Archive for the ‘islam’ Tag

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: President Obama stands accused of political correctness for his unwillingness to accuse groups like ISIS of Islamic extremism, choosing a more generic term, violent extremism. His critics say you cannot fight an enemy that you will not name. Even his supporters feel that his approach is to professorial.

But far from being a scholar concerned with describing the phenomenon accurately, the president is actually deliberately choosing not to emphasize ISIS’ religious dimension for political and strategic reasons. After all, what would the practical consequences be of describing ISIS as Islamic? Would the West drop more bombs on it? No.

But it would make many Muslims feel that their religion had been unfairly maligned and it would dishearten Muslim leaders who have continually denounced ISIS as a group that does not represent Islam.

But Graeme Wood writes in a much discussed cover-essay in the “Atlantic” this month, “The Islamic State is Islamic — very Islamic.” Wood’s essays is an intelligent and detailed account of the ideology that animates the Islamic State. These are not secular people with rational goals, he argues, they really do believe in their religious ideology.

But Wood’s essay reminds me of some of the breathless tracks written during the Cold War that pointed out that the communists really, really believed in communism. Of course, many ISIS leaders do believe their ideology. The real question is, why has this ideology sprung up at this moment and why is it attractive to a group, a tiny group of Muslim men these days?

Wood describes ISIS as having revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. Exactly. ISIS has rediscovered, even reinvented, a version of Islam for its own purposes today.

Wood is much taken by the Princeton academic, Bernard Haykel, who claims that people want to turn a blind eye to the ideology of ISIS for political reasons.

Quote, “People want to absolve Islam,” Wood quote Haykel as saying. “It’s this Islam is a religion of peace mantra, as if there is such a thing as Islam,” he says. “It is what Muslims do,” end quote.

Right, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and perhaps 30,000 members of ISIS. And yet Haykel feels that it is what 0.0019 percent of what Muslims do that defines the religion.

Who is being political, I wonder.

“An Ideology succeeds when it replaces some other set of ideas that has failed,” says Professor Sheri Berman at Barnard College.

And across the Middle East, the ideas that have failed are Pan Arabism, Republicanism, nascent efforts at democracy, economic liberalism and secularism. The regimes espousing these principles have morphed into dictatorships producing economic stagnation and social backwardness. In some cases the nation itself has collapsed as a project. It is in the face of this failure that groups like ISIS can say Islam is the answer.

This battle of ideologies can be seen vividly in the life of one man, Islam Yaken, profiled brilliantly by the “New York Times'” Mona El- Naggar. Yaken, a middle class fitness trainer from Cairo who’s interested mostly in making money and meeting girls. “But his dreams began to crash into Egypt’s depressed economy and political turmoil,” the article notes. He couldn’t get a good job and began dreaming about leaving Egypt.

Questioning his life choices Yaken became drawn to a very different ideology, a version of Islam that is rigorous and militant. Yaken, now 22, fights for the Islamic State in Syria. During the last Ramadan season, he tweeted a photograph of a decapitated corpse. His post read, “Surely the holiday wouldn’t be complete without a picture with one of the dog’s corpses.”

Islam Yaken is now a true believer. But the question surely is, how did he get here and what were the forces that helped carry him along? Calling him Islamic doesn’t really help you understand any of that.

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. Can Arab countries be real democracies? Well, one of them, Tunisia, just did well on a big test. More than 20 years ago the scholar Samuel Huntington established his famous two- turnover test for fledgling democracies. He argued that a country can only be said to be a consolidated democracy when there have been two peaceful transitions of power.

Tunisia passed Huntington’s test after last weekend’s election when for the second time a ruling establishment agreed to hand over power. Tunisia’s relative success is in marked contrast to the abysmal failure of Egypt. The Arab world’s largest and once most influential country.

As in Tunisia Egyptians also overthrew a dictator three years ago, but after Egypt’s brief experiment with democracy in which the Muslim Brotherhood was elected and then abused its authority, today the country is ruled by a repressive dictatorship. I recently asked a secular liberal Egyptian from Cairo who was involved in the uprising against Hosni Mubarak whether the current regime feels like a return of the old order. Oh, no, he said. This one is far more brutal, repressive, and cynical than Mubarak’s.

Why did Tunisia succeed where Egypt failed? Analysts of the two countries have offered lots of answers, but the most common one is that Tunisia’s Islamists were just better than Egypt’s. In both countries Islamist parties won the first election, but as many have pointed out, Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, which is a rough equivalent of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, sought to share power while their Egyptian brethren did not.

Now Tarek Masoud, the author of a fascinating new book on Islamists and elections entitled “Counting Islam,” suggests that Tunisia’s success and Egypt’s failure had less to do with the quality of its Islamists than with deep differences in those countries’ political environments. Tunisia is more developed, more urban, more literate, and more globalized than Egypt.

It has a more diverse civil society than Egypt, stronger labor unions, civic associations, professional groups, and so there was relative parity between Islamists and their opponents. Tunisia’s Islamic party shared power, in other words, not because it was nicer than the Muslim Brotherhood, but because it had to. Tunisia had more of the preconditions that have historically helped strengthen democracy than did Egypt.

