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What scares the new atheists | John Gray

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 March, 2015 - 06:00
The vocal fervour of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline – but in fact flourishing

In 1929, the Thinker’s Library, a series established by the Rationalist Press Association to advance secular thinking and counter the influence of religion in Britain, published an English translation of the German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s 1899 book The Riddle of the Universe. Celebrated as “the German Darwin”, Haeckel was one of the most influential public intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; The Riddle of the Universe sold half a million copies in Germany alone, and was translated into dozens of other languages. Hostile to Jewish and Christian traditions, Haeckel devised his own “religion of science” called Monism, which incorporated an anthropology that divided the human species into a hierarchy of racial groups. Though he died in 1919, before the Nazi Party had been founded, his ideas, and widespread influence in Germany, unquestionably helped to create an intellectual climate in which policies of racial slavery and genocide were able to claim a basis in science.

The Thinker’s Library also featured works by Julian Huxley, grandson of TH Huxley, the Victorian biologist who was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his fierce defence of evolutionary theory. A proponent of “evolutionary humanism”, which he described as “religion without revelation”, Julian Huxley shared some of Haeckel’s views, including advocacy of eugenics. In 1931, Huxley wrote that there was “a certain amount of evidence that the negro is an earlier product of human evolution than the Mongolian or the European, and as such might be expected to have advanced less, both in body and mind”. Statements of this kind were then commonplace: there were many in the secular intelligentsia – including HG Wells, also a contributor to the Thinker’s Library – who looked forward to a time when “backward” peoples would be remade in a western mould or else vanish from the world.

It’s inconceivable that a professed unbeliever could become president of the United States

If only the world wasn’t plagued by these troublesome God-botherers, they are always lamenting

“It is not only possible, but, on present evidence, probable that most conceptions of the good, and most ways of life, which are typical of commercial, liberal, industrialised societies will often seem altogether hateful to substantial minorities within these societies and even more hateful to most of the populations within traditional societies … As a liberal by philosophical conviction, I think I ought to expect to be hated, and to be found superficial and contemptible, by a large part of mankind.”

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Jadaliyya: “Beyond Authenticity: ISIS and the Islamic Legal Tradition”

Loon Watch - 2 March, 2015 - 18:13

ISIS-Logo

One of the best contributions on the subject of ISIS and its relationship to Islam and the Islamic jurisprudence on war and violence.

Sohair Siddiqui, highlights points that have gone under the radar in most article covering ISIS, including the groups military strategy which is highly informed by the work, “The Management of Savagery” written by a pseudonymous author. Also discussed is the clear contravention of normative and majority historical Islamic jurisprudential rules of warfare.

by Sohaira Siddiqui, Jadaliyya

The Atlantic thinks ISIS is Islamic. President Obama and countless others disagree. As the debate rages on with no shortage of interlocutors, one must stop to ask, what is the utility of making such pronouncements? Is the simple binary of whether ISIS is Islamic or not an effective way to discuss and understand the various questions at stake concerning the Islamic tradition, its authenticity, continuity and change? In response to this basic question, Muslims globally have gone on the defensive, denying any relationship between the religion and the group. Whether it be the eighteen-page open letter issued by prominent Muslim clerics globally, the statement of the twelve largest mosques in Britain, or the fatwa written and distributed by Sunni and Shi‘i  clerics in Baghdad, Muslims are keen to distance themselves from any atrocities committed in their name. However most recently, Graeme Wood’s piece in The AtlanticWhat ISIS Really Wants” argues that ISIS’s actions are definitively Islamic. Since the publication of the article there has been an outpouring of critiques—some correcting factual errors, others noting that he ignores the political and social context which gave rise to ISIS, and others pointing to the absence of legitimate voices in the article who the majority of Muslims actually take as their authority.

As the war continues with growing numbers of willing Muslim recruits, and with provocative images of atavistic executions and offerings of justifications based on Islamic sources, the debate on whether ISIS is Islamic is not ending anytime soon. By situating ISIS within the Islamic tradition on the basis of their mere utilization of it, Wood’s article and others like it overlook the fundamental issue which stands at the heart of the debate—ISIS’s juridical understanding and its relationship to the classical Islamic legal tradition. Mapping ISIS onto a dichotomy of Islamic versus un-Islamic is far too simple an approach when trying to understand the phenomenon of ISIS. The parameters of the debate ignore the amorphous nature of law, that law is paradoxical in that it is both fixed and flexible and that the validity of law is dependent upon the framework and system of law issuance that is created. Indeed, if we step outside of the cyclical authenticity debate in order to understand ISIS’s methodology in relation to the Islamic juridical tradition, we will see that ISIS represents a very fundamental rejection of both its principles and its parameters of operation.

