Monday, August 16, 2010

Who is an authority on Islam Robert Spencer or Al Qaradawi?

Islam is "Perpetual war" or "no compulsion in religion"
Mr. Robert Spencer is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) a book that is praised by a who's who of self-appointed for- profit crusaders against Islam. Spencer claims to know what "Islam" "is" and self appoints himself an authority on Islam. Spencer is on an unholy crusade looking for material he can use, in context and out of context, to advance his agenda of demonizing Muslims. He presents the religion as an evil ideology intent on dominating the world and subjecting it to Shariah law. The wording and titles of his chapters show his ideological bias. One chapter's title reads "Islamic law: lie, steal and kill." He is an activist who is involved with efforts to block and disturb efforts to builds Islamic centers in the US.
The Quran tolerant verses: "Canceled"
Spencer invokes the doctrine of abrogation (naskh) to claim that almost 200 verses in the Quran advocating peaceful co-existence, among other noble values, have been canceled by the "Sword verse" a verse that was referred to by an assistant US attorney in the trial of the Yemeni Imam Al Moayyed as the "terrorist verse." Spencer presents as an undisputed fact/consensus matter that "the violent verses of the ninth sura, including the "Verse of the Sword" (9:5), abrogate the peaceful verses, because they are revealed later in Muhammad's prophetic career. He adds "[D]ifferent understanding of abrogation met with little interest and support among Muslims worldwide- not least because they fly in the face of interpretations that have been mainstream for centuries."
"Moderate Islam" does not exist?
Spencer picks and chooses from the grand Islamic tradition to advance his agenda. It is true that some Muslims, a tiny percentage of worldwide Muslims, adopt the argument that he develops and misrepresents as mainstream Islam. As to the general Muslim public, he writes "…[those] who want nothing to do with today's global Jihad, while their theological foundation is weak."
Aggression vs. Non- belief
The theological foundation of those who argue against the wide ranging abrogation claim is not weak. It is voiced by, among others, the famous Muslim scholar of Aljazeera satellite TV station fame Al Qaradawi, a leading Muslim scholar who is watched on Al Jazeera by hundreds of millions of Muslims. On Al Qaradawi's website there is an Arabic- language entry based on a TV interview he gave headed "Aya al Sayf/The sword verse is a subject of disagreement and some say it was abrogated." [http://www.qaradawi.net/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=7197&version=1&template_id=197&parent_id=196]
Dr. Al Qaradawi's raises the argument that the "sword verse" itself is arguably abrogated. Qaradawi emphasized in the interview that "aggression on Muslims and not disbelief is the basis for Muslim warfare…There is disagreement on the so-called Sayf aya (the verse of the sword). Some claimed that it abrogated 200 verses of the Quran among which are the forgiveness and tolerance. But there are those who say that the Sword verse itself is abrogated." He stressed the importance of understanding and explaining these verses in the light of the context they were revealed and the reasons for the revelation.
Debating "Abrogation"
Spencer presents the abrogation argument as a settled matter. Qaradawi presents a different picture. Qaradawi states: "There are those who claim that Islam has to conquer the world by force. They rely on debatable vague grounds. They claim that the verse of the sword abrogated all the verses calling for peaceful coexistence. On principle, abrogation should be narrowly applied. There are scholars who argue that there is no abrogation in the Quran and call for reinterpreting the verses that have been thought be abrogated. The issue of abrogation is not a settled matter. There is not even one verse in the Quran that is claimed to be abrogated where you don't find scholars claiming that it was not. There is not even one verse that there is consensus among the scholars that it is abrogated."
The four "sword verses" in Sura Repentance
Qaradawi added, 'there are four verses, almost all in the Sura al Tawba/Repentance, that are understood as the sword verses. For example, verse 9:5 "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. But if they repent and establish regular prayers and pay Zakat then open the way for them." When you examine this verse you find that it deals with the idolaters of Qureysh and the idolaters of Arabia. They violated treaties and exceeded limits and hurt the Muslims and fought them for years. Tawba/Repentance Sura addressed them "a declaration of immunity from Allah and his Messenger to those of the Pagans with whom you have contracted mutual alliances." This verse addresses those who fight Islam. The proof for this understanding is the subsequent verse 9:4 "but the treaties are not dissolved with those Pagans with whom you have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loveth the righteous." Verse 9: 6 if one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant to him, so that he may hear the Word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure…"
Ibn Taymieh's Treatise on Warfare
Al Qaradawi adds 'the bizarre thing is that the radicals say that these verses were abrogated by Qur'an 47:4 "Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at lengths when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond formed on them: thereafter is the time for either generosity or ransom, until the war lags down its burdens." ..Another verse that is considered the Sword verse is " Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, (even if they are) of the people of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." Quran 9:29. This revelation came in the context of the post Tabook battle when the Muslims fought the Byzantines after they had killed the Muslim messengers sent to them. The Byzantines were getting ready to invade Medina and the Muslims had to confront them. Among others, Shaykh al Islam Ibn Taymieh- his book Treatise on Warfare against the Unbelievers, in it he says that the prophet did not fight except those that did fight him and those who offered truces or peace treaties were accepted. '
Turning the world against us if no one refutes
Al Qaradawi identifies the problem succinctly when he states that those who make the argument that the "sword verse" abrogated the two-hundred verses calling for peace and tolerance pose a danger to the Islamic umma- a "danger of turning the world against Islam." Qaradawi adds, "If these ideas spread and no one refuted them then the world would see us as warmongering intending to control the world by force. We want to win people over by amity and not by the sword." Al Anfal 8:61 reads "But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace and trust in Allah" and 60:7 "It may be that Allah will establish friendship between you and those whom you now hold as enemies." Al Qaradawi concluded "there is no permanent enmity, no permanent amity, hearts change and Islam always wants to open doors for amity with people because it is mercy to all mankind."
The New York Times reported that as "a high-profile battle rages over a mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, heated confrontations have also broken out in communities across the country where mosques are proposed for far less hallowed locations." At the heart of these campaigns and the attacks by former politicians such as Newt Gingrich is an understanding of Islam as a violent political ideology, an argument relentlessly promoted by Spencer and many others. Islam is what Qaradawi is, not what Spencer and his fellow travelers believe. Even if one does not agree with all of Qaradawi's fatwas/opinions.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Understanding the failure of the Lebanese parliament to pass legislation ending the terrible treatment of the Palestinian refugees