Of course, Tunisia faces many economic challenges. Its youth unemployment rate is around 30 percent. The government is battling Islamist militants at home and recent reports have suggested that the Arab world’s only democracy is also its biggest exporter of fighters to join ISIS. Though this may be because Tunisia is relatively open and not a closed police state like Egypt.

But Tunisia’s relative success does suggest there is nothing inherent in Islam or Arab society that makes it impossible for democracy to take root there. You need favorable economic and political conditions for sure in the Arab world as elsewhere. You need good leadership, and you probably need some luck.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1411/02/fzgps.01.html

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FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: But first here’s my take. Watching the gruesome ISIS execution videos I felt some of the same emotions I did after 9/11. Barbarism after all is designed to provoke anger, and it’s succeeded. But in September 2001 it also made me ask a question, why do they hate us?

I tried to answer it in an almost 7,000-word essay for “Newsweek” that struck a chord with the readers. I reread the essay this week to see how it might need updating in the 13 years since I wrote it. I began the piece by noting that Islamic terror is not the isolated behavior of a handful of nihilists. There is a broader culture that has been complicit in it or at least unwilling to combat it.

Now things have changed on this front but not nearly enough. I also pointed out that we face not an Islam problem but an Arab problem. For example, in 2001 and 2002 Indonesia was on the top of people’s worries because of a series of terror attacks there soon after 9/11, but over the last decade jihad and even Islamic fundamentalism has not done well in Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world, larger than Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya and all the Gulf states put together.

Well, look at India which is right next door to Ayman Zawahiri’s headquarters and yet very few of India’s more than 150 million Muslims are known members of al Qaeda. Zawahiri has announced a bold effort to recruit Indian Muslims, but I suspect it will not do too well. The central point of the essay was that the reason the Arab world produces fanaticism and jihad is that it is a place of complete political stagnation. By 2001 when I was writing almost every part of the world had seen significant political progress. Eastern Europe was freed, Asia, Latin America and even Africa had held many free and fair elections but the Arab world remained a desert. In 2001 most Arabs had fewer freedoms, political, economic, social than they did in 1951.

The one aspect of life that Arab dictators could not ban, however, was religion. So Islam had become the language of political opposition to these secular regimes. The Arab world was then left with secular dictatorships on the one hand and deeply illiberal religious groups on the other. Hosni Mubarak and al Qaeda. The more extreme the regime the more violent was the opposition.

This cancer was deeper and more destructive than I realized. Despite the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and despite the Arab spring, the dynamic between dictators and jihadists has not broken. Look at Syria where until recently Bashar al-Assad was actually helping ISIS. How? By buying oil and gas from it and by shelling its opponents, the Free Syrian Army, when the two were in battle against each other.

You see, Assad was playing the old Arab dictator’s game, giving his people a stark choice. It’s either me or ISIS, he was saying, and many Syrians, the Christian minority, for example, have chosen him.

The greatest setback has been in Egypt where a nonviolent Islamist movement took power and then squandered its chance by overreaching. But not content to let the Muslim Brotherhood fare the polls, the military then displaced it by force, has moved back into power and Egypt is now a more brutal police state than it was under Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned, its members killed and jailed, the rest driven underground.

Let’s just hope that 10 years from now we do not find ourselves discussing the causes of the rise of an ISIS in Egypt.

 

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1409/07/fzgps.01.html

 

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Fareed Zakaria (CNN):

But first, here’s my take. The sheer barbarism of the attack on a British soldier in Woolwich is really beyond comprehension.

The alleged murderers are said to have hacked the victim to death, waited for the police to arrive, and seemed to encourage people to videotape their brutality.

And yet, we have to search for some way to think about what appears to be our future.

You see, terrorism used to be about something big and dramatic, but perhaps because groups like al-Qaeda are on the run, their people hunted, their money tracked, their hideouts bombed, this, Woolwich, Boston, have become the new faces of terror; a few people, disturbed or fanatical, radicalized by things they have read or watched, who decide to commit evil.

How do you detect this kind of danger? It seems impossible. Now keep in mind, this was the first terrorist killing on British soil since the London bus and subway bombings in 2005.

In fact, since the Madrid and London bombings, there have been just three Islamic terrorist attacks that have killed people in Western Europe; Woolwich, the equally gruesome 2012 murders in France that killed French soldiers and children and a Rabbi, and the killing of U.S. soldiers in Frankfurt.

Europe’s governments have been doing a good job with police and counter-terrorism work and that might explain the relative calm of recent years.

They have also done a much better job than in the past at reaching out and helping to integrate their Muslim communities. And the communities have been responding much more strongly against these isolated acts committed by murderers in the name of Islam.

The Muslim Council of Britain issued an unequivocal statement condemning the latest killing, supporting British soldiers, and urging the police to do whatever it needed to, unhindered and unhampered.

That is precisely the kind of statement all leaders of Muslim communities need to make whenever one of these kinds of attacks takes place.

I understand the feeling that some have that they should not be held responsible for the actions of a few perverted madmen. But the trouble is that these madmen claim that they are killing in the name of Islam and someone has to refute their claims as often as they make them.

