Archive for Tunisia

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.

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.

American Muslims Working with Religious Authorities in N. Africa to Develop Protocols to Protect Religious Minorities

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on April 21, 2012 by loonwatch

This is real commitment to religious freedom, in stark opposition to the hackneyed, biased and ineffectual ‘work’ of Zuhdi Jasser and the USCIRF. The USCIRF would do better to promote projects such as the one below (h/t: Kamal):

Working with Religious Authorities in N. Africa to Develop Protocols to Protect Religious Minorities

Last week, ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid and ISNA Director of Community Outreach Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi met with high-ranking religious authorities and scholars in Morocco and Tunisia to discuss the rights of religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries across the globe.  Working in consultation with these authorities, they presented the idea of developing Islamic standards and protocols to guarantee equal participation of various religious groups in Muslim-majority countries.

ISNA is deeply concerned about the rights of religious minorities and among those with whom they met were Dr. Ahmed Toufiq, Moroccan Minister of Islamic Affairs and Endowment; Dr. Noureddine Khadmi, Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs; and Dr. Abdul Aziz Othman al-Tuwaijri, General Manager of the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO). All of them remain solidly committed to addressing this issue.

The Kingdom of Morocco has a history of harmonious coexistence between people of diverse religious backgrounds. Under the guidance of original Islamic scholarship stemming from some of the most reputable Islamic institutions in the Muslim world, both the Moroccan government and its majority-Muslim population peacefully coexist with the Moroccan Jewish and Christian communities. Similarly, developments in Tunisia following the Arab spring have re-energized a commitment to a pluralist democracy and to a guarantee of the rights of all people to wholly participate in government and society.

ISNA is committed to religious freedom and seeks to promote it not only in the United States, but also abroad.  We deeply appreciate the partnership of religious leaders of all faiths, particularly the way religious leaders and community members from Jewish and Christian faiths have wholeheartedly demonstrated their support for Muslims through the institutionalization of the campaign, Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values.

Similarly, ISNA is dedicated to standing in solidarity with people of other faiths everywhere, whether they constitute the majority or the minority.  Following this trip to Morocco and Tunisia, stay tuned for news about a series of activities, as ISNA works to promote a mechanism for developing standards and protocols on religious freedom and the role of religious minorities in the Muslim world.

Islamist Party Says Islamic Law Doesn’t Need to be Enshrined in New Tunisian Constitution

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2012 by loonwatch

rachid_ghannouchi1

Ennahda Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi

I think someone’s head just exploded in the anti-Muslim movement.

They have zero understanding of the differing histories, philosophies or political thought of the various Islamist trends within the Muslim world. To them Islamists are all AlQaeda or some other such offshoot.

Of course, the hatemongers will revert to form and declare that this is all just taqiya, they will be unable to explain why, when Ennahda has a clear majority and is in a position to implement whatever they want, they instead forge a national unity government. They will also be unable to explain why Ennahda says their position are in line with Islamic values and principles.

Islamic Law Won’t Be Basis of New Tunisian Constitution

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Islamic law will not be enshrined in Tunisia’s new constitution, preserving the secular basis of the North African nation, Tunisia’s ruling Islamist Ennahda Party said Monday.

The first article of the new constitution would remain the same as in the 1959 version and it will not call for Shariah, Islamic law, to be the source of all legislation, as many conservatives had wanted.

The decision marks a break between the moderate Islamist Ennahda and an increasingly vocal minority of ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis who have been demanding Islamic law in a country long known for its progressive traditions.

“We do not want Tunisian society to be divided into two ideologically opposed camps, one pro-Shariah and one anti-Shariah,” said Rachid al-Ghannoushi, the founder of the Ennahda Party in a press conference. “We want above all a constitution that is for all Tunisians, whatever their convictions.”

He added that in his opinion, 90 percent of Tunisia’s existing legislation was already in line with the precepts of Islamic law.

Ziad Doulatli, another party leader, told The Associated Press that decision was taken so as to “unite a large majority of the political forces to confront the country’s challenges.”

“The Tunisian experience can serve as a model for other countries going through similar transformations,” he added.

In Egypt, as well as many other Muslim countries, Shariah is enshrined in the constitution as the source of all legislation.

Under more than 50 years of secular dictatorship, Tunisia stood out in the Arab world for its progressive laws, especially regarding the status of women. Many leftists and liberals feared this would be rolled back with the victory of an Islamist party at the polls.

Ennahda, however, has always pledged to maintain the character of the state and formed a coalition government with two secular parties.

The decision, however, is bound to provoke a backlash from the Salafis — some 10,000 of whom demonstrated Sunday in Tunis, the capital, calling for Islamic law.

Despite their numerous demonstrations, the degree of support that the Salafis have from the broader Tunisian society is not clear. Ennahda’s decision to spurn their demands suggests they do not have widespread appeal.

The first article of Tunisia’s constitution states that “Tunisia is a free, sovereign and independent state, whose religion is Islam, language is Arabic and has a republican regime.”

Tunisians overthrew their dictatorship in a popular uprising last year that inspired pro-democracy movements across North African and the Middle East.

