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Islam and the West ( 6 Dec 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Do Not Confuse Racism With Islamophobia: New Age Islam’s Selection From Pakistan Press, 7 December 2015

 

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

December 7th, 2015

 

Do not confuse racism with Islamophobia

By S Mubashir Noor

The terror threat

By Cyril Almeida

Why Musaylimah was killed

By Kashif N Chaudhry

Russia’s fight against terror

By Alexey Dedov

Islam in the United States

By Shahid Javed Burki

 

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Do not confuse racism with Islamophobia

By S Mubashir Noor

Soon after taking office, conservatives accused Obama of being a Muslim, or worse, anti-Christian simply because he sought to mend fences with the Islamic world and maybe because Hussein is his middle name

Believe it or not, the uptick in hate crimes against American Muslims after the Paris attacks has little to do with Islamophobia. The US’s obsession with the ‘other’ goes back centuries, even as it morphed into a global melting pot. It is an obsession birthed from the white, Christian heritage of the country’s founding fathers and their occupation as plantation and slave owners. Moreover, those pushing the clash of civilisations narrative explain Islamophobia as a gut reaction, meaning one driven by the average American’s love for freedom and liberty, and not antipathy to certain ethnic groups. To them, I point to the many attacks on American Sikhs since 2001, who are obviously not Muslims. Sadly, they too have become part of a fear-driven racial profile that includes brown skin, a beard and some form of religious headgear.

Furthermore, the idea that Americans share a deep love for the liberté, égalité and fraternité of France, which Paris represents, thereby sparking the anti-Muslim pushback after the bombings is also farcical. In 2003, the US Congress so loathed French President Jacques Chirac’s dissent on the Iraq war that it renamed French fries and French toast in its cafeterias as freedom fries and freedom toast. Although the US Constitution is a fine example of secular lawmaking, not least for its 14th amendment safeguards of minority rights, racism is endemic, institutionalised and easily confirmed by a simple Google search for Laquan McDonald. Islamophobia in the US is merely a sideshow to the wider racial fault-lines grinding against each other.

Before American Muslims as the national bogey, there was the ‘Red scare’ in the Cold War era, Japanese Americans in World War II and Jewish Americans during the Civil War. Most appalling was the state-sanctioned treatment of Chinese settlers from 1882 to 1943. The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882, effectively banned all Chinese immigration to the US. This law stayed put for more than five decades and required all Chinese to carry identification certificates or face deportation, and most could not return to the US if they made a trip back home. Congress finally repealed the act in 1943 for political considerations, since the US and China were now allies in World War II.

The demonisation of American Muslims has undoubtedly become worse during the presidency of Barack Obama. In 2008, Obama became the first African-American president of the US but before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he could not have commuted in the same bus as the white folk. While that was a landmark achievement in US society, old habits die hard. Soon after taking office, conservatives accused Obama of being a Muslim, or worse, anti-Christian simply because he sought to mend fences with the Islamic world and maybe because Hussein is his middle name. Ironically, the same demographic hailed George W Bush as a great patriot for defending Islam after 9/11 but not Obama. They accused him of appeasing the enemy. See the pattern here?

A September CNN poll revealed that 30 percent Americans still believe that Obama is a Muslim and approval ratings for Islam have never been worse, despite no major terrorist attacks on US soil since 2001. An ABC News poll in October 2001 found that 47 percent Americans held a favourable view of Islam but that figure dropped to 27 percent in 2014. This, mind you, was before Islamic State (IS) had fully unsheathed its fangs in Iraq and Syria. Would the Syrian refugee debate be this contentious in the US if, say, Bush were president instead of Obama? I do not think so. Donald Trump, for example, is running a successful Republican primary campaign expressly scripted around his being the ‘anti-Obama’. Talking up American Muslims as the other, unsurprisingly, is part of his shtick as this association seems to attract large sectors of the conservative vote. His rivals and the Republican Party are not far behind.

