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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

March 15, 2007

Latest CSID Email Bulletin
March 15, 2007 March 5, 2007 All Issues

March 15, 2007

   CSID EVENTS:

  1. CSIDs  8th Annual Conference Registration Form:

          The Rights of Women and Minorities in Islam and the

           Muslim World

Early Registration discounts end on April 13.

We look forward to seeing you on April 27.

  1. NED/CSID EVENT:   Backsliding on Reforms in the Middle East: A Short-Term Detour or a Dead-End?  –  Thursday, March 22, 2007
  1. Asia Society:  Facing the Challenge of Political Islam in Asia: Is opposition or engagement the better way forward? Tuesday, March 21, 2007
  1. CSID-Mars Hill Forum Event on Interfaith Dialogue:  Monday, March 26, 2007   The Bible, the Quran, and the Universal Struggle for Freedom

EVENTS AND REPORTS:

  1. HONORING  GHASSAN BEN JEDDOU – March 16, 2007
  2. A Fundraising Dinner to support Iraqi childrens charities  – March 23, 2007
  3. Missouri State University:  America, Islam and the Middle East Conference
  4. Report:  The State Department’s 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

ARTICLES:

  1. Muslim women can reshape Islam – The Christian Science Monitor
  2. Evangelicals Condemn Torture (by Rachel Zoll)
  3. Egypt: The Regime, the Brotherhood, and Labor Pains of the Fourth Republic (by Khalil Al Anani)
  4. Last hours harvest only in Egypt (by Arab Program For Human Rights Activists)
  5. Mauritanians vote in democratic handover by junta (by Pascal Fletcher)
  6. Bangladesh:  Many targets of anti-corruption drive (by John Sudworth)
  7. Jefferson Unafraid of Koran (By Wm. Scott Harrop)
  8. Scrutiny Increases for a Group Advocating for Muslims in U.S. (by Neil MacFarquhar)
  9. Analysis: Intelligence summit takes flak (by Claude Salhani)
  10. Intelligence conference draws criticism (by Meg Laughlin)
  11. A Politics of Inclusion: An Interview with Saad Eddin Ibrahim
  12. The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood (by Robert S.Leiken and Steven Brooke)

    ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  1. Office Space Available for Sublease at CSID (Washington DC)
  2. MPSN – Applications for its 2007 Summer Internship Program

CSIDs Eighth Annual Conference

THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN ISLAM AND MUSLIM SOCIETIES

Friday, April 27, 2007

Jack Morton Auditorium George Washington University

805 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20052

Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro (Orange and Blue Lines)

Registration Form

Name & Title:___________________________________________

Institution:______________________________________________

Address:_______________________________________________

City: ________________State_______________Zip: ____________

Tel.:___________________________________________________

Fax: ___________________ E- mail:_________________________

  Pre-Registration

By April 13

On-site Registration

After April 13

Registration Without Dinner Banquet Dinner Only
Member □  $60.00 □  $90.00 □  $50.00 □  $ 40.00
Non-Member □  $100.00 □  $150.00 □  $80.00 □  $ 70.00
A Couple □  $140.00 □  $180.00 □  $110.00 □ $ 100.00
Student □  $ 30.00 □  $40.00 □  $20.00 □  $ 20.00

Registration includes continental breakfast, banquet dinner, and coffee breaks. Registration includes the Banquet Dinner, but does not include lodging or lunch. Payment must be received by Friday April 13 to qualify for pre-registration rates.

To register online click here:  https://secure.entango.com/donate/6gHYxfvsaMJ

Otherwise, please mail registration form with payment to: CSID Conf. Registration- 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Suite 601, Washington, D.C. 20036

For further information, please visit our website www.csidonline.org and contact CSID Conference Coordinator, Sherif Mansour, at: sherif@islam-democracy.org or call (202) 265-1200.

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The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) & Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) cordially invite you to a joint luncheon discussion on:

 

BACKSLIDING ON REFORMS IN THE MIDDLE EAST:

A Short-Term Detour or a Dead-End?”

 

 

In 2004 and 2005, there was much talk about, and enthusiasm for, political reforms and democratization in the Arab world.  However, 2006 was a year of undoing much of that progress.  Does this backsliding reflect the insincerity of the regimes, lack of will of the international community, or weakness and lack of vision on the part of the opposition movements?  Can Arab democrats (Islamists and secularists) work together for a better and democratic future for their countries?  Or are oppressive and authoritarian regimes, supported by the West, the destiny of the Arab world?

 

Speakers:

Amr Hamzawy,

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Shadi Hamid,

Project on Middle East Democracy

Radwan Masmoudi,

Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy

 

Moderator:

Abdulwahab Alkebsi,

National Endowment for Democracy

 

Date:                Thursday, March 22, 2007

Time:               12:00 – 2:00 PM

Location:          NED Main Conference Hall

Address:          1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC

 

RSVP:   Ayad@ned.org and/or sheriff@islam-democracy.org

 

The event will be recorded and can be watched LIVE online at:

http://www.sit.com.tn/GA/main/0000018706f600000111310b94698035

 

Amr Hamzawy, a noted Egyptian political scientist, previously taught at Cairo University and the Free University of Berlin. His research interests include the changing dynamics of political participation in the Arab world, the role of Islamist opposition groups in Arab politics, with special attention both to Egypt and the Gulf countries.

 

Shadi Hamid is a founding board member of the Project on Middle East Democracy.  He served as a program specialist on public diplomacy at the State Department as well as a Legislative Fellow at the Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. A Marshall Scholar, he is currently writing his Ph.D. dissertation on Islamist electoral behavior at Oxford Univ.

 

Radwan Masmoudi is the Founder and President of CSID, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting freedom, democracy, and good governance in the Arab/Muslim world, the Editor-in-Chief of the Centers quarterly publication, Muslim Democrat, and a Founding Member of the Network of Democrats in the Arab World (NDAW).
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Mars Hill Forum #122 Monday, March 26, 2007

THE BIBLE, THE QURAN, AND THE UNIVERSAL STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM

Rev. John C. Rankin, President,

 Theological Education Institute (TEI),

Hartford, CT

 

Dr. Radwan Masmoudi, President,

Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), Washington, DC

 

Moderator: Dr. Joseph N. Kickasola,

Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA

 

Location: The Union League Club, 38 East 37th Street (at Park Avenue), New York City.

 

Date and Time: March 26, 2007, 7:00-9:00 p.m., hors d’oeuvres beginning at 6:15 p.m.; forum 7:00-9:00 p.m.

 

Tickets: $50.00 per person (discount rates available for students and groups contact the TEI). RSVP: tei@teinetwork.com or 860/246-0099; mail checks to the TEI, 150 Trumbull Street, 4th Floor, Hartford, CT 06103
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Asia Society cordially invites you to the official launch of

The Bernard Schwartz Resident Fellows Program in a debate on:

 

Facing the Challenge of Political Islam in Asia:

Is opposition or engagement the better way forward?

 

FEATURING:

 

Sadanand Dhume

Bernard Schwartz Fellow, Asia Society Washington Center

Journalist and Writer

 

Radwan Masmoudi

President, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy

 

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri (moderator)

Bernard Schwartz Fellow, Asia Society Global Headquarters, New York Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times

 

WELCOMING REMARKS:

Richard C. Holbrooke, Chairman, Asia Society

 

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

12:00-12:30pm: Registration and Reception

12:30-2:00pm: Lunch & Program

 

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street, New York

 

Please register in advance.    $20 Members; $30 Nonmembers

Advance purchase is recommended.  A credit card is required to hold a reservation.

Please call the Box Office at 212-517-ASIA or send complete information by fax at 212-517- 8315. Online registration is now available at https://tickets.asiasociety.org.

Guest list will be closed on Monday, March 19, 2007 at 3:00 p.m.  For information about NGO, Academic, and student rates, please contact the Box Office.   No refunds, exchanges, or cancellations.

 

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The National Council of Arab Americans – PRESS RELEASE AND INVITATION

 

You Are Cordially Invited to Join Us:

 

HONORING  GHASSAN BEN JEDDOU

Host, Open Dialogue program

Al Jazeera channel

 

Date:   March 16, 2007

Time:  6:30 PM

 

Place: National Press Club

529 14TH St., NW

Washington, DC 20045

Murrow Room (13TH floor)

 

For Direction: 202 662-7500

Or e-mail kiswani@arab-american.net

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Event Program

 

A FUNDRAISING DINNER TO SUPPORT IRAQI CHILDRENS CHARITIES

 

Friday, March 23, 2007

 

Renaissance Hotel Ballroom 999 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

 

7:00 PM Reception & Art Exhibition, 8:00 PM Dinner

 

Guest Speakers

Congresswoman Kay Granger

Co-Chair of the Iraqi Womens Caucus

Vice-Chair of the Republican Conference

 

Nasreen Barwari

Former Iraqi Minister of Municipalities and Public Works

 

Dan Harris

ABC News Anchor & Correspondent

 

Featuring

Charity Raffle

Iraqi Music by the Sun Band

 

RSVP attendance only by mail or email fundraiser@Iraqfoundation.org  by March 16th, 2007

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Missouri State University Conference:

 

AMERICA, ISLAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST CONFERENCE:

Building Bridges Between the Great Divide

 

This is a two-day conference on America, Islam and the Middle East. Our goal is to discuss issues of critical nature pertaining to Americas foreign policy toward the Middle East and the Islamic world. The major topics to be discussed include: Islam and the West, Muslims in the American public-square, Islam and terrorism, Americas foreign policy in the Middle East,  Americas presence in Iraq, war on terrorism, Islam and women, Islam and democracy, and clash of civilizations.  The conference will be held on Monday &Tuesday, April 2-3, 2007, atMissouri State University.  The conference is free and open to students and the public.

 

For more information, please go to: http://www.missouristate.edu/aime/default.htm

 

Conference Chairwoman: Dr. Lorene Stone, the Dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs

Organizer: Dr. Muhamad S. Olimat, Department of Political Science,Molimat@MissouriState.edu

 

Office Telephone: 417-836-5630

Office Email: aime@missouristate.edu

Missouri State University

901 South National Avenue

Springfield, MO 65897

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THE STATE DEPARTMENT’S 2006 COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES

 

The Department of State’s 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was released on Tuesday, March 06, 2007.

 

These congressionally mandated annual reports cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Universal human rights seek to incorporate respect for human dignity into the processes of government and law.  As Secretary Rice stated, “we are recommitting ourselves to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush’s words, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”

 

The report and press briefing remarks by Secretary Rice, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry Lowenkron can be accessed from the Department’s website at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/.

 

We hope you find these reports informative and useful toward our mutual goal to support human rights.

 

Sincerely,

Annette Y. Aulton

NGO Coordinator

Bureau of Public Affairs

U.S. Department of State

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MUSLIM WOMEN CAN RESHAPE ISLAM

The US honors ‘women of courage’ from five Muslim nations, a sign of challenges to male Islamists.

 

The Monitor’s View

From the March 14, 2007 edition

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0314/p08s02-comv.html

 

Something special went unnoticed last week when the US State Department gave out its first awards for “women of courage” to 10 foreign recipients: Seven of the women had demonstrated their honored bravery within Muslim countries.

 

Were these awards another US effort to help reform Islam? Possibly. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice simply praised the honorees for “combating attempts to dehumanize women.” And the awards were pegged to International Women’s Day, March 8.

 

Still, the winners, selected from 82 women nominated by US embassies, came from only eight nations, five of which are largely Muslim (Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Maldives, Saudi Arabia). That carries a message about the churn for change among Muslims.

 

It’s possible that at least one woman activist from Iran should have made the cut. But then she would have been tagged a US agent. Last week, the clerics who rule in Tehrandetained 33 women activists as they protested for five other women on trial for a 2006 demonstration against discriminatory laws. Such arrests show that female dissenters in Iranare a big threat to the Islamic regime.

 

Mullahs in many Islamic nations are nervous these days about educated women smartly arguing against post-Muhammad interpretations of the Koran that treat women differently than men. If anyone on the State Department’s list comes closest to fulfilling that role, it is Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia of Indonesia.

 

Islamic followers in that Southeast Asian nation have long expressed the religion’s gentler qualities, such as tolerance and mercy. Indonesian women, for example, don’t suffer honor killings or genital mutilation. And they may interpret holy texts and be teachers and preachers, challenging misogynist or patriarchal theology. With more than 200 million Muslims, Indonesia may someday spread a kinder form of Islam, unlike that from Iran and Al Qaeda.

 

Dr. Mulia was Indonesia’s first woman with a doctorate in Islamic political thought and the first female professor at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. In 2004, she led an effort to revise the legal code, seeking a ban on polygamy and forced marriages. The attempt, however, was thwarted in parliament by Islamists.

 

Still, the stage was set to further improve women’s rights. Many new women’s groups inIndonesia are making “unyielding religious arguments,” states US scholar Pieternella van Doorn-Harder in her 2006 book “Women Shaping Islam.” These women, she writes, “did not set out to be activists or feminists but wanted women to fulfill the status originally given to them by Islam: equal human beings in front of God.”

 

Muslim women can claim that status, lost to them during Islam’s early centuries, by gaining more specific knowledge of the Koran. In the 1970s, for instance, women Islamic scholars in Indonesia said the Koran allows birth control. Soon afterward, male scholars endorsed that view.

 

This kind of grass-roots shift within Islam needs quiet support. It may be more effective than simply championing Western-style human rights. Religion speaks to the heart, and it is hearts that need to be changed if Muslim women are to win equality with men.

 

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EVANGELICALS CONDEMN TORTURE

 

By RACHEL ZOLL

The Associated Press

 

Monday, March 12, 2007; 6:19 PM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/12/AR2007031201080.html

 

— The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed an anti-torture statement saying the United States has crossed “boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible” in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror.

 

Human rights violations committed in the name of preventing terrorist attacks have made the country look hypocritical to the Muslim world, the document states. Christians have an obligation rooted in Scripture to help Americans “regain our moral clarity.”

 

“Our military and intelligence forces have worked diligently to prevent further attacks. But such efforts must not include measures that violate our own core values,” the document says. “The United States historically has been a leader in supporting international human rights efforts, but our moral vision has blurred since 9-11.”

 

The statement, “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror,” was drafted by 17 evangelical scholars, writers and activists who call themselves Evangelicals for Human Rights. The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group, announced late Sunday that it had endorsed the document.

 

Several of the drafters have been advocates for a broader policy focus for Christian conservatives beyond abortion and marriage. One of the co-authors, the Rev. Rich Cizik, the NAE’s Washington policy director, has drawn criticism from Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and others for his environmental activism.

