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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

February 6, 2007

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Feb 6, 2007

FROM CSID:

  1. CALL FOR PAPERS –  8th Annual Conference:

          The Rights of Women and Minorities in Islam and the

 Muslim World

  DEADLINE EXTENDED TO FEB. 7 (tomorrow)

  1. CSID Event:  American Muslims Join the Liberty Trail

EVENTS:

  1. Moroccan Elections in 2007: Whats at Stake?  NDI – Feb. 7.
  2. Theocracy, Democracy, and the Conservative Consolidation in Iran, Feb. 9
  3. The Big Bang, Big Crunch Theory of Islamic Religious History, Feb. 9
  4. Toward Islamic Democracies – by Saad Eddin Ibrahim

ARTICLES:

  1. Police attacks human rights activist Amir Salem in Egypt
  2. Egypt steps on the press as it backtracks on democratic reform (by Sarah Gauch)
  3. Rice’s Rhetoric, in Full Retreat (by Jackson Diehl)
  4. PES Withdraws From Tunis Conference (PES Press release)
  5. Ben Ali’s dictatorship is creating more Islamists (by Kamel Labidi)
  6. Lost in the Middle East (Washington Post Editorial)
  7. Saudi Shiites Fear Gains Could Be Lost (by Hassan M. Fattah)
  8. Bangladesh poll officials resign (BBC)
  9. Federal Jury Acquits Two Men of Terror Charges (by Dan Eggen)
  10. The Arab Identity (by Sadek Jawad Sulaiman)
  11. Arab Groups Protest Beck’s Hiring (by Associated Press)
  12. Glenn Beck:  A Cause for Concern (by James Zogby)
  13. Are We Second Class Citizens? (By Jamal S. Baadani)
  14. Letter to America (by Akbar Ganji)
  15. The East’s problem is internal, not a clash with the West (by Abdullah Gul)
  16. With Iran Ascendant, U.S. Is Seen at Fault (by Anthony Shadid)
  17. Taunting Iran (by Joseph Cirincione)

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  1. Office Space Available for Sublease at CSID (Washington DC)
  2. Azizah Y. al-Hibri Receives First Freedom Award
  3. Little Mosque on the Prairie (Review by Mike Ghouse)
  4. JOB OPENING – President, Americans for Informed Democracy
  5. JOB OPENINGS – Amnesty International London

CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY

 

Call for Paper Proposals

 

The Rights of Women and Minorities in Islam and the Muslim World

 

CSIDs Eighth Annual Conference

Friday, April 27, 2007

Washington DC

 

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO FEB. 7, 2007

Muslim-majority societies are broadly perceived in the West as falling short of adhering to universal human rights standards when it comes to women and minorities, particularly religious minorities.  Facile explanations are often offered to explain this phenomenon, among them the supposed immutability of the Sharia or the religious law.  This conference aims to explore these critical issues in a more rigorous, academic manner from a variety of perspectives and interrogate commonly held assumptions about the rights of women and minorities among both Muslims and non-Muslims.  Democracy and civil society after all are rooted in the full equality of its citizens, regardless of gender and ethnic or religious background.  What are the prospects for achieving such gender and religious parity for Muslim societies in the near and long-term future?  What trends appear to be the most promising and what most discouraging?

 

We must remember, of course, that the term Muslim societies covers a broad swath of the world which is internally culturally, socially, ethnically and, to an extent, religiously diverse.  The eighth annual conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy will be devoted to exploring the complexities of this highly important topic today in the context of democracy and democratization in these diverse Muslim-majority societies.  Paper proposals are invited from prospective participants on the following five broad topics.  Possible topics are not restricted to the ones that follow but proposals must establish their relevance in general to the issues of womens and minority rights and their impact upon democratization processes in the Islamic world.

 

1. How do traditional views on women and gender roles affect women s participation in the political and economic spheres?  How are Islamic and Islamicizing discourses being deployed to empower women in these spheres in some cases and disenfranchise them in others?  What are the various perspectives (traditionalist, modernist, reformist, absolutist) on the Shari a and its adaptability to changing circumstances?  What is the Shari a s relationship to fiqh or jurisprudence and how does it affect the former s applicability?

 

2. What are the resources within Islamic religious and intellectual thought and historical practices that may be forefronted today in support of the equality of women and of minorities?  How effective will an indigenous Islamic human rights discourse be in undermining patterns of discrimination against women and minorities?  How may a universalizing idiom of human rights be derived from the Islamic tradition(s)?  How successful will a specifically  Islamic feminism  be?

 

3. How do cultural practices intersect with religious beliefs to create a certain hermeneutics of gendered behavior?  In other words, how are existing cultural norms which militate against women s equal rights and sense of well-being given a religious veneer in order to justify their continuation?  How are women lawyers, scholars, and activists challenging the status quo in some cases and effectively dismantling discriminatory laws and practices (for example, the recent repeal of rape laws in Pakistan)?

 

4. How has the rise of political Islam or Islamism in the twentieth century affected the rights of women and minorities in Muslim majority societies?  What has been the predominant view in these movements in the first half of the twentieth century?  How have women activists themselves, like Zaynab al-Ghazali, influenced the gender dynamics within these movements?

 

5. How can moderate Islamist movements be harnessed to promote gender rights and the equality of citizens today?  What is the spectrum of views now current among these groups in various parts of the Islamic world? What bearing does this have on the prognosis of future political developments in the region?

 

Both broad theoretical studies and specific case studies are welcome.

 

Paper proposals (no more than 400 words) are due by Feb 7, 2007 and should be sent to:

 

Prof. Asma Afsaruddin, Chair, Conference Program Committee

1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 601, Washington, D.C. 20036.

Tel.: (202) 265-1200.  Fax: (202) 265-1222.

E-mail: conference@islam-democracy.org

 

Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by February 15, 2007 and final papers must be submitted by March 31st, 2007.

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CSID – NLM Dinner Banquet

 

The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy and the National Liberty Museum, held a dinner banquet titled:

 

American Muslims Join the Liberty Trail

How to build Religious Harmony and Understanding In America and the World

 

Speakers:

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 Studies, Univ. of Notre Dame

Irwin Borowsky, Host and Director of the National Liberty Museum

 

The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) and the National Liberty Museum held a dinner banquet in the evening hours of Saturday, December 9th, 2006 at the National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA.

 

The event titled American Muslims Join the Liberty Trail: How to build religious harmony and understanding in America and the world, attracted guests of various religious and ethnic backgrounds to listen to, and take part in, a vibrant panel discussion, the theme of which was support for interfaith dialogue and harmony.

 

After hors doeuvres and some welcoming remarks from Dr. Radwan Masmoudi, Founder and President of CSID, and Mr. Irwin Borowsky, Director of the National Liberty Museum, Ms. Geneive Abdo; author of Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11, took the podium.  In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Ms. Abdo explained, Young Muslims are becoming more religious than their parents.  The terrorist attacks forced Muslims to defend the faith, explain the faith and turn inward to some extent to form a more cohesive community, she said.  Moreover, Abdo explained, it is imperative that this growing Islamic identity not be misconstrued as a radicalization of American Muslims.  And since the American media is quite likely not going to educate the American people to this, a moderate voice in the form of Islamic activists, advocacy groups and institutions must in a very serious way join the public debate and somehow get the message out that there are militant Muslims, but that this in no way represents the views of the 1.3 billion Muslims around the world.

 

Among the many things that CSID does is to educate people also, to engage policy makers.  CSID, Abdo explained, is in a prime position to be a voice for Muslims in the American political process that seems to always be talking about Muslims and Islam, but never includes Muslims.  So it is very important for Americans and Muslims to support organizations like CSID in order for there to be a very well organized political structure for Muslims in this country.

 

To introduce the impetus behind CSIDs inception, and the nature of CSIDs work, Dr. Masmoudi assumed the podium.  The crises in the Muslim Ummah, explained Dr. Masmoudi, are: poor education & illiteracy, unemployment, hunger & poverty, violence & wars, and corruption.  The root cause of this is corrupt and oppressive governments; weak, divided and immature political movements; a lack strategic thinking & planning, and a lack of freedoms & Innovation.  The solution:  good governments that are elected by the people, held accountable to the people, and serve the people.  CSIDs strategy: to organize conference and seminars bringing together democrats (moderate Islamists, secularists, and others), to educate the masses in democracy; how it works and how it is compatible with Islam, to establish; train and support a network of democrats in the Muslim world, and to lobby the U.S. Government and policymakers to stop supporting dictators and corrupt regimes in the region.  CSID, explained Dr. Masmoudi, cannot do its work without the support of the American people, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, and urged those in attendance to support CSID in any way that they can.

 

Dr. Masmoudi went on to introduce Dr. Asma Afsaruddin, Chair of CSID and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame.  Dr. Afsaruddin began her talk with a personal observation regarding why I chose to become involved with CSID.  Why, after all, when I already had a full-time job and plenty of other demands on my time The answer is simple and obvious: because I wholeheartedly believe in the mission of CSID which is to promote civil and democratic societies in the Islamic world. Why would I believe in this?  Because Muslims deserve to live in such societies, and because such societies have been idealized in Muslim thought and history from the very beginning.

 

Referring to CSIDs historic and groundbreaking workshop in December 2005 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia titled Shura, Democracy and Good Governance; a workshop created in cooperation with the King Faisal Center for Islamic Research and the Advisory Council to the Saudi King (Majlis Al-Shura), Dr. Afsaruddin emphasized the inherent achievement:

 

The bottom line remains that it was only CSID, with our academic and international standing and credibility among both Muslims and non-Muslims, which could lobby as we did in order to successfully hold such a historic workshop.  Our track record is chock full of such remarkable firsts and milestone achievements.  The workshop itself was an unqualified success, not because we converted everyone to the idea of democratic governance overnight and brought about an ideological coup, so to speak.  But because we got a conversation going about the importance of these principles and the need to engage them in the context of promoting the welfare, the maslaha, of Muslim peoples everywhere.

 

Dr. Afsaruddin proceeded to note that we cannot keep up this trajectory of spectacular contributions and growth at such a critical time without your absolutely crucial help and continued support.

 

To conclude the evenings proceedings, Sheikh Abdullah Idris, Public Speaker and Former President of ISNA (1992 1997), reiterated the huge importance of CSIDs work, and the duty all the children of Abraham have to support one another across ethnic and geographic divides in any way that they can.  His pledge, he explained, is to educate youth in Muslim schools on the compatibility of Islamic principles with a number of essential modern and democratic values on display in America, through a civic education textbook.
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The National Democratic Institute (NDI) cordially invites you to a briefing on

 

MOROCCAN ELECTIONS IN 2007: WHATS AT STAKE?

 

Wednesday, February 7, 2006, 2:00-3:30 pm

2030 M Street NW, Fifth Floor ♦ Washington, DC 20036

 

Khalid El Hariry, Member of Parliament in Morocco

Jeffrey England, Senior Program Manager, NDI

Moderator: Leslie Campbell, Senior Associate and Regional Director, NDI

 

Background

 

With legislative elections slated for September 2007, campaign preparations are beginning while observers assess the real impacts of the countrys reforms to date. While there has been some political space created by the King, these openings have yet to fully engage and inspire Moroccos voting public. Without strong voter support, no government will emerge from the elections with a clear public mandate to push further reforms. Recognizing that the political landscape has been shifting and Islamist forces are on the rise, a number of Moroccan political parties are increasing efforts to engage voters and more effectively explain and differentiate themselves to voters. The speakers will discuss the Moroccan political context in lead up to the elections, political party responses to the campaign challenge and potential impacts.

 

Speakers

 

Khalid El Hariry is a Member of Parliament in Morocco, representing the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) in the Chamber of Representatives since his election in 2002. He is vice-president of the Finance Committee, serves on the National Secretariat of the USFP and acts as the spokesperson for the party on budgetary issues. Prior to his election to parliament, Mr. El Hariry was a local councilor in El Jadida, Morocco.

 

Jeffrey England is a Senior Program Manager for the Middle East and North Africa, focusing on programs in the Maghreb region (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco). Prior to joining NDI, he oversaw international citizen education and outreach programs on environmental issues, as well as working as a socioeconomic planner in Moroccos High Atlas region.

 

Leslie Campbell has directed NDIs democratic development programs in the Middle East North Africa region since 1996.  He has overseen the expansion of NDI’s programs in the Middle East with the establishment of 10 permanent offices that furnish assistance with political, civic and governance reform and development throughout the Arab world.

