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Posts Tagged ‘ Islam ’

Some Fights Are Right: Obama’s IS Strategy

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Barack Obama has received criticism for his recent expansion of strikes against IS to include Syria. On the far left are those who object outright to liberal intervention, while on the right of the spectrum Senator Rand Paul labelled him a ‘neo-con’. However despite his perceived hesitancy, Obama’s strategy looks set to hit a sweet spot between reckless and cautious that is grounded in sound principles and is the best reasonable response to the current threat posed by IS.

IS are the closest the 21st century has to the Nazi’s- fundamentally motivated, exceptionally violent and on a quest that is their downfall before it has even begun. Their so called caliphate has no precedent in history. Killing Shia as easily as they behead innocent westerners or massacre Yazidi Iraqis, the group’s strategy is founded on brutality, with no room for any form of tolerance or compromise, to the point where they have drawn condemnation from Al-Qaeda. Mass murder of civilians and trafficking of women for as sex slaves are par for the course with IS . This incarnation of radical Islam is now the richest terrorist organization in history.  It has also shown itself to be a master of cinematic and striking (and ironically western style) media campaigns in a way that Al-Qaeda never was, making it the most hot brand of radical Islam. The stunning videos are a draw for young radicals of fighting age as well as rich benefactors who may be sympathetic to their cause, and is possibly the greatest threat posed by IS. However despite capturing swathes of Iraqi and Syrian cities (and open desert), the groups has united even larger swathes of the world against it through its actions. General consensus already exists. This includes almost every parliament and head of state in the world, as well as mainstream Muslim groups in western countries (see the “Not in my name” campaign if you feel like blaming regular Muslims). Continue reading

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Saudi – Women In The Kingdom

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‘This is a man’s world’. Nowhere are James Brown’s words truer than in Saudi Arabia. While most women in Europe and America have the option to choose their careers and have equal rights, female Saudis in this Islamic monarchy that leads using strict ‘sharia’ law are still officially considered second class citizens. Their primary role is to support the man of the family and to bring up the children.

Saudi Arabia is a high income economy, its main products being oil, gas and other natural reserves. Its people have grown hugely wealthy due to the world’s reliance on oil. In a country filled with such riches, life should be wonderful for all 26 million of its citizens. However, the lack of equality for women in the Kingdom is shocking by today’s developed world’s standards. A quick browse of random websites on the internet throws up numerous examples of the injustices heaped upon women born into the constraints of life in the Kingdom. But women are standing up against this inequality, beginning to clamour for change. Continue reading

Conscience Pricking

Philippe Lafforgue

Be wary dear readers, of not hurting someone’s feelings. Painful consequences (both emotional & physical) can ensue from such sympathetic intentions.

This correspondent read of a French restaurateur, Philippe Lafforgue who found this out to his cost recently while trying not to offend the cultural sensitivities of the Muslim population of Islamabad.

Philippe had established a restaurant ‘La Maison’ on the ground floor of his home in an affluent suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan, last year where he offered authentic French cooked cuisine. Continue reading

Obama’s Dilemma And World Hesitation

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Over a year ago I contributed a piece to this website which mentioned the use of torture by Syrian government forces in an organised fashion. It should be no surprise to us that the Assad regime has gone ahead and used gas on its own people. The Assad regime is without a doubt an evil regime hell-bent on maintaining power in any way possible. It is disheartening and tragic that this can continue in the twenty first century. We are essentially sitting watching another Rwanda happen, albeit over a longer period of time.

Living in the large shadow of the Gulf War II it is to be expected that western powers are going to be hesitant to intervene in another Middle East conflict. Assad’s regime is reportedly preparing for a U.S. strike, with reports coming through of troops, ordinance and sensitive documents being moved to civilian buildings and discreet locations. Obama’s decision to delay any possible action seems to be allowing time for Assad to prepare for this possibility. However the decision is hugely complex and Obama will have a number of motivations for his decision.

Following on Britain’s example, Obama is seeking Congressional approval for his action. One can easily see the allure of having a strong consensus built behind military action, given the disaster that was Iraq. Domestic factors may be present in the president’s mind. Intervening without Congressional approval (as in Libya) would leave Obama and the Democrats open to criticism from Rand Paul et al, hailing the UK as an example of how a democracy should decide on entering into a war. This would be an easy card to play to an American public which may balk at the prospect of another drawn out war. They have seen enough American boys come home in body bags.