On November 17, 26 US state governors (all Republican) declared their intent to bar Syrian refugees from settling in their states. A few days later, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed legislation freezing Obama’s programme to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. Both parties pleaded national security reasons for their posturing, despite the US’s stringent and multilayered screening process for foreign nationals. Jeb Bush, the younger brother of George W and a presidential candidate himself, further roiled the highly partisan debate by noting that some Syrians were welcome in the US provided they were Christians but definitely non-Muslims.

To this attitude, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, made the following poignant observation: “The moral compass of those who refuse refugees of any faith must be questioned.” The good news is ‘Sinophobia’ died out in the US in the 1950s and so will Islamophobia at some point. Historically, all societies eventually tire of one ‘other’ and move on to finding the next national scarecrow.

S Mubashir Noor is a freelance columnist and audio engineer based in Islamabad

dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/07-Dec-2015/do-not-confuse-racism-with-islamophobia

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The terror threat

By Cyril Almeida

December 6th, 2015

TERROR has a logic to it. Especially in the Pak-India context. It did in 2001 and it did again in 2008. It was, in the big picture, perhaps not to trigger war, but to defeat peace.

And it worked both times. The logic of terror in the Pak-India context is to keep the sensible lot apart, to keep the peacemakers away.

That infuses a perverse kind of inverse proportionality to terror: the worse ties are, the less likely is a calamitous terror strike.

But it doesn’t always work that way. And the logic of what’s recently unfolding in India should alarm — and probably is alarming — those whose jobs it is to keep Pakistan and India safe.

Fear and danger are unmistakably in the air.

The communal tensions across the border is likely stoking jihadi flames — inside India, regionally, everywhere, and surely here at home too — just as Paris and now California have demonstrated that the old ways of terror are giving way to new, uncontrolled and unpredictable forces.

Because it’s an incendiary subject — and suspicions of state behaviour here so ingrained internationally — it’s helpful to revisit history.

Because where terror’s goal once may have been to retard peace and reap policy dividends, today, the fires being lit over in India are creating new incentives for evil and terror that may have little to do with state policy.

So let’s go back to 2001. In December, the Indian parliament is hit. India blames Pakistan and one thing leads to another and there’s a military stand-off along the border.

Pak-India relations plunge. Pakistan and India squabbling again and scaring the world again — nothing historically anomalous there.

But there was a context in 2001: there were some idiots around with peace on their mind who thought they could do something about it.

Agra had gone bust, but Musharraf was still very much in charge and he hadn’t given up. Before him, Nawaz had made the civilian intentions clear. And over in India was a right-wing government that seemed interested in a deal.

If you’re a jihadi, peace is a deal-breaker. It’ll put you out of business. So they put the would-be peacemakers out of business first.

The 2001 attack killed off any funny ideas of peace either Pakistan or India had. Armies were mobilised, harsh words were exchanged; it would take a while for things to calm down again.

Terror had achieved its purpose.

Fast forward to 2008. This time it was bigger and more audacious — and the effect was even more dramatic.

Pak-India ties plunged to their lowest non-war level. Nobody could talk about peace in India. It was tantamount to treason. There was just anger and outrage. Inside Pakistan, there was a counter-effect. Indian bellicosity made talking peace a no-win situation. There was no political capital to be had. No opening that seemed realistic.

It was better to just shut up.

And again, there was the context. Musharraf had been kicked out, but his four-point formula still filled the air. There, in simple, easy-to-grasp language, was the Kashmir unicorn, a mutually plausible potential solution.

Inside Pakistan, the PPP had taken over. The boss, Zardari, seemed like he had big ideas and even mused about no-first strike and peace with India. It was heady stuff. Over in India, there was a prime minister from Pakistan who yearned to make peace. And a Congress-led coalition that was presiding over record growth and that was reasonably insulated from right-wing attack.

Mumbai killed all of that. This time, India tried a different tack in response — instead of mobilising its army, it worked to diplomatically isolate Pakistan.

It didn’t work as well as the Indians hoped. But it worked well enough to make talking peace a non-starter in India and a delicate subject inside Pakistan.

