Pages Navigation Menu

The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

August 24, 2006

CSID Email Bulletin

August 24, 2006

August 2, 2006

All Previous Issues


  1. EVENT:  Former President Khatami on A Dialogue of Civilizations

  2. EVENT:  The Religious Dimensions of Conflict in the Middle East

  3. EVENT:  9-11 Plus 5 on the Future of U.S.-Islamic World Relations

  4. EVENT:  The Evolution of People Power and Nonviolent Conflict: Best Practices and Future Applications

  5. ARTICLE:  The ‘New Middle East’ Bush Is Resisting (by Saad Eddin Ibrahim)

  6. ARTICLE:  Let the voice of moderation speak (by HRH El Hassan bin Talal)

  7. ARTICLE:  Vision Gap, Part I (by Shadi Hamid)

  8. ARTICLE:  Freedom Fighters – A Petition to Support Muslim Democrats (By Joseph N. Kickasola)

  9. ARTICLE:  And Now, Islamism Trumps Arabism (by Michael Slackman)

  10. ARTICLE:  The Islamist Identity (by Nilfer Göle)

  11. ARTICLE:  US Has Emerged As A Loser In The Middle East (By Philip Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro)

  12. ARTICLE:  Remember, Palestine Is The Region’s Festering Sore (by Rami G Khouri)

  13. ARTICLE:  Lebanese blast Arab rulers, praise Iran, Syria (by Yara Bayoumy)

  14. STATEMENT:  Arab Human Rights Web on Arrest of Dr. Essam el Eryan

  15. ARTICLE:  U.S. Judge Orders Halt To Nsa Wiretap Program (by Kevin Krolicki)

  16. INTERVIEW:  Islam And Human Rights (by Emad Baghi)

  17. ARTICLE:  FIQH COUNCIL DECIDES ON ASTRONOMICAL CALCULATIONS FOR ISLAMIC DATES (ISNA)

  18. ARTICLE:  Confusion is holiday tradition for Muslims (by Rachel Zoll)

  19. FELLOWSHIPS:  at the National Endowment For Democracy

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

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

  22. CONFERENCE:  "THE SACRED WEB:  TRADITION IN THE MODERN WORLD"

  23. AWARD:  Mont Pelerin Society Essay Competition

  24. AWARD:  Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty

  25. AWARD:  Atlas Essay Contest on Freedom in the West and in the Muslim World

 

Former Iranian President Khatami

 

Major public address calling for A Dialogue of Civilizations

 

at Washington National Cathedral

Thursday, September 7, 2006

7:30 pm

 

Free and open to the public

Doors open at 6:30 pm

 

His Excellency Mohammad Khatami served from 1997 to 2005 as Irans first reformist president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.  Elected with the broad support of women and young adults, Khatami promoted the rule of law, democracy and the inclusion of all Iranians in the political decision-making process.  His 1998 U.N. statement calling for a dialogue between civilizations and cultures led Secretary-General Kofi Annan to declare 2001 the U.N. Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations.  Khatami now serves in the Alliance of Civilizations as one of 20 international leaders, called together by the Secretary-General and the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey, to counter the deterioration of relations between societies and nations by establishing a paradigm of mutual respect and rejecting extremism.  In February of this year, Khatami founded the International Institute for Dialogue Among Civilizations and Cultures in Tehran.

 

For more info about the event, call (202) 537-2221,

go to www.nationalcathedral.org or

write cathedralcollege@cathedral.org

 

This event is sponsored by the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation

at the Cathedral College of Washington National Cathedral.

Massachusetts & Wisconsin Avenues, N.W., Washington, D.C.

 

back to top

 


 

USIP Public Event on:

 

The Religious Dimensions of Conflict in the Middle East

 

Date: Monday, August 28, 2006

Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

 

Location: U.S. Institute of Peace

2nd Floor Conference Room

1200 17th St, NW

Washington, DC 20036

 

Religion is a factor in multiple ways in the Middle East. Hezbollah and Hamas are Islamist organizations. Lebanon’s social and political structure is based upon careful balancing among its constituent religious communities. Israel is a Jewish state. Iran is an Islamist state dominated by clerics. Rivalries between Shiite and Sunni populations in Iraq underpin much of the turmoil there. Religious dynamics play out in several other Middle Eastern countries.

 

How do religious factors affect conflict in the Middle East? How might these factors be better understood? How might they be managed in non-violent ways? Can religion be a force for peace? Is the role of religion exaggerated in the media?

 

 

Speakers

 

Daoud L. Khairallah

Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University and at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University

 

Imad Harb

U.S. Institute of Peace

 

Graham Fuller

formerly of Rand Corporation

 

David Smock, Moderator

U.S. Institute of Peace

 

To RSVP, please send your name, affiliation, daytime phone number, and name of the event to Peter Rockwood at prockwood@usip.org. Please direct media inquiries to Iris Pilika at ipilika@usip.org

 

back to top

 

Americans for Informed Democracy, the Elliott School of International Affairs, and the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution present:

 

9-11 Plus 5

A Young Global Leaders Summit on the Future of U.S.-Islamic World Relations

 

Join young global leaders from around the world to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9-11 and to develop a comprehensive strategy for long-term engagement between the U.S. and the Muslim world. The summit, called 9-11 Plus 5, will look back at the lessons and changes over the five years since the 9-11 attacks, as well as look forward to how U.S.-Islamic world relations can be improved in the five years to come. The summit is taking place Friday, September 8th through Sunday September 10th at the Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C.

 

Speakers Include:

 

  • Salman Ahmad, Leader of Junoon, South Asia’s top rock band

  • Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University

  • Aaron Brown, Former Host of NewsNight on CNN

  • Mary Fetchet, Founding Director, Voices of September 11

  • Slade Gorton, Former U.S. Senator and 9-11 Commission Member

  • Edward Gnehm, Former U.S. Ambassador to Jordan

  • Karl Inderfurth, Former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs

  • Chris Kojm, Former Deputy Director of the 9/11 Commission

  • Shibley Telhami, Professor, University of Maryland

  • Gideon Yago, Correspondent, MTV News and Documentaries

  • Ahmed Younis, National Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council

 

TO LEARN MORE AND TO APPLY, VISIT:  http://www.aidemocracy.org/911.cfm


 

back to top

 


 

You are cordially invited to a Public Event:

 

The Evolution of People Power and Nonviolent Conflict: Best Practices and Future Applications

 

Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Time: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

 

Location: U.S. Institute of Peace

2nd Floor Conference Room

1200 17th St, NW

Washington, DC 20036

 

This event has been organized in collaboration with the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. Building on a burgeoning body of scholarly and practical knowledge, the panel will introduce new innovations in the field of strategic non-violent action, from "how-to" manuals to interactive video games, which seek to train the next generation of activists and introduce students of conflict resolution not only to the theories but also tactics of strategic non-violence. The panel will feature the work not only of pioneers in the field but also the current and potential applications of these strategies around the globe.

 

 

Speakers:

 

Peter Ackerman

Founding Chair, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, Washington, D.C.

 

Srdja Popovic

Co-founder, OTPOR, Executive Director of Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action & Strategies (CANVAS), Belgrade, Serbia

 

Slobodan Djinovic

Co-founder, OTPOR, Chairman of Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action & Strategies (CANVAS)

 

Andrej Milivojevic

OTPOR activist, and University of Berkeley, Departments of History and International and Area Studies

 

Steve York

Documentary Filmmaker, York Zimmerman Inc.

 

Salka Barca

Sahrawi nonviolent activist and refugee, Western Sahara

 

James O’Brien, Commentator

former Special Presidential Envoy for the Balkans and Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Principal, The Albright Group

 

Carola Weil, Moderator

U.S. Institute of Peace

 

To RSVP, please send your name, affiliation, daytime phone number, and name of the event to Cornelia Smith at csmith@usip.org

 

back to top

 



 

The ‘New Middle East’ Bush Is Resisting

 

By Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Wednesday, August 23, 2006; Page A15

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/22/AR2006082200978.html

 

 

President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may be quite right about a new Middle East being born. In fact, their policies in support of the actions of their closest regional ally, Israel, have helped midwife the newborn. But it will not be exactly the baby they have longed for. For one thing, it will be neither secular nor friendly to the United States. For another, it is going to be a rough birth.

 

What is happening in the broader Middle East and North Africa can be seen as a boomerang effect that has been playing out slowly since the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001. In the immediate aftermath of those attacks, there was worldwide sympathy for the United States and support for its declared "war on terrorism," including the invasion of Afghanistan. Then the cynical exploitation of this universal goodwill by so-called neoconservatives to advance hegemonic designs was confirmed by the war in Iraq. The Bush administration’s dishonest statements about "weapons of mass destruction" diminished whatever credibility the United States might have had as liberator, while disastrous mismanagement of Iraqi affairs after the invasion led to the squandering of a conventional military victory. The country slid into bloody sectarian violence, while official Washington stonewalled and refused to admit mistakes. No wonder the world has progressively turned against America.

 

Against this declining moral standing, President Bush made something of a comeback in the first year of his second term. He shifted his foreign policy rhetoric from a "war on terrorism" to a war of ideas and a struggle for liberty and democracy. Through much of 2005 it looked as if the Middle East might finally have its long-overdue spring of freedom. Lebanon forged a Cedar Revolution, triggered by the assassination of its popular former prime minister, Rafiq Hariri. Egypt held its first multi-candidate presidential election in 50 years. So did Palestine and Iraq, despite harsh conditions of occupation. Qatar and Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf continued their steady evolution into constitutional monarchies. Even Saudi Arabia held its first municipal elections.

 

But there was more. Hamas mobilized candidates and popular campaigns to win a plurality in Palestinian legislative elections and form a new government. Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt achieved similar electoral successes. And with these developments, a sudden chill fell over Washington and other Western capitals.

 

Instead of welcoming these particular elected officials into the newly emerging democratic fold, Washington began a cold war on Muslim democrats. Even the tepid pressure on autocratic allies of the United States to democratize in 2005 had all but disappeared by 2006. In fact, tottering Arab autocrats felt they had a new lease on life with the West conveniently cowed by an emerging Islamist political force.

 

Now the cold war on Islamists has escalated into a shooting war, first against Hamas in Gaza and then against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel is perceived in the region, rightly or wrongly, to be an agent acting on behalf of U.S. interests. Some will admit that there was provocation for Israel to strike at Hamas and Hezbollah following the abduction of three soldiers and attacks on military and civilian targets. But destroying Lebanon with an overkill approach born of a desire for vengeance cannot be morally tolerated or politically justified — and it will not work.

 

On July 30 Arab, Muslim and world outrage reached an unprecedented level with the Israeli bombing of a residential building in the Lebanese village of Qana, which killed dozens and wounded hundreds of civilians, most of them children. A similar massacre in Qana in 1996, which Arabs remember painfully well, proved to be the political undoing of then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres. It is too early to predict whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will survive Qana II and the recent war. But Hezbollah will survive, just as it has already outlasted five Israeli prime ministers and three American presidents.