The scandalous division in the Lebanese parliament over the bills ending policies of discrimination in housing ownership and employment came up in a phone conversation I had with a relative of mine, a Palestinian refugee from Syria. My relative was puzzled by the treatment of the refugees in Lebanon and by what happened in the parliament. The country of his family's forced refuge, Syria, gives the refugees all the rights Syrians have except the right to vote and to run for office. The world has moved away from such blatant discrimination, how could those who speak of democracy, human rights shamelessly act the way they did he asked?

Any Muslim, any Arab but not a Palestinian Muslim

This phone conversation got me thinking of a situation that puzzled a friend of mine from Dearborn, a Muslim Palestinian attorney born in the US whose parents were from the West Bank, with no ties to Lebanon. Learning that Lebanon was seeking basketball players from overseas, this man wanted to take a break after law school and play basketball in Lebanon. He asked for my help. I called a Christian Lebanese friend of mine of Palestinian origin and asked him to help. He said his cousin works in recruitment of basketball talent and he would see what he could do. Then almost as an afterthought he asked me where is this player from. I told him he is an American born to a Palestinian Muslim family from the West Bank. There was an awkward silence. "It won't work," he said.. A Muslim American of any other nationality would do, he said. A Christian Palestinian would do but not a Muslim Palestinian even if he and his family have nothing to do with Lebanon. "Sorry."

Christian Lebanese and the Palestinians

Why a Christian Palestinian would be acceptable but not a Muslim one? If the Christian Lebanese right wing still has a vendetta from the civil war, why would a Christian Palestinian be ok and not a Muslim one, if the issue is the Palestinians as a people? This mystery is demystified by two interactions I had. On a flight from Amman to Beirut I was sitting next to a Lebanese Christina man. Our small talk, predictably, ended in politics. We talked about the war and the aftermath. We spoke about the different players in the civil war. To my surprise when he spoke about Palestinians he meant Muslim Palestinians. To him the Christian Palestinians were not "Palestinians." This realization is validated by the treatment of Christian Palestinians during the civil war. I once asked a Christian Palestinian friend who lived in the Christian sector of the city if the Christian militias bothered his family. He told me not at all. He thought a little bit and said the neighbors sometimes mocked his grandfather's Palestinian dialect. But that was it. He was accepted in Christian Lebanon. Even the few Christian Palestinians who were not naturalized were accepted in the turf of the Lebanese Christian right.

The beginning and end of the war

Began with a myth ended with a myth

The civil war of Lebanon that broke out in the 1970s began with a myth and ended with a myth. The war began with the myth/blatant lie that the Palestinians want to "take over" Lebanon. It ended with the grand lie/the founding lie of the Taif Republic that the Lebanese are innocent from the war and its atrocities and it's all the Palestinians' fault. The Lebanese Christian right wing needed a convenient enemy that does not draw attention to Lebanese vicious disputes and conflicts- so during the war they chose to have the Palestinians as the public face of the enemy.

More importantly, the Lebanese civil war ended by an imposed Syrian peace on the feuding Lebanese factions. Unwilling to examine the war period, or to have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to bring the civil war's many Lebanese war criminals to account, official Lebanon chose to "let bygones be bygones" as the late President Elias el Hrawi put it. But the masses and the youth who did not live the war needed a war narrative, a villain and a hero. The right-wing Christian narrative that carried the day was that the Palestinian was the villain and the Lebanese people the innocent victim of the "wars of others." Vindictive policies toward the Palestinians followed.

Christian Lebanon and Muslim Lebanon

At the heart of the division over the issue of the Palestinian refugees basic rights is an existential question regarding Lebanon itself as a polity. Whose Lebanon is it? I worked in California with a Lebanese Christian of Syrian origin. He said that the religious divide in Lebanon is sickening. He related how in college a Christian Lebanese girl one time stated that she is annoyed by how "Muslims are acting as if they owned Lebanon." My secular Syrian nationalist friend replied to her that Christians too act as if they own Lebanon. She replied, without hesitation, we do! Lebanese media report that the Palestinian issue divided the Lebanese in parliament along communal religious lines. The reality is that the Lebanese are divided along religious lines and the treatment of the Palestinians is a manifestation of this awful division. If the Lebanese truly believed and acted as if Lebanon is their country, regardless of sect and religion, these bills would not have been before parliament at all. The Palestinians would have been dealt with decently and honorably from their day one of forced refuge in Lebanon. They haven't and the Lebanese have to look at themselves in the mirror to know why. Stop pretending.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

End the Siege on Palestine- in Lebanon

Official Lebanon policy on the Palestinian refugees: Undermining Palestine and feeding the global terror network

The siege on Gaza and the Israeli assault on the Turkish humanitarian relief ship has brought world attention to the suffering of the besieged Palestinians in the Gaza strip. After Hamas won the Palestinian elections the Israelis with, Arab and international collusion, imposed a criminal siege designed to punish Gaza’s civilians for voting for Hamas. The Israelis are just professional liars when they say the siege is designed to stop the flow of arms. The siege is designed, just like the war on Gaza and the war on Lebanon in 2006, to break the will to resist occupation and Israeli hegemony. The Wall Street Journal reported on 6/10/2010 that in response to developments after the piracy and massacre at sea of the humanitarian workers, Israel allowed formerly banned items such as potato chips, spices, and cookies.

