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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

August 2, 2006

CSID Email Bulletin

August 2, 2006

June 30, 2006

All Previous Issues


  1. CSID News:  The Network of Democrats in the Arab World (NDAW)

  2. EVENT:  Islamist Networks: The Case of Tablighi Jamaat

  3. Analysis: U.S. policy and Islamic renewal (By Claude Salhani)

  4. INTERVIEW:  Tariq Ramadan (Prospect Magazine)

  5. ARTICLE:  Money Cant Buy Us Democracy (By AKBAR GANJI)

  6. ARTICLE:  Universal Values and Muslim Democracy (by Anwar Ibrahim)

  7. ARTICLE:  Stop the Band-Aid Treatment (By Jimmy Carter)

  8. ARTICLE:  Key Republican breaks with Bush on Mideast (CNN)

  9. ARTICLE:  The Violence of Impoverished Thought (By Ali Ettefagh)

  10. ARTICLE:  A New Era of Realpolitik? (By Bashir Goth)

  11. ARTICLE: NIH Director Joins Call For Mideast Cease-Fire (By
    Christopher Lee)

  12. ARTICLE: U.S. risks backlash in Mideast (By Peter Baker)

  13. ARTICLE:  Holy War: A Texas Preacher Leads Campaign To Let Israel Fight (By Andrew Higgins)

  14. OPEN LETTER:  Message from Bishop Riah in Palestine (By The Rt. Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal)

  15. ARTICLE:  Roots Of Mideast Dissension (By Salam Al-Marayati)

  16. FELLOWSHIPS: at the National Endowment For Democracy

  17. OPPORTUNITIES:  New Round of South-South Grants is Now Opened

  18. CALL FOR PAPERS:  American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies

The Network of Democrats in the Arab World (NDAW):

Democracy has eluded many Arab and Muslim countries and left many of their citizens frustrated and disillusioned. The Network of Democrats in the Arab World (NDAW) was established in 16-17 December 2005 in Casablanca, Morocco by 63 leading democrats from 14 countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, to help move democracy forward in the Arab world.

The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) in coordination with Partners for Democratic Change (PDC), and cooperation with members of the civil society from the Arab world is carrying out key activities in order to promote democracy and help strengthen and sustain a Network of Arab Democrats in The Middle East and North Africa. 

The Goals set out for this project are as follow:


Build a unified platform for democrats to provide a moderate,
progressive, and hopeful vision for the future and to defeat the voices of extremism and radicalism,
Establish communication links and regular meetings between democrats in the various Arab countries so that they may share knowledge, experience, and expertise among each other and with democrats from other countries,
Hone the members abilities and skills in communications, leadership, and coalition building and provide them with the skills set required to spread the message of democracy, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence,
Create a support network to the members in case of harassment and/or persecution,
Develop a strategy to sustain and expand the network over many years through membership fees, grants, donations, services, and
publications.

The project was set out on December 2005 and is proceeding on schedule. The Network adopted a charter and a list serve is established to facilitate the communication between the members of the Network and the coordination by CSID of the Network's Steering Committee.  CSID is strengthening its contacts with leading international human rights NGOs and Arab embassies to help provide a support network to NDAW members in case of
harassment.

The workshops aimed to develop the new members in communication, effective meeting facilitation, leadership, and project development skills. The trainings also looked at the interplay between Islam and democracy.  This report gives a brief summary of these training events.  It also includes a summary of the evaluation feedback received by Participants and a lessons learned section. 

During May and June, 2006, CSID and PDC organized four regional
workshops in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Jordan for NDAW members as well as potential network members.  Trainers from CSID and Partners split the training time with each organization focusing on its area of expertise. 
 

For a detailed list of participants in the training program, please
refer to appendixes at the end of this report.

 

For more information about the Network of Democrats in the Arab World, please contact Abderrahim Sabir, Network Coordinator, at
sabir@islam-democracy.org or 202-265-1200.
 

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Islamist Networks: The Case of Tablighi Jamaat

Tuesday, August 8, 2006
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Location
U.S. Institute of Peace
2nd Floor Conference Room
1200 17th St, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Dr. Eva Borreguero will discuss the Tablighi Jammat, a global Islamic proselytizing movement with one of the largest numbers of followers in the world.

Tablighi Jammat's annual meetings in Raiwind (Pakistan) and Dhaka
(Bangladesh) are the most attended congregations of Muslims in the world, outnumbered only by the Hajj. Its unique modus operandi, which eschews political activism and use of violence, has allowed the group to spread discreetly and peacefully all over the world, finding minimal resistance from local governments. Dr. Borreguero will discuss this little-understood organization, detailing its ideology and values and their approach to Islam as well as its ever-expanding transnational presence.

Dr. Eva Borreguero is a professor of Political Science at the
University Complutense of Madrid (Spain). Currently, she is a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Center for Muslim and Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. She authored Hindu: religious nationalism and politics in contemporary India (Spanish). She is a frequent opinion contributor to several Spanish newspapers including El Pais and El Correo, as well as an analyst at the Spanish think-tank Real Instituto Elcano.

Speakers

Dr. Eva Borreguero
Fulbright Scholar, Center for Muslim and Christian Understanding,
Georgetown University and Professor of Political Science, University
Complutense of Madrid (Spain)

Christine Fair, Discussant and Moderator
U.S. Institute of Peace

RSVP
To RSVP, please send your name, affiliation, daytime phone number, and name of the event to Nicholas Howenstein at nhowenstein@usip.org.

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Analysis: U.S. policy and Islamic renewal

By Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
http://license.icopyright.net/user/viewFreeUse.act?fuid=NjYwMTk=

Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, the United States has found itself in a war
against an enemy it had very little intelligence on -- Islamist extremists. In the aftermath of the attacks and as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on, the United States struggled with the consequence of its inability to fully understand how to go about winning the hearts and minds of the majority of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims.

"The United States still lacks an integrated and sustainable strategy
to confront religious extremism in the Muslim world," writes Abdeslam M. Maghraoui, director of the Muslim World Initiative at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The USIP scholar goes on to say: "Policymakers have failed to recognize that the challenge is not only a conflict with the West but also involves ideological shifts within the Muslim world. These shifts have precipitated a major battle for the future of Islam as a faith and a civilization."

The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan -- the first filled with
challenges and the second with uncertainties -- "are raising doubts about the current thrust of the "global war on terrorism."

Maghraoui believes that the single most important initiative the United
States can take to combat Islamist extremism is to support "Islamic
renewal, a diffuse but growing social, political, and intellectual
movement whose goal is profound reform of Muslim societies and polities."

A distinction must be made between moderates and radicals in Islam, and Maghraoui advises the United States to "engage moderate Islam because core aspects of the religion have an enormous moderating and modernizing potential that policymakers have overlooked."

Maghraoui says that there is a "visible misunderstanding of the
region's political culture, particularly regarding the questions of terrorism, extremism, and political reform." Efforts in the past to address the issue "have often contradicted one another and worked at cross-purposes."

Indeed, the United States has over the years frequently cooperated with "authoritarian regimes" in order to deal with the terrorist threat.
Unfortunately that only reinforces "negative attitudes about the United
States and its policies."

Promoting democracy -- particularly in the developing world -- is
"likely to empower fundamentalists in many Muslim states," believes the author of the report titled "American foreign policy and Islamic Renewal." While everyone is calling for free and democratic elections, Maghraoui disagrees. "Free elections may not be the best mechanisms to negotiate substantive political issues, and deep suspicion toward formal authority structures persists in Muslim societies," says Maghraoui.

Electoral victories by hard-line Islamists are dimming hope that
promoting democracy will produce moderate regimes and good relations with the United States, says the author of the report. "Attempts to win 'hearts and minds' through public diplomacy have not yielded significant results. A June 2006 Pew Global Attitudes survey shows that unfavorable opinions of the United States are still widespread in five traditionally moderate Muslim countries (Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Turkey)."

Still, the vast majority of the world's Muslims are peaceful people who want to get on with their lives, much like most people anywhere in the world. "The Islamic renewal seeks to reclaim the religion's heritage from extremist, traditionalist, and fundamentalist groups," says Maghraoui.

U.S. foreign policy could "tip the balance between extremist and
modernist interpretations of Islam and seize a great opportunity for
constructive engagement," says the report, which calls on the United States to  support the renewal movement to reform Islam and mobilize Muslim constituencies against religious extremism.

How to go about this? Maghraoui believes the United States should
"promote Muslim modernist works and ideas, engage the rising moderate Islamist parties on normative grounds, and put more emphasis on substantive social, educational, and religious reforms."

The current conflict is not purely one pitting the West against radical
Islamists, rather it is a conflict also between two different
ideologies within Islam -- this is a battle that finds its roots in the early pages of Islam's history books.

Maghraoui explains that in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Islamic
revolution, conservative Sunnis, not wanting to let Iran's Shiites
dominate the political/religious scene "unleashed their own brand of
puritanical Islam to counter the growing ideological influence and political dynamism of the Shiite revolution.

"Saudi financial largesse and Wahhabism, a doctrine that advocates a literal, legalistic, and purist interpretation of the Koran, have
influenced the Sunni response to the Shiite challenge," says Maghraoui.

Poor social and economic performance and the repressive nature of
Muslim political regimes acted as fertile breeding grounds for extremist, giving Sunni radicals the edge on the Shiites. "The three Arab Human Development Reports published by the United Nations between 2002 and 2004 show the Arab part of the Muslim world lagging behind other regions in social opportunity, knowledge, and good governance," his report notes.

Reforms called for by the West in the Muslim world's political and
economic policies have been "often touted as the solution to the Muslim world's problems." Although much in need, those are "no longer sufficient to address a crisis of this magnitude," says Maghraoui, who calls for a "freer political environment and social and economic incentives." But, he adds, those "should have been implemented decades ago."

The single most important step the United States can take to combat
Islamist extremism is to support "Islamic renewal," he says.

The United States is well positioned to support this movement and
engage "moderate" Islam. Contrary to common perceptions in the West, the word "moderate" accurately describes the vast majority of Muslims, who reject violence, yearn for justice and accountable governance, and value Muslim traditions of family, knowledge, and prosperity.

The author then puts forward six recommendations in which he asks the United States to:

1. Support the establishment of a "Muslim World Foundation" to foster the development of peaceful, prosperous, and open Muslim societies and polities. The Foundation would draw on local and international experts, donors, and partners, and collaborate with government and nongovernmental associates.


2. Provide special grants to American universities to promote Muslim
modernist works and ideas and translate them into concrete policies. Identify specific reform policies to be addressed to people and governments in the Muslim world, as well as to the international community -- including Western powers, the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the International Court of Justice, and the World Bank.

3. Engage Islamist parties on normative grounds.

4. Put more emphasis on substantive social, educational, and religious reforms. The cornerstone of these reforms is the effort to expand the conceptual boundaries and foundations of Sharia beyond the Koran and Sunna.

5. Refocus and coordinate public diplomacy, democracy promotion, and aid programs to reinforce Islamic religious reforms and renewal. Public diplomacy should link American values and Islam's humanist traditions.