 

In a phone interview Monday, Cizik insisted the statement was not a critique of President George W. Bush and his administration. He said the motivation was to send a message to the rest of the country and the world that evangelicals and other U.S. citizens do not support torture.

 

“There is a perception out there in the Middle East that we’re willing to accept any action in order to fight this war against terrorism,” Cizik said. “We are the conservatives _ let there be no mistake on that _ who wholeheartedly support the war against terror, but that does not mean by any means necessary.”

 

A White House spokesman said he could not immediately comment.

 

The document says government and outside researchers have documented “acts of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” against U.S. detainees, “especially in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, in Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base, in CIA black sites and at the hands of other nations.”

 

The authors praise the U.S. Army for last year releasing a revised field manual that bans beating, sexually humiliating and threatening prisoners, among other interrogation procedures.

 

But the evangelical writers criticize the Military Commissions Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a Defense Department system for prosecuting terror suspects. The evangelicals condemned provisions of that act that allow indefinite detention for some suspects and does not always hold intelligence officials to the same standards as the military.

 

Quoting a wide range of sources including the Bible, Pope John Paul II, Elie Wiesel and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the authors say the federal government has a moral obligation to follow international human rights treaties that the U.S. has endorsed.

 

“As American Christians, we are above all motivated by a desire that our nation’s actions would be consistent with foundational Christian moral norms,” the document says. “We believe that a scrupulous commitment to human rights, among which is the right not to be tortured, is one of these Christian moral convictions.”

 

The NAE says it represents 45,000 evangelical churches. However, it does not include some of the best-known conservative Christian bodies, including the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family.

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EGYPT: THE REGIME, THE BROTHERHOOD, AND LABOR PAINS OF THE FOURTH REPUBLIC

 

By Khalil Al Anani

 

http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=

view&id=19064&prog=zgp&proj=zme#anani

 

The Al Azhar Militias incident, in which some Muslim Brotherhood students staged a martial arts display in early December 2006, constitutes a turning point in the Brotherhood’s relationship with the Egyptian regime. It triggered a regime crackdownnot the first during the presidency of Hosni Mubarak but the harshest and potentially the most importantwith President Mubarak calling the Brotherhood a threat to Egypt’s security and the Brotherhood announcing its determination to form a political party.

 

There is a long history of clashes between the Egyptian regime and the Brotherhood, but during the first part of Mubarak’s presidency (in the 1980s) the organization was allowed to participate in politics via alliances with legal parties. In the 1990s, however, as terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists escalated, the regime began to crack down on the Brotherhood, which it considered the incubator for extremism. Legal action against the Brotherhood began in 1992, with junior and senior leaders occasionally put to trial in military courts. In addition, dozens or even hundreds of political candidates and campaign workers from the Brotherhood have typically been arrested in the months leading up to parliamentary elections, to be released weeks or months later.

 

The current clash is more intense by several measures. First, the charges raised against nearly forty Brotherhood leaders transferred to a military tribunal (among them Deputy Supreme Guide Khayrat Al Shatir and Guidance Bureau Member Muhammad Ali Bishr) go beyond the standard accusation of membership in a banned organization. There are also accusations of involvement in terrorism, money laundering, and forming paramilitary militias along the lines of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hizbollah, and Hamas. Such charges are also being leveled at members living outside Egypt, including the millionaire Youssef Nada, who resides in Switzerland, and the Syrian Ghaleb Himmat. Second, the organization’s financial base has been hit with the arrest of businessmen and financiers whose combined investments are estimated to be worth $4 billion. Furthermore, the Egyptian attorney general has frozen the assets, estimates of which range from $200,000 to $8 million, of twenty-nine Brotherhood leaders.

 

In addition to using legal and financial means, the regime is also using its constitutional reform program to undercut future political activity by the Brotherhood. Recent press reports on draft constitutional amendments under consideration by the Parliament suggest that Article 5 will ban the formation of any party not only based on religion, but even with a religious reference point (marja’iya), a formulation often used by Muslim democrat parties such as the Party of Justice and Development in Morocco. In addition, constitutional Articles 62 and 94 might be amended to reduce the ability of Brotherhood candidates to enter legislative elections as independents.

 

For its part, the Brotherhood has been flat-footed in its handling of the Al Azhar incident and its reaction to the regime’s escalation campaign. It failed to mollify fears, especially amongst the elite, of its masked students, who brought to mind the Brotherhood’s violent history during the 1940s.

 

The Brotherhood’s announcement that it will establish a party with an Islamic reference point seems to be an attempt to move the battle with the regime to the political level. Although the move represents a potentially constructive step towards transforming the Brotherhood into an openly political organization, it is also fraught with problems. The announcement came in reaction to the regime’s crackdown and not as a result of thorough consultations within the organization. It is unclear what a party’s relationship would be to the Brotherhood itself should the latter not be dissolved, what its religious authority would be, and the extent of its conformity to the rules of the democratic game. Thus this might be just the latest in a series of half-baked efforts by Brotherhood members to form parties, following in the footsteps of the abortive Consultative Party (1986), Reform Party (1990), Hope Party (1995), and Wasat Party (1996; still trying for licensing).

 

There are several ways of understanding the regime’s current attack on the Brotherhood. First, the regime wishes to deflate the Brotherhood’s expectations after the past two years of emboldening political victories, which perhaps led to the miscalculation evident in the Al Azhar Militias incident. Second, Mubarak’s regime has relentlessly eliminated any potential alternative to itself for the past quarter century, which explains much of how it deals with any group possessing social legitimacy. Third, the regime is determined to guarantee a quiet presidential succession, whether after the end of Mubarak’s term in 2011 or in the event of any alternative scenario. The current crisis seems to be the labor pains accompanying the birth of the Fourth Republic (since the 1952 coup), which means thatEgypt is entering a critical stage of political suffering as its rulers put their house in order.

 

Khalil Al Anani is an Egyptian scholar. His forthcoming book is entitled Al Su’uud al siyaasi li al Ikhwaan al Muslimiin: dalaalat wa maalat (The Political Rise of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: Connotations and Consequences). This article was translated from Arabic by Paul Wulfsberg.

 

To receive the Arab Reform Bulletin via e-mail every month, to unsubscribe, or to subscribe to the Arabic edition visit: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/signup. We welcome your comments or suggestions. Please e-mail editor Michele Dunne at arb@CarnegieEndowment.org. Read the Arabic edition of this issue of the Arab Reform Bulletin at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/programs/arabic/.

 

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THE ARAB PROGRAM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

Cairo:11/3/2007

 

LAST HOURS HARVEST ONLY IN EGYPT

 

The rule of prison, arrests, ever present aggravation, the refusal to allow the establishment of activities and observation, the cutting off of means of subsistence and the aggressive use of farce, courts that make a mockery of justice.

 

These are the daily issues that human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, writers and civil society activists are exposing to in all of the Arab countries from the ocean to the Gulf in flagrant violation not only for the international human rights conventions but also for national laws and constitutions

 

In successive two weeks APHRA has become increasingly concerned and has followed up the escalating wave of violence against human rights defenders and reformers these violations have approved by Arab governments which have cooperated effectively in implementing them. It is a sad fact that Arab governments can work together on this but are unable to find agreement on the much more important issues they face.

 

In Egypt a four year prison sentence was given to the blogger Karim Amr. It is in this context that APHRA expresses its astonishment at the continuous implementation of these laws and the repression of freedom of expression. Karim Amr has only used his right to freedom of expression and his imprisonment is an unwarranted act of violence.

 

And as part of the same issue  there has been support for the sentencing of the journalist Ibrahim Aissa, editor in chief of the independent “Al-Distor” newspaper, in the light of the his criticism of the 26 year presidential reign in Egypt. These sentences are considered violations of local and international guarantees of freedom of expression.

 

Egyptian government policy apparatus works to narrow the operations of civil society in Egypt generally and human rights organisations in particular. Organising any activity requires the agreement of the security apparatus. Activities and their venues, such as hotel rooms and other public places where events are usually held, must be approved in advance. In addition the list of participants must be submitted to the security forces as well as all of the documentation and information to the security.

 

This is all takes place alongside the disappointing constitutional amendments which have not brought about any real change in the structure of Egyptian society in regard to citizen and civil participation in public policy. Also, the lack of real democratic mechanisms makes it difficult for different social groups to express their needs and problems.

 

This is because the recent constitutional amendments are superficial and do not act effectively either on the citizens’ quality of life or on the equality or political parties or the participation of civil society institutions in building a real democracy.

 

This extends especially to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in spite of the reservations of APHRA to some of their programs and political vision. APHRA believes completely in the right of any group of individual to form organisations to practice their rights in absolutely free expression because this is the only solution to the repression of all political groups in the framework of the political mechanism. This includes the right of groups that have not passed one day opposing these arrests of activists and the maltreatment and throwing in prison of opposition members and public witnesses by the powers.

 

Unprecedented events are taking place in Egypt now. Funds have been provided to the administrative side of the Ministry of Social Affairs by the governorate of Giza. This has acted to narrow the practice and create pressures on groups within the Giza governorate. Many visits by this Ministry have taken place to the headquarters of Afro- Egyptian human rights organisation as a result of the commentary of posters detailing torture and other human rights abuses

 

In a different development, government voices have been raise to close down 22 web sites of civil institutions and bloggers that have been documenting violations and other groups that aim to establish human rights. They depict Egypt through the spread of news and documentary films of torture in Police departments. The program for the awareness of the torture of Egyptian citizens is considered damaging for the image of the country.

 

APHRA indicates that in relation to the extended struggle that has gone on for many years in Egypt and that the pillars for the obstruction of political parties, unions and groups still exist. In this way the emergency law is used to seize unions supposedly for the guarding of the country’s security through the courts’ exclusion of social groups, parties and by issuing accusations against the depiction of political and legal life in Egypt. In this way torture has taken place against citizens in police departments without reason or because of false reasons. The program also affects the forming of groups of student elections and membership clubs for student activism in the context of the 1979 law that forbids any political activism in Egyptian Universities.

And from another angle, the security forces ban a number of journalists and have withheld the issuing of licenses to political establishments. Their work has been falsely depicted by the national party, the government party.

 

Recently APHRA has been downsized as a result of alarm bells caused by the continuation of this difficult situation. The whole establishment programme and parties and unions and groups are now working on informing these committees to reveal spontaneous reforming action. There is universal work on the implementation of reform and the gathering of people to carry out what it is possible to implement.

 

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MAURITANIANS VOTE IN DEMOCRATIC HANDOVER BY JUNTA

 

Sun Mar 11, 2007 10:27am ET

by Pascal Fletcher

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=worldNews&

storyid=2007-03-11T142654Z_01_L10609393_RTRUKOC_0_US-MAURITANIA-ELECTION.xml&src=rss

 

NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) – Mauritanians voted on Sunday to choose a president and restore civilian rule to the Saharan Islamic state after 19 months under a military junta.

 

Voters and international observers hope the poll can establish a pluralist civilian democracy in the largely desert former French colony, which has experienced coups and years of authoritarian rule since independence in 1960.

 

Just over one million voters were choosing between 19 candidates, including an opposition figure, a former military ruler, an ex-central bank governor and a descendant of black slaves, to rule the country straddling Arab and black Africa.

 

Women wearing colorful veils and men in turbans and flowing robes cast ballots at schools and public buildings in the capital Nouakchott and around the country.

 

Provisional results were not expected before Monday. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent, a second round will be held on March 25 to decide between the two frontrunners.

 

Members of the outgoing military junta which took power in a bloodless 2005 coup had barred themselves from standing as candidates, making Sunday’s polls Mauritania’s freest and most open, election officials and observers said.

 

“We’ve never had an election like this before. We hope it will change a lot in the country, God willing,” Ahmed Ould Brahim, 46, an unemployed mason, said as he voted nearNouakchott’s Keube shantytown, a dusty maze of ramshackle huts.

 

“We want education and work, less corruption and tribalism.”

 

TIME TO GO

 

The election, following multi-party legislative polls late last year, completes a promised handover to civilian rule by the junta headed by Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, which had overthrown unpopular President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya.

 

“We’ve fulfilled our commitment and now it’s time to go,” Vall, a tall, soft-spoken officer in his 50s with a mustache and spectacles, told reporters as he voted.

 

Mauritania’s mostly nomadic population of three million mixes white and black Moors and black African Mauritanians.

 

“We are Bedouin, but the world is changing and we must adjust too,” said Fatma Shriva, 45, who walked across sand dunes to cast her ballot at the oasis of Etkemkemet, northeast ofNouakchott, her pale blue veil and robe fluttering in the wind.

 

Observers hailed the handover as a success story for Africa.

 

“Mauritania really can serve as an example for the rest of Africa. Only 19 months after a coup, you have all the stages of democracy. It’s too good to be true, but it’s happening,” Vijay Makhan, special envoy for the African Union, told Reuters.

 

European Union observers said there were no major problems.

 

Many voters said they wanted the new president, who will serve five years, to ensureMauritania’s natural wealth was distributed more fairly, and to end racial inequality.

 

“We have everything in our country, fisheries, oil, mining. What we want is good government,” said Diatahir Mamadou, 47, an unemployed driver. “And we want no more racism.”

 

Black Mauritanians complain of discrimination and slavery under a centuries-old system that has favored the white Moorish elite who have traditionally held power.

 

Slavery was legally banned in 1981 but rights groups say it still exists in parts of Mauritania.

 

(Additional reporting by Finbarr O’Reilly)

 

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BANGLADESH:  MANY TARGETS OF ANTI-CORRUPTION DRIVE

 

By John Sudworth

BBC News, Dhaka

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6441179.stm

 

Mohammed Ishaque sits on top of a mound of rubble which is all that is left of his home.

 

He has lived in this Dhaka slum, with his wife Monowara, for the past 12 years.

 

Their baby daughter Maraym was born here. Now the family is homeless.

 

Ishaque’s home was one of more than a 1,000 on this patch of land which have been flattened as part of the emergency government’s drive against unauthorised settlements.

 

He tells me the government should do something to help him and thousands of his neighbours who are now living on the street.

 

Some aid organisations estimate that in the first two months of emergency rule more than 50,000 people have been evicted from more than a dozen slums in Dhaka alone.

 

Tens of thousands more in the capital city have had their livelihoods destroyed as the authorities also target the illegally constructed roadside stalls and shops.

 

It is a picture repeated in cities across the country.

 

‘Lack of focus’

 

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya from the Dhaka-based Centre for Policy Dialogue says the poor have been caught up in a catch-all drive against all forms of illegality by the new government.

 

“One of the reasons why this kind of thing is happening is because there is a lack of strategy and focus,” he tells me.