Historically, Islamic law has evolved and created an architecture that creates stability within the law while at the same time allowing for change. However, as a group that is seeking to be a legitimate manifestation of Islam, ISIS constructs its authority and the validity of its actions outside the boundaries of what has been normatively accepted both in terms of conceptualizing the law, and more specifically in the realm of warfare.

Warfare was a complex discussion within Islamic law. The discussion encompassed balancing Prophetic precedence, Quranic principles, and the need to protect and defend the Muslim community. The result was a variety of legal rulings that were connected by two principles which guided legal derivation when it came to warfare. The first was the protection of noncombatants, and the second was the limitation and restriction of war and violence. Jurists agreed that war was permissible, but to do so in a way that regulated the loss of life. Conversely, the basic operating principle of ISIS is the promotion of violence and instability which contradicts the principles of warfare the jurists constructed. Aside from this important difference in the substantive matters of law, this article will also demonstrate that ISIS conceptualizes the law broadly in a starkly different way. Classical jurists accepted and regulated between plurality of legal rulings which allowed for both jurists and rulers to engage with the law on a more intimate level. This meant that the law could evolve, and when deciding on rulings, the ruling selected would be on the basis of public interest (maslaha) which meant protecting the life, religion, property, and honor of all individuals, Muslim and non-Muslims alike. For ISIS, this plurality does not exist within the law; rather, law is implemented uniformly, not on the basis of general public interest, but in order to satisfy their overarching goal of establishing the caliphate, denigrating the enemy, and promoting chaos and violence. As such, even though ISIS may be invoking elements from within the legal tradition or historical precedence, they are doing so by contradicting its very principles and therefore cannot be understood as normative.

Violence and Brutality as ISIS’s Operating Principle

Some clarity with regards to the ideology of ISIS came in September 2014 when Jack Jenkins alerted the world’s attention to a book titled The Management of Savagery. The book was written in 2004 by Abu Bakr Naji, a pseudonym, and became very influential in Salafi-Jihadi circles globally. In 2006 it was translated by William McCants in an effort to bring more clarity to the direction various Salafi-Jihadi movements had taken. The four hundred-page text is a manual on how to establish the Caliphate through the systematic creation of pockets of instability, or “regions of savagery” which force individuals in these areas to search for some stabilizing factor. With widespread instability, individuals will willingly submit to a group which promises to bring stability. In the fourth section of the text entitled “Using Violence,” the author presents a detailed exposition on the necessity of violence, and brutality in achieving these aims.

One of the central concepts in this section is the idea of “paying the price.” Naji argues that if an enemy attacks the group, their response should be so intense that it should create a sense of hopelessness within the enemy and recognition that they have “paid the price” for their actions. Furthermore, when “paying the price” Naji argues that retaliation does not need to be directed at the enemy directly so “if the enemy undertakes a hostile action against a region in the Arabian Peninsula or in Iraq, then the response will occur in Morocco or Nigeria or Indonesia.” Speaking more directly to the general use of violence, Naji states “If we are not violent in our jihad and if softness seizes us, that will be a major factor in the loss of the element of strength.” In another context he states “the hostages should be liquidated in a terrifying manner which will send fear into the hearts of the enemy and his supporters.” For Naji, violence is not only important, but it’s random, unrestricted, and terrifying use will be of particular importance in establishing the caliphate. In this sense, violence is not simply a matter of a physical war, but it is a strategic tool which is intended to have psychological effects on both the perpetrators and the recipients.

If we move from the Management of Savagery to ISIS’s own publications, we see the same fixation on wanton violence amplified through the use of graphic images, exhortative manifestos, and vicious condemnations. ISIS has officially released numerous execution videos, a few longer propaganda videos and perhaps most importantly, seven issues of their official magazine, entitled Dabiq. In the first issue they devoted the most space to elaborating upon the necessity of the caliphate, but towards the end the magazine focuses on the use of violence. Echoing the Management of Savagery one feature article states,

To create maximum chaos, the Shaykh [Shaykh Abu Mus’ab] focused on the most effective weapons…vehicle bombs, IEDs, and istishhadiyyin (seekers of martyrdom). He would order nikayah (disruptive) operations in a dozen areas daily, targeting and killing sometimes hundreds of apostates…In addition to that he tried to force every apostate group in Iraq into an all-out war. So he targeted the Iraqi apostate forces (army, police and intelligence), the Shi‘a and the Kurdish secularists.” He then goes on to state, “These attacks will compel the apostate forces to partially withdraw from rural territories and regroup. The jama’ah [we] would then take advantage of the situation by increasing the chaos to a point of leading to the complete collapse of oppressive regimes, a situation some would refer to as ‘mayhem.’

