Category Archives: Islam

‘Nobody can hurt me’ | WORLD News Group

Well, President Trump? How big are your cajones?

On the night before her final hearing before Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Asia Bibi had a dream. “I saw in a dream that all the doors of the prison are open,” she described, “and I’m worrying that if the jail superintendent comes she will be very furious.”

Hope can burn from the faintest wick. For Bibi the dream was a fresh fire. A field worker who does not read and a mother of five, Bibi is in her late 40s or early 50s and has been jailed since 2009. From a dispute with two Muslim women, who alleged she blasphemed Islam after one asked Bibi to bring her water, she has been on death row.

Her children, including one who is mentally handicapped, have grown up without her. Pakistan has had four prime ministers while Bibi has been behind bars. And multiple courts upheld a death-by-hanging sentence in her case, which has been pending before Pakistan’s Supreme Court since July 2015.

But on the eve of an expected ruling in October, she told her attorney, Saiful Malook, “From my dream I am very, very certain that my appeal is going to be accepted and I am going to be free.” Then she said, “I have such a full faith in God that I have [a] strong feeling that nobody can hurt me.”

To Malook, Bibi said, “I assure you, sir, you also don’t worry.”

The following day the Supreme Court ruled in her favor, saying she had been accused falsely and ordering her freed, but her ordeal was far from over. Islamic hard-liners sparked widespread protests, shutting down roads and services. Bibi was not guilty, but not free, and clearly needed to leave the country. On Nov. 7 authorities reportedly flew Bibi from the detention center in Punjab to Islamabad, where she remained in an undisclosed location. The government caved to the hard-liners, agreeing to review the Supreme Court’s decision for technical issues.

Malook told the story of Bibi’s dream at a church in the Netherlands, where he was forced to seek temporary shelter after threats against his own life. For offering to shelter him, the Netherlands faces threats too: On Nov. 13 Dutch officials had to close their embassy in Islamabad and withdraw staff over threats against Dutch diplomats.

The case already has become a watershed moment for Pakistan and the Muslim world, something like the 1979 Revolution in Iran. Hard-liners threaten Christians using the blasphemy laws, while their tactics threaten Pakistan’s democratic government. Two leading statesmen—Muslim Salman Taseer and Christian Shahbaz Bhatti—were assassinated in 2011 for defending Bibi.

The only thing more astonishing than the bravery and faith of Asia Bibi in the face of so much hatred and violence is the cowardice and retreat of nations more powerful than Pakistan. The United Kingdom granted shelter to those calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie and has allowed rallies parading the Hezbollah flag, but British leaders stayed silent on Bibi’s future.

The United States took in the very publicly threatened Russian Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Chinese democracy movement leader Wei Jingsheng, yet made no offer of asylum for Bibi. Privately U.S. officials say the situation is too sensitive to talk about, but while they remain silent the hard-liners are winning.

Besides wanting to kill Asia Bibi, Pakistan’s Islamist parties and their mullahs want to silence Western powers through fear and intimidation. They want to threaten violence in such a way that they get their way. Until Bibi is fully freed, they have made a sham of Pakistan’s rule of law and its court system. Unless the traditional protectors of freedom step forward in a public and profound way to offer safe passage, it will appear the greatest powers in the world can be lassoed by a jihadist-ruled street.

Weeks after a brave verdict, few are looking brave beside the farm worker and mother, Asia Bibi herself. Attorney Malook told the Dutch congregation: “I have not seen such a strong woman in my life, nor in any book story, who is behind the bars for more than nine years … and still can be so strong.”


The Truth About Muhammad Ali and the Draft

My bet? That you’ve never heard this before…
WSJ 4/28/2017 By Paul Beston

On April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali—then still known to many by his birth name, Cassius Clay—reported to Local Board No. 61 in Houston for induction into the U.S. armed forces. The 25-year-old heavyweight champion spent the morning filling out forms and receiving a physical exam. In the afternoon, when his name was called, he did not step forward. He wrote down his reason: “I refuse to be inducted into the armed forces of the United States because I claim to be exempt as a minister of the religion of Islam.” He meant the Nation of Islam, the black separatist organization headed by Elijah Muhammad, also known as the Messenger.

Ali was swiftly convicted of draft evasion, a felony. Remaining free while his lawyers pursued appeals, he became a generational flashpoint—a reliable gauge of political views on the Vietnam War.

For every athlete who wishes to “make a statement” today, and plenty do, no exemplar looms larger than Ali. He paid a steep price for his stand: Spurning due process, boxing commissions stripped him of his title and banned him from the sport for 3½ years. This meant losing millions of dollars in the prime of his career.

