LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 16,9-15. ( When he had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country. They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them either. (But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Symposium: One Islam? By Jamie Glazov. FrontPage magazine. April 15/07
Implications of the Israel-Hezbollah War.Gary C. Gambill. Global Politician. April 15/07
Israel's Traitor. By David Bedein. FrontPage magazine. April 15/07
How Not to Deal with Terrorists.By John Bolton. FrontPage magazine. April 15/07
Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources for April 15/07
Merrill Lynch downgrades Lebanon debt-Ya Libnan
PLO to isolate Fatah al-Islam in north Lebanon-Ya Libnan
UN bid to break Lebanon deadlock.BBC News
UN Chief Sends Top Lawyer To Lebanon To Break Hariri Tribunal Impasse.Men's News Daily
PLO Acts to Contain Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared-Naharnet
Syria-Israel peace possible within six months.The News - International
Assad's Desperate Moves.AINA
Iran, Syria Using Hezbollah to Step Up Tension in Lebanon.AINA
Civil War prompts soul searching among Lebanese-International Herald Tribune
Cheney Accused Of Authorizing Covert Action Against Hezbollah.All Headline News
Hezbollah will keep weapons for now.Cleveland Jewish News
Lebanon crisis could lead to two governments.Reuters
PLO acts to contain Islamists in Lebanon camp.Khaleej Times
Spectre of civil war still haunts Lebanon.The News
32 years on, Lebanon again on the edge.Gulf Times
Latest News Reports From The Daily Star for April 15/07
Hizbullah says UN role could create 'chaotic Lebanon'
EU delegation visits South, UNIFIL posts
Fatfat challenges Nasrallah to cut ties with Syria
Fadlallah: Don't let 'country collapse above our heads'
Former warlords reply to requests for apology
Mouawad meets with UNICEF envoy on children's aid
BankMed defends guard's actions in clash
Key events since outbreak of 15-year Civil War
$135 million in German aid benefits range of projects
Lest we forget .
Rival Druze groups clash in Chouf, wounding 2
Lebanese Forces denies links to arsenal seized in Koura by security forces
Female veteran of war broadcasts message of peace
Painful recollections, measured words define Civil War remembrance day
Hizbullah says UN role could create 'chaotic Lebanon'
Qassem invites march 14 forces to hold 'lebanese session' to discuss formation of hariri tribunal
By Nada Bakri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, April 14, 2007
BEIRUT: Hizbullah said Friday that in order to avoid "a chaotic Lebanon" the United Nations should remain at an equal distance from all political players and avoid interfering in the country's internal affairs. The advisory came two days after the Lebanese government sent the UN Security Council a second request to consider alternative means for establishing the international tribunal to try suspects in former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's murder and subsequent crimes.
"The Security Council should not get too involved in the Lebanese details, it should remain neutral if they want a stable Lebanon," Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hizbullah's number two, told the party's Al-Nour Radio. "But if they want a chaotic Lebanon, then what they are doing is leading toward the direction they want." Qassem said establishing the court under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which would obviate the need for Parliament's approval, would lead to a confrontation with half of the Lebanese population.
"When we go to Chapter 7, it means we are no longer dealing with a criminal court but are in front of a different issue and all the other details would become meaningless because it would be about confronting a new reality," Qassem said.
"It won't be a matter of uncovering the killers of President Hariri."He urged the pro-government March 14 Forces to hold "a Lebanese session" to discuss amending the draft law of the court, which would eventually lead to establishing the court through constitutional means.
"Any path other than this, there will be no value for any amendments and no meaning for any discussion that is taking place in the absence of the Lebanese themselves," Hizbullah's deputy said. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that he hoped the "Lebanese government would take the necessary measures, constitutional, among themselves, through dialogue by promoting a national reconciliation."
Ban, who will visit Syria later this month, has also said he hopes to persuade Syrian officials to change their position on the international court. A UN investigation has implicated senior Syrian officials in the assassination of Hariri. Damascus denies any involvement. Ban's legal adviser, Nicola Michel, is scheduled to arrive to Beirut on Sunday, according to the press office of Premier Fouad Siniora. Ban and Siniora discussed during a telephone call the details of Michel's visits.
A Russian envoy, Alexander Sultanov, is due in Beirut on Monday. He will also visit Damascus on Tuesday to discuss the international court and Russia's position. Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament, said on Wednesday that the "forceful shortsighted approach" of the Hizbullah-led opposition would lead to the creation of the tribunal under Chapter 7.
Local newspapers said Friday that the UN and the Lebanese government are still examining possibilities for establishing the international tribunal through Lebanese constitutional measures. According to An-Nahar daily, both the UN and Lebanese Cabinet welcomed a French suggestion to send Ban's legal adviser to Beirut to re-explain the system of the court and offer a new opportunity for solving the impasse locally.
The newspaper, quoting unidentified sources close to the prime minister, said that Siniora's appeal to the UN in relation to the international court did not suggest a specific method for its creation and particularly did not suggest resorting to Chapter 7 of the UN charter.
The sources said that the government would pursue every opportunity to set up the court through Lebanese constitutional means. Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch told An-Nahar in comments published Friday that if the Lebanese Parliament does not ratify the tribunal, the United States and other members of the UN Security Council would consider legal options to set up the court. Welch said "foreign interference" had prevented the formation of the tribunal. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, whose Amal movement is part of the opposition, is refusing to call for a Parliament session to set up the court.
Welch said that he had discussed discord among Christians in Lebanon with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir in a telephone conversation Wednesday. "I expressed my concern over lack of unity" between them, Welch said. He also said that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Damascus has not led to changes in Syria's behavior in Lebanon. Pelosi's trip last week stirred controversy, with President George W. Bush and others claiming the speaker had undermined the US government's hard line on Damascus.
UN bid to break Lebanon deadlock
The Hariri killing sparked protests that forced Syria out of Lebanon
The UN is stepping up efforts to end the deadlock over how to try those suspected of killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is sending his top legal adviser to the country next week. Mr Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive bomb explosion in Beirut on 14 February 2005. Lebanon's current prime minister backs plans for an international tribunal but his pro-Syrian opponents do not.
Nicholas Michel, the UN's top legal adviser, will visit Lebanon on Tuesday to try to help the rival parties find common ground over proposals to set up an international tribunal. "We simply want to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to share his or her proposals, and make sure that at the end we have a broad support in the country for the establishment of the tribunal," he said.
The UN says Mr Hariri's killing was "probably" politically motivated and has implicated Syria but Damascus has denied any involvement in his death.
The UN has signed an accord that would create an international tribunal but the move has been opposed by Syria and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said any Syrian suspects would be tried in Syria and he would not release them to a tribunal. If Lebanon fails to ratify the proposal, the Security Council may consider independently authorising a tribunal as it did in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri's son, has urged the UN Security Council to bypass the political parties and establish a tribunal, if the Lebanese parties cannot agree.
UN Chief Sends Top Lawyer To Lebanon To Break Hariri Tribunal Impasse
April 13, 2007
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is sending his top legal adviser to Lebanon to try to break the stalemate preventing creation of a tribunal to try suspects in former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein has details from U.N. headquarters in New York.
The secretary-general told Security Council ambassadors Friday he is sending Undersecretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel to Beirut to persuade Lebanese leaders to approve the Hariri tribunal. “I sincerely hope that his visit will help the political leaders of Lebanon in their efforts to proceed (with) constitutional procedures to ratify so that the special tribunal can be established as soon as possible,” he said.
Creation of the Hariri assassination tribunal is at the center of Lebanon’s worst political turmoil in decades.
The former prime minister and 22 others were killed in a Beirut bomb attack in February, 2005. He is the most prominent of a number of anti-Syrian Lebanese political figures killed or wounded in a series of attacks around that time.
An initial U.N. inquiry implicated senior Syrian intelligence officials in the murder. Damascus strongly denied involvement and condemned the killing, but international outrage led to the end of Syria’s 29-year military presence in Lebanon. Lebanon signed a deal with the United Nations to set up an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the killings. But that deal must be ratified by the country’s divided parliament. The pro-Syrian speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri, has refused to convene the legislature to approve the document.
As head of the U.N. legal department, Undersecretary-General Michel helped draft the tribunal treaty. He told reporters his trip to Lebanon beginning Monday will be what he called an “open-minded, open-hearted effort” to win “broad support in the country for establishment of the tribunal”.
“There is no doubt in my view that the whole logic requires the establishment of the tribunal. This is a necessity not only because justice must be done, but also because the investigation must be efficient. There must be a clear prospect for the establishment of the tribunal,” he said.
Some Security Council diplomats are known to have discussed forcing creation the tribunal through a legally-binding resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Pro-Syrian politicians in Lebanon have suggested such a move could push the country toward civil war.
Secretary-General Ban Friday avoided questions about the use of Chapter 7. “I am not in a position at this time to say anything about Chapter 7 issues,” he said. But when Undersecretary-General Michel was asked if his mission was a last-ditch effort to get the Lebanese to agree before the Security Council takes over the issue, he admitted that the matter is urgent.
“I think that everybody understands that there is an element of time here, and that it will be necessary for all those that are engaged in the investigation, the process of the establishment of the tribunal to have a clear prospect for its establishment in a not too remote future,” he said.
Michel says his open-ended visit to Lebanon will be long enough to allow ’sufficient time’ for all parties to make their points, and to hear his reassurance that the tribunal will be independent and impartial. He will report to the Security Council on his return to New York, and says it will be up to Council members to decide on any further action. In the meantime, Secretary-General Ban is to visit Damascus during a trip to the Middle East later this month. He is scheduled to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria-Israel peace possible within six months’
JERUSALEM: Syria and Israel could clinch a peace deal in six months, a Syrian-American businessman at the heart of secret unofficial peace talks said on Thursday after appearing before a top parliamentary panel. “Peace can be reached in six months if both parties are willing,” Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman said. “The negotiations are finished. There are only minor things that could be fixed in two or three meetings. Peace is possible now.”
Suleiman spoke to reporters after appearing before parliament’s powerful foreign affairs and defence committee with Alon Liel, a former Israeli foreign ministry director general who headed the Israeli side in the unofficial talks. Suleiman and Liel headed two years of the secret talks during which understandings were reached for a peace treaty between Syria and Israel. Suleiman, 60, was at the centre of the official peace talks between Israel and Syria which began following the Madrid peace summit, including the 1996 US-sponsored talks at Wye Plantation and later in 2000 in Shepherdstown.
During those talks, Suleiman said on Thursday, “the sides solved 80 per cent of disagreements.” He said he and Liel succeeded in further narrowing the gap between the sides, and that their talks should be replaced by official negotiations. “Our work is done, now it’s up to officials in Israel and Syria to sit down and iron out their differences,” the US businessman said. “We gave them a peace map.”
Syria’s “President Bashar al-Assad wants peace with Israel. He wants to make peace and be known as the man of peace.
“I believe him, but Bashar al-Assad alone cannot make peace, he needs a partner in Israel. I challenge the Israeli government to answer President Bashar’s call for peace to sit down together and work things out.” Suleiman nevertheless doubted the ability of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to make meaningful steps towards peace talks and withdraw from the Golan plateau.
Iran, Syria Using Hezbollah to Step Up Tension in Lebanon
By Hassan Haydar-Al-Hayat
Beirut -- Iranian threats to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in response to the continued international pressures on it, its declaration that it has moved to an advanced stage in enriching uranium, and the escalatory stances announced by Hezbollah Secretary General with respect to the Lebanese dialogue, the international tribunal, and the four arrested officers, are two sides of the same coin notwithstanding Hezbollah's denials that its stances were being shaped by potential regional developments.
The ongoing war of wills between Iran and the rest of the world are by all means affecting the threads tying together Tehran and its ally, Damascus, who are both fighting the 'same battle'.The strongest proof of this was Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's declaration that a US war on Iran would mean 'another world, another nation, another set of balances, calculations and side-taking' in Lebanon.
If indeed the stances assumed by Tehran stand to make any sense to Iran and the policies laid down by its hard line leaderships ever since it was secretly planning to join the nuclear club, while it sought cover in Muhammad Khatami's moderate and open-to-dialogue character, then, what could explain the decision by its agent in Lebanon to embark on the sort of sharp escalation that revealed that Hezbollah no longer gives any weight to even the formalities it once resorted to in order to conceal its true convictions and be able to sell its demands?
The Riyadh Summit could be viewed as one more, and perhaps the last, test of the Syrian intentions, particularly in Lebanon. It is a test that is a part of a broader Arab assemblage, which opened a door for its return to the most rudimentary ideals of Arab solidarity.
Syria, however, chose to return to this solidarity only verbally, without providing any tangible proof to its acceptance of producing any shift in its policies starting, as a prerequisite, with Lebanon. Damascus also failed to return to its old methods of exploiting regional and international inconsistencies to its advantage, and moving back and forth between the regional and international arenas whenever it felt the expediency, because the fundamental changes of policy demanded from it entails its acceptance of the international tribunal and dropping its opposition to it, whereas it views the same as a direct threat to its regime.With the emergence of more voices in support of the eventuality of imposing this international legal body under the UN Security Council mechanism to circumvent the forcefully inactive Lebanese institutions; Damascus' only remaining option seems to lie in attempting to attack the very concept at the core of the international investigation in the assassination of Hariri, namely, by not recognizing even the preliminary results of this investigation. This is perhaps what Nasrallah intended to say when he criticized the aim of the court as attempting to lay down the framework for pre-decided verdicts, and his demands for the release of the four officers under arrest.
A second source of concern for Damascus and Hezbollah lies in the progress being made in the Shebaa farms file and the possibility of a UN sanctioning of demands by the Fouad Siniora government to return these farms to Lebanon, following an Israeli withdrawal or its placement under an interim international mandate. This constitutes a source of embarrassment for Syria, which, to until this day, is refusing to recognize the Lebanese identity of these farms, and the demarcation of the borders with Lebanon in this particular area.
This was also the reason for Hassan Nasrallah's declaration that his Party's possession of arms is not subject to reclaiming the farms, nor to the issue of the prisoners, which is shrouded in silence, and is not likely to be revived by Israel in the foreseeable future.
This may have also been the reason for Nasrallah's threats to wage a 'long campaign' against 'those who are trying to transfer Lebanon completely to the US' side', which by extension means that the resistance's arms are aimed against the US, not just against Israel, and that the standoff will be tied to the US' standoff with Iran, which could drag on for decades.
Both Iran and Syria have come to realize that their wager on 'reaping the fruits' of the US predicament in Iraq was premature and unjustified, as international sanctions against Iran are being intensified are candidate for further intensification in the near future.
Both countries have also come to realize that the diplomatic visits to Damascus have not succeeded in easing neither in form, nor in content, the intensity of the international demands on Syria. At the same time, the US and European declared policies with respect to the region's files are not expected to change in the foreseeable future, which was perhaps the reasons that led Syria and Iran to step up the tension in Lebanon; the main arena of the negotiations.
Picture: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah ( L ) , Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ( C) , Syrian president Bashar el Assad
Assad's Desperate Moves
Washington -- The extreme swings that the Syrian foreign policy is subjected to by an Assad regime unable to have a grip on reality demonstrates to what extent the isolation policy of the US has succeeded. From waging a proxy war on Israel via Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 to sending an unofficial emissary to Jerusalem to seek peace, nine months later, is an indication of how desperate Assad has become in the face of adversity mostly of his own making. But in the last two weeks, there is a critical momentum taking shape at the regional and international levels that must not be discounted now that Israel told Assad to take a hike. It started the day Assad had his meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the end of March in which Abdullah told Assad in no uncertain terms that he must cooperate with the international tribunal into the killings of one of their own sons Rafik Hariri. Assad reportedly told Abdullah that he needed two weeks to respond but no such response was forthcoming as is expected from an Assad bent on dictating his terms. April 10's letter to the UN by the prime minister of Lebanon Fouad Siniora in which the Lebanese legitimate government is seeking a UN mandated international tribunal governed by Chapter Seven is the regional Arab response to Assad's lack of cooperation.
