New Age Islam Edit Bureau
5 November 2015
• Boko Haram: The Example of Imperialist Terrorism in Africa
By PD Lawton
• Bangladesh: Please Stop It
By Malik Siraj Akbar
• Politics, Perils of Muslim Bashing
By Charles C. Haynes
• Islamophobia on the Boil in the Czech Republic
By Andy West
• Iraq: Ahmed Chalabi Suffers A Heart-Attack
• Repression Unbound: Egypt under Sisi
By David Mepham
• The Syrian conflict, ISIS and Russian Muslims
By Maria Dubovikova
• Writing our way to freedom
By Endy M. Bayuni
Boko Haram: The Example of Imperialist Terrorism in Africa
By PD Lawton
November 04, 2015
Boko Haram is the excuse for US/UK military intervention in Nigeria. Boko Haram are Saddam Hussein`s weapons of mass destruction, Syria`s sarin gas, Gadaffi`s dictatorship, Somalia`s Al Shebaab, Central African Republic`s Seleka rebels, DR Congo`s M23 ( and now FDLR), Mali`s Islamic extremists, Uganda`s LRA, Liberia`s Ebola, Iraq`s ISIS and the Middle East`s Al Qaeda. In short Boko Haram are justification for militarization and foreign intervention according to the new international law called R2P. This stands for Responsibility to Protect. This law was brought in just in time for NATO to bomb the hell out of Libya. And now the AU are sending 7,500 troops to Nigeria whose military might was quite capable of `restoring law and order` in Sierra Leone and Liberia during their civil wars/economic revolutions.
This is all linked to 9/11 and the resulting War on Terror which conveniently replaced the Cold War.
The USA is based on a war economy. This is called the military industrial complex, which means that the military forces of the USA are being used to defend the corporate interests of industry. Only fools are still believing that Saddam Hussein had WMDs which justified NATO bombing of Iraq and the death of 1.5 million Iraqis and the continuing carnage which is all part of the oil and heroin destabilization program.
The problem in Africa at present is the progress of a new banking system associated with the BRICS bloc, Brazil Russia India China and South Africa. This is the supreme threat to the Rothschild-owned Central Banking system that operates current global finance through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund ( IMF), the Federal Reserve of America and the Bank of England. All these establishments are privately owned by a British based cartel headed by the Rothschild family who have economic hegemony over Africa.This hegemony was once called colonialism and is now called neo-colonialism.
Under Muammar Gadaffi, Africa`s banking system was due to be changed from UK/USA/Rothschild petro-dollar based debt system to the gold based system. Libya had stockpiled gold reserves worth an estimated $6 billion. Muammar Gadaffi was, behind the political scenes, bringing African leadership together to form an African economic union that would operate free of World Bank and IMF policy. Since his assassination and the destruction of Libya these gold reserves have disappeared. The white-collar criminal network that disguises itself as NATO have stolen it.
If Nigeria joined BRICS this would mean the end of UK hegemony in West Africa. Or in other words the end of colonialism in West Africa. Nigeria is particularly important to the Central Banking system because it has always been Britain`s St George. This term was how the British foreign office described Nigeria, according to declassified memos from the 1960s. St George was sent “to slay the Ghanaian dragon.” The Ghanaian dragon was Kwame Nkrumah and his new economic system was set to end colonialism/neo-colonialism/the British Empires economic control. Kwame Nkrumah`s system was the Organization of African Unity. And Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Liberia and many other rule-by-proxy African states of the 1960s did indeed slay the Ghanaian dragon and finally gave birth to a mutated corrupted version of Nkrumah`s OAU.
Today the African Union, as the OAU is now called, is how the Central Banking system/ British Empire/ imperialist powers conduct destabilization in Africa while looking African and Black. The African Union is not overtly a proxy institution, it is controlled through voting so appears to be democratic. As long as the majority of member-states belong to the British Commonwealth voting is always in favor of pro-Western policy. Blackmail is routinely used against leadership that does not tow the line. This blackmail can be economic as in the case of Zimbabwe. After Zimbabwe sent troops to aid Zaire from invasion by British agents Museveni and Kagame, the IMF called in Zimbabwe`s loans leading to the current economic collapse in Zimbabwe. Blackmail is also carried out by demonization, character assassination or governments overthrown by foreign engineered coups.
