USA Today October 13, 2011
Emptied grave at the shrine of Sidi Al-Masry, Tripoli, October 11, 2011 — Photograph by Abdel Magid Al-Fergany/AP
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – Islamic hard-liners have attacked about a half-dozen shrines in and around Tripoli belonging to Muslim sects whose practices they see as sacrilegious, raising religious tensions as Libya struggles to define its identity after Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster.
The vandalism has drawn concern at the highest levels as Libya’s new rulers seek to reassure the international community that extremists will not gain influence in the North African nation.
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the governing National Transitional Council, reacted with alarm to reports that graves were being desecrated and appealed to a top Muslim cleric, al-Sadek al-Gheriani, to issue a fatwa, or religious ruling, on the issue.
He also called for restraint. “I ask those destroying these mosques to stop doing that because this is not the time to do that,” Abdul-Jalil said Tuesday at a news conference. “What they did is not on the side of the revolution.”
Continue reading Islamic shrine desecrations raise fears of religious tensions in post-Gadhafi Libya by Kim Gamel
The Weekly Standard Blog October 11, 2011
The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, 2007 — Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
The soft-Islamist Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development party (known by its Turkish initials as the AKP) has expansive foreign-policy ambitions. In addition to its embrace of the Hamas regime in Gaza and accompanying criticism of Israel, Ankara has sent naval and air units into the eastern Mediterranean in a bid to intimidate Cyprus from exploiting, with U.S. economic partners, the divided island’s offshore energy assets. Turkish military maneuvers near Cyprus parallel threats of a similar seaborne campaign to shield another Gaza flotilla operation against Israel’s maritime security patrols. Turkey has acted ambiguously toward the NATO missile-defense system intended for protection from Russian or Iranian attack, after indicating cooperation with the plan developed by the Western alliance.
In more benign-appearing efforts, Turkey has switched from supporting the bloody dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria to declaring an arms embargo against Damascus, and has sought a leading role in aid to post-Qaddafi Libya. But a key aspect of AKP’s efforts at a “neo-Ottoman” revival of national prestige is typically neglected by Western observers. That is, Erdoğan has sojourned repeatedly as a triumphant patron in the former Balkan provinces of the Turkish empire, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and, most recently, Macedonia. All these countries were ruled from Constantinople until the last quarter of the 19th century, in the Bosnian case, and the first decades of the 20th, in Kosovo and Macedonia.
Continue reading Erdoğan’s Meddling in the Balkans by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] October 9, 2011
Haji Abdul Rahman Mosque, Kabul, 2010 — Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
The latest major news from the South Asian front has, as usual, been distorted by the social pathologies of a failing society; namely, Pakistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced boldly on October 4 that Afghanistan had signed a strategic coordination agreement with India. He restated his candid allegations, which no honest Muslim can deny, that Islamabad supports the Taliban as well as the terrorist Haqqani network that operates in his country. As every unintimidated Muslim also admits, the roster of extremist entities subsidized by the Pakistan regime is long. It includes the Wahhabi and Deobandi groups aimed at Kashmir like Lashkar-e-Taiba, the anti-Shia mass killers such as Sipah-e-Sahaba, and the general political spectrum representing the jihadism of Mawdudi and epitomized by the Jamaat-e-Islami party. The latest of the Afghan wars has passed its 10 year mark, and the Pakistan-backed radical alliance has invaded Indian, Bangladeshi, British, American, and even Burmese Islam, as well as meddling in the other Muslim communities of Central Asia.
While the world watched, and as I wrote in this portal, U.S. Admiral Michael G. Mullen, after his disclosures to the U.S. Senate about Pakistan and the Haqqani criminals, was undercut in public by President Barack Obama. Similarly, Karzai has already been pressured to match his denunciation of Pakistani duplicity and his new alignment toward New Delhi with pathetic pleading for help from Islamabad in dealing with the Taliban. But there will be no real assistance to the tormented people of Afghanistan from Pakistan, under the thumb of Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the feckless Asif Ali Zardari, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the fundamentalist clerics, and the corrupt landowning class. Karzai has had no choice but to elevate India to a position above that of the U.S. in his strategic arrangements.
Continue reading Karzai’s Choice by Stephen Schwartz
Toronto Sun October 8, 2011
Central Asian cobra (Naja oxiana), Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
In the world of diplomacy, uttering words of caution on a troubled relationship with another state is pretty much raising a red-flag warning of impending or ongoing conflict.
This is what retiring Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, did in his final appearance on Sept. 22 with the Senate Armed Services Committee in describing America’s bizarre relationship with Pakistan.
In a carefully crafted public statement before U.S. senators, Mullen said, “Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers.”
Then Mullen made the chilling observation: “We believe the Haqqani Network — which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Agency — is responsible for the Sept. 13 attacks against the U.S. embassy in Kabul.”
Continue reading West can’t ignore Pakistan’s threat by Salim Mansur
The Huffington Post October 5, 2011
Sari Saltuk Bektashi Sufi tekija at Blagaj, Bosnia-Hercegovina, 2006 — Photograph by Benko, Via Wikimedia Commons.
The world’s Muslim believers and the Jewish people have significant aspects common to their traditions — notwithstanding the persistence of conflict in the Middle East. Jews and Arabs both trace their lineage to the monotheistic prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic). Jews affirm their descent from Isaac, the son of Abraham and his wife Sarah, and Arabs from Ishmael (Ismail), the child of Abraham’s Egyptian slave Hagar.