In 1971 the Supreme Court overturned his conviction. Since then he has become a venerated figure, thanks to his greatness in the ring, the magnetic force of his personality, the broadly accepted narrative about the folly of Vietnam, and the liberalization of American culture. His death last June prompted a weeklong commemoration, with funeral ceremonies befitting a head of state. Ali, we were told, had been right all along in his principled opposition to the war.

The truth, though hard to make out under the thick moss of mythology, is that Ali refused induction not out of principle but from fear of disobeying Elijah Muhammad, who had stipulated that the champ not serve in a “white man’s war.” (Muhammad had done jail time himself for resisting the draft during World War II.) “You just don’t buck Mr. Muhammad and get away with it,” Ali said, and he saw what happened to people who tried. Malcolm X, who had been close to Ali, was assassinated in February 1965. After Ali’s former press secretary told the FBI that he had information about Malcolm’s killers, he too was found dead. Other dissidents simply disappeared.

Ali got the message. In March 1967, a month before his appearance at the draft board, Ali told his boxing idol, Sugar Ray Robinson, he couldn’t join the army.

“Elijah Muhammad told me that I can’t go,” Ali said.

“You’ve got to go,” Robinson replied.

“I’m afraid, Ray,” Ali said. “I’m real afraid.” He had tears in his eyes.

“If you ask me,” Robinson said later, “he wasn’t afraid of jail. He was afraid of being killed by the Muslims.”

Nearly a decade later, Ali told reporter Dave Kindred: “I would have gotten out of [the Nation of Islam] a long time ago, but you saw what they did to Malcolm X. . . . I can’t leave the Muslims. They’d shoot me, too.”

It speaks volumes that Ali was more willing to face jail time than the Messenger’s wrath, especially since, by his own admission, the government had offered him “all kinds of deals.” Military brass neither wanted him in combat nor wished to see him become a draft resister. He would have served in a ceremonial capacity, as Joe Louis had in World War II, visiting and entertaining troops. The federal prosecutor who handled the case sensed that Ali was ready to sign up for a noncombat role, but that “some of his advisers wanted to make a martyr out of him.” They succeeded.

It is not the only irony of Ali’s life that his submission to Elijah Muhammad’s authority somehow transformed him into a hero of freethinking and moral conscience. Yet he deserves credit for handling himself with magnanimity and élan. The fairminded can sympathize with his quandary: searching for meaning in segregated America, he found the wrong answers, and discovered his mistake only when it was too late.

Had Ali chosen more wisely, he might have become a unifier, like Louis, whose entire career, especially his service in the Army, brought Americans together. By contrast, Ali’s refusal to serve helped deepen America’s racial and political divisions. He hurt himself and achieved no social good in doing so. His retroactive canonization doesn’t change these stubborn realities.

Understanding the Ali story in this way, one feels less inclined to celebration than to sorrow. It is commonplace to see the tragedy of Muhammad Ali’s life as coming in its second half, when he was stricken with Parkinson’s. The defining tragedy came earlier. That the events in Houston are now so broadly acclaimed— and distorted—suggests that the tragedy is not his alone, but ours.

Mr. Beston is managing editor of City Journal. His book, “The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled the Ring,” will be published in September.


Can Islam Really Function in Democracy?

THis one is a bit long, but well worth the read.
WSJ 7/23/2016

First Egypt and now Turkey show the perils of ideological religious parties (and strongman rule), but other Muslim countries are faring better with democracy.


IN 1999, a former mayor of Istanbul named Recep Tayyip Erdogan was imprisoned and banned from politics for life for reciting a poem. “Our minarets are our bayonets, our domes are our helmets, our mosques are our barracks,” the incriminating lines went. “My reference is Islam. If I am not able to speak of this, what is the use of living?” The ban on Mr. Erdogan didn’t stick. Now Turkey’s president (and prime minister for 11 years before that), he is presiding over a nationwide purge of suspected enemies after the failure last week of a military coup against his government.

For decades, in much of the Middle East, Islamist politicians like Mr. Erdogan weren’t able to speak out— and, when they did, they frequently faced a prison cell or a hangman’s noose. From Algeria to Egypt to Turkey, the apparatus of the state repeatedly unleashed repression— of varying degrees of harshness—to marginalize political Islam, crushing democratic freedoms while offering the excuse of preserving secular values. The West, preferring the autocratic devils it knew over the Islamists it didn’t, often concurred.