Official Lebanon undermines Palestinian nationalism
Government policy feeds the global terror network
The plight of the Palestinian refugees is well known. The Palestinian association for human rights (Witness) has documented the violations, harassment and discrimination that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon endure on the hands of the Lebanese sectarian regime (www.pahrw.org). The Palestinians are denied the right to work in almost all occupations; they can not inherit, among other limitations and violations of basic rights and decency. Cut off from employment opportunities, isolated and besieged by Lebanese security forces and military, the refugees suffer high unemployment and live off an informal economy, private foreign aid and NGO support all of which have been dwindling. The issue of the plight of the Palestinians has been discussed as a human rights issue. It goes beyond that. It is an issue of importance to the Palestinian nationalism project and to international security/the global war on terror. Lebanon’s policy on the refugees is undermining Palestinian nationalism and feeding the global terror network. It should not continue unchallenged.

Everyday Jihad in Ain El Hilweh

The Lebanese Christian right wing and its like minded Muslim allies are obsessed with the Palestinian refugees and the “islands of lawlessness” in Palestinian refugee camps. What these right wingers, with a history of massacres and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as well as their own countrymen on the basis of sect, fail to admit is that the Palestinians in Lebanon, and the Palestinian cause is being transformed due to policies that they have out of foolishness and bigotry put in place. The policy of mistreatment, marginalization and pure unadulterated hate has taken a toll on Palestinian nationalism and the global war on terror. In Everyday Jihad: The rise of militant Islam among Palestinians in Lebanon, Bernard Rougier writes about the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and the rise of “militant Islam” among them. Mr. Rougier spent four years studying the Islamists in Ain el Hilweh, the largest Palestinian camp in Lebanon with 35,000 inhabitants. Mr. Rougier concludes that a “new religious ideology took root in this Palestinian environment" in Ain el Hilweh that made it “a recruitment site [for global jihad] and a retreat for hunted down in countries of origin.” This development is not good for anyone- neither Lebanon, nor the Palestinians and the rest of the world.

From secular democratic nationalism to global terror networks
The US supplants Israel as the focus of grievance and violence

Mr. Rougier’s focus is not on the Islamist Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These groups are nationalist in their agenda and are relatively moderate. The book focuses on groups that have been inspired by the rhetoric of Al-Qa’ida and have joined the informal network of “global jihad” against the “unbelievers.” These militants are engaged in “a religious, global warfare for the victory of Islam against unbelievers. These militant Islamists situate themselves within the international Jihadist network and identify with the rhetoric of al-Qa'ida.” Rougier considers Hamas and Islamic Jihad not part of the “global Jihad” but part of the “national Palestinian space.” He adds that there are "religious figures who expended much of their energy dissolving the national Palestinian community the PLO had worked to crystallize since its creation” To those groups “history ceased to be an experience of national dispossession and became instead one more link in the chain of Muslim people victimized by the Kuffar (unbelievers) since Mustafa Kemal abolished the Muslim caliphate in 1924.” He notes that “[I]t was no accident that a video aired by al –Qa’ida in September 2006 showed a young Saudi-one of nineteen operatives who died on September 11 dedicating a poem to “Abu Mahjin the Palestinian,” the main leader of the Ain al Hilweh jihadist network...” To these groups the US has supplanted Israel as the enemy and the “embrace of violent terrorist tactics more aggressive and enthusiastic.” The siege on the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon has made this transformation possible.

US policy change needed
Ambassador Feltman’s friends must stop feeding the global terror network

The US has dealt with this threat by trying to upgrade the capabilities of the Lebanese security apparatus. This is not the best way to deal with the threat. What is needed is a change in the circumstances created by official Lebanon that have transformed Ain El Hilweh into the recruiting ground and retreat for “global jihadists.” The US needs to engage the moderate forces of Hamas and Islamic jihad, groups who are nationalist and not part of the global terror networks targeting the US and are best positioned to counter the radical groups. Official Lebanon has to be persuaded to change its policies that have played into the hands of the recruiters and theorists of the global terror networks. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs is very close to those forces that are behind the policies that transformed Ain El Hilweh into what it has become. Instead of spending resources and armaments on Lebanon’s security apparatus with the hope that the networks could be stopped, the US is better off changing the environment that has helped create the problem. It is time to test the friendship of Mr. Feltman’s so-called “Cedar Revolutionaries” by asking them to change policies that feed the global terror network.

Conspiracy of silence on the siege on Gaza-Conspiracy of silence on the siege of the Lebanon refugees

Those who support the Palestinian cause should mobilize to change Palestinian reality in Lebanon. The immense pressures official Lebanon puts on the refugees are undermining the Palestinian project. Those who support the Palestinian national project should see the contradiction in shaming the world for its silence on the siege of Gaza while they themselves are silent on the siege of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gaining Zionist Approval, Losing Islam

What good is it to gain Zionist approval but lose Islam’s soul?
Saying no to Muslim Zionism

In April of this year the American Arab anti- Discrimination Committee (ADC)- Michigan sponsored the Uniform Periodic Review event at Wayne State University. At that event one non- Arab Muslim leader asked a question and made a comment that seemed to be wrong in their logic and premises. The question was why the US government is refusing to give a “clean list” of Muslim charities that American Muslims can safely donate to. The comment was a response to a Palestine- related question. The comment was that Muslims have "many issues" and should not focus only on the issue of Palestine or be seen only from that angle.
Betrayal by appeasement: Asking the axis of evil Cheney-Rumsfeld-AIPAC where to give the Zakat?

