Latest CSID Email Bulletin
May 5, 2007
CSID IN THE MEDIA
- Speakers at Conference Urge Gender Equality in Muslim World (by Ralph Dannheisser)
- Rasul receives Muslim Democrat award from US-based group
- Challenges Facing Women in the Arab and Muslim Worlds (by Judith Latham)
- Democracy and Islam Focus of Young Arab Leaders (by Lea Terhune)
- Zakat and Democratic Salvation (by Dogu Ergil)
- Myopic Builders and Elusive Moderates (by Louay Safi)
EVENTS AND REPORTS:
- Creating A Culture of Coexistence – Discussion with: Amr Khaled and Robin Wright (Brookings May 11)
- CAIR To Co-Host ‘Evening With Amr Khaled’ (May 12)
- Iraq: Sustaining America’s Support (USIP May 10)
- Muslims Believe US Seeks to Undermine Islam (Gallup Poll)
- U.S. failed to build Muslim bridges-philosopher (by Paul Majendie)
- A Lasting Freedom Agenda (by Jackson Diehl)
- Human Rights and Civil Society Shortchanged (Freedom House)
- North Africa: Under Attack, and Relying on Repression (by Craig S. Smith)
- Regime Change in the Arab World (by Shlomo Ben-Ami)
- Turkish Premier Calls Vote to End ‘Blockade’ on Democracy (by Anthony Shadid)
- Untying Turkey’s head-scarf knot (Christian Science Monitor Editorial)
- Turkey’s Democracy Crisis (Washington Post Editorial)
- Turkey sets an example in working to balance Islam and democracy (Daily Star Editorial)
- Turkey faces military crisis (by Helena Smith and Ned Temko)
- Turkey generals told to respect democracy (by George Parker and Vincent Boland)
- Turks Find Much to Like In Ruling Party (by Anthony Shadid)
- EGYPT: Two Deputies Among Latest Muslim Brotherhood Arrests
- EGYPT: State security raids home, detains Brotherhood blogger (by Alexandra Sandels)
- SYRIA: Elections ‘Another Farce’ Says Muslim Brotherhood Leader
- Iran On Guard Over U.S. Funds (by Robin Wright)
- Our “Undemocratic” Muslim Allies (by Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey)
- Rewriting the Ad Rules for Muslim-Americans (by Louise Story)
- Don’t Judge Islam by Acts of a Few (by Nabil Fahmy)
- CSID: Office Space Available for Sublease (Washington DC)
- CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: The NDRI Washington Workshop for Think Tank Managers
- Leaders for Democracy Fellowships
- US Relations with the Islamic World, Project Manager
- Job Vacancy at CIHRS – Cairo
SPEAKERS AT CONFERENCE URGE GENDER EQUALITY IN MUSLIM WORLD
Misunderstanding of womens rights under Islam cited at meeting
By Ralph Dannheisser – 02 May 2007
USINFO Special Correspondent
Washington — Women took center stage at the 8th annual conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), presenting their views on womens rights in Islam and Muslim societies.
Most of the audience at the April 27 conference was made up of women; almost all of the panelists at the daylong session and all but one of the moderators were women.
Presenters ranged from a University of Richmond law professor who quoted extensively from the Quran to back her contention that the Muslim holy book supports gender equality, to a pair of Canadians who told of their own experience in engaging minority Muslim women in the political process in that democratic nation. Other participants came from Great Britain, Iran and the Philippines.
The targeted focus on one issue was a departure for CSID, a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group whose past annual conferences have addressed the broader concept of the compatibility between Islam and democracy.
Opening the conference, CSID President Radwan Masmoudi cited what he termed substantial misunderstanding over the issue of womens rights in Islam, both in the Muslim world and in the West. Going back to the roots of the religion, he said the Prophet Muhammad, in his farewell speech, emphasized the rights of women and urged all Muslims to ensure they had equality with men.
But Masmoudi acknowledged that, while Islam gave rights to women that were revolutionary 1400 years ago, compared with other religions and civilizations, unfortunately that status was not always maintained. Now, he said, If anything, we are unfortunately behind.
As women are the ones responsible for raising and educating children, he said, they determine the future of the Muslim society, making their treatment as full partners vital to the future of the Muslim world.
Masmoudi took favorable note of the emergence of an Islamic feminist movement — one that he said is still young but strong and growing quickly. Women must take the lead in this effort [to secure equality]. Rights are never given, they are always taken. Nobody is going to come and give you your rights on a silver platter, he declared.
In an interview between sessions, Masmoudi said the conference amounted to one front in a battle of ideas for what Islam means in the 21st century, countering the opinions of the extremists who say that democracy and womens rights are un-Islamic.
We need to show that they are not only compatible with Islam, they are required by Islam. This is what Islam demands, he said.
Erica Barks-Ruggles, the U.S. State Departments deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, said in conference opening remarks that as she has traveled throughout the Middle East, she has been very impressed by the strength, the intelligence, the education and the determination of women to play a strong role in the future of their societies.
Their voices are increasingly being heard, Barks-Ruggles said, adding, Sometimes we forget how much has changed in the last several years in the region. In terms of participation in the political process, she cited advances — in voting, election to office, or both — in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco and Jordan, and even in Iran. There, she said, some women now serve in the parliament, and others have been demonstrating actively for the last several years despite government crackdowns and jailings.
Throughout the region, she said, Its been my pleasure to cooperate with women who are leading efforts to improve education and health care, bring better training so that women can play a role in the new global economy, to ensure justice for women and children in their societies.
Recalling meetings in Jordan in 2006, Barks-Ruggles said she found it enormously impressive what these women were doing to build the skills of women in their communities and give the opportunity for women and girls to fully participate in the lives of their families, in their communities, and in their society at large.
Like Masmoudi, Barks-Ruggles stressed that successful efforts to expand womens rights must be driven from within, for the community, from the community, with outside institutions playing only a supporting role.
We in the U.S. government want to work in partnership with those governments, civil society, the business community, and everyday citizens as they are working to build societies that respect the rights of all their citizens and build opportunity for all their citizens, she said. We want to do this in a manner that is respectful of the sensibilities and diverse cultures and we want to do this while also focusing on the fundamental core rights enumerated in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights — rights in the areas of free speech, assembly, privacy, worship and equality before the law.
As a woman, I am very pleased that my sisters in the region are working hard as they try to figure out how to assert themselves and enhance their rights in a way thats respectful within their own societies, Barks-Ruggles said.
At a dinner session, Masmoudi presented his groups Muslim Democrat of the Year award to Amina Rasul-Bernardo, founder and president of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy — a group modeled on CSID. She was the first woman to receive the annual award.
Rasul-Bernardo observed that most of you may see us Southeast Asians as living in the periphery, far from the heartland — even though they actually constitute the largest number of Muslims in the world.
But, she suggested, the fact that Muslim women in her region enjoy liberties denied many of our sisters in the Middle East could provide a model for that heartland.
In most communities, women have been silenced, and I think it is time for us to come out of the silent mode and join hands with our brothers who speak out for what we know to be true in our faith, who speak out for the need to democratize our communities, she said.
The specifics of that democracy must be developed within Muslim society, she stressed, declaring, Democracy has got to be homegrown, it has got to be nurtured, it cannot be imposed on a people.
RASUL RECEIVES MUSLIM DEMOCRAT AWARD FROM US-BASED GROUP
Posted date: May 04, 2007
MANILA, Philippines Amina Rasul-Bernardo, the lead convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and editor of the Moro Times, was named Muslim Democrat of the Year by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) in ceremonies held on April 27.
The awarding ceremony was the highlight of the CSID 8th annual conference.
This years theme was Womens Rights in Muslim Communities and Islam.
The Muslim Democrat of the Year award is given by CSID to an outstanding advocate of democracy in the Muslim world, particularly to an individual who overcomes hardships or challenges in efforts to promote democracy.
The CSID is a nonprofit organization based in Washington and is dedicated to studying Islamic and democratic political thought and merging them into a modern Islamic democratic discourse.
Rasul follows a distinguished list of past Muslim Democrat awardees that includes former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim; Saadeddine Elothmani, secretary general of the Party of Justice and Development of Morocco; Iranian scholar Abdolkarim Soroush, and Egyptian democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim.
In her speech during the 8th CSID Annual Conference held at the George Washington University, Rasul said the rise of violent extremism in Muslim communities can be checked by genuine democratization.
Killing the terrorists will not end terrorism, Rasul said. Genuine democracy, which will provide more space for the marginalized (like Muslim women) will be better able to temper this inclination toward extremist advocacies.
Stable, democratic, just societies, she added, can best deal with extremism.
Rasul said womens rights in democratizing or democratic Muslim societies are like canaries in a coal mine during the industrial age of the West.
If the canaries are safe, so is the coal mine. Thus if womens rights are strong, so is society.
Although she does not see herself as a Muslim feminist, Rasul has been a champion of women and minority rights.
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|Some contemporary Muslim scholars view democratic freedoms for women as fully Islamic|
Last week the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID), a Washington-based organization dedicated to promoting freedom, democracy, and good governance in the Arab and Muslim worlds, sponsored a conference on The Rights of Women in Islam and Muslim Societies. And leading Muslim women scholars from the United States and other countries spoke about the rights of women in Islam from the time of the Prophet Mohammed to the present.
|Radwan A. Masmoudi is President of the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID).|
Radwan Masmoudi, who was born in Tunisia and holds a Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is founder and president of CSID. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Nows Press Conference USA and with Roquia Haider of the Bangla Service, Dr. Masmoudi says CSID was established 8 years ago to help counter problems such as rising extremism in the Muslim world. He says the key to the success of democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds is to show that it is compatible with Islam.
Radwan Masmoudi says he believes the standard of human rights and of womens rights in some Muslim-majority nations is unfortunately unacceptable. In pre-Islamic Arabia of the 7th century, he notes, the teachings of Islam were actually revolutionary with respect to the rights they gave women in comparison with other religions and other civilizations at that time. For example, Dr. Masmoudi says, Islam gave women the right to vote, the right to own property, and the right to study. According to Radwan Masmoudi, women have historically played a very big role in ijtihad that is, in the process of interpreting the Quran and the Sunna (or Islamic traditions) for their local community. Unfortunately, he says, that right has not been upheld throughout Islamic history. According to some Islamic scholars, during the 15th and 16th centuries of the Common Era the process of ijtihad virtually stopped.
Dr. Masmoudi says that the issue of womens rights is closely associated with the call to re-open the doors of ijtihad. He suggests that the secular appeal to international human rights law has largely failed in Muslim popular culture. But, in the past 20 years a new movement called Islamic feminism has gained influence. He says there has been considerable controversy in some Muslim countries about sharia, especially in regard to how it affects the rights of women in areas such as divorce, property rights, and workplace restrictions. According to Dr. Masmoudi, the real question is not the validity of Islamic law but how Muslims modernize or re-interpret sharia. Muslim law, he says, is supposed to protect the family and society and to establish justice.
Radwan Masmoudi says that the Quran respects men and women equally. But local cultural factors rather than Islam determine what rights women are believed to have, and religion is used to keep the status quo. He says that, because women are in charge of raising the children, it is especially important for them to be well educated and involved in society.
In some Muslim countries for example, Morocco, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, and Tunisia women are working through civil society organizations to fight for their rights, Dr. Masmoudi says. But, in very conservative societies, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, women continue to face great challenges. In the United States, Dr. Masmoudi notes, Muslim women enjoy democratic freedoms that many contemporary Muslim scholars view as fully Islamic. He suggests that American Muslim women may have a special role to play in contributing to the process of ijtihad.
For full audio of the program Press Conference USA clickhttp://www.voanews.com/english/NewsAnalysis/pressconferenceusa.cfm
DEMOCRACY AND ISLAM FOCUS OF YOUNG ARAB LEADERS
Middle East Partnership Initiative fellows seek ways to find common ground
By Lea Terhune – 03 May 2007
USINFO Staff Writer
Washington Obaida Fares from Syria and Lubna Selaibeekh from Bahrain agree that a healthy democracy could solve many problems in their home countries. Many people think that there is no relation between Islam and democracy and we have to choose between Islam and democracy. Our argument is there is not contradiction between Islam and democracy; we can be Muslims and at the same time we can be democrats, Fares told USINFO.
Fares and Selaibeekh are completing a four-month stint as Leaders for Democracy fellows, the first such group sponsored by the U.S State Departments Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). At the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in New York state, participants attended a month of lectures and workshops on public administration, transition to democracy and related themes before serving internships at organizations related to their fields.
Fares, office director for the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), also is an intern at the National Endowment for Democracy, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that states its mission is to promote democracy that need not be based upon the model of the United States but evolves according to the needs and traditions of diverse political cultures.