 

If you are planning to attend, please RSVP by Monday, February 5, 2007 to Fatima Hadji at 202.728.5487, fax 202.728.5565, or fhadji@ndi.org

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THEOCRACY, DEMOCRACY, AND THE CONSERVATIVE CONSOLIDATION IN IRAN

 

a lecture by Dr. Vali Nasr

Naval Postgraduate School

 

Friday, February 9, 2007

1:45pm

McShain Lounge, McCarthy Hall

 

Vali Nasr is Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. He joined NPS in 1993 after teaching at the University of San Diego, University of California, San Diego, and Tufts University. He is the author of Democracy in Iran (Oxford University Press, 2006); The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam will Shape the Future (W.W. Norton, 2006); The Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power (Oxford University Press, 2001); Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism (Oxford University Press, 1996); The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama`at-i Islami of Pakistan (University of California Press, 1994); editor, Muslim World, Special Issue on South Asian Islam, 87:3 (July-October 1997); an editor of Oxford Dictionary of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2003); and co-editor with S.H. Nasr and Hamid Dabashi of Expectation of the Millennium: Shi`ism in History (SUNY Press, 1989).

 

Click here to RSVP:  berkleycenter@georgetown.edu

 

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The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding would like to invite you to a lecture given

 

THE BIG BANG, BIG CRUNCH THEORY OF ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS HISTORY.

 

By Professor Richard Bulliet

Columbia University.

 

Friday, 9 February 2007; 12:00 noon – 2:00 pm

Intercultural Center Suite 270

Lunch will be served.

 

Space is limited. Please RSVP here:  http://www12.georgetown.edu/sfs/rsvp/index.cfm?Action=View&EventID=1034

 

For more information, please visit our website here.

 

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TOWARD ISLAMIC DEMOCRACIES

 

Delivered by Saad Eddin Ibrahim

November 1, 2006, Washington DC

http://ned.org/events/democracyLecture/democracyLecture06.html

 

To View the Event:  http://www.ned.org/mm/110106.wmv

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim is founder and chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo. He also serves as secretary general of the Egyptian Independent Commission for Electoral Review, member of the Club of Rome, trustee of the Arab Thought Forum, and president of the Egyptian Sociologists Association.

 

An internationally renowned political activist and scholar, Ibrahim has been one of the Arab world’s most prominent spokesmen on behalf of democracy and human rights. His 2000 arrest and subsequent seven-year sentence for accepting foreign funds without permission and “tarnishing” Egypt’s image sparked a loud outcry from the international community. Many local and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the International Federation of Human Rights, as well as Western governments called for his release. In 2003 Egypt’s highest appeal court, the Court of Cassation, declared his trials improper and cleared him of all charges.

 

Born in 1938 in Mansura, Egypt, Ibrahim studied at Cairo University, where he received a bachelor’s degree with honors, and the University of Washington, where he earned a Ph.D. in sociology. In 1988, he founded the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, one of the first independent research centers in the Middle East, which remains one of Egypt’s preeminent research and advocacy institutions.

 

Ibrahim is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than thirty-five books in Arabic and English, including Egypt, Islam, and Democracy: Critical Essays (2002). He has written more than 100 scholarly articles, some of which have been translated into as many as thirteen languages. He has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Jordanian Order of Independence, the Kuwait Award in Social and Economic Sciences, the Middle East Studies Association Award for Academic Freedom, the Freedom House Award for Defending Democracy and Human Rights, and the American Sociological Association Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Social Sciences and Freedom.

 

Ibrahim also has taught courses at Cairo University, the American University of Beirut, Indiana University, DePauw University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of Washington. He also founded and served as the secretary-general of the Arab Organization for Human Rights and the Arab Council of Childhood and Development.

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THE ARAB PROGRAM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

 

POLICE ATTACKS HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST AMIR SALEM ON THE STREET

 

Cairo, February 1, 2007

 

The Arab Program of Human Rights Activists issues this statement after a period of silence to follow-up the governments fulfillment of its pledges to introduce the constitutional amendments, demanded by various political and civil society forces in Egypt. Their demands centered on amendments designed to advance freedoms and democracy through abolition of emergency and other exceptional laws.

 

But facts of growing human rights violations have escalated to contravene moral and religious values as well as legal and customs principles, even in the most minor of cases. Human rights violations in Egypt have exploded to such a scale that surpassed the immoral record of fascist and most despotic regimes, raising deep concerns and discontent at both APHRA and human rights organizations everywhere.

 

A recent aggression on human rights activist Amir Salem, a lawyer and chairman of the National Association for Human Rights & Development, provides strong evidence on the governments stark and consistent violations against rights and political activists. Salem was subjected to such aggressions for his solidarity with conscience prisoner Dr Ayman Nour as well as his many civil and human rights positions.

 

The aggression on Salem took place on Monday January 29, 2007 at 10:00 pm in Cairo, following a meeting with members of a European Parliament delegation, who came to Egypt to visit Dr Ayman Nour in his prison in Torah. Once Salem left the hotel at 10:00 pm, he was detained for one and half an hour by a police force. One of the officers took shots of Salem with his mobile phone camera, threatened him and took his papers that included official licenses and identical cards, etc. The aggression was carried out under fabricated and groundless justifications, charging Salem of traffic rules violations.

 

Following his release, Salem went to Kasr El Nil police station and reported the aggression with documents, proving that he had left the hotel at 10:00 pm after his meeting with the European Parliament delegation. The documents proved that biased claims of the official Rosalyousef Magazine, known for its strong ties with the security departments, were unfounded. The magazine has titled one of its fabricated reports with claims that Amir Salem and Gamila Ismail (wife of Ayman Nour) were seen at dawn going out of a hotel!

 

The Arab Program of Human Rights Activists hopes that human rights activists and civil society organizations will monitor and expose the practices of the Egyptian government and its security departments, which have ushered in a new strategy for defamation of civil society activists with immoral attacks. Some examples of such aggressions were the sexual harassment and assaults on female demonstrators on the doorsteps of the Press Association in Cairo and the stark violations of human rights activists, conscious prisoners and Islamic opposition activists.

 

Moreover, we should expose the Egyptian authorities’ foul-playing with the Constitution and other legislations, developed and passed through the parliament in line with the authorities’ malicious plans to frame the legal rules in a way that furthers the interests of certain personalities. The Arab Program for Human Rights Activists, in this context, will launch daily campaigns to stand against the violations of both the citizens’ and activists’ rights.

 

The Arab Program also urges civil society organizations to break out of the dungeons that restrict their movement and improve the efficiency of their exposition and renunciation of attacks on citizens’ and activists’ dignity.

 

We are forced to take such a route by the proven daily practices of the authorities, which not only violate the international human rights legacy that the government has ratified, but also the very exceptional laws and legislations adopted by the authorities to restrict the rights of the Egyptian citizens, trade unions, political parties and civil society activists. The authorities have deployed new illegal techniques that include recruitment of thugs, fabricated charges against activists, and institutionalized torture at police stations. Such practices are not justifiable under any normal legal or even exceptional framework.

 

Furthermore, the Arab Program has received information that Amir Salem initiated an open sit-in at the Public Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday, February 1, 2007 in a hopeless attempt to restore part of his rights and injured dignity.

 

The Arab Program for Human Rights Activists warns the security departments and authorities in Egypt against the repercussions of such practices and the threats of their practices on the future of the Egyptian state and people, which has been pawned to the will of the security agencies.

 

In the same context, the Egyptian security department has refused to allow delegates of the European Parliament to visit Dr. Ayman Nour in his prison and disregarded local, regional and international calls for the release of Nour after the deterioration of his health.

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EGYPT STEPS ON THE PRESS AS IT BACKTRACKS ON DEMOCRATIC REFORM

 

Two recent cases have caused journalists and bloggers to fear a government crackdown on freedom of expression.

 

By Sarah Gauch | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0130/p04s01-wome.html

 

CAIRO – Court proceedings started Sunday against Howaida Taha, an Al Jazeera journalist arrested while producing a documentary on police torture in Egypt. She’s charged with harming national interests and faces five years in prison.

 

Meanwhile, Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer has been in jail since November awaiting trial, charged with criticizing Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

 

Taken together, these cases have given journalists, bloggers, and human rights activists in Egypt cause to fear an impending crackdown on the country’s outspoken independent press and its young, activist bloggers, who have been primary agitators for democratic reform.

 

“These attacks on the press send a chilling message to all members of the media who attempt to tackle sensitive topics,” says Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator at the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “There’s been a steady level of pressure against domestic and pan-Arab media, and bloggers, which might be coming to a head.”

 

Over the past year, the government has steadily rolled back political reforms implemented since 2004 after the Bush administration singled out Egypt as ripe for democratic reform. Since then, Egypt has held parliamentary elections that were allegedly rife with fraud, police have violently suppressed demonstrations, and the government has arrested hundreds of opposition Muslim Brotherhood members, who hold 88 out of 454 parliamentary seats.

 

And many worry Egypt’s relative freedom of expression may be ending, too. Indeed, they say, Ms. Taha’s case is alarming. She was accused of fabricating scenes of torture after the authorities discovered her unedited video including reenactments of torture scenes. Taha says she had Interior Ministry cooperation for the project and had told them about the reenactments.

 

Activists and journalists say the government is trying to squash accusations of Egyptian police torture with Taha’s case, which comes amid revelations of rampant abuse after bloggers posted videos online of apparent police torture.

 

In one particular case, a minibus driver is shown being sodomized with a stick. Since the tape surfaced, two police officers have been jailed and are scheduled to stand trial. The driver, who subsequently filed a complaint against the police, is serving three months in prison for resisting the authorities.

 

Mr. Amer is the first Egyptian blogger to face trial. A young former law student at Al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islamic learning, he has been in solitary confinement since being jailed. His trial was adjourned last week until Thursday.

 

In addition to these two cases, about 45 independent and opposition journalists in Egypt face court cases, according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. While none of those are currently jailed, several are appealing guilty verdicts.

 

“For many of these cases, the Egyptian government starts the investigation and just leaves the file open,” says human rights activist Gamal Eid. “This sends the message: You are under our microscope and we can restart this case at any time.”

 

Although Mr. Mubarak promised in 2004 to abolish prison sentences for journalists, when the country’s press laws were amended last July incarceration for journalists and bloggers remained.

 

The government denies accusations of stifling free expression. “Freedom of expression is guaranteed and granted on all levels,” says one government official, who asked to remain anonymous. “There are at least 10 newspapers who daily criticize the government, including the president.”

 

Although Egypt is more tolerant, Mr. Campagna says, its tactics also follow a regional trend of limiting free expression. “When we look at the region now versus 10 years ago it’s much rarer to see governments using actual repression, throwing journalists in prison,” he says. “Today, governments are employing more effective, subtle means of pressure: bringing journalists before courts with the prospect of jail time, behind-the-scene pressure from security agents. This is as effective as actual imprisonment.”

 

Increased pressure, however, on the press and bloggers doesn’t seem to have cowed many. “I will not stop exposing the government through my work,” says Al Jazeera’s Taha, who has copies of her confiscated tapes and is already back at work on her documentary, part of a series about human rights abuses in Arab countries.

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RICE’S RHETORIC, IN FULL RETREAT

 

By Jackson Diehl

Monday, January 22, 2007; Page A19

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/21/AR2007012100526.html?referrer=emailarticle

 

Eleven months ago Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit to report on their talks in Cairo. After Aboul Gheit summed up the topics, Rice pointed out that he had forgotten one: “Iran. You missed Iran.” She then spent most of her time on Egypt’s progress — or lack of it — “as it faces questions of democracy and reform.”

 

Last week Aboul Gheit and Rice again appeared side by side, this time in the Egyptian tourist capital, Luxor. Once again each offered a summary of the talks — which this year, unlike last, included President Hosni Mubarak. This time Iran loomed large in their discussions, as did Iraq. But it was Rice who neglected to mention something: “democracy and reform.” During the course of her visit to Egypt, and her latest tour through the Middle East, the words never publicly crossed her lips.

 

The reversal this represents is staggering — especially to Egyptians who have closely tracked Rice’s visits to their country. After all, her first notable act on moving to the State Department two years ago was to cancel a visit to Egypt in order to signal U.S. displeasure with the arrest of one of the country’s leading liberal democratic politicians, Ayman Nour. Thanks in part to Rice’s gesture, Nour was released and Mubarak announced a multicandidate election for president in which Nour was eligible to participate.

 

When Rice did get to Cairo, in June 2005, she delivered a speech at the American University that was a clarion call for democracy across the Middle East. She opened her joint news conference with Aboul Gheit by saying, “we look to the Egyptians and the Egyptian people to also take a major role in leading reform in this region.” And she warned Mubarak against using fraud and thuggery to manipulate the promised elections.

 

“The Egyptian government must put its faith in its own people,” she said. “The day must come when the rule of law replaces emergency decrees, and when the independent judiciary replaces arbitrary justice. The Egyptian government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people, and to the entire world, by giving its citizens the freedom to choose.”