 

Born in the thick of an earlier Israeli invasion, in 1982, Hezbollah is at once a resistance movement against foreign occupation, a social service provider for the needy of the rural south and the slum-dwellers of Beirut, and a model actor in Lebanese and Middle Eastern politics. Despite access to millions of dollars in resources from within and from regional allies Syria and Iran, its three successive leaders have projected an image of clean governance and a pious personal lifestyle.

 

In more than four weeks of fighting against the strongest military machine in the region, Hezbollah held its own and won the admiration of millions of Arabs and Muslims. People in the region have compared its steadfastness with the swift defeat of three large Arab armies in the Six-Day War of 1967. Hasan Nasrallah, its current leader, spoke several times to a wide regional audience through his own al-Manar network as well as the more popular al-Jazeera. Nasrallah has become a household name in my own country, Egypt.

 

According to the preliminary results of a recent public opinion survey of 1,700 Egyptians by the Cairo-based Ibn Khaldun Center, Hezbollah’s action garnered 75 percent approval, and Nasrallah led a list of 30 regional public figures ranked by perceived importance. He appears on 82 percent of responses, followed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (73 percent), Khaled Meshal of Hamas (60 percent), Osama bin Laden (52 percent) and Mohammed Mahdi Akef of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (45 percent).

 

The pattern here is clear, and it is Islamic. And among the few secular public figures who made it into the top 10 are Palestinian Marwan Barghouti (31 percent) and Egypt’s Ayman Nour (29 percent), both of whom are prisoners of conscience in Israeli and Egyptian jails, respectively.

 

None of the current heads of Arab states made the list of the 10 most popular public figures. While subject to future fluctuations, these Egyptian findings suggest the direction in which the region is moving. The Arab people do not respect the ruling regimes, perceiving them to be autocratic, corrupt and inept. They are, at best, ambivalent about the fanatical Islamists of the bin Laden variety. More mainstream Islamists with broad support, developed civic dispositions and services to provide are the most likely actors in building a new Middle East. In fact, they are already doing so through the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, the similarly named PJD in Morocco, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine and, yes, Hezbollah in Lebanon.

 

These groups, parties and movements are not inimical to democracy. They have accepted electoral systems and practiced electoral politics, probably too well for Washington’s taste. Whether we like it or not, these are the facts. The rest of the Western world must come to grips with the new reality, even if the U.S. president and his secretary of state continue to reject the new offspring of their own policies.

 

The writer is an Egyptian democracy activist, professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo, and chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies.

 

back to top

 


 

Let the voice of moderation speak

 

HRH El Hassan bin Talal

www.commongroundnews.org

 

 

Amman – How much aggression in our region has been justified by the mantra that Western interests are under threat? The battle cries claim that all is at stake and every strike is a final defence of freedom and stability. But the premise behind this thinking has become all too obvious. Arabs and Muslims of whatever race or hue are not to be trusted. They are not to be dealt with fairly and the "liberal values" that protect the righteous of Israel or the United States are not for our defence or our protection. It seems that even the moderates in Arab societies lack the fibre that would grant them equality under international law. We are all as one, barbarians at the gate to be cowed and bullied into silent submission.

 

But we should be thankful that Arab moderation fights on with stoicism. Moderation will continue to battle for the hearts of those millions for whom this war on terror is an offence to their existential realities. Boaz Ganor, the prominent Israeli thinker, addressed the question of terrorism and demanded that there be "no prohibition without definition." Terrorism must be defined objectively, based upon accepted international laws and principles regarding what behaviour is permitted in conventional wars between nations.

 

The roots of that Arab anger and disillusionment which allows legitimacy to be handed over to extremists cannot be ignored. Terrorism is a tactic borne out of a perversion of lines of representation. If we do not allow the many to speak, then the violent few will scream to be heard. It may be difficult for most Israelis to admit, but the Shi’a of southern Lebanon became politicised and militarised only in response to repeated Israeli aggression. The citizens of Israel and the other states in the Middle East must be honest about the effects of decades of abuse of people and of international law, unless you believe that we Arabs possess a unique terrorist gene, which has ignited our responses in recent decades. If this is the case, then throw firewood on the blaze and let our region burn until you have killed or exiled every last Arab in your neighbourhood.

 

The founders of Israel and, indeed, the United States, fought what they perceived as an occupation. Recently, Israelis commemorated the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 as a landmark act in ending the British Mandate. But surely this must be defined as an act of terror. A statement in the British House of Commons at the time described the attack, in which 92 people were murdered, as "one of the most dastardly and cowardly crimes in recorded history."

 

The Lebanese have been damned to repeat this phrase to describe attacks on their country. But in our world, righteousness belongs to the victor. If this is the way of the new world order, and international law no longer has a place – then, by all means, the extremists on all sides must fight to the death. The question is what can usefully be won in such a scenario? The evils of pain, suffering and moral bankruptcy are all the spoils of our new-world fighters.

 

The traumatic effects of the collective punishment of civilian populations will be felt for generations to come. The Israeli Defence Force has made terror a daily reality for the civilian populations of Palestine and Lebanon, populations who have lived and continue to live during illegal occupation. For the other side of this global war on terror, violence is most often something to read about. The threat of terror is fetishised by media and politicians, and provides a scant excuse for policies that make terror a daily reality in the lives of millions of people in the Middle East.

 

No one can ignore the pain and suffering of the Israeli people in recent weeks, but the policies of disproportionate reprisal and abuse of humanitarian norms can only beget further violence. Jordan is a country that fought two world wars on the side of the Allies. We have suffered from the shockwaves of aggression on all sides and we have endured threats and terror right up to Zarqawi’s terrible attacks on Amman. So do not patronise us by dubbing us allies in the war on terror and then dismiss our words when we question your policies.

 

The politics you entertain in this region are the product of a false perception. Our regional perspective is being ignored and, all the while, empowered extremists are gaining greater control. We must not be fooled into thinking that a new Middle East can be devised by political strategists and imposed from top down. The promotion of participatory democracy has been curtailed by a fear of empowering moderate Arabs and moderate Islamists. Regimes within the region and powers outside attempt to stifle the protests of dismayed populations – protests that should be aired through banners and the ballot box. But the moderates are now shouting also. The evolution of freedoms cannot be controlled from above, nor blasted into alien forms that poorly represent the needs of those seeking freedom. With the ever-increasing polarisation of hate, we should be grateful that exasperation has not stifled the protest of moderates.

 

HRH El Hassan bin Talal is brother of the late King Hussein of Jordan and president of the Arab Thought Forum. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

 

back to top

 


 

Vision Gap, Part I

 

By Shadi Hamid

Web Exclusive: 08.23.06 

The American Prospect Online

 

http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?sectionfiltered=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=11913

 

Progressives desperately need to have a real debate on core foreign policy principles. An argument, in two parts, for resisting the realist temptation and reclaiming democracy promotion from Bush. 

 

Don’t doubt yourselves. We know who we are. Senator Barak Obama said those words to an audience of progressives in a well-received speech at the Take Back America conference in June. If only it were true. When it comes to foreign policy, we do not know who we are, at least not yet.

Today, significant fault lines divide the left on a host of major foreign policy questions. If such disagreements were simply a matter of differing policy prescriptions, that would be one thing. But the divisions are of a more fundamental nature — a product of competing meta-narratives liberals hold to understand Americas role in a post-9/11 world.

 

There have been sustained efforts by Democrats of late to close ranks and present a unified front. Bill Clinton has said that we ought to be whipped if we allow our differences over what to do now over Iraq divide us. Even despite these differences, most progressives now agree that the Iraq adventure, for all the promise it might have once had, has proven a disastrous mistake. And over the past year, Democrats in Congress have done a much better job of coordinating their opposition to the Bush administrations innumerable national security missteps.

 

An artificial, contrived consensus based on the lowest common denominator might suffice while in the opposition. However, if Democrats win back Congress this year or the presidency in 2008, a more clear vision will be necessary. Ideas are imperative — but while it is easy to argue that Democrats need big ideas, it is more difficult to figure out what those might actually be.

 

In recent months, there have been several noteworthy attempts to provide an intellectual and ideological frame for progressive policy. Here, in the pages of the Prospect, Michael Tomasky as well as John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira have offered the most cohesive arguments to date, proposing the common good as a foundation for a new progressive vision. Unfortunately, both these efforts reserve their focus for domestic policy. Their foreign policy suggestions are vague and, for the most part, avoid tackling the challenging questions that have sowed division within liberal ranks.

 

Just as the Vietnam War would define a generations worldview, leading to the Democratic Partys much-noted ambivalence about the uses and abuses of American power, there is a profound risk that the failure of Iraq might precipitate a similarly destructive intellectual shift. Neoconservatism, with its dogged reliance on the transformative power of military force, has found itself discredited after a series of embarrassing failures. Realism — along with a renewed sense of pessimism and a more brittle regard for Americas ability to reshape the internal politics of other countries — is ascendant. In the September American Prospect, Flynt Leverett argues that "realism has become the truly progressive position on foreign policy."

 

An assertive democracy promotion posture, a central component of neoconservative ideology, was sullied in the eyes of liberals by the Iraq War. In light of Islamist electoral gains throughout the Middle East, the wisdom of promoting democracy — in a region where illiberal, anti-American forces command the loyalty of the masses — has been called into further question. Fundamentally, the tragic misadventures of the Bush administration have fanned a pervasive distrust of grand projects, long-term commitments, and, more generally, interventionism."

 

The leadership of the Democratic Party shares this shift in outlook, albeit to varying degrees. When leading Democrats actually do mention democracy promotion, it sounds more like a concession than a commitment. In March, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told The Washington Posts Fred Hiatt that while we of course acknowledge that democracy is our goal we first have to have stability. Similarly, the congressional Democrats national security plan, released on March 29, did a good job of talking tough (i.e. kill terrorists and strengthen the military) but was a document without ambition, reflecting the banality and amoralism that have come to afflict Democrats foreign-policy vision. The plan, entitled Real Security, did not even once mention the word democracy.

 

To a great extent, Democrats already have clear policy prescriptions for homeland security, Iraq, energy, and the war on terrorism. If Democrats came to power, they would be competent. They would begin to undo the accumulated damage of the Bush era. But what is the one idea that unifies the distinct (but interrelated) subsections of progressive national-security policy? Do we have a story to tell to the American people, one which embraces our countrys founding ideals and our enduring sense of moral purpose?

 

Neoconservatives, for all their faults, were guided by a useful, if overly simplistic, understanding of the causal relationship between autocracy and terrorism. The animating force of the Bush administration, for a while at least, was the radical notion that democracy — by allowing people to express their grievances through a meaningful political process — would defeat the frustration and impotence that are incubators of political violence. This is a bold idea. It is also, however, a costly one, fraught with risks and difficulties that may be hard to stomach after the misguided adventurism of the Bush era.