The flawed thinking behind the question and the comment is clear to those who are familiar with the challenges that are facing American Arabs and Muslims in the United States after the biggest ever gift that was ever given to the Israel lobby- the 9/11 attacks; a gift that greatly facilitated the process of demonizing American Arabs and Muslims. The thought that the administration of George W. Bush, for example, would determine where the Zakat is spent is reprehensible to the overwhelming majority of Muslims who have seen that administration reckless attitude to Muslims. Who would want to hand their Zakat to groups handpicked by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other members of the neo- con gang? Who wants politicians, any politicians, telling them where their Zakat money goes? Is that what Zakat is about? When the government decides where your money goes, it is called taxation not the exercise of first amendment rights to free exercise of religion.
American Muslims for Palestine

As to the issue of Palestine, it is true that American Muslims have many issues more than Palestine. However, the sense of American Muslims, with a few exceptions, is that the suffering of the Palestinians is a Muslim cause of utmost importance. It is true that the campaign against American Muslims is motivated by the fact that the Muslim community cares about Palestine and is translating this commitment into real support for the persecuted Palestinians- activism and donations. Muslims do not believe this support is optional. A Muslim longtime activist once told me that of all the Muslims in the world the Palestinians are the most deserving of Muslim help. That is powerful. Mainstream Muslim thinking is that one be truly Muslim without caring about the Palestinians and the alAqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Not a Jewish problem, or a pro- Israel problem
It's an Afrikaner problem

Those who think that Muslims should play it safe by distancing themselves from "politics", that is avoid the issue of Palestine in the hope that the aggressive Afrikaner Zionists that professor Mearsheimer talked about in his lecture in the Palestine Center in DC have to be aware of what kind of bargain they are asked to make. As a reminder, what Mearsheimer did in that lecture is divide the Jewish community into three groups- the righteous Jews, the Afrikaners and the middle group. The Afrikaners are the ones who are engaging in an unholy war against Muslim Americans. The problem that American Muslims are having is not the result of the effort of American Jews and/or even the effort of the supporters of Israel for that matter. The problem is the Afrikaners, not the Jews, and not the Israel supporters. The Afrikaners are the most vicious, the loudest, the most hateful and the most poisonous. An example of righteous Jews is The Jewish magazine The Forward which editorialized in support of the building of the mosque near Ground Zero. An example of Afrikaner Jews is Bret Stephens of the Journal.
WSJ Afrikaner View

Afrikaner Bret Stephens writes the "global view" column in the Journal, a column that if honesty was valued by Stephens would instead be called Zionist Afrikaner View. Mr. Stephens wrote in the Journal of May 25, 2010, “[T]he mosque at ground zero” a piece of pure poison and treachery that is greatly instructive as to the magnitude of the challenge facing American Muslims and the price that those who seek appeasement of the Afrikaners have to pay for safety.

Afrikaner Zionists are not asking for American Muslims to be neutral. They are not asking that they not help feed the Palestinians. They are asking for the impossible as a ticket to acceptance to the American mainstream that Muslims are eager to be part of. They are not only asking that Muslims who want to be accepted as acceptable “moderate” American Muslim worry about Muslims anywhere in the worked except in Palestine, they want a pledge of allegiance to Zionism and a lot more compromises/sacrifices that go to the traditional practice of the faith and the basic freedoms that individuals enjoy in this country. Here is what Stephens wrote:
"Muslims in New York want to build a mosque and cultural center near ground Zero. As a confidence building measure for those of us who live in the neighborhood, it would help if the pair voluntarily answered some questions about the nature of their beliefs. A sampler:
Who perpetrated the attacks of 9/11, and what was their religion?
Are suicide attacks or to her forms of violent jihad are acceptable under any circumstances, including against American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Does Israel have the right to exist as a Jewish state?
Do they agree with the state department’s designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations?
What aspects of Shariah law, if any, do they repudiate?
Will their center invite the input and participation of Muslim gay and lesbian groups?
Do they consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be extreme?
What influence will any foreign funding of Cordoba House have on its programs or on the literature it distributes?
Finally, it is worth asking Mr. Rauf and Ms Khan the broader question of how they think about tolerance itself. In the case of the famous Muhammad cartoons “moderate” Muslims typically make the case while free speech has its place, the sensitivities of the Muslim community should be respected. But tolerance can't just be a one-way street, and sensitivity is not the preserve of Muslims alone… will they return the favor by hosting an exhibition of the prophet? "

One hopes that those American Muslims who campaign on the platform of appease for safety and avoid Palestine at all cost read Stephens well: among other "gems," repudiate Shariah, an exhibition of the prophet, and the cherry on the cake, the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state with all that it entails to the previous and the future ethnic cleansing of non-Jews from mandatory Palestine.
What good is it for American Muslims to gain Zionist approval yet forfeit Islam?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

“Sayyid Qutb hates Lady Gaga” as an Israel PR ploy

Framing the Arab-Israeli Conflict
“Sayyid Qutb hates lady Gaga” as an Israel PR ploy
Whose interest the focus serves?

Between Pat Buchanan and “I guess you could say I¹m trying to help Israel” Bret Stephens

On the Arab-Israeli conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a conflict that receives a lot of attention in the international media for many reasons. Arabs focus on international law- the Israelis are occupying Arab lands, oppressing Arab people and violating a large number of international laws. Had it been any other country engaging in all the violations and crimes that Israel is involved with, that country would been an international pariah on its way to the trash bin of history.

International law vs. international boogey man

After 9/11, Islamist radicals, aided by a motley crew of odd bedfellows, have taken over the place of the leftist radicals as international boogey men. Israel loses an argument grounded in international law and human rights. But Israel can win an argument that appeals to hate, fear and prejudice against Islam, Arabs and Muslims. Here, the radical statements of radical Arab and Muslims, used in context and out of context, become a refuge for pro-Israel advocates who want to demonize Arabs and Muslims and take the focus away from crimes such as those documented by the Zionist Jewish judge Goldstone.

The Wall Street Journal and Bret Stephens

The Wall Street Journal editorial pages have offered solid support to Israeli policies that its own reporters have put in a negative light in their reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict. One of the writers of the Journal, Bret Stephens, a former editor of the right-wing Jerusalem Post, has a regular column in the paper that is used to demonize Islam and promote Israel. This public relations campaign for Israel is focused on framing the Arab-Israeli conflict as an intractable civilizational conflict rather than a territorial/international law conflict that international law offers tools to deal with. According to international law, the refugees have the right of return, the Syrian Golan Heights is occupied/stolen land, the settlements are illegal, etc. However, instead of focusing on these real issues that are manageable and that Israel cannot win, Stephens and the Wall Street Journal campaign serves its readers Lady Gaga and Sayyid Qutb.

