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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

June 2, 2006

 

CSID Email Bulletin

June 2, 2006

May 21, 2006

All Previous Issues


 

  1. URGENT APPEAL FROM CSID

  2. CSID Event:   Iraq and U.S. efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East (By Larry Diamond on Thursday June 8)

  3. NDAW TRAINING WORKSHOPS in Cairo and Amman, June 2006.

  4. CSID REPORTS:  Islam & Democracy Workshops.

  5. USIPeace Briefing:   What Do Islamists Really Want?

  6. KEYNOTE SPEECH:  Improving Understanding: Supporting Muslims in Their Own Vision for Democracy (Remarks by Ambassador Randall L. Tobias)

  7. ARTICLE:  Terror Fears Hamper U.S. Muslims’ Travel (by Neil MacFarquhar)

  8. ARTICLE:  Egypt Protests Test U.S. Democracy Campaign

  9. ARTICLE:  Democracy Discarded (by Youssef Ibrahim)

  10. ARTICLE:  The Trials of Ayman Nour (by Joshua Muravchik)

  11. ARTICLE:  Mubarak Rival Loses Freedom Bid (by Daniel Williams)

  12. ARTICLE:  Today’s Sentence (by Wael Nawara)

  13. ARTICLE:  A Political Path Out of Iraq (by Fareed Zakaria)

  14. ARTICLE:  It’s Time to Engage With Iran (by David Ignatius)

  15. ARTICLE:  Morocco sees the rise of ‘acceptable’ Islamist party (by Roula Khalaf)

  16. ARTICLE:  Praying or Plotting? (by Mohammad Ali Salih)

  17. ARTICLE:  Extremism Isn’t Islamic Law (by Abdurrahman Wahid)

  18. ARTICLE:  America’s Misperceptions of Islam (by Shurabuddin Ahmed)

  19. ARTICLE:  Is There a Muslim Lobby in the US? (by Alexander Gainem)

  20. ARTICLETime for an Islamist-Liberal Alliance

  21. Worth Reading:  ACE Electoral Knowledge Network

  22. ANNOUNCEMENT:  NDRI Washington Workshop for Think Tank Managers

  23. ANNOUNCEMENT:  ifa-Forum Dialogue and Understanding

  24. ANNOUNCEMENT:  International Civil Society Forum for Democracy

  25. ANNOUNCEMENT:  LL.M. in Democratic Governance and the Rule of Law

  26. JOB OPPORTUNITIES:  National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

URGENT APPEAL FROM CSID:

 

Dear CSID Members and Supporters:

 

The world has changed a lot since 1999, the year the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) was founded. Few in the United States knew much about Islam and national attention was focused elsewhere, almost anywhere else.  Now the attention of the world is on the Muslim World, but deep knowledge and understanding is still lacking.

 

Islam is poorly understood in the Western world. Democracy is poorly understood in the Muslim world. The significant difference is that in the Muslim world democracy is poorly understood by both its advocates and opponents. Advocates often think it is a magical solution to almost all problems; that it requires the abolition of religion; that it can be copied from other countries. Its enemies see it as an alien concept and a stalking horse for imperialism or a recipe for crime and chaos. If its advocates, who are many, do not sufficiently understand both the core fundamentals of good governance and the many variations democratic forms can take they cannot convincingly explain why they are for democracy nor take the slow, incremental steps that will result in greater freedom, tolerance, and good governance in the Muslim countries.  Americans, on the other hand, are thirsty to learn more about Islam, a great monotheistic religion that has always preached tolerance and respect for human dignity and for peoples of other faiths, but is now being used to justify deaths, violence, and killing of innocent civilians.  If Americans are not properly informed and educated about Islam, and if they continue to perceive it as a threat, a 100-year religious war will ensue that will lead to the deaths of millions and the destruction and corruption of earth.

 

The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy was founded in 1999 (well before the tragic events of 9/11) to meet directly this confusion and to begin the slow, steady progress toward good governance in the Muslim world, as well as educating Americans about Islam. CSID had a remarkable vision, a large ambition and a unique combination of scholarship and activism. It has brought together leaders of the three faiths of Islam, Christianity and Judaism both for its board and its programs. Even more astonishingly since then, CSID has deepened the understanding of secular and religious leaders in the US and in the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world. It is a record no other organization can claim. Seminars and workshops exploring good governance and democratic institutions as compatible with Islamic religious beliefs have been held in Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabic, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Iran with other programs in Malaysia, the Philippines and other countries. Two regional offices have been opened in Morocco and Jordan as well as a headquarters office in Washington, D.C. Seven annual conferences have featured government officials from both the United States and the Muslim world, journalists and activities, world-renown and younger scholars covering a wide range of subjects relevant to Islam and democracy.

 

Obviously far more needs to be done. CSID needs to expand its already substantial network of Muslim scholars, leaders, and activists working to move forward democratic reforms. Further workshops and conferences need to be organized, and even more importantly, follow-up activities need to continue the remarkable results of these meetings. Books need to be translated, published, distributed and studied. CSIDs text on Islam and Democracy needs to be far more widely disseminated with thousands of teachers trained in its use. 300 million Arabs (not all of whom are Muslims)  need to hear authentic scholars and activists demonstrating that tolerance does not mean giving up religious values, that elections are but a small part of a democratic culture, that respect for others is a core value that adherents of all the great religions have and should accept.

 

Democracy is precisely the minimizing of the use of force to resolve differences. The understanding of democratic governance is also something that cannot be imposed. Hearts already eager for a better life need to have their minds nourished and developed. By using the talents of a wide segment of American leaders, CSID has the willingness of the well-meaning Muslim world to listen.  A former chair of the board was the first Muslim to be chosen to give the internationally prestigious Gifford Lectures. A Jewish member of the board has founded the American Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. The current chair of the board, a Muslim woman, was asked to give lectures at a noted evangelical seminary. This synergy of diverse backgrounds and talents has resulted in bringing together leaders throughout the Arab world (and beyond) that have never before had a civil dialogue. Regimes in the Arab and Muslim world have, despite all expectations, allowed CSID to discuss democratic reforms. This critical momentum must not be lost.

 

CSID has an ambitious agenda, building on its already significant and unique achievements. We are eager to discuss our agenda, our resources, and our history and governance more fully with you.  Among the ambitious projects that we are currently trying to fund and start:

 

           Islam and Democracy Educational Text Project ($250K)

           Visiting Scholars and Fellows ($50K each)

           Lecture Bureau ($100 K)

           Distance Learning on Islam and Democracy ($250K)

           CSID Annual conference ($100K)

           Virtual Library book additions ($300K)

           Regional CSID Conferences ($250K)

           CSID General Support ($250K)

 

Everyone familiar with CSID wants these projects to occur at the soonest possible occasion. Our effectiveness depends on a wide and diverse group of members, foundations, and supporters who are willing to come forward and support the important and critical work of CSID.

 

Please Renew your Membership/Support today by making a small donation of $50, $100, $500, or more.  Whatever you can afford, you can be assured that it will be put to a good use, and will help build peace, prosperity, tolerance, and understanding in the world. 

 

Please go to our website:   http://www.csidonline.org/ and click on MEMBERSHIP or DONATIONS to make a contribution or to join/renew your membership.  We also welcome support from private and public foundations and institutions, and we are a tax-deductible non-profit (501-c-3) organization, so your donation is tax-deductible.

 

PLEASE DO IT TODAY, before you forget, as the need is great and time is short.  Your support is essential to CSIDs success.  We simply cannot do it without you!

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone, fax, or e-mail. 

 

With best wishes and regards,

 

Radwan A. Masmoudi

President

Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID)

1625 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Suite 601

Washington, DC 20036-2212

Tel.:   (202) 265-1200

Fax:  (202) 265-1222

Cell:  (202) 251-3036

masmoudi@islam-democracy.org

http://www.csidonline.org/

 

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CSID Monthly Lecture Series

 

Iraq and U.S. efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East

 

By Larry Diamond

Thursday, June 8, 2006

12:00 Noon 1:30 PM

 

Summary:

The U.S. effort to promote democracy in Iraq has been severely hampered by strategic mistakes, a failure of planning, a failure to understand and secure the country, and a generally arrogant demeanor dating from the first days of the occupation.  Although the Bush Administration has made many adjustments that have moved our policy in a more pragmatic direction, Iraq is becoming more polarized, violent, and unstable, and the urgent need now is to stabilize the country, while recognizing that real democratization will be a project for the long run. 

 

At the same time, we must draw from the experience in Iraq, and recent political developments in Palestine and Egypt, lessons about how viable and sustainable democracies might be fostered in the Middle East.  In most countries, it is going to require a multilateral effort in partnership with democratic reformers in civil society, party politics and (where they can be found) in the state and the regime as well.  It must be a gradual effort that emphasizes negotiated agreements and allows time for moderate forces in civil society and political parties to develop their organizations, agendas, and support bases.

 

About the Speaker:

Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, and co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies of the National Endowment for Democracy. His books include Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq (2005).  In addition, he has edited or co-edited 25 books on democratic development around the world, including Nigeria, Korea, Greater China, and the Middle East.

 

The event will be held at the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID)

1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 601

Washington DC, 20036

 

This event will be available for viewing LIVE on the internet.  If you would like to watch the lecture online, please send an e-mail to:  sherif@islam-democracy.org

 

Space is limited, please RSVP to:  sherif@islam-democracy.org


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NDAW TRAINING WORKSHOPS

 

The Network of Democrats in the Arab World (NDAW), the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), and Partners for Democratic Change (PDC) will be organizing two workshops in Cairo, Egypt, and Amman, Jordan. The two workshops will train on Basic Communication skills, Basic Meeting/Facilitation Skills Running a Meeting, Conflict Management for Facilitators Communicating through Disagreement, Project Development and Proposal Writing Skills, and Islam and Democracy.

 

The trainings will take place in June 24 26 in Cairo, Egypt, and June 27 30 in Amman, Jordan. The workshops will be open to those who register to become members of the Network for Democrats in the Arab World and fill out the Form to register for the training. Please visit our website for both Forms: www.csidonline.org/arabic/  or  http://spaces.msn.com/csid/

 

For more information, please contact the network coordinator at:  sabir@islam-democracy.org

 

 

NDAW CHARTER

 

We, members of the Network of Democrats in the Arab World, believe that democratization of the Arab world ought to be the regions principal priority. We believe that the principles of freedom, plurality, equality, the right to dissent, respect for the each other’s opinion, peaceful resolution of conflicts and good governance are fundamental prerequisites to economic, social and political development in our region.

 

We declare our allegiance to the values of coexistence. We reject all forms of discrimination and exclusion. We believe in human dignity and the sanctity of every person’s body, defend everyone’s basic rights as are enshrined in international human rights treaties, respect the interests of all people, and insist on democratization and peaceful transfer of power within the framework of an upheld national sovereignty respectful of the rights of citizenship as enshrined in the rule of law.

 

We believe that good governance is founded upon the principles of accountability, transparency, social and economic justice, gender equity and equality, the supremacy of rule of law, respect for citizenship’s rights, and the safeguarding of widespread public participation in the decision making process.

 

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NEW CSID REPORTS:

 

Islam & Democracy Workshops

 

The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) is proud to present to you this report on recent workshops and seminars organized in Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

 

A copy of the FULL report will be mailed to all CSID members in good standing.  It can also be purchased by mailing a check for $10 to CSID and requesting a copy of the report.  The reports are also available (in Arabic and English) on our website:  http://www.csidonline.org/  or  http://www.csidonline.org/arabic/

 

These workshops highlight the effort that has been undertaken to promote debate and discussions between leading political and religious scholars and activists in those countries with the objective of building common goals, understandings, and objectives for democracy, good governance, rule of law, and accountability in their countries. CSID has been privileged to know these thought leaders, across the Arab and Muslim world, and to work with them for so many years, in order to fight corruption, illiteracy, poverty, and despair, and institute principles of justice, human rights, human dignity, tolerance and respect for every citizen and every human being. This is the core message of Islam, and indeed of all the prophets of God, and when Muslim societies deviate from these principles, as indeed they have in recent history, they stand to lose much in this life and they no longer represent the true message of Islam.

 

Building democratic institutions and traditions is not easy and will take time, patience, hard work, and perseverance. However, we were extremely happy and delighted to find hundreds, if not thousands, of scholars and leaders across the Arab and Muslim world who share this desire for freedom, democracy, and human dignity. Some of them believe in the necessity of full separation between religion and politics, while others believe in the necessity of building a modern state, which is democratic but inspired by Muslim values and traditions. The overwhelming majority rejects a theocratic state, ruled by religious leaders in the name of God, because they understand that in Islam, the ruler and the government is appointed by, and accountable to, the people and not God. They want a state that is guided by Islams higher moral values and principles, and not necessarily by shariah laws, as understood and implemented 1,400 years ago.

 

To read more, please go to:  http://www.csidonline.org/  or  http://www.csidonline.org/arabic/

 

 

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USIPeace Briefing

Date: May 2006

 

What Do Islamists Really Want?

An Insider’s Discussion with Islamist Leaders

http://www.usip.org/pubs/usipeace_briefings/2006/0522_islamists.html

 

Throughout the Muslim world, Islamist parties have emerged as major power brokers when allowed to compete in free elections. Yet their positions on many crucial governance issues remain unknown or ambiguous. Most debates on the potential to moderate and integrate Islamists in the democratic process have focused on Islam’s compatibility with democracy or on debates over Islamists’ normative commitment to democracy separately from the mechanics of achieving political power.

 

As part of its "mobilizing the moderates" theme, the Muslim World Initiative of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) organized an off-the-record roundtable discussion on May 5, 2006, on the viability of democratic politics within an Islamic framework. Specifically, the discussion focused on the Islamists’ political strategies while in opposition and their commitment to democratic procedures and principles once in power. The meeting brought together the leaders of three moderate Islamist parties and movements from Arab countries as well as U.S. government officials, scholars, and independent policy analysts.