Selaibeekh, an educator, works for Bahrains Department of Curriculum. She is an intern at Street Law Inc., which offers practical, interactive educational programs about law, democracy and human rights. She is enthusiastic about Street Laws approach, which includes mock trials where students learn by direct experience how the justice system works. She said she sees much she would like to implement in Bahrain. Im advocating for more active learning in our curriculum, and although thats the goal, still we find it difficult in terms of resources to actually write such curriculum. Street Laws experienced staff members can provide good guidance, she told USINFO.
Contacts made in the United States are future resources. MEPI participants also learn from and network with each other — 22 fellows from Middle Eastern countries. Ive learned from this experience about the Arab world more than Ive learned in my life, Selaibeekh said. She had just come from a panel discussion on human rights in Saudi Arabia. The insight gained from colleagues and from Middle Eastern ambassadors, ministers, experts and American legislators speak is invaluable, Fares and Selaibeekh concurred.
Fares employer, CSID, works with about 1000 democracy activists throughout the Arab world to fill the gap between the Islamists and secularists, he said. CSID organizes workshops and conferences on Islam and democracy in Arab countries, with good results. We got very high participation from both the sides, Islamist and secular, with a high level of debate between both of them. In the end, he said, most felt they got something useful. The key is promoting mutual respect, according to Fares.
We have to include each element of society. I think one of our problems in the Arab world — even when we talk about activists or NGOs — the secularists refuse to work with the Islamists or involve them in the political life and the Islamists do the same thing. We have to have tolerance, political tolerance in our societies, Fares said, adding, You have to find the common ground.
Fares and Selaibeekh also are learning more about Americans. I think Hollywood is not doing you any good, Selaibeekh says, because stereotypes perpetuated by the entertainment industry work against understanding. Mostly, the Islamist Muslims always feel theres not much to learn from the Americans, thinking they dont have any values or morals they dont have anything to offer, she said. I have to struggle with people I know to say No, thats not true. Many Westerners have very strong values, she said. Selaibeekh said she feels American values were shaped by history: You escaped from certain oppression in Europe, and so freedom of expression and governance is at the core of this nation.
That goes two ways, Fares said. He would like American society to understand Arabs better, our needs and our culture at the same time we have to make efforts to understand the American psyche. He said the MEPI program is giving us the chance to take these values to our society and help the people to understand them more and to try to explain ourselves to the American people.
They both said they want to integrate democracy into their home countries. Fares said he feels the people of Syria are looking to change their situation. Selaibeekh said Bahrain is changing since the king introduced reforms in 1999. I think it has to be gradual, she said, or else, easy come, easy go.
ZAKAT AND DEMOCRATIC SALVATION
By DOGU ERGIL (Todays Zaman)
Wednesday , 25 April 2007
Only two years ago we were listening to and contemplating the strategy of Washingtons civilian strategists for exporting democracy to the tyrannies of the world and creating a friendly milieu for Western ideals.
What a wonderful project it would have been. We all gave support to the project no matter how utopian it sounded. First, we believed in the good intentions and the moral superiority of the project manager, the US, and its power to implement this ambitious but humanitarian endeavor.
However, the evolution of events following the invasion of Iraq as a first step to implement the project and all the moral and practical failures that unfolded, born out of the inhuman method put to use for a humanitarian cause, betrayed all the exalted ideals we upheld. Our belief in the intentions and wisdom of the American administration vanished as it depleted the moral, human and material resources of its own nation that was turned into a security paranoiac.
It was during this period that a lot of interest grew for the problematic regions to be acculturated and transformed. The Middle East was on the priority list. What could be the most interesting thing about the Middle East? Of course its religion defied the superiority of the West and challenged its democracy as a placebo for the justice denied of Western people under the guise of self-governance.
Lots of research institutes cropped up or existing ones were empowered to take on new missions. Such civic or semi-civic organizations were sponsored by research or field projects concerning democratic culture and organization in the Islamic world. One such organization was the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) based in Washington, D.C.
Among others, I received an urgent email from the center that sounded like a distress call. I would like to share the message with you as an indication of how US policy makers gave up the idea of knowing Islam in order to deal with Muslim societies in a compassionate and peaceful way. Is it because the US gave up the idea altogether or because it gave up on democracy for this part of the world because it no longer serves its purpose of building influence on Muslim countries?
The email reads as follows: We urgently need your help and support. Please read the letter below and consider sending a donation/membership fee to support CSID with at least $100 asap and urging 3-4 friends to do the same. Thanks.
As you know, CSID has been facing a very difficult financial crisis for the past six to seven months, and we really need your help and support. The problem is that two major grants ended in the summer and extensions and future grants have not materialized in time to resolve our financial crunch. At the same time, membership fees and donations have also decreased Other factors may also be at play:
- The US government appears to be less interested in promoting democracy in the Muslim world than it was a year or two ago,
- Many Americans, Arabs, and/or Muslims have doubts about democracy, especially after the rising violence and turmoil in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.
- The majority of donations from American Muslims are going towards building mosques and Islamic schools.
Yet, our goals of promoting dialogue and improved relations between the US and the Muslim world, promoting human rights and democracy in Arab/Muslim countries and encouraging the development of a moderate and modern interpretation of Islam are now more critical than ever.
The reality is sobering. CSID may be forced to close down in a few months because we do not have money to pay ongoing operational expenses
Then the CSID management does something quite un-Western and appealed to the religious side of its followers: It issued a fatwa.
Fatwa on zakat [alms] for CSID
Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); or those whose hearts have been reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. [al-Tawba, verse 60]
The efforts and activities of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) fall under the category of contributions in the cause of Allah (fi sabeelillah), since the Center was created for, and is working toward, resisting the negative effects of oppression and dictatorship which dehumanize people, and control their lives and destiny.
Reading the message invokes funny inferences. Can it be that when Muslims move away from the US, or vice versa, they move closer to God?
25 April 2007 – firstname.lastname@example.org
MYOPIC BUILDERS AND ELUSIVE MODERATES
By Louay Safi
The Milli Gazette – 20 April 2007
Building Moderate Muslim Networks is RAND Corporations second attempt at devising a strategy to help prevent some Muslim societies [from] falling back even further into patterns of intolerance and violence. And to do that RAND reassigns Caryl Benard, the author of the first report Civil Democratic Islam, to join three more scholars for preparing its new report.
The present report makes little improvements over the previous one, and suffers from the same faulty assumptions and flawed analysis. The new report moves away from overtly relying on lifestyle for distinguishing friends from foes, and shifts the emphasis to a set of political values. RANDs new research team uses a list of 10 criteria to separate moderate and radical Muslims. The emphasis is less focused on religious practices, as attention turns to ideology and commitment to free and open society.
The current study recognizes that the entrenched authoritarian governments and the decline of civil-society institutions in much of the Muslim world have left the mosque as one of the few avenues for the expression of popular dissatisfaction with prevailing political, economic, and social conditions. Yet the authors seem less concerned with the need to withdraw support from authoritarian regimes responsible for destroying civil society in much of the Muslim world. Rather, the authors are exceedingly obsessed with the goal of marginalizing social groups, even the most moderate of them, that appeal to Islamic values as the basis for sociopolitical reform. I have already discussed at length in my response to RANDs early report why this obsession is counterproductive and will only feed into political radicalization, and have nothing to add to this point here.
One cannot help but notice that the report consistently places the blame on Muslim societies. It refuses to assign any responsibility for the radicalization of Muslim politics to the cynical strategies advocated by foreign policy experts. These strategies call for freedom and democracy simultaneously as they continue to urge support to friendly authoritarian regimes.
In discussing the Danish cartoon saga, for instance, the report directs the blame for this sad and unfortunate episode to the Danish imams, who the report asserts caused the cartoon controversy to spiral into an international conflagration. No blame is placed at the door of the newspaper that published the offensive cartoons, despite the fact that the newspaper was implicated in deliberate efforts to demonize the emerging Danish Muslim community. Blaming the Danish imams is the equivalent of blaming the Rutgers University women’s basketball team for complaining about Don Imuss racial slur and abuse, and for making their indignations known to the public, leading to his ousting from his job.
Among the many faulty assumptions on which the report builds its recommendations is that the Muslim Worlds Moderates, defined as secularist and liberal Muslims, lack the resources they need to dominate Muslim societies. Moderates, the report asserts, do not have the resources they need to create viable networks to counter the radicals. They lack the skills to do that themselves and require an external catalyst. The United States can, the report continues, serve in the role of catalyst by utilizing the experience it gained during the Cold War to foster networks of people committed to free and democratic ideas. The United States critical role consists in leveling the playing field for moderates.
The reality is that radicals in most Muslim countries constitute small and fringe groups whose impact far exceeds their numbers because they are willing to employ shocking violence in pursuing their goals. Further, many of the Middle Eastern regimes are ruled by elites who are socially secular and liberal, but politically autocratic and authoritarian.
The radicalization of politics in Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, Syria, and Iraq was the result of deliberate efforts by Muslim secularists to impose modern practices on Muslim societies. The reliance on force and iron fist policies to impose modern institutions and practices by socially moderate but politically radical secularists, who held and continue to hold power in many Muslim countries, has led to the destruction of public debate, the disappearance of civil society, and the radicalization of politics. For instance, the use of violence by state security agencies to silence opposition during Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat of Egypt has paved the way to the rise of terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s.
The reports efforts to take a principled approach to defining the moderate proved to be elusive. For even though the report acknowledges that some Islamists satisfy the moderate criteria, it eventually sides with those who counsel against engaging Islamists. Moderate Islamists, the report contends, should only be engaged as interlocutors, but never supported even when they espouse democratic values.
The reason for refusing to embrace moderate Islam, the report insists, is that the Muslim world moderate and liberal groups are organizationally weak and have been as yet unable to develop substantial constituencies, for the West to bypass these groups in favor of Islamist interlocutors would simply perpetuate these weaknesses.
Perhaps the only significant contribution to stimulating democratic debate among grassroots organizations and groups is the one led by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), despite serious limitations in their resources. The majority of the initiatives carried out by other democracy promoting organizations were confined to academic and official debates. Participants in CSID programs involve democracy and civil rights activists that represent the political spectrum in the Middle East, including Islamists committed to democratic governance.
The report concludes by giving several examples of moderate Muslims, and surprisingly they include prominent Islam bashers. The list includes Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen, Irshad Manji, Basam Tibi, etc. Ultimately, it is not commitment to democratic values and practices, but proximity to Islam, that sets moderates and radicals is the eyes of the authors of the recent RAND report on moderate Islam.
It is not surprising, therefore, that RANDs recommendations feed into the arrogant and unilateralist policies advanced by the neoconservatives in the last six years, policies that resulted in more chaos on the world stage and misery within Muslim societies.
Dr. Louay M. Safi writes and lectures on issues relating to Islam, American Muslims, democracy, human rights, leadership, and world peace. He is the author of eight books and numerous papers, including Tensions and Transitions in the Muslim word, published by University Press of America, 2003. His commentaries are available on his blog: aninsight.org
CREATING A CULTURE OF COEXISTENCE
A Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World
Activist and Muslim Televangelist
Diplomatic Correspondent, The Washington Post
Friday, May 11, 2007
9:00-10:30 a.m., Saul/Zilkha Rooms
The Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Recent events in the Middle East have caused many to wonder whether it is possible to bridge the growing divide between the West and Arab World. Amr Khaled, one of the most popular and influential voices in the Arab world, will discuss this growing schism and present his ideas for promoting coexistence and understanding through simple, grassroots efforts. He will be joined by Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post and award-winning author.
Profiled by the New York Times last year, Khaled is a pioneer contemporary Muslim televangelist. Based in England and Egypt, Khaleds ability to weave traditional Muslim issues with modern-day concerns has given him a massive following in Muslim communities throughout the world. He has organized reconciliation conferences to bridge the gap between Muslims and the West, including one in Copenhagen which brought young Danish Muslims and Christians together following the Danish cartoon controversy. Khaled has hosted multiple television shows, including Life Makers and In Thy Name We Live.
Robin Wright is one of Washingtons foremost journalists on Middle East Affairs, reporting from over 130 countries. Wright has spent significant time in the Middle East, traveling with officials from six administrations ranging from President Carter to President Bush. Wright has authored a number of award winning books including, The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran, which was called one of the 25 most memorable books of the year 2000.
The discussion will take place in the Saul and Zilkha Rooms on the ground floor of the Brookings Institution at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 11, 2007 from 9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m. We look forward to seeing you there.
RSVP to the Saban Center at 202-797-6300 or by email to email@example.com no later than May 10, 2007 at 4:00 p.m
CAIR TO CO-HOST ‘EVENING WITH AMR KHALED’ IN VIRGINIA
Famous Muslim TV personality named one of Time’s 100 ‘most influential’
(HERNDON, VA, 5/3/07) – On Saturday, May 12, the Maryland and Virginia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MD/VA), in cooperation with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), will co-host an evening with world-renowned Muslim television personality Amr Khaled.
Khaled, one of the Arab world’s most popular speakers, was recently named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 “Most Influential People in the World.” SEE: Amr Khaled (Time)
WHAT: An Evening with Amr Khaled
WHEN: Saturday, May 12, 2007, 9-10:30 p.m.