 

In the succeeding months, Mubarak did the opposite. He did use fraud and violence to control the presidential and parliamentary elections. After they were over, Nour was again arrested, and he was sentenced to prison on patently bogus charges. So when Rice appeared alongside Aboul Gheit last February, she talked about “disappointments and setbacks.”

 

“We have talked candidly about those,” she said. “We want to see an Egypt that is fully developing politically and along the lines of reform as well. And so we’ve discussed the future of reform. We will continue to discuss the future of reform.”

 

Only things got worse. Mubarak canceled scheduled parliamentary elections. His security forces violently broke up protest demonstrations. Opposition leaders, from members of the Muslim Brotherhood to pro-democracy bloggers, were arrested and tortured. Nour’s appeals were denied.

 

Before Rice arrived in Cairo this time, the city was buzzing about Internet videos — not of Saddam Hussein but of Egyptian police who had been captured torturing innocent citizens. Mubarak had just announced a series of constitutional amendments that would exclude serious opposition candidates from future elections and curtail independent judicial monitoring of balloting. Nour is still in jail.

 

About all this, Rice said nothing. Instead, she praised the “important strategic relationship” with the 78-year-old Mubarak. In Rice’s new parlance, Egypt has suddenly become part of a “moderate mainstream” in the Middle East, which, the secretary hopes, will stand with the United States and Israel against the “extremists” — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

 

Rice has made no real attempt to explain the somersault in her policy, which comes across as a feckless attempt to simplify the increasingly chaotic and dangerous situation across the region. But her latest duet with Aboul Gheit made me wonder if she still remembered that day at the American University. She took questions; one man pointed out that the United States had supported dictatorships in the Middle East for 60 years.

 

“Yes,” conceded Rice, “there’s 60 years when we didn’t — we were not outspoken about the need for democracy in this part of the world.”

 

“Things have changed. We had a very rude awakening on September 11th, when I think we realized that our policies to try and promote what we thought was stability in the Middle East had actually allowed, underneath, a very malignant, meaning cancerous, form of extremism to grow up underneath, because people didn’t have outlets for their political views.” She didn’t need to add that al-Qaeda was founded, in large measure, by Egyptians.

 

Five-and-a-half years after Sept. 11, the cancer is still growing in Egypt, and elsewhere in the “moderate mainstream.” But Rice and her president, it seems, have gone back to sleep.

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PRESS RELEASE

Party of European Socialists

2 February 2007

 

PES WITHDRAWS FROM TUNIS CONFERENCE IN PROTEST AT TUNISIAN GOVERNMENT

 

The Party of European Socialists has withdrawn from an international conference due to be held in Tunis in protest at attempts by the Tunisian authorities to restrict participation.

 

The international conference on the Role of civil society in building a united Maghreb being held in Tunis on 2-3 February 2007, was co-organised by the newspaper Mouatinoun, which is the publication of the Forum dmocratique pour le travail et les liberts (FDTL), and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

 

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation was told by the Tunisian Foreign Affairs Ministry that its involvement was illegal and contravened a cooperation convention between the Tunisian Government and the Foundation. The Foreign Ministry objected to the political nature of the conference and insisted that the Foundation should only be involved in training and research or assisting Tunisian partners in economic, scientific, cultural and social fields.

 

In protest, international participants Philip Cordery , secretary general of the party of european Socialists, Members of the European Parliament Harlem Dsir, Vice-prsident of the PES Group from the French socialist party and Alain Hutchinson Belgian socialist party and Ottmar Schreiner, Member of Bundestag, from S.p.D. Germany, decided to withdraw from the conference. They have been joined in their protest by other participants from Algeria and Morocco representing political parties, civil society and academics from the Maghreb .

 

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, PES President, said, Tunisia is turning more and more authoritarian. It was wrong to try to stop democratic organisations from meeting, and wrong to prevent the demand for democratic rights from being heard. It is far from the first time that the Tunisian Government has tried to restrict democratic debate. I call on the Tunisian authorities to start showing more respect for the universal human rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

 

The PES expresses its support for the conference organisers and confirms its willingness to attend a new conference at an early date.

 

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BEN ALI’S DICTATORSHIP IS CREATING MORE ISLAMISTS

 

By Kamel Labidi

The Daily Star

January 26, 2007

 

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_ID=10&article_ID=78960&categ_id=5

 

Tunisian President Zein al-Abedin Ben Ali has on official occasions often referred to the legacy of the great Arab writer Ibn Khaldoun, born in Tunis in 1332. The last time he did so was nearly two months ago on the 19th anniversary of his coup against President Habib Bourguiba.

 

This frequent mention of Ibn Khaldoun is somehow designed to show that Ben Ali is committed to the writer’s legacy. This led Amnesty International to remind the Tunisian president in 2003 of one of Ibn Khaldoun’s most important sayings: “Since injustice calls for the eradication of the species leading to the ruin of civilization, it contains in itself a good reason for being prohibited.”

 

The deadly clashes in the suburbs of the Tunisian capital between security forces and Islamist gunmen at the end of December and in early January took by surprise those who were under the illusion that an Arab autocrat of Ben Ali’s ilk could learn anything from Ibn Khaldoun. According to official sources, the clashes left 12 gunmen dead and 15 under arrest, as well as two security officers killed and two others wounded. The episode dealt an unprecedented blow to the reputation of a state often publicized as one of the most effective in fighting Islamists and maintaining stability.

 

The blow to the credibility of Ben Ali’s police state seemed more severe than that caused by the terrorist attack on an ancient synagogue in Djerba in 2002, which the government falsely claimed was the result of a traffic accident. At the time, Tunisians and the international community would not have known the truth had it not been for the German authorities. They sought out and publicly announced what had happened, mainly because most of the 21 people who died in the attack were Germans.

 

That kind of terrorist attack might occur in any country. However, the December-January clashes that shook the southern suburbs of Tunis for more than 10 days were more serious. According to Interior Minister Rafik Haj Qassem, they involved a group of 27 individuals armed with weapons and explosives. Speaking recently at a meeting in Tunis of members of the ruling party, Haj Qassem failed to explain how such a huge quantity of arms could have been smuggled into one of the most tightly controlled states in the world. Nor did he reveal how the weapons could have made their way from the Algerian border to the outskirts of Tunis. Most Tunisians doubt, with good reason, that the government will ever reveal the whole truth about the members of the armed group, or respect the right of the surviving militants to a fair trial. Many people are convinced that the policy of anti-Islamist repression conducted since the early 1990s by Ben Ali has, in fact, radicalized youths.

 

Such a policy went hand in hand with an unprecedented crackdown against free expression and political dissent. Many Tunisians acknowledge that dissidents have never been so mistreated, even under the French Protectorate. In this climate, most youths have lost interest in public life and in the values of equality and tolerance. At the same time, many of them have been attracted by radical Islamist groups, including Al-Qaeda, with some Tunisians having traveled to Iraq to take part in the resistance against the US-led occupation. Others have been arrested while trying to leave Tunisia to receive training in neighboring Algeria, or trying to lend a helping hand to armed Islamist groups elsewhere.

 

Similarly, the Tunisian regime’s iron-fist policy has not prevented an increasing number of young women from defying the ban on the wearing of the Islamic headscarf, or former Islamists from returning to public life determined more than ever before to exercise their right to freedom of association and expression. The injustice inflicted on them led many political activists traditionally opposed to any dialogue with Islamists to cooperate with them against what both sides agree is the dire national threat of Ben Ali. The regime, by pursuing arbitrary arrests, torture, and unfair trials will only further empower Islamic radicals.

 

After the recent deadly clashes, Ben Ali’s top aides once again called for his “reelection” in 2009 (if that word can be used in what has been no better than a rigged selection process). The problem is that this might only further encourage those who believe that the only way to oust an Arab ruler like Ben Ali is through the resort to violent means.

 

Kamel Labidi is a freelance journalist currently living in Arlington, Virginia. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

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LOST IN THE MIDDLE EAST

The administration has divided the region into ‘extremists’ and ‘moderates.’ Guess which side the dictators are on.

 

Washington Post Editorial

Wednesday, January 17, 2007; Page A18

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/16/AR2007011601385.html

 

SECRETARY OF State Condoleezza Rice’s tour through the Middle East this week has been designed to exploit the “opportunities” of what she views as a new divide in the region, “between extremism on the one hand and mainstream states on the other.” On one side, she told The Post recently, “you have Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria. . . . On the other you have the so-called moderate Arab states, I’ll call them mainstream states — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf states.”

 

Ms. Rice is trying to solidify an alliance of “the mainstream” against Iran and in support of U.S. policy in Iraq. To do that, she is making a high-profile effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — in spite of an unfavorable situation in the region — because “the mainstream states . . . would actually really like to see a resolution of this conflict now.”

 

The new strategy explains a series of reversals of U.S. policy that otherwise would be baffling. In addition to embracing the Middle East peacemaker role that it has shunned for six years, the administration has decided to seek $98 million in funding for Palestinian security forces — the same forces it rightly condemned in the past as hopelessly corrupt and compromised by involvement in terrorism. Those forces haven’t changed, but since they are nominally loyal to “mainstream” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and serve as a check on the power of the “extremist” Hamas, they are on the right side of Ms. Rice’s new divide.

 

So is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a thuggish autocrat who was on the wrong side of Ms. Rice’s previous Mideast divide between pro-democracy forces and defenders of the illiberal status quo. In past visits to Cairo, Ms. Rice sparred with Mr. Mubarak’s foreign minister over the imprisonment of democratic opposition leaders such as Ayman Nour and the failure to fulfill promises of political reform. On Monday, she opened her Cairo news conference by declaring that “the relationship with Egypt is an important strategic relationship, one that we value greatly.” There was no mention of Mr. Nour or democracy.

 

The administration’s concern about Iran is well founded. Even as it defies a U.N. Security Council order to freeze its nuclear program, Iran is attacking U.S. forces and interests in Iraq and across the Middle East. And it’s true that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are also interested in containing Iran, as is Israel, which never liked the push for democracy anyway.

 

The attempt to divide the Middle East into two opposing camps is nevertheless wrongheaded and dangerous. It ignores the many differences among the “extremists” — including internal divisions within Iran — that could be exploited by a subtler policy. The “mainstream” coalition of U.S. allies, all Sunni-led states, must look threatening to Iraq’s Shiite government, which itself considers Iran a close ally. That Sunni leaders are publicly supporting the U.S. escalation in Baghdad is at best a mixed blessing, since they have made it clear their motive is sectarian: They hope Shiite militias will be confronted.

 

Finally the new U.S. policy betrays President Bush’s freedom agenda, giving a free pass to dictators who support the new geopolitical cause. Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice have said again and again that such trade-offs during the Cold War helped lay the groundwork for groups such as al-Qaeda — which was founded and is led by Saudis and Egyptians. In its zeal to counter a crudely defined ideological enemy, the administration risks repeating that history.

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SAUDI SHIITES FEAR GAINS COULD BE LOST

 

By HASSAN M. FATTAH and RASHEED ABOU AL-SAMH

February 5, 2007

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/05/world/middleeast/05shiites.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 

QATIF, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 30 As young men beat their chests in street processions marking the Shiite Muslim holiday of Ashura in this Shiite stronghold in eastern Saudi Arabia, Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb looked on nervously, bracing for the region’s political conflicts to close in on this downtrodden community.

 

With sectarian tensions rising between Sunnis and Shiites throughout the Middle East, and pressure growing on the Saudi government by the country’s Sunni leadership, Saudi Shiites, who have made great strides in recent years, are worried that those gains will be rolled back.

 

“Things are dim and dark, and the worst is still to come,” said Mr. Mugaiteeb, a human rights campaigner who runs an unlicensed Saudi human rights monitor here in the Eastern Province. “As always the minorities will be most affected when this is done. But it will affect everyone else too.”

 

There are still no Shiites in positions of authority, and Shiites are rarely promoted to managerial positions in government and private companies, Shiite leaders here say. There are also virtually no Shiite headmasters in public schools.

 

More important, the government has stopped short of actually recognizing the minority, they say. Their hard-won rights have yet to be enshrined into law, meaning they could be rescinded at short notice.

 

Last week, the Sunni governor of Al Hasa, a mixed Sunni-Shiite town in the Eastern Province, banned all blood drives organized by Shiites. Sunni clerics have stepped up their preaching against Shiites recently, declaring them again to be infidels. And earlier this week King Abdullah, speaking of rumors that Shiites are seeking to convert Sunnis, said that such attempts would fail, and that Sunnis would always make up a majority of the world’s Muslims.

 

In recent times, life had been growing better for Saudi Arabia’s two million Shiites, who have long suffered religious and economic discrimination. Yet things are growing tenuous again.