 

This USIPeace Briefing highlights the central themes and questions that emerged during the discussions.

 

The full text of What Do Islamists Really Want? An Insider’s Discussion with Islamist Leaders is available online (http://www.usip.org/pubs/usipeace_briefings/2006/0522_islamists.html)

 

About the Author:

This USIPeace Briefing was written by Abdeslam Maghraoui, director of the Muslim World Initiative at the United States Institute of Peace. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of USIP, which does not advocate specific policies.

 

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Improving Understanding: Supporting Muslims in Their Own Vision for Democracy

 

Remarks by Ambassador Randall L. Tobias

Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Administrator, USAID

 

May 5, 2006 – Luncheon Keynote

Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy 7th Annual Conference

Marriott Wardman Park Hotel

Washington, D.C.

http://www.usaid.gov/press/speeches/2006/sp060505.html

 

Thank you, Dr. Masmoudi, for that kind introduction and thank you all for the warm welcome.

 

I am honored to be with you today as the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy gathers to discuss one of the most important issues of our time – the challenge of democracy in the Muslim World.

 

Democracy, as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has noted, is not "Western." Traditions of public reasoning can be found in nearly all countries and is part of the common human inheritance.

 

The pursuit of democracy in the Muslim world today draws from a long history of religious tolerance and public discussion – two key tenets of democracy.

 

As President Bush has pointed out, more than half of all the Muslims in the world live in freedom under democratically constituted governments.

 

"They succeed in democratic societies," the President has said, "not in spite of their faith but because of it."

 

"A religion that demands individual moral accountability, and encourages the encounter of the individual with God, is fully compatible with the rights and responsibilities of self-government."

 

The compatibility of Islam and democracy is reflected in a recent Gallup poll that examined views of the West in the Muslim world.

 

An overwhelming majority of people in the Muslim world view their devotion to Islam as their greatest asset.

 

Yet, when asked what they admired about the West, a majority cited freedom – particularly the freedom to speak out without fear of retribution.

 

When asked what they wanted from the West, the majority put it simply – people in the Muslim world want the West to respect Islam, and when it comes to their future, they want self-determination.

 

In his second inaugural address, the President laid out a vision that now defines America’s conduct in the world.

 

"It is the policy of the United States," he said, "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

 

Achieving that vision requires self-determination among those we support.

 

Our international development assistance then, must support such self-determination through a paradigm that focuses on local ownership and collective problem solving.

 

In all that we do as a nation, to assist citizens in nations around the world – and we do a lot, we have to remember that it is not about us, it’s about them. Good intentions do not always add up to transformation-and the challenges we face today require no less than transformation.

 

For any of you who may be unfamiliar with the terminology, international development assistance is the money we provide to promote such things as economic growth; social welfare, including health and education; and good governance in underdeveloped nations. The United States spent about $27.5 billion in 2005 on such assistance-a number that has risen significantly under this Administration.

 

Why do we spend this money? The first reason is our sense of moral obligation, to be sure. We cannot turn our backs on the millions of children who succumb to starvation and disease each day, when the ability to address it is in our hands.

 

We cannot turn our backs on citizens who toil under oppressive poverty, seeking their families’ daily survival, but with little opportunity to secure the future.

 

The second reason, however, is that our futures are inextricably linked to those we seek to assist.

 

Promoting freedom, democracy, and development are primary elements identified in the President’s national security strategy. It’s part of our strategy for addressing the root causes of terrorism.

 

Governments that rule justly, encourage economic freedom and opportunity, and invest in their people-the hallmarks of democracies-do not produce or tolerate terrorists.

 

By supporting countries to live up to these principles, the United States will strengthen and expand the community of nations united in building global peace and prosperity.

 

People who see a hopeful future for themselves and their families are not willing to bind bombs to their bodies.

 

Interestingly, this second reason is tied to the first. No true democracy has ever experienced a famine. The accountability of government to citizens, the free press that flourishes under democracies, doesn’t allow for such failures of government.

 

While well-intended, some of what has been done historically by the donor community – including the United States – has too often, left few lasting traces beyond the immediate impact of short-term programs.

 

To be sure, charity has its place, especially when it is charity in response to urgent emergencies. And besides the moral obligation to respond to human suffering, our partnership with Pakistan, for example, in assisting in the aftermath of a terrible earthquake did lead to increased understanding and dialogue. Nothing revealed more about what we have in common than the response we shared to the human tragedy we faced.

 

Yet it’s important to distinguish between charitable humanitarian assistance, and support for a nation’s true development and transformation.

 

Development must engender lasting economic, social, and political progress, through a transformation of institutions, economic structures, and human capacity, so that nations can evolve to sustaining further progress on their own.

 

The ultimate responsibility for achieving this transformation rests with the leadership and citizens of developing nations themselves.

 

But the assistance and policies of the United States can and must play a vital and catalytic role. And the way we implement our assistance can have a major impact on enabling local leadership and local responsibility.

 

By focusing on local ownership and supporting local solutions, United States foreign assistance supports tools for collective problem-solving-another requirement of democratic societies.

 

A crucial element of the overall equation – one too often overlooked – is the role of host governments.

 

It is no secret that many governments in developing nations have demonstrated an inability – or worse, an unwillingness – to be accountable, and respond to the needs of their citizens.

 

The international system, including donors such as the United States, have thus stepped in to deliver those services, often by creating parallel systems of service delivery through international mechanisms.

 

Now that is an understandable response, and for a famine or a major flood or a global pandemic, it is essential.

 

Clearly, within these donor led responses, the international system has an important role to play.

 

But the dominance and the permanence of such donor-led responses has had the effect of shifting the focus of responsibility from host governments to donors. We’ve often created parallel systems of service delivery that have allowed governments to shirk their responsibility-and shifted citizens’ expectations from their own governments to the international donors.

 

But outsiders cannot, with sustainability, secure citizens’ health and safety, educate a critical mass, or create the conditions needed for economic growth-all of which are necessary for development and the responsibilities of government.

 

If true progress is to be made, the people of these nations, and their governments, must increasingly become equipped to do these things for themselves.

 

Citizens must understand that they and their governments must take responsibility.

 

Once citizens understand this, they can and will make demands of their governments, and reject government excuses for failure.

 

This understanding is a prerequisite for – and exists in – true democracies.

 

By fostering the growth of civil society, of indigenous capacity, our foreign assistance can strengthen fragile democracies.

 

Recently, I had a conversation with an African friends from my former life as the United States Global AIDS Coordinator. She is an extraordinary doctor named Agnes Binagwaho.

 

Dr. Binagwaho is head of Rwanda’s National Commission to Fight AIDS, and an example of inspiring leadership within her nation’s government.

 

Given her role, you might expect her to urge more U.S. financial support for the Government of Rwanda.

 

But what Agnes has helped me understand is that United States support for grassroots organizations in Rwanda is important well beyond HIV/AIDS. It is also important because it is supporting the development of democracy in her country.

 

By fostering the growth of civil society, of local organizations, of indigenous capacity, she believes that we are also strengthening Rwanda’s fragile democracy.

 

She has helped me better understand that democracy is not just about having an elected government it’s about teaching people to participate, and how.

 

It’s about supporting people to identify their own solutions, and teaching them how to advocate for the adoption and implementation of those solutions.

 

It’s about empowering them, supporting their ideas, and providing the right tools-and appropriate incentives-to support their leadership and responsibility to sustain further progress on their own.

 

This, I believe, is what United States foreign assistance must be all about.

 

This Administration has made an enormous commitment to transformational development.

 

In fact, the total official development assistance (ODA) provided by the United States has tripled under this President’s leadership.

 

And much of that assistance reflects the U.S. government’s broad and deep commitment to the Muslim world.

 

There are 49 countries in the world that have more than 50 percent Muslim population. The U.S. Agency for International Development has missions in 27 of them.

 

Excluding assistance to Iraq, the majority of USAID funding went to predominantly Muslim countries in two of the past three years.

 

Our commitment to supporting self-determined transformation through effective foreign assistance is shared – and its importance understood – at the very highest levels of the U.S. Government.

 

The creation of my new position – as Director of United States Foreign Assistance and Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development – signals that commitment.

 

Charged with ensuring that foreign assistance – across the U.S. government – is used as effectively as possible to meet our foreign policy objectives, we have begun the process of strategically linking how we deliver foreign assistance to what we seek to accomplish.

 

The overarching objectives for U.S. foreign assistance will focus our resources on our intent to achieve peace and security; improve governance and democratic participation; promote investments in people; and engender economic growth.

 

These overarching objectives are vital to achieving the goal we seek to accomplish, which Secretary Rice clearly laid out in January – to help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people – and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.

 

No where is meeting that goal more important than in the Muslim world today – where the United States can play a vital role in helping people in nascent democracies build a free and prosperous future for themselves.

 

We know foreign assistance can improve understanding with the Muslim world.

 

We saw it after the tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake, when the outpouring of support from the US – the government, the private sector, non-profits, and countless volunteers – made clear to the Muslim world that the West cares about its future.

 

When hate mongers like Osama bin Laden tell Muslims to reject assistance from the West, we know that it is because he understands that foreign assistance promotes partnership and understanding.

 

All of our assistance must be delivered in ways that make clear to those we seek to assist that our efforts are rooted in partnership, not paternalism.

 

By focusing on results and sustainability, our new strategic framework will make our intentions and our expectations clear.

 

A few days from now I will make my first overseas trip in my new role. The first countries I will visit are in the Muslim world.

 

I will see first hand how we can better work in partnership and better leverage resources on the ground to support both the citizens of the Muslim world and the committed Americans working with them in their valiant efforts.

 

Together, we can make progress toward achieving democracy – a system of governance that empowers human beings to create peaceful societies, where healthy and well educated people are free to provide for themselves and their families.

 

These, we know, are the aspirations of human beings regardless of ethnicity, religion, or geographic location.

 

With a renewed focus on sustainability and supporting Muslim countries in their own vision for democracy – a vision that builds on a proud history stretching back thousands of years – our foreign assistance can and will strengthen democracy and improve understanding with the Muslim world.

 

By providing a forum for authentic Muslim voices to debate the critical issues facing their societies, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy is making a vital contribution to that understanding.

 

I commend you for your efforts and look forward to working with you in the years ahead.

 

Thank you very much.

 

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Terror Fears Hamper U.S. Muslims’ Travel

 

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

 

Published: June 1, 2006

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/01/us/nationalspecial3/01traveler.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 

SAN FRANCISCO, May 31 Azhar Usman, a burly American-born Muslim with a heavy black beard, says he elicits an almost universal reaction when he boards an airplane at any United States airport: conversations stop in midsentence and the look in the eyes of his fellow passengers says, "We’re all going to die!"

 

Ahmed Ahmed, whose name matches an alias of a colleague of Osama bin Laden, jokes about his visits to airports, but underneath the one-liners, the treatment grates. He performed recently in Orland Park, Ill.

 

For Ahmed Ahmed, a comedian, it is even worse. His double-barreled name matches an occasional alias used by a henchman of Osama bin Laden. "It’s a bad time to be named Ahmed right now," he riffs in his stand-up routine, before describing being hauled through the Las Vegas airport in handcuffs.

 

Taleb Salhab and his wife say they too were dragged away in handcuffs at the border crossing in Port Huron, Mich., as their two preschool daughters wailed in the back seat of their car. The Salhabs were discharged after four hours of questioning, with no explanation from customs officers.

 

Getting through United States airports and border crossings has grown more difficult for everyone since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. But Muslim Americans say they are having a harder time than most, sometimes facing an intimidating maze of barriers, if not outright discrimination. Advocacy groups have taken to labeling their predicament "traveling while Muslim," and accuse the government of ignoring a serious erosion of civil rights. Next month, the American Civil Liberties Union will go back to court to broaden a suit on behalf of Muslims and Arab-Americans who are demanding the United States government come up with a better system for screening travelers.

 

The delays, humiliation and periodic roughing up have prompted some American Muslims to avoid traveling as much as possible. Some even skip meeting anyone at the airport for fear of a nasty encounter with a law-enforcement officer. Those who do venture forth say they are always nervous.

 

"I find myself enunciating English like never before, totally over-enunciating just because I want the guy to know that I am an American," says Maz Jobrani, an Iranian-born, Berkeley-educated actor. "Middle Easterners are just as scared of Al Qaeda as everybody else, but we also have to be worried about being profiled as Al Qaeda. It’s a double whammy."

 

Many Muslim Americans fault the Department of Homeland Security and its various agencies, chiefly the Transportation Security Administration, as failing to develop an efficient system to screen travelers. In particular, they deplore the lack of a workable means for those on the federal watch list by mistake or those whose names match that of someone on the list to get themselves off.

 

Mr. Salhab, 36, says his family remains shaken by their treatment at the border. Officers, their hands on their guns, swarmed around his vehicle, barking at him to get out as alarm bells clanged, he said.

 

"If I had sneezed or looked the wrong way, who knows what would have happened," Mr. Salhab said in a telephone interview. "I feared for my life."

 

Now, he said, every time his daughter, 4, sees uniformed officers, she asks if they are going to take him away.

 

"What happened to me at the border is inexcusable," Mr. Salhab said.

 

A complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security in January got Mr. Salhab a form letter saying the government was looking into the situation. There has been no further response.

 

A number of American Muslims similarly upset by how federal agents treated them and their families are seeking relief through the courts. About eight men with Muslim or Arab roots are joining a suit already filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union branch in Illinois demanding that the government improve its treatment of returning American citizens.

 

But similar suits have made little headway. In general, the Constitution protects all Americans against unreasonable search and seizure. But much more aggressive searches have been deemed reasonable at airports and at the border than elsewhere. Just how elastic that standard can be is what the lawsuits are addressing.

 

The Department of Homeland Security denies engaging in racial profiling. Agents should not base their decisions on a face or a name, said Dan Sutherland, head of the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. "They should look at behavior, concrete action, observable activities," he said.