WHERE: Hyatt Regency Crystal City, 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA
CONTACT: CAIR, 202-488-8787, ext. 6050, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad will introduce Khaled, who is scheduled to speak about “Muslims Making a Difference in Western Societies.” Khaled’s address will be followed by a performance by the Islamic hip-hop group Native Deen.
This event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-seated basis.
A 2006 New York Times profile of Amr Khaled quoted a State Department official who said that his message is “very much in sync with what we want to say to the Muslim world, which is that we have no problem with Islam and no problem with conservative Islam.” (“Ministering To the Upwardly Mobile Muslim,” New York Times Magazine, 4/30/06)
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
You are cordially invited to a public event:
IRAQ: SUSTAINING AMERICA’S SUPPORT
Date: Thursday, May 10, 2007
Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Location: U.S. Institute of Peace
2nd Floor Conference Room
1200 17th St, NW
Washington, DC 20036
With American support for the war in Iraq waning, what are the prospects for Iraq’s government to take over full responsibility for security?
What help does Iraq expect of its neighbors and more broadly, the Middle East?
Can the Iraqi government meet the expectations of both the United States and the world?
Mowaffak Al Rubaie
National Security Advisor, Iraq
Daniel Serwer, Moderator
U.S. Institute of Peace
To RSVP, please send your name, affiliation, daytime phone number, and name of the event to Greg Maly at email@example.com
MUSLIMS BELIEVE US SEEKS TO UNDERMINE ISLAM
Majorities Want US Forces Out of Islamic Countries And Approve of Attacks on US Troops
Large Majorities Agree With Many Goals of Al Qaeda But Oppose Attacks on Civilians
Most Support Enhancing Role of Islam in Their Society, But Also Favor Globalization and Democracy
April 23, 2007
An in-depth poll of four major Muslim countries has found that in all of them large majorities believe that undermining Islam is a key goal of US foreign policy. Most want US military forces out of the Middle East and many approve of attacks on US troops there.
Most respondents have mixed feelings about al Qaeda. Large majorities agree with many of its goals, but believe that terrorist attacks on civilians are contrary to Islam.
There is strong support for enhancing the role of Islam in all of the countries polled, through such measures as the imposition of sharia (Islamic law). This does not mean that they want to isolate their societies from outside influences: Most view globalization positively and favor democracy and freedom of religion.
These findings are from surveys in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Indonesia conducted from December 2006 to February, 2007 by WorldPublicOpinion.org with support from the START Consortium at the University of Maryland.
Large majorities across all four countries believe the United States seeks to weaken and divide the Islamic world. On average 79 percent say they perceive this as a US goal, ranging from 73 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan to 92 percent in Egypt. Equally large numbers perceive that the United States is trying to maintain control over the oil resources of the Middle East (average 79%). Strong majorities (average 64%) even believe it is a US goal to spread Christianity in the region.
While US leaders may frame the conflict as a war on terrorism, people in the Islamic world clearly perceive the US as being at war with Islam, said Steven Kull, editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org.
Consistent with this concern, large majorities in all countries (average 74%) support the goal of getting the United States to remove its bases and military forces from all Islamic countries, ranging from 64 percent in Indonesia to 92 percent in Egypt.
Substantial numbers also favor attacks on US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the Persian Gulf. Across the four countries polled approximately half support such attacks in each location, while three in ten are opposed. But there is substantial variation between countries: Support is strongest in Egypt, where at least eight in ten approve of attacking US troops in the region. A majority of Moroccans also support targeting US forces, whether stationed in the Persian Gulf (52%) or fighting in Iraq (68%). Pakistanis are divided about attacks on the American militarymany do not answer or express mixed feelingswhile Indonesians oppose them.
However, respondents roundly reject attacks on civilians. Asked about politically-motivated attacks on civilians, such as bombings or assassinations, majorities in all countriesusually overwhelming majoritiestake the strongest position offered by saying such violence cannot be justified at all. More than three out of four Indonesians (84%), Pakistanis (81%), and Egyptians (77%) take this position, as well as 57 percent of Moroccans (an additional 19 percent of Moroccans say such attacks can only be weakly justified).
Attitudes toward Al Qaeda are complex. On average, only three in ten view Osama bin Laden positively. Many respondents express mixed feelings about bin Laden and his followers and many others decline to answer.
There is strong disapproval of attacks by groups that use violence against civilians, such as al Qaeda. Large majorities in Egypt (88%), Indonesia (65%) and Morocco (66%) agree that such groups are violating the principles of Islam. Pakistanis are divided, however, with many not answering.
But there is also uncertainty about whether al Qaeda actually conducts such attacks. On average less than one in four believes al Qaeda was responsible for September 11th attacks. Pakistanis are the most skepticalonly 3 percent think al Qaeda did it. There is no consensus about who is responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington; the most common answer is dont know.
Most significantly, large majorities approve of many of al Qaedas principal goals. Large majorities in all countries (average 70 percent or higher) support such goals as: stand up to Americans and affirm the dignity of the Islamic people, push the US to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries, and pressure the United States to not favor Israel.
Equally large majorities agree with goals that involve expanding the role of Islam in their society. On average, about three out of four agree with seeking to require Islamic countries to impose a strict application of sharia, and to keep Western values out of Islamic countries. Two-thirds would even like to unify all Islamic counties into a single Islamic state or caliphate.
But this does not appear to mean that the publics in these Muslim countries want to isolate themselves from the larger world. Asked how they feel about the world becoming more connected through greater economic trade and faster communication, majorities in all countries say it is a good thing (average 75%). While wary of Western values, overall 67 percent agree that a democratic political system is a good way to govern their country and 82 percent agree that in their country people of any religion should be free to worship according to their own beliefs.
The surveys were conducted between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007 using in-home interviews. In Morocco (1,000 interviews), Indonesia (1,141 interviews), and Pakistan (1,243 interviews) national probability samples were conducted covering both urban and rural areas. However, Pakistani findings reported here are based only upon urban respondents (611 interviews); rural respondents were unfamiliar with many of the issues in the survey. In Egypt, the sample (1,000 interviews) was an urban sample drawn probabilistically from seven governorates. Sample sizes of 1,000 1,141 have confidence intervals of +/- 3 percentage points; a sample size of 611 has a confidence interval of +/-4 percentage points.
U.S. FAILED TO BUILD MUSLIM BRIDGES-PHILOSOPHER
By Paul Majendie
Reuters, May 1, 2007 14:48
LONDON, May 1 (Reuters) – The United States missed an important opportunity to build bridges with Muslim moderates after 9/11 and now the Iraq war is a daily recruitment poster for militants, Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor said.
Taylor, in London to receive one of the world’s richest prizes for his belief that spirituality can help to fight bigotry and violence, said: “If we persist in this way we could produce the nightmare of a real clash of civilisations.”
“We can’t stop doing the things that are making us lose hearts and minds,” said Taylor, 75, who is to be given the $1.5 million Templeton prize at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
The prize, first awarded in 1973 to Mother Teresa and later to U.S. evangelist Billy Graham and Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was set up by British entrepreneur John Templeton to advance understanding of spirituality.
Taylor, an influential thinker, author of more than a dozen books and a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, said the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001 were a double tragedy.
“America missed a valuable opportunity after 9/11 to strengthen moderate Muslims in their own countries and to build bridges,” the soft-spoken but impassioned philosopher told Reuters in an interview to mark the prize-giving.
“The war in Iraq has been a recruitment poster for violent Jihadists. Constant violence in Palestine is another recruitment poster,” he said.
HUNGER FOR MEANING
He argues that it is vital to understand the hunger for meaning, the desire for a bigger cause that fires up young idealists to become extremists.
Taylor, now a holder of professorships at McGill University in Montreal and Northwestern University, Illinois, pinpointed two sharply different types of extremism.
He argued that young children turn to violence in Gaza City and disillusioned immigrants go on the rampage in the Paris suburbs because their lives lack any purpose. “There is extreme anger, a powerful sense of alienation,” he said.
On the other side of the coin are the quartet of British Islamist suicide bombers who killed 52 people on London’s transport system on July 7, 2001.
“One guy whose video I saw really gave me the creeps. He spoke with a (north of England) Yorkshire accent. He was totally integrated in British society,” Taylor said.
Islamophobia, he warned, is an ever present threat. “When we give in too easily to Islamophobia in the media and in speeches we are heading for polarisation. We in the West have done a lot of stupid things to increase this.”
“In Western secularised society and the media there is a dumbing down about understanding the spirituality of people’s lives, how complex they are.”
A LASTING FREEDOM AGENDA
By Jackson Diehl
Monday, April 30, 2007; Page A15
“We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.” Could it be that President Bush pronounced those words just 27 months ago? At the time they seemed grandiose and reckless but promising of a historic change in U.S. foreign policy. Now they mock a second term that has seen the virtual collapse of Iraq’s democratic experiment, the consolidation of autocratic governments in Russia and Venezuela, the extinction of the liberal reform movements that Bush briefly inspired in the Arab Middle East — and the de facto reversal of Bush’s “freedom agenda” by his own State Department.
Who can make sense of this disaster? Perhaps the Russian-bred intellectual, maverick Israeli politician and perpetual dissident who helped inspire that soaring second inaugural address — Natan Sharansky. Two years ago Sharansky was the improbable toast of the White House. Bush was recommending Sharansky’s newly published book, ” The Case for Democracy,” to virtually everyone he saw; he told the New York Times that it was “part of my presidential DNA.” At her confirmation hearing as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice proposed adopting Sharansky’s “town square” test, by which countries would be judged on whether their citizens felt free to shout out unpopular opinions in public.
Bush is still a fan: He awarded Sharansky a Presidential Medal of Freedom in December. But less than three months later the former refusenik — who spent nine years in the gulag for pushing the cause of human rights in the Soviet Union — was back at the White House to tell Bush that neither Rice’s diplomats nor the administration as a whole had been faithful to the cause of democracy. Rice has gone from demanding reform in Egypt to coddling78-year-old autocrat Hosni Mubarak; she’s been calling Saudi Arabia’s regime “moderate” and “mainstream.” (“What’s moderate about Saudi Arabia?” Sharansky demanded. “Its record of religious tolerance?”) Bush himself has chosen to ignore Vladimir Putin’s slide into dictatorship and has welcomed corrupt Central Asian strongmen to the White House.
At that February meeting, Bush seemed to concede Sharansky’s point. “The president was very forceful in saying that he’s not going to give up the agenda,” Sharansky told me last week. “But he is lonely.”
Sharansky is comfortable with political loneliness. In Israel he’s been derided as much for his support for Arab democracy as for his opposition to concessions to the Palestinians. Over salad and steak at a kosher deli in downtown Washington, he described an American president he sees as a fellow dissident, isolated in his view that the West should insist on moral clarity in dealing with undemocratic regimes.
“It’s not that the democracy policy was adopted and applied and turned out not to work,” Sharansky said. “There was never a strategy for applying it. There was no unity of purpose. Hardly any political leaders besides Bush believed in the concept. Even here in America there was terrible resistance. It’s not enough that the president believes in the policy and wants to act. He has to be able to carry the country and the bureaucracy with him.”
Sharansky has seen this happen before. As a Soviet dissident, he was exultant when President Jimmy Carter promised to make human rights promotion a top priority of his presidency and responded to a letter from Sharansky’s mentor, Andrei Sakharov. “Then one after another we were arrested. Carter spoke out but did nothing,” Sharansky recounted. “We all felt abandoned and terribly disappointed.”
That’s how most Arab liberals in the Middle East now feel about Bush. But Sharansky sees the shift toward greater human freedom as a series of waves. “It’s a very rare phenomenon that this policy exists in a U.S. government,” he said. “It existed for a short period of time in the ’70s, and it existed for a brief time now, more strongly. It will come back again, and stronger the next time. It will happen because the countries of the free world will realize that we are in a fight for survival with extremist ideology around the world, and we have no stronger weapon than the desire of people to live in freedom.”
Sharansky hasn’t given up on Bush. In February, he proposed to the president that he attend an unusual conference Sharansky is organizing with former dissident and Czech president Vaclav Havel and former Spanish prime minister Jos Mar‚àö‚â†a Aznar — a dialogue between dissidents and political leaders. Beleaguered advocates of human rights from Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, Belarus and Russia, among other places, are expected for the meeting June 4-6 in Prague. And now, so is Bush. “It will give him a chance to renew his policy,” Sharansky said. “People who live under dictatorship still believe in it, and will go on fighting for it.”
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amanda Abrams, 202-747-7035
HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL SOCIETY SHORTCHANGED IN BUSH ADMINISTRATIONS FOREIGN ASSISTANCE BUDGET REQUEST
April 19, 2007 In a report released today analyzing the Bush Administrations 2008 budget request for foreign operations, Freedom House calls on the Congress to reverse proposed reductions in support to human rights defenders and civil society activists worldwide.