Why focus on Lady Gaga and Sayyid Qutb? Because this frame serves Israeli interests best, Mr. Stephens admits. He does not admit this in the column of course. He admits this to a group he assumes thinks like him.

Bret Stephens:
Sharon Fan, Israel PR man at UJA Celebration

The website of the Toronto Jewish Federation helpfully posted the comments of Mr. Stephens who was their keynote speaker at their UJA Federation's Top Gifts Closing Celebration:

‘“As for the much-talked about PR battle between the Israel and Palestinian sides, Stephens feels that it's important for Israel to avoid getting into a "victimhood competition," to gain more sympathy from the worldwide press. He was referring to Israel's video release of scenes of the recent Jerusalem bus bombing that killed 11 people including former Torontonian Chezi Goldberg.
"As for releasing graphic footage of terror attacks, I think the efforts misplaced," he says. "Israel doesn't need better images or spokesmen. Israel needs rhetorical strategies to confront key Palestinian arguments about what this conflict is all about (my emphasis). The PR battle has several fronts. In Europe, Israel has lost it; in the United States, it has won it. In both cases, the outcomes have at least as much to do with existing popular prejudices as they do with the effectiveness of this or that PR battle."
Although Stephens does not see himself as a PR agent for Israel, he believes that Israel's story does not receive a fair hearing in other media.
"One of the reasons I left The Wall Street Journal for the Post was because I felt the Western media was getting the story wrong," says Stephens. "I do not think Israel is the aggressor here. Insofar as getting the story right helps Israel, I guess you could say I¹m trying to help Israel." (my emphasis)
“Stephens did little to hide his feelings about the current legal problems facing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his son, Gilad, involving allegations of financial contributions in exchange for political favours toward a large business development.
"It will be Israel's loss if the case against Sharon is proved," he says. "Sharon succeeded in uniting the country behind him in a way that no previous PM has since the days of Eshkol or even Ben Gurion. This was no mean achievement in a country so divided that it cashiered Sharon's three immediate predecessors early and saw another one cruelly assassinated. National unity is not just a political achievement; it is a moral and strategic one, against an enemy that sought, often successfully, to turn Israel against itself. I don't see any leaders on the horizon who could provide the same kind of leadership, Labor or Likud."’

Lady Gaga Versus Mideast Peace: between Pat Buchanan and Bret Stephens

In the Journal of Monday, March 29, 2010 Bret Stephens wrote “Lady Gaga Versus Mideast Peace .Are settlements more offensive than pop stars?” This column is a natural outcome of the PR strategy of painting the Arab-Israeli conflict as part of a grand intractable civilizational conflict: “Pop quiz—What does more to galvanize radical anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world: (a) Israeli settlements on the West Bank; or (b) a Lady Gaga music video? If your answer is (b) it means you probably have a grasp of the historical roots of modern jihadism. If, however, you answered (a), then congratulations: You are perfectly in synch with the new Beltway conventional wisdom, now jointly defined by Pat Buchanan and his strange bedfellows within the Obama administration.”

Outside the Israel PR Campaign: American voices echo Arab and Muslim concerns

A number of American public figures have drawn attention to what Israel does and how its actions affect the perception of America in the Arab and Muslim world and the interests of America. Stephens writes: “What is that wisdom? In a March 26 column in Human Events, Mr. Buchanan put the case with his usual subtlety: "Each new report of settlement expansion," he wrote, "each new seizure of Palestinian property, each new West Bank clash between Palestinians and Israeli troops inflames the Arab street, humiliates our Arab allies, exposes America as a weakling that cannot stand up to Israel, and imperils our troops and their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq."
Israel PR Campaign: Lady Gaga and Sayyid Qutb as soldiers in Stephens PR campaign’
In response to American voices that echo international law and politics, Mr. Stephens playbook summons the ghost of Sayyid Qutb and the very alive body of Lady Gaga: ‘Now consider Lady Gaga—or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker or any other American woman who has, at one time or another, personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called "the American Temptress." Qutb, for those unfamiliar with the name, is widely considered the intellectual godfather of al Qaeda; his 30-volume exegesis "In the Shade of the Quran" is canonical in jihadist circles. But Qutb, who spent time as a student in Colorado in the late 1940s, also decisively shaped jihadist views about the U.S.’
Stephens concludes: “[T]he settlements are merely the latest politically convenient cover behind which lies a universe of hatred. If the administration's aim is to appease our enemies, it will get more mileage out of banning Lady Gaga than by applying the screws on Israel. It should go without saying that it ought to do neither.”

Israel PR vs. American Policy

The U.S. position is that the radical Islamists' claim that America is engaged in a civilizational conflict with Islam is wrong and motivated by the Islamists’ campaign to radicalize the largest number of the almost 1.4 billion Muslims. We know whose interests Pat Buchanan has at heart, he is an American nationalist. We know that Mr. Stephens is serving the interests of PR for Israel. This PR of fanning the flames of civilizational conflict, in all practicality being in the same camp with radical Islamists but for Israeli reasons, can only harm American national interests. It is America’s position that the U.S. is not involved in a civilizational conflict with Islam. It is the radical Muslims’ view that Bret Stephens and his like-minded Israel supporters are promoting. We know who this position is designed to help and who it will not help.