In October, they elected a new assembly to govern as well as write the country’s new constitution. Secular and Islamist groups have been holding demonstrations to influence the new document.

According to Fadhel Moussa of the leftist Democratic Modernist Axis, the agreement on the first article settles a long debate in the assembly and opens the way to creating the rest of the new constitution.

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric in the USA is Noticed in the Middle East

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by loonwatch

Hillary Clinton Muncif Marzouk Tunisia

The Right-Wing will add this to there lists of grievances and examples of “appeasement” to the Muslamic-overlord-beast-monster, when in reality it is a face saving statement by Clinton downplaying the very real and viral Islamophobia infecting the USA:

Clinton tells Muslims to disregard campaign talk

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advised an audience in Tunisia on Saturday to “not pay attention” to the comments made by candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination, saying the often overheatedrhetoric of the campaign doesn’t reflect U.S. policy.

Speaking at a town-hall style event in Tunisia, the North African nation that sparked the “Arab Spring” revolts, Clinton said the partisan remarks made during campaign events “certainly don’t reflect the United States, don’t reflect our foreign policy, don’t reflect who we are as a people.”

Clinton’s remarks came in response to a question from a member of her audience who said he was troubled by some of the comments, which he considered anti-Muslim, made by candidates running for president.

“If you go to the United States, you see mosques everywhere, you see Muslim-Americans everywhere. That’s the fact. So I would not pay attention to the rhetoric,” she said.

Instead, she advised people to listen instead to President Barack Obama.

“I think that will be a very clear signal to the entire world as to what our values are,” Clinton said.

She added that she is sometimes surprised that people around the world pay more attention to what’s said in U.S. political campaigns than do most Americans.

“I think you have to shut out some of the rhetoric and just focus on what we’re doing and what we stand for and particularly what our president represents,” Clinton said.

Obama has come under fierce criticism from Republicans for apologizing for the burning of Qurans at a military base in Afghanistan.

GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich said while campaigning that the apology was “astonishing” and that Obama “has gone so far at appeasing radical Islamists that he is failing in his duty as commander in chief,”

American military officials say the burning of the Muslim holy books was a mistake, but it has sparked days of violent protests across Afghanistan.

Women in Parliament: Islamists in Tunisia Field More Women as Candidates than the Percentage of Women in the US Congress

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2012 by loonwatch
TUNISIA_Women_ParliamentTunisian Parliament–Nov 23, 2011

Whenever a Western power wants to invade and or bomb a Muslim nation one invariably hears about how the “women are oppressed in ________(insert Muslim nation of choice)” and “we must liberate them from the clutches of those evil, backward, misogynistic Muslim men.” That is one of the reasons we’ve termed the bombing, invasion and occupation of Muslim lands, the Greater Islamophobia.

Interestingly, when one analyzes say…the number of women in positions of power in countries across the world, we see the percentages of women in parliament to be higher in many majority Muslim nations than in parts of the West. [These statistics also buttress the fact that more Muslim nations have had female leaders, (Presidents, Prime Ministers) than the USA!]

Below we have a list of countries whose percentages of women in parliament is higher than the USA, which ranks a dismal 71st.

*Afghanistan (I have added an asterisk here because this nation is under foreign occupation and the results for many are not considered legitimate. However it is still interesting that Afghanis, some of the most vilified people in the world today when it comes to views of women vote for them at a higher percentage than Americans.)

Rank Country Lower or single House Upper House or Senate
Elections Seats* Women % W Elections Seats* Women % W
30 Afghanistan 9 2010 249 69 27.7% 1 2011 102 28 27.5%

Tunisia is not a surprise to many who know the country, but lets put these numbers into perspective. The Islamist party Ennahda won elections, they are known as “moderates,” but within the media, especially the Right we see an effort to translate Ennahda’s victory into a harbinger for the repression of women’s rights and other usual hoopla associated with Right-wing anti-Islam rhetoric. As the Angry Arab, As’ad Abu Khalil remarks, “I just figured that Tunisian Islamists fielded more women as candidates than the percentage of women in the US Congress.”

32 Tunisia 10 2011 217 57 26.3%

*Iraq

36 Iraq 3 2010 325 82 25.2%

Sudan

37 Sudan 4 2010 346 87 25.1% 5 2010 28 5 17.9%

Kyrgyzstan

45 Kyrgyzstan 10 2010 120 28 23.3%

Senegal

46 Senegal 6 2007 150 34 22.7% 8 2007 100 40 40.0%

Pakistan

47 Pakistan 2 2008 342 76 22.2% 3 2009 100 17 17.0%

Mauritania

48 Mauritania 11 2006 95 21 22.1% 11 2009 56 8 14.3%

Uzbekistan

49 Uzbekistan 12 2009 150 33 22.0% 1 2010 100 15 15.0%

Tajikistan

60 Tajikistan 2 2010 63 12 19.0% 3 2010 34 5 14.7%

Bangladesh

63 Bangladesh 12 2008 345 64 18.6%

Indonesia

65 Indonesia 4 2009 560 101 18.0%

Kazakhstan

66 Kazakhstan 8 2007 107 19 17.8% 8 2011 47 ? ?

United Arab Emirates

67 United Arab Emirates 9 2011 40 7 17.5%

All of the above nations did better than the USA.