In these statements unrestricted violence is encouraged as a means of creating chaos.

Similarly, in the fourth issue of the magazine in an article titled “Reflections on the Final Crusade,” ISIS spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani said,

Destroy their beds. Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves. If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling…Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader, and kill him. It is important that the killing becomes attributed to patrons of the Islamic State who have obeyed its leadership. This can easily be done with anonymity. Otherwise, crusader media makes such attacks appear to be random killings.

For al-Adnani and other propagators of ISIS’ doctrine, violence is not limited to the war which is being waged within their territories. They are envisioning a constant cosmic war which requires the use of violence by every Muslim against anyone considered non-Muslim—simply put, there are no non-combatants and no method too brutal. These exhortations towards violence are matched with gruesome images of torture and killings, valorizing the very violence that they call to. From the totality of the images, articles, and statements of ISIS, their use of violence is guided by the basic principle that it is unrestricted and should be practiced with utmost brutality to not only physically defeat the enemy, but to psychologically impair it.

In contrast to ISIS, while the jurists were creating the laws of warfare in the eighth through eleventh centuries, they were doing so with the lens to regulate violence and protect the noncombatant and in accordance with the overall objectives of the law. Thus, even though ISIS may use historical precedence to justify their actions, they do so by manipulating the legal tradition and using non-majoritarian, often rejected juristic opinions of the past. For ISIS, spreading violence and expanding the Caliphate, irrespective of the loss of life, is the goal. Their legal architecture is created to fulfill this mission, regardless of what the majoritarian opinions are within the totality of Islamic juristic thought.

Interpreting What is Islamic and Un-Islamic

For the neophyte, Islamic law has never been absolute. It may strike one as odd that there can be plurality when it comes to God’s law, but the reality is that legal pluralism was the sine qua non of Islamic law. After the death of the Prophet it was understood by Sunnis that access to the Lawgiver, God, had been terminated and what remained were only the scriptural sources—the Quran and the hadith (reported sayings of the Prophet)—to guide individuals afterwards. The jurists were then tasked with the responsibility of creating a methodology which would allow for the deduction of law from the scriptural sources and also allow for the valid creation of law in the absence of any textual indicant. What was created was a jurisprudential system that could extract legal rulings from the scriptural sources, create new ones, and also adjust preexisting ones. All of this was done with the realization that the jurist was arriving at the best estimation of what God truly wants in a situation, but could not be certain that they have arrived at the correct answer given that the direct connection between humans and God was severed with the death of the Prophet.

Because no jurist could say with certainty that they have arrived at God’s law, multiple opinions could always exist on any issue. At the same time jurists were concerned with unbound plurality, so they restricted it in many ways—preventing lay individuals from engaging in jurisprudential reasoning, limiting jurisprudential reasoning even within jurists circles, and searching for overlaps whenever possible. Emerging from the plurality of rulings was an understanding that there would be a majority articulation of a ruling, alongside the acceptance that minority opinions would also exist. A comparable situation is the presence of differing opinions in the US Supreme Court on legal issues even when confronted with the same evidence.

In formulating Islamic law, jurists would start with the textual sources, namely the Quran and hadith. Of importance was the example of the life of the Prophet himself, and this was especially so with any discussion concerning warfare because the Prophet himself engaged in various military battles. When jurists began to speak about the law of warfare, they were not merely discussing the concept that we most commonly associate with Islamic warfare, namely jihad. In fact, they developed a dense legal discussion under the headings of siyar, translated today as Islamic International law. Discussions of siyar in legal texts encompassed jihad, military campaigns (maghazi), safe conduct (aman), dividing spoils, truce (hudana), and non-Muslim tax (jizya). Jurists were keen to answer three pivotal questions: when is it legitimate to fight, what is legitimate conduct during fighting, and what is to be done upon the completion of fighting. The focus of their attention was tackling the second question, namely what is legitimate conduct during war. Ahmed al-Dawoody, who has written a comprehensive book on the Islamic law of war has argued that the jurists categorized war into eight main topics.[1] They are:

  1. Noncombatant immunity
  2. Human Shields
  3. Night Attack
  4. Mutilation
  5. Weapons
  6. Aman (quarter and safe passage)
  7. Prisoners of War
  8. Treatment of Prisoners

While al-Dawoody concisely shows the sheer amount of diversity that was present within the legal discussions he also highlights that in each instance there was a majority opinion that was rooted in Prophetic practice or Quranic statements.