On the surface, Assad is more under siege than ever before because he has just been told off by Israel, Pelosi's trip caused such an uproar that Assad is realizing it makes Pelosi an unreliable partner in splitting the US government to dictate his terms, and the regional Arab mood, now led by a determined Abdullah, has just announced its verdict with Siniora's letter to the UN.
But do not discount a violent man. Assad's next desperate move is more of the same the region has experienced in the last seven years: more violence to pressure the Arab countries and the international community to accept his terms, which by the way includes governing Lebanon, an oil agreement with Iraq that would save the Syrian economy, and the Golan Heights to immortalize him. We predict that Assad will mobilize three organizations in the next few weeks. One Hezbollah al-Magharbi that was confirmed by an Algerian member of parliament named Abdul Rahman al-Soueidi, which operates out of Germany. Germany, aware of Assad's danger, is trying to cushion the damage by appeasing him with gifts and aid.
Next Assad will attack Lebanon by killing another rising politician and as a goodbye gift to president Chirac of France some French UNIFIL stationed under a UN mandate in Lebanon to insure the implementation of UN Resolution 1701 barring arms transfers to Hezbollah. Assad will use recently discovered assets in northern Lebanon trained for acts of terrorism.
In line with what we expect from one of the most violent dictators ever, Assad will also activate Hezbollah to re-ignite civil strife in the hopes that the expected visit to Damascus on April 24 by Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, will persuade the timid UN to back off from the implementation of the international tribunal as its UNIFIL forces and the Lebanese government get a taste of the Assad regime legacy. The violence in Lebanon will possibly start on that April 24 as is the habit of the Assad regime to send the clearest of signals.
All these are predictions of course. However, given the Syrian opposition intimate history of the Assad family whether the destruction of Hama in 1982 and the killing of 20,000 Hamayan citizens (The number will only be known once Syria comes to grip with its black history under the Assads) at the hands of Rifaat and Hafez al-Assad or the much younger Baschar whose hands are dripping with Syrian, American, Lebanese, Iraqi, Israeli and soon European blood, we expect nothing less from a desperate Assad now looking at the hangman's rope.
32 years on, Lebanon again on the edgePublished: Saturday
14 April, 2007
Owner Sami Hamdan poses near the ‘Ain al-Roumaneh bus’ on Thursday. Right: Khadija Ali Wehbe, carrying pictures of her two kidnapped sons, sits at the door of the bus, displayed for the 32nd anniversary of the outbreak of Lebanon’s civil war, in Beirut yesterday
BEIRUT: Lebanon yesterday marked an anniversary it would prefer to forget. Once again mired in the politics of confrontation, and still reeling from last year’s Israeli onslaught, the country is commemorating 32 years since the start of its 15-year civil war. The spectre of April 13, 1975 has never been laid to rest, and the current political impasse has led to scenes reminiscent of the horror years, raising fears of renewed civil strife. In January deadly clashes between Shias and Sunnis erupted in Beirut as the political standoff between the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the Syria-backed Hezbollah-led opposition descended into violence. Having hoped they had consigned the civil war years to history, Lebanese now refer to “Iraqisation” in a reference to the sectarian violence now rampaging to the east.
Before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, “Lebanonisation” was the word used to describe a country at war with itself. The civil conflict in the small eastern Mediterranean country killed an estimated 150,000 people. When it finally ended in 1990, after military intervention by Syria, Israel and the Palestinians, the Lebanese once again embarked on a path of peace.
But the assassination on February 14, 2005 of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri and, paradoxically, the subsequent departure of Syrian troops after years of Damascus domination, changed everything. The country is now split into two camps - the Western- and Saudi-backed government and the Syrian- and Iranian-supported opposition. Brewing for more than two years, the cauldron boiled over last November with the resignation from Siniora’s cabinet of six pro-Syrian ministers, paralysing the anti-Damascus parliamentary majority.
The UN and Lebanon’s government have agreed to set up an international tribunal to try suspects in Hariri’s murder, but this must first be ratified by the country’s divided parliament. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, backed by Christian President Emile Lahoud, is pressing for a new government of national unity in which the opposition would have a minority veto.
But Siniora has ruled out early polls. On Sunday Nasrallah proposed a referendum to resolve the deadlock, saying that the way to resolve domestic problems was “not to resort to foreign parties but to the people.”Hezbollah would not allow itself to be dragged into a civil war, he said: “We will continue to use peaceful, democratic and civil means” of protest. Nasrallah said the Siniora government was deluding itself by counting on major regional changes to transform the situation in Lebanon, such as a US attack on Iran, another major Hezbollah backer.
On Wednesday Sheikh Naim Qassim, the Shia movement’s number two, charged in an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the US was financing a secret war in Lebanon.
US Vice President “Dick Cheney has given orders for a covert war against Hezbollah... there is now an American programme that is using Lebanon to further its goals in the region,” Qassim said. Since the January street clashes in which four people were killed and 150 others wounded, each side has accused the other of rearming. On Monday, Druze chief Walid Jumblatt, a leader of the parliamentary majority, claimed that armed foreigners - mainly Syrian - were entering the country illegally disguised as building workers. On Tuesday, however, another majority leader and former Christian militia chief Samir Geagea said: “We want no more war.”With the exception of Hezbollah, Lebanon’s factions may no longer have access to the heavy weaponry used during the civil war. But light arms are widely available in a country where extremist groups keep a wary eye open for future trouble. - AFP
Spectre of civil war still haunts Lebanon
BEIRUT: Lebanon on Friday marked an anniversary it would prefer to forget. Once again mired in the politics of confrontation, and still reeling from last year’s Israeli onslaught, the country is commemorating 32 years since the start of its 15-year civil war.
The spectre of April 13, 1975 has never been laid to rest, and the current political impasse has led to scenes reminiscent of the horror years, raising fears of renewed civil strife. In January deadly clashes between Shiites and Sunnis erupted in Beirut as the political standoff between the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and the Syria-backed Hizbullah-led opposition descended into violence.
Having hoped they had consigned the civil war years to history, Lebanese now refer to “Iraqisation” in a reference to the sectarian violence now rampaging to the east. Before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, “Lebanonisation” was the word used to describe a country at war with itself.
The civil conflict in the small eastern Mediterranean country killed an estimated 150,000 people.
When it finally ended in 1990, after military intervention by Syria, Israel and the Palestinians, the Lebanese once again embarked on a path of peace.
But the assassination on February 14, 2005 of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and, paradoxically, the subsequent departure of Syrian troops after years of Damascus domination, changed everything.
The country is now split into two camps—the Western- and Saudi-backed government and the Syrian- and Iranian-supported opposition. Brewing for more than two years, the cauldron boiled over last November with the resignation from Siniora’s cabinet of six pro-Syrian ministers, paralysing the anti-Damascus parliamentary majority. The United Nations and Lebanon’s government have agreed to set up an international tribunal to try suspects in Hariri’s murder, but this must first be ratified by the country’s divided parliament. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah, backed by Christian President Emile Lahoud, is pressing for a new government of national unity in which the opposition would have a minority veto.
But Siniora has ruled out early polls. On Sunday Nasrallah proposed a referendum to resolve the deadlock, saying that the way to resolve domestic problems was “not to resort to foreign parties but to the people.” Hizbullah would not allow itself to be dragged into a civil war, he said: “We will continue to use peaceful, democratic and civil means” of protest. Nasrallah said the Siniora government was deluding itself by counting on major regional changes to transform the situation in Lebanon, such as a US attack on Iran, another major Hizbullah backer.
On Wednesday Sheikh Naim Qassim, the Shiite movement’s number two, charged in an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the United States was financing a secret war in Lebanon. US Vice President “Dick Cheney has given orders for a covert war against Hizbullah... there is now an American programme that is using Lebanon to further its goals in the region,” Qassim said. Since the January street clashes in which four people were killed and 150 others were wounded, each side has accused the other of rearming.
On Monday, Druze chief Walid Jumblatt, a leader of the parliamentary majority, claimed that armed foreigners—mainly Syrian—were entering the country illegally disguised as building workers. On Tuesday, however, another majority leader and former Christian militia chief Samir Geagea said: “”We want no more war.” With the exception of Hizbullah, Lebanon’s factions may no longer have access to the heavy weaponry used during the civil war. But light arms are widely available in a country where extremist groups keep a wary eye open for future trouble.
Fatfat challenges Nasrallah to cut ties with Syria
Daily Star staff-Saturday, April 14, 2007
BEIRUT: The ongoing war of words between government supporters and the opposition showed no signs of abating on Friday as Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat challenged Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to explain his group's ties with Syria, a regime that Fatfat said "holds negotiations with Israel at Lebanon and Hizbullah's expense." Fatfat was referring to negotiations between Israel and Syria through Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman, who told the Israeli Parliament of "Syria's willingness to cut its ties with Hizbullah and other terrorist movements if a peace agreement is to be signed between Syria and Israel." In a statement, Fatfat called on Nasrallah "to tell the people what would make him cut off all ties with the Syrian regime or at least make him stop his endless praise and gratitude to this regime and its president. "Isn't it enough for Hizbullah to know that Syria is currently negotiating with Israel at the expense of Lebanon and the Lebanese? Isn't it enough to realize that it is high time that the relationship be brought to an end?" Fatfat asked. Fatfat said Hizbullah "ought to have realized by now" that the government it labels as "traitor" was working on preserving "the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon in face of Israel." - The Daily Star
Implications of the Israel-Hezbollah War
Gary C. Gambill - 4/14/2007
The July-August 2006 conflagration between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite Islamist Hezbollah movement defies the common presumption that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently zero sum - that Israel's loss is always a commensurate gain for its adversaries, and vice versa. As UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown remarked during the fourth week of fighting, this was an "odd war" in which "both sides think they're winning."
In fact, both sides achieved significant gains that may ultimately outweigh their losses and shift the dynamics of the conflict into a stable equilibrium. Israel made concrete strategic and diplomatic gains in its decades-long quest to pacify its northern border, while failing spectacularly to achieve rather fanciful declared objectives and tarnishing its image of military invincibility (a disastrous combination in Israeli politics, but hardly a crushing national setback). Hezbollah won a resounding political victory at home, at the expense of constrained freedom of action to fight Israelis abroad, a state-sanctioned indulgence that most Lebanese Shiites would just as soon the group give up (while remaining armed).
The war was less favorable to non-participants. The Israeli onslaught appears to have eroded public confidence in Lebanon's ruling March 14 coalition by demonstrating that its most attractive perceived virtue (American backing) was largely a mirage and exposing the political paralysis and corruption of the state. The Bush administration gained some strategic leverage over Iran, but its unswerving support for the Israeli campaign fueled a spike in anti-American sentiments in Lebanon and the region, while Arab governments that tacitly followed its lead suffered a major public relations setback. While Iran and Syria loudly rejoiced at seeing their Lebanese ally take to the battlefield against Israel, the political payoffs accrue mainly to Hezbollah alone and will militate against future outside efforts to incite anti-Israeli violence from Lebanese soil.
Following the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah continued to launch sporadic cross-border raids against Israeli forces (under the pretext of liberating the disputed Shebaa Farms enclave and freeing a handful of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails); increased the scope of its financial, logistical, and material support for Palestinian terrorist groups; and stockpiled a massive arsenal of over 12,000 rockets capable of hitting northern Israel, including several hundred capable of hitting Haifa and a few dozen capable of hitting Tel Aviv. Hezbollah's low-level campaign against Israel was carefully crafted to maximize its domestic political returns (vis-à-vis Syria) and support Iranian strategic objectives, while falling within the perceived limits of Israeli tolerance.
While cross border violence by citizens of a neighboring country without any interference from their government is a state of affairs that even the most dovish Israelis agree shouldn't be tolerated, the Israeli government declined to respond forcefully to Hezbollah provocations for nearly six years. Fierce Israeli reprisals for cross-border attacks risked provoking Hezbollah into raining rockets on northern Israel, which would push any Israeli government ineluctably into a full-scale war in Lebanon. In view of Israel's preoccupation with the second Palestinian intifada, American desire for stability in Syrian-occupied Lebanon, and continued hopes that Syrian President Bashar Assad would come to the peace table, the day of reckoning was continually put off.
Hezbollah repeatedly stated that that its rockets were intended only to deter Israeli air strikes, and this may well be true - the rockets gave it the freedom to wage low-level, politically lucrative "resistance" to Israel without risk of devastating retaliation. However, in building an arsenal powerful enough to deter Israel (and constructing a massive network of fortified bunkers and tunnels to protect it) Hezbollah acquired a devastating first-strike capability (i.e. firing all of the rockets as quickly as possible before Israeli civilians have taken to air raid shelters).
The conclusion of Israeli and American officials that Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah was prepared to launch a first strike in response to a military campaign against Iran's nuclear facilities may have been erroneous (Hezbollah has never displayed any willingness to sacrifice its pursuit of political hegemony among Shiite Lebanese to advance Iranian interests). However, it was entirely consistent with Hezbollah's observable deployments, and with its extensive efforts to gather intelligence on Israeli industrial sites and other strategic targets which would be viable only in a carefully calibrated all-out assault (as opposed to the frenetic "shoot and scoot" tactics in an ongoing conflict).
Israel continued to tolerate the attacks throughout 2005 because of its pullout from Gaza, pressure from the Bush administration (which was anxious to bolster the Hariri-Jumblatt coalition), and looming Israeli elections (which rendered any escalation in Lebanon subject to suspicions of diversionary political motives). This tepid reprisal policy not only encouraged Hezbollah to continue the raids, but also bolstered Nasrallah's ability to win the acquiescence of the Lebanese political establishment after the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. The withdrawal left the most political powerful faction of the country's governing elite (led by the Hariri family and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, with support from traditional Christian political and religious leaders) unable to secure victory in parliamentary elections or form a stable government without Hezbollah's endorsement. In return for it, the Hariri-Jumblatt coalition agreed (much as it did during the occupation) not to obstruct Hezbollah operations against Israel or interfere with the flow of Iranian arms shipments to the militia.
The tidal wave of public outrage in Israel following Hezbollah's July 12 abduction of two Israeli soldiers gave Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a blank check to wage a full-scale war in Lebanon. Although the declared goals of the Israeli campaign evolved during the fighting, it was geared toward the pursuit of distinct military, strategic, diplomatic, and political objectives. The military objective was simply to degrade Hezbollah's operational capacity as much as possible, while minimizing human and economic costs; the strategic objective was to re-establish Israeli deterrence (both of Hezbollah and its enemies in general); the diplomatic objective was to enable the Americans to drum up international support for a multinational force explicitly authorized to obstruct Hezbollah attacks; and the political objective was to provide a sufficient pretext for the March 14 coalition to support a robust international deployment aimed at containing (and eventually disarming) Hezbollah.
The apparent genius of the plan was that Israel's drive to de-fang Hezbollah converged neatly with American and European interests in weakening Iranian strategic power, the March 14 coalition's aspiration to govern Lebanon as it sees fit, and Saudi Arabia's ambition to downsize the Arab world's most influential Shiite political force.