 

After Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979 energized Shiites throughout the region, the allegiance of Saudi Shiites to the state became suspect as the country’s Sunni religious leaders began viewing them as a potential fifth column that could bring down the government. When violent riots erupted during Ashura in the early 1980s, the government killed dozens of protesters and arrested thousands, sending many into exile and setting off a decade of repression.

 

In 1993, King Fahd tried to settle the differences and in 2003 met with a group of Shiite elders who presented him with a petition calling for equal rights. Suddenly, Shiite fortunes turned.

 

“There were problems before, but with the passing of time and with the insistence of the people for their rights, things have changed,” said Sheik Hassan al-Saffar, a longtime opposition leader who has become a primary advocate for engaging with the government. “Saudi politics is much more focused now on delivering rights than ever before.”

 

Sheik Saffar proudly read off a list of some of the important gains the Shiites have made since then: political prisoners have been released and exiles have returned; rituals have been allowed relatively unfettered; Shiites have been allowed to establish meeting halls and build mosques, and they have begun publishing their own religious books and importing some.

 

Ashura, the holiest period for Shiites, has become something of a litmus test for the change. Just a few years ago the 10-day commemoration of the seventh-century martyrdom of the Imam Hussein, the most defining event for Shiite Muslims, was largely hidden from public view, held in illegal community centers. This week Saudi Shiites burst into the open in the streets of the oil-rich Eastern Province, holding carnivals and re-enactments of the killing.

 

In Saudi Arabia, the commemorations have grown larger and more colorful. This year, about 500,000 people attended nightly lectures espousing Imam Hussein’s virtues and applying the lessons of his life to modern times. Worshipers marched under large posters of Shiite figures as well as posters of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim leader Hassan Nasrallah, and they shared food and gifts, all emphasizing the human battle between good and evil.

 

Shiites have begun calling for the Saudi government to enshrine their rights, while encouraging residents here to focus their sights on local Saudi issues, not regional or international ones. They say all that they have achieved has been fought for.

 

“Things have changed here not because the government wanted the change, but because the world itself has changed,” said Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, who advocates a more confrontational stance with the government. “We see better conditions not because of government support but because of our demands for change. The government will not give us anything unless we demand it.”

 

Some Shiite leaders read much in the lack of coverage of Ashura in the Saudi news media. “This is one of the most important cultural events for us,” said Sheik Fawzi al-Seif, a local Shiite cleric, who notes that the Saudi news media normally cover religious events in faraway places but rarely ever here. “But no one outside of here knows about it.”

 

Sheik Seif said the government had passed up an opportunity to encourage unity and send a signal to the conservative Sunni leaders. But more significantly, he said, the government lends tacit acceptance to those who attack the Shiites by not responding to their actions.

 

“The big danger we face now is the growing sectarian division in the region and its slow move into the Persian Gulf, which can have explosive conditions,” he said. “The fire could reach us very quickly here.”

 

Shiite clerics here insist they are unwilling to have the Shiites used as a political card, either by the United States or Iran. They warn that any confrontation with Iran would put significant strains on the Shiite population, and fear that ultimately it could be split between those supporting Iran and those supporting the government.

 

“Things were just like this in the 1970s,” said Jaffar al-Shayeb, a longtime Shiite campaigner who in 2005 was elected to Qatif’s municipal council. He argues that the Shiites have become more politically astute and focused on their internal interests. But still, he worries that could change someday, too.

 

“Everything seems normal, then an event can come along and turn everything upside down,” he said.

 

Many fear that the dormant militant groups that once existed here could make a comeback as a result. Mr. Mugaiteeb noted, for instance, that cells of Hezbollah in the Hijaz, the Saudi version of the group, could still be put into action.

 

“If the U.S. attacks Iran, a lot of people will be violent against the Americans, including Sunnis,” he said. “What I want to tell the Americans is that this will not be a picnic.”

 

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BANGLADESH POLL OFFICIALS RESIGN

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6316437.stm

 

All five election commissioners in Bangladesh have resigned as part of moves to reorganise overdue elections.

 

Officials said the commissioners met President Iajuddin Ahmed in Dhaka and handed him their resignation letters.

 

Their departures follow that of controversial chief election official MA Aziz earlier this month.

 

The commissioners were at the centre of a row over alleged vote-rigging. On Tuesday, a court ruled that the vote could not be held for three months.

 

New commissioners

 

The Awami League and its allies – one of the country’s major political groupings – demanded the resignation of the election commissioners whom they accused of favouring a rival political bloc led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

 

The Awami League and allies had held weeks of protests to demand the resignation of the election commissioners, which culminated in President Ahmed declaring a state of emergency earlier this month.

 

The interim government – which assumed power from the BNP in October to oversee the vote – says it will reorganise the election commission by appointing three new commissioners soon.

 

On Tuesday the High Court ordered the Election Commission to suspend all poll-related activities until the voter registration process had been completely overhauled.

 

The ruling came after a petition was filed in court arguing that the electoral roll was faulty.

 

The court also asked the Election Commission to explain why voter lists had not been updated in time for the scheduled January polls.

 

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FEDERAL JURY ACQUITS TWO MEN OF TERROR CHARGES FOR HAMAS LINKS

 

By Dan Eggen

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, February 1, 2007; 5:38 PM

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/01/AR2007020101377.html

 

A federal jury in Chicago acquitted two men today of charges that they were part of a 15-year conspiracy to finance Hamas activities in Israel — marking the second recent defeat for the Justice Department in cases involving a Palestinian terrorist group.

 

Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 48, a former Howard University professor who lives in Springfield, and Muhammad Salah, 53, a former grocer from suburban Chicago, were found not guilty of racketeering conspiracy, the most serious charge against them that could have drawn life sentences.

 

But the two men were convicted of separate charges of obstruction of justice, which carries a penalty ranging from probation to five years in prison.

 

The defendants and their attorneys immediately characterized the verdicts as a victory and said it showed the government had overreached in its attempts to punish opponents of the Israeli state.

 

“It was better than we thought,” a tearful Salah told reporters in Chicago. “We are good people, not terrorists.”

 

Salah’s attorney, Michael Deutsch, called the verdict “a tremendous victory” and said he “may not even go to prison at all.”

 

“This rejects the idea we can criminalize someone for resisting an illegal occupation in another country,” Deutsch said.

 

The prosecution of Ashqar and Salah was deemed so important to the Justice Department that the original 2004 indictments were announced by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, who said that “terrorists have lost yet another source of financing for their bombs and bloodshed.”

 

But the final outcome of the case is decidedly mixed, and came after three weeks of deliberation by the Chicago jury. It also marks the second time in recent years that the Justice Department has attempted to prosecute U.S. residents for support of militant Palestinian organizations before they had been designated as terrorist groups.

 

In a high-profile case in 2005, a jury in Florida acquitted former computer professor Sami al-Arian of eight terrorism charges and deadlocked on nine others. Arian eventually pleaded guilty to supporting members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and is slated to be deported after finishing a short prison term.

 

One of Arian’s attorneys, William Moffit, also represented Ashqar in the current Chicago case.

 

“After trying this and the Sami al-Arian case, I’m now convinced an American jury will not put someone in prison for fighting for their freedom,” Moffitt said.

 

Justice Department officials did not immediately comment on the verdict. The case was prosecuted by the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who is in the spotlight as the special prosecutor in the Washington trial of Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

 

Staff writer Kari Lydersen in Chicago contributed to this report.

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THE ARAB IDENTITY

 

Sadek Jawad Sulaiman*

 

Presentation at DC_International_Connection,

 

Fireplace Mansion Washington, D.C.

WWW.DCINTERNATIONAL.ORG

February 03. 2007

 

Thank  you  for inviting  me to make  this presentation.   I shall speak primarily to the question of Arab identity and the Arabic culture from which it derives.  I shall conclude with a comment on the state of the contemporary Arab world and the aspirations many Arabs hold for a more united, democratic, and progressive future.

 

The Arabs are defined by their culture, not by race;  and their culture is defined by its essential twin constituents of Arabism and Islam. To most of the Arabs, Islam is their indigenous religion; to all of the Arabs, Islam is their indigenous civilization.  The Arab identity, as such, is a culturally defined identity, which means being  Arab is being someone whose mother culture, or dominant culture, is Arabism.  Beyond that, he or she might be of any ancestry, of any religion or philosophical persuasion, and a citizen of any country in the world.  Being Arab does not contradict with being non-Muslim, or non-Semitic, or not  being a citizen of an Arab state.

 

In the context of the definition I just outlined, let me speak first to the essential mutuality between Arabism and Islam, which I just noted as the twin constituents of the Arabic culture from which the Arab identity obtains. To begin with, the two are inseparably intertwined.  It is hard to define the one without considering the other.   It is hard to de-couple the two, historically, culturally, or intellectually.  It is easy to see how incomplete either one would be without incorporating the other.  It is easy to see,  when viewed separately, how each loses an integral part of itself.  Outside its Arabic repository, Islam is left with little form or substance; emptied of its Islamic content, Arabism is reduced to a culture devoid of intellectual and moral moorings.

 

What is Arabism?  As it has evolved historically under Islam, Arabism is one of many national cultures that were augmented by the advent and spread of Islam.  However, since Arabism was the culture that received and gave expression to the Islamic message at inception, it became, and remains to this day, distinctively the authoritative repository of Islamic creed and thought.  The Quran describes itself as Arabic, notably where it appeals to reason, knowledge, and morality as requisites in the inquiry for truth and the effort for self improvement.  This is because the Arabs of the time, though cognizant of these values, as evidenced by some of their pre-Islamic literature, ignored them, and remained mired in tribal rivalry and an arrogant lifestyle.  Islam called upon the Arabs to reinstate ethics, reason, and brotherhood in their life; beyond that, it prodded them to rise to a culture that transcended tribalism and race and opened up to humanity at large.

 

Thus, the Arabism, that Islam nurtured as the purveyor of its message to humankind was cultural, ethical, rational, and inclusive, for an Arabism based on racial particularity, indifferent to morality, and defiant of reason would have ill-fitted a universal Islam that emphasized ethics, appealed to reason, transcended race, rejected social stratification, and addressed itself to people everywhere. It was this cultural, ethical, rational, and inclusive character of Arabism, as prompted by  Islam, that attracted peoples of other races and religions.  As these other peoples embraced Islam and took to studying it through learning Arabic and reading the Quran, they became Arabized, in much the same way as people of various ethnic backgrounds embracing the American experience and learning the English language become Americanized.

 

One remarkable outcome of the Arabization trend was that many scholars of non Arab descent became proficient in Arabic and authored their intellectual product in it, rather than their native languages. They became members of an Arabic intellectual community which though cosmopolitan in race, native tongue, and even religion, related to a common world view and a common cultural language in which they held learned discourse and authored their pioneering works of literature and science.  They thus became part of a common culture, Arabism, that, like Islam, indeed, because of Islam, rejected discrimination among people based on ethnic background.  Notwithstanding the environment in which these scholars lived and labored, which was despotic and often turbulent, the intellectual and moral thrust of Islam and the richness and versatility of the Arabic culture moved their souls and energized their pursuit of knowledge far beyond the social and political mores of their time.

 

Our scholars traversed the vast Islamic world, using in what they wrote, debated, and taught, the Arabic language, thereby enriching it all the more.  Through their enterprise, uninterrupted through five centuries, Arabism and Islam, providing culture and thought, coalesced.  As a result, a yet unprecedented wealth of recorded knowledge was commonly generated and shared throughout the Muslim world in the Arabic language, and, subsequently, through translation, shared with Europe as well. Generations of intelligentsia followed in that integrative tradition, blurring the racial and accentuating the cultural, the moral and the intellectual in the Arab/Islamic experience.  In time few would look back on Bukhari or Razi or Farabi or Ibn Sina or Salahuddin Al Ayoubi, all notables of non-Arab lineage, or indeed on Salman Al Farisi, the Persian companion of the Prophet,  who the Prophet adopted as a member  of his family, as anything but Arab.

 

Thus, historically, Arabism, like Islam, transcended race and ethnic origin.  People from all over the known world who came in contact with and lived the Arabic cultural experience became Arabized. “Whoever lives with a people for forty days becomes one of them,” became an axiom.  And a Prophetic hadith was often cited, defining as Arab any one who conversed in Arabic. This is how the extended Arab nation, today counting some 325 million people living predominantly in twenty-two separate states and comprising one fourth of the Muslim population worldwide, historically came to be formed.  And thus, then as now, to be Arab is not to assert a racial lineage or a religious affiliation.  Rather, it was and is to affirm affinity with a great culture that received, lived, and conveyed to the world a great religion.  The culture and the religion coalesced to offer humankind one of her greatest civilizations.

 

And what is Islam, the other twin constituent of the Arabic culture from  which the Arab identity derives?

