LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/Let
anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink
John 07/37-39: "On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water." ’Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
Bible Quotation For Today/Save
yourselves from this corrupt generation
Acts of the Apostles 02/40-47: "And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 27-28/15
The Pitiful Ideology of Suicide Bombers/ Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Al Awsat/May 27/15
A Libyan Taif agreement/Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya/May 27/15
Khamenei's Nuclear Instructions: Public Versus Private/Mehdi Khalaji/Washington Institute/May 27/15
Muslims won’t listen to Hirsi Ali/By Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun/27/15
Lebanese Related News published on May 27-28/15
A republic of shame
Vatican Dispatches Envoy to Lebanon to Tackle Presidential Crisis
Saudi lists two Hezbollah officials as terrorists
Eyewitness report: On tour with Hezbollah
Berri Shies Away from Responding to March 14 Calls on Changing Quorum
Hezbollah strikes Qalamoun jihadis with help of drone
Report: Militants Killed in Hizbullah Ambush on Outskirts of Arsal
Abou Faour: Food Safety Campaign Will Continue despite Threats
Hale Announces Plans to Build New Embassy as Reflection of Growing Ties
Three Killed in Arsal Traffic Accident
Aoun: My Proposals Don't Require Constitutional Amendment, Confidence Must be Withdrawn from Moqbel
Jumblat Appeals for Preserving Stability over IS Fears
Former British Premier: Refugees Overwhelm Lebanese Schools
Baabdat resident slain by neighbor
Cabinet approves budgets for 3 ministries
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Iran: Nuclear talks might extend past deadline
Kerry to meet Iranian minister in Geneva for nuclear talks -State Dept
France Opposes Iran Nuclear Deal without Military Site Checks
Assad pulls air force out of Deir ez-Zour, the third Syrian air base surrendered to ISIS
Libya FM: US will not support counter-terror efforts in Libya without unity government
Iraq Shi’ite militia take lead in campaign to reverse ISIS gains
Syria plays up ties with Iran, Russia
Kurds oust ISIS from Christian villages in Syria
France warns Iran over nuclear deal as deadline nears
French court convicts Salafi for disrupting mosque prayers
U.N. chief says 'other ways' than military to tackle migrant crisis
Israeli President Rivlin: I do not object to Israeli negotiations with Hamas
Israeli Army chief plays down fears of Egypt buying Russian air-defense systems
Amnesty report: Hamas committed war crimes against Gaza civilians
Druze soldiers angry over battalion disbanding
Gaza deters Israel, not the other way around, Haniyeh says
Kurds Oust IS from Christian Villages in Syria
At the Dead Sea, Jordan’s message was ‘staying alive’
Amnesty: Hamas executed Gazans during summer
UN demands action for crimes against journalists
Bomb blast kills senior police officer in Sinai
Latest Jihad Watch News
Canada: Muslim arrested for statue defacing, hate graffiti at Catholic church
Islamic jihadists kidnap priest at his Syrian monastery
Senior Iranian cleric: Hey, let’s chop off more hands
Islamic State releases ominous video hinting at imminent destruction of Palmyra
UK: City that covered up Muslim rape gangs wants to ban anti-child rape protests
Islamic State murders 262 as it takes Syrian city of Palmyra
Muslim cleric: Satan and Jews are the enemies of the Muslims
Pamela Geller, Breitbart: What Qasim Rashid Doesn’t Want You to Know About Islam
New York: Muslim pleads guilty to jihad plot to murder U.S. military personnel
Failed analysis offered as remedy to “failed ad”
Saudi lists two Hezbollah officials as
Al Arabiya News/Wednesday, 27 May 2015
Saudi Arabia blacklisted two senior officials of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as “terrorists” for their involvement in spreading “chaos and instability” across the Middle East, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Wednesday. SPA identified one as Khalil Youssef Harb and described him as the military commander in charge of Hezbollah’s operations in the Middle East. The state-run agency said he was also responsible for the group’s activities in Yemen. The second listed Hezbollah official was Mohammed Qabalan, which SPA said had been convicted by an Egyptian court in absentia in 2010 for heading a terrorist cell that targeted tourist destinations in Egypt. The officials were also blamed for activities including supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and recruiting fighters to engage in the bloody conflict, SPA added. The U.S. treasury department hailed the latest move by Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya News Channel reported. The kingdom’s decision imposes financial sanctions on the two commanders, including freezing their assets and banning Saudis from any dealings with them. “As long as Hezballah spreads instability, conducts terrorist attacks and engages in criminal and illicit activities around the world, we will continue to designate Hezballah’s operatives, leaders and businesses and impose sanctions as a result of designation,” the SPA statement said. Saudi’s interior ministry in March last year designated several Islamist organizations based in the kingdom and abroad, including the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, as terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of Arab states in air strikes on Houthis in Yemen, as part of a campaign to restore President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to power. The kingdom is also a leading supporter of moderate rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Hezbollah fighters are helping to shore up his forces against groups they deem as terrorists. Hezbollah has repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia over both its military operations in Yemen and its support for rebels in Syria. (With Reuters)
The Pitiful Ideology of Suicide
Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Al Awsat
Wednesday, 27 May, 2015
It must be admitted that the idea of suicide bombings is intimidating in itself. It contradicts our human nature and instincts of self-preservation. Suicide bombings do not take place in battlefields; instead their perpetrators sneak around among safe, civilian gatherings. Hence the vile and cowardly nature of these kinds of acts, one of which took place in Qatif in Saudi Arabia last week, killing and injuring dozens.
The attack clearly aims at sparking sectarian tensions in the Kingdom. Several Arab states have been consumed by the flames of terrorism, leading to destructive civil wars and establishing political systems based on sectarian quotas.
Suicide bombings are a way of spreading destruction and chaos. But without doubt there are forces that encourage violence in order to spread chaos and achieve their regional goals. This is evidenced by the nature of the relationship between Iran and Al-Qaeda. A new document, recently declassified by Washington, shows that Iran hosted many of Al-Qaeda’s leaders for years on end despite the sheer ideological contradictions and the mutual distrust between the two.