The Military Outcome
Israel's primary military objective was to degrade Hezbollah's ability to launch cross-border air and ground attacks, within whatever window of opportunity allowed for by Olmert's diplomatic campaign. This relegation of military objectives behind diplomatic and political goals (evident in Israel's reluctance to launch a major ground offensive until the last few days of the war) has been roundly criticized in Israel, but it was based on the recognition that no military outcome would be decisive unless Hezbollah faced an effective arms embargo or domestic constraints in refitting its paramilitary apparatus after the war. In addition to being diplomatically counterproductive, a sustained ground war against man-for-man the powerful guerrilla force in the world (with elite commandos equal or better than their Israeli counterparts in many kinds of tactics) would have been very costly. IDF incursions into Hezbollah-controlled territory have often been disastrous in the past (in 1997, 12 Israeli commandos died in a single raid).
In view of the limited resources committed to the campaign, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Dan Halutz's claim that Israel won "a victory on points, not a knockout" is a valid analogy up to a point. Hezbollah appears to have lost a substantially greater share of its military assets and infrastructure than Israel. The Israeli military claims to have killed over 500 Hezbollah's fighters (against its own losses of 118 servicemen) and eliminated most of the group's medium and long-range rockets. However, there was no reduction in Hezbollah rocket fire during the 33 days of fighting because an estimated 95% of the rockets fired at Israel were short-range 107mm and 122mm Katyushas, which are very difficult to detect from the air.
Indeed, there was no observable degradation of Hezbollah military capabilities at all during the war. The quality and endurance of its military performance exceeded Israeli expectations in virtually every domain, from the volume and accuracy of rocket fire into northern Israel (which peaked in the final week of the war) to the sophistication of its communications network and artful camouflage of heavy military equipment and bunkers (belying the initial assumption of Israeli war planners that air power alone would be sufficient to destroy them). On the second day of the war, Nasrallah called a Lebanese television station from his bunker and instructed viewers to look out their windows as a Hezbollah missile slammed into an offshore Israeli warship (the crew of which was evidently unaware that Hezbollah even had a coastal defense capability). There were reports that Hezbollah even managed to intercept IDF radio communications. After the war, Brig. Gen. Guy Zur, the commander of 162nd Armor Division, later proclaimed Hezbollah to be "by far the greatest guerrilla group in the world."
In contrast, Israel's military performance fell well short of expectations. Troops were sent into battle without sufficient food, water and basic supplies, apparently because of recent cuts in defense spending. The prioritization of diplomatic goals accounts for much of the vacillation and hesitancy of Israeli officials in directing the campaign - a leadership failure terribly out of step with Israeli military doctrine. While the Israeli military campaign was hardly a success, the war nevertheless greatly curtailed Hezbollah's freedom to project its military power, owing to Israel's strategic and diplomatic successes.
The Strategic Outcome
When Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora informed the assembled heads of Lebanon's main political blocs that hotel rooms for the 2006 summer tourist season were booked solid during the last round of Lebanon's national dialogue conference in June, Nasrallah reportedly replied, "You see, Mr. Prime Minister, the weapons of the resistance do not scare off tourists."
The Israeli campaign was intended first and foremost to scare off the tourists - to raise the costs of Hezbollah's adventurism to such a degree that deliberate provocations will not be politically tenable for the foreseeable future. Even Nasrallah himself has more or less acknowledged that this goal was achieved. "If I had known on July 11 . . . that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," he said in an August 27 interview.
The Israeli campaign also enhanced Israeli deterrence of Hezbollah in another important respect. One of its principal aims, according to Israeli security analyst Yossi Alpher, was "to prove to Nasrallah that civilian Israel is far, far stronger than a spider web" and signal that "strategic decisions will not be influenced by civilian casualties." He was referring to the so-called "spider web theory" popularized by Nasrallah, which holds that Israel's dazzling technological superiority masks a weak consumer society that is losing its willingness to make sacrifices in defense of its interests (an assessment that more than a few Israelis would agree with). For all of the postwar acrimony in Israel, there is now an almost unanimous willingness to make sacrifices in pursuit of national security.
This is why Hezbollah's claim that the war enhanced its deterrence of Israel isn't valid. To be sure, as Nasrallah boasted, the fighting demonstrated that "war with Lebanon will not be a picnic." Indeed, The Jerusalem Post proclaimed that the "wholesale injury to Israel's civilian infrastructure" by over 4,000 Hezbollah rockets fired during the war was "unprecedented even by comparison to past [Israeli] wars." However, upgraded Israeli perceptions of Hezbollah's capabilities have not translated into enhanced deterrence - they have left a sizable majority of Israelis eager for a rematch.
Nevertheless, the strategic balance sheet was by no means uniformly positive for Israel. Olmert may have compromised Israel's strategic credibility by initially demanding the unconditional release of its soldiers as a prior condition for a ceasefire, then later dropping the demand. Although not demanding their release may have been unthinkable in view of Israeli public opinion at the time (as Olmert is now quick to point out), this vacillation may weaken perceptions of Israel's resolve the next time one of its citizens is kidnapped. Much will depend on whether Olmert agrees to trade the three Lebanese it held prior to the war (on terrorism charges) for the release of the two Israeli soldiers, or merely exchange the Hezbollah fighters it captured during the war.
While Iran's ability to incite anti-Israeli violence from Lebanese soil will be impaired for some time to come, its ability to mobilize other combatants in the anti-Zionist front may receive a boost from Israel's lackluster military performance. Indeed, the most powerful lesson of the war, to both Palestinians militants and the Israeli public, may be that borders are less effective in obstructing external attacks on Israel than in impeding forceful Israeli reprisals. A comparison of monthly surveys by Near East Consulting of Ramallah suggests that Palestinians have been emboldened by Hezbollah's declaration of solidarity and battlefield performance.
The Diplomatic Outcome
Israel's primary diplomatic objective of the campaign was to precipitate UN Security Council intervention in south Lebanon to block Hezbollah's freedom of action. In this regard, as the Wall Street Journal aptly observed, the governments of Israel, the United States, and Lebanon "were working together off much the same script" in the early days of the crisis.
Resolution 1701, which ended the hostilities in mid-August, was a diplomatic coup for Israel, calling for the deployment of an expanded 15,000-strong UNIFIL peacekeeping force to ensure that Lebanese territory south of the Litani River "is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind [and] to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties." It prohibits other countries from sending weapons into Lebanon without the government's approval and calls for the unconditional release of the captured Israeli soldiers. Finally, while 1701 calls for the "the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks," it calls for Israel merely to cease all "offensive military operations" (a deliberately vague phrase that allows Israel to justify virtually anything as a defensive military operation).
The deployment of UNIFIL II in south Lebanon will likely prevent Hezbollah from rebuilding its complex array of bunkers, tunnels, and surveillance posts in at least some areas of south Lebanon. Although Hezbollah can easily infiltrate commando units past UNIFIL and Lebanese troops to get to the border, it will have great difficulty gathering the kind of intelligence (e.g. on Israeli troop deployments and patrol schedules) needed to guarantee a high rate of operational success. Hezbollah will not have much difficulty storing short-range rockets south of the Litani, but it will not be able to fully deploy them without detection (and will likely be deterred from firing them in response to anything short of a major unprovoked Israeli air or ground offensive).
Notwithstanding the tough language of Resolution 1701, its lack of a Chapter VII mandate leaves UNIFIL subordinate to the authority of the Lebanese government. Prior to the war, the ruling March 14 coalition was too politically weak to make any major policy decision without Hezbollah's endorsement (let alone one that would erode its autonomy). The most ambitious aim of the war was to change this.
The Political Outcome
The crux of the Lebanese government's weakness is the fact that overriding Hezbollah's objections (i.e. by a majority vote of the cabinet) would lead to the departure of all Shiite ministers from the cabinet. Thus, defiance of Nasrallah is feasible only if the coalition can find credible Shiite public figures willing to defy a Hezbollah boycott and join a new cabinet, or if it is resolved to rule without any pretense of legitimacy in the eyes of Lebanese largest sectarian group. The first scenario requires a substantial erosion of Shiite support for Hezbollah, while the second requires a substantial hardening of non-Shiite (particularly Sunni) perceptions of Hezbollah. Public opinion polls conducted in Lebanon during and after the war confirm that the Israeli bombardment achieved the opposite on both scores.
The Israelis do not appear to have had any strategy for undermining support for Hezbollah within the Shiite community other than elevating its level of collective suffering. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) drove nearly a million mostly Shiite residents of south Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut from their homes. While it did not specifically target Shiite civilians, the IAF was given substantial latitude to put them at risk in attacking Hezbollah targets. The fact that Hezbollah operated military command and control centers offices on the ground and subterranean floors of residential apartment buildings (and, in at least one case, a hospital) and routinely fired rockets from residential areas of villages made it virtually impossible to significantly degrade its military capabilities without exercising such latitude. Nasrallah was clearly confident that massive collateral damage from an Israeli assault would bolster, not dampen, public support for Hezbollah and the Israelis had no coherent strategy for minimizing this risk.
The deaths of 28 civilians in a July 30 Israeli air strike on the village of Qana, where 106 civilians taking refuge in a UN compound were killed by Israeli artillery fire in 1996, suggest that no special precautions were taken to avoid being baited into an eponymous repeat of the "Qana massacre" (a tragedy commemorated by a gruesome museum). Strangely, when the Israelis hacked into the satellite signal of Hezbollah's Al-Manar Television two days later and interrupted its evening news with their own message to the Lebanese people, no effort was made to cast blame for the deaths on Hezbollah. Instead, viewers were treated to crude images of guerrilla corpses, with captions claiming that Nasrallah was hiding the magnitude of Hezbollah's defeat on the battlefield. The Israelis either failed to understand that Shiite support for Hezbollah is not integrally linked to its battlefield success or were more concerned with influencing Palestinian viewers.
The apparent willingness of most Shiites to stand by Hezbollah was buoyed by Nasrallah's repeated promises that the movement would pay to rebuild their homes and businesses destroyed by the air strikes (and quick distribution of $10,000 cash payments to each displaced family for alternate living expenses while their homes are being rebuilt). Hezbollah may not have expected the Israeli campaign, but it acted with the confidence of knowing that Iran could afford to rebuild far more than Israel could afford to destroy without alienating the outside world.
If Israel was hoping to sow dissension among Shiites, it committed a major blunder by bombing the residence of Lebanon's most senior and respected Shiite cleric, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, on July 15. Although frequently dubbed "the spiritual leader of Hezbollah" by many Western media outlets (a misnomer dating back to the early 1980s, when Hezbollah expressed allegiance to him as a way of legitimizing itself), Fadlallah openly disputes the religious authority of Iran's ruling clerics leaders and has a very contentious (if outwardly amicable) relationship with Nasrallah. If anyone in the Shiite community had the stature and motivation to depart from Nasrallah's script and voice a more nuanced interpretation of the war with Israel, it was Fadlallah. Although several secular Shiite intellectuals criticized Hezbollah during and after the fighting in articles run by elite-owned newspapers and one Shiite cleric later challenged Hezbollah's claim to have won a great victory, dissent against Hezbollah remained surprisingly marginal within the Shiite community, in spite of its immense suffering.
It appears that both the Israelis and the Americans were banking primarily on a souring of non-Shiite public perceptions of Hezbollah to push the Lebanese government into accepting a robust MNF deployment. While the immense collateral damage of Israeli air strikes was heavily concentrated in Shiite areas, the abrupt annulment of Lebanon's lucrative summer tourist season, cessation of air and sea traffic into the country, and destruction of major bridges and highway interchanges were acutely felt by all Lebanese. During the first few days of the war, displays of hostility toward Hezbollah among Sunnis, Christians, and Druze were widespread.
However, public anger at Hezbollah was quickly overshadowed by outrage toward Israel as the economic toll of the bombardment mounted, and then began dissipating as the progression of the war (seen through victims' eyes) appeared to corroborate longstanding Hezbollah propaganda claims. The targeting of Lebanon's infrastructure and industry gave credence to Nasrallah's warnings that Israel was looking for any pretext to destroy the Lebanese economy (a pitch that played on inflated perceptions many Lebanese have of their economy's importance). The Bush administration's refusal to call for an unconditional cease-fire during the Israeli onslaught seemed to validate one of Nasrallah's favorite admonitions - that the American support so brazenly flaunted by Hariri and Jumblatt was fickle and ultimately subordinate to Washington's alliance with Israel and pursuit of regional vendettas.
The war undermined the March 14 coalition's political leverage not only by revealing its modest placement in the scale of American priorities and boosting public support for Hezbollah, but also by exposing the Siniora government's total lack of planning for the contingency of a full-blown Israeli air campaign. The government did little to evacuate or aid displaced from south Lebanon in the first days of the war, a lapse in keeping with the state's longstanding neglect of its predominantly Shiite inhabitants. ''It's always Beirut, it is never the people in the south,'' former United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) spokesman Timur Goksel remarked to a reporter. ''How will the government ever convince the people of the south that 'we are looking out for you?''' The absence of March 14 Coalition leader Saad Hariri from Lebanon during the entire war didn't communicate a message of solidarity with its victims.
The government's relief effort mainly involved transferring aid supplies to local civic groups for distribution to victims, but even this modest task was hampered by incompetence and corruption. On August 6, spokesmen for 35 local humanitarian organizations called a news conference to complain that "relief aid is being apportioned according to political considerations," accusing the Higher Relief Committee (a government agency operating out of the prime minister's office) of favoring the charitable arms of groups in the governing coalition (e.g. Hariri's Future Movement) in the distribution of supplies. There were reports that an official at the Ministry of Health and two accomplices were caught selling medicine donated by international aid agencies, and that one of them was quickly released because of his political connections. In a scathing editorial, the English language Daily Star noted the stark contrast between the "mind-boggling efficiency and professionalism" of Hezbollah and the "inefficient and corrupt" political class.
Perhaps the most damaging blow to the political class came in September, when the head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), Fadhl Chalak, abruptly resigned and accused the government of stalling its acceptance of hundreds of millions of dollars pledged by Arab states during the war, a delay that he said was intended to increase suffering in the south and turn the people against Hezbollah. The allegation may not have been credible, but the fact that a leading figure in the late Hariri's economic team (and a Sunni) would so shamelessly court Hezbollah after a falling out with Saad Hariri speaks volumes about Nasrallah's post-war stature.
While Israel achieved significant strategic and diplomatic goals, the war against Hezbollah was a political disaster for Olmert, who suffered the most rapid plummet of public approval ratings for an Israeli prime minister in decades. While there is a strong public consensus in Israel that the military campaign was a failure, this is partly because of popular misconceptions (inflated by Olmert's bellicose rhetoric early in the campaign) about what was realistically possible to achieve. Israel might have dealt Hezbollah a more serious blow had a different military strategy been followed, but there was never a viable prospect of preventing its regeneration once the dust settled.
Although Hezbollah suffered strategic and diplomatic setbacks, the war dramatically boosted its domestic and regional popular appeal, while eroding the strength of its adversaries. This gives Nasrallah considerably more political leverage than he had before the war, effectively shelving any prospect of pressuring Hezbollah to disarm in advance (and therefore in lieu, many Shiites would say) of far-reaching political and economic reforms. Siniora ordered a Lebanese military deployment of unprecedented strength south of the Litani River, but only after reaching an agreement with Nasrallah whereby Hezbollah keeps its weapons out of public view and the army pretends it doesn't see them. Much like the governing coalition's 2005 electoral pact with Hezbollah, this "don't look, don't tell" arrangement was billed as a compromise, but largely preserved the status quo ante. At any rate, the largely Shiite composition of the army effectively precludes any effort by Siniora to depart from this arrangement. Although Siniora may be susceptible to pressure from the West to allow UN peacekeepers to gradually increase pressure on Hezbollah, the movement's military performance in the recent war has dampened European (particularly French) enthusiasm for robust intervention in south Lebanon far more than anyone cares to publicly admit.