Terror had achieved its purpose.

In fact, Mumbai was so wildly successful that Mumbai-I had made Mumbai-II unnecessary. You don’t have to kill what is already dead. Terror knows to keep its powder dry.

Now, to the present. There is, first, no institutional interest here in a meltdown with India just now. The fight at home and the mess in Afghanistan are the clear and obvious priorities.

Second, there is no need for a Pak-India meltdown. Even the incorrigible optimists don’t see Modi cutting any kind of peace deal with Pakistan. There is no threat of peace breaking out.

But Modi and his right-wing politics are making all of us unsafe — Indians, Pakistanis, everyone. Because militants everywhere will know opportunity and glory beckon — the lone wolves and the organised lot; the home-grown Indian ones and the ones exported from here or neighbouring lands; the casual extremists and the dedicated; everywhere and everyone.

India, you can imagine the jihad lot thinking, needs to be taught a lesson. Modi needs to be taught a lesson. An attack to remember for the ages. No one would ever forget it. If it does come from here — and that possibility is what it is — the tail would finally and fully be wagging the dog.

Where previous terror — ’01 and ’08 — killed any funny ideas about peace, this one would be about the jihadis themselves setting the record straight. There’s us — believers — and there’s them and never shall the twain meet.

There’s also the unsaid. The war against the TTP and the operation in Karachi will have eaten up most of the state’s bandwidth. There’re only so many things that can be juggled at once.

Keeping the anti-India jihad lot muzzled here isn’t about snapping fingers and dog whistles. It requires a great deal of focus and attention. Focus and attention that simply may not be available right now.

Fear and danger are unmistakably in the air.

The old, reliable inverse proportionality may stand suspended. The worse ties are now, could a calamitous strike be more likely?

Cyril Almeida is a member of staff.

dawn.com/news/1224472/the-terror-threat

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Why Musaylimah was killed

By Kashif N Chaudhry

December 7th, 2015

Think of Musaylimah’s rebellion as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) in today’s Pakistan. Like Musaylimah's men, the Taliban also defy the writ of the state

Extremist clerics and their ignorant followers — and Islamophobes alike — allege that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the early caliphs of Islam killed people for mere difference in belief. Such clerics have long taught masses in Pakistan that Islam ordered Muslims to take up the sword against anyone who claimed to be a prophet or decided to follow one. The example of Musaylimah is often presented at anti-Ahmedi conferences as the rightful Islamic fate of the Ahmedis. But was Musaylimah actually killed for his claim to prophethood? Were his followers met in battle for merely following him? Were they fought merely for their religious choices?

Famed actor Hamza Ali Abbasi alluded to this issue in a recent social media post. While responding to hateful comments he received after taking a public stance on the rights of Pakistani Ahmedis, he said: “It is sad to hear some people giving examples of wars with Musalyma Kazaab, Tulayha Kazaab and Sajah kazaab to defend the killing of Ahmedis. These false prophets were crushed not because they had to be killed for their beliefs, but because they were guilty of treason and a military threat to Medina. You do not have to be a scholar to realise that in Islam no one, and I repeat, no one can be harmed or killed for his/her faith or beliefs. I am not defending Ahmedi belief but I am and will always defend their right of not being killed for their beliefs!

It is no secret that many clerics in Pakistan consider the Ahmedis Wajib ul qatl (worthy of death). The indoctrination is so deep-rooted I remember a few of my medical school classmates saying they believed the appropriate punishment of an Ahmedi in an “Islamic state” was death. In such a climate of prejudice and bigotry, Mr Abbasi’s attempt at educating the masses is a breath of fresh air. And to take this education a step further, let us take a closer look at each of these individuals who claimed to be prophets during the last few years of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) life and immediately after.

