Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
26 July, 2014
A Muslim's Ramadan Message to ISIS: You Don't Speak For Islam
By Qasim Rashid
The False One: Islamic State's Caliph Is a Fantasy Enterprise
By Farrukh Dhondy
Showdown Begins Between Syrian Army, Islamic State
By Abdullah Suleiman Ali
Islamic State Destroys Sacred Shrine in Mosul
By Ali Mamouri
Does Iraq's President Hold Any Real Power?
By Mushreq Abbas
Prepare for the Middle East’s Version of the Thirty Years’ War
By Richard N. Haass
House Votes to Tie Obama's Hands in Iraq
By Julian Pecquet
A Muslim's Ramadan Message to ISIS: You Don't Speak for Islam
By Qasim Rashid
I wrote EXTREMIST specifically to respond to anti-Islam extremists and extremists claiming to act in Islam's name. ISIS falls into the latter category. Below is a summarized version of EXTREMIST's refutation of ISIS's inhumane platform.
The terrorist organization ISIS has set a new low standard of barbarity and inhumanity. Their most recent act of terrorism is a demand that Christians either convert, pay the Jizya, leave their homes, or be killed. Their destruction of an 1800-year-old church in Mosul is painful, condemnable without exception, and wholly in violation of every Qur'anic principle. In fact, the Qur'an 22:41 specifically commands Muslims to protect Churches from destruction.
Nothing in Islam or Prophet Muhammad's example supports ISIS's barbarity. The below modified excerpt from my book EXTREMIST addresses the issue of Jizya and dhimmis directly -- and shows without question that ISIS's acts have nothing to do with Islam, and Islam has nothing to do with ISIS. Indeed, it is an insult to 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide to call IS as "Islamic State." The more accurate term is Ignorant Savages.
Let's start with dhimmi. Dhimmi is a historical term referring to non-Muslim subjects of a Muslim state. (1) The word literally means "one whose responsibility is taken" or "people with whom a covenant or compact has been made." (2) Dhimmi describes citizens of a Muslim state afforded security over their persons, property, and religious practice in return for a tax (the Jizya). Historically, when empires won battles and wars, common people were subjugated, looted, and forced to work as labourers and serve in the military. Islam did away with such practices by affording all non-Muslim subjects the special dhimmi status. (3)
Regarding dhimmis Prophet Muhammad said, "If anyone wrongs a man with whom a covenant has been made [i.e., a dhimmi], or curtails any right of his, or imposes on him more than he can bear, or takes anything from him without his ready agreement, I shall be his adversary on the Day of Resurrection." (4)
Prophet Muhammad also made it clear that protecting the lives and honor of dhimmis was the responsibility of the Muslims, and failing in this regard would incur God's wrath: "Whoever killed a Mu'ahid (a person who is granted the pledge of protection by the Muslims, i.e. a dhimmi) shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise though its fragrance can be smelt at a distance of forty years (of travelling)." (5) At the conquest of Mecca, Prophet Muhammad had the upper hand against those who had persecuted him for more than two decades. He could have silenced his enemies forever. Instead, he turned to the Meccans and declared, "I say to you what the Prophet Joseph said to his brothers: 'No blame against you! You are free.'" (6)
Even before the conquest of Mecca, the Charter of Medina set the precedent for the treatment of Mua'ahids (dhimmis are those non-Muslim subjects who become subjects after a war. If there is no war and there is a negotiated settlement, then they are called Mua’ahids). When Prophet Muhammad was popularly appointed Medina's ruler, he entered into a pact with the Jewish communities of Medina. Through this pact, he granted equal political rights to non-Muslims. They were ensured complete freedom of religion and practice.
After the Prophet Muhammad's demise, non-Muslim inhabitants of the fast-expanding Islamic empire enjoyed the same dignified treatment. (7) When Hadhrat Umar, second Khalifa of Prophet Muhammad, conquered Jerusalem, he entered into a pact with all inhabitants of the city, declaring:
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, most Beneficent. This is a covenant of peace granted by the slave of Allah, the commander of the faithful 'Umar to the people of Jerusalem. They are granted protection for their lives, their property, their churches, and their Crosses, in whatever condition they are. All of them are granted the same protection. No one will dwell in their churches, nor will they be destroyed and nothing will be reduced of their belongings. Nothing shall be taken from their Crosses or their property. There will be no compulsion on them regarding their religion, nor will any one of them be troubled. (8)
A dhimmi assassinated Hadhrat Umar in 644 CE. Rather than lashing out against dhimmis, at his deathbed, Hadhrat Umar specifically ordered:
I urge him (i.e. the new Caliph) to take care of those non-Muslims who are under the protection of Allah and His Messenger in that he should observe the convention agreed upon with them, and fight on their behalf (to secure their safety) and he should not over-tax them beyond their capability. (9)
Indeed, Hadhrat Umar merely followed Prophet Muhammad's noble teaching regarding Christians who live under Muslim rule. In a famous letter that Prophet Muhammad wrote to the Christians of Saint Catherine's Monastery at Sinai:
This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity near and far -- we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant until the Last Day (end of the world). (10)
Contrary to ISIS's barbarity, Prophet Muhammad's example shows that Islam demands equality for all citizens.
Next, I transition to ISIS's demands regarding Jizya. The Jizya tax was the only tax imposed on non-Muslims; it was typically lower than taxes on the Muslims of that state and was paid by fewer people. The term Jizya comes from same Arabic root as Jaza', which means "reward" and "compensation." So, according to Sharia or Islamic law, this money was returned to the minorities. The Jizya tax, like other taxes, creates accountability on the part of the government to do right by its citizens. In Christian-ruled Sicily, for example, the Christian officials had such a tax for minorities -- and they too called it "Jizya."
Thus, non-Muslims paid Jizya as free citizens of the Muslim state in return for the protection of their civil and political liberties. Aside from this, Muslims were also taxed, and often at a rate heavier than the Jizya. Additionally, Muslims were obligated to perform military service, from which all non-Muslims were exempt. (11)
Jizya served as the sole citizen tax to assure protection from all foreign attacks. Thus, if protection could not be promised, then Jizya was impermissible. In The Preaching of Islam, Thomas Arnold records a statement of the Muslim general Khalid bin Waleed: "In a treaty made by Khalid with some town in the neighborhood of Hirah, he writes; 'If we protect you, then Jizya is due to us; but if we do not, then it is not.'" (12)
Abu Ubaida was a famous Muslim commander of Syria. When he entered the city of Hims, he made a pact with its non-Muslim inhabitants and collected the Jizya as agreed. When the Muslims learned of a massive advance toward the city by the Roman emperor Heraclius, they felt they would not be able to protect its citizens. Consequently, Abu Ubaidah ordered all the dues taken as Jizya to be returned to the people of the city. He said to them, "We are not able to defend you anymore and now you have complete authority over your matters." (13) Al-Azdi records Abu Ubaida's statement as follows:
We have returned your wealth back to you because we detest taking your wealth and then failing to protect your land. We are moving to another area and have called upon our brethren, and then we will fight our enemy. If Allah helps us defeat them we shall fulfill our covenant with you except that you yourselves do not like it then. (14)
The response that the people of Hims gave to the Muslims further substantiates that as dhimmis they were not in any way oppressed but instead lovingly embraced:
Verily your rule and justice is dearer to us than the tyranny and oppression in which we used to live. (15) May God again make you ruler over us and may God's curse be upon the Byzantines who used to rule over us. By the Lord, had it been they, they would have never returned us anything; instead they would have seized all they could from our possessions. (16)
Blinded by their own egos, the leaders of ISIS ignore this beautiful history. Professor Bernard Lewis observes that dhimmis welcomed the change from Byzantine to Arab rule. They "found the new yoke far lighter than the old, both in taxation and in other matters, and that some even among the Christians of Syria and Egypt preferred the rule of Islam to that of Byzantines." (17)
Moreover, the Jizya was not forcefully collected. It was a tax paid willingly as a favour for the protection of the state. Hadhrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, second Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, notes:
The expression "with their own hand" is used here in a figurative sense, signifying (1) that Jizya should not be forcibly taken from the People of the Book but that they should pay it with their own hand i.e. they should agree to pay it willingly...; or (2) that they should pay it out of hand i.e. in ready money and not in the form of deferred payment; or (3) that they should pay it considering it as a favour from Muslims, the word, yad (hand) also meaning a favour. (18)
Moreover, the Muslim state exempted from Jizya those dhimmis who chose to serve in the military. Sir Thomas Arnold elaborates:
When any Christian people served in the Muslim army, they were exempted from the payment of this tax. Such was the case with the tribe of al-Jurajima, a Christian tribe in the neighborhood of Antioch who made peace with the Muslims, promising to be their allies and fight on their side in battle, on condition that they should not be called upon to pay jizya and should receive their proper share of the booty. When the Arab conquests were pushed to the north of Persia in A.H. 22, a similar agreement was made with a frontier tribe, which was exempted from the payment of Jizya in consideration of military service. We find similar instances of remission of Jizya in the case of Christians who served in the army or navy under the Turkish rule. (19)
Furthermore, only employed men paid this tax while women, the elderly, the ill, and the unemployed were exempt. (20) But while non-Muslim women were exempt from the Jizya, Muslim women were required to pay the Zakat regardless of whether or not they worked.
In reality, the Jizya tax was an agreement between those non-Muslims who chose to live in Muslim lands and under the Muslim government. The Spanish Almorvids, for example, are a living testimony to the integrity and compassion with which Muslims treated Jews and Christians. Historian Gwendolyn Hall cites Francisco Codera, who wrote in 1899 while citing ancient Spanish historians:
The Almoravids were a country people, religious and honest...Their reign was tranquil, and was untroubled by any revolt, either in the cities, or in the countryside... There was no tribute, no tax, or contribution for the government except the charity tax and the tithe. Prosperity constantly grew; the population rose, and everyone could freely attend to their own affairs. Their reign was free of deceit, fraud, and revolt, and they were loved by everyone.
...learning was cherished, literacy was wide-spread, scholars were subsidized, capital punishment was abolished... Christians and Jews were tolerated within their realms. When the Christians rose up in revolt, they were not executed but were exiled to Morocco instead. The Almoravids were criticized, however, for being excessively influenced by their women. (21)
At a time when the West drowns in misogyny, perhaps the West could learn a thing or two from the Almoravid Muslims and ensure that women become "excessively" influential.
In sum, as Muslims we hold fast to the word of our beloved Master Prophet Muhammad regarding dhimmis; i.e., the protected: "By God, Christians are my citizens and I hold fast against all that displeases them."
ISIS must be brought to justice for their crimes against Christians and all humanity. Whatever religion they claim -- it is not Islam.
1. Juan Eduardo Campo, ed., "dhimmi," in Encyclopedia of Islam (Infobase Publishing, 2010), 194-95.
2. Edward William Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (London: Willams & Norgate, 1863), 975-76.
3. H. Patