Archive for Egypt

Egyptian Elections: Islamophobes Will Be Unable to Explain this Picture

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by loonwatch

Of course anti-Islam bigots like “John C. Drew, Ph.D” will be unable to explain the picture below. According to them, Muslims are all persecuting Christians in Egypt, who are supposedly in the same position as Jews on the eve of the Kristalnacht (h/t: Amir):

The picture is taken from the Facebook group, The Official Page for the Coalition of Coptic Egyptians.

They wrote this as a caption for the picture:
دى بقى من أجمل صور المصراوية فى الإنتخابات الرئاسية لمصوّر جريدة الأهرام “بسّام الزغبى” .. سأختارها حتما ضمن أفضل صور العام.
انشرها وعرف غيرك اننا هنفضل مسلم ومسيحى مش كلام لكن حقيقة

Translation: “One of the most beautiful photos of Egyptians during the presidential elections from photographer for Al-Ahram newspaper, “Bustaam Al-Zoghbi.” We choose it amongst the best pictures of the year. Spread it. And let others besides yourself know that verily we remain Muslims and Christians, not just “talk” but “reality.”

But who wants to hear the voice of Copts themselves, when “John C. Drew, PhD” can speak for them?

Declaring War on ‘Political Islamism’

Posted in Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2012 by loonwatch
William KristolWilliam Kristol

The neocons have been around for decades, first to mobilize support against Soviet-led communism, and then, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to wage a so-called “Global War on Terrorism.”

As the architects of the spectacularly disastrous Iraq War, the necons should have been thoroughly discredited and relegated to the political fringe. Yet it seems these foreign policy hawks have simply retooled their message, founded a new think tank, and are poised to wreak havoc once again.

By Robert Parry

Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney has responded to his lack of foreign policy experience by surrounding himself with clever neoconservatives who are now looking forward to expanding Bush’s “global war on terror” into what neocon ideologue William Kristol calls a U.S. “war with political Islamism.”

In a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday, Kristol dismissed President Barack Obama’s phased military withdrawal from Afghanistan – and his statement that “this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end” – as foolish wishful thinking.

“It would be wonderful if Obama’s view of 9/11 and its implications were correct,” Kristol wrote. “But if it’s not going to be true that Afghanistan is where ‘this time of war … will end’ — even if Afghanistan is pacified and we’re no longer fighting there — then the American people should know that.”

What the American people should know, in Kristol’s view, is that a post-Obama administration – presumably headed by Republican Mitt Romney and staffed by neocon hawks – will undertake a grander “war with political Islamism,” a conflict whose full dimensions even “war president” George W. Bush shrank from.

“This isn’t a pleasant reality, and even the Bush administration wasn’t quite ready to confront it,” Kristol wrote. “But President George W. Bush did capture the truth that we are engaged in — and had no choice but to engage in — a bigger war, a ‘global war on terror,’ of which Afghanistan was only one front.

“There are, of course, problems with ‘global war on terror’ as a phrase and an organizing principle. But it does capture what we might call the ‘big’ view of 9/11 and its implications.”

As part of an even “bigger” view of 9/11, Kristol called for engaging in a broader conflict, ranging “from Pakistan in the east to Tunisia in the west, and most visibly now in places such as Iran and Yemen and Somalia.”

In other words, Kristol and the neocons expect a President Romney to let them refocus the United States onto a “war” not simply against al-Qaeda and its affiliates but against nations where “political Islamism” gains power, which could include Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries.

One might as well say the United States will be at war with the Muslim world, though Kristol hastily added that this “war with political Islamism” does not always have to involve open warfare.

He wrote: “This doesn’t mean we need to be deploying troops and fighting ground wars all around the globe. [But] unfortunately, the war in which we are engaged won’t end with peace in, or withdrawal from, Afghanistan.”

A Romney Presidency?

Most political analysts say the November elections will turn on the economy with foreign policy a second-tier issue. In addition, many progressives have denounced Obama and his more targeted approach of relying on drone strikes to kill alleged terrorists as unacceptable, with some on the Left vowing not to support his reelection.

But it shouldn’t be missed that a President Romney would reinstall the neocons, including many who worked for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, at the levers of American power. Indeed, Romney’s foreign policy “white paper” was largely drafted by neocons. Even the name, “An American Century,” was an homage to the neocon manifesto of the 1990s, “Project for a New American Century.”

