CSID EMAIL BULLETIN - November 11, 2006
In closing, Dr. Ibrahim pointed out that 77 percent of Egyptians stayed home from the 2005 presidential elections. By reaching out to the silent majority and engaging them, he believes real change is possible.
|Tuesday, November 14,2006 00:00|
CSID EMAIL BULLETIN - November 11, 2006
1. CSID EVENT AT THE NATIONAL LIBERTY MUSEUM: American Muslims Join the Liberty Trail Philadelphia, Dec. 9, 2006
2. CSID Elections Deadline Nov. 25, 2006
3. CSID Membership Renewal
4. WHY CSID NEEDS AND DESERVES YOUR SUPPORT
5. MEI Annual Conference: New Approaches to Enduring Issues (Nov. 13-14)
6. The Rise of Islamic Movements in Arabian parliaments (Cairo - Nov. 29)
7. Who speaks for Islam? Who speaks for the West? (Nov. 29)
8. Religious Diversity and Islamic Education in Indonesia (Nov. 21)
9. Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim on democracy in the Arab world
10. Muslims Election Is Celebrated Here and in Mideast (by Neil MacFarquhar)
11. Democracy Restored (by Muqtedar Khan)
12. U.S. Voters Reject Islam-Bashing, Profiling of Muslims
13. Seminary To Get $2 Million For Islamic Studies Position (Courant Staff Report)
14. Prophet Drawings Anger Kuwait Lawmakers (AP)
15. Secularism and Islamism in the 21st century (by Abbas Barzegar)
16. From Tunis to Tehran, the great veil debate (by Dan Murphy)
17. In Letter, Radical Cleric Details CIA Abduction, Egyptian Torture (by Craig Whitlock)
18. 30 in Outlawed Group Arrested in Egypt (by Maamoun Youssef)
19. US bungled Israel-Hezbollah war: Armitage
20. Turkey on track for a collision with the EU (Financial Times Editorial)
21. Viewpoint: The Virtual Ummah (by Philip Seib)
22. Stoking Muslim anger (by Fawaz A. Gerges)
23. Neo Culpa (by David Rose)
24. Evangelicals and the Bush Administration (by Joseph Loconte)
25. Office Space for Sublease at CSID (Washington DC)
American Muslims Join the Liberty Trail
How to build Religious Harmony and Understanding in America and the World?
· Geneive Abdo, Between Faith and Country? Muslim Life in America After 9/11
· Shaykh Abdullah Idris, Public speaker, and former president of ISNA (1992-1997)
· Radwan Masmoudi, Founder and President of CSID
· Asma Afsaruddin, Chair of CSID and Prof. of Islamic History, U. of Notre Dame
· Irwin Borowsky, Host, and Director of the National Liberty Museum
Enjoy the discussions and wonderful hors doeuvres while helping to support CSID, and strengthen the voice of moderation, reason, and freedom in the Muslim world.
Saturday, December 9, 2006 - 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Reception at 5:30 PM and Program at 6:30 PM
At The National Liberty Museum
321 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106
For Directions: http://www.libertymuseum.org/visiting/index.html
City: ________________ State:________ Zip:__________
Tel: ____________________ e-mail:__________________
____ Dinner Tickets x $100/personfiltered= _______
____ Dinner Tickets x$150/couple = _______
____ RESERVED TABLE (of 8) x $1,000 = _______
By supporting CSID, YOU:
· Create a better future for our children so they can have more opportunities for improving their lives and realizing their dreams.
· Encourage and support interfaith dialogue and harmony, especially between Christians, Jews, and Muslims (Children of Abraham).
· Educate and inform non-Muslim Americans about Islams true values of tolerance, peace, and good will towards mankind, including peoples of other faiths.
· Improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world by supporting popular movements rather than oppressive tyrannies and corrupt regimes.
· Replace the feelings of hopelessness, despair, and anger in many parts of the Muslim world, especially among the youth, with a more positive and hopeful outlook for the future.
· Build a network of Muslim democrats around the globe who can share knowledge and experience about how to build and strengthen democratic institutions and traditions in the Muslim countries.
If you cannot attend this event, please consider making a donation to support the work of CSID.
Please send your donations and registration fees to:
CSID, 1625 Massachusetts Ave, Suite 601, Washington DC, 20036
For More Information, to reserve a seat, or to buy a table, please call 202-265-1200,
e-mail: email@example.com, or Fax to: 202-265-1222
or join/donate online at: http://csidonline.org/
back to top
Dear Member of CSID:
I hope you are doing well. Please take a few minutes to VOTE for the new members of the Board of Directors of CSID. As an organization that is trying to promote and strengthen democracy and democratic traditions and institutions in the Muslim world, we also have to practice democracy internally. That is why, from its inception, CSID bylaws state:
Section 3.2.a: Number. The number of directors constituting the Board of Directors shall be not less than one (1) nor more than fifteen (15). The exact number of directors shall be fixed from time to time by a resolution adopted by the affirmative vote of a majority of the directors then in office. The initial Board of Directors shall be composed of those directors named in the Certificate of Incorporation. Thereafter, directors shall be elected by the Members at the annual meeting of the members or as soon thereafter as conveniently possible.
Section 3.2.c: Rotation of Directors. The directors shall establish a procedure so that one-third of the membership of the Board of Directors is elected each year.
So, as a member in good standing, we invite you to exert your right to vote for the board of directors of CSID. If you have not yet renewed your membership, a membership form is enclosed, and we invite to fill it out, and send it back along with your vote, and your membership fee by Sat. Nov. 25, 2006.
We thank you for your support, and inshaAllah, together, we will help build a better future for the Muslim World, help to improve the image of Islam and Muslims in the United States, and contribute to improving relations between the United States and the Muslim World.
Radwan A. Masmoudi
CSID BOARD OF DIRECTORS -- 2006 BALLOT
Candidate No.1: OMAR M. KADER
Candidate No.2: ALI NAWAZ MEMON
Candidate No.3: ABDALLAH SCHLEIFER
Candidate No.4: FARID SENZAI
Candidate No.5: TAMARA SONN
Assoc. Member* Member** Founding Member
Please vote for a maximum of FOUR candidates and return by Saturday, November 25, 2006. You may return your ballot (please sign and return only the first page) by:
Mail: CSID, 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 601,
Washington DC, 20036
Candidate No. 1:
Omar M. Kader
Omar M. Kader received a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Southern California. He was an Assistant Dean and taught American politics, international relations and the politics of the Middle East at Brigham Young University. In 1987, Dr. Kader founded Pal-Tech, Inc., a leading technology consulting firm and in 2005 he acquired Development Associates, an international development firm. He was an official election monitor and observer of elections in Morocco and a member of the election monitoring team headed by former President Jimmy Carter in 1996 and 2006 Palestine elections. Dr. Kader was a member of the American delegation serving as an international monitor for the elections in Yemen (April 1997) and again in Indonesia (September 2004).
Dr. Kader a first generation Palestinian-American, the son of Moses and Aishia Kader (Abu Khdeir) of Shufat, Palestine, was born and raised in Provo, Utah. Dr. Kader is active in Arab-American affairs and has served as the Executive Director of two major Arab-American organizations.
Vision for CSID:
The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy is in a unique position to build bridges between two worlds, America and the Islamic World, which have for too long misunderstood each other and for too long held distorted images of the other. The challenge of closing the gaps between distortions and knowledge is great but with so many tools at our disposal it is a challenge that we can meet by making wise choices in the endeavors we undertake. Meeting our challenge with honesty, ethical considerations for sensitivities and differences and focusing on the central mission of the organization many successes are possible.
Candidate No. 2:
Ali Nawaz Memon
Ali Nawaz Memon is an internationally well-known financial management and institutional development consultant specializing in management of utilities (electricity, water, sanitation and telecommunications) with experience in over 20 countries in different parts of the world. He has retired from the World Bank after 29 years of international development and project implementation experience in various positions including Resident Representative in Somalia. During 1996-97 he served as Chairman, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority in Pakistan.
He is a frequent speaker at various international gatherings. He has received award of Honorary Citizen and Good Will Ambassador of the City of Houston from Mayor of Houston, Texas, USA. He has also been given awards and recognition in Indonesia, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, and Somalia.
He has authored books and publications in areas of public policy including Islamic Nation: Status and Future of Muslims in the New World Order (1995) and Pakistan: Islamic Nation in Crisis (1996).
He has been active in a number of Pakistani, Muslim and interfaith community organizations. Currently, he is a trustee of Pakistan Association of greater Washington; Board member of Minaret of Freedom Institute (MFI); and serves on Montgomery County Committee on Hate and Violence. He is a founding member and has served as one of the founding directors of Center for Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) (1999-2002).
He is a practicing Muslim Democrat and takes pride in struggle for effective citizen participation in governance in all nations including the Islamic nations. In 2006 election campaign, he served as one of the Campaign Co-Chairman for a Democrat Candidate in race for Montgomery County Chief Executive. He is an American of Pakistan origin, living in the United States since December 1960. He lives in greater Washington DC area.
Vision for CSID:
In 1998/99 when a group of us gathered a number of times to discuss establishment of what came to be known as CSID, we were primarily thinking of building bridges between the Muslim world and the western democracies. I had gut feeling that (a) Islam and democracy were consistent with each other and (b) democracy will lead to representative governments and economic development of the Muslim countries. Since then, a significant amount of production and dissemination of research into Islam and democracy has proved my initial gut feelings. Nevertheless, this subject remains misunderstood both in the West and the Muslim world. Suspicions remain and continue to cause debate among Muslims as well as within the western democracies. This continues to hamper attempts at serious and sincere inter-faith dialogue, as well as implementation of representative governments.
I believe that CSID has come a long way. However, given the current situation in the Muslim world and western democracies, so much needs to be done on so many fronts. Islamophobia, lack of respect for practical democracy in the east and west, insufficient dialogue among Muslims, ignoring of Muslim voice in the western media are some of the practical problems. Vast increase in financial resources, critical thinking and manpower are urgently needed. Organizations such as CSID have to struggle on so many fronts. However, if elected, I shall like to focus on the following during the next three years:
(a) Useful contacts have been made in USA, parts of Middle East, and parts of Africa. I feel that the ongoing work has to continued and expanded. For example, time is ripe for making suitable contacts and institutional base in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) and in Europe (UK, France, Germany etc) where we have significant Muslim populations.
(b) Supporting increased dialogue and networking within Muslim world for purposes of helping to remove obstacles in the path of democracy. Suni Shia dialogue in Iraq is an example. Lack of respect for each other, among religious and secular parties in Muslim countries is another one. Working with Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is another example.
(c) I am glad that mainstream organizations have seen fit to support CSID. However, we need to build stronger financial base. I know that it is not an easy task. However, we need to find ways to convince potential donors in the Muslim world and the western democracies that CSID can make a positive difference and deserves to be supported.
Candidate No. 3:
Prof. Schleifer is honorary chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Cairo(and served as chairman from 1973 to 1975), and served on the Advisory Board of the World Media Association in Washington DC . He is a Visiting Scholar at St. Antonys College, Oxford for 2006 and Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute( FPRI). Late last September Schleifer gave the 11th Annual Templeton Lecture on Religion and World Affairs a lecture administered by the FPRI. He serves on the board of trustees of the Islamic Text Society (Cambridge, UK) and Fons Vitae Publishing (Louisville, Ky) and his articles related to contemporary problems in the Islamic world, Islamic art and spirituality have appeared in Islamica, Islamic Quarterly, Journal of Palestine Studies, Arabia, Evergreen Review, The American Muslim, The Islamic Quarterly and many other publications. He has also published Op-Ed columns in Newsday and the Philadelphia Inquirer and is frequently quoted in leading Western and Arab media.
Vision for CSID:
CSID is playing a difficult but important role and now that role is more critical than ever for while the fundamental yearning of the Muslim peoples for all of the institutional structures and mutual rights and duties we associate with democracy remain, the very word democracy has been profoundly compromised over the past two years. It has been compromised the chaos prevailing in Iraq which only a year or two ago was to have been the standard barrier of democracy, but where now everyone craves the safety of life and limb for elementary security. And it has been compromised, when in the wake of the election of a new Palestinian Authority legislature our administration, which promotes democracy, has refused to recognize the results of that election, and on the other hand compromised by the new ruling Palestinian party whose only right to rule is based upon elections and the structures of a state authority created by an agreement Oslo - -that the ruling party refuses to recognize, thereby denying its own legitimacy.
At this moment the existence of an organization like CSID that is independent, but non polemical or confrontational of either established power or struggling activists, remains as perhaps the only based-in-America vehicle for training skills and developing cadre that remains uncompromised at a time when the democratic option is, in the long term, more imperative than eve.
But one of the problems from both the perspective of political influence and funding, and the two may be inseparable, is that there has been so little attention paid in the media to CSID relative to the importance, indeed the significance of its work. This is particularly regretful at a time when so many forces in America particularly among think tanks and foundations have come to recognize that religion and public policy must be recognized as intertwined and potentially as much the solution, as that intertwining is now so much of the problem.
If I am elected to serve of the Board, I will try to apply my experience in the media over the past four decades and my contacts within the cultural, religious and political elite throughout the Islamic world, and particularly in the Arab world, to increase the positive visibility of CSID activities in the Muslim world and hopefully an increase in CSID activities within the United States.