The report, Supporting Freedoms Advocates? analyzes the 2008 foreign assistance budget request for Governing Justly and Democratically and makes specific funding recommendations based on urgent needs and opportunities.
The Bush Administrations request for an overall 17 percent increase in funding for foreign assistance programs that promote democratic governance is a reflection of its stated dedication to the promotion of freedom, and should be congratulated, said Jenifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House.
However, there appears to be a greater focus on working with state institutions than in previous years, and accordingly less attention to the bravest individuals and groups who are often the drivers of constructive democratic change, Ms. Windsor continued. At a time when human rights defenders and democracy activists face enormous pressure and growing harassment around the world, the proposed nine percent decrease in human rights funding sends precisely the wrong message.
The report draws on Freedom in the World, Freedom Houses annual evaluation of the state of political rights an civil liberties around the world, which shows stagnation in the advancement of freedom over the past decade. The 2007 edition in particular highlights a systematic effort to weaken or eliminate pro-democracy forces in a number of countries, including Russia, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and China.
Rather than decreasing funding overall for human rights, and specifically in critical countries like Russia and Zimbabwe, Freedom House calls for sustained and enhanced levels of support to frontline defenders in these societies.
The President and his Secretary of State have said repeatedly that the work of fostering democratic reform, in the Middle East and beyond, requires a generational commitment. Freedom House agrees, and would observe that a generational commitment requires annual commitments of resources and effort, states the report.
The report also urges sustained funding for global programming managed by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department and the Office of Democracy and Governance at USAID.
Freedom House is an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world.
Islam and Democracy
NORTH AFRICA: UNDER ATTACK, AND RELYING ON REPRESSION
By CRAIG S. SMITH
Published: April 15, 2007
North African governments are using repression to combat the rise of conservative Islamist parties. This weakens moderates in society but strengthens militant opposition, writes CRAIG S. SMITH
ISLAMIST bombs punched more holes in North Africas secular social veneer last week, this time in Algeria, where two blasts killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more. It was a depressing blow for a country still healing from the wounds of an Islamist-led civil war.
That atrocity-spattered conflict, which cost Algeria as many as 200,000 lives, according to frequently cited estimates, was triggered in 1992 when the countrys military stopped elections that an Islamist party was poised to win. Outraged Islamists and their young, impoverished, uneducated supporters took up arms. Some are still fighting, as last Wednesdays bombings made clear.
But something else lingers from the war: A debate over whether the military rescued Algeria from the establishment of an Iranian-like theocracy or whether the repression only hardened an impulse that would have dissipated in de-mocracys tempering bath.
The debate can be heard all across North Africa, where secular governments of varying authoritarian degrees face a surge in conservative religiosity that supports an extreme form of political Islam.
Every country on the continents northern rim, from Egypt to Morocco, has outlawed extreme Islamist parties that would be likely to win large parliamentary blocs, if not majorities, were they allowed to participate in free and fair national elections. (Libya bans political parties altogether.)
Each of those countries (again with the exception of Libya, where the small society is tightly controlled) has suffered terrorist attacks from local groups that have emerged from the repressed extremists.
What to do?
Clearly, the rise of conservative Islam wont be turned aside by simply banning the veil, as Tunisia tried unsuccessfully to do.
Allowing carefully monitored, government-friendly Islamist parties into the political system hasnt solved the problem either: Neither the Movement for the Society of Peace and the Islamic Renaissance Movement in Algeria, nor the Justice and Development Party in Morocco, have diffused the power of the underground movements.
The governments counsel patience, arguing that fuller democracy will come as their economies improve and their societies mature.
Meanwhile, as the threat has progressed, the leaders of Algeria and Tunisia have used constitutional amendments to tighten their grip. Morocco has swept thousands of Islamists into its jails.
“We opened up too early and too wide,” a wartime prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, said in 2004. He was speaking of the period that led to the aborted 1992 elections.
He and others in North Africas elite circles of power argue that, given the conservative religiosity sweeping the Muslim world, it is simply too dangerous to allow essentially non-democratic movements to participate in fully democratic elections because they cant be trusted to respect democratic principles if they come to power.
The leaders of those movements dont instil much confidence: Last summer, Ali Benhadjar, a former Islamist leader who went to war in 1992 after being denied a seat in parliament, explained that an Islamist-led government would not suspend the democratic process, but that all decisions would rely on Islamic law. He cited Iran as a democratic model.
Meanwhile, the circumscribed democracy that exists throughout the region doesnt only squeeze out Islamists; it prevents more liberal elements of civil society from participating in politics as well. That leaves most people without a political voice, caught between a distant, elitist and often corrupt government and a militant opposition rooted in fundamentalist Islam. Despite the periodic violence, the Islamist movement appears to be gaining ground.
“In the absence of debate, people turn to the simplest ideas,” Khadija Cherif, the head of the Tunisian Association for Womens Rights, said in an interview in Tunis in January after government forces clashed with an Islamist terrorist cell, killing more than two dozen people.
She argued that the repression of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali had left no political space for progressive moderates like herself who might otherwise help slow the drift among Tunisian youth towards fundamentalist political Islam.
These countries cant keep the volatile segment of their populations shut out of the political process forever. In Algeria, as in many Arab countries, nearly three-quarters of the population are younger than 30 and half of those under the age of 25 are unemployed.
Economic development alone isnt the answer, however. Many of the most active militants come from well-to-do families. Tunisia, for example, has a big, home-owning, mortgage-holding middle class but hasnt escaped radicalism. In contrast to the Western-friendly face presented at North Africas tourist hotels, al-Qaeda finds many admirers in its capitals narrow streets.
What would happen if these governments let down their guard?
John Entelis, a political scientist at Fordham University in New York, argues that the demands of working within a pluralistic system, or the responsibilities of governing if an Islamist party came to power, would force those parties to change.
Look at Turkeys Justice and Development Party, he says, which was once banned but now governs responsibly, in a Nato-member country. Having an Islamist party in power has not spared the country from terrorist attacks, but neither has it turned the country into a theocratic state. It has, however, satisfied a democratic impulse and given the country the most popular government it has had in the three-quarters of a century since Ataturk secularised the state.
Instead, the military response and subsequent repression undermined the moderates and emboldened the militants in the movement, he says. The result is the persistent Islamist terrorism that is facing Algeria today and that is morphing into a global threat, with logistic support from Europe to the north and recruitment extending southward into the African Sahel.
Other experts, not to mention the governments in power, disagree. William Zartman, a North Africa expert at Johns Hopkins University specialising in conflict resolution, says Algeria and Morocco are doing the right thing by excluding extremists yet allowing moderate Islamic parties to operate under tight government control.
REGIME CHANGE IN THE ARAB WORLD
By Shlomo Ben-Ami
Friday , 13 April 2007 – Project-Syndicate
Four years into a disastrous military adventure in Iraq and with the global war on terror against ill-defined forces of darkness still inconclusive, the collapse of Americas grand strategy has exposed how ill-conceived was its simplistic recipe for democratic change in the Arab world.
The paradox is that America might be winning the war for Arab democracy, even if by default, but cannot reap the benefits, simply because the emerging pattern of Islamic pluralistic politics does not coincide with the Wests brand of secular liberal democracy. The shift of the Arab worlds mainstream fundamentalist movements to democratic politics is tantamount to a repudiation of the jihadist project and of al-Qaedas apocalyptic strategies. The failure of jihadism is paving the way for a potentially promising restructuring of Islamic politics, but the West either doesnt recognize the changes or is hostile to them.
The rise of Islamists throughout the region as the sole power capable of exploiting the opportunities of free elections Hamas victory in Palestine and the Muslim Brotherhoods spectacular gains in the 2005 Egyptian elections are but the most noteworthy the ascendancy to regional hegemony of Shiite Iran, and the sense among Arab rulers that the embattled Bush administration is running out of steam have all combined to stall the promising drive to political reform in the region.
The US retreated from its democratic designs once it realized that Arab democracy is not being identified with the liberal secular opposition, a political force that practically does not exist in the Arab world, but with Islamic radicals that seek to repudiate Americas policies and the cause of reconciliation with Israel. That this should be so has of course much to do with Americas traditional policy of sustaining the Arab worlds pro-Western dictators.
But the notion that the genii of democratization can now be squeezed back into the bottle is a self-serving fantasy. The move of mainstream Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, Hamas in Palestine, the Renaissance Party in Tunisia, or the Party of Justice and Development in Morocco, away from jihadism to political participation started well before Americas democracy promotion campaign, and is not an attempt to please the West. It is a genuine response to the needs and demands of their supporters.
Extinguishing Arab democracy, as President Mubarak of Egypt is now trying to do through his recent ban on political parties that are based on religion, will bring neither stability nor peace to the Middle East. It will only exacerbate the rage of the masses at the Wests hypocrisy, now expressed in a form of democratic charlatanry. The stability of those Arab regimes that are not sustained by a democratic consensus is bound to be fragile and misleading. Just as Islamic democracy is the natural reaction to Arab secular autocracy and to the Wests collaboration with it, so will the destruction of political Islam usher in even more extreme options with movements like Hamas going back to social work and terror, and with al-Qaeda making inroads into Islamic societies.
Both the West and the Arab rulers need to realize that the tense equation between the incumbent regimes and political Islam is not necessarily a zero-sum game. This has been learned the hard way by Algerian President Bouteflika who, through his Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation of February 2006, brought an end to a long and bloody civil war, the origins of which lay in the violent cancellation by the military of the Islamist Fronts (FIS) electoral victory in 1991.
It is in this context that the historic compromise between the religious (Hamas) and the secular (Fatah) to form a national unity government for Palestine might have established a new paradigm for the future of regime change in the Arab world. The concept of national unity governments might, indeed, be the formula that makes it possible to hold together the political families in the Arab world. King Muhammad VI of Morocco has already indicated that the Crown would consider a historic compromise with the Islamists should they, as predicted, win the elections in June 2007. Such compromises may be the only way to stem the slide to civil war, and possibly also co-opt the Islamists into a settlement with Israel and a rapprochement to the West.
Engaging political Islam will need to be the central part of any successful strategy for the Middle East. Instead of sticking to doomsday prophecies or to categorical perspectives that prevent an understanding of the complex fabric of Islamic movements, the West needs to keep the pressure on the incumbent regimes to stop circumventing political reform.
As Algeria in the 1990s showed, exclusion of the Islamists is a recipe for disaster, while inclusion can breed moderation. The practical necessities of politics are bound to dilute ideological purity. The Mecca agreement that brought forth the unity government in Palestine will inevitably temper Hamas radicalism, just as the regimes avoidance in Jordan of an Egyptian solution to the Islamist challenge allowed the Islamic Action Front to contain within the movement many who would have been otherwise drawn into the jihadist orbit. The challenge is not how to destroy Islamic movements, but how to turn them away from revolutionary to reformist politics by granting them legitimate political space.
TURKISH PREMIER CALLS VOTE TO END ‘BLOCKADE’ ON DEMOCRACY
By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, May 3, 2007; Page A12
ISTANBUL, May 2 — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Wednesday for early parliamentary elections in Turkey, offering a plebiscite on his ruling party’s brand of populist, religiously rooted politics, which the country’s secular elite regards as an entry for political Islam.
Erdogan’s call to move elections to the summer from Nov. 4 capped a tumultuous week in which his choice for president was approved by a parliament that Erdogan’s party dominates, in a vote annulled Tuesday by Turkey’s highest court, a bastion of the secular establishment. Hundreds of thousands turned out for a protest in Istanbul, fearful that Erdogan’s choice would represent a rollback for liberal individual freedoms, and the military, calling itself “the absolute defender of secularism,” bluntly threatened to intervene.
Erdogan told a televised gathering of his party Wednesday that the court decision was “a bullet aimed at democracy.”
“The parliamentary democratic system has now been blocked,” the prime minister added. “To get rid of this blockade and lift the rule of the minority over the majority, the only door to go to is the nation.”
Officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, cast Erdogan’s decision as a stand for democracy, portraying their party as one stymied by forces in the military, courts and bureaucracy that were appointed, not elected. They said the move would also calm markets, whose turbulence in the past week has threatened to undermine what the party sees as one of its key achievements — a booming Turkish economy that has averaged 7 percent growth since the AKP won a majority in parliament in 2002. A parliamentary committee suggested the date of July 22 for the election, a date parliament was expected to endorse Thursday.
“Bringing forward the general election will reduce uncertainty,” Bulent Arinc, a senior member of Erdogan’s party and the parliamentary speaker, said at a news conference. The decision “will meet our people’s expectation for trust and stability.”
But the crisis illustrated the divides in a country whose politics are often portrayed as a simple contest between the republic’s founding secular principles and the appeal of a party whose leadership hails in part from Turkey’s Islamic-oriented political movement of the 1990s.