Romney’s foreign policy advisers include:

Cofer Black, a key Bush counterterrorism official; Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security; Eliot Cohen, a neocon intellectual; Paula Dobriansky, a former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Eric Edelman, a national security aide to Vice President Cheney; Michael Hayden, the ex-director of CIA and the National Security Agency who defended Bush’s warrantless spying program; Robert Kagan, a Washington Post columnist; former Navy Secretary John Lehmanand Daniel Senor, spokesman for Bush’s Iraq occupation.

Romney’s foreign policy also would restore George W. Bush’s “with us or against us” approach to the world – except that Romney, like Kristol, advocates even a more confrontational style, essentially a new Cold War against “rogue nations,” a revised “axis of evil.”

“A special problem is posed by the rogue nations of the world: Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba,” Romney’s white paper declares. “Their interests and values are diametrically opposed to our own and they threaten international peace and security in numerous ways, including, as in the case of North Korea and Iran, by seeking nuclear weapons, or by harboring criminal networks, exporting weapons, and sponsoring terrorists. …

“Mitt Romney would work to protect and advance America’s interests by employing all the instruments of national power at the president’s disposal. He will defend our country, defend our allies, and restore American leadership around the world. It is only American power — conceived in the broadest terms — that can provide the foundation of an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies. …

“A Romney foreign policy will proceed with clarity and resolve. The United States will clearly enunciate its interests and values. Our friends and allies will not have doubts about where we stand and what we will do to safeguard our interests and theirs; neither will our rivals, competitors, and adversaries. …

“The United States will apply the full spectrum of hard and soft power to influence events before they erupt into conflict. In defending America’s national interest in a world of danger, the United States should always retain a powerful military capacity to defend itself and its allies.”

No Apologies

The Romney “white paper” also treats any recognition of past American errors as unacceptable “apologizing” and calls any notion of seeking multilateral consensus on a problem as an admission of weakness.

“A perspective has been gaining currency, including within high councils of the Obama administration, that regards that United States as a power in decline. And not only is the United States regarded as in decline, but that decline is seen as both inexorable and a condition that can and should be managed for the global good rather than reversed.

“Adherents of this view argue that America no longer possesses the resources or the moral authority to play a leadership role in the world. They contend that the United States should not try to lead because we will only succeed in exhausting ourselves and spreading thin our limited resources.

“They counsel America to step aside, allow other powers to rise, and pursue policies that will ‘manage’ the relative change in our national fortunes. They recoil from the idea of American Exceptionalism, the idea that an America founded on the universal principles of human liberty and human dignity has a unique history and a special role to play in world affairs.

“They do not see an international system undergirded by American values of economic and political freedom as necessarily superior to a world system organized by multilateral organizations like the United Nations. Indeed, they see the United Nations as an instrument that can rein in and temper what they regard as the ill-considered overreaching of the United States.

“This view of America in decline, and America as a potentially malign force, has percolated far and wide. It is intimately related to the torrent of criticism, unprecedented for an American president, that Barack Obama has directed at his own country. …

“Among the ‘sins’ for which he has repented in our collective name are American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, for committing torture, for fueling anti-Islamic sentiments, for dragging our feet in combating global warming, and for selectively promoting democracy.

“The sum total of President Obama’s rhetorical efforts has been a form of unilateral disarmament in the diplomatic and moral sphere. A President who is so troubled by America’s past cannot lead us into the future. … Mitt Romney believes in restoring the sinews of American power.”

Hawks in the Middle East

As for the Middle East, Romney’s team advocates unquestioned support for Israel both regarding its treatment of the Palestinians and toward Iran:

“Israel is the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East and a beacon of democracy and freedom in the region. The tumult in the Middle East has heightened Israel’s security problems. Indeed, this is an especially dangerous moment for the Jewish state. …

“To ensure Israel’s security, Mitt Romney will work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge. … The United States must forcefully resist the emergence of anti-Israel policies in Turkey and Egypt, and work to make clear that their interests are not served by isolating Israel.

“With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Romney’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s. President Obama and his administration have badly misunderstood the dynamics of the region. Instead of fostering stability and security, they have diminished U.S. authority and painted both Israel and ourselves into a corner.

“President Obama for too long has been in the grip of several illusions. One is that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the central problem in the region. This has been disproved repeatedly by events, most recently and most dramatically by the eruption of the Arab Spring.

