Archive for Indonesia

A Global War on Christians in the Muslim World?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2012 by loonwatch
Newsweek
February 12 Cover

Career hatemonger Aayan Hirsi Ali‘s alarmist screed in the February 12 issue of Newsweek is a jumble of half truths culled together with the obvious purpose of demonizing Muslims. Despite her agenda-driven fear mongering, Hirsi has sparked an important debate about the plight of religious minorities caught in the crossfire as the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” continues to escalate.

We previously cross-posted an article from Jadaliyya refuting Hirsi’s account, and now offer another perspective from John L. Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University.

A Global War on Christians in the Muslim World?

by John L. Esposito, Huffington Post

Religious minorities in the Muslim world today, constitutionally entitled in many countries to equality of citizenship and religious freedom, increasingly fear the erosion of those rights — and with good reason. Inter-religious and inter-communal tensions and conflicts from Nigeria and Egypt and Sudan, to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia have raised major concerns about deteriorating rights and security for religious minorities in Muslim countries. Conflicts have varied, from acts of discrimination, to forms of violence escalating to murder, and the destruction of villages, churches and mosques.

In the 21st century, Muslims are strongly challenged to move beyond older notions of “tolerance” or “co-existence” to a higher level of religious pluralism based on mutual understanding and respect. Regrettably, a significant number of Muslims, like many ultra conservative and fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Hindus are not pluralistic but rather strongly exclusivist in their attitudes toward other faiths and even co-believers with whom they disagree.

Reform will not, however, result from exaggerated claims and alarmist and incendiary language such as that of Ayan Hirsi Ali in in a recent a Newsweek cover story, reprinted in The Daily Beast.

Hirsi Ali warns of a “global war” and “rising genocide,” “a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities” and thus “the fate of Christianity — and ultimately of all religious minorities — in the Islamic world is at stake.”

Hirsi Ali’s account, for surely it is not an analysis, mixes facts with fiction, distorting the nature and magnitude of the problem. It fails to distinguish between the acts of a dangerous and deadly minority of religious extremists or fanatics and mainstream society. The relevant data is readily available. Nigeria is not a “majority-Muslim” country of 160 million people with a 40 percent Christian minority” as she claims (and as do militant Islamists). Experts have long described the population as roughly equal and a recent Pew Forum study reports that Christians hold a slight majority with 50.8 percent of the population.

Boko Haram, is indeed a group of religious fanatics who have terrorized and slaughtered Christians and burned down their churches, but they remain an extremist minority and do not represent the majority of Nigerians who reject their actions and anti-Western rhetoric. Gallup data finds that a majority of Nigerians (60 percent) “reject the anti-Western rhetoric” of Boko Haram.

Curiously, Hirsi Ali chooses not to mention that in the Jos Central plateau area both Christian and Muslim militias have attacked each other and destroyed mosques and churches.

Another example of failing to provide the full facts and context is the Maspero massacre. Coptic Christians have a real set of grievances that have to be addressed: attacks on churches, resulting in church destruction and death and injuries, the failure of police to respond to attacks, and a history of discrimination when it comes to building new churches and in employment.

Hirsi Ali rightly attributes the genesis for the assault against Christians to the Egyptian security forces. Although some militant Egyptian Muslims did in fact join the violence against Christians, she overlooks the fact that increasingly Christians have been joined by many Muslim Egyptians in calling for this discrimination and backlash to be addressed. Thus, she fails to mention the many Muslims marched in solidarity with the Christians against the security forces and were also injured as a Reuters article dated Oct. 14, 2011 reported: “At least 2,000 people rallied in Cairo on Friday in a show of unity between Muslims and Christians and to express anger at the ruling military council after 25 people died when a protest by Coptic Christians led to clashes with the army.”

She also fails to recognize the continuing state violence in Egypt against activists and protestors regardless of their faith.

Thousands of Muslims turned up in droves outside churches around the country for the Coptic Christmas Eve mass, in solidarity with a beleaguered Coptic community offering their bodies, and lives, as “human shields,” making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and build an Egypt free from sectarian strife: “Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields.”

Ali also points to the “flight” of Christians from the Middle East as proof of widespread persecution. According to Gallup surveys in Lebanon, however, Muslims are slightly more likely than their Christian counterparts to want to flee the country permanently and for Muslim and Christian alike the reason they give is primarily economic.

More problematic and deceptive is Hirsi Ali’s charge that: “What has often been described as a civil war is in practice the Sudanese government’s sustained persecution of religious minorities. This persecution culminated in the infamous genocide in Darfur that began in 2003.” Sudan has certainly been a battleground for decades, but to say that Darfur is an example of the Muslim-Christian genocide is flat out wrong. The black African victims in Darfur were almost exclusively Muslim. The killers were Arab Sudanese Muslims (janjaweed) who murdered black Sudanese Muslims.

