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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: muslims, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 7 of 7
1. Calling Hamas the al Qaeda of Palestine isn’t just wrong, it’s stupid

By Daniel Byman


In a rousing speech before Congress on May 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected peace talks with the newly unified Palestinian government because it now includes — on paper at least — officials from the terrorist (or, in its own eyes, “resistance”) group Hamas. In a striking moment, Netanyahu defiantly declared, “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al Qaeda,” a statement greeted with resounding applause from the assembled members of Congress.

But hold on a minute. Yes, Hamas, like al Qaeda, is an Islamist group that uses terrorism as a strategic tool to achieve political aims. Yes, Hamas, like al Qaeda, rejects Israel and has opposed the peace talks that moderate Palestinians have tried to move forward. And sure, the Hamas charter uses language that parallels the worst anti-Semitism of al Qaeda, enjoining believers to fight Jews wherever they may be found and accusing Jews of numerous conspiracies against Muslims, ranging from the drug trade to creating “sabotage” groups like, apparently, violent versions of Rotary and Lions clubs.

But the differences between Hamas and al Qaeda often outweigh the similarities. And ignoring these differences underestimates Hamas’s power and influence — and risks missing opportunities to push Hamas into accepting a peace deal.

While Congress was quick to applaud Bibi’s fiery analogy, U.S. counterterrorism officials know that one of the biggest differences is that Hamas has a regional focus, while al Qaeda’s is global. Hamas bears no love for the United States, but it has not deliberately targeted Americans. Al Qaeda, of course, sees the United States as its primary enemy, and it doesn’t stop there. European countries, supposed enemies of Islam such as Russia and India, and Arab regimes of all stripes are on their hit list. Other components of the “Salafi-jihadist” movement (of which al Qaeda is a part) focus operations on killing Shiite Muslims, whom they view as apostates. Hamas, in contrast, does not call for the overthrow of Arab regimes and works with Shiite Iran and the Alawite-dominated secular regime in Damascus, pragmatically preferring weapons, money, and assistance in training to ideological consistency.

Hamas, like its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, also devotes much of its attention to education, health care, and social services. Like it or not, by caring for the poor and teaching the next generation of Muslims about its view of the world, Hamas is fundamentally reshaping Palestinian society. Thus, many Palestinians who do not share Hamas’s worldview nonetheless respect it; in part because the Palestinian moderates so beloved of the West have often failed to deliver on basic government functions. The old Arab nationalist visions of the 1950s and 1960s that animated the moderate Palestinian leader Mahmood Abbas and his mentor Yasir Arafat have less appeal to Palestinians today.

One of the greatest differences today, as the Arab spring raises the hope that democracy will take seed across the Middle East, is that Hamas accepts elections (and, in fact, took power in Gaza in part because of them) while al Qaeda vehemently rejects them. For Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin’s deputy and presumed heir-apparent, elections put man’s (and, even worse, woman’s) wishes above God’s. A democratic government could allow the sale of alcohol, cooperate militarily with the United States, permit women to dress immodestly, or a condone a host of other practices that extremists see as for

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2. Ghostscape by Joe Layburn

Ghostscape is a small, time travel story about a young Muslim Somali girl named Aisha. She is a very unhappy, angry girl, who is now living in London with her mother after her father was murdered in Somalia’s civil war.

The story begins with Aisha crying in the girl’s bathroom because she has once again been bullied by a girl named Chevon. Hearing a cough, Aisha opens the door and there is a pale young boy standing there. She doesn’t recognize the boy and he isn’t dressed like anyone else at school, in fact, the bathroom isn’t even the same. And the boy is asking her if she is afraid of the bombs. Next thing Aisha knows, she back in the right girl’s room - alone.

Later, in the playground, she tells two friends about the experience. Chevon overhears her and threatens to tell Aisha’s mother that she has a boyfriend, knowing that goes against Aisha’s religion. The two girls get into fight and Aisha again finds herself in the presence of the mysterious boy, yelling at her that the sirens are going off and they are in danger.

This time, Aisha finds out the boy is named Richard and it is 1940 London, in the midst of the Blitz. They run through the streets to the shelter of a railway arch to wait out the bombing raid. Richard tells her that he lives with his grandfather, who refuses to go to a shelter during raids. When the air raid warden comes by, they discover he cannot see Aisha.