One of the elements of ISIS’s methodology of war noted above is their promotion of indiscriminate killing of individuals in countries all over the globe. Counter to this opinion is the juristic discussion of noncombatant immunity which was intended to restrict violence against any individual who was not actively fighting in the war, even if they ideologically agreed with the enemy. Scholars such as Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 788), al-Ghazali (d. 1111), al-Qarafi (d. 1285) and countless others safeguarded from combat women, children, the aged, the blind, the sick, the insane, the clergy, and perhaps most interestingly, any hired man (al-asif) such as a farmer, craftsman, or employee that was not directly engaged in warfare. While a few minority opinions did exist that belief alone would make individuals part of the “enemy,” the majority of jurists agreed that the aggression of the individual combatant is the decisive factor. Jurists were concerned with establishing who was considered a noncombatant to ensure that violence was restricted to those that only displayed outward aggression. Only after establishing those protected in times of war did the jurists then turn to discuss the actual conduct of war against the enemy.

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Emwazi's university 'more scared of being Islamophobic than homophobic'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 March, 2015 - 17:52

Former secretary of University of Westminster’s LGBT society says complaints about speakers organised by Islamic society were not treated seriously enough

The London university attended by Mohammed Emwazi, who was last week identified as the Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John”, has been accused of sometimes turning a blind eye to extremist views on campus because it does not wish to offend its large number of Muslim international students.

Jamie Wareham, secretary of the University of Westminster’s LGBT society until last year, said he believed complaints about homophobic speakers organised by the Islamic society were sometimes not treated with sufficient seriousness.

In the past they’ve been prepared to be homophobic in order to not be Islamophobic

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Bring on the haters: how a poetry-slam is combatting Islamophobia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 March, 2015 - 16:11
What do you do if your inbox is clogged up with anti-Muslim hate mail? Turn it into a cabaret show. Daryl Lindsey reports from Berlin on a strangely joyful evening of horrendous abuse

‘When it comes to you Muslims,” Hasnain Kazim tells the audience, “we Germans are going to pick up where we left off with the Jews. It would please me if the first time we meet is when your smoke is rising out of the chimney.”

Under normal circumstances, such bile delivered from a Berlin stage would be greeted with shrieks of horror. But Kazim, a 40-year-old journalist with Spiegel Online, is treated to rollicking laughter and applause instead. This, after all, is Hate Poetry night in Berlin, an opportunity for a troupe of German journalists, all of whom have vaguely Muslim-sounding names, to read out some of the more creatively despicable messages clogging up their inboxes.

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Review – Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s Refusing the Veil

Muslimah Media Watch - 2 March, 2015 - 11:47
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s Refusing the Veil, part of the Provocations series by Biteback publishing, is a very short, refreshingly honest book about why the author thinks Muslim women should give up wearing the veil, in all its various forms, so that they can be liberated women in the 21st century. The book begins with a list [Read More...]

Respectfully, Mr. President: American Muslims are not Afraid

Muslim Matters - 2 March, 2015 - 06:54

Dear President Barack Obama,

You mentioned in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed: “But we know that many Muslim Americans across our country are worried and afraid.” Gee, Mr. President, with all due respect, did any Muslim American leader tell you that most American Muslims, although concerned, are also patient, faithful, believe in the power of prayer, and have put our trust in our Lord?

You see Mr. President, to many of us, Islam is a religion; not a political ideology. And as such, there are numerous verses in our scripture and prophetic traditions that teach us how to deal with negative statements about Muslims and Islam. I'll just mention a couple:

All that is with you is bound to come to an end, whereas that which is with God is everlasting. And most certainly shall We grant unto those who are patient in adversity their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did.” 16:96.

Here's one more:

Endure, then, with patience (all that they who deny the truth may say] -always remembering that it is none but God who gives thee the strength to endure adversity and do not grieve over them, and neither be distressed by the false arguments which they devise.” 16:27.

So you see Mr. President, some American Muslims simply do not have the time to sit around being afraid and worried about anti-Muslim sentiment. Our faith and trust in the Lord keeps us calm.

Some of us are more concerned about health care, unemployment, paying our bills, and getting our children through college than we are about who praises or criticizes Muslims.  Don't get me wrong Mr. President, this doesn't mean we are not concerned about the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric. However, that's not the only thing that we are concerned about. Some of us are concerned about the erosion of free speech in this great country of ours. Some of us are concerned that there are American Muslim leaders who fraudulently claim to speak for all of us when, in fact, they do not and cannot speak for us all.