“But it nonetheless led the administration to believe that distancing the United States from Israel was a smart move that would earn us credits in the Arab world and somehow bring peace closer. The record proves otherwise. The key to negotiating a lasting peace is an Israel that knows it will be secure. …

“[Under President Romney] the United States will reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

“The United States needs a president who will not be a fair-weather friend of Israel. The United States must work as a country to resist the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel. We must fight against that campaign in every forum and label it the anti-Semitic poison that it is. Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is not up for debate.”

Regarding Iran, the Romney “white paper” repeats many of the canards about Iranian intentions that have been debunked even by Israelis, such as the mistranslation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement regarding “wiping Israel off the map.” But Romney’s neocon foreign policy team even suggests using that mistranslation to indict Ahmadinejad for war crimes:

“Romney will also push for greater diplomatic isolation of Iran. The United States should make it plain that it is a disgrace to provide Iran’s Holocaust-denying president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the trappings and respect offered to responsible heads of state. He should not be invited to foreign capitals or feted by foreign leaders.

“Quite the opposite. Given his calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, Ahmadinejad should be indicted for incitement to genocide under Article III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

So, even Americans disappointed in Obama’s foreign policy should recognize what the stakes are in November. They include whether to put hard-line neocons back in charge of U.S. foreign policy and the American military.

[To read more of Robert Parry’s writings, you can now order his last two books, Secrecy & Privilege andNeck Deep, at the discount price of only $16 for both. For details on the special offer, click here.]  

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

MSNBC: Mona Eltahawy vs. Leila Ahmed

Posted in Loon People with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2012 by loonwatch

FP Sex Issue

Mona Eltahawy is no doubt an engaging and well-spoken woman, and although her recent article in Foreign Policy Magazine was inflammatory and lacking in nuance, she’s raised some important issues about women’s rights in Egyptian society and the broader Arab world. Danios challenged Eltahawy’s sweeping generalizations in a feature article, Why Do They Hate Us? They Don’t.

Dr. Leila Ahmed, Harvard Divinity School’s first women’s studies professor, also challenged Eltahawy during an interview with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry.  Eltahawy said during the interview that Dr. Ahmed is one of her personal heroes.

However, the two women don’t see eye-to-eye on some key issues. For example, Eltahawy supports a ban on the burqa, but in the summer of 2011, Dr. Ahmed wrote her own article for Foreign Policy Magazine, Veil of Ignorance, advancing the notion modern feminists had gotten it wrong when it comes to the veil:

These are just the first stirrings of a new era in the story of Islam in the West. Historically, religions undergo enormous transformations as one strain of belief and practice gains ascendancy over another. Living religions are by definition dynamic: Witness the changes that have occurred in the last decades as women have become pastors and rabbis. A similar process is now under way within Islam, as the veil, once an emblem of patriarchy, today carries multiple meanings for its American and European wearers. Often enough, it also serves as a banner and call for justice — and yes, even for women’s rights.

Some of Eltahawy’s fiercest criticism has come from Arab and Muslim women, and it’s refreshing to see the mainstream media showing opposing views. The video starts out with a thoughtful discussion between Perry and Eltahawy, and the part featuring Dr. Ahmed begins about halfway through.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Failure of the Arab “State” and Its Opposition

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2012 by loonwatch
YemenTribal fighters loyal to Sadiq al-Ahmar, the leader of the Hashed tribe, walk in front of a bullet-riddled building in Sanaa 10 April 2012. (Photo: REUTERS – Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

“If you want to live under sharia law, go back to the hellhole country you came from, or go to another hellhole country that lives under sharia law.”  ~ Mahfooz Kanwar, professor emeritus of sociology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, and a member of the Muslim [sic] Canadian Congress.

Ah yes, the “Islamic” hellhole meme. Islamophobes never tire of bashing Muslim-majority countries for their supposed backwardness.

Apparently they’ve never noticed that many Christian-majority nations savaged by Western colonialism aren’t faring any better. The centuries-long struggle with European colonialism–and neo-colonialism in the decades that followed–simply doesn’t factor into the dominant discourse.

Author and activist Hisham Bustani provides a fresh perspective, with a focus on  historical context and the popular uprising that began in late 2010, widely known as the Arab Spring.