 

“These poor people living in slums are in fact the major victims of corruption, so they should be the natural partners in the government’s anti-corruption drive. The government is unnecessarily causing a backlash.”

 

But despite the demolitions the anti-corruption drive means, for the moment at least, the government is maintaining its popularity.

 

There has been widespread support in the mainstream press for its arrest and detention of dozens of high profile politicians and businessmen.

 

The emergency administration came to power in January amid widespread political violence that led to a cancelled general election.

 

Its new leader, former central bank governor Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, believes that the breakdown in Bangladesh’s political culture can be traced to the corruption of its political elite.

 

So he has made tackling graft a priority and a precondition to restoring democracy.

 

Worn down by 16 years of confrontational politics under the leadership of Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s Awami League, most ordinary people say they are happy to give the government time to clean up politics before fresh polls are held.

 

Detentions

 

There is also little apparent concern that the military is seen to be pulling the strings of the new government as well as having direct involvement in the anti-corruption drive.

 

The long-dormant National Security Council is being reconstituted, giving the military chiefs a formal means of expressing views about the way the country is run, and a potential veto over government decisions.

 

Eight central and 64 district-based anti-corruption task forces have been created, comprising members of the army, the Rapid Action Battalion and the different intelligence agencies.

 

The teams are being coordinated by the general officer commanding of the Bangladesh Nine Infantry Division, Major General Masud Uddin Chowdhury.

 

And they have been busy. At least 45 high-profile figures with links to both the main political parties have been arrested and detained.

 

Tarique Rahman, the influential son of the last prime minister, Khaleda Zia, is among the latest to be picked up by the security forces.

 

The government says it has begun filing cases against some of the accused.

 

Moudud Ahmed, a former BNP law minister, has not been arrested, but is facing allegations of tax evasion.

 

He denies the charge, and says many of the accusations against his former colleagues are exaggerated.

 

“Firstly, it is only a small section of the leaders who have been arrested on charges of corruption,” he says.

 

“Secondly, if they’re proved to be guilty the party will not stand by them.”

 

Hit hard

 

But, he says; “Actually there has been a lot of exaggeration. Relating to my own case it is a kind of hassle, political harassment, but I think I will be able to overcome it.”

 

Bangladesh has come a long way in two months. Plucked from the brink of anarchy and street violence by an emergency government that has managed to restore a sense of order.

 

It has also achieved something many people thought they would never see in their lifetime – bringing powerful people, long rumoured to be involved in corruption, before the law.

 

But in many cases the poor have been hit as hard as the wealthy. The demolition drive has left tens of thousands without jobs or homes.

 

“We are living without electricity or shelter, literally on the street,” one man tells me.

 

“What can I say about the new government? I am just a poor man. But at least 1,000 houses have been destroyed here… we simply ask the emergency government to do something for us.”

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JEFFERSON UNAFRAID OF KORAN

 

By Wm. Scott Harrop

http://www.payvand.com/news/07/jan/1194.html

 

Keith Ellisons recent use of Thomas Jeffersons Koran for his ceremonial Congressional oath profoundly symbolizes Americas greatest strength its enduring principle of freedom of religion.  Mr. Jefferson would have approved.

 

This week marks the 221st anniversary of the enactment of the landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.  Drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1779, this influential Statute proclaims that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge or affect their civil capacities.

 

Thomas Jefferson indeed owned the Koran.  The evidence is preserved in the vaults of theUniversity of Virginias rare books library.  There, the original Williamsburg Virginia Gazette Daybook clearly records that on October 5th 1765, Thomas Jefferson purchased GeorgeSales translation of The Koran, Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mohammed.

 

Long before his encounters with the Barbary Pirates, Jefferson had reason to be interested in the Koran.  Then a 22-year-old student preparing for his bar exams, Jeffersons favorite legal texts included Samuel Pufendorfs Of the Law of Nature and Nations, a 1672 classic that cites the Koran as precedent on a wide variety of civil and international legal issues. Sales two volume translation was the best available anywhere, and Jefferson no doubt appreciated that Sale, a distinguished British solicitor, had prefaced his Koran translation with detailed comparative legal commentary.

 

Jeffersons interest in the Islamic holy book led him to learning about Islam and a sustained study of the Korans original written language, Arabic.

 

241 years and 3 months after Jeffersons purchase, the Library of Congress unveiledJeffersons Koran for Ellisons swearing in ceremony.

 

Critics like Dennis Prager warned that if Ellison is “incapable of taking an oath on that book {the Bible}, don’t serve in Congress.” because to do otherwise would violate American tradition.

 

Another critic, Congressman Virgil Goode, inflamed matters when he wrote that, if American citizens dont wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.  On December 21st, Goode refused to apologize, avoided questions about Ellisons right to use the Koran, and declared that he wouldn’t use the “Q-Ran” for his oath taking.

 

Ironically, Congressman Goodes district includes Jeffersons beloved home at Monticello, where on his tombstone he specifically requested to be remembered for three life accomplishments: author of Americas Declaration of Independence, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the founder of the University of Virginia.  That Jefferson was Americas 3rd President was notably deemed not worth mentioning.

 

Heedless of Jefferson, Goode remains defiant in the face of condemnations from around the nation, including by the Anti-Defamation League.  In USA Today on January 2nd, Goode intensified his calls to restrict immigration, especially by Muslims.  For America to remain a “beacon for freedom-loving persons,” Goode wants to keep America “free” from those who believe differently than we do.

 

Such arguments falter on fact and principle:

 

Keith Ellison is not an immigrant.  His African ancestors came here long before the American Revolution – involuntarily.  Ellison converted to Islam in College.

 

Ellison was not elected because he was a Muslim or because of immigrant support.   Ellisons congressional district in Minnesota is as white (75.3%) and Christian as Goodes is in Virginia; More Muslims reside in Virginia than Minnesota.

 

Congress members take their oaths as a group.  They then often repeat their oaths in symbolic, but constitutionally meaningless individual ceremonies, with holy books. Yet the Bible has not been the only book of choice.  Ed Koch in 1969 used the Tanakh, as have many other Jewish Congresspersons.

 

Even if legislators legally swore over holy books, Anglo-American common law for centuries has recognized that religious minorities may swear on holy books most important to them in civil matters. The current Congress includes 43 Jews, 15 Mormons, 2 Buddhists, 5 Christian Scientists, more than 150 Catholics, and 1 Muslim.

 

US Ambassador designate the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, is a Muslim and an immigrant to America.  Would Goode object?

 

Most importantly, Ellisons choice to take his symbolic oath on the Koran is fully compatible with the ever-lasting principle of religious freedom, a pillar of American democracy and way of life.

 

The preamble of the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom asserts that coercion in religion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion.  Jeffersons autobiography reveals that a proposed amendment would have inserted the word “Jesus Christ” as the specified holy author of our religion.”  According to Jefferson, however, that amendment was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

 

Jefferson famously wrote in 1782 that, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.”

 

Jeffersons Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom inspired the US Constitutions ban on religious tests for office and Bill of Rights protections of religious free exercise and against an establishment of religion.

 

Late in his long life, Jefferson took great satisfaction in America standing as a beacon of religious freedom to the world.  Yet he would have flinched from attempts to impose American values abroad by aggressive force.  Jefferson would lament that the fuse to Iraqs present sectarian inferno was lit by his beloved America.  In Jeffersons mind, America leads the world best by example.

 

In an 1821 letter to Georgia Rabbi Jacob de la Motta, Jefferson reflected that America was the first to prove to the world that religious freedom is the most effective anodyne against religious dissension.  Finding strength in Americas diversity, Jefferson observed that in religion, the maxim is divided we stand, united we fall.”

 

Wm. Scott Harrop is a recent Jefferson Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.  Views expressed are his own. A shorter version of this essay first appeared in Virginia’s The Daily Progress.

 

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SCRUTINY INCREASES FOR A GROUP ADVOCATING FOR MUSLIMS IN U.S.

 

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

March 14, 2007

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/14/washington/14cair.html?_r=2&hp=

&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

 

With violence across the Middle East fixing Islam smack at the center of the American political debate, an organization partly financed by donors closely identified with wealthy Persian Gulf governments has emerged as the most vocal advocate for American Muslims and an object of wide suspicion.

 

The group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, defines its mission as spreading the understanding of Islam and protecting civil liberties. Its officers appear frequently on television and are often quoted in newspapers, and its director has met with President Bush. Some 500,000 people receive the groups daily e-mail newsletter.

 

Yet a debate rages behind the scenes in Washington about the group, commonly known as CAIR, its financing and its motives. A small band of critics have made a determined but unsuccessful effort to link it to Hamas and Hezbollah, which have been designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department, and have gone so far as calling the group an American front for the two.

 

In the latest confrontation yesterday, CAIR held a panel discussion on Islam and the West in a Capitol meeting room despite demands by House Republicans that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, not allow the event. The Republicans called its members terrorist apologists.

 

Caley Gray, a spokesman for Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who helped book the room, rejected that label in a phone interview and said CAIR held similar meetings when Congress was controlled by Republicans. Still, Mr. Gray called back to specify that Mr. Pascrell did not endorse all of the groups positions.

 

Last fall, Senator Barbara Boxer of California issued a routine Certificate of Appreciation to the organization representative in Sacramento, but she quickly revoked it when critics assailed her on the Web under headlines like Senators for Terror.

 

There are things there I dont want to be associated with, Ms. Boxer said later of the revocation, explaining that her California office had not vetted the group sufficiently.

 

CAIR and its supporters say its accusers are a small band of people who hate Muslims and deal in half-truths. Ms. Boxers decision to revoke the Sacramento commendation provoked an outcry from organizations that vouch for the groups advocacy, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the California Council of Churches.

 

They have been a leading organization that has advocated for civil rights and civil liberties in the face of fear and intolerance, in the face of religious and ethnic profiling, said Maya Harris, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Northern California.

 

Government officials in Washington said they were not aware of any criminal investigation of the group. More than one described the standards used by critics to link CAIR to terrorism as akin to McCarthyism, essentially guilt by association.

 

Of all the groups, there is probably more suspicion about CAIR, but when you ask people for cold hard facts, you get blank stares, said Michael Rolince, a retired F.B.I. official who directed counterterrorism in the Washington field office from 2002 to 2005.

 

Outreach to all Muslims via groups they support is an important aspect of ensuring that extremists cannot get a foothold here as they have in Europe, Mr. Rolince said.

 

The cloud kicked up by the constant scrutiny is such that spokesmen at several federal agencies refused to comment about the group and some spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

 

After a brief interview, Ms. Boxer declined to answer additional questions about the commendation to the Sacramento representative, Basim Elkarra. A spokeswoman, Natalie Ravitz, said in an e-mail message that the senator had decided to put this entire incident behind her.

 

Joe Kaufman, who Ms. Boxers office said first drew her attention to CAIRs reputation, is the founder of a Web site that tracks what he calls the groups extremism, cairwatch.com. Other critics include the Investigative Project, a conservative group that tries to identify terrorist organizations, and the Middle East Forum, a conservative research center that says its goal is to promote American interests in the region.

 

You cant fight a war on terrorism directly when you are acting with a terror front, said Mr. Kaufman, who advocates shutting down the organization.

 

Founded in 1994, CAIR had eight chapters at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the group, but has grown to some 30 chapters as American Muslims have felt unjustly scrutinized ever since.

 

Broadly summarized, critics accuse CAIR of pursuing an extreme Islamist political agenda and say at least five figures with ties to the group or its leadership have either been convicted or deported for links to terrorist groups. They include Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader deported in 1997 after the United States failed to produce any evidence directly linking him to any attacks.

 

There were no charges linked to CAIR in any of the cases involved, and law enforcement officials said that in the current climate, any hint of suspicious behavior would have resulted in a racketeering charge.

 

The groups officials say the accusations are rooted in its refusal to endorse the American governments blanket condemnations of Hezbollah and Hamas, although it has criticized Hamas for civilian deaths.

 

Several federal officials said CAIRs Washington office frequently issued controversial statements that made it hard for senior government figures to be associated with the group, particularly since some pro-Israeli lobbyists have created what one official called a cottage industry of attacking the group and anyone dealing with it.

 

Last summer, the group urged a halt to weapons shipments to Israel as civilian casualties inLebanon swelled. In September, it held a dinner for former President Mohamed Khatami of Iran at a time when much of official Washington had ostracized that Islamic republic. In November, the group sponsored a panel discussion by two prominent academics who argue that the pro-Israeli lobby exercises detrimental influence on United States policy on the Middle East.

 

Traditionally within the government there is only one point of view that is acceptable, which is the pro-Israel line, said Nihad Awad, a founder of CAIR and its executive director. Another enlightened perspective on the conflict is not there, and it causes some discomfort.

 

When Mr. Bush visited a Washington mosque in 2001, Mr. Awad was among the Muslim leaders he met. But Dana M. Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said Mr. Awad had not been invited to any recent iftars, annual dinners to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. She offered no explanation.

 

This year, when Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales met with the leaders of half a dozen Muslim and Arab-American organizations in his office, no representative from CAIR was invited.

 

When Karen P. Hughes, the close adviser to Mr. Bush and under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, started interacting with the group, she was criticized as dealing with Wahhabis, shorthand for Saudi-inspired religious extremists, a State Department spokesman said.

 

CAIR has raised some suspicion by accepting large donations from individuals or foundations closely identified with Arab governments. It has an annual operating budget of around $3 million, and the group said it solicited major donations for special projects, like $500,000 from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia to help distribute the Koran and other books about Islam in the United States, some of which generated controversy.

 

The donations are a source of contention within CAIR itself. Several branch directors said they had avoided foreign financing and had criticized the national office for it.

 

Officials at other Arab-American and Muslim organizations said there was a decided split between how the national office operated and how the branches did. The branch offices, which raise their own money and operate largely as franchises, concentrate on local civil rights problems and hence develop close working relationships with law enforcement.

 

When the Southern California chapter threw itself a birthday party last November, nearly 2,000 people packed the Anaheim Hiltons ballroom to hear guests of honor praise the organization, including J. Stephen Tidwell, the director of the F.B.I.s Los Angeles office.

 

I am very excited to be here, Mr. Tidwell told a reporter covering the fund-raiser for an Arab-American television news channel, calling CAIR an important bridge for the F.B.I. into the Muslim, Arab-American community.

 

The Washington office, the officials at the other Arab-American and Muslim groups said, tends to fight more image battles because its main staff members have backgrounds in public relations. Still, they said, CAIRs contrarian image helps with fund-raising both in the American Muslim community and among Arab governments because both believe that the federal government is biased against them.

