic education. Nobody should be allowed to talk about Islam or political Islamism without having read this or similar texts. Just as Marx claimed in the “Communist Manifesto” for his movement, the Islamists, too, disdain to conceal their aims. Yet those who don’t read their actual texts, speeches, and debates but only their public relations’ misinformation know nothing.

It’s easy to see why al-Qaradawi is the leading Sunni Islamist thinker in the world today, the spiritual guide behind Egypt’s Islamist revolution. He knows how to express his ideas clearly and persuasively. Here is his depiction of the Muslim world before the rise of revolutionary Islamism to power and prominence:

‘’Just imagine a waste land which has no sign of leaf or tulip or hyacinth far and wide, but which blossoms forth immediately with the first sprinkle of the rains of blessing, and fields of flowers begin to bloom. Lifeblood starts circulating in its lifeless body…..
“The condition of the Muslim nation was like a wasteland in the middle of the fourteenth century Hijri (mid-nineteenth century). The pillars of caliphate had broken which was the last display of unity under the fiag of Islamic belief. Islamic countries were breathing their last under the talons of capitalist countries like Britain, France and others, so much so that Holland, whose population was [small] dominating over the ten million strong population of Indonesia with the help of force and weapon. It had spoilt the face of Islamic decrees and putting Quran behind was busily engaged in its disrespect. Blind imitation of self-made Western laws and appreciation of foreign values had set over the lives of Muslims. The youths and lovers of new culture who were bearers of the so-called modern culture were particular victims of this. Western domination upon the field of education and means of communication was producing heaps of Westernized `Khan Bahadur” (honorable people) whose names were no doubt Islamic but brains were West-bred.’”

There is a huge amount to analyze in this passage. Notice his different angle on what for the Western author would be a tale of Western imperialism and on the technological and organizational backwardness of Muslim peoples. Al-Qaradawi does not put the emphasis on Western strength or even injustice but on Muslim weakness. He does not flinch from facing the humiliations of the situation. He promises–as the Arab nationalists did sixty years ago–that his doctrine will bring rapid development and tremendous power. Like Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev once said, al-Qaradawi pledges to the West, “”We will bury you.”

Islamism is a formula to turn inferiority into superiority, to make the Muslim world number one in the world. It uses religion and is formed by key themes in Islam but ultimately it has nothing to do with religion as such. This is a political movement.

Al-Qaradawi is not upset by recent U.S. policy but by Western policy for well over a century. This bitterness is not going to be conciliated. The problem is not in Western actions—which any way cannot be undone—but with the interpretation of these actions. They are seen as rooted in a desire to destroy Islam, as being based on a permanent enmity, and no gesture by contemporary Western leaders can lead to the end of this view. On the contrary, such things will be interpreted through the prism of this view, as a trick or a sign of retreat and weakness.

Moreover, al-Qaradawi does not talk about the need for urbanization, the equality of women, modern education, and greater freedom as the solution. Indeed, his view is totally contrary to a leftist or liberal or nationalist Muslim who would stress the need to borrow any ideas and methods other than purely technological ones, from the West in order to gain equality and even superiority. Think of how Asia has succeeded–Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and now even China–through eagerness to blend borrowings, adaptation, and its own historic culture. No, for al-Qaradawi the issue is completely one of the abandonment of Islam.

Equally, while defeat in World War Two taught Japan to forget about military conquest and China’s decades of relative failure taught it to change course, al-Qaradawi favors blood and violence, revolution and tottalitarianism.

Note, too, that al-Qaradawi is far more sophisticated than a demagogic firebrand. He does not criticize the Muslims who wanted to become Westernized. Rather he feels sorry for them, calling them “victims.” That’s how one builds a movement with a wider base of support, though the actual Islamists in the field rarely show such a tolerant pity.

Moreover, as a man of religion, al-Qaradawi feels no need—at least consciously so—to create a new ideology. Indeed, human action is not at all the fountainhead of their view of history: Nevertheless, al-Qaradawi refers to the movement as revolutionary. He knows that its goal is to seize state power and then use that position and the compulsion it offers to transform the society.

“When circumstances reached this limit, God’s will came into action. He took over the responsibility of the protection of Islam….To revive Islam, to put life in the dead spirit of the nation, and to carry it to the climax of success and development He chose Hasan-al-Banna who laid the foundation of the [Muslim Brotherhood] movement.”

This passage is notable for claiming that al-Banna was divinely inspired, literally a prophet. If Muslim Brotherhood supporters honestly believe that they certainly cannot deviate from diamond-hard hatred of Christians, Jews, and the West. Yet there is an important clue here, too. To say that al-Banna was divinely inspired implies that he altered Islam, moved it in a different direction. This would be an admission of heresy since Muhammad is supposed to be the last of the divinely-inspired prophets.