In response, many of the Islamist movements that sprang up under the influence of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood—groups that include Mr. Erdogan’s party—have gradually embraced the language of pluralism and the idea of democratic politics and elections. Crucially, however, these modern Islamists have often viewed democracy not as a value in itself but merely as a tactic to bring about a “true” Islamic order. To them, the voting booth was simply the most feasible way to dismantle the postcolonial, secular systems that, in the eyes of their followers, had failed to bring justice or development to ordinary Muslims.

In 2005, Mr. Erdogan—then serving as Turkey’s prime minister and acclaimed for improving the country’s human-rights record and pushing forward its bid for membership in the European Union—let slip on a trip to Australia that he viewed democracy just as “a vehicle.”

In the subsequent decade, Mr. Erdogan has extinguished major centers of opposition in Turkey’s bureaucracy, media, military and judiciary. In the wake of the failed coup—itself a vivid confirmation that his suspicions weren’t unfounded—he has launched a crackdown on tens of thousands of potential opponents, including detaining nearly 9,000 people since the collapse of the plot. “All the checks and balances have now been eliminated,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In Egypt, hopes for democracy were high in the wake of the 2011 demonstrations in Tahrir Square that helped to topple longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. But the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, took just a few months after being elected in 2012 to start ominously consolidating his rule, granting himself immunity from judicial oversight. His power grab was cut short by a successful military coup the following year, which installed the country’s current strongman, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. His regime has quickly proven more repressive even than Mr. Mubarak’s.

This cycle of conflict—between the entrenched “deep state,” dominated by a country’s military and security establishments, and Islamist parties eager to grab as much power as possible whenever elected due to their wholly legitimate fears that they won’t otherwise be allowed to govern—has been a major reason why democracy has failed to take root in the Middle East.

Tainted by their associations with the West or the autocratic regimes long in power, liberal and secular parties have struggled to emerge as a third option in much of the region. And democracy, after all, is a tough proposition when neither of the two major forces now shaping the Middle East’s politics—the old-guard autocrats and the Islamist movements—truly believes in it.

The democratic exception to this rule is Tunisia, the one Arab democracy to emerge from the Arab revolutions of 2011. It is the only country now rated as “free” by Freedom House, a U.S. organization that analyzes civil liberties and political rights, out of the 17 Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and North Africa. That’s the worst record for any region.

“There is a lot to be done before democracy has a chance. Education, pluralistic ideas and consensus-building are in short supply in many of these countries,” said Hassan Hassan, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, D.C.

This democracy problem is linked not so much with Islam, an ancient religion, as with political Islam—a modern ideology developed in 20th-century Egypt, in part, to redress the Middle East’s backwardness compared with the West. Its founding fathers in the Muslim Brotherhood met violent deaths—Hassan al-Banna was gunned down in 1949, Sayyid Qutb was hanged by the Egyptian government in 1966—but their ideas took root throughout the Middle East after the repeated failures of autocratic regimes that preached the rival ideas of socialism and Arab nationalism. Offshoots of the Brotherhood now represent the dominant political movements from Morocco to Turkey to the Gaza Strip.

But the Muslim world is more than the Middle East. And the further one travels from the Middle East’s core, the less relevant this strain of political Islam tends to become. The world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, has been a successful democracy since 1999. Conservative Islamist parties have remained at the margins of power, and local demands for more religious rule have been addressed through decentralization.

“Even though we are mostly Muslim, the way we practice Islam has very local characteristics. We in Indonesia like to live together in diversity; we are different, and this has created a challenge here for Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood,” explained Samsul Maarif, a scholar at the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, on the Indonesia island of Java.

Islamist political parties have also consistently failed at the ballot box in Pakistan, the world’s second-most-populous Muslim country. That is one reason why Islamist radicals in Pakistan have embraced the strategy of terrorism instead. Even though Pakistan’s army still retains considerable influence over foreign and security affairs, democratic politics has consolidated there since the end of direct military rule in 2008. The 2013 election led to the country’s first handover of power between rival parties. Outside the Middle East, democracy has also worked, at least so far, in Muslim-majority nations as diverse as Senegal and Albania.

But political ideas tend to travel from the Muslim world’s core to its periphery, not the other way around. A decade ago, the West African nation of Mali was often held up as the freest Muslim democracy, a potential inspiration for democrats in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq. Fast forward to 2012, and Mali’s democracy collapsed under the onslaught of Islamist radicals who had emulated the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Arguments about the role of religion— and divinely inspired morality—in public life are hardly unique to Muslim societies, of course. Established Western democracies have grappled with these issues too, and not always gracefully. During the lifetimes of many older Americans, after all, it has been a felony to sell alcohol or to engage in adultery or homosexual sex.