Syria is also stocked full of new Russian anti-aircraft technology, and the supply chain will not halt any time soon. The UN is also unlikely to reach a strong consensus due to Russia and China’s position on the Security Council. This is an issue which needs to be changed as the current setup of the security council prevents it functioning to its full and proper potential.

There are numerous other complications so boggling that nobody can say with any certainty what will happen. The Islamic fundamentalist elements among the Syrian rebels are a mysterious threat. During this week, Iran threatened retaliation against Israel if Syria were struck. The war has already spilled over into Lebanon. Egypt, once reliable as a bastion of stability, is now more chaotic than any other point in recent years. One cannot blame America for being apprehensive about beginning to bomb a region that could inflame the whole region.

The great tragedy of these complications is that the carnage continues. This was the second gas attack by Syrian government forces, twice crossing Obama’s ‘Red Line’. The UK’s rash decision to avoid war, and America’s hesitation will send out the wrong message worldwide. This message is clear when we hear reports of the Syrian government taunting America’s aversion to war and loss of superpower status. To prevent mass war crimes against whole peoples in the future, perpetrators must understand they will be brought to justice. John Kerry has a reputation as a dull operator, but he has been an ardent supporter of intervention. He is one of a few prominent politicians with the conviction to call the Syrian government for what it is.

The firm line taken by France is hardly surprising given their willingness to become involved in former colonies like Chad and Mali.

Obama had missed the opportunity to be decisive and take a firm line on Syria. The UK has essentially forfeited its chance to help. The memories of Iraq, and the continuing deadlock of the U.N. Security Council means we are facing into more misery and more dead civilians with no end in sight.

Turkish Unrest Spreads As Erdogan Remains Defiant

Protesters clashed with police across Turkey overnight despite an apology for police violence from the Deputy Prime Minister designed to halt an unprecedented wave of protest against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Pro-government newspapers signaled a softening of Ankara’s line in the absence of Erdogan, who flew off on a state visit to north Africa on Monday night after a weekend of rioting critics were inflamed by his denunciations of protesters. Continue reading

Israel Isn’t Perfect, But Palestine Certainly Won’t Be Either

flagsThere is a tendency here in Ireland, amongst some though not all, to instantly criticise Israel in favour of Palestine, an automatic reaction borne from what sometimes appears to be a genetic predisposition to display extreme hatred of anything which appears in the guise of imperialism and the coloniser – real or imaginary. Throughout the Islamic world, Israel is often criticised though this outspoken criticism shouldn’t be mistaken for a genuine concern for Palestine’s inhabitants in each and every case; rather it is worryingly often a manifestation of the hatred of the only free state in a veritable sea of totalitarianism, aside from the severe and sometimes under-estimated hatred the Arab world has for Jews simply because they are Jews. Many of us in the West also feel comfortable criticising Israel from behind our newspapers and computers.  But blindly criticising Israel as a heartless coloniser is a gross misunderstanding of the facts; both historically and in the present day.

Persecution of Palestinians is nothing new. Ten thousand were killed in 1970. 1991 saw a mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. The work of Israel undoubtedly. Yet for some reason media attention was not as completely focused on these events. Why? Because those 10,000 killed in 1970 met their deaths in Jordan while the ethnic cleansing took place in Kuwait. Israel wasn’t involved in either incident and so the coverage was nowhere near the media frenzies we’ve seen over the past few years. When, in 2002, the Israeli army invaded the Jenin refugee camp to root out terrorists the uproar across the world’s media was deafening as they rushed to document each and every perceived excess. Oddly when the Lebanon did the exact same thing in 2007, they received worldwide support while media outlets largely ignored the story following the usual run of first reports.

Why is this the case? Why in Western society is the first reaction always one which is in defence of the Palestinians, regardless of the true facts behind the story? For one thing, Palestinians have hit all of the right buttons in garnering support. The belief has spread that these are rebels fighting the evils of modern imperialism (evil in and of itself though unfortunately not as applicable in this case). People will always rally behind this cry, particularly in those smaller nations across the globe whose history has been dominated by imperialism in one form or another. For another thing, they are fighting against the Jews. The hatred for them that currently exists with such open vehemence in large swathes across the Arab world once existed in a similar state across Europe, which bubbled away for centuries culminating in the unforgettable events in the death camps across the Third Reich. Hitler may be dead and Nazi Germany may be gone but old prejudices die very hard.

