New Age Islam Edit Bureau
9 January 2016
2016 A Bad Year For Muslims In Western Countries?
By Mohamed Chebarro
Nimr al-Nimr, political violence, and Saudi Shiitesí future
By Mansour Alnogaidan
Why Obama keeps indulging Iran
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
India, Pakistan can together fight terror
By Khaleej Times
How Iran keeps the sectarian pot boiling in region
By Mustafa Al Zarooni
2016 a bad year for Muslims in Western countries?
Friday, 8 January 2016
If you are Muslim living and working in Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia, 2015 was a bad year, but it seems 2016 will be worse.
Last year saw a surge of terror attacks targeting the western way of life. Random attacks on shopping centers, magazines, theaters, a nursing home, and football stadiums - all are examples showing the intent by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to disrupt security and the free movement enjoyed by all in western democracies. The nature and barbarity of the attacks were also clearly aimed at driving a further wedge between law abiding peaceful Muslims and the wider societies..
The attacks on the Bataclan theater in Paris, the knife attack in the London Underground system, the mass shooting at a special needs center in San Bernardino in the U.S. and before that the attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine, and the Kosher grocery in Paris were all carried out by Muslims mostly born and bred in western countries. Either that or were people who arrived with or without their parents as refugees or as economic migrants from troubled countries.
Unlike the 9/11 attacks on the New York World Trade Center in 2001, which were carried out by people neither resident, nor native in the targeted communities, the more recent attacks were apparently carried out by fighters returning from Syria or Iraq. Another group were simply Muslim converts or dispossessed youths who pledged allegiance to a criminal organization ISIS - an organization bent on establishing a caliphate in Iraq and Syria whether the local population support the idea or not.
But also this criminal band called ISIS seem bent on attacking western cities and citizens randomly in a bid to flex its muscle and win recruits, maybe for a cause that echoes specially with a minority of disenfranchised immigrants or second generation Muslims as well as recent converts.
However the draconian laws quickly past at the end of 2015 to confront the clear and present danger in western cities are likely to cause more challenges to those democracies.
Sorting the ëgoodí from the ëbadí
Recent incidents such as the Muslim family of nine prevented from boarding a U.S.-bound plane at a British airport for a holiday at Disneyland in what has been described as an overreaction to the current threat to international security, are examples that many individuals and family groups that either look Muslim, or with Muslim names, will have to be ready for. More checks and possible schedule and travel delays, seem inevitable.
Laws revoking European nationality from those with dual nationality, who were involved in ISIS activities, or propagating hate rhetoric and action, is another extreme response in an effort to separate the good Muslims from the bad.
Crossing airport checks is again full of problems. The profiling of individuals is reminiscent of the processes carried out at U.S. airports in the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks. It would seem that travelers through European airports cannot help but notice an increase of checks and cross checks for people with Muslim names.
Authorities across Europe are not shy from admitting the privacy of a few will potentially be invaded in the interest of saving many, as they strive to prevent any future attacks.
Migrants, including those seeking asylum, who risked everything to find a safer and more peaceful life for their children to grow up in, are already bearing the brunt of such measures aimed at scrutinizing their past and future intentions.
Intolerance is also starting to brew with the help of extreme right wing parties across Europe.
The new recruitment
Franceís Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party is an example where success at local elections is only won thanks to Daesh (An Arabic acronym for ISIS). The attacks on Paris have brought out peopleís fears, raising Islamophobia among the many who then voted for the extremists. Ironically these partiesí core supporters in my view are no different than Daesh in their intolerance, racism, and twisted interpretation of history, society, philosophy and theology.
The far right in Europe and America, and their hateful rhetoric are proving a new recruitment catalyst, and worth. It seems that such groups share some common ground with Muslim radicals bent on destroying coexistence in an increasingly open and globalized world.
In 2016, Muslims in the west are again subjected to citizenship and loyalty tests in many parts of the world.
As the level of threats remain high in most western cities, the race is against the clock to vet citizens, mainly those returning from the wars in Syria and Iraq, to eliminate the current and future dangers.
Security experts insist that several dozen radicalized European, and maybe non-European individuals, remain at large in various western cities, tasked with carrying out more attacks.
Intelligence information suggests several such plots have been uncovered. Yet holes remain in the investigations and the search for those would be terrorists will not be carried out in the homes and neighborhoods of Christian white people.