Analysts said they saw far broader issues being contested, namely the power of a Westernized old guard still entrenched in the establishment, challenged by the new forces that Erdogan’s party represents: a more rural, religious and conservative following whose migration to the cities and growing economic clout represent a gradual social transformation here.
“It’s not between secularism and a government trying to impose Islamic law. That’s a pseudo-conflict,” said Dogu Ergil, a professor of political science at Ankara University. “The old center — the urban, secular, Westernized middle class — is reading this as a threat to their lives. This is about a tug of war of getting into the center or being pushed away from the center.”
Despite the parliamentary majority of Erdogan’s party, the secular establishment has maintained a check with its representation in the bureaucracy, military, judiciary and, until now, the presidency. To replace the outgoing president, Ahmed Necdet Sezer, Erdogan chose Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a close ally who served in an Islamic-rooted government that was eventually forced aside by the military in 1997, the fourth time that a government had been ousted by the military since 1960.
Parliament elects Turkey’s president, and Gul easily won the first round of voting last week. But the opposition party had boycotted the vote and filed a court challenge, arguing that, with its absence, parliament lacked a quorum. In a 9 to 2 ruling, the court decided in favor of the opposition, prompting Erdogan to move elections forward.
In his speech Wednesday, Erdogan also proposed constitutional changes that would limit the terms of parliament members and the president and make the president directly elected by the people.
“This is a watershed series of events, basically,” said Ali Carkoglu, a political science professor at Sabanci University. “Everyone in the country knows someone with whom they have completely opposite views of the intentions and promises of the AKP. This is really an important cleavage now.”
The success of Erdogan’s party in 2002 built on its formidable grass-roots work, which mirrors the social welfare programs of Islamic activists across the Muslim world. At the same time, analysts say, voters saw the AKP as an alternative to the corruption and mismanagement of Turkey’s traditional parties, which were overwhelmingly rejected. Since taking office, Erdogan has made accession to the European Union and economic stability his priorities.
He and other party leaders resent being labeled as Islamists, and on Wednesday he reiterated his support for secularism. But opponents suspect his followers have yet to reveal their intentions, and point to his support for criminalizing adultery, encouraging religious schools and ending a ban on head scarves in public offices and schools.
While those proposals pale before the positions of more ardent Islamic groups elsewhere in the Muslim world, they are startling in the Turkish context. The country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a war hero who fought the Allies at Gallipoli in World War I, brought a militant secularism to the young republic, imposing a secular civil code of law from Switzerland, replacing the Arabic script of Ottoman Turkish with the Latin alphabet and dropping the constitutional provision that Islam was the state religion. Sunday, rather than Friday, was made the day of rest and, for a while, the call to prayer was in Turkish, not Arabic.
The opposition signaled Wednesday that it would seek to build its campaign around that legacy.
“Our battle to defend secularism is not over,” Deniz Baykal, leader of the Republican People’s Party, the largest opposition group in parliament, told his party’s lawmakers in a televised speech in Ankara.
“The secularist circles, let’s say, still insist the AK Party is misleading everyone: ‘They do have a religious agenda, but they’re faking it. They’re not showing it,’ ” said Ilnur Cevik, editor in chief of the New Anatolian newspaper in Ankara. “This will continue in the future, but when you get the mandate of the people, it will be very hard to challenge the AK Party.”
That mandate, analysts say, is at the center of Erdogan’s call for early elections and part of his gamble, too. The party can count less on the backlash of disenchanted voters that helped bring it to power in 2002 and must stand more on its own credentials. The crisis, others point out, may have energized secular forces and parties, which even on Wednesday began contemplating coalitions to challenge the AKP.
“Ten years from now, we might optimistically look back and see a successful normalization after many crises in the Turkish political scene with a dominant single party or maybe two parties,” said Carkoglu, the political science professor. “A pessimistic scenario would be that following this last crisis, there will be a much more fragmented, polarized political system, infighting within large parties and fighting between large and small parties. We’ve seen that movie before, as we say in Turkey.”
UNTYING TURKEY’S HEAD-SCARF KNOT
The issue is causing political polarization and points to the need for greater religious tolerance.
Christian Science Monitor Editorial – May 01, 2007 edition
That strategic ally so vital to NATO; that bridge between Europe and the Middle East; that symbol of a relatively stable, secular democracy in a Muslim nation: Could Turkey now rupture over Islam’s role in public life?
On Sunday, at least 700,000 protesters marched in Istanbul, insisting that Turkey maintain its secular laws and demanding the resignation of the government, which is led by the Islamic Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
Sparking the protest is the election of Turkey’s president, who is chosen by parliament which in turn is dominated by the AKP. At first the AKP prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wanted the job. That met with a backlash from demonstrators and a warning from the military. Last week, the AKP foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, became the party’s official candidate setting off Sunday’s much larger protest and another military warning.
What’s objectionable about these men? Their wives wear the head scarf, a sign of Islamic modesty.
The controversy stretches further than a piece of silk fabric, although the covering itself is no small matter. The strictly secularist Constitution forbids wearing a head scarf in a public building. The ban is thanks to the revered founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who also gave women the right to vote and changed the alphabet from Arabic to Roman letters.
The protestors fear that a head scarf in the presidential palace would be just the first step to an official Islamic influence on public life. They point to AKP-Islamic “creep” through patronage, textbooks, and tolerance of radical Islam.
The presidency, able to veto legislation and appointees, has kept the AKP in check, the protesters point out. If the head-scarf crowd takes this job, too, it will be all over for modern Turkey, they warn.
But in five years of power, the AKP has been a modernizer. Mr. Gul has advanced Turkey’s drive to join the European Union. Mr. Erdogan has pushed human rights reforms (he still has more to do). The economy has sprinted ahead, and per capita income more than doubled. The military’s role conforms more closely to EU norms. And Gul and Erdogan profess respect for secularism.
It can’t be denied, though, that Turkey is feeling its Islamic roots. Nearly 50 percent declare themselves observant Muslims. That the AKP wants devout Muslims to be able to wear head scarves to school and wants fairer treatment for graduates of religious schools seem reasonable demands by American standards.
And there’s the rub. Ataturk founded Turkey on the French secular model, in which religion is not just separate from, but subordinate to, the state. One need only look at the 2005 riots by the French immigrant community, many of whom are Muslims, to see what can happen when one group feels suppressed and discriminated against.
Turkey needs to better accommodate religion in the public sphere. If it’s overreach that secularists fear (and there are some grounds for this), they should take heart in checks on government that are functioning, including their own protests. If they want more checks, they should consider changing an electoral system that has given the AKP disproportional power.
Rule by fundamentalists of both stripes either secularists or Islamists will only harm Turkey.
TURKEY’S DEMOCRACY CRISIS
The ‘secular’ opposition and military try to prevent the free election of a new president.
Washington Post Editorial – Tuesday, May 1, 2007; A16
TURKEY’S ATTEMPT to consolidate a liberal democracy in a predominantly Islamic country has reached a turning point. The parliament is due to elect a new president this month, and the ruling AK party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds a commanding majority of seats. Mr. Erdogan has led the most successful government in recent Turkish history; polls show that his party remains by far the country’s most popular. His nominee for president, Abdullah Gul, has served capably as foreign minister and is well regarded in Western capitals.
In a fully mature democracy Mr. Gul’s election would be a foregone conclusion. Instead, Turkey entered this week in crisis, with the Supreme Court considering an opposition attempt to stop the vote on procedural grounds and the military issuing an ominous warning that it might intervene. The reason is the background of Mr. Gul and Mr. Erdogan: Both have political roots in moderate Islamic parties and are supported by many Turks who would like to see the country relax the rigid secularism its governments have practiced since the end of World War I. The fear that control by the AK party over both the posts of president and prime minister might allow for such a change prompted the military’s pronouncement and a demonstration by hundreds of thousands of people in Istanbul on Sunday.
The record of the past few years strongly suggests that Western governments have no grounds to support the attempt to stop the election, much less a military coup. Far from pursuing an Islamic agenda, Mr. Erdogan has led Turkey’s effort to join the European Union, implementing numerous progressive reforms that previous governments failed to accomplish. An economic basket case five years ago, Turkey now is rapidly growing and modernizing. In the teeth of fierce anti-American sentiment stirred by the Iraq war, Mr. Gul has been a friend of the United States. He and Mr. Erdogan have promised repeatedly to respect the secular constitution; to assuage the opposition, Mr. Erdogan chose not to follow previous prime ministers who had sought the presidency, though he is the country’s most popular politician. The fears about Mr. Gul boil down to mostly symbolic matters, such as whether his wife will wear a head scarf in public.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the opposition challenge, the result would probably be a new general election, which could give the AK party a new mandate, or force it to compromise with the opposition. Mindful of its low standing among Turks, the Bush administration has tried to avoid being drawn into the political conflict while quietly urging the Army to remain in its barracks. But U.S. support for a democratic outcome — an election untainted by military pressure — should be unambiguous. Turkey stands to benefit if the millions of people who support the AK party can be fully included in a political system that for years was controlled by an elite tainted by incompetence and corruption. In a region where Islam and democracy have yet to be fully reconciled, fears about mixing the two are reasonable. For now, however, the principal threat to democracy in Turkey comes not from the AK party but from its opponents.
TURKEY SETS AN EXAMPLE IN WORKING TO BALANCE ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY
Daily Star Editorial – Thursday, April 26, 2007
Barring last-minute army intervention or any other unforeseen surprises, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul looks set to become the next president of Turkey in early May when Ahmet Necdet Sezer leaves office. Gul’s wealth of experience as foreign minister, particularly his key role in advancing Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, make him a highly qualified candidate for the post. Clearly, this is the consensus among international investors, who have already responded positively to the decision by boosting the country’s lira currency and sovereign bonds.
The fact that the AK party chose Gul as its candidate instead of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is in many ways a testament to the party’s willingness to compromise on important issues and to make responsible choices that are in the best interest of the country. In recent weeks, the mere notion that Erdogan might run for the office prompted howls of protest from the country’s staunch secularists. Even now that the ruling party made what was arguably a concession to the secularist establishment by choosing Gul, the debate over the rise of an Islamist president is still raging. Much of the controversy is focused on the fact that the candidate’s wife, Hayrunisa Gul, wears a headscarf; hard-core secularists are appalled by the notion of having a veiled first lady living in the presidential palace. But Turkey’s secular democracy, which is hardly flimsy and has survived for decades, even in times of turbulence and political transition, will not be brought down by a piece of fabric.
Those of us in the Arab world who are witnessing the national discussion unfold in Turkish newspapers and the public sphere admire the fact that the country’s democracy is so well entrenched that it easily allows for such an open and spirited debate. Turkey, which has assumed an increasingly prominent diplomatic role in the Middle East, remains a model for our region and our world at a deeply divisive time in history. The Turks’ ability to blend strong Muslim traditions with liberal, cosmopolitan and modern norms demonstrate that Islam and democracy need not be viewed as incompatible. Indeed, Turkey’s case has shown that the two values are a healthy complement to one another.
TURKEY FACES MILITARY CRISIS
EU warns generals as army threatens to step in if Islamist minister wins presidential election
Helena Smith and Ned Temko
The Observer – Sunday April 29, 2007
Turkey came under mounting pressure from the European Union last night to rein in the influence of its generals, after the country’s powerful pro-secular military threatened to intervene in the Islamic-oriented government amid growing turmoil over the election of a new President.
Olli Rehn, the European Union enlargement commissioner, who has been a keen supporter of Ankara’s eventual accession to the bloc, warned the military to stay out of politics, saying the election was a ‘test case’ for the Turkish military’s respect for democracy.
Rehn issued the salvo after Turkey’s general staff weighed in on the dispute, saying they would not flinch at intervention if it meant upholding the Muslim state’s cherished secular values.
The country’s secular elite has voiced grave concerns over the government’s choice of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as a presidential candidate, given the politician’s Islamist beliefs – his wife and daughter wear the headscarf.
‘The Chief of the General Staff is answerable to the Prime Minister,’ declared Cemil Cicek, justice Minister in the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is a former Islamist but has pledged his commitment to Turkey’s secular political system. Military intervention would be ‘inconceivable in a democratic state,’ Cicek said.
Within hours of Gul’s failure to win enough votes in a first round of balloting on Friday, the military, which has staged four coups in the past 50 years, posted a statement on its website invoking its role as defender of the country’s secular traditions as laid out by Turkey’s modern soldier-statesman founder, Mustafa Ataturk.
‘In recent days, the problem during the presidential election has focused on secularism discussions,’ the statement said. ‘This situation has been anxiously followed by the Turkish armed forces. The Turkish armed forces maintains its firm determination to carry out its clearly specified duties to protect these principles and has absolute loyalty and belief in this determination.’
The statement then went on to list the ruling AK party’s perceived violations of secularism, including the fact that some headmasters had been allowed to order the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
The military made the announcement after the secular opposition appealed to the state’s constitutional court to cancel the election.