Candidate No. 4:
Farid Senzai is currently a Fellow and Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). In this capacity, he leads the research effort for the organization and its continued focus on the Muslim community in the United States and promoting alternative voices in the policy sector. Mr. Senzai is also an Adjunct Professor in the Political Science departments at California State University and Santa Clara University. Prior to joining ISPU, Mr. Senzai was a research associate at the Brookings Institution where he researched U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East. In addition, he was a research analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations where he worked on the Muslim Politics project. He has also served as a consultant for Oxford Analytica and the World Bank. He has written extensively on democracy promotion including his dissertation topic which deals with U.S. democracy promotion in the Middle East. Mr. Senzai received his MA in International Affairs from Columbia University and is completing his Ph.D. in Political Science at Oxford University.
The image of Islam and Muslims has suffered in the West and the image of the U.S. has deteriorated worldwide, particularly in the Muslim World. In the next three years, combating Islamophobia and anti-Americanism should be a key strategy of CSID. Ultimately, CSID should be a global resource for American policy makers and Muslims around the world to improve US-Muslim relations. CSID needs to address challenges both in the Muslim world and within the United States. In doing so, CSID must address both the ideals of Islam as a religion and the realities of Muslims as a people. I propose the following two ideas:
First, CSID must continue to promote democracy and advance the well being of the global Muslim community. By bringing the organizations expertise to bear on relevant topics, CSID should address issues such as political reform, enhancing Muslim-Muslim dialogue and bridging the Shia-Sunni divide within Muslim societies.
Secondly, CSID should also aim to educate the US policy community and transform the political environment within the United States. The goal will be to make better US-Muslim relations a vital and enduring objective of U.S. democracy promotion effort. CSID should engage with the American political elite at the highest levels and help shape American foreign policies to include Muslim interest as an integral and important component of the American national interests. The hope is that this effort will bring the voice of Muslims around the world into the conscious of American policy makers and ultimately improve US relations with the Muslim world.
Candidate No. 5:
Tamara Sonn is the Wm. R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Department of Religion, at the college of William and Mary. She is author of numerous works on Islamic Studies and has served as editor of several reference works including the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, and Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. She has received grants from the United States Institute of Peace, the U.S. Department of State, and the American Council of Learned Societies, and has lectured widely in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. She is past president of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies. Her most recent book is A Brief History of Islam (Blackwell 2004).
Vision for CSID:
What should CSID focus on in the next 3 years? Capitalizing on demonstrated strengths, CSID should continue its focus on communication? The Web site and regular communiqus have been extremely effective? It is particularly important to focus CSID communiqus so that they directly address emerging issues? By being "first responders" CSID can assume the initiative to frame the issues? It is also important to augment substantive scholarly analyses of key issues with media-friendly ("quotable") pieces, such as? Those based on public opinion surveys among Muslim communities? Finally, I would suggest developing a focus on suggested resolutions to key conflicts, again in media-friendly formats? Such "first responses," "quotable quotes," and suggested conflict resolutions could be the subject of regular press releases, positioning CSID as a major think tank.
Note: Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
* Associate Member, used to be called member, is open to anyone who pays $50 in annual membership fees. Under the CSID bykaws, Associate Members are not allowed to vote or to run for the CSID Board of Directors.
** Member (used to be called fellow) is open to anyone who is a permanent resident or US Citizen and who pays $100 in annual membership fees. Members and Founding Members are allowed to run and to vote for the CSID Board of Directors.
CSID Membership Renewal:
Dear CSID Member:
Assalamu Aleykum (peace be with you), and Eid Mubarak, and I hope that you are doing well.
For the past eight years, the staff, volunteers, and members of CSID have worked hard to promote the idea that Islam and democracy are compatible, and that democracy and good governance are the best solutions to the current violence, corruption, poverty, despair and oppression prevailing in the majority of the Muslim world. We realize that this is a huge and daunting challenge, but if not us, who, and if not now, when?
Thanks to your dedication and support, we have accomplished a great deal, but there is still much to do. Your support, commitment, and donations will allow CSID to continue its mission of promoting the values of freedom, democracy, justice and tolerance in the Muslim world, as well as helping to improve the image of Islam and Muslims in the United States. Your membership fees and/or donation is critical for the survival and success of CSID.
Please renew your membership/donation today. Our efforts over the last couple of years have included organizing events in over 20 countries, including Saudi Arabia; Iran; The Sudan; Egypt; Algeria; Jordan; Morocco; Tunisia; and Turkey; publishing a new Arabic textbook to train people on democracy, and building a Network of Democrats in the Arab World (www.ndaw.org). By renewing your membership, you will also continue to receive our publications (Muslim Democrat, al-Muslim al-Dimocrati, and Democracy Watch) by mail and/or e-mail, as well as special invitations and discounts to CSID events, seminars, and conferences throughout the world. Regular Members also have the right to run and/or vote during the elections for CSID board members.
We really appreciate your support, and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, ideas, or suggestions. Membership fees and donations are tax-deductible since CSID is registered as a non-profit 501-c-3 organization. Please do it now, and consider upgrading your membership to Founding or Lifetime member.
THANK YOU for renewing your membership and support.
Radwan A. Masmoudi
P.S.: To join or renew online, please go to: www.csidonline.org
CSID Membership and/or Donation Form 2007
I would like to join CSID as:
$20 qStudent Member $200q Institutional Member
qAssoc. Member $1000q $50 Founding Member
Reg. Member $2500 q$100 Lifetime Member q
$20 qMuslim Democrat Subscription (free for members)
$20 qDemocracy Watch Subscription (free for members)
I also would like to volunteer for the following positions:
Newsletterq Membership driveqcontributor
Mediaq Local seminarsqrelations
Programq Other________________ qsupport
Please include my name in the CSID q No qdirectory Yes
I would like to make a tax-deductible donation of $__________
Tax-deductible Donation to Hesham Reda Memorial Fund $__________
Comments and/or suggestions:
please send membership form, with payment, to:
1625 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 601
Washington D.C. 20036 USA
To join or renew online, please go to: www.csidonline.org
Dear Friends of CSID:
As-salaamu alaikum and Eid Mubarak! We hope that you have enjoyed and benefited from the blessed month of Ramadan.
We have a serious crisis in the Muslim world. This crisis is manifested in many ways: from rising poverty and unemployment, to lack of education, to growing corruption, violence, and wars. Most of all, this crisis is the result of bad governance, poor strategic thinking and planning, and lack of freedoms, dignity, and respect for human rights. First and foremost, it is the twin curse of corruption and oppression, which is at the core of all these problems. As global citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims, who are concerned about the future of the Muslim world in this increasingly interconnected "global village" we need to develop and implement a strategy for resolving this crisis. Of course, there is no "quick fix solution to all these problems, but the most important and urgent item in this strategy has to be good governance. By good governance, of course, we mean good and clean governments that are elected by the people, held accountable to the people, and serve the interests of the people.
The political crisis and deadlock in the Muslim world needs and deserves our (and your) immediate attention, even though it will take time to be fully addressed and corrected. Rather than respond in a knee-jerk/band-aid approach to the crisis of the day, we need to think strategically, and understand the root causes of this crisis. Real change and significant reforms are absolutely necessary and needed, but governments are resisting it (for fear of the unknown and/or the loss of their privileges) and opposition political movements are weak, divided, and lacking in maturity and experience.
It goes without saying that democracy and good governance cannot and should not be imposed or imported, but they can be supported. Reformers in the Arab and Muslim world have been working and pushing for real democracy and reforms for decades; however, they have received very little support or encouragement from the outside world. It is time for this to change and it is our duty and obligation to provide them with as much of out support and encouragement as needed. Our support begins by providing the intellectual and philosophical support for the simple and basic truth that Islam and democracy are compatible. Without it, democracy will never become accepted by the masses in the Muslim world, because government controlled media continue to muddy-up the water and portray democracy as un-Islamic or even anti-Islamic. Nothing is further from the truth, and CSID is in the best position to demonstrate this. Secondly, we need to convince the US and European governments and policymakers to stop their support for oppressive and authoritarian rulers in the Arab and Muslim world. Even though these dictators claim that to provide much-needed stability for the region, the reality is that this is a false mirage, and what they are actually doing is creating the right conditions for despair and hopelessness, which will inevitably lead to further violence, extremism, and upheaval.
Thirdly, and just as urgently, we need to engage and support moderate conservative Muslims who are striving to be true to their religion, while at the same time adopting and accepting democracy, modernity, and development. Building strong coalitions between moderate Islamist (i.e. those who reject violence and terrorism and accept democracy) and secularists is the ONLY way to challenge the status quo and provide a real democratic alternative to the untenable and discredited rulers and regimes. As citizens of the US and Europe, we must realize that we are responsible for what our governments do, and that their continued support of dictatorships in the Arab and Muslim world is one of the causes for the current crisis, and the escalation in violence and extremism, in the Muslim world today.
Since 1999, CSID has developed and implemented a strategy for achieving these objectives, based on the following four pillars:
A. Organizing conferences and seminars to bring democrats together (both moderate Islamists, secularists, and others)
B. Educating the masses about democracy, how it works, and its compatibility with Islam,
C. Establishing a Network of Democrats in the Arab World (http://www.ndaw.org) and providing them with training and support,
D. Lobbying the US government and policymakers to stop supporting dictators, and to engage with, defend, and support genuine democrats.
CSID is the ONLY organization in the world that is capable of organizing conferences on Islam and Democracy in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, and Tunisia, in addition to over 20 other countries. There is not a single other organization (American-based or international) that has done it. The reason we have been able to do it simply has to do with the huge credibility and connections that CSID has established throughout the Muslim world over the past eight years. Our credibility and strong network of friends and colleagues (among Arab and Muslim reformers) is simply unmatched. This growing network is also capable of pushing for a dialogue and reforms in their countries. We have also worked with other American non-governmental organizations, such as Street Law, Inc. and Partners for Democratic Change, and publicly funded institutions such as The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and The U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP), to provide the technical expertise and the know-how to complement our knowledge about the region and about Islam.
As a result, I can say with full confidence that we ARE making a difference. Over 1,000 political and religious leaders of NGOs have attended our workshops and conferences, and over 2,000 people in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and Jordan have been trained with our Islam & Democracy Toward Effective Citizenship training workshops. The demand for both, however, is much bigger, and our objective is to train between 5,000 and 10,000 people per country, per year, for the next 10 years! For the first time in history, secular leaders and moderate Islamist leaders are starting to work together in many countries, learning to build trust and strong coalitions for positive and meaningful reforms. The Network of Democrats in the Arab World (NDAW) is growing, and has provided training on leadership, communication, consensus-building, and conflict resolution skills to hundreds of members and NGO leaders. US and European governments are beginning to realize that it runs counter to their interests (let alone their values) to promote oppressive regimes in the Arab/Muslim world, and are beginning to put real pressure on these regimes to reform and democratize. Our long term goal should be that both the US and European governments, and the international community as a whole, will work with and support governments that are serious about democracy and are achieving real progress toward it, while isolating governments that reject democracy and continue to oppress their people (while paying lip service to democracy and reforms). This can be achieved much faster than we think; in our lifetime!
Finally, CSID has just opened two regional offices one in Morocco and one in Jordan to help support the Network and all of our activities, conferences, and training workshops in the Arab world. We look forward to opening more offices in other Arab and Muslim countries in order to provide more extensive support for democrats and reformers throughout the region.
I hope that I have been able to convince you that CSID DESERVES your support. Now, let me explain why we NEED your support. During the past two years, CSID has successfully raised over $1.2 Million to support and organize all these events and conferences from various private and public institutions and foundations. But the toughest funding to obtain is money to pay for General Operating Expenses (such as rent, salaries, phone and utilities, membership drive, fundraising, annual conference, publications, website, etc..) without which we cannot exist to conduct these projects in the first place. In order for CSID to continue to stay in business and hopefully continue to grow, we need to raise $250,000 for general operating expenses every year, or we will be forced to lay off our staff and perhaps even close our office (God forbid). Money is really tight these days because a couple of large grants have just ended, and we are really struggling to cover our most basic expenses, and to sustain our projects.
Please JOIN or SUPPORT CSIDTODAY. You can donate any amount of money to CSID that you feel comfortable with, or you can join CSID as a member. We offer FOUR levels of membership:
Associate Member: $50
Regular Member: $100
Founding Member: $1,000
Lifetime Member: $2,500
The success of our initiatives in the Arab and Muslim world over the past eight years is ample proof that democracy is both compatible with Islam and possible in the Arab and Muslim world. This, however, is a difficult and long process, and we will not be able to succeed without your help, your support, and your contributions. Together, we can build a better future and a more peaceful world for all of us, and for our children.
We look forward to hearing from you, and to welcoming you as a member or supporter of CSID.
