First Things Online January 6, 2015
The flag of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Most of the world’s Christians—as well as many non-believers—celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25. Members of the Egyptian Coptic, Ethiopian, most Slavic Orthodox, and Georgian Orthodox churches, with some Greek Orthodox faithful, will mark the festival on January 7. The fourteen-day difference reflects the retention by certain Orthodox congregations of the Julian calendar, which was replaced by Gregorian reckoning in the majority of Orthodox societies early in the twentieth century.
Non-Muslims may be unaware that Islam honors the prophets and sages of Judaism and of Christianity, including Jesus and John the Baptist. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is considered by Muslims to be the greatest of all women, and to have given birth as a virgin. Muslims do not, however, believe that Jesus was God’s son or was crucified. In Islam, Jesus, known as Prophet Isa, Peace Be Upon Him, is said to have risen to heaven, rather than dying on the cross.
Continue reading Bosnian Muslims Celebrate an Islamic Christmas by Stephen Schwartz
Financial Times [London] December 23, 2014
Sir, In their excellent reportage on cyber attacks (“US left looking powerless after hacked Sony pulls ‘The Interview’ “, December 19), Geoff Dyer and Megan Murphy quote Jason Healey, “an expert on cyber issues at the Atlantic Council in Washington”, who says that it would be wrong to treat the Sony hacking as an act of “cyber war” that demanded an equivalent response from the US military’s Cyber Command. However, Mr Healey adds, if the administration did nothing in response, it could invite similar events, such as a “Chinese attack on a newspaper carrying unflattering stories about corruption”.
“Similar events” have already taken place and are continuing. Institutions such as mine, which are concerned about the situation of Muslim Uighurs under the rule of Beijing in Eastern Turkestan (aka Xinjiang), are targeted for cyber sabotage.
My group has undergone six consecutive Chinese attempts to hack our US-based website, the most recent on December 16 at 3:59:54am, Greenwich Mean Time. We have a conscientious webmaster and have prevented access to the site by our “opponents”.
Countries vulnerable to criticism on human rights are, I believe, more prone to cyber war than those worried about exposure of corruption. Financial wrongdoing may be handled by purges and public shaming of individuals as we see in China. Analysis of the suppression of minority ethnic or religious communities may do more to limit the room for a state to operate in the contemporary world. Russia has learnt something comparable following its aggression against Ukraine.
Such regimes further maintain networks for old-fashioned disinformation operations seeking to discredit their foreign critics, which may be more harmful in preventing free expression. Cyber war in the form of hacking or denial-of-service campaigns, the latter involving flooding of internet servers with access requests causing a breakdown, may be blocked or corrected and repaired within a short time. Disinformation campaigns have a tendency to endure, as our Centre has learnt. This is an additional factor, I surmise, in the European debate over the appearance of false information on Google.
Centre for Islamic Pluralism,
Washington, DC, US
Gatestone Institute December 21, 2014
Our sister, the honorable and martyred Tuğçe Albayrak. Please recite Fatiha and read Surah Ya Sin for her.
A Sunni Muslim funeral for the slain student Tuğçe Albayrak, a German-born 22-year old woman of Turkish descent, was attended on December 3 by 1,500 mourners in Wächtersbach, a town in the western German state of Hesse. Prayers for Albayrak began in the local mosque, which is controlled by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs [DİTİB], an official arm of the Turkish government that administers Sunni religious activities in Germany. She was then buried in her hometown, Bad Soden-Salmünster, not far away.
Tuğçe Albayrak was an aspiring high school teacher, hoping to complete university courses in German language and in ethics. She was knocked to the pavement of a parking lot on the night of November 15, at a McDonald’s restaurant in the city of Offenbach, also in Hesse. With a severe head injury and in a coma, she was kept alive for two weeks, but on November 28, her 23rd birthday, her parents asked that life-support technology for her be switched off, and she died.
Continue reading Who Represents German Muslims? by Veli Sirin
The Huffington Post December 19, 2014
On Monday, December 15, as reported by the German news service Deutsche Welle (DW), some 15,000 people massed in Dresden, Germany, under the banner of a new and seemingly informal movement calling itself Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West — PEGIDA by its German-language acronym. The incident was the ninth PEGIDA rally in Dresden since the marches began in October “in response to clashes between Kurds and Sunni Muslims [in Germany] over the West’s intervention in Syria,” according to DW.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the PEGIDA phenomenon, declaring, “There is no place in Germany for those who are instigating hatred against immigrants.”
Americans and other Westerners have become accustomed to public criticism, some of it extreme, of Islam. But certain aspects of the Dresden events may have escaped their notice, and are enigmatic, to say the least.
Continue reading Germany, Anti-Islam, and Vladimir Putin by Stephen Schwartz
Tahreek–e-Tahaffuz-e-Mazarat-e-Auliya Allah December 18, 2014
Office: A-14-Flat No. 202, Noor Nagar Johri Farm
New Delhi 110025
New Delhi, 18 December 2014
Sufi Leader Syed Babar Ashraf, Chief Patron of the Tahreek–e-Tahaffuz-e-Mazarat-e-Auliya Allah [Movement for the Protection of Shrines of Muslim Saints] and member of the Maulana Azad Education Foundation (Ministry of Minority Affairs) in the government of India, has expressed deep anguish and sorrow over the cold-blooded killing of 132 children and staff members at the Army Public School, in Peshawar, Pakistan on December 16. In a statement, Syed Babar Ashraf described the terror attack as a heinous crime against humanity and called upon the world community to defeat the ideology of terror.