But Islam is a religion whose founder established a successful empire instead of dying on the cross. As a result, it offers a far more detailed prescription than Christianity of how government and society should be run. “The Quran is our constitution,” runs the Muslim Brotherhood’s historic slogan.

As such, politicians and voters who believe in the primacy of Islamic law inevitably find themselves in conflict with the principle of democracy whenever a majority favors a different path. This, after all, is why more radical groups, such as Islamic State, have rejected democracy outright as an infidel heresy.

After its 1979 revolution, Iran purported to reconcile this conundrum by establishing its “Islamic Republic.” Yet the Iranian system— in which the country’s Shiite clerical establishment retains supreme authority—has turned the country’s democratic institutions and elected officials into a sideshow whenever major decisions are made. Ultimate power rests with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not with parliament. As the Iranian constitution explicitly states, all laws and regulations “must be based on Islamic criteria”—which are up to the clerics.

The Iranian Revolution also led to a hardening sectarian divide across the region that has proven to be another obstacle to democratic politics. Sunni Saudi Arabia, whose legitimacy as the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites is hotly contested by the theocracy that runs Shiite Iran, has fought back by fomenting anti-Shiite sentiment and funding proxy battles with Iranian allies from Yemen to Syria. (Most Muslims are Sunnis.) More recently, Gulf monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have backed Mr. Sisi’s coup in Egypt. The Gulf states, fearing for their own rule, were particularly hostile to the democratic experiment in Tunisia, the country where the Arab Spring began. Tunisia remains the only country where the heady initial hopes for freedom haven’t been dashed by a military takeover (as in Egypt), a bloody crackdown (as in Bahrain) or chaos and civil war (as in Syria, Yemen and Libya).

Tunisia became the region’s lone beacon of Arab democracy largely thanks to the wisdom shown by the local spinoff of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ennahda Party. After the 2013 Egyptian coup, Ennahda, then essentially running Tunisia’s government, took an unusually pragmatic approach. It compromised on the role of Islam in society during sessions to draft the country’s new constitution and accepted an election that voted the party out.

“We may lose power, but Tunisia will win,” Ennahda’s leader, Rached Ghannouchi, recently told his party’s congress. Tunisia, he added, was able to avoid the carnage that followed the other Arab Spring revolutions by “adopting the principle of dialogue, acceptance of the other and avoidance of exclusion and revenge.” That prescription has proven especially hard to apply in countries such as Syria and Iraq. With borders carved on the map by European colonialists, they have been run for much of their modern histories by dictatorial regimes that masked minority rule with a secular facade. Sunni-majority Syria has long been run by the Alawite-dominated Assad tyranny, and Shiite-majority Iraq was held under the boot of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni dictatorship.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 introduced majority rule, the country quickly fell into Shiite sectarian dominance—especially under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose refusal to heed Sunni concerns pushed many of them into Islamic State’s embrace. In Syria, Alawites and other minorities continue backing President Bashar al-Assad despite his brutality, fearing that the advent of Sunni majority rule wouldn’t just disempower them but perhaps lead to their extermination. In pivotal countries like Turkey and Egypt, both important U.S. partners, the political struggle has also become a zero-sum game. In this environment, the U.S. and its European allies have precious few instruments left to promote a democratic agenda, especially after the Obama administration worked to reduce its involvement in the Middle East and the antidemocratic powers of Russia and China tried to expand their influence. In Egypt, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries under stress, “leaders have been able to define societal struggles in existential terms,” said Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “What can a U.S. president or secretary of state do in those circumstances? Not much.” Memories in the region are long, and few people have forgotten how, in the past, the West often sided with dictators such as Mr. Mubarak in Egypt, accepting the autocrats’ argument that the only alternative to their corrupt but secular rule was theocratic tyranny by bearded fanatics. It also didn’t help that, in 2013, Egypt’s secularists and liberals enthusiastically welcomed Mr. Sisi’s coup— only to be targeted themselves by the wave of repression that followed his takeover.

The West has often struggled to balance its ideals and its interests. The U.S. has offered only the mildest of criticisms of Mr. Sisi’s abuses, and in 1991, key Western countries, especially France, appeared to welcome the decision by Algeria’s rulers to abort a second round of elections that seemed sure to be won by an Islamist party. The Algerian coup sparked a civil war that claimed as many as 200,000 lives, convincing many previously peaceful Islamists that power can only be gained with bullets and bombs—and directly contributing to the rise of al Qaeda.

