New Age Islam Edit Bureau
31 August 2015
• We Cannot Be Hard-Headed In Fighting Homegrown Extremism
By Yassin M. Yassin
• Here We Go Again: The Drumbeat For Sending Troops Back To Iraq Has Begun
By Simon Jenkins
• Bashar Al-Assad’s Fate: Is A ‘Face-Saving’ Deal In Play?
By Raed Omari
Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau
We Cannot Be Hard-Headed In Fighting Home-grown Extremism
By Yassin M. Yassin
30 August 2015
We cannot deny that there is a homegrown extremism problem in Britain. Latest figures estimate that around 700 Britons have joined ISIS. Although this is a small number considering the 2.7 million British Muslims, it is enough to make the government set out plans to fight this problem.
I am from a town where non-Muslims are the minority. Two boys that I grew up and played football with joined ISIS last year (they didn’t know each other). I was never close friends with them, but if we did pass each other by, we would shake hands and engage in small-talk. I don’t know how or what radicalized them and I have no interest in asking their family or friends about such a sensitive topic, but I know that their families are in a lot of pain right now. I want to give my recommendations – as a young British Muslim who probably knows extremism better than armchair commentators – on how prevent this problem. Part 1 of this article is for the Muslims and part 2 is for the Left and Right wing.
Let us welcome and aid the government in their counter-extremism strategy, because it is for our benefit too
Home grown extremism will not end unless there is compromise. Muslims, the right and the Left cannot keep pointing fingers at each other. Every side must accept part of the blame so we can deal with this issue. Can we just put our pride aside and think of the poor families who have lost their children?
Message to Muslims
Do not be suspicious of this government’s counter-extremism strategy. Measures such as PREVENT are not Islamophobic and they do not criminalize ordinary Muslims. The government only wants to fight extremists, radical Islamism.
Let us welcome and aid the government in their counter-extremism strategy, because it is for our benefit too. Firstly, those who commit terrorism in the name of Islam do not care if they harm Muslims also. Four out of the 52 killed in the 7/7 bombings were Muslim, which was bound to happen if a suicide bomb goes off in a city with a huge Muslim population like London. Secondly, if extremism is eradicated, there will be no need for the Muslim community to be constantly scrutinized and have to go on the defensive like we always have to. Are we not sick of constantly having to apologize for these extremists even though they do not represent us?
Let us also understand what is meant by non-violent extremism. This doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to raise concerns for the plight of the ummah (Muslim world), nor take the government’s stance on foreign policy. No government would be stupid enough to expect Muslims to stop sympathizing with the plight of Palestinians. Non-violent extremism in the political sense, is to believe in the conspiracy theory that Islam is globally persecuted by the kuffar (non-believers). This grievance narrative creates a ‘them vs. us’ mentality between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is the belief that the believers and disbelievers will always be in a state of warfare, hence any western presence in Muslim lands is unacceptable.
Although the grievance narrative is sometimes justifiable, because many Muslims in the world are suffering, we have to be balanced. Let us remember the times when the West actually did good things for the believers. Wasn’t it NATO that saved our Kosovan brothers and sisters from Serbian nationalists?
Muslims opposed to western involvement in our lands view it suspiciously. Many of us ultimately view these interventions, not as altruistic, but based on selfish business interests. As a result, some of us resent countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE for having western countries as allies. This is also a form of non-violent extremism and we need to shake it off.
Let us view countries as humans. After all, they are run by humans. All humans are naturally selfish and want the best for themselves. Which human would willingly enter a friendship that is not mutually beneficial? For example, I am currently looking to get married. Can I just demand any random female’s wali’s (male guardian) number and begin negotiating mahr (dowry)? Of course not. I have to find to a woman that is nice, intelligent and whatever else appeals to my interests. Likewise, I would have to match what appeals to my potential spouse’s interests. The same applies to Muslim-Western relations. The west may only be there for our natural resources, but our countries are benefitting from their trade to help advance our economies and even protection to guarantee our security.
Just look at the plight of my parent’s country Sudan. Years of diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions from the West mean that Bashir’s government doesn’t even have the funds to filter sewage from drinking water. Before we view any relationship with disbelievers suspiciously, let us also not forget that (by mainstream accounts) it was a non-Muslim (Abu Talib) who protected our prophet (pbuh) from Quraysh.
The problem with non-violent extremism isn’t the opinions themselves. The most extremist person I’ve had the misfortune of knowing, holds all these opinions about how the kuffar (non-believers) will always persecute Muslims just because of our Deen (religion) and how Muslims shouldn’t integrate (neither domestically nor internationally). He is even violently capable. But he is also anti-ISIS and deems them transgressors. Nonetheless, I still fear how his words could indoctrinate the impressionable youth who adore him, into acts of violent extremism.
Nobody just wakes up one day and decides “I want to go to Syria now.” Radicalization builds up slowly but steadily, via non-violent extremism. The families of the people who join ISIS are also part of the ummah. Let us think of them, and prevent other families from the suffering of having to lose their loved ones in such a way – by getting rid of this ‘them vs. us’ mentality, once and for all.