Many fear that if elected, Gul would be in a position to do away with the checks and balances built into system by eroding the secular nature of the courts and other autonomous bodies and appointing Islamic-oriented candidates to powerful civil service positions.
Recently, hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the prospect of the Prime Minister running in the election, whose second round takes place this week.
According to Professor Ahmet Evin, who teaches political science at Istanbul’s Sabanci University: ‘People fear that if someone who is suspected of having Islamist leanings takes control of the post, it will allow the AK party to move ahead on its Islamist agenda.’
A former firebrand, Erdogan has fiercely denied that he has a hidden agenda, but critics say his actions often speak louder than words.
Since assuming office nearly five years ago, he has publicly endorsed the lifting of restrictions on women wearing Islamic-style headscarves in government offices and schools, attempted to outlaw adultery and approved of alcohol bans by AK party-run municipalities.
In the first round of the election last week, Gul failed to reach the two-thirds vote he needed to win. A second vote is scheduled for Wednesday, when he will need a simple majority.
TURKEY GENERALS TOLD TO RESPECT DEMOCRACY
By George Parker in Brussels, Vincent Boland in Ankara and Reuters
May 3 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 3 2007 09:56
The Turkish lira traded firmer on Thursday but markets were seen as mixed as investors weighed prospects of early July 22 general polls aimed at settling a row between the Islamist-rooted government and the secular elite including the military top brass.
The Turkish military was warned on Wednesday to stay out of politics if the country is ever to join the European Union, as Brussels backed early parliamentary elections as the best way out of the crippling political crisis.
Olli Rehn, enlargement commissioner, said the EU was founded on principles including the “supremacy of democratic civilian power over the military”, liberty and democracy. “If a country wants to become a member of the union, it needs to respect those principles.”
He supported the calling of new parliamentary elections and said the European Commission expected them to be held “democratically without any undue interference”.
The stand-off in Turkey between the government – which has its roots in political Islam – and leaders of the country’s secular forces, including the military, has dismayed those like Mr Rehn who support Ankara’s gradual move towards the EU.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Rehn urged opponents of Turkish membership not to use the turmoil to call into question the country’s accession bid. “We should not rock the boat. It is already holed and taking in water,” he said.
Mr Rehn spoke as the Turkish parliament announced that an general election would take place on July 22. The move was seen by some as the best way of resolving the crisis that has gripped the country since the armed forces threatened on Friday to intervene to block the nomination of Abdullah Gul, the foreign minister, as the country’s next president because generals doubted his secular credentials.
The lira strengthened to 1.3540 against the dollar on the interbank market at 0515 GMT, compared with a close of 1.3588 on Wednesday.
After heavy losses earlier in the week, stocks climbed 1.7 per cent on Wednesday, the lira firmed against the dollar and the euro, and bond yields fell.
Mr Erdogan appealed for unity and dismissed claims that his party has a religious agenda. “Even if our views and lifestyles are different, there is only one nation and only one Turkey,” he told a meeting of his party’s MPs.
Mr Rehn said he hoped Turkey could continue further detailed membership negotiations to join the EU in the coming months in spite of its current problems. “The current political crisis in Turkey should not be reflected in the accession process, which is a long and difficult process,” he said.
Although Mr Rehn admitted it was hard to detect many causes for optimism from events in recent days, he said: “In every crisis there is also an opportunity. It may be that Turkey can emerge from this political situation with a better constitutional and democratic framework than before. Things could go badly but they could also go well.”
Mr Rehn has been reticent about commenting on the tensions in Turkey in recent days, admitting that interventions from Brussels have a tendency to “backfire”. The EU partially suspended talks with Turkey last year after Ankara failed to complete a customs union with Europe, including opening its ports to shipping from Cyprus.
TURKS FIND MUCH TO LIKE IN RULING PARTY
Practical and Religious Concerns Underline Annoyance With Elites
By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, May 4, 2007; Page A18
ISTANBUL, May 3 — A few minutes’ drive from the Bosporus, beyond the majestic skyline that evokes Istanbul’s imperial past, the roads narrow, lined by low-slung buildings of concrete and cinder block. Corrugated iron, occasionally painted, replaces the roofs of stately red tiles. The neighborhood is Umraniye, a telling locale in Turkey’s struggle over power and identity.
Umraniye is known as a gecekondu, literally “built in the night,” recalling an Ottoman law that said no one could tear down a house begun at night and finished by dawn. Like the other poor, shoddily built settlements that swathe Istanbul, Ankara and other cities, Umraniye is part of the constituency courted by the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose populist, religiously resonant politics appeal to the millions of migrants who have flocked to cities prospering in Turkey’s economic boom.
As Turkey approaches general elections July 22, among its most decisive in years, those voters will be pivotal to the success of the ruling Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, or the AK Party. Religion is part of that appeal, but conversations here indicate that the allure is shaded in gray. Since the party took power in 2002, many residents say, it has managed to cultivate a reputation that steers between the extremes of religion and nationalism, project an image of relative effectiveness and style itself as an underdog vying with the establishment.
“All the parties steal in Turkey, and I’m sure the AK Party will steal, too. I know that, but at least they’re dealing with the people,” said Ergun Yalkanat, a 36-year-old factory worker. “They’ve managed to extend their hands to the people’s conscience.”
One of the most secular of Muslim nations, Turkey is wrestling with a social transformation brought to the fore by this month’s crisis over the ruling party’s choice for president and the coming elections. Analysts say the secular, Westernized elite that claims the legacy of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is facing the rise of a more religious, conservative and often rural class seeking a place in Turkey’s hierarchy, its voice often articulated by the ruling party. Critics say the AK Party has yet to play its hand: Fully enshrined in power, it will promote political Islam and chip away at secular freedoms. Others view the party’s ascent as inevitable.
“It’s a vehicle for modernization of the unmodernized,” said Dogu Ergil, a political science professor at Ankara University.
Or in the words of Rahime Dizen, relaxing near trees on a grassy hill in Umraniye with her friends, gingerly sewing a border for a brown head scarf embossed with a floral pattern: “We were sitting in mud before.”
Her friend Durdaneh Onge, 58, smiled. She raised the hand of her 4-year-old granddaughter, Ebrar.
“I want them to lead the country, and I want this girl to be president,” she said, laughing with the others. “Of course! Why not? Everyone comes from a village. They were not all born as prime ministers and presidents.”
The women listed improvements in the neighborhood, run by the party. They no longer wait in lines for bread and gas. The roads are better, and so is the water. Dizen said she thought pensions should be increased more, but hers was the rare complaint.
Across the Muslim world, Islamic activists have forged an organic relationship with their constituencies through social welfare programs, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, many of them inspired by the communist activists before them. But by some accounts, the well-organized foot soldiers of the ruling party have honed the grass-roots work to an art, methodically distributing coal and wood in the winter and providing secondhand clothing to the have-nots. The party sponsors the traditional circumcision of young boys, making possible coming-of-age celebrations for those who cannot afford them.
“It’s nothing more than an investment for the election,” said Kenan Ucar, 54, a truck driver who voted for a secular party in the last election. “They knock on one door and not the rest.”
But his complaint raised protests at a cafe in Umraniye, where a grapevine snaked up a trellis outside. Hasan Sucu, a 27-year-old who just completed 15 months of military service, told a story. He and his army colleagues used to give a share of their pay to the poorest soldier in the unit. At one point, they learned, the AK Party bought the soldier’s family a house, took his mother to the hospital for treatment for rickets and found a job for his brother. Whether the tale was true didn’t seem to matter.
“When I heard this story, I decided to vote for them in the next election,” he said.
The ruling party has won support for its handling of the economy, after inflation prompted by a crisis in 2001 turned some people’s life savings into a week’s paycheck. The party has moved, too, to implement political and economic reforms in Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. But the question of its religious intentions still shapes the debate among its critics and, somewhat counterintuitively, among its supporters. Some in Umraniye contended that the party’s religious roots actually made it more tolerant, not less, providing room for their more conservative lifestyles.
“Secularism, secularism. They don’t know how to say anything else,” said Yalkanat, the factory worker, who was sitting with Sucu at the cafe.
Turkey’s unremitting secularism dates to Ataturk’s founding of the republic in 1923. In a sign of the fervor of that time, the government set up a commission in 1928 at Istanbul University charged with developing ways to modernize Islam. Among the suggestions: putting pews in mosques for the performance of prayers and introducing Western classical music at services. (In the end, these ideas were not adopted.)
“They talk about head scarves. Ninety percent of our parents wear head scarves. It’s a question of freedom,” Yalkanat said. “I’m not a religious person, I don’t pray five times a day, but I believe. Freedom of belief is everywhere, everywhere but Turkey.”
At a cafe down the street that serves as an impromptu taxi stand, Abdulmecid Batkitar, a 26-year-old driver who arrived three years ago from eastern Turkey, had a similar take. The party’s religious roots freed it from the sometimes severe Turkish nationalism of its secular rivals. As a Kurd, he said, he felt the party was more tolerant, evinced by its equitable investment across the country.
“To me,” he said, “they don’t discriminate.”
For decades, such questions of faith and politics, nationalism and ethnicity have been decreed, legislated and banned here, but for Mehmet Ugur, an unemployed laborer sitting in a mosque courtyard waiting for midday prayers, they have yet to be resolved. He calls himself a nationalist, but identifies himself as a Muslim before a Turk. He feels discriminated against and, he said, lied to.
“This is an issue that’s lasted nearly a century. It’s not an issue of a week or two weeks. It’s their mentality,” he said of the secular establishment. “They’re ignoring the people and, of course, this we cannot accept. That would be impossible.”
EGYPT: TWO DEPUTIES AMONG LATEST MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD ARRESTS
Cairo, 30 April (AKI) – The Egyptian authorities have arrested fourteen members of the Muslim Brotherhood including two parliamentarians, the movement’s website reported Monday. It said that a number of its members had been picked up by police in their homes on Sunday night in the town of Menoufiya. In the case of the two deputies it said the police had breached the mens’ parliamentary immunity.
Hamdi Hassan, the media spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) parliamentary bloc, denounced “the Egyptian regime’s suppressive measure of arresting two MB parliamentarians affiliated to the bloc.
Sabri Amer, MP for Birket El-Sab, and Rajab Abu Zeid, MP for Shibin Al Kawm, were the two deputies detained.
The tension between the Egyptian authorities and the Brotherhood, which is officially banned but tolerated and which is now the biggest opposition force in parliament, has increased in recent weeks following the approval in a referendum of constitutional reforms which the opposition rejects.
STATE SECURITY RAIDS HOME, DETAINS BROTHERHOOD BLOGGER
By Alexandra Sandels
CAIRO/ALEXANDRIA: State security officials raided both the family home and personal residence of prominent Muslim Brotherhood (MB) blogger Abdel Moneim Mahmoud early Friday morning and subsequently detained the activist late on Saturday night, said Egyptian human rights activists.
Mahmoud was not present during the raids because he was allegedly in hiding from the authorities during the weekend prior to his detainment on Saturday night.
According to Tarek Mounir from press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, state security turned up at Mahmouds house in Cairo around 6 am on Friday in search of his laptop and some computer accessories.
Shortly after the raid the young blogger sent a message to fellow bloggers and journalists telling them that he was going to turn himself in.
I am not sure what exactly the state security officials were looking for, but they didnt find it since they decided to raid the home of Mahmouds sick father in Alexandria a few hours later. All I know is that Mahmoud has been very active in his blogging in the past week. His blog is a constant thorn on the side of the Egyptian authorities, Mounir told The Daily Star Egypt.
He also stressed that Mahmouds family was intimidated and pressured to give out their sons mobile phone number and reveal his whereabouts to security officials in Alexandria.
As of Saturday, no official arrest warrant had been issued for Mahmouds arrest.
I am not sure why they are after him except for his blogging. What theyll do is detain him and produce the warrant later. Thats usually how it works, Mounir sighed.
Mahmoud was reportedly detained in the past when he was allegedly tortured in 2004, according to reports on the Egyptian blogosphere.
As the moderator of a blog critical of the government called Ana Ikhwan (I am a Brother), Mahmoud blogs on a wide range of sensitive topics including torture and military tribunals and serves as a prominent link between the Muslim Brotherhood, journalists, and human rights activists in Egypt.
They call him Ikhwans Reuters. Polite, diplomatic and does not miss an event, whether organized by the Islamists or secularists, Moneim enjoys wide popularity among his peers in Brotherhood and leftist circles, blogger and journalist Hossam El-Hamalawy wrote on his popular blog www.arabawy.org.
The arrest comes as part of another crackdown on the Egypts largest opposition bloc.
According to a Reuters report the police have detained 20 students and three older professionals from the MB.
A police report accused the older men a university lecturer, a pharmacist and an engineer of financing and organizing the students.
The students belong to an agricultural faculty in the north Cairo suburb of Shubra.
The detentions bring to 33 the number of Brotherhood members taken into custody in the last two days. Nine of which were detained in the Nile Delta town of Damanhour on
The Interior Ministry told Reuters it had no information about the latest detentions. With additional reporting by Reuters.