Nigeria has been the making of Royal Dutch Shell. This British-Dutch MNC has quite literally set new records for the word corruption. This corporation has owned Nigeria in every sense of the word for decades and it is one of the pre-eminent corporations of the City of London, otherwise known as the Corporation of London, the raw materials hub of the Economic Empire. Nigeria is a prize asset because it is large, geographically strategic in French-corporate dominated West Africa, full of oil and is industrialized with this currently being in the `right` hands. Nigeria is set to be one of the Central Banks/Empire`s Next Eleven. Next Eleven is the Goldman Sachs rating system for emerging economies.
Currently Jacob Zuma of South Africa is undergoing character assassination for his part in BRICS. This is not to say that Jacob Zuma is a decent leader or has a government that behaves decently to its citizens. Julius Malema`s EFF and the Democratic Alliance are part of a proxy process to bring down the ANC. The European and American sanctions against Russia are an attempt to bring down Putin.And although it is refreshing to see Blaise Compaore flung out of Burkina Faso this revolution more than likely involves Compaore`s interest in getting Burkina Faso to join BRICS.
This is not to say that like Saddam Hussein`s WMDs, Boko Haram do not exist. Boko Haram do exist in a mutated corrupted form of the original if it is indeed Boko Haram carrying out these acts of aggression and terrorism and not a completely new movement based on British cultivated radical Islam aka ISIS. Something similar but on a lesser scale just happened in France with the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo journalists. This event was like the many attributed to Boko Haram, staged acts to instil fear in the public and in government. France had just prior to this event, muted a desire to end sanctions against Russia and had been in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state; both detrimental to the Central Banking system/the City of London and its desire to engineer the next Cold War with Russia over the Ukraine and to keep the Zionist State of Israel as the cuckoo of the Middle East ie Terrorism Central. Kenya`s Westgate Shopping Mall was a staged terror attack ( very clearly staged) in preparation for the current invasion of Nigeria by AU forces and very likely a reprisal against Kenya-China trade deals.
When Ebola erupted Ellen Johnson Sirleaf embraced it with enthusiasm. So enthusiastic was she to allow Liberia to be militarized by US forces posing as nurses that she attempted to shut down parliament and hold Liberia under martial law right done to its government. Luckily she did not get away with this. So does Ebola exist or not? The natural form of this disease exists in the fruit bat population of the jungles who most likely also supply immunity and a cure. The weaponized form of Ebola exists in a Tekmira laboratory in Canada and is most likely only passed on by injection/ `vaccination`.
Joseph Kony has proved a lucrative problem for the Ugandan Goverment.But does he exist? Most likely is that the LRA was formed by Joseph Kony to resist the British agent in the Ugandan government who has a private war against the Acholi people of northern Uganda because they do not want to vote for him. And whilst having the duplicated version of the LRA, militarization of northern Uganda can be justified. For his troubles with terrorism, Yoweri Museveni is paid billions of dollars by the British Foreign Office and the American budget for supporting anti-terrorism is unlimited.
The man who founded Boko Haram was called Mohammed Yusuf. He was murdered in police custody in Nigeria in 2009.The rare photo of him does not resemble Boko Haram`s offspring of Al Qaeda/ISIS bearded , AK47 , RPG waving, black flag flying Islamic lunatics. And to disagree with Western education is not a crime and not necessarily a backward Taliban concept. Western education is flawed to extreme levels and a Darwinian concept of the Universe is not only atheist but spiritually and scientifically harmful.
PD Lawton is founder of africanagenda.net, a writer, researcher and revisionist historian working for true African liberation and a real end to colonialism. Also, a Guest Writer at Pambazuka News.
Bangladesh: Please Stop It
By Malik Siraj Akbar
The horrific cycle of killing of secular bloggers in Bangladesh, which has already claimed at least four lives this year, and the fresh murder of publisher Faisal Arefin Dipon, in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, on October 31, is deeply disconcerting. TheAnsar al-Islam, an Islamic extremist group, which identifies as the local affiliate of al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mr. Dipon and another publisher, who was attacked in a separate but similar violent incident on the same day, were targeted because they had published the work of secular blogger Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American, who was killed by the Islamic extremists on February 27th. Roy's wife, also a blogger, was critically injured in that attack. According to the BBC, other bloggers who have been killed in 2015 in the same fashion include: Washiqur Rahman (March 30th), Ananta Bijoy Das (May 12th) and Niloy Neel (August 7th).