Asma Afsaruddin Radwan A. Masmoudi
Chair of the Board Founder and President, CSID
Methods of Payment
1. Check or Money Order: Fill out and return the attached form by mail.
2. Credit or Debit Card: go to www.csidonline.org
3. Wire Transfer: Send the money directly to:
Citibank, 13440 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20904 Account Name: CSID Account Number: 17565059 ABA/Routing Number: 052002166 (for domestic wire trans) Swift Code: CITI US 33 (for international wire transfers)
Membership/Donation Form (2006-2007)
I would like to join CSID as:
Student Member $20 Newsletter Subscription $20
Institutional Member $200 Associate Member $50
Founding Member $1000 Member $100
Lifetime Member $2500
I would like to make a tax-deductible donation of $_____________
Comments and/or suggestions:
Please mail, along with payment, to
1625 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Suite 601
Washington, DC 20036
back to top
The Middle East Institute’s 60th Annual Conference
New Approaches to Enduring Issues
will be held Monday and Tuesday November 13-14th, 2006 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
To register, please visit our website: www.mideasti.org/conference or call 202-785-1141 ext. 202
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 13
Keynote Speech: Samuel W. Bodman, US Secretary of Energy
Panel I: Exiting Iraq
Jay Garner, US Army (retired)
Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress
David Satterfield, Sr. State Dept. Coordinator, Iraq
Qubad Talabani, Kurdistan Regional Government
Moderator: Bing West, GAMA Corporation
Panel II: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Regional Stability
Steve Coll, The New Yorker
James Dobbins, RAND Corporation
Richard Giguere, Royal Canadian Forces Attach
Bruce Riedel, Brookings Institution
Moderator: Marvin Weinbaum, Middle East Institute
Panel III: The International Community and Iran
Hooshang Amirahmadi, Rutgers University
Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council
Barbara Slavin, USA Today
Moderator: John Limbert, US Naval Academy
60th Anniversary Banquet Dinner and Address:
Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner-General, UNRWA
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14
Panel IV: Engaging Political Islam
Maysam al-Faruqi, Georgetown University
Richard Murphy, Former Assistant Secretary of State
S. Abdallah Schleifer, DC Bureau Chief, Al Arabiya
Moderator : Akbar Ahmed, American University
Panel V: Making Peace in Sudan
Tim Carney, Former US Ambassador to Sudan
John Prendergast, International Crisis Group
Adam Shapiro, Darfur Diaries
Moderator : Peter Bechtold, College of William & Mary
Panel VI: America’s Partnership with the Gulf Region
Rachel Bronson, Council on Foreign Relations
John Hillen, Asst. Secretary of State, Political-Military Affairs
Jamal Khashoggi, Embassy of Saudi Arabia
Moderator: Marcelle Wahba, Foreign Policy Advisor to Chief of Staff, USAF
Panel VII: Israel’s Evolving Foreign Policy
Geoffrey Aronson, Foundation for Middle East Peace
Daniel Levy, New America Foundation
Yoram Peri, Tel Aviv University
Daniel Seidemann, Legal Advisor and expert on Jerusalem
Moderator : Ian Lustick, University of Pennsylvania
back to top
The Rise of Islamic Movements in Arabian parliaments
a temporary response or an ambition that has just started?
On Wednesday 29 November 2006
Pyramisa Hotel (Cairo, Egypt) at 10 am
For more information the contact no: 012 53 111 34 , 3049334
back to top
Dialogues: Islamic World-U.S.-The West at New York University invites you to
Who speaks for Islam? Who speaks for the West?
A panel discussion featuring:
Munir Akram, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations
Lisa Anderson, Dean of Columbia Universitys School of International and Public Affairs
Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (invited)
Karen Pierce, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations
M. Javad Zarif, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations
Moderated by Mustapha Tlili, founder and director of New York Universitys Dialogues: Islamic World-U.S.-The West.
Five years after 9/11 the Muslim and Western worlds are set on a troubling path, defined at the core by a mix of political and cultural issues. Among other topics, panelists will debate questions and offer recommendations for charting a new course in Muslim world-Western world relations. Panelists will examine ideas about what can be done to remedy the current situation, including how to re-inject mutual respect and understanding into the relationship between two great civilizations. The discussion will be centered on the findings from the report of the February 2006 Dialogues conference in Malaysia, Who speaks for Islam? Who speaks for the West?
Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
6:30 8:30 pm
NYUs Silver Center for Arts and Science
Jurow Lecture Hall
100 Washington Square East
New York, New York
RSVP to 212.998.8693 or firstname.lastname@example.org by November 22nd, 2006
back to top
Religious Diversity and Islamic Education in Indonesia
Prof. Dr. Muhammad Amin Abdullah
Rector, State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga
Prof. Dr. Bernard Adeney-Risakotta
Director, Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies, Yogyakarta
3:30-5:00 PM Tuesday, November 21, 2006
USINDO Conference Room
1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Suite 550,
Washington DC 20036
Religious diversity and Islamic education have become important topics in Indonesia, which is contending with a rise in religious violence and the implementation of Sharia laws at the provincial and local level. Professors Abdullah and Adeney-Risakotta will discuss the current state of religious tolerance and education in Indonesia, prospects for the future, and the contributions that ICRS-Yogya can make.
Dr. Abdullah is currently serving his second term as the Rector of the State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This was the first and mother of all the State Islamic Institutes (IAIN/STAIN) and is now one of the leading Islamic universities in Indonesia with about 15,000 students. Dr. Abdullah is well known as an Islamic philosopher who distinguishes normative Islam from historical Islam and advocates a new path in Islamic philosophy of knowledge, one that is open to dialogue and integration with many different sources of knowledge.
Dr. Adeney-Risakotta is the Director of the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies in Yogyakarta (ICRS-Yogya). ICRS-Yogya is a consortium of three universities: Gadjah Mada University, State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga and Duta Wacana Christian University. Together they offer an international, integrative PhD program in inter-religious studies. Dr. Adeney-Risakotta was born in China of British and American parents and has lived in Indonesia for 15 years. He teaches social ethics, philosophy and social science at all three of the universities in ICRS-Yogya. Previously, he has taught for 9 years at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.
____ I will attend this session on November 21
Please RSVP by 5 pm, November 20
Space is limited. All reservations will be confirmed. Please RSVP by Email to email@example.com, Phone (202) 232-1400 or Fax to The U.S-Indonesia Society at (202) 232-7300.
back to top
The following two pieces cover lectures given by Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Ibn Khaldun Center Founder and Director, during his visit to Washington, D.C. this week.
Ibrahim calls on U.S. to renew commitment to democracy in Middle East
In a speech today, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim called on the United States to do more to support democracy in the Middle East. The presentation, Americas Betrayal of Arab Democrats, was hosted by the George Mason University Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Ibrahim, a leading voice for democratic reform in Egypt and head of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo, argued that the US has backed off on its support of democracy in the Arab world of late because of the ascendance to power of Islamist groups like Hamas through free and open elections. According to Ibrahim, the growing status of groups like Hamas in Palestine and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has fed into post-9/11 Islamophobia and caused the Bush administration to curtail its efforts in the region.
Prior to the events of September 11th, the US had supported autocratic regimes in an attempt to maintain stability in the Middle East. However, post-9/11 sentiment dictated a heightened promotion of democracy so that the threat of hostile political dissidence would be lessened. To this end, in late 2001, the US began to seek out Arab interlocutors such as Ibrahim. By 2005, the push for democracy in the Arab world seemed to reach a new high as President Bush stressed in his Inaugural Address that the US would support those who stood up for freedom under tyrannical governments, and uprisings for free and fair elections took place throughout the Middle East. Additionally, there was evidence that the administrations in the region were beginning to change their tune. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, who had previously called on Egyptians to stage election boycotts, signed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to multi-party elections. In Kuwait, women were granted the right to vote. These were causes for hope, however, the Western support need to nurture this fledgling democratic movement is now lacking.
Ibrahim called on the US to renew its commitment in the Arab world and use its leverage to advance democratic reforms, as it did in the Eastern Bloc in the 1970s with the Helsinki Accords. He also emphasized that the Bush administration should show moral and political clarity and seek to embolden those who support democratic ideals around the world by promoting the principle of democracy in the Middle East. According to Ibrahim, the current US policy only endorses democracy selectively as it befits the national interest, and this needs to change. The notion that Islamists who come to power through free elections will return their countries to autocracies is mistaken and baseless. Roughly two-thirds of the worlds 1.4 billion Muslims are living under democratically-elected governments, and there have been no incidents of these administrations reneging on their commitments. Ibrahim would like the US to recognize the growing tide of democratic sentiment in the Middle East and work to maintain it by supporting all parties who come to power legitimately as a result, regardless of their affiliation.
Toward Islamic Democracies: No other choice but to keep trying
At the third annual Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World, hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy, leading Egyptian democracy advocate Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim discussed the plight of the one-third of Muslim majority societies not governed democratically. Dr. Ibrahim first posed the question: Since two-thirds of all Muslims live in countries with democratically elected governments (i.e. Indonesia, India and Bangladesh) why does the notion exist that Islam and democracy are incompatible? Acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam have created the false assumption that Islam and democracy cannot coexist, he said. The medias portrayal of Muslims since 9/11 hasnt helped.
The Unlucky One-Third
The third third of Muslims living in non-democratically governed nations mostly in the Middle East and North Africa have been left behind, Dr. Ibrahim said, after being among the first to embrace democracy historically. Egypt had a Parliament and Constitution in 1866, before some European nations. Tunisia and Iraq were also early adopters of liberal democratic traditions. Colonialism and subsequent occupations by Western powers brought these flourishing fledgling democracies to a grinding halt.
Dr. Ibrahim believes the second setback for democracy in the region followed the creation of the state of Israel, when Arab governments fought to aid Palestinians. A consequence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said, was the rise of military dictatorships. At odds with the West, these rulers learned about totalitarian rule the art of oppression from the Soviet Union. In countries like Egypt, a false choice was presented: You want economic development? Forget democracy.
The same sort of false choice is being presented today, but the context has changed with the rise of Islamic extremism. Now, the Mubarak regime argues, its us or the Islamists. Dr. Ibrahim said that the Egyptian governments scheme is to destroy political alternatives, evidenced by the imprisonment of Ayman Nour, and more recently, Anwar Sadats nephew, Talaat Sadat.
In Search of Public Space
Dr. Ibrahim said there is still no public space for political debate in Egypt today, adding, Defiance ends in prison sentences. Still, people hunger for political participation and the magic of the ballot. Because the Islamists have access to public space within the mosque, Dr. Ibrahim said democracy proponents must reach out to the moderates within their ranks. You have to think like a guerilla warfare fighter as a democrat, he said. He addressed the sentiment that the Muslim Brotherhood could not be part of a democratic political landscape in Egypt, saying, Be true to the principle of democracy inclusion of everyone. He added that Islamists would have to agree to play by the rules of a democratic government and if they reneged on their promise to do so he would fight them.
Looking to the Future
To get to the one-third of Muslims in question, the West must look more carefully at its own actions, Dr. Ibrahim said. If not for U.S. and French aid to Mubarak, our fight would have been easier. He urged the U.S. to withhold aid and trade from autocrats.
The road ahead is long, and arduous, but we are determined to fight, Dr. Ibrahim said.
In closing, Dr. Ibrahim pointed out that 77 percent of Egyptians stayed home from the 2005 presidential elections. By reaching out to the silent majority and engaging them, he believes real change is possible.
back to top
MUSLIMS ELECTION IS CELEBRATED HERE AND IN MIDEAST
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
November 10, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 9 Keith Ellison wore his religion lightly on the campaign trail, mentioning it only when asked.
But Muslims across America, and even overseas, celebrated his election Tuesday as the first Muslim in Congress, representing Minnesotas Fifth District in the House of Representatives, as a sign of acceptance and a welcome antidote to their faiths sinister image.
Its a step forward; it gives the Muslims a little bit of a sense of belonging, said Osama A. Siblani, the publisher of The Arab American News, a weekly in Dearborn, Mich., a state with one of the heaviest concentrations of Muslims. It is also a signal to the rest of the world that America has nothing against Muslims. If we did, he wouldnt have been elected.
Mr. Ellisons success was front-page news in several of the Arab worlds largest newspapers and high in the lineup on television news programs.
Few of his supporters expect Mr. Ellison, a 43-year-old criminal defense lawyer who converted to Islam as a 19-year-old college student, to effect any policy shifts in areas of concern to Muslim Americans, particularly when it comes to foreign policy and civil rights.
Mr. Siblani joked that even if all 28 new Democrats were Muslims, it is unlikely they would be able to sway the way Congress invariably votes in support of Israel. But many Muslims believe that just having a Muslim perspective around can make some difference.
Congress needs to reflect the diversity of America, and that means its vibrant religious diversity as well, said Farhana Khera, the executive director of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers and a former senior Senate staff member. Its good to have diverse voices on the House floor, in committees and caucus meetings. It is good for the country to have different views aired, especially when the primary national issues relate to Islam and affect Muslims in this country and Muslims overseas.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Ellison, who will also be the first black to represent Minnesota in the House, said his faith was particularly helpful in galvanizing the large community of Somali immigrants in his district, but the overall impact was difficult to assess. For some people, it might have been a problem and other people it was a bonus, Mr. Ellison said, noting that the campaign had received a fair amount of nasty e-mail and telephone calls denigrating Islam.
He said that his priority was to represent his district, but that he hoped to do it in a way that touched a wider swath of Americans.
I think a lot of Muslims feel highly vulnerable and feel that they are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny, he said when asked if he felt he was wearing a particular mantle, of representing Muslim interests. I am going to do it from a standpoint of improving the quality of civil and human rights for all people in America.
Many Muslim American activists hope Mr. Ellison will inspire other Muslims to run for office, some even comparing his candidacy to John F. Kennedys breaking the taboo against a Roman Catholics being president.
I think it has inspired American Muslims, said Adeeba Al-Zaman, 23, who flew from her home in Philadelphia to Minneapolis to volunteer to work in the last few days of Mr. Ellisons campaign. The fact that he won will probably motivate other Muslims that we have a shot and we matter and we are a part of the fabric of this society and we should be engaged because we have a chance.
Ms. Al-Zaman also noted that with Mr. Ellison in office, Muslims would seem more normal, and that Congress and all Americans would see that we care about things like health care and education and everything else that all Americans care about.
The sense of vindication is even stronger because Mr. Ellison was attacked on religious grounds by his Republican opponent, Alan Fine. In September, Mr. Fine said that as a Jew he was personally offended by Mr. Ellisons past support for Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the radical group Nation of Islam.