The phenomenon of the suicide bomber began during the Second World War when young Japanese “Kamikaze” pilots carried out suicidal missions, deliberately crashing their planes into US warships. Their actions of course inspired terror among their enemies. The idea that a human being can turn themselves into a bomb is frightening in itself. Nevertheless, they failed to shift the course of the war given the pitiful and absurd ideology behind their violent practices. That said, the Japanese Kamikaze pilots were defending a cause more honorable than the that of the suicide bombers of today: Japan at the time was in a state of war and all of its goals were military.
Nevertheless, Kamikaze proved to be a passing phenomenon that had to come to an end after failing to produce effective results.
The terrorists and suicide bombers we are facing today will face a similar fate to that of the Japanese Kamikaze pilots. The ideology they represent is pitiful and doomed to failure, its perpetrators are a group of misled youths, and the ideas they promote are inane, functioning merely as recipes for destruction.
However, this should not prevent us from attempting to uproot the phenomenon. Functioning as the roots to the terrorism phenomenon are instigators who brainwash our youths and, in some cases, the pitiful state of our educational systems graduate young people who can become easily influenced by this ideology. When we judge suicide bombings, there is a unitary, universal moral standard we must apply: targeting innocent civilians is unacceptable under any condition.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz was right to emphasize the need for targeting this misleading ideology that caused the heinous crime that took place in Qatif. This ideology that in some way found an opportunity to spread among the youth during recent decades is the reason behind the scenes of destruction and chaos and the unprecedented levels of violence that have recently convulsed the region.
Finally, whilst it is true that suicide bombings are intimidating, their proponents will eventually and inevitably be defeated; simply because, by default, they do not have a future. Such acts run against human nature and logic no matter what cover they use.
Whether they are committed in the name of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the phenomenon of the suicide bomber is doomed—it will eventually vanish from sight.
Eyewitness report: On tour with Hezbollah
After imposing strict restrictions on what they could film and photograph, Lebanese terror group takes foreign journalists on an unusual trip to its positions on Syrian border.
Sara Hussein, AFP/Ynetnews
ON THE SYRIA-LEBANON BORDER – The Hezbollah fighter grimaced as a bank of photographers kneeled in front of him, struggling to take pictures that complied with the group’s strict media rules but would still have news value. “I just don’t like doing poses,” he sighed as the photographers asked him to move his Kalashnikov so it would appear in their shots, which could not include his face.
The interaction was part of an unusual media tour organized by the powerful Lebanese Shiite group of their positions in the Qalamun region on the porous Syria-Lebanon border. Hezbollah usually prefers limited interaction with the media – its spokespeople seem to be available largely to say “no comment” – but in recent weeks it has begun something of a charm offensive.
A rare PR campaign
It has taken several groups of local and foreign media to Qalamun in a rare PR campaign that seems intended to build support for its role as a key force multiplier for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. The junket was an unusual opportunity to spend time up close with the group, which is listed as a “terrorist” organization by Washington, but says it is fighting the same jihadists being targeted by a US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq.
In keeping with Hezbollah’s reputation for organization, the trip AFP joined was meticulously planned and carefully orchestrated. We began with the sort of briefing familiar to anyone who has covered military affairs – complete with a commander using a laser pointer to explain the mountainous terrain of Qalamun and the importance of capturing its high ground. Then we headed off in a convoy of SUVs to the eastern town of Baalbek – famed for its beautiful Roman ruins – where we veered into the no-man’s land of Qalamun.
The last few houses in Baalbek disappeared behind us as our cars bounced along the semblance of a road carved into the valley by bulldozers. As we moved around the region, there was nothing to indicate where Lebanon ended and Syria began, no border posts or army presence anywhere to be seen.
No faces, no voices, no military vehicles
We were issued strict instructions about what we could film, photograph and record. No photos of faces, no recordings of voices, no pictures of military vehicles or anything that would identify where we were.
The rules proved frustrating for the photographers and video journalists with us, who at times looked as though they were on safari – snapping excitedly into action when our minders pointed them towards some rare fighters who they were allowed to film or photograph. We couldn’t ask about future operations, or anything that veered into what the Hezbollah officials with us considered “political,” including the striking absence of the Lebanese army in the fight to secure a portion of the country’s border.
At each stop, among them Hezbollah positions and bunkers captured from jihadists and rebels, a designated commander gave prepared remarks. Stern behind his sunglasses, he paused briefly with barely concealed irritation when interrupted with questions during his presentation, picking up where he left off without answering until his remarks were complete.Many of the Hezbollah fighters who accompanied us – driving from point to point in pick-up trucks, some painted in desert camouflage – were reluctant to talk. They watched us carefully, dressed mostly in digital desert camouflage fatigues, some smoking, as though waiting to see if we’d try to trick them into saying something they shouldn’t. At one point, one fighter stripped off his floppy hat and heavy-duty boots to pray on his jacket laid out on the ground. “Don’t even think about photographing me,” he admonished the photographers watching him nearby.
Tuna and stuffed grape leaves
When one member of the group wandered off into the hillside to relieve himself without notifying our minders, a fighter fired a warning shot into the air to bring him running out into the open. But others were less suspicious, engaging cautiously with journalists about the fight and even cracking jokes. Half-way through the tour, we broke for lunch. “Don’t let them say we didn’t feed you!” one fighter laughed as he handed out tins of tuna and stuffed grape leaves to the group.Afterwards, we continued on the tour, exploring a bunker where a minder carefully positioned the remains of an anti-tank missile so the visitors wouldn’t miss it.
Inside, items including medicine and clothing were strewn haphazardly, except for a pristine label bearing the name of a Syrian rebel group that was affixed to a sandbag. At the end of the tour, we gathered for the ride back to Baalbek and one of the Hezbollah media officials came over. A friendly type, he’d confided earlier that his recent laser surgery was “the best decision of my life” as he applied his eyedrops. Now he wanted to say goodbye, and had a request:
“Let’s take a quick selfie,” he said, grinning as he leaned into our car and snapped a stealth photo with his iPhone.
Sara Hussein is an AFP reporter for Lebanon and Syria, based in Beirut.
Detention of 4 generals was not political, Siniora tells STL
The Daily Star/ May. 27, 2015/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora denied before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Wednesday that the detention of four Lebanese generals arrested after the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri was politically motivated.