The posterity of Ismail extends, through affiliation with Islam, to many other ethnicities aside from the Arabs, across the globe. Yet, the Quran, the sacred text of Islam, repeatedly praises Moses (Musa), and Muslims, like Jews, believe that Moses alone, among the prophets, spoke directly to God. In addition, Jews and Muslims both circumcise their male offspring, the former at birth and the latter at or approaching puberty. And finally, the two religions share some dietary and other restrictions, such as a ban on consumption of pork.
Muslims and Jews further possess mystical customs — Islamic Sufism and Jewish Kabbalah — that are so close to one another that the presumption of mutual influence is inescapable. Yet the transmission of these spiritual doctrines and practices between them is still historically mysterious. At certain points, there is evidence for direct influence of Sufism on Jewish spirituality. Elsewhere, the path between the two is challenging to discern.
Continue reading Islamic Sufism and Jewish Kabbalah
Shining a Light on Their Hidden History
by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog October 5, 2011
Mullah Osman Musliu After 2009 Attack — Photograph by Fisnik Dobreci, Express, Prishtina, Kosova.
Kosovo’s top Islamic cleric, Naim Ternava, last month purged the two most outspoken anti-radical preachers from the local Sunni religious apparatus. The dismissal of Mullah Osman Musliu of the Drenas region and Imam Idriz Bilalli of the Podujeva municipality—both proven moderates—from the official Islamic Community of Kosovo followed the foundation by Musliu, Bilalli, and others of a Professional Association of Islamic Community Workers as a platform for their criticism of Ternava, whom they accuse of sympathy for extremist ideology.
Musliu was brutally attacked in 2009 by a gang of fundamentalist Wahhabis. The assailants were identified as strangers by Muslims in the locality. But they were easy to detect as Wahhabis, with characteristic unkempt beards and short breeches of a kind unknown in the Balkans except among Islamist fanatics. Wahhabis claim that Muhammad did not trim his beard, and did not let his garments touch the ground. Although these claims are matters of legend, the Saudi-financed and Pakistani-directed agitators claim that affecting distinctive facial hair and a peculiar costume are necessary to restore the purity of early Islam.
Neither the first nor the last moderate Kosovar Muslim representative to be physically assaulted by Islamist radicals, Musliu was a victim in an intimidation campaign that began in the small, Muslim-majority Balkan republic at the end of 2008. But the Wahhabis made a significant mistake in their aggression against Musliu, who is known among Kosovars for his willingness to serve alone as imam at the funeral in 1998 of Adem Jashari, the main early commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Jashari was killed by Serb soldiers, along with 57 of his relatives, in the burning of his home. When he was targeted by extremists in 2009, Musliu said forthrightly, “They can kill me, but I will not be intimidated. Their goal is simple. They want to take over the Islamic Community of Kosovo.”
Continue reading Moderate Clerics Purged from Kosovo Muslim Leadership by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] October 3, 2011
The U.S. Army in Honor of the Victims at Fort Hood, Texas, 2009 — Via Wikimedia Commons.
As September ended, America confronted two different but similar threats in the zones where the terrorist Al-Qaida network and its allies have been most active recently: specifically, in Yemen and Pakistan.
In Yemen, U.S. forces on September 30 accomplished a strike by remote-controlled drones carrying Hellfire missiles. They eliminated two and possibly three of the most notorious and deadly leaders of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the extremist cadres pushed out of Saudi Arabia. The two confirmed dead were both American by citizenship: Anwar Al-Awlaki, 40, who was born in the U.S., and Samir Khan, 25, who was of Pakistani origin, born in Saudi Arabia, and a U.S. citizen by naturalization. The third, unconfirmed target was Ibrahim Al-Asiri, 29, considered the chief AQAP bomb fabricator, and a Saudi subject.
Al-Awlaki was known to Americans as the radical agitator who incited Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army psychiatrist, to commit the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. Hasan’s court-martial, in which he will be charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder, has been set for March 2012. Another U.S. Army soldier, Jason Naser Abdo, who had tried to obtain status as a conscientious objector to war so as to leave the American armed forces, was arrested in July 2011 for possession of an unregistered firearm and bomb-making materials, in the vicinity of Fort Hood. In his court hearing, Abdo shouted out the name of Nidal Hasan as an expression of his anti-American views.
Continue reading The “Blame Game” – Yemen, Pakistan, and America by Stephen Schwartz
Toronto Sun October 1, 201
Thirty years ago on Oct. 6, 1981, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was gunned down on the reviewing stand of a military parade by Islamist infiltrators in the Egyptian army.
The parade commemorated the Ramadan war Sadat and his Syrian counterpart, Hafez al-Asaad, launched eight years earlier against Israel. The October 1973 war was, for Sadat, an effort to redress the humiliating defeat Israel delivered to Egypt and her Arab allies in the June 1967 war.
The Ramadan war ended in a stalemate. Sadat succeeded in catching Israelis by surprise, and then gaining a military foothold on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal.
The initial surprise – despite the Israeli counter-attack which encircled the Egyptian army as a prelude to the knockout punch that would have left Cairo hopelessly exposed and vulnerable – was deemed sufficient for Sadat to claim a victory.
It was a victory behind the fig leaf of intense diplomacy initiated by Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. secretary of state, to negotiate between Cairo and Jerusalem a series of agreements that eventually set Sadat on the course to a peace treaty with the Jewish state.
Continue reading Peace eludes Mideast 30 years after Anwar Sadat’s murder by Salim Mansur