 

As both a religion and a civilization, Islam’s basic perspective may be comprehended at three distinct levels: the conceptual, the moral, and the practical.

 

At the conceptual level Islam is centered in the core concept of Tawheed, affirming God as One, Absolute, Ultimate, Eternal, Matchless, Transcendent. Tawheed, in the words of the late Professor Ismail Farouqi, is Islam’s first determinant of reality, of truth, of the world, of space and time, of human history.  It pervades and unifies all the various elements in Islamic thought.  At the human level, Tawheed embodies three major ideas:  Unity, Freedom, and Rationalism.

 

From Tawheed/unity flows the precept that God being One, all creation is one, governed by the selfsame laws of nature; the divine   message is one, and humanity is one as well. No civilization can arise without unity.  No culture can evolve to civilization unless the various elements constituting it — political, economic, social, educational, moral — coalesce in harmony and as an integral whole, produce coherent and progressive movement forward.  Tawheed, as such, harmonizes, orders, and integrates all that is Islamic in a civilizational whole.

 

Tawheed/freedom establishes the precept that a human’s ultimate allegiance is to none other than God: subservient to God alone, a person is freed from subservience to any fellow human; hence, all humans are created equal and must be treated as such. There is no compulsion in religion, as people have been shown both paths, the right  path and the wrong path, and so it is up to each person to find his/her own convictions.  In the final analysis, God knows best who amongst us is more rightly guided.

 

Tawheed/rationalism recognizes human reason and empirical observation as the proper means of comprehension.  It rejects suppression of verified knowledge.  It is open to new and or contrary evidence.  It denies inherence of contradictions in nature.  Where contradictions appear, final judgment should wait until a more thorough examination of the facts has resolved the contradiction and revealed the underlying harmony, which is the natural state of affairs. By the same token, Tawheed rationalism does not admit of contradiction between Revelation and reason.

 

The second core concept in Islam is Nubuwwah, or Prophethood.  Simply stated, it affirms that guidance for humankind, i.e. the moral direction sustaining the human experience and moving it forward, has come from God, historically through prophets, who were human themselves.  The defining difference between an ordinary human and a prophet human is that truth is cognized in the prophets consciousness through divine revelation as distinct from cognition through observation, reasoning, or intuition. The Prophethood concept acknowledges that which was revealed to each prophet in his time as part of the one eternal divine message to humankind.  And it stipulates that no nation was left without a prophet to show the right path.  Prophet Mohammad was the last of the prophets.

 

The third core concept in Islam is Ma’ad, or Return.  It means returning after completing a life cycle on earth, and accounting for  one’s conduct in life.  Ma’ad, as such, indicates transformation rather than termination of an individual human’s existential experience.  The  Quranic verse oft cited in the face of temporal adversity: To God we belong, and unto Him we return encapsulates the Maad concept.

 

Islams moral framework comprises four principles that are deemed essential to the development of a wholesome society.

 

The first is Justice.  God being innately just, justice must be upheld in every human activity.  Without justice no human transaction  is essentially valid or beneficial.  The accumulation of injustice leads to the disintegration of society.  Conversely, with justice societies are helped to endure and prosper.

 

The second principle is Equality.  Being equal before God, we simply cannot be unequal among ourselves.  Discrimination by gender, race, or creed is rejected, and claims to autocratic authority or privilege are  held invalid.

 

The third is the principle of Human Dignity.  Humanity is divinely endowed with dignity, hence human beings, as distinct from human actions, should not be humiliated or condemned.

 

The fourth principle in the Islamic moral code is Shura, or consultative governance.  While Shura did not historically evolve in Islam as  a democratic process, nor was it given significant weight in Islamic governance, it, however, has never been denied or challenged as a constitutional ideal.  The Quran depicts Shura as the natural order of decision making on public matters in the community of the faithful.

 

In the Islamic perspective, all human rights and obligations  — personal, familial, national, and international — ensue from these four cardinal principles of Justice, Equality, Human Dignity, and Shura.

 

At the practical level, Islam places great emphasis on time tested values that are universally beneficial, that is, irrespective of race, culture, or creed.  Some such values are: knowledge, cooperation, prosperity, compassion, faith, integrity, and physical as well as mental well-being. These values are by no means exclusive to Islam; Muslims call them Islamic only in the sense that Islam has underscored them as well, as essential to the healthy development and ultimately the survival of human society.

 

Although the foregoing is a very compressed exposition of Arabism  and Islam and their historical mutuality, I have offered it by way of shedding some light on the core intellectual and moral moorings of the Arabic culture from which the Arab identity derives. This is because I believe that to understand the Arab identity, and to be able to explain it as well, it is important  to understand at some depth  the Arabic culture by which it is has been shaped and formed.

 

I have offered it to show as well that there is nothing about the Arabic culture that is averse to peace and progress, indisposed to  cooperation with the others, or indifferent to the life preserving and enhancing principles and values shared universally by  humankind.   Indeed, nothing could be more antithetical to the essence of Arabism and Islam, the twin constituents of the Arabic culture, than political and social mores that reject peaceful coexistence and cooperation, defy morality, impede good governance, and violate human dignity.

 

With such a rich civilization her heritage, why has the Arab nation lagged behind the other great nations in the modern era?  In many soul-searching discussions across the Arab world I have heard various reasons offered: lack of freedom, mediocrity of the educational system, despotic governance, religious and social strictures, estrangement from authentic Islam, and the more pervasively cited reason:   foreign influence backing reactionary national regimes in stifling the unity impulse and thwarting democratic and progressive evolution.

 

All of which, I agree, are valid, though only as secondary reasons.  To me, none of these factors by itself, nor all of them taken together, offers a satisfactory explanation for the Arab hiatus. That explanation comes to me more convincingly from the underlying sad reality that the Arab intelligentsia, upon whose expertise both the Arab governments and people have relied, the former for their loyalty, the latter for their leadership, have yet to sufficiently appreciate the crucial importance to their nation of uniting, democratizing, and moving progressively ahead.  The Arab intelligentsia have been more  prone to follow or reflect or even amplify the trend and mood of the day than to elucidate, educate, and lead.  As a result, hardly anywhere in the Arab world, as yet, equal citizenship rights, democratic governance, and comprehensive human development comprise top priorities of governments or paramount public demands.

 

Early in the second half of the twentieth century, with the advent of considerable oil wealth, the build-up of professional cadres, and a popular impulse for unity, opportunities arose  before the Arabs to unite, democratize, and invest substantially in human development across their entire homeland. But the opportunities came and went, withering away in the face of parochial selfishness, petty inter-state quarrels, inadequate understanding of the modern world, and generally a less than an enlightened interest at the leadership and intelligentsia level in the welfare and destiny of the nation as a whole.  As a result, contrary to popular aspirations aired fervently at the time, neither the Sudan became the granary of the Arab world, nor did the waters of the Shat-al-Arab irrigate the Arabian desert, nor did the Arab common market see the light of the day, nor were the Palestinian national rights reclaimed. If anything, the very idea of one consolidated,  federal, democratic, progressive Arab state, for all intents and purposes, vanished into thin air.

 

Ultimately, the stark dichotomy between a proud, rich past and a fragmented and debilitated present bred deep frustration in the Arab psyche.  The frustration continues to confuse reason and invoke emotional responses.  It creates a tendency to act and react without due deliberation and diligence in dealing with external challenges and remedying internal shortfalls.  It prompts more of placing the blame without, and less of pinpointing the responsibility within.  It inclines more to winning rhetorical arguments than achieving practical results. And it perpetuates a feeling of apathy at a time most needed are rectitude and the resolve to pull oneself up by the bootstraps and exert a sustained collective effort to achieve unity, democracy, and progress as paramount pan-Arab objectives.

 

Yet, notwithstanding the adversity, debilitating and demoralizing as it is, the Arab identity, defined by the Arabic culture with its twin constituents of Arabism, and Islam, still stands distinctively as one of the outstanding identities in the human matrix. By the same token, though deficient and frustrated, the Arab nation is by no means defeated or disabled beyond a realistic potentiality for unity and renaissance.  I find it hard to concede that this great nation,  once so rich,  vibrant, and productive, and still pregnant with  ample vigor and talent, would not again join the ranks of great nations.

 

The Arabs once gave the world a full fledged civilization that enhanced many national cultures; they can yet contribute significantly to the human enterprise.  They can yet rise to take  their proper place under the sun and play their part in augmenting human progress. That kind of opportunity is never denied by history to a nation that finds her soul and works her will with unity, industry, integrity, and wisdom.  The Arabs, too, have that opportunity before them.  Proud of their identity and culture, and if intent as well on rising up the ranks of nations, they must pull together and claim that opportunity before long. ***

 

* Former Ambassador of Oman to the US, and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Al-Hewar Center

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ARAB GROUPS PROTEST BECK’S HIRING

 

Associated Press, 1/26/07

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070126/ap_en_tv/tv_beck_arabs

 

NEW YORK – Three groups are urging ABC News not to keep CNN Headline News personality Glenn Beck on as a “Good Morning America” commentator because they believe he’s biased against Arabs.

 

The Arab American Institute, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Muslim Public Affairs Council all said Thursday they had written to ABC News President David Westin about Beck.

 

“Good Morning America” executive producer Jim Murphy has spoken to a representative of the groups and has invited them on the air to talk about their grievances, said ABC News spokeswoman Jeffrey Schneider. Beck has appeared twice on the show, once together with a Muslim religious leader.

 

The groups said that Beck _ who’s drawing strong ratings with his evening show on CNN Headline News _ has stated on his show that Arab and Muslim Americans are apathetic to terrorism. During an interview in November with Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison (news, bio, voting record), the first Muslim member of Congress, Beck asked him to “prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”

 

“That blatant anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bias has been given credibility on a larger news show is something that concerns us,” said Arab American Institute spokeswoman Jennifer Kauffman.

 

Beck has said that his question to Ellison was poorly worded.

 

“My message is clear: Islam is a peaceful religion for over 90 percent of the world’s Muslims,” he said. “I have urged viewers repeatedly to understand this, while asking all of the proud, peaceful Muslims here in America to take a more visible role in our fight against those who make a mockery of the Quran. I also make airtime available, at any time, to any Muslim organization to help reinforce this realistic, peaceful view of Islam.”

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Washington Watch

 

GLENN BECK:  A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

 

By James Zogby

February 5, 2007

 

Glenn Beck represents a truly troubling trend in television journalism.  Since May 2006, the radio talk show host has had his own one hour nightly program on CNNs Headline News channel.  While the network may have hoped that Becks flamboyant style would increase ratings, the cost to their integrity has been staggering.

 

It is important to note, from the outset, that Beck doesnt stand alone.  The insertion of the personalities and style of radio talkshow hosts into mainstream television news programming has been taking place for a number of years now.  Their crude, cynical and cutting edge commentary, their feigning the role of the common man, and their inflammatory us versus them rhetoric is now standard fair on many of the major networks.

 

The result of this trend is evident on a number of levels.  There has been a coarsening and dumbing down of our political discourse on several issues of national importance.  When Beck refers to President Carter as a fathead or speaks of Saudi leaders as nut-jobs, serious discussion is displaced by crude and demeaning jabs.

There is the additional problem that instead of educating the public, this new breed of television pundits reduces issues to their lowest common denominator, thereby reinforcing preexisting, uninformed biases.  Never shy to share an unenlightened view, Beck, for example, will note Im not an expert, but and then proceed to make his case using a mishmash of clichs that reflect the prejudices of conventional wisdom.

 

While much of the same could be said about a number of other similar personalities that now populate the airwaves, Beck comes with a significant difference.  I have carefully reviewed the transcripts of Becks shows and his so-called, obsessive crusade against radical Islam left me both horrified and profoundly concerned.  In just the past two months, for example, one half of Becks shows have focused on matters Muslim.  Beck insists that he is not opposed to all Muslims, only what he refers to as the 10 percent who are evil.  He then counters this observation by stating that the vast majority of good Muslims have been cowered into silence by the extremist 10 percent, so that they too stand indicted by their cowardice.  Only when they do speak out, Beck says, will radical Islam be defeated and the rest of us be safe from their scourge.  The net result of this circumlocution is that the majority of Muslims are to blame.

 

When Beck is not venting his own prejudiced view of Islam, he invites on-air guests who amplify his views.  They are of three types: Israelis, right-wing Americans with a long-established axe to grind against Arabs and Muslims, and lastly, a handful of Muslims who are largely alienated and self-styled outcasts who have found their shtick striking out against their co-religionists.

 

His right-wing guests or Israelis, like former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who was Becks guest for an entire hour on a special program that aired three times in one month) are only too happy to reinforce Becks views.  His Muslim guests similarly serve to validate Becks complaint about the broader Muslim community.  In all of this, there is not even the pretense of balance.