 

Such difficulties will remain impossible to address effectively as long as progressives continue to lack clarity and consensus regarding American power and primacy. The central question for progressives is whether we intend to be a country that relegates itself to traditional, interest-bound forms of diplomacy and ad-hoc international maneuvering or an interventionist state, with a set of strongly-held ideals and principles and a commitment to promoting them — with care, but without apology.

 

Unless these tensions are addressed, liberals will find themselves at a loss to articulate a compelling vision to the American people and the world. A return to the dank grayness of realpolitik, moreover, will prove little more than a stopgap measure, a fleeting reaction to the recklessness of the neoconservatives.

 

To be sure, we will not be able to resolve these issues in time for November or even 2008. But we will have to start — and a growing number of progressives, so far mainly limited to a small subsection of elite liberals, have done so. The Truman National Security Project, a group founded in 2004, attempts to articulate a robust internationalist vision, channeling the idealism and moral resolve of past Democrat presidents like John F. Kennedy, Woodrow Wilson, and, of course, Harry Truman. Michael Signer, a Truman principal, in a brilliant article for the new quarterly Democracy, has given the progressive alternative a name, exemplarism, while Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic, in his new book The Good Fight, has written the closest thing interventionist liberals have to an alternative long-form manifesto. And Robert Wright, writing in The New York Times, offers a less ambitious but still useful contribution to the question of how to balance American interests and ideals.

 

In many ways, what is being offered is a middle way between a more narrow realism and the missionary (some would say messianic) activism of neoconservatism. This alternative attempts to reclaim the democratic idealism of the neoconservative movement while wedding it to a more multilateral framework that recognizes the importance of alliances and international institutions. It also recognizes that without our moral prestige (which President Bush and the Republicans have squandered), securing our national interests and promoting the ideals that define us as Americans will prove far more difficult.

 

While the Middle East, today, is coming apart under the Republicans’ watch, the central components of a progressive foreign policy alternative may very well be coming together. Tomorrow I’ll make the case for why democracy promotion needs to be at the center of that progressive vision.

 

Shadi Hamid is founding member and associate at The Project on Middle East Democracy. He is a contributor to Democracy Arsenal, the Security and Peace Initiatives foreign affairs blog.

 

back to top

 



 

Freedom Fighters

WantedA Petition to Support Muslim Democrats

 

 

By Joseph N. Kickasola

8/22/2006

 

http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=2822

 

 

A few Jewish organizationsand several Christian radio and television broadcastsare calling for thousands of their sympathizers to sign a Petition to Support Israel. I share their call for support of Israels democracy, especially at this time when the Iranian president is calling for the annihilation of the State of Israel, but I wish I had a petition to sign that was expanded to stand in support of Israel and Muslim democrats. Such a rewording does not juxtapose either antithetic or synonymous categories, but these petitioning groups do not realize that Muslim democrats and Israel complement one another and are both worthy of support. Both Israel and Muslim democrats support democracy and peaceful, non-coercive meanstheir common non-extremist traits.

 

The petitioners do not intend to discourage any sincere efforts of Muslims toward peace and democracy, even if the petitioners think that such Muslim views are anomalous, illusory, or even contradictory to the essence of Islam. But I say, to exclude these Muslim democrats from a petition of support for Israel is discouraging to them. Many Muslim democrats are in the Middle East and are being squeezed between authoritarian secular regimes on their left and radical Islamist murderers on their right. To Islamic extremists, Muslim democrats, even those who oppose U.S. support of Israel, are enemies and therefore, if for no other reason, deserve our support. Muslim democrats do not deserve to be ignored when petitions are taking sides.

 

What most of my fellow evangelical Christians do not realize is that the clash between Islam and the West is due largely to the clash within Islam. This is at least a clash between Sunni and Shia, as the sectarian conflict between them in Iraq shows. But as the Shiite and Sunni groups in Lebanon coalesce for the annihilation of Israel, it shows that a much deeper and more generative clash exists within both the Sunni and Shiite communities, namely the clash between Muslim democrats and theocrats, moderates and militants, modernity and tradition, and, ultimately, between the national rule of law and the universal rule of shariathe coercive quest of Islamic extremists.

 

As for the democratic side of this Islamic clash, a good source for examining their efforts and literature for democracy education, both in English and in Arabic, is the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington, D.C. (Radwan Masmoudi, president).

 

What many do not realize is that Muslims differ greatly among themselves on the rationales they give for moderation or violence in Islamic politics. These rationales depend on their very different hermeneutical methodologies in interpreting the Koran, which they then use to justify, or merely excuse, their chosen course of political action.

 

To clearly see the stark hermeneutical contrast within Islam in interpreting and applying the political theology of the Koran to modern realities, simply compare the English translation and commentary of the Koran by a Muslim democrat, Muhammad Asad (d. 1992), in The Message of the Quran (2003), with that of anti-democratic Salafists-Wahhabists, Muhammad al-Hilali and Muhsin Khan, in The Noble Quran (especially the 15th revised edition of 1996 containing their Appendix-IV on jihad).

 

There are many peace verses and war verses in the Koran, and the democrats interpret the war verses in light of the peace verses, but the anti-democrats interpret the peace verses in the light of the war verses. Precisely put, the Hilali and Khan approach is a restrictivism, in which religious and political toleration is restricted by means of the earlier Meccan peace verses being abrogated by the later Medinan war verses. Conversely, the Asad approach is a moral foundationism, in which the moral and peace verses of the entire Koran not only remain normative by definitionas in their view that war must be defensive in naturebut such verses also help in understanding the historically and culturally conditioned verses.

 

Proponents of both of these antithetical starting points view their Koranic exposition as discovering the essential Islam. Some of us who are not Muslims either do not yet know which view of the Koran is the original or essential one, or do not feel qualified to evaluate what perhaps only believers in the Koran can. But we do know that we have a duty to be peacemakers now, a duty that is always current, cooperative, compassionate and patient. Yes, we should support Israel. And we should support Muslim democrats, who have been and will remain the only long-term entity that can lead the Muslim world into modernity, and the Middle East away from extremist remedies.

 

Joseph N. Kickasola, Ph.D., is professor of International policy at Regent University (VA), with a joint appointment in the schools of government, law, and divinity. For details on the clash within Islam, esp. its political and hermeneutical typologies on the Koran, see his 38-page paper delivered in April 2006 to an Islamic conference of The Center for Vision & Values, Grove City College (Pa.).

 

back to top

 


 

And Now, Islamism Trumps Arabism

 

By MICHAEL SLACKMAN

August 20, 2006

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/weekinreview/20slackman.html?ex=1156737600&en=d335719afc4083c1&ei=5070

 

CAIRO – SHE grew up in Cairo with the privileges that go to the daughter of a military officer, attended a university and landed a job in marketing. He grew up in a poor village of dusty unpaved roads, where young men work long hours in a brick factory while dreaming of getting a government job that would pay $90 a month.

 

But Jihan Mahmoud, 24, from the middle-class neighborhood of Heliopolis, and Madah Ali Muhammad, 23, from a village in the Nile Delta, have come to the exact same conclusion about what they and their country need: a strong Islamic political movement.

 

I have more faith in Islam than in my state; I have more faith in Allah than in Hosni Mubarak, Ms.

Mahmoud said, referring to the president of Egypt.

That is why I am proud to be a Muslim.

 

The war in Lebanon, and the widespread conviction among Arabs that Hezbollah won that war by bloodying Israel, has fostered and validated those kinds of feelings across Egypt and the region. In interviews on streets and in newspaper commentaries circulated around the Middle East, the prevailing view is that where Arab nations failed to stand up to Israel and the United States, an Islamic movement succeeded.

 

The victory that Hezbollah achieved in Lebanon will have earthshaking regional consequences that will have an impact much beyond the borders of Lebanon itself,

Yasser Abuhilalah of Al Ghad, a Jordanian daily, wrote in Tuesdays issue.

 

The resistance celebrates the victory, read the front-page headline in Al Wafd, an opposition daily in Egypt.

Hezbollahs perceived triumph has propelled, and been propelled by, a wave already washing over the region.

 

Political Islam was widely seen as the antidote to the failures of Arab nationalism, Communism, socialism and, most recently, what is seen as the false promise of American-style democracy. It was that wave that helped the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood win 88 seats in Egypts Parliament last December despite the governments violent efforts to stop voters from getting to the polls. It was that wave that swept Hamas into power in the Palestinian government in January, shocking Hamas itself.

 

We need an umbrella, said Mona Mahmoud, 40, Jihans older sister. In the 60s, Arabism was the umbrella.

 

We had a cause. Now we lack an umbrella. We feel lost in space. We need to be affiliated to something.

 

Usually in our part of the world, because of what religion means to us, we immediately resort to it.

 

The lesson learned by many Arabs from the war in Lebanon is that an Islamic movement, in this case Hezbollah, restored dignity and honor to a bruised and battered identity. People in Egypt still talk painfully about the loss to Israel in 1967, a loss that was the beginning of the end of pan-Arabism as an ideology to unite the region and define its people.

 

Hezbollahs perceived victory has highlighted, and to many people here validated, the rise of another unifying ideology, a kind of Arab-Islamic nationalism.

On the street it has even seemed to erase divisions between Islamic sects, like Sunni and Shiite. At the moment, the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, is widely viewed as a pan-Arab Islamic hero.

The losers are going to be the Arab regimes, U.S.A. and Israel, said Dr. Fares Braizat of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. The secular resistance movements are gone. Now there are the Islamists coming in. So the new nationalism is going to be religious nationalism, and one of the main reasons is dignity. People want their dignity back.

 

The terms Islamic nationalism and pan-Islamism have a negative connotation in the West, where they are associated with fundamentalism and terrorism. But that is increasingly not the case in Egypt. Under the dual pressures of foreign military attacks in the region and a government widely viewed as corrupt and illegitimate, Islamic groups are seen by many people as incorruptible, disciplined, efficient and caring. A victory for Hezbollah in Lebanon is by extension a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

 

People will say Hezbollah achieved a very good thing, so why should we mistrust the Muslim Brotherhood, said Hassan Naffa, a professor of political science at Cairo University.

 

There is a wide diversity of views and agendas under the pan-Islamic-Arab umbrella. But as is often the case in politically aligned movements, those differences are easily papered over when that movement is in the opposition.

Hezbollah is a resistance movement that has given us a solution, said Yomana Samaha, a radio talk-show host in Cairo who identified herself as secular and a supporter of separating religion and government. But when asked if she would vote for a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Egypt, she said Yeah, why not?

 

It was an answer she seemed reluctant but relieved to state.

 

If they have a solution, she repeated, why not?

 

A solution to what?

 

Loss of dignity, said Mona Mahmoud, who is her friend.