 

Mr. Sutherland said the department was aware of some problems with the watch list, but he argued that many Muslim Americans traveled without encountering difficulties.

 

Still, traveling makes many Muslim Americans feel like second-class citizens. Mr. Ahmed, the comedian, often travels wearing a T-shirt that says "Got rights?"

 

"That’s the whole question of my existence right now," he said. "Do we have rights? I’m a taxpayer and I’m an American, and I want to be treated like one."

 

The problem has become such a part of being a Muslim American that some comedians have built routines around it. Mr. Ahmed and Mr. Jobrani both perform on The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. Mr. Jobrani jokes about his heightened state of anxiety as he passes through security.

 

He says, "If anything beeps in the metal detector, I think, ‘Dammit, I’m a terrorist! I knew it!"

 

But underneath the one-liners, the treatment grates. Mr. Ahmed, 35, now avoids flying on the day of a show lest he be barred from his flight. The stress reached a level that the whiskers in his beard started to fall out, he says. ("Your body is trying to de-Muslimize," Mr. Jobrani said jokingly, sitting next to him in a Los Angeles coffee shop. "Next, your skin will get lighter.")

 

Mr. Ahmed was handcuffed in the Las Vegas airport in November 2004, and, he said, a young black police officer leaned over and said, "Yo man, now you know what it was like to be a black man in the 60’s."

 

It is an apt comparison, Mr. Ahmed feels, noting that after the 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist bombing by a white former soldier, Timothy J. McVeigh, not every blond with a buzz cut was pulled over.

 

"I know I have to be demure and humble when I approach a ticket agent," Mr. Ahmed said. "If you show any ounce of negativity or righteousness, they’ll deny you, they’ll say, ‘You’re not getting on this flight, I don’t like your attitude."’

 

When he called a phone line for those with travel problems like his, he said, he got no response. "I understand the need for security, but they go overboard, they always have to put on this public display," he said. Mr. Usman, 30, and part of a different comedy act called Allah Made Me Funny, draws big laughs when joking about his obviously Muslim appearance. "If I was a crazy Muslim fundamentalist, this is not the disguise I would go with," he cracks.

 

He refuses to shave his beard. "I have a problem that people associate a certain look with Muslim terrorists," he said by telephone from his native Chicago. "The look of someone trying to live a religious life, having a long beard, has been around a lot longer than Osama bin Laden and will be around a lot longer than Osama bin Laden."

 

Most of those wrongly placed on the watch list seethe with frustration and anger, finding it unbelievable that a technologically advanced country like the United States has been unable to develop a list that can distinguish between a lurking terrorist and a harmless citizen with a Muslim name.

 

Khurrum Wahid, a lawyer, said that the Transportation Security Administration had made empty promises for years about making improvements. "If the name John Smith was on the designated list," Mr. Wahid said, "I guarantee they would have come up with some way to check that list."

 

Dr. Sam Hamade, 33, was born in Lebanon and carries a Canadian passport but is a permanent United States resident and is seeking citizenship. A senior resident at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, Dr. Hamade legally changed his name from Osama to Sam to make his patients more comfortable.

 

In the last two years, driving back from Canada after visiting relatives or his fiance, Dr. Hamade said, he has been detained at least six times. He has found himself weeping with frustration, he said, because the same thing happens every time he is photographed, fingerprinted and his body groped and every time the border police say that they are just following procedures.

 

Dr. Hamade was handed a "Fact Sheet" instructing him to write to the Border Patrol’s "Customer Satisfaction Unit" in Washington. He wrote, but has received no answer. A complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security in April has also elicited no response.

 

"It’s a nightmare," Dr. Hamade said.

 

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Egypt Protests Test U.S. Democracy Campaign

 

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/worldopinionroundup/

 

The Bush administration’s campaign for democracy in the Arab world is facing its toughest test yet in Egypt, according to international online commentators.

 

Three hundred Egyptian judges staged a silent protest last week against the government over interference in the judiciary. The country’s best known blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fatah, was arrested earlier this month together with other activists engaged in a peaceful demonstration (the blog he co-authors with his wife, Manal Hassan, continues with message posts smuggled out of prison). Meanwhile, Ayman Nour, a liberal who finished second in last year’s presidential election, was sentenced to a five-year jail term on disputed charges of forgery.

 

Longtime President Hosni Mubarak, a U.S. ally who is grooming his son to succeed him, faces a "revolt of the Egyptian elite," says Ahmed Amr in the Middle East Times.

 

"Since winning a fifth term in office, Mubarak has systematically and methodically gone about the business of reigning in the opposition. The reviled Emergency Laws have been extended. Previously scheduled municipal elections have been postponed and the casually attired state sponsored goons have violently confronted peaceful demonstrators."

 

Earlier this month, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack condemned Egypt’s actions, saying "both Mr. Nour’s ongoing detention and the Egyptian government’s handling of dissent raise serious concerns about the path of political reform and democracy."

 

As unease mounts over anti-democratic signals from Mubarak’s government, Egyptian commentators are looking to see what Washington will do.

 

Despite the Bush administration’s rhetoric, the United States is not going to help the Egyptian opposition, predicts Emad Mackey, Washington correspondent for the Al-Ahram Weekly.

 

"Washington has signaled that it now views its interests in the region as best served by the status quo. This is especially true in light of tensions with Iran and the rise of Islamic- oriented groups," he writes.

 

"The Bush administration has called on Congress to keep annual aid to Egypt of nearly $2 billion dollars intact for the next fiscal year, arguing that America’s strategic interests will be harmed if aid to the Egyptian government is cut,""

 

Mackey quoted U.S. officials stressing Egypt’s pivotal role in its military strategy in the region, with $2.5 billion worth of military assistance designed to "create a defence force capable of supporting US security."

 

"Given such favours, officials expressed only the usual ‘concern’ over the Egyptian government’s repression of dissent at home," Mackey wrote.

 

The Financial Times notes that Bush’s conservative supporters "are questioning the wisdom of a democratisation strategy that has brought unpleasant consequences in the Middle East."

 

Mubarak’s crackdown "represents a major challenge to Mr. Bush’s campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East," says the Toronto Globe and Mail. "How Mr. Bush responds will say a lot about how serious he is. From the beginning it has been clear that, if his fine words about democracy were to have any weight, he would have to put pressure not just on rogue regimes and hostile nations but on Washington’s Mideast allies."

 

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors," declared President Bush in his 2005 inaugural address. "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

 

Egyptians seem to be standing up — will Washington weigh in?

 

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Democracy Discarded

 

BY YOUSSEF IBRAHIM

 

May 19, 2006

 

URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/33077

 

What part of freedom do the Bushes – father and son – not understand?

 

That our " friends and allies" in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq abandon democratic reforms is no surprise. But for the current American president to walk away from pledges to advance freedom in the Middle East is galling.

 

What is it with those Bushes, father and son, that allows them to betray so easily America’s fundamental purpose?

 

Remember the broken promise of the elder President Bush to the Iraqi people back in 1991? He urged them to rise in revolt against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein only to stand back as Iraqis subsequently were killed by the thousands. He watched the slaughter without lifting his patrician’s eyebrow.

 

Indeed, why is it that most of America’s leading lights, those who spend years battling for higher American values, once out of office become willing prostitutes offering their expertise to bury those values?

 

Okay, there’s the paycheck, but don’t certain people make even a reptile’s skin crawl?

 

How could any American leading figure hang on to rotten brutes and purveyors of darkness such as President Mubarak of Egypt, Muammar Gadhafi of Libya, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia?

 

Between them, the aforementioned trio holds about 200,000 political prisoners without trial or charges. They have killed, tortured, or ordered the murder of a few thousand more, enslaved women, destroyed economies, and robbed their countries blind, siphoning billions of loot – a plundered wealth sitting in cold marbled palaces dotting the globe.

 

Look at the Carlyle Group, a Rolls Royce of private investments that is also a who’s-who of political operatives. Among its partners are the elder President Bush (whose title is "top adviser") and many of his pals, including a former secretary of state, James A. Baker III; a former defense secretary, Frank C. Carlucci; a former White House budget chief, Richard Darman, and a former British prime minister, John Major. Is it a surprise the group manages several tens of billions of dollars of Saudi, Kuwaiti, Qatari, and United Arab Emirates money? Nor will it be a surprise if George W. Bush, once retired from office, brings his expertise to bear on how to reel in more of those billions from oil-rich Arab dictators.

 

The question the Bushes, the Clintons, the Madeleine Albrights, and the Bob Doles of American politics must answer is: How does sleeping with dictators and brutal murderers square with pledges of higher purpose?

 

On January 20, 2005, George W. Bush stirred hope in the darkened heartland of Islam and enslaved Muslims around the world when he declared:

 

"It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

 

Speaking in the inaugural speech watched by millions of hopeful Arabs, the president went on to assert that "Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation."

 

One cannot say such words and then shake hands or do business with a murdering marauding thug such as Colonel Gadhafi, who personally ordered the killing of more than 400 American and French air passengers, not to mention thousands of his own people. For that matter, why is America extending respect to Egypt’s master dictator, Mr. Mubarak, and his thieving sons while their police forces this week beat up, arrested, and are torturing scores of judges protesting fake elections and corruption in government? Next week it shall be someone else’s turn, as the wheel of Egyptian repression never rests under Mr. Mubarak’s 25-year travesty of a rule.

 

Over in Saudi Arabia, the Bushes "biggest friend" is teddy bear King Abdullah and his coterie of 22,000 Saudi princes – Royal Family & Co. Inc. – who have been bilking the largest oil producing country on earth for money to build palaces, enslave women, sire more princes who will need to build more palaces and promote Wahabi Islamic fanaticism.

 

As the slogan of the main Egyptian opposition movement goes: Enough.

 

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The Trials of Ayman Nour

 

By Joshua Muravchik

 

Wall Street Journal Publication Date: May 8, 2006

 

http://www.aei.org/publications/filter.all,pubID.24328/pub_detail.asp

 

While the million marchers in Beirut demanding Syrian exit from their country were the most dramatic symbol of last year’s hopeful "Arab spring," it was the promise of presidential elections in Egypt–the political, cultural and demographic center of the Arab world–that gave the moment its weight. The year 2006, alas, has reverberated with sobering reminders–Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority–that democracy’s progress in the region will be no easy thing. None of the setbacks echoes more loudly than President Hosni Mubarak’s decision to take the one truly independent candidate who had the temerity to run against him and clap him in jail.

 

That candidate was Ayman Nour, a long-time advocate of human rights and a maverick parliamentarian. Mr. Nour pried a small opening in Egyptian politics late in 2004 when he succeeded in securing legal status for his al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party. One of the hallmarks of Egypt’s authoritarianism has been its peculiar party system. A plethora of official "opposition" parties, all of them long since suborned or neutered by the government, are formally licensed, a status which genuinely independent parties are consistently denied.

 

Such was the initial fate of al-Ghad, but Mr. Nour was unusually persistent. Another hallmark of Egypt’s system–which is authoritarian but not totalitarian–is that the judiciary, particularly at its highest levels, has always retained some independence. So Mr. Nour doggedly used the courts to force the regime finally to grant the license. No sooner had the regime bent to Mr. Nour’s legal tactics, however, than it announced his arrest.

 

The charge? Forgery. Its plausibility? Nil. The government alleged that Mr. Nour had faked some of the signatures on the petitions submitted to license his party. But the legally required number of signatures was 50, and al-Ghad had submitted 2,000. The government never claimed that he had faked all of them. Why would he, a lawyer by profession, have committed forgery just to boast an excess of signatures? More curious still, the government did not allege that he had carried out the forgeries himself, but rather that he had ordered them carried out by a handful of al-Ghad volunteers whom he barely knew. These men, all with shady pasts, came forward to accuse Mr. Nour.

 

When the case came for first hearing, one of the accusers recanted on the witness stand, declaring that he had never received or carried out any such instructions. He said he had been fed the whole story by state security agents who coerced him, by threatening to harm his family, to make false accusations. This would have been more than enough to have the case thrown out of any American court, but instead it was carried over, enabling Mr. Nour to run in the election.

 

It was scarcely a level playing field. No campaigning was allowed outside of the specified period of 19 days before election day. Meanwhile, and naturally, the news media, mostly government-run, were replete with daily paeans to President Mubarak. Moreover, to be eligible to vote, a citizen had to have registered almost a year in advance, before it was announced that there would be a presidential election.

 

Thus, Mr. Mubarak’s victory was assured. But the regime was desperately eager for Mr. Nour not even to come in second, perhaps fearing that this would position him to effectively challenge Mr. Mubarak’s son, Gamal, as his successor. Mr. Nour’s campaign faced all manner of harassment; and Noman Gomaa, the well-known head of the Wafd Party, entered the race to divide the liberal vote. When asked why he ran, Mr. Gomaa, 72, responded with disarming frankness–the government had asked him to. But Mr. Nour was clearly Mr. Mubarak’s main opponent, and he managed to run second even in the official count, which gave him 7%. (His supporters claim it was much more.)

 

Soon, he was hauled back before the court and convicted. The penalty for this first "offense," a "forgery" from which it was not alleged that he reaped any benefit? Five years at hard labor–an ominous sentence for a diabetic dependent on daily insulin.

 

Mr. Nour, however, has appealed to the court of cassation, which is known for its independence. It was this court that threw out the conviction of dissident Saad Edin Ibrahim in 2003, albeit not before Mr. Ibrahim’s health had been permanently damaged by his prison conditions. Fearing that Mr. Nour’s appeal will succeed, the regime has filed 19 new charges against him. Several of these are for various forms of lse majest. It used to be a crime to insult the king; after the monarchy was overthrown, the law was changed to apply instead to the president. Mr. Nour, in short, faces prosecution for criticizing Mr. Mubarak while campaigning against him for president.