Yassin M. Yassin is a Muslim, 20 year old born and bred Londoner. As a freelance writer, researcher, translator and amateur film-maker, his list of clientele include; The New Statesman, Dazed and Confused and the Guardian. His specialist topics are British and Arab politics and youth culture. Having interned at Al-Hayat's Riyadh office in 2014, he is currently studying for an International Relations degree at University of London, SOAS. A full portfolio of his work can be found on his blog; www.bookofyas.tumblr.com. He can be found on twitter at: @yassoon2015
Here We Go Again: The Drumbeat For Sending Troops Back To Iraq Has Begun
By Simon Jenkins
29 August 2015
Is it going to happen again? Will the next 12 months really see western armies return to Iraq?
Last year was meant to signal an end to wars of intervention that dominated the world stage at the turn of the 21st century, attacks by powerful western states mostly against weak Muslim ones. It was assumed that Washington and London would draw a curtain over the most shambolic foreign policy adventures of modern times. The West would stop trying to reconfigure political Islam. Troops would return to base. Barack Obama and David Cameron were emphatic: ‘No more boots on foreign soil.’ As Cameron told Parliament last year after being stopped from intervening in Syria, ‘I get it.’
Yet the old tic, the twitch to intervene, has not gone away. Last October, despite his Commons rebuff, Cameron told his party conference that Islamic State was ‘a danger to Europe’ which he could not ignore. ‘There is no walk-on-by option,’ he said, though he did then walk on by. Since then he has plundered the lexicon for adjectives to hurl at Isis: vile, loathsome, evil, inhuman, odious. Like Tony Blair and George Bush, he sees terrorism as an ideology rather than a form of coercion. To him the Tunisian beach murders last June were said oddly to pose ‘an existential threat to Britain’.
Following his spring election victory, Cameron let it be known that he wanted Parliament to reverse its vote on Syria. It was then revealed that British pilots had been secretly involved in bombing Syria all along, in defiance of Parliament. Cameron was unrepentant. Like Blair, he craves covert liaison with Washington in matters of war and peace.
Britain’s leaders are at least consistent in their military adventurism. America is whimsical. It is hard now to recall Bush’s 2000 election rhetoric against what he and his aide Condoleezza Rice dismissed as wimpish ‘humanitarianism’ and ‘nation-building’. Blair was ridiculed for his interventionism. The world was not America’s business. The Somalia fiasco of 1993 was enough. There would be no more of the ‘101st Airborne leading kids to school’.
September 11 reversed all that. Bush became a born-again crusader and initiated an era of shock and awe which, by 2014, had engulfed the Muslim world from Pakistan to the Sahara. Governments were undermined or toppled, fuelling a fierce Islamist backlash, leading in turn to a refugee flood on a scale not seen since the 1940s.
By the time Bush left office, the Iraq and Afghanistan expeditions were widely discredited. I have counted some 200 books on them, barely one of which rates them with favour. The end was signalled by Obama’s 2008 election and his popular promise to bring troops home. Even the growth of Sunni militancy under Isis did not see an interventionist revival. Over the course of 2014 polls showed a solid 55 per cent of Americans against ‘boots on the ground’. Muslims should look after their own.
In the past year that has totally changed. The lame-duck Obama has had to send forces to support the helpless armies of Baghdad and Kabul. He wages a token air war against Isis-held territory that he is in no position to occupy or govern. Trapped by his military-industrial lobbyists into launching drone attacks across the region, he seems oblivious of the aid they offer Isis recruitment.
Iraq has now secured pride of place in the forthcoming American presidential election. Last year’s polls have gone into reverse, with more than half of recent Pew and Rasmussen surveys now in favour of a ground war against Isis. The latest CNN poll put Donald Trump well ahead of his rivals, with double the support offered Jeb Bush largely as he is seen as the candidate ‘to best handle Isis’.
The defining feature of the wars of intervention was media-induced mission creep. Each tended to start with sanctions and bombing, ‘intervention lite’. These were the fool’s gold of intervention. Subsequent Pentagon assessments of bombing campaigns were highly critical of their contribution to any strategic goal. Bombs tend to entrench a regime and draw people behind it. They are highly destructive, making it hard to restore administration afterwards. The past year’s bombing of Isis has reinforced its claim as champion of Islam’s defiance of the West, clouding its role in the Sunni war against the Shia. The longer Isis holds power across Sunni Iraq and Syria, the more its neighbours will move towards accommodation.
The question now is how long can London and Washington tolerate weekly Isis atrocity videos. The western media lacks any self-restraint in publicising them, such that Isis is said to regard them as a far more potent way of drawing attention to itself than the occasional act of terrorism. The clear objective is to goad the West into sending armies back to the desert and renewed entrapment. Nothing has changed since Gladstone was browbeaten into sending Gordon to disaster in Khartoum.