 

The impact has been predictable and frightening.  After I raised some concern that ABCs Good Morning America was hiring Beck to serve as a commentator on that once respected program, I received a taste of what Becks impact has been.  Emails from Becks supporters have called me an animal Muslim (Im a Catholic).  Theyve told me that I dont belong in America (when in fact my family has lived in this country for over 100 years, serving in every branch of the military), and that I am shielding terrorists by refusing to protest against them (wrong on both counts, but my critics have obviously never read my denunciations of terrorism and terrorists).

 

And it is this that concerns me.  We are, in fact, engaged in a troubling conflict against extremism fueled by religious fervor, both ours and theirs.  What this period and this conflict require is intelligent discussion, not inflammatory rhetoric.  To guide us through this, we need journalists like Walter Cronkite, Edgar R. Murrow and Peter Jennings; we dont need flame-throwers like Sean Hannity, Don Imus and Glenn Beck.  Unfortunately, its the later we are getting more of.  And it is this I find disturbing.

 

Washington Watch is a weekly column written by AAI President James Zogby. The views expressed within this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Arab American Institute.

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ARE WE SECOND CLASS CITIZENS?

 

By Jamal S. Baadani

 

Dear friends,

 

APAAM was founded shortly after September 11th, 2001 to stand up for our Arab and Muslim American communities.  We stood up in our uniform to tell America, leave our people alone.  We are not terrorists, and we had nothing to do with 9/11.  Look at us; weve been serving this great country since the revolution A Syrian immigrant died, for this countrys independence, on May 1, 1776 while he was serving as part of the 18th Continental Army under General George Washington.  Since then, weve fought in every military campaign throughout Americans history.  Over 15,000 Arab Americans served in WWII to help rid the world of fascist Nazi tyranny, and threat of Japanese Imperialism.

 

In the past year, Islamaphobia and Arabaphobia have been the hot topic in the media and throughout American communities.  From a Texas farmer who built a pig race track next to a piece of property that had a permit authorized to have a mosque built on it to the renewed attacks, graffiti, and defamation of Arab American establishments throughout the United States.  What amazes me is that the discrimination and assault on our community is so blatant open, and accepted as seen in the nightly media.  It is our place to educate our fellow Americans on who we are, not the other way around.  They dont understand us but with time, hope and understanding will prevail!  In the 1800s, Texas was settled by Russians, Germans, Jews, Hungarians and Arab Americans.  Suleimans Arabs in America: Building a New Future (Temple University Press, 1999).  NOTE A

 

Fifteen percent of Arab Americans in the Detroit area said they have experienced harassment or intimidation since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a significant number wish other Americans understood them better, according to a University of Michigan report.  That would be 60,000 Arab Americans in the Detroit area who have experience discrimination.  If you expand that to the 3 Million Arab Americans and 10 Million Muslim Americans in the entire United States, that would be 450,000 Arab Americans, and 1,500,000 Muslim Americans who have experienced discrimination since 9/11.  That is entirely way too much discrimination for any ethnic community in America!  NOTE1

 

Havent we as a country learned from the negative affects of the discrimination that the African American, German, Irish, Japanese, Mexican, Jewish, and Italian Americans faced throughout our history!

 

We have to do something about it.

 

It seems that the fear of 9/11 is crescendoing up to a fever pitch once again to the Arab and Muslim communities!  After 9/11 our communities mobilized and banded together to support one another in solidarity to defend themselves against bigotry, racism, and discrimination.

 

In his 2003 book, Aladdin Elaasar says, “More than two years have passed marking the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation, yet we are still recuperating from the shock that this sad and tragic event has caused us, as a society. The American people are still trying to make sense out of what happened. Meanwhile, the publics interest to learn about Arabs and Muslims, in general, and Arab and Muslim Americans, in particular, has been unprecedented. The nation has been looking for means of self-healing and reconciliation.

 

Well what happened to the self healing and reconciliation that Aladdin Elaasar talks about?  We need to act on the current post 9/11 fervor and mobilize to educate our critics and our fellow Americans about who we are!  There are some who might disagree with me, but I think that we have to re-start and push the momentum of education to understanding – until America gets it!

 

Muslims and Arab Americans are here in America to live in peace with their fellow Americans sharing in the same hopes and dreams that brought all of us to American in the first place.

 

We need the need to act on behalf of our communities – the need to stand up for our place in America as Americans, not as second class citizens.  Military service-members of the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military are represented from Arab American communities throughout the United States.  We are here to represent the honor and patriotism of the Arab American communities.

 

Jamal S. Baadani is President & Founder, Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military, January 24, 2007

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LETTER TO AMERICA

 

By Akbar Ganji

The Washington Post

Thursday, September 21, 2006

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/20/AR2006092001583.html

 

My brief journey to your beautiful and amazing country began in New York City with a symbolic hunger strike in front of United Nations headquarters. Its purpose was to bring to the world’s attention the plight of political prisoners in my country, Iran. We demand that all political prisoners in Iran be freed. I am certain that you appreciate our desire for freedom; it was, after all, the main principle upon which your country was founded.

 

My American journey commenced shortly after I was released from prison in Iran. I spent six years behind bars on the bogus charge of endangering national security. I came here bearing a message from a movement whose members are hard at work promoting the values of democracy, human rights, social justice and civil liberties. We want our country to play a positive role in promoting peace, security and cooperation in the region. To achieve our goals, we need the support of the entire world, particularly your vast and powerful country.

 

To end the tensions between our countries, we appeal to your natural sense of independence, liberty and fairness — to your belief that the pursuit of happiness is not just the prerogative of some classes or nations. Happiness, peace and security can be achieved and sustained when we succeed in making these values universal. The sense of physical pain as well as injury to our sense of human dignity and self-esteem are common to us all. No less common is our shared sense of peace, security, joy and laughter.

 

The history of the United States as a nation begins with the establishment of a polity based upon a constitution. In modern Iran, that is still a relatively new idea. Although it dates to our Constitutional Revolution of 1906, we have in fact achieved only some of the goals of that revolution. We are, a century later, still struggling to create a polity based on a constitution and the rule of law.

 

Even the 1979 revolution could not turn this dream into reality. The political and ideological forces that came to dominate that revolution denied the people the right to exercise their free will. The official ideology of the ruling clerical regime considers all humans to be less than adult and says that without the supervision of the clergy, they will act like children, if not madmen. According to this clerical theory, the people are most virtuous when they are most docile.

 

This is similar to the concept of the ruler as shepherd and guardian, and the people as flock. The official ideology of the Islamic regime calls for fully implementing this idea in the political domain. The idea is not, of course, limited to the world of Islam. Religious fundamentalism, whether it appears in Islamic, Christian, Jewish or Buddhist hue, shares the desire to humiliate the people and deny them their rights.

 

In Iran, we hope to achieve our goal of a new polity and a new constitution not by violence but by following a peaceful and democratic path. And in this struggle we need moral support from all freedom-loving people around the world — particularly the United States.

 

We want the world to know that our rulers do not represent the Iranian people and that their religion is not the religion of the entire nation. We ask that in shaping its policies toward the Iranian regime, the United States not overlook the interests of Iranian civil society. In particular, we hope that America listens to those in Iran who fear that policies intended to contain the current crisis might in fact lead to a greater crisis, and to war.

 

We are convinced that the outbreak of a new war in the Middle East, particularly against a large and populous country such as Iran, would destabilize the region and the world. And it would deprive us of the chance to found a peaceful and democratic political order. We are also against policies, such as economic sanctions, that bring extraordinary hardship to the lives of ordinary Iranians.

 

It is both possible and desirable to solve the problems between the United States and Iran through direct talks. Such diplomacy will best serve the interests of the American and Iranian people if it is conducted in a transparent fashion. This transparency would not only make it impossible for advocates of war to increase tensions but also would help isolate them. Iranian democrats are opposed to secret diplomacy.

 

If, in the 1980s, the United States had pursued a policy of never establishing ties with enemies of human rights, and if it had given priority to the interests of civil society, it could be reaping the benefits of a successful foreign policy today. And the danger of terrorism would have been less than it is now. In fighting nuclear proliferation, all countries must be treated equally. The Iranian people do not accept double standards in this matter.

 

We believe the government in Tehran is seeking a secret deal with the United States. It is willing to make any concession, provided that the United States promises to remain silent about the regime’s repressive measures at home. We don’t want war; nor do we favor such a deal. We hope that the regime will not be allowed to suppress its people, foment a crisis in the region or continue with its nuclear adventurism.

 

But the dangers of the Tehran regime are not limited to the nuclear question. The regime is dangerous mostly because it is willing to brutally trample on the democratic and human rights of the Iranian people. It is dangerous because it is willing to create gender apartheid in the name of religion and to suppress religious and ethnic minorities. Finally, it is dangerous because it considers all forms of dissent unforgivable sins. The real goal of the nuclear program is to make these policies permanent. In its negotiations with the Iranian regime, the West must not overlook this important fact.

 

Today I stand among a large number of Iranians who live in the United States. Most are now citizens of this country, educated and successful. They owe their success not just to their resourcefulness and hard work but also to the admirable ability of American society to accept strangers and immigrants on its shores, and to America’s cultural tolerance. The large community of Iranians in America is imbued with affection for it. They, as well as the people of Iran, hope that political conflicts will be resolved and replaced by bonds of friendship and peaceful cooperation.

 

Akbar Ganji is an Iranian journalist and writer.

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THE EAST’S PROBLEM IS INTERNAL, NOT A CLASH WITH THE WEST

 

By Abdullah Gul

Financial Times

Published: January 17 2007

 

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/f3155cce-a5d0-11db-a4e0-0000779e2340.html

 

There seems to be a strong yet misplaced sense of vindication among those who believe that irreconcilable differences have brought east and west to the threshold of a definitive clash. This myth has spread fast on the heels of distorted portrayals of Islam that followed terrorist attacks in New York, London, Istanbul and elsewhere.

 

A closer look at these events, however, reveals that the big conflict is not between east and west but within the east itself. The Near East, frail and forlorn, faces the threat of imploding and passing away as we know it.

 

From Afghanistan and Somalia to Iraq and Lebanon, we see countries wrecked by internal conflict. Sectarianism is claiming hundreds of innocent lives almost daily. The question of Palestine remains unresolved, fomenting radicalism across the world.

 

Many of the troubles that dominated the political scene decades ago – Palestine being the most obvious example – seem to rumble on, causing yet more pain and strife.

 

At some point in the recent past, an unfortunate but definite shift towards extremism occurred, threatening to engulf whole societies. The maximalist agendas pursued by various forces in the region have complicated matters. These policies, combined with other regional problems, have had a negative effect on already weakened societies where people find false refuge in tribal, confessional and sectarian links.

 

Decent people praying for a normal day are finding almost every recent political development exerting ever greater pressure on their already strained and difficult lives. If this growing trend towards self-destruction is allowed to go unchecked, today’s somewhat limited clashes may well end up creating a colossal black hole with enough power to suck others in.

 

Only urgent and concerted action – from within and without – has a chance of restoring security. Only when the people are assured ofsecurity will the work to bring long-term peace and stability to this vast region really begin.

 

Take Iraq. Nothing good can be expected to happen as long as order does not prevail. What we are seeing today is not merely senseless internecine violence, but a political struggle conducted by violent means. Given the many ambiguities in the Iraqi constitution, it is no surprise that rival political groups are jockeying for position. This violent political struggle is also mixed up with criminality, making it difficult to tell which is which.

 

It is the grave and ongoing political struggle that causes the pain in Iraq. The crime is a symptom of a deeper malaise. Criminals everywhere take hostages, rob and kill people. The difference in Iraq is that the police and army are unable to stop them, and sometimes make matters worse.

 

Rather than restore order, the Iraqi political groups seem determined to fight to the end. The source of this political turmoil, put simply, is a constitution that failed to address the question of how the nation’s wealth is distributed and how and if Iraqi federalism could work.

 

This has not only opened the door for over-ambitious, ethnically-based political agendas, but for rivalry for the wealth that should belong to all Iraqis. It has highlighted the divisions that have existed in Iraq for centuries, but failed to stress at the same time the Iraqi national identity, the only glue that can hold this society together. Without such basic assurances, the people are unable to see what stake they have in Iraq’s future.

 

The danger of implosion is not confined to Iraq. It is a general threat to this part of the world. We can no longer delay taking a serious look at the age-old problems afflicting the societies of the Near East. After a period of courageous introspection, there must be determined action finally to put these problems behind us.

 

People have been disenfranchised for too long. Political and economic reforms have been eschewed for countless years. Inequalities have been allowed to grow and deepen. Women have been prevented from prospering.