Now, the alleged murderer in Woolwich claimed that he was retaliating against British soldiers killing Muslims in Afghanistan.

I wish Muslim leaders would make the point that British and American and other allied soldiers are in Afghanistan at the invitation of the democratically elected government of that country.

They are defending that government and Muslims every day from terrorist attacks and insurgent warfare.

If these people want to protest the killing of Muslims, they should direct their wrath at the Taliban and al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups because they are the ones who are killing Muslims and many others.

We need to hear this message more often and more loudly.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1305/26/fzgps.01.html

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But, first, here’s my take. As we learn more about the brothers Tsarnaev, we want to ask larger questions about radical Islam, Russian immigrants, Muslim communities and the breakdown of assimilation. What do they tell us about all this?

The most accurate answer might turn out to be not much. Larger phenomena might be at work, but these two young men might not reflect any rise or intensification of these trends. It seems they are just two alienated young men who turned towards hate and then, allegedly, to murder.

That was the point the brothers’ uncle Ruslan Tsarni made when he pointedly called his nephews “losers.” He was arguing against the notion that the boys represented a larger community or larger trends.

Tsarni and his family, after all, were part of the same Chechen migration to the U.S. and they are well-adjusted, law-abiding and thoroughly American.

Since 9/11, foreign-inspired terrorism has claimed about two dozen lives in the United States. During that same period, more than 100,000 people have been killed in gun homicides and more than 400,000 in motor-vehicle accidents in America.

One crucial reason the number of terrorism deaths is low is that America does not have large pools of alienated immigrants. Polls repeatedly have shown, for example, that Muslim immigrants to the United States embrace core American values. American assimilation continues to function well.

Now, could it do better? Well, there’s one surprising place that the U.S. could learn something from, Europe. I know, I know, assimilate has worked better in the United States than there, but let’s acknowledge that European countries are dealing with a much larger problem.

Muslims make up 5 percent of the population in Germany, 7.5 percent in France, compared with 0.8 percent in the United States, according to Pew calculations.

Jonathan Laurence of Boston College, who has done extensive research on Muslim communities in Europe, found that before 1990 European countries were largely indifferent towards their Muslim populations letting foreign embassies like Saudi Arabia set up the mosques and meeting centers for these groups.

They realized that this produced a radicalized and unassimilated migrant community. So, now, in recent years, governments at all levels have engaged are engaging with Muslim communities, taking steps to include Muslims in mainstream society but also to nurture a modern, European version of Islam.

It’s worth noting, Islamic terrorism has declined in Europe in recent years.

The lesson from Europe appears to be engage with Muslim communities. That’s a conclusion U.S. law enforcement agencies would confirm. The better the relationship with local Muslim groups, the more likely those groups are to provide useful information about potential jihadis.

A recent attack in Canada, apparently inspired but also perhaps directed by al-Qaeda, was foiled for just this reason. An imam in Toronto noticed one of his congregants was behaving strangely. He reported the behavior to the police, who followed up and arrested the man before he could execute his plan.

Before briefing reporters on their collaboration, Canada’s top counterterrorism official invited Toronto’s Islamic leaders to a meeting and thanked them for their help. “But for the Muslim community’s intervention, we may not have had the success,” said the official, according to one lawyer who was at the meeting.

In the wake of Boston, the smartest move we could do would be greater outreach to these communities so that the next time someone begins to act strangely, community leaders would pick up the phone and call their friends at the police.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1304/28/fzgps.01.html

Posted April 29, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders brought his crusade against the Islamic religion to Denver last weekend, warning an audience at the Western Conservative Summit that Europe and the United States are vulnerable to an insidious takeover by what he termed a “dangerous, totalitarian ideology” masquerading as a religion.

“If we do not stop the Islamization, we will lose everything: our identity, our culture, our democratic constitutional state, our freedom, and our civilization,” Wilders told an audience of roughly 1,000 gathered in the main ballroom at the downtown Hyatt Regency Denver on Saturday. The annual summit, in its third year, is sponsored by the Lakewood-based Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute and had an estimated 1,300 attendees over three days.

State Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, said it’s worth paying attention to Wilders and the alarms he was raising.

Regarding Wilders’ suggestion that Western governments ban construction of new mosques, Grantham said it was worth considering.

“You know, we’d have to hear more on that, because, as he said, mosques are not churches like we would think of churches,” Grantham said. “They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches — we don’t feel that way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.”

http://www.coloradostatesman.com/content/993597-dutch-lawmaker-brings-his-crusade-against-islam-conservative-confab

Posted July 8, 2012 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day, Religion

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A Republican state representative in Louisiana now says she was confused when she enthusiastically supported Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher bill to fund private schools. From the Livingston Parish News (free registration required):

“WATSON — Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools …

‘I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,’ Hodges said.

Hodges mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’

HB976, now signed into law as Act 2, proposed, among other things, a voucher program allowing state educational funds to be used to send students to schools run by religious groups …

‘Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,’ Hodges said. ‘We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.'”

http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/104656/wait%E2%80%94freedom-religion-all-religions