Here are two Western nations who you’d think would have done better in the numbers and who wax eloquent about “women’s rights,” even using it as a pretext to bomb and invade nations:

61 France 6 2007 577 109 18.9% 9 2011 348 77 22.1%
71 United States of America 2 11 2010 434 73 16.8% 11 2010 100 17 17.0%

Of course some of the above Muslim nations still have low percentages, however my purpose here is not to draw conclusions but to add to the empirical evidence when it comes to the discussion of women, women’s role in Muslim societies and women’s rights.

As the battle over birth control, invasive procedures before abortion, etc. rages on in the USA, the above stats provide a healthy if sobering perspective to the belligerent discussion in the looniverse about Muslim women.

Tunisian Jews Rebuff Israeli VP Silvan Shalom’s Call for “Aliyah”

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2011 by loonwatch

The revolutions in the Arab world are continuing, revolutions don’t succeed over night and the eventual shape Tunisia and Egypt will take is still to be seen. Yet the talking points on the anti-Muslim right have solidified, aside from mocking and being amongst the earliest naysayers of the revolutions they have since taken to calling it an “Arab winter,” and an extremist Islamist takeover akin to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, etc.

One nation in the region, Israel has been amongst the foremost in propagating the idea that these revolutions are the beginning of some sort of diabolical sweeping fundamentalism.

In that vein, we see the vice-president of Israel, Silvan Shalom calling on Tunisian Jews to make “aliyah” (immigrate) to Israel. Most Tunisian Jews it seems are responding by telling the VP to go to hell (hat tip: Atheist Arab):

Tunisian Jews Respond to Silvan Shalom’s Post Arab Spring Call for Them to Immigrate to Israel

Some members of Tunisia’s small Jewish community have responded after Israeli Vice-Prime Minister Silvan Shalom made another call on the Tunisian Jewish community to immigrate to Israel, this time in a Jerusalem ceremony in honor of Tunisian victims of the holocaust on December 7th.

According to the Tunisian news site “Business News” the Gabes, Tunisia born Israeli Vice-Prime Minister said, “I call on the Jews living in Tunisia to come and live in Israel as soon as possible.” But getting the nearly 1,800 strong Tunisian Jewish community to “make aliyah” or immigrate to Israel may not be an easy task for Shalom for now.

The owner of La Goulette’s Kosher restaurant, Mame Lilly, and former Constituent Assembly candidate Jacob Lellouche insisted that to him, Shalom’s comments were shallow. “Silvan can say whatever he wants. I am Tunisian, this is my country. I will stay here. Silvan can not tell me where to live.”

He added that the only fear he had of the Islamists currently in Tunisia’s government was that they would not succeed in improving Tunisia’s situation. “I fear for Islamists that god will turn against them,” he joked with a tint of sarcasm.

Avraham Chiche, is the director of the Jewish Old Age home in La Goulette.  His family immigrated to Tunisia over 500 years ago from Spain during the Spanish inquisition.  Chiche feels that Shalom’s comments have been political and he has no plans to leave Tunisia.

Silvan Shalom

“Silvan Shalom needs to mind his own business and let us choose to live where we want to live, instead of making publicity statements for Israel,” said Chiche.

“We fear the small number of Salafists in Tunisia, but not Ennahda, the leadership of Ennahda came to us both before and after the election and assured us that our community will remain a vital part of Tunisian society while they are in government,” Chiche added.

Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist Ennahda party currently holding a plurality of seats in Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly, the elected body charged with drafting the country’s new constitution echoed Chiche’s sentiment in an extensive radio interview in Arabic on a local station, Shems FM, the afternoon of December 8th. “Jews and Muslims have been living and working together peacefully here for thousands of years, why should we ask them to leave?” he stated when asked his thoughts on Shalom’s comments.

“I invited the President of the Jewish Community, Mr. Roger Bismuth to meet with me at the Ennahda Party headquarters shorty after the election and we had a very good conversation,” Ghannouchi added.

When asked specifically what he thought about the future prospects of Tunisian-Israeli relations, Ghannounchi made his usual condemnations of the Israeli government, but said domestic policy was his main concern. “Isreal is an occupying state, I condemn Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinians but right now we have a constitution to draft and the country I am concerned most about is Tunisia,” Ghannouchi said.

Others contacted in the Jewish community refrained from comment.

A Djerba based silversmith who asked not to be named, said that it was best for him not to respond to Shalom’s comments.  Like many other Tunisians he is hoping that Tunisia’s democratic transition succeeds.

“It is best I not respond to Shalom because whatever I say can be misunderstood or distorted by people both here and in Israel. I obviously have not taken these calls seriously, they have been made by Shalom before.  I prefer to be vigilant, and patient with this new government to see if the democratic transition will be successful instead of listening to the provocations of Shalom.”