 

Some Muslims, particularly the secular, find CAIR overly influenced by Saudi religious interpretations, criticizing it for stating in news releases, for example, that all Muslim women are required to veil their hair when the matter is openly debated.

 

But they still support its civil rights work and endorse the idea of anyone working to make American Islam a more integral part of society. One Arab-American advocate compared CAIR to the tough cousin who curses at anyone who speaks badly about the family.

 

Some activists and academics view the controversy surrounding the group as typical of whyWashington fails so often in the Middle East, while extremism mushrooms.

 

How far are we going to keep going in this endless circle: You are a terrorist! No, you are a terrorist!? said Souleiman Ghali, one of the founders of a moderate San Francisco mosque. People are paying a price for that.

 

David Johnston contributed reporting.

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ANALYSIS: INTELLIGENCE SUMMIT TAKES FLAK

 

By CLAUDE SALHANI

UPI International Editor

 

http://www.upi.com/InternationalIntelligence/analysis_intelligence_

summit_takes_flak/20070308-115300-8602r/

 

  1. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 8 (UPI) — Old pros from America’s secretive world of espionage and counterterrorism emerged temporarily from the shadows to convene for a three-day “Intelligence Summit” in a downtown hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., earlier this week.

 

They were joined by a handful of allies from friendly countries — mostly from Israel — to discuss what they see as the number one threat facing Western democracies, the ever-increasing form of militant Islam and its indiscriminate use of terrorism.

 

The summit gathered a mixed bag of spooks, former spooks from a variety of agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and a multitude of others with acronyms typically comprehensible only by those in the business.

 

The object of the “Summit” says John Loftus, the president of the Intelligence Summit, is “to bring together professionals from this non-conformist world and help them compare notes, make new contacts and to learn how to cut through the bureaucracy that often weighs down such elite forces.”

 

But the man who until recently was the United State’s chief master spy — John Negroponte — and who was given by President George W. Bush the position of Director of Central Intelligence, a prestigious job from where he oversaw the functions of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, sees things very differently. Negroponte tried to prevent federal agents from attending the Florida conference, saying the government would not reimburse those who made the trip, said Loftus.

 

When asked to comment, Negroponte’s office at the State Department referred the issue to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But a spokesman for the DNI chose not to comment.

 

Other participants who enjoy lucrative contracts with the U.S. government, such as some of the firms operating in Iraq, told United Press International they were warned the government would deny them future contracts if they participated in the Intelligence Summit, according to several participants.

 

And it appears the U.S. government may not be alone in trying to prevent its people from attending the Florida conference. Some participants told United Press International that agents from foreign countries had similar intent. Some participants told UPI they received threatening notes slipped under their hotel room doors.

 

One American who specializes in biological warfare has been paying particular attention to advances in the bio-war arsenal being developed by a Middle Eastern country said she was followed on a trans-Atlantic flight by two agents from the country in question.

 

While the conference offered interesting insight into the world of terrorist tactics it had its shortcomings; and one can easily name two. First, was the fact that most, if not all panelists seemed to be preaching to the choir. The conference, at times, had an air of a reunion of good ol’ boys; all in sync with the program, rather than a group of very serious professionals out to warn the free world of the dangers facing democracies.

 

Among the several hundred attendees were a few former spies who were probably retired prematurely, or others who disagreed with the slow bureaucracy of the CIA and other government agencies. These questioned the logic of the U.S. Department of State wanting to negotiate with what they term “rogue countries;” mainly Syria, Iran and North Korea.

 

Many would rather “not waste time” talking with governments they say will never keep its word. Instead, they would prefer to simply “kick butt,” as one speaker put it, and making realistic plans to enable regime change in Syria and Iran through assassinations and intimidation. His comments were received with applause and cheers from the audience.

 

But perhaps more important was the fact that while most panelists stressed the sources, logistics and strength of terrorist groups along with the need to be prepared in case of terrorist attack and the need to retaliate with overwhelming force, they failed to offer any long-term political solution to the crises facing the West.

 

For example, although much was said about Arab terrorism, no one ventured into the realm of why Arab and Muslim groups turned to violence. No one mentioned that al-Qaida, for example, was using the Palestinian cause as a recruiting poster to direct its hate against Israel and the United States. No one, it seemed, tried to make the connection that al-Qaida was using the Palestinian cause. And just like no one mentioned that solving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute would go a along way in appeasing some of the Arab/Islamic world’s gripes against the West.

 

In the meantime the threats remain real. Such as one expert who revealed that Islamist groups with ties to al-Qaida are operating a network of stolen luxury cars from their base inTampa, Fla., just miles from the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, the group tasked with eradicating the Islamist terrorist threat in the Middle East.

 

Comments to claude@upi.com

 

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INTELLIGENCE CONFERENCE DRAWS CRITICISM

Members of the former Holocaust Education Center worry its name is being misused.

 

By MEG LAUGHLIN

Published March 6, 2007

http://www.sptimes.com/2007/03/06/Southpinellas/Intelligence

_conferen.shtml

 

John Loftus, a former federal prosecutor who is a hosting a three-day conference in downtown St. Petersburg on international intelligence and terrorism, says he “may know more intelligence secrets than anyone alive.”

 

But Loftus’ claims, which include allegations that the Bush administration concealed the discovery of large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, have been widely questioned by intelligence experts.

 

“This is not a mainstream conference with recognized names in the field,” said Victoria Toensing, a Washington lawyer and former MSNBC legal analyst who established the terrorism unit for the Department of Justice during the Reagan administration.

 

“I’ve been in the intelligence and terrorism world a long time, and I would not suggest going to this conference for intelligence or terrorism information,” she said.

 

Loftus, 57, has attracted about 400 people to the conference at the Hilton. But he has drawn criticism from former representatives of the International Holocaust Education Center, who are concerned that Loftus is using the name of the now-defunct educational arm of the museum to gather tax deductible contributions for his intelligence activities.

 

According to federal tax filings, Loftus is the registered agent of the International Holocaust Education Center, a tax-exempt charitable organization founded over 11 years ago in St. Petersburg. Its purpose was to educate the public about the Florida Holocaust Museum, of which Loftus is the vice chairman.

 

But by 2005 members of the board of directors of both organizations decided the job was being done sufficiently by the museum and the education center was no longer necessary.

 

Loftus, with the blessing of three board members of the Holocaust education center, was allowed to continue to use the center’s name. This allowed him to preserve the center’s tax-exempt status.

 

Walter Loebenberg, who founded the Holocaust education center and approved of turning the name over to Loftus in 2005 because of his high regard for him, says that he knew Loftus was doing intelligence work at the time.

 

“But,” said Loebenberg, “we agreed he would change the name if he did his intelligence work under the name of the Holocaust education center.”

 

“It has gone farther than we expected,” said Loebenberg. “We never would have organized or sponsored an intelligence conference.”

 

Board members say Loftus is “greatly admired” because of his work for Holocaust education, especially since he is not Jewish. However, several say they are “not happy” that he never changed the name of the organization in IRS filings.

 

Jay Snyder, who was the registered agent for the Holocaust Education Center until Loftus took over the name, says he holds Loftus in high esteem but is “surprised that John did not change the name of the organization in IRS filings to reflect the new intelligence direction.”

 

“I didn’t know he hadn’t already done that,” said Snyder.

 

Loftus abbreviated the full name of the International Holocaust Education Center to IHEC in the 2004-2005 tax filings. On the Web site for the Intelligence Summit, he said that IHEC stood for Intelligence and Homeland Security Education Center. But the intelligence organization does not exist in IRS records.

 

“What’s the difference?” asked Loftus. “Both organizations are charities fighting terrorism. Both are for the good of America.”

 

IRS spokesperson Gloria Sutton says there’s a big difference: “If a tax-exempt charitable organization changes the name, the purpose or the structure, it must let IRS know by corresponding with us. And, it must remain neutral and nonpartisan.”

 

Florida IRS investigator Norm Meadows: “We are scrutinizing exempt charitable organizations because abuse is occurring that often has to do with charities misrepresenting their purpose.”

 

The Intelligence Summit and the affiliated Secular Islam Summit are billed as “non-partisan, non-profit,” forums that “use private charitable funds.”

 

The Intelligence Summit, which costs $425 to attend for private citizens, continues through Wednesday. The Secular Islam Summit, which was covered by CNN commentator Glenn Beck, ended Monday. In promotional literature it claimed to “feature the courageous voices of those who stand against radical Islam and speak against the violence of Islamist jihad.”

 

Experts on Islam question the summit’s nonpartisan status.

 

“Legitimate scholars are horrified by the lineup. The speakers are extreme in their views. Basically, it’s everyone known for damning Islam,” said Yvonne Hadad, a Georgetown University professor who teaches “the history of Christians and Muslims.”

 

During a phone conversation with the St. Petersburg Times, Loftus offered this preview of the kind of “sensational disclosure” that will be revealed at the Intelligence Summit:

 

“At the end of the Iraq war in 2003, the Bush administration covered up finding four huge storehouses of weapons of mass destruction under 25 feet of water because the stuff was moved and then looted and the administration was embarrassed.”

 

The State Department would not comment on this claim. But Gary Schmitt, former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a security and defense scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said he had never heard Loftus’ version of events.

 

“I know nothing about that or the Intelligence Summit,” said Schmitt. But he said he had heard of Loftus: “I don’t recall him as an intelligence person, but as someone who gives opinions to the press.”

 

According to IRS documents, the main donor to the International Holocaust Education Center from 2004 to 2005 was Michael Cherney, a Russian aluminum tycoon who gave the organization $100,000 that year. Loftus has not yet made the 2005-06 IRS records available to the St. Petersburg Times. He says they show that Cherney donated another $50,000 last year.

 

Cherney, who Loftus agrees was the summits’ main contributor, was invited by Loftus to be the “distinguished guest of honor” at this year’s event. But the United States has denied Cherney a visa since 1999 because of alleged ties to the Russian mafia.

 

Loftus acknowledges the U.S. government’s view of Cherney, but says, “He was framed by Negroponte and never committed a crime.” John Negroponte, now deputy secretary of state, is the former director of national intelligence. The State Department would not comment.

 

One named sponsor of the summit has sought to distance itself from Loftus’ conference.

 

Konica Minolta was listed as a sponsor on the summit’s Web site. That information was removed last week after Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Washington, D,C., asked the corporation why it was sponsoring “an event that is apparently linked to and hosting individuals who promote anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred.”

 

A spokesperson for Konica Minolta told the St. Petersburg Times that it had never consented to being a sponsor. “We have never heard of this conference and never agreed to be a part of it,” James Norberto said. “We’re not sure how we got pulled in.”

 

Neither is retired pediatrician and Florida Holocaust Museum board member Bruce Epstein, who says that the Holocaust Education Center “never was supposed to have anything to do with intelligence work or homeland security.”

 

But, says Epstein: “John has been so active in Holocaust education in the past, we have to believe his heart is in the right place.”

 

Staff writers Kris Hundley and Sydney Freedberg and researchers Caryn Baird and Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this story. Meg Laughlin can be reached a mlaughlin@sptimes.com.

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A POLITICS OF INCLUSION: AN INTERVIEW WITH SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM

 

http://www.democratiya.com/interview.asp?issueid=8

 

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim is Professor of Political Sociology at the American University in Cairo. He founded the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and is one of the Arab world’s most prominent spokesmen for democracy and human rights. He is an eminent and prolific social scientist author, co-author, or editor of more than thirty-five books in Arabic and English, including Egypt, Islam and Democracy: Critical Essays (1996). Arrested by the Mubarak regime in 2000 he was sentenced to seven years’ hard labour for ‘tarnishing’ Egypt’s image. After an international outcry, Egypt’s High Court cleared him of all charges in 2003.

 

In this interview Saad Eddin Ibrahim explores the fateful encounter of Islam and the Arab world with modernity and democracy, and assesses the prospects for Islamic reformation and Arab democratisation. He examines the symbiotic relationship between the region’s autocrats and theocrats, before turning to the prospects for progress in Iraq. The interview was conducted on 11 February 2007.

 

 

Part 1: Personal and intellectual background

 

Alan Johnson: Who and what have been the most important personal and intellectual influences in your life?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: As a youngster I was influenced by leaders from our national history and from the ‘third world’ Gandhi, Nehru, Mao, Che and Nasser (whom I met at an early age but who later stripped me of my nationality and declared me persona non grata when I was in my twenties). These people shaped me positively and negatively some became negative reference points. And my family was very influential. My uncles adhered to different political traditions, from Communism to the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 1940s and 1950s each sought to win me to his point of view. I found that fascinating!

 

I arrived in America in 1963 to attend University and became involved in the revolutions of that period. Herbert Marcuse, Martin Luther King, C. Wright Mills, Frantz Fanon these were all influences. I became an activist along with my generation the antiwar movement, the civil rights movement, and the second wave women’s movement were extremely important events for me. I owe my activism to that period in the United States.

 

I became President of the Egyptian Students, then President of the Arab Students, and in that capacity I toured North America and Europe. These years truly impacted on my life and I can trace back some of the things I am doing now, towards the end of my sixties, to those years in my twenties and thirties.

 

I supported the Palestinians but the defeat of the Six-Day War of 1967 convinced me that democracy was the missing piece of the jigsaw. Until then democracy did not take up much of my attention as an Arab. Democracy was always present in my work in America, where I was living in an open and democratic society, and benefiting from that, but it took 1967 for me to realise that so long as there is no transparency or accountability then we Arabs would suffer defeats. That was an eye-opener. The defeat agonised my generation. It caused us sleepless nights for so many years, actually until 1973. These were years that scarred our dignity, our psyche, our hearts, but also years of rethinking and self-criticism. I began to study the causes of the defeat and my first book was called The Sociology of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. We began to question some sacred cows, and that created problems for me back home. My activist and intellectual lives have intertwined and influenced one another ever since.

 

Arrest, Trial, Imprisonment

 

Alan Johnson: Your home was raided in the middle of the night of June 30, 2000. You were arrested, imprisoned, vilified in the state press, and tried three times on the same charges, before Egypt’s highest High Court of Cassation eventually acquitted you and your associates of all charges on March 18, 2003. Why do you think you were arrested in 2000?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: They said I had accepted a grant from the EU without state permission; that I was using this grant for voter registration, again without authorisation; that I had defamed Egypt in my writings; and that I embezzled this grant. But as a sociologist and political analyst I know that stated reasons at best overlap with real reasons.