 

Clouds shadow Mr. Nour’s appeal, scheduled to begin on May 18. The judge named to preside is deeply enmeshed in some related political battles. A majority of Egypt’s judges are in rebellion against the regime, demanding full judicial independence. Although less widely noted outside the country, this may prove to be a more important landmark on the road to democracy than last year’s elections. Following the parliamentary elections, which were under the supervision of the judiciary, several judges accused others of fixing results on behalf of the regime. No action has been taken against the accused, but the accusers have summarily been stripped of immunity and are facing prosecution for "insulting" their colleagues. The judge appointed to "investigate" them (perhaps because of loyalty to the regime) is the same one who will preside at Mr. Nour’s appeal. And two of his attorneys have been summoned for questioning and threatened with charges for insulting the president.

 

Nor is this all. Mr. Nour’s most active defender and the person who keeps his party alive is his wife, Gamila Ismail. She, too, is now facing prosecution. Slender and pretty, she is accused of "assaulting" mammoth security officers on two different occasions. Last month she was also accused of writing a bad check, another tale that speaks volumes about the Egyptian system. When Mr. Nour was first imprisoned, Ismail sought to take an ad in the popular government-owned newspaper, Al Akhbar, proclaiming his innocence. The paper refused the ad on the grounds of "security," but also refused to return Ms. Ismail’s check, promising to send a refund. The refund never came, and then, 13 months later, when Ms. Ismail’s account balance dipped below the amount of the check apparently for the first time, suddenly Al Akhbar put it through, and it bounced. Hence, the "bad check" charges. So much for the independence of government newspapers and the privacy of the banks.

 

The story gets worse. This month, Mr. Nour was transferred to the prison hospital where he was placed, with too little sanitary isolation, amid patients suffering from HIV and scabies. The deputy warden issued a statement claiming, without basis, that Mr. Nour was suicidal, which he takes as a veiled threat against his life. His writings have been confiscated, including political writings and legal memoranda arguing that many aspects of his treatment violate the Egyptian constitution (including, ironically, the confiscation of his writings). At one court appearance last month, his two young teenage sons, who have joined their mother in campaigning on his behalf, were roughed up by state agents.

 

It is not only the Nour family that will have much at stake when his appeal is heard; so, too, will Egypt–where Mr. Mubarak, contrary to his campaign promises, has just extended the repressive emergency law–and the whole Middle East. And so, too, will the U.S., in terms of seeing democracy sprout in the region. The Egyptian government will claim that U.S. pressure regarding this case is inappropriate and pointless, on the grounds that the judicial process is independent. But if this were true, the judges would not be in rebellion. And were it true, Ayman Nour would never have been prosecuted.

 

Joshua Muravchik is a resident fellow at AEI.

 

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Mubarak Rival Loses Freedom Bid

 

By Daniel Williams

 

Washington Post Foreign Service

 

Friday, May 19, 2006; Page A01

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/18/AR2006051802170.html

 

CAIRO, May 18 — An appeals court on Thursday upheld the fraud conviction of Ayman Nour, the candidate who challenged President Hosni Mubarak and his 25 years of one-man rule in elections last year, effectively consigning the fiery lawyer to five years in prison.

 

Nour was convicted in December of forging documents needed to legalize his Tomorrow Party, even though a government commission had approved the papers in October 2004 and a witness at his trial said he was tortured into testifying against Nour. The case attracted criticism from human rights groups as being politically motivated, and the State Department made the case a test of Mubarak’s commitment to democracy.

 

Egyptian police and prosecutors have recently launched an offensive against democracy activists on several fronts. At the same time a judge heard Nour’s request for a retrial Thursday, a judicial committee reprimanded Judge Hesham Bastawisi for denouncing vote-rigging during elections last year but acquitted a less outspoken but nonetheless critical magistrate, Mahmoud Mekky.

 

Thousands of riot police in body armor and helmets sealed off parts of central Cairo to keep demonstrators from congregating near the courthouse where the hearings for Nour and the judges took place. At a nearby market, police pursued, clubbed and beat demonstrators gathered to support the judges. They arrested about 250 protesters, mostly members of the formally banned Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political and social organization that has emerged as Egypt’s only large and well-organized opposition force.

 

Police and plainclothes security agents also intercepted dozens of Nour supporters as they tried to march on Tomorrow Party headquarters in downtown’s Talat Harb Square. Several were beaten.

 

"The charade is over," said Samer S. Shehata, a professor of contemporary Arab studies at Georgetown University who is researching elections in Egypt. "Egypt is going back to an earlier period of repression."

 

"Political reform is dead," remarked Joshua Stracher, a researcher from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

 

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States was "deeply troubled" by Nour’s case, calling it "both a miscarriage of justice by international standards and a setback for the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people."

 

"Both Mr. Nour’s ongoing detention and the Egyptian government’s handling of dissent raise serious concerns about the path to political reform and democracy in Egypt and are incongruous with the Egyptian government’s professed commitment to increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society," McCormack said.

 

Nour finished a distant second in Egypt’s first multiparty presidential election last September and incurred the wrath of officials by claiming fraud. His campaign, though it attracted only about 7 percent of the vote, was notable for its energetic effort to reach large numbers of Egyptians. The government occasionally sent out police and provocateurs to block Nour from reaching rallies in the countryside. Now, he will sit out his sentence in prison, where he has been tasked with carving frames for calendars as part of a labor regimen.

 

"It’s shocking," Nour’s wife, Gamila Ismael, told reporters after the verdict. "I hope God gives patience for what he is in for now, which is total injustice. This verdict proves for the thousandth time that Mubarak and his regime are controlling the judicial, executive and legislative authorities in Egypt, bodies whose independence Nour was fighting for."

 

The judges, meanwhile, had been under official attack for alleging fraud in presidential and parliamentary elections. Bastawisi was recovering in a Cairo hospital from a heart attack suffered the previous day, after weeks of leading sit-ins at a magistrates club downtown. The judicial commission said he would be removed from the bench if he continued with alleged misbehavior that included insulting fellow judges, some of whom cooperated with the government in monitoring elections.During the presidential vote, members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party openly recruited voters at polling places. During the parliamentary rounds, police kept voters away from several polling stations and killed 11 people who tried to reach the ballot boxes. There has been no judicial inquiry into the deaths.

 

Supporters of Bastawisi and Mekky viewed them as representing a possible focal point of opposition to Mubarak’s almost absolute political authority. As groups of other judges entered the courthouse street, which was ringed by riot police, sympathizers in adjacent buildings that house associations of lawyers and journalists shouted, "You are heroes" and "Judges fear nothing but God."

 

An Interior Ministry statement said protesters were "chanting hostile slogans" and creating "unrest and chaos." One man was arrested for wearing a belt bearing small fireworks, the statement said.

 

Police detained 240 members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday, including one of its leaders, Essam al-Erian, Interior Ministry officials said. At least 14 members of Kifaya, a coalition of political and professional groups that have spearheaded anti-Mubarak rallies, were also arrested. "People are moving, but it will take a long time," said Mohammad Saad al-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc.

 

Protesters accused the United States of being soft on Mubarak. Last week, a day after Cairo police beat scores of demonstrators during a march in support of the judges, Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son, secretly visited the White House. He was greeted by President Bush and met with Vice President Cheney, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The meeting became public only because a reporter for al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite television news channel, observed Mubarak entering the White House.

 

Many Egyptian observers suspect that Hosni Mubarak wants his son to succeed him. Gamal Mubarak holds a key position in the ruling party in charge of setting government policy.

 

On Wednesday, C. David Welch, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, testified before a House International Relations subcommittee that Egypt is "a cornerstone of our foreign policy in the Middle East."

 

He called Mubarak’s decision to hold multi-candidate presidential elections "a major step forward" and expressed opposition to calls from some members of Congress to use Washington’s annual $2 billion in aid to Egypt as a lever to press reform. Paraphrasing Rice, he said, "We strongly believe that U.S. aid to Egypt should continue." He repeated that "the timing is not right" for free trade talks between Egypt and the United States, which were suspended after Nour was jailed.

 

He reiterated the administration’s "deep disappointment" with the conduct of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, as well as the original sentencing of Nour last year, the postponement of this year’s scheduled municipal elections, extension of emergency laws that authorize open-ended detentions without trial, prosecution of "whistle-blower judges," violence against demonstrators and roundups of democracy activists.

 

But he also listed strategic benefits Egypt provides the United States, suggesting these trumped any dramatic moves to press for political reform. Among the advantages cited were Egypt’s backing for U.S. efforts at the International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program and pressure on the Hamas-led Palestinian government to renounce violence against Israel.

 

Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.

 

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Today’s Sentence

 

By Wael Nawara

 

Ayman Nour’s 5-year harsh sentence was confirmed in today’s hearing. Several of Nour’s main lawyers, such as Ehab El Kholy and Amir Salem were not allowed in court. They were dismissed and ordered by the security to leave the court premises else they be arrested. Several of Nour’s supporters were arrested today.

 

In today’s trial of the judges, one Judge, Hon. Bastaweesy, who had suffered a heart attack yesterday, was Blamed, an administrative punishment, and the other judge, Hon. Makki, was acquitted. The Judges Trial had been postponed to today, May 18th on the Same day as Ayman Nour’s hearing before the court of Cassation.

 

State of Emergency extended. Local elections postponed. Demonstrations are prohibited and demonstrators arrested. El Ghad "Parallel Newspaper", full of praise to the regime, has now permission to print at Al Ahram, the state-owned media conglomerate.

 

400 people from Muslim Brothers, Kifaya and El Ghad have been arrested today and El Ghad HQ was besieged and members held inside.

 

Gamal Mubarak had paid a visit, which was meant to be a secret visit, to Washington DC last week where he assured the American Administration of his father’s sincere reform intentions. He described political reform as a long path that is subject to setbacks.

 

Games and tactics of the regime  … going as far as it can, doing whatever that it can get away with under the circumstances … one day at a time.

 

It is clear that the International Community had lost all leverage … the regime has decided that political reform in Egypt is undesirable and should come to a premature death. But this shall not prevail. Tyranny shall not prevail. The regime may threaten and arrest activists and muscle the helpless international community, but the young Egyptian men and women who have tasted freedom will not allow things to go back to their stagnant condition.

 

Wael Nawara

General Secretary of al-Ghad Party Cairo, Egypt.

 

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A Political Path Out of Iraq

 

By Fareed Zakaria

 

Wednesday, May 31, 2006; Page A19

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/30/AR2006053001180.html

 

I’m glad that the president has finally admitted to some mistakes in Iraq. But what worries me is that he seems to be persisting in one important error. At his news conference last week, the only concrete plan he outlined to move forward — on a path out of Iraq — was a better-functioning Iraqi army and police force. In this respect Bush is hardly alone. Many who criticize him on the right and left say that the training of Iraqi troops is happening too slowly, or that we need more American troops, or that we should flood the city of Baghdad with forces to stabilize it. But all these solutions are technocratic and military, while the problem in Iraq is fundamentally political. Until we fully recognize this, doing more of the same will accomplish little.

 

Initially the Sunnis thought they could use military power — through the insurgency — to get their way. Now many Shiites think they can use military power — through the government’s security services and militias — to get their way. For our part, despite the denials, we believed that what we needed was more troops, Iraqi troops. Except that 260,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are "standing up" and it hasn’t led to any significant withdrawal of Americans. The reality is that only an effective political bargain will bring about order. There needs to be a deal that gives all three communities strong incentives to cooperate rather than be spoilers.

 

While the United States can push hard in this direction, forging this bargain falls largely on the shoulders of the new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. I met Maliki a year ago in a small safe house in Baghdad. He was then a Dawa party official, with no position in the government. He is a big, strapping man and came across as straightforward and confident. He also came across as a hard-line Shiite, unyielding in his religious views and extremely punitive toward the Sunnis. He did not strike me as a man who wanted national reconciliation in Iraq.

 

But many Iraqi and U.S. officials who have spoken to him since he became prime minister believe that he understands his new role. If so, he will have to tackle quickly the two big political challenges Iraq faces: weakening the insurgency and disbanding sectarian militias. Neither can be done purely militarily.

 

Co-opting the majority of the Sunnis is the simplest way Maliki can cripple the insurgency. So far he has said some encouraging things about national unity. On the other hand, he has given Sunnis only 11 percent of cabinet posts, though they are 20 percent of the country. Tariq al-Hashimi, the new Sunni vice president, complains that when he details violence by death squads, Iraq’s leaders remain highly unresponsive. "Even if you have complete evidence, they are not open-minded. It’s really phenomenal," he says.

 

Maliki will have to stake out national positions on the proposed amendments to the constitution, the sharing of oil revenue and other such matters. But even sooner he will have to address the core Sunni demand: an end to the de-Baathification process, which has thrown tens of thousands of Sunnis out of jobs and barred them from new ones. Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, a Kurd, told me that "the time has come for us to be courageous enough to admit that there were massive mistakes in de-Baathification." The American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, argued similarly, saying that "de-Baathification has to evolve into reconciliation with accountability." Khalilzad added that Prime Minister Maliki supported the notion that de-Baathification "has to focus on individuals who are charged with specific crimes, not whole classes and groups of people." If so, it would mark a major and positive shift in policy.

 

Maliki’s second challenge is with his own. The Shiite militias now run rampant throughout non-Kurdish Iraq. Khalilzad believes that they will have to be largely disbanded — "perhaps 5 percent of them can be integrated into the national army and security services, but most have to be given civilian jobs." The greatest challenge here comes from the large and growing Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. This renegade cleric is mounting a frontal challenge to the United States and to the authority of the new Iraqi government (even while he takes charge of some of its ministries).

 

Maliki will have to handle Sadr politically as well as militarily, enlisting Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s help. If Maliki cannot handle him, Moqtada al-Sadr will become the most powerful man in Iraq. And Nouri al-Maliki will not be the first elected prime minister of a new Iraq, but the last prime minister of an experiment that failed. Iraq will continue down its slide into violence, ethnic cleansing and Balkanization. In places such as Baghdad, with mixed populations, this will mean the city will be carved up into warring neighborhoods, with gangs providing a mafia-style system of law and order, and constant guerrilla attacks. It will be Lebanon in the 1980s, except that 130,000 American troops will be in the middle of it all.