Mr. Ellison denied any link to Mr. Farrakhan and reached out to Jews, eventually gaining some endorsements from Jewish groups.
In the end, Mr. Ellison won 56 percent of the vote in his district, a Democratic stronghold that covers much of downtown Minneapolis and its immediate suburbs. Mr. Fine took 21 percent, as did Tammy Lee of the Independence Party. The incumbent, Martin Olav Sabo, is retiring
Attacks on Mr. Ellisons religion helped galvanize Muslim Americans nationally, with supporters raising money from Florida to Michigan to California. His supporters were quick to point out that they backed Mr. Ellison not simply because he was a Muslim, but also because of his progressive platform, which included calls for universal health insurance and a withdrawal of forces from Iraq, and because he was running a positive campaign.
Mr. Ellisons victory was widely noted in the larger Muslim world. The day after the election, it was the third headline mentioned on Al Jazeera, the most popular satellite news channel in the Middle East, right after a report that 18 Palestinian civilians had been killed by Israeli artillery in the Gaza Strip and a report on the overall Democratic sweep in the elections.
The news garnered a rich variety of comments from Arab readers on the Web site of Al Arabiya, a satellite news channel based in Dubai. God willing in the next election, half of Congress will be from the rational Muslims, wrote one reader, while another said, May God make this the beginning of victory for Muslims on the very ground of the despots.
A third wrote, We pray to God that you will be successful and will move forward in improving the image of Islam and the Muslims.
Arab news reports highlighted the fact that Mr. Ellison would probably take the oath of office on the Koran, something which also upset Muslim-bashers in the blogosphere. Some suggested it meant he would pledge allegiance to Islamic law rather than to upholding the Constitution.
Mr. Ellison said he had not really thought about the swearing-in ceremony and had tried to keep the campaign focused on issues rather than his religion.
Mona el Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.
back to top
But no Shift in values
Americans want change, but it is not clear in what directions. The Democrats have taken everything; the house [228-206] with an emphatic margin, perhaps also the Senate [51-49, when the dust clears] and the gubernatorial positions [28-22]. The message that America has sent is that people are deeply disenchanted with status quo. President Bushs disapproval rating [hovering near the 60s] and the opposition to the Iraq war [also in the 60s] have brought the Democrats home. Ohio is emblematic of these elections. In 2004 it gave George W. Bush the White House, but now it has elected Democrats to the Congress, to the Senate and as Governor.
But do we now know what Americans want? Like the Democrats they have a clear craving for a new direction but only a vague vision of what it might be. While it is clear what the voters have rejected -- Republican hubris, crony politics and power mania it is not obvious what they have voted for, except change.
In the past six years, the U.S. had become a one party state with the Republicans in control of the Senate, Congress and the White House, and with conservatives in majority in the Supreme Court. Now with the Democrats winning the Congress and the Senate the system of checks and balances has been restored and democracy has once again come back to America. The elections have reintroduced balance, oversight and accountability to American democracy.
The first thing to recognize about the current midterm elections is that it was not just a referendum on Iraq, if it was so, both Ned Lemont an anti-war Democrat in Connecticut and Lincoln Chafee an anti-war Republican in Rhode Island would not have lost. This election was about change. Americans are seeking a new leadership, certainly new direction, but perhaps not a shift in values.
Exit polls indicate that no single issue determined the shift in politics, with corruption, economy, terrorism and Iraq equally shaping voters choice. Interestingly, neither morality nor immigration was cited as a key determinant. The category of corruption however represents voters disenchantment with the morality party. Republicans as well as Republican issues have clearly lost Americas favor. Even on terrorism and immigration, issues considered as key elements of the Republican suit, the Republican edge was statistically insignificant [51%-46%]. Exit polls also indicated than 2:1 voters were more concerned with national issues than local issues suggesting that Americans are more concerned with what was happening to America than with their immediate fortunes.
While Republicans lost decisively, conservatism has not receded even marginally.
This election is not a victory for moveon.org, or the new invigorated liberal streak within the Democratic base. The conservative base held true to its values. The election results indicate that it is not America that has changed but that it is the two parties who have changed. The Republican Party has been recognized for what it has become, a power hungry, corrupt, hypocritical, fiscally irresponsible political mafia. Consequently, voters, mostly independents, abandoned the Republicans and migrated towards the New Democrats.
The Democrats on the other hand, at least many of the new winners, have moved to the center, embracing conservative values and adjusting their politics to fit the existing values of American conservative mainstream. Many of the winners like Brad Ellsworth [IA] and Jim Web [VA] are social conservatives. Some of the new Democratic winners are opposed to gay marriage, support the second amendment, and are pro-life. It seems that the Democrats who embraced social conservatism and allowed the strong discontent with the war in Iraq and Republican corruption to substitute for political vision, won.
This is a victory for a new Democratic Party, a victory for Nancy Pelosi the Democratic leader but not for Pelosian liberalism.
For those who are deeply disturbed by the growth of conservatism and the Christianization of American politics, this midterm victory for the Democrats is not a harbinger of good news. It is a bit depressing. Democrats won; but only by becoming more conservative and by not investing any clarity in their slogan New Direction for America. This is not a new direction for America; it is a new disguise for the Democrats. This election will ensure that come 2008, both Democrats and Republicans will be competing for the center, social conservatism with a touch of moderate political liberalism.
Nancy Pelosi will be the first ever woman speaker of the House. She has an important challenge to face. She will have to lead the Democratic Party in a way that will not hurt the Democrats in 2008. She will have to lead the house in a way that will not grid lock the government and replace a do nothing Republican Congress with a new direction Congress. And interestingly, she has the opportunity to preview America to what it means to have a Democratic woman at the helm. Her performance will surely impact on Senator Hillary Clintons presidential prospects.
For President Bush, this election was a Katrina. It has stripped him of his imperial status. Now he will have to explain his policies, and provide proof for whatever claims he wishes to make to justify his foreign policies; policies which increase terrorism and make America more insecure. He can either chose to ignore the democratic will of the American people, like his friend Tony Blair in UK and continue to wage crusades abroad based on his faith and convictions, or he can learn from Governor Schwarzenegger. The Terminator read the smoke signals months ago and made adjustments and has survived to govern another day. If President Bush turns a blind eye to this bonfire of signals, then come November 2008, we will once again become a one party state.
If this Democratic victory puts an end to American Presidential unilateralism, then it is surely a good day for America and the World, in spite of the intransigence of American conservatism.
For American Muslims, the midterm elections are special since it elected the first Muslim Congressman ever, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. The elections will probably bring some respite from racial profiling and rising Islamophobia. With many of the Republican ideologues sent home to pasture, there will be less Islamophobic commentary coming from positions of power, ameliorating the prevailing environment of hostility towards Islam and Muslims. Even the conservative talk show hosts who frequently rant and rave about the threat of radical Islamo-fascism will probably be ranting about radical liberal Democrats.
Finally, American Muslims should realize that the current political mood is quite in tune with their politics socially conservative and politically liberal Yes to rise in minimum wages and no to same sex marriages. If American Muslims seek to act as bridges between the US and the broader Muslim World, this is their opportunity to step up and give the Democrats some ideas on how to proceed. But if their only goal is to support Palestine with a standpoint closer to that of Hamas rather than Abbas, then they will find this Congress more Israel friendly than the previous one.
back to top
U.S. VOTERS REJECT ISLAM-BASHING, PROFILING OF MUSLIMS
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/8/06) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today welcomed the rejection of "Islam-bashing" and profiling as campaign issues in yesterday’s mid-term elections.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also applauded the election of Keith Ellison in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. He will be the first American Muslim in Congress.
Ellison won yesterday’s election by a more than two-to-one margin, despite campaign attacks on his connection to the Muslim community. The Star Tribune newspaper said his GOP opponent’s "hateful attempt to tie Ellison and his party to Islamic extremism" was "reprehensible."
In an editorial endorsing Ellison, the Star Tribune noted: "The real drama in this race is the way Republican Alan Fine has discredited his own campaign with overwrought attacks on Ellison."
Candidates who were vocal supporters of "profiling" Muslims and Middle Easterners lost elections in Wisconsin and Illinois.
In Wisconsin, 3rd Congressional District GOP candidate Paul Nelson suggested looking for anyone who is "wearing a turban and his name is Muhammad" when he was questioned about his call for profiling of Muslims.
Republican candidate for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District Andrea Zinga said: "Profiling doesn’t bother me if we are profiling the people who. . .have caused the outrages against our nation and caused the deaths of American citizens. . .We’re talking about Mideastern men."
In Pennsylvania, Sen. Rick Santorum lost his seat in the Senate after targeting so-called "Islamic fascism" during his campaign. Santorum even linked the Islamic concept of Jihad to Nazism when he said: "Mein Kampf means struggle; jihad means struggle."
And in Florida, both gubernatorial candidates repudiated anti-Muslim remarks made by supporters during the campaign.
"The election of an American Muslim candidate to national office and the rejection of those who promoted societal division and mistrust send a clear message that the United States is a nation that embraces people of all faiths," said CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor.
back to top
SEMINARY TO GET $2 MILLION FOR ISLAMIC STUDIES POSITION
Faculty Chair Funding to Promote Understanding of the Contemporary Faith
November 10, 2006
Courant Staff Report
Hartford Seminary will receive a gift of $2 million from a Muslim community in Turkey to advance the study of contemporary Islam.
This is the largest gift from the Muslim community in the history of Hartford Seminary, said David S. Barrett, director of public and institutional affairs at the seminary. The largest gift ever received by the seminary was $6 million in 1997, he said.
The donation, announced by the seminary Thursday, will be used to fund a faculty chair bearing the title of professor of contemporary Islamic studies. The donor, Ali Bayram, a Turkish scholar and representative of the Muslim community made up of followers of Turkish theologian and religious leader Fethullah Glen, said he hopes the chair will help in the understanding of contemporary Islam.
"For many unfortunate reasons, Islam has been greatly misunderstood," Bayram stated in a release issued by the seminary. "Neutral scholarly knowledge on Islam is missing from the discussion and not highlighted."
A key aspect of the gift is that, in accordance with Islamic principles, it may not be invested in companies or funds that are based on the sale or promotion of alcohol, gambling or tobacco.
Hartford Seminary houses the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations. The chair will be housed in the Macdonald Center to enhance its program.
The seminary has worked with the Glen community for many years. The community, which condemns violence in the name of Islam, has several students studying at the seminary, and has had scholars come to the seminary for sabbatical work. Its followers favor modernism, tolerance, dialogue and democracy without sacrificing religious precepts.
"The study of Islam is especially important in these difficult times, and this gift will allow us to offer precedent-setting research and teaching on contemporary Islam as it is lived out in the world today," said Hartford Seminary President Heidi Hadsell in the release.
back to top
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 8, 2006
KUWAIT CITY (AP) -- Kuwait’s parliament voted Tuesday to sever diplomatic ties with Denmark over the controversial cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad and to spend about $50 million to defend the prophet’s image in the West.
Both votes were nonbinding, meaning the Cabinet does not have to abide by them. Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed Al Sabah said any cutting of relations should be part of a group step by other Muslim nations.
Sheik Mohammed said Kuwait froze plans to appoint an ambassador to Denmark earlier this year to protest the cartoons, published by the newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.
The drawings sparked a wave of demonstrations across the Islamic world when they were reprinted in European newspapers in January and February, with many countries -- including Kuwait -- removing Danish products from the shelves for months.
Lawmakers also accused the West of waging a crusade against Islam, but liberal legislator Ali al-Rashed said Muslims have to be positive and remember that it was some individuals, not governments, who insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
’’We here in Kuwait curse Christians in many of our mosques, should those (Christian) countries boycott Kuwait?’’ he said.
Islamic law forbids any depiction of Prophet Muhammad, even positive ones, to prevent idolatry.
back to top
By Abbas Barzegar
Monday, November 06, 2006
The recent decision by Tunisian authorities to reinstitute a ban on the veil in public spaces will surely make great fodder for Islamist activists. Advancing their anti-Western agenda, they will conjure up the memory of Muslim women being physically forced to remove their veils by the regimes of Kamal Ataturk in Turkey and Shah Pahlavi in Iran, reinforcing the image of secularism in the Muslim world as an alien, anti-Islamic ideology enforced by self-serving autocratic regimes. Meanwhile the religious zealousness of those opposed to the ban will reinforce the image of political Islam, or Islamism, in the West as an intolerant, anti-liberal ideology seemingly stuck in pre-modernity.
This event is yet another reminder of the great challenge of our generation to expose the dangers of ideological extremism, whether secular or religious, and find common ground in the mutual commitment to human dignity. It begs the question: How will secular humanism and political Islam coexist in a global community?
Recently, those dedicated to a humanistic worldview have been experiencing the paradox of defending the inalienable rights of religious _expression and self-determination in contexts where it is feared that Islamist politics may lead to the radicalization of Muslim societies. Indeed, it would be ironic if the co-option of democratic processes led to the destruction of liberal and universal principles, yet sanity tells us we are far from the 19th-century belief that "some people" are simply "not ready for democracy." Hesitation in applying the inalienable rights of religious freedom and political self-representation destroys hope not only for political reform in the Middle East and the rise of moderate Islamism, but more importantly, it undermines the legitimacy of the democratic project as a whole, leaving radicalism to fill the vacuum.
