Islamic Movements Archives

Guest Voice  |  January 18, 2008 10:32 AM

It's al-Qaeda, Stupid!

By Bilal Y. Saab

This time in Middle East relations, it is crucial to get it right and fast. Why? Because the stakes are so high.

Failure to have comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis is going to have consequences and repercussions of a magnitude we have never seen before. In other words, failure, at the risk of sounding too cliché, should not be an option.

A realist pause would suggest that failure can never be discounted in the Middle East given the miserable record of the many ambitious attempts in the past to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to make serious breakthroughs on the Syrian-Israeli track. So far, those anticipating the failure of Annapolis appear more rational and more confident than those betting on its success. And it's not just a hunch or a feeling. Events on the ground speak for themselves: Israel continues to collectively deny Palestinians their basic rights for what Hamas and other militants do, while Hamas continues to provoke and threaten Israel by terrorizing its people.

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Guest Voice  |  February 12, 2008 12:23 PM

After Headscarves, What's Next?

By Soner Cagaptay

On February 9, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) passed constitutional amendments to legalize a specific woman's headscarf, known as the turban, on college campuses. The Turkish turban—not to be confused with the south Asian male turban—emerged in the country in the 1980s. When Kemal Ataturk founded Turkey as a secular republic after World War I, he looked to Europe, and especially France, for his inspiration. While American secularism provides freedom of religion, the French version that Ataturk adopted emphasizes freedom from religion—that is, keeping religion and its symbols out of government and education. Turkey’s secular courts have considered the turban a political religious symbol ―AKP leader and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose wife wears a turban, suggested that this might indeed be the case. Accordingly, the courts had, until last weekend, banned the turban on college campuses. But now that the turban is allowed on campuses, what will happen next?

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Guest Voice  |  April 29, 2008 9:13 AM

Al-Qaeda Readies in Pakistan, While America Waits

Picture this: A terrifying new report is delivered to the U.S. President. It states starkly that al-Qaeda is in the last stages of preparing to attack the United States. But the response is…nothing. The President takes no action, and the report goes basically unreported in the media.

We’ve heard this story before. But this is not the infamous August, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” This happened just over a week ago, when the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a scathing report about the mounting danger of a reconstituted al-Qaeda growing and plotting in the tribal sections of Pakistan. The President’s reaction now, as it was in 2001, was silence.

According to the report, “al-Qaeda’s central leadership, based in the border area of Pakistan, is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the United States…” In 2002, after the al-Qaeda-supported Taliban was forced from power in neighboring Afghanistan, al-Qaeda members and their Afghan extremist allies fled across the border into the mountains of northwest Pakistan, known as the “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” (FATA).

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Guest Voice  |  June 19, 2008 12:33 PM

Indonesia Loses Its Way

By Mujtaba Hamdi

It's a very disappointing day for democracy when supporters of religious tolerance are publicly beaten. But that is precisely what happened this month in Jakarta when 200 activists of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) suddenly stormed the Monas Square where supporters of the Alliance for Freedom of Religion and Belief (AKKBB) were holding a peaceful rally.

AKKBB activists – most of whom were women – were attacked with sticks, leaving many injured. They had been celebrating the 63rd anniversary of Pancasila, a national creed that accepts foreign influence from Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and Western thought. Pancasila is the embodiment of Indonesia's basic pluralism, the philosophical glue that binds together Indonesia's diverse populations.

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Guest Voice  |  April 2, 2009 1:24 PM

A Jihadist Worth Emulating

Abd el-Kader put greater jihad first. Muslims and non-Muslims alike should emulate his lifelong jihad for personal righteousness and control over destructive passions.

By John W. Kiser and Michael L. Owens

Jihad. The word inspires fear in Western minds. Jihad means extremist Muslims blowing themselves up in crowded markets in order to kill as many infidels as possible. Jihad means attacks like 9/11, USS Cole, Madrid, London, Beirut, and so many more. Jihad means grainy videos of masked men beheading journalists followed by even grainier videos of bearded men in dirty white robes reading demands and calling America the devil. Jihad cannot possibly be something good, right? Wrong.

Do not let the extremists fool you. What they are doing has very little connection with right Islam or true jihad. First and foremost, greater jihad is about a personal and life-long struggle for righteousness and to become a worthy servant of God (Jihad an-nafs: Jihad against oneself). Only a distant second to this idea of personal struggle is the lesser jihad of waging war to defend the faith (Jihad bil-sayf: Jihad by the sword). In cases where this physical defense becomes necessary, the Qur'an lays out very clear rules about how to engage in warfare. No harming of innocents, women, children, or the elderly. No mistreatment of prisoners. Not even the use of fire to destroy nature. In short, a very intentional, limited warfare. True jihad must be conducted in a godly manner.

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Guest Voice  |  April 30, 2009 5:18 PM

Pakistan's Zardari Goes to Washington

By Mansoor Ijaz

Pakistan has a split personality problem. Its citizens can rise up en masse on one day to depose a military dictator and reinstate honest judges, but the next day seem helpless to stop politicians from ceding strategic territory to enemies who publicly flog a 17-year old woman as a show of justice. Most American taxpayers, who are being asked to finance aid even as the country disintegrates, don't have the faintest idea how to decode what's really wrong there or where to begin to help. President Zardari could change that during his upcoming visit to Washington - but it would require his bold domestic leadership and a new direction for Pakistan and its relationship with the U.S.

Pakistan's central problem today is the systemic failure of its federal, provincial and local governments to provide for its citizens' basic needs, whether public safety, healthcare, education or employment. The Taliban is stepping in to fill that void. Hamas did the same in Palestinian enclaves throughout Israel when PLO leadership failed to offer disenfranchised Palestinians a structured way of life. You've heard it before: security is assured, albeit through intimidation and brutality. Basic daily staples like food and clothing come from Arab-financed hawala cash transfers. Education comes from Saudi-funded madrassa schools. Legal disputes are settled through harsh Islamic laws. Only geography makes the Pakistani case different from that of the Palestinians.

To make matters worse, America's visible role in Pakistan's internal affairs only helps the Taliban's cause. Pakistan's woefully inadequate leader, President Asif Ali Zardari, has been privately lectured and publicly admonished by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. Those lectures have made him look like an American stooge playing to the often conflicting ways in which Washington wants Islamabad to act.

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Guest Voice  |  May 12, 2009 8:08 AM

Somalia Adopts Islamic Law

By Hussein Yusuf

The Somali parliament last month unanimously passed a bill to adopt Islamic law as national legislation. The real issue is not the adoption of Islamic law alone, but how it is interpreted and implemented, and whether there can be a national consensus on what exactly constitutes Islamic law in Somalia.

This move, initiated by the Somali transitional federal government on March 10th, appeared to appease an umbrella group of influential and politicized Islamic organizations (led by the recently formed extremist group Al Shabaab, meaning "the youth"), which are leading an insurgency effort against President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's fragile federal government.

Discussions between the federal government and Al Shabaab have been highly secretive, with little information released about the nature of negotiations and how judges should actually interpret specific rules and guidelines in the newly adopted system of Islamic law. Overall, the nature of how Islamic law will take shape in Somalia remains ambiguous.

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