Some American Muslims believe that in the United States of America people have the right to like or dislike whoever or whatever they want, as long as they do not resort to violence or break the law. In fact, Mr. President, American Muslims believe that our right to live as Muslims and to love Islam is connected to the right of others not to be Muslim and to dislike, even hate, Islam. American Muslims are not a tribe, we don't have tribal chiefs imbued with the authority to tell all of us what to think, what to like or not like, how to feel, or what to fear.

If you really want to know who American Muslims are, Mr. President, you might want to ask around a little bit more, and not rely on a few Muslim political organizations. By the way, we didn't elect those guys to represent us in the first place. We did elect you to be our President, and I at least expect you to dig a little deeper before you ask our entire country to give American Muslims a special pass that other groups who have endured negative criticisms of their faith did not have.  Some American Muslims prefer not to be held hostage by fear and anxiety about things that we do not control. Only God has full control over what is in people's hearts. Our time is better spent believing and trusting in Him and calling ourselves into account, before the Day comes when we are called into account.

You know Mr. President, I clearly remember when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I was a fourth grader at Francis D. Pastorious Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We were all instructed to go outside, stand in full assembly, and sing “We Shall Overcome.” The second chorus was, “We are not afraid.” I wasn't afraid then, and I sure as heck am not going to start being afraid now. It does not serve any noble purpose that Americans, Muslim or non-Muslim, live in a perpetual state of fear.

In the meantime I will defend, without violence, the right of any and every American, whether they like Islam, hate Islam, are ambivalent towards Islam, or are an adherent of Islam, to speak according to his or her own conscious and conviction, whether it be political, religious, satirical, or editorial. You can tell people who you want them to be, but you cannot tell them who they are and what to think. I believe that God will call every person into account on the Day of Judgment based upon who they are, not who they said they were, or who someone else thought they were. In the end, it is God who will decide who is right and who is wrong, and at that time nothing else will matter. I don't speak for all American Muslims, Mr. President. In fact, I don't believe anyone can – that's just my take on it, sir. If I can be of any additional service, please contact me. I'm sure you have my number.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

 

 

imam Luqman Ahmad is the imam and Executive Director of masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California. He is also a founding member of COSVIO (Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book; 'The Devils Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect' available on Amazon.com. He can be reached at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com. http://www.masjidibrahim.com.

The post Respectfully, Mr. President: American Muslims are not Afraid appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Somebody Needs to Tell The NY Times: Israel Has The Bomb

The New York Times has had plenty to say about Iran and nuclear ambitions recently—in op-eds, editorials and news stories; in reports on negotiating sessions and in articles about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coming speech to Congress, at which he will raise the alarm about Iran’s ability to produce a bomb.

In all these venues—opinion pieces and news accounts—one element of this story is taken for granted: A nuclear proficient Iran would be a threat and cannot be allowed. As Israeli politician Isaac Herzog wrote in a Times op-ed published this weekend, “If [Iran] goes nuclear, the Middle East will go nuclear, putting world peace itself in jeopardy.”

Yet, in spite of all the words devoted to this issue, a major piece of information is missing: The Middle East has already gone nuclear. Israel has had the bomb since 1967 and is counted as the world’s sixth nuclear state, with a stockpile of weaponry possibly equal to that of France and the United Kingdom.

As Netanyahu warns against nuclear research in Iran and the Times editorial board insists that Iran allow “even more aggressive inspections” by the International Atomic Energy Agency, there is no mention of the fact that Israel has refused to allow any inspections of its advanced nuclear program and refuses even to confirm that it exists.

There is no compelling reason to prevent the Times from writing about Israel’s nukes. The newspaper has already published at least one opinion piece urging more openness on the issue; similar commentary has appeared in other publications, such as The New Yorker; and academic groups have openly issued assessments of Israel’s program.

Israeli scholar Avner Cohen has published two books on the subject (The second is titled The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb.), and Israeli journalist Ari Shavit dedicated an entire chapter in his book, My Promised Land, to the creation of Israel’s nuclear facility. Shavit speaks with pride of this accomplishment and notes that his chapter won the approval of Israeli censors.

The Federation of American Scientists states that “the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons is a ‘public secret’ by now due to the declassification of large numbers of formerly highly classified US government documents which show that the United States by 1975 was convinced that Israel had nuclear weapons.”

It is only left to determine just how many nuclear weapons Israel possesses and how it is capable of delivering them. The estimates vary from 80 (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) to 300 weapons, which can be launched by land, air and sea.

In 2009 Israel and its nukes made the news when the general conference of the IAEA called on Israel to open its facilities to inspection. The Israeli delegate to the conference rejected the request, saying, “Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution.”