The Failure of the Arab “State” and Its Opposition

By: Hisham BustaniAlakhbar

After one year of the Arab uprisings that initially exploded in Tunisia and swept like wildfire throughout the Arab world, it became very clear that the spark, which has resulted in the removal of three oppressors so far, was spontaneous. That does not mean that the explosion had no preludes. On the contrary, the people were squeezed with each passing day, but those uprisings clearly showed that even in the absence of an organized catalyzing formation (revolutionary party, revolutionary class), an explosion takes place when a certain threshold is reached, a critical mass.

Uprisings in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet-bloc states came about through the work of organized opposition groups and parties (like Solidarity in Poland), and by decades of calm covert undermining, infiltration, and propaganda undertaken by the West. By contrast, the Arab uprising was not led by an organized opposition. Instead, it came as a surprise to the imperialist circles that historically backed their client oppressor regimes.

The Failure of the Post-Colonial Arab “State”

Following the British-French-Italian colonialism of the Arab region, the Europeans left behind an area that they deliberately divided into “states”. These were designed so as to leave no possibility for their becoming truly independent and sovereign. They also left a watchdog and an easy solution to assuage their anti-Semitic-burdened consciousness: “Israel,” a colonial-settler state that would maintain the imperialist design in the wake of the physical withdrawal of its patrons.

The post-colonial states were subordinate by design, by their innate nature of being divided and incomplete, and by the ruling class that followed colonialism. The homogeneous collective of people that included many religions, sects, and ethnicities was also broken down. Colonialism fueled internal conflicts, and the subsequent Arab regimes maintained that tradition and kept in close alliance with the former colonizers. Alliance here is an overstatement. A subordinate structure cannot build alliances. It is always subordinate.

Thus, the post-colonial Arab “state” was everything but a state. Concepts like “the rule of law” or “governing institutions” or “citizenship rights” did not apply. Countries were run with a gangster mentality. There were no “traditions” or clear sets of rules that applied to all. Unlike the model of a bourgeois democracy where rules, laws, and traditions maintain and preserve the capitalist system and apply to all its components, this form was not present in the post-colonial Arab “state.” The ruling class were free to issue laws, revoke laws, not implement laws, not implement constitutions, amend constitutions, forge fraudulent elections, embezzle, torture, massacre, confiscate basic rights, indulge in blatant corruption, fabricate identities, and pass on the presidency from father to son.

The example closest to the modern post-colonial Arab state is the Free Congo State (1885-1908) which was the private property of the Belgian king Leopold II, along with all its people, resources, and 2.3 million square kilometers territory. The post-colonial Arab state is nothing but an expanded feudality. Its head answers to imperialist powers that pay certain amounts of “foreign aid” and finance and train armies and police, all to keep people beyond the explosion point using a composition of fear and the fulfillment of very basic needs that are portrayed as grants and the accomplishments of the ruler. The same imperialist powers that paid their bribes in “aid,” worked hard through IMF economic-restructuring schemes and World Bank loans to dismantle any possible internal independent growth, and worked hard to privatize the public sector.

The Arab regimes, reigning over a further subdivided space that is economically and politically destroyed, extracted their authority from external delegation and internal terror, and succeeded in transforming themselves into a buffer, a guarantor for all the divided segments. They succeeded in absorbing almost all opposition frameworks into their structure, and in producing coreless governing institutions, thus giving themselves much longer life spans than one would expect for such a system.

The failure of the Arab “organized” opposition

Just as the imperialist centers and Arab regimes failed to predict the time of the onset and the magnitude of the Arab uprisings, so did opposition organizations. The latter were not part of it. Nor did they work toward it. Nor did they add any value to it after its onset.

With a few exceptions (like the Kifaya movement in Egypt, the Islamic al-Nahda Party and The Workers’ Communist Party in Tunisia, and some intellectuals in Syria), the organized Arab opposition (political parties, unions and other organizations) seldom challenged the Arab regime and its system. While the interwar period saw the emergence of a number of ideological movements that sought to rectify the colonialist design for the region, many such groups were either tamed or became absorbed in the status quo. The opposition regularly sought acknowledgement and legitimacy from the Arab regimes. The opposition wanted to be “legal,” and it followed the “rules” set by the regimes and accepted their reign.

Thus, the organized Arab opposition was actually a factor of stability for the Arab regimes, adding to their longevity. It was not until people took things into their own hands, rejecting the legitimacy of the Arab regimes and acting autonomously, away from the established opposition via more creative forms, that things started to move.