 

comments@fareedzakaria.com

 

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It’s Time to Engage With Iran

 

By David Ignatius

 

Friday, May 26, 2006; Page A21

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501986.html

 

"Only connect." That was the trademark line of E.M. Forster’s great novel "Howards End." And it’s a useful injunction in thinking about U.S. strategy toward Iran and the wider conflicts between the West and the Muslim world.

 

We are in the early stages of what the Centcom commander, Gen. John Abizaid, calls "the first war of globalization, between openness and closed societies." One key to winning that war, Abizaid told a small group of reporters at the Pentagon yesterday, is to expand openness and connection. He called al-Qaeda "the military arm of the closed order." The same could be said of the extremist mullahs in Tehran who are pushing for nuclear weapons.

 

America’s best strategy is to play to its strengths — which are the open exchange of ideas, backed up by unmatched military power. The need for connection is especially clear in the case of Iran, which in isolation has remained frozen in revolutionary zealotry like an exotic fruit in aspic. Yet some in the Bush administration cling to the idea that isolation is a good thing and that connectivity will somehow weaken the West’s position. That ignores the obvious lesson of the past 40 years, which is that isolation has usually failed (as in the cases of Cuba and North Korea), while connectivity has usually succeeded (as in the cases of the Soviet Union and China).

 

A telling example was the decision to engage the Soviet Union in 1973 through the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe. At the time, some conservatives argued that it was a dangerous concession that the Soviets might interpret as a symbol of weakness. But the CSCE provided a crucial forum for dissidents in Russia and Eastern Europe, and with astonishing speed the mighty edifice of Soviet power began to crumble. Similar warnings about showing weakness in the face of an aggressive adversary were voiced when President Richard Nixon went to China in February 1972.

 

I cite this Cold War history because the moment has come for America to attempt to engage revolutionary Iran. The invitation for such a dialogue came this month in a letter to President Bush from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — a man whose rabble-rousing, Israel-baiting career gave him the credentials, if that’s the right word, to break a 27-year Iranian taboo on contacts with the Great Satan.

 

Ahmadinejad’s letter clearly had the backing of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the American context, that’s like having the support of Vice President Cheney for a peace feeler. My own Iranian sources say there is broad consensus in Tehran that it is time for talks with the United States. "Iran wants to start discussions the same way the Chinese wanted discussions" with Nixon, an Iranian businessman named Ali Ettefagh told me in an e-mail this week. "Great Satan doesn’t sell anymore. More than half the population was not born 27 years ago, and the broken record does not play well." The Iranian offer of dialogue, he says, "ought to be taken as an opportunity, if only to air out grievances and amplify differences."

 

I suspect Iran wants dialogue now partly because it perceives America’s position in Iraq as weak and its own as strong. That may be true, but so what? Washington should still take yes for an answer. The United States and its European allies this week are crafting a package that, one hopes, will include everything the Iranian people could want — except nuclear weapons. The bundle of goodies should stress connectivity — more air travel to Iran, more scholarships for students, more exchanges, Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization. The mullahs may well reject these incentives as threatening, but that’s the point. Their retrograde theocracy can’t last long in an open world. This very week, about 40 police officers were injured in a clash with demonstrators at two Tehran universities. One of the hand-lettered protest signs captured in an Iranian photo said: "This is not a seminary, it is a university."

 

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian analyst with the International Crisis Group, noted in Senate testimony last week that opinion polls show 75 percent of Iranians favor relations with the United States. "Embarking on a comprehensive dialogue with Iran would provide the U.S. with the opportunity to match its rhetorical commitment to Iranian democracy and human rights with action," Sadjadpour said. He’s right.

 

There’s no guarantee that a policy of engagement will work. The Iranian regime’s desire to acquire nuclear weapons may be so unyielding that Tehran and Washington will remain on a collision course. But America and its allies will be in a stronger position for responding to Iranian calls for dialogue. Openness isn’t a concession by America, it’s a strategic weapon.

 

davidignatius@washpost.com

 

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Morocco sees the rise of ‘acceptable’ Islamist party

 

By Roula Khalaf

 

Published: May 23 2006 03:00

 

Lahcen Daoudi is a curious kind of Islamist. A top leader in Morocco’s Party of Justice and Development, a legal Islamist movement emerging as a political force, he fights off suggestions that he wants to Islamise society, blaming his secular rivals for spreading false rumours. "People cannot eat from Islamist slogans. They come to us because they want solutions."

 

A good-humoured, economics professor and opposition MP, the clean-shaven Mr Daoudi looks younger than his 59 years and repeatedly bangs his hand on the table to emphasise his points. The PJD’s objective, he says, is to improve "productivity" and "efficiency" in a country of 30m people reeling from massive youth unemployment in urban areas and a literacy rate of just over 50 per cent.

 

"The government is simply not performing," he says. "If it were, Moroccans wouldn’t be looking for an alternative."

 

Barely eight years after it was officially created from an existing party and a collection of Islamist associations, the PJD is emerging as a powerful alternative, with a good chance of winning legislative elections schedule for the second half of next year.

 

A leaked poll conducted by the US’s independent International Republican Institute earlier this year showed that up to 47 per cent of the electorate were leaning towards the party. A second just-concluded IRI poll is believed to confirm this.

 

The party’s rise is in line with the trend across the Arab world, where Islamist groups are capitalising on their image as honest movements dedicated to social justice and riding the wave of discontent with existing regimes and discredited secular parties.

 

But what makes the PJD’s experience all the more significant is that it is seen by the US as an acceptable interlocutor, unlike the Palestinian Hamas or Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

 

As Washington grapples with the empowerment of political Islam that is the consequence of its drive to democratise the Arab world, it appears to have found in the PJD a rare Islamist party it can engage with.

 

The PJD, which now has 42 deputies in the 325-seat parliament, benefits from US assistance and training programmes available to parties in Morocco. During a private trip to the US this month, Saadeddine Othmani, the PJD’s secretary-general, met an American deputy assistant secretary of state. His trip was part of an international charm offensive launched by the PJD and it followed visits to France and Spain.

 

"It is in the interest of Morocco that the world community knows the PJD. I don’t want investors to flee because of us," says Mr Daoudi, pointing to the economy’s dependence on tourism and foreign investment.

 

That Morocco is a monarchy, where King Mohammed VI still holds the main levers of power and both the government and the parliament have limited authority, makes the risk of a PJD victory next year more palatable to the US.

 

Moreover, unlike Justice and Charity, probably the largest non-violent Moroccan Islamist movement, the PJD does not challenge the legitimacy of the monarchy. A moderate Islamist party is also seen as a buffer against al-Qaeda-inspired groups that have sought to mobilise impoverished Moroccans. It was a group of young men from the slums of Casablanca, the country’s financial hub, that launched the May 2003 suicide attacks against western and Jewish targets.

 

But if the PJD has been successfully building bridges with the outside world, it remains controversial at home, where politics outside the palace have been dominated by the leftist Socialist Union of Popular Forces and the nationalist Istiqlal.

 

Government officials and secular rivals accuse it of spreading a radical ideology through its press while putting on a moderate face to the world. Nabil Benabdallah, the government spokesman, says that the PJD goes against the vision of modernity promoted by the king, including a 2004 code that strengthens women’s rights. He points to demands by PJD-affiliated associations for the banning of Marock, a daring new film directed by a young woman and showing scenes that ridicule praying and fasting.

 

Well-organised and recognised even by rivals as hard working, the PJD is not monolithic, although the most radical within it have been gradually pushed out of the top positions.

 

Mustafa Ramid, a popular MP from Casablanca, has openly criticised Mr Othmani’s trip to the US, for example, and says he is against Marock. He has also called for the palace to play the role of arbiter and says he sees little point in joining or forming a government when the institutions have so little power. "My fear is that under the current system we will not be able to deliver," he says.

 

The debate over the PJD has intensified in recent months as the party has adopted a more assertive attitude. The Islamists lowered their profile after the 2003 Casablanca attacks, which led to a torrent of criticism that the PJD was contributing to a climate of intolerance. The attacks also provoked a new law banning political parties based on religion, leading the PJD to emphasise that it was no more than a party with "Islamic references".

 

Party officials have indicated that they are likely to contest elections across Morocco next year, departing from a more gradualist approach adopted so far that saw them field candidates in less than 60 per cent of constituencies in 2002.

 

Controversy was fuelled by the IRI poll. The palace was reported to be rattled by what it saw as American meddling in Moroccan affairs while political rivals considered the poll a confirmation of their worst suspicions – that the US was secretly promoting the PJD.

 

Mr Daoudi says he is gearing up for a difficult election year but urges Moroccan secularists not to deepen the polarisation in society. "It will be a year when the PJD is demonised," he says.

 

"But the PJD is a barrier against radicalisation. If you crush it, it is not you who benefits, it’s the others, the radicals."

 

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Praying or Plotting?

 

By Mohammad Ali Salih

 

Sunday, May 21, 2006; B02

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/19/AR2006051901762.html

 

"May Allah guide you in whatever you do. May Allah protect you from evil. May Allah destroy your enemies."

 

These were the words I heard from my eightysomething father one recent morning as his frail voice came over the phone from a Sudanese village about 6,000 miles away. To each sentence I replied "Amen," and as I hung up, I felt the soothing effect of his prayer come over me at the start of another day.

 

But at the same time, as I readied myself for work here in the tension-filled capital of the United States, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if the National Security Agency were listening to my phone calls to Sudan?

 

My father, who is barely able to read a newspaper and never went to a modern school, learned about Islam and basic Arabic in his village khalwa (an Islamic school or madrassa). He grew up to be the village’s Sharia expert and its shaman, healing patients with religious rituals and native medicine.

 

His everyday conversation has always been peppered with Islamic words and phrases such as " Allahu akbar " (God is great), "jihad" and "infidels." Thirty years ago, when I married an American Christian, my father objected, saying she was an infidel.

 

But he mellowed a few years later and now, whenever we talk on the phone, he sends his best wishes to her and our three children (he also prays for them). But he still expects that one day I will leave "Dar al-Harb" ("the land of war," i.e., the West) and return to "Dar al-Salam" ("the land of peace," i.e., Muslim countries).

 

My father is not an extremist, just a product of his environment, education and age. And although some say that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States "changed everything," they did not change my father. They did not change the way he talks.

 

But they did lead the NSA to begin spying on overseas phone calls and e-mail messages. The agency is reportedly using computers to search for key words to pick up and track certain phone calls. Words such as bomb, explosives, jihad and infidels.

 

My father uses some of those words.

 

I need my father’s prayers (all prayers, really) to calm me down while the United States, the greatest nation in history, is caught up in a state of fear. My feelings about this fear have evolved from amazement to sadness and recently to anger. Not anger at the American people so much as at President Bush, whose strategy of endless war against an unidentified enemy has frightened everyone.

 

But sadly, my father’s words can now raise red flags in the United States. The last time I spoke to him, he said he was going to send me a long written prayer in a letter. I said that regular mail would take too long and suggested instead that he give the prayer to one of his computer-literate grandchildren to e-mail to me.

 

But now I worry: Can NSA computers tell the difference between a prayer and a terrorist plot?

 

mohammadalisalih@yahoo.com  —  Mohammad Ali Salih is Washington correspondent for the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat and other Arabic publications.

 

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Extremism Isn’t Islamic Law

 

By Abdurrahman Wahid

 

Tuesday, May 23, 2006; Page A17

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/22/AR2006052201152.html

 

For a few days this year the world’s media focused an intense spotlight on the drama of a modern-day inquisition. Abdul Rahman, a Muslim convert to Christianity, narrowly escaped the death penalty for apostasy when the Afghan government — acting under enormous international pressure — sidestepped the issue by ruling that he was insane and unfit to stand trial. This unsatisfactory ruling left unanswered a question of enormous significance: Does Islam truly require the death penalty for apostasy, and, if not, why is there so little freedom of religion in the so-called Muslim world?

 

The Koran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad do not definitively address this issue. In fact, during the early history of Islam, the Agreement of Hudaibiyah between Muhammad and his rivals stipulated that any Muslim who converted out of Islam would be allowed to depart freely to join the non-Muslim community. Nevertheless, throughout much of Islamic history, Muslim governments have embraced an interpretation of Islamic law that imposes the death penalty for apostasy.

 

It is vital that we differentiate between the Koran, from which much of the raw material for producing Islamic law is derived, and the law itself. While its revelatory inspiration is divine, Islamic law is man-made and thus subject to human interpretation and revision. For example, in the course of Islamic history, non-Muslims have been allowed to enter Mecca and Medina. Since the time of the caliphs, however, Islamic law has been interpreted to forbid non-Muslims from entering these holy cities. The prohibition against non-Muslims entering Mecca and Medina is thus politically motivated and has no basis in the Koran or Islamic law.

 

In the case of Rahman, two key principles of Islamic jurisprudence come into play. First, al-umuru bi maqashidiha ("Every problem [should be addressed] in accordance with its purpose"). If a legal ordinance truly protects citizens, then it is valid and may become law. From this perspective, Rahman did not violate any law, Islamic or otherwise. Indeed, he should be protected under Islamic law, rather than threatened with death or imprisonment. The second key principle is al-hukm-u yadullu ma’a illatihi wujudan wa adaman ("The law is formulated in accordance with circumstances"). Not only can Islamic law be changed — it must be changed due to the ever-shifting circumstances of human life. Rather than take at face value assertions by extremists that their interpretation of Islamic law is eternal and unchanging, Muslims and Westerners must reject these false claims and join in the struggle to support a pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam.