Also of importance is the fact that Palestine is fighting a war against a democracy. The issue here lies with the press. In a democracy the press gains access to a far greater degree than in a non-democracy. Seeing as how they don’t live in fear of death (other than from incoming Hamas rockets), Israel is far more full of journalists than neighbouring Palestine. And a war against a democracy gains far more attention than one which is waged against a non-democracy. Essentially the world views it as a fight between the uncivilised or the unmodernised, and sees it as something such Luddites are bound to get up to. Thus the democracy begins to be criticised consistently harsher for its small crimes than its opponent will for their most egregious actions – such actions are expected of one yet must be punished in the other. This is obviously the case with Israel and Palestine and when Israel is consistently attacked in the media, the idea that they must be in the wrong, if there are so many stories condemning their actions, begins to imprint on people’s minds. And considering Israel is in fact a democracy they can’t simply act like a totalitarian state and completely dismiss the horror of the rest of the world as they ethnically cleanse themselves of the enemy (something Hamas would have no issue with, were the roles reversed). So the conflict drags on and the longer the coverage and the longer the conflict, the more they are criticised. This manifests itself in some very odd ways. Take, for example, the Labour Party LGBT group here in Ireland, who protested against Israel which is ironically the only country in the Middle East where LGBTs have rights. But not only did they protest but they did so beneath the flag of Hamas, the symbol of an organisation which tortures and executes gay people. A frightening definition of irony or perhaps simple sheer ignorance, and even more frightening when considering that the organisations involved, including some from the media, saw nothing amiss with this.

Now many might say that none of this matters, these arguments are invalid and pointless because Israel is simply in the wrong as a colonising force which is trying to take control of land to which they have no claim, and that is that. Palestine should be in the hands of the Palestinians because they were there first. These people point out that there was peace in the area before the Zionist colonisers came to establish a state, and are also of the view that the Muslims are the colonised while the Israelis are clearly the colonisers. Anyone who attempts to understand the history of this troubled land knows that this view isn’t a historically accurate one, and the history does make for some interesting reading. History tells us a different story, not as far back as 1850 or so, which is roughly the period of time Palestinian sympathisers often like to travel to, but over the course of a thousand years or more. Numerous peoples have populated this land – Canaanites, the Ancient Israelites, Persians and Assyrians, and first joined the Islamic Empire under Muslim colonisers in 636 AD, changing hands several times before being recaptured by the Islamic Muhammad Ali of Egypt from the Turks in the middle part of the 19th century before winding up in the hands of the British. And for those who say that the entire country was simply handed over to the Jews by the British, that simply isn’t the case. As a matter of fact, vast tracts of land were willingly sold to Zionists from the mid half of the 19th century, for which they paid prices which were vastly more than the land was actually worth. The area had been in decline for several decades; Palestine was poorly cultivated and widely neglected in many parts and many thought an influx of wealthy Jews would do wonders for reviving the dry and dusty land. Later complaints from Arabs were found to be exaggerated or false; some of the land in question was found to have been sandy and uncultivated land before it had been purchased, having only been put to use when taken over by its Jewish purchaser. So who has the definitive right to this land? The Jews who became a scattered and persecuted group centuries beforehand or the Muslim conquerors who moved in and took the land by force before selling it to their now hated neighbours while painting themselves as the innocent victims of colonisation today? The fairest solution is the two state one; one Palestinian and one Israeli, an offer which has been proposed several times and consistently reject by an Islamic group whose desire to see a Palestinian state is trumped by that of watching the state of Israel burn. True, the Israeli settlements and plans to build the same in the West Bank aren’t helping matters and can understandably be condemned. But returning to Hamas, are these really the people who garner such worldwide support?