A quick review of how the organized opposition behaviour following the uprisings can provide a clue as to how they acted during the uprisings and in the period that led up to them. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt never challenged the Mubarak regime. On the contrary, it periodically sent comforting signs showing that they wanted the Mubarak regime to continue. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt did not participate in the early days of the uprising, and after the uprising it backed the Military Council and its oppression of the demonstrations of January 2012. Many of the so-called leftist and nationalist organizations in Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon are currently backing the Bashar Assad regime and its massacre in Syria.

The organized opposition often dreamt of a moment when the people would rise up against their oppressors. Rightfully, they diagnosed the Arab regimes as tools of imperialist intervention and the main obstacles to any liberation project. Now they ally themselves against the people and with the regimes. They do so because they are empty. Over the years they failed to present any alternative, neither in theory or in practice. They are empty and they are afraid of a future outside they are unable to control, comprehend, or contribute to. Like Israel, they “know” the current regimes. What will happen next is something they don’t know, and they lack the capacity to influence it. So – just like Israel – they’re willing to stand against it.

The Unity of the Oppressed in the Arab World

Pan–Arabism often dreamed about a unified Arab homeland, but other than military coups that ultimately transformed into local oppressive regimes, it lacked any tools to fulfill that dream. Some independent Arab Marxists worked for some sort of “union of the oppressed.” The people of the Arab world are diverse and were fragmented by different factors along sectarian, religious, and ethnic divides. It is only when the oppressed realize that they are united by their own miserable status that people tend to mobilize en masse and achieve their common goals. This was what actually happened in 2011.

The mobilization in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen fulfilled that requirement, so it was partially successful. By contrast, the mobilization in Jordan was made along the local pathogenic divide (those of Palestinian origin vs. those of East Jordanian origin), so it was doomed to failure and can be understood as a movement within the regime rather than one from outside it.

Another key lesson was proven by the immediate contagion of the uprising phenomena throughout the Arab world. What started in Tunisia echoed with different volume levels from Morocco in the West to Bahrain in the East. There is a material integration of people’s interests. For example, continuity can be seen in the almost automatic demonstrations across the Arab world against Israel when it regularly and bloodily attacks Palestinians. This was further stressed by the same continuity when confronting the Arab regimes. The people of the Arab world find depth, support, and power in one other, and they tend to be inspired by each other, and they still think that their cause is one. No wonder, then, that the colonialist powers and their successor dependant Arab regimes fought hard to maintain the isolationist division of the post-colonial states.

It is no surprise then that Arab uprisings are finding it difficult to proceed beyond the conditions of colonially-fabricated states. The uprisings must seek solutions beyond the crippling designs in order to break from subordination and become a true revolution.

Hisham Bustani is a writer and activist from Jordan. He has published three volumes of short fiction in Arabic.

Salah Al-Nasrawi: A Lesson From Iran: Islamic Sharia is Flexible After All

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2012 by loonwatch

Stop Stoning

It might surprise many to learn the Qur’an never commands “stoning,” though death by stoning is specified as a punishment numerous times in the Bible:

For taking ”accursed things”

Achan … took of the accursed thing. … And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. … So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Joshua 7:1-26

For cursing or blaspheming

And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him. Leviticus 24:16

For adultery

If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city. Deuteronomy 22:23-24

For animals

“If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. Exodus 21:28

For a woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night

If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her … and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel’s father shall say … these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. … But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she dieDeuteronomy 22:13-21

For worshipping other gods

If there be found among you … that … hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them … Then shalt thou … stone them with stones, till they die. Deuteronomy 17:2-5

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers … thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die. Deuteronomy 13:5-10

For disobeying parents

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother … Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city … And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he dieDeuteronomy 21:18-21

For witches and wizards

A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:27

For giving your children to Molech

Whosoever … giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stonesLeviticus 20:2

For breaking the Sabbath

They found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. … And the LORD said unto Moses, the man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones…. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded MosesNumbers 15:32-56

For cursing the king

Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die1 Kings 21:10

In the modern world, it’s Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan, that have become infamous for brutal punishments, including stoning. Ignoring dozens of Muslim-majority countries that don’t engage in such practices, anti-Muslim bigots constantly shine a spotlight on the most regressive regimes, leaving the public with the impression harsh punishments are an inevitable feature of Islamic Law.

Yet Iran has recently passed a law abolishing stoning as a punishment for adultery. As fixated as the major media usually are on that country, the story has attracted relatively scant coverage–and predictably, it’s been completely ignored by hate sites devoted to demonizing Muslims and generating hysteria about “creeping sharia.”

A lesson from Iran: Islamic Sharia is flexible after all

by Salah Al-Nasrawi, Ahram (Egypt)

A new law by the Islamic Republic of Iran to abolish stoning to death for adulterers passed last month has been received with a lot of skepticism in the West and little attention in the Arab and Islamic world.

But the ruling could have a significant bearing on the debate about the role of Islamic Sharia as Islamic groups gain power throughout the Middle East with many of them aspire to see Islamic jurisdiction as the law of the land.

Iran’s Guardian Council and Iranian parliament have approved an amendment to the country’s penal code by removing all executions by stoning which will come into effect once signed by the country’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Under Iran’s old penal code, stoning to death was one of the sentences applied for adultery. Iranian activists who campaigned against the practice said at least 99 men and women have been executed by stoning over the last 30 years.

The stoning sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 45-year-old Iranian woman, on charges of adultery and murder in 2006 has turned the spotlight on Iran as one of very few countries which adopts Sharia, or Islamic law.

The concept was equated in the West and among Muslim secularists with a variety of retributions including stoning of adulterers, chopping of limbs of thieves, death in blasphemy cases and restrictions on rights of women and minorities.

Ashtiani’s was convicted of having an “illicit relationship” with two men after the murder of her husband and was sentenced to 99 lashes. The verdict led to an international condemnation which has made Tehran delay carrying out the sentence.

While Ashtiani’s case points to a larger divide between the West and Iran, the punishment of the mother of two has highlighted how the contentious issue is a practice that has largely survived through centuries’ long cultural heritage.

The sentence, and now its abolishment, renewed a theological controversy in Islam on whether the harsh punishment is God’s commands, or a man-made effort to interpret Islamic Sharia, or Islamic law.

The case has spilled over into larger and even more complex issues within Islamic discourse, such as what consist Sharia, and if it is compatible with modern day human rights standards.

Most of Iran’s legal code was based on the constitution enacted under guidance of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled secular regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The document declared Iran as a Muslim nation whose laws are derived from Islamic Sharia, which it defines as God’s “exclusive sovereignty and the right to legislate”, based on God’s commands in Quran and Sunnah, which is Prophet’s Mohammad’s teachings.

Sharia is still wide open for judgment under Islamic principle of Ijtihad. The term means an endeavor of a Muslim scholar to derive a rule of divine law from the Quran and Prophet Mohammad’s heritage.

Since the Islamic revolution some Iranian clerics have said stoning should be stopped because it may harm the reputation of Islam or the Islamic nation.

Others believed stoning is a divine punishment.

Some Muslim scholars believe stoning to death was never contemplated by Islam as a punishment for the act of adultery since the Quran does not even mention the word “stoning” or ‘death by stoning in any of its verses.

According to the Holy book of Islam all sexual intercourse outside the marital bond is considered sinful. Some scholars say Quran makes no distinction between adultery and fornication; in both cases the punishment is flogging to those found guilty.

In Quran verse “The Light (24:2) says: “The adulteress and the adulterer shall each be given a hundred lashes. Let no pity for them to cause you to disobey Allah.”

On the other hand, many Islamic legal scholars and judges agree that the Quranic text does not refer to executions by stoning but state they are part of the Sunnah.  They say there is no necessity that all orders of Sharia to be mentioned in Quran, one by one.

Other clerics say that even if stoning was practiced by Prophet Mohammad and his immediate followers it cannot be enforced nowadays. They believe stoning is a part of Islamic law but only the Prophet and his immediate successors are authorized or qualified to order and implement it.

In theory, stoning to death is still enacted in laws of countries which apply Islamic Sharia, such as Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. It has been also carried out in the previous Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and some parts of Nigeria.

Iran’s amendment of the penal code is believed to have been adopted in response to international criticism of its violations of human rights. It also coincides with mounting tension with the West over its nuclear program and increasing fear of a military conflict.

Critics, however, say the new code still considers adultery for married persons as a crime, although it doesn’t designate any specific punishment for it, leaving that for the judge to rely on a fatwa by a reliable cleric. Human rights organizations argued that such measures were inadequate and insisted that real change in the law is necessary.

Whether Iran wants to improve its human rights record or it is trying to ward off increasing Western pressure, the revision of its Islamic law now remains highly significant from both political and theological standpoints.