Concepts of individual and collective identity are fluid here. During the British occupation of Egypt, a rise in Egyptian nationalism helped lead to independence in the early 1900s. After the revolution of 1952, Gamal Abdel Nasser led the country and the region to seek unity under the banner of Arabism. That was a theme trumpeted by leaders from Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya to Hafez al-Assad in Syria to Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

But according to many political scientists and intellectuals, the glue of pan-Arabism began to weaken in Egypt after defeat in the Arab-Israel War of 1967, a decline that quickened through the 1970s and into the 1980s.

People think that this defeat was a punishment from God because we drifted far from the teachings of Islam, said Gamal Badawi, an Egyptian historian.

 

Since then there has been a steady and visible change in many Egyptians relationship to political Islam. It is not that Egyptians are suddenly more religious, political analysts said. This has always been a religious country. It is that they are more apt to define themselves by their faith. On the streets, that is most evident in the number of women an overwhelming majority who cover their heads with Islamic headscarves, a sign not just of individual conviction but also of peer pressure.

 

The failure of pan-Arabism, the lack of democracy, and corruption this drives people to an extent of despair where they start to find the solution in religion, said Gamal el-Ghitany, editor of Akhbar al-Adab, a literary magazine distributed in Egypt.

 

Echoing that view, Diaa Rashwan, an expert in Islamic movements and analyst with the government-financed Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said, People have come to identify themselves more as Muslims during the last five years in response to the U.S.-led war on terrorism which Egyptians frequently feel is a discriminatory campaign targeting Muslims and Islam worldwide.

But it is not just outside pressures that have pressed so many people of this nation, and this region, toward that view. The events that helped shape Mr. Muhammads world view from his Delta village illustrate the way the government of Egypt also plays a role.

 

Last December Mr. Muhammads uncle, Mustafa Abdel Salam, 61, was shot in the head and killed by the Egyptian police as he was going to pray at a mosque, according to witnesses, including Mr. Muhammad and other villagers. The killing occurred on the last day of voting in Egypts parliamentary elections, a months-long process that was marred by police officers who were ordered to block voters from getting to the polls in many districts. The government grew concerned after candidates affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood began winning in record numbers. While the brotherhood is banned, candidates affiliated with the organization ran as independents.

 

The government says that the police did not fire live ammunition at citizens, but many people were killed and doctors and witnesses including Western diplomats said that the police did fire live rounds into people trying to vote. After the election was over and Mr. Abdel Salam was buried, the brotherhood-affiliated candidate visited the family to offer his condolences and help. The winning candidate, from the governing National Democratic Party, did not visit.

 

Mr. Muhammad said that the whole experience strengthened his conviction that Islam is the solution a phrase that is the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood. Our voice is not heard, said Mr.

Muhammad. It is only the authorities who have a say.

The smallest thing, like we go to vote, and we get beaten. So I will hold on to my religion, and thats it.

 

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Egypt for this article,and Souad Mekhennet from Amman, Jordan.

 

back to top

 

The Islamist Identity

 

Nilfer Göle

 

[Nilufer Göle was  elected director of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris

 

http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-549/_nr-4/_p-1/i.html

 

Everywhere you look nowadays, Islam is used (and misused) as a political force. Some Muslims use it as a call to action; many in the West (and elsewhere) perceive Islam as an other demanding containment and exclusion. As a Turk, I feel both sides of this debate directly.

 

The reason that Islam seems like a religion of the other to Western eyes is that the West has witnessed a systematic de-institutionalization of religion. It is not religion that disappeared from modern Western life, of course, but the claims that religious institutions can make on individual behavior. Religion in the modern world is a much more personal and spiritual experience than ever before.

 

Islamic religious experience is becoming more personal

 

Yet a process of de-institutionalization of religious experience is also taking place within Islam.  Politicization of Islam is displacing the authority of Islams religious classes, the ulema. As in the West, Islamic religious experience is becoming more personal. Interpretation of religious texts by individual Muslims, including political militants, intellectuals and women, is one result of this.

Another is the vulgarization of religious knowledge, with the Korans teachings abused and taken out of context to support political ends.

 

Who now decides what is legitimate and what is illicit in Islam? Who has the authority to interpret religious texts? Who can issue a fatwa or declare jihad?

Nowadays, activism and terrorism provide, or rather impose, a new source for legitimacy. So lay people speak of what Islam does and does not mean, despite lacking the institutional authority of religious schools and training.

 

Indeed, Islam today is primarily interpreted through political agents and cultural movements, not religious institutions. This de-institutionalization has enabled Islam to move from being a local and national social bond to forging imaginary bonds between all Muslims, everywhere, who feel them-selves socially uprooted.

Thus Islamism can unite adherents who previously were deeply divided: spiritual Sufi and canonized Shariat Islam; Shia and Sunni Islam; conservative Saudi Arabia and revolutionary Iran.

 

At the same time, Islam is on the move, its believers leaving rural areas for urban ones and, through migration, to the cities of the West. Many see this movement as something negative, emphasizing the fact that these people are socially uprooted, which leads to alienation and, for some, to terrorism. But social mobility is also a precondition for creating a modern outlook.

 

Migration leads to distance from social origins

 

Of course, through migration Muslims experience a sense of distancing from their social origins, if not an outright break with them. This is true for migrant Muslims in Europe, but also of those recently urbanized in Muslim countries. Consequently, their religious experience is of a new kind. Community, religious, or state institutions do not directly hand it to them. Instead, religious experience for them is a form of social imagination within which they reconstruct a sense of belonging to Islam in new and strange surroundings.

 

Indeed, it is not distance from but proximity to modern life that triggers a return to religious identity. Most radicalism arises in groups who, by their experience of mobility and displacement, are acquainted with secular Western ways of political thinking and urban living. Disoriented by unfamiliar surroundings, Islam becomes their anchor.

 

Veiling can be sign of positive affirmation of Islamic identity

 

But for this anchor to work, Islam must be liberated from its traditionally subservient, passive and docile posture in the face of modernity. By wearing a veil or beard, claiming the right for places to pray at work or school, and demanding special foods, Muslims identify themselves overtly as Muslims. They are telling everyone around them that they are more zealous and meticulous in their religious observance than those who confine their religiosity to private life. For example, non-Muslims usually see veiling as a sign of the debasement and inferiority of Muslim women. From a stigma, however, it has become for Muslims a sign of their positive affirmation of an Islamic identity.

 

Young Muslim women in Europe illustrate this transformation perfectly. Girls who adopt the headscarf in French and German schools are closer in many respects (namely youth culture, fashion conscious-ness and language) to their classmates than to their homebound, uneducated mothers. In adopting the headscarf for Europes public sphere, these girls are unintentionally altering the symbol and the role of Muslim women.

 

Double identity can be double cultural capital

 

This tendency extends deeper than headscarves.  European, indeed all Western Muslims, possess a sense of double belonging, a double cultural capital. They define themselves through their religiosity, but also have gained universal, secular knowledge. Because they have a double cultural capital, they can circulate relatively freely between different activities and spaces home, school, youth associations, and urban leisure space.

 

Being a Muslim and being an Islamist are not the same thing. What we are witnessing today is a shift from a Muslim identity to an Islamist identity. The religious self for individual Muslims is being shifted from the private to the public realm. The question for everyone is whether that search for identity can be satisfied with headscarves and wide public acceptance of Islamic religious practice, or if positive affirmation of Islam demands a more fundamental renunciation of modernity.

 

Nilfer Göle was formerly Professor of Sociology at the Bogazii University in Istanbul (Turkey) and a Fellow of the Wissenschaftkolleg in Berlin. Since 2000, she has also been a member of the Scientific Council of the Institut d’tudes de l’Islam et des socitis du monde musulman (IISMM, EHESS). Her work is devoted to the study of modernity and Islam. She is the author of Musulmanes et modernes – voile et civilisation en Turquie, published in five languages.]


 back to top

 


 

US HAS EMERGED AS A LOSER IN THE MIDDLE EAST 

 

By Philip Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro

Financial Times (UK)

August 20, 2006

 

As Israelis and Arabs continue their debate over who won and lost in Lebanon, one outcome already seems clear: America lost. Washingtons decision to back Israels military campaign unconditionally and refusal actively to seek an early ceasefire may have had some marginal benefits for the US, such as the destruction of some of Hizbollahs military capability. But in the broader scheme of things, Washingtons support of this war and tolerance for the way it was fought have been a disaster.

 

Americas stance on the Lebanon war has had a wide range of negative consequences for America. It has driven Sunni and and Shia Arabs together in an anti-US front, at a time when potential US allies among Sunni Muslims were themselves worrying about the rise of Hizbollah and Iran. It has provoked and empowered the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, just as Washington is deploying more troops to Baghdad to try to quell the violence there. It has distracted attention from the Iranian nuclear issue, just as the United Nations Security Council was coming together to threaten sanctions on Tehran. It has destroyed whatever remaining hope there was for the US to be perceived as an honest broker between Israelis and Arabs in the search for peace in the Middle East. It has undermined US allies and democratic reformers in Arab states. It has also created a new crisis of confidence with Americas European allies just when transatlantic relations were starting to improve. Perhaps most important, it has almost certainly helped create more terrorist enemies, as images of Lebanese women and children crushed under Israeli bombs were broadcast on satellite televisions throughout the world. On an overall balance sheet, these developments vastly outweigh whatever benefits came from giving Israel a few more weeks to destroy Hizbollahs mostly replaceable missiles.

 

Proponents of the Bush administrations approach claim that far from undermining US interests with its Lebanon campaign, Israel was actually doing a service for America. In this view, the US is essentially at war with an Islamic-fascist front, to borrow president George W.?Bushs language, and Israels attack on Hizbollah was just an early battle in what some US neo-conservatives and politicians such as Newt Gingrich are already calling world war three.

 

They argue that the only way to deal with such a front is to destroy it, and therefore Israel was acting in Americas interest in launching the campaign. But this is a huge over-simplification of the strategic situation in the Middle East today, one that risks turning the assumption of a single enemy into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It conflates a complex array of connected but separable challenges a Shia theocracy in Iran, a secular dictatorship in Syria, the nationalist/Islamist Hamas in Palestine, various Shia militia and Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq, and Lebanons Hizbollah into a monolithic threat that cannot be deterred or dealt with except through overwhelming force. Just like the Bush administrations approach to Iraq, it demonstrates utter disregard for the tendency of foreign military intervention to generate nationalist resentment and violent resistance.

 

It remains unclear whether US officials were involved in the planning of Israels war on Hizbollah (as asserted by Seymour Hersh in last weeks New Yorker magazine) or whether Israels actions surprised Washington and were unconditionally supported out of political reflex. Either way, it seems astonishing that US policymakers did not think through the ways in which Israels military campaign might undermine competing American goals in the region. US officials now portray the decision by Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, to go to New York to negotiate a ceasefire last week as a bold diplomatic move that demonstrated US leadership and brought peace, but the real question is why it took her nearly 30 days to act. The damage done to western interests in the greater Middle East to say nothing of the social and physical infrastructure in Lebanon and Israel far exceeds whatever gains the Israeli military campaign achieved in the intervening period.