Musaylimah: Musaylimah bin Habîb was a Christian from the Banu Hanifa tribe who embraced Islam when he first visited Medina as part of his tribe’s expedition. He was a master magician who could perform quite a few tricks and soon started advertising these as ‘miracles’ that proved his divinity. As his influence grew, in the very lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he claimed prophet-hood. He even wrote a letter to the Prophet (PBUH) in which he said: “From Musaylimah, Messenger of God, to Muhammad, Messenger of God. Salutations to you. I have been given a share with you in this matter. Half the earth belongs to us and half to the Quraish. But the Quraish are people who transgress.”

Clearly, his ambitions were territorial and he wanted a share of Arabia. So, how did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) respond? Did he ask the Muslims to kill him because he had claimed prophet-hood? Did he ask Muslims to attack him and bring him to Medina? Did he ask Muslims to butcher his followers? Instead, he responded to Musaylimah’s letter in these words: “From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Musaylimah, the arch-liar. Peace be upon him who follows (God’s) guidance. Now then, surely the earth belongs to God, who bequeaths it to whom He will amongst his servants. The ultimate issue is to the God-fearing.”

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) merely ignored him thereafter. All was fine, until Musaylimah’s political ambitions turned violent after the demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). With an army of 40,000 fully equipped men, he decided to march on the state of Medina and take over. As the head of state, Hazrat Abu Bakr was left with no choice but to defend Medina. He dispatched Hadhrat Ikramah with a modest force to serve as deterrence outside Musaylimah’s camp in the valley of Yamama. Hazrat Ikramah and a subsequent force sent to assist him were both defeated by Musaylimah. It was then that Hazrat Abu Bakr sent an army of about 13,000 men under the experienced command of Khalid Bin Waleed to neutralise Musaylimah’s growing military power. Even though the Muslims were a third in strength, Musaylimah’s men were defeated and Musaylimah was killed after a lengthy military operation.

Think of Musaylimah’s rebellion as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) in today’s Pakistan. Like Musaylimah’s men, the Taliban also defy the writ of the state. They — and other extremist jihadi elements — have also launched an armed rebellion against the state of Pakistan. Ironically, the same people who quote the example of Musaylimah hesitated the most when talks of an armed operation against the TTP were brought to the table.

Sajah: Like Musaylimah, Sajah bint al-Harith was also an Arab Christian. She was a fortuneteller and a clever poet who claimed prophet-hood after witnessing Musaylimah’s extraordinary success in his initial days. She joined forces with Musaylimah to fight the Muslims at Yamama. According to some reports, the prophetess eventually married him and became his follower. When Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed defeated Musaylimah at Yamama, Sajah surrendered and accepted Islam. According to some accounts, she fled to Iraq and joined the Muslims only when Islam spread to the region. In either case, she remained peaceful and did not take up arms against the state post-Yamama.

Tulayha: Tulayha ibn Khuwaylid was an influential chief of the Banu Asad ibn Khuzaymah tribe who accepted Islam at the hands of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) but later rebelled. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) passed away, Tulayha successfully convinced numerous other neighbouring tribes to join him in a powerful coalition that openly defied the writ of the Medinite state. During the tenure of Hazrat Abu Bakr, Tulayha planned to launch an armed attack. His forces, which comprised of 15,000 men, were met by a 6,000-strong Muslim army under the command of Hazrat Khalid bin Waleed in the battle of Buzaka. Tulayha was defeated and fled to Syria, but later accepted Islam, fought alongside the Muslims and died a martyr under Hazrat Umar’s rule.

Aswad Ansi: He was another magician in Yemen who used his magic tricks to charm people into believing he was a prophet of God. Later, he would also claim to be God himself. Despite his claims, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did not order anyone to harm him in anyway. However, Aswad did not merely stop at mere claims. After the Prophet’s (PBUH) demise, Aswad took up armed rebellion and killed the Muslim rulers who governed Yemen. He was ruthless in his rule and conspired to join forces with the Persian Empire to fight the Muslims. Before he could do so, however, he was killed by a Persian Muslim and Yemen was taken back by Muslim rulers who re-established peace.

It is clear from these accounts that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the early caliphs of Islam consistently upheld freedom of conscience. They did not punish anyone for mere claims and beliefs. To the contrary, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) even corresponded with them and let their matter rest with God alone. It was only after a Taliban-style armed rebellion that the state of Medina decided to re-establish its writ on its soil and punish those who created disorder by initiating hostilities.

Hamza Abbasi is right again! Even if Musaylimah et al had not claimed prophet-hood and claimed to be devout Muslims, they would still have met the same fate for the crime of belligerent uprising against the state. As long as they were not guilty of military revolt, they were not harmed or hurt in any way by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his men.

Wajib ul qatl? Save that for the Taliban!

Kashif N Chaudhry is currently completing his Cardiology fellowship with Tufts University in Boston, US. He writes for various American newspapers and Pakistani publications and blogs at the Huffington Post. He tweets @KashifMD

dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/06-Dec-2015/why-musaylimah-was-killed

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Russia’s fight against terror

By Alexey Dedov

December 7, 2015

The writer is Russia’s Ambassador to Pakistan

Like Pakistan, Russia has long been at the foreground of the fight against terrorism. This is a fight for freedom, truth and justice, for the lives of people and for the future of the human civilisation. The Russian people know well the consequences of international terrorism. Our country has suffered from cruel, heinous attacks by terrorists against peaceful citizens. Thousands of precious lives have been lost in blasts. Similar to the tragedy that was the Peshawar terrorist attack targeting students in December 2014, Russia suffered through the Beslan tragedy in 2006, when more than 400 children lost their lives in a hostage situation.

Russia recently entered the Syrian conflict. It had no other choice but to do so. When the dangerous scenario of the involvement of a large number of Russians and citizens from former Soviet Republics joining the Islamic State (IS) emerged, it became obvious that if the IS succeeded in its designs, there will be terrorism and anarchy on Russian soil. The IS is a direct threat to the national interests of the Russian federation, and as President Vladimir Putin stated recently, it was our duty to fight and eliminate the group, away from home. All this became absolutely clear when IS terrorists downed the Russian passenger plane in Egypt, with all 224 on board being killed.

That is why a principled decision was taken to launch military operations in Syria upon official request from Syrian authorities, which is the only force that had been fighting IS on the ground. Russian Aerospace Forces have been conducting air strikes in Syrian territory since then, in full compliance with international law. All air strikes are high-precision and aimed against terrorists and their infrastructure. As a result, the number of mercenaries and international terrorists arriving in Syria has significantly decreased. With Russian air support, vast residential areas, many villages and other strategic objects were freed from the control of the terrorists. By striking IS tankers and refineries, Russia managed to decrease the daily profits of the group from $3 million to $1.5 million.

It was at this point when Turkey shot down a Russian bomber jet that was performing anti-terrorist strikes in Syria, leading to the death of two Russian servicemen. The objective control data indicates that our aircraft did not violate Turkish airspace (even according to the Turkish version of events, the alleged violation lasted for only 17 seconds). As per the surviving pilot’s report, there was no warning given by Turkey. Here it will be pertinent to recall a similar case in 2012 when Ankara accused the Syrians of shooting down a Turkish aircraft when it reportedly violated Syrian airspace. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister at the time, clearly stated that violation of airspace and borders for only a short period of time could never be used as a pretext to use force.

Russia feels that our jet was downed because of the disruption that had been caused to IS’s oil business. It is important to understand that terrorists are using these profits to recruit mercenaries, buy weapons and plan terrorist attacks against citizens of Russia, France, Lebanon, Mali and other countries. Today, no nation is capable of eliminating international terrorism alone, especially when so many state borders across the world are effectively open and hundreds of thousands of refugees are resettling. Any financial support that terrorists get needs to be cut. Only a broad, international anti-terrorist coalition based on common interests and goals can successfully counter the evils of terrorism. The only goal should be to eliminate terrorism and all factors that lead to it.

tribune.com.pk/story/1004994/russias-fight-against-terror/

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Islam in the United States

By Shahid Javed Burki

December 7, 2015

It won’t help the Muslim community in the United States or the faith they follow that the couple that carried out the mass killings in San Bernardino, California was Muslim. One of them was reported to have links with Pakistan. At the time of writing, their motive for the murder in cold blood on the afternoon of December 2 remained unclear. The man worked in a health related facility. They had been married for two years and left their six-month-old child, a girl, with the man’s mother before they went on the killing rampage. The police discovered what it called a virtual bomb factory in their house.

This incident occurred while the Muslims in America were trying hard to come to terms with the anti-Muslim and anti-Islam rhetoric of several candidates for the Republican ticket in the presidential elections of November 2016. Up until this killing of so many innocents, the Muslim community could claim that it was being singled out for abuse and was being defamed by a bunch of bigoted politicians. That claim becomes harder after San Bernardino.

What is the size of the Muslim community in the United States? That question is hard to answer. The community claims that there are some six millions Muslim citizens in America. Some in the Jewish community, which by conventional measures is the second-largest religious group in the United States, has not accepted that claim. It puts the number of Muslims at two to three million or two to three per cent of the population. Several years ago this debate led to what came to be known as the “mosque study”. Several researchers developed a model that linked attendance at mosques to the number in the community. Using the attendance data, they arrived at the figure of six million. Given the strict separation of religion from the working of the state in the country’s Constitution, the decennial censuses don’t use religion as one of the elements in the count.

According to some estimates, the state of Illinois with 2.8 per cent of the population, has the largest Muslim minority.  It is followed by Virginia with 2.7 per cent, New York with two per cent, New Jersey with 1.8 per cent and Texas with 1.7 per cent. South Asian Muslims form the largest proportion of the American Muslim population with 34 per cent of the total. Arabs come next with 26 per cent followed by African-Americans with 25 per cent. Muslims live mostly in large cities.

While the anti- Muslim sentiment in the United States will undoubtedly increase following San Bernardino, it has not been as pronounced as in several European countries. This has much to do with the class and the backgrounds of the Muslims who have settled in the country. A large majority of Muslims in Europe are from North Africa — from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, the countries that were colonised by the French — who came in as workers with little education and skills. Consequently, their descendants are among the continent’s poorest inhabitants. The Muslim community in North America, on the other hand, is made up of well-trained and educated professionals. The household income of South Asian Muslims is higher than that of the United States average. Slowly, South Asian Muslims have begun to create a presence in the American political world.

That may change. One good example of how the American political world is being converted to an anti-Islam sentiment is provided by the path travelled by Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. The state has a large Muslim population once courted by the governor. For several years, he hosted iftar parties at his mansion during the month of Ramazan. But that changed as candidates for the Republican ticket in the 2016 presidential election, such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson, gained traction. Community leaders say that Christie missed the opportunity to speak out in the thunderous tones they have come to expect, about what they see as flagrantly hateful remarks from other Republicans. The Muslim community would have also liked the governor not to oppose the arrival of refugees from Syria into the United States. Christie defended his tough language on the refugee situation as a matter of plain speaking. His objection to admitting them was not because of their faith but for reasons of security.

Trump has called for intensive monitoring of Muslim-Americans and has repeated a widely debunked myth that throngs of Muslims in Jersey City, a large urban area in the state, celebrated on September 11, 2001 as two hijacked planes hit and brought down the iconic World Trade Centre Towers. As a report in The New York Times puts it: “To some Muslims in the state, who viewed Mr Christie as an energetic and unexpected champion, his cautious response to the emboldened hard right have come as a disorienting letdown.”

First Paris in Europe and now San Bernardino in California have set back the Muslim communities’ attempts to create political and economic space for themselves. To prevent them from achieving that objective is the professed aim of militant and radical groups such as the Islamic State. Their survival and appeal depends on the materialisation of the clash of civilisations once predicted by the American political scientist Samuel P Huntington.

Shahid Javed Burki is a former caretaker finance minister and served as vice-president at the World Bank

tribune.com.pk/story/1004995/islam-in-the-united-states/

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