 

I think the real reason for my arrest was my challenge to the Mubarak family. On the day of my arrest I had published an article in Al-Majalla, a London-based magazine distributed across the Arab world. Let me tell you how that article came about. An Arab satellite station, Orbit, asked me to be an expert commentator during the funeral of the Syrian President, Hafez al-Assad, on June 13 2000. The funeral was a protracted affair lasting several hours and I was live on air taking questions from callers. Two or three questions concerned the political future of Syria and who would succeed Assad. I began to develop an ad hoc theory about political succession in non-democratic regimes. I pointed out that it was easy to predict the future as we could see on our screens that Bashar al-Assad, the oldest surviving son of the deceased President, was meeting all the dignitaries quite as if he was already Head of State. A caller asked how the son could succeed the father without holding a formal position. I said ‘Oh, I am sure the Ba’ath party will get together and fix that’. Another caller pointed out that his age, 34, would debar him. I said ‘Well, even the constitution too can be fixed. They will lower the age-limit from 40 to 30’ (as it turned out they lowered it by constitutional amendment from 40 to 34 they were not even subtle!) One caller wondered if we were seeing a precedent being set in the Arab world, and asked where else this kind of familial succession might take place. I mentioned Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

 

I pointed out that what was common to all four cases was that (1) any President who remains in power for more than ten years develops a sense of ownership of the country; and (2) these are Muslim countries and, according to Sharia laws of inheritance, the father bequeaths his wealth to the oldest son. I suggested this combination could foster a notion that the oldest son has the right to succeed the father in running the country or ‘the family estate’. At this point a caller asked me why I had not included Egypt in this theory. I tried to deflect the question but the caller was persistent. In the end I gave in, acknowledging that it could happen in Egypt, observing that one of Mubarak’s sons was interested in politics.

 

The next day I was called by the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Majalla who asked me to turn my remarks into an article. I did so and it was titled Al Jumlikiya: The Arab Contribution to Politics in the 21st Century. That is a hybrid word I made up. In Arabic it means ‘Republican Monarchy’. The article appeared on the streets on June 30 2000. Well, that morning all the copies were removed from the Egyptian markets, and that night I was arrested. So perhaps I was arrested because I had discussed the subject of succession in an open way – ‘naming names’, so to speak.

 

Other people offered different theories. I had documented the rigging of Egyptian elections in 2005 and was about to train 1,000 monitors for the 2000 Parliamentary elections. In fact, that training was due to begin the next day, July 1. And don’t forget, they didn’t just arrest me. They arrested all 27 people working in the Ibn Khaldun Center which was co-ordinating the training of the monitors. A third theory was that my arrest was due to my frequent defence of minorities, both in Egypt and across the Arab world.

 

Alan Johnson: You suffered several small strokes while in prison. How is your health today?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: After I got out of prison I was in a wheelchair for a year and for a further year I used a cane. I have undergone surgery three times at John Hopkins since I was released, and I am due to have a fourth operation. With each operation my health improves a little and now I can walk, albeit with some difficulty. I have to be very conscious of my balance, I tire easily, and my handwriting leaves a lot to be desired!

 

It was not the decline in my health that upset me most, by the way. It was the destruction of the Ibn Khaldun Center a day or two before my release. Documents and libraries were looted, pictures were destroyed. I had not cried in the previous three years but when I saw what they had done to the Center I cried for the first time during the whole ordeal. It was so senseless and vindictive.

 

The Court of Cassation, Egypt’s High Court, cleared me. It was created in 1923 a legacy of the brief liberal age in Egypt. The High Court has survived Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, and is a saving grace in this miserable country of ours. Not only did the Court acquit me and my colleagues of all charges, it also reprimanded the regime, which was highly unusual. It made it clear that if anyone had tarnished Egypt’s image it had been the executive, and that it was the job of the state to answer charges made by intellectuals, not to imprison them! This was so gratifying – it made the three year ordeal meaningful. The Court affirmed that everything the Ibn Khaldun Center was doing was legitimate, including receiving grants and publishing in foreign languages (the state had attacked me for writing in foreign languages and ‘defaming’ Egypt abroad). Indeed, you might say the manner of the acquittal was more important to me than the acquittal itself.

 

 

The Ibn Khaldun Center

 

Alan Johnson: Please describe the work of the Ibn Khaldun Center.

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: We reopened the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, onJune 30, 2003 – the anniversary of my arrest. We declared June 30 to be Ibn Khaldun day and affirmed that we were back in business with the same agenda: research, advocacy and action for development. We conceive ‘development’ in a broad sense, economic development, democratisation (which we consider to be political development), and the growth of civil society (which we consider the backbone of social development). We are also concerned with minority issues and women’s rights.

 

We created the Ibn Khaldun Center in 1988. For the first three years we focused on research and built a knowledge base. We began to move into advocacy and then into action – the third leg of our work. And that is when we began to step on the regime’s toes and we were attacked, arrested, and thrown behind bars.

 

Today, we continue to conduct research into development, civil society and democratisation in Egypt and the Arab world. We issue annual reports and position papers on current issues. We work to encourage women into Parliament a programme for micro-credit for women and the poor in several areas of Egypt, moves into literacy capability and reproductive health projects. We also support political empowerment through voter registration, and look to organise to become a political power.

 

We hold open forums at the Ibn Khaldun every Tuesday Egypt’s Hyde Park. Every week people come from all over Cairo and outside to listen to speakers and engage in debate. We issue a monthly newsletter called Civil Society and Democratisation of the Arab World, in Arabic and English.

 

And now we are involved in an exciting project to create an Arab Endowment of Democracy. We challenged wealthy Arabs to spare us the charge that when we accept grants from outside the Arab world we are ‘western agents’. A couple have accepted the challenge and now we have seed-corn money to develop the idea of an Arab Democracy Foundation. This is a project I am very excited about. The inaugural conference will take place in April in Doha, in Qatar.

 

 

Part 2: Islam, Modernity, Democracy

 

Alan Johnson: You have long studied Islamic thought and its relationship to modernity, liberalism, democracy. Can you say a little about the competing strains of Islamic thought, their contemporary political meaning, and talk about the balance of forces between these strains today?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: It is important to understand the development of Islamic thinking using an historical approach. I think this means grasping three things.

 

First, Islam came to societies that were very old indeed Egypt and Persia had their own history, culture, and pre-monotheistic religions. So Islam – spread sometimes by the sword, sometimes by preachers – was bound to mix with already existing cultures. By the second Islamic century we begin to detect a mainstream establishment Islam, an oppositionalist stream, and a third that rejected both. And that lasts all the way up to today, as represented by what we call Sunnis, Shias and the Kharagites. Now, the Kharagites have withered away – they are a historical footnote, the remnants are in the Sultanate of Oman, and Algeria. But what did emerge as a real third alternative for people’s hearts was the Sufi stream of Islam. Sufism did not go in for the heavy theological baggage the clergy, literature, the strict body of belief and ritual but offered to meet people’s need for a religious anchor in a more spiritual mode, without the rituals used by the establishment to keep people under control.

 

Second, in every generation, in every age, there is a yearning for the first century of Islam. Youngsters learn in the history books that this was the golden age of Islam when society was virtuous, everybody was god-fearing and society was just. Piety, faith and justice are seen as having given rise to a strong Muslim civilisation and a powerful state. That is the image that our youngsters learn at school. And every generation will dream of reviving that century, and going back to the ‘paradise lost’. Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brothers, Hezbollah, Hamas are all 21st century manifestations of that yearning for paradise lost and the idealisation of the first century of Islam.

 

Third, since the 19th century, Muslims have agonised over a question: why has the West progressed while we have remained behind? And there have been three kinds of answers. The first answer says we have strayed from the straight path of Islam. Sayyid Qutb, one of the main theoreticians of all the militant movements of the last 50 or 60 years, has a book with that very title Ma’alim fil Tariq, or Landmarks on the Road. He means to direct his readers back to the straight path of the pure religion. The second answer says we failed to keep up with the West. During our centuries of stagnation the West caught up and then conquered us. The West triumphed because of its revolutions in science, technology, politics, and economic organisation, so we must emulate the West. Ismail Pasha of Egyptwas an emulator. President Sadat, in his late years, was another admirer of the West. A third answer has been offered by the synthesisers or reconcilers, who deny we have to either go back to the first century of Islam or emulate the West wholesale. They propose to combine the best of our tradition and early heritage with modernity. These three answers have been translated into political ideologies and movements and in today’s Arab world we find them in conflict with one another, sometimes lethal conflict.

 

 

Opening the gates of Ijtihad and the reformation of Islam

 

Alan Johnson: You have argued that ‘freedom is a central Koranic value’ and that from this central value can be elaborated other values ‘like equality, gender equality, human rights, democracy [and] the separation between religion and the state’. On the other hand, you have written that the violent reaction to the Danish cartoons reflected ‘the degradation of the concept of freedom within the Muslim value system’. Can you talk a little about the struggles over the place of freedom in Islamic thought today, and the prospects for a reformation of Islam?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: This is one of the projects we are working on in the Ibn Khaldun Center. On our Board of Trustees is Gamal al-Banna the only surviving brother of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brothers. He is in his mid 80s but lucid. Since he joined he had been pressuring me to start a research action project on Islamic Reformation. Frankly, it wasn’t on my agenda as a pressing issue. But then I was arrested in 2000 and while I was in prison, 9/11 happened. A few days later, Gamal al-Banna wrote to me to say that while he did not know who had committed the terrible acts, he would not rule out that they were young Muslim militants. Recall that the media in this part of the world spent weeks denying that the perpetrators were Arabs. Many people were in deep denial, saying they were CIA or Israeli agents seeking to create a pretext to aggress against the Muslim or Arab world.

 

Al-Banna made me see the importance of the project for Islamic Reformation. His thesis is that Islam as a heritage, as a theology, and as a system of rituals has not experienced the kind of reformation that both Christianity and Judaism have. As a result our Sharia and our Islamic thought have not been critiqued in 1000 years. For ten centuries, Ijtahad the disciplined reinterpretation of the text to cope with and guide our development in changing contexts has been banned by the religious authorities. For the first four centuries rethinking, critique and development were happening all the time. However, according to al-Banna, once the Muslim world began to be encroached on, the Ulema the learned religious authorities closed the gates of ijtihad, citing foreign pressure on the abode of Islam. Any reinterpretation, they said, would be construed as playing to the foreigners. Al-Banna believes that we forgot to re-open the doors of ijtihad and as a result we have not had a new idea in our theology in 1000 years. We must reopen the gates to deal with the 21st century rather than dream of recreating the first Islamic century.

 

The Islamic reformation project has been running for the last three years. We have invited Islamic thinkers from all over the Muslim world, from Tunisia to North America, and posed to them all the questions of the 21st century. And we say, please, as you read the Koran and the basic heritage of Islam, develop 21st century Islamic answers that will help our youngsters to be faithful to their religion and their heritage but also help them to live in the 21st century as full partners, not as enemies and not as warriors.

 

Democrats and moderate Islamists: a strategic alliance?

 

Alan Johnson: You have argued for an alliance of sorts between democrats and ‘moderate’ Islamists. In August 2006 you wrote that ‘Mainstream Islamists with broad support developed civic dispositions and services to provide are the most likely actors in building a new Middle East’. And in December 2006 you complained about an ‘unjustified fear of modern Islamists’ and called for a policy of dialogue and inclusion, saying ‘Hamas, Hezbollah, Muslim Brothers – these people you cannot get rid of; you have to deal with them the name of the game is inclusion’. You deny that these organisations are inimical to democracy, pointing out that Islamists have nowhere come to power via elections and then reneged on democracy. Warning that ‘the Islamist scare is propagated and marketed by autocratic regimes to intimidate the middle class and the West, to ward off any serious democratic reforms,’ you have urged a positive response to Hamas and Hezbollah’s participation in elections. While you warn that ‘no sober analyst would consider this a final commitment by Islamists to democracy,’ you believe ‘the process of transforming them into Muslim democrats is clearly under way’. Now, these views have raised some eyebrows. Can you set out your thinking?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: After 9/11 at the same time as I was being pressured by Gamal al-Banna to launch a project for an Islamic Reformation I was engaging the Islamists in prison. Everyone was shaken up by 9/11 and so open to discussion. On my release, the comrades of these Islamists contacted me and proposed we continue the dialogue. We did for a few months and then one asked a question why has the outside world raised such a fuss about you and not about our comrades, even though they have been rotting for 25 years? They asked why the BBC talked about my case but not theirs. I reminded them that I was perceived as sharing core values with human rights groups around the world. They asked what these core values were. I told them: belief in democracy, freedom, human rights, equality, tolerance, diversity. They claimed to share those values. I said, ‘Have you guys forgotten that I studied you 25 years ago? You did not have those values then!’ They claimed to have changed in prison, having rethought their ideas. I said: well, your image is still one of bloodthirsty, violent, intolerant fanatics. They asked how they could change their image. I told them: the same way you created it, by your actions and rhetoric and writings. They claimed to feel morally responsible for what happened on 9/11. I said: begin to write in a different way. They wrote four small volumes revisiting their beliefs, and these were smuggled out of prison and published. These were published under the name El Moragiat which in Arabic means the revisiting or the revising.

 

The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brothers held a press conference on March 30, 2004, fully supporting democracy. Of course there remain doubts about whether they are really committed. But at another level they do seem to have moved. I am optimistic. I say we should give Islamists a chance to show whether they are truly committed to these core values or not. There is nothing to lose. Instead of a bloodbath every generation, let us see if they can evolve.

 

What helped me in this dialogue with the Islamists, inside prison and outside, was the assumption of power by the Justice and Development Party in Turkey towards the end of 2002, and the similar development in Morocco. That gave the dialogue credence and reminded me that Islamists are not metaphysical abstractions but human beings in time and space – historic forces subject to change like everybody else. They are not beyond change or reform.

 

Alan Johnson: But what of the danger of an Iranian development? Did the Iranian left not commit a grievous error in making that kind of alliance, literally digging its own grave? How can that be avoided?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: Well, this is the question that is raised all the time. Iran, Afghanistan, and Sudan are cases in which Islamists came to power not through the ballot box but through a coup or a revolution. But when Islamists were given the chance via the ballot box they have not reneged on the rules. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and other countries, Islamists who came to power through the ballot box left power through the ballot box. Look, I am as concerned as you are, being a secularist and a civil society advocate. I hear your question if they come to power will it be ‘one man, one vote, one time,’ or will they leave office if voted out by the majority? But I would like to keep that question alive, as an open question.

