TheWorld Post [Huffington Post and Berggruen Institute on Governance] November 18, 2014
The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) is a branch of the U.S. State Department. Since 2001, AFCP has granted millions of dollars to countries around the world, for conservation of historic religious and other structures and institutions. The Fund was established by Congress under Public Law 106-553 with administration by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The aim of AFCP was to create “a new approach to American public diplomacy… the Ambassador’s Fund is the only cultural preservation program in the U.S. government to provide direct ‘small grant’ support to heritage preservation in less-developed countries.” Some grants, however, are not small. Through ECA, AFCP has issued public reports on its grant awards since 2001.
The fiscal year 2011-12 — with grants awarded in the first year and implemented in the second — was the most recent for which AFCP produced a detailed accounting. The Fund stated then that from 2001 to 2012 AFCP made more than 700 grants to 120 countries. Added to this number, 52 grants were made in 2012, and 56 in 2013, for a pre-2014 total of at least 800 grants. A count of all recorded funds rendered a total for 2001-13 of $47,750,971.
Continue reading Should U.S. Facilitate Tourism in Turkmenistan? by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog November 17, 2014
As Saudi Arabia undergoes its slow process of change, the matter of women and motor vehicles remains crucial. On October 24, Saudi women were summoned by a social media campaign to take to the roads in cars they own, typically, but do not drive.
The demonstration was called to mark the anniversary of last year’s protest by female drivers. On that occasion, at least 60 Saudi women operated cars in public. Since the desert monarchy is the only country in the world that forbids women from driving, a small number created a large sensation.
This year, the day before the event was to be held, the Saudi interior ministry, headed by Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef, warned that it would “apply the laws . . . against anyone who participates in a protest.” It condemned women driving cars as illegality that would “undermine social cohesion.” Prince Muhammad is the son of the late Wahhabi hardliner, Crown Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz (1934-2012).
Continue reading Saudi Arabia Challenged on Women Driving by Protest by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute November 16, 2014
As informed Muslims know, present-day radical Islamists have proven adept at using the internet – far more than have their moderate and Western opponents. “Internet savvy” jihadism appears as evidence of the youthful constituency of the extremists. They have grown up with the internet, video games, and other online diversions. When fanatical ideology takes hold of them, the internet is one of the obvious places for the process to begin.
In an important 2003 article in The Weekly Standard, entitled “The Islamic Terrorism Club,” Stephen Schwartz, wrote about some of the more obnoxious pro-jihad Arabic-language websites then operating from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The jihad-net expanded considerably in the decade that followed.
Even before September 11, 2001, however, many Muslims who opposed the fundamentalists were focusing on Islamist websites in English, as a means to anticipate threats from radicals.
Continue reading “Sheikh Google’s” Radical Islam by Irfan Al-Alawi
The Independent [London] November 12, 2014
Construction projects in Mecca.
The site in Mecca where the Prophet Mohamed is said to have been born is about to be “buried under marble” and replaced by a huge royal palace. The work is part of a multibillion-pound construction project in the holy city which has already resulted in the destruction of hundreds of historic monuments.
The project, which began several years ago, aims to expand the al-Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, to cater for the millions of pilgrims who make their way to the holy city each year for the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are obliged to make at least once.
Mecca is the holiest city in Islam because of its link to the birth of the Prophet, and because it is the site of the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building made from black granite and said to have been built by Abraham. The Grand Mosque is built around it, and Muslims face towards it when they pray.
Continue reading Mecca under threat. Outrage at plan to destroy the ‘birthplace’ of the Prophet Mohamed and replace it with a new palace and luxury malls by Andrew Johnson
The Weekly Standard Blog November 11, 2014
Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi in his prison cell.
Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi has been imprisoned in his native land since 2006. In a statement on November 7, he announced a hunger strike from his cell in Tehran’s Evin House of Detention, notorious for the political and spiritual dissidents held and abused there.
Boroujerdi’s meditations appeared on the occasion of Ashura, which recalls the murder in the 7th century of Imam Hussein, grandson of Muhammad and an opponent of the reigning Islamic caliphate, at the Battle of Karbala in Iraq. Ashura and the remembrance of Karbala–a time for mourning rather than a holiday–are especially prominent in Shia Islam.
Ayatollah Boroujerdi took the occasion this year to describe the Iranian state as “worse and more evil than Daesh [the Arabic name for the Islamic State] and the Taliban.” He warned that the Khomeinist doctrine of “guardianship by the jurisprudent” or velayet-e faqih, i.e. clerical command in politics, had handed over Iran’s wealth to “authoritarian Pharaonic rulers” in Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and among the Palestinians. The incarcerated ayatollah compared the atrocities of the caliphate in killing Imam Hussein and his followers at Karbala more than 1,330 years ago with Khomeinism, and pledged “aggressive” opposition to the dominant Iranian ideology.
Continue reading Jailed Iranian Ayatollah Calls Regime ‘Worse and More Evil than ISIS or the Taliban’ by Stephen Schwartz
The Huffington Post November 3, 2014
The Tenth of Muharram, by Ottoman court painter Fausto Zonaro (1854-1929)
The Muslim religious observance of Ashura – the 10th day of Muharram, the month that commences the Islamic lunar year – began on the evening of Sunday, November 2, 2014, and extends through Monday, November 3, by Western reckoning.
Ashura marks the death at the battle of Karbala, in Iraq in 680 CE, of Imam Husayn, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and 72 of Husayn’s followers. The first ten days of Muharram are dedicated by many Muslims, but especially by adherents of the Shia tradition, to sorrow for the tragedy of Karbala.
While Ashura is a day of grief, rather than a festival, in Turkey and among the Bektashi Muslims of the Albanian lands, fasting for Ashura is followed by consumption of a special pudding, also called Ashura, made up of grains, nuts, fruits, and sweeteners.
Continue reading Ashura In the Shadow of New Terrorism by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute October 26, 2014
Turkish Army tanks at the country's border with Syria -- Photo credit Anadolu Agency.
The world has watched the town of Kobani on the Turkish-Syrian border, where the Wahhabi terrorists of the so-called “Islamic State” [IS], also known as ISIS, ISIL, and, in Arabic, the “Daesh,” are fighting the Kurdish peshmerga, a word meaning “those facing death.” The Turkish authorities, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Islamist Justice and Development Party [AKP], have stood among the ambivalent observers of the battle for Kobani.
At the same time, he who is called “the man on the island” has put an ultimatum to Erdoğan. Abdullah Öcalan, in jail surrounded by the sea near Istanbul and still the real leader of the Kurdish Workers Party [PKK], has given the Turkish authorities more time to achieve a full agreement with its Kurdish subjects. If it does not, he says he can do “nothing more for the peace process.” But as reported by the London Financial Times on October 22, Öcalan said he remained “optimistic” about relations between Ankara and the Kurdish revolutionaries. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by the United States and various European governments, as well as Turkey.
Continue reading The Kurds in Turkey and the Fight for Kobani by Veli Sirin
First Things Online October 22, 2014
The flag of the Republic of Latvia. Every Muslim should stand up against Russian imperialism.
In May 2014, I attended an interfaith conference in Kosova where I met Janīs Priede, an associate professor in the department of Oriental Studies at the University of Latvia, located in the national capital, Riga. Having watched, from the Balkans, the Russian annexation of Crimea and further attempted partition of Ukraine during the first half of the year, I expressed my concern to Prof. Priede that Latvia, a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), could be the next object of aggression by Vladimir Putin. He agreed.
Continue reading Is Latvia Putin’s New Target? by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog October 21, 2014
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Recently, some media commentators have argued that, rather than the product of a simple confrontation between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria and Iraq, the rise of the so-called “Islamic State” should be perceived as an eruption into those countries of Wahhabism, the only interpretation of Islam recognized as official in Saudi Arabia.
David Gardner of the Financial Times, for instance, blamed Saudi Arabia indirectly for the growth of ISIS, writing, “Jihadi extremism does present a threat to the kingdom. But in doctrinal terms it is hard to see in what way it ‘deviates’ from Wahhabi orthodoxy.” Others have implied or alleged that Saudi Arabia helps finance ISIS.
Continue reading Saudi Wahhabism and ISIS Wahhabism: The Difference by Stephen Schwartz
The Huffington Post October 16, 2014
Our sister, the honorable Muslimah Malala Yousafzai -- United Nations News photograph,
The award of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year old Pakistani female and youngest-ever Nobel laureate, in tandem with India’s Kailash Satyarthi, 60, a prominent activist for children’s rights in his own country, has various contexts.
One such involves Pakistani-Indian conciliation in the face of shared challenges. As the Nobel Committee affirmed, it “regards [the dual Prize] as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”
“Extremism” touches on a wider aspect of the 2014 Peace Prize: the future of millions of women in the Muslim global community, or umma.
Continue reading Malala Yousafzai and the Future of Islam by Stephen Schwartz