Starting from the January 7th shooting of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris by an al-Qaeda-affiliate, 2015 has been an incredibly chilling year for free speech practitioners and defenders. While attackers in Paris and Dhaka have the same set of ideological belief, they have hit totally different targets i.e. cartoonists and bloggers. This means writers, bloggers, journalists and cartoonists are all equally at high risk of being targeted by religious extremists should they assert dissenting views. The Paris shooting indicated that such fanatical attacks are not solely confined to poor developing countries. However, the occurrence of an attack on free speech in one part of the world does not justify a similar attack in another country.
The Bangladeshi government has disappointed not only its people but also the free thinkers across the world by describing the October 31st tragedy as an "isolated incident". Daily Star, an English language newspaper, has rightly pushed back in response to the "isolated incident' remark attributed to the country's Home Minister, by describing his stance as "humiliating". With these attacks, the newspaper noted, "our nation's soul is under threat."
Writing in the same newspaper, columnist Meghna Guhathakurta argued:
"Terming these as "isolated incidents" is one way of depoliticising them. Such statements will only embolden the terrorists to carry out more attacks."
In some countries, many heinous crimes go unpunished under the disguise of patriotism. In an attempt to divert attention from their failures, governments insist that foreign media and human rights groups want to defame their countries by continuously highlighting the 'negative' things that happen inside their frontiers. That's not an acceptable excuse to spare the Bangladeshi government over its failure to arrest and punish all perpetrators of the past attacks on secular bloggers. Radical Islamist groups are increasingly expanding their attacks with absolute impunity.
People have begun to question: Who will be the next target in this unstopped series of assaults? If the writers and publishers have been killed for producing secular contents, should people who purchase and read these books also prepare to be the next target? That is certainly not what the country's founding fathers had envisioned. Bangladesh, led by progressive intellectuals and liberal politicians, gained independence from Pakistan in 1971 after a violent war. Today, Pakistan is in the grip of Islamist violence where the Taliban regularly assassinate their idealogical opponents. Bangladesh should not allow Islamic extremists to use its land with as much impunity as they do so in Pakistan. Such negligence causes catastrophic consequences.
Meanwhile, the Amnesty International has called on the Bangladeshi authorities to take timely action in order to prevent further such targeted violence. In a statement on October 31st, the watchdog's researcher Abbas Faiz, noted:
"The situation in Bangladesh is becoming increasingly dangerous for those brave enough to speak their own minds. The latest heinous criminal attacks are a deliberate assault against freedom of expression in the country."
Stunned, scared and outraged, the world is watching these shocking attacks on secular bloggers and publishers in Bangladesh. Terrorists operating in Bangladesh are providing recipe and a template to their counterparts elsewhere in the world how to eliminate dissenting bloggers. Bangladesh, please stop it. If the government in Dhaka does not set a successful precedence in punishing these assassins, they have to know that these attacks will not stop here.
Emboldened by the government's lack of action, the extremists will eventually expand their attacks on liberal politicians, journalists, writers and anyone who disagrees with their views and approach. After all, these extremist organizations use terror as a first step to force the local population to surrender before them but their ultimate goal is to overthrow the existing system and attain political power so that they enforce Islamic rule in Bangladesh. Afghanistan and Pakistan are two classic examples for the Bangladeshi government to examine and understand the Jihadist mentality and ambitions.
The antidote for Bangladesh, or any other country that is currently in the grip of radical Islam, is not submission to fundamentalists but more secularism. The only way to counter obscurantist views is to further democratize the society and protect free speech. Avijit Roy dreamed of a Bangladesh where no child's brain was manipulated or robbed of critical thinking. He wanted kids to learn science and think rationally. That should have actually been the government's policy not solely the dream of a lone blogger. It is still not too late. Bangladesh should immediately curb the incoming wave of extremism and protect its existing secular space.
Islamophobia on the Boil in the Czech Republic
By Andy West
November 1, 2015
“Europe is Christian,” firmly asserted Petr. “And that’s how it should stay.”
Petr is a friend of mine from the Czech Republic, and we were discussing the sudden influx of refugees from Syria into the continent.
Refugees from Syria are largely not, of course, Christian, and Petr was raising fears shared by many of his countrymen that the fabric of the Czech Republic’s society would be ripped apart if they were forced to accept a significant number of new arrivals from Muslim lands.
Indeed, those fears have been heavily promoted by none other than the country’s President, Milos Zeman, who has regularly spoken in impassioned tones against the supposed dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, even though that is the exact thing from which many of the refugees are fleeing.