Defense counsel Antoine Korkmaz, who represents one of the Hezbollah members accused of involvement in the blast that killed Hariri and 21 others, suggested that Siniora was aware that the four Lebanese generals were being detained arbitrarily.
"These were not political decisions being made against these people," Siniora, who served as prime minister from 2005 to 2008, said. The four were arrested in 2005 after being accused of involvement in the assassination. They were held for four years despite warnings by international investigators that there was not sufficient evidence to keep them in prison.
A republic of shame
The Daily Star/May. 27, 2015
Among the important anniversaries marked in Lebanon Monday were the passing of one year since President Michel Sleiman left office, in addition to 365 days of nonstop talk – and no action – on electing a successor.
Politicians of all types, as well as representatives of civil society and people in the street, have made their views known over the last year. Despite the storm of words and complaints, the one-year mark came amid few signs that the vacancy would be addressed soon – on the contrary, pessimism is on the rise.
The lack of agreement among foreign powers is often cited as the reason for the impasse, but it’s impossible to ignore the responsibility of Lebanon’s leading Christian political groups. At a time of regional turmoil with a heavily religious and sectarian component, Lebanon’s Christians should be doing their utmost to ensure the continuity of the only non-Muslim head of state in the Muslim world. Instead, their petty rivalries are blocking the election of a president, which has a real-world impact on the country’s legislature, its bureaucracy and its economic situation.
One candidate has opted to rely on his ties to an armed political party, and several foreign countries, in his quest to prove that no one but him deserves the post.
Most Christian parties and figures responsible for the mess have the loudest voices when it comes to complaining about the loss of Christian “political rights.”
They forget that the concept of duties accompanies the concept of rights, and that they have been shirking one of the most important of these duties for a solid year, and look set to continue to do so as long as they can.
Hezbollah strike Qalamoun jihadis with help of drone
The Daily Star/May. 27, 2015
BEIRUT: A Hezbollah missile annihilated a group of at least three Islamist militants in Syria's Qalamoun region along the border with Lebanon Wednesday after being spotted by a drone, Al-Manar reported. “All members of a group of Nusra takfiri [militants] were killed in an ambush by the resistance" between the outskirts of the Lebanese towns of Arsal and Nahleh on the Syrian side of the border, the Hezbollah-run channel said. It said the jihadi group was planning to carry out a “terrorist attack” from quarries south of Arsal.
But the station later aired drone footage showing missiles striking a militant vehicle and operations room with pinpoint accuracy. The HiDef video showed three militants exiting a white SUV and running toward a nearby operations room.
The video then cuts to show a missile striking the operations room with one militant standing just outside, and the other two believed to be inside. The blast obliterated the structure, sending its roof launching into the air.
It was unclear if other militants were already in the room when it was bombed. The video also showed the group targeting a black military vehicle. The report did not say if anyone was inside the vehicle when it was targeted.
After the operation, Hezbollah fighter engaged in "fierce clashes" with the jihadis and killed "all of them," Al-Manar said, showing footage of the battle. The channel said the group belonged to Nusra’s Ghuraba Brigade, adding that a field commander was among those killed.
The report comes one day after a security source revealed that six Hezbollah fighters were killed in Qalamoun as they attempted to take the Tallaja hilltop from Nusra militants earlier this week. The source said they were killed in sniper fire Monday.
But Hezbollah managed to take control of two other hills after clashes that left about 30 jihadis dead. Al-Manar Tuesday aired a report from the outskirts of the Syrian town of Flita, saying that areas surrounding the town had fallen under the total control of Hezbollah and the Syrian army, exposing routes used by jihadis to gunfire. Monday’s deaths brought the number of Hezbollah fighters killed in the Qalamoun offensive since it began on May 4 to at least 22. The number of jihadi casualties since the start of the operation is unclear, but is likely to be in the hundreds
Vatican Dispatches Envoy to Lebanon to Tackle Presidential Crisis
Naharnet/A Vatican envoy will reportedly visit Lebanon on Friday at the head of a Papal delegation, with an agenda focusing on the presidential vacuum. Vatican's former Foreign Minister Monsignor Dominique Mamberti will underline during his meetings the importance of ending the presidential stalemate, local newspapers reported on Wednesday. The delegation will also be briefed on the work of the Christian spiritual courts in Lebanon. Media reports said recently that the Vatican is seeking to press forward the election of a new head of state amid the sharp rift among the political arch-foes over a consensual candidate. Lebanon has been without a president since May last year when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the election. Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance and MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform blocs have been boycotting the polls over the dispute.
Berri Shies Away from Responding to March 14 Calls on Changing Quorum
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri has described Lebanon as a democracy but did not elaborate on calls made by March 14 MPs to reduce the quorum required to hold the presidential elections.
Berri said in remarks published in several local dailies on Wednesday that Lebanon is a “democratic state.”However, he stopped short of announcing his support for a statement made by March 14 MPs following a visit to Bkirki that the quorum of parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a president should be reduced from two-thirds to half plus one. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi encouraged the lawmakers to discuss the issue with the speaker. But Berri said: “No comment.”
Later Wednesday, MPs quoted the speaker as saying as saying that the two-thirds majority had always been adopted during the election of a president. He did not elaborate.
In their statement, the March 14 lawmakers stated that they consider parliament in a constant state of session as stipulated by the constitution. “We will exert efforts to ensure that MPs are present at the parliament on a daily basis to elect a president,” they said. Asked about the issue, Berri said: “I would like to remind everyone that since March 24, 2014, the parliament is in session to elect a president.”Lebanon has been suffering from a presidential vacuum since that date, the day the constitutional deadline began for the election of a head of state.President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended on May 25 last year, the longest time the post has been vacant since the devastating civil war ended in 1990. The next session is set for June 3. But it is likely to meet the fate of around 23 other sessions during which the majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs boycotted the polls. Berri reiterated that he is ready to call for a session anytime before June 3 if the rival parties agreed on a candidate.