Since there is no way for Israel to disrupt re-supply of Hezbollah short of bombing all trucking traffic from Syria into Lebanon, the arms embargo imposed by Resolution 1701 cannot be enforced without the earnest cooperation of either the Lebanese or Syrian governments. The sudden proliferation of calls for negotiations with Assad among American pundits is a pretty good indicator of how dimly prospects for the former are viewed in Washington.
Nevetheless, the outcome of the war may prove to be a stable equilibrium. Though he has essentially defused internal pressure to disarm, Nasrallah appears to recognize that violent provocation of Israel will be far too risky for the foreseeable future. For the time being, Hezbollah is likely to concentrate on rebuilding residential structures destroyed in the war (with generous assistance from the Iranians) and warding off international efforts to secure its disarmament. Barring any major provocations, Israel will have little incentive (other than public clamoring) to re-ignite full-scale war (and little American encouragement to do so).
The implications of the war for outsiders cut several ways. Washington gained some strategic leverage over Iran (and, perhaps, some insights into the difficulties of combating a religious sect that celebrates martyrdom), but its refusal to call for an unconditional ceasefire during the fighting enflamed anti-American sentiments throughout the Arab world, weakened the Lebanese political coalition it was hoping to strengthen, and embarrassed Arab governments that followed its lead by criticizing Hezbollah early in the campaign. The war also set in motion congressional pressure on the administration to take punitive actions against the Lebanese government so long as Hezbollah is represented in the cabinet. All in all, the ability of the White House to decisively impact Lebanon's political trajectory has declined.
For Iran, the returns are mixed. The expanded UNIFIL deployment and Lebanon's new political map will discourage Iranian efforts to incite anti-Israeli violence from Lebanese soil (a significant, if not decisive, strategic setback) as Tehran comes under greater international pressure to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program. Although Iran derived some diplomatic leverage from the crisis (underscored by the French foreign minister's visit to Tehran during the fighting), the conventional wisdom that Iran has emerged stronger "by showing the world that it is capable of wreaking havoc through its support of the Hezbollah militants" must be qualified. The resolve of the United States and Western European governments to derail Iran's nuclear program has not been substantially weakened by the crisis (widely seen as taste of the kind of troublemaking that will be in store for the region once Iran achieves a nuclear deterrent), as was evident from the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1696 on July 31. However, the presence of European troops in close proximity to Hezbollah guerrillas may discourage support for American military action against Iran down the road.
Burgeoning anti-Israeli hostility in the Arab world obviously has its benefits for Iran, although the devastation of Lebanon during the war might temper its ability to translate pervasive anti-Israeli hostility among Palestinians into organized acts of violence. The recent outpouring of popular support for Hezbollah across the region may discourage some Arab governments from overtly supporting American policy on Iran, but it has hardly mitigated their desire to see the end of Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The pacification of south Lebanon is a significant strategic setback for Assad, and his blunder of having provided Hezbollah with substantial quantities of imported Russian anti-tank missiles (apparently with serial numbers intact) and other weapons will likely complicate, if not preclude, future Syrian arms purchases from Moscow. However, he derived considerable political capital from the war - both because Hezbollah is very popular among Syria's youth and because its increased stature in Lebanon may blunt the March 14 coalition's hostility to Syria. It has also given him a new diplomatic lease on life, as a host of dignitaries in the American and Israeli foreign policy establishments have come out in favor of negotiations with Syria.
 See Israel, Hezbollah Claim Victories After Weeks of Fighting, PBS, 4 August 2006.
 When a team of Hezbollah commandos botched an attempted cross-border kidnapping raid last November, the Israeli press quoted unnamed sources in the Labor Party warning the government not to escalate hostilities "to score electoral points." Israel responded with a modest artillery reprisal, then promptly returned their bodies (rather than the usual practice of holding them as bargaining chips). "Feeling threatened, Hezbollah strikes at familiar enemy - Israel," Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 30 November 2005.
 "No confidence in the commander," Haaretz, 21 August 2006.
 "Analysis: Hezbollah's recovery timetable," United Press International, 7 September 2006.
 "Hezbollah cracked the code; Technology likely supplied by Iran allowed guerrillas to stop Israeli tank assaults," Newsday (New York), 18 September 2006.
 "Israeli military studies Hezbollah's resilience; Guerrillas kept fighting in face of stronger force," USA Today, 14 September 2006.
 This is Jumblatt's recollection of the exchange. Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), 23 July 2006.
 "Hezbollah leader says he wouldn't have ordered soldiers' capture knowing it would lead to war," The Associated Press, 27 August 2006.
 Yossi Alpher, The revenge of the spider, The Crisis Today-An Insider's Briefing, 18 July 2006.
 Al-Manar TV, 14 August 2006.
 "Heal the North," The Jerusalem Post, 21 August 2006.
 The war had a powerful demonstration effect inimical to Israeli security, as explained by Anthony Cordesman: "[that] non-state actors can be effective; that fixed, narrow areas of defense to separate Israelis from Palestinians and others . . . can be bypassed, that they are not an effective way of defending Israel." Transcript of briefing by Anthony Cordesman, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 17 August 2006.
 In early August, 54% of Palestinian respondents believed that Hamas should "maintain its position on the elimination of the state of Israel," up from 44% in June (though the Israeli incursions into Gaza during this interval likely contributed to this spike). Near East Consulting, Palestinian Perceptions toward Politics, Peace, and the conflict in the Lebanon, 7 August 2006.
 "Why Israel's Plans To Curb Hezbollah Went So Poorly," The Wall Street Journal, 19 August 2006.
 UN Security Council Resolution 1701, 11 August 2006.
 "Israel hacks into Hezbollah TV, broadcasts propaganda," Agence France Presse, 1 August 2006.
 After being fired as director of Hezbollah's Al-Manar Television station in 2003, Nayef Krayem wrote in a public reply that he had been unjustly accused of "being with Fadlallah." Al-Nahar (Beirut), 12 May 2003. Cited in Hizbollah: Rebel without a Cause? International Crisis Group, 30 July 2003.
 Lebanese Shiite Mufti of Tyre Ali Al-Amin Harshly Criticizes Hizbullah for Its Conduct in the Recent Conflict, MEMRI, 26 August 2006.
 "Lebanon's Government, Once Bold, Keeps a Low Profile," The New York Times, 15 July 2006.
 "Questions abound over state's relief effort," The Daily Star (Beirut), 9 August 2006.
 "Questions abound over state's relief effort," The Daily Star (Beirut), 9 August 2006.
 "Hizbullah action, government inaction in poignant contrast," The Daily Star, 19 August 2006.
 See "Ruined Towns Look to Beirut, Mostly in Vain," The New York Times, 1 October 2006.
 Officially, the army is under ambiguous orders to "ensure respect" for the UN-demarcated border and "apply the existing laws with regard to any weapons outside the authority of the Lebanese state." See "Lebanon Skirts Issue of Hezbollah's Arms," The Associated Press, 16 August 2006.
 Although precise data is not available, the proportion of Shiites in the military rank and file is believed to be even larger than in the population as a whole. See "Lebanese army shifts from spectator to peacekeeper in south Lebanon," The Associated Press, 16 August 2006.
 There have been rumors of tunnels dug beneath the border in the Akkar region. See "A Cease-Fire Drives into a Mirage on a Border that Disappears as It Gets Closer," The New York Times, 16 September 2006.
 Helene Cooper, "Caution: This Coalition Is Fragile," The New York Times, 23 August 2006.
 "Israel Says Syria, Not Just Iran, Supplied Missiles to Hezbollah," The Los Angeles Times, 31 August 2006.
***Gary C. Gambill is a country analyst for Freedom House and the editor of the Mideast Monitor. Formerly editor of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin from 1999 to 2004, Gambill publishes widely on Lebanese and Syrian politics, terrorism, and democratization in the Middle East. He can be reached by email at email@example.com, or by phone at 646-242-1101.
By David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 13, 2007
A little more than two years ago, Jewish organizations throughout the United States organized a fundraising campaign to help members of Israel’s Arab community, which makes up more than one million Israeli citizens out of a total population of seven million. The response was overwhelming, as U.S. Jews rallied to the aid of Israeli Arabs.
Unfortunately, in offering their support, these Americans paid little attention to the actual leadership of Israeli Arabs, which has turned against the state of Israel from within. Until this week, in fact, the Knesset included one member who verbally and openly supports Israel’s annihilation and cheers on terrorist groups like Hezbollah.
This outspokenly anti-Israel activist is Arab parliamentarian Azmi Bishara. Bishara’s history of agitation against his home country is a matter of historical record. During the autumn of 2000, for instance, riots broke out in every Arab community in northern Israel except for one, the Israeli Arab city of Shefaram. Bishara's contribution was to urge Arab youth to continue their rioting, using whatever means necessary.
Shefaram Mayor Ursan Yassin was one Arab leader who rejected Bishara’s incendiary instructions. On the first night of the riots, he stood up to a group of masked men who wanted to desecrate the city’s ancient synagogue. “I told the hooligans that I recognized them, and that if they wanted to continue, they would have to get past me,” Yassin would recall in an interview. Many other Arab Israelis, however, answered Bishara’s call for continued destruction.
Last summer, Bishara stuck again. As Israel retaliated against Hezbollah's relentless provocations, Bishara led delegations of Israeli Arab members of the Knesset to Lebanon to express his full support for the terrorist group -- this at a time when Hezbollah was launching over 4,000 missiles into Israel, an attack that ultimately resulted in the deaths of 52 Israeli civilians. (It is interesting to note that 24 of those killed were Israeli Arabs.) Earlier, in a speech in the Knesset in June of 2000, Bishara had high praise for Hezbollah: “Hezbollah is a courageous national force that has taught Israel a lesson,” he declared. “It became the vanguard of the Arab world with a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the goal.”
Bishara’s betrayal during last summer’s war prompted the Israeli government to launch an investigation of Bishara for allegations of treason. On Thursday, Bishara announced that he would resign from his Knesset post following what he branded "persecution" against him. He asked during an interview with reporters: "Is it possible that a parliament member is subjected to such persecution?"
Bishara represents a unique phenomenon. There isn't another country in the world where members of Parliament openly support terrorist organizations whose purpose is to destroy that very same country those parliamentarians are in office to represent. Even Britain’s George Galloway, who at times praises radical Islamic organizations, looks like a moderate next to Israeli fifth columnists like Bishara. Whatever else may be said about him, Galloway at least does not support the destruction of Britain.
What makes Bishara’s case even more unusual is that he should be, by law, ineligible to hold office in Israel: It is illegal for any Knesset member to reject the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, either explicitly or implicitly. It is illegal, too, to support a terrorist organization. Yet Bishara makes no secret of his rejection of Israel. "I am not opposed to all of Israel becoming Palestine. The Israelis immigrated to us, not we to them,” he informed an Austrian weekly in October of 2000. More recently, in December of 2005, Bishara proclaimed: "Israel is the greatest robbery of the twentieth century. Give us back Palestine and take your democracy. We, the Arabs, aren't interested.”
In this context, it should be unsurprising that in 1999 and 2003 Bishara was disqualified by the Knesset's Central Elections Committee from seeking office. However, Israel’s benevolent High Court of Justice decided to interpret the law in a way that somehow allowed Bishara to run for office. In response, a Likud member of Knesset, Gilad Erdan, has announced plans to initiate a bill that would prevent any member of the Knesset in the future from serving in the legislature as long as he does not recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. (Of Bishara, Erdan quips: “It is now clear why Bishara lost his wits when I proposed that he serve in the Syrian parliament.”) Erdan's bill would obligate all Arab members of the Knesset to state, once and for all, that they recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state or surrender the right to hold political office.
Some have gone further. Another member of the Knesset, National Religious Party Chairman Zvulun Orlev, submitted a bill yesterday that bars a person who visits an enemy country from running for a seat in the Knesset. In conjunction, he also intends to promote a bill stating that every Knesset member will be required to swear allegiance to the state of Israel.
Few in Israeli politics are sad to see the back of Bishara. Israeli opposition chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said during a recent visit to northern Israel: “Bishara has contributed greatly to destabilizing relations between Arabs and Jews, and if he has decided to leave, it will only benefit us all.” That does not solve all of Israel’s problems, however. Former Israel education minister Limor Livnat, who accompanied Netanyahu, added that Israel must still grapple with its restive Arab population: “They received the protection of democracy, and are now claiming to be persecuted. There are Arab [parliamentarians] who abuse their immunity and endanger the state,” she said. “We will have to ask ourselves many questions.”
The Olmert administration, which includes Israel’s first Arab member of the government, Rayed Majadle, has remained silent on the Bishara affair. This reporter asked Israeli government minister Majadle to comment on the phenomenon of Israeli Arabs turning on their fellow citizens. Majadle responded by saying that he does not believe that any Israeli Arab leader would turn his back on the state of Israel. He would not comment on the Bishara affair, however.
How Not to Deal with Terrorists
By John Bolton
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 13, 2007
John Bolton delivered the following speech on March 31, 2006, at a special retreat with David Horowitz in Santa Barbara, California. -- The Editors.
I’m glad to be here in Santa Barbara and to participate in this event, which I think, having looked at the program, has just been rich with people and ideas, and I think, I’m sure, extraordinarily stimulating to everybody’s who’s participated in it.
What I wanted to do tonight was focus on the battle of ideas we’re about to have over national security in the upcoming election. Because I think this election is going to be one of the most consequential that we’ve had in a long time in America. know we think about that every time it gets to be presidential election year. But the stakes are particularly high this time. And given what happened in the 2006 elections, nobody should have any feelings of complacency at all. And if we’re not prepared, and if we don’t prepare the intellectual battlefield, the consequences in ‘08 are going to be even worse than they were in ‘06.
And, you know, there are a variety of ways that we can approach this. Obviously, individuals are going to be picking their candidates, and so on. But I think it’s important for people like the people in this room to go beyond that. I think that the battle among the candidates for the nominations, as important as it is, is not as important as people who are interested and concerned about these issues having the candidates address them. And by insisting that until they address them in a satisfactory way, they’ve got a long way to go before they deserve to be elected President.
Because it is people here who care deeply about these kinds of issues that can make a difference. And it means a lot more work for everybody here. But I just think it’s critical, or otherwise we will lose this election by default. And we will complain about it a lot, but we will only have ourselves to blame.
So my message tonight really is: there’s a lot of work to do. And the people who have to do it are right here, and people who think like us. Because if we don’t, you can certainly count on others doing it for us and coming out with the wrong result.
And a lot of what I’m concerned about is typified right now, exemplified by what’s happening with respect to Iran. Iran has obviously been pursuing, in a clandestine fashion for close to 20 years, a nuclear weapons capability. Despite what some of the people on the other side say, there’s simply no explanation for their behavior, other than to acquire nuclear weapons. And right at this very minute, I couldn’t pick a better case study of how not to respond to that kind of threat than what’s going on in this country and in Europe in response to Iran’s capture of 15 British sailors and marines.
And let’s just review the bidding here. The Iranians have held these people now for nine days. Frankly, if they released them tomorrow, the Iranians already would have learned what they set out to determine. And that was that they took people who were manifestly in Iraqi waters and -- get this now -- pursuant to a Security Council resolution, 1723 -- another example of how carefully Iran pays attention to the Security Council -- authorizing Coalition forces to be in Iraq in support of the Iraqi government. The Iranians know just as well as the Brits do that those people were in Iraqi territorial waters. I think that was part of the deliberate provocation -- to see what they could do, and then to see what the British -- and then more generally, the European; and even more generally, our -- response would be.
The episode was not accidental. It was carried out by naval forces of the Revolutionary Guards. This is the core military support of the Islamic revolution dating back to 1979. They take their orders only from the very top of the government in Tehran. This was obviously well-planned and well-executed; it had been in preparation for quite some time. And the timing of it itself, I think, was unquestionably geared to the most recent Security Council resolution, imposing very limited sanctions on Iran for its continued refusal to comply with even earlier Security Council resolutions on the nuclear weapons program.