Addressing the issue of religious freedom requires greater global awareness and a concerted effort by governments, religious leaders, academics and human rights organizations, as well as curricula reform in many seminary and university religion courses (particularly comparative religion courses), to counter religious exclusivism by instilling more pluralistic and tolerant visions and values in the next generation of imams, priests, scholars and the general public. However, when lives are at stake and the safety and security of all citizens threatened, accurate and data driven analysis is crucial. Inflammatory statements and unsubstantiated generalizations exacerbate the problem, risk more strife or even violence and do little to contribute to finding a solution.

WikiLeaks: Australian Intelligence Assessment Says AlQaeda Threat “Vastly Overstated”

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by loonwatch

Not only is the terrorist threat overstated in Europe but it is also “vastly overstated” in Australia. This will make Spencer’s head spin.

(hat tip: Ian Gold)

Al-Qaeda threat overstated, top spies say

Philip Dorling
December 15, 2010
A SECRET Australian intelligence assessment has declared the al-Qaeda terrorist network a failure and claims its regional offshoot, Jemaah Islamiah, has been broken in Indonesia.

The head of Australia’s intelligence analysis agency, the Office of National Assessments, told US diplomats in October 2008 that al-Qaeda ”ultimately has failed to achieve the strategic leadership role it sought within the Islamic world”.

The assessment undercuts a key argument of the Gillard government to justify Australia’s continued commitment to the war in Afghanistan: that al-Qaeda could return to use the country as a terrorist training ground.

Advertisement: Story continues below
Australian intelligence officers instead blamed Taliban success in Afghanistan on the failings of the Afghan government and the involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies.

Pressed by the US diplomats for an overall assessment of Islamist terrorist threats, the then ONA director-general, Peter Varghese, gave a strongly upbeat view.

He told the visiting head of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Randall Fort, that terrorism was ”a good news story that is getting better, with the violent Islamist threat receding”.

The US embassy reported that Mr Varghese ”commented that in personal meetings and intelligence exchanges with the Office of National Assessments and other Australian services, Pakistani [Defence chief] General [Ashfaq] Kayani continually comes across as ambivalent on the issues of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, reiterating that India remains the core mission – and priority – of the Pakistan defence and intelligence establishment”.

”ONA assesses that Pakistan’s military and security elite view this as ‘an American war’, which combined with a very hard sense of anti-Americanism combines into ‘a very dangerous cocktail’,” Mr Varghese was reported to have told his American colleagues.

Mr Varghese said developments were especially positive in Australia’s region, where ”the growth of Islamic extremism-based movements is constrained, thanks in part to ongoing successes in combined counterterrorism efforts, but more because of societal factors in south-east Asia that reject the Middle Eastern Jihadist model”.

But the secret US embassy cable, leaked to WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald, warned the southern Philippines was emerging as a terrorism haven.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, told Parliament on October 19 during the debate on Australia’s military deployment that it was vital ”to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for al-Qaeda”; she warned that Osama bin Laden’s group remained ”a resilient and persistent network” and noted past links between al-Qaeda and extremists in Indonesia.

But the US record of the high-level intelligence exchange states: ”Varghese and his analysts assessed that Indonesia Islam was ‘returning to its main course following a detour’ driven by personal linkages to the global jihad that were formed in Afghanistan in the 1980s”.

”ONA analysts assess ‘the tide has turned’ on Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia, noting that its leadership has been devastated – with most seniors killed, captured or on the run – and that it has lost its local support networks and funding,” the US embassy reported to Washington.

”ONA judged JI was shifting near-term goals to its local … anti-Western interests while otherwise ‘creeping back to the shadows’ and focusing on survival.”

Australian intelligence analysts proffered the view that JI could ”endure and regenerate over the long term”, but that it would be ”a more localised terrorist threat”.

This latest disclosure comes as the former JI leader Abu Bakar Bashir was yesterday committed for trial in Indonesia on terrorism charges

Mr Bashir, convicted of conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombing but acquitted on appeal, has been charged as the alleged inspiration of, and fund-raiser for, an Islamic militant training camp in Aceh that was broken up in February.

The leaked US cables also reveal that ONA considered Indonesian counterterrorism successes to be ”a study in contrast” to ”the ongoing downward slide in the Philippines, where the collapse of the peace process in the south threatened to make this area ‘the new regional incubator of terrorist jihadis’ ”.

The US embassy in Canberra reported that: ”ONA terrorism specialists noted signals and human intelligence that JI ‘structuralists’ embedded with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were rethinking plans to return to Indonesia, while JI ‘freelancers’ were becoming more active and better linked with Abu Sayyaf Group operatives.”

According to the US diplomatic reporting, ONA judged that the southern Philippines increasingly contained ”all the ingredients” of al-Qaeda’s ”favoured tilling ground”.