6. Consider supporting religious charities. Many Muslim governments' social safety nets are weak or nonexistent, religious organizations provide many services to the needy, including clinics, childcare, and disaster relief.


This report deserves serious consideration.  (Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)
 

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PROSPECT MAGAZINE

INTERVIEW WITH TARIQ RAMADAN

A confident, modern Islam must challenge the victim mentality of
western Muslims and a crisis of authority across the faith, says Tariq
Ramadan. But can you be a gay Muslim?

24 July 2006
par Ehsan Masood, David Goodhart , Adair Turner
http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=7571

Question : Why do you think that after more than 40 years of
significant Muslim immigration to Europe, no Islamic reform movement has emerged here?

Answer : Well, there is nothing very visible yet. In a way that is not
surprising, these things take time. But I believe a silent revolution
is taking place-things are evolving very fast. Muslims are now talking
about national citizenship in a more confident way. Women are much more involved in the process. There are pockets of resistance to change, especially among the elder generation, but this is not the only reality: there are new leaders, new understandings, new trends.

Q : You often say in your lectures that liberal democracies like
Britain are more Islamic than many undemocratic Islamic countries. What do you mean by that-that concepts like the rule of law and equal citizenship and democracy are strongly endorsed by Islam?

A : Protection of religion, life, intellect, family, goods and dignity
is much more a reality in the west than under the Arab Islamic
countries. Nothing is ideal, but we have to acknowledge these facts.

Q : You always stress to Muslim audiences the importance of feeling at home here. But there are many organisations, including the Muslim Council of Britain, that benefit from stressing a distinctive Islamic identity and pursue goals such as state funding for Muslim schools that can contribute to ghettoisation. Is that wrong?

A :  I would prefer social mixing and mutual contribution. Im not
against Islamic schools in principle, and I have seen some good ones here in Britain. I am also aware that even in the mainstream system you often get a lot of plain old segregation, with 80 to 95 per cent of pupils coming from one group, and this we have to fight against too. Muslims should, of course, have the same right to faith schools as Christians and Jews. But there is a danger that self-segregation could be the result. So, its legally right, but Muslims should not necessarily take up the right.

Q : What about the role of the Muslim councils that now exist all over
Europe? Do they reinforce a sense of separateness? Should Muslim
citizens take their political and social problems to councillors and MPs, rather than the local representative of the MCB?

A : There is a contradiction here. European governments want to see the emergence of leaders who can speak in the name of Muslims. In France, they have even set up Muslim bodies. But at the same time, they do not want to encourage too much identity politics.

Q:  So you hope that in the future there will be less of a role for
Europes Muslim councils?

A : Yes, it should just be a religious role. The state should deal with
citizens.

Q : In terms of representation you are calling for a recognition of the
separation of religion and politics-something which most Muslims,
perhaps even in Europe, see as fused together.

A : Im just saying that we must follow the rules in the countries in
which we live. We should not confuse everything and Islamise social
problems. Social problems are social problems and we have to deal with them as citizens claiming our rights, not as Muslims defending their religion. It is true that there are some special problems that Muslims face, certain kinds of discrimination or prejudice based on faith, that we call Islamophobia. But most problems that Muslims face are faced by other citizens too.

Q : There is no agreed definition of Islamophobia. What does this word mean to you?

A : At first I was cautious about using it. But we have to distinguish
between two things. To criticise the religion and Muslims is not
Islamophobia; a critical attitude towards religion must be accepted. But to criticise someone or discriminate against them only because they are Muslim-this is what we can call Islamophobia, this is a kind of racism.

Q : You may accept the idea of criticism of religions but many devout
Muslims will not (the film The Da Vinci Code has even been banned in many Muslim countries). Your distinction between legitimate criticism of a religion and condemnation of discrimination might put you in a minority among Muslims.

A :  I dont know if I am in a minority or a majority. But I think you
are right that there is a great deal of confusion and some very
emotional reactions in these difficult times. We need some intellectual critical distance.

Q :  How much of a problem is Islamophobia in Britain? Is there much evidence for it? Clearly after events like 7/7 there will be some
backlash, but Britain has been reasonably calm.

A : I agree its not too bad, especially compared to some other
European countries. The BNP has been doing well and they are overtly anti-Muslim, but mainstream politics is relatively immune. I think that British Muslims have a sense that they are quite privileged compared to Muslims in Europe.

Q : It is often said that Muslims are more troubled about living in
western societies than other religious minorities-Hindus, Sikhs and so on. People say that there is something in the history of Islam as a great world civilisation, and a proselytising religion, that makes it harder for Muslims to adapt, or perhaps gives them greater expectations about the degree of adaptation of the host society. Is that true?

A :  I think its a fact. Things are harder for Muslims in secular
societies. The whole intellectual and religious apparatus of Islam
perceived itself as not of the west, and tended to see the west as a monolithic entity. Also, the experience of colonisation is something we cannot forget. In north Africa, India and Pakistan, it runs deep. Then on the western side there is the feeling that Muslims are especially difficult to integrate because of the indivisibility of religion and politics; that Islam is monolithic. We have to try to deconstruct these perceptions on both sides, perceptions that can be self-segregating. Its not easy.


Q : The French banned headscarves in schools. But they also banned crucifixes. The ban is on overt religious symbols of all kinds. Surely Muslims should respect Frances tradition of laicite, according to which all religious beliefs should be put aside in public places. Do you have any sympathy with that sort of strong French left-wing secular tradition?

A :  In theory you are right. But the practice of laicite dates back to
a law of 1905. If a law already exists, why a new law in 2004? This is
because crucifixes were accepted under the old law. The new law was passed because of Frances Muslim presence. The reality is that Frances secular tradition is being adapted to target a specific group. French society is going through something of an identity crisis. I have told all French girls that, if they have to make a choice between going to school and wearing the headscarf, they must choose school. Just go. This is the law. But at the same time, being a democrat means that you continue to discuss the merits of the law and call for change.

Q : Would you say that what is happening in France with the headscarf ban is Islamophobia?

A : No, I would say it is a kind of discrimination.

Q : Strictly speaking, Islamophobia means fear of Islam, but in common parlance it is taken to mean animus against Muslims, which is slightly different. Many leading British Muslims do believe that we live in an Islamophobic world. You would disagree?

A : It is dangerous to nurture this feeling. Very dangerous. It is
nurturing a victim-mentality, the idea that everyone is against us.

Q : You say that any woman ought to be able to wear a headscarf if she wants to. Would you also agree that a country such as Iran ought to allow any woman not to wear a headscarf?

A : To force a woman to wear a headscarf is against Islamic principles and human rights. Thats it.

Q : A key theme in your writings and talks is that the practice of
Islam must become less literalist. So, for example, whereas the majority of Muslims are taught that every word in the Koran has to be obeyed, you argue differently. You say that the Koran should be read in its historical context.

A : What I say is firmly rooted in the Islamic tradition. Islam is
constructed on a number of principles that cannot change. They are: belief in God, in the Prophet, the books of revelation, and so on. These are immutable. Then there is the practice of Islam: praying, fasting, and so on. Here also there is agreement, among both Shia and Sunni traditions. But there is a third level that deals with Islamic ethics. In this field there are immutable principles and there are implementations that have to take history and societies into account. The answers here come from intellectual creativity, from ijtihad. And this idea is also firmly rooted in the Islamic tradition. But we do need a shift in the sources of authority. People who have power to make Islamic rulings are what I would call "ulama [scholars] of the text." What we now need is more of what I would call "ulama of the context." These are people who are aware of modern knowledge and who can help the scholars of the text to be more creative in their answers. This requires is an acknowledgement that there is a role for modern knowledge in Islamic law and jurisprudence,
but that this need not betray the ethic of Islamic teachings.

Q : Can you give an example of such an ethic-an example of something that is subject to changing interpretations?

A : The need for such a new applied ethic is quite clear when we deal with medical sciences: Muslim scholars must work together with medical doctors when they tackle the issues of cloning or euthanasia. It must be exactly the same when we deal with economics or any human sciences.

Q : Are you saying that it is possible to treat the Koran as being
something which was actually written by a particular person, at a
particular time, in a particular historical context, and that you need to
understand that context to understand the Korans place in the modern world? Or are you saying that the book is the uncreated word of God?

A : For me, the Koran is the very word of God. It is a revelation and
this belief is a fundamental pillar of Islam (arkn al-imn). It was
revealed over 23 years, but often as a kind of answer to a specific
situation. Whether it is created or uncreated had in fact nothing to do with the question of how to read the Koran. It is the very word of God,
revealed in a specific period of time: the great majority of the scholars agree that there are immutable principles and teachings and other lessons that we have to contextualise. Even the eternal teachings require human intellect to be rightly enforced in a new environment.

Q : How would you say the Koran should be read? For many Muslims, for example, the verses that call on the wives of the Prophet to cover up are seen as a commandment for Muslim women to wear the headscarf. But would it also be possible to read these verses as general guidance to dress modestly; or to respect women and not see them in a sexualised way?

A : There are two things here. First, all Islamic schools interpret
these verses as being an Islamic prescription for women to cover their hair. But at the same time, what we are seeing in most Islamic-majority countries is that this interpretation is contributing to the seclusion and segregation of women. So, the headscarf is an Islamic prescription and I agree that modesty needs to be protected. Thats fine. But some scholars of Islam go on to conclude that women do not have the right to work. For me this is wrong and is against womens rights. And we can actually go back to the scriptural sources in order to promote the struggle
for womens rights. We have two main problems at the present time. The literalist reading, which is: there is no history, there is no
contextualisation. The other is when we read the Koran through our own cultures. This is also a problem.

Q : Parts of the Koran are clear about accepting other people of the
book, the Jews and Christians. But other parts are pretty intolerant of
anybody who is, say a polytheist, and by implication anybody who is an atheist. You have said that the acceptance of Jews and Christians should now be extended to others too.

A : In the Koran we have very strong verses against polytheists and, in some situations against Jews or Christians. But, again, we have to put things into context. We have to ask: why was it so in this particular situation? Was it because the Prophet was resisting oppression? Remember that the Prophet himself had connections with polytheists all his life. When he had to flee Mecca for Medina, he was guided by a polytheist. The emissary of peace he sent from Medina back to Mecca was a polytheist. His close uncle, [Abu Talib who had raised him as a child] chose not to become a Muslim, but the Prophet never said: "Im going to kill you because you are a polytheist." So here we have freedom of speech and freedom of conscience for a close member of his family who decided that he
did not want to become a Muslim.

Q : What about apostasy? What happens if you are born and educated a Muslim but then say: I have now decided that Islam is not for me. Would you accept that someone born into a Muslim family has a right to say that they no longer believe, and that families and communities must respect that?