So these 15 British sailors and marines were taken captive. We don’t know where they are now in Iran, but you can bet they’re a long way from the Persian Gulf Coast. And what has been the response to what’s, in a provocation, part of the larger Iranian effort to project power in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf -- and the Middle East more widely -- and across the globe?
Well, the first reaction, of course, by the British Foreign Office is the typical reaction by the British Foreign Office. In fact, some would say it’s the only reaction by the British Foreign Office -- a policy they themselves call “softly-softly,” which is you don’t want to provoke anything, you don’t want to cause any trouble, you sort of say to the Iranians, “Don’t you think you ought to give those people back to us?”
The Iranian reaction, which came very quickly, was, in subtle, nuanced form, “Take a hike.” The British responded to that by further elaboration of the “softly-softly” policy. They have been -- elements of the British government have been leaking to their press that the Iranians have been offering ways out of this crisis.
They were doing that toward the end of last week, when unexpectedly, Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, said that the most recent Iranian offer actually didn’t offer any solutions at all. The Foreign Office, in their fashion -- which they either learned from our State Department or taught to our State Department -- then leaped up against the Foreign Secretary, saying, “Actually, that’s not what the Iranian letter said.” More days have gone by, and these sailors and marines are still in captivity.
Now the British didn’t simply call in the Iranian Ambassador to London and ask that these people be released; they went to the Security Council. And it was a very impressive performance. You know, in the Security Council, you can do three things -- you can pass a resolution, which is supposed to be binding on U.N. member governments under the U.N. charter; the next level down is what’s called a presidential statement -- the president of the Security Council reads a statement from the chair of the Security Council in the chamber. And then the third, lowest response, is what’s called a press statement, which the president of the Council reads out at the press stakeout location outside the Security Council.
Now, here we have a situation where British forces, part of our Coalition in Iraq, have been dealing with Iranian efforts to kill their soldiers, just as they’ve been trying to kill ours; and kill soldiers and police from the Iraqi government for several years now. These people have been snatched illegally, in violation of the Security Council resolution, and taken hostage. And so what is the British response in the U.N.? Would they come in for a resolution? No, that’s much too provocative. Would they come in for a presidential statement? No, certainly not.
Remember the policy -- “softly-softly.” So the British offered to the Security Council a three-sentence press statement. And, you know, this is a fearsome document. It called on the Iranians to take note of international legality. Boy, that’s a long study in Tehran. And the British went into the Security Council with the statement which, under the conventions of the Security Council, requires unanimity for it to be adopted.
Six hours later, after the Russians, the Chinese, the Qataris, the South Africans and the Indonesians were finished with it, the president of the Security Council went out and read this press statement, or what was left of the three sentences. And that was denounced by the Iranian Foreign Ministry as provocative. President Ahmadinejad criticized the British. And what was the British reaction to that? They started backing away from the press statement that they themselves had suggested and couldn’t get negotiated.
That wasn’t the end of the British reaction. They went to the other foreign ministers of the European Union countries and said, “Look, we ought to talk about economic sanctions against Iran if they don’t release our sailors and marines.” And the other 24 countries of the European Union, having thought about that for a few hours, decided they didn’t want to do that, either. So that the European Union’s response, 25 countries, was basically to say, “We think you ought to release these sailors, please.”
Now, during this nine-day period, or eight days up until today, the United States State Department followed essentially the British lead, deferring -- and there’s a certain argument for this, I have to say. They are British sailors and marines at stake here--but basically saying next to nothing. Because after all, if the British are pursuing a “softly-softly” policy, that’s certainly something the State Department’s very good at. And it comes quite naturally.
And so the U.S. government essentially had very little to say on the subject, until today, when President Bush finally got a chance to say what he thought on the subject. And he said, “This is unacceptable.”
Now, we’ll see whether the State Department gets the message. I’m not holding my breath. But we are at a point, nine days into this hostage-taking, where, as I said a moment ago, the Iranians could conclude that they’ve already conducted their experiment, and they’ve seen what the response is. There is no response.
This is a lesson that I think, in their calculus, they could apply on the battlefields in Iraq, in terms of the aid and assistance that they’re giving to the Shiite militias and to the terrorist groups, that they give to Hamas and Hezbollah, and in their conduct of their nuclear weapons program. They could cut this experiment off, having established what they needed to, tomorrow. Or they could continue it, as they did in 1979 and ‘80 and ‘81, for 444 days, and teach the British what they taught us in the taking of hostages in our embassy in Tehran.
Now I have spoken personally to some of our hostages from the embassy who believe they recognized Ahmadinejad when he became president of Iran as one of the people who visited them in prison during the time they were held hostage. Ahmadinejad has denied that. Other hostages say they don’t believe that Ahmadinejad actually was one of the hostage guards or participated in it, although he was certainly part of the Islamic revolution; there’s no doubt about it.
I think the recollection of our hostages may well be right. Ahmadinejad, at least, was of the vintage that he knows exactly what impact hostage-taking has on countries that are not prepared to do something about it.
So this example right now, even if it ends at the tenth day, tomorrow -- or if it continues -- has brought another unfortunate lesson to us -- that when faced with provocation by the Iranians, if we don’t respond appropriately, the lesson they draw is to do something even more threatening to us. And this is about as clear a kind of scientific experiment as you can get in international relations, that proves the point that weakness is provocative. Weakness is provocative.
The sense that the United Kingdom is not willing, at this point, anyway, to do anything other than engage in diplomatic chitchat when 15 of its people are being held there, obviously being forced to say things that they don’t believe in -- nobody can read these letters that the Leading Seaman Faye Turney is said to have written and believe that she actually wrote them. Nor are the “confessions” that they’re broadcasting on television the honest views of these people. The British have different responses to people who are being held in prisoner situations than we do. But there’s still no doubt that this is an effort by Iran to exploit these hostages.
And I think we may have only begun. The optimistic scenario is they get out immediately. The more realistic scenario, I think, is that the Iranians put them on trial. And then you have a long show trial about the -- all of the alleged improprieties that the British and the Americans have engaged in during the last several years.
Now, this is -- this whole episode is simply a piece of Iran’s effort to project power, and to see what the limits are on that power. Sadly, this past summer, they had another experiment in the war between Hezbollah and Israel. The conclusion that I think they drew from that was that Israel, and perhaps the United States, were not willing to carry through the logic of their own public statements, and that Hezbollah emerged from that struggle certainly battered to an extent, certainly with its infrastructure in Southern Lebanon substantially weakened, but not destroyed, which is what the government of Israel said that its objective was.
Now, you know, the government of Israel could have said, after the Hezbollah attack across the Blue Line that resulted in three Israeli soldiers being killed and two being kidnapped -- they could have said, “We’re going to retaliate.” They could have engaged in military action for a week or so. They could have dealt Hezbollah some severe damage and said, “That’s our retaliation; that’s all we’re going to do.” That would have been a legitimate and coherent response. But what Israel did say was, “We’re going to destroy Hezbollah.”
And I can tell you that for three weeks in New York, we withstood a barrage of efforts by Kofi Annan, by the Arab League, by the Non-Aligned Movement as a whole, to have the Security Council declare an immediate cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. And we resisted that, on the ground that Israel was exercising its legitimate right of self-defense, a right that is -- a right that’s actually embedded in the U.N. charter, not that anybody pays a lot of attention to it.
But, you know, we were met with a lot of abuse -- although that’s nothing new at the U.N. -- but with arguments about what Israel was doing that were wrong when applied to Israel but particularly important to the United States, because they are or have been or will be applied to us as well. And the principal argument was that the Israeli response was disproportionate; that Israel was using too much force; that after all, they were engaged in extensive bombing operations, they sent thousands of troops into Southern Lebanon. The scale of their military actions was quite large, compared to a raid by Hezbollah across the Blue Line that resulted in, honestly, just a few casualties and merely two people being kidnapped.
Now, nobody ever quite explained what a proportionate response by Israel was. I finally said at one point that I didn’t understand; did that mean that Israel was limited to killing three Hezbollah people and kidnapping two of their soldiers, and that once they accomplished that, then the mission was supposed to stop?
The fact is that even if you believe in some kind of legitimacy to a forceful response being proportionate, we felt Israel was well within its rights to destroy Hezbollah. Because the threat was not simply the one attack across the Blue Line; the threat had been carried out over years by constant rocket attacks against civilian populations in Israel, on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, by an extensive military capability that Hezbollah had that supposedly had something to do with the liberation of remaining Lebanese territory from foreign rule -- the only piece of which they could define Israel holding was the so-called Shabba Farms region, which the Syrians thought was theirs; the Lebanese had conceded to the Syrians. And why that was enough to justify Hezbollah’s armament, which included anti-ship cruise missiles, nobody ever quite explained.
But the whole argument about what Israel was doing was based on the perception that this threat was real, and that it had been made concrete by this latest attack across the Blue Line. And if it’s not permissible to destroy the threat that you face as an exercise of your self-defense rights, then it’s hard to understand what a right of self-defense means.
I said at the time that this argument that you could not destroy the threat itself necessarily meant that in 1941 and ‘42, the United States would have had to stop attacking Japan after it had sunk a comparable number of ships to those sunk at Pearl Harbor, and that therefore the United States was guilty of a disproportionate use of force in beating Japan and Germany and Italy, and the other axis powers.
That’s why this argument, even though applied in the context of the Israel-Hezbollah war of the past summer, is so important to us. Because we too are always being accused of using disproportionate force. And if you buy this argument, it means that we are constrained by what we can do, and fundamentally not able to defend ourselves.
And this goes to an absolutely critical point with respect to the Iranian nuclear weapons program, the North Korean nuclear weapons program, and any other nuclear weapons programs that are out there, that may be in early stages now but are being conducted by countries that are watching very closely how the United States responds to Iran and North Korea.
The whole purpose of countries like this acquiring nuclear weapons is to hold innocent civilian populations hostage. These are not true military threats to the United States anymore. They are intended to be able to hold our populations and those of our friends and allies hostage. And if we allow these weapons, if we allow rogue regimes like this to come into possession of these weapons, we’re simply announcing that we’re willing to tolerate even greater proliferation to other rogue states, and perhaps, even worse, to terrorist groups.
That’s why -- although it’s not the preferred course we want to follow -- the only way to defend ourselves against the threat or use of these weapons is not to allow them to come into existence, or not to allow them to be held by these kinds of countries. And why, therefore, the threat of the use of force against Iran, against North Korea -- why ultimately, at least in my view, you need regime change in both Iran and North Korea is the only way to protect us from these threats.
Now, if you listen to our critics in Europe, in the left of this country, they will say that that’s illegitimate. They will say, even if it’s not simply illegitimate, we don’t have the capabilities to do it; we’re pinned down in Afghanistan, we’re pinned down in Iraq. You have to accept a negotiated solution to Iran and North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. This is a counsel not only of despair, but it’s a counsel that says to the government in Tehran and says to the government in Pyongyang, “You’re just about okay. You’re just about there. In fact, if you just wait until after the ‘08 election, and you get the right result, you’ll be more than okay; you’ll be secure.”
So I think we’ve got a limited amount of time here, within which these problems are going to be resolved. I think the prospect of a candidate winning the ‘08 election who also believes in a “softly-softly” approach is going to be so detrimental to our security over the long term that I don’t even want to think about it -- not in the sense of the destruction of our civilization, which we would have faced in a Cold War exchange of ballistic missiles with the Soviet Union, but in a way that gives impoverished that are not any serious threat to us in a way more leverage, or at least as much as the Soviet Union had.
Because even if North Korea or Iran only have a limited number of nuclear weapons, the threat to use them against civilians is very powerful. You can’t say, “Well, you know, it was only Seattle,” and expect that a Democratic government can survive. It’s one reason why it was so critical that President Bush carried through on his campaign promise in 2000 to get us out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, so we can build missile defense -- which I hope we can get well underway before the ‘08 election -- but that brings me back to the hostage-taking of these 15 sailors and marines.
Iran has seen for nine days, in what to them is a low-cost experiment, that even this kind of activity does not provoke from the government of Great Britain what is fundamental to the purpose of government, which is protecting its own citizens. Now if the government of Britain, and Europe more generally, and the United States, are not prepared to take action faced with this kind of provocation, why should the government of Iran think that we are serious when we say force is an option against your nuclear program? I mean, this is about as distressing an experiment -- an outcome of this kind of experiment -- as I can imagine.
Now, I don’t know how it will play out, obviously, in the next few weeks. It’s possible that the British will stiffen their position. It’s also possible they’ll find a way to apologize and not call it an apology. I think that would be probably the worst outcome of all.
But I just urge you to watch this -- the unfolding of this. While it has not been as important here as it has been in the United Kingdom, this is a potentially dispositive moment in Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapon, and North Korea, and any number of other states out there that you might want to mention -- possibly Egypt, possibly Saudi Arabia, possibly Syria, possibly others as well.
And it really comes back to the point I started with. It is critical that people in this room, people who understand why our national security is so critical, and why strong foreign policy and strong defense are important -- that we make the candidates come to our position in 2008, and not wait for them or hope that they will articulate the right position.
So David, I want to thank you for all of your work, and everybody here supporting David’s work; it’s critical. I appreciate being here tonight. Good luck to all of you. Thank you very much.
Symposium: One Islam?
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 13, 2007
What are the differences between Arab Islam and Islam elsewhere -- such as in India, Indonesia and in Africa? What do these differences signify? To discuss these questions with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel. Our guests are:
Mike Ghouse, a Muslim thinker, speaker and writer, and president of the Foundation for Pluralism. He is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith issues. He also founded the World Muslim Congress. His articles can be found at www.FoundationforPluralism.com and http://mikeghouse.blogspot.com/.
Dr. Timothy Furnish, a Ph.D in Islamic History (Ohio State), former U.S. Army Arabic interrogator, and college professor. He is the author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden (Praeger/Greenwood, 2005), as well as a number of articles on Islamic messianism and fundamentalism.
Dr. Hans-Peter Raddatz, a scholar of Islamic Studies and author of two books on the subject of women in Islam, Allahs Schleier - die Frau im Kampf der Kulturen (Allah's Veil - Women in the Clash of Civilization) and Allahs Frauen - Djihad zwischen Demokratie und Scharia (Allah's Women - Jihad Between Democracy and Sharia). His next book, Allah and the Jews, will be published next month in Berlin.
Robert Spencer, a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of six books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and the New York Times Bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is the author of the new book, The Truth About Muhammad.
Thomas Haidon, a Muslim commentator on legal issues involving counter-terrorism measures and Islamic affairs, he also serves as an advisor to the International Qur'anic Centre in Washington DC and the Free Muslim Coalition. He has provided guidance to several governments on counter-terrorism issues and his works have been published in legal periodicals, and other media. Mr. Haidon has also provided advice to and worked for United Nations agencies in Sudan and Indonesia.
FP: Mike Ghouse, Thomas Haidon, Dr. Hans-Peter Raddatz, Robert Spencer and Timothy Furnish, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Thomas Haidon, let me begin with you.
Let’s start on a general theme.
Is there just one Islam?
Haidon: Thank you Jamie.
The simple answer is no. There is no one singular, universal vision of Islam. There are divisions (sometimes radical) amongst groups who call themselves Muslims on a range of historical, ritualistic and hermeneutical issues. On the whole however, while there are a number of important differences among the predominant Muslim sects, there are also a great deal of consistency in approaches and beliefs. The predominant sects of Islam, obviously, share the common bond of holding the Qur'an as the core central text which guides worship. They also share, to varying degrees, adherence to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and common approaches to Islamic jurisprudence. I would argue that these similarities and common approaches are more significant, and hold greater implications, then do dissimilarities.