As Islamic groups gain power throughout the Middle East, the role of Sharia is coming under increased focus. Modernist forces in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia were shocked by the remarkable collective rise to power of these parties and the sudden transformation of their civil states into states with budding theocratic inclinations.

While fundamentalist movements, such Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Tunisia’s Enhhada Party and the Justice and Development Party in Morocco speak about a broadly defined application of Sharia as “a main source” for legislation, other ultra-orthodox groups want a full-fledged Islamic legal code.

Yet there are increasing signs that show Islamic groups in these countries want more religion than previously admitted. Multiple reports and research works are suggesting that these countries are evolving towards more conservative rules and an Islamisation of social life.

There have already been calls from some Islamists to close down the tourist sites and to impose Islamic dress codes on the costal resorts. Women are also worried that political Islam might impose new restrictions on them such as forcing them to wear the Hijab (veil) and restrict their personal freedom.

Christians, a religious minority in the countries recently taken over by Islamists, complain of more intolerance and say they fear for their safety after increased cases of sectarian violence and discrimination.

Many secularists and liberals in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and other countries now want to see their next constitutions to have solid guarantees of democratic and civic commitments.

Here comes the Iranian experiment of abolishing a deep rooted Islamic concept of retribution and the lesson to be drawn from that by newly empowered Islamic groups in these three Arab countries and perhaps in others that will soon follow.

In Egypt, where the debate will open soon on drafting a new constitution, focus will increase on the role of Sharia in the country’s political and social life, especially in balancing Islam with democracy, personal freedom and modernity.

Although it is generally agreed among mainstream political groups that Sharia is the point of reference in legislation, the challenge will remain about how to distinguish what directly comes from the Quran and Sunnah from man-made interpretation of God’s revelations and the Prophet’s teachings.

Article 2 of Iran’s constitution provides such a room for maneuverability by combining both Ijtihad by qualified Faqih, or scholar(s) and the resort to “sciences, arts and the most advanced results of human experience” with Quran and Sunnah in legislation.

Under such overwhelming circumstances, the most liberal, secularists and reform minded Egyptian Muslims can argue for is that any stipulation of Islamic Sharia in the new constitution should provide flexibility, so that Islamic laws should be viewed and amended in light of time and changing circumstances.

Egypt ‘necrophilia law’? Hooey, utter hooey.

Posted in Loon Media, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2012 by loonwatch

 

The new myth is that Islam somehow promotes…*drum roll*…necrophilia!

While you can likely find a fatwa for everything, when the recent story claiming that the “Egyptian parliament was considering passing a law that would allow husbands to have sex with their wives after death” went viral, the BS meter shot up pretty high for us.

But not for many mainstream media outlets who ran with the story without fact checking, thereby reinforcing Islamophobic myths and anti-Islam talking points.

Despite the ardent desire on behalf of Islamophobes such as Robert Spencer (he saw it as evidence of Sharia’ takeover) for the story to be true it was revealed pretty quickly that it was a hoax.

Spencer still has not updated the story to point out that it was a hoax. Now a lot of the haters have egg on their faces, this is not the first or the last time that such lies will be promoted in the media.(h/t:ZH)

Egypt ‘necrophilia law’? Hooey, utter hooey.

(Christian Science Monitor)

Today, Egypt‘s state-owned Al Ahram newspaper published an opinion piece by Amr Abdul Samea, a past stalwart supporter of the deposed Hosni Mubarak, that contained a bombshell: Egypt’s parliament is considering passing a law that would allow husbands to have sex with their wives after death.

It was soon mentioned in an English language version of Al-Arabiya and immediately started zipping around social-networking sites. By this afternoon it had set news sites and the rest of the Internet on fire. It has every thing: The yuck factor, “those creepy Muslims” factor, the lulz factor for those with a sick sense of humor. The non-fact-checked Daily Mail picked it up and reported it as fact. Then Andrew Sullivan, who has a highly influential blog but is frequently lax about fact-checking, gave it a boost with an uncritical take. TheHuffington Post went there, too.

There’s of course one problem: The chances of any such piece of legislation being considered by the Egyptian parliament for a vote is zero. And the chance of it ever passing is less than that. In fact, color me highly skeptical that anyone is even trying to advance a piece of legislation like this through Egypt’s parliament. I’m willing to be proven wrong. It’s possible that there’s one or two lawmakers completely out of step with the rest of parliament. Maybe.