During a break in the bombing, Aisha goes with Richard to his grandfather’s house. They find his grandfather surveying the remains of their home, which has been destroyed by a bomb along with many other homes on the street. Everyone is taken to nearby Trentham School for shelter. This is also the name of Aisha’s school, but they don’t look a bit alike. They find a spot on the floor and settle in. Just before they fall asleep, Richard asks Aisha to tell him about Chevon.

When she wakes up, Aisha is in her own bed and her mother tells her she had fainted during her fight with Chevon. Aisha can’t wait to get to school that day to talk to the teacher who teaches World War II history. But instead of Miss Brown, Aisha finds Chevon in the classroom, ready to exact some justice. To Aisha’s delight, Richard also shows up and starts to invisibly torment Chevon. Richard manages to actually scare an apology out of Chevon, along with a promise to leave Aisha alone.

Later, Miss Brown tells Aisha to speak with the lollipop lady (crossing guard) about the local history of the area during the war, but she does find out that the Trentham School was bombed during a raid and had to be rebuilt.

By the end of the school day, Aisha has been suspended from school until the following Monday, resulting in yet another terrible fight with her mother. But suspension gives her time to go to the library and read about the bombing of the Trentham School. Aisha determines that she must find Richard and warn him.

But time travel can be capricious. Will she be able to find Richard again or lose the first person she has cared about since her father’s murder in Somalia? Will she ever come to terms with the loss of her father and begin to get along with her mother? The ending yields a bit of a surprise for Aisha.

Ghostscape is a good book. It is essentially about differences, similarities and acceptance. Despite the fact that both kids come from paranoid times when suspicion and mistrust of “the other” run high, and despite their individual differences, Richard and Aisha accep

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3. Beyond reciprocal violence: morality, relationships and effective self-defense

By Ervin Staub


A few hours after the 9/11 attacks, speaking on our local public radio station in Western Massachusetts, struggling with my tears and my voice, I said that this horrible attack can help us understand people’s suffering around the world, and be a tool for us to unite with others to create a better world. Others also said similar things. But that is not how events progressed.

Our response to that attack led to three wars we are still fighting, including the war on terror. How we fight these wars and what we do to bring them to an end will shape our sense of ourselves as a moral people, our connections to the rest of the world, our wealth and power as a nation, and our physical security.  What can we do to reduce hostility toward us, strengthen our alliances, and regain our moral leadership in the world?

One of the basic principles of human conduct is reciprocity. As one party strikes out at another,  the other, if it can, usually responds with force. Often the response is more than what is required for self-defense. It is punitive, taking revenge, teaching the other a lesson. But the first party  takes this as aggression, and responds with more violence. Israelis and Palestinians for many years engaged in mutual and often escalating retaliation, sometimes reciprocating immediately, sometimes, the Palestinians especially, the weaker party, waiting for the right opportunity.

Many young Muslims, and even non-Muslims converting to Islam, have been “radicalized” by our drone attacks, and our forces killing civilians in the course of fighting. The would-be Times Square bomber has talked to people about his distress and anger about such violence against Muslims. While we kill some who plan to attack us, especially as we harm innocent others, more turn against us.

Of course, we must protect ourselves. But positive actions are also reciprocated—not always, but often, especially if the intention for the action is perceived as positive. Non-violent reactions and practices must be part of effective self-defense. Respect is one of them. Many Muslims were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and we should have specifically included them in our public mourning. Many Arab and Muslim countries reached out to us afterwards, even Iran, and we should have responded more than we did to their sympathy and support. Effective reaching out is more challenging now, and after the mid-term elections the world might see reaching out by President Obama as acting out of weakness. But the U.S. is still the great power, and both the administration and members of Congress ought to reach out to the Muslim world.

But even as we show respect and work on good connections, we ought to stop supporting repressive Muslim regimes. That has been one of the grievances against us. An important source of Al-Qaeda has been Egyptian terrorists, who fought against a secular repressive Egyptian regime. Then as Al-Qaeda was organized by the Mujahideen, who fought against and defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, they turned from such “near enemies” against the far enemy, the United States, which supported these repressive regimes.