 

These entrenched problems have stopped a credible “mainstream” from developing. Those people who would have been found in the mainstream have been pushed towards the extremes for want of good governance and true civic engagement.

 

This is why we now find that only extreme voices from the region are being heard, misrepresenting their cultures and societies as they seek to justify extremist action of all kinds.

 

The east can no longer conceal the home-grown roots of this dangerous and depressing predicament.

 

The writer is Turkish foreign minister.

 

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WITH IRAN ASCENDANT, U.S. IS SEEN AT FAULT

Arab Allies in Region Feeling Pressure

 

By Anthony Shadid

Washington Post Foreign Service

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/29/AR2007012902090.html

 

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Kuwait rarely rebuffs its ally, the United States, partly out of gratitude for the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But in October it reneged on a pledge to send three military observers to an American-led naval exercise in the Gulf, according to U.S. officials and Kuwaiti analysts.

 

“We understood,” a State Department official said. “The Kuwaitis were being careful not to antagonize the Iranians.”

 

Four years after the United States invaded Iraq, in part to transform the Middle East, Iran is ascendant, many in the region view the Americans in retreat, and Arab countries, their own feelings of weakness accentuated, are awash in sharpening sectarian currents that many blame the United States for exacerbating.

 

Iran has deepened its relationship with Palestinian Islamic groups, assuming a financial role once filled by Gulf Arab states, in moves it sees as defensive and the United States views as aggressive. In Lebanon and Iraq, Iran is fighting proxy battles against the United States with funds, arms and ideology. And in the vacuum created by the U.S. overthrow of Iranian foes in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is exerting a power and prestige that recalls the heady days of the 1979 Islamic revolution, when Iranian clerics led the toppling of a U.S.-backed government.

 

“The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East,” said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and academic. “There is one thing important about the ascendance of Iran here. It does not reflect a real change in Iranian capabilities, economic or political. It’s more a reflection of the failures on the part of the U.S. and its Arab allies in the region.”

 

Added Eyal Zisser, head of the Middle Eastern and African Studies Department at Tel Aviv University in Israel: “After the whole investment in democracy in the region, the West is losing, and Iran is winning.”

 

The United States has signaled a more aggressive posture toward Iran. President Bush on Friday defended a Pentagon program to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq. Vice President Cheney, in a Newsweek interview published Sunday, said the deployment of a second U.S. aircraft carrier task force to the Persian Gulf was intended to signal to the region that the United States is “working with friends and allies as well as the international organizations to deal with the Iranian threat.”

 

And John D. Negroponte, outgoing director of national intelligence, told Congress this month that Iran’s influence is growing across the region “in ways that go beyond the menace of its nuclear program.”

 

Widespread Support

 

Iranian officials — emboldened but uneasy over nuclear-armed neighbors in Israel and Pakistan and a U.S. military presence in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan — have warned that they would respond to an American attack on Iran’s facilities.

 

“Iran’s supporters are widespread — they’re in Iraq, they’re in Afghanistan, they’re everywhere. And you know, the American soldiers in the Middle East are hostages of Iran, in the situation where a war is imposed on it. They’re literally in the hands of the Iranians,” said Najaf Ali Mirzai, a former Iranian diplomat in Beirut who heads the Civilization Center for Iranian-Arab Studies. “The Iranians can target them wherever, and Patriot missiles aren’t going to defend them and neither is anything else.”

 

“Iran would suffer,” he added, “but America would suffer more.”

 

As that struggle deepens, many in the Arab world find themselves on the sidelines. They are increasingly anxious over worsening tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims across the Middle East, even as some accuse the United States of stoking that tension as a way to counter predominantly Shiite Iran. Fear of Iranian dominance is coupled, sometimes in the same conversation, with suspicion of U.S. intentions in confronting Iran.

 

“It was necessary to create an enemy to justify the failure of the American occupation in Iraq,” Talal Salman, the editor-in-chief of as-Safir, a Lebanese newspaper, wrote in a column this month. “So to protect ourselves against the coming of the wolf, we bring the foreign fleets that fill our lands, skies and seas.”

 

Iranian rivalry with its Sunni Arab neighbors is centuries old, but as with most conflicts in the Middle East, its modern contours are shaped by politics and interests.

 

Iran has found itself strengthened almost by default, first with the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to Iran’s east, which ousted the Taliban rulers against whom it almost went to war in the 1990s, and then to its west, with the American ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, against whom it fought an eight-year war in the 1980s.

 

Arab rulers allied with the United States issued stark warnings. Jordan’s King Abdullah in 2005 spoke darkly of a Shiite crescent that would stretch from Iran, through Iraq’s Shiite Arab majority, to Lebanon, where Shiites make up the largest single community. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt suggested last year that Shiites in the Arab world were more loyal to Iran than to their own countries. And in a rare interview, published Saturday, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia suggested that Iran, although he did not name the country, was trying to convert Sunni Arabs to Shiism. “The majority of Sunni Muslims will never change their faith,” he told al-Siyassah, a Kuwaiti newspaper.

 

Across the region, Iran has begun to exert influence on fronts as diverse as its allies: the formerly exiled Shiite parties in Iraq and their militias; Hezbollah, a Lebanese group formed with Iranian patronage after Israel’s 1982 invasion; and the cash-strapped Sunni Muslim movement of Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

 

“I disagree with Iranian policy, but you have to give the Iranians credit,” said Abdullah al-Shayji, a political science professor and head of Kuwait University’s American Studies Unit. “You have to appreciate that they have an agenda, they’re planning for it, they seize the opportunity, they see an American weakness and they are capitalizing on it.”

 

A Helping Hand

 

In Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, a banner hangs near a bridge wrecked by Israeli strikes last summer: “The Zionist enemy destroys, the Islamic Republic of Iran builds.” Even before the 33-day war ended, Iran had provided Hezbollah with $150 million to begin rebuilding, some of it going to victims in $10,000 bundles of crisp U.S. currency, according to a Shiite politician who spoke on condition of anonymity.

 

“You want me to give you my opinion? Honestly?” asked Hajj Hassan Sbeiti, a 44-year-old merchant, his face breaking into a wry smile. “If you say hello to me, you probably like me. If you say hello to me and ask what I need, you’re a friend. If you say hello to me, ask what I need and put money in my hand, then you’re going to be my brother.”

 

In Iraq, U.S. officials say Iran is providing Shiite militias with sophisticated projectiles capable of penetrating U.S. armored vehicles and backing those forces in a gathering civil war against Sunni Arabs. One commander of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia that U.S. military officials now identify as the greatest security threat in Iraq, said that however much he might dislike Iran, he was eagerly anticipating the delivery of 50 rocket-propelled grenades to Basra.

 

But no less influential are the ties that Iran has deepened with the three main Shiite groups in Iraq, some of whose leaders spent years in exile in Iran and are now nominally allied with the United States, and the burgeoning economic relationship between the two countries.

 

The extent of Iran’s engagement in the Arab world, and the rising sectarianism that has accompanied the Iranian ascendance, troubles Arabs who already worry about growing tension between the United States and Iran.

 

“If Iran is bombed, Iran’s reaction is a sure thing. They cannot sit idle, and what kind of reaction they will take is a big question,” said Abbas Bolurfrushan, the president of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai, a booming city-state on the Gulf that is part of the United Arab Emirates, where an estimated 400,000 Iranians live and work.

 

The result? “A disaster,” he said. “Disaster.”

 

‘Defensive’ Alliance

 

Mirzai, the former Iranian diplomat, offered a similar scenario in more threatening terms. Wearing a white turban and the robes of a cleric, he sketched out potential Iranian responses: cutting the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes; retaliation in Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon; attacks on U.S. targets in the Gulf.

 

“There is a policy the Iranians have and they’ve repeated it often — the Gulf is either safe for everyone or no one,” he said.

 

In an attempt to contest Iran’s influence, the United States has sought to form an axis among Sunni Arab states it considers moderate: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and smaller countries in the Gulf. Israeli officials have spoken about a possible alignment of their country’s interests with those states to arrest both Iran’s influence and its nuclear program.

 

In November, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would try to deepen ties with those states, some of which have yet to recognize Israel, in what Israeli analysts saw as an opening bid to create an anti-Iranian bloc.

 

But Zisser, of Tel Aviv University, cautioned that “all of these countries are not very strong, and they have their own problems.”

 

“Iran’s threat could do something to bring them together, but I would say that any alliance that comes out of it would be defensive in nature,” he said. “These countries are not going to be able to unite in any way that would meaningfully change the face of the Middle East.”

 

Potentially more far-reaching is the sectarian tension that the struggle has ignited. In the Palestinian territories, Israeli officials say, Iran has been increasingly successful in influencing the chaotic political situation, particularly by funding the Hamas-led government.

 

The connection has not gone unnoticed in the Palestinian street. At two rallies this month for Fatah, the movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, crowds directed chants at Hamas, a Sunni Arab group. “Shiites, Shiites,” they shouted.

Across the Middle East, once antiquated words have sprung up in conversations about Shiites — Safawis, for instance, drawn from the name of a Persian empire that brought Shiism to Iran. In Lebanon, posters have gone up in Sunni neighborhoods portraying leaders united by little other than their Sunni sectarian affiliation: Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister killed in a 2005 car bombing, and Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas who was assassinated by Israel in 2004.

 

“You are in heaven,” the poster reads, “and those who killed you will go to hell.”

 

Iranian officials have repeatedly warned against the phenomenon, fearing it will curb their leverage in an Arab street that remains majority Sunni. Many in the Arab world watch its gathering force with a sense of helplessness.

 

“It’s very bleak and it’s very dangerous,” said Dakhil, the Saudi writer. “We have a sectarian civil war in Iraq now and this is drawing sectarian lines through the region. This is the most important, the most dangerous ramification of the American war in Iraq.”

 

Correspondent Scott Wilson in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

 

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TAUNTING IRAN

 

By Joseph Cirincione

January 16, 2007

 

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/01/taunting_iran.html

 

The Baker-Hamilton study group advised President Bush to talk directly to Iran. Senior members of Congress from both parties urged the president to talk to Iran. Three-quarters of the American public, says a recent poll, also want the president to talk to Iran (including 72 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats). Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gateswhen he was the co-chair of a 2004 Council of Foreign Relations task forceurged the president to talk to Iran.

 

Perhaps President Bush is a little hard of hearing. He is now taunting Iran instead.

 

But this is no joke. His administrations recent actions and statements, taken together, paint a disturbing picture of an administration itching for a war with Iran. Like the similar campaign for war with Iraq, this effort seems to be designed to find a causi belli, perhaps by provoking Iran into some action that could justify a military assault. Iran, whose actions in Iraq are already cause for legitimate concern, may do just that.

 

In recent weeks, the Bush administration has:

 

  • Announced the movement of Patriot missile units into Iraq.

 

  • Order the deployment of a second carrier battle group into the Persian Gulf.

 

  • Cut off one of Irans largest banks from the U.S. financial system.

 

  • Declared the war in Iraq part of a broad struggle going on in the Middle East between the forced of freedom and democracy and the forces of terror and tyrannyand Iran is behind a lot of that, as National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said on Meet the Press this past weekend.

 

  • Appointed a naval aviator, Admiral William Fallon, as the commander-in-chief of the Central Command.

 

  • Arrested several Iranian diplomats in Iraq in December and in January, arrested six more in a raid on an office opened in Kurdistan in 1992 that has been functioning as an Iranian consulate.

 

  • Did not criticize press reports that Israel was practicing air strikes on Iranian facilities, including the possible use of Israeli nuclear weapons.

 

  • Announced in the presidents January 10 speech to the nation: We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

 

Each of these may be a justifiable move. Adm. Fallon, for example, may well have been appointed for his considerable diplomatic skills, not to plan air strikes on Iran. Sanctions on Irans banks are useful pressure to help resolve the nuclear crisis with Iran. And Iran is indeed meddling in Iraq, most likely supplying arms and funds to Shia militia. But some moves have no other explanation. Patriot missiles, for instance, are only useful against Scud-range missiles. Iraqi insurgents do not have these; only Iran and Syria in the region do.

 

The exaggerated rhetoric also seems to signal a more sweeping intent. Official statements parrot claims prominent for the past year in the neoconservatives press linking Iran to September 11 and the presidents declared war on terror. The goal may be to blame Iran for the problems in Iraq and the death of American soldiers, stir up the American public, and, simultaneously, to build up US military forces for possible air strikes against Iran once an adequate triggering event can be created.

 

The right-wing media and pundits have their talking points well honed. al-Qaeda has disappeared in their world, replaced by Iran. Afghanistan is a diversion for them as they focus on a new target. I have experienced this first hand in debates, such as one on January 11 with Jed Babin, former deputy undersecretary of defense for President Bush, on the CNBC show Kudlow & Company. Babin argued, We need to take significant action against Iran…Theyre killing Americans; we have to return the favor…Iran is the central enemy in the war on terror.