In the face of all this, the Times recently published a lead editorial concerning “the protracted nuclear threat from Iran” and how best to contain it. The piece noted that “Iran’s major nuclear installations are already monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency and watched by the United States.”

But, the editorial insisted, this is not enough. Iran must also ratify “additional protocol” in order to “ensure materials are not diverted to a covert nuclear weapons program.”

A covert nuclear program is precisely what Israel has had since the 1950s, but the Times has nothing to say about it. Moreover, while Israel has refused to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty or allow inspections of its program, Iran has done both. It is a signatory to the treaty and allows IAEA visits to its facilities.

Here is Israeli exceptionalism at its irrational worst. The Times has no problem pointing the finger at Iran, which has signed the treaty and allowed inspections, but it shields Israel, which has done neither and is already capable of launching nuclear weapons against its neighbors in the Middle East.

If it chose to report this issue fully, the Times could rely on expert analysis and testimony as evidence, and it could point to the precedence of publications which have “outed” the program in their writings. The information is readily available, but the newspaper prefers to say nothing.

At the least, the Times could say that Israel is “widely believed” to possess nuclear weapons, but it avoids even this construct. As long as Israel refuses to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal in public, The New York Times remains silent as well.

Readers are entitled to a fully informed treatment of the current debate over Iran and nuclear arms in the Middle East, but there is no sign that this will happen anytime soon. The newspaper places its obligations to journalism behind its loyalty to Israel, and readers are the losers in this game—once again.

Barbara Erickson


Filed under: Israel's Nukes Tagged: Ari Shavit, Avner Cohen, Iran, Israel, Israel's nukes, Media Bias, Netanyahu, New York Times, nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia gives top prize to cleric who blames George Bush for 9/11

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 March, 2015 - 23:48

Controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik awarded the King Faisal international prize for promoting Islam through his hugely popular Peace TV channel

An Indian television preacher who has called the 9/11 attacks an “inside job” received one of Saudi Arabia’s most prestigious prizes on Sunday, for “service to Islam”.

Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India, was one of five recipients of the King Faisal international prize from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman during a ceremony at a luxury Riyadh hotel.

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Like racism, Islamism can and will be beaten

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 March, 2015 - 20:32

Maajid Nawaz is spot on with his claim that Britain can defeat the toxic ideology of Islamism in the same way as it defeated its twin sister, racism (To tackle extremism we need to first understand racism, 27 February). Racism and Islamism have a lot in common. Both are erected on fascist ideologies – the former on the superiority of race; the latter on the superiority of religion. In fact, Islamists are the Muslim equivalent of the BNP racists, except the former have a violent global agenda.

Britain fought racism by challenging it everywhere – universities, the National Health Service, media and other institutions. The strategy worked because the majority of British people have no stomach for such warped ideology. Since, as a recent BBC poll amply pointed out, there are more than enough Muslims who have no time for Islamism, the battle against it has to be fought by these Muslims – not for the sake of the British government, but for the sake of their own long-term survival – while leaving its violent offshoots to the government to deal with.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

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Arun Kundnani: Islamophobia Is Just The Latest In A History of US Imperialism

Loon Watch - 1 March, 2015 - 19:10

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Arun Kundnani is one of the most brilliant investigators and writers on the subject of the Counter Terrorism industry and Islamophobia.

A must read.

By Arun Kundnani, The National

The shooting of three American Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, this month has focused attention on anti-Muslim hatred in the US.

There are strong reasons for thinking the suspect, Craig Stephen Hicks, was motivated by anti-Muslim animosity to murder Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19. The FBI is now investigating the case as a possible hate crime, although initial reports stated the murder may have been about a dispute over parking.

In 2011, I spent a year travelling around the US investigating anti-Muslim prejudice. In a suburban restaurant in Houston, I saw a poster that perfectly captured the nature of the problem. The restaurant owner had used a photograph of a lynching in the early 20th century, featuring a tree, a dead body hanging from a branch and a crowd of white people in the foreground looking jubilant. In place of the black victim of the original image, the face of a stereotypical Arab was superimposed with the caption: “Let’s play cowboys and Iranians.”

It was a disturbing sight. In the same neighbourhood, I had heard stories of teenagers beaten up at school simply for being Arab, of harassment of mosque congregations and of death threats against Muslims aired on local radio stations. It was also disturbing because racist imagery appeared to be a perfectly normal way to decorate a restaurant. But the image was also revealing because it shows anti-Muslim sentiment in the US is part of a longer racial history.