SYRIA: ELECTIONS ‘ANOTHER FARCE’ SAYS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD LEADER
London, 30 April (AKI) – The exiled leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s chapter in Syria has dismissed last week’s parliamentary elections as “yet another farce” . “Those elected represent non one other than the system of power wich gave them victory,” the London-based Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanuni told Adnkronos International (AKI). Echoing the words of many Syrian dissidents, al-Bayanuni slammed an article in the Syrian constitution that enshrines the ruling Baath party’s role as the “guide” of political life in Syria, guaranteeing its hold on power.
In practical terms Article 8 of the constitution reserves two thirds of the seats in parliament to the Baath party and its allies in the National Progressive Front.
“But even the remaining seats, contested by so-called independents are routinely won by candidates supported by the government and the state security apparatus,” al-Bayanuni told AKI.
The Muslim Brotherhood leader whose movement was outlawed in Syria 11 years ago said that with only 6 percent of those eligible to vote casting their balllots, “the election results cannot in any way be considered as an indication of the desires and aspirations of people”.
Recently the Muslim Brotherhood leader announced the formation of a new party, the Syrian Salvation Front, with another exiled dissident, former Syrian deputy president Abd al-Halim Khaddam
As for the next time Syrians will be called to vote – presidential elections scheduled for late May – al-Bayanuni has no doubt on what the outcome will be.
“They don’t merit any interest or mobilisation – there will only be one candidate [President Basher al-Assad] of the Baath Party and parliament will have to approve him,” he said.
“As usual, it will be announced that he (Assad) won by 99,99 percent of the votes, or any other unrealistic total, but this won’t mean anything to the Syrian population, or the crisis that Syria is facing,” he concluded.
IRAN ON GUARD OVER U.S. FUNDS
Pro-Democracy Program Leads Tehran to Scrutinize Activists
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 28, 2007; Page A16
The Bush administration’s $75 million program to promote democracy in Iran has undermined the kind of organizations and activists it was designed to help, with U.S. aid becoming a top issue in a broader crackdown on leading democracy advocates over the past year, according to a wide range of Iranian activists and human rights groups.
Since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unveiled the program more than a year ago, a wide array of activists — teachers, women’s rights campaigners, labor organizers, students, journalists and intellectuals — have faced interrogations, detentions, imprisonment and passport confiscation over suspected links to the new U.S. funding, activists and human rights groups say. Iranian officials have charged that Washington is supporting the kind of soft revolution that transformed Eastern Europe.
“Dozens of Iranian activists are paying a price since the announcement of the $75 million, and practically everyone who has been detained over the past year has been interrogated about receiving this money,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Iran analyst for Human Rights Watch. “They are obsessed with the perception that the U.S. is fueling a velvet revolution through this money.”
Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, an Iranian women’s rights activist convicted in absentia last month for “gathering and collusion with intent to commit a crime against national security,” said in an interview that “the $75 million systematically and continuously comes up in interrogations.” She and three other women organized a rally last year to launch a million-signature campaign against sex discrimination. Mohajer was sentenced to four years in prison, with three years suspended on the condition that she not engage in similar activities for five years after her release. Her case is now on appeal.
Mohajer and other Iranian civil society leaders insist that they do not receive U.S. funding and do not want to be tainted by it. The majority of the U.S. money pays for Persian-language Radio Farda and Voice of America broadcasts into Iran, an interactive Web site, cultural exchanges and conferences, and support for international organizations advocating human rights in Iran, said R. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs. The program, which is expected to increase to more than $100 million in fiscal 2008, marked a major increase in funding from earlier years.
“The money is being put to a very good use as it supports broader-scale engagement between the two societies. We want to break down the barriers erected over 27 years. This is only the beginning of it,” Burns said.
A senior State Department official said that the United States has been “very careful” to try not to hurt the people it seeks to assist and has avoided giving money directly to individuals or groups. “We saw early on the problem we would pose if we tried to support them directly. We didn’t want to get them into hot water. That’s why we’re doing it through third countries,” he said.
Since the 2005 election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a network of hard-liners in the executive branch, the judiciary and the intelligence service has launched one of the toughest crackdowns since the 1979 revolution, the sources say. Iran now appears intent on silencing activists at home by arrest or intimidation and preventing them from traveling abroad.
“When the U.S. announces its support for civil society movements, it becomes a ready tool for the Iranian government to use against totally independent activists. It’s been very counterproductive,” Mohajer said.
The money is a persistent focus during interrogations, say Iranians who have been questioned or detained. “If you look at the crackdown on non-government organizations and human rights defenders over the past six months, one common facet is that they were all suspected of receiving foreign funds,” said Zahir Janmohamed, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director for the Middle East. “It’s not just the funding but the rhetoric around the funding about ‘regime change’ and the ‘axis of evil.’ ”
The National Iranian American Council said it had warned the State Department “that the mere idea of sending money with this language would make the work of pro-democracy activists in Iran all the more difficult. It has turned out to be worse than what many people feared. The mere fact that the United States has been talking about using NGOs has made Iran’s thriving civil society a main suspect of trying to do change inside Iran,” said the council president, Trita Parsi.
In another reflection of sensitivity about U.S. funding, Iranian authorities confiscated the passport of Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima, a U.S. and Iranian citizen, when she arrived in Tehran to visit her critically ill mother in January. During subsequent interrogations, she was asked to collaborate with Iranian intelligence, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Jeffrey Gedmin. Over half the U.S. funding goes to Farda’s radio and television operations.
Azima’s lawyer was informed by the security department of Iran’s revolutionary court this week that her passport will not be returned anytime soon and that she will have to remain in Tehran “for two or three years,” Gedmin said in a statement condemning Azima’s virtual house arrest in Tehran.
OUR “UNDEMOCRATIC” MUSLIM ALLIES
By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
It seems that the United States of America proclaims to be somewhat “choosy” about nations that it considers to be its friends. We are constantly reminded of the litmus test of democratic principles-respect for the rule of law, personal freedoms, freedom of the press and religion, an independent judiciary, etc-as criteria for some level of membership in the “International Buddies of America” club.
And in the event of some degree of deviation from the democratic norm, nations are given somewhat of a pass if they follow, or pretend to follow the American script on the global war against “terrorism”, or at least make no show of opposing the machinations of the U.S. agenda.
Two major Muslim recipients of American aid-Egypt and Pakistan-now fit the definition of nations in the Muslim world that are fed from the hand of Uncle Sam while they trample on the basic democratic and human rights of their citizens.
In the case of Egypt, this foreign aid package amounts to nearly $2 billion per year, making the regime of President Hosni Mubarak the second largest (after Israel) U.S. aid recipient in the world.
But what does the Egyptian government do to justify the receipt of this money? The long history of the Egyptian government’s rigged elections, false imprisonment of regime opponents, and infringement on the rights of a free press and an independent judiciary have been made even more egregious by the imprisonment, over the last year, of as many as 800 members of the Islamic opposition to the Mubarak regime, in addition to numerous secular activists, journalists, trade unionists, and academicians who are routinely harassed, beaten, and imprisoned for no reason other than their demand for an end to a 27 year old dictatorship.
These human rights violations are underpinned by U.S. foreign aid appropriations for Egypt, which are simply our own tax dollars, in this case recycled for the benefit of a failed and brutal regime.
But in addition to making the American claim for respect for democracy a hollow and hypocritical pronouncement, there is an even more insidious and dangerous consequence for this Pay-as-you-oppress policy: by providing material aid for a regime that tramples on democratic principles, the United States, unwittingly, makes real popular democracy in Egypt even less likely because nonviolent popular dissent there has even fewer options for survival.
The militant forces in the Islamic world that the U.S. opposes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere will likely grow stronger as nonviolent formations and movements in Egypt are suppressed. Thus, continued United States aid to the current Egyptian government, in light of what the U.S. professes to stand for, becomes a self-defeating proposition.
And in the case of Pakistan, the U.S. support for a much-maligned military ruler also pours political gasoline onto the fire of armed resistance, in this case resistance by Islamic forced within the borders of Pakistan itself. The government of General Musharraf, now, is feared or disliked by just about everyone in Pakistan, from moderate Pakistani Muslims to secular dissidents, to the professional class which finds few jobs and even fewer avenues to express peaceful political dissent..
But again, it is support from the U.S. for the current regime that inhibits a real internal democratic dialogue within Pakistan, and contributes to the alienation of both middle class Pakistanis and huge numbers of young people from the current regime. And despite the large amount of U.S. aid, the real economic challenges facing Pakistan are formidable: the nation has a per capita GDP of only $2,400 (versus $3,200 in neighboring India), and a literacy rate of only 46%.
If the architects of U.S foreign policy are sincere about promoting “democracy” in the world, and especially among nations with majority Muslim populations, they should make more judicious use of the money they now give to dictators. The current array of allies and aid recipients includes nations who not only oppress their own people, but who feel free to continue their misdeeds with the tacit approval of the U.S. government
Real democracy cant operate on the double standard of invading or waging economic warfare against some governments deemed as undemocratic, while coddling and propping up others who do the same things-or worse.
And perhaps real democracy-meaning power to the people, and not the rule of oligarchs or dictators- would be more likely in the Muslim world if U.S. foreign aid were tied to governments who support measurable democratic reforms, genuine power-sharing, respect for human rights and the right of dissent, and most of all, a real commitment to the material well-being of the tens of millions of oppressed Muslims who suffer, in a real way, from bad governments backed up by American tax dollars.
Adopting a single, transparent and un-hypocritical standard for U.S. foreign aid and political support would be, in my opinion, a victory for both popular democracy and genuine Islamic values around the world.
Ibrahim Ramey, the author, is the Director of the Human and Civil Rights Division of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.
REWRITING THE AD RULES FOR MUSLIM-AMERICANS
NEW YORK TIMES
By LOUISE STORY – April 28, 2007
For years, few advertisers in the United States have dared to reach out to Muslims.
Either they did not see much potential for sales or they feared a political backlash. And there were practical reasons: American Muslims come from so many ethnic backgrounds that their only common ground is their religion, a subject most marketers avoid.
That is beginning to change. Consumer companies and advertising executives are focusing on ways to use the cultural aspects of the Muslim religion to help sell their products.
Grocers and consumer product companies are considering ways to adapt their goods to Muslim rules, which forbid among other things, gelatin and pig fat, which is often used in cosmetics and cleaning products. Retailers are looking into providing more conservative skirts, even during the summer months, and mainstream advertisers are planning to place some commercials on the satellite channels that Muslims often watch.
Marketing to Muslims carries some risks. But advertising executives, used to dividing American consumers into every sort of category, say that ignoring this group estimated to be about five million to eight million people, and growing fast would be like missing the Hispanic market in the 1990s.
I think Muslims have had to draw into themselves, said Marian Salzman, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of JWT, a large advertising agency in the WPP Group that plans to encourage clients like Johnson & Johnson and Unilever to market to American Muslims. It puts an increased burden on a marketer post-9/11 to say, Look, we understand.
Companies in the Detroit area, where there is a dense population of Muslims, are leading the change. A McDonalds there serves halal Chicken McNuggets; Walgreens has Arabic signs in its aisles. And now, Ikea, which recently opened a store in the suburb of Canton, Mich., that has had trouble attracting as many Muslim customers as it had hoped, has been touring local homes and talking to Muslims to figure out their needs.
The store there plans to sell decorations for Ramadan next fall and is adding halal meat to its restaurant menu, or meat that is prepared according to Islamic law. Catalogs in Arabic are being planned, and female Muslim employees are expected to be given an Ikea-branded hijab, to wear over their head if they wish.
Marketing to Muslims is, of course, mostly intended to increase sales, but advertising has also long been a mirror of changes in society.
Ms. Salzman pointed to ads in the 1960s that featured Jewish products like Levys rye bread, which, she said, helped bring that group more into mainstream advertising. She also noted that ads from companies like McDonalds in the early 1990s portrayed busy mothers who admitted that they did not cook every night like their mothers did.
Marketers have actually helped us to rewrite the rules about what were comfortable with, she said.
Because the Census Bureau does not ask about religion, there is no authoritative count of Muslims in America. Some Muslim organizations provide estimates as high as 10 million. Others say it could be as low as three million.
Whatever the number, many Muslims have clustered in areas that include Orange County, Calif.; Houston; the state of Georgia; northern Virginia; New York City and Long Island; and the Detroit area.
Over the last few months, JWT conducted a large study of Muslims in the United States and Britain to determine whether they would be receptive to specialized advertising. There were 835 people in the United States study. Muslim Americans spend about $170 billion on consumer products, JWT estimates; this figure is expected to grow rapidly as the population expands and younger Muslims build careers.
Ms. Salzman said the study found that Muslims were buying many standard products but that they felt excluded from mainstream advertising. In particular, she said, they wanted companies to recognize their holidays.