Another important matter is dialogue between parties. Dialogue can be abused, used simply to gain time, or as a show to pacify third parties, or can even be a fraud as in Afghanistan where an “impostor” played the role of a Taliban leader in dialogue with the government . The Bush administration strongly opposed dialogue with terrorists—but then with money and other inducements got Sunnis in Iraq, who have been attacking us, to work with us. In persistent dialogue, in contrast to the very occasional negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the parties can develop relationships, gain trust, and then become ready to resolve practical matters.

To resolve our wars, we cannot simply bomb and shoot. We must also

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4. NPR’s Firing of Juan Williams

By Elvin Lim


If NPR values public deliberation as the highest virtue of a democratic polity, it did its own ideals a disservice last week when it fired Juan Williams without offering a plausible justification why it did so. On October 20, Williams had uttered these fateful words on the O’ Reilly Factor:

“…when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Anxiety and worry make for poor public reasons. Quite often discomfort is a façade for prejudice – an emotion that knows no reasonable defense. Some men feel uncomfortable when women speak up in the corporate board room. Some straight men and women feel uncomfortable that they are serving with gays in the military. And some black men feel uncomfortable when they see people dressed up in Muslim garb on airplanes.

Perhaps there is a case that Juan Williams should have been fired because he allegedly harbored xenophobic sentiments, but that was not the official reason why he was let go. Williams was fired because he articulated his discomfort, not because he felt said discomfort.

According to NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, Williams had repeated fallen short of NPR’s standards that their news analysts should “avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings.”

Notice that nothing was said about either the legitimacy or illegitimacy of Williams’ emotional opinions. And so the emotions, though felt, were not addressed, and a learning moment was missed. NPR was indeed being politically correct, but what has not been noted is that its political correctness played to both sides of the ideological spectrum: in censoring Williams’ speech, it played to the Left, but in censoring its real reasons for doing so, it played to the Right. As a result NPR’s action impressed no one.

Discomfort is an emotion. And emotions are just manifestations of reasons not yet expressed. Sometimes, when these reasons are legitimate, so are the emotions that come attached to them. Righteous anger, for example. But other times, when these reasons are illegitimate, then the emotions attached to them are necessarily illegitimate. Xenophobia, for example. But if we don’t talk about the reasons behind the emotions – which NPR has elected to do – then a learning moment was missed. No doubt, NPR found it difficult to publicly articulate the claim that feeling anxious in the presence of someone in Muslim garb may be a natural, but not a reasonable reaction, because most Americans probably feel such a reflex.

Ironically, that was exactly what Juan Williams was trying to explore in first admitting his emotions. This is because seconds after his emotional confession, Williams returned to reason when responding to O’Reilly’s claim that “Muslims attacked us on 9/11,” by saying, “Wait, hold on because if you say, wait, Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals, very obnoxious, you don’t say first and foremost we’ve got a problem with Christians. That’s crazy.” (See full transcript here.)

“I revealed my fears to set up the case for not making rash judgments about people of any faith,” Williams wrote in a statement released by Fox News. This was

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5. Struggling for the American Soul at Ground Zero

By Edward E. Curtis IV


Like Gettysburg, the National Mall, and other historic sites, Ground Zero is a place whose symbolic importance extends well beyond local zoning disputes and real estate deals. The recent controversy over a proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks away from the former World Trade Center shows it clearly: the geography of Lower Manhattan has become a sacred ground on which religious and political battles of national importance are being waged.

After New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission gave its approval for the demolition of the building now located on 45-47 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, the Rev. Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice announced that it is suing to stop the project.

Though Robertson’s organization is supposedly dedicated to the “ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights,” it is not primarily concerned with religious rights, at least not the rights of Muslims. It is instead part of a loose coalition of Americans who have identified the presence of Muslims, both at home and abroad, as a primary threat to both the United States and the Judeo-Christian heritage.

Their Muslim-bashing has deep roots in American history. Since the days of Cotton Mather, the New England Puritan minister, many Americans have associated Muslims with religious heresy. In the early 1800s, as the United States waged its first foreign war against the North African Barbary states, politicians, ministers, and authors regularly used themes of oriental despotism, harems, and Islamic violence in political campaigns, novels, and sermons.

Later, when the U.S. failed to quell Muslim revolts during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines in the early twentieth century, U.S. Army Gen. Leonard Wood called for the extermination of all Filipino Muslims since, according to him, they were irretrievably fanatical.