Report: Militants Killed in Hizbullah Ambush on Outskirts of Arsal
Naharnet /A group of jihadists affiliated to al-Nusra Front were killed Wednesday in an ambush conducted by Hizbullah in the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. The group was allegedly spotted with surveillance drones that were overflying the outskirts of Arsal and Nahle, Hizbullah's mouthpiece al-Manar said. The TV station reported that the group was seeking to carry out a terror act in al-Kasarat area, south of Arsal. An al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front field commander was killed in the ambush and a military vehicle was destroyed. In the past weeks, Hizbullah said it has secured around a third of the Qalamoun region, on both the Lebanese and Syrian sides of the porous border. The area of roughly 1,000 square kilometers is a landscape of imposing hillsides riddled with caves, and open valleys full of scrub and wildflowers. The fate of Qalamoun is particularly important for Hizbullah, which has long defended its intervention in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad's troops as key to the security of Lebanon. Hizbullah cites that fear of militants from the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front sweeping through Shiite and Christian villages in diverse Lebanon as one of the main reasons for their involvement in Syria. Some observers however fear the Qalamoun offensive could prompt Islamist militants to launch attacks in Shiite areas of Lebanon itself, including Beirut's southern suburbs. The IS and Nusra Front have infiltrated Lebanon in the past, and last August briefly overran Arsal, taking with them several soldiers and policemen hostage. Four of whom have been executed.
France Opposes Iran Nuclear Deal without Military Site Checks
Naharnet /French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that France would oppose a nuclear deal with Iran if it did not allow inspections of military sites. An agreement "will not be accepted by France if it is not clear that verifications can be made at all Iranian facilities, including military sites," Fabius told parliament. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ruled out inspections at military sites. But Yukiya Amano, the head of the U.N.'s atomic watchdog, told AFP on Tuesday that Iran has agreed to implementing the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that allows for snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, and if required, military sites."When we find inconsistency or when we have doubts, we can request access to the undeclared location for example, and this could include military sites," said the Japanese diplomat. "Some consideration is needed because of the sensitiveness of the site, but the IAEA has the right to request access at all locations, including military ones." But Iran appears to be interpreting the protocol differently. As well as Khamenei's comments, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said the protocol allows "some access" but not inspections of military sites, in order to protect national "military or economic secrets". Iran and the so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany -- have been engaged for nearly two years in negotiations on Tehran's nuclear program. The deal is aimed at preventing Iran from developing the atomic bomb in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.
The two sides signed a framework agreement on April 2 and began meeting in Vienna on Wednesday to start finalizing a deal which is due by June 30.
Agence France Presse
Aoun: My Proposals Don't Require Constitutional Amendment, Confidence Must be Withdrawn from Moqbel
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun noted Tuesday that the initiative he recently launched to resolve the presidential crisis does not involve any “constitutional amendment,” as he reiterated his call for withdrawing confidence from the defense minister over the security appointments controversy. "My presidential proposals do not require any constitutional amendment ... Ask the people what they want," said Aoun in an interview on OTV. Aoun has recently blamed the current political crisis on “the limitation of the presidential powers” after the Taef Accord and “the lack of participation by all the Lebanese factions” in the country's political life. He called for choosing one of four solutions: a two-phased election of the president by the people, a popular referendum that is binding for parliament, a parliamentary vote for the “two most representative Maronite MPs”, or holding parliamentary polls based on a new and balanced electoral law before organizing the presidential vote. “I ranked first in recent polls about the presidency,” Aoun told OTV on Tuesday. “I think I have failed to become a consensual candidate,” he said, in response to a question, noting that the other camp “did not have the intention to reach a consensual candidate.”
“I am trying to make a reformist achievement and this is why I'm being fought,” Aoun pointed out. Asked about the tour that his Change and Reform bloc had recently carried out to explore the stances of political forces on his presidential initiative, Aoun said “some parliamentary blocs have approved of our proposal on limiting the presidential elections to the two strongest candidates.”“But the presence of the third candidate (MP) Henri Helou has rendered this proposal infeasible,” he added. Helou has been nominated by Progressive Socalist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, who describes his parliamentary bloc as centrist. Dismissing accusations that his camp is seeking a so-called “constituent assembly,” Aoun said “those who lie in politics can accuse others of what they want.”
“This is what's happening in the issue of the constituent assembly,” he added. “What did they rely on to accuse me of abandoning equal (Christian-Muslim) power-sharing? We're currently practicing six-party power-sharing due to the unjust electoral law,” Aoun lamented.
Asked about the FPM's ongoing talks with its Christian rival, the Lebanese Forces, Aoun noted that the so-called declaration of intent paper that the two parties are preparing is “almost ready.”“Political changes will not affect it,” he said. Turning to the issue of the appointments of top security chiefs, Aoun stressed that he is not trying to “impose anything on anyone.” “The Constitution distributed authorities among the sects and we have the right to name Christian officials,” he underlined.
“I don't have a problem with (Army Commander) General (Jean) Qahwaji, but why should we keep a civil servant in his post in an illegitimate manner?” Aoun pointed out. As for his dispute with Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, the FPM chief said that “the defense minister is 'unique.'” “He is entrusted with implementing the law not with doing what he wants. If he does not want to implement the law, confidence must be withdrawn from him,” said Aoun. On Monday, Moqbel dismissed Aoun's call for withdrawing confidence from him. “I did not hear him and I don't care about that,” Moqbel said. The dispute erupted between the two men after Moqbel recently extended the term of the head of the Higher Defense Council, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair.
The military positions in Lebanon are suffering as a result of the months-long presidential vacuum in light of the parliament's failure to elect a successor for Michel Suleiman. The vacuum also threatens the position of Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous who is set to retire in June. The tenure of Army chief Qahwaji is set to end in September. His term was extended for two years in September 2013. “I told (al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad) Hariri that (Commando Regiment commander) Shamel Roukoz is my candidate (for the army chief post) and he proposed Samir Shehadeh and Imad Othman” for the command of the ISF, Aoun revealed.
“Hariri accepted the proposal and we both agreed to inform our allies,” he noted. As for the situation in the northeastern border town of Arsal, Aoun pointed out that “the responsibility falls on the entire government to know what is going on in Arsal.”