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Friday, March 26, 2010

St. Martin's Press Mainstreams Hate of Arabs and Muslims

St. Martin's Press Mainstreams Hate of Arabs and Muslims
Wafa Sultan: The Native "Arab Muslim" Daniel Pipes needs to appear moderate
"Hungry" Sultan As the Radical Right/Israel Supporters Useful Tool

Faisal Al Qasim Makes Wafa Sultan

Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-born psychologist who used to write articles for Arabic language publications until she was hosted by Dr. Faisal Al Qasim of Aljazeera's Opposite Direction. On that show Dr. Al Qasim provided her a forum where she used vulgar language to attack Islam and Prophet Mohammed. Dr. Al Qasim provided a forum for an unknown person of no intellectual, scholarly or policy merit to speak in a vulgar fashion about Islam on a network that is generously funded by a Muslim government and watched by millions of followers of Islam. The very appearances on Aljazeera, insulting its millions of viewers, have provided her with the "credentials" to be considered a number of things that have evolved with time from "Muslim reformer" to an advocate for the "Islam is evil" campaign spearheaded by Christian and Jewish extremists who need a "Muslim" to validate their extreme views or, as in the case of Mr. Daniel Pipes, to have the "Muslim" say outrageous things that make them appear relatively moderate.

St. Martin's Press Publishes "A God Who Hates"

St. Martin's press has recently published a book by Sultan, "A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam." Although, many things have inflamed the Muslim world, Sultan is not one of them. It is impossible to get St. Martin's Press to publish a book of a similar content and purpose that targets any group other than Arabs or Muslims. But what is acceptable for Muslims and Arabs is not acceptable for any other groups.

The Praise of Pipes, Spencer and Wilders

Advance praise for the book comes from Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, and Geert Wilders. Advance praise reads:"….but Islamic reformers have praised her for saying out loud, in Arabic., and on the most widely seen television network in the Arab world, what few Muslims dare say even in private. A God Who Hates..will remind readers why, even at a time when we are reaching out to others, we must be ever vigilant about the threat Islam poses to the West." Robert Spencer: " A God Who Hates shall be read closely and studied by the president, European leaders, ad all Western policy makers and opinion shapers- before it is too late." Daniel Pipes writes: "But she worries that Middle East customs are encroaching on the West and writes with passion to awaken Americans to a menace they barely recognize, much less fear."

One is tempted to read a book published by St. Martin's press and recommended for reading by Western policy makers and opinion-shapers. What does this ordinary psychologist say that deserves praise by "Muslim reformers"? What does she say that "policy makers" and "opinion shapers" need to take time from their busy schedules to read?

On 9/11: Because Muslims Hate Women

Much has been said and written about 9/11. There has been a 9/11 commission which published its findings in a rather thick report. Ms Sultan has an explanation for why the attacks happened: "Because Muslims, that is the 1.2 billion followers of Islam, hate their women. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks Americans asked themselves 'why they hate us.' My answer is: Because Muslims hate their women and any group who hates their women can't love anyone else. People ask: But why do they hate their women? And I can only reply: "Because their God does."

Arab Immigrants: "Raiders" of American Supermarkets

Sultan's bigotry is not directed only against Muslims but against Arabs as well. Arabs are "raiders." Sultan's Arabs are bad raiders who are interested not in finding treasure but in destroying food packets in supermarkets. She writes:
"When I immigrated to America I discovered right away that the local inhabitants were not proficient in raiding while the expatriate Muslims could not give it up. After I had been in the United States for only a few weeks, an Arab neighbor of mine took me to the supermarket in an attempt to familiarize me with the area we lived in. We went into a VOS market, and once there, she began to make holes in the lids of cartons of milk, Jell-O, and cream. Then she made holes in a number of bags and potato chips, packets of handkerchiefs, and packets of spaghetti. I shouted at her disparagingly, 'Dina, what are you doing?' She replied, ' May God curse them! They stole our land!'"

Muslims: irrational, don't listen

Orientalism portrays the East as irrational while the West is rational. Sultan parrots this orientalist "truth" by writing:
"When you talk to a Muslim, rationally, in a low calm voice, he has trouble understanding your point of view. He thinks you have lost the argument. A Muslim conversing with anyone else Muslim or non-Muslim, cannot remember a single word the other person has said,…"

Muslim Women See Themselves as "Furniture"

Muslims are "irrational" and do not listen to voices of reason that speak with a "low calm voice"? I wonder what other "insights" can Sultan share with us? Oh wait, there is more. Not only are Sultan's Muslims irrational, they have no "human feelings or values" either. Sultan writes:
"A Muslim man can see himself only in terms of his ability to pump out money and sperm. The Muslim women, for her part, sees herself only as an incubator for his sperm and as a piece of furniture he has bought and paid for with his money. The man alone decides when to take possession of this object and when to deposit his sperm in it dictating a relationship in which human feelings have no value."

The Rhetoric of Radicalization: Islamism is True Islam, America is Fighting Islam, and a True Muslim Does Not Acknowledge the Constitution

The Christian Science Monitor had a story entitled "Internet aids terrorist recruiting, radicalization, Pentagon says." The radicalization process involves, among other things, advocating what Sultan is preaching about Islam. In fact, Sultan says the exact same things that recruiters say and gets praised by Pipes, Spencer and Wilders- crusaders who have allegedly declared war on "radical Islam." Pro- Israel groups have either invited her to speak or awarded her for making statements about Islam that are similar to those made by radicalization agents.
"America is waging a war against Islam" is the primary recruiting argument for radicalization agents. Sultan relates in her book that she was "stunned" by the fact that there are Muslim youths memorizing the Koran in Anaheim while the "American government exposes its troop to dangers in Iraq and Afghanistan on the grounds of combating terrorism. Yet increasingly, both the government of the United States and the American people turn a blind eye to the fact that American children are imbibing terrorism…" Sultan also claims that Islamists are true Muslims, no one else: "Islamists who grasp the true nature of Islam…" and "[ A] true Muslim does not acknowledge the United States Constitution…"

Beyond Islamophobia: Demonization and Marginalization Policy
Promoters and Users of the Hungry Who Found Their "Heaven"

It is tempting to dismiss Sultan's book as Dear Diary fulminations of a mentally- ill "hungry" woman who found a way to make a living. After all the writer herself admits she was "hungry" when he came to America and the book is rich with "deep insights" that begin with "I know a Muslim woman…I once stopped for an oil change…driving out of the garage like the wind, shaking with fury (after an argument with a complete stranger)……I met up with a woman who had been a close friend before I left Syria… where I come from people believe that the officials of American embassies worldwide are the bearers of that key."