Let’s imagine a different world for a moment – a world in which Israel simply gave in to these demands and sat back and allowed their destruction, the state that is desired in Palestine is established with terrorist group Hamas at the head. Would those who support Palestine’s efforts now really support such a state? Do they even realise what that would entail? Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority has maintained that any Palestinian state will be an Islamic one, which isn’t an issue. The real issue is that a) the state will be under a more than likely extreme form of Sharia law and b) Hamas will be at the head of this. Sharia law has its positives though restrictions on freedom of speech and the rights of women are just two things to take issue with. Women can’t ride motor scooters. Dancing women is a grave offence. 150 ‘witches’ were arrested by Hamas in 2010 while Christians have spoken out against forced conversion to Islam. And freedom of religion certainly won’t be an issue, because there will simply be no freedom. In 2002 the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was desecrated, two years following the destruction of Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem. Across the Arab world, synagogues, churches and even mosques are all targets for the fanatical, and Palestine is nothing if not well supplied with the fanatical. Even the Shia Muslims aren’t safe as they face persecution from Hamas in Gaza. And these are the people who essentially have so much support from the Irish people? Evidently the feeling of shame has long departed these shores. In one sense our support of Palestine is understandable, a support born of an ill understanding of many of the facts and an accidental or perhaps forcible misunderstanding of the consequences, fuelled by a history of oppression in our own country and the remnants of a nationalist narrative which railed against the evils of imperialism in any shape or form, which has taken so long to dissipate and which still somewhat resonates through time today.

And then there is the final part of this insane jigsaw puzzle – the fact that Palestinians – ordinary Palestinians and their supporters across the Middle East remain committed to the destruction of Israel. Such a Palestinian state would not be a model of peace and acceptance but hatred and aggression towards anyone outside of Islam but the Jews in particular. If it was truly peace that Palestine wanted then indoctrination of children in schools wouldn’t exist (something which speaks volumes against these people, for whom brainwashing children into believing their cause is right and just is a necessity). In the end it comes down to this – if Hamas ended their campaign of terror, Israel would have no part in Gaza, trade would be free, checkpoints dismantled etc. However if Israel gives up all violence, Hamas’ move would be extermination of all Israelis, with the support of the people behind them, not all by any means, though the number is frighteningly sizeable. And so the conflict will continue, because Israel cannot end the violence, and Hamas won’t.

David Finklestein of The Times wrote “There can be peace and prosperity at the smallest of prices. The Palestinians need only say that they will allow Israel to exist in peace. They need only say this tiny thing, and mean it, and there is pretty much nothing they cannot have. Yet they will not say it. And they will not mean it…again and again…the Palestinians have been offered a nation-state in a divided Palestine. And again and again they have turned the offer down, for it has always been more important to drive out the Jews than to have a Palestinian state…there cannot be peace until this changes.”

The Innocent Muslims?

The latest furore to shock and ignite the Muslim world into filling our streets with their complaints comes with the release or rise to prominence on Youtube of a film called ‘The Innocence of Muslims.’ In it, Islam and Muslims are portrayed quite negatively while it attempts to highlight the ‘hypocrisies of Islam.’ To be sure it isn’t a great work of art, and considering the allegations from the actors who maintain that Sam Bacile (a pseudonym for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula) mislead them concerning the real plot and real character names while they were filming, the content is surely rather dodgy. But in the end this was simply some US man born in Egypt with a criminal record, a pet hatred of Islam and a love of Youtube. He was arrested by US police over attempts to lie about his role in making the film. And that was it. Done and dusted. Except, of course, for the massive overreaction from Muslims around the world who feel that because a non-Muslim doesn’t agree with their religion, he should pay.

There’s something very irritating about this reaction. Of course they have the right to express themselves publicly, as part of having a right to free speech, but the way it is so often done beggars belief. Masses of often violent protests in cities and countries around the world leading to quite a number of injuries and deaths. The familiar and now old catchphrase of ‘Death to America’ was tossed about in Kabul as peaceful protestors threw rocks at an army base there. Muslim leaders across the globe decried a ‘devilish act’ of blasphemy, though failing to really mention the free speech on which they themselves depend on to make their voices heard. On the 18th of September, a female suicide bomber drove a car filled with explosives into a mini bus containing foreign aviation workers, for the crime of being foreign and therefore linked to this video, not to mention several Afghan natives, responsibility for which was later claimed by Islamic militant group, Hizb-i-Islami. Evidently murder in the name of Allah is a reasonable reaction. Ireland, too, has seen a reaction from our Islamic community. Interestingly former editor of Irish Muslim magazine Abdul Hazeeb, speaking to the Irish Times, told of his reluctance to join the march, which he feels only serves to alienate wider society, and that he attended only to ensure it didn’t digress into violence, a statement quite telling in and of itself. To be sure, many Muslims will feel outraged without the need to kill somebody, involved or not. But should they feel so angered?