Here is a weakness of the movement. For a long time, conservative, traditional Muslims did view Islamism as heresy, but as it gains hegemony there are fewer and fewer such people. In Syria, for example, non-Islamist pious traditionalists in rural areas were transformed into Islamists. The combination of Westerners saying that Islam is merely plagued by a few extremists and those who say that Islam is inevitably radical keeps people from understanding this all-important reality.

Western observers often take for granted or discount the seriousness of a movement claiming that it is a direct instrument of God’s will. They are used to subverting far weaker contemporary Western religious impulses or look at those from the past that crumbled in a test of wills with rationalism, modernism, material interests, and personal hypocrisy.

Yet if it is sincerely and profoundly believed that one’s worldview is a product of divine will—an attitude that not a single leader or party in any industrialized state does—has profound implications. It means that you don’t sell out, get seduced  by materialistic lusts, or moderate your ideas and goals, except as a conscious, short-term tactical expedient that you reverse at the first possible opportunity.

The West has not dealt with such a situation of a sincerely held, radical ideology that motivates people  for a long time. Our contemporary memory of Communism is as a decayed, cynical movement. The favorite media story about Western religious figures is the expose of their sexual or financial deeds that betray their public beliefs. Even in regard to the Nazis, there were many Germans who didn’t back the movement, even if they never resisted it, and fascism, while rooted in Germany’s political culture, was also so shallowly hegemonic that it totally disappeared after 1945. Islamism doesn’t disappear after defeat, though perhaps it will do so after decades of Muslims experiencing Islamism in power.

Perhaps the last such true confrontation was with Japan in World War Two, a culture where almost everyone deeply believed in the ideology and was willing to give his life for it.  I am not saying here that all Muslims support Islamism or that Islamism is the “proper” interpretation of Islam. One can see how in Iran the fact of life under a Sharia regime for three decades plus has eroded the base of support there for that doctrine. Rather, my point is that Islamism must be taken seriously as a sincere movement and not just some rhetoric that nobody believes and is not led by people who are just looking for a bribe or a prostitute.

The suicide bomber has become the symbol of that characteristic which used to be called “fanaticism” and can now merely be summarized as people who really believe what they say and intend to do what they declare even unto death. Al-Qaradawi recognizes this point and writes, “If discourse is but verbal and the characters of such persons are free from those principles which he is propagating, then such invitations [to support these ideas] dash against the ears and become empty echoes.”(p. 4).

In other words, people will not follow leaders who prove to be corrupt hypocrites. And part of being a corrupt hypocrite is to compromise on such goals as creating a Shariah state, driving Western influence out of the region, and wiping Israel off the map. Of course, a leader is still free to set his course, pulling back at times when conditions are unfavorable, avoiding battles that would obviously be lost (though the Islamist might be too confident of winning despite the objective balance of forces), not antagonizing the masses unnecessarily, and forming alliances with others when necessary.

As with Lenin, the question is how well Islamist politicians this strategy. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has pushed too hard, too fast, though still it has come a long way. What is remarkable is that unlike the opponents of Communism, the opponents of Islamism have barely begun their attempt to understand and educate others on this ideology.

It should be stressed that the key challenge is not to cite passages from original Muslim theology to “prove” that Islam is always unchanging and inflexible—though understanding the roots of the radicals’ ideological appeal is important—or to ignore Islam as a factor completely but to look at the movement’s modern strategy and tactics. This task has barely begun.

Published on PJMEDIA


Barry Rubin

Source: http://www.gloria-center.org/2013/06/how-to-understand-islamism-read-what-its-leaders-really-say/

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

The Palestinian Authority's Reign of Terror



by Khaled Abu Toameh

The Fatah thugs are regularly sent by the Palestinian Authority, which is funded by the West, to threaten and batter journalists, writers, university students and political opponents -- driving them into the open arms of Hamas and other extremist groups.
Until recently, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank used to arrest Palestinians who criticized its leaders, especially Mahmoud Abbas.

But now the Palestinian Authority has resumed using thugs to break the bones of its critics.
It is an easy and quick way to deal with the critics and deter others from speaking out against Palestinian Authority leaders.

The thugs are often members of Abbas's ruling Fatah faction. However, they do not hold any official position in the Palestinian Authority; they do not belong to Palestinian Authority security forces or any government-related agency in the West Bank.

This allows the Palestinian Authority to distance itself from the thugs each time they perpetrate a crime.

But the thugs, who are referred to by Palestinians as "Shabbiha," are known to act on instructions from top Palestinian Authority leaders.

In the Arab world, "Shabbiha" are known as groups of thugs and militiamen who are used by the government to crack down on critics and political opponents.

The Palestinian Authority's "Shabbiha" are not as ruthless as Syrian President Bashar Assad's thugs. They do not go around slaughtering innocent women and children, and they do not rape young girls.