Ms. Salzman said JWT had little trouble surveying Muslims in Britain, but found it had to clarify at the start of each phone call in the United States that it was not calling from a government agency.
Over the next few weeks, JWT plans to reach out to the chief executives of all of its major clients, including JetBlue, the Ford Motor Company and HSBC, to encourage them to market to Muslims in the United States and Britain.
These advertisers have been in the Middle East and in the Far East Muslim countries for decades, so theyre already dealing with the Muslim market, said Tayyibah Taylor, publisher and editor in chief of Azizah magazine, a Muslim-focused magazine in Atlanta. They just havent been dealing with the Muslim marketer here at home.
Almas Abbasi, a radiologist in Long Island who was one of the people interviewed by JWT, said she would be grateful for advertising that included Muslims.
If Ramadan starts, and you see an ad in the newspaper saying, Happy Ramadan, heres a special in our store, everyone will run to that store, she said.
Her daughter, Shaheen Magsi, a senior at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, N.Y., said her family turned off their cable television three years ago after seeing too many negative stereotypes about Muslims. She said she quickly grew tired of telling people at school that, no, she did not agree with Osama bin Laden.
Itd be really good to say, Oh, theres a Muslim on TV, and theyre portraying something good other than Muslims killing people, she said.
Just what approach companies should take to reach Muslims is far from clear. The market is diverse, including African-Americans, South Asians, Caucasians and people from the Middle East, as well as people who are more or less conservative in their religious views. American Muslims disagree about whether the Muslim women in ads should wear the hijab, for instance.
Nationwide Financial Services has already been advertising to people from Pakistan and India, who are often Muslim. But it prefers to focus on their country of origin, said Tariq Khan, Nationwides vice president of market development and diversity.
Still, religion is culturally relevant at times, he said, and Nationwide may run ads in print publications in June that feature Hindu and Muslim weddings.
Rizwan Jamil, director of beverages at Unilever in Pakistan, said Unilever often ran promotions there for Lipton tea and custard powders during Muslim holidays, using bright and festive packaging, and discounts. These sorts of gestures would appeal to a broad swath of Muslims in the United States, he said, without setting off discussions about religion.
Its just like when youre advertising something for Christmas, Mr. Jamil said. Youre not talking about Christians or Christianity. Youre talking about Christmas, the event. I would be careful to the extent that I used religion. I wouldnt shout it out. I wouldnt shout out to the world that Im talking to Muslims.
There is a genuine fear about how to market to Muslims and whether to do so at many big companies, executives at Muslim-focused media outlets and organizations said.
United States companies dont want to risk alienating their domestic consumers, said Nasser Beydoun, chairman of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce in Dearborn, Mich., which is working with Ikea, Wal-Mart and Comcast to develop strategies to reach Muslim consumers. Other companies like Frito-Lay and Kodak have recently considered marketing to Muslims.
Publishers of Muslim womens magazines, like Azizah and Muslim Girl Magazine, said they had to dispel advertisers concerns that they would feature articles that were radical or political.
Bridges TV, a cable and satellite network, has changed its sales pitch to make advertisers more comfortable. When it was introduced in 2004, Bridges TV presented itself as a Muslim television network, but lately the network has been having better luck labeling itself as bridging the West and East, said Mohamed Numan-Ali, the networks advertising manager. Brands like Ford, Lunesta and Lincoln have signed on as advertisers, he said.
On the other hand, some Muslim-focused media companies that are courting advertisers highlight religion as their strength. Executives at QTV, a new satellite network centered around the Koran, tell advertisers that the focus on religion is what keeps its viewers tuning in, often five times a day for prayer calls.
Companies that advertise on QTV should not worry about backlash, said Mahmood Ahmad, president of Digital Broadcasting Network Inc., which produces QTV, because Fox News viewers are not watching QTV anyway. He added, QTV is the safest place to be because they wont know.
Advertising on satellite channels popular with Muslims and in the publications that focus on them would be inexpensive compared with mainstream media and might be highly effective because so few companies reach out to this group.
People would flock to it, said Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a nonprofit group based in New York. They would say I cant believe Im being validated by Macys. I cant believe Im being validated by &Whole Foods.
Even in mainstream advertising, companies may win over customers by including Muslims in some ads, said Razaq Baloch, a partner in Spicy Banana, an ad agency specializing in reaching customers from India and Pakistan.
Alia Fouz, a Palestinian-American who lives near the Ikea in Canton, said she never felt that ads were addressing her as a Muslim when she was growing up in Virginia. Sitting in the Ikea snack bar with her young son, she said ads that included American Muslims would grab her and her sons attention.
We should be included, Ms. Fouz said. We live here.
DON’T JUDGE ISLAM BY ACTS OF A FEW
Posted by Nabil Fahmy on April 24, 2007 9:00 AM
As an Egyptian Muslim living and working in the West, I am keenly aware of the growing tensions afflicting Western-Islamic relations. Contributing to these tensions is the western assumption that somehow Islam, as a faith and as a way of life encourages or at least tolerates violence as a means of achieving political, spiritual or other objectives. This is in stark contrast to the prevailing view shared by one billion followers of Islam who see themselves as peaceful adherents of a great faith who have been the victims of western exploitation and domination over the years.
Addressing this schism necessitates dispelling the myth that an entire faith can be so simplistically held responsible for the evils of terrorism and violence. Propagating such a fallacy serves no one. The crimes of crusaders should not be attributed to the core philosophy of Christianity just as the violence of modern day Muslim radicals should not be the term of reference for judging the Islamic faith.
The Quran, the sayings of the prophet and the legal construction developed by Muslim scholars over the years, collectively shape the framework of Islamic thought and practice and spell out in unambiguous terms the Peaceful compassionate, nature of Islam. This is what one billion Muslims believe in.
A few radical Muslims along with many in the West seem to share a common tactic. They intentionally interpret texts out of context and claim that that is what Islam represents. Neither should be allowed to impose their distorted reading nor to define this great faith.
A sober, scientific discussion encompassing, inter-alia, the three Abrahamic faiths, may lead to a better understanding of the realities and the nuances surrounding this vital issue.
Nabil Fahmy has been ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United States since October 1999. He also has served as Egypt’s Ambassador to Japan. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics/mathematics from the American University in Cairo in 1974 and his Master’s in management in 1976.
OFFICE SPACE AVAILABLE FOR SUBLEASE
FURNISHED office space available for sublease at CSID office in DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON DC (1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 601,Washington DC). Space available ranges from 1 to 4 office rooms (fully furnished) and rent is between $1,500 and $4,000 per month. Rent includes use of board and conference rooms (from 10 to 90 people). Flexible lease:12 months (renewable).
EXCELLENT LOCATION – next to Johns Hopkins, SAIS, Brookings, Carnegie Endowment, and USIP. Close to DuPont Circle metro.
For further information, please contact Sami Bawalsa at (202) 265-1200.
CALL FOR APPLICATIONS
THE NDRI WASHINGTON WORKSHOP FOR THINK TANK MANAGERS
September 1721, 2007, in Washington, D.C.
The Network of Democracy Research Institutes (NDRI) invites applications for its fourth Washington Workshop for Think-Tank Managers, scheduled for September 1721, 2007, 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 15 or 16. The workshop will run from Monday through Friday, September 1721, and participants will depart on Saturday or Sunday, September 22 or 23.
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 2006 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 Melissa Aten (MelissaA@ned.org).
Deadlines and Notification: The deadline for applying for the September 2007 workshop is June 25, 2007. All applicants will be notified of our decisions by July 6, 2007.
LEADERS FOR DEMOCRACY FELLOWSHIPS
Three-month Program in the United States for Young Leaders
Applications due by May 24, 2007
The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) is pleased to announce it is accepting applications for candidates to participate in the Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program. This annual program will provide young democratic reform leaders from the Middle East and North Africa with the opportunity to complete both academic coursework and a practical, skill-building experience in their field of choice in the United States . The fellowship will cover international and domestic travel, health insurance, housing, and a moderate living stipend. A maximum of 25 applicants will be chosen from the countries of the Middle East and North Africa .
The program is open to applicants between the ages of 25 and 40 with a bachelor’s degree and English language fluency to function successfully in an American academic and professional environment. Applicants also should have five years of work experience, as well as leadership skills and the capacity to apply the opportunities presented by the fellowship in a way that would benefit an organization, sector, or specific community. This program will run from March 15, 2008, to June 15, 2008. Fellows will travel to the United States unaccompanied.
Interested applicants should submit to the U.S. embassy in their home country no later than May 31 an updated resume and two essays of no more than 500 words each (written in English), which answer the following questions:
What does leadership mean to you? What has influenced your thinking on this subject (people you know, current events, course of study)? What is an example of a great act of leadership?
What role do you expect to play in leading your community or country towards greater democracy and citizen participation in the institutions of government and in public life? What changes do you hope to bring about in your country during the next 10 years?
Description of the Program
This program will begin with a six-week academic course on leadership and democracy at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University ( http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/ ) in upstate New York . The Maxwell School is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the best graduate school in the United States for public affairs. Fellows will complete relevant seminars and workshops on the key elements of democratic governance, including the development of democratic institutions; comparative politics; leading and managing the democratic state; and civil society and civic action. In addition, fellows will participate in leadership and skill-building workshops and work with mentors from Syracuse University on a capstone project of their own design, within their areas of interest. Participants will earn a certificate upon the successful completion of this program.
After completing the academic portion of the program, participants will engage in a four- to five-week fellowship with a political, non-governmental, or public policy organization of professional interest in either Syracuse , NY , or Washington , DC . Through this component of the program, participants will gain practical experience and further professional contacts to draw upon within their network. Fellows’ placements will be consistent with their individual work on their self-designed capstone project. Possible internship opportunities include working with a city council, local elections commission, non-governmental organization, political activist group, campaign, media outlet, grassroots organization, or think tank.
Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply to the point of contact listed below at the U.S. embassy in their home country. Applicants who are subject to J-1 visa restrictions, who are employed by the U.S. Government, or who are the spouse or child of a U.S. Government employee will not be considered for this program. Applicants will be informed of the status of their applications by July 20, 2007 .
Please submit a current CV as well as responses to the two essay questions, by email, with the subject line MEPI LDF application (Your Name) to the following appropriate contact in your home country:
Background on the Middle East Partnership Initiative
The Middle East Partnership Initiative supports the aspirations of people in the Middle East seeking greater freedom and opportunity. In four years, MEPI has devoted more than $293 million to reformers working so democracy can spread, education can thrive, economies can grow, and women can be empowered. For more information, see www.mepi.state.gov
US RELATIONS WITH THE ISLAMIC WORLD, PROJECT MANAGER
The Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World will soon be losing one of its key staff members. Our project manager Rabab Fayad, who has been instrumental in organizing the last two U.S.-Islamic World Forums and producing many of the projects programs and publications, will regrettably be leaving us in early May.
We would greatly appreciate any thoughts you may have regarding potential replacements whom we might consider to succeed Rabab as project manager. The ideal candidate would have significant experience in program administration and event planning, fluency in Arabic and English, as well as broad knowledge of the Muslim world.
Interested candidates should visit the job announcement website (www.brookings.edu/admin/fps5007.htm) and may reference job #5007 when sending resume and cover letter to Mr. M. Kelly (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 202-797-2479).
Thank you for your assistance with this important matter. We hope you will join us in wishing Rabab every success in her upcoming ventures.
Stephen R. Grand
JOB VACANCY AT CIHRS – CAIRO
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) is a regional specialized human rights organization. It was established in 1994. The CIHRS enjoys a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It also has an observatory status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights. The CIHRS is also a member to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). The CIHRS main task is to analyze and explain the difficulties faced by the process of implementing the human rights law in the Arab world. It strives to promote human rights in Arab countries through the development of intellectually vigorous and novel approaches conducive to surmounting problems of implementation.
The Communications Officer is responsible for promoting brand recognition, positive profiling and public support for CIHRS,
S/he is responsible for liaison with, media personal, academic institutions, NGOs, and like-minded organizations,
Producing newsletters, annual reports and press releases,
Managing the website and develop web materials,
Devise and implement appropriate media strategies to support CIHRS goals
Excellent communications and presentation skills.
Excellent written and spoken English and Arabic, preferably French.
Thorough understanding of the global media market and of the requirements of different kinds of media (print, TV, radio and web).
Excellent inter-personal skills and ability to work collaboratively on a wide range of issues.
Experience in the NGOs sector is desirable.
Work effectively in a multicultural environment. Analytical skills, resourceful and organised work practices with capacity to deal effectively with changing priorities, ability to keep deadlines and deal with several tasks simultaneously.
Salary will be commensurate with experience, but within the range of salaries paid by human rights organizations in Egypt.
– Deadline to send an application is 20th of May. Applications sent to: E-mail: email@example.com No telephone call is needed.
– Application should include detailed CV including tow referees familiar with the career of the applicant.
Short listed applicants will be receiving notifications for interviews.
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