Tunisian authorities seem to be using secular humanism as an ideological cover to maintain an autocratic political system. Embarrassingly, it is in this light that the Tunisian government - once thought to be a model for Arab development - shares the company of Saudi Arabia, whose use of Islam as a mechanism for preserving an antiquated monarchy has long been exposed.
Similarly, the Turkish law prohibiting the teaching of Arabic to children under 12 essentially mirrors press controls throughout the Muslim world that prohibit society-at-large’s access to Western literature. The failing in all cases is a zealous commitment to ideology over and above respect above respect for the fundamentals of human dignity - education, _expression, religion and collective will.
The solution in coming decades will not be found in advocating the ideological principles that form the basis of any political or philosophical system, but in a mutual commitment to the rights and values which those systems espouse in the first place. Secular humanism may have to compromise and accept some forms of religious _expression in public space, but the pay-off will be an expansion of the borders of tolerance and inclusion.
In turn, political Islam may have to accept constitutionalism, along with its procedures and guarantees, in place of an absolute notion of divine legislation. The official French, Tunisian and British discomfort with some Muslim women’s aesthetics seems to be in need of such compromise.
It is precisely at this moment, as Muslims throughout the world feel the brunt of being targeted minorities, that the restrictive Islamic legal codes that discriminate against non-Muslims might be seriously reconsidered. The result of such mutual introspection may be the creation of a new space wherein religious and secular ideologies can coincide in an increasingly complex yet intimately global world. Ultimately, dedication to the "human" in "humanism" alongside an equal dedication to the Islam in "Islamism" might offer solutions to our current series of stalemates.
Abbas Barzegar is a PhD candidate in Comparative Religion in the Department of Religious Studies at Emory University.
back to top
By Dan Murphy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
November 08, 2006 edition
CAIRO When former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted last month that female Muslim constituents show their faces when meeting with him, he set off a fiery debate about whether the face-covering niqab should be allowed in Britain’s multicultural society.
But often forgotten amid such controversies in Europe - which tend to center on allegations of "Islamophobia" or the desire of Western nations to control a minority community - is the fact that nowhere is the debate over the Islamic veil older or more heated than in Muslim societies themselves.
From Morocco and Tunisia, to Turkey and Iran, majority Muslim states have at various times restricted, and in some cases banned, women’s head coverings. To varying degrees, such restrictions stem from a view that public exhibitions of religious commitment are a political, not a personal, act - and hence a potential threat to the government.
"The niqab ... an imported innovation used by political extremists,’’ screamed a recent headline in an Egyptian weekly. Here, government-linked newspapers are waging a heated campaign against the increasingly popular Saudi-style niqab. State TV stations ban their newscasters from wearing the garment, which leaves only a slit for a woman’s eyes, and a top university recently followed suit.
But for most women who cover their hair, it’s simply a matter of bowing to the will of God. "I wear the scarf because it’s what God wants me to do,’’ says a 20-year-old music student in central Cairo, whose pink scarf tops a matching form-fitting shirt and jeans. "I’m not making a statement about politics."
While the niqab remains relatively rare in most Muslim countries, the simple head scarf has made a stunning comeback in recent decades as both a public sign of piety and, in many cases, a fashion statement. In 1970s Egypt, for example, head scarves were donned mainly by rural women. Today, on the streets of Cairo, at least 80 percent of women cover their hair.
There is little hard data on how many women cover their hair in Muslim societies, but what is certain is that the rising popularity of the head scarf is increasingly bumping up against both official and societal resistance:
In Turkey, where the head scarf is banned in government offices and universities, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer last week refused to allow women wearing the scarf to attend a ball marking independence. He said "compromise" on the issue would undermine the secular state founded by Kemal Atatrk.
In Tunisia, Foreign Minister Abdel Waheb Abdallah recently described the covering as "inspired by sectarianism ... foreign to our culture and our traditions.’’
In Morocco, Islamist activists complain that women who wear the head scarf, usually called a hijab, are hounded out of jobs and schools.
A pre-Islamic cultural tradition
Part of the discrepancy among countries may be due to the fact that veiling - a term used here to refer to a whole range of practices from covering the hair to concealing everything but the eyes - stems from various cultural traditions that predate Islam. Faegheh Shirazi, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, points out in her book, "The Veil Unveiled," that the practice has ebbed and flowed in importance throughout the ages.
Ms. Shirazi, who was born in Iran - where the head scarf has been required since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 - says she is just as concerned about admonitions against the veil as she is with requirements that it be donned. In either case, she argues that freedom to make that choice should be paramount in any just society.
"Whenever states get involved with it, it gets worse,’’ says Shirazi, who doesn’t cover her hair. "Take the example of the Islamic Republic [of Iran]. When you push women so far, they become very innovative; They come up with things that Khomeini never would have predicted."
Just as in countries where the veil is frowned upon, some women have taken it up as a way to distance themselves from what they feel is illegitimate or immoral, so, too, do many women in the cosmopolitan parts of Iran push the boundaries of what is allowed by the state, artfully draping their head coverings to reveal as much hair as they can get away with.
Women are, of course, just as artful in fighting restrictions on the veil. After Turkey in 2000 banned wearing head scarves for driver’s-license photos, many women simply took to using computer programs to insert images of hair over their scarves.
’It’s covering her hair, not her brain.’
Shirazi remembers hearing from a Turkish professor friend that women in Turkey are sometimes barred for covering their hair during exams.
"I thought that was very interesting," she says. "It’s covering her hair, not her brain. You’re barring her from education for this reason? That’s not empowerment."
That’s just the tip of the seeming contradictions surrounding veiling practices.
Farzaneh Milani, a literature professor at the University of Virginia and author of "Veils and Words," points out that veiled women today are much more integrated in society.
She contrasts the Iran of her grandmother’s time, in which many women withdrew from society after Reza Shah banned the veil in 1936 - going to public baths only in sacks on the backs of their husbands or sons - with that of modern Egypt, where the choice of women covering their hair puts their families at ease about the fate of their daughters out in public society.
"The veil of my grandmother was different from the veil of the women you see on the streets of Egypt today, who are out seeking education, working, having their pictures taken," she says. "It’s a very different issue."
In Egypt in the past 20 years, some middle-class families have watched aghast as their daughters have taken to covering their hair under the influence of popular television preachers like Amr Khaled.
A young woman in Cairo from a wealthy family, who asks to be called Heba, recalls how she went from being a Michael Jackson-obsessed teen to covering her hair at 16 and listening mostly to religious tapes.
"My parents were furious; I think in some ways it was a kind of declaration of independence from them,’’ she says. "A lot of my friends were doing it, and I felt it made me a part of something bigger, and somehow more moral than my parents. And it was also practical: It stopped men from calling at me in the streets."
Now 22 and holding a law degree, Heba is unusual among her peers in that she has since abandoned the hijab. "I read more and I thought more about it, and decided this isn’t the essence of Islam."
Disagreement about what Islam says
But there is widespread disagreement about what Islam does require on the issue. The Koran does not make clear reference to covering a woman’s hair, though there are some hadith, or traditions of the prophet Muhammad, that quote him as saying this is required. Some Muslims take these hadith as evidence the veil is required; others consider these stories apocryphal.
The Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation of the Koran instructs, "And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty ... that they should draw their veils, cover their bosoms, and not display their beauty, except to their" close family members. Another verse says faithful women "should cast their outer garments over their persons [when out of doors]: That is most convenient, that they should be known and not molested."
There are no commands to wear the niqab anywhere in the Koran, however. In fact, women are commanded to reveal their faces when making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Ms. Milani argues that behind that requirement lies much the same logic that led Britain’s Mr. Straw to insist on seeing women’s faces when he talks to them. "Why the command to uncover the face? It’s exactly the same argument," she says. "It’s a public setting, and people need to know who’s standing next to them."
She says that doesn’t mean women should be barred from making their own choices, but that with those choices, they will have to reasonably accept some limits.
"I don’t have a problem with the head scarf, or even the niqab,’’ she says. But in the specific case of the niqab, she argues that it’s a clear sartorial choice to set a woman apart that has implications beyond the personal, since it makes it hard for security officers in an airport, for instance, to identify the wearer.
"When you’re in public and want to be a modern citizen with all those rights, that comes with certain responsibilities," she adds. "You also have to accept there are limitations."
Nevertheless, Straw was attacked by many members of the Muslim right. Mahdi Akef, the Supreme Guide of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful Islamist opposition group in the Arab world, said in an interview with Agence France-Presse that Straw’s comment "reveals the absence of any respect for Muslims."
back to top
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 10, 2006; A23
MILAN, Nov. 9 -- In an account smuggled out of prison, a radical Muslim cleric has detailed how he was kidnapped by the CIA from this northern Italian city and flown to Cairo, where he was tortured for months with electric shocks and shackled to an iron rack known as "the Bride."
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, wrote an 11-page letter describing his 2003 abduction at the hands of the CIA and Italian secret service agents. He somehow transferred the document out of Egypt -- where he remains in custody -- and into the hands of Italian prosecutors who are investigating his disappearance.
The Milan public prosecutor’s office on Thursday confirmed the authenticity of the letter, the existence of which was first reported by the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The document has been submitted as evidence to defense attorneys representing 25 CIA officers, a U.S. Air Force officer and nine Italian agents who have been charged with organizing the kidnapping of Nasr, an Egyptian national, in February 2003.
A copy of the document, handwritten in Arabic, was obtained by The Washington Post. Undated, it reads like a homemade legal affidavit, outlining how Nasr was seized as he was walking to a mosque in Milan, stuffed into a van and rushed to Egypt in a covert operation involving spies from three countries.
"I didn’t understand anything about what was going on," Nasr wrote. "They began to punch me in the stomach and all over my body. They wrapped my entire head and face with wide tape, and cut holes over my nose and face so I could breathe."
Upon his arrival in Egypt hours later, he said, he was taken into a room by an Egyptian security official who told him that "two pashas" wanted to speak with him.
"Only one spoke, an Egyptian," he recalled. "And all he said was, ’Do you want to collaborate with us?’ " Nasr said the other "pasha" appeared to be an American. His captors offered a deal: They would allow him to return to Italy if he agreed to become an informant. Nasr said he refused. As a result, he said, he was interrogated and physically abused for the next 14 months in two Cairo prisons.
Italian prosecutors charge that the CIA and the Italian military intelligence agency known as Sismi collaborated to kidnap Nasr, who was known for preaching radical sermons in Milan and railing against U.S. policies in Afghanistan and the Middle East. According to prosecutors, the abduction thwarted a separate Italian police investigation into Nasr’s activities and jeopardized a surveillance operation concerning other radicals in Milan.
Court papers allege that the kidnapping was orchestrated by the CIA’s station chief in Rome and involved at least two dozen CIA operatives, most of whom arrived in Italy months before to lay the groundwork. Italian judges have issued arrest warrants for the CIA officers and have pledged to try them in absentia if necessary.
Although the case has caused a furor in Italy, the U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied playing a role in Nasr’s disappearance. Egyptian officials have also remained silent. A CIA spokesman declined to comment for this story.
Nasr’s wife and his lawyer in Cairo have said the cleric is still imprisoned in Egypt, although he has been released under house arrest for brief periods. It is unclear how Italian prosecutors received a copy of his letter. Investigators said handwriting experts have verified that Nasr was the author.
Prosecutors in Milan are also investigating allegations that Italian spies offered to give Nasr $2.5 million if he would sign papers saying he had left Italy voluntarily and was not kidnapped, according to Italian news reports.
The imam of a Milan mosque where Nasr preached on occasion said he also recognized the handwriting as the Egyptian’s. "This is his writing, I know it for sure," said the imam, Arman Ahmed al-Hissini, who is known locally as Abu Imad and runs the Viale Jenner mosque, a few blocks from where Nasr was kidnapped.
Abdel Hamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Center in Milan, said he was worried that the public disclosure of Nasr’s letter could jeopardize his life, or at least dash any chances that he might be released. "What are they going to do with him now?" Shaari said. "He’s a problem for the Italians, the Egyptians and the Americans."
In his letter, Nasr described how his health had badly deteriorated. He had lost hearing in one ear from repeated beatings, he said, and his formerly pitch-black hair had turned all white. He said he was kept in a cell with no toilet and no lights, where "roaches and rats walked across my body."
He also gave a graphic account of Egyptian interrogation practices, including how he would be strapped to an iron rack nicknamed "the Bride" and zapped with electric stun guns.
On other occasions, he wrote, he was tied to a wet mattress on the floor. While one interrogator sat on a wooden chair perched on the prisoner’s shoulders, another interrogator would flip a switch, sending jolts of electricity into the mattress coils.
back to top
By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF
Associated Press Writer
November 5, 2006, 9:01 PM CST
CAIRO, Egypt -- Egyptian police arrested 30 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood on Sunday, police said.
Most of the detainees were students of Helwan University, said a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The official said they were suspected of illegal activities but did not give specifics.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Web site said many of the detainees were Brotherhood candidates running in student elections at the university, which is located on the outskirts of Cairo.
"A huge police force surrounded and stormed the houses of the students in the early hours of the day and turned the area into a battleground," the group said on its Web site.
Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, a lawyer for the group, said the arrests were aimed at discouraging students and workers from actively taking part in trade union and students elections.
"It is a fierce campaign of arrests against the Brotherhood to sideline the group’s role in the Egyptian political life," Abdel-Maksoud said.
The police official said books and pamphlets propagating the Brotherhood’s ideas were confiscated from inside the students’ homes.
Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested since March in a wave of demonstrations against the extension of Egypt’s emergency laws and in support of two pro-reform judges who faced discipline for alleging election fraud.