The focus of law enforcement agencies everywhere in 2016 will unfortunately be another Asian Muslim community in North London, the kids from a Parisian suburb populated by second generation North African Muslims, or a housing estate of struggling working class families who once fled persecution in a faraway Muslim land.
For all those reasons, and more, the year ahead will be a bad one for Muslims everywhere. But particularly bad for Muslims in western countries as cities there are on the edge after bloody and barbaric attacks in 2015, and we are told more are likely to come in 2016.
Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiyaís bureau in Beirut and London.
Nimr al-Nimr, political violence, and Saudi Shiitesí future
Friday, 8 January 2016
In 2010, I paid a visit to the city of Al-Qatif, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where the largest concentration of the countryís Shiite minority lives. An SMS message addressed to me arrived on the mobile phone of my friend Habib, who accompanied me on the trip. Habib is a Shiite cleric, donning the trademark symbols of piety of his sect, a turban and a robe. The text message was from another Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, with whom I had visited a year earlier at his home. We had tea together and ate Iranian cashews. The meeting was poignantóa roller coaster of emotions. Between his strident expressions of angst and pungent sense of humor, I found myself crying with him and for him, and crying as well from laughter.
Earlier this week, on January 2, Nimr al-Nimr was executed, together with 44 other Saudis (and two non-Saudi nationals), all indicted and convicted on charges related to the perpetration of lethal violence.
In 2009, Al-Baqií cemeteryówhich is next to the Prophetís Holy Mosque and final resting place in the sacred city of Medinaówitnessed clashes among Shiite and Sunni pilgrims, arising from differences between the two sects concerning graveside rituals. Shiite Muslims frequent al-Baqií, home to the graves of members of the Prophetís family whom they revere. The clashes widenedóand in their wake, Sheikh Nimr delivered a series of sermons in which he called for Shiite-majority areas to secede from the kingdom and establish a government based on the Iranian revolutionary model of ìWilayat al-Faqihî (ìThe Rule of the Juristî). The sermons placed Nimr on a list of men ìwantedî by Saudi police, and he went into hiding. In the SMS message that my friend received from Nimr, he requested a meeting to solicit my suggestions as to the best ways to solve his problem with the authorities. I considered the request, but declined to meet him: The government requires Saudi citizens to report any encounter with a wanted man, and I judged the value of any advice I could offer him to be less than the risks which our encounter would place upon him.
Nimrís flight from public view, and even from his closest relatives, stimulated the imagination of scores of Shiite youthómarginalized, neglected, unemployed, and influenced by Iranian government propaganda for years. The legendary occultation of the Shiite ì12th Imam,î a tenet of their faith, raises the perennial question of who the Imam is and where he is hiding, such that Nimr, in vanishing, enjoyed a near-mythic, elevated status. Controversy swelled in his absence, particularly after some members of the Nimr family began to assert that they were ìSayyids,î or descendants of the Prophet, revered by Shiiites everywhere. These claims led to schisms within his family. By the time al-Qatifís violent clashes peaked in 2011, amid region-wide upheaval, Nimr, unseen, had attained an esteem surpassing that of traditional Shiite leaders who had enjoyed the highest respect among Shiites for decades.
By mid-2012, Al-Awamiya, the second largest township in al-Qatif, had seen a year and a half of protests and violent, sometimes lethal clashes between demonstrators and police, claiming lives on both sides, but mostly Saudi police. Security forces arrested Nimr after overtaking him in a car chase. Passengers in the car were armed and shooting at police.
On December 13, 2014, Tawfiq al-Sayf, a Saudi writer and intellectual who took off the clerical robe years ago and is one of the most prominent Shiite in the country, wrote a memorable comment on his Facebook page. He declared that Shiite al-Qatif is suffering from its own, Shiite equivalent of ISISónative sons bearing arms who terrify anyone who differs with them or who proffers an alternative view of realities in the city. (He received numerous death threats from denizens of al-Qatif after posting the comment.) Sayf also asserted that during Nimrís two years in hiding, he had been inciting, organizing, and steering the turbulence al-Qatif witnessedócausing not only the destruction of government property but also the murder of civilians and members of the security forcesóby gunfire and explosions.