Turkey a week ago stood on the verge of following a similar route. “It’s hard to be optimistic about Turkey. But if the coup had succeeded, it would have offered further definitive proof that Islamists can’t take power in democratic elections or can’t stay in power through democratic elections,” said Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of a new book, “Islamic Exceptionalism.” “That would have sent a dangerous message that ISIS and other extremist groups benefit from: that the only way to achieve anything is through brute force.”


Poll: Unease of Islam Growing in EU

Sometimes I can’t believe it has taken this long. Of course, the liberal left, with its dominance in the media, likely have a significant impact filtering what might be a significantly wide-spread unease.

In France

France is waking up.

Breitbart reports that “an Ifop poll for Le Figaro measuring perceptions of Islam has found that people have a growing sense of unease about its role in France.”

And well they should. What is different now is that people are actually saying it: “What’s notable about the results is that where once such sentiments were perceived as the preserve of the ‘extreme right’, they are now felt across the political spectrum. Back in 2010, 39 per cent of Socialist Party voters felt Islam was too prominent within French society — a majority of 52 per cent feel this to be the case six years on.”

Despite the smear, libel, and defamation that is directed toward anyone who dares any criticism of Islam, people across the political spectrum are voicing concern about an immigrant population that refuses to assimilate and instead seeks to impose its ready-made model of society and governance that they believe to be superior to that which France already has.

The elites will no longer be able to frame this as a “far-right” issue (what does that mean anyway — the Nazis were leftists: National Socialists). In Muslim countries such as Bangladesh, devout Muslims hack you to pieces if you criticize Islam. Here in the West, Islamic supremacists and their leftist lapdogs hack your name and your reputation to pieces. Hate groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) work feverishly to murder your good name.

The French paper Le Figaro says the poll confirms a “total rejection” of the religion in France, after its capital in 2015 saw two deadly jihad terror attacks. But it’s not just Brussels, Paris, Chattanooga, Garland, San Bernardino – it’s the burning cars, the vicious anti-semitism, the restrictions on our freedoms.

Any criticism of Islam is met with accusations of “islamofauxbia.” Islamic law forbids criticism of Islam, the Qur’an, and Muhammad. If they cannot be criticized in the United States, we are in effect accepting Islamic law as overriding the freedom of speech. This would establish Muslims as a protected class and prevent honest discussion of how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism.

“Islamophobia”: this term amounts to little more than the enforcement of Sharia in the marketplace of ideas. Any criticism of jihad terror that examines its ideological roots in Islam is called Islamophobia. The word is used to intimidate people into thinking there is something wrong with opposing jihad terror.

Of course, such poll results are nevertheless met with these claims of “Islamophobia” and backlashophobia. According to Breitbart, “Anouar Kbibech, Chairman of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, responded to the survey’s results saying that negative perceptions of Islam cause distress to Muslims living in France.”

This is the knee-jerk response to every jihad attack and criticism of Islam. The Muslim community and the Muslim world never turn inward and say, “We must address all this slaughter and supremacism in the cause of Islam across the world. There is something in Islam that drives these wars, hatred, bigotry, and misogyny.”

No, never. Instead, we always get a defense of Islamic doctrine. Anouar Kbibech says that the French have to look upon Muslims as full citizens. Of course they are, which is why they have wreaked such havoc in that country. But what’s interesting is that Kbibech demands that which is denied to non-Muslims in Muslim countries. Non-Muslims in Muslim lands, according to Islamic law, must live as dhimmis, paying a special Qur’an-mandated tax (jizya) and suffering institutionalized, legalized discrimination, solely because they are non-Muslims.

If Muslims want to be welcomed into Western societies, they must accept our values and way of life and freedoms. Islam and Islamic government are a unique threat to free speech and liberty. Freedom of speech is the foundation of a free society. Without it, a tyrant can wreak havoc unopposed, while his opponents are silenced. Putting up with being offended is essential in a pluralistic society in which people differ on basic truths. If a group will not bear being offended without resorting to violence, that group will rule unopposed while everyone else lives in fear, while other groups curtail their activities to appease the violent group. This results in the violent group being able to tyrannize the others — which is what we are seeing in the West, with the Charlie Hebdo jihad murders, the attack on our free speech event in Garland, Texas, and more.

We will see the sentiments reflected in this poll spread across Europe and the West as Muslim populations grow, especially after this migratory onslaught. It won’t be pretty.

Pamela Geller is the President of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), publisher of and author of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America and Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance. Follow her on Twitter here.