The Brotherhood, which is formally banned but generally tolerated in Egypt, won nearly a fifth of parliament seats in last year’s elections, making it the largest opposition group.
The group was founded in 1928 and banned in Egypt since 1954.
back to top
November 06, 2006
THE US’s handling of this year’s war between Israel and Hezbollah further destabilised the Middle East and set back hopes for peace, former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage says.
Mr Armitage, who is visiting Australia, said the US decision to allow Israel’s air campaign against guerrillas in southern Lebanon to continue for six weeks gave strength to Hezbollah and its supporters throughout the Middle East.
"It’s inexplicable that we would hold (Israel’s) coat for them and let them do it," he said today in a speech at Parliament House in Canberra.
"And what’s even more inexplicable is that Israel - just like the United States - forgot the basic lesson of warfare that every single officer and NCO (non-commissioned officer) knows, and that is that only a soldier with a bayonet can bend an enemy to our will."
The conflict in July and August this year allowed Hezbollah to take on the role of an elected government and increase its standing, Mr Armitage said.
"No Arab government could have done as well as Hezbollah did," he said.
"And not only did they fight well, they simultaneously handed out goods and services to the people, something the government of Lebanon - the democratic government of Lebanon - were unwilling or unable to do.
"So what we have is an NGO taking the place of the government, electrifying the streets of the Middle East with their boldness and temporarily the myth of Israeli invincibility is shattered.
"It is inexplicable why the US did this.
"Lebanon is much the worse off. Syria’s in a better position and Iran is in a fabulous position because of their backing for Hezbollah."
In the absence of any peace process in the Middle East, allowing the Israel-Lebanon conflict to continue for so long was "to the detriment of all concerned," including the US, Mr Armitage said.
back to top
TURKEY ON TRACK FOR A COLLISION WITH THE EU
FINANCIAL TIMES EDITORIAL
November 1 2006 02:00
Turkey and the European Union give every appearance of sleepwalking into the "train wreck" that Brussels warned earlier this year could end Ankara’s accession negotiations. That might be welcomed by some existing members who now want their club closed to outsiders, but it would be a strategic failure for the EU, as well as a setback to Turkey’s ambition to become a fully developed modern nation.
In a week’s time, the European Commission will judge Turkey’s reform efforts and its failure so far to meet EU demands on the divided island of Cyprus. A draft of that report, reported in yesterday’s Financial Times, suggests a collision by December at the latest, when an EU summit will have to decide whether to continue the entry talks. There was a lot of ill-tempered brinksmanship before the EU finally consented to open formal negotiations, but what there is now is a mix of political fatalism and diplomatic neglect.
The EU says Turkey, despite serial packages of reform to entrench human, democratic and minority rights, has not done enough to protect freedom of _expression or prisoners from torture, and is still to establish civilian control over the army. Ankara says the Europeans are acting in bad faith, setting the bar for Turkey ever higher and pandering to anti-Muslim prejudice, especially in France, Germany and Austria. Both are right, up to a point.
What is needed now is for both sides to step back and ponder what is at stake. For the EU, embracing Turkey is the most ambitious test of the attractiveness of its "soft power". In an era of chronic conflict between the west and Islamic countries, the Turkey project aims to prove that marriage between Islam and democracy, bound by EU vows, can prosper, with Muslim Democrats emerging in much the same way Christian Democrats did across much of Europe. That is not a small prize.
For Turkey, the Europe project is not just the engine of reform but the glue of political cohesion. EU entry is the ambition shared by Turkey’s people, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s army, the guardian of the republic’s secular heritage, and the neo-Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which sees Europe not only as Turkey’s vocation but as a shield against the generals. All that is now at risk, and at a time of menacing instability on Turkey’s eastern and southern borders.
Turkey can and must do more. Article 301, making it a crime to "denigrate" the Turkish state, has no place in the penal code of a country seeking EU entry. It should be repealed, while other changes in the law need to be properly implemented. The Finnish presidency of the EU needs support for its fair compromise on Cyprus.
Above all, whether or not Turkey does eventually enter the EU in a decade or so, the integrity of a negotiating process that promises full membership must be maintained. Anything less would slam the door in Turkey’s face.
back to top
Strategic Insights, Volume V, Issue 8 (November 2006)
by Philip Seib
Conventional wisdom has long had it that the ummahthe worldwide Islamic communitywill never become a truly cohesive entity. Presumably, the Muslim in Amman and the Muslim in Djakarta and the Muslim in Dakar and the Muslim in Toronto have little to say to each other because their languages, national cultures, and politics differ greatly, and those differences outweigh any linkage provided by their common religious beliefs.
But if satellite television and the Internet were to provide an environment conducive to Islamic discourse and serve as a platform on which to build a new level of cohesion within the ummah and its 1.3 billion members, global geopolitical balances might be altered significantly.
A Very Different World
Policymakers would be wise to consider how even a partially unified ummah would make for a very different world. The Muslim community comprises much more than the Middle East, although that region receives the most attention from governments and the public. It is the Arab population nearly quintupled and spread across the globe. If this massive group were to develop a meaningful level of unity, its potential power could be enormous and crafting policy related to the community of Islam would become a far more challenging task.
That prospect is not as farfetched as it once seemed, primarily because of the reach and speed of new mass media. The surge of anger in reaction to the 2005 Newsweek story about desecration of the Quran at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the swift spread of the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy illustrated how a story told on television and computer screens can quickly resonate in the farthest reaches of the Muslim world.
Prospects for media-based cohesion are enhanced by the nature of new information and communications technologies. Members of dispersed groups, wherever they are, can collect news from sources ranging from Al Jazeera to individual bloggers. In addition to people in predominantly Muslim countries, deracinated Muslim communities in Europe and elsewhere may be particularly eager to connect to media offerings that engender a sense of belonging and provide electronic ties to home and religion. How this may affect assimilation of Muslims who live in largely non-Muslim environments is not yet known. It could provide a reassuring comfort zone that makes their new home amidst a different culture seem less threatening because links to the larger Islamic world can be maintained through media. Or, those virtual connections might make that former homeland seem close enough at hand to make integration into the new community appear less necessary or desirable.
The Quran (49:10) says, The believers are a band of brothers. This principal is at the heart of the idea of the ummah, although it has been interpreted in different ways concerning matters such as inclusiveness. Anthony Shadid defines it in historical context as the notion of an Islamic community created when Mohammeds disparate followers began to look beyond their clan and tribal affiliations in Arabia to see themselves foremost as Muslims. Today, some Islamic scholars and political figures, such as Ali Bulac and Abul-Ela Maadi, have asserted that the ummah should be a broad-based, modern alternative to Western-style secular civil society, but should still be democratic.
Although Olivier Roy contends that globalization is de-ethnicizing Islam, can a religion-based virtual state override other facets of individual cultures and ethnicities?
Enduring Cultural Differences
Cultural differences have not been swept away. Writing from Indonesia in the aftermath of the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy, Karim Raslan observed: Yes, we are part of the extended family of believers, the ummah. We cannot help but feel some sense of solidarity with our co-religionists in Damascus, Tehran, or Cairo. But the explosiveness of the Arab street doesnt translate, somehow, to the tropics. Many of us have a growing suspicion that we are culturally different from our Arabic- and Urdu-speaking brethren, perhaps more tolerant and less emotional.
Information flows affect the political character of Islam. Satellite television and the Internet have brought the conflict between Palestinians and Israelisand, more recently, the war between Hizbollah and Israelto a global audience. In spring 2002 a Zogby poll found that 65 percent of Indonesians rated Palestine as the most important or a very important issue, and the 2003 Pew Global Attitudes Survey reported that in Indonesia 68 percent of poll respondents named Yasser Arafat as the world figure in whom they had most confidence. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaedas second-in-command, recognized this and wrote in his book Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet: The fact that must be acknowledged is that the issue of Palestine is the cause that has been firing up the feelings of the Muslim nation from Morocco to Indonesia for the past 50 years.
Communications media can make the remote seem proximate, particularly when news is presented in real time and by so many providers. In this way the Palestinian or resident of Qana becomes a neighbor of the Indonesian, and within the global village a neighbors plight attracts much interest. That is not to say, however, that a single political outlook will take hold throughout the Muslim world or that priorities will be uniform.
One reason there is so much uncertainty about Islamic connections is that attitudes about Muslim identity vary from country to country, even in predominantly Muslim nations. A Pew Global Attitudes survey published in 2005 asked, Do you consider yourself a national citizen first or a Muslim first? These were the answers from Muslim respondents in six countries:
Pakistan : national citizen 7 percent; Muslim 79 percent.
Morocco : national citizen 7 percent; Muslim 70 percent.
Jordan : national citizen 23 percent; Muslim 63 percent.
Turkey : national citizen 29 percent; Muslim 43 percent.
Indonesia : national citizen 35 percent; Muslim 39 percent.
Lebanon : national citizen 30 percent; Muslim 30 percent.
These results were affected by the political and cultural characteristics of the individual countries and indicate that shifts might occur within a given country depending on the politics of the moment or particular events, perhaps including how news is covered and information is provided through the Internet or other sources. The results from Lebanon, for instance, presumably reflected the nationalist tremors that were shaking that country around the time the polling was done. Blogs and websites, as well as traditional media, helped fuel the surge in nationalist political activism there, as was evident after the assassination in 2005 of Rafik Hariri.
Unifying the Ummah
Pulling the ummah closer together is not a new idea. In the twentieth century, groundwork was laid by men such as Haasan al-Banna, a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Beginning in the 1920s, he championed the Islamization of society. His movement, according to Reza Aslan, represented the first modern attempt to present Islam as an all-encompassing religious, political, social, economic, and cultural system. Islam, in al-Bannas view, represented a universal ideology superior to all other systems of social organization the world had known. Another Egyptian Islamist, Sayyid Qutb, endorsed a transterritorial ummah unified by Islamic governance. Now, four decades after Qutbs death, transterritorial has an expanded meaning as the concept is reshaped by technologies that make conventional boundaries less relevant. Olivier Roy has observed that the ummah no longer has anything to do with a territorial entity. It has to be thought of in abstract or imaginary terms.
Roys point is grounded in the realities of new media and access to information. While satellite television is transnational, the Internet may be considered supranational because boundaries within and among states are not merely inconsequential, they need not, in the cyberworld, exist at all. An example of how this theory takes shape in practice can be seen in the success of Islam Online (www.islamonline.net), which provides news, general information about Islam, shariah corner featuring live fatwa, and much more, all available in Arabic and English. (The Arabic and English sites have different staff members, content, and audiences, and one rarely translates material from the other.) The site lists among its goals: To strengthen the ties of unity and affiliation between the members of the Islamic community and support informational and cultural exchange. To expand awareness of important events in the Arab, Islamic and larger worlds. To build confidence and a spirit of hope among Muslims.
In early 2006, Islam Online was attracting an average of about 13 million page views and 1.5 million unique visitors per month, and its management wants to expand this audience by offering content in additional languages, such as French and Turkish. It employs about 300 staff members, most working in Cairo, and uses material from approximately 1,500 correspondents, Islamic scholars, and other contributors, many of whom are not Muslims. For the English-language version, which attracts 25 percent of the page views, about half the audience is in the United States.
For Islam Online and other such media organizations, translated material is an essential part of reaching a truly global audience. Al Jazeera made its name through its Arabic newscasts and then attracted much attention when it announced plans for English-language Al Jazeera International. There was considerable public discussion, especially in the non-Islamic world, about how this channels content and political tone might differ from that of the Arabic channel, and how it would be received by Western audiences and governments. Because of the hostility toward Al Jazeera from some quartersnotably the U.S. governmentthe potential expansion of Al Jazeeras influence was viewed with concern, despite the new channel, as it was gradually unveiled, looking more like CNN or the BBC than its Arabic sibling.
While this was debated and Al Jazeera Internationals launch was delayed due to technical problems (and, some insiders say, the antipathy of the Arab channels journalists toward their mostly non-Arab AJI colleagues), the parent organizations management quietly announced that it would also begin Al Jazeera Urdu. With editorial content and translation supervised by the Al Jazeera bureau in Pakistan, this channel will, once underway, consist primarily of the Arabic channels contents dubbed into Urdu for a potential audience estimated at 110 million. Al Jazeera also plans to eventually deliver its product in additional languages, such as Turkish.
Again from policymakers standpoint, the potential political repercussions of this venture are worth considering. If one accepts the argument (debatable though it may be) that Al Jazeeras Arabic coverage features an anti-American slant that rouses the Arab street against U.S. and other Western interests, delivering that coverage to an additional huge Muslim audience could significantly affect the wider contest for global public opinion. And if it reinforces an us-against-them mentality among its viewers, it may escalate the adversarial nature of their relationship with the non-Islamic Westsomething else that U.S. policy planners must weigh.
Regardless of what the West does, effects of such globalized media influence may be enhanced by the disillusionment some Muslims feel toward secular citizenship in their own states. As Olivier Roy asks, What is a true Muslim land, in a time when many radical Muslims consider that all the regimes ruling Muslim countries are illegitimate? For these Muslims, who feel greater loyalty to Islam itself than to any particular homeland, the ummah as superstate may be the true Muslim land, tangible or not.
The Internet as New Public Space
In a virtual community, writes Jon Anderson, the Internet serves as a new public space, which enables a new class of interpreters, who are facilitated by this medium to address and thereby to reframe Islams authority and _expression for those like themselves and others who come there. The virtual space, says Anderson, does not facilitate the spokesperson-activists of established institutions, but draws instead on a broader range of new interpreters or newly visible interpreters of Islam.