Rep. Keith Ellison and American "Sultans"

Representative Keith Ellison said the following about another "Sultan": "I think you give people license for bigotry. I think people who want to engage in nothing less than Muslim-hating really love you a lot because you give them freedom to do that. You say, 'yeah, go get after them.'"

It is more than that. The heart of the matter is that Sultan has found a way to make a comfortable undreamt of living by what she says and writes about Arabs and Muslims. Sultan herself writes on page 235 that she" loves America," the country that "fed" her when she was "hungry." The real problem is those who are taking in, paying, and promoting 'the Sultans" of the world. They are not mentally ill like the term Islamophobia suggests. They are in fact rather calculating individuals and groups who are out to demonize and marginalize Muslim and Arab Americans. They believe the exclusion of Arabs and Muslims in America is critical for the permanence and dominance of their national and foreign policy preferences. Sultan's book is merely another brick in the wall of the campaign of extremists who are engaged in an unholy war to demonize and marginalize American Arabs and Muslims.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

George vs. TSA raises important questions for Arab travelers

Arabic flashcards as terror paraphernalia?

George vs. TSA is a troubling case.

The ACLU is suing the TSA on behalf of Nick George for the violation of Mr. George's constitutional rights. This lawsuit arises from an incident that occurred in the Philadelphia airport. A non- Arab student, Nick George, was perceived as a threat simply because he had Arabic/English flashcards. These cards were found during the routine TSA screening process.

Looking for real threat

One can get in trouble not only for possessing drugs, it is also a crime to possess "drug paraphernalia." It seems a similar logic is working for the TSA as to Arabic, "the language that Bin Laden speaks." In the "War on Terror" it seems there is this sense that Arabic language material is "terror paraphernalia." One can only empathize with the young college student Nick George who found himself, due to Arabic material on him, being treated as a terror suspect until being proven innocent, a not uncommon experience for Arab and Muslim travelers. However, the real troubling aspect of this matter is how it was handled by government officials in different agencies and different levels of responsibility. Three TSA screeners, one TSA supervisor, one police officer, and a police sergeant all thought that Arabic/English flashcards are indicators of a threat. The FBI were called and two FBI agents spent half an hour engaging in the "art," as one FBI agent put it, of determining whether Mr. George is a "real threat."

ACLU press release

The ACLU press release reads in part 'ACLU Sues Over Unconstitutional Airport Detention And Interrogation Of College Student Carrying Arabic Flashcards- Incident At Philadelphia Airport Highlights Misdirected Security Efforts, Says ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pomona College student Nicholas George, who was abusively interrogated, handcuffed and detained for nearly five hours at the Philadelphia International Airport because of a set of English-Arabic flashcards he was carrying in connection with his college language studies. "Arresting and restraining passengers who pose no threat to flight safety and are not breaking any law not only violates people's rights, but it won't make us any safer. It may actually make us less safe, by diverting vital resources and attention away from true security threats," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "Nick George was handcuffed, locked in a cell for hours and questioned about 9/11 simply because he has chosen to study Arabic, a language that is spoken by hundreds of millions of people around the world. This sort of harassment of innocent travelers is a waste of time and a violation of the Constitution."

What language did Bin Laden speak?

The press release the ACLU explains fully why the Nick George is troubling from a constitutional viewpoint and from a general public viewpoint. However, the complaint filed by the ACLU highlights serious concerns, particular to Arab and perhaps Muslim travelers, that the ACLU press release does not mention. The TSA supervisor questioned Mr. George in a "hostile and aggressive manner." The questioning and responses, in part, went as follows:
"How do you feel about 9/11?
Mr. George responded that he thought 9/11 was a terrible event.
You obviously read. You know who did 9/11?
Osama Bin Laden.
Do you know what language he spoke?
Arabic.
At this point the TSA supervisor held up Mr. George's flashcards and stated: Do you see why these cards are suspicious?"

The FBI interview: The Art of Determining Real Threat

Mr. George was interviewed by two FBI agents who were called to assess whether Mr. George was a "real threat." One FBI agent asked Mr. George: "Are you Islamic?" Mr. George responded he was not. The agent followed up , asking whether Mr. George was a member of any "pro-Islamic groups" on campus. After approximately 30 minutes of questioning, one of the FBI agents concluded as follows: "Our job is more an art than a science. The police call us to evaluate whether there is a real threat . You are not a real threat." What if the student was an Arab or a Muslim and/or belonged to a pro- Palestinian group such as the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) movement? How would these factors have played a role in the art of threat assessment?

Questions raised by the George affair

The way the George affair was handled by the TSA and the FBI raises serious questions and is deeply troubling. It validates the fears that Bin Laden and the other radical terrorists and those using the terror attacks to push for an anti Islam/anti Arab agenda have succeeded in criminalizing the faith of 1.3 billion people and the language spoken by at least 300 million people. Who trained the TSA that Arabic is the "language of Bin Laden" and that those who want to learn it are to be viewed as suspicious? Gibran Khalil Gibran also spoke and wrote in Arabic? The Muslim philosopher Al Rumi also wrote in Arabic? How did Bin Laden succeed in owning the language? How could seven government officials, including two highly trained law enforcement officials from the FBI, all deem the flash cards as grounds for reasonable suspicion of involvement with terror and thus justifying detention and "hostile and aggressive" questioning from a TSA supervisor?

To read the complaint go to www.aclu.org/national-security/george-v-tsa-complaint-damages. To see a video of Nick George and Ben Wizner speaking about the case go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTgegDIUocw

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Duel in San Francisco"

"Duel in San Francisco"

Challenger Maad Abu Ghazaleh and the Campaign to Unseat Tom Lantos

The Lessons of an Unsuccessful Campaign
"First you are an Arab"

How to do deal with the challenges we face as Arab and Muslim Americans? Regardless of who is the President of this country, as a community we are subject to unique challenges due to forces largely beyond our control. The United States is fighting a group of violent Muslims who commit their acts and justify them in the name of Islam. This has unfairly put us as Arab and Muslim Americans in a tough position.