 

All of humanity, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, is threatened by the forces of Islamist extremism. It is these extremists, masquerading as traditional Muslims, who angrily call for the death of Abdul Rahman or the beheading of Danish cartoonists. Their objective is raw political power and the eventual radicalization of all 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide. Western involvement in this "struggle for the soul of Islam" is a matter of self-preservation for the West and is critical given the violent tactics and strength of radical elements in Muslim societies worldwide.

 

Muslim theologians must revise their understanding of Islamic law, and recognize that punishment for apostasy is merely the legacy of historical circumstances and political calculations stretching back to the early days of Islam. Such punishments run counter to the clear Koranic injunction "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256).

 

People of goodwill of every faith and nation must unite to ensure the triumph of religious freedom and of the "right" understanding of Islam, to avert global catastrophe and spare millions of others the fate of Sudan’s great religious and political leader, Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, who was executed on a false charge of apostasy. The millions of victims of "jihadist" violence in Sudan — whose numbers continue to rise every day — would have been spared if Taha’s vision of Islam had triumphed instead of that of the extremists.

 

The greatest challenge facing the contemporary Muslim world is to bring our limited, human understanding of Islamic law into harmony with its divine spirit — in order to reflect God’s mercy and compassion, and to bring the blessings of peace, justice and tolerance to a suffering world.

 

The writer is a former president of Indonesia. From 1984 to 1999 he directed the Nadhlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization. He serves as senior adviser and board member to LibForAll Foundation, an Indonesian- and U.S.-based nonprofit that works to reduce religious extremism and terrorism.

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America’s Misperceptions Of Islam

 

By Shurabuddin Ahmed  

Editorial & Opinion, Sunday, May 21, 2006

 

Never before has the image of Islam has been so terribly distorted in the US as after 9/11. Islam is constantly being defined and served to the American public by non-Muslim analysts. Most of them are anti-Muslim through and through. They deliberately present a distorted picture. Maligning Islam appears to be their sole mission.

 

On the other hand, Islam is also being defined by a small group of Muslim extremists who lend credence to such a distorted image of Islam. Both portray Islam as a primitive, rigid and inhumane culture which is basically alien to basic principles of modern civilisation. Islam is depicted in the American media as the religion of war, vengeance, hatred and annihilation. It is misconstrued as a fundamentalist religion which is intolerant of other faiths, which establishes a male-dominated society and encourages and promotes terrorism.

 

Islam and Muslim societies are same: Many Americans do not make any distinction between an Islamic state and a Muslim state. The term Islamic state implies that Islam is the central factor that shapes the dynamics of such societies/countries. In contrast Muslim world or society understood as a plural and concrete identity allows a self-conscious Muslim majority in defining their own reality in an inevitably differential and dynamic fashion. Here the emphasis is not on Islam but on Muslim. They are never religious by definition, and their cultures do not necessarily mean religion.

 

The entire Muslim community is lumped together as a single monolithic group. Muslim countries have generally been characterised as a unified single block known as the Muslim world. This hypothesis ignores the diversity among Muslims. Islam encompasses far too many perspectives which after all contend among themselves for recognition and influence. A cohesive transnational Islamic movement simply does not exist. Thinking of Muslims as a single constituency is unrealistic. It has innumerable currents: violent and non-violent revolutionary, reactionary and middle of the road, socialist and capitalist, democratic and non-democratic Islam as proactive in the Middle East is different from Islam in Southeast Asia. The Indian Muslims are different from Muslims of Uzbekistan.

 

American judgement of Islam has been greatly distorted by taking the extremes to be the norm. Extremists do exist at the fringe but it is unfair to judge an entire community on the basis of stray or isolated incidents. There is also a regrettable tendency to overestimate the influence of the fundamentalist groups in Muslim countries. Not all those whom the US government and media denounce as Islamist extremists are true followers of the faith or even accepted as spokespersons of Islam by Muslims themselves. Little attention is paid to the overwhelming majority of Muslims who do not support or join Islamist movements and who do not favour any single interpretation of Islam and its dictates.

 

One of the most widespread misperception about Islam is that Middle East is regarded as the mainstream or true representative of Islam. It is true that the Arabic language and sacred places in Mecca, Madina and Jerusalem give for Arab world a special position. In recent years oil wealth and sheer number of petty Arab states have added to their influence and inflated importance. However, Arabs account for only 20 per cent of all Muslims. Interestingly, there are about 100 million more Muslims in the Indian sub-continent alone than in all Arab countries combined. It is ironical that regions like South Asia and South East Asia, where majority of Muslims live are not taken into account.

 

The global Muslim politics is dictated by events in the Arab World and not what obtains in other regions. It is due to the problematic of Muslims versus others syndrome that several ethnic religious conflicts around the globe are not brought to reckoning. In general American diplomats simply do not count religion as a significant factor in formulating policy for non-Middle Eastern Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. They have an especially hard time seeing Indonesia as a Muslim country, even though it is home to 185 million Muslim populations of all Arabs countries combined together.

 

Many in America believe that Islam is inherently anti-democratic or, at best is not hospitable to democracy. It is argued that the political reality in the Muslim world has more often been one of authoritarianism, monarchies and dictatorships. It is forgotten that the dictators reigning in the Arab world are not the result of Islamic principles. They are more a result of global economics and the aftermath of western colonialism. Men, according to the Quran are born free and are equal in dignity, rights and status, their worth and merit are to be measured irrespective of their origin and application, all humans are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of laws. Presumption of innocence and due process of law are necessary preconditions of justice.

 

The Quran commands Muslims to conduct their collective affairs through mutual consultation (shura) and grants the privilege of God’s vice-regency to the entire Muslim countries rather than to a single individual or a specific group or class of people.

 

The selection of a Muslim ruler must be based on the free will of the Muslim masses Prophet Mohammed (SAW) had established a political system that was representative and consultative, transparent, accountable and accessible to every one. In fact, the Islamic tradition of rules limiting the powers of sovereignty is much older than the concept of constitutional law in the western democracies. One may call an Islamic state a republic since the Islamic law rules out usurpation and succession as grounds of political legitimacy. The institution of Majlish-Shura comes every close to a modern parliament. The Islamic state has to be based on the principle of separation of powers. It ensures the founding of an independent judiciary and no one including the head of state, is above the law.

 

Another common misperception is that Islam is intolerant of other faiths. However, the Quran clearly says that "there is no compulsion in religion". When Mecca came under the sway of Muslim and Prophet Mohammad (SAW) entered Mecca, then no one was asked to accept Islam as part of this settlement. The non-Muslims were guaranteed right to their religious convictions, to profess and practice their own faiths. As far as the inter-faith relations are concerned, both the Quran and Hadith the (Prophet’s sayings) are explicit about the desirability of relations between peoples.

 

In the first Islamic state of Madina, there were not only Muslims but Jews and others too. All were guaranteed rights to their religious beliefs, to profess and defend their convictions. More importantly, Muslims have a moral obligation to be fair and friendly in their person-to-person conduct towards non-Muslim citizens, and will be answerable to God for that. They must treat others with trust, benevolence and equity.

 

After 9/11 tragedy, Islam is seen by many in America as a fanatical doctrine which encourages and perpetrates violence and terrorism. Islam like all religions is a religion of peace and moderation. If it does not appear to be so today, this is not due to the teaching of Islam but to interpretations made by those who want to explain Islam to suit their vested interests. Islam clearly denounces wars of aggression and the killing of innocent people. Though Muslim ideologues have persistently declared that terrorism has no sanction in Islam, the entire Muslim community carries the awesome burden of dispelling the false notions about the meaning and significance of Jihad.

 

Doubtless fundamentalist ideas exemplified by Taliban and Al-Queda inspire certain segments of Muslim communities. But such elements do not represent Islam’s authoritative voice. One should do well to take into account the silent majority’s positive equanimity.

 

Last but not the least, it is commonly believed that Islam treats women unjustly and wants to create a male-dominated society. One should not judge the position of women in Islam by taking the most conservative Muslim states as representative of the whole. Some Muslim countries like Turkey, Egypt and Syria gave women the vote as early as Europe did to its women. In these countries, women have long enjoyed equal pay and the opportunity to play a full working role in their societies.

 

Rights of Muslim women to property and inheritance, to protection if divorced and to the ownership of business were rights prescribed by the Quran 14 centuries ago. In fact, some of these rights were novel till the 19th century. Women received their instant liberation from the cruel social customs at the hands of Prophet Mohammad in 630 AD.

 

The need of the hour is to move beyond the facile stereotypes and ready made images and answers. The tendency of the American media to equate Islam with radicalism, barbarism and anti-Americanism would seriously hamper the understanding of Islam. The challenge before the US today is to appreciate the diversity of Muslim actors and movements and thus to respond to specific events and situations with informed, reasoned responses, rather than come out with pre-determined presumptions and reactions.

 

*Ahmed sent this piece from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

 

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Is There a Muslim Lobby in the US?

 

By Alexander Gainem**

 

Freelance Journalist – Canada

 

May. 24, 2006

 

When John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard published a report highlighting the efficacy of the Israeli lobby in molding US domestic and foreign policy, charges of malpractice and academic dishonesty were leveled at the authors.

 

Their paper, "The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy," cited the organizational prowess of pro-Israel groups in marrying the media, think tanks, and numerous politicians into a unified front that muzzles criticism of the Jewish State.

 

However, in the vitriol exchanged by supporters and detractors of the paper, an illuminating section is overlooked.

 

Mearsheimer and Walt, in comparing the existence of the Israeli lobby to the likelihood of the existence of a similar Muslim or Arab grouping, say "pro-Arab interest groups, in so far as they exist at all, are weak, which makes the Israeli lobby’s task even easier."

 

Although there is no national consensus data on the number of Muslims in the United States, estimates put the figure between six and seven million, equal to the number of Jews in the country. Each religious group accounts for two percent of the US population. While the global population of Jews is some 15 million, there are nearly 1.2 billion Muslims in the world.

 

If the logic of strength in numbers is applied, why then is there no Muslim lobby to balance the strong influence of other lobby groups?

 

There are multiple answers to this question, often directly mirroring the status quo in Arab and Muslim countries, but chief among them is the lack of a unified socio-political platform.

 

Diverse Muslim Groups

 

Muslims in the United States are primarily derivative of an immigrant community and belong to a number of diverse ethnic groups. From a religious and sectarian point of view, American Muslims comprise Sunni, Shiite, Ismaili, and Ahmadi sects, to name a few.

 

Most sects do not see eye to eye and often do not intermingle. The Ahmadi sect, for example, is considered an apostate group by mainstream Islamic theologians, while other sects have complained of repression in their home nations at the hands of other Muslim sects.

 

As’ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University at Stanislaus, says Arabs and Muslims in the United States are far from being united and are in a state of disagreement over many issues.

 

"Just as the Turkish lobby acts on behalf of one Turkish government, the Arab or Muslim lobbies can’t mirror a single agenda that represents the interests of all Arab or Muslim governments," AbuKhalil says.

 

"Arab and Muslim governments often conspire against one another, and their rivalries, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, were mirrored in the competition and rivalries between Arab and Muslim organizations in the United States," he adds.

 

The deep divisions in the Arab world (along sectarian and ethnic lines) only impair the effectiveness of those groups. "In the case of the Arab and Muslim lobbies, there is a plethora of often competing groups and organizations, which do not seem to adhere to the same agenda," AbuKhalil remarks.

 

AIPAC’s Shadow

 

Mearsheimer and Walt’s paper points to the Jewish Americans’ skillfulness in setting up an impressive array of influential organizations, of which the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the most powerful and best known.

 

AIPAC operates in near unison with several think tanks, such as the Washington Institute, the Heritage Foundation, Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and others who share a common denominator: pro-Israel policies.

 

They produce monthly reports culled from "experts" in Israel as well as journalists on the ground. These are then used in a unified assault on the US Congress to influence policy to tilt in favor of Israel.

 

Similar media exercises from Muslim groups are minimal to none.

 

Fawaz A. Gerges, who holds the Christian Johnson Chair in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence University in New York, and is a senior analyst for ABC Television News, says the Israeli lobby is well-organized, well-endowed, and well-recognized as a powerful influence by friend and foe.

 

"It is taken seriously by the foreign policy establishment," he asserts.

 

On the other hand, "[T]he Muslim community does not possess the political, institutional, and financial prerequisites to make a difference in the American political arena. It takes time, organization, and institutional building to do so."

 

Coining the Term

 

If no effective organization resembling an influential lobby represents Muslim or Arab interests in the United States, where did the term Muslim lobby originate?

 

In researching the above question, the author of this article came across several references to the term specifically in news journals, publications, and blogs with a clear pro-Israel, anti-Muslim slant.

 

In fact, the term Muslim lobby is an artificial construct, with the word lobby being rather misleading.

 

"References to Arab or Muslim lobbies occur only in the Arab and Muslim press, or in the propaganda of pro-Israeli groups," says Abukhalil.

 

Worldnetdaily.com, a website that has featured commentary by writer Joseph Farah urging the killing of 100 non-combatant Palestinian adults for every slain Israeli, regularly uses the term Islamic or Muslim lobby to refer to advocacy groups trying to combat Islamophobia through education and awareness campaigns.

 

One such advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has been sufficiently targeted by journalists and pro-Israel groups.

 

When CAIR contacted FOX network to raise the issue of negative stereotyping of Muslims on the popular TV thriller "24," journalist Cliff Kincaid accused it of being a "lobby" attempting to intimidate the media.

 

CAIR says its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. It does not lobby senators and congressmen to affect pro-Muslim tilt in US foreign policy.

 

Compare that to AIPAC’s mission statement as follows:

 

Through more than 2,000 meetings with members of Congress at home and in Washington AIPAC activists help pass more than 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives a year. From procuring nearly $3 billion in aid critical to Israel’s security, to funding joint US-Israeli efforts to build a defense against unconventional weapons, AIPAC members are involved in the most crucial issues facing Israel.

 

Consequently, labeling CAIR and other advocacy groups as "lobbies" is an exercise in journalistic inequity and willful disinformation.