Among these is Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who, through his presence on Al Jazeera and Islam Online, has established himself as one of the Islamic worlds best-known public figures. Born in 1926, al-Qaradawi studied theology at al-Azhar University and spent time in an Egyptian prison camp because of his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has written about the Islamic awakeninghis many books have sold in the hundreds of thousandsand emphasized the important role of the ulamareligious scholarsas its leaders. He has championed the independence of the ulama and argued that Islam requires freedom of thought and discussion.
Al-Qaradawi has proved himself adept at shaping his message to meet the demands of new media. As Anderson notes, he is wholly orthodox in theology but expressing it in a more modern idiom that attracts a transnational audience among professional middle classes. Modern does not mean moderate. Al-Qaradawi has endorsed suicide bombing attacks on Israeli civilians as a legitimate tactic in the effort to reclaim Muslim territory. He also, however, issued a fatwa that defends democracy not as a form of unbelief but as a system that properly gives people the right to choose their leaders without compulsion and to question and remove them. On another occasion, he denounced the now deceased Abu Musab al Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, as a murderer.
Whatever Al-Qaradawis views on particular issues, he unquestionably wields greater influence by virtue of being a media personality. His political clout as the global mufti is enhanced by the reach and frequency that satellite television and the Internet provide.
The Qur’an Online
Beyond personalities, the Quran is central to Islams online presence. This is, in part, a function of dawah, the rallying of believers to the faith or, as some would have it, the exhortation to return to pre-modern, unblemished Islam. (Those who advocate this approach apparently see no irony in using the Internet to turn back the clock.) Even websites that present news and softer features place primary emphasis on the religion itself. The IslamiCity website (www.islamicity.com) streams Radio Al Islam, which offers calls to prayer, recitations of the Quran, tools to aid in searching the Qurans content and memorizing the text, as well as locating mosques and determining local times for prayer.
Unlike the holy books of other religions, the Quran is considered to be the untouched word of God, as revealed to Gods messenger, Mohammed, who then recited it. This is the essence of its sacred nature. Its recitation remains central to the practice of Islam, so when it is broadcast or presented online, its words and rhythms find a large and rapt audience. Just as the muezzins call to prayer brings people to mosques, so too does a media-delivered call or recitation pull together the virtual community.
The digital minbar, or cyber-pulpit, is of special importance to diasporic Muslims. It should be noted that even in far-flung centers of Muslim immigration such as Paris, London, and New York, imams and mosques quickly establish themselves, and so Muslim residents there do not need to depend solely on a virtual connection for religious sustenance. As a platform for globalized Islam, however, online offerings may have special allure: a connection to a nostalgia-misted past and a remedy for homesickness.
In reality, economic hardship and political conflict may have made this earlier life far less attractive than it appears in memory. Nevertheless, new media may create such a convenient bridge across distance and time that a website or a satellite channel can become cherished as a tie to real or imagined home. Peter Mandaville notes that more than anything else, the Internet and other information technologies provide spaces where Muslims, who often find themselves to be a marginalized or extreme minority group in many Western communities, can go in order to find others like them.
Globalization of Islam and the Media
Al Jazeeras approach to certain news stories illustrates how globalized journalism can affect globalized Islam. Sam Cherribi writes that Al Jazeera used its coverage of the banning of the hijab, a veil, from French schools to build a global Muslim identity [and] mobilize a shared public opinion. According to Cherribi, Al Jazeera framed the veil story in its reporting from 2002-2005 as not only a problem for girls and women in public schools in France; it is a problem for Muslim women and men around the world. The veil coverage, he says, was part of a civilization message delivered by Al Jazeera, in this case because the veil gives the immediate recognition of otherness: non-Muslims do not wear it. Cherribi argues that Al Jazeera is a religious channel, more CBN than CNN, with an agenda that focuses on Islam even above pan-Arabism. Others, however, contend that Al Jazeeras content is relatively balanced when it addresses religious topics, reflecting the intricate spider web of Islamism and pan-Arabism that is part of the mindset of many of the people who live in the Arab world and watch that channel.
Beyond the news coverage of specific issues, the importance of new media is found in its providing an arena where the future of Islam will be contested. This takes place on several levels: doctrinal debate between moderates and conservatives about defining the beliefs and practices of true Islam, and political argument about Islams stance toward the non-Islamic world. For those who argue that Islam is not a party to a clash of civilizations but is instead undergoing an internal struggle to determine its direction, the huge number of media venuesparticularly onlineprovides the opportunity to watch the various sides present their cases.
For this direction-setting process, the Internet and satellite television transform and transcend traditional hierarchies. Robert Hefner notes that the classically educated scholars (ulama) who long dominated the religious tradition awoke to face a host of new challengers, including secularly educated new Muslim intellectuals, independent preachers, Internet Islamists, and other beneficiaries of new technologies and organizations. By expanding the number of voices to which a mass audience may listen, the Internet, writes Merlyna Lim, tremendously enhances the prospects for an egalitarian type of communications in which every voice is potentially as important as another.By learning from the Internet, people can feel they have acquired enough Islamic knowledge to guide important life decisions without having recourse to more traditional scholars such as an imam or Islamic teachers in local mosques. At the same time, radical fundamentalist groups can also use the Internet[to] directly reach ordinary Muslims in cyberspace.
Another aspect of Islam being affected by the Internet is the role of Arabic. Much as the Catholic Church relied for centuries on Latin, regardless of whether people understood it, many Islamic ulama insist that Arabic is the true language of Islam because it was spoken by Mohammed and so even non-Arabic speakers should learn at least enough of the language to be able to recite parts of the Quran in it. In theory, the common language should further Islamic unity.
A single language that everyone within the ummah could speak might make increased cohesion more feasible, but in practice, reliance on Arabic is intrinsically limiting. Most Muslims do not speak Arabic, and Dale Eickelman and Jon Anderson note that while Arabic remains a universal medium at one level, language differences within the Muslim world significantly constrain the circulation of ideas. Some Indonesian religious intellectuals, often trained in the United States and Canada, interpret developments in the Arab world, but virtually no Arab intellectuals follow debates on Muslim intellectual and political life in Southeast Asia.
With the Internet providing information in many languages, particularly English, dependence on Arabic is reduced and the audience expands. Jocelyne Cesari says that abandonment of Arabic and other ancestral languages has led to the growth of vernacular forms of Islam in Europe and America, where sermons, religious literature, and public discussions are increasingly in English, which has now become the second language of Muslims all over the ummah. Traditionalists may lament the disincentive to learn Arabic, but an increased number of languages used in information dissemination could enable more people to feel that they are truly part of the ummah and could contribute to the cohesion that new communications technologies may foster. This acceptance of linguistic diversity is particularly important for websites and blogs, which within a short time have grown spectacularly in their number and range of outlook.
Sufism, which is criticized by some fundamentalists as non-Islamic while its advocates say it is the true essence of Islam, has seen its tenets debated and its visibility increased through new media. Carl Ernst writes that Sufi websites have been primarily created by one segment of the Sufi population: members of the cosmopolitan and globalizing classes: either emigrant Sufi leaders establishing new bases in America and Europe, immigrant technocrats who happen to be connected to Sufi lineages, or Euro-American converts to Sufism in one form or another. Ernst also notes that one Sufi leader in Southeast Asia, when asked if he was interested in setting up a website, said, We are not vendors who hawk our wares in the bazaarpeople come to us. But his Malaysian followers have set up an online site on which they sell English-language publications by leading masters of the order.
Building a Global Ummah
One example of the Web being used specifically to build a global ummah can be seen in the online presence of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Party of Liberation, which is reportedly active in at least 40 countries. Its cyber-presencewith a principal website available in Arabic, English, Russian, Turkish, Urdu, and Germanillustrates how a broader ummah might coalesce through use of the Internet.
According to Globalsecurity.org, Hizb ut-Tahrir is a radical Islamic political movement that seeks ’implementation of pure Islamic doctrine’ and the creation of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia....The ultimate goal of this secretive sectarian group is to unite the entire ummah, or Islamic world community, into a single caliphate. Although no acts of violence have been directly attributed to Hizb ut-Tahrir, several governments have labeled it a terrorist organization. As of July 2006, the party was not on the U.S. State Departments list of foreign terrorist groups, but in Russia and some Central Asian countries, Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been jailed, with a flurry of arrests in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in mid-2006.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, writes Zeyno Baran, has essentially constructed a virtual Islamist community in cyberspace, frequented by members, prospective members, and sympathizers. Hizb ut-Tahrirs websites are designed to draw in Web-surfing Muslims who feel alienated from the societies in which they live, providing them with a place to obtain news and analysis, exchange ideas, and feel part of a global Muslim community.
Hizb ut-Tahrir relies on cyberspace as a political location in which organizing a virtual state can take place. Except for occasions when the party undertakes localized activity, such as protesting a proposed British anti-terrorism statute, conventional borders are disregarded and traditional sovereignty is also treated as irrelevant. The ummah as righteous political entity supersedes such secular constraints, and cyberspace rather than conventionally defined territory is seen as a congenial home for the ummah.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, Al Jazeera, Islam Online, and other ventures using new media may have varied political goals or business plans, but they all aspire to build global constituencies and to do so with Islam at the heart of their efforts.
Despite the opportunities afforded by new communications and information technologies, obstacles to Islamic unity remain formidable. Muslim-versus-Muslim warfare in Iraq displays the deep wounds sectarianism can inflict. On a less sanguinary level, Muslims worldviews differ so much that finding common ground for a Sufi mystic and a Hizb ut-Tahrir strategist may be difficult. Fundamentalist and modernist may each feel strongly that the other is following a path toward disaster. Such diversity does not mean that the ummah cannot come together, but if it does it will be loosely knit.
It would, however, still be a significant geopolitical presence, and the weave of its fabric could be tightened by external factors, such as a perceived common foe. The same new media that contribute to cohesion in the first place will deliver information that can increase unity. When images from Gaza and Lebanon in 2006 showed the agony of fellow Muslims, the reports that were most trusted were being provided by Arab/Muslim news organizations that are highly credible among their particular regional and global audiences. When their reports reach households in Cairo, Karachi, Djakarta, and Paris, Muslims feel the pain of other Muslims and reflexively seek the embrace of the community of Islam.
Islam has no monopoly on high-tech communication tools. Other religions also use them; Christian websites and blogs outnumber all others. Other diasporic communities rely on satellite channels and online forums to sustain identity. But Islam and the members of the global Muslim community are different. At this point in history, Islam is affecting how much of the world works and is a factor in many of the worlds armed conflicts. That is why it makes sense for the United States, among others, to devise a policy toward the ummah as well as toward nations.
For good or ill, Islam is a special case, and policy makers in the United States and elsewhere in the non-Islamic world should more seriously contemplate how a realized ummah might change the world.
Philip Seib is the Lucius W. Nieman Professor of Journalism at Marquette University. His books include Beyond the Front Lines: How the News Media Cover a World Shaped by War, Broadcasts from the Blitz: How Edward R. Murrow Helped Lead America into War, and the forthcoming New Media and the New Middle East. He is the series editor of the Palgrave Macmillan Series in International Political Communication and co-editor of the journal Media, War, and Conflict, published by Sage.
1. Anthony Shadid, Legacy of the Prophet (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2002), 252, 266.
2. Olivier Roy, Globalized Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 146.
3. Karim Raslan, The Islam Gap, New York Times, February 15, 2006.
4. Lawrence Pintak, Reflections in a Bloodshot Lens (London: Pluto Press, 2006), 241, 244.
5. Faisal Devji, Landscapes of the Jihad (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), 28.
6. Islamic Extremism Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics, Pew Global Attitudes Project, July 14, 2005.
7. Reza Aslan, No god but God (New York: Random House, 2006), 237.
8. David Martin Jones and M. L. R. Smith, Greetings from the Cybercaliphate: Some Notes on Homeland Insecurity, International Affairs 81, No. 5, October 2005, 941.
9. Roy, Op. Cit., 19.
10. Ibid., 112.
11. Jon W. Anderson, The Internet and Islams New Interpreters, in Dale F. Eickelman and John W. Anderson, eds., New Media in the Muslim World (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2003), 45, 48.
12. Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, The Global Mufti, in Birgit Schaebler and Leif Stenberg, eds., Globalization and the Muslim World (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 155-56.
13. Jon W. Anderson, New Media, New Publics: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere of Islam, Social Research 70, No. 3 (Fall 2003), 898.
14. Gilles Kepel, The War for Muslim Minds (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 19.
15. Shadid, Op. Cit., 68.
16. Peter Mandaville, Communication and Diasporic Islam: A Virtual Ummah, in Karim H. Karim, ed., The Media of Diaspora ( London: Routledge, 2003), 135, 146.
17. Sam Cherribi, From Baghdad to Paris: Al Jazeera and the Veil, Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 11, No. 2, Spring 2006, 122, 124, 128.
18. Robert W. Hefner, Civic Pluralism Denied? The New Media and Jihadi Violence in Indonesia, in Dale F. Eickelman and Jon W. Anderson, eds., New Media in the Muslim World (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2003), 160
19. Merlyna Lim, Islamic Radicalism and Anti-Americanism in Indonesia: The Role of the Internet (Washington: East-West Center, 2005), 44.
20. Eickelman and Anderson, New Media in the Muslim World, Op. Cit., 8.
21. Jocelyne Cesari, Islam in the West: Modernity and Globalization Revisited, in Birgit Schaebler and Leif Stenberg, eds., Globalization and the Muslim World (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 86.