Zeman’s rhetoric has little more than a loose connection with facts, but his sentiments are clearly shared by many Czechs — such as my friend Petr, who also has other misgivings: “Would they want to integrate? Would they learn our language? Would they want their kids to mingle with ours? Or would they just bring all their customs and live in separate communes?”
They are interesting questions, and in the specific case of Syrians it is too early to tell how the new arrivals will adapt to life in a new continent.
But history suggests that when desperate people from failing countries are forced to make a fresh start in new lands, they do indeed successfully integrate — the most powerful nation on Earth, the United States, is based upon exactly that spirit of assimilation.
One small but telling example was provided earlier this week by perhaps the most traditionally “English” of all pursuits, cricket. In their test match against Pakistan, the English national team’s attempts to salvage a draw came down to the efforts of one man, who batted heroically for more than four hours before finally succumbing.
That England player was Adil Rashid, whose name reveals that he is the son of Pakistani immigrants who moved to Bradford in northern England in 1967. But he is firmly English, to the extent that he proudly represents his country in an international sporting contest against his parents’ birth nation.
Not all immigrants from former British colonies have integrated so well as Rashid, of course, and the existence of pockets of deprived black or Asian “ghettos” within many of the country’s inner cities continues to be a divisive and difficult to manage issue.
The possibility of Syrian ghettos emerging across Europe within the next 20 years is a real one, but the example of Rashid shows that progress is being made and that happy coexistence can be achieved.
But the religion question, and Petr’s strong statement that “Europe is Christian”, is clearly a key factor for many Europeans who have, until now, had very limited exposure to other beliefs and simply do not want to have any Muslims living in their countries.
From one perspective, their stance is based on facts. According to “Eurobarometer”, a series of surveys conducted in 2012, Christians comprise an overwhelming majority of 72 per cent of the European Union’s total population, followed by agnostics on 16 per cent, atheists on 7 per cent, Muslims on 2 per cent and smaller amounts of other denominations completing the total.
Judging by those statistics, however, the biggest threat to Christianity comes not from Islam, but from non-believers. If Christians want to confront their greatest adversary they should be more worried about the rise of secularism rather than the prospect of the Muslim share of the population growing from a paltry 2 per cent to a larger but still insignificant proportion of, say, 4 per cent.
In any case, Europe’s Christianity is in many ways nothing to be particularly proud of — just ask any of the millions of Jews who were tortured, expelled or murdered in the continent for many centuries. That sorry saga of human history might have culminated in the Nazi holocaust, but it was by no means the first outbreak of vicious anti-Semitism to have taken place in the name of “defending Christianity.”
And if you go back further, Europe was not at all mainly Christian until the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine around 312 and the subsequent gradual spread of the new religion, often forcibly wiping out older pagan traditions which had been followed for centuries. The Czech Republic, for example, did not become Christian until the ninth century.
This all goes to show that life is change, especially in our contemporary world of cheap and easy air travel and global trade. The world, as the saying goes, is now a village, and restricting specific cities or countries to their traditional cultures will be increasingly difficult.
All of this, however, is easy to say from a distance, but for Czech people who have never had first-hand experience of Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism, or indeed any religion other than Christianity, it is a distinctly unsettling prospect — especially when their president is determined to fan the flames of fear by repeatedly linking refugees with terrorism.
The only way to change those prejudices, of course, is by experience: if a community of Syrians are allowed to settle peaceably in Prague, it would allow Czechs to gradually realise that not all Muslims are suicide bombers and that their country could still prosper whilst accommodating religious beliefs other than Christianity.
It is a path laden with possibilities, but also fraught with obvious dangers. And in truth, nobody knows which direction the next few steps will follow.
Politics, Perils of Muslim Bashing
By Charles C. Haynes
November 4, 2015
According to conventional presidential campaign wisdom, loose talk denigrating a religious tradition practiced by millions of Americans would seriously damage — if not sink — a candidate’s bid for the nomination of either major party.
But in what is already the most unconventional presidential primary contest in modern history, Republican presidential hopefuls Ben Carson and Donald Trump continue to rise in the polls despite statements suggesting that American Muslims are somehow dangerous and un-American.
Not only has anti-Islam rhetoric become politically acceptable in this campaign, it may actually be good politics in the fight for the Republican nomination.