American election candidates are responding as if on cue. Everyone wants to take on Isis. Jeb Bush, hounded by Trump, declared last week that ‘the world is slipping out of control’. Only he could safely restore it. Hillary Clinton has attacked Obama’s plea that ‘We don’t do stupid’ as ‘not an organising principle’. She demands that he ‘fill the vacuum’, whatever that means.
Islamic State cannot pose any serious threat to any western state, yet the media is happy to accept politicians who pretend it does. Eisenhower’s ‘military–industrial complex’ should today be renamed the military–industrial-media one. For all the condemnation of Blair over Iraq, it should be remembered that every daily paper (except the Mirror) supported his call for force, including initially the Guardian.
In America, Fox News is hugely influential in setting the foreign policy agenda. It reincarnates Randolph Hearst’s belief that wars were good for circulation, retorting to a journalist who doubted there would be war over Cuba, ‘You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war,’ which he did. From another round of atrocities, it is a short step to transport jets roaring over Lakenheath air base and new carpets in Baghdad’s Camp Liberty.
There is little appetite in Britain for a return to Iraq. In the Commons last month, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon asserted, ‘Britain will not send ground forces into Iraq or Syria because it will be used by Isis as anti-western propaganda.’ He failed to explain why this did not apply to British pilots. But every British deployment in the wars of intervention began with similar denials of mission creep. Cameron has been making it very hard for Britain not to join an American reoccupation force.
In none of the wars of intervention was there any plausible casus belli, beyond the presence on television of ‘bad guys’. Kosovo was said to be humanitarian, but was effectively a war of partition. Afghanistan was punitive, but mutated into ‘rebuilding’ a nation — Britain’s Clare Short was even flown out to eradicate the opium crop. Iraq was claimed as a matter of ‘Britain’s national security’, but in reality was a simple decapitation of a dictator. Libya was ‘to avert a Srebrenica in Benghazi’, but soon changed into taking one side in a civil war — probably the wrong one.
I can find no truth to the left-wing claim that the wars were about securing oil. Even the most evil oil regime has to sell oil, and we have to buy it. Nor were the victim states significant harbours of terrorism. Most countries are that in some shape or form. In Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq it was only boots on the ground that altered the outcome, for good or ill. But the longer the boots stayed, the more likely was defeat, either in battle or in failing to resolve the anarchy that followed victory. ‘Wars among the peoples’ are rarely won by outsiders.
The conservative American Cato institute ran a regular analysis of the wars and their outcomes. It reached a clear conclusion. They were all wars of choice. The selected enemies ‘posed no existential threat to any western state’. Attempts to rebuild them proved ‘extremely costly, most of them fail and most erode American power’. The war in Iraq alone was estimated to have cost three trillion dollars.
Yet war still has the best tunes. Until the end Suez was popular in Britain, Vietnam in America. Foreign adventures have long appealed to insecure leaders. Callaghan said privately he was mortified that ‘I never had a Falklands.’ During Libya, Cameron yearned for a chance to play Henry V, with the help of his interventionist foreign policy aide, Ed Llewellyn. He still dives for his Cobra bunker at the slightest whiff of cordite and emerges speaking cod Churchill. Those who have no experience of war seem to crave it.
But Iraq, again? It is hardly to be believed. Must we join Kipling and watch as ‘the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire’?
Bashar Al-Assad’s Fate: Is A ‘Face-Saving’ Deal In Play?
By Raed Omari
30 August 2015
Recent meetings of key international and regional players have contributed to an emerging sense that the Syrian war is finally on track for resolution after almost five years. A well-informed Syrian opposition source told me that a framework for a political and mutually acceptable solution to the crisis is in the making. On the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, the source said: “A face-saving formula is being drafted.”
Washington has toned down talk of Assad’s departure over the last year. In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said the White House would have to negotiate with Assad for a political transition in Syria.
Assad has no place in a post-war Syria, but his replacement has to be decided during a transitional period by the warring parties, including the Russian-backed regime
Following dismay over this comment, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf quickly issued a clarification: “There has always been a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be a part of this process. It has never been and would not be Assad who would negotiate.”
Harf’s statement lies at the heart of the current U.S. vision of a negotiated political solution for Syria in which the Assad regime, rather than the man himself, is a component. Assad’s departure is not as much a priority for Washington as is the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
In order to avoid repeating the mistakes of Iraq and Libya following the ousters of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi respectively, U.S. policy on Syria is centered around keeping the state’s institutions intact.
As such, the Assad regime – not the man – is what matters. The U.S. rebel-training program, and its anti-ISIS coordination with Jordan and Turkey, are components of its new policy on Syria whereby moderate rebels will be trained to fight ISIS rather than the regime.
Assad has no place in a post-war Syria, but his replacement has to be decided during a transitional period by the warring parties, including the Russian-backed regime.
To avoid more tension with Russia and Iran, a veteran U.S. politician told me that the White House is studying two face-saving scenarios for Assad: either he leaves office within a transitional solution; or he remains in office until his term ends, without being allowed to run in the next presidential election. However, that may not be accepted by Syrian rebels, especially the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2