 

It is too late now to undo all this damage. To make the best of a bad situation, the Bush administration should do what it can to bolster the Lebanese government, support the deployment of a capable UN force, provide reconstruction assistance and encourage a political process in the region.

 

In the future, however, the US must think more carefully about the broader impact of its Middle East diplomacy, even if at times this means taking a different position from its closest regional ally. This would be the best way to help Israel, which would benefit from having a superpower friend that maintains some credibility and diplomatic influence in the Middle East.

 

Philip Gordon is senior fellow for US foreign policy and Jeremy Shapiro a fellow in the foreign policy studies programme at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

 

back to top

 


 

REMEMBER, PALESTINE IS THE REGION’S FESTERING SORE 

 

By Rami G Khouri

Daily Star, Commentary (Lebanon)

August 21, 2006

 

We have a very simple choice before us in the Middle East: we can get serious about working together to give the people of this region a chance to live normal lives in peace and security; or we can all act silly in the ways of provincial chieftains, as many public figures in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Israel and the US have done in recent days.

 

The chances of achieving a region-wide peace in the Middle East are slim to non existent right now, because the key non-Arab players are focusing on the wrong issues. They are trying to manage or eliminate the symptoms of our region’s tensions instead of addressing the root causes. Hizbullah and Iran are among the best examples of this.

 

Israel and the US are obsessed with disarming Hizbullah and confronting Iran. But a quarter of a century ago neither of these issues existed. How Hizbullah and Iran became so problematic is worth recalling. Until 1979 Iran under the Shah was a close ally and friend of the US and Israel, and Hizbullah was not even born. What happened in the three decades from the mid-70s to today? Many things. The most consistent one was that we all allowed the Arab-Israeli conflict to fester unresolved. Its bitterness kept seeping out from its Palestine-Israel core to corrode many other dimensions of the region.

 

The constant clashes between Israel and Lebanon since the late 1960s derived heavily from the unresolved Palestinian-Israeli conflict that started with the 1948 war. Since Iran’s 1979 revolution Islamist revolutionary zeal has found effective _expression in its close association with Hizbullah, which Iranian revolutionary guards were instrumental in establishing and training. Tehran’s assistance to Hamas today follows a similar pattern. A non-Arab power such as Iran exploits the resentment against Israel and the US throughout the Arab world to make political inroads into Arab regions. If the Arab-Israeli conflict had been resolved decades ago, Iran would not have this opportunity.

 

Hizbullah has many people working backwards. While the American-Israeli effort to disarm Hizbullah aims mainly to protect Israel, the fact is that Hizbullah has developed its military capability primarily in response to a need to protect Lebanon from repeated Israeli attacks in the past four decades. (Lebanese calls to disarm Hizbullah are motivated more by a desire to prevent the party from bringing more ruin from Israeli attacks, or to prevent it from taking over the country’s political system and aligning it with Syria and Iran.)

 

The way to end Hizbullah’s status as the only non-state-armed group in Lebanon is to rewind the reel, and go to the heart of the problem that caused Hizbullah to develop its formidable military capabilities in the first place. If we solve the Arab-Israeli conflict in a fair manner, according to UN resolutions, we would eliminate two critical political forces that now nourish Hizbullah’s armed defiance: the Israeli threat to Lebanon, and the ability of Syria and Iran to exploit the ongoing conflict with Israel by working through Lebanon.

 

Iran has its own reasons, including some valid ones, for developing a full nuclear fuel cycle, though the potential atomic weapons capability that derives from this is more problematic. Iran’s political meddling in Lebanon and other Arab lands is another issue. Yet it is linked umbilically to the assertion of Islamist identity, Shia empowerment, anti-western defiance and domestic challenges to autocratic Arab regimes – four dynamics that have often been associated with, and exacerbated by, the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

 

Israel‘s persistent attempts to secure its place in this region by military force have always generated a greater Arab will to fight it, now also supported by Iran. Local attempts to secure its borders – occupations, surrogate armies, cross-border attacks, separation walls, massive punishment and humiliation of civilian populations – have not worked for Israel, and only generate more determined and capable resistance, as with Hizbullah. Israel will also fail in its desire to subcontract its security to foreign or regional states, as it is attempting to do through the international force in south Lebanon, or by having Turkey prevent arms shipments to Hizbullah from Iran.

 

Every tough issue in this region – Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Iran, terrorism, radicalism, armed resistance groups – is somehow linked to the consequences of the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The politicians and government leaders who dominate this region, or engage it from western capitals, all look like rank amateurs or intemperate brutes as they flail at symptoms instead of grappling with the core issue that has seen this region spin off into ever greater circles of violence since the 1970s.

 

A comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement is achievable from the Arab side, to judge by the repeated offering of the 2002 Arab summit peace proposal. Israel and the US must quickly decide if they too can become sensible and work for a comprehensive peace as the most effective way to reduce and then reverse the cycles of resentment, radicalism and resistance that now define much of the Arab-Islamic Middle East.

 

back to top

 

Lebanese blast Arab rulers, praise Iran, Syria

 

By Yara Bayoumy

16 Aug 2006

 

NABATIYEH, Lebanon, Aug 16 (Reuters) – There is little but contempt for Arab rulers among Lebanese Shi’ites whose homes were destroyed in the war between Hizbollah and Israel, but support for Iran and Syria is stronger than ever.

 

Washington had hoped that Israel’s war with Hizbollah would deal a blow to the influence of Damascus and Tehran in the region. But following the five-week war, residents of the southern town of Nabatiyeh have lost none of their respect for Syria and Iran but are furious with other Arab rulers.

 

"From the first day, the Arabs watched from the sidelines," said Mohammed Shaaban, 68, a retired businessman, as he surveyed the destruction of his three-storey villa.

 

"They should have taken a stronger position but they all have their private excuses."

 

The mostly Sunni Muslim countries Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan — all key U.S. allies — initially criticised Hizbollah for sparking the war with Israel in which more than 1,250 people died.

 

Faced with public indignation at home against Israel’s conduct in the conflict, they have since taken a tougher stance against Israel, warning the United States that Israeli militarism could lead to a wider conflict in the region.

 

Nabatiyeh saw heavy Israeli air strikes, particularly during the hours before a truce which took effect on Monday. Houses on the outskirts, where Shaaban had his home, were hard hit.

 

"COWARDS"

 

"Damn the Arab countries. One day they shall see a blacker day, even worse than in Lebanon," said Zeinab Makky, 58, who lost her house in Nabatiyeh. She condemned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah as "cowards".

 

The Shi’ite Muslim residents of Nabatiyeh said Syria welcomed many of its refugees and said Iran had stood up to Israel and the United States.

 

Some said Iran funded Hizbollah, although Tehran insists its support for the Shi’ite guerrilla group is moral and political, even though it funded and armed Hizbollah in the 1980s.

 

"Syria opened its doors for us, and accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees, why did Jordan never open its doors to us?" Makky said.

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said this week that Hizbollah had been victorious in the war and had destroyed U.S. plans to reshape the Middle East.

 

Shi’ite Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised Hizbollah’s resistance to Israel and said the United States and Britain should pay compensation for war damage.

 

Both Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with Israel. Qatar, which has a seat on the U.N.

Security Council, maintains low level ties with the Jewish state.

 

"Arab rulers are all agents of Israel. They’re scared of losing their seats (of power)," Ahlam Moselmani said.

 

"The least they could have done was withdraw their ambassadors from Israel. Or they could have cut oil supplies."

 

Saudi Arabia ruled out using an oil embargo to pressure Washington, saying oil was the economic lifeline of Arab states.

 

"King Abdullah? His oil is more precious to him than the Lebanese," said 72-year-old Ibrahim Awadeh, whose one-storey house had cracks all over its structure.

 


 

back to top

 


 

Arab Human Rights Web Denounces the Continued Arrest of Dr. Essam el Eryan

 

http://www.hrinfo.net/press/2006/pr0817.shtml

 

The Arab Human Rights Web released a statement on Thursday August 17, 2006 expressing its strong discontent following a ruling issued by Cairo Criminal Court withholding the release ruling which a court issued earlier this week in favor of Dr. Essam el Eryan, Dr. Mohammed Morsi and five other MB leaders. The Criminal Court awarded the MB leaderships another 15 day extension of detention after the Prosecution challenged the release ruling soon after it was issued. Dr. El Eryan and other MB leaderships were arrested last May against the background of their participation in pro- judge’s demonstrations. After three months in prison, a Cairo court ordered the release of them earlier this Monday but the State Security Prosecution challenged the ruling.

 

Accordingly, the Criminal Court ordered the extension of their detention, considering the release ruling as null and void. Human Rights Web Chairman Gamal Eid commented by saying that justice which discriminates between the defendants for their political attitudes is a defected one, adding that the authorities still ignore the issue of the prisoners of conscience merely because those prisoners belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

The Arab  Human Rights Web chairman praised Dr. Essam el Eryan by saying that he was the youngest MP in Parliament in the 1987 term of sessions, saying that he is known for his advocacy of reform issues in Egypt and has never been charged with any acts of violence. Mr. Eid also praised Dr. Mohammed Morsi the former MP parliamentary bloc in the past parliamentary term of sessions. He lamented that Dr. Morsi was excluded from the current Parliament after vote rigging processes in November 2005 election according to reports of the Egyptian human rights agencies.

 

The Arab Human Rights Web in its statement appealed to the local, Arab and international civil society agencies to offer their backing to the prisoners of conscience in Egypt, and call on the Egyptian authorities to release Dr. Essam el Eryan and his fellow MB members.

 

back to top

 

U.S. JUDGE ORDERS HALT TO NSA WIRETAP PROGRAM

 

Kevin Krolicki, Reuters, 8/17/06

http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/international/ticker/detail/

U_S_judge_orders_halt_to_NSA_wiretap_program.html?siteSect=143&sid=6983097&cKey=1155838955000

 

 

A federal judge ordered the Bush administration on Thursday to halt the National Security Agency’s program of domestic eavesdropping, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution.

 

The ruling marked a setback for the Bush administration, which has defended the program as an essential tool in its war on terrorism.

 

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor said the warrantless wiretapping under the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" violated free speech rights, protections against unreasonable searches and the constitutional check on the power of the presidency.

 

"There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution," Taylor said in a 44-page ruling.

 

The NSA program has been widely criticised by civil rights activists and raised concern among lawmakers, including some in President George W. Bush’s own Republican Party, who say the president may have overstepped his powers by authorising it. . .

 

Civil rights activists welcomed the decision.

 

"The ruling of the judge is not only a victory for the American Muslim community but a victory for the entire American population," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for Michigan, which joined the ACLU as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

 

"America is built on the principles of civil liberty and equal protection for all American citizens, regardless of ethnicity and race," he said.