22. Carl W. Ernst, Ideological and Technological Transformations of Contemporary Sufism, in Miriam Cooke and Bruce B. Lawrence, eds., Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 203.
23. "Military: Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation)," GlobalSecurity.org.
24. Zeyno Baran, Fighting the War of Ideas, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2005, 72-73.
back to top
By fawaz a. Gerges
29 October 2006
WHILE the US debate over Iraq focuses mainly on the effects of the American military presence on Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the Bush administration has little appreciation for how its involvement in Iraq, as well as its staunch support of Israel, is radicalising mainstream Muslim opinion.
In the past few weeks I have interviewed scores of Muslim activists, human-rights advocates, Islamists, liberals and ordinary citizens. Most have been telling me that the West, particularly the United States, is waging a modern crusade against Islam.
From high school teachers to taxi drivers, America is seen as a new colonial power. Few Muslims accept the American narrative that touts democracy and freedom. They view Americas military presence in the Arab heartland as a sinister plot to divide the world of Islam and subjugate Muslims.
"Look at what America is doing in Iraq," said Hazem Salem, an Egyptian human-rights advocate in his twenties. "America is using democracy as a mask to colonise Muslim lands and to steal our oil." I reminded him that President George W Bush claims he is promoting democracy in the Arab world. "No, he is promoting chaos and civil war," he fired back.
When I visited the American University in Cairo, which is a stronghold of Western liberalism, many students were openly angry at Americas support for Israel. "Bush has given Israel carte blanche to attack Palestinians and Lebanese," Rania, a teenager with strikingly dark eyes, told me in the campus courtyard. "The war on terror is an open-ended war on Muslims," she insisted. Many students at the American University in Beirut expressed similar views.
Recently, I attended an "iftar," an evening meal after the daylong Ramadan fast, with hundreds of prominent Egyptians and Arabs of all political persuasions. The speaker, a moderate political leader and rising star in Egyptian society, said this years Ramadan coincided with a coordinated attack on Islam. "The Pope has given Bush religious justification for his war on Islam and Muslims," he declared, as guests nodded their heads in agreement.
I have not met a taxi driver, a fruit vendor or a teacher who does not see a connection between the Danish cartoons portraying Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, President George W Bushs use of the term Islamo-fascism, and Pope Benedict XVIs remarks linking Islam and violence.
Of course, leading European countries opposed the American venture in Iraq. The pope also said that the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq is unjust, and opposed Israels indiscriminate tactics against the Palestinians and the Lebanese. But in terms of quelling Muslim anger, this is all irrelevant because most Muslims see the West as united.
An Islamic leader, Abed Al Rahim Barakat, said, "President Bush himself used the word crusade to describe his war on terror." "It was a slip of tongue," I retorted. "No, it was a Freudian slip. He revealed what he feels deep inside," he said.
Five years after the September 11 attacks, Al Qaedas notion of a clash of religions is no longer farfetched. In both camps, there exist tiny minorities who are beating the drums, and rallying the faithful to fight in a war they believe was caused by the other.
By staying the course in Iraq, Bush plays into the hands of extremists and alienates the floating middle of Muslim public opinion. If America really wants to win the war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates, it needs the hearts and minds of mainstream Muslims.
The bottom line is that a way must be found and soon to extract American troops from Iraqs shifting sands and to stop the shedding of Jewish and Palestinian blood.
Fawaz A. Gerges, a Carnegie Scholar and visiting professor at the American University in Cairo, is the author of Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy.
back to top
As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war’s neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target No. 1: the president himself.
by David Rose
November 3, 2006
Three years later, Perle and I meet again at his home outside Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that we’ve seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeatan American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle, "you’ll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."
According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn’t get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly. At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible. I don’t think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."
Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, ’Should we go into Iraq?,’ I think now I probably would have said, ’No, let’s consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.’ I don’t say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."
Having spoken with Perle, I wonder: What do the rest of the pro-war neoconservatives think? If the much caricatured "Prince of Darkness" is now plagued with doubt, how do his comrades-in-arms feel? I am particularly interested in finding out because I interviewed many neocons before the invasion and, like many people, found much to admire in their vision of spreading democracy in the Middle East.
I expect to encounter disappointment. What I find instead is despair, and fury at the incompetence of the Bush administration the neoconservatives once saw as their brightest hope.
To David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who co-wrote Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an "axis of evil," it now looks as if defeat may be inescapable, because "the insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect them." This situation, he says, must ultimately be blamed on "failure at the center"starting with President Bush.
Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."
Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itselfwhat he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, "it’s not going to sell." And if he, too, had his time over, Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can’t execute it, it’s useless, just useless. I guess that’s what I would have said: that Bush’s arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked can’t do. And that’s very different from let’s go."
I spend the better part of two weeks in conversations with some of the most respected voices among the neoconservative elite. What I discover is that none of them is optimistic. All of them have regrets, not only about what has happened but also, in many cases, about the roles they played. Their dismay extends beyond the tactical issues of whether America did right or wrong, to the underlying question of whether exporting democracy is something America knows how to do.
I will present my findings in full in the January issue of Vanity Fair, which will reach newsstands in New York and L.A. on December 6 and nationally by December 12. In the meantime, here is a brief survey of some of what I heard from the war’s remorseful proponents.
Richard Perle: "In the administration that I served [Perle was an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan], there was a one-sentence description of the decision-making process when consensus could not be reached among disputatious departments: ’The president makes the decision.’ [Bush] did not make decisions, in part because the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running him. The National Security Council was not serving [Bush] properly. He regarded [then National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] as part of the family."
Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute freedom scholar: "Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes."
Frank Gaffney, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan and founder of the Center for Security Policy: "[Bush] doesn’t in fact seem to be a man of principle who’s steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn’t track with the rhetoric, and that’s what creates the incoherence that causes us problems around the world and at home. It also creates the sense that you can take him on with impunity."
Kenneth Adelman: "The most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and [Coalition Provisional Authority chief] Jerry [Paul] Bremerthree of the most incompetent people who’ve ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this administration. It was then I thought, There’s no seriousness here, these are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for the disaster of Iraq."
David Frum: "I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."
Michael Rubin, former Pentagon Office of Special Plans and Coalition Provisional Authority staffer: "Where I most blame George Bush is that through his rhetoric people trusted him, people believed him. Reformists came out of the woodwork and exposed themselves." By failing to match his rhetoric with action, Rubin adds, Bush has betrayed Iraqi reformers in a way that is "not much different from what his father did on February 15, 1991, when he called the Iraqi people to rise up, and then had second thoughts and didn’t do anything once they did."
Richard Perle: "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I’m getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, ’Go design the campaign to do that.’ I had no responsibility for that."
Kenneth Adelman: "The problem here is not a selling job. The problem is a performance job. Rumsfeld has said that the war could never be lost in Iraq, it could only be lost in Washington. I don’t think that’s true at all. We’re losing in Iraq. I’ve worked with [Rumsfeld] three times in my life. I’ve been to each of his houses, in Chicago, Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I’m very, very fond of him, but I’m crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don’t know. He certainly fooled me."
Eliot Cohen, director of the strategic-studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and member of the Defense Policy Board: "I wouldn’t be surprised if what we end up drifting toward is some sort of withdrawal on some sort of timetable and leaving the place in a pretty ghastly mess. I do think it’s going to end up encouraging various strands of Islamism, both Shia and Sunni, and probably will bring de-stabilization of some regimes of a more traditional kind, which already have their problems. The best news is that the United States remains a healthy, vibrant, vigorous society. So in a real pinch, we can still pull ourselves together. Unfortunately, it will probably take another big hit. And a very different quality of leadership. Maybe we’ll get it."
David Rose is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.
back to top
By Joseph Loconte
Publication Date: October 24, 2006
I’m glad for the chance to pick up the conversation we began earlier this year (at a nice little Georgetown bistro) about evangelicals and the Bush administration. You argue that evangelicals are poorly served by Bush and the Republicans, and that they have little to show for their political support. Compared with the irrational, fantastical, near-nativist charges of a theocratic coup--from Kevin Phillips, Michelle Goldberg, Randall Balmer, et cetera--your complaint is like a fall breeze on an August afternoon.
On paper, and at a glance, you seem to be right. There has been no overt effort to dismantle the legal regime of abortion. Though Bush supported a constitutional amendment to uphold traditional marriage, he seemed to do so belatedly and with muted enthusiasm. On embryonic stem-cell research, Bush appeared to blink: He raised ethical concerns, but he agreed to allow federally funded research to continue on existing stem-cell lines. As to religion in the public square, the president mostly avoids arguments over creationism, school prayer, and any public display of the Ten Commandments.
What this critique misses, however, is the deeper challenge that Bush has delivered--politically and conceptually--to an increasingly secular culture. Take the judiciary. After the Harriet Miers debacle, Bush reasserted a political doctrine that evangelicals helped to craft: There must be no religious test for public office. He appointed two devout Catholics to the Supreme Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, who evidently affirm their church’s "culture of life" philosophy. Both probably believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Both clearly view religious institutions as sources of democratic strength. The intellectual and moral gravity of Roberts and Alito (not to mention a host of other Bush judicial appointments) could shift the legal culture in a faith-friendly direction for years to come.
Contrary to the eccentric, embittered attack by ex-White House staffer David Kuo, the president’s faith-based initiative has delivered on another Bush promise: to confront the government’s animus against religious charities in providing social services. You can’t measure the success of this initiative in federal dollars ladled out to service providers--the standard liberal fallacy. The real test is whether government officials, at the national and local level, are more inclined to enlist religious groups--and the values they bring with them--to help people in need. The answer, to anyone who can see beyond the Beltway, is a resounding yes. I’ve spoken with numerous school principals, welfare officers, judges, and prison wardens on this point. What they tell you is precisely what Bush has been saying since he took office: Faith communities bring a message of hope and healing that’s hard to find in secular government programs, yet desperately needed.
The result? Government officials have sought out evangelical churches and charities for their human and spiritual resources in ways unthinkable a decade ago. I grant you that there’s plenty to criticize about the faith-based initiative, and there’s much more to do. But Bush has honored core Christian beliefs by insisting that men and women have more than just material needs; they have spiritual needs as well. I can’t recall another president speaking so openly about the power of spiritual transformation or its role in healing social ills and rejuvenating civil society. That has been an evangelical theme since at least the days of John and Charles Wesley, whose religious revivals sparked campaigns for prison reform and child labor laws.
Along these same lines, what do you make of Bush’s devotion to human rights issues? The judgment--expressed by Hillary Clinton as well as by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times--is the same: Evangelicals have helped put the issue of genocide in Sudan on the president’s agenda. Pressure came from White House speechwriter Mike Gerson, an evangelical, as well as muscular church groups like the Southern Baptist Convention. And, thanks to prodding from organizations like the Salvation Army, Bush has been an international leader in opposing the sexual trafficking of women and minors. The administration has stepped up prosecutions and spent about $300 million to help countries combat human trafficking. If this isn’t an example of evangelical access translating into political influence, what is?
Finally, let’s talk about the president’s $15 billion Global aids Initiative. Not only did evangelicals help push the plan through Congress, but they stiffened the presidential spine by insisting on a sane and sober approach to the issue. Most of the money rightly goes for treatment of HIV victims. But a portion targets organizations involved in prevention via behavioral change--marital fidelity, postponement of sexual activity--rather than primarily through condom giveaways. At work here is an anthropology, a view of the human person and her God-given dignity. It’s the idea that, with the help of caring communities and the grace of God, people can make better choices about their sexual lifestyles--decisions that have drastic health consequences. You share these Christian ideals; do you really think a Democratic administration could cool its love affair with condoms long enough to endorse them?
No need to overstate what all this amounts to. "[W]hatever reform or revolution we carry out," wrote T.S. Eliot, "the result will always be a sordid travesty of what human society should be." A deeply Christian view, yes?
Nonetheless, Bush has given evangelicals something of real value, something many of them weren’t especially looking for. He has mostly ignored their fixation on the symbols of civil religion (school prayer, et cetera), realizing intuitively that this is not the stuff of cultural renewal. His cautiousness over the abortion debate and his middle-ground approach on stem-cell research remind critics that conservative Christianity is quite capable of principled political compromise. Finally, his faith-based initiative and his human-rights agenda summon the better angels of the evangelical nature. They ask believers to spend less time as cranky prophets and more time as good Samaritans. And Bush has offered this challenge in a way that respects and welcomes their most deeply held beliefs. I find it hard to imagine, at this political moment, a Democratic White House willing to do the same.
--Joseph Loconte is a distinguished visiting professor at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Amy Sullivan , a contributing editor at The Washington Monthly, is writing a book about religion and the left.
**This is part one of a four-part debate between Joseph Loconte and Amy Sullivan about religious conservatives and the Bush administration. The debate begins with Loconte’s argument that religious conservatives have gotten much of what they wanted.
back to top
Furnished office space available for sublease at CSID office in DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON DC (1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC). Space available ranges from 1 to 3 office rooms (fully furnished) and rent is between $1,500 and $3,500 per month. Rent includes use of meeting and conference space (from 8 to 80 people). Flexible lease: 3 to 12 months.
For further information, please contact Sami Bawalsa at (202) 265-1200.
back to top
The articles in this bulletin do NOT necessarily reflect the opinions of CSID, or its board of directors. They are included in the CSID bulletin to encourage and facilitate diversity of opinions, discussions, and debates about democracy in the Arab/Muslim world, and how best to strengthen and promote it.
For questions or comments about the information in this bulletin, contact
[back to top]
Copyright 2006 Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID).