Financial Times [London] February 26, 2015
The flag of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Sir, Sinan Ülgen asserts, in his article on Turkish relations with the European Union, that Turkey is “the only mainly Muslim nation with a secular democracy” (“Amid a tide of extremism, a mutual embrace that will protect both Turkey and Europe“, February 23).
This claim is inaccurate. Bosnia-Hercegovina, although partitioned (with a 45 per cent Muslim plurality), Kosova (80 per cent Muslim), and Albania (70 per cent Muslim) are multi-party, elected democracies with secular constitutions and vigorous, independent media.
None of these three European Muslim communities must contend with civil-military competition for power, interference with freedom of expression, persecution of minorities, or rising radical Islam, such as are seen in Turkey.
Continue reading Schwartz Letter to Financial Times: Countries with a claim to the role Turkey seeks by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute November 16, 2012
Nejat Fawzy AlSaied.
Nothing can teach us more about the perils of a promised rapid transition to liberal democracy than the human rights abuses and chaos we have witnessed recently in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The West called these revolutions, or this upheaval, the “Arab Spring,” while others in the region have referred to it as resulting in an “Islamic Winter,” a term with which I agree. The oil-rich countries of the Arab Gulf in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries might do well to learn lessons from the countries that have experienced these revolutions. The only way for GCC countries to endure the blizzard of the “Islamic Winter” is by building democracy gradually, brick-by-brick, grounded in a robust model of development.
The dangerous mistake made by the West, under the leadership of the Obama administration, is its use of an ill-defined notion of democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA); it leads to mixed signals and exploitation. Such a loose definition of democracy, combined with the absence of a clear strategy for implementation, leaves a vacuum for countries and groups to take advantage of a period of turmoil to pursue their own agendas.
In the name of democracy, Qatar has exploited the Arab uprisings to expand its power in the region; similarly, Saudi Arabia, under the banner of democracy, wants apparently to spread its Wahhabism. Turkey plans to revive its Ottoman Empire, Iran its Persian hegemony over the Gulf region, and the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists announce that they want to fulfill their dream of the revived Caliphate — all, they claim, in pursuit of democracy.
Continue reading Suggestions for the Arab Gulf by Nejat Fawzy AlSaied
Gatestone Institute November 5, 2012
Radical Islamist vandalism of irreplaceable cultural patrimony – including the legacy of Muhammad and other prominent early Muslims – continues, following recent attacks by Saudi-inspired Wahhabis, known incorrectly as “Salafis,” on spiritual Sufi monuments in Egypt, Libya, and Mali. In the past, Wahhabi despoliation has included devastation of the cemeteries where lay the remains of the family and companions of Muhammad, as well as countless distinguished figures in the ensuing 1,300 years of Islamic history.
The bombing of the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban and Al-Qaida in 2001 was perceived by non-Muslims as shocking, but as no more than an assertion of extremist Muslim supremacy. Moderate Muslims have a greater understanding of the perversity and danger of such depredations. Wahhabis and other fundamentalists like them have accumulated a long catalogue of desecration and plunder – predominantly at Islamic locations.
Continue reading Wahhabi Vandalism In Morocco and Tunisia by Irfan Al-Alawi
The Weekly Standard Blog July 10, 2012
The Flag of Libya
In a remarkable development, the people of Libya on Sunday voted against the seemingly-irresistible advance of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in the “Arab Spring” countries of North Africa. Until Libyan ballots began coming in, Western media seemed assured that the MB would repeat, in that country, its successes elsewhere over the past year. In Tunisia last October, the Ennahda or Rebirth party won 37 percent at the polls. In Morocco’s November contest, the MB’s Justice and Development party gained enough strength to form a government under its leadership. Since then, however, Morocco has remained largely tranquil.
The Egyptian triumph of the MB’s Freedom and Justice party (FJP), which took 37.5 percent in the November 2011-January 2012 parliamentary competition, was followed by the election of the party’s Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s president. Morsi’s victory appeared to confirm the role of the MB as the main successor to dictatorships in the Arab lands.
The Libyan vote calls that conclusion into question. Voters were selecting 200 parliamentarians who will write a new constitution—80 representing political parties and 120 individuals. In preliminary counting, Mahmoud Jibril’s centrist Alliance of National Forces gained 80 percent in Tripoli and 60 percent in Benghazi. Jibril is the head of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and a political scientist who studied and taught in the United States. (Though the same may be said of many radical Islamists; American education, unfortunately, does not inoculate against extremist ideology.)
Continue reading Why Did Libya Vote Against the Muslim Brotherhood? by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute July 10, 2012
David Roberts (1796-1864), "Egyptian Landscape with a Distant View of the Pyramids." 1862.
When the news came that Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) had been declared Egypt’s President, the immediate concern was about what kind of society the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists would want to create, and how this election would affect society in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world. Would they want to establish a robust civil society or a pious Islamic one, and would it be tolerant and respectful towards women and religious minority rights?
Whenever the Muslim Brotherhood are asked if Sharia law will be imposed, the response is that their intention is to build a “democratic and civil state” that guarantees freedom of religion and the right to peaceful protest, as has been stated by Mursi himself on several occasions. But anyone who traces the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists over the past decades — in Egypt, Tunisia or anywhere else in the Arab world — will see that their intention is to further Islamize their societies, not to create civil alternatives. Before they gained power, their approach was from the bottom up, but now that they have the reins of power; they might instead approach their task from the top down.
Continue reading The Islamist Tsunami and Arab Society by Najat Fawzy AlSaied
The Weekly Standard Blog March 13, 2012
On March 2, the Jeddah newspaper Arab News reported that Crown Prince Nayef Bin Abd Al-Aziz, currently the designated successor to King Abdullah Bin Abd Al-Aziz as the absolute ruler of Saudi Arabia, had left for a “vacation” in the United States, via Morocco.
A week later, on March 9, the same Saudi journal and Western media disclosed that Nayef had come to America for “routine” medical tests at a clinic in Ohio.
The condition of Crown Prince Nayef has been a topic for controversy among Saudi subjects and Saudi-watchers since he was named crown prince and successor to King Abdullah after the death last October of Nayef’s brother, the previous crown prince and successor, Sultan Bin Abd Al-Aziz.
Prince Sultan was the father of the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, infamous for reveling in his free access to the White House. Sultan was also Nayef’s full brother. Sultan, Nayef, King Fahd, who died in 2005, and four others made up the “Sudairi Seven.” This was a clique based on the influence of their mother, Hussah Bint Ahmad Sudair (1900-69), a favored spouse among the many wives of Muhammad Bin Abd Al-Aziz, better known as Ibn Saud (1876-1953), founder of the present-day Saudi state in 1932. King Fahd was succeeded by King Abdullah, his half-brother and a non-Sudairi.
Continue reading Saudi Crown Prince’s Medical Visit to the United States by Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz
Toronto Sun February 18, 2012
The unfolding violence in Syria should finally put an end to the illusion fostered in the West that ‘Arab Spring’ was ringing in freedom and democracy into the Middle East.
Few in the West comprehend the extent to which the Arab-Muslim world is in the midst of a historical convulsion. It is somewhat similar to the sort of upheaval that gripped Europe as a Christian continent in the eventual making of the modern world.
Fewer still comprehend that this current phase of Arab convulsion, beginning in January last year in Tunisia and presently taking hold of Syria, was ironically uncorked by the much maligned George W. Bush when he took the gambit of bringing regime change in Iraq.
A half-century ago in the aftermath of the Suez War of 1956, the Middle East was shaken by the tumult of Pan-Arab nationalism. It undermined the old order and brought a generation of men in military uniforms to rule as despots across the Middle East.