 

 

Engaging Hamas

 

So, in April 2006 I took my students to Palestine to engage Hamas. They were studying social movements and had asked me whether the theory that an extremist movement elected to power will moderate over time would hold true for Hamas. I said, ‘Well, let’s go to Palestine and talk to Hamas!’ We sat in the Parliament seats in Ramallah and the cabinet members who were in town – including the Deputy Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House – sat at the podium as if they were on trial, and we debated for six hours. The Hamas representatives said, ‘Yes, we may change, but we have not had a chance to breathe. We were elected one month ago and from day we have been under siege by the US, the EU and Israel’. They reminded us that it took Egypt 30 years to recognise Israel but they were being asked to make the same journey in 30 days. They said they needed to educate their constituents and it would take time. Some of us were convinced by that and some were not. But we kept the question open.

 

I have also met with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, in his hideout. He claimed the only violence they have used has been against Israel – they do not use violence against the other Lebanese forces or the government but organise demonstrations and sit-ins instead Nasrallah even quoted my earlier work at me, on the role of civil disobedience in democracies.

 

So I am encouraging people like Hassan Nasrallah, like Mahdi Akef of the Muslim Brothers, and like Ismail Haniya in Palestine. These forces are quite aware of my writing, of what I am doing, and none decline to see me. As I say, I have more influence outside Egypt than inside at the moment.

 

Alan Johnson: You are drawing a distinction between different kinds of Islamism and suggesting that there are forms of Islamism that democrats can work with. Do you have a larger strategic goal of realigning the political map of your region by realigning the relationship between the democrats and the ‘moderate’ Islamists?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: Absolutely. I want to get the Islamists who are willing to play by the democratic rules into the mainstream.

 

I had an experience with King Hussein that is important in this regard. I happened to be the Secretary General of the Arab Forum, in Amman, between 1985 and 1990. In that capacity King Hussein

 

Hussein would call on me occasionally, to discuss, to josh and joke. He felt more able to let his guard down with me, I guess, being an outsider. When the food riots broke out in Jordanin 1988 he summoned me for my assessment. I asked him why he had lifted the food price subsidies. He said the Arab summit in Baghdad in 1978 had extended an aid package toJordan, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon the countries that surrounded Israel to dissuade them from following Sadat by striking a peace agreement with Israel. It was a ten-year package and the ten years were up. And now the World Bank and the IMF were on his back to get his fiscal affairs in shape, so he had no choice but to remove the food price subsidies. I said, ‘Your Majesty, why have you not gone on TV and explained all this to your people?’ He asked what I meant. I beat around the bush, and talked about civil partnerships, freedoms and so on, but he interrupted and asked, ‘Do you mean democracy?’ I said, ‘Yes, your majesty, I do’.

 

But then he asked the same question you have asked: ‘Saad, what do we do about the Islamists?’ I advised him to bring them in, along with all other political forces, and make them sign a kind of Magna Carta – a National Charter detailing the rules of the game. A conference was called at which Islamists, Baathists, Nasserites, Communists, everybody participated and agreed a revised Charter. The first multiparty elections were duly held and the King’s fear duly materialised: the Islamists won the biggest bloc of seats. (By the way, note which portfolios they chose social development, education, culture, media, and religious endowments (Al Kauf). These are the same type of portfolios as Hamas recently chose the people-oriented ones. The Islamists understand the battle is for hearts and minds.)

 

But then the Islamic Front Ministers overplayed their hands. Education and Social Affairs were very feminised ministries – a lot of women worked there. When an Islamist Minister dictated that all employees must veil, and another declared that none should go to a male hairdresser, the women got very upset and marched to the Royal Palace. The King called me and said, ‘Saad, do you see what is happening?’ I said, ‘Yes, but that is democracy, your Majesty’. I advised him to say to the women that they have come to the wrong address, and they should be marching to Parliament or to the Cabinet instead. He met the women, expressed his sympathy, told the women that his wife and daughter were unveiled, and invited the women to redirect their marches. They did and kept marching for two weeks until they forced those Islamist cabinet members to resign. Everything was peaceful. In the following election the Islamists’ vote fell.

 

Look, what is the alternative to engaging the Islamists? We can’t engage in bloodbaths. Of course, I would not include people who do not agree to respect the rules of the game. But I would encourage those who say they do accept the rules.

 

 

The theory of ‘Muslim or Arab Exceptionalism’

 

Alan Johnson: A common objection to your optimism is the thesis of ‘Muslim and Arab Exceptionalism’ i.e. the notion that there is something in ‘Muslim and Arab culture’ that is fundamentally incompatible with democracy, and that this incompatibility is the reason the third wave of democratisation broke on the Arab shores of the Mediterranean. Is the exceptionalist thesis wrong? If so, why has the Arab world – and I say Arab rather than Muslim – resisted democratisation thus far?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: Well, here is my answer to the exceptionalist thesis. The world today has 1.4 billion Muslims. Two-thirds are living under democratically elected governments. One-third are not. Granted the two-thirds may not always be living under a Westminster-type system, but Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Senegal, Nigeria are not very different from the general state of the democracies in other areas that experienced third wave democratisation Latin America, East Asia, Southern and Central Europe.

 

The one-third of Muslims who have been left behind are concentrated in the Arab world. OK, if there is no Muslim exceptionalism, is there an Arab exceptionalism? I have examined that proposition and here is what I concluded. According to Samuel Huntingdon’s book, The Third Wave: Democratization in the late Twentieth Century (1991), there have been three great waves of democracy. He dates the first from 1828-1926, the second from 1942-1962, and the third from the Portugese revolution of 1974. I examined the interaction of the Arab world with these three waves of democratisation. To my delight I found that Egypt, the biggest Arab country, was part of that first wave. We had our first constitution in 1866 and our first election for a Parliament was held the same year. But that first liberal age in Egyptwas aborted by your fellow compatriots! The British occupation of Egypt began in 1882, only 16 years after the experiment began. During the second wave of democratisation, in the inter-war period, Egypt is also represented. In 1919 we had a revolution against the British and enjoyed an independence of sorts. Egypt began a second liberal age – we created a constitution in 1923, and the very High Court that acquitted me in 2003, and there were elections. This evolution was aborted by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Since then, all of the countries around Palestine – which had had their own liberal age to varying degrees suffered a series of coup d’etats. Syria in 1949, Egypt in 1952, Iraq in 1958. In each case the communiqus issued by the Coup Officers highlighted the defeat of 1948 and blamed it on the liberal governments. Since 1948, the issue of Palestine, rightly or wrongly, has been cynically used by dictators to delay and obstruct any true democratic reforms.

 

A careful historical analysis of the interaction of the Arab world with the West during the three waves of democratisation is better suited to explaining why the one-third of Muslims concentrated in the Arab world have not yet undergone democratisation than the metaphysical thesis of Arab cultural exceptionalism. Look, I know we don’t need such metaphysics because I grew up in a home that had a Member of Parliament!

 

 

Part 3: The symbiotic relationship between autocracy and theocracy

 

Alan Johnson: Some of your most important writings have highlighted the symbiotic nature of the relationship between autocracy and theocracy. You have written that, ‘So long as the entrenched autocrats of the Muslim world continue to deny their peoples equal rights of participation, there will always be disaffected dissidents who may resort to extreme ideologies and violent practices. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries excluded Muslims rallied to theocrats bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi to combat the autocrats Mubarak, Assad, Fahd, and Musharraf. The autocrats and theocrats are mirror-images: both are exclusive’. In what sense is the autocrat-theocrat relationship ‘symbiotic’ and what are the political implications of this?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: The public space is absolutely dominated by autocrats who have been entrenched for 50 years, and theocrats who have been challenging the autocrats for the last 30 years – since the Iranian revolution. The small reviving constituency of the democrats is totally outmatched. Yes, I say the autocrats need the theocrats. How so? Well, the autocrats skilfully and cynically use the theocrats as a bogeyman to frighten not only the West but also their own middle classes and non-Muslim minorities. The autocrats believe that if they can continue to confront the west and their own people with a stark choice the theocrats or us then their power is secure. In Egypt in 2005, 77% of the registered voters abstained because they did not want either the autocrats or the theocrats. The regime had destroyed the democratic middle ground that could have galvanised the voters. Ayman Nour who leads a liberal democratic party called Al Ghad was arrested in 2005 and has just completed his two years in prison.

 

In 2006 the West got scared of democracy-promotion because of the election of Hamas and the Muslim Brothers winning 88 seats – one-fifth of the Egyptian Parliament. Mubarak used this result to argue that democracy was being pushed too fast. We democrats must respond by pointing out that Islamists will get 20-25% of the vote in free elections, at least for the foreseeable future. Fear of the Islamists can’t be used to block democracy for the rest. And if the Islamists get 45% of the vote and form a government then we democrats have to have confidence that they will discover the world is not black and white, that they too can be pressured, and they too will have to compromise. I am not worried about that. I am worried when the West swallows uncritically what the autocrats say. The real antidote to the symbiotic relationship between autocracy and theocracy is a politics of inclusion and democratic governance. When Muslims join the third wave of democracy that started in Portugal in 1974, al-Qaeda will join al-Hashashin in the dustbin of history.

 

Alan Johnson: When you were released from prison in 2003 you addressed a conference in Washington DC on the theme of US support for democracy-promotion and said, ‘I hope the United States will have the sustainability, the consistency to see it through, along with indigenous forces that will build their own democracy.’ What would you have Western governments say and do?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: We don’t want you to enforce things like you did in Iraq. Just withhold your support from the autocrats until they open up the system. You did that with economic reform but you did not do it with political reform. You imposed conditionalities to liberalise the economy but you hesitate to use conditionality to open up the political space.

 

First, tell the autocrats to open up the system. Second, tell the autocrats to end the use of ’emergency’ laws (such as those that have been in place in Egypt since Sadat’s death). Third, pressure the autocrats to free up the public space we need freedom of association, expression, organisation, and access to the media and cyberspace. I can’t reach the 77% of Egyptians who didn’t vote. Here, in the Ibn Khaldun Center, I can say anything I want to you. On Tuesday I can host the open forum, and everyone can speak their mind. But we can’t organise a rally outside the building. I need a permit from the state security and I won’t get one. And if I organise without a permit I get thrown in jail. Fourth, insist on free elections, internationally monitored. With these measures in place then in five years we would have a robust democratic life in Egypt. The 77% would come out and participate. After all, the same middle class people who don’t vote in elections vote heavily in their professional associations. My plea to those who live in democratic societies is to pressure your own governments to abstain from supporting the autocrats until our political space is opened up. Use your liberty to help us obtain ours.

 

 

Part 4: Whither Iraq?

 

Alan Johnson: In your view can the continued presence of the coalition play a positive role in Iraq with new policies as well as new force levels, perhaps – or is it now time to go?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: First, it is time to redeploy. The coalition should withdraw from all the major population centres, where the presence of coalition forces invites resistance automatically. Even if the occupiers were angels, occupation always calls forth resistance. The coalition forces should go to Kurdistan, where they are still perceived as liberators, and to Kuwait, where the people are still grateful to the coalition for their liberation from Saddam 17 years ago. The coalition would then remain in a few hours’ flying time should the Iraqi government need to call on it.

 

Second, it is time to reconstitute the Iraqi army. Iraq needs a big strong army and time is of the essence. Across the long porous borders come the outside fighters and this must be stopped. It is taking longer than expected to train a new Iraqi army. Middle rank officers and lower rank privates from the old army were let go in the early weeks of the occupation being unemployed they were attracted to the resistance. As many as possible should now be brought back into service, apart from a small group at the top, even if the majority were Baathists. If they come from the Sunni triangle then the people from that area will see that their brothers and sons and fathers are back in that army. They will be less hostile and they will feel more part of the new Iraq.

 

Third, it is time for a new neighbourhood policy in which you talk to every neighbour, including Iran. It is a luxury to pick and select whom to talk to when you have a complex problem like the one created by the coalition in Iraq.

 

Alan Johnson: Can I probe you on that last point? You wrote that ‘[A] seasoned regional observer noted on the second anniversary of the Iraq war that the continued debacle of the US coalition forces was not just attributable to insurgent forces of all kinds, but was also a result of Middle Eastern autocratic regimes joining forces in hope that the Iraqi democratic experiment would fail spectacularly, thus giving them a new lease on life’. Why do you now think these countries can be brought into the process of stabilising Iraq?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: Well, four of the neighbours Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey are on good terms with the US. And Turkey is definitely interested in having a democratic society next door, as is Kuwait. Jordan would also benefit from having a democratic neighbour. Now, Syria and Iran will involve hard bargaining, of course. Syria is ready for a bargain if you can persuade Israel to engage in a serious negotiation to withdraw from theGolan Heights. Syria does not have the resources of Iraq, and is being challenged byLebanon, so with a face-saving formula Syria may co-operate. I repeat, Syria does not have the resources of Iran, so could not withstand sanctions. Iran would probably be willing to cooperate if you can let Iran get away with the nuclear issue. Can you? That is where you have to make the decision yourself, as the West.

 

 

Sunni and Shia

 

Alan Johnson: President Mubarak stated in a recent interview on Al-Arabia that ‘the Shi’ites only allegiance is to Iran rather than to their own countries.’ You responded to that by publicly apologising to the Shia. The Sunni establishment in Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been making similar noises questioning the ‘loyalty’ of the Shia. And we have this ghastly sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia in Iraq. To what extent is this elite hostility towards the Shia shared at the Sunni grassroots?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: In the middle class and the working class there is a lot of marriage and co-habitation and mixed neighbourhoods. This kind of sectarian strife is new to the Iraqis. There was always resentment among the Shia about discrimination and exclusion from power, but there were enough Shia in power to mitigate that grudge. The sectarianism today is basically from people who had power and have lost it, the Sunni leadership. They are trying to persuade the entire Sunni community to share their fear and resentment and so join their fight. They seek to heighten the Sunnis’ fear of the Shia and the Kurds to persuade them to fight.

 

I have written that the Shia and the Kurds should be more accommodating they should give the Sunni more than their ‘share’. You see, the Sunni all know deep in their hearts that the old situation can’t be recreated. So, help them to come to an accommodation. There may well be a moment of opportunity here. There is a societal fatigue in Iraq because of the bloodshed. And that is usually when you can strike a deal when everyone is tired and wants a way out. It is not yet a civil war, and I don’t think it will become a civil war. But without Sunni support Iraq will suffer a series of bloody, random, sectarian explosions and eruptions of anger, making it difficult for any government to govern.

 

Alan Johnson: What are you working on now?

 

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: The creation of an Arab Endowment for Democracy, for which I am heading back to Beirut for more discussions. We are hoping to hold our inaugural meeting in the first week of April and I’d like to invite you to that meeting. At this time I am engaged more in activism than my scholarly work, but I hope that before too long I can turn back to the three or four books I have in me, including my own memoirs.

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THE MODERATE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

 

Robert S.Leiken and Steven Brooke

foreign affairs. Volume 86 No.2

http://www.nixoncenter.org/publications/LeikenBrookeMB.pdf

 

friend or foe?

The Muslim Brotherhood is the worldsoldest,largest,and most influential Islamist organization. It is also the most controversial, condemned by both conventional opinion in the West and radical opinion in the Middle East. American commentators have called the Muslim Brothers radical Islamists and a vital component of the enemys assault force … deeply hostile to the United States. Al Qaedas Ayman al-Zawahiri sneers at them for lur[ing] thousands of young Muslim men into lines for elections … instead of into the lines of jihad. Jihadists loathe the Muslim Brotherhood (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen) for rejecting global jihad and embracing democracy. These positions seem to make them moderates, the very thing the United States, short on allies in the Muslim world, seeks.

 

But the Ikhwan also assails U.S. foreign policy, especially Washingtons support for Israel, and questions linger about its actual commitment to the democratic process.

 

Over the past year, we have met with dozens of Brotherhood leaders and activists fromEgypt, France, Jordan, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. In long and sometimes heated discussions, we explored the Brotherhoods stance on democracy and jihad,Israel and Iraq, the United States, and what sort of society the group seeks to create.The Brotherhood is a collection of national groups with diªering outlooks,and the various factions disagree about how best to advance its mission. But all reject global jihad while embracing elections and other features of democracy. There is also a current within the Brotherhood willing to engage with the United States. In the past several decades, this currentalong with the realities of practical politicshas pushed much of the Brotherhood toward moderation.

 

U.S.policymaking has been handicapped by Washingtons tendency to see the Muslim Brotherhoodand the Islamist movement as a wholeas a monolith. Policymakers should instead analyze each national and local group independently and seek out those that are open to engagement. In the anxious and often fruitless search for Muslim moderates,policymakers should recognize that the Muslim Brotherhood presents a notable opportunity.

 

big brothers

Since its founding in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has sought to fuse religious revival with anti-imperialismresistance to foreign domination through the exaltation of Islam. At its begin- ning, the Brotherhood diªered from earlier reformers by combining a profoundly Islamic ideology with modern grass-roots political activism.The Brotherhood pursued an Islamic society through tarbiyya (preaching and educating),concentrating first on changing the outlook of individuals,then families,and finallysocieties.Although the Brother- hoods origins were lower-middle class,it soon pushed Islamization into the local bourgeoisie and then clear to the palace. At the same time, it formed the armed Special Apparatus, replicating Young Egypts Greenshirts, the Wafds Blueshirts, nascent Nazi Brown- shirts, and other paramilitary organizations that were rife in the Middle East at the time.

 

In 1948, with civil strife looming, the Egyptian government dis- solved the Brotherhood. Later that year, a number of Brothers were implicated in the murder of the prime minister. Despite his public denunciation of the assassins, Hasan al-Banna, the Brotherhoods founder, was soon assassinated as wellleaving the factionalized Brothers squabbling over a successor.

 

In a gesture of conciliation to the palace (and also to prevent a single faction from dominating),the Brotherhood chose an outsider, the respected judge Hasan al-Hudaybi,to succeed Banna as its leader.

 

The Brotherhood seems to dissuade Muslims

from violence, channeling them

into politics and charity.

 

Hudaybis selection coincided with the military coup that toppled the Egyptian monarchy.The Free Officers Movement,led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser and his successor, Anwar al-Sadat, had worked closely with the Muslim Brothers, who were attracted by the soldiers nationalist stance and Islamic rhetoric. But the Free O⁄cers promise to Islamize the new constitution soon proved illusory. An embittered member of the Brotherhoods paramilitary Special Apparatus emptied a pistol at Nasser during a speech,prompt- ing the new regime to herd into Nassers squalid jails much of the organization,few members of which had any inkling of the hair-brained assassination adventure. Nasser, uninjured and unfazed, emerged as a stoic hero,the Brotherhoodsnotorious Special Apparatus as the gang that could not shoot straight.

 

In prison, the guards applied the kind of torture that would make Arab nationalism infamous, in Egypt as well as in Iraq and foreign affairs  Syria.The Brothers wounds throbbed with fateful questions: How could those who stood shoulder to shoulder with us against the British and the king now set their dogs on us? Can those tormenting devout Muslims really be Muslims themselves? Sayyid Qutb, then the Ikhwans most profound thinker,produced an answer that would echo into the twenty-first century: these were the acts of apostates, kafireen. Accordingly, the torturers and their regime were legitimate targets of jihad.

 

But from his own cell, Hudaybi disputed Qutbs conclusion. Only God, he believed, could judge faith. He rejected takfir (the act of declaring another Muslim an apostate), arguing that whoever judges that someone is no longer a Muslim … deviates from Islam and transgresses Gods will by judging another persons faith.  Within the Brotherhood, Hudaybis tolerant viewin line with Bannas founding visionprevailed, cementing the groups moderate vocation. But it appalled the takfiris, who streamed out of the Brotherhood.

 

Qutb, who breathed his last on Nassers gallows in 1966, went on to become the prophet and martyr of jihad. Qutb has influenced all those interested in jihad throughout the Islamic world, said a founding member of al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya,an erstwhile jihadist group known for its vicious campaign against foreign tourists in Egypt during the 1980s.The Brothers, he continued sadly, have abandoned the ideas of Sayyid Qutb. The Ikhwan followed the path of toleration and eventually came to find democracy compatible with its notion of slow Islamization.

 

An Islamic society, the idea goes, will naturally desire Islamic leaders and support them at the ballot box. The Ikhwan also repeatedly justified democracy on Islamic grounds by certifying that the umma [the Muslim community] is the source of sulta [political authority]. In pursuit of popular authority, the Brotherhood has formed electoral alliances with secularists, nationalists, and liberals.

 

Having lost the internal struggle for the Brotherhood,the radicals regrouped outside it, in sects that sought to topple regimes through- out the Muslim world. (Groups such as al Jihad would furnish the Egyptian core of al Qaeda.) These jihadists view the Brotherhoods embrace of democracy as blasphemy. Channeling Qutb, they argue that any government not ruling solely by sharia is apostate; democracy is not just a mistaken tactic but also an unforgivable sin, because it gives humans sovereignty over Allah.Osama bin Ladens lieutenant, Zawahiri, calls it the deification of the people. Abu Hamza al-Masri, the one-eyed radical cleric who presided over Londons notorious Finsbury Park mosque, considers democracy the call of self-divinity loud and clear, in which the rights of one group of people, who have put their idea to vote, have put their ideas and their decisions over the decisions of Allah.  Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (whom a recent West Point study found to be the most influential living jihadist thinker) inveighs, Democracy is obvious polytheism and thus just the kind of infidelity that Allah warns against, in His Book. Many analysts, meanwhile, sensibly question whether the Broth- erhoods adherence to democracy is merely tactical and transitory an opportunistic commitment to -,in the historian Bernard Lewiswords, one man, one vote, one time. Behind that warning is an extensive history of similar cadre organizations that promised democracy and then recanted once in power: the Bolsheviks, the Nazis, the Baath Party in Iraq and Syria, even the Nasserists. There is slim evidence that the Brotherhood has pondered what it would do with power.

 

Although it has been prodded by the electoral process to define its sloganIslam Is the SolutionIslamist governmental blueprints are scarce, even ones as sketchy as Lenins State and Revolution or Marxs Critique of the Gotha Program.

 

But in at least one respect, the Brotherhood diªers from those admonitory precedents: its road to power is not revolutionary; it depends on winning hearts through gradual and peaceful Islamization.

 

Under this Fabian strategy, the Brotherhood seeks a compact with the powers that beoffering a channel for discontent while slowly expanding its influence. As one senior member told us, It would be unjust if the Brotherhood were to come to power before a majority of the society is prepared to support them.  Another Ikhwan leader told us that if the Brotherhood should rule unwisely and then face electoral defeat, we will have failed the people and the new party will have the right to come to power. We will not take away anyones rights. And in extensive conversations with the Muslim Brotherhoods disparate allies throughout the Middle East, we heard many expressions of confidence that it would honor democratic processes.

 

 internal debates

Middle Eastern jails, petrodollars, geopolitical rivalries, and the Muslim Awakening have given rise to a highly variegated Islamist movement. Unfortunately, nuance is lost in much of current Western discourse. Herding these diªerent beasts into a single conceptual corral labeled Salafi or Wahhabi ignores the diªerences and fault lines between themand has thwarted strategic thinking as a result.

 

When we asked Muslim Brothers in the Middle East and Europe whether they considered themselves Salafists (as they are frequently identified),they usually met our question with a Clintonian response: That depends on what your definition of Salafist is.If by Salafism we meant the modernist, renaissance Islam of Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh (turn-of-the-twentieth-century reformers who influenced Banna),then yes, they were Salafists.  Yet the ubiquitous Web site www.salafipublications.com, which is run by Salafists who believe that religion should never mix with politics and that existing rulers should be supported almost unconditionally, attacks Afghani and Abduh for being far away from the Salafi aqidah [creed]. (This is the view,for obvious reasons, of the Saudi religious establishment.) Such pietists, most of whom were trained in o⁄cial Saudi institutions, argue that the Brotherhoods participation in politics has converted them into the Bankrupt Brotherhood.  According to one, The Muslim Brothers have political goals and strategies, which induce them to make concessions to the West.  For us, the Salafists, the goal is purely religious. Other critics speculate that the Brotherhood helps radicalize Muslims in both the Middle East and Europe.  But in fact, it appears that the Ikhwan works to dissuade Muslims from violence, instead channeling them into politics and charitable activities. As a senior member of the Egyptian Brotherhoods Guidance Council told us in Cairo, If it wasnt for the Brotherhood, most of the youths of this era would have chosen the path of violence.  The Ikhwan has become a safety valve for moderate Islam.  The leader of the Jordanian Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhoods political party in Jordan, said that his group outdoes the government in discouraging jihad: Were better able to conduct an intellectual confrontation, and not a security confrontation, with the forces of extremism and fanaticism.  In London, Brotherhood leaders contrasted their approach to that of radical groups, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (ht), that seek to bring society to a boiling point. The Brotherhood claims success at sifting radicalism out of its ranks through organizational discipline and a painstaking educational program. (One Muslim Brother noted that the organizations motto could be Listen and Obey.) If a Muslim Brother wishes to commit violence, he generally leaves the organization to do so. That said, a number of militants have passed through the Brotherhood since its inception, and the path from the Brotherhood to jihad is not buried in sand. Defections have historically occurred when the organization has faced a conjunction of internal and external pressures, as when the takfiri element emerged under repression to produce the Egyptian jihadist movement.  Today, how- ever, Brothers who leave the organization are more likely to join the moderate center rather than to take up jihad. In the mid-1990s, internal dissent over registering as a political party occurred in the context of a government crackdown against a jihadist assault. These pressures resulted in an exodus of Brothers, many of whom formed the core of the liberal Islamist wasatiyya movement, including the moderate Hizb al-Wasat (Center Party).

 

One issue of enduring concern is Qutbs ambiguous legacy in the Brotherhood. Critiquing the martyr, as Qutb is known, requires a surgeons touch: he died in the service of the organization yet had strayed far from the founders vision. Even Hudaybis Preachers,Not Judges,an indirect but clear refutation of Qutb,never mentions him.

 

Today, the Brotherhood lionizes Qutb, admittedly a major figure whose views cannot be reduced to jihad. But it straddles a barbed fence in embracing Qutb while simultaneously arguing that his violent teachings were taken out of context. What lessons will younger members tempted to radical action draw?  While jihadists have been sorting out the finer points of international slaughter, the Ikhwan has hunkered down to pursue national goals.  In the November 2005 legislative elections in Egypt, independent candidates allied with the Ikhwan, which is officially banned but still tolerated, won a surprising 20 percent of the assemblyespecially impressive considering widespread government fraud and voter intimidation.  In the new parliament, the Brotherhood has coordinated its legislative efforts by forming an internal experts committee, nicknamed the parliamentary kitchen, that groups Brotherhood candidates according to their specialties. Instead of pursuing a divisive religious or cultural agenda, the Brotherhood has pushed for more affordable housing,  criticized the governments handling of the avian flu threat, and demanded account- ability for the recent series of bus, train, and ferry disasters.

 

These electoral advances and moderate, practical criticisms have made for an increasingly tense relationship with the Egyptian government. The Ikhwans electoral gains were followed, in May 2006, by their support for judicial reform and independence. President Hosni Mubaraks suspected preparations for handing over power to his son Gamal have led to further crackdowns on the opposition.

 

Such pressure exacerbates differences between various tendencies in the Egyptian Brotherhood.  Since the 1980s,middle-class professionals have pushed it in a more transparent and flexible direction.  Working within labor unions and professional organizations, these reformers have learned to forge coalitions with and provide services to their constituents. A leader of the reformist faction told us, Reform will only happen if Islamists work with other forces, including secularists and liberals.  This current finds a comfortable home within the Egyptian umbrella movement Kifaya (Enough!),which embraces the Brotherhood along with all manner of secularists, liberals, nationalists, and leftists. Kifaya was born in fervent opposition to the war in Iraq and now forms the battered core of Egyptian democratic opposition.

 

(It is ironic that a war waged in the name of promoting democracy has midwifed a democratic front in Egypt that is at odds with the United States and its war.) The Brotherhoods reformist wing contends with conservatives in high positions in the organization who bear the scars of repression and secrecy. The sharpest divisions have occurred over the issue of forming a political party, a key plank of the reformist agenda. Doing so, reformists argue, would serve the broader goals of the organization by giving the Brotherhood a platform to spread its message to an otherwise unavailable audience. The conservatives argue that a party should be an annex to the movement, devoted solely to politics.

 

Meanwhile, the Brotherhooods social movement would perform tasks outside of politics, such as charity, education, and health.

 

brotherly love or sibling rivalry?

Although the Egyptian branch remains the most influential Brotherhood group, offshoots have prospered throughout the Middle East and Europe. But there is no Islamist Comintern. The Brotherhoods dreaded International Organization is in fact a loose and feeble coalition scarcely able to convene its own members.

 

Indeed, the Brotherhoods international debility is a product of its local successes: national autonomy and adjustability to domestic conditions. The ideological affiliations that link Brotherhood organizations internationally are subject to the national priorities that shape each individually.

 

Suppressed throughout much of the Middle East, the Brother- hood spread across the Arab world and, via students and exiles, to Europe. In the early 1980s, the Egyptian Ikhwan sought to establish coordination among dozens of national offspring. But opposition was universal. Right next door, the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood powerhouse Hasan al-Turabi protested,  You cannot run the world from Cairo. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Kuwaiti Muslim Brothers objected to the acquiescence of the International Organization and withdrew, taking with them their plump wallets.