Carson — leading the field in the most recent national poll — made headlines last month when he declared that Muslims should be barred from the presidency unless, as he clarified later, they “reject the tenets of Islam.”
Not to be outdone, Trump, who is close behind Carson in the polls, let it be known during a television interview that he would consider closing some mosques as part of his anti-Islamic State effort.
When pressed about a mosque-closing strategy because of something called religious freedom, Trump said: “It depends, if the mosque is, you know, loaded for bear, I don’t know. You’re going to have to certainly look at it.”
Trump and Carson are echoing a false and disturbing message about Islam disseminated over the past decade by a small number of anti-Muslim groups: Islam is America’s enemy — not extremists acting in the name of Islam, but Islam itself.
Much like the nativists of the 19th century who warned that Roman Catholicism is incompatible with American principles; nativists of the 21st century are sounding the alarm about Islam in the United States. “Islam,” argues Carson, “is not consistent with the Constitution.”
Propaganda demonizing an entire faith community has consequences, especially when reinforced by leading candidates for the presidency.
It’s worth recalling that in the heyday of anti-Catholicism in America, discredited rumors about the evils of convent life and “papist” plots to take over the country fueled widespread animus towards Catholics. Over a period of several decades, fear and hatred of Catholicism sparked periodic riots resulting in the loss of life and destruction of Catholic churches.
More than 100 years later, American Muslims are the new Catholics. Mosques are frequently vandalized, Muslims are facing workplace discrimination, and hate groups are organizing anti-Islam campaigns.
Last spring, the anti-Muslim frenzy was on full display outside a mosque in Phoenix. Hundreds of anti-Muslim demonstrators attended what they called a “patriotic” protest; most of them carrying guns and wearing profanity-laced T-shirts. Similar anti-Muslim protests were held outside mosques across the country this fall.
Of course, these attacks on Islam are not undertaken in a vacuum. Violent terrorists and extremists calling themselves “Muslims” have done much to fuel the blanket condemnations of Islam by anti-Muslim groups in the United States.
Susceptible to message
But propaganda only works when people are susceptible to the message. In addition to horrific world events, religious illiteracy, fear of the unknown and changing demographics are powerful drivers of prejudice.
Carson is simply wrong about Islam in America. Millions of American Muslims are simultaneously faithful followers of Islam and patriotic Americans.
And Trump is wrong about the danger of mosques in America. The hundreds of mosques and Islamic centers that dot the American landscape today are not hotbeds of terrorism. On the contrary, they are places where people of faith are actively engaged in serving the community, promoting understanding across faiths, and preventing radicalization among young people.
Here’s the good news: When it comes to building bridges across religious divides, familiarity breeds understanding and respect.
According to various studies, people who actually know a Muslim or take time to visit a mosque are far more likely to have favorable views of Islam.
As reported last spring in The Washington Post, Jason Leger — one of the protesters outside the Phoenix mosque wearing a hate message on his T-shirt — accepted an invitation to join the evening prayer inside the mosque.
“It was something I’ve never seen before,” Leger told the Post. “I took my shoes off. I kneeled. I saw a bunch of peaceful people. We all got along. They made me feel welcome, you know. I just think everybody’s points are getting misconstrued, saying things out of emotion, saying things they don’t believe.”
Anyone who is serious about being president of “We the People” — including Carson and Trump — should visit a mosque, talk to the Americans worshiping there, and find out the truth about Islam in America.
Charles C. Haynes is senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.
Iraq: Ahmed Chalabi Suffers A Heart-Attack
Nov 3rd 2015
AHMED CHALABI’S downfall had been declared so many times that Iraqis are struggling to believe that the end of his extraordinary career has occurred through natural rather than political causes. His family, who ran Iraq’s oldest commercial bank under the British-backed monarchy, fled the country with the toppling of the Hashemite king in 1958. In 1989 he then fled Jordan in the boot of a prince’s car, accused of cooking the books of the kingdom’s second bank, Petra. Resurrecting himself as the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, a CIA-financed opposition front, he fled Kurdistan during Saddam Hussein’s brief offensive on the Western-protected enclave in the mid-1990s. And when the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003 and flew his armed followers to an airfield near Nasiriya, in southern Iraq, the fighters got lost on their way into town.
Paul Bremer, America’s administrator, parachuted him into his fledgling cabinet, the Governing Council, a 25-man body dominated by exiles, but then raided his compound and arrested his associates for dealing too closely for their liking with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. His party won a mere 0.5% of the vote in Iraq’s 2005 election, and he only narrowly survived repeated assassination attempts, including one in 2008 that killed six of his bodyguards.
And yet since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, he has been one of Baghdad’s constants. Unlike other exiles, who fled back abroad when militias overran the country, he stayed put, re-establishing the role his family had performed under the monarchy as overseer of Iraq’s finances. He held the finance portfolio in the Governing Council and, following his re-election, headed parliament’s finance committee. Admirers credit him with finessing the country’s budget, despite a plummeting oil price and the soaring cost of the war against the jihadists of Islamic State. “Most members of Iraq’s finance committee are not financial wizards. He was one,” says a western diplomat in Baghdad, who lunched with him the day he died.
Until his fall from America’s grace, he had been the neocons’ favourite Iraqi. As a postgraduate student at Chicago University, he befriended Richard Perle, a future assistant secretary of defence who subsequently pushed for the war on the Iraq, and also became close to Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence in the same era. Months before he was stripped of his American government stipend, he had sat next to Laura Bush, America’s first-lady, as her husband gave the State of the Union address. Pentagon officials rushed to blame him for feeding them the false testimony of Iraq’s stash of weapons of mass destruction that served as their justification for war. Even so, he proved he could still deploy his knack for reinvention without his American patrons.
Though a secular Shia, he helped cobble together a Shia alliance that has dominated Baghdad ever since. He brought Muqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand Shia cleric whose supporters had fought America’s forces, into the political process, an alliance he maintained till his death. He enjoyed the confidence of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s pre-eminent Shia cleric, reviving a relationship his family had played as the clergy’s bankers in exile following the Baath party takeover. Only weeks before his death, senior officials were tipping him as a possible Iraqi prime minister, should the floundering incumbent, Haider Abadi, fall.
Detractors say he used his influence for personal gain and for settling scores. As head of the de-Baathification committee, he ran the “star chamber” that hunted for Saddam’s former henchmen, but also banned competitors from running for office and bidding for contracts his own associates prized. Before his death, he was vigorously investigating accusations that the Iraqi Central Bank’s had been involved in cheque-fraud in Amman, an operation he claimed had cost Iraq over $60 billion. Rivals suspected the investigation was politically motivated. And even his friends joked about his reputation for untrustworthiness. At a signing ceremony for Iraq’s post-Saddam foundational law in 2004, a fellow councillor and future president, Jalal Talabani, was overheard chiding Mr Chalabi, “Ahmed, leave the pen.”
Repression Unbound: Egypt under Sisi
By David Mepham
In March this year, Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood suggested that Egypt was taking "steps towards a stronger democracy" and that British/Egyptian relations were "in a very positive place." The first claim is absurd in the context of mass repression, while the second speaks volumes about Britain's current approach to foreign policy.
Under the leadership of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt is engaged in an unprecedented crackdown on dissent and opposition, trampling over fundamental freedoms and rights, and entrenching the authoritarian state that so many Egyptians bravely revolted against in 2011. David Cameron -- who hosts President al-Sisi in Downing Street this week -- should not be allowed to brush these issues aside.
In the months following the coup of July 2013, which removed democratically elected president Mohamed Morsy, and while al-Sisi was defense minister, Egyptian security forces killed some 1,150 protestors in five separate incidents. In the worst of these, on August 14, they crushed a pro-Morsy sit-in at Rab'a al-Adawiya Square in Cairo.
Using armored personnel carriers, bulldozers, ground forces and snipers, police and army personnel attacked the makeshift protest camp and gunned down protestors, killing at least 817 people -- perhaps the largest mass killing of protesters on a single day in modern history, worse even than Tiananmen Square. Yet two years on from this massacre, no Egyptian government official or member of the security forces has been charged for the killings.
According to credible local sources, Egyptian security forces detained, charged or sentenced at least 41,000 people between July 2013 and April 2014 in cases connected to the political upheaval, mostly because of their alleged support for or association with the Muslim Brotherhood.
In this context, the British government's decision in early 2014 to launch a review into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood (which has yet to be published) has reinforced the narrative of the Egyptian government that these people are all terrorists and criminals, not a core constituency in Egyptian society. Many of those detained continue to languish in overcrowded and insanitary detention centers, where more than 100 have died for want of proper medical care.
Hundreds of Egyptians have also been sentenced to death, most after unfair mass trials. This includes a death sentence imposed on Morsy and some of his associates as well as the top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood -- their convictions based almost entirely on the 'testimony' of security officials, with no evidence presented to substantiate claims against them. Mass trials have also been used to convict others, notably in February this year when a judge sentenced the activist Ahmed Douma, a women's rights defender Hend al-Nafea, and 228 others to life in prison simply for participating in peaceful protests.
The Egyptian government has intensified its repression of civil society and independent journalism, with many human rights groups -- including Human Rights Watch -- forced to close their offices in Egypt, and local and international journalists imprisoned.
Egypt is also pursuing an aggressive counter-insurgency campaign in north Sinai. While the Egyptian state faces a dangerous extremist group there which is affiliated with Islamic State, its counter-terrorism operations have been indiscriminate and abusive. Over the past two years in north Sinai, in a bid to create a buffer zone with the Gaza strip, Egypt's military has wiped entire neighborhoods off the map, displacing thousands of families.
This -- not preposterous claims of democratic transition -- is the reality of today's Egypt, and it ought to prompt an urgent and far-reaching reassessment of British policy. The very least David Cameron should do during al-Sisi's visit is support an international inquiry into the grave crimes committed by the Egyptian security forces. He should also call publicly for the immediate release of all those unfairly jailed, and urge Egypt to end its abusive counter-terrorism policies in Sinai and elsewhere, which are fueling, not containing, extremism.
Anything less would be a betrayal of the many Egyptians still struggling to end repression, and those who have lost their lives or their liberty in the pursuit of genuine democracy.
David Mepham is UK director at Human Rights Watch. Follow him on Twitter@mephamd
The Syrian conflict, ISIS and Russian Muslims
4 November 2015
More than 20 million Muslims live in Russia, representing some 15 percent of the population. Several regions of the country are predominantly Muslim, such as the Caucasus republics, whose population is over 90 percent Muslim. Islam is integral to the reality and life of Russia, and the role of Muslims in the country is growing - the government understands this well.
Most Russian Muslims are Sunni, but the sectarianism of the Middle East, enflamed mostly by Saudi-Iranian rivalry, does not exist in Russia. Moscow's foreign policy and its relations with the Middle East are guided exclusively by its national interests, without focusing on religious, ethnic, or other regional complexities. Its priority is stable relations with different, even opposing sides, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, or Israel and Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, or Turkey and the Kurds.
Moscow's operation in Syria has caused concern in Russia over the possibility of aggravating and dividing its Muslim population. The reason for the concern is the portrayal by Middle Eastern and Western commentators of Russia allying with Shiite partners.
However, these commentators do not take into account that the Syrian army is not composed exclusively of Shiites - especially since they are a minority - and that rebels are not only Sunni. The conflict in Syria is not religious but geopolitical - religion is just a pretext to fuel the conflict. As such, Russia's coalition is based on geopolitical, not religious considerations.
There is a flow of Russian Muslims, especially from the Caucasus, aspiring to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The organization has brainwashed them with promises of a better life and holy war.
It is a huge mistake to blame Russia’s stance on Syria for its Muslim citizens joining ISIS, as the inclination toward extremism in the Caucasus has a long history, and people from the Central Asian post-Soviet republics - which are not involved in the conflict - are also joining the organization.
The head of Russia’s Council of Muftis, Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, supports Moscow’s operation in Syria as necessary to counter extremism and terrorism. His official statement was published and widely shared within the Russian Muslim community. His position is shared by the supreme mufti and chairman of Russia’s Central Spiritual Governance for Muslims, Talgat Tadjuddin.
The religious leaders highlight the fact that to fight ISIS bombs are not enough - enlightenment of the masses is necessary. Many Muslim volunteers are ready to fight in Syria to prove their loyalty to Russia.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme
Writing our way to freedom
Endy M. Bayuni
November 04 2015
When Indonesia celebrated its 70th independence anniversary this year, we paid tribute to our heroes for making it happen. Through blood, sweat and tears, they turned Indonesia into a free and independent nation.
Not widely appreciated or recognized in these celebrations is the contribution that some of these heroes made through their writings.
We tend to focus more on those who took up arms and joined the physical struggle in the late 1940s. Equally important, if not more so, was the work of thinkers who launched the independence struggle decades earlier through their writings.
Without their expression, there would have been no independence to fight for to begin with and there may not be an Indonesia today.