 

back to top

 


 

Islam And Human Rights

 

Emad Baghi

http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/08/ba765c67-d049-4da1-9f2a-57a81512f859.html

 

 

Is the concept of an Islamic state compatible with accepted notions of human rights? Can the modern concept of human rights make headway in the face of religious dogma and Islamic traditions? Emad Baghi, the head of the Tehran-based Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, knows at first hand the political sensitivity of new interpretations of religious texts, especially those involving human rights and the death penalty: in 2000, Baghi, then the editor in chief of the journal "Fath," was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for writing about the death penalty and retribution, as well as the killing of political and intellectual dissidents.

 

In this interview, Baghi, who was released in 2003 after three years in prison, explains the difficulties of securing respect for human rights in Muslim countries as a result of the eclipse of a deeply rooted humanist tradition in Islam.  In answers given to Fatemah Aman of Radio Farda, he sketches out the battle lines in debates about human rights — within Islam, within Iran, between the secular and religious of all religions, and between tradition and modernity — and argues that there are traditions both of Islamic law and Islamic mysticism in which modern concepts of human rights can be bedded. Tradition and modernity can coexist in Islamic society, he maintains, and those who want to promote human rights need to explore those religious traditions.

 

RFE/RL: The basic document of human rights is known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The term ‘universal,’ while primarily referring to the basic premise of the universality of human nature and human dignity, has a connotation that the principle is universally applicable both in the orient and the occident, but many in the West are deeply suspicious of the ability of the Islamic society to embrace human rights. That suspicion is also shared by many secular intellectuals in Islamic countries. Do you essentially see the issue of human rights as a Western concept, and can human rights exist within an Islamic context?

 

"The demise of the humanistic view, which was deeply rooted in our classical literature, has resulted in the persistence of totalitarian systems in which human dignity has no place and in which everything is political and ideological. That is the main source of the decline of Islamic civilization."Emad Baghi: In recent years there has been a discourse — reflected in numerous books and publications and represented within the Iranian religious circles by the supporters of Ahmad Fardid [a thinker considered to be an advocate of Islamic ‘authenticity’ as a remedy for ‘West toxification’; he died in 1994, aged 90] — that preaches that the West is entirely evil. This view charges that the West is constructed and governed based on man-made rules and laws, is entirely based on human egotism, and is therefore satanic. In contrast, they try to paint a spiritual and charismatic picture of the Orient. This is a dogmatic, undifferentiating approach to a complex problem. Advocates of this view proclaim the rejection of the West in its entirety rather than the selective reception and rejection of different aspects of Western culture. Ironically, though, these same people in practice adopt many elements of Western culture and technology; they fly in airplanes and wear Western-style suites, but when it comes to democracy and human rights they return to their dogmatic view.

 

On the other side of the aisle there are people who neither see the West nor the East as unified entities. Advocates of this view want to adopt those elements of the Western value system that are consistent with the indigenous culture.

 

RFE/RL: How does the latter group view the compatibility between human rights and Islam?

 

Baghi: Well, there are different views on this subject. One group believes that there is no conflict between Islam and human rights and that both can coexist. This view holds that if one side starts from a standpoint of logic and another from revelation both can reach the same point on the subject of human rights. Another group attempts to approach this issue from the angle of social sciences. This view considers the notion that there is a contradiction between Islam and human rights as a declaration of war on millions of Muslims around the world, and that this would push those masses to take up a position against human rights. So, the second group has a more political approach to the issue. However, whatever the source of their views, both these groups maintain that Islam and human rights are compatible.

 

Such views are opposed by a secular camp that sees religion and Islam in sharp contrast to human rights. This group argues that religion is based on worship, revelation, and the inflexible teachings of a god, whereas human rights are a secular phenomenon and a product of the modern world. Any attempts to forge an identity between the two would cripple the concept of human rights, advocates of this view argue. They think that any such attempt would only serve to rescue religion. This is a radical view based on secularism.

 

RFE/RL: And where does Emadeddin Baghi stand in this issue?

 

Baghi: I believe that we must first realize that the foundations of the modern concept of human rights were laid less than two centuries ago. Those have then been developed in more recent times. Central to the concept of human rights is individualistic humanism and human dignity. The judicial basis of the modern world is centered on this dogma. If we accept this as fact and look at our own cultural heritage, we see that such elements have indeed existed in our culture. In gnosis [the Irfan tradition of mysticism, particularly prevalent in Iran and Shi’ite Islam] and Sufism, there is little or no attention paid to religious expressions. It is often hard to determine whether a mystic is a Shi’a or a Sunni. An appreciation of human dignity is prominent in gnostic texts. There is an overwhelming body of evidence in this regard. Here, I would like to refer just to the poetry of [Sa’ad Uddin Mahmud] Shabestari [an Iranian mystic writer and poet (c.1250 1320)]. There are several references in his poems that emphasize the centrality of humans in his world view. Such examples can also be found in the Koran.

 

So we do have this philosophical, humanistic view both in our gnosis and in Islam. However, this view has been reduced and transformed into a view that is inflexible, limited, and based on jurisprudence. In fact, the entire religion has been reduced to jurisprudence and decrees issued in religious dissertations. It is this reductionism that has prevented the humanistic views expressed in our ancient literature from flourishing. If these views had not been victimized by religious reductionism, we would have had a much less totalitarian structure of power through the centuries.

 

The Eclipse Of Islamic Humanism

 

RFE/RL: I suspect we are entering into a highly controversial area. Scholars and intellectuals differ widely on the question of what caused the Islamic world to fall to a lowly position by almost all standards of modern civilization. Traditionally, intellectuals in the developing world tend to blame the West. Are you proposing a revisionist view?

 

Baghi: I believe that the demise of the humanistic view, which was deeply rooted in our classical literature, has resulted in the persistence of totalitarian systems in which human dignity has no place and in which everything is political and ideological. That is the main source of the decline of Islamic civilization. Some blame colonialism and imperialism for this failure. I believe that the main cause — an indigenous cause — was dictatorship and a lack of freedom, although colonialism contributed to this since these two phenomena were mutually dependent: naturally, the colonial powers needed stable and powerful governments in these countries to be able to exploit their resources and only dictators could achieve that.

 

RFE/RL: I want to go back to our discussion of human rights. You admit that the concept of human rights is a modern phenomenon, although you believe that the concept existed in some form in Islam but failed to flourish. Is this specific to Islam or did other religions also praise human rights before it was invented by modern intellectuals?

 

Baghi: No. This is not specific to Islam. Many Western scholars point to the roots of the concept of human rights in Christianity and argue that progressive Christian clergy — and particularly the Christian gnostics — prepared the ground for the development of the human-rights concept. At the same time, though, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human-rights documents are absolutely silent about the influence of religion on the human-rights paradigm. This is regrettable given that many of the founders of this world view and activists of the struggle for human rights were indeed religious figures and intellectuals. Perhaps they wanted to avoid controversial issues or it may relate to the fact that at the time that these documents were produced half the world was under the rule of Marxists while in the West secular governments were in power. However, history is clear on this issue. In both Islam and Christianity there are different interpretations: some are anti-human and anti-human rights, and others preach tolerance and respect for human rights. Several scholars actually believe that the key to the initial rapid success of Islam was this tolerance and the humane treatment of followers of other religions and even of non-believers. That is exactly what human rights is. These scholars believe that the expansion of Islam only stopped when tolerance was replaced by religious dogmatism and rigidity.

 

Human Rights, Tradition, And Modernity

 

 

RFE/RL: Given how deeply rooted dogmatism and rigidity are, do you think it was even possible to spread human rights in Islamic countries?

 

Baghi: To answer this question we have to go back to a more fundamental question, and that is the relationship between tradition and modernity. There are two views on this issue. In the first view, modernity starts where tradition ends. In the process of its development, society disconnects itself from tradition and enters the era of modernity. The other view considers modernity and tradition as a continuum. One cannot absorb modernity at the expense of a total denial of tradition. Indeed, experience shows that those societies that have adopted modernity slowly while continuing to nurture their traditions have a more robust modern structure. Societies can reconstruct, redefine, and reinterpret their traditions; by applying the positive elements of their cultural heritage and adapting them to the principles of modern life — such as, human rights — they can create a solid basis for modernism. The elements of modernity need to be internalized and adapted to indigenous values.

 

I tend to believe in the second approach. The history of modernism in Europe teaches us that this approach would result in more stable and better-rooted modern relationships within society.

 

It is the first approach that serves as a basis for the conclusion that human rights is essentially a Western concept since the first declarations of human rights were produced in the West. Well, if we go back to Iranian history we find many documents from Cyrus the Great on human rights. Would it be right to label human rights as an Eastern concept because of these historical documents? That would be as wrong as the first conclusion. East and West have influenced each other tremendously over the course of history. William Durant [an American philosopher, historian, and writer who lived from 1885 to 1981] argues that experimental thinking was adopted by Westerners from Muslims during the course of the Crusades. We should not have a geographic view of these processes. We should not create a false dualism between these two geographic entities and expand this to issues such as modernity and human rights. Culture should not treated in the same way as machines and technology. These are fluid issues; they are the software of Nature. If we approach modernity in this way or attempt a complete departure from tradition, modernity will become a crisis in itself.

 

A Dynamic, Non-Ideological Approach

 

RFE/RL: So, as I understand it, you are setting limits on modernity and accept it only when it does not repudiate tradition.

 

"Culture should not treated in the same way as machines and technology… If we approach modernity in this way or attempt a complete departure from tradition, modernity will become a crisis in itself."Baghi: I believe we should have a critical approach to both views. Some people try to adapt human rights to religion or tradition and accept only those elements of human rights that agree with that religion and discard all other elements. On the other side of the aisle, some do the same with modernity. You cannot do the same with modernity that fundamentalists do with religion. In other words, you should not transform modernity into an ideology based on eternal, inflexible values and accept religion only where it completely agrees with these values and discard the rest. We need to approach these concepts critically and realize that all these concepts are dynamic and in the process of development. When we talk about religion, we are actually talking about the human perception of religion that has materialized in the writings of religious thinkers over the centuries. The human perception of religion is fluid and dynamic and has constantly changed, just as human understanding of nature and society has. The concept of human rights is also one of these dynamic human perceptions. So we should see this process of evolving perceptions as a continuum in which human experience has developed refined versions of certain concepts. Instead of condemning tradition and religion in its entirety, we need to refine it. The same principle also applies to concepts of modernity. If we do not do this, we make a religion out of modern concepts such as human rights. An ideological approach to human rights would prevent it from being developed. For example, the initial concept of human rights was based on individualistic liberalism. However, this was criticized and challenged by socialists and by Marxists. There is now a third generation of the human-rights concept, which is influenced by socialist teachings but still maintains elements of the individualistic liberalism. Many aspects of the new human-rights concept are social rather than individual. In the early days of human-rights discourse, human rights was considered a natural and instinctive right. But many philosophers challenged this view later.