“The battle is on our border and there are thousands of militants and their numbers are increasing,” he warned. “What will the army do in Arsal's outskirts? We want to know. Will it allow the militants to continue occupying the land in Arsal? Arsal is not insulated because wounded fighters are moving across the border. Yesterday a member of al-Nusra (Front) was abducted from the town,” said Aoun. “We will talk about the mistakes of the Lebanese army command at the appropriate time and many mistakes that were committed last time (in Arsal) have not been corrected,” he went on to say. “Everyone is counting on the army so when will it launch a military battle that honors it? The Lebanese army is currently incapable to repel the extremists' attacks and it might receive the weapons after the end of the war in the Middle East,” Aoun noted. Aoun's ally Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has warned that Hizbullah would intervene militarily in Arsal's outskirts to oust the militants of the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front if the Lebanese state fails to do so.
Ten Hezbollah fighters die in Syria as party makes more gains
The Daily Star/May. 27, 2015 |
BEIRUT: Six Hezbollah fighters and around 30 jihadis were killed in clashes in Syria’s Qalamoun border region before party militants managed to seize control of a new hilltop, a security source said Tuesday, adding that four others died fighting in other parts of Syria. Speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, the source said the fighters were slain Monday as they attempted to take control of the Tallaja hilltop. He added that three other Hezbollah militants were killed in the northwestern province of Idlib and one in Aleppo.
Hezbollah confirmed Tuesday the death of nine of its fighters.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV also said that party fighters captured Al-Qubaa and Al-Naffar hills, northeast of the outskirts of Lebanon’s Nahleh village, without reporting casualties.
Monday’s deaths brought the number of Hezbollah fighters killed in the Qalamoun offensive since it began on May 4 to at least 22. The number of jihadi casualties since the start of the operation is unclear, but is likely to be in the hundreds.
Hezbollah and the Syrian army have destroyed dozens of jihadi bases and driven the Nusra-led militants north toward the outskirts of Lebanon’s northeastern town of Arsal, where Nusra and ISIS have established a foothold.
Al-Manar also aired a report from the outskirts of the Syrian town of Flita, claiming that it had fallen under the total control of Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
Al-Manar said that from the outskirts of Flita, the allies could now target several routes used by jihadis with gunfire.
Syrian National Coalition Vice President Nagham al-Ghaderi said Syria-based jihadi militants would not allow Hezbollah fighters or the Syrian army to control Qalamoun, saying the two “will die” in the border region.
“The men [jihadis] in Qalamoun are not easy. They are the hardest in the Syrian revolution and the armed struggle,” Ghaderi told Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai in remarks published Tuesday.
“Hezbollah’s killing will take place in Qalamoun and no force – be it Hezbollah or the [Syrian] regime – can put its hand on the [Qalamoun] region,” Ghaderi warned.
Ghaderi said the Syrian National Coalition was “not against dialogue in politics, but the revolution is the ceiling and we will not accept incomplete or fragmented achievements.”
Ghaderi’s comments came after Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah vowed in a speech Sunday that the Qalamoun offensive would continue until Lebanon’s border was secure. Nasrallah also warned that his party would take matters into its own hands if the Lebanese government did not liberate Arsal’s outskirts from jihadis.
The Future Bloc slammed Nasrallah over his “arrogant” and “authoritarian” speech.
“The bloc condemns in the strongest terms the arrogant and authoritarian speech by Hezbollah’s Nasrallah, who announced a unilateral decision to engage in a battle in Arsal, hijacking the sovereignty of the state and the responsibility of the government,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting.
It accused Nasrallah of violating the Constitution and the National Pact, and ignoring the readiness of the Lebanese Army to protect the country’s borders.
Also Tuesday, Hezbollah held funerals for several fighters who fell in Syria’s battles.
Adnan Siblini, who died while fighting jihadis in the outskirts of Nahleh, was laid to rest in the southern town of Ghazieh amid tight security measures.
“I will not weep for him, I consider this his wedding. He fell in defense of our dignity,” said Safa, Adnan’s youngest sister, as she stood near his coffin surrounded by other women in their house. Safa wore her brother’s military outfit.
“We will fight takfiri groups and defeat them sooner or later,” she told The Daily Star.
Elsewhere, the party held funerals for Commander Ghassan Fakih in the southern village of Tiri and fighter Ali Saleh in Aita Shaab, also in the south.
“Death to ISIS, death to Nusra Front,” mourners chanted.
In the Marjayoun village of Mohaibib, Mohammad Sami Jaber was laid to rest, while Ahmad Mohsen’s funeral was held in the village of Blida, also in Marjayoun.
Separately, tensions remained high between the rival jihadi groups in the outskirts of Arsal. A separate security source said Syrian national Hussam Mrad, who is reportedly a member of ISIS, was kidnapped late Monday from a Syrian refugee camp in Arsal and taken to the town’s outskirts.
Mrad was abducted hours after ISIS kidnapped Syrian national Ahmad Saifeddine, a Nusra militant.
Both groups have been engaged in fierce battles against each other over the past weeks.
Druze soldiers In the Israeli Army up in arms over move to disband battalion
High-ranking Druze reservists urge Netanyahu to intervene, warns they are ready to petition High Court, hold demonstrations outside the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Yossi Yehoshua /Ynetnews
Published: 05.26.15/Israel News
A storm is raging over the Israel Defense Forces' recent decision to disband its all-Druze Herev Battalion: High-ranking Druze reservists opposed to the move have sent a harshly worded letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which they call on him to intervene. The Druze officers warn that if the decision is not rescinded, they will petition the High Court of Justice and stage demonstrations outside the Kirya base in Tel Aviv.
Herev was formed in 1974 and around 400 Druze soldiers currently serve in the battalion, which is involved primarily in routine security duties along the border with Lebanon. According to the IDF, the decision by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot came after a poll among Druze soldiers found that 99 percent would rather integrate into the rest of the army than remain in a separate unit.
The move, said an IDF source, follows "a series of consultations, including with the Druze community leaders, who supported the desire to integrate the Druze youth into other combat units in the army."
But a different tune is coming from within the Druze community.
"The chief of staff's decision to disband the Herev Battalion is unacceptable," the Druze officers say in their letter to Netanyahu.