The Palestinian "Shabbiha" -- most of whom are on the payroll of the Western-funded Palestinian Authority -- have managed to impose a reign of terror and intimidation on the Palestinian public.

The last time the Palestinian Authority used its thugs was last weekend at Bethlehem University.

During a conference to promote boycott and sanctions against Israel on campus, a Palestinian activist asked Palestinian Authority Minister of Economy, Jawad Naji, a provocative question: How come the Palestinian Authority talks about promoting the boycott of Israel while at the same time it continues to conduct security coordination with Israel, and some of its leaders hold secret meetings with Israelis?

At the end of the conference, as he was driving home, the activist, 34-year-old Nizar Banat, was intercepted by seven thugs, who dragged him out of his car and beat him severely.

Fatah later issued a leaflet justifying the assault on Banat -- apparently carried out by its own thugs -- and threatened to use an "iron fist" against anyone who dares to criticize a Palestinian Authority leader.

The use of Fatah thugs by the Palestinian Authority is not a new phenomenon. The thugs are often recruited from refugee camps and their mission is to do the "dirty work" for the Palestinian Authority leadership.

The thugs are regularly sent to threaten and batter journalists, writers, university students and political opponents in the West Bank. Another of their preferred methods is the torching of vehicles.

With the help of the thugs, the Palestinian Authority leadership was able to suppress what appeared to be the beginning of a "Palestinian Spring" in the West Bank two years ago.

Then, Fatah thugs recruited by the Palestinian Authority attacked dozens of Palestinian protesters who had set up tents in the center of Ramallah. The protesters were beaten and their tents set on fire as Palestinian Authority policemen stood on the side and refused to interfere.

By resorting to this policy of terror and intimidation against its critics and political opponents, the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank is once again showing that it is not much different from other Arab dictatorships. It is these measures that have driven many Palestinians away from the Palestinian Authority and straight into the open arms of Hamas and other extremist groups.


Khaled Abu Toameh

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3761/palestinian-authority-terror

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

Islamizing the Public Schools



by Joseph Klein


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The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is pressuring public schools in this country to make special accommodations for Muslim students and to deny comparable accommodations for students of other faiths.

For example, CAIR’s instructional material for teachers entitled “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices” advises schools to permit Muslim students who wish to attend Friday congregational worship (known as Jum’ah) to “request a temporary release from school.”

In Michigan, CAIR went beyond dispensing general advice from its guidebook. In April, 2013, it pushed for public schools in Dearborn, Michigan to accommodate Muslim students who wish to comfortably pray on school grounds and to allow Muslim students to leave early on Fridays for Jumu’ah prayers.

The school superintendant caved, and CAIR got its wish.

Just a few months earlier, the same CAIR Michigan branch had complained that a Detroit area elementary school was being too accommodating to Christians when it allowed its teachers to distribute permission slips for  parents to sign so that their children could be released to attend off-site Bible studies classes.

In his letter to the school district, CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid wrote in part:
School staff and teachers are not to serve as advocates for one particular religion or congregation within a religion by passing out slips inviting parents to give permission for their children to attend religious instruction. . . According to the United States Supreme Court, the First Amendment clearly requires that public school students and their parents are never given the impression that their school/school district prefers a specific religion over others or sanctions religion in general.
CAIR’s sanctimonious, hypocritical letter worked.  It intimidated the school district into offering an apology.

In California, the Islamists have already won in their efforts to get special treatment for Islam in the public schools.

For example, several years ago seventh-graders at a San Francisco-area school were required to “become Muslims” for two full weeks as part of California’s world history curriculum. This included professing as “true” the Muslim belief that “The Holy Quran is God’s word,” reciting the Muslim profession of faith — “Allah is the only true God and Muhammad is his messenger” —and chanting “Praise be to Allah.”  Just imagine what would happen if a public school told Muslim students to become Jews for two weeks and recite the traditional Jewish prayer: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

Yet, in 2006, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California dismissed a case brought by outraged parents even though Supreme Court decisions have kept religion out of public schools for decades.  In a brief memorandum opinion, the appeals court concluded that the activities did not constitute “overt religious activities that raise Establishment Clause concerns.” The Supreme Court apparently forgot its own precedents when it refused to take an appeal from the 9th Circuit decision.

While allowing Islamist indoctrination in public schools, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld another public school’s ban on a student performance of an instrumental version of Ave Maria at their high school’s graduation, because the performance could be seen as endorsing religion. These judges saw no inconsistency in allowing Muslim prayers in the classroom, while upholding the banning of a one-time performance of a Christian-themed instrumental classic.

CAIR also sends its own lecturers into the public schools to indoctrinate impressionable students with Islamist propaganda and wants Muslim educators to have a say in textbook selection to spin the Islamist narrative in history and social studies texts.