I believe that external factors, such as culture can have a positive (and of course negative) impact on how Islam is practiced in a particular country or region. Currently I am residing in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Islam that I have viewed thus far, while sharing many characteristics of Islam that is practiced in the Arab world, appears to be far more pluralistic and tolerant. There are Muslim liberal/reform movements here which have widespread support and there are a number of progressive fuqaha among the ulaema. That said there are strong radical elements which exist and thrive; however they do not appear to hold a stronghold in the main centres of Indonesia. Whether this "success" is a reflection of Islam itself or the culture of the Indonesian people is a separate question, which we may explore here.
So to summarise my perspective, while there is "no one Islam", there is a predominant body of Islam containing a number of sects, which, while maintaining some differences on ritual and historical perspectives, share common perspectives and approaches on key issues. These similarities are more significant and hold greater implications than do any differences.
FP: Thank you Mr. Haidon.
Let me follow up for a moment. You say that you observed in Jakarta, Indonesia an Islam that appears to be far more pluralistic and tolerant than Arab Islam. What would you say to those who would argue that this pluralism and tolerance is the product of a relaxation of Islamic principles rather than the application of them?
Haidon: I certainly cannot dismiss those perspectives. However, I tend to look at the issue slightly different. At play, may not be a relaxation in Islamic principles per se, but a paradigm shift away from dogmatic thinking and literal approaches to understanding Islam, thanks to thinkers like Quraish Shihab who have developed progressive commentaries to the Qur'an.
Among Indonesians, there is a strong sense of ownership of Islam. Many Indonesians resent the total Arabisation and Wahabi domination of Islamic practices in Islam (that said a number also embrace it). I have observed that Indonesia is generally a pluralistic society, with Christians, Hindus and Buddhists living in relative peace (in main city centres at least; there are numerous examples in rural Indonesia where Christians and Hindus are murdered at Muslim hands).
In some regions, Islamic practices are actually infused with Hindi and other paganistic practices (although this certainly should not be considered predominant). But from what I have witnessed (please note these are just my observations), there is relative harmony between faiths that does not exist in many places.
In Indonesia there are a number of Islamic organisations taking the lead to begin to address issues around terrorism and intolerance and are actively pursuing discussion. Discussions about reform are emanating from Islamic circles, not the government (although the government and President SBE have been supportive). So when I see mainstream Islamic organisations taking the lead in discussions on moderation and reform through Islamic principles (al'adl justice), I tend to think that Indonesian Islam is not necessarily a relaxation of Islamic principles but a shift in thinking of Islamic principles (a positive shift at that), However, I remain cautious, very cautious. Only time will tell if there really is a paradigm shift in the making, or just posturing.
I would argue, however, that absent a significant paradigm shift in thinking about Islam (which appears to be happening in some circles in Islam), and continued reliance on the seminal scholars and jurisprudence which are centuries old, only the relaxation of "Islamic" principles could lead to tolerance and harmony, as the significant body of Islamic jurisprudence that is relied upon does not promote the sort of harmony that is consistent with international human rights standards.
FP: Ok before we move forward, can you give us some examples, in terms of daily life that you have observed, how Muslim life in Jakarta, Indonesia is different from, let us say, Arab Islam? Tell us some observations about normal every day life that shed light on the variety of Islam. Perhaps something that even surprised you.
Haidon: I have witnessed a number of examples that have surprised me. One of the things that have struck me the most is the relationship between women and men in worship. I have personally witnessed at several mosques in Jakarta women and men praying side by side, which would be an unheard of practice in the Arab world (except in the Holy city of Mecca at al harim al sharif). Such practices in the Arab world should actually be considered dangerous. In general, I have viewed a higher esteem for women in Jakarta than anywhere in the Arab world. While women still face significant challenges in terms of inequality, women play a greater role in Islam. There are even respected female ulaema here, something which struck me particularly.
However, these pluralistic Islamic practices, I believe, are at risk. As some ulaema move for the total Arabisation of Islam in Indonesia, tolerant cultural practices are likely to be subsumed by harsher practices. This has happened in a number of other Asian countries, including Malaysia and Thailand. This shows, unfortunately, that more moderate models of Islam may be susceptible and vulnerable to more conservative models, which may lead to catastrophic results for Muslims, and their non-Muslim counterparts. I am pleased however, that some ulaema here have had the foresight to see this as a potential problem and are working towards solutions and "future proofing", or at least are beginning to talk about it.
FP: Robert Spencer, what are your thoughts about what Thomas Haidon has observed in Jakarta? What do they signify in the context of our topic?
Spencer: Jamie, there is absolutely no doubt that in many areas of the Islamic world, for many reasons a cultural Islam has evolved that deemphasizes the militancy of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example, and often contains significant syncretistic elements. This is true in varying ways in West Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. However, Thomas Haidon is correct when he notes that “these pluralistic Islamic practices, I believe, are at risk,” and that there is a movement fostering the “total Arabisation of Islam in Indonesia” and elsewhere. This will involve, as Haidon says, “tolerant cultural practices” being “subsumed by harsher practices.”
Haidon is also unfortunately correct that “more moderate models of Islam may be susceptible and vulnerable to more conservative models” – and this is part of the Arabization phenomenon. This is because the proponents of Arabization and radicalization present themselves as the exponents of a “true” and “pure” Islam, purged of the cultural syncretism that, because it lacks foundation in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, they are able to portray as illegitimate. For instance, in his delightful book The Caliph’s House, Tahir Shah recounts how Wahhabi recruiters from Saudi Arabia set up a trailer in a shantytown in Casablanca, from which they endeavored to recruit the locals for the jihad.
Their exhortations to return to a more “authentic” form of Islam also involve, in non-Arab lands, a measure of Arabization – since after all, it is an “Arabic Qur’an” (12:2), “a decisive utterance in Arabic,” (13:37), “Arabic, pure and clear” (16:103). Islamic prayers and recitation of the Qur’an must always be in Arabic, and that along with the fact that Muhammad and the early Muslims were Arabs has always led to a sense among some Muslims that Arab-ness is an essential component of being a true Muslim. One manifestation of this with which Americans are familiar is the phenomenon of American Muslim converts taking Arabic names; akin to this is the lesser-known phenomenon of non-Arab Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere claiming to be descendants of Muhammad. While the authenticity of such claims is wildly improbable, the fact that they are made at all is another manifestation of the fact that even among non-Arab Muslims there is a sense that being an Arab or connected in some way to Arabiyya gives one a certain status.
At the same time, there has always been a movement within Islam against Arabic supremacy. The Shu’ubites – the “confessors of equality” – proclaimed the equality of all Muslims before Allah, and flourished in the ninth and tenth centuries. Elements of the views of this party remain in the Islamic world, and are sometimes invoked by those attempting to resist Arabization. Nonetheless, for the reasons I explained above, at this point the exponents of “pure Islam” are in the intellectual ascendancy in the Islamic world.
FP: Mike Ghouse?
Ghouse: Thank you Jamie, both Thomas Haidon and Robert Spencer have touched upon various ways Islam is practiced in different countries.
Islam is certainly not a monolithic religion. The plasticity of Islam hinges on the culture it is embedded in, and the ensuing practices are shaped by the values of co-existence.
In a singular society like Saudi Arabia, where individuals do not interact with people of other faiths on a routine basis, their comprehension is exceptionally limited. A major example for this lack of reference is found in how they teach the Qur’an in their grade schools.
Al-Fatiha Verse 1:7 Sirata allatheena anAAamta AAalayhim ghayri almaghdoobi AAalayhim wala alddalleena
Literal translation: (The) way/road (of) those You blessed on them, not (those) the angered on them, and nor the misguided.
The student does not have an idea who has earned God’s anger or what is misguided. Who are these people?
The likes of Hilali Khan figured out how to explain this to them and came up with this translation; “The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).” One can guess the imprints on the young minds and where it would lead them to.
The words Christian or Jews are not mentioned in that verse, let alone the whole of chapter 1, the beginning.
In pluralistic societies like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey, co-existence is at stake, and doing business together is the way of life. The societies are interdependent on each other and the following translation of the same verse is the norm: “The path of those whom you have blessed, not those who have incurred your wrath, nor the misguided.”
Thomas Haidon is right on the money when he says “there is a great deal of consistency in approaches and beliefs.” And they also share, to varying degrees, adherence to the Sunnah.” The statement would apply to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as it does for Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa.
Pluralism or tolerance is a product of co-existence rather than the application or relaxation of Islamic principles. In fact the history of civilization can attest to that; Members of rival clans fighting and killing each other for the limited resources of farming land or animals for protein, figured out a way to respect each other’s resources for peace, and sleeping well in night without the fear of a raid.
Haidon: “Women continue to face challenges in terms of inequality, women play a greater role in Islam”. The culture of the subcontinent, as well as the population mixture, has a significant impact on Muslims in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- all three nations have produced women heads of the state: Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto and Hasina Shaikh respectively. Meanwhile, in the United States, people are still not ready for it. I would like to say it has do with the securities or insecurities of the male population, more so than religion.
Wearing a burqa may have been a symbol of oppression once, not as much now. There are parallel developments where some women simply do not wear Hijab, and some wear out of their own volition. No one should expect the change to be dramatic. A moderate Anglo-Saxon girl would not be comfortable wearing a mini-skirt to school, work, church or a family event, so the Muslim women are not comfortable wearing any thing less than full clothing either, the thresholds are different and modesty is graded. Let the change happen in smaller increments and be sustainable.
Spencer’s point is incredible. The Subcontinentians eagerly claim a family tree leading to Prophet Muhammad in the hopes of feeling on par with Muslims in Arabia. They tend to forget that each one is responsible for their own deeds, even if they were to be direct descendants; salvation comes to only those who do the good deeds, treating others, as they would want to be treated. Prophet Muhammad did not give a free pass to his daughter; he told her that she has to earn it the old fashion way, doing one good deed after the other. Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: ……. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct.
The Wahhabis on the other hand destroy any such claims, and go to extremes. Presently they are planning to bulldoze the historic house where Prophet Muhammad was born in the belief that divinity is reserved to God alone.
The Muslims in general celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, but the Wahhabis’ on the other hand consider it to be kosher.
American Muslim converts have gone both ways, keeping their name as it was before or adding a Arabic sounding name to perhaps make the announcement that they are indeed Muslims. However, this is not a requirement. The very names Mohammad, Abu Bakr Siddiq, Ali, Umar, and Uthman remained the same when they became Muslims, and when they went out conquering lands they did not ask or impose their names either.
There is indeed one Islam but different manifestations. There are four different schools of thought in Sunni Tradition that very few Muslims show any disrespect towards the other. The Shia Sunni debate is as old as Islam, hitherto it remained in the realm of discussion and debate, but it has gone on high gear of destruction now. My hypothesis is that whenever a group reaches a certain elusive number, it splits itself into two due to the political need to have the influence. Then there are cultural differences that abound.
FP: Mr. Ghouse, with all due respect, your comments on wearing a burqa don’t stand up. The analogies to some Anglo Saxon girl being comfortable or not wearing some mini-skirt completely ignores the main issues involved. The bottom line is that human beings must have the right to live by their own conscience. If a woman must fear for her life if she does not wear a veil, then that is the mark of barbaric oppression. Zilla Huma Usman, a Pakistani minister and woman’s activist, was, as you know, recently shot dead by an Islamic extremist for refusing to wear the veil. I would really like to know: where are the mass demonstrations of Muslims vehemently protesting this murder? Should a woman have the right to decide whether she wants to veil or not veil without having to fear getting shot to death or facing some other persecution? That is the question. And many Muslims worldwide have been deafeningly silent on this question, just as they have been deafendingly silent after the tragic murder of Zilla Huma Usman.
Peter Raddatz, go ahead.
Raddatz: What I was invited to this refreshing possibility to join a round table of participants, I presumed that the panellists would fortunately know what they are talking about. This is by far not always the case with European let alone German symposiums -- especially when it comes to the aspect of Islam being or not being a "monolith" but rather a multitude of cultural "facets" which in turn develop or not a self-sufficient life of their own. You may meet a whole new species of believers over here who tell you that Islam is so differentiated that it ultimately does not exist at all.
Fortunately, we have arrived at a more qualified interim stage so far. As I see, Mr. Ghouse and Mr. Haidon entertain a quite different point of view as compared to what Mr Spencer represents. Allow me to tend to the latter's sceptical impression as far as "tolerant cultural practices” are endangered by Arabic conformity pressure are concerned. Age-wise I am in the position to compare the Islam in some key countries like Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi-Arabia with the conditions 30 years ago. From my experience I may tell you that Mr. Spencer is quite right to the very point. What the first two countries have in common is a distinct tendency towards assimilation to Saudi or rather Wahhabi standards of legal thought and practice.
To make the situation understandable from a more general and simultaneously practical point of view, I may concentrate on the particular character of Islam as a cultural contingency system. Due to its body of dominant shariatic rules which I call the HQ complex (Hadith and Qur'an), each respective Islamic society develops its own variant inside the shariatic purity/impurity spectrum. If it is "subsumed by harsher rules", as Mr. Haidon formulates, we are almost always talking about a stricter application of the HQ complex. In another abbreviation some people call it also "HadQur" which may or may not activate more or less intentional, phonetic associations with the English "Hardcore"
Here the contingency aspect comes in. The question is when and why the harsher rules are applied and, moreover, why we cannot register the other way around. The dominant tendency of Islamic contingency points rather towards "harsher rules" than "tolerant practices". Whenever the latter occur - like the common prayers of men and women in Indonesia - they remain rare exceptions and are observed closely by the higher levels of theological and political control. On the whole, Islamic contingency is a function of the extent to which the QH complex finds reasons and room to be applied - the main reason being, of course, is the progress of Western civilization that Islamic societies have to deal with in some way or other.
Mr. Haidon is well advised to regard the "shift in Islamic thinking" from a "very cautious" standpoint as it, so far, did not show any realistic sign to shift to "tolerant cultural practices" in terms of a paradigmatic world view change. Its contingency may be compared to the criteria of a health insurance. The older an insured person, the higher his/her insurance premium. And, correspondingly, the stronger the Western modernization pressure, the better the arguments and conditions for shariatic purification, often meaning the increased inflow of Wahhabi money and personnel - one important part of so-called "Arabization".
In other words, each and every Islamic society bases on a contingent hardcore of "HadQur" rules defending its people against the "Fitna", the threat from un-Islamic influences. As hardly any Muslim denies, this rule set contains also the legitimization of internal violence against women and dissidents as well as the right to external deception and violence towards unbelievers, especially Western influence. This violence potential is a latent and virtual one, though, but under suitable circumstances it can become and often has become actual and acute. So far the system switch still points towards "harsher rules" and there is nobody who is able or prepared to guarantee for the opposite, the "tolerant practices" as Islamist power bases on this very set of rules and its permanent preservation.
Among other aspects, Mr. Ghouse gave us a good example of what kind of "hermeneutics" we are talking about when it comes to what is usually referred to as "dialogue with Islam". He mentions the female Prime Ministers of the Indo-Islamic region as opposed to the United States, which is apparently "not ready for it". Here we may see the whole "range" of Muslim eclecticism compressing the fundamental freedom of approximately 150 million American girls and women into the female constraint in Islam to which the said Prime Ministers are an exception. This kind of comparison is completely off the point, of course, but illustrates lively, how difficult if not impossible it is to argue from a standpoint which is not bound by HadQur "hermeneutics". And, if you please, I feel a little uncomfortable with Mr. Ghouse's very unpluralistic certainty about when and why female human beings supposedly feel uncomfortable in mini-skirts.