“Our hearts go out to parents and family members of all those innocent children and staff members of the school who were gunned down by the bullets of terrorists, and we offered our prayers for them. Let the Almighty give them strength to bear this extreme pain of losing their bright sons and daughters,” Syed Babar Ashraf said.
The Sufi Ashraf added that this cowardly act of mindless violence is a warning to the civilized world that enemies of humanity have reached our doorstep and the time has come to wage a war against the perpetrators of the ideology of terror, who are tarnishing the image of traditional Islam, which never supports killing of innocents under any circumstances.
Syed Babar Ashraf, our brother and teacher.
He stated further that Saudi Arabia and Qatar both are mainly responsible for this tragedy. Their official ideology of Islam is Wahhabism or “Salafism.” All these extreme terror groups follow the same ideology guided by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It is high time for our beloved nation to draft a concrete policy so that Wahhabism should not grow in India, as it is the biggest threat to peace and humanity.
All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board December 17, 2014
Janazah (Islamic funeral) of the Peshawar martyrs. CIP calls on all Muslims to recite Fatiha and read Surah Ya Sin for the victims. May Allah subhanawata'la reward those sacrificed for truth.
The All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB), a leading body of Sufi Sunni Muslims of India, representing more than 80 percent of the Muslim population in the country, has condemned the killing of innocent school children in Peshawar, Pakistan, and said that no mercy should be demonstrated in crushing this extremist mentality, anywhere in the world.
The president and founder of the Board, Hazrat Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kichowchhwi, in a strong response, denounced this crime against humanity unleashed by the Taliban, with the massacre of more than 145 people, as among the worst crimes of Wahhabis.
The Wahhabi school of religious thought has created an atmosphere in all Muslim lands, including Pakistan, where killing of innocents is the only aim, to gain power and money.
Continue reading Indian Muslim Leader Denounces Wahhabism in Peshawar Bloodshed by All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board
The Huffington Post December 9, 2014
The flag of Ukraine. Every Muslim should stand up against Russian imperialism.
Vladimir Putin has, it seems, followed many parallels between his policy in Ukraine – with, by implication, his regime’s previous interference in Georgia – and the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Like the terror wrought then by Christian Orthodox-majority Serbians and Montenegrins against Catholic-majority Croatia, Muslim-plurality Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Muslim-majority Kosova, the Russian seizure of Crimea was preceded by a propaganda offensive proclaiming the defense of extremist Orthodox Christian ideology. Russian-directed fighters against Ukrainian authority in eastern Ukraine style themselves as “Orthodox combatants,” although the majority of practicing Christians in the two countries are Orthodox, as noted on Russia and Ukraine by the CIA World Factbook.
The flag of the Albanian nation.
Putin has also claimed repeatedly that the ongoing Russian incursions in Ukraine are justified by Western support for the separation of Kosova from Serbia in 1998-99. The argument is false. Kosova had a historic Albanian majority that was suppressed brutally by Serbian and Yugoslav rulers; Russian allegations of their persecution by Ukrainians today are made without significant evidence. Further, Albanians are non-Slavs, and had little in common, culturally, with their past Serbian overlords. In contrast, thanks to Putin’s opposition to European integration by the former Communist states, the main difference between Russian and Ukrainians today is political rather than cultural. Both Russians and Ukrainians are Slavs.
Continue reading Putin’s ‘Yugoslavian Scenario’ Threatens Balkan Interfaith Relations by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog December 1, 2014
German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned that the adventurism of Russian president Vladimir Putin would not remain limited to Ukraine, or even to other countries bordering on Russia. Since Russia seized Crimea in February-March 2014, Putin’s provocative campaign has included imposition of phantom “governments” in two areas of eastern Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk, and harassment of the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which are members of NATO.
The flag of Ukraine. Every Muslim should stand up against Russian imperialism.
Close Russian military air patrols have been observed from the Arctic Circle as far as the Gulf of Mexico, simulating attacks on U.S. territory. Last month came the additional spectacle of a Russian naval squadron off the coast of Australia during the meeting of the G-20 nations held in Brisbane. Australian prime minister Tony Abbott had promised to confront Putin over the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, in which 38 of 298 fatalities were Australian citizens or residents. Australian naval vessels monitored the Russian ships as long as they were in local waters.
Continue reading Angela Merkel Warned of Putin’s Intrigues Beyond Ukraine by Stephen Schwartz
Illyria [New York] November 28, 2014
The flag of the Albanian nation
The national holiday of the Albanian nation – Flag Day – falls on November 28 each year. It commemorates the 1912 raising of the red banner, with the black double-headed eagle of Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, by Ismail Qemali in the city of Vlora, and the simultaneous declaration of Albanian independence.
Raising of the Albanian independence flag, Vlora, November 28, 1912.
This year Flag Day follows the visit to Albania of Pope Francis, head of the global Roman Catholic community. In honoring Flag Day, I am also concerned to support the beatification and canonization of Albania’s Catholic martyrs. Catholic clergy massacred by the atheist regime of Enver Hoxha were leading patriots and educators, who had contributed profoundly to Albanian society and culture. Their deaths were unjust and brutal.
This topic provokes a range of reflections. I am an American Muslim from a non-religious family background. Why, one might ask, should I care about the Albanian Catholic martyrs and their path to sainthood?
Continue reading Albanian Flag Day 2014 A Muslim Argument for Honoring the Catholic Martyrs by Stephen Sylejman Schwartz
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