That earlier tumult was stifled and contained. It was not allowed to run its course and exhaust the fury of an oppressive culture that retarded the progress of Arab politics from dictatorship to democracy.
Continue reading Arab convulsion grips Syria by Salim Mansur
Folksmagazine [India] January 4, 2012
It is customary for columnists to conclude the common year with reflections on that which has just finished and predictions for that which is to come.
I make no pretensions to prophecy, aside from occasional analysis based on news reports. I am, however, a Muslim believer, and will therefore reverse the usual order of such discourses, beginning with what I and those with whom I cooperate in the Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) hope will come about, and dedicating the rest of this contribution to a look back at 2011.
First, let those of us who are Muslims pray and work for an end to violence, whether between Muslims, or inflicted by Muslims on non-Muslims and by non-Muslims on Muslims.
Let us pray and work for a positive victory over the dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
Let us pray and work against the so-called “Boko Haram” cult that, claiming to act in the interest of Sunni Islam, has carried out brutal attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
Let us pray and work for social reform to prevail over Wahhabi reaction in Saudi Arabia.
Let us pray and work for global leaders to avoid the lure of a “new” Islamist ideology reigning over Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries – of which, more below.
Continue reading Prayers for 2012 and Reflections on 2011
by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] December 20, 2011
On December 5, The Hindu, a major national daily, reported an important step forward in Indian Muslim relations with state governments. According to the newspaper, authorities in Rajasthan, on India’s western frontier with Pakistan, have appointed representatives of the Barelvi sect, a traditionalist Sunni interpretation imbued with spiritual Sufism, to the leadership of several Muslim institutions. In doing so, The Hindu reports, Rajasthan effectively barred radical Islamist agitators from directing local communal bodies, and has followed the lead of the central government, which is controlled by the Indian National Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
A prominent Barelvi, Maulana Fazl-e-Haq, who is affiliated with the Madrasa Ishaqiya of Jodhpur, will head the state’s Madrasa Board, with responsibility for administration of Islamic religious education. He is a disciple of the aged Sufi Hazrat Allama Pirzada Maulana Chaman Qadri. Hazrat Chaman Qadri, of Gyarwee Sharif Jalsa Bundi, is a leading figure in the Qadiri Sufi order (tariqat), one of the largest and oldest in the Muslim world. Chaman Qadri is also the chief qazi (head Islamic judge) in Rajasthan and a member of the Hajj Committee and other Muslim institutions.
The Rajasthan Urdu Akademi, charged with development of Urdu culture among the state’s Muslims, will be supervised by Habib-ur-Rehman Niyazi, from the Barelvi family of Meerji Ka Bagh. The Rajasthan Public Service Commission will now include Indian Police Service officer Habib Khan, a Barelvi. The new chairman of the State Minorities Commission, M. Mahir Azad, is known as a Sufi sympathizer. Previously, Rajasthan had appointed Liaqat Ali, a devotee of a Sufi shrine in the district of Jhunjhunu, to the local Waqf Board, with oversight over Islamic pious foundations.
Continue reading India: Rajasthan Authorities Favor Barelvis, Rejecting Wahhabi Infiltrators by Stephen Schwartz
Toronto Sun December 17, 2011
A year ago on Dec. 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire in despair with poverty and absence of any hope.
He saw himself caged, as did so many others, in his native country turned into a prison of daily abuse from where there seemed to be no exit.
Bouazizi died of his burns some three weeks later, yet his final act of desperation shook the despondent populace of Tunisia into the making of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring.
The idea of Arab Spring — a beginning in the transition of Arab states from authoritarian rule to democracy — was an expression filled with desperate longings that somehow democracy based on freedom and individual rights might take root in the historically arid political landscape of the Arab world.
If voting is the sole measure of democracy, then the periodic elections arranged by the fallen regimes of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or Saddam Hussein in Iraq should have qualified as Arab versions of the same.
Continue reading Women continue to pay the price by Salim Mansur