Islamophobia, an odd combination of racism, xenophobia, and religious bias, receded in importance during the 1900s as the specter of communism replaced it as a primary symbol of foreign danger. But with the fall of the Soviet Union, stereotypes about the Islamic “green menace” have once again become a central aspect of our culture.

This time Muslims are fighting back. Their civil rights and religious leaders are challenging this old American prejudice, in part through unprecedented interfaith community activism. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the group proposing the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, is one of them.

In response to questions about why he wants to build a community center so close to Ground Zero, Rauf has said that he wants the community center to be a source of healing, not division. Rauf also pledged that Park51, as the project is now called, will be a “home for all people who are yearning for understanding and healing, peace, collaboration, and interdependence.”

Rauf has powerful friends–or at least allies. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who choked up defending the right of Muslims to build the community center during a speech in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, argues that “we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves…if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.”

Those who agree with Mayor Bloomberg represent the other major faction struggling for the American soul at Ground Zero. For them, the American soul is imperiled when its founding ideals are cast aside. In this case, the ideal is the first amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion. “Of all our precious freedoms,” said Bloomberg,

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6. Great Britain: 2020

As we peek into the future to see just what life will be like in the UK in 2020, a grim sight lies before us…

Power is now firmly in the hands on the heavily armed, tear-away children, nurtured by the recent Labour government, and statistics show over half the population is now Muslim. Christianity is an underground religion, practiced secretly, for fear of retribution, and the NHS has decided it will ONLY treat foreigners. Council houses are reserved exclusively for gypsies, asylum-seekers and paedophiles. And education (in the areas it’s still available face-to-face) is a guarded operation, with the teacher sitting behind bullet-proof glass and children wearing full body-armour (with an army of translators at the ready). Adults have resorted to leaving their boarded-up homes only in large gangs, or in tanks provided by the army. (The army is now boasting such fine military planners as the two prospective young terrorists recently found not guilty of planning toblow up their school, after hoping to kill hundreds of their innocent schoolmates.) 

Image via Wikipedia

The newly elected Lib-Dem goverrnment - voted inafter the late Conservative leader, David Cameron, was discovered to be nothing but a holographic image, projected by the President of America (as was Tony Blair), in order to control our country from afar – are using the military police to import illegal drugs, bought from the Afghan government, in order to keep the children on the streets as calm as possible. They still believe there’s some way out ofthis mess. 

Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who was able jumped ship years ago. Now only the poorest remain, along with the millions of half-blind elderly people who’ve been imprisoned for failing to pay the fines handed out for recycling offences (such as accidentally disposing of a potato peeling in the box designated for tin cans).

Image via Wikipedia

Aaah, but such is life!

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7. Great Britain 2020: Life After New Labour

As we peek into the future to see just what life will be like in the UK in 2020, a grim sight lies before us…

Power is now firmly in the hands on the heavily armed, tear-away children, nurtured by the recent Labour government, and statistics show over half the population is now Muslim. Christianity is an underground religion, practiced secretly, for fear of retribution, and the NHS has decided it will ONLY treat foreigners. Council houses are reserved exclusively for gypsies, asylum-seekers and paedophiles; inner-city areas resemble scenes from District 9.

Education (in the areas it’s still available face-to-face) is a guarded operation, with the teacher sitting behind bullet-proof glass and children wearing full body-armour (with an army of translators at the ready). Adults have resorted to leaving their boarded-up homes only in large gangs, or in tanks provided by the army. (The army is now boasting such fine military planners as the two prospective young terrorists recently found not guilty of planning to blow up their school, hoping to kill hundreds of innocent school friends and teachers.) 

Image via Wikipedia

The newly elected Lib-Dem government - voted in after the late Conservative leader, David Cameron, was discovered to be nothing but a holographic image, projected by the President of America (as was Tony Blair), in order to control our country from afar – are using the military police to import illegal drugs, bought from the Afghan government, in order to keep the children on the streets as calm as possible. They still believe there’s some way out of this mess…

Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who was able to jumped ship years ago. Now only the poorest remain, along with millions of half-blind elderly people who were imprisoned for failing to pay the fines handed out for their recycling offences (such as accidentally disposing of a potato peeling in the box designated for tin cans).

Image via Wikipedia

Suicide is now the only option.

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