"A vast majority among the Druze community oppose it... We call on all the members of the Druze to unite, to work as one to overturn the miserable decision. One the other hand, we urge respect for individuals from among the community who support the decision to dismantle the battalion."Some of the officers who signed the letter have also voiced harsh criticism of the defense establishment. "For many soldiers," said Colonel (res.) Assad Assad, a former Likud Knesset member, "the battalion serves as an incubator in which they can develop in the army. Without the battalion, I would have been a sentry. Its closure would be a deathblow to the Druze soldiers." And according to Brigadier General (res.) Muada Hasbani, "It's a bad decision both on a tactical level and a strategic one. Instead of solving the problem, it could cause young guys to decide not to enlist."
Assad pulls air force out of Deir ez-Zour, the third Syrian air base surrendered to ISIS
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 27, 2015
Just a week after losing the big Palmyra air base to the Islamic State – and with it large stocks of ammo and military equipment - Syrian military and air units Wednesday, May 27, began pulling out of the big air base at Deir ez-Zour. This was Bashar Assad’s last military stronghold in eastern Syria and the last air facility for enabling fighter-bombers to strike ISIS forces in northeastern Syria and the western Iraqi province of Anbar.
His surrender of the Deir ez-Zour base is evidence that the Syrian president has run out of fighting strength for defending both his front lines and his air bases. He is also too tied down to be able to transfer reinforcements from front to front. He is therefore pulling in the remnants of his army from across the country for the defense of the capital, Damascus.
debkafile’s military sources report that the Islamic State now has in its sights the Syrian army’s biggest air facility, T4 Airbase, which is located on the fast highway linking Homs with Damascus 140 km away.
It is home base for the bulk of the air force’s fighters and bombers. In its hangars are an estimated 32 MiG-25 fighters, as well as smaller numbers of MiG-25PDS interceptors, designed for combat with the Israeli air force, MiG-25RBT bombers-cum-surveillance planes; MiG-25PU trainers, which are routinely used to strike rebel forces in crowded built-up areas, and advanced MiG-29SM fighter jets.
Stationed there too are 20 advanced Su-24M2 bombers, the strategic backbone of the Syrian air force.
T4 Airbase also holds the largest Syrian stocks of guided bombs, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
In the last few hours, air crews have been frantically removing these warplanes from T4 and distributing them among smaller bases in central Syria, at the cost of their operational effectiveness.
In the space of a week, therefore, Bashar Assad has lost three of his major air bases, including Palmyra, where Iranian and Russian air freights had been landing regularly with fresh supplies of ordnance and spare parts for his army.
Our military experts say that this bonanza frees ISIS to cut off the eastern, northern and central regions from the capital, and deprive the Syrian and Hizballah units battling for control of the Qalamoun Mts of air support against rebel and Islamist forces.
If they manage to take T4 as well, the Islamists will be able to prevent US jets from taking off for strikes against them in Syria, or bombing the their forces which have seized long stretches of the fast highway from Homs to Damascus.
A Libyan Taif agreement
Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya
Wednesday, 27 May 2015
Riyadh has not yet completed its mission of restoring peace and concord in Yemen. Would it be logical then for it to proceed with such a project in Libya? Yes, because it can, and because certain forces will ensure the situation deteriorates with time.
The situation in Libya is bad, and can get worse if it is long-neglected. However, it can be repaired with determination, goodwill and true brotherhood. All of those are available in Riyadh, which has no interest in Libya’s territory or oil, only its safety.
Saudi involvement is also necessary due to U.N. failure, the incapacity of Libya’s neighbors, and a real desire among Libyans for Riyadh’s involvement. Among them are Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Al Ghirani, Justice Minister Mustafa al-Qlayb, Hsayn al-Jazuri of the Islamic Movement, and others I met by coincidence at a hotel in Ankara.
They relied on me to deliver this message to the Saudi leadership, and this is what I am doing. All of them are part of Tripoli’s “National Salvation government” headed by Omar al-Hasi. They admit that they are not subject to a unanimous consensus, and remain unrecognized by both Arabs and the world. Ghirani will not attend Arab League meetings, nor will Qlayb participate in any meetings of Arab justice ministers.
The situation in Libya is bad, however, it can be repaired with determination, goodwill and true brotherhood. All of those are available in Riyadh
However, they represent a government in divided Libya covering an area larger than that of the Tobruk government, which is described as legitimate and is under the wing of General Khalifa Haftar, who wants to be the ‘savior’ of Libya. Countries concerned with the Libyan crisis, such as Tunisia and Algeria, provide them the same treatment as the Tobruk government, as well as the United Nations and its special representative Bernardino Leon.
They were preparing for a meeting with the Turkish government, which supports them along with Qatar’s government. The Tobruk government, backed up by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, is trying to end the conflict by force. The rest of the region wants a peaceful solution, wisely and fully aware that no one can resolve the conflict by force.
The only outcome of force in Libya would be its destruction and conversion to another Somalia. This explains the detachment of Algeria and Tunisia from the Egyptian position. It was even paradoxical to see Tunisia’s president meeting with Ali al-Salabi of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Libya Dawn,” sparking disapproval from Tobruk given that the president belongs to the secular anti-Islamist camp.
Nevertheless, he acted as a president, responsible for Tunisia, concerned for its security and striving for peace in neighboring Libya after its conflicts generated more than 1 million Libyan refugees in his country, with all their problems and rivalries. It was very natural for him to say: “Tunisia is at equal distance from all Libyan parties.”
Algeria and Morocco hold the same position, and will welcome Saudi mediation. The term “Libyan Taif” – based on the Saudi-brokered agreement that ended Lebanon’s civil war – is starting to echo in their newspapers.
However, most important is Libyans’ opinion, so I asked Ghirani about Saudi mediation. He answered with great enthusiasm: “Yes, we won’t find anyone better than King Salman. You – Saudi people – understand our situation. We’re tribes, and our differences aren’t dogmatic. They come as a result of greed, envy and missing governance after many years during which Muammar Gaddafi destroyed any political thought.”
He added: “We’re not the Muslim Brotherhood; they don’t even represent 2 percent of the Libyan people. They’re a party among others in a new Libya that doesn’t exclude anyone. I greatly disagree with them, but we won’t tolerate another dictator.”
He then harshly criticized Haftar, who wants to be the one and only Libyan leader. Ghirani recounted how Haftar waged war even before the election of the controversial current parliament.