Nimr bears some resemblance to Sunni Islamists who begin by expressing reasonable-sounding demands but descend into guerrilla warfare. Nimrís repeated call in his sermons to establish an Iran-like regime, and for the secession of Shiite areas from the kingdomóthe latter, an inherently violent goalóconstituted, in the eyes of many Saudis, treason, and also led to his exclusion from moderate Shiite circles. As Nimr moved toward radicalism and armed activity, his revolutionary approach proved appealing to young men in the area. His followers included the remnants of Hezbollah al-Hijaz, the Iranian-backed movement with which Nimr himself was firmly aligned, as well as other ìtrue believers.î They also included drug dealers, wayward teens, and some among the ranks of the unemployed and disenfranchised. He goaded these youth to take up arms, burn government property, and commit murder. This wave of chaos, in providing simple and cheap answers to complex problems, siphoned away support from Shiite leaders and notables who have enjoyed considerable social and political esteem.
As is the norm in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from the time of Nimrís arrest in 2009 to the day of his execution, authorities took pains to tend to the needs of his family. His wife received extended treatment for her medical needs in one of Americaís finest hospitals. His sons received full scholarships to American universities.
For many decades, Saudi Shiite have suffered from sectarian discrimination. They have not enjoyed the freedom to practice their rituals outside of their home regions and neighborhoods. The prevailing Salafi ideologies, embodied by many Saudi clerics, have regarded Shiite as having strayed from the ìcorrect path,î and sometimes labeled them as non-Muslims. But meanwhile, paradoxically, the political leadership of the country has increasingly seen to Shiite advancement. Shiite hold some of the highest and most sensitive positions: at Saudi Aramco, the global oil juggernaut; in Saudi banks; and in various government institutions. In 2001, then-Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz initiated the ìnational dialogue,î aiming to ease tensions between Sunnis and Shiite and promote civil peace. From 2005 on, the late King Abdullah took many steps to advance this trend further. Shiite, who number between 10 and 11 percent of the population, constitute 40 percent of the students who travel abroad at the governmentís expense to pursue higher education.
Promoting sectarian hatred
In the second half of 2014, three Shiite mosques were attacked by Saudi Sunni nationals identifying as members of ISIS. Shortly after King Salman took the throne on January 21, 2015, he became the first Saudi king ever to donate to rebuilding Shiite mosquesóthe three that had been attacked. The Crown Prince and other members of his family led delegations to convey personal condolences to the families who had lost their children and loved ones. For the first time in the history of the country, hundreds of Saudi Sunnis traveled from disparate provinces to give their own condolences to their fellow, Shiite nationals, widely covered in Saudi media and with encouragement from the political leadership. Moreover, King Salman is the first Saudi king under whose rule local establishment media and even Sunni clerics have described the Shiite victims of terrorism as martyrsóa sacred Islamic designation, as is well known. The king also recognized the sacrifice of young Shiite men who died in an effort to protect the mosques from the terrorists, referring to them as well as ìmartyrsî in a holy cause.
In 2015, the state established laws to punish anyone who promotes sectarian hatred. Saudi Sunnis were among those subsequently detained by authorities for having posted video clips expressing hostility toward Shiite. To anyone familiar with the history of the rule of the Al-Saud family and the heavy hand of Wahhabism and Salafism, these developments can only be seen as indicative of a significant shift.
But the legacy of centuries of hate between Sunnis and Shiites cannot be erased in a short time. History moves slowly, and slower still amid civil strife. No one can overtake the flow of history.
Since 2011, many Shiite moderates have received threats from armed individuals who participated in the violence in al-Qatif. The home and personal car of at least one prominent moderate Shiite intellectual has been attacked by gunfire. Shiite leaders Isam al-Shammasi, Shukri Shammasi, and Muhammad Ridha Nasrallah, among other notables in the area, routinely receive death threats from those armed Shiite groups which the intellectual Tawfiq al-Sayf described as the Shiite equivalent of ISIS.
Between a tragic legacy and new signs of hope, moderate Shiite today have an historic opportunity. They can refuse to be silent in the face of extremists in their midst. They can take the initiativeóon their own termsóin pressing for their right to be treated as equals in their native land. They can work to protect their youth from descending into the nihilism of terrorism. They can take part in the even broader national project of reforms that is embraced by both sects, both genders, all intellectual and cultural streams, to continuously improve the countryóday by day, year by year, and from one generation to the next.
Mansour Alnogaidan is executive director of Al-Mesbar Center for Studies and Research in Dubai.