 

Many agree on the philosophical basis of human rights but disagree on aspects of the practical forms it has assumed in real political life. There are others who may challenge the concept at its philosophical root but agree with it as a form of policy.

 

RFE/RL: To which group does the ideological mentor of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, belong?

 

Baghi: Mr Mesbah belongs to a third group that does not believe in either. They may verbally support certain aspects of human rights, but these are not major issues for them. They do not believe in the most basic principles of human rights.

 

We have seen these types of dilemmas in the West too. Many philosophers disagreed with the notion that human rights have a basis in natural and instinctive rights. At the same time, many of these philosophers did respect the content of the human rights as a social contract. So we see that these challenges and discussions existed in the West. If they had treated human rights as a religion, the concept would have never developed to its current degree. To make a long story short, I believe that we have to confront both religion — or, it would be better to say, the human understanding of religion — and modern concepts such as human rights using an approach that is critical and free of dogma. Both fall within the category of human knowledge and we cannot mystify one and then try to adapt the other to it.

 

RFE/RL: One of the criticisms that you have expressed toward thinkers, such as the Iranian philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush, is that you want them to avoid the type of language that could provoke religious people and elicit harsh responses from the clergy. Do you think that modernist Islamic intellectuals could use a different approach to convey their message that would be more acceptable to Muslims? Or are you appeasing the religious conservatives?

 

Baghi: For a thousand years ago we have had one principal paradigm that has served as the basis for the whole of Islamic jurisprudence. This is about the division of Shari’a instructions into two groups: primary rules, and secondary rules. Primary rules are those spelled out in Islam’s original text, namely, the Koran. These rules come directly from God.

 

The secondary rules are ones derived from the religious reasoning of individual Ulemas [Muslim clergy]. The belief is that, through this process of reasoning, the Ulemas endeavor to comprehend the primary rules. They try to interpret the verses of the Koran, but that does not necessarily mean that the verse is understood. This interpretation of the primary rules is what we call the human understanding of the Shari’a, as opposed to the primary rules themselves, which is what we call religion. What is termed as "religious comprehension" by the Ulemas is equivalent to the secondary rules or the religious reasoning of the Ulemas. According to the Shi’a conviction, a jurisprudent who tries to interpret the primary rules is doubly rewarded if he succeeds in making the correct interpretation. But he may be wrong in his interpretation, in which case he will be rewarded only once, for attempting to understand the law. We should not equate our understanding of the primary rules with the religion itself.

 

Sometimes issues are presented in a way that would provoke opposition by some of the Ulemas who have been teaching many of these ideas for years, so the manner of presentation could create a misunderstanding. Instead of trying to portray modernity and human rights as a concept that contradicts some aspect of our religious understanding, we should say that contradictions are of a solvable nature.

 

Avoiding The Extremes

 

RFE/RL: I want to turn to another point that you have raised in your writings. You indicate that radicals and extremists from different religions or political tendencies somehow converge. Can you elaborate?

 

"When you portray the issue as if promoting human rights requires weakening Islam, many religious people are driven away from the idea of democracy, because thy would rather protect their religion."Baghi: Sometimes people use language that produces a result that is the opposite of the one intended. They explain modern concepts in a way that prompts rejection by religious people who in fact may in essence agree with those concepts. However, it is presented in a manner that appears as if it is totally against the religious beliefs of people. They are actually transforming modernity into a religion and, as such, are granting it eternal originality and sanctity. A century ago many supporters of human rights expressed similar views and suggested that the era of religion had come to an end. They could not foresee how the human-rights concept might change in the years ahead. They were treating human rights like a religion. Turning human rights into an ideology is as dangerous as turning religion into an ideology. When I say we should not turn it into an ideology, I mean we should avoid presenting it as holy and unchangeable.

 

That is how the advocates of extremist views converge on the same point. Both fanatically religious people and the fanatically secular arrive at a sacred entity. Both share an ideological approach; both are dogmatic. In Al-Qaeda’s view one can kill for the faith. On the other side, we see that certain people believe that one can kill to promote democracy.

 

RFE/RL: But is that a fair comparison? I don’t think anybody advocates killing for democracy.

 

Baghi: How can we explain the events in Iraq? Scores of thousands of people have been killed there. Research shows that 75 percent of the victims of wars are civilians. The invasion of Iraq was conducted on the pretext of promoting democracy.

 

The other example is the dilemma of religion and democracy. Two groups, both in the West and in Islamic countries, claim that religion and democracy are incompatible. In Islamic world this is interpreted as an incompatibility between Islam and democracy. Some, such as Mesbah-Yazdi, attack human rights to protect Islam, Islam as they understand it. The other group wants to marginalize Islam to protect democracy. Both reach the same point and support each other in the notion that Islam and democracy are incompatible. I am not saying that all secular people have declared war on religion. But just by expressing such an incompatibility, they are creating anxiety among Muslims. When you portray the issue as if promoting human rights requires weakening Islam, many religious people are driven away from the idea of democracy, because thy would rather protect their religion. This policy plays very well into hands of people such as Mr. Mesbah. They manage to direct people’s religious emotions against human rights. Even when secular people limit this discourse to the academic level, it will be used by religious fanatics for this purpose. By doing so, we may impose an unnecessary burden on democracy movement, a burden that could break its back. There are enough obstacles on the path to democracy; we do not need to add more.

 

back to top

 


 

FIQH COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICA DECIDED ON ASTRONOMICAL CALCULATIONS FOR ISLAMIC DATES

 

08-13-06 15:17

ISNA (http://isna.net/)

 

The Fiqh Council of North America is an independent body, comprised of qualified Islamic scholars in North America. The Council communicates with experts and consultants to meet expected needs for rulings and advice in various areas of Islamic life in North America.

 

The Fiqh Council of North America after careful research, deliberations and discussion has adopted a new position regarding the determination of the beginning of the Islamic lunar months. This position is based primarily on the following Fiqhi premises:

 

Sighting the Hilal (ru’yah) is not an act of `ibadah in itself; it is rather a means to know with certainty about the beginning of the new month related to Islamic `Ibadat.

 

Ru’yah as a means was indicated and used by the Prophet -peace be upon him- because he himself said that the Ummah at that time was not literate and did not know how to write or to calculate (complicated astronomical data).

 

Some classical jurists were willing to accept the calculations.

 

Some classical jurists refused to allow calculations in this matter because in their time astronomy and astrology were not quite distinct sciences. Jurists were suspicious that astronomical predictions may not be based on exact science but on whims, conjectures, superstition etc.

 

During the last century an increasing number of Muslim jurists indicated that calculations could be used to negate erroneous reports of crescent sighting. Some jurists were of the opinion that calculations could also be used as a positive method to determine the new Islamic lunar months.

 

There are now many Muslim astronomers who have been working for many years to develop a global lunar Islamic calendar. Fiqh Council particularly appreciates the efforts of its consultants Dr. Imad ad-Dean Ahmad, Dr. Khalid Shaukat, Dr. Muhib Durrani and Dr. Ahmad Salamah.

 

Dr. Salah Soltan and Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah also presented scholarly papers to give thorough evidence from Fiqh Perspective that the use of calculations is not against the Sunnah of the Prophet -peace be upon him.

 

The Fiqh Council of North America considered the following factors in making its decision:

 

  • Use of calculations in determining the Islamic dates is not against the Sunnah.

 

  • Reliable astronomical methods are now available to provide a sound basis for the determination of the Islamic dates of Ramadan and the two Eids.

 

  • Shari’ah is based on ease and considers the convenience of people.

 

  • Announcement of Islamic dates ahead of time will reduce a lot of hardship,chaos and confusion that happen every year at the time of the beginning of Ramadan and the two Eids.

 

  • Announcement of Islamic dates will help Muslims to plan their activities in advance, facilitating their ability to take off from work or school. Many other benefits will result from this.

 

  • Announcement of these dates will also remove unnecessary financial burdens from the Muslim community in North America.

 

  • Muslim of America will become more united in their celebrations.

 

  • Muslims of America can also work to have their Islamic holidays officially recognized.

 

  • The Muslim community of North America will lead the way towards the development of a unified global Islamic calendar for the whole Muslim world.

 

The Fiqh Council will continue working with the Imams and scholars of the communities to develop a consensus in this matter. It is, however, hoped that whether some of us agree or disagree with this position, we shall all recognize the validity of ikhtilaf in this issue and that the Ummah should be united in brotherhood despite any legitimate fiqhi differences.

 

Fiqh Council of North America Decision on Determining the Islamic Lunar Calendar

 

A special conference on Hilal Sighting was organized by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) on 10 June 2006, in Virginia, attended by a number of jurists, Imams, astronomers and other concerned Muslims. A number of research papers dealing with the juridical and astronomical aspects of the topic were presented and discussed. After further teleconferences and communications among the members and astronomical consultants, the following is concluded:

 

It is decided to use astronomical calculation to determine the beginning of the Islamic lunar months with the consideration of the sightability of the crescent anywhere on the globe.

 

To determine a lunar Islamic calendar, a conventional point of reference must be used. The International Date Line (IDL) or the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) may be used.

 

The new Islamic Lunar month begins at sunset of the day when the conjunction occurs before 12:00 Noon GMT.

 

Brief Explanation:

 

Discussion of a number of research papers led to the conclusion that the use of calculation both in negation as well as affirmation of the beginning of the new Islamic Lunar months has a firm basis in the Qur’an and Sunnah as well as in the opinion of some classical and contemporary jurists. For more details please see the website of ISNA at www.isna.net

 

The new moon (i.e. time of conjunction) is when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun closest to the Sun-Earth line. This time of conjunction is precisely predictable by astronomical calculation.

 

The conjunction before 12:00 Noon GMT would give enough time to the new moon to be visible (weather permitting) somewhere on the globe before the end of the night in North America.

 

Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) Contact Resource:  Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi

drsiddiqi@aol.com, or Dr. Mohhamad Adam Elsheikh, melsheikh@aol.com.

 

back to top

 

CONFUSION IS HOLIDAY TRADITION FOR MUSLIMS

Panel to no longer rely on moon sightings to set end of Ramandan fast and beginning of celebration

 

By Rachel Zoll

ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

Kari Ansari recalls getting ready to celebrate one of the most important religious holidays of the year — the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast.

 

She and her husband bought new clothes and gifts for their three children and planned a special family meal. But there was one obstacle to starting the celebration: Leaders of the two local mosques couldn’t agree when the feast, called Eid al-Fitr, should begin.

 

"We would just be sitting up at night waiting to hear the decision," said Ansari, who lives in Herndon, Va., and is editor of America’s Muslim Family magazine.

 

The Muslim practice of following a strict lunar calendar, requiring a naked-eye sighting of the new moon to start a holiday the next morning, has divided the Muslim community on its most sacred days. Now a scholarly panel that advises American Muslims on religious law is trying to end the confusion.