A :  I have been criticised about this in many countries. My view is
the same as that of Sufyan Al-Thawri, an 8th-century scholar of Islam, who argued that the Koran does not prescribe death for someone because he or she is changing religion. Neither did the Prophet himself ever perform such an act. Many around the Prophet changed religions. But he never did anything against them. There was an early Muslim, Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh, who went with the first emigrants from Mecca to Abyssinia. He converted to Christianity and stayed, but remained close to Muslims. He divorced his wife, but he was not killed.It is different for someone who becomes a Muslim during a war with the purpose of betraying Muslims. They are committing treason. This is why the context is so important because the Prophet never killed anyone because he changed religion. From the very beginning, Muslim scholars understood this. Islam does not prevent someone from changing religion because you feel that this is not right for you, or if you are not happy. There are two records of the Prophet saying that someone changing religion should be killed. But both sources are weak. The most explicit one-"He who changes his religion, kill him"-was not accepted as being authentic by Imam Muslim, [one of the top six biographers of the life of the Prophet].

Q : But what you say is not accepted in many predominantly Muslim
countries.

A : No, you are right, its not the majority position. It has not been
the majority position for centuries. But now in our situation we have
scholars and people more and more speaking about that. I wrote 15 years ago saying: this is not the only position we have in Islam.

Q : Following on from that, who is to decide which Koranic verse should be accepted in its literal sense, and which verse should be read in historical context? Can ordinary Muslims decide? Should it be religious scholars? How are the "scholars of the context" to be chosen, from where do they derive legitimacy?

A : There is a problem today. In the Sunni tradition we have a crisis
of authority. The Muslim scholars are no longer considered as an asset. And you cannot have people just organising themselves, as it will lead to chaos. There is a crisis of authority. We do have some authority figures. But are we happy with them? I dont think so. Do we need a platform of scholars, at least at the national level? We need scholars at different levels. In Britain, we need people who know the country, come from the country, are raised in the country, who know the fabric and the culture, the language and the whole collective psychology. We need people who come from diverse readings of the Koran. We need a platform which will give direction, and this is missing today. This is for national issues and we may think of another platform for international issues.

Q : Who will construct such a platform? Where and how will it derive
legitimacy among Muslims, especially since history tells us that, after Islams earliest years, a theological consensus uniting the different strands of Islam was impossible in practice?

A : Some attempts have already being made with continental bodies (Fiqh Council in the US, the European Council for Fatwa and Research in Europe, and the International Council of Muslim Scholars). These are first steps, but I think that Muslim scholars and leaders in every single European country must take the lead and create pluralistic platforms beyond their respective and closed schools of laws and thought. We need time but I cannot expect the Muslims to remain blind in front of such imperative challenges... for the time being, Muslims are too passive and continue to blame "the others" for their own mismanagement.My own position on many things may well be a minority position among Islamic scholars. But I can tell you that on the great majority of the issues, my position is mainstream among the new generations of Muslims in the west. On being European, on being a citizen, on being part of society, and on dealing with discrimination, this is all mainstream. Go and speak with the new generations. Their questions are being answered in a new way.

Q : Presumably you would like it to be the mainstream in Egypt, in
Saudi Arabia, in Pakistan as well.

A : I think that this will happen. But it will be a long process. In
Islamic-majority countries, religion is instrumentalised by both sides:
the government and the opposition. There is no freedom, no democracy.

Q : But realistically, how far can you go in a non-literalist
interpretation of the Koran? Lets take the issue of whether someone can be both gay and Muslim. In Christianity youll get a variety of answers. Broadly speaking, in Catholicism homosexuality is a sin. But like all other sins in Catholicism, a little bit of penance can get you out of it before judgement day. In some versions of evangelical Protestantism, homosexuality is a complete sin because evangelicals tend to be literalists. But in the Church of England there are a large number of openly gay Anglican clergy. The argument being that the Old Testament has to be contextualised. Is it possible to have a similar reading of the Koran? Or is it that homosexuality is simply wrong. Could you imagine there ever being a homosexual imam in the same way that the Anglican church in the US has just consecrated a homosexual bishop? Would that be possible?

A : It could happen if such an imam did not declare that he was
homosexual. You cannot expect to see homosexuality being promoted within the Islamic tradition. Homosexuality is not perceived by Islam as the divine project for men and women. It is regarded as bad and wrong. Now, the way we have to deal with a homosexual is to say: "I dont agree with what you are doing, but I respect who you are. You can be a Muslim. You are a Muslim. Being a Muslim is between you and God." I am not going to promote homosexuality but I will respect the person, even if I dont agree with what they are doing.

Q : Can you be a Muslim and not pray ?

A : The moment you declare the shahada-"I believe there is no god but God and Muhammad is His Messenger"-that makes you a Muslim. Whether or not you pray is your responsibility, but if you believe in God you are a Muslim. This was the logic employed in a debate on this topic that took place in the 9th century between the founders of two of Islams major schools of thought, Ash Shafii and his student Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. Ash Shafii asked Ibn Hanbal whether someone who doesnt pray is outside Islam because this was what ibn Hanbal was preaching. Ash Shafii replied that once you proclaim the shahada you are a Muslim. No one has the right to put you outside the realm of Islam.

Q : Can an Islamic state define who is Muslim or who is not? Or is it a matter of individual conscience?

A : There are norms, of course, but it is a question of individual
conscience.

Q : But in Muslim majority countries, it is the state that often
defines who is or isnt a Muslim.

A : The problem is not that states want to define who is a Muslim. What they want today is to be seen to be protecting the rules of Islam even though everything around is hypocritical. Hypocrisy is the heart of the matter. As long as you say that you are Muslim, this should be respected.

Q : A striking feature in the long history of Islam is that in its
first four or five centuries it was ahead of western Christendom in
scientific and philosophical endeavour and in economic development. And then from about the 12th, 13th centuries, long before colonialism, things changed. King Abdullah of Jordan said recently that this is because ijtihad, making decisions based on rational thinking, was disallowed, which led to todays dominant, literalist form of Koranic interpretation. Is this right?

A : Yes. Historically it is. If we study the history of Islamic
civilisation, around the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, something happened. Muslims and Muslim scholars perceived that they were at risk from being dominated by the west. Before, they were dominant and creative. Now, they try to protect themselves from being dominated by the other.The first thing that you protect when being under threat of domination is morality, ethics, laws and rules. And this is what happened. So Muslims were less creative, much less confident and more defensive. This is what we have had for centuries now. I have never said that ijtihad was closed, because I think it never happened like that.

Q : What you are saying is that at no time did a national or juridical
authority say: from this day forth, there will be no more rational
inquiry in Islam?

A : Yes. By and large, this is the picture. I always tell western
Muslims that they should be confident. This is the only way. I tell them that you cannot become creative if lacking in self-confidence. This is important. This is why I always say we have to be cautious about projecting a victim mentality, which is what I see from some of the fatwas of an organisation of imams and scholars called the European Council for Fatwas and Research. They are about fear. They say: you need to protect yourself, be careful, we are being attacked from everywhere, so its all about being defensive.

Q : Defensiveness and a lack of creativity is understandable among
marginalised communities from the developing world, for example. But among British-born Muslims. Among professionals? Academics?

A : You have to understand that even for people in their late thirties,
early forties, there is a fear that we are working under an oppressive
state with an oppressive foreign policy. There is the view that the
principal function for a Muslim academic or a Muslim in this society
should be to just rail against this and to deconstruct it endlessly. I think there are three reasons for this. The first is because of the
experience of growing up in Muslim homes. You are told by the first generation of migrants that there is "you" and there is the "west," which is the "other," and that the two cannot be the same. The second has to do with international policies: Iraq, Palestine, and so on. The third reason is the socioeconomic reality that the great majority of Muslims living in this country are not in the mainstream.

Q : But what about those who are in the elite? What about those who
have been to public schools, to top universities?

A : Regardless of this, there is a reality; there is a perception among
students that in this society, we are not liked; and that there is
pressure against Islam. The whole discourse on Islam is not positive in Europe today. Educated people feel this too. This is why it is really
important to have an Islamic discourse rooted in the tradition, which says: be confident in your identity, your multiple identities, your
responsibilities to society. It is good to show concerns towards Palestine but what about here? The real political involvement of Muslims, not just as a minority, will be a long process but it is already becoming a reality.

Q : The British establishment seems to have fallen in love with you.
But in France they think you are quite extreme. One criticism is that you engage in what is called "double discourse." That is, you talk about how Islam should change when you address non-Muslim audiences, but you are more conservative and gradualist when appealing to Muslim audiences. Is this true?

A : For years I have heard people saying: "Be careful with Tariq
Ramadan because he has one message in French; and a different one for when he speaks Arabic in the suburbs." Go and try to speak Arabic in the suburbs of France and you wont have an audience because they dont know Arabic.

My problem in France is not one of double-talk, but one of
double-hearing. When I talk with non-Muslims, I use different levels of language, different words, references, and so on. When I speak to Muslims, however, my references are mainly coming from within the Islamic tradition.

But if you are telling me the content is different, I would say that is
not true. If this was the case, I ought to have few problems with
Muslims, or with Muslim countries. But I am not allowed to enter countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Q : Why cant you go to Tunisia, Egypt or Saudi Arabia?

A : Why? Because they know exactly what I am saying. I criticise the
fact that they are dictatorships and that the Saudi government is
betraying Islamic teachings. When I called for a moratorium on Islamic punishments (death penalty, corporal punishment and stoning) I said it on French television when 6m people were watching, as well as in Islamic majority countries.

Q : Why do you want this moratorium? Why not simply say that stoning to death is just plain wrong?

A : I have said that I am against the implementation of stoning, death
penalties and corporal punishments. In Islamic-majority countries, this is a minority position. What we cannot deny is that these punishments are in the texts. What I am saying to Muslim scholars is that todays conditions are different, so in this context you cannot implement these punishments. So we have to stop. This is the moratorium. Let Muslim scholars come together and well have three main questions that need clear answers: what is in the texts, what conditions should apply to these punishments and what about the context in which these would be implemented.

Q : How flexible can broader aspects of Sharia be? Should women, for example, be able to inherit the same as men?

A : The Koranic texts are quite clear as to inheritance and once again it is related to a global understanding of family and the respective roles of women and men. To implement these rules literally today without taking into account social realities is plain injustice. Some mothers find themselves alone with five or six kids to look after, the husbands have left, and nobody is helping them get the inheritance they should be entitled to. We need a holistic approach and the state must think of financial support and compensation for the women. Without such procedures it means that we are betraying the teachings of Islam through a literalist implementation. It is plain injustice and has nothing to do with
the objectives of the Sharia I have mentioned.

Q : You are popular among younger Muslims in Europe. But what sort of reception awaits you when you speak in Muslim-majority countries?

A : It is very good, positive and open in north Africa, Turkey and Asia
and many Arab countries.

Q : Is that because you are addressing what is essentially a
hand-picked audience? Or is it because people can come off the street and listen
to you?

A : It is both. It is clear to me that people, from students to
scholars, are closely following what is happening with regards to Muslims in the west. The Arabic translations of my books, such as Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, have been read by many people in Islamic-majority countries. They know about my work: I am criticised but this is good as well.

Q : Since your arrival in Britain you have become very engaged with the government, which relies on you for advice on Islamic affairs. You were asked to join a task force set up in the aftermath of the 7th July bombings. You are also part of a government-approved "roadshow" of scholars being sent to speak to audiences of young people. Dont you think that by being so closely allied to the government, your reform project might be in danger of being seen as an extension of British foreign policy?

A : I believe that I am involved in something which is important: a
task force to act against terrorism is important. I will sit with
everyone, any government, even the American government, to talk and discuss, but there are conditions. I must be free to speak my mind, and this is what I am doing everywhere. I said from the very beginning that the British have great responsibilities as to the domestic situation of Muslims, when dealing with violence and exclusion. I strongly criticised the new British security policies. I continue to say that the Iraq war was a mistake, or that the British army shouldnt have been involved, or that it was wrong for Tony Blair to deny any link between Iraq and the 7th July bombings. But let me tell you something: if we constantly worry about misperceptions within the Muslim communities, we will never do anything. When my US visa was revoked, I became a hero to some Muslims, and then, when I called for a moratorium, I was criticised and accused of
working for the US administration. Muslims are too emotional,
unfortunately. I dont work for the British or any other government. I am open to any kind of dialogue as long as the rules are clear: free to speak out, free to criticise, free to resist and free to support when it is right. Muslims should stop thinking that to talk is to compromise, but the black and white approach is often the reality of Muslims today.

Q : As an adviser to the British government, what will you suggest if
asked for your views on the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir? The
government is still deciding whether to ban this group. Should it go ahead?

A : Let us be clear. I am not an adviser to the British government. As
to Hizb ut-Tahrir, I disagree with them but I think that as long as
they are not speaking illegally, they must be free to speak and the
society and Muslims should be free to respond. Hizb ut-Tahrir is not calling Muslims to kill or to act illegally, so it must be heard and
challenged. To ban is the wrong way.

Q : How confident are you about the future for Muslims in the long
term, say, the next three decades? Not just in western Europe, but in
Pakistan, in Iran and in Saudi Arabia? What sort of Islamic society do you think we will see? A more open one; or one that is more closed to outside influences?

A : I dont know about 30 years, but I am quite optimistic about the
long run, about one or two generations from now. I believe that the
change taking place at the periphery of the Islamic world, in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the west, is going to make an impact elsewhere. The European and American experiences are also going to have tremendous impact on Islamic majority countries in the near future. What is happening is not on the margins of Muslim communities in the west. It is much more mainstream.

Source : Prospect Magazine

 

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Money Cant Buy Us Democracy

By AKBAR GANJI
Tehran, Iran
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/01/opinion/01ganji.html
August 1, 2006

IN February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Congress for $75 million to help Irans democratic opposition. In Iran, her request was widely discussed in the news media and in opposition circles. It became particularly controversial after an article in The New Yorker on March 6 suggested that this money might be used in an attempt to change the regime in Tehran with the help of Iranian democrats, particularly those living abroad.

I was freed from prison amid these discussions. For six years, I had
been behind bars on account of investigative articles I had written about the assassinations of dissident intellectuals. On numerous occasions, my interrogators accused me, and the entire opposition to clerical rule, of being dependent on the United States. They even claimed that C.I.A. agents with suitcases full of dollars routinely came to Tehran to distribute cash to members of the opposition, including reformists who supported the former president, Mohammad Khatami. Some of the interrogators took these propaganda claims seriously and asked prisoners about the
location of these dollar-filled suitcases.

While the pledge of American money may have added to the regimes anxieties about its future, it has done nothing to help the democratic movement. The battle between freedom and despotism in Iran remains unresolved for deeply internal reasons. It is, I am convinced, a problem with profound historical and cultural roots.

We have learned from our history that despotism can be imported, and that despotic rulers can survive with the help of outsiders. But we have also learned that we have to gain our freedom ourselves, and that only we can nourish that freedom and create a political system that can sustain it. Ours is a difficult struggle; it could even be a long one. Anyone who claims to possess a golden formula for bringing freedom to Iran, and claims that all he needs is foreign cash and foreign help to put his plan into effect, is a swindler.

What we need in our fight for freedom is not foreign aid but conditions that would allow us to focus all of our energies on the domestic struggle and to rest assured that no one is encouraging the regimes oppression. We need to know that no one is providing the regime with new technologies for filtering the Internet, and that no one is making deals with the regime that give it financial support or psychological succor.

Surely, we need the moral and spiritual support of all the worlds
forces for peace and freedom. We hope these forces will be relentless in criticizing any policy that, under the guise of ending the crisis in the region, only fans its flames.

The United States could better spend its $75 million on developing
centers for Iranian studies in American universities, thus advancing the worlds understanding of Iran and the Middle East, both in the past and in the present. Of course, American universities already have many first-class scholars on Iran, Islam and the Orient. The problem then lies in the vision that impedes the use of this knowledge and instead insists on immediate results.

That same vision, and the search for immediate results, led the United States to give large sums of money to the Islamic fundamentalists who converged from all over the world in Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union, Americas chief rival at the time. The rest is history.

Freedom-loving Iranians inside and outside the country are against
American military intervention in Iran. Such a war would be of no help in our fight for freedom; in fact, it would only contribute to our further
enslavement, as the regime would use war as an excuse to suppress any and all voices of opposition.


The American policy of confronting the Iranian regimes nuclear
adventurism is correct. But the rationale for opposing this adventurism should not be that the mullahs oppose the West and the United States. The Wests double standard on nonproliferation is not defensible. The entire Middle East must be declared a nuclear-free zone. Opposition to the dangerous process that has begun in the region a process that the Islamic Republic has helped turn into a crisis must be based on a more general call first for regional, then for global, nuclear disarmament.

In July I traveled to the United States to offer a view of Iran
altogether different from the one presented by the mullahs. Many Iranians want freedom; we fight for it, and we do not fear prison and oppression. Our demand is for a secular, democratic political system in Iran. Many of the Iranian people, who are incidentally deeply devout, support this demand.

The best help the world can offer us is to listen to the different
voices of our society, and when forming a policy toward Iran or an image of its people, do not reduce our country to the regime that rules it most brutally.

Akbar Ganji, an investigative journalist, is the author of a
forthcoming collection of writings on Irans democratic movement. This article was translated from the Persian.
 

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"Universal Values and Muslim Democracy" by Anwar Ibrahim

The July 2006 (Volume 17, no. 3) issue of the Journal of Democracy
features clusters of articles on reforming intelligence and the Palestinian elections, pluss individual studies of Muslim democracy, democracy in Andean nations, corruption, Nigeria, and South Africa. Selected online articles and the tables of contents of all Journal issues are available here.

"Universal Values and Muslim Democracy" by Anwar Ibrahim
The desire for freedom and self-government is written in human hearts everywhere; in this there can be no "clash of civilizations." Claims that Islam is inherently hostile to democracy represent an unwarranted surrender to fundamentalist arguments; we should engage with a broad spectrum of Muslim groups, but without compromising our commitment to freedom and democracy.

To read the Journal of Democracy, click here: 
http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/
 

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Stop the Band-Aid Treatment
We Need Policies for a Real, Lasting Middle East Peace

By Jimmy Carter
 

Tuesday, August 1, 2006; A17
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/31/AR2006073100923.html

The Middle East is a tinderbox, with some key players on all sides
waiting for every opportunity to destroy their enemies with bullets, bombs and missiles. One of the special vulnerabilities of Israel, and a repetitive cause of violence, is the holding of prisoners. Militant
Palestinians and Lebanese know that a captured Israeli soldier or civilian is either a cause of conflict or a valuable bargaining chip for prisoner exchange. This assumption is based on a number of such trades, including 1,150 Arabs, mostly Palestinians, for three Israeli soldiers in 1985;123 Lebanese for the remains of two Israeli soldiers in 1996; and 433 Palestinians and others for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of  three soldiers in 2004.

This stratagem precipitated the renewed violence that erupted in June when Palestinians dug a tunnel under the barrier that surrounds Gaza and assaulted some Israeli soldiers, killing two and capturing one. They offered to exchange the soldier for the release of 95 women and 313 children who are among almost 10,000 Arabs in Israeli prisons, but this time Israel rejected a swap and attacked Gaza in an attempt to free the soldier and stop rocket fire into Israel. The resulting destruction brought reconciliation between warring Palestinian factions and support for them throughout the Arab world.

Hezbollah militants then killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two
others, and insisted on Israel's withdrawal from disputed territory and
an exchange for some of the several thousand incarcerated Lebanese. With American backing, Israeli bombs and missiles rained down on Lebanon. Hezbollah rockets from Syria and Iran struck northern Israel.

It is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against
attacks on its citizens, but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response. The result instead has been that broad Arab and worldwide support has been rallied for these groups, while condemnation of both Israel and the United States has intensified.

Israel belatedly announced, but did not carry out, a two-day cessation in bombing Lebanon, responding to the global condemnation of an air attack on the Lebanese village of Qana, where 57 civilians were killed this past weekend and where 106 died from the same cause 10 years ago. As before there were expressions of "deep regret," a promise of "immediate investigation" and the explanation that dropped leaflets had warned families in the region to leave their homes. The urgent need in Lebanon is that Israeli attacks stop, the nation's regular military forces control
the southern region, Hezbollah cease as a separate fighting force, and future attacks against Israel be prevented. Israel should withdraw from all Lebanese territory, including Shebaa Farms, and release the Lebanese prisoners. Yet yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a cease-fire.

These are ambitious hopes, but even if the U.N. Security Council adopts and implements a resolution that would lead to such an eventual solution, it will provide just another band-aid and temporary relief. Tragically, the current conflict is part of the inevitably repetitive cycle of violence that results from the absence of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, exacerbated by the almost unprecedented six-year absence of any real effort to achieve such a goal.


Leaders on both sides ignore strong majorities that crave peace,
allowing extremist-led violence to preempt all opportunities for building a political consensus. Traumatized Israelis cling to the false hope that their lives will be made safer by incremental unilateral withdrawals from occupied areas, while Palestinians see their remnant territories reduced to little more than human dumping grounds surrounded by a provocative "security barrier" that embarrasses Israel's friends and that fails to bring safety or stability.

The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy and the international "road map" for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians. Except for mutually agreeable negotiated modifications, Israel's official pre-1967 borders must be honored. As were all previous administrations since the founding of Israel, U.S. government leaders must be in the forefront of achieving this long-delayed goal.

A major impediment to progress is Washington's strange policy that
dialogue on controversial issues will be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and will be withheld from those who reject U.S. assertions. Direct engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization or the Palestinian Authority and the government in Damascus will be necessary if secure negotiated settlements are to be achieved. Failure to address the issues and leaders involved risks the creation of an arc of even greater instability running from Jerusalem through Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

The people of the Middle East deserve peace and justice, and we in the international community owe them our strong leadership and support.

Former president Carter is the founder of the nonprofit Carter Center
in Atlanta.
 

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Key Republican breaks with Bush on Mideast
Nebraska's Sen. Hagel calls for immediate cease-fire

http://edition.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/07/31/hagel.mideast

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Urging President Bush to turn all U.S. efforts toward "ending this madness," a leading Republican senator Monday broke with the Bush administration and called for an immediate cease-fire in the Mideast.

"The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now," Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel said. "President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop."

The Bush administration has refused to call for Israel to halt its
attacks on southern Lebanon, joining Israel in insisting that Hezbollah
fighters must be pushed back from the Israeli-Lebanese border.

President Bush Monday in a speech in Miami Beach, Florida, reiterated his call for a cease-fire in the Mideast only if it brought a
"long-lasting peace" that addressed Iran and Syria's support for Hezbollah, the Islamic militia that Israel is targeting. (Full story)

Hagel said that refusal threatens to isolate the United States and
Israel and harm chances of achieving a long-term peace in the region.

"How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic
destruction of an American friend -- the country and people of Lebanon -- is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?" asked Hagel, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Calls for 'a statesman'
He called on Bush to name "a statesman of global stature" as his
personal envoy to the region. And he urged the administration to open direct talks with Hezbollah's backers, Iran and Syria, both of which Washington also accuses of meddling in Iraq.

"Our relationship with Israel is special and historic," he said. "But
it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim
relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice."

Bush was headed back to Washington after a fund-raising trip to
Florida, and the White House had no immediate reaction to Hagel's comments.

Like his frequent ally, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Hagel is a
possible GOP presidential candidate in 2008 and has been critical of the administration's handling of Iraq. But few members of Congress have broken ranks with the president over his handling of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict.

Calls for an end to the 20-day conflict have increased since Israel's
bombing Sunday of the Lebanese town of Qana, which left at least 54 civilians dead. Hagel said the Israeli campaign was "tearing Lebanon apart," and the resulting civilian casualties and economic damage were weakening the country and bolstering support for Hezbollah, which the U.S. State Department considers a terrorist organization.

Hagel urged the administration to revive the Beirut Declaration of
2002, authored by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, under which Arab countries would have recognized Israel's right to exist. Hagel said that declaration was "a starting point" toward a regional settlement, but the United States "squandered" it.

'Bogged down' in Iraq?
Meanwhile, the decorated Vietnam veteran said the United States "is
bogged down in Iraq," limiting U.S. diplomatic and military options. Last week's announcement that more than 3,000 more American troops were needed to reinforce Baghdad amid rising sectarian violence was "a dramatic setback," he said.

He said the 3-year-old war is wearing badly on the U.S. military, and
that Iraq's fledgling democracy needs to take over more of its security responsibilities from American troops.

"This is not about setting a timeline," Hagel said. "This is about
understanding the implications of the forces of reality."
 

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The Violence of Impoverished Thought

By Ali Ettefagh | July 22, 2006; 11:30 AM ET
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/ali_ettefagh

/2006/07/poverty_of_thought.html

Tehran, Iran - Recent events in the Middle East seem to justify scholar Samuel Huntington's rough view of racial purity and his resistance to intercultural encounters. He must be thrilled these days. War is a by-product of intellectual bankruptcy which presumes ingrained antagonisms between cultures.

Seen through Hungtington's simplified view of religious groupings, it
looks like recent events prove his point that one group's fear of
another is enough to compel it to blindly dismiss its own national interests in favour of those of an irrational foreign state. It looks like Israel and America have dismissed the universal fact that all groups deserve an even chance to interact with on another.

In a very American way, Huntington failed to explain why he simplified the Judeo-Christian world into a single entity that stands against Islam. Like Huntington, America forgets that the Islamic world had no antipathy towards Judaism until the 20th century. Such antipathy evolved as a resistance to the doctrine of Zionism -- itself an argument for racial preferences.

Yet the worst and most prolonged conflicts have taken place between neighbors who were culturally very close. The bloodiest religious wars were fought within Christianity and Islam, not between them.

Blind support of the last living member of the Apartheid Club with ts
bold breaches of the Geneva Conventions and its bombing of civilians is bound to backfire on any financial or moral supporter. A blitz on Palestinians or Lebanese in reaction to kidnappings by admittedly belligerent parties indicts this living member as an accomplice. A plea of Shiite vs. Sunni will not defend the accused.

Israel's bombing of Proctor & Gamble's Lebanese baby food factory has already weakened any case. The American government, by proxy, has bombed the interests of its own citizens.

America and its allies are needlessly exposing themselves to risks and perils. All wars have risks and intangible by-products. The real war is about sustainable peace, democracy and fair economic opportunities. It is not about eviction of Lebanese people from their own land.

Any blind support of Israel's absurd war will certainly lead to other
clashes and losing the real war. It will damage America and Britain,
even if Israel wins the cheap blame games and the battles.

 

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A New Era of Realpolitik?

By Bashir Goth | July 24, 2006; 9:00 AM ET
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/bashir_goth/

2006/07/a_new_era_of_realpolitik.html

United Arab Emirates/Somalia - The Israeli-Hezbollah war has polarized Arab opinion in an unprecedented way. It may have a far reaching impact on other volatile parts of the Muslim world and further complicate the already strained relations between the West and Islam, especially if the West fails to accurately read the situation and respond properly to the changing political landscape in the Middle East.

The first new element in Arab politics that the West has to take note
of is the clear and concerted message sent by the Arab Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt who accused Hezbollah of adventurism and moving the region into an unnecessary war. This was a surprise wakeup call for the Arab and Muslim masses that grew up blaming Israel for every war and every calamity that beset the Middle East region. It was an hour of confusion for the government controlled Arab media which had to negotiate between playing its traditional role of echoing the official line and reflecting the growing anger of the masses against Israel and the west.

By uttering the B-word or blame for the first time against an Arab
party fighting against Israel, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have made Arab political analysts and commentators sit back and take notice of the developing new realities.


With Iran emerging as the only nuclear power in the region, the Shiites taking power in Iraq for the first time in the history of hitherto
minority Sunni dominated country, Hezbollah positioning itself as the only power broker in Lebanon, and radical Muslim movements winning elections in Egypt, Palestine and even Kuwait, the Israeli-Hezbollah war seems to have come as an opportunity for Arab moderate states to reclaim their traditional leadership in the region and restore their cozy ties with the U.S. administration which has irked its staunch friends lately by its persistent advocacy for democratic changes and its heavy political investment in the Iranian-backed Shiites of Iraq.

No matter how the Israeli-Hezbollah war ends, it seems clear now with whom the U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice will be keen to meet when she starts her difficult mission to broker a cease fire in the Middle East. It may also ring a new era of realpolitik for Washington where Secretary Rice will be forced to refrain from any mention of democratic changes in the Middle East and tone down her rhetoric against hardline Islamic groups.

Apart from the position of the moderate Arab states, it is obvious that
radical Muslims may still see the Lebanon war as a continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict and given to what they envision as an unwavering Western support for Israel's destruction of Lebanon, many of them may regard it as a further escalation of the western war against Islam. Apart from how the extremist groups like Al Qaeda would play into the scenario, the Hezbollah resistance may embolden other Islamist vanguards in Iraq and Afghanistan and as far as Sudan and Somalia.


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NIH Director Joins Call For Mideast Cease-Fire

By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 29, 2006; Page A03
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/28/AR2006072801519.html

The head of the National Institutes of Health has joined a nonprofit
group's public campaign demanding an "immediate cease-fire" in the Middle East, a stance at odds with Bush administration policy.

Elias A. Zerhouni, a physician whom President Bush appointed director of the NIH in 2002, lent his name to a half-page ad in yesterday's Washington Post by the Arab-American Institute Foundation. The ad, which featured the names of 36 prominent Arab Americans, called upon "all those in power to stop the violence" through a cease-fire so that "reconciliation and reconstruction" efforts can begin.

"We reclaim our American values of justice and mercy and compassion, values that abhor oppression and racism," the ad reads in part. "American leadership in the political and humanitarian challenges ahead is a sacred duty."

The administration has rejected Arab and European calls for an
immediate cease-fire, saying a cease-fire should come only as part of a broader agreement that can endure for years and rein in Hezbollah militants.

Although Zerhouni's name appears in the ad, his title as leader of the
nation's medical research agency does not.

"He signed in his personal capacity, which is why we did not list his
affiliation," said Helen Samhan, the foundation's executive director.
"We respect him for taking a personal stand on this, but he made it very clear that it was not in his professional capacity."

"He put it in as a private citizen," said John T. Burklow, an NIH
spokesman.
 

Zerhouni was born in Algeria and earned a medical degree there in 1975, according to the NIH Web site. He later trained in diagnostic radiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he became chairman of the radiology department. He also was a consultant to the Reagan White House.

Some supporters of Israel and U.S. policy in the current conflict in
Lebanon said they found it unusual that a high-ranking administration
official would publicly oppose the president on foreign policy, even if
his title was not attached.

"It's clear that in this particular case it doesn't represent the
administration's position, but I would hope that anybody who is in that
position of authority would have the common sense and discretion not to do things of this sort," said Neil B. Goldstein, executive director of the American Jewish Congress.

Kenneth Bandler, a spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, said that because Zerhouni did not use his title, the group does not object. "It's not an issue for us," he said.

William L. Bransford, general counsel for the Senior Executives
Association, an organization of high-ranking federal civil service officials, said Zerhouni had not crossed any ethical or legal lines -- only political ones.

"A political appointee serves at the pleasure of the president, and I
don't know how the president would react to that," Bransford said. "You don't necessarily have any First Amendment rights in that type of position. As somebody who comes out publicly with a position that's directly opposite the administration, you would hope that they perhaps cleared that before they did it. Maybe they would allow some _expression of personal opinion . . . because as the director of NIH, he doesn't have anything to do with the conflict."

The White House referred questions to the National Security Council. NSC spokesman Frederick Jones said he had no immediate comment late yesterday.
 

 

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U.S. risks backlash in Mideast
Deadly Israeli assault strikes at core of U.S. foreign policy in region

By Peter Baker
The Washington Post
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14110834/from/RS.1/

The Israeli bombs that slammed into the Lebanese village of Qana
yesterday did more than kill three dozen children and a score of adults. They struck at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and illustrated in heart-breaking images the enormous risks for Washington in the current Middle East crisis.

With each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon, outrage in the Arab world and Europe has intensified against Israel and its prime sponsor, raising the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials.

Although the United States has urged Israel to use restraint, it has
also strongly defended the military assaults as a reasonable response to Hezbollah rocket attacks, a position increasingly at odds with allies that see a deadly overreaction. Analysts think that if the war drags on, as appears likely, it could leave the United States more isolated than at any time since the Iraq invasion three years ago and hindered in its foreign policy goals such as shutting down Iran's nuclear program and spreading democracy around the world.

"The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction," said Richard N.
Haass, who was President Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director. "The biggest danger in the short run is it just increases frustration and alienation from the United States in the Arab world. Not just the Arab world, but in Europe and around the world. People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights."

The White House recognizes the danger but thinks the missiles flying both ways across the Israel-Lebanon border carry with them a chance to finally break out of the stalemate of Middle East geopolitics. Bush and his advisers hope the conflict can destroy or at least cripple Hezbollah and in the process strike a blow against the militia's sponsor, Iran, while forcing the region to move toward final settlement of the decades-old conflict with Israel.

"He wants a resolution that will solve the problem," White House
spokesman Tony Snow told reporters yesterday. "Not only do we feel sorrow for what happened in Qana, but also a determination that it is really important to remove the conditions that led to that."

"This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic,"
Bush said in his radio address Saturday. "Yet it is also a moment of
opportunity for broader change in the region. Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound for our country and the world."

Broader struggle with Iran
At the heart of the crisis for the United States is a broader struggle
with Iran for influence in the Middle East, one that arguably has been
going on since the Islamic revolution of 1979 and that has escalated
during Bush's presidency. The United States not only backs Israel in the current war but also has accelerated weapons delivery to Israel.
Hezbollah, on the other hand, has long acted as a surrogate for Iran, and in the past three weeks it has shown off Iranian weapons never before used by the radical group.

"It's really a proxy war between the United States and Iran," said
David J. Rothkopf, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of "Running the World," a book on U.S. foreign policy. "When viewed in that context, it puts everything in a different light."

The Hezbollah attacks on Israel that touched off the latest conflict
came just as international pressure on Iran to give up uranium enrichment had reached a crescendo. Bush aides suspect Iran orchestrated the attacks to distract attention from its nuclear program or to demonstrate the consequences of pushing too hard. "It's tempting to believe that," said a senior official involved in the crisis but not authorized to speak on the record. "Iran spends a very large amount of money on Hezbollah."

The president hopes the crisis will ultimately help him rally world
leaders against Iran's nuclear program. Even as the U.N. Security Council today considers a peacekeeping force for Lebanon, it may vote on a U.S.-backed resolution to threaten sanctions if Iran does not suspend uranium enrichment in August.

"There's no question that this is going to stiffen up in the long run
the resolve of the Europeans in dealing with Iran," said Henri J.
Barkey, a former State Department official who teaches at Lehigh University. "Even if they don't like what Israel is doing," he said, they will recognize that Iran "is a menace."

Others are not so hopeful. Outside the White House, the mood among many foreign policy veterans in Washington is strikingly pessimistic, especially as leaders of Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, traditional rivals based in different Islamic sects, began calling for followers to take the fight to the enemy.

Analysts foresee a muddled outcome at best, in which Hezbollah survives Israel's airstrikes, foreign peacekeepers become bogged down, and U.S. relations with allies are severely strained. At worst, they said, Hezbollah and Iran feel emboldened, Islamic radicalism spreads, and a region smuggling fighters and weapons into Iraq fractures further along sectarian lines.

Increasingly isolated U.S.?
"What the conflict has exposed in a really clear way is how linked all
these issues in the region are to each other," said Mara Rudman, a
deputy national security adviser in the Clinton White House now at the liberal Center for American Progress. "The worst-case scenario . . . is a much more radicalized Islamic fundamentalist Middle East and much more isolated Israel and a much more isolated United States and fewer people to talk with."

Haass, the former Bush aide who leads the Council on Foreign Relations, laughed at the president's public optimism. "An opportunity?" Haass said with an incredulous tone. "Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?"

In the long run, he and others warn, the situation could cement the
perception that the United States is so pro-Israel that a new generation of Arab youth will grow up perceiving Americans as enemies. The internal pressure on friendly governments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere could force them to distance themselves from Washington or crack down on domestic dissidents to keep power. In either case, Bush may have little leverage to press for democratic reforms.

Jon B. Alterman, a Middle East specialist at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies, outlined "not even the worst-case scenario, but a bad-case scenario: South Lebanon is in shambles, Hezbollah gets credit for rebuilding it with Iranian money, Hezbollah grows stronger in Lebanon and it's not brought to heel. The reaction of surrounding states weakens them, radicalism rises, and they respond with more repression. None of this is especially far-fetched. And in all of this, the U.S. is seen as a fundamentally hostile party."

All of this is far too gloomy for administration officials, who see
such dire forecasts as the predictable reactions of a foreign policy
establishment that has produced decades of meaningless talks, paper peace agreements and unenforced U.N. resolutions that have not solved underlying issues in the Middle East.

"Some of the overheated rhetoric about how the United States can't work with anybody, we've lost our leadership in the world, is just
completely ridiculous, and this crisis proves it," said the senior
administration official involved in the crisis. "We are really indispensable to solving this crisis, and you're not going to solve this problem merely by passing another resolution."

While the diplomats work, the Pentagon is studying the possible impact on an already-stretched U.S. military. Commanders have diverted the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group from a training mission in Jordan where they were available as reserves for Iraq. Now they are on ships in the Mediterranean Sea to help with humanitarian efforts, and another unit has been put on alert as backup for Iraq.


The Pentagon has done contingency planning for U.S. troops
participating in a multinational peacekeeping mission, but Bush aides have all but ruled out such a scenario. A more likely option, officials said, would have the United States provide command-and-control and logistics assistance.

U.S. troops in Lebanon?
Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international
security affairs, said that officials are studying the possibility of
putting troops in Lebanon but that it is too early to comment on what such a force would look like. "The concept is still under development, and discussion of any potential U.S. participation would be premature."

Some analysts acknowledge the varied challenges the United States faces but consider the possible gain worth the risk. "It's a Rubik's Cube. It's very, very difficult to resolve," said Peter Brookes, a former
deputy assistant defense secretary under Bush who is now at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "But if we were able to dismantle Hezbollah, that would be very positive for the war on terror."

The White House is acutely aware of the dangers of stirring up
anti-American sentiment in the region. "There may be times when people say that they're unhappy with whatever methods we pursue," the White House's Snow said last week. "We are confident that in the long run, people are going to be much happier living in freedom and democracy than, for instance, in nations that are occupied by terrorist organizations that try to hijack a democracy in its formative stages."

Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.
 

 

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Holy War: A Texas Preacher Leads Campaign To Let Israel Fight
 

Mr. Hagee Draws Evangelicals By Arguing Jewish State Fulfills Biblical
Prophecy 'End of World as We Know It'

By Andrew Higgins
Wall Street Journal
July 27, 2006; Page A1
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115396305776618640.html

WASHINGTON -- After Israel sent warplanes into Iraq in 1981 to bomb a nuclear reactor, Texas televangelist John Hagee sent letters to 150 fellow Christian preachers to rally support for the Jewish state. He got just one positive response. When Mr. Hagee pressed ahead with plans for a pro-Israel gathering in a San Antonio theater, he says he got a death threat on the phone and someone shot out all the windows of his station wagon parked in his driveway.

Last week, as Israel's armed forces pounded Lebanon and worries of a wider conflagration mounted, Mr. Hagee presided over what he called a "miracle of God": a gathering of 3,500 evangelical Christians packed into a Washington hotel to cheer Israel and its current military campaign. Standing on a stage bedecked with a huge Israeli flag, Mr. Hagee drew rapturous applause and shouts of "amen" as he hailed Israel for doing God's work in a "war of good versus evil." Calls for Israel to show restraint violate "God's foreign-policy statement" toward Jews, he said, citing a verse from the Old Testament that promises to "bless those who bless you" and curse "the one who curses you."

The gathering was sponsored by Christians United for Israel, a national organization the 66-year-old preacher set up this year. The group lobbies politicians in Washington, rallies grassroots support for Israel and aims to educate Christians on what it calls the "biblical imperative" of supporting the Jewish state.

Mr. Hagee is a leading figure in the so-called Christian-Zionist
movement. This evangelical political philosophy is rooted in biblical
prophecies and a belief that Israel's struggles signal a prelude to
Armageddon. Its followers staunchly support the Bush administration's unequivocal backing of Israel in its current battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

President Bush sent a message to the gathering praising Mr. Hagee and his supporters for "spreading the hope of God's love and the universal gift of freedom." The Israeli prime minister also sent words of thanks. Israel's ambassador, its former military chief and a host of U.S. political heavyweights, mostly Republican, attended.

At a time when Islamist groups are displacing secular nationalists as
the main vehicle for political revolt across the Middle East, Mr. Hagee
and like-minded evangelicals are injecting greater religious fervor
into American attitudes and policy toward the region. They see, and even sometimes seem to embrace, the notion of a global conflict between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West, just as do many zealous Muslims.

"This is a religious war that Islam cannot -- and must not -- win," Mr.
Hagee wrote in a recent book, "Jerusalem Countdown," which focuses on what he says is a coming nuclear showdown with Iran. "The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching.... Rejoice and be exceeding glad -- the best is yet to be." The book has sold nearly 700,000 copies since it was released in January, according to his Florida-based religious publisher, Strang Communications.

Christian Zionism has been around for years but is now gaining greater prominence as it gets turbocharged by the marketing flair of Mr. Hagee and other religious entrepreneurs. Mr. Hagee has deployed massive resources to galvanize support for Israel. He heads a San Antonio megachurch, which claims 19,000 members, runs a television company and has close ties to Republican Party power brokers. His Washington banquet last week cost about $500,000, according to an organizer. A big Christian
broadcasting network, Daystar, carried the event live. The following day, he mobilized evangelicals representing all 50 states in a lobbying blitz through the Capitol. Armed with talking points scripted by Mr. Hagee and his staff, they peppered senators and congressmen with arguments for Israel and against its enemies, particularly Iran.

While Mr. Bush is clearly close to evangelicals, he has never fully
embraced their agenda or rhetoric. But their views are generally in sync with the aims of his national-security strategists, who reach similar conclusions through a different logic. They have long blasted what they've termed the "false stability" of a region mostly ruled by autocrats and that has tolerated terrorist organizations committed to Israel's destruction. The influential "neo-conservative" school of foreign-policy advisers has also buttressed this line, arguing that the U.S. must push more aggressively for democracy in the Middle East.

Bedrock for Bush

Christian evangelicals, who first found political traction under
President Reagan in the 1980s, now number about 50 million and form a bedrock constituency for President Bush. Best known for their lobbying against abortion, same-sex marriage and on other domestic issues, they have also taken a keen interest in foreign policy, especially since the attacks of 9/11.

"Leave Israel alone. Let them do the job," Mr. Hagee told his
supporters last week at the banquet. Israel's enemies, said New York Congressman Eliot Engel, one of the few Democratic speakers, "do the work of Satan." This melding of realpolitik and religion, say former and current U.S. officials, has produced a potent force. Israel's evangelical supporters "were out there before, but didn't really appear on the radar screen,"
says Dennis Ross, a Middle East envoy in the administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. "Now they are an important part of the landscape." More than any prior White House, the Bush administration has established formal, regular contacts with American evangelical leaders.

The White House says it isn't overly influenced by any one group. "The president makes decisions about policies for our country based on what is right for our citizens," says Dana Perino, deputy press secretary. "The United States has been an ally of Israel since its founding, and President Bush has worked to strengthen that alliance."

The main vehicle for Mr. Hagee's pro-Israel activities over the years
has been San Antonio's Cornerstone Church, which he first joined as pastor back in 1975 when it was called Church of Castle Hill, a moribund parish with only a few dozen worshippers and heavy debts. He had quit his previous church the same year during a messy divorce that was quickly followed by his remarriage to a young churchgoer. Attracted by Mr. Hagee's mix of thundering oratory and folksy humor, the congregation mushroomed.

The son of a puritanical preacher, Mr. Hagee first visited Israel in
1978. He says he went there "as a tourist and came back home a Zionist." While in Israel, Mr. Hagee visited Jerusalem's Western Wall and says he felt a "nearness to God like no other place on Earth." At that moment, he recalls, "The Lord required of me to do everything I could to bring Christians and Jews together."

After returning to Texas, Mr. Hagee says he plunged into a "three-year study binge to discover the Jewish roots of Christianity." This
coincided with a surge of contacts between American evangelicals and the then Israeli government of Menachem Begin, a devout biblical scholar and hardline defender of Israel's right to territories won in 1967. Mr. Begin worked hard to cultivate American evangelicals, with whom he shared a belief that Israel's birth in 1948 and subsequent struggles were a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Mr. Hagee says he met with Mr. Begin three times. When Mr. Begin
ordered Israel's air force to bomb Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, Mr. Hagee was horrified by widespread criticism that followed. After reading a San Antonio newspaper that described the attack as an act of "gunboat diplomacy," he decided to organize a pro-Israel gathering.

Local Christians initially showed little enthusiasm for the idea. San
Antonio's Jewish community was even more wary. "There was a lot of skepticism," recalls Aryeh Scheinberg, an Orthodox rabbi who took part in meetings among Jewish leaders to decide how to respond to Mr. Hagee's proposal. "Everyone wanted to know: 'What does he really want?' I said, 'Let's give the man a chance and take the risk.' "

The pro-Israel gathering went ahead with both Jews and Christians
present. As Mr. Scheinberg mounted the podium to deliver a final prayer, security told Mr. Hagee of a bomb threat. Mr. Hagee, a stocky man who got to college on a football scholarship, says he asked God to make the rabbi pray "not like Moses but like a Presbyterian late for lunch." The threat was a hoax.

The event has been held every year since, though some Jewish leaders refuse to attend and reject any alliance with Mr. Hagee. "Many of his views are hateful," says Barry Block, a prominent reform rabbi in San Antonio, who accuses Mr. Hagee of demonizing Muslims and propounding a divisive right-wing agenda that erodes the barrier between church and state.

When addressing Jewish audiences, Mr. Hagee generally avoids talking about Armageddon. But his books, whose titles include "Beginning of the End" and "From Daniel to Doomsday," are filled with death and mayhem. "The battlefield will cover the nation of Israel!" he writes in "Jerusalem Countdown," his recent work, describing a "sea of human blood drained from the veins of those who have followed Satan." Some fellow evangelicals accuse Mr. Hagee of ignoring Arab Christians. Donald Wagner of North Park University, an evangelical Christian college in Chicago, first traveled to Israel at around the same time as Mr. Hagee but reached the
opposite conclusion. "I was very pro-Israel until I went there," says
Mr. Wagner, who heads a research group that challenges the theology of Christian Zionists.

A Turn to Television

Little known outside of Texas when he first embraced Zionism, Mr. Hagee turned to television to promote Jesus, Israel and his own name. His main platform for this was Global Evangelism Television Inc., a nonprofit organization. First set up in 1978, GETV initially relayed the programming of others to local cable operators. In the 1980s it began pumping out its own shows featuring Mr. Hagee for broadcast on national Christian networks. His sermons and chat shows now appear on 120 stations and, he says, reach more than 90 million homes.

By the mid-1980s his flock had outgrown his church in central San
Antonio. In 1987, Cornerstone moved to a 35-acre suburban campus with a 5,000-person assembly hall and a new television and radio studio. As his exposure grew, so did controversy. He ran into flak for inviting former White House aide Oliver North, a pardoned felon, and disgraced televangelist Jimmy Swaggart to speak at Cornerstone. He also feuded with the U.S. Postal Service over nonprofit rates for church mailings that contained ads for his books and videos. (He sued and, he says, got a refund of around $40,000.) Mr. Hagee also upset black leaders. To help students seeking odd jobs, his church newsletter, The Cluster, advertised a "slave" sale. "Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone," it said. "Make plans to come and go home with a slave." Mr. Hagee apologized but, in a radio interview, protested about pressure to be "politically correct" and joked that perhaps his pet dog should be called a "canine American."

The quarrels didn't stop the steady growth of his congregation, which
is multiracial. His "nights to honor Israel" got bigger, too, as did his
clout as a fund-raiser for Israeli causes. He says he has raised over
$12 million so far. Increasingly prominent, the preacher attracted the
eye and, initially, the ire of Jerry Falwell, the dean of the Christian
right and another enthusiastic supporter of Israel.

In 1994, The National Liberty Journal, a conservative monthly run by
Mr. Falwell, labeled Mr. Hagee a "heretic" for championing so-called
dual-covenant theory -- a belief that Jews and Christians have separate deals with God that allow each to get into heaven. The traditional Christian view is that Jews and other non-Christians must convert -- or end up on the wrong side of the battle of Armageddon.

Soon after the article appeared, Mr. Falwell arranged to meet the Texan at a Christian pow-wow in Memphis. Mr. Hagee, says Mr. Falwell, convinced him that he didn't believe in the "dual covenant." Mr. Falwell now sits on the board of Christians United for Israel.

Mr. Hagee, citing a New Testament verse, says a "remnant of Jewish people...have favor with God right now" but he is vague on which Jews will get to heaven without conversion, saying that only God knows this. He dismisses the dual-covenant issue as "something to start coffee-table debate."

Closer to Power
 

Mr. Bush's 2000 election victory and the Republican Party's control of both houses of Congress brought evangelical Christians closer to power than ever before. Mr. Hagee had met Mr. Bush several times while he was Texas governor and solidly supported his push for the White House. Mr. Hagee was closer, though, to another powerful Texan, Congressman Tom DeLay. Soon after becoming majority leader in the House of Representatives, Mr. DeLay gave the keynote speech at Mr. Hagee's 2002 pro-Israel gathering in San Antonio. Mr. DeLay, since embroiled in a corruption scandal, also spoke last week in Washington.

In 2003, The San Antonio Express-News dug into Mr. Hagee's filings with the Internal Revenue Service. The article alleged no wrongdoing, but reported that Mr. Hagee received more than $1.25 million in 2001 for his church and TV work and had a trust that includes a nearly 8,000-acre $2.1 million Texas ranch. Mr. Hagee says that the bulk of his earnings comes from royalty payments from his 21 books, not from churchgoers' donations. He says he'll earn much the same this year if book sales hold up. His finances under the spotlight, Mr. Hagee reorganized his holdings in a way that allowed him to avoid having to make public filings. In September 2004, Global Evangelism Television re-registered as a church
under the name Grace Church of San Antonio. Churches, unlike religious TV companies and other nonprofit outfits, are exempt from filing detailed returns with the IRS. A further reorganization in recent weeks moved all assets into Cornerstone Church. None of the Church's financial records are publicly available. Mr. Hagee said his lawyers had recommended the changes for "greater clarity."

President Bush abandoned President Clinton's efforts to secure a
big-bang peace settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict but, under
prodding from Britain and others, did back a slow-paced plan known as the Roadmap for Peace.

In May 2003, Mr. Hagee and other evangelical leaders sent a letter to
President Bush applauding the invasion of Iraq but complaining about the Israel-Palestine peace plan. They said it would be "morally
reprehensible" for the U.S. to be "evenhanded" between Israel and "the terrorist-infested Palestinian infrastructure."

Last fall, he took his annual "night to honor Israel," to Israel,
holding the event in the hangar of an Israeli air-force base. He spoke at the Israeli Parliament and organized a visit for his U.S. followers to
Megiddo, an Israeli hilltop that he believes will be the site of the
battle of Armageddon.

Mr. Hagee also started laying plans for Christians United for Israel,
hoping to meld a plethora of mostly small pro-Israel Christian groups
into a national network. He contacted Mr. Falwell, who says he
immediately offered support. He hired David Brog, a lawyer who had worked in both Israel and on Capitol Hill and who is a distant cousin of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, as the new organization's executive director. As Mr. Hagee's plans took shape last fall, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, set up an "outreach" unit to work with Christians and others. Appointed to head the unit was a San Antonio native who had previously worshipped at the synagogue of Mr. Scheinberg, the Orthodox rabbi who has been one of Mr. Hagee's keenest
supporters.

Christians United for Israel held its first meeting in San Antonio in
February and immediately began organizing last week's Washington event. To galvanize support and allay suspicions in some quarters of his motives, Mr. Hagee traveled around the country, meeting with Christian and Jewish leaders. Some Jews worry that Christian-Zionists want to convert Jews to Christianity, something Mr. Hagee has always denied.

The current eruption of violence, says Mr. Hagee, shows that Israel
should not surrender land in search of peace and that Christians and Jews are on the same side. "If God opposes giving away the land, if it has never worked, let's come up with another plan," he thundered last week. "Do not give the land away. It belongs to you. It is God's heritage to you."

--Karby Leggett in Jerusalem contributed to this article.  Write to
Andrew Higgins at andrew.higgins@wsj.com
 

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Message from Bishop Riah

01 August 2006

Dear Friends:

When I wrote to you last Friday, I could not have imagined that a
second Qana Massacre in a decade would be carried out by the State of Israel on Sunday when they dropped two bombs on a house, crushing at least fifty-six people, including thirty-four children and twelve women.  They suffocated under dirt and debris, virtually buried alive in the make-shift bomb shelter where they had had little water and food and no toilet. 

In 1996, one of the deadliest single events of the whole Arab-Israeli
conflict took place therethe shelling of a United Nations base where hundreds of people were sheltering.  More than one hundred were killed and another one hundred injured, cut down by Israeli anti-personnel shells that explode in the air sending a lethal shower of shrapnel to the ground, reported Martin Asser of BBC News, Beirut.

With expressions of deep sorrow from Prime Minister Olmert, this
tragedy of epic proportions is not enough to stop Israels attacks on the people of Lebanon.  Today, the Israeli Security Cabinet approved a widening of the ground offensive in the South.  Yesterday, Israel violated their agreement to stop the air offensive over Lebanon for forty-eight hours which would have allowed humanitarian aid to reach victims and residents stranded in the South could have traveled more safely to the North.  Olmert announced today that the end to the war is not in sight.  While tens of thousands are without food and medical supplies, the U.N. reports that their convoys have been turned away and cancelled by the Israeli government.  The short journey from Tyre to Qana is delayed for hours because the roads have been destroyed.  Aid trickles in. 


Amid the despair and the grim task of removing the victims, there is
deep anger at what many here regard is the callous indifference of the West, reports Ilene Prusher of the Christian Science Monitor in
Lebanon.  The offering of condolences from President Bush, Secretary Rice, and Prime Minister Blair to the Lebanese people for Israels murder of innocent children seems hollow, with no condemnation of Israels repeated and flagrant disregard for human life and the values of civilized people everywhere.   

I have read the letter sent to The President of the United States
signed by my brother in Christ The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswald, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal church of America and fourteen other Christian leaders in which they say This violent conflict has created a grave humanitarian crisis, and no hoped-for benefit should outweigh the cause of saving innocent lives.  The letter continues with a plea, Your presidential leadership and the full weight of the United States, acting in concert with the international community, must be applied now to achieve an immediate cease-fire and to launch an intensive diplomatic initiative for the cessation of hostilities.  I regret that the President has ignored this call.

Last week in Lebanon, Israel bombed and destroyed a U.N. observation post on the border in Southern Lebanon killing four peacekeeping observers.  U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed indignation that Israel appeared to have struck the well known, established, and clearly identified site deliberately.  The bomb made a direct hit on the building and the attack continued even throughout the rescues and recovery mission.  The Security Councils statement excludes condemnation of Israel at the
insistence of The United States.

The war rages on into the third week.  If fighting does not cease, the
homeless count in Lebanon will soon reach one million people.  Families and communities continue to be ripped apart.  And, the offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza has been relentless.  This week when Jan Egeland, the U.N.s Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs visited Jerusalem, he focused much of his attention on the tragedy happening in the Gaza Strip.  He does not understand what benefit Israel will gain from punishing 1.4 million people by cutting them off from their sources of electricity and jobs, from running water in their houses and from fresh food.  What is the message that the residents of Gaza receive from the sight of mountains of tomatoes tossed out on the side of the road at the border crossings into Israel?  That they should be more productive and support peace?                                    


Saturday, after waiting two and one half hours at the checkpoint, our
delegation visited Gaza on a mission of mercy, taking medical and relief supplies to hospitals and shelters.  Israel Defense Forces tanks had pushed back before dawn, just one day after ending an unusually deadly incursion that killed thirty Palestinians over three days.  According to an Associated Press count, in the past one month period, Israeli troops have killed 159 Palestinians since they started their relentless attacks on the Gaza Strip in response to the capture of soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit.  I have seen the Caterpillar bulldozers and the    orchards of oranges uprooted by them.  I saw an apartment building where forty families were given forty minutes to leave before it was demolished into a pile of rubble.  I have heard the concern of the Director of our Al-Ahli Arab Hospital regarding medical supplies, staffing shortages, and lack of fuel to run the generators essential to critical care.  And, I have seen children playing near mountains of garbage which are the breeding ground to rats and the threat of cholera, a disease that I watched devastate India when I lived there.

We must not become complacent or be desensitized by the images of this human tragedy.  Continue to appeal to your government representatives to demand an immediate cease-fire.  It is time that The United Nations and the world community see to it that Israel complies with U.N. Resolutions 242, 338, and 194, so that compliance with Resolution 1559 can be enforced.  We must find an end to this madness.  Killing and the destruction of the environment is not a war against nations, but it is a war against God.                 

In, with, and through Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal
Bishop
The Diocese of Jerusalem
Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria
 

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ROOTS OF MIDEAST DISSENSION

By Salam Al-Marayati
DenverPost.com, 7/28/06 and OC Register*, 7/31/06

In the past quarter century, Lebanon has had its infrastructure
destroyed twice by Israel, financed in part by the United States. The
Palestinian territories have been under military occupation by the government of Israel for 40 years. The excuses for invasion and occupation are always the same - self-defense and rooting out terrorists. The results are also the same - humiliation of the Arabs and more extremism.

In 1982, the Israeli military bulldozed its way to Beirut with the
stated purpose of destroying the Palestine Liberation Organization and liquidating its boss, Yasser Arafat. After some negotiations, the PLO leadership fled Beirut, and Israel forcefully occupied southern Lebanon. Hezbollah was founded in 1982 as a byproduct of the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon.

This time around, the excuse being employed to justify bombarding
Lebanon is to deal Hezbollah a fatal blow. Same plot, different characters. War and occupation are prime ingredients in the recipe for radicalization and increased terrorism in the region. What we're witnessing in Iraq is a case in point.

Let's measure U.S. successes and failures within the parameters of
stated American interests:

Establishing the Rule of Law
It is nothing short of amusing to see the government of Israel cite
United Nations resolutions, when there are at least a dozen U.N.
resolutions citing its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and its well-documented abuse of human-rights standards dictated by international and U.S. law. And when was the last time you heard of a government kidnapping and arresting more than 60 elected leaders of a neighboring land? Meanwhile, more than 9,000 Lebanese and Palestinians remain in Israeli jails.

Countering Terrorism
Terrorism in the region is on the rise and shows no sign of waning.
When coupled with high unemployment and poverty, dehumanization and indignity are known causes of terrorism. Despite this, Israel continues to subject the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples to large-scale military aggression that is annihilating the modest infrastructure they've managed
to build after decades of conflict. Bombing densely populated areas for the purpose of forcing civilian populations to change their government is a clear case of state terror.

Promoting Democracy
In its decision to remain a sideline observer with the dismantlement of  two emerging democratic societies - Lebanon and the occupied
Palestinian Territories - the United States is sending a message to the Arab and Muslim worlds about where its interests lie.

It is now clear to the people in the Middle East: Democracy means elect the people the U.S. government wants. Otherwise, you'll be starved and suffocated like the Palestinians.

Restoring Human Rights
The guarantee of human rights for the Muslim and Arab peoples is not absolute. Of the more than 200 Lebanese deaths in the past week, 14 were noncivilians. Millions in the region are seeing cities demolished, fleeing populations and dead bodies depicted on their TV screens. These images are being seared into their minds, confirming their worst fears.

Helping America's Allies
Two of the most humiliated Arab allies of the United States, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and President Fouad Siniora of Lebanon, have learned that the seed of their continued engagement with America may never bear fruit but only further suffering and destruction. It's no surprise that an alliance with the U.S. government by any political leader in the Middle East is viewed as a liability.
 

When measured by the U.S. yardstick, our policy in the Middle East is a failure, and Washington needs only to look to its own miscalculation of the region as the reason. While there is much talk about religion and culture as an explanation for the conflict, it is the government policy that needs to be scrutinized for root causes.

In order to find a way out of this morass, the United States must
recognize that Palestine's right to exist is as crucial as Israel's right to exist. Instead, U.S. energy is spent on regime change, which has only brought about more radical regimes. While the current governments of Iran and Syria are far from ideal, the prospect of military action against them will likely bring about more entrenched, more anti-American governments.

If we "stay the course" with belligerence to the Arab and Muslim
worlds, then we should not be surprised when they respond with belligerence to continuing humiliation and not-quite-human treatment by the international community.

Salam Al-Marayati is the Executive Director of the Muslim Public
Affairs Council.

 

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FELLOWSHIPS AT THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) welcomes applications to its Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program for the 2007-2008 fellowship year. Established in 2001 to enable activists, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change, the fellowship program is based at NED's International Forum for Democratic Studies, in Washington, D.C.

Program: The program offers five-month fellowships for practitioners to improve strategies and techniques for building democracy abroad and five- to ten-month fellowships for scholars to conduct original research for publication. Practitioners may include activists, lawyers,
journalists, and other civil society professionals; scholars may include professors, research analysts, and other writers. Projects may focus on the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural aspects of democratic development and include a range of methodologies and approaches.

Eligibility: The Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program is intended primarily to support practitioners and scholars from new and aspiring democracies. Distinguished scholars from the United States and other established democracies are also eligible to apply. Practitioners are expected to have substantial experience working to promote democracy. Scholars are expected to have a doctorate, or academic equivalent, at the time of application. The program is not designed to defray the cost of education for students working toward a degree. A working knowledge of English is an important prerequisite for participation in the program.

Support: The fellowship year begins October 1 and runs through July 31, with major entry dates in October and March. All fellows receive a monthly stipend, health insurance, travel assistance, and research support through the Forum's Democracy Resource Center and Reagan-Fascell Research Consultancy Program.

Application: For further details, please visit us online at
www.ned.org. For instructions on how to apply, please download our most recent Information and Application Forms booklet available at

www.ned.org/forum/R-FApplication.pdf  or visit us online at
www.ned.org/forum/reagan-fascell.html

 

Please note that all application materials must be type-written
and in English.

Deadline: Applications for fellowships in 2007-2008 must be received no later than November 1, 2006. Notification of the competition outcome is in April 2007.

We are pleased to announce that in summer 2006, NED will move to new headquarters:

Address until August 25, 2006:
Program Assistant, Fellowship Programs
International Forum for Democratic Studies
National Endowment for Democracy
1101 15th Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20005
Tel.: (202) 293-0300
Fax: (202) 293-0258
E-mail: fellowships@ned.org

Address from August 25, 2006
Program Assistant, Fellowship Programs
International Forum for Democratic Studies
National Endowment for Democracy
1025 F Street, N.W., Eighth Floor
Washington, D.C. 20004
E-mail: fellowships@ned.org
 

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New Round of South-South Grants is Now Opened
Titles from India, Turkey and Iran

Next Page Foundation is pleased to announce the opening of a new round of grant-giving for South-South translations. The South-South
Translations initiative seeks to counterweigh the dominant North to South and West to East information flow patterns by supporting Arabic publication of works from countries that share historical, cultural or linguistic ties with the Arab world such as Turkey, Iran and India. The project aims to facilitate dialogue and exchange of information and knowledge amongst these countries and also intends to support cross-border cooperation between publishers to ensure better distribution and wider access to the supported books.

Publishers from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Palestine are invited to apply. Tofacilitate publishers choices, Next Page Foundation is providing lists of titles recommended for translation from Turkey, Iran and India, although publishers are welcome to apply for titles not included on the lists. All applications should be submitted by e-mail to Natasha Mullins (nmullins@npage.org) by August 31, 2006. For further information, the lists of recommended titles, and application form, please refer to the home page of www.npage.org
 

 

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ACSIS    
American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies
Call for Papers

20-21 April, 2007 The Islamic World in the 21st Century ( Denver ,
Colorado ) The 24 th annual meeting of the American Council for the
Study of Islamic Societies (ACSIS) at the Metropolitan State College. The conference will focus on: 1) Islamic law in the 21st century; 2) The Media and contemporary views of the Islamic world; 3) Engendering the Islamic world (gender issues); 4) Islam as an alternative ideology; 5) Islamic art and literature in the 21 st century; 6) The place of secularism and secularists in the Islamic world; 7) Teaching about Islam and the Islamic world after 9/11. The goals of the conference are: first, to explore how the intersections of history, law, politics, economics, art, literature and gender issues have impacted the Islamic world in the 21st century; and second, to generate newer perspectives and methodologies in the study of religion and society.   Please send proposals and abstracts as well as contact information to: Dr. Vivienne SM. Angeles, Department of Religion, La Salle University , Philadelphia , PA.
19141-1199 ( angeles@lasalle.edu ).

Call for papers deadline: December 1, 2006 .

For details and further information, please go to www.lasalle.edu/acsis

 

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DISCLAIMER: 

The articles in this bulletin do NOT necessarily reflect the opinions of CSID, or its board of directors.  They are included in the CSID bulletin to encourage and facilitate diversity of opinions, discussions, and debates about democracy in the Arab/Muslim world, and how best to strengthen and promote it.

 

 

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

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Copyright 2006 Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID).
All Rights Reserved.

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