As on the other hand Western "hermeneutics" - at least in Europe - include the shariatic rule set within the general freedom of religion, this human right includes then in turn the latent potential of Islamically legitimized violence. The first results can be seen in the 2005 riots in France as well as the current semi-riots in London and elsewhere blackmailing the British government into a proper "Dhimmi" submission. Thus, Tony Blair and Prince Charles recently called the people in England to regard the Qur'an as the most progressive book of all time. As this is in perfect line with not only the dominance ideology of Islamic orthodoxy but also the official EU policy, with Germany closely following suit, there is no realistic reason why the Wahhabi expansion, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, should not only succeed in the leading part of the Islamic region but also in selected European countries.
What I want to stress here is the fact that more than three decades of "dialogue,” "interpretation", "hermeneutics" and what have you did not arrive at something one could call a lasting compromise. On the contrary, what we have to take note of in Europe as well as in the American universities and especially in the UN is a strong progress of Islamist lobbying accompanied at times by very real corruption. So, if Mr. Haidon asks rightly for the change "to happen in smaller increments," we should define a little more precisely what kind of change we are talking about.
Currently there is certainly little room for change on the Islamic side if "consistency of belief" prevails in politics, the "volition of women" is rigorously dictated by men, and the contingent power potential of Islam stays firmly geared towards confrontation without trying to plausibly contribute to obliging criteria of "hermeneutics" which may pave a way to some realistic co-operation. If what we call "tolerance" i.e. a conciliatory attitude which is only interrelated as weakness to be exploited for power purposes, the outlook for a constructive solution for co-existence in a civil society must stay quite obscure. Insofar the cultural multitude aspect has not contributed any feasible development.
Furnish: Once again, it’s an honor to participate in a Frontpage symposium.
Is there just one Islam? In one sense, of course not—any more than there is just one Christianity. Christianity and Islam are the two most missionary-oriented religions the world has ever produced and together make up about half of the world’s population (Christians number over 2 billion, Muslims close to 1.5 billion) and thus each spread over an enormous geographical area. Each has differentiated over the millennia in terms of cultural and geographic zone, language, ethnic inclinations and traditions, etc. Today, in terms of space, the Islamic world can at the least be divided into Arab, Persian, Turkish, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi), Southeast Asian (Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.), various African (North, West and East, especially) and “Diasporan” (Islam in Europe and North America) zones. Of course, the differences within the Islamic fold over time are also important to note.
The unity of the early Islamic community, or ummah, quickly degenerated into political power struggles that resulted in the split between the Sunni and Shi`i branches, and the latter in particular further split along lines based on which descendant of Ali (Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law) would return at the end of time as the Imam Mahdi—thus Fivers (Zaydis), Seveners (Isma’ilis) and Twelvers (the majority in Iran and Iraq today). The Sunnis, too, had and have their differences, most notably today—as Mr. Haidon and Mr. Ghouse note—that between the Wahhabis and other, less fundamentalist Sunnis.
One theological strain that must be mentioned is Sufism, Islamic mysticism which in earlier periods of Islam could be either Shi`i or Sunni but has for the most part today been subsumed under the latter. Sufi orders have been historically, normally, more inclusivistic that most Muslim groups; however, some of the most violent revolutions in Islamic history have been led, and manned, by Sufis (such as those of Usman don Fodio in west Africa in the late 18th/early 19th century, the Sanusis of Libya and the Mahdists of Sudan in the 19th century, for example).
Islam also, over time, differentiated into dozens of often-warring polities, such as the Abbasids v. the Fatimids in the Middle Ages, or the Ottomans v. the Safavids in the early modern period. Note, too, that in each of these struggles the former state was Sunni while the latter was Shi`i—which demolishes Mr. Ghouse’s allegation that the “Shia Sunni debate…hitherto remained in the realm of discussion.” Sunnis and Shi`is did not start killing each other when George Bush sent the U.S. military into Iraq. The same can be said of Mr. Ghouse’s ahistorical claim that “in Sunni traditions very few Muslims show any disrespect towards the other.” The Ottomans conquered their fellow Sunni Mamluks of Egypt in 1517—rather disrespectful, it seems to me; and the Sunni al-Muwahhids conquered the Sunni al-Murabits in Morocco and the Maghrib in the 12th c. CE—again, not exactly manifesting Muslim brotherhood.
And this brings me to the sense in which Islam can be said to be one: at the level of certain doctrines which continually are reified in Islamic history. At a minimum, of course, belief that God spoke to Muhammad as the final prophet to humanity, and that these revelations were later collected into the Qur’an, is something that unites all Muslims. Ditto for the other four pillars of Islam (prayer five times daily; tithing; fasting during Ramadan; and the hajj). But I speak of a constant in Islamic history, one that mystics and generals both have agreed on the importance of, and one that has, for some very influential Islamic thinkers over the years, been ranked as the sixth pillar of Islam: jihad.
Mr. Ghouse and Mr. Haidon will no doubt pull out of the quiver the argument that “jihad means being a good Muslim” but—as Mr. Spencer will no doubt argue better than me—that mainly Sufi understanding of jihad is based on a spurious hadith, or tradition, attributed to Muhammad. Any examination of Islamic over the course of 1,400 years will show that jihad-as-conquest is the normative meaning and is, I would argue, perhaps the most defining feature of Islam going back to the time of Muhammad. The Bin Ladins of the world did not create violent jihad ex nihilo. And even moderate Islamic polities such as the Ottoman Empire declared, and waged, violent jihad against (mainly Christian) states—as recently as World War I!
Until Islam can divest itself of the proclivity to violence, originating in the Qur’an itself and the activities of its founder—then all the appeals to, and claims of, “progressive” Islam will remain vacuous.
Haidon: I am in agreement with Mr. Spencer, who further illustrated the point of the susceptibility of cultural Islam to succumb to puritanical Islam. Why does puritanical Islam appear to be winning out, and why has this been the case for almost the duration of Islam's existence?
Puritanical Islam holds support from the full range of recognised Islamic schools of thought and foundational scholars. Pluralistic Muslim practices are a reflection of cultural life in an eggshell existence, because there may be little basis for them according to the body of usul al fiqh that has been developed. Further, given that the exercise of itjihad is considered bid'a in the Arab Islamic establishment, tolerant cultural practices are not likely to be subsumed into the monolithic bod(ies) of Islam. There is no real divergence of views on this issue with Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer has written extensively in this area, and I will not dispute his position; in fact, I endorse it.
As a side note, I would caution my fellow panelists from over-emphasising the role of Wahabbism (which is a sub-sect of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence) as the source of Islam's problems. Islam's hermeneutical problems arise from all schools of Islamic thought and their respective bodies of jurisprudence which are remarkably consistent in areas such as jihad and huduud.
For progressive Islamic practices to be truly successful, and not just transient and capable of toppling, they must be justified by Al'Qur'an and usul al'fiqh. There must be an intellectual and hermenueutical basis for their existence; legal arguments to justify their presence. For this process to begin, there needs to be high level and grass roots conversations about these practices within Islamic societies.
While I agree with some of Mr. Ghouse's sentiments and views, particularly in relation to highlighting how some Islamic scholars malign the Qur'an, I would have to disagree with my Muslim brother on a couple of points. Like the other co-panelists, I am uneasy about Mr. Ghouse's burqa/miniskirt comparison. The burqa is a tool of oppression and to compare its usage to that of a miniskirt in the Western context is misguided. Mr. Ghouse appears to assume that there is an equal level of choice involved, which there is not.
Similarly I find I think Mr. Ghouse's attempt to somehow compare the United States failure to elect a woman president and the situations of India, Bangaldesh and Pakistan where women have held highest office as misleading and unhelpful. The election of women leaders in these countries has more to do with the modalities and machinery of parliamentary democracy, where voters vote directly for political parties as opposed to candidates than it does with Muslim modernity and progressive thinking. As Mr. Ghouse is aptly aware, women are denigrated in the worst of ways in these particular countries. The positition of women as leaders are anomalies only and should not be seen to reflect Islamic tolerance.
Mr. Raddatz makes some interesting remarks, which I generally agree with. He makes normative observations about cultural practices and their relation to Islam that I accept. Mr. Raddatz's observation that decades of interpretation, dialogue and herneneutics have only exacerbated problems between the West and Islam and has led partially to Western capitulation to the Islamist lobby. There has never been an open, concerted effort by Western governments to challenge Muslims to reform, to the contrary. Yes, reform in Islam must be methodical, systemic and incremental. But before we can even begin discussing reform or the integration of cultural practices as a way forward, Muslims have to recognise that there are problems and a justification for reform. To date there have been no concerted global efforts at this by Muslims. There cannot be effective inter-faith dialogue without intra-faith dialogue that explores these issues within Islam.
Dr. Furnish should not attempt to put words into other people’s mouths, and he is not in a position to speak for myself or for Mr. Ghouse. I do not believe that engaging in jihad makes one a good Muslim. To the contrary, Muslims have been conditioned to see jihad as an aggressive offensive tool which seeks to subjugate, as opposed to defend and seek justice. Until Muslims develop a vision of jihad that is consistent with modernity and international human rights law (perhaps akin to the legal doctrine of humanitarian intervention), jihad as a practice and a tool should be curbed by all means.
I support Dr. Furnish's points with respect to Sufism, that while it appears to be tolerant and pluralistic in many respects, it has also promoted jihad and violence as a means of propagation; not merely for self-defence and the pursuit of justice. Dr. Furrnish's final point about what is required for a progressive Islam to truly take its place is correct and I support it.
Spencer: Mr. Ghouse criticizes a Saudi translation of the Qur’an for adding negative mention of Christians and Jews into parenthetical glosses on the Fatiha, the first sura of the Qur’an. He suggests that in “pluralistic societies like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey” this interpretation is unknown. However, Mr. Ghouse does not mention the fact that this interpretation of the Fatiha is mainstream in Islam. The classic Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that “the two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.”
Ibn Kathir’s understanding of this passage is not a lone “extremist” interpretation. In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir. One contrasting, but not majority view, is that of Nisaburi, who says that “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people of negligence, and those who have gone astray are the people of immoderation.”
What’s more, the ideas that the Jews have earned Allah’s anger and the Christians have gone astray can be found elsewhere in the Qur’an, Wahhabi glosses aside. Ibn Kathir notes that in Qur’an 5:60 the Sabbath-breaking Jews are referred to as “those who incurred the curse of Allah,” and 5:77, in the context of scolding Christians for deifying Christ, characterizes them as those who “misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even way.”
These passages and others that are abusive toward Jews and Christians and proclaim that they are under Allah’s curse (cf. Qur’an 9:30) are, unfortunately, in the Qur’ans that Muslims read in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey. While there is no doubt that the expression of Islam in those countries and others has been less virulent than it has been in, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran, I respectfully ask that Mr. Ghouse not patronize us by suggesting that this is because material in the Qur’an that incites Muslims to hateful intolerance of non-Muslims has been inserted into the book by Wahhabis. I would ask the same thing of him in regard to my points about Arab and non-Arab Muslims. Bringing up Muhammad’s exhortations to his daughter tells us absolutely nothing about the existence of the Shu’ubites, or the conditions that led to their creation as a party within Islam.
I applaud Mr. Haidon’s honesty in acknowledging that “Muslims have been conditioned to see jihad as an aggressive offensive tool which seeks to subjugate,” and enthusiastically agree with him that “until Muslims develop a vision of jihad that is consistent with modernity and international human rights law (perhaps akin to the legal doctrine of humanitarian intervention), jihad as a practice and a tool should be curbed by all means.”
Ghouse: “Should a woman have the right to decide whether she wants to veil or not veil without having to fear getting shot to death or facing some other persecution?” The Answer is most certainly yes, a woman should have the right to decide whether she wants to veil or not. Undoubtedly, there are social and family pressures for conformity in many Muslim communities -- more than their religious needs. Women, regardless of their faith have endured oppression in the hands of men. The world community needs to continue working for the emancipation of women, we are behind, I mean, men of all socieities need to understand full value of the woman individual.
Mr. Raddatz notes that “The dominant tendency of Islamic contingency points rather towards "harsher rules" than "tolerant practices". Whenever the latter occur - like the common prayers of men and women in Indonesia - they remain rare”. I agree with the note and further add that the later practice is gaining momentum. The societies are at different milestones, the remotest societies are about 100 years behind us in terms of human rights, and we have made a tremendous progress in terms of human rights and women’s emancipation in the last 50 years. None of the societies are fully emancipated, though we are all on the trajectory.
On the burqa/mini-skirt issue, it seems that my comment has been misunderstood. In that comparison, I was trying to emphasize that the definition or standard of modesty varies from culture to culture. However, that example did not have anything to do with the women’s volition issue. That observance of dress codes, to a great extent, has to be a matter of personal volition. To me as a Muslim, it can’t be any other way. However, as in so many cases, Muslims have to contend with totally conflicting situations. The levels of emancipation of women in different communities vary, but certainly it is moving forward towards a just society.
While many Muslims are trying to emphasize the volitional issue in the Muslim world, the same Muslims are also confronted with the bigotry and double standard of the same societies sermonizing about freedom and volition that they won’t let women wear Islamic dresses (excepting niqab or face-covering) as they want. Even the same pundits and advocates who get animated about the imposition of dress code of women have no problem of secular democracies, such as France, imposing dress code (that is, Muslim women can’t wear as they like). We need to have a principled stand. Many Muslims like us are trying to approach such issues from women’s volitional perspective. However, such principled stance requires that as we uphold women’s volition in wearing if they don’t want to wear a veil (headcovering), it is also important that we uphold the volition of those women who do want to.
My comment about women reaching leadership position in certain Muslim-majority countries may not be on the target, but what I was trying to say is that there are opportunities in the Muslim-majority countries to articulate a vision and foster a culture that accords women their due rights. This does not require bashing Islam. Ayesha, wife of the Prophet, was a religious scholar and jurist of her time. Women have participated in the battlefront in both support and combat role, of course, on a voluntary basis.
During the earliest period covering the Prophet and post-prophetic era, Muslim women used to engage in many income-earning professions. A woman was appointed as a market inspector in Madinah under 2nd Caliph Umar. All these were part of an evolving culture, in accordance with Islam, the progress of which was thwarted and even choked over time. Of course, it is the responsibility of Muslims to take up the challenge to cut through the socio-cultural taboos that have piled up over time and re-chart the future connecting with the Qur’anic values and the Prophetic legacy. We don’t ride on camels any more to show our affinity to the Prophet. Riding on a camel has nothing to with Islam. Similarly, the guidance of the Qur’an and the Prophetic legacy ushered in a new era in women’s empowerment. Within the essential guidance of the Qur’an and the Prophet, Muslims need to resume the task of women’s empowerment in the Muslim societies, a task the Prophet initiated.
Notably, the Muslim community in North America is moving forward in an exemplary fashion. The election of Dr. Ingrid Mattson as the first female president of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is indicative of those positive changes. This change did not cause a decline in the membership of ISNA. Rather, the entire ISNA community has welcomed it, and we haven’t seen any protest and complain about it from the rest of the broader Muslim community.
Lest we gloss over, it should also be noted that not everything in the West is to be taken as a model. Family as an institution is now more vulnerable than ever. Much of the tensions and alienation in a society has its root in dysfunctional family. We all need to benefit from our collective human experience.
In regard to Zilla Huma Usman, let me state unequivocally that as a Muslim and a human being I see it as a murder and there is no justification for it. I work with many Muslims with a pluralistic bent and I can say without reservation that I haven’t come across anyone who justifies or defends such killing.