 

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) repeated the threat-conflation mantra on Meet the Press on January 14, trying to rally support for an escalation of the war in Iraq by appealing to the American people, who have been attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that were fighting in Iraq today, supported by a rising Islamist radical super-powered government in Iran. There are numerous other examples.

 

Wiser heads seem to be on the alert in Congress. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) has warned the administration that it would require congressional approval for military action against Iran. Sen. Bill Nelson (D- FL) told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a January 11 Senate hearing, I have supported you and the administration on the war, but I cannot continue to support the administration’s position…I have not been told the truth over and over again.”

 

Then theres Congressman Walter Jones (R-NE.), who has introduced a bill requiring specific congressional authorization prior to the use of military force against Iran. One of the many lessons from our involvement in Iraq is that Congress needs to ask the right questions prior to exercising its Constitutional authority to approve the use of military force, Jones said. Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) told Congressional Quarterly that such a resolution is certain.

 

These members of Congress are not nave. They know Iran is contesting with America for strategic influence in the region and beyond. Indeed, the more extreme elements in Irans leadership may welcome conflict with the United States. The question is how best to counter them.

 

Both chambers of Congress should hold hearings on all the evidence of Irans involvement in Iraq, and on all foreign aid to the combatants in this civil war. These hearings should be used to uncover the truth and then to develop sound containment policies. With those policies in hand, the United States could begin to pressure all the states in the region (including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran), to use their influence to mediate the Iraq civil war, not fan its flames.

 

There is little reason to trust the advice of those who misled us into Iraq. Congress must prevent them from luring America into deeper entrapment or, worse, a regional conflagration.

 

Joseph Cirincione, Senior Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress, will soon publish a comprehensive research paper on Iran with CAP Senior National Security Analyst Andrew Grotto. His latest book, Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons, will be published next month by Columbia University Press.

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OFFICE SPACE AVAILABLE FOR SUBLEASE AT CSID

 

FURNISHED office space available for sublease at CSID office in DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON DC (1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 601,Washington DC). Space available ranges from 1 to 4 office rooms (fully furnished) and rent is between $1,500 and $4,000 per month. Rent includes use of board and conference rooms (from 10 to 80 people). Flexible lease: 3 to 12 months (renewable).

 

EXCELLENT LOCATION – next to Johns Hopkins, SAIS, Brookings, Carnegie Endowment, and USIP. Close to DuPont Circle metro.

 

For further information, please contact Sami Bawalsa at (202) 265-1200.

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AZIZAH Y. AL-HIBRI RECEIVES FIRST FREEDOM AWARD

 

Muslims are not alien in this country.  We have been part of its social fabric for a very long time.

 

University of Richmond Law School Professor Azizah Y. al-Hibri was recently awarded the 2007 First Freedom Award by the Council for Americas First Freedom. Professor al-Hibri was one of four distinguished advocates of religious freedom to receive First Freedom Awards at a dinner held on January 25, 2007 at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia.  The ceremony was chaired by Michael D. Fraizer, Chairman, President and CEO of Genworth Financial.

 

Upon learning of the award to Dr. al-Hibri, Dean of the University of Richmond School of Law, Rodney A. Smolla, said, Azizah al-Hibri has been a leading national and international voice on issues relating to Islam, the rights of Muslim women, Islamic jurisprudence, and legal, political, and religious issues relating to the Middle East and Islam.  Particularly in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Azizah has been a voice of moderation and tolerance.  In her scholarly writings, her participation in national and international leadership circles, and her participation as a leader in numerous forums addressing these issues, Azizah has brought a balanced scholarly professionalism to the discussion of these highly volatile and divisive questions.

 

Professor al-Hibri was the recipient of the Virginia First Freedom Award.  In addition to teaching law, Dr. al-Hibri is the founding editor of Hypatia: a Journal of Feminist Philosophy, and founder and President of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, which is a charitable, educational organization that focuses upon the domestic and global issues of human rights for Muslims. She frequently visits Muslim countries where she discusses issues of importance to Muslim women with their religious, political, and scholarly leaders.  Dr. al-Hibri received her B.A. from the American University of Beirut, a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Law. Dr. al-Hibri also acted as a consultant to the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Qatar in the development of Qatars personal status code.  She has written extensively on issues of Muslim womens rights, Islam and democracy, and human rights in Islam. She has received numerous scholarly and teaching awards and fellowships, including a fellowship at the National Humanities Center and a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Qatar, School of Shari’ah.

 

Upon receiving the award, Dr. al-Hibri thanked the Council for Americas First Freedom, not only for the award, but also for being an organization so deeply committed to this ideal of religious freedom, [that it] has developed, despite the current challenges, into an institution that better reflects what this country and this freedom are truly about, noting that the Council has given awards to numerous Muslims throughout the years.

 

She observed that Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers of the United States studied Islamic and other cultures and civilizations and were deeply committed to religious freedom, with beliefs that echoed the Quranic verse 2:256.  Let there be no coercion in religion.

 

When the United States first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, recently took his informal oath of office on Jeffersons Quran, he signaled a powerful assertion of the historical presence of Islam in America, said al-Hibri, and opened the door for further study of the subject.  It also quietly underlined the fact that Muslims are not alien in this country.  We have been part of its social fabric for a very long time.  Although Ellisons act was contentious in certain circles, al-Hibri noted that the most eloquent defense of the Congressman came not from a Muslim, but from a Baptist, Walter B. Shurden, in an article published by the Baptist Studies Bulletin, in which he noted that the Baptists suffered all manner of abuse in order to earn the free expression of religion, and, therefore, must continue to fight for the rights of all peoples to follow their own faiths.

 

Dr. al-Hibri also noted that her family raised her to respect everyones faith, and appreciate everyones friendship as part of the divine gift of diversity.  For, God tells us in the Quran that had he wished, he would have created us all of one faith.  But God gave us instead freedom of choice, and our political systems must reflect this divine gift to be successful.

 

She concluded by expressing the hope that we can help our society and other societies better approximate the divine ideal of justice and dignity that Jefferson discovered through his intellect.

 

Three other individuals received First Freedom awards at the January 25 ceremony.

 

Former Secretary of State and author Madeleine K. Albright, received the First Freedom Distinguished Service Award.  Secretary Albright is also Chairperson of The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service.

 

The recipient of the International First Freedom Award was Abdelfattah Amor, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (1993-2004), President of the UNESCO Human Rights Jury, member of many international human rights committees, and widely published legal scholar on Constitutional and human rights.

 

Kevin J. Seamus Hasson, founder and chairman of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonpartisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions, former attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, and author, received the National First Freedom Award.

 

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LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE

 

Review by Mike Ghouse, January 13, 2007

 

This is one of the funniest sitcoms made on Muslims, and it must be acknowledged as TV production at its best while building bridges between the communities. In its premier episode, the sitcom has dealt with crucial elements, busting myths about Islam and Muslims, while creating in a humorous way, a desire to know more about the culture and religion.

 

The average Canadian or American would laugh boisterously, as much as any Muslim, at the ignorance of the characters of talk show hosts, Mayor, the repairman and the average Joe. The director has done a fabulous job in stereo typing people, be it Muslims or the conservative people of the Town of Mercy. The director has tactfully shown the idiotic and intelligent versions on both sides of the divide.

 

The talk show host is portrayed as the typical neo-con talk show host on the air waves.  No matter what the Imam (Muslim Clergy) says, the host is eager to interpret it wrongly even before the Imam completes his sentence. In another scene, the police officer calls the Mosque to verify that the Imam in custody was indeed the new Imam for the Mosque. He gets a recorded message for a roofing company stating we blow the competition away. The officer freaks out when he hears the word blow and mistakes the Imam as a guy who would blow up buildings.

 

The most hilarious scenes are: The imam giving the sermon and referring to smashing of the American and Canadian Idols and the response it generates is real. He meant to urge people to attend the Mosque instead of watching the show.  The panic on the face of the contractor when he watches Muslims saying Allahu Akbar and kneeling down in prayer is classic. The cell phone episode is a real eye opener. The Imam was talking with his Dad, and dad was telling him that it would be suicidal to leave the law practice and go preaching, and when he responds Dad it wont be suicidal the people in line at the Airport panic, and get frightened even more when the police interrogates him and identify him as an Imam heading to a Mosque.

 

There is a mighty big lesson for the Muslims to learn learn the Western nuances and be sensitive to the language usage.  A dear friend of mine went to Australia for the first time and when he entered the pub, obviously for the first time, he thought he heard an Aussie did you come here to die? when in actuality he was asked did you come here today?

 

When the Old Imam excitedly shares the idea about finding a room in the building to do the funeral chores, he speaks in his own style of English that is used in his motherland and says to the new Imam. Oh, yes, we found a place to wash the dead bodies. The frightened look on the face of the contractor is worth retaining in memory.

 

The average Muslim is frustrated living a normal daily life like every one else. Every word he or she utters becomes a secret code language to the frightened ones.

 

When we talk about integration, we forget the education part of it. People living in the same neighborhood does not mean much if they live in their own enclaves and in their own Islands. People have to live social life together, dine together, attend funerals and weddings together and do other things to bring about true integration.

 

Every word is funny please pay attention to it.

 

EPISODE 1 – IN 4 PARTS

Part 1 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu2-lXDe2to&mode=related&search=

 

This is the best thing that has ever happened to Muslims and Islam. Just like all people, Muslims have been crying out loud not be misrepresented. Finally, this show has done it; it is like our prayers coming true.

 

At least the world can see what they hear on the talk show radios, and what they see on the television is not necessarily the truth. This is the finest Sitcom on Muslims. Please remember, it is a comedy. I request my co-religionist to relax and enjoy the sit com. Please don’t find faults with it – such as Muslims looking at the intruder while praying. In reality, it does not happen – but in the sitcom they show it. Just laugh it off.

 

The Little Mosque on the Prairie – a sitcom produced by CBC Canada, and written by Ms. Zarqa Nawaz, a Pakistani-Canadian Muslim.

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JOB OPENING

 

PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR INFORMED DEMOCRACY

 

Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) is searching for a new president who is bright, hard-working, and entrepreneurial. The president of AID is the chief executive officer and will direct all aspects of the organizations work. The president must be someone who thrives in a dynamic and fast-paced work environment and who has a strong background in student activism and international affairs. The president also should have a deep interest in foreign cultures, as demonstrated through living, working, or studying abroad.

 

The president will take over one of the most dynamic and fastest growing youth networks in the world. AID was founded in 2002 by a group of American students who sought a new vehicle to bring the world home to the U.S., and it has since grown to include a vast youth audience, prominent NGO partners, and strong foundation support. Today, the organization has four full-time staff, an annual budget of $275,000, and more than 15,000 members on over 1,000 university campuses.

 

The president has the following responsibilities:

–  Ensuring high quality in AIDs programming

–  Recruiting, training, and managing a talented and motivated staff

–  Maintaining AIDs current foundation support and expanding AIDs financial base to include revenues from special events and corporate sponsorships

–  Leading a strategic planning process that will set priorities for the next five years

–  Overseeing and managing a sound budget

–  Reporting to AIDs Board of Directors

 

The president should possess the following characteristics:

–  An entrepreneurial and collaborative leadership style

–  An inspired, optimistic vision for the U.S. role in the world

–  Experience with student activism and non-profit management

–  A passion for cultural understanding and exchange

–  Strong interpersonal skills and a record of working with teams

 

The position offers a competitive compensation package and strong opportunities for growth. AIDs office is currently headquartered in New Haven, CT, but the organizations offices could potentially be moved if the selected candidate has strong preferences for a new location.

 

The deadline for submitting applications is March 2, 2007. Applicants will be contacted in early March if they have been selected for an interview.  Questions regarding the position may be directed to Seth Green at (203) 773-1202 or seth@aidemocracy.org.

 

Interested applicants should submit their resume to jobs@aidemocracy.org.

 

For more information, visit www.aidemocracy.org/president.cfm

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL LONDON

 

We are currently in the process of recruiting three positions for the new Human Rights Education Team at the International Secretariat of Amnesty InternationaI in London. Below are each of the job titles. Job descriptions and application form required to apply for these positions can be requested from mdelahoz@amnesty.org.

 

International HRE Project Manager: Deadline 5 February (please send your applications tomdelahoz@amnesty.org)

 

International HRE Advisor: Deadline and process to apply will appear soon in the amnesty website www.amnesty.org under vacancies

 

International HRE Communication Officer: Deadline and process to apply will appear soon in the amnesty website www.amnesty.org under vacancies.

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DISCLAIMER: 

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.

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