 

The U.S.-installed government in Iraq is another apple of discord.

 

While Muslim Brothers throughout the Middle East and Europe inveighed against the puppet Iraqi government, the Iraqi branch of the Muslim Brotherhood sat prominently in the Iraqi Parliament.

 

More recently, the alliance between the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and Abdel Halim Khaddam, the dissident former Syrian vice president, has been widely offensive to other Brotherhood branches.  The war in Lebanon last summer sharpened that divide, as the Syrian Brothers leaped to denounce President Bashar al-Assads meddling in Lebanon, while the rest of the Brotherhood rallied behind Hezbollah.

 

The national branches also have divergent views of the United States.

 

In Egypt and Jordan, even as it has considered a partnership with Washington against autocracy and terrorism, the Brotherhood, driven partly by electoral concerns, has harshly criticized the United States.

 

The Syrian Brotherhood, meanwhile, keenly supports the Bush administrations efforts to isolate the Assad regime; the kind of inflammatory anti-U.S. statements typical in Jordanand Egypt are rare in Syria.

 

Even on the central issue of Israel, each national organization calls its own tune. Every Muslim Brotherhood leader with whom we spoke claimed a willingness to follow suit should Hamas the Palestinian offshoot of the Brotherhoodrecognize the Jewish state. Such earnest professions may be grounded in the confident assumption of Hamas recalcitrance, but that position nonetheless stands in sharp relief to that of most jihadists. As Zawahiri expresses the jihadist view, No one has the right, whether Palestinian or not, to abandon a grain of soil from Palestine, which was a Muslim land, which was occupied by infidels. The Brotherhood does authorize jihad in countries and territories occupied by a foreign power. Like in Afghanistan under the Soviets, the Ikhwan views the struggles in Iraq and against Israel as defensive jihad against invaders, the Muslim functional equivalent of the Christian doctrine of just war. However, the Brotherhoods failure to stress the religious dimension incenses the jihadists, who mock the Brotherhood (including Hamas) for conducting jihad for the sake of territory rather than for the sake of Allah. Compare the statement from the Brotherhoods Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who argues that the enmity between us and the Jews is for the sake of land only, with this one from Zawahiri: God, glory to him, made the religion the cause of enmity and the cause of our fight. Muslim Brothers expressly deny their organization is anti-Semitic.

 

The current Egyptian general guide, Muhammad Mahdi Akef, argues that there is no conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jews, only between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Zionists (who, Akef told us,are not Jews).  Despite these denials, Brotherhood literature has expressed hatred for all Jews, not just Zionists.  The October 1980 childrens supplement to the Brotherhood newspaper AlDawa, for example, was designed to instruct young children on the enemies of your religion: Such are the Jews, my brother, Muslim lion cub, your enemies and the enemies of God. … Muslim lion cub, annihilate their existence.  But in a recent sermon at a Somali mosque in North London, Kamal El Helbawireportedly the most influential Muslim Brother in the United Kingdomdeclared that to be a good Muslim, faith was not enough. After faith there was neighborliness, and Helbawi related a story: The well-known scholar Abdullah Ibn al-Mubarak had a Jewish neighbor.  The Jew wanted to sell his house.  The buyers asked him the price, and he said,  Two thousand.  They said to him, But your house is only worth one thousand.  He said, Yes, but I want one thousand for my house and another one thousand because of the good neighbour whom I am going to leave behind. After the service, we asked Helbawi whether recent news accounts of Muslim anti-Semitism in the English Midlands inspired his sermon,which publicly lauded a Jew for displaying a sacred Islamic virtue.Precisely, he replied.

 

Islamists have been accused of using deceptive double discourse: good moderate cop in English, bad fundamentalist cop in Arabic. A recent article in the journal Current Trends in Islamist Ideology found worrying discrepancies between the English and Arabic versions of certain articles on the official Muslim Brotherhood Web site.  But Helbawis sermon was delivered exclusively in English, with no restatement in Arabic.  This public, on-the-record display was far more persuasive than the usual Brotherhood spin separating anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism.

 

brothers abroad

In Europe, Brotherhood-led groups represent minorities in secular, democratic countries, and they understand that they will remain minorities for the foreseeable future. None actively pursues the objective of converting its compatriots to Islam. Instead, the emphasis falls on the rights of religious minorities. (Ironically, the European Brotherhood- inspired organizations take full advantage of Europes extreme official religious tolerance, inspired by the experience of Nazi anti-Semitism.) One example of the Brotherhoods European approach came after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad last year. Although its transnational networks helped spread the word about the cartoons, all branches officially called for peaceful protest.

 

The Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, a grouping of the most important European Brotherhood-led bodies, condemned the European papers that printed the cartoons but hardly in stinging terms. Although it criticized the cartoons for hurt[ing] the feelings of Muslims, it devoted more space to calling for increased cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims.  The jihadists, in contrast, were offering blood money for the heads of the cartoonists and coordinating embassy burning days. In France, the sheer number of Muslims, alarming press and government reports about the Islamization of schools, radical garage mosques, clamorous Muslim protests against Israel, desecrations of Jewish graveyards, attacks on uncovered women, and several foiled terrorist plots have created the general impression, inside and outside the country, of a powerful rising Islamism. That is why a number of French and overseas observers rushed to label the stone-throwing, car-burning riots of 2005 in the largely Muslim slums the French intifada.  But in three and a half weeks of riots, Islamism failed to make its presence felt, still less to establish sharia in some obscure precinct, as reported by overwrought observers. Islamic radicals played no role in the triggering or spread of the violence, according to Frances domestic intelligence service, Renseignements Gnraux. On the contrary, they had every interest in a rapid return to calm in order to avoid being accused of anything.  The chief of the Paris branch of the Renseignements Gnraux told us that of the 3,000 rioters arrested in Paris last fall, there was not one known as belonging to an Islamist crowd, and we monitor them quite closely. In fact, when the Islamists emerged, it was to try to calm the autumn rioters, who often greeted these missionaries with hails of stones. The Brotherhood-linked organization Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (uoif) repudiated the riots in a fatwa. That fatwa was the culmination of a uoif strategy, forged 15 years earlier, to be perceived as a reliable partner of the French government.  The highest-ranking permanent official of the domestic surveillance agency told us that the uoif needs them, presumably to certify that the organization poses no danger.

 

Similarly, when French authorities banned the wearing of the hijab (or foulard), the position of the uoif was accommodation. The uoifs cautious stance on the law disappointed other European branches of the Brotherhood. They wished their French counterpart would be more aggressive and feared the French were setting a precedent of quiescence for other European Islamist groups of a more separatist persuasion.

 

As part of their collaborationist, low-profile strategy, the uoif has also maintained a prudent distance from such lightning rods as the Ikhwan figure Qaradawi, notorious in the West for justifying jihad in Israel and Iraq. Qaradawi has gone notably uninvited to recent uoif annual congresses. (For many Islamists, Qaradawi is no radical; as far as the jihadist ideologue Abu Basir al-Tartusi is concerned, Qaradawi deserves excommunication for his moderation.)  The uoif newspaper AlIttihad even treats the Palestinian question cautiously, supporting only charitable donations to refugees and presenting the Palestinians as victims rather than warriors.  The uoif does not participate in pro-Palestinian demonstrations and steers clear of the charged Arab-Israeli dispute.

 

It did not take part in the 2003 national demonstration against the war in Iraq, nor in the massive marches in the spring of 2006.

 

The organizations absence from both the riots and the marches, in the European country with the most Muslims, ought to soothe fears of an Islamist takeover of Europe.

 

The uoifs discretion differs sharply from its British counterpart, the Muslim Association of Britain (mab),which warmly welcomes the likes of Qaradawi. Although a quarter the size of the French Muslim population, the United Kingdoms Muslim population is more angry and assertive, and far more prone to terrorism. The uoif is more influential than the mab,but the smaller mab splashes in a much stormier sea. When the Muslim Brothers formed the mab in 1997, it was but one of many Muslim organizations in the United King- dom. Many were radical, rejecting the mild, if more fundamentalist, Deobandi and Barelwi traditions of their parents. Already in the field for a generation was the U.K. Islamic Mission, an offshoot of the Pakistani Islamist movement founded by Abul Ala Maududi. While the uoifs voice boomed in the small room of French Muslim activists, the mabs was a small voice trying to be heard in a vast auditorium in which the young were already pitching rotten eggs at their elders.

 

As the mab grew in prominence, it began to work with the British government.  This cooperation has been notable at Londons Finsbury Park mosque. That mosque gained notoriety thanks to its infamous erstwhile preacher.  Despite Masris arrest and expulsion from the mosque, his followers returned and quickly regained control.The police,hesitant to intervene directly in a house of worship, offered the mab control of the mosque in exchange for ridding it of radicals.  The mab gained a majority on the mosque board and gathered to retake the building.

 

Although Masris men tried to storm the mosque, the assembled mab supporters routed them.  Since then, Scotland Yard tells us that their reliable and effective partners have even deradicalized some of Masris former followers.

 

Open cooperation with the authorities has put the mab at odds with radical groups such as ht. The contest between the mab and ht roughly follows ethnic and generational lines: young Muslims of Pakistani descent are heavily represented in HT, whereas the older and fewer Muslims of Arab descent join the mab. A former HT member told us that his group dominates the British scene. He estimated that HT had some 8,500 members in the United Kingdom; the mab could boast only 1,000.The formally nonviolent ht itself is a full step away from the subjects of the British internal security chiefs recent assessment of jihadist activity: Some 200 groupings or networks, totaling over 1,600 identified individuals (and there will be many we dont know) who are actively engaged in plotting, or facilitating, terrorist acts here and overseas. In light of these numbers, no wonder mab officials told us that their group was a decade behind, and not gaining ground against, radical groups in the United Kingdom.

 

divide and engage Born as an anti-imperialist as much as an Islamic revivalist movement, the Brotherhood, like the United States, will follow its own star.  If individual branches resist the intercession of fellow organizations, how much less likely is it that they will embraceU.S. tutelage? But cooperation in specific areas of mutual interestsuch as opposition to al Qaeda, the encouragement of democracy, and resistance to expanding Iranian influencecould well be feasible.

 

One place to start would be with representatives of the Brotherhoods reformist wing, especially those already living in the West. The United States lost an opportunity to hear from one of these reformers last October when Helbawithe imam whom we heard deliver a sermon extolling a Jewwas forced o¬¨‚Ñ¢ a flight en route to a conference at New York University. This treatment of a figure known for his brave stand against radical Islam and for his public advocacy of dialogue with the United States constitutes yet another bewildering act by the Department of Homeland Security, which provided no explanation.  This London-based admirer of Shakespeare and the Bronts appears to be exactly the sort of interlocutor who could help bridge civilizations.  Instead, his public humiliation was a gift for the radicals, a bracing serving of we told you so on the subject of engaging Americans.

 

U.S. policy toward the Brotherhood is contested between those who view the Brotherhood and its affiliates as a vital component of the global jihadist network and those who argue that the Brotherhoods popular support in key Muslim countries and moderating potential require some degree of engagement.  The former view seems ascendant and explains an increase in U.S. efforts to isolate the Brotherhood such as preventing Helbawi and other reformist members of the Brotherhood from entering the United States or prohibiting U.S. government personnel from engaging with the Brotherhood.

 

But if the United States is to cope with the Muslim revival while advancing key national interests, policymakers must recognize its almost infinite variety of political (and apolitical) orientations.  When it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood, the beginning of wisdom lies in differentiating it from radical Islam and recognizing the significant differences between national Brotherhood organizations.  That diversity suggests Washington should adopt a case-by-case approach, letting the situation in each individual country determine when talking withor even working withthe Brotherhood is feasible and appropriate. In the United States often futile search for moderate Muslims with active community supportand at a moment when, isolated and suspect, Washington should be taking stock of its interests and capabilities in the Muslim worlda conversation with the Muslim Brotherhood makes strong strategic sense..

 

Robert S. Leiken is Director of the Immigration and National Security Programs at the Nixon Center and the author of the forthcoming Europes Angry Muslims. Steven Brooke is a Research Associate at the Nixon Center.

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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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The Muslim Public Service Network (MPSN) is Now Accepting

 

APPLICATIONS FOR ITS 2007 SUMMER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

 

Through the MPSN Summer Internship Program, the current generation of American Muslims is emerging into the public service and public policy arenas.  The Summer Internship Program is designed to bring American Muslim students from diverse backgrounds to Washington, D.C. to live, study and work together while creating a cohesive network of talented American Muslims pursuing careers in public service and public policy.  MPSN’s internship component is combined with a comprehensive academic curriculum, professional guest speakers, mentoring, networking, and community building.

 

The MPSN Summer Internship Program runs from June 1-August 15, 2007.

 

MPSN Curriculum

 

The MPSN academic curriculum is designed to complement practical experience gained in the field.  Renowned scholars and experts teach the interactive seminars, and will enrich participants’ knowledge of Islamic perspectives on the most urgent issues in current American public policy.  Interns will also see the dynamics of politics on Capitol Hill, attend congressional hearings and partake in the diverse political culture of Washington, D.C. Interns will attend workshops on government affairs by Capitol Hill staffers, senior government officials, and professionals representing a broad spectrum of policy making institutions.

 

Building Networks

 

Over 14 years, MSN/MPSN has built a growing network of alumni comprising over 200 individuals working in a wide range of fields including government institutions, think tanks, media, public health, environmental policy, education policy, economic development, law and other public policy non-profit organizations.  As a result of this innovative program, talented American Muslims are established on policymaking career paths and making meaningful contributions to American society.

 

Commitment to Diversity and Community Building

 

Diversity is a unique aspect of MPSN, and the program draws interns from varying communities within the American Muslim community to live, work and study together.  The program aims for a MPSN class that is a microcosm of the American Muslim community to foster a heightened understanding and appreciation of the diversified experiences that shape the American Muslim community.

 

MPSN is an intensive experience both personally and professionally.  Living among a diverse group of peerswith a full spectrum of political and Islamic perspectivesrequires interns to be open-minded and willing to engage respectfully in challenging debates.  The MPSN environment is built on mutual respect, understanding and willingness to learn from each other.

 

For further information and admissions details, please visit: www.muslimpublicservice.org

 

Admission is very competitive and spots limited.  It is best to apply early as acceptances are granted on a rolling basis.

 

Alejandro J. Beutel

Program Specialist

Muslim Public Service Network

mpsn.ps1@gmail.com

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.

 

For questions or comments about the information in this bulletin, contact
Sami Bawalsa at sami@islam-democracy.org.

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Copyright 2007 Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID).

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