If we take the religious labeling out and observe how humans behave we may find surprising commanalities in doing the right and the wrong things. There have been reports of rape in subway trains, the passengers simply watch and do nothing about the disadvantaged, people also watch the murders and do nothing about it, and at the same time we always find a hero who speaks up and does her or his part against the injustice. We need to subject every one to the same principle and logic as we do with Muslims, then some of the unjust criticism has to be done with.
We must have a principled approach in this regard. In 1971, our government ended up providing political, diplomatic and, yes, military support too to the genocidal army of Pakistan. Where were our conscientious voices in support of women, when such gendercide was taking place in then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)? Please refer to the chapter on Bangladesh in Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. When the U.S. Consul General Archer Blood in Dhaka sent a telegram (known as Blood Telegram) informing Washington that genocide is underway and urged urgent intervention, he was summarily transferred away from Dhaka.
Muslims are constantly being asked to condemn this or condemn that, and in many cases, condemnation is our moral obligation. However, do we not have some common problems in which we all are entangled and have common interests in approaching these issues in a principled-manner? We ourselves patronize, endear and defend (militarily) barbaric autocracies like that of Saudi monarchy with close tie to puritanical Wahabism, and then many rotten things that we see happening from that Kingdom, Muslims are held responsible for condemning the Wahabism.
I do appreciate Mr. Spencer’s acknowledgement “While there is no doubt that the expression of Islam in those countries and others has been less virulent than it has been in, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran,”
Mr. Spencer is not a fan of Wahabism or Saudi Arabia, and I am not either. However, instead of asking me or others like me to condemn all that is rotten, why don’t we come together to condemn such autocratic monarchies with puritanical-cum-fanatical religious connections on the one hand, and also condemn those powers that patronize or protect such undemocratic entities on the other?
Mr. Raddatz may have the reason to believe that all people behave the same way, “As hardly any Muslim denies, this rule set contains also the legitimization of internal violence against women and dissidents as well as the right to external deception and violence towards unbelievers, especially Western influence.” This is way too general and vague, and a few will buy this, but most will reject this characterization.
Raddatz asks, “…what kind of change we are talking about.” Clearly the “incremental changes” as Mr. Haidon puts it. No society or culture has had a dramatic change in values and practices. Except some historical and trailblazing aspects, most changes occur gradually and far-reaching ideas usually take time to gain wider acceptance. Change is the most difficult thing for the masses and at times for individuals. We have to go from familiar turf to the new one in a gradual fashion. None of us, who speaks about freedom, ought to entertain the thoughts of imposing our ideas onto others in a rush.
Mr. Haidon’s comment, “There has never been an open, concerted effort by Western governments to challenge Muslims to reform, to the contrary. Yes, reform in Islam must be methodical, systemic and incremental.” While agreeing with the 2nd part of the statement, I would not pass the responsibility to any one, reform is in our interest, indeed, and in this case, reform means correcting ourselves to what was meant in Qur’an and the authentic Hadith in the light of creating a just society.
In Muslim societies a few of our practices are not in tune with the Qur’an, like; divorce, wife beating, Jihaad and pluralism to name a few. And these issues are being tackled now with a strong commitment. Mr. Haidon has expressed it well. “There cannot be effective inter-faith dialogue without intra-faith dialogue that explores these issues within Islam.”
And I have emphasized a similar thought to the Muslim Organizations that I work with, “For progressive Islamic practices to be truly successful, and not just transient and capable of toppling, they must be justified by Al'Qur'an and usul al'fiqh.” We have to tread from familiar territory to have acceptance and one of the flaws of many a progressive organization is that they are not on the familiar grounds.
I agree with Mr. Spencer when he says “In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir. One contrasting, but not majority view, is that of Nisaburi, who says that “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people of negligence, and those who have gone astray are the people of immoderation.”
No doubt, this view has existed, but the majority of Muslims really did not believe in it as it did not translate into major warfare and subjugation of people, any more than the wars and destruction in Europe and elsewhere. It was the politics of the people in government, most of whom through out the world, with the exception of United States and Canada, were dictators and kings who fought the wars for their power rather than religion or the people.
Spencer “Bringing up Muhammad’s exhortations to his daughter tells us absolutely nothing...” Well, Mr. Spencer, it does speaks capaciously about individual responsibility, it was in response to your comment that the Pakistanis aspire to claim in the family tree of Prophet Mohammad or Arabs that I wrote. When he told his own daughter that she has to earn her righteous place through her good deeds, and that she will not get a free pass because she is his daughter speaks volumes about taking individual responsibility for one’s behavior and negating the hereditary nobility and bringing every one par as the Qur’an says “The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct”.
I am glad Mr. Spencer finds agreement with the statement of Mr. Haidon “until Muslims develop a vision of jihad that is consistent with modernity and international human rights law (perhaps akin to the legal doctrine of humanitarian intervention), jihad as a practice and a tool should be curbed by all means.”
Mr. Haidon reflects the attitudes among Muslims today “To the contrary, Muslims have been conditioned to see jihad as an aggressive offensive tool which seeks to subjugate, as opposed to defend and seek justice.” And it has got to change.
It is unfortunate that the word Jihad has taken the meaning of holy war against infidels. This understanding of Jihad was further crystallized as an outcome against the crusades and has stuck with the Muslim psyche till recently. It did not have any more steam in it and had stayed dormant for a long time; the words started playing the games again from the early 50’s as a political tool to galvanize the masses to protect the kingdoms in the name of religion.
The tragic 9/11 was a wake up call to Muslims around the world. They felt a sense of betrayal to learn that the aggression part of Jihad was not in their religion, but was developed as a political tool, just as much as the crusades, inquisitions were political tools using religion to consolidate the hold of Kings over their people.
Jihad is an Arabic word meaning a struggle or an effort in the fulfilling of the commandments of God in order to become a better human being. The war is not holy and there is nothing in the Qur’an to aggressively go after any one, unless you’re defending against an aggression. Even then, there is a command that says, if the aggressor has stopped the aggression, you need to stop as well.
It is most certainly a duty of all human beings to help each other against oppression and injustice. This is what Islam teaches. (Power point on Jihad at www.worldMuslimCongress.com )
Therefore, Islam has laid out clear rules and regulations for Muslims to follow in the event of war, which is only used as a last resort. Qur’an, Surah 2:190-194 “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors.” And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.
It is time to wake up and see the changes that are evolving, Mr. Raddatz’s statement would have been valid a decade ago “Currently there is certainly little room for change on the Islamic side if "consistency of belief" prevails in politics, the "volition of women" is rigorously dictated by men..” and “the outlook for a constructive solution for co-existence in a civil society must stay quite obscure. Insofar the cultural multitude aspect has not contributed any feasible development.”
The changes that have missed the radar of many a people in the writing business are:
 Human rights issues. Muslims are seeking an understanding if the just values of Qur’an are reflected in Socio-political Sharia Laws, Muslims are relentlessly pursuing to understand the wisdom of Sharia laws and the intensity of the pursuit is refreshing. The political Apostasy laws are losing ground to Qur’anic understanding of no compulsion in religion led by several scholars.
 Emancipation of Muslim women’s rights. Never in the history of Muslims has the pursuit of this been so strong. Muslims women having their own Personal Law board in India, Women Mayors around the Subcontinent, Women’s seminary in Morocco, Women speaking up in Indonesia against terrorism, Women’s heading major Muslim Organizations, Nobel Prize winners, An Iranian American Muslim women going into space, Air Force Pilots in Pakistan, Sania Mirza in international tennis, and all the way to paving the way to Women’s only Mosques in India, equal space for women and even Women lead Friday Congregational prayers in Canada and the United States. Not all these are without controversy, of course. But the Muslim community is moving forward through a more encompassing discourse. Muslims are even trying to make case for taking non-Muslims into consideration as stakeholders in Islamic discourse. See “Apostasy and Reform in Islam.”
The major change that is taking root, which Mr. Spencer keeps hammering at is the verse 4:34 about wife beating. This verse has been mis-understood for a long time. Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar has just written about, and Dr. Abusulayman and Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq have also written about it and can be found at: www.WorldMuslimCongress.blogspot.com
The word "Idribuhunna" is usually translated as "beat them" in Sura 4:34. This word with the root "Dharaba" has a very long list of meanings. The word is used in Qur’aan in 10 different ways – for example the meaning “to beat” is used 2 times, “to strike” is used 9 times and “to give” is used 17 times. Most Muslims are finding the new interpretation more congruent with the overall spirit and perspective of the Qur’an and these works are circulating rapidly.
 Co-existence – There is plethora of organizations emerging on the principles of Co-existence, certainly not enough, but considering the birthing that has begun in 2001, the growth is impressive. I am a member of a few organizations that espouse those Qur’anic values of Pluralism. In fact Our Mission is driven by the Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: “O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware.” And our Mission is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it.
The first step to peace on earth is to rejuvenate the United Nations, where all of us need to join together to create a Just World. All aggression ought to be fought jointly and justly by the entire community of Nations. For short term gains, the big nations have acted un-justly, each one has taken their turn to be wrong, this has got to go. The big brothers have to demonstrate a sense of justice and fairness in dealing with different nations, when there is justice, peace is bound to come.
FP: Mr. Ghouse, I am not so sure how a few words of lip service regarding how the world must stand up for women’s rights deals with the problem of gender apartheid under Islam in any real way, nor how it deals with the problem that such apartheid has its roots in the teaching of the Qur’an.
In terms of forced veiling, I am not so sure what you mean when you say that “The levels of emancipation of women in different communities vary, but certainly it is moving forward towards a just society.” If you are saying that there is a progressive movement in Islamic communities toward free choice regarding wearing the veil, this is news to me. The pressures are moving in the completely opposite direction, and surely you are aware of what is happening to unveiled women in Iraq and even in certain areas of France, where non-Muslim women veil themselves in terror of physical punishment from Muslims. The tragedy of Zilla Huma Usman represents this phenomenon well.
Peter Raddatz, your turn sir.
Raddatz: We all know how difficult it is to realize democratic measures in an Islamic society. Therefore, in terms of Mr. Ghouse’s assertions, it would be much more helpful to skip assertions that are obviously too palliative, be it the "just society", the position of women, the question of apostasy, or the general "wisdom" of Sharia laws as such. Moreover, I wonder how one can be sure about any statement to be 10 years out of date while on the other hand, as he rightly says, the harmonization of different concepts in civil society and Islam necessarily take a vastly elongated period of time, impossible to define.
Likewise we should not bewilder our readers by an allegedly "long list of meanings" of the word "daraba" = to beat. If Mr. Spencer is blamed for insisting on this meaning in the framework of Qur’an 4/34: "...beat them" (the women), this reproach certainly cannot be supported by the established variants of the Arabic language. "Daraba" simply means "to beat" - full stop. If you want another meaning like - for instance - to play (an instrument), to write (on a typing machine), to calculate, to avert, to separate, to delete, you would have to combine each of it with a pertaining conjunction, the Qur’anic text does not offer, however.
So dozens of famous traditionists and Qur’an exegetes over dozens of generations of the Islamic history have based, correspondingly, on this one single meaning - "to beat". This may be regarded as only one small but typical and not unimportant example of what makes the contemporary, orthodox Islam so predictable: the charismatic decision which goes usually in favour of Shariatic rules whenever the actual power practice is concerned. Insofar Mr. Haidon's statements on law hermeneutics may be confirmed and Mr. Furnish's on the Islamic "multitude" relativated a bit, for the same reason.
Last but not least, Mr. Ghouse's view of the role of the United Nations seems particularly obscure. I think our round has deserved better than generally blaming the UN for "short term gains", acting "unjustly" and so on. If you take a closer look at the UN history as from the early 1970s you may register a slowly but surely rising influence of Islamic, especially Arab countries may confirm the theory of "one Islam" from a somewhat unexpected point of view.
I may recommend to read Pedro Sanjuan's book on "The UN Gang" where he describes the genesis of an extremely anti-Semitic Arab state mafia blackmailing the "international community" to spend an enormous portion of its time on Israel and to vote for "just decisions" against the "terror state". Pretending to be a "secular institution", the UN administration offers a prayer facility to the believers in Islam - as the only religion. Already in 1974, against all written and unwritten rules, the UN gave standing ovations to Yassir Arafat, having spoken, armed with a Smith & Wesson revolver. So far for "unjust treatment" of Islamic and/or Palestinian interests in the UN.
Furnish: Mr. Haidon’s warning about “over-emphasising the role of Wahhabism” is well-taken, and I think I have been careful about not doing so. Wahhabi Islam has only existed for two centuries, and the martial trends of Islam long pre-date it. I do find it interesting that he also cautions me about “put[ing] words in other people’s mouths”—when I predicted that he and Mr. Ghouse would argue that “jihad means being a good Muslim,” and not expanding the Dar al-Islam at the expense of the rest of us—but then Mr. Ghouse, at any rate, proceeds to say exactly what I predicted: that after 9/11 Muslims “felt a sense of betrayal to learn that the aggression part of jihad was not in their religion, but was developed as a political tool, just as much as the crusades,” and that “it is unfortunate that the word Jihad has taken the meaning of holy war against the infidels.”
Indeed, it is unfortunate: but the word has meant that going back to Muhammad’s time, and Mr. Ghouse is woefully ignorant of Islamic history when he states that jihad as holy war “crystallized as an outcome against the crusades.” Please. In this ahistorical view, Islamic rule was spread from the border of France to the Indus River in a little over a century by what—handing out brochures? Note that I am not saying Islam spread only by the sword; there were peaceful da`is, or “missionaries,” especially among the Sufi orders. And Islam also spread across the Sahara, and the Indian Ocean, via traders on camels and ships. But it takes a massive ignorance, or misrepresentation, of history to argue with a straight face that jihad—bringing the non-Muslim Dar al-Harb under the political sway of the Dar al-Islam—had nothing to do with the spread of Islam as a religion and a civilization.
I find it also extremely disingenuous for Mr. Ghouse to maintain that “wife-beating “is “not in tune with the Qur’an.” Perhaps this is a conscious echo of Laleh Bakhtiar’s new “exegesis” of the Qur’an, most notable in her rendering of Surah Nisa’ :34. For 1,400 years that passage has been understood thus: “As for those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct: admonish them, refuse to share their beds and beat them.” Bakhtiar’s new version has it that the verbal form idrabuhunna does not mean “beat them” but, rather, “send them away.” I’m a historian who reads Arabic, not an expert in pre-modern Arabic, but for the verb daraba to mean “send them away” or “shun them,” there must be a preposition after the verb—which is not the case in the Qur’anic text—as Professor Raddatz observes correctly.
In any event, I truly hope that Bakhtiar’s “progressive” view of that passage takes hold in the Islamic world; but in the meantime it is just, well, silly to maintain that that passage has meant, for most Muslims over the last 14 centuries, something other than what the plain text says. Likewise, I hope that the world’s Muslims eventually do come to see jihad as something other than holy war against Jews and Christians. But in the interim it does no one, Muslim or non-Muslim, any favor to deny how such terms have historically been understood, articulated and realized.
Mr. Ghouse’s appeals for “co-existence” are admirable but, as Mr. Glazov pointed out, amount to little more than lip service. Before embarking on grandiose schemes to “rejuvenate” the United Nations, what say we start smaller—like, for example, pressuring the Sa`udis to allow even one church or—God forbid—synagogue in the Kingdom? Muslims are free to worship and build mosques in every Western nation, but Christians in particular are forbidden the same rights in many Muslim nations. Again, one might argue that that is because of the influence of the Wahhabis and their like-minded brethren in, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood. But the calls for “justice and equity to attain peace for humankind” ring rather hollow when non-Muslims are second-class citizens in many majority-Muslim nations.
FP: Mike Ghouse, Thomas Haidon, Dr. Hans-Peter Raddatz, Robert Spencer and Timothy Furnish, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.