On November 29, 2011, for example, Hassan Shibly, CAIR Florida Executive Director, taught more than 400 Steinbrenner High School students, whose world history teacher asked Shibly to specifically cover sharia law and the mission of CAIR itself.

We can be sure that Shibly left out of his biased presentation the part about sharia law’s call for violent jihad against the “infidels.” No doubt he also omitted CAIR’s connection to the Muslim Brotherhood or its alleged part in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist funding case.

While CAIR sends its own representatives into public schools to indoctrinate students with its Islamist spin, it uses the legal system to bully teachers who dare to bring up examples of terrorists committing violence in the name of Islam. For example, CAIR’s Washington state branch accused a well-respected Washington public school teacher of being “racist.” CAIR complained that the teacher, while instructing her students about the dangers of bullying last October, used the terrorist groups Taliban and Hamas as examples of organizations that employ violence to “bully people.” CAIR called for a federal investigation and demanded information “regarding curriculum, approved texts and materials, internal correspondence, and past complaints against the district.”

“Often one complaint is indicative of a larger pattern of biased education,” said CAIR-Washington’s civil rights coordinator, Jennifer Gist, in a statement. “We are requesting public records from the district to review their materials and past complaints, in an effort to analyze the quality of equal education it affords its students.”

So far, the Washington state school district has stood up for its teacher. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up bending to CAIR’s will and that more public schools in this country resist the Islamists’ bullying, even if the Obama administration follows it usual course and supports the Islamists’ position.


Joseph Klein

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2013/joseph-klein/islamizing-the-public-schools/

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

Why Palestinians Block Wall Changes



by Jonathan S. Tobin


As I predicted two months ago, the prospects that Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky’s fair-minded plan for changes at Jerusalem’s Western Wall will be implemented have run into an impassable obstacle. Sharansky’s plan was to create a third section of the Kotel that would create a space for egalitarian services that would remove a source of conflict between Orthodox and non-Orthodox worshipers. It has been met with generally good reviews among both Israelis and Diaspora Jews who don’t like the way this sacred place has become for all intents and purposes an open-air Orthodox synagogue rather than a place of pilgrimage for all Jews. But as nasty and as bitter as the infighting between Jewish factions may be, the real conflict in the city remains the one between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Jerusalem Post reports today that the Palestinian Authority’s religious affairs minister has said it will not permit Israel to change the entrance to the Temple Mount—which adjoins and looks down on the Wall Plaza—in order to expand the area where Jews may worship at the remnant of their ancient holy place. But the motivation of this veto isn’t pure spite. Just as they have used their power to set off violence and riots to protest even the most harmless alterations to the area in the last 20 years, Palestinian leaders are determined to stop Sharansky’s scheme in its tracks because they regard all of the Old City as not only theirs by right but a place that will be theirs in the event of any peace deal. Rather than this issue being a purely internecine conflict between women who wish to wear prayer shawls and read Torah and those Orthodox adherents who want to prevent them from doing so, the question of who is in charge at the Kotel still shrinks in significance when placed in the context of the Palestinian struggle to return to a period of history when Jews had no rights in Jerusalem.


The problem is that in order for Sharansky’s plan to be implemented, alterations must be made to the Mugrabi Bridge that provides access to the Temple Mount from the Wall Plaza. Israel has sought to renovate the bridge in recent years, a move that would only benefit Muslims and the foreign tourists who visit the mosques on the hill (Jews are forbidden to pray there), but it has been prevented from doing so by the demands of the Muslim Wakf which administers the Temple Mount.

The issue here isn’t just preservation of an ancient site in pristine condition since the Temple Mount has already been the scene of massive vandalism committed by the Wakf, which is determined to ignore or bury the evidence of the Jewish origins of the place. The Wakf claims the Kotel is theirs and rejects Jewish sovereignty over any part of it or the city that surrounds it as well as any association with Judaism or the history of the Jewish people. Palestinian Authority leaders and their media have repeatedly claimed that the ancient temples were not built on the Mount where Muslim conquerors subsequently built mosques, just as they deny the associations of the Jews with the rest of their ancient homeland. The rejection of the Sharansky plan is a function of the desire of the PA to exercise control over the entire Old City.

The PA and the Wakf don’t want to stop the expansion of the areas where people can pray at the Wall only because they wish to discomfit the Jews but because they envision administering it themselves in the future.

The dispute between the Women of the Wall and Orthodox authorities is a significant issue that can poison the relationship between Israel and the vast majority of American Jews who affiliate with non-Orthodox denominations. But the PA’s pronouncement is a reminder that the real fight in Jerusalem is not between Jews. So long as Palestinians are determined to reverse the verdict of history and return Jews to a subordinate status in their ancient capital, the spat between Jewish factions will have to wait.



Jonathan S. Tobin

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/06/13/why-palestinians-block-wall-changes/

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