Duel in San Francisco

One of the better documentaries made about Arab Americans after 9/11 is the documentary Duel in San Francisco by Allyson Luchak. Ms Luchak deals with the issue of Arab and Muslim Americans after 9/11 by weaving important questions about America and about our community around the campaign of Maad Abu Ghazaleh, a Palestinian American who ran as a libertarian against an entrenched member of Congress at the time, the late radical Zionist Tom Lantos.

Osama Siblani defines Arab- American Reality

The documentary opens with a- date 9/11/2002. This is the date that Ms. Luchak chose to begin taping of her documentary- one year after 9/11. One prominent Arab- American activist she interviewed was Osama Siblani of the Forum and Link’s sister Arab American publication, the Arab American News, Sada Al Watan. The way that Mr. Siblani framed the issues in that documentary still rings true today, almost nine years after the attacks and almost eight years after the documentary was made. Mr. Siblani told Ms Luchak that while this country is built on the idea that one is guilty until proven innocent, the Arab- American community after 9/11 finds itself being dealt with as guilty until proven innocent. A true statement then and a true statement now.

Maad Abu Ghazaleh: The Unlikely Candidate

Maad Abu Ghazaleh is a Palestinian American who came to the US in 1979 to study at Notre Dame University in Indiana. By 2001, he had degrees from Notre Dame, University of Virginia- Charlottesville, and Santa Clara University. He was an attorney and a business man who wrote and sold software. He lived in a mobile home by the ocean and spent his time alternating between working in his pajamas and enjoying the ocean. His hobbies included surfing the waters of Pacifica. Life was good. A shy and quiet person, he enjoyed his lifestyle and freedoms tremendously. He had no ambition to be wealthy, politically powerful or famous.
9/11 and its aftermath: Liberties Lost, a Scared Community and Slouching toward War
9/11 pulled Maad from his easy life. He was brought into politics by forces outside his control. He saw that Americans were losing cherished liberties in the name of security. He saw the Arab American and Muslim communities react to the national tragedy with fear and withdrawal. As Mr. Siblani stated in the documentary, 9/11 and its aftermath was a harsh blow to the community: many men were fired from their jobs simply for being Arab and/or Muslim, women were staying home for fear of attacks and children were being harassed in the schools for who they are. The country seemed to be on a war path in the Middle East with the war drums being beaten for war with Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. And it happened that one of the most vocal advocates of this war was none other than San Francisco’s congressman, Tom Lantos.

The Formidable Tom Lantos

The late Tom Lantos was no ordinary congressman. He had a war chest of one million dollars to spend on his election campaign. He was the only Holocaust survivor serving in congress He had been in congress for 22 years. He was a formidable incumbent with a lot of money to spend. He was no easy target for a challenger with no background in politics, no money and a name that most Americans could not pronounce. The challenger was also a Palestinian Muslim from the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

The Decision to Run

Maad told me that he decided to run despite the odds mainly because of how the community was reacting to the tragedy: laying low and hiding form the spot light. Nothing bothered him more. He told me that as Arab and Muslim Americans we should not be hiding but putting America to the test, that we are not responsible for 9/11 and should assert ourselves and be pro-active. He chose to run and despite advice to change his name he chose to run as Maad Abu Ghazaleh, the Palestinian Muslim American.

Media Reaction to the Run

Journalist Josh Richman told Ms Luchak in the documentary that what was different about Maad Abu Ghazaleh is that he ran as a Palestinian Muslim American. His identity was front and center. Other Arab and Muslim Americans who ran for public office did not focus on that aspect of their identity. This made his campaign different. That, Josh Richman said, was newsworthy.

Community Reception to the Campaign

The Arab and Muslim American communities were excited about this run. Maad's campaign brought in volunteers from different backgrounds, including Jewish and Muslim volunteers. It generated excitement in the community. While the chances of winning were weak, the Arab and Muslim American communities in the San Francisco area particularly felt empowered by the run- felt their American identity validated by this run. Here was an Arab, a Muslim, whose name has not been changed to Mike or Sam or Jim, running for office against a "big Zionist."

The Lessons of the Maad Campaign

Maad did not win. But running for office is not only about winning. It is important to be part of the political process. It’s not all about winning. Running for office means you bring issues to the table, you get media coverage for your issues, you empower your community and you acquire political skills that are useful for future runs. Also, you give the incumbent a challenge. No matter how strong an incumbent is, politicians are a paranoid lot and no threat, no matter how small, is ignored. It is a testament to the greatness of America that here was Maad, with no money and no political experience and belonging to a threatened community, debating Tom Lantos in Daly City. That is priceless.

First You are an Arab

There are hundreds of thousands of political positions to run for. We Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have no reason not to give 100% political participation that includes running for office. We should encourage our own to run for office and support them financially and otherwise, regardless of whether we think they can win. There are individuals in our community that will hold us back. Maad tells me that at a major anti- war rally in San Francisco another Arab American wanted to hold him back from speaking and responded to Maad's protests by saying "you don't understand." Coming to Detroit to fundraise, Maad met Mr. Nasser Beydoun, formerly of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, who began his discouraging words by saying to Maad “first you are an Arab.”

The Abed Hamoud Run

Close to home I recall another courageous run, that of Abed Hamoud, for Dearborn mayor against the incumbent late mayor Guido. I recall running into two people who made comments that hold much insight into how our community thinks. One man originally from Southern Lebanon told me he would vote for Guido and not Hamoud because the people of Bint Jbail think they own the city and the last thing he needed to deal with is a mayor from Bint Jbail! The fact is Mr. Hamoud is from Tebnin and not Bint Jbail but still… Another man, a Palestinian attorney, told me that he is not a big fan of Mr. Hamoud but himself and his family will vote for him. We need more of the second attitude and less of the first.

"First you are an Arab" should not be used as discouraging words.