SEE ALSO – IN PICTURES: Behind the veil

But extreme, not to mention inflammatory claims, need at minimum some evidence (and I’ve read my share of utter nonsense in Al Ahram over the years). The evidence right now? Zero.

There was a Moroccan cleric a few years back who apparently did issue a religious ruling saying that husbands remained married to their wives in the first six hours after death and, so, well, you know. But that guy is far, far out on the nutty fringe. How fringe? He also ruled that pregnant women can drink alcohol. Remember, alcohol is considered haram, forbidden, by the vast majority of the world’s Muslim scholars. Putting an unborn child at risk to get drunk? No, that’s just not what they do. Whatever the mainstream’s unpalatable beliefs (there are plenty from my perspective) this isn’t one of them.

It’s important to remember that the structure of the Muslim clergy is, by and large, like that of a number of Protestant Christian sects. Anyone can put out a shingle and declare themselves a preacher. The ones to pay attention to are the ones with large followings, or attachment to major institutions of Islamic learning. The preacher in Morocco is like the preacher in Florida who spent so much time and energy publicizing the burning of Qurans.

Stories like this are a reminder of the downside of the Internet. It makes fact-checking and monitoring easier. But the proliferation of aggregation sites, newsy blog sites, and the general erosion of editorial standards (and on-the-ground reporters to do the heavy lifting) also spreads silliness faster than it ever could before.

Robert Spencer Fail: Tries to Use Death of Pope Shenouda III to Promote Sectarianism and Islamophobia

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2012 by loonwatch

JihadWatch’s anti-Muslim fear-mongering director Robert Spencer likes to selectively highlight the most egregious and sectarian statements by Muslims to further his hate agenda against Islam/Muslims.

In the wake of the death of the Coptic Pope Shenouda III he posted a piece about how a cleric named Wagdi Ghoneim said that the death of Pope Shenouda was a “relief” because the Pope caused “sectarian strife” and sought to make Egypt into a “Coptic state.”

To address that specifically, I wonder if the irony is lost on Wagdi Ghoneim, he accused Pope Shenouda of having furthered “sectarian strife” but by writing what he did he himself engaged in “sectarian strife.”

While there are small fringe groups of Copts who wish to turn Egypt into a Coptic state, trying to push this concept as emerging from the Pope, or the mainstream of Copts is similar to the “Islamization” myth that ironically Spencer and his acolytes regularly engage in. The Pope himself was a nationalist and opposed “foreign intervention” and stated that while Copts are “marginalized” in Egypt they are not “oppressed.”

That said, the main point I want to highlight is the fact that Robert Spencer is attempting to shift focus from the overwhelming support and expressions of condolences and grief from Muslims for the passing of the Pope. He chooses one cleric and tries to attribute it as the general feeling of Muslim Egyptians.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

High ranking Muslim politicians, scholars, clerics, intellectuals and lay people expressed their sympathy and sadness at his passing.

“His holiness lived and died as a loyal patriot to his country,” Parliament Speaker Saad el-Katatni, an Islamist, told a joint meeting of the two chambers of parliament Saturday.

Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the highest seat of religious learning in the Sunni world, offered his condolences to the Egyptian people for such a great loss, saying,

“Egypt has lost one of its rare men at a sensitive moment when it most needs the wisest of its wise – their expertise and their purity of minds.”

Egypt Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa also mourned the deceased pontiff as a great Egyptian and patriot, saying,

“His death is a tragedy and a great loss for Egypt and its people of Muslims and Christians.”

Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm and the party with the largest majority in parliament stated,

“The Freedom and Justice Party sends its deepest condolences to the Egyptian people and our Christian brothers over the death of Pope Shenouda III,” FJP leader Mohamed Mursi said.

Presidential contenders such as Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq also expressed their sadness,

Presidential aspirant Amr Moussa said he was saddened by Pope Shenouda’s death.

“We have lost a great value and a pre-eminent pope,” said Ahmed Shafiq, another presidential contender, and a Mubarak-era prime minister.

For more see: Egypt Muslims Mourn Pope Shenouda’s Passing

Here is a picture of Egyptian Christians expressing their thanks and reciprocating the “love” they received at the death of their leader:

Pope_Shenouda_Muslim_Christian_Unity

Egyptian Christians stand in front of a picture of the late Pope Shenouda III after receiving condolences from both Muslims and Christians. Signs read in Arabic (H/T: ZH):
“We feel your love. Thank you, Muslim brothers and sisters”