The idea of Indonesia, and the idea of a free and independent nation, came from these writers. I am talking not only of Sukarno and Hatta and people of their generation, but of their seniors; people like Tjokroaminoto. These men and women were writing much earlier; dreaming of their people becoming a free and independent.
There was not that much freedom then. Many worked under the most difficult circumstances, enduring intimidation, harassment, arrest and torture. Some were sent into exile to malaria-infested remote islands and never returned.
Indonesia’s independence struggle recognizes three milestones: May 22, 1908, with the launch of Budi Utomo, the first movement that marked the birth of national consciousness; Oct. 28, 1928, when youth representatives from far flung islands came to Jakarta to read out the Youth Pledge proclaiming one nation, one country and one language: Indonesian and the Proclamation of Independence, on Aug. 17, 1945.
In all these three historic events, we see the influence of writers. They are the unsung heroes. They wrote their way to freedom and independence for the entire nation.
Fast forward to today’s independent Indonesia. Writers still contribute to the progress of the nation although they take a backseat role. But the one thing that has not changed is censorship. It existed then during Dutch colonial rule and it exists today in an independent Indonesia.
Indonesia made a great impression at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in October, but so elated were we that we missed the theme of Frankfurt 2015: Freedom of expression.
Salman Rushdie, the renowned Indian-born author who still has a death warrant against him going back to 1989 after the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses, was a keynote speaker in Frankfurt. He made a brief appearance, but left a powerful and important message that is worth reciting because it resonates with the current situation in Indonesia.
Rushdie lamented that in the 21st century, people in the West still talk about freedom of expression, an issue that he said should have been settled long ago. Rushdie cautioned societies against complacency, saying that “without freedom of expression, all other freedoms fail.”
Journalist Goenawan Mohamad, who chaired the Indonesian national committee at the Frankfurt Book Fair, addressed the question of freedom in his speech, referring to a 19th century Javanese poem that talks about a character, Malang Sumirang, sentenced by kings and priests to burn in fire for blasphemy.
The story goes that he voluntarily walked into the fire. As the fire raged, he asked for pen and papers and started to write a poem. He did not burn or die, and once the fire was out, he gave the poem to the king. He then walked off and disappeared into the jungle.
Power is not unlimited, and it ends when it is confronted by a desire to write, said Goenawan. By writing, Malang switched his place from being condemned to being an invisible man, and made those with power powerless.
The Frankfurt message on freedom of expression and the importance of writing is important for Indonesians to hear, especially in view of what has happened in this country. We are currently witnessing a shrinking of the space for public expression.
A campus publication was withdrawn under police pressure because it reported on the 1965 massacre of communists in Indonesia. A 77-year old Swedish citizen of Indonesian origin was manhandled and deported by the police for praying at the grave site of his father, a victim of the 1965 mayhem.
And then there was the decision by the Ubud festival to cancel a number of programs deemed “sensitive” by the authorities. The organizers of the Ubud festival were forced to cancel all discussions on the 1965 tragedy or risk losing the entire permit. There have been other cases of infringement on freedom of expression in Indonesia, including bans on publications, public discussions and the screening of films.
These are all recent events. For much of the last 17 years following the collapse of the Soeharto regime, there has been an expansion of freedom in Indonesia. Just look at the number of books published, films and documentaries produced and plays performed.
Indonesia was well on its way to claiming its place as the third largest democracy in the world. Events in recent weeks, however, raise serious questions about Indonesia’s commitment to democracy and freedom.
History shows that once the censors get away with one ban, say a public discussion of a particular issue, another one will quickly follow and the censorship will not stop. Before we know it, we discover that the space for expression and discussion has disappeared.
Freedom in Indonesia is in peril.
Thankfully, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2015 went on in spite of the restrictions to offer up over 200 events. The title, “17,000 islands of imagination”, is an invitation for writers and readers to come to Indonesia because it remains a largely unexplored goldmine for people to find inspiration.
The Ubud festival is an event to celebrate some of the best literature in Indonesia and the world. It is also a festival to celebrate freedom of expression and to recognize and appreciate the work of writers. Ubud serves as a reminder to continue the fight, the good fight, against censors of any kind and to keep the public space as wide open as possible for free thought and free expression.
We should take our cues from early writers in Indonesia. Through their imagination, they were able to create a nation called Indonesia. A nation free and independent.
Like them, we must fight our way to freedom and prosperity through writing.
Endy M. Bayuni is senior editor of The Jakarta Post. This is an abridged version of his keynote address at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2015.