The Libyan case is very complicated with each party having its own view. It is not a conflict between Islamists and secularists or West and East, but over the greed of each city based on perspective, race and tribal affiliation, along with a destabilized fusion of political parties and leaderships. In fact, neither Tripoli nor Tobruk are stable governments.
Divisions have emerged on both sides. Some parties were fed up with the tyranny and inflexibility of some government components, and felt like the personal ambitions of some led to the obstruction of dialogue, as well as corruption. For example, the deputy president of the National Alliance Bloc, who was considered a main component of the Tobruk government, resigned because he refused to continue “Operation Dignity” led by Haftar, which led to the destruction of half of Benghazi.
Whoever wants to resolve the Libyan situation must understand it and bear long hours of shouting, debate and exchange of blame.
A large portion of the two blocs have become tired of war and started to communicate. However, they also want a bigger brother to unite them in a “Libyan Taif,” as demanded by my friends in Ankara. I also received from Libyan politician Walid Artimet a long list of National Council and parliament members in favor of a “Libyan Taif.”
Prior to that, a neutralization of the outside forces that have fueled the conflict (Egypt and the UAE on one side, Turkey and Qatar on the other) must be undertaken. I am almost certain that the latter two are prepared to leave the arena to Saudi Arabia if it undertakes to put all its efforts into the matter, either alone or alongside the United Nations. I also expect Egypt and the UAE to do the same if they see Saudi decisiveness as in Yemen.
The most important thing is that wise Saudi diplomacy and patience enter the battlefield, complimenting some and pressuring others, so everyone is present except the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and anyone lacking the spirit of partnership.
I assume that Haftar is one of them and will refuse to participate, just like former Lebanese warlord Michel Aoun did in 1989 and insisted on pursuing his fight against the Syrians, his allies today.
It is not going to be easy. Libyans will disagree. Negotiations will be fierce, but without weapons. At the end, they will reach an agreement.
Khamenei's Nuclear Instructions: Public Versus Private
Mehdi Khalaji/Washington Institute
May 27, 2015
Leaked statements indicate that the Supreme Leader's private views on nuclear compromise are more flexible than his tough public posture, so the negotiators may be able to ignore his stated redlines on inspections.
On May 23, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araqchi were questioned by members of parliament during an off-the-record session of the Majlis. Leaked statements from the session show that what Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says in public about the ongoing nuclear talks with the P5+1 may differ from the private instructions he is giving to Iranian negotiators.
A day after the session, a website run by MP Hamid Rasaee, an outspoken critic of the negotiating team, published Araqchi's alleged statements before the Majlis. According to the site (http://www.rasaee.ir), Araqchi said that the team will accept the enhanced verification measures called for under the International Atomic Energy Agency's Additional Protocol, including inspection of Iran's military facilities -- provided that these powers are not exploited by foreign agents. He told the Majlis that "since the beginning of the negotiation in Muscat, we were authorized to accept the Additional Protocol and proceed in the negotiations," strongly implying that Khamenei was the one who had provided the authorization. When MPs protested, he noted that "it is the Majlis's right to refuse to approve [the Additional Protocol]," but he also implied that doing so would make little difference to the negotiators because they had already been authorized to accept it.
The website leaked these statements after Araqchi denied another MP's claims that the team would accept IAEA access to military facilities. Despite Araqchi's denial, the Rasaee leak shows Zarif saying, "Even the Geneva Joint Plan of Action mentions the Additional Protocol, and under the Additional Protocol nonnuclear facilities including military facilities should be accessible...But their access would be controlled...If IAEA inspectors claim that there is a suspicious activity in a military facility...we take the inspectors there blindfolded until they get to the specific point they want to see. We would cover the areas we don't want them to see...this is controlled access." This position is difficult to reconcile with Khamenei's repeated public statements that inspecting military facilities is a redline for the Islamic Republic.
Zarif's latest public statements are similarly at odds with Khamenei's public stance. On May 25, he told the Iranian Students' News Agency that IAEA interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists have nothing to do with the core of the negotiations: "This is a peripheral issue...Even under the previous government [of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], our nuclear scientists were interviewed by IAEA agents several times." In contrast, Khamenei declared in a May 20 speech, "I will not allow foreigners to come and talk to the nation's dear scientists and children and interrogate them...Our rude and brazen enemy expects us to let them talk to our scholars and scientists about a fundamental national and domestic [achievement], but such permission will never be issued...This should be clear for the enemies of the Islamic Republic and all those who are waiting for the government's decision [on the nuclear deal]." Zarif's remarks indicate that this redline has been crossed in the past and is no big deal. And given the Supreme Leader's vast control over Iranian decisionmaking, it is highly unlikely that Zarif or other officials would express such views if Khamenei did not hold them himself behind closed doors.
In short, there seem to be considerable discrepancies between Khamenei's inflammatory public statements about the nuclear talks and the more practical and flexible instructions he is apparently giving Iranian officials in private. The optimistic reading of this gap is that a viable deal may be attainable and that Khamenei's declared redlines can be largely ignored. At the same time, it is not encouraging that Khamenei is unwilling to publicly acknowledge the compromises he is accepting in private. As usual, he does not want to take any firm position that would make him accountable for the outcome of the negotiations or the resultant deal.
**Mehdi Khalaji is the Libitzky Family Fellow at The Washington Institute.
Israeli Army chief plays down fears of
Egypt buying Russian air-defense systems
By REUTERS/J.Post/05/27/2015 19:2
"Are you kidding me? We're at peace with them," Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel told reporters.
President Sisi and President Putin in Cairo, February 9, 2015
The chief of Israel's air force on Wednesday played down worries voiced by some fellow officials about the possibility of Egypt acquiring advanced Russian-made air defenses.
The Russian news agency TASS said in March Egypt would receive the Antey-2500 missile system, an S-300 variant, and put the value of the contract at more than a billion dollars. Neither Egypt nor Russia has formally confirmed it.
The S-300 would pose a challenge to Israel's air force.
Russia is also in talks to sell the system to Iran, to the open consternation of Israel, which has long threatened to attack its arch-foe's nuclear facilities if it deems diplomatic efforts to deny Tehran the bomb to have failed.
"It (an Iranian S-300) is a very big challenge. It is a strategic problem long before it is an operational problem," air force chief Major-General Amir Eshel told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on Wednesday.