 

Yet, both John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have been accused by Ami Isseroff, executive secretary of MidEastWeb for Coexistence, of being part of an Arab US lobby.

 

"The Arab and Muslim lobby and the lobbies of Arab and Muslim countries, and the lobby of US oil interests in those countries are together certainly far more powerful than the ‘Israel Lobby,’" she recently wrote.

 

Fueling Islamophobia

 

In his book Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives have Penetrated Washington, journalist Paul Sperry uses the term Muslim lobby to refer to an "Islamic terrorist" conspiracy to infiltrate the US leadership and influence policy.

 

Sperry links what he terms Muslim lobby groups, faith-based charities, and a wide network of mosques throughout the United States as a unified subversive front.

 

He stipulates that this grand lobby of Muslim interests is connected to foreign groups like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood organization, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, and Al-Qaeda.

 

"It’s a syndicate, a Muslim mafia, and law enforcement is only starting to get their arms around it. The base of their operations is in Northern Virginia, where I live right in the shadow of the nation’s capital. I call it The Wahhabi Corridor," he said in an interview with Frontpage Magazine in April 2005.

 

Given that the term Muslim lobby is so loosely used by pundits to elicit Islamophobia and wax paranoid of a misconceived and undue influence of Arab and Muslim interests in US policy-making, the term should be abolished from the Arab and Muslim lexicon.

 

Not doing so would cater to a demonization of all Arab- and Muslim-American political participation, a right that is enshrined in the US Constitution.

 

To Build a Lobby

 

While no real unified Arab or Muslim lobbying platform can be considered to be functional in the United States, the need remains for such a group to be formed.

 

In late October 2001, former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel Edward Walker urged Arab governments to set up measures to counter Israel’s influence in America’s policy-making.

 

"But you, the Arabs, can no longer afford to just ignore Washington. Arab governments and institutions should start considering how to affect public opinion in the US," he told a political discussion forum hosted by the University of Jordan.

 

However, 5 years later, Walker’s advice may have fallen on deaf ears.

 

What scant lobbying there is usually depends on the behest of individual Muslim governments.

 

"One can say that there never was a serious attempt to create an Arab or Muslim lobby, and that whatever organizations that exist today under that umbrella of a name have only succeeded in effectively representing the interests of ruling Arab dynasties," AbuKhalil says of Saudi Arabian initiatives to influence US foreign policy regarding the Kingdom.

 

"But those dynasties don’t even rely on those loyal groups and organizations when they wish to advance a particular issue: Instead, they hire ‘purely’ American public relations and lobbying firms in order not to allow the Arab or Muslim stigma to hurt their lobbying efforts."

 

With individual Middle Eastern nations opting to choose public relations firms to represent their interests in Washington, the prospect of a Muslim lobby ever consolidating its efforts in the future remains murky.

 

Gerges says that while an Arab and Muslim lobby in the United States does not exist, Arab and Muslim voices are laboring hard to be heard and recognized.

 

And those are steps in the right direction, say many Arab and Muslim Americans.

 

"It has taken the Israeli lobby half a century to arrive at this historical juncture," Gerges said.

 

"It will likely take the Muslim community as long, if and when the community decides to organize itself politically and institutionally."

 

"The key word is institutional building, which is in its infancy."

 

** Alexander Gainem is a freelance journalist who has written extensively on Middle East issues.

 

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Time for an Islamist-Liberal Alliance 

 

It is time for Arab liberal reformers and peaceful Islamist movements to join forces to foster the change in this region that neither of them has been able to bring about on its own, says Rami Khouri.


In most recent cases of historic political transformations that structurally changed states from autocratic into democratic systems, two or more key actors or constituencies joined forces to topple the old regime and usher in a more just new order, often with foreign partnerships. Russia, Poland, and South Africa are some relevant examples.

 

When we ask why in the Arab world today real political change, economic reform and less dominance of society by the security systems do not happen in any sustained manner, the answer is usually because domestic groups have not joined forces to foster change. The three main domestic Arab forces for change in recent decades are the mainstream Islamist parties (such as Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah); many small civil society organizations and liberal activists; and, pockets of incumbent officials and prominent businessmen and women.

 

By working separately they have had limited impact. The obvious conclusion is that it is time for Arab liberal reformers and peaceful Islamist movements to join forces to foster the change in this region that neither of them has been able to bring about on its own.

 

The mainstream Islamists are the only groups that have been able to generate the mass numbers and popular credibility that can translate into political power. That power is negated or blocked, though, because the Islamists are feared, suspected, opposed, outlawed, or thwarted by everyone else in the world, and I mean everyone else — their own governments and security services, their liberal activists fellow citizens, their business elites, foreign governments, and non-politicized fellow Muslims.

 

Consequently, the Arab Islamists have succumbed to several options that reduce their domestic political impact. They accept limits on their representation in parliament, often through voluntary limits on the number of seats they contest. They go underground and migrate abroad, limiting their roles in their own countries. A few give up and adopt violence, and make trouble with bombs and assassinations, thus marginalizing themselves among their people and foreign governments. Islamists tend to focus their organizational prowess on grassroots service activities, and also articulate the grievances of ordinary citizens and discontented elites alike. Islamists are a force, but not a power.

 

Arab liberals and reform-minded activists, on the other hand, are mostly free to operate publicly as they wish, because their views on democracy, human rights and pluralism tend to appeal to a rather narrow audience. They represent no major populist threat to established regimes. They are well funded mostly by foreign donors and actively cooperate with colleagues abroad. But their impact is limited, mainly because the mass audience is responding to the Islamists in the first instance, or to tribal and ethnic leaders, rather than to a liberal appeal. The rhetoric and institutions of Arab liberal reformers also have been freely adopted and co-opted by the Arab security state, which speaks routinely of reform, human rights and democracy at its own pace.

 

The means to a breakthrough in the iron wall of Arab autocracy and the harsh rule of the colonels could well be for Islamists and liberal reformers to join forces. Their core values mesh together very naturally: democracy, equality, rule of law, peaceful political participation, majority rule, protection of minority rights, pluralism, clean elections, pragmatism, accountability, anti-corruption, and legitimacy. They differ somewhat on issues such as religious-secular divides, relations with Israel, national vs. religious identity, working with the United States and other Western powers, and some aspects of the public role of women.

 

The agreements substantially outweigh the disagreements, and can usher in a compelling common political meeting ground that could challenge existing dictatorships and mobilize majorities of citizens in the service of building more decent societies with credible, responsive governance systems. An Islamist-liberal alliance would require compromises by both sides from those who have already shown themselves willing to make such compromises. Witness the evolution of Hezbollah’s governance politics since 1990, the flexibility of democracy activists in Egypt since 2004, and the cooperation between Islamists and secular liberals in the recent elections in Gaza, or in the Hezbollah-Aoun accord in Lebanon. Incumbency achieved peacefully will require eventual accommodation by Islamists and secular liberals alike (as Turkey confirms). It makes sense to make the compromises early and start reaping the rewards.

 

By joining forces around a common charter of dignified nationalism, genuine democracy, social integrity, and reciprocity in relations with other states – all acceptable core values to both camps – an Islamist-secular liberal coalition would achieve critical goals that the component groups have not been able to achieve separately. Their initial gain would be to boost their collective legitimacy at home and abroad – the Islamists becoming less threatening, and the secular liberals becoming more credible. Their combined clout and respectability could then force the adoption of more representative electoral laws, win majorities in parliaments, and influence or define state policies. Politics is about making good deals. This one seems to be as good as it gets.

 

 

Rami G. Khouri is editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star, published throughout the Middle East with the International Herald Tribune.

 

 

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Worth Reading:  ACE Electoral Knowledge Network

 

Dear Colleagues:

 

This weeks Worth Reading is the Web site of the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, an online collection of resources on the planning, organization, and management of elections worldwide that assembles a huge amount of factual information in one convenient portal.

 

The ACE Network was established in 1995 as a cooperative project of IFES, the International Institute for Democracy and Elections (IDEA), and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). The project later grew to include the participation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) of Mexico, Elections Canada, and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA).

 

The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network (http://www.aceproject.org/) features six research tools:

 

Elections Today, a comprehensive chronological listing of recent and future elections that includes the names of candidates, elected officials, and political parties; results (of past elections); and links to research and news stories on these events

 

The ACE Encyclopedia, a repository of knowledge on twelve key topics in elections management, with an emphasis on sustainability, professionalism, and trust in the electoral process

 

Comparative Data, a database that allows researchers to compare country data and information on election systems, legislation, and management

 

Electoral Materials, an electronic library of election laws, ballot papers, training manuals, campaign posters, electoral observation reports, and related materials

 

Electoral Advice, an online forum in which participants discuss practical issues, pose questions, receive advice, and share expertise

 

Regions and Countries, a source of regional information, data, and results, as well as the ACE network of Regional Electoral Resource Centres (in development)

 

Although the Network appears to have been created primarily for election administrators and practitioners, democracy scholars will also find much of interest at this well-designed site. Our sincere thanks to the sponsoring organizations listed above for providing this weeks Worth Reading.

 

With best wishes,

 

Tom Skladony

Network of Democracy Research Institutes

ndri@ned.org

 

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CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

 

The NDRI Washington Workshop for Think Tank Managers

September 1115, 2006, in Washington, D.C.

 

The Network of Democracy Research Institutes (NDRI) invites applications for its third Washington Workshop for Think-Tank Managers, scheduled for September 1115, 2006, in Washington, D.C. 

 

The workshop is designed for managers and administrators of research institutes, especially those responsible for publishing, communications and outreach, conference planning, Web-site development, and fundraising. 

 

The week-long workshop will include meetings with senior-level managers at leading Washington policy-research centers, attendance at selected conferences organized by these centers, and extensive discussions and brainstorming among Forum staff and workshop participants. 

 

The International Forum will select eight to twelve workshop participants from among those who apply, according to selection criteria described below.

 

Purpose of the Workshop: The purpose of this workshop is to strengthen NDRI member institutes by improving the skills of key managerial and administrative staff members. The heart of the workshop will be a series of visits to Washingtons most prominent and influential think tanks, at which participants will meet withand learn fromexperienced conference organizers, editors and publishers, Web masters, database managers, and fundraisers.

 

Participant Eligibility and Nominations: Eligibility for this workshop is limited to current employees of NDRI members in developing democracies. Each NDRI institute may nominate one participant, and the nomination must be made by the president or executive director of the NDRI member. Institutes whose staff members attended previous workshops are eligible to nominate new participants for this years workshop, but individuals who attended previous workshops are not eligible to reapply. We regret that we cannot consider applications from persons not formally affiliated with the NDRI.

 

Selection Criteria: The criteria for selecting workshop participants will include the strength and qualifications of the individual candidates, the importance of their work to the success of their respective institutes, and the activity and productivity of the Network members that nominate them. The Forum seeks to select participants from underrepresented regions of the world, from large and small institutes, and from both newer and older members of the NDRI. To maximize participation, the Forum will also consider the ability of the nominating institute to cover some or all of its participants costs in the selection determination.

 

Tentative Description of Workshop Activities:  Workshop participants will fly to Washington on Saturday or Sunday, September 9 or 10. The workshop will run from Monday through Friday, September 1115, and participants will depart on Saturday or Sunday, September 16 or 17. 

 

A typical day will include group meetings with senior administrators at leading Washington think tanks, plus individual or small group meetings with experts who perform the same management tasks as do the visitors. Participants will be invited to specify the types of meetings that they believe will be most useful to them, and to identify particular persons or institutes they wish to visit. Most evenings will be free for individual activities or informal group outings.

 

Participants will also have access to the library of the International Forum during their stay in Washington, including its book, magazine, and newspaper collections. The library also provides several computers offering access to printers, e-mail, and the Internet. 

 

Costs Covered by the International Forum:  The International Forum is able to pay the full costs of eight to ten participants. These costs include travel expenses (including airfare, taxis, and visas and travel insurance, if applicable), six or seven nights of hotel accommodations, and a meals per diem in Washington.  The Forum asks applicants to indicate whether they are able to obtain full or partial support from their own institution, or another sponsoring institution. The Forum will be able to host up to twelve participants if several of them are able to cover at least part of the cost of their participation, which is estimated to run from $2,400 to $4,000, depending on air-travel expenses. (The average cost per person for the 2005 workshop was $3,000.)

 

How to Apply:  A complete application package will consist of three documents: 

a brief letter from the director of an NDRI member nominating a workshop participant, explaining the duties of the applicant and how his or her participation would contribute to the improved administration of the institute, and stating what portion of the applicants costs (if any) could be paid by the nominating institute

a brief personal statement of interest in the program by the applicant

a current C.V. of the applicant

 

All materials should be sent by e-mail to Tom Skladony (tom@ned.org) with a copy to Melissa Aten (MelissaA@ned.org). 

 

Deadlines and Notification:  The deadline for applying for the September 2006 workshop is June 15, 2006. All applicants will be notified of our decisions by June 23, 2006

 

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ifa-Forum Dialogue and Understanding

 

The ifa-Forum Dialogue and Understanding is a project within the framework of the European-Muslim Cultural Dialogue organized by the German Foreign Office.

 

Objective: increasing the intercultural, political and specialist knowledge and competence of future representatives and multipliers of the Civil Societies from predominantly Muslim countries and Germany.

 

Approach

 

The CrossCulture internships address young people, already in employment, or just starting their careers, working on a volunteer basis for Non-Governmental Organisations and Institutions, or in the media, and offers them an opportunity to develop their professional and intercultural competence, thus extending both the participating cultures ability and willingness to engage in dialogue.  The courses are intended for participants from Muslim countries and Germany. 

 

Objective

 

Through the internships young people can gain (at two levels) important experience within the context of their work: they obtain an overview of structures and potential contacts in the partner country which may prove useful for future cooperation, once the participants have returned to their home countries. This will enhance networking opportunities between organisations/institutions in Germany and in the Muslim world.