I’ve already mentioned the Catholic Church and the negative role religion has played in the formation of our world and society. Islam isn’t the only drain; certain forms of Christianity have had their part to play. And yet murder only seems to be a response from the Islamic world. Westboro Baptist Church represents extreme Christian fundamentalism, they too like their signs and extreme reactions yet murder isn’t a step they have taken yet to express a point. Not to tar all Muslims with the same brush – murder is a response from the fanatical few, but even the protests and marches are over the top. If this video, or those cartoons are so offensive, why are they looking at them? If you don’t like or agree with something, the best thing to do is ignore it. Is it just me or do these millions of protestors not realise that by reacting so angrily and so widespread they have and pumped up that which they hate with life, and simply making millions more people around the globe aware of it. Speaking personally, the first time I heard and watched the video came after I heard about the Muslim protests over its content. It’s been on the web since the 1st of July. Poorly shot with terrible acting and rarely making any form of sense, this should have simply slipped under the radar and into obscurity.

It’s quite easy to be blasphemous under Muslim law; the list of blasphemous items is as long as it is outdated. Evidently freedom of speech isn’t a major concern for those who prosecute their brethren or those unfortunate enough to have provoked their ire – individuals have been accused and prosecuted for naming a teddy bear after their prophet, speaking about what Muhammad might have done were he still alive (apparently ‘WWMD?’ bracelets aren’t a thing in Islam), finding fault with Islam (just as well these rules don’t apply to Catholicism or else our entire country might find themselves in the dock), being alone with persons of the opposite sex barring relatives or daring to wear makeup on television (presumably for women only).

Should we give in, and hold up our hands and say ‘yes, Muslim world. You are right. Free speech shouldn’t really be free.’ Should that be applied to freedom of religion, the two of which are so often entwined? What if we look at things from a different angle? Perhaps shouting and roaring bearing signs and placards which proclaim ‘The only God is Allah,’ is offensive to those who believe with similar fervour in different gods and different prophets? Will Islam champion their right to be offended? Or is it simply one rule for Islam, and another for everyone else? Islam doesn’t hold Jesus in the same regard as Christianity, refusing to acknowledge him as anything other than a prophet. Does Christianity shout and wail and riot and, at the most extreme end, suicide bomb?  And why does the right to religion triumph the right to free speech? Is one more important than the other? One of these has resulted in the deaths of millions of people over the centuries, the promulgation of hatred and killing in the name of God, despite what he might say on the matter. I’ll give you a hint. I’m not talking about freedom of speech. If we go down this road of picking and choosing what one is free to say and what one isn’t, we are taking a very dangerous path. If one thing can be censored then suddenly everything is up for review. Why is Islam so special that the world must bow down before them in fear every time they get their knickers in a twist over a laughably simple cartoon or Youtube video? If you believe that other religions are wrong then fine. If you believe that this video or those cartoons are wrong or insensitive or downright hateful then lovely. You’re not alone. Just react in the same way as the rest of civilised society and rant on the internet in the privacy of your own home. Save your time and effort for your faith and leave the rest of us alone.

Many will say that they can’t simply do that. According to blasphemy laws in Islam, the Muslim community is obliged to seek retribution owing to the fact that Muhammad is long dead and can’t exactly take revenge himself. But in reality, the overreaction to this perceived blasphemy doesn’t really have a basis in their scriptures. Neither the Quran nor Hadith makes any solid mention of blasphemy. What does make mention is Sharia law, man-made and which you might recognise from certain groups attempting to bring it into the west in place of our own, fair, laws. Ironically, the only mention made in their holy book says that blasphemers will be dealt with in the afterlife, so those living here on earth needn’t worry about it. Something evidently lost on those who throw stones and rocks, roar abuse and protest violently and shoot and kill in the name of retribution for a prophet who didn’t ask for any of this. Ironically (perhaps) while this is being written, Ireland still clutches on to the remnants of a past time with our own blasphemy law, which prohibits the ‘publication or utterance of blasphemous matter,’ blasphemous matter being that which insults anything held sacred by a religion and the result is mass outrage.

Believe in your God, live your life as best you can, follow the teachings of your religion if it makes you happy, live your life as an example to others because if you want to convert someone oftentimes what you do is as important as what you say. Somehow any such arguments will be lost on the masses who refuse to understand why the everyone in the West doesn’t love Islam as much as they do, and things are unlikely to change. If there’s anything we can take from this, it is this – let us all pray that the next figure to insult Islam is Justin Bieber. Nicky Minaj will do either.

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