"Someone who has an S-300 feels protected and can do more aggressive things because he feels protected," he said.
But Eshel brushed off any suggestions Israel would be concerned about an Egyptian S-300, telling reporters: "Are you kidding me? We're at peace with them."
In a state of stable albeit cold peace since 1979, Israel and Egypt have in recent years stepped up security coordination against Islamist militants.
"We're all for Egypt getting anything it needs from the United States for counterterrorism," a senior Israeli military officer said on condition of anonymity this month.
"The problem is that the S-300 has nothing to do with counterterrorism."
A US official said he had heard "muted" misgivings over the S-300 deal, but that the Israelis seemed resigned to it.
"They have a problem because here they are telling us we should give (Egypt) all this kit for Sinai, and yet they have problems with certain other weapons systems. They're aware that it's a mixed message, and they don't want to risk that," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Egypt depends on extensive US military aid, which can potentially be influenced by Israel's own lobbying in Washington.
Canada: Muslim arrested for statue
defacing, hate graffiti at Catholic church
May 27, 2015 3:40 pm By Robert Spencer Leave a Comment
MississaugaStCatherineofSienachurchClearly the Catholic Church needs to ramp up the “dialogue” in Mississauga. That will fix this problem right up. Yes, that “dialogue” will make young Muslims like Iqbal Hessan forget all about the hadith in which Muhammad is depicted as ssaying, “Do not leave any image without defacing it or any built-up grave without leveling it” (Sahih Muslim 969).
“Police make arrest in suspected hate crime at Mississauga Catholic church
Jean Ko Din, The Catholic Register, May 26, 2015 (thanks to Anne Crockett):
“MISSISSAUGA, ONT. – A 22-year-old Mississauga man has been charged in connection with alleged hate crimes committed at St. Catherine of Siena Church and its neighbouring elementary school over the past two months.
Iqbal Hessan was reportedly arrested in the early hours of May 26 on the Mississauga school’s grounds, though police would not confirm this. Hessan faces five counts of mischief over $5,000, and break, enter and commit indictable offence. A bail hearing was held later that day.
On May 20, the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue that stands in front of the church was covered in black paint and the fingers of its outstretched arms were broken off. Behind the church, graffiti with the words “There is no Jew God” was scrawled across the brick wall along with a drawing of a face labelled “Jewsus.”
It was the third time the church has been targeted. On April 9, surveillance footage caught a young man breaking into the church, ripping pages of the Sacramentary book on the altar and throwing them at the tabernacle. He is then seen stealing one of the church’s amplifier speakers.
On May 17, a drawing of a hand gesturing with the middle finger was found spray painted on the front steps of the church. And on May 25, graffiti was sprayed on the school walls.
But out of the vandalism has come a new sense of community. When news spread, the parish community and its neighbours began working together to get the church back to its original shape.
Michelle Medeiros was driving down Hurontario Street on May 21 when she noticed the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue marked with black paint. She stopped, took photos of the damage and posted them on Facebook.
“We try to share it as much as we can so that people know we can’t be quiet about this,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a mosque. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Catholic church… It doesn’t matter anything. This is somebody else’s faith and we shouldn’t destroy it because it’s not right.”…The Archdiocese of Toronto sent a notice on May 21 reminding parishes to stay vigilant and to exercise proper safety precautions. And ramp up that “dialogue,” fellas!
Muslims won’t listen to Hirsi Ali
By Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun
Tuesday, May 26,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the incredibly courageous, Somali-born author, has written a new book, Heretic, in which she calls for “nothing less than a Muslim Reformation.”
Her Muslim critics may spew vitriol at her, but they cannot take away from the unflinching resolve she has demonstrated — in the face of death threats — as she critiques Islam, the religion of her childhood that she has abandoned.
She is reaching out to Muslims, but I feel her gesture will resonate only with those who have already abandoned Islam, not those who remain inside its cauldron.
Hirsi Ali identifies her audience as “Mecca Muslims”, her label for non-radical, religious Muslims, a category few Muslims will understand unless they read her book.
She writes: “I hope to engage (Mecca Muslims) … in a dialogue about the meaning and practice of their faith. I hope that they will be one of the primary audiences for this book.”
Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen.
I say this because no Muslim will pay heed to someone who has referred in the past to their Prophet Mohammed as a “pervert” and a "tyrant."
Of course, Hirsi Ali has the right to pass judgment on any historical figure, and I support her right to her opinion, despite disagreeing with her.
But Hirsi Ali today identifies more with the American literati, rather than the secular dissidents dying in Bangladesh or Pakistan, jailed in Turkey and Iran, or the persecuted Rohingya Muslims adrift in the Bay of Bengal.
As she acknowledges to the reader:
“I am now one of you: a Westerner. I share with you the pleasures of the seminar rooms and the campus cafes. I know we Western intellectuals cannot lead a Muslim Reformation. But we do have an important role to play.”
As for a “Reformation” in Islam, if religions could be reformed through reason and logic, then the biblical belief that God appeared in the form of a burning bush on Mt. Sinai to talk to Moses, would at best be considered a fairy tale, not a fact.
Similarly, the story in the Bible and Qur’an of God asking Abraham to slaughter his own son (Jews say this was Isaac while Muslims insist it was Ishmael) as an act of sacrifice, can only be believed if one has blind faith in one’s religion, not because of any rational thought process.
Yet, hundreds of years after the Reformation, Renaissance and the age of Enlightenment, this reported encounter on earth between God and man is considered an indisputable foundation of not just Judaism and Christianity, but Islam.
Christians believe a snake in the Garden of Eden could speak to a human. Hindus are convinced a monkey once flew holding a mountain on the palm of his right hand. Muslims are certain Mohammed flew on a winged horse (undoubtedly inspired by Pegasus).
The difference between Muslims and other religious believers is that many Muslims still believe in the mixing of religion and politics, whereas the rest of the world now uses faith mainly as a moral compass, rather than a basis for legislation.
Hirsi Ali misses this point completely in her latest book.
She is right in her call for Muslims to abandon sharia, but guilty of invoking that very sharia to pass judgment on Prophet Mohammed as a pervert and tyrant.
She can’t have it both ways.