The Huffington Post, May 28, 2011
By coincidence, I was thinking about Serbia when I received word of the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the notorious leader of the Serbian extremist forces that devastated Bosnia-Hercegovina in the Yugoslav war of 1992-95. On May 26, I was sitting in a hotel room in Nazareth, having just visited the Basilica of the Annunciation and engaged in a spiritual Sufi exercise; I walked along the walls of the Basilica reciting Islamic blessings inaudibly. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is considered by Muslims to have been the greatest of all women, an item of belief largely unknown to Westerners. Qur’an states “O Mary! Allah has chosen and purified you, selecting you above all other women” (Q 3:42). Islamic scripture dedicates an entire surah, or chapter, to her, number 19. From the Sufi perspective, honoring Mary in Nazareth epitomizes traditional Islam.
The television was on in my room but I paid little attention to it until Sky News, the mediocre Murdoch-owned channel, announced the Serbian detention of Mladic. The boss of the ultranationalist militia, really a rabble in arms, had been hidden in Serbia by his official sympathizers for 16 years, since the end of the Bosnian war.
Continue reading Of Butchers and Boycotts: Reflections on the Arrest of Ratko Mladic by Stephen Schwartz
NewsGram [India], May 21, 2011
The current series of successive mass protests and “regime changes” in the Muslim lands has an important precedent. First tsarist Russia and Persia, in 1905-6, then Turkey in 1908, and ultimately non-Muslim but despotic China, in 1911, experienced revolutionary transformations, although all of them, in one or another way, failed in their first cycle. Still, these were profound phenomena unlike the coups and intrigues that brought nationalist cliques to power in some Arab states during the 1960s.
Sociology reasserts its importance here because of the special role of intellectuals in each of these Eastern movements of a century past. The term “intellectual” is defined differently now than it was then, when it referred primarily to working journalists and other participants in the open marketplace of ideas, rather than to academics and established authors. Faith assumes a role because all four countries were dominated culturally by traditionalist religious hierarchies rooted in or contaminated by despotism: Russia by Orthodox Christianity, Persia and Turkey by apparently-conservative forms of Islam, and China by Confucianism. The most significant aspect of the early 20th century “chain of Eastern revolutions” – as today – involved the question of whether the faith of Muhammad and democracy are compatible.
Continue reading Will History Repeat Itself in the Muslim Spring? by Stephen Schwartz
May 16, 2011, New York
The American Jewish Committee is urging a federal appeals court to block implementing a new Oklahoma provision targeting Shariah law.
“Singling out the religious law of one faith is simply unconstitutional and smacks of fear-mongering,” said AJC Associate General Counsel Marc D. Stern.
In a brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in the case of Awad v. Ziriax, AJC argues that an Oklahoma constitutional provision adopted by referendum last November banning Oklahoma courts from relying on Shariah law is “flagrantly unconstitutional” for violating the “core nondiscrimination command of the Establishment Clause.”
The brief points out that there is no mistaking the discriminatory purposes of the provision’s sponsors. They and their supporters repeatedly said that the proposal was intended to ward off the threat of which there was no evidence of an Islamic law takeover of Oklahoma’s courts. The proposal, AJC notes, did not ban reliance on other forms of religious law, including Jewish and canon law.
Continue reading CIP Joins American Jewish Committee Brief Vs. Oklahoma Anti-Shariah Provision
The Weekly Standard Blog, May 3, 2011
Since its onset in mid-January, the Arab Spring has caused serious problems for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Even more than other Middle Eastern states threatened by mass dissent, Iran’s ruling regime has fostered bizarre conspiracy theories blaming its intellectual enemies, both foreign and domestic, for threatening its dominion with a “velvet revolution.” Peaceful protests brought down the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, and his campaign of brutal repression now threatens Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a key Iranian ally.
The collapse of Assad’s bloody rule would be felt acutely by the Iranians, who support Syria against the Sunni Arab powers, particularly Saudi Arabia, and use it as a conduit to ship arms to Hezbollah across the border in Lebanon. Indeed, Iran’s anxiety over the Syrian uprising these last six weeks has sharpened divisions in the ruling strata, including factions siding with the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and his figurehead as president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Continue reading Syrian Crisis Grows, and Iran’s Inner Circle Gets Edgier by Stephen Schwartz
Toronto Sun, February 26, 2011
As people’s insurrections spread in the Arab world, it might be useful for those watching the mayhem gather pace to take time out from television and reach for some historical perspective.
There is no substitute for such perspective to put in context the Arab drama unfolding before our eyes. And like a play of several acts, it will have many scene changes before the curtain eventually comes down.
From North Africa to the Persian Gulf, Arab regimes are trembling. Some will fall and others will change colours to barely survive.
The Libyan thug Moammar Gadhafi did not imagine his thugocracy could so quickly unravel. He might meet the fate of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, executed by his rebellious soldiers, or that of Saddam Hussein, with a noose around his neck.
But as the drama unfolds, three things will increasingly stand out.
First, former president George W. Bush, despite those who ridiculed him, was right in insisting, “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to all humanity.”