 

The Fiqh Council of North America announced last week that it would no longer rely on moon sightings to determine the start of holidays and would instead use astronomical calculations. The panel released an Islamic calendar that runs through 2011, hoping Muslims in the United States and Canada can be persuaded to trade the old way for the new.

 

The schedule problem is more than a minor inconvenience. School calendars and vacation time from work, for instance, depend on knowing dates in advance.

 

"There will be a lot of resentment at first," said Khalid Shaukat, an astronomer and research physicist with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who calculated the calendar for the Fiqh Council. "But I expect that as the time goes on and we educate them, people will see the benefit of this and understand that what may seem like a new approach to them is not against Islamic jurisprudence."

 

The date of the Eid is based on the Hadith, traditions taken from the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The prophet taught that the holiday marking the end of Ramadan comes the morning after a nighttime sighting of the new moon.

 

Kareem Irfan, of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, where an estimated 400,000 Muslims live, said the uncertainty of the old system has been costly.

 

Organizers of the massive community worship services that mark the holiday had to reserve convention halls for two different days, losing money on the double deposit, he said. Muslims who needed a day off from work or had to make plans for pulling their children out of school could not say when the celebration would be.

 

A patchwork of practices developed, even within the same town.

 

"It makes you feel sad," Ansari said, "because not everyone is doing the same thing."

The Fiqh Council has spent years trying to end the chaos.

 

The first test of the new North American system will come Sept. 23, when, according to the Fiqh Council’s Islamic calendar, Ramadan begins.

 

"The American Muslims aren’t going to resolve this problem for the whole Muslim world or even for themselves," said Sulayman Nyang, an expert on Islam at Howard University.

 

"But, gradually, I think science is going to prevail."

back to top

 

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.

 

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

 

back to top

 

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. To facilitate 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.

 

back to top

 

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 21 st 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

 

back to top

 

THE SACRED WEB:  TRADITION IN THE MODERN WORLD

 

September 23rd and 24th, 2006

University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta

 

Founder and Editor of Sacred Web, and Conference Convener: M. Ali Lakhani

Conference Manager: Azim Jeraj

 

THEME AND AIMS OF THE CONFERENCE

 

The traditionalist journal, Sacred Web (www.sacredweb.com) will host its inaugural Conference in association with the University of Alberta.

 

Sacred Web seeks to explore the immutable and universal ‘first principles’ of Tradition as expounded by the major religious traditions of the world, and examine their application to the contingent circumstances of modernity.

 

To complement these aims, the theme of the Sacred Web Conference will be Tradition in the Modern World. The Conference will provide a forum to discuss both the value of traditional thought and the role of traditional communities in the modern world.

 

SPEAKERS & TOPICS

 

Introductory Message:

 

HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE OF WALES will send an introductory message on the theme of the Conference:

 

Tradition in the Modern World.

Abstract. In a taped speech to be read out at a Conference organized by Sacred Web at the University of Alberta on September 23rd, 2006, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will introduce the Conference theme of "Tradition in the Modern World" and will say that in these uprooted times there is a need for constancy, a need to rediscover those truths that are immutable and eternal. He will question the deracinated reality of Modernism that disintegrates, disconnects and deconstructs and will urge that answers be found in an integrated reality that is rooted in transcendence and in the perennial wisdom of Tradition, which enables us to turn towards and reconnect with the Divine, in both our inner and our outer lives – an orientation and reconnection which he will refer to as the redeeming aspect of the nature of harmony and balance. Ever seeking to link ideas and action, he will raise these concerns about Modernism within the context of contemporary problems, not least the present environmental crisis, and he will express the hope that all those attending the Conference will find inspiration from all that they hear.

 

Keynote Address:

 

PROFESSOR SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR, University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University:

 

"The Recovery of the Sacred – Tradition and Perennialism in the Contemporary World"

 

Main Presenters:

 

PROFESSOR WILLIAM C. CHITTICK, Professor of Comparative Studies at the State University of New York, Stony Brook

 

The Traditional Approach to Learning

PROFESSOR JAMES S. CUTSINGER, Professor of Theology and Religious Thought at the University of South Carolina

 

"The Noble Lie"

DR. JEAN-LOIUS MICHON, a traditionalist French scholar who specializes in Islam in North Africa, Islamic art, and Sufism

 

The "True Man": Myth or Reality?

PROFESSOR HARRY OLDMEADOW, Coordinator of Philosophy and Religious Studies at La Trobe University, Bendigo

 

Tradition Betrayed: The False Prophets of Modernism

DR. REZA SHAH-KAZEMI, Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, England

 

Traditional Action in the Contemporary World

PROFESSOR HUSTON SMITH, Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Syracuse University, and Visiting Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Berkeley

 

For more information, please visit:  http://members.shaw.ca/iqbaljamal/Welcome.htm

 

back to top

 

Mont Pelerin Society Essay Competition

 

Are You Interested in Freedom?

 

Win a place at a conference in Nairobi on Freedom entitled  "The Institutional Framework for Freedom in Africa"

25th 28th February 2007

www.mpskenya2007.org

 

This competition is open to Africans, living in Africa of 30 years old or less on 31st December 2006.

 

Participants must submit an essay of between 1000 – 1500 words on one of the three following titles which are taken from the condensed version of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek

 

           The more the state plans the more difficult planning becomes for the

individual

 

           Private Property is the most important guarantee of freedom

 

           Competition is the only method of co-ordinating human effort which does

not require the coercive or arbitrary intervention of authority

 

Entries must be submitted on an email attachment no later than 31st October 2006 and the results will be posted on the web site www.mpskenya2007.org before January 14th 2007. Everyone submitting an essay by 31st October will receive a free copy of the CD Ideas for a Free Society.

 

The authors of the best two submissions will receive a fully funded invitation to attend the Mont Pelerin Special Meeting in Nairobi, February 25th 28th 2007.  Hotel and registration fee paid, sharing a room possibly, economy class flight plus $500.

 

Entries should be submitted to: tunde@ippanigeria.org

 

For further details please contact:

Tunde Oladosu (tunde@ippanigeria.org)

Research Fellow

Initiative for Public Policy Analysis

9A Adekunle Odunlami Crescent

Off Aina George

Ilupeju, Lagos

Nigeria

Phone: 01-791-0959

Cell: 080287 43607

 

back to top

 

Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty

 

Submit your application by August 31, 2006

 

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation has established the Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty to reward the efforts of think tanks in difficult parts of the world that are most effective in disseminating the ideas of freedom (limited government, the rule of law, free enterprise, the dignity of the individual, etc.).

 

This annual Prize will provide a US$ 10,000 reward to a single winner that demonstrates excellence in reaching a broad audience or having a substantial impact on opinion-makers, so that concepts relating to freedom become better understood. For example, good candidates for the Utley Prize could be an institute that documents how its radio program reaches 100,000 listeners each weekday with discussions of economic liberty, or an institute that educates 50 college students each year through a certificate program, and has seen a dozen students from past years graduate into high government positions.

 

Who Can Apply: Atlas specifically solicits applications from organizations in countries where the ideas of liberty are not clearly understood or applied. Preference is given to organizations that are headquartered in such countries. However, organizations that are based in freer parts of the world, but developing and contributing to the creation of organizations in the target countries (i.e. serving as a catalyst), are also eligible to apply.

 

How to Apply: You can submit your application online at www.atlasusa.org, which consists of a simple (one page) nomination essay that explains why the applying institute merits recognition for excellence in advancing liberty in a difficult part of the world. Please note that the Prize will not be given to new or proposed projects that do not have an existing track record. Please submit an application about a completed project or projects, or a demonstrated body of ongoing work.

 

Supporting documentation which illustrates the impact of the project, as well as the submission of local references, is an important part of the application process. Examples include media coverage, reviews of the project, testimonies from people who have been directly impacted, etc.

 

Applications must be submitted in English. The required supporting documentation, however, does not have to be in English. Applications must be received by August 31, 2006.

 

Selection Criteria & Announcement Schedule: The winning institute will be selected by a panel of independent judges, based upon their demonstration of excellent achievement in reaching and persuading new audiences of the merits of the ideas of freedom and on the impact of this process.

 

The winner will be invited to and announced at Atlass Freedom Dinner on November 16, 2006 at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington D.C.

 

Please note that institutes that have won one of Atlas’s Templeton Freedom Prizes are eligible for the Utley Prize, but cannot nominate the same project for the Freda Utley Prize.

 

For more information about the Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty, please visit www.atlasUSA.org or contact Ms. YiQiao Xu at yiqiao.xu@atlasusa.org

 

back to top

 

 

 

Atlas Essay Contest on Freedom in the West and in the Muslim World

 

Finding Common Ground: The Challenge of Freedom in the West and In the Muslim World 

 

The 2006 Atlas Essay Contest is being sponsored by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in order to increase the dialogue between the West and the Muslim World, to create greater understanding that, despite religious and cultural differences, all human beings are entitled to dignity, respect, and political and economic liberty. 

 

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation was founded in 1981 by the late Sir Antony Fisher.  Headquaretered in Arlington, Virginia (USA), it is a non-profit organization that brings freedom to the world by helping develop and strengthen a network of market-oriented think tanks that spans the globe. 

 

Awards: 

1st Prize Winner: $2,000

2nd Prize Winner: $1,000

3rd Prize Winner:  $   500

Two Honorable Mentions: $ 250 (each)

 

Winners may have an opportunity to travel to Montreal, Canada to attend a conference on the same theme, to be held in November 2006, and an opportunity to have their essays published.

 

Submission Guidelines: 

Entries should be around 2000 words, typewritten, double-spaced, and footnoted.  Submissions may be written either in English, French, Arabic, or Persian.  Essays dont have to be comparative (i.e., issues need not be comparatively viewed from both Western and Islamic perspectives).  Essays may focus on only one issue.

 

Who may join: 

The contest is open to full-time students, undergraduate and graduate levels, studying in any of the schools in North America (USA and Canada) and the Middle East, who are or below 30 years of age.  Contestants are required to attach brief curriculum vitae to their essay, summarizing his or her academic and, if it applies, work history.

 

All qualified individuals will be considered for the contest, regardless of race, sex, national or ethnic origin, citizenship, or religious affiliation.

 

Deadline: 

All submissions must be received on or before September 30th, 2006.

 

Judging Process: 

Entries will be judged by a select group (to be chosen by Atlas and a Canadian NGO) on the following criteria: clarity and conciseness, coherence and logic, persuasiveness, and ability to offer practical recommendations or solutions.

 

Send Submission to: 

Atlas Economic Research Foundation

c/o 2006 Atlas Essay Contest

2000 North 14th Street, Suite 550

Arlington, VA 22201

 

Or visit:  http://www.atlasusa.org/V2/main/page.php?page_id=383

 

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.

[]back to top

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

 

 

 

Receive exclusive policy, publication, and event updates in your inbox

Thank you. You have successfully subscribed.

X