The poster’s caption played on the phrase “cowboys and Indians” and was an implicit celebration of the genocide of America’s indigenous peoples by European settlers, the first act in the racial history of the US and one that continues to haunt an American culture obsessed with enemies at its frontiers.

Likewise, the use of a photo of a lynching ties its meaning to the history of racial segregation after the abolition of slavery, and the ways that violence was used to maintain white supremacy.

Anti-Muslim prejudice is the most recent layer in this history, a reworking and recycling of older logics of oppression. From this perspective, Islamophobia, like other forms of prejudice, should not be seen only as a problem of hate crimes committed by lone extremists. The acts of individual perpetrators can only be made sense of if they are seen as the product of a wider culture, in which glorifying racial violence is acceptable.

All empires require violence to sustain themselves, and the violence perpetrated overseas by imperial powers always flows back, in one form or another, to the “homeland.” In modern times, that violence also always takes on a racial character.

The British Empire relied upon racist ideology to maintain its authority, both domestically and in colonial settings, and particularly in the face of resistance to its rule. Blacks and Asians from the colonies who settled in Britain after the Second World War encountered the racism imperialism had fostered there, persisting long after the British Empire itself no longer existed.

Since the end of the Cold War, US foreign policy planners have regarded the Middle East as their most troublesome territory, where resistance seems to be especially strong against the US’s key regional ally, Israel. Large sections of the US political and cultural elite have turned to racial ways of explaining resistance to its authority. Rather than see the Palestinian movement, for example, as rooted in a struggle against military occupation and for human rights, it has been more convenient to think that Arabs are inherently fanatical. In other words, the problem is their culture, not our politics.

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OpenDemocracy: Why Britain won’t talk about crucial elements of Jihadi John’s story

Loon Watch - 1 March, 2015 - 18:47

Jihadi_John_Emwazi

The UK government security/media establishment is going after CAGE UK with everything it has, in the process exposing its own insecurities.

By Ben Hayes, OpenDemocracy

In “Suspect Community: People’s Experience of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in Britain”, professor Paddy Hillyard produced what remains the world’s most detailed ethnographic study of the impact of repressive laws and state policies on what we now call “radicalisation”. That was 1993. Hillyard, a former chair of the National Council of Civil Liberties (now Liberty), had interviewed more than 100 people of Irish catholic descent and provided unequivocal evidence that their everyday treatment at the hands of the British state had boosted support for Irish republicanism, acted as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA and fuelled “the Troubles”. Of course it wasn’t the only “radicalising” factor: Bloody Sunday, a shoot-to-kill policy and state collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries also played their part. As of course did the violence, propaganda and popularity of organisations like the IRA.

We could learn a lot from people like Paddy Hillyard and the incremental moves toward truth and reconciliation in the north of Ireland. Instead, this valuable insight is being steadily exorcised from public debate – as are the similar experiences of Muslim communities at the hands of the British state.

Yesterday the identity of “Jihadi John”, the ISIS executioner-in-chief, was revealed to belong to British citizen Mohammed Emwazi. The human rights group CAGE – the only organisation in Britain who offers legal support to Muslims who have been interrogated or harassed by the security services (support which is readily available to most others questioned by the UK authorities) – produced a 3,000 word dossier detailing his treatment between 2009 and 2013. This included, inter alia, the surveillance of his movements, the interception of his telecommunications, the orchestration of his arrest in Tanzania and transfer to the Netherlands where he was interrogated by MI5, attempts to coerce him into becoming an MI5 informer, harassment of his family and fiancé, and the prevention of his resettlement in Kuwait – all in the absence of any formal allegation, charge or prospect of official recourse.

Since this occurred well before Mohammed Emwazi’s departure from the UK and appearance in Syria as “Jihadi John”, one might have thought our media duty bound to ask whether this and other encounters played any part in his decision to go there. Indeed the most revealing exchange, which should surely have been on the lips of any journalist worth their salt, is the following, spoken by MI5 agent “Nick”: “Listen Mohammed: You’ve got the whole world in front of you; you’re 21 years old; you just finished Uni – why don’t you work for us?” When Mohammed declines, he is told: “You’re going to have a lot of trouble… You’re going to be known… you’re going to be followed… life will be harder for you.”

Let us be clear that whatever else may have transpired since this exchange, here is a credible allegation of state-sanctioned blackmail of one of our citizens upon pain of having his life ruined by unaccountable security forces. When things like this happen to Muslims in Arab dictatorships, we talk about “secret police” and “fearsome security apparatuses”. When they happen here, we put our fingers in our ears and demand that Muslims “get over themselves” and condemn acts of terrorism.