Why Obama keeps indulging Iran
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Friday, 8 January 2016
Iran keeps breaking international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions, while U.S. President Barack Obama continues to capitulate to Tehranís demands. What did he do when it intensified its military involvement in Syria? He invited Tehran to a peace conference on the conflict.
Iran imprisoned several U.S. citizens, but instead of pressuring Tehran Obama continued nuclear talks. Iran then arrested Dubai-based American businessman Siamak Namazi. Obama signs a nuclear deal with Tehran offering tremendous sanction relief, yet Iranís Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) immediately tests ballistic missiles several times, in violation of the nuclear deal and UNSC resolutions.
The Obama administration tells Congress that new sanctions will be imposed on 11 entities and individuals in Iran. However, after Tehran responds by saying it will expedite its ballistic missile program, Obama postpones sanctions ìindefinitelyî pending ìfurther diplomatic action.î
This week, after several regional countries downgraded or severed diplomatic ties with Tehran due to its violation of international obligations, defiant Iranian leaders unveiled and boasted about a new underground missile arsenal called Emad, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
In addition, the IRGC second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, bragged about the number of missiles Iran has. Provocatively, Tehran also fired a rocket close to the U.S. aircraft carrier Harry Truman in the Straits of Hormuz. Iran keeps provoking, yet Obama and his Western allies keep looking the other way.
All carrot, no stick
His continuous carrot-but-no-stick policy toward Iran has led it to believe there will be no consequences to its aggression and unlawful acts. This defiance is shared by both moderates and hardliners.
Obama views the nuclear deal as his crowning foreign policy and Middle East accomplishment. He avoids taking any actions that might undermine the deal. This has led to continuous appeasement of Tehran, which will have severe repercussions for national and regional security.
Obama does not recognize that Iran needs the nuclear deal more than the United States does, for economic reasons. He needs to realize that if one gives Tehran an inch, it takes a mile. Offering only carrots and rewards to Iran will not have the desired effect.
Without an appropriate response from global powers and the international community toward Iranís defiance, regional powers will feel forced to create a coalition to counterbalance its hegemonic ambitions. This will be a positive development as it will mark the emergence of solid regional leadership independent from global powers and their contradictory interests.
This does not mean that global powers will stop interfering in the region, but they will be more likely to calculate their policies more carefully - due to the independent regional coalition - before acting unilaterally.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American scholar, author and U.S. foreign policy specialist. Rafizadeh is the president of the International American Council. He serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University and Harvard International Relations Council. He is a member of the Gulf 2000 Project at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs. Previously he served as ambassador to the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC. He can be contacted at: Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu, or on Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
India, Pakistan can together fight terror
January 9, 2016
Nawaz Sharif has promised to act swiftly based on evidence provided by the Indian side to hunt down the handlers of the terrorists.
Pakistan appears serious about tracking down the perpetrators of the attack on an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to act swiftly based on evidence provided by the Indian side to hunt down the handlers of the terrorists who managed to enter the air base.
The fact that the Pakistani military establishment is on the side of the government bodes well for the investigations to be conducted separately by both sides.
PM Sharif called his Indian counterpart Modi after the attacks, and promised to get to the bottom of the terror incident on a sensitive military installation. There is political will on the Pakistani side which must be lauded during this time of crisis. Sharif has shown courage under pressure. Two review meetings have been held and the Pakistan government is doing its best to show that it is in solidarity with India.
Mature reactions and cool heads in both countries have ensured that the focus remains on the gaps that need to be plugged to prevent terrorists from sabotaging talks between the neighbours. Hawks on both sides, as expected, have made noises about calling off the dialogue, but they have been largely ignored because the leaders realize that only peace will serve the long term interests of the region.
It's encouraging that Sharif is taking the army with him in his plans for peace. He appears comfortable in his role as a peacemaker who needs crucial military support to see it through. Prime Minister Modi has managed to silence his critics within the party and outside by staying the course for a negotiated settlement on all issues concerning India's estranged neighbour. The two leaders are serious about their intent and are willing to go the extra mile for peace - a far cry from the bouts of accusations and denials from both governments after 26/11.
Sharif has also directed his National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua to remain in contact with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
India, meanwhile, needs to get its defences in order to ensure such incidents do not happen again. "What went wrong? Was there a mole in the police? What's the link with drug smugglers?" are questions that beg answers. The establishment is providing none at the moment.
All we know is that India has provided some leads about the plot to Pakistan.
Will Islamabad take the investigation to its logical conclusion? That will depend on the level of military support to the premier on the issue. How far can he push for peace? Sharif is firm on better ties, which means he is in charge of the diplomatic process. This does not mean he is in control of non-state actors bent on creating trouble in the region. It takes military might to wipe them out. For this he'll need strong backing from army chief General Raheel Sharif.
How Iran keeps the sectarian pot boiling in region
Mustafa Al Zarooni
January 9, 2016
Tehran does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbours and other Arab countries.
Sectarian politics is an Iranian brand, perfected by the regime to keep the Middle East on the boil. Peace has remained elusive because Tehran thinks it's in a constant state of revolution. It wants the masses to believe the West and the Gulf countries are the enemies at the gate, waiting to unseat the government and unsettle its institutions. This siege mentality led to attacks against the Saudi embassy in Tehran after the execution of a Shia cleric who was stoking dissent in the Kingdom.
Nimr Baqir Al Nimr was executed for promoting 'sectarian sedition' in Saudi Arabia, and the decision was taken to preserve the country's security. The reaction on the street in Iran has been over the top, and some Arab states, in solidarity with Saudi Arabia, have broken ties with the country.
Tehran has itself to blame for this escalation because it does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbours and other Arab countries. By claiming plots against it, the regime has convinced its people that an expansionist policy was to defend national interests. Once you sow the seeds of doubt, the us-vs-them doctrine of hate, there is no going back on hostilities. Suspicion then rules in your dealing with the world outside.
Iran's hostile attitude is evident in its attempts to mobilise and indoctrinate its army along sectarian lines. Sacrifice and fear are the emotions that keep the military in a constant state of alert from some unseen foe.
This brings us to the thinking of the regime that is unwilling to change its vintage mindset. It continues to derive inspiration from the Islamic Revolution of 1979, rejecting any fundamental change in policy in tune with the changing times where information travels widely on the Internet and injustices are exposed by the media. Those suspected of acting against the state, and other criminals are hanged every year in the country. Despite all these harsh acts, its Gulf neighbours have not interfered in its affairs because they respect its sovereignty, however cruel and unjustified these actions may be. Rights violations are many but reform should come from within, the GCC countries believe. They want to be left alone just as they are not meddling in Iranian affairs.
Tehran's grand designs for regional dominance are no secret and this can be seen in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq. In Lebanon, it is backing the Hezbollah in a deadly power game that has seen no winner yet. Look where it has taken that country.
Not content with fanning strife, it strived to become a nuclear power, but didn't go far as the West, Russia and China intervened to curb its atomic plans in return for lifting economic sanctions against it. This was the breakout the regime was hoping for to prove its conventional military clout. What followed was a power grab in Yemen via the Houthis and loyalists of former president Saleh. The covert game became a full scale war when the GCC and its Arab partners decided to confront the threat head on with airstrikes and a ground offensive.
Protests over the pro-Iranian cleric Nimr Al Nimr are a diversionary tactic in this context, a cover up to bury the Iranian plot against the Kingdom. The cleric had spent 10 years in Iran, before moving to Syria to become a qualified yes-man for the regime to carry out its directives in eastern Saudi Arabia, which is home to many Shia.
The execution of 47 people including four Shia in Saudi Arabia was carried out as per law, on court orders, but Tehran only defended its staunchest supporter Nimr, a Saudi citizen.
What's also disappointing is the reaction of some Western media outlets against the death penalty and executions. They argue that this violates human rights. Their intentions could be good, but why did they not criticize Iran for its record executions? More than 60 countries in the world, home to more than 60 per cent of the global population carry out the death penalty, including some states in US. Why single out Saudi Arabia?
One thing is clear after these incidents. The GCC has run out of patience with its rogue neighbour that refuses to see reality at close range. Iran's excuse that the attack on the Saudi embassy was carried out by a mob and the government had no role in it does not hold water. Though it has promised action against the culprits, past experience tells us that the regime cannot be trusted.
For peace to prevail in the region, the country should leave behind its militant revolutionary mindset and treat the Arab world with respect. The world has moved on and has adopted new governing systems. Terror as a state policy will not work. The sooner Iran realises this, the better for the region and the world.