 

Practical work in an organisation/institution in the partner country will also give the participants an awareness of the cultural characteristics and behavioural patterns of that country. Reintegrating returning participants into their original organisations/institutions will allow their insights to filter through. The participants` experience and ideas of dialogue and understanding will affect their institutions`/organisations` work and thereby also be communicated to the public in their home countries.

 

Target Groups and Focus Areas

Knowledge society and education

Judicial dialogue and human rights

The media

Youth exchange

Political education

 

The target groups are young professionals and volunteer workers in different areas of Civil Society and people able to act as multipliers in institutions/organisations and the media that are relevant for reform processes.

 

In accordance with the results of the Arab Human Development Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004 Arab participants will primarily represent organisations/institutions playing an important role in education and in the establishment of knowledge societies in the Arab/Muslim world in general.

 

Moreover, multipliers from institutions and organisations active in other fields important for reform should be approached as well, primarily from areas such as judicial dialogue and human rights, the media, youth exchange and political education.

 

On the German side we target people active in the relevant partner organisations as well as young people working full-time or as volunteers in organisations and institutions where intercultural experience constitutes a prerequisite for success at work.

 

Internship Structure

 

An internship will last for up to three months. The Stuttgart Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations will organize the application process, the provision of detailed information on the participation criteria and modalities in the Muslim world, supported by the German Embassies abroad. In Germany, the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations will itself be responsible.  Would-be participants in the CrossCulture internship programme are required to know German or English.  Travel expenditure and accommodation costs for participants will be paid from the project funds.  The internships will be accompanied by framework events, individual visits and opportunities for meetings.

 

The CrossCulture Internships are special because they can to a large extent be customised as regards both content and organisation, according to the wishes and requirements of the participants.

 

The Programme is a new, flexible instrument based on established structures and intending to further develop exchange and to bring the partners closer together.

 

Responsible for the ifa-Forum Dialogue and Understanding:

 

Barbara Kuhnert

kuhnert@ifa.de

 

Further information on the Forum Dialog und Verständigung: http://www.ifa.de

Project leader CrossCulture Internships:

Dr. Katharina Kilian-Yasin

kilian@ifa.de

 

Project assistant CrossCulture Internships:

Dr. Manuela Höglmeier

hoeglmeier@ifa.de

 

Institut fr Auslandsbeziehungen e.V.

Charlottenplatz 17, D-70173 Stuttgart

Tel.: +49 711 22 25 – 143

Fax: +49 711 22 25 195

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International Civil Society Forum for Democracy

 

The International Civil Society Forum for Democracy (ICSFD) wanted to share with you the following opportunity for your organization:

 

ICSFD-2006, the civil society part of the 6th International Conference of New & Restored Democracies (ICNRD), is scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar from October 29-November 1, 2006. If your organization is interested in participating (***please read below for further details on an exciting opportunity to participate***), please follow the necessary steps to join this ICSFD listserve so you can stay up to date on all developments leading up to the conference in Doha.

 

The Government of the State of Qatar is the host of this 6th edition of ICNRD. The International Conference of New & Restored Democracies can be described as a UN member States-led international process for the promotion of democracy under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly.

 

The 6th ICNRD is planned as a tripartite event with an opening substantive plenary on October 29th, followed by two days of individual meetings by all stakeholders (governments, parliamentarians and civil society) and closed by a tripartite meeting on November 1st, including the adoption of the conference declaration.

 

The importance of the 6th ICNRD for civil societys role in the promotion of democracy requires the participation of a large and diverse representation of organisations of democracy activists from civil society around the world and in particular from countries already engaged or planning to engage in a democratization process.

 

The government of the State of Qatar is offering to fund civil society participation in the 6th ICNRD, through the International Steering Committee of ICSFD which is thus inviting civil society groups from all over the world to nominate civil society candidates as participants.

 

At the end of this e-mail, please find the Call for Nominations and further information regarding ICSFD-2006. Note: certain criteria is required to nominate your organization for involvement but, we recommend that if your organization is interested, you complete and submit your nomination by June 15th.

 

For further information or questions, please join the Yahoo listserve to stay up to date with the ICSFD’s progress.

 

*** Please note that ALL nominations must be submitted to: ***

 

ICSFD-2006-Participants Selection Process c/o

Rights & Democracy

at: avidah@dd-rd.ca

 

Please feel free to share this information with your network of colleagues. We wish to have as large a Civil Society contingency as possible in Octoberand that largely depends on you spreading the word.

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LL.M. in Democratic Governance and the Rule of Law:

 

A Legal Education Program for Lawyers in Transitional Countries and Emerging Democracies

 

The Program

The College of Law of Ohio Northern University has established an LL.M. program for lawyers from transitional countries and emerging democracies.  The program is designed to train lawyers from the public sector in skills that will assist them in building stable democratic institutions in their home countries and develop systems that will support the rule of law in a market economy.  The program is unique in its focus on training for enhancing transparency and accountability in government practices, steps critical to combating corruption and creating responsible governance.  The College of Law is seeking a limited first entering class for August, 2006 of twelve students.  The deadline for application for that class is June 30, 2006.

 

The program will eventually be targeted towards young lawyers in transitional democracies throughout the world.  However, for the first year recruiting is being directed towards the Middle East, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.   Targeted countries include Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  

 

Lawyers in government service, or working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the focal point of the program.   These lawyers have fewer opportunities for study abroad, but can make the greatest contribution to promoting law reforms in their home country.  Participants are asked to make a two-year commitment to their government or NGO office after completion of the program.

 

Recruiting these students involves working with those nations embassies in the United States, the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development offices in those countries, and NGOs involved in law reform such as the American Bar Associations Central and Eastern European Law Initiative. 

 

Because of outside funding for this program, the College of Law is able to offer full scholarships, travel, accommodations and board, and stipend for the foreign lawyers for a one-year degree program.  

 

The course of instruction is highly structured, with emphasis on the comparative study of other legal systems and introduction to a variety of effective devices for achieving meaningful, sustainable reforms.  The structure and high concentration of required courses further distinguishes this program from other international graduate law programs that simply offer foreign students access to the American law classes.  Seven new courses have been created, additional faculty have been hired, and the library resources are being expanded. 

 

Ohio Northern Universitys Unique Qualifications and Setting

The College of Law is offering an intensive program with highly regarded direction and instruction in an unhurried, quintessentially American setting.  The director of the program is the former interim dean and associate dean who has been actively involved with law reform efforts overseas for ten years, including spending a year on leave in Tbilisi, Georgia running a major USAID law reform project.  Supporting faculty include others with practical experience in transitional democracies that supplement their outstanding academic credentials.  The contacts of the director and other faculty with internationally known academics and development professionals enable Ohio Northern to offer instruction and consultation from the most highly qualified people in the field

 

Unlike graduate programs in major urban centers, the LL.M. program at ONU will allow the students to focus on the rigorous study and become part of a committed community without the distractions and attractions of a big city.  While organized study trips to Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago and other urban centers will acquaint the students with judicial and governmental structures, they will be able to pursue the program in rural Ohio.  This will enhance their interaction with the other participants, as well as the students and faculty at Ohio Northern, and the people of northwest Ohio.  Graduates of the program will come away from it with not only an exceptional education, but also a sense of the American experience unavailable in larger, impersonal settings.

 

Admissions

Admission is open to lawyers with two to five years experience in the public sector, working on governance and rule of law issues.  Additional criteria include a recognized law degree, admission to the bar, a PBT TOEFL score of 600 or higher or a CBT TOEFL score of 250 or higher, and recommendations (including those from employers, and U.S. foreign aid offices and contractors).  The personal statement from the applicant will also be weighed heavily.  The final selection will be made by the director and LL.M. committee at the law college.

 

Evaluation

The performance of the LL.M. students will be evaluated on a scale of High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, and Unsatisfactory.  Credit will only be given for those courses in which the student receives an HP, P, or LP.  LL.M. students will be graded separately from the J.D. students when they take classes together. 

 

Course of Study  (24 credit hours for degree)

 

Course Descriptions

American Legal System  (3 credit hours)*

Legal Context of American Business  (3 credit hours)*

Legal Issues in Transitional Democracies (3 credit hours)

Competitiveness and Corruption  (3 credit hours)

Comparative Constitutional Law  (3 credit hours)

Comparative Administrative Law  (3 credit hours)

Rule of Law Seminar (3 credit hours)*

 

Weekend Seminars

During the course of the year there will be four weekend seminars, where prominent scholars and practitioners come to campus for intensive two-day seminars.  These sessions will be designed to allow the student maximum interaction with a recognized international expert in an informal setting.  Topics planned include:

 

Transition from one-party rule

Womens rights

Post-conflict reconciliation

International criminal law

 

Field Experience

Over the year the students will have the opportunity to closely observe the operation of governmental institutions in the communities and state of Ohio.  There will be field trips to Columbus, the state capital, for observation and discussion with the Supreme Court, state legislature, state bas association, and other government agencies.  Local city councils, county commissions, and trial and appellate courts will provide insights into democracy at the grassroots level.

 

Contact the College of Law

You may contact the LL.M. program at LLM@onu.edu, or by telephone at 419-772-3580.  Application materials and detailed information about the university and law school are available on the law school website at www.law.onu.edu.

 

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JOB OPPORTUNITIES:

 

National Endowment for Democracy

Program Officer for Iraq

 

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a congressionally funded, private, nonprofit grant making organization that works to support freedom around the world, seeks a Program Officer for its Middle East section, specializing in Iraq. The position is based in Washington, DC.

 

The Program Officer will work with the senior program officer and program staff to develop and manage the NEDs Iraq grants program, develop the Endowments strategy for Iraq, set priorities, and monitor and evaluate projects in the country.

 

Specific duties of the Program Officer will include:

Assessing grant proposals to present at quarterly NED Board meetings.

Traveling to the region on a regular basis including Iraq when possible to identify and work with potential new grantees.

Monitoring and providing compliance assistance to existing grantees.

Attending relevant internal and external meetings.

Tracking political and democratic developments in the country and the region.

Maintaining contacts with organizations and individuals working on the region.

 

Applicants should have the following knowledge and skills:

A Masters level education in International Affairs, History, Political Science or related discipline.

Significant prior experience in democracy related and nonprofit work.

Country experience on Iraq.

Excellent written and oral communications skills in English.  Additional Arabic language skills preferred.

Proficient in the use of MS Office.

High degree of organization and initiative.

Experience in financial monitoring and reporting.

Knowledge of program evaluation techniques.

Excellent staff, office management, and interpersonal skills.

 

NED offers competitive salaries and excellent benefits, and is an equal opportunity employer.

 

To apply, send a cover letter, resume and a recent writing sample to:

Email (preferred): abdu@ned.org

Mail: National Endowment for Democracy

1101 15th Street N.W., Suite 700

Washington, D.C. 20005

Fax: 202-223-6042

 

Write Program Officer/Iraq search in the subject line of your e-mail.  Applications will be accepted through June 7, 2006. Only candidates selected for interviews will be contacted.  No phone calls please.

 

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FREEDOM HOUSE

 

Persian Language Editor–Washington, D.C.

 

Freedom House, a non-governmental, non-partisan organization devoted to the expansion of freedom in the world, is searching for a highly experienced editor of Persian language texts.  The ideal candidate would be a good editor and writer in both Persian and English languages; have extensive contacts among Persian language writers and scholars; have experience with website management; and be a dependable, organized manager of people and production.  Experience with Iranian human rights and democracy issues, as well as non-governmental organizations and donor reporting is also desired. 

 

Please submit resume, cover letter, and salary history to:

 

Mary Browse Davis, Human Resources Generalist

humanresources@freedomhouse.org

Fax: (202) 822-3893

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Only candidates who have been selected for an interview will be notified.

EOE, M/F/D/V

 

Persian Language Website Technical Assistant–Washington, D.C.

 

Freedom House is an independent, non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom House functions as a catalyst for freedom through its analysis, advocacy, and action.

 

Freedom House seeks a technical assistant for its Persian language webzine.  The ideal candidate would have extensive experience with website management, be an organized manager of media production and proficient in both Persian and English languages.

 

Candidates much possess: at least 2-4 years of website maintenance experience; expert knowledge of HTML; expert knowledge of industry relevant multimedia software including Adobe Acrobat, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Macromedia Dreamweaver; familiarity with CSS; familiarity with internet security and privacy concerns; and knowledge of human rights and democracy issues, particularly in Iran.   Experience with MySQL and PHP is a plus.

 

This is a full-time job based in our Washington, DC office.  Applicants should send, via email or fax, a letter of interest which includes experience, URLs of websites designed or managed by the candidate, resume, and any other relevant information to:

 

Human Resources Department

humanresources@freedomhouse.org

Fax: 202-822-3893

EOE, M/F/D/V

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Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

 

Beirut Senior Associates

 

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a leading multinational think tank, will open a new office, the Carnegie Middle East Center, in Beirut this summer. The opening of the Middle East Center is part of the Carnegie Endowment’s unfolding strategy of establishing itself as a truly global think tank, with centers in Moscow, Beijing and the Middle East in addition to its headquarters in Washington DC. The Middle East Center will carry out policy-related research on political and economic change in the Arab world and will develop an active meetings and publications program in both Arabic and English.

 

The Center is seeking two innovative, energetic policy-oriented researchers to work with the director in Beirut and with the senior staff of the Middle East Program at Carnegie’s headquarters to develop and launch the Middle East Center’s research and publication agenda. The candidates must have a significant record of accomplishment as policy researchers and writers, a proven commitment to high-quality, non-partisan research and informed policy debate. Fluent oral and written Arabic and English are required.

 

Send a letter of interest and resume/cv to: Human Resources-BEIRUT-ASSOC, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, via e-mail, HR@CarnegieEndowment.org, or fax, (202) 939-2392. Equal Opportunity Employer.

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DISCLAIMER: 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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