And so it was that Kay Burley of Sky News duly began her interview with a CAGE spokesman by asking “What level of harassment by the security services here in the United Kingdom justifies beheadings?” – a plainly preposterous straw man argument that literally no-one was making. Liberal pin-up Jon Snow also glossed over the evidence produced by CAGE, before getting down to the most important business of the day: demanding that their spokespeople condemn terrorism, and seeking to belittle them when they question why this demand is only ever made of Muslims, or worse still, refuse to participate in the ridiculous spectacle.

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Nigerian mob kills girl accused of being suicide bomber

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 March, 2015 - 17:06

Teenager brutally beaten to death in north-east city of Bauchi after crowd at market reportedly find two bottles strapped to her body

A crowd has beaten to death a teenage girl accused of planning to be a suicide bomber and then set her body on fire, according to police and witnesses.

A second suspect, also a teenage girl, was arrested at Muda Lawal, the biggest market in the city of Bauchi.

Related: 'Seven-year-old girl' kills herself and five others in Nigeria suicide bombing

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A search for identity draws jihadis to the horrors of Isis | Kenan Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 March, 2015 - 03:04
They are as estranged from Muslim communities as they are from western societies

First it was Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, three schoolgirls from Tower Hamlets who smuggled themselves to Syria during their half-term holiday. Then it was “Jihadi John”, the Islamic State executioner who was unmasked by the Washington Post last week as the Kuwaiti-born Londoner Mohammed Emwazi.

The stories of the three schoolgirls and of Emwazi are very different. But the same questions are being asked of them. How did they get radicalised? And how can we stop it from happening again? These are questions being increasingly asked across Europe. A recent report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation suggests that there are now 4,000 European fighters with Isis, a figure that has doubled over the past year.

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Nations flourish when people enjoy a sense of belonging

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 March, 2015 - 03:02
Liberal democracies can flourish only when people feel that for all their differences, they have a stake in the well-being of the country they call home

We don’t do religion well in public debate and we have certainly lost our way when it comes to Islam. Between the Muslim apologists crying out “Islamophobia!” every time there is an Islam-related story and those who see the growing Islamisation of Europe everywhere they go, there are multiple realities which simply get dismissed or ignored.

A recent poll by the BBC asking Muslim respondents about their loyalty to Britain created conflicting headlines pinned on that word “loyalty”. Statistics can be dangerous because they conceal as much as they reveal. There are no nuances in this poll, in which Muslims are singled out as a block of people who have a moral obligation to answer these questions.

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My meeting with Mohammed Emwazi’s friend as they sought a radical path

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 February, 2015 - 21:21
After the revelation of the Isis killer’s identity, the Observer’s Jamie Doward recalls another young man who was drawn to extremism but turned away

The first thing I noticed about Mohammed Ezzouek was his size, tiny, birdlike. The recoil from an AK-47 would knock him off his feet, I remember thinking. He was an unlikely fighter – something he repeatedly denied when questioned by the security services.

The second thing was his beard. Long, black and wispy, it had clearly taken months to grow and was central to his identity. The third was his trainers, Nike, almost box-fresh. This man is a walking contradiction, I thought. He spoke street slang while praising the prophet. He went to Somalia to live under a caliphate and here he was, talking to me in London, complaining about the difficulties getting a mobile phone contract. He refused to be photographed but, after coaxing, he started posing for the camera, albeit in an oblique way so that he could not be photographed head-on.

Related: Isis’s promise of certainty is what lures the likes of Mohammed Emwazi | Jonathan Freedland

Related: Isis killer Mohammed Emwazi had link to 2005 London bomb plot

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NBC: Northeast D.C. Mosque Vandalized Second Time in a Week

Loon Watch - 28 February, 2015 - 21:16

DC_Moque_Vandalized_Hate_Crime

The FBI is now involved after a DC mosque was vandalized twice in less than a week.

The Ivy City Mosque in the 2000 block of Gallaudet Street NW was first ransacked Monday night. Mohammed Mobaidin, the director of the mosque, said the damage was minor. Police had decided it was not a hate crime, because another vandalism was reported nearby around the same time.

Another vandalism was reported late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning at the same mosque. According to Mobaidin, vandals ripped religious hangings from the walls and broke furniture; a picture of the sacred Kaaba was stolen.

“Now that this picture is missing, I’m beggining to think it could have been a hate crime. That picture has value to the Muslims,” Mobaidin said.

“Something is wrong there, detectives will give us answers,” Nihad Awad with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (sic.CAIR) said.

The mosque had been unlocked and open to the D.C. community for 17 years.

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