Arabs could not be denied freedom, nor condemned to the rule of despots. Bush was right in promoting the freedom agenda — though fair-minded individuals can have disagreements on the details and how it is implemented — and right in bringing regime change in Iraq.
Continue reading Freedom is ‘God’s gift to humanity’ by Salim Mansur
Stephen Schwartz at the grave of Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović
Pajamas Media, February 14, 2011
Stephen Schwartz was raised a communist in the San Francisco Bay Area and once worked for the Cubans. Then he became a Republican and converted to Islam in the Balkans. When he’s not busy with his duties as the director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, he writes books and articles for magazines like The Weekly Standard.
His analysis of the Middle East and the Muslim world generally is more fresh and interesting than that of most. He is the first Westerner to use the word “Islamofascism” to describe the “use of the faith of Islam as a cover for totalitarian ideology,” and he did so not as an “Islamophobe” but as a Muslim believer. Those who yearn to hear from moderate Muslims, and those who have somehow convinced themselves that the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood are the moderates, really need to hear what he has to say.
MJT: So, what are your thoughts on Egypt?
Stephen Schwartz: Well, during the first two weeks most of the usual chatterers had no chattering to do. Everybody was stunned. Nobody had an answer. A lot of what should have been said was considered politically incorrect. Nobody for the first two weeks wanted to say there weren’t just two alternatives in Egypt, Mubarak or the Brotherhood. There were three alternatives—Mubarak, the Brotherhood, and the army which really rules Egypt.
Continue reading From San Francisco to Sarajevo by Michael J. Totten An Interview With Stephen Schwartz
Academic Questions [New York], January 28, 2011
Since the terrorist atrocities of September 11, 2001, Westerners have been challenged to understand the ideological and theological concepts, derived from Islam, that motivated the actions of Al-Qaida on that day and in other attacks before and since. Differences in taxonomy have proven to be a major issue. In my view, it is insufficient to assign to the terrorists an “Islamist” intent.
Although “Islamism” and “political Islam” are widely used to designate radicalism in the religion, neither has been provided by scholars with a precise meaning. In the past, “Islamism” was generally applied to the religion of Islam, somewhat like the terms Judaism and Christianism (the latter used more in French and other continental European literature than in English). “Islamism” may be defined as the transmutation of religion into ideology, but except for the analytic historiography of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, relatively little has been done to explain how this process has taken place, and the history of radicalism among Sunni Muslims is markedly different from that among Iranian Shias.
One may then ask, in summarizing the taxonomy of radical Islam, several more contradictory questions: Do anti-extremist Muslims, such as Shaykha Hasina Wazed, the current prime minister of Bangladesh—and a woman—not represent a form of “political Islam?” Shaykha Hasina has acted firmly to suppress radical Islam in her country. Do opponents of radical Islam want Muslims to abstain from anti-radical politics? And, to digress, if one is intent on debating whether Islam is a “religion of peace,” do opponents of extremism in Islam wish for those fighting against the terrorists to do so only with peaceful means? Moderate Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan have fought with arms in hand alongside U.S.-led coalition troops to defeat terrorists.
Continue reading The Terrorist War Against Islam: Clarifying Academic Confusions — Pseudo-Salafism and Wahhabism by Stephen Schwart
NewsGram [India], January 21, 2011
A group of British Asians has launched a campaign to install the first major public memorial in the UK to a Muslim or to an Asian woman. The object of commemoration is relevant in these times of radical Islamist rhetoric, as well as fear of civilizational clash: an Anglo-Indian Sufi, Noor Inayat Khan, who served as an Allied intelligence agent and was executed by the Nazis in France during the second world war.
The effort calls for a bronze bust of her to be placed in central London, on land owned by the University of London. Some £25,000 has been raised so far, of a projected £100,000 needed for completion of the project.
I first heard the inspiring story of Noor Inayat Khan more than 25 years ago, when I encountered her brother Hidayat Inayat Khan, a composer of Western-style classical music, in a visit to Canada. I met Hidayat in 1984, the fortieth year after Noor was done to death at the age of 30. Noor and Hidayat were children of Hazrat Inayat Khan, an Indian Muslim aristocrat and founder of a broadly conceived school of Sufi spirituality, derived from the Chishtiyya Sufi legacy. Like many Indian Sufis, Hazrat Inayat Khan sought to fuse Islamic mysticism with Hindu traditions. The movement he created flourishes in various countries.
His daughter Noor was born in then-tsarist Russia and was educated in France. Her mother was an American woman, Ora Baker, who had married Inayat Khan. Noor’s passport reflected her status as a British imperial subject although like her father, who knew Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Noor supported Indian independence. The family was directly descended from Tipu Sultan, known as “the Tiger of Mysore,” and an 18th century opponent of British rule.
Continue reading A Muslim woman who sacrificed herself, also, for the Jewish cause by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog, December 11, 2010
The name of Iranian ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi is little known outside his own country, which is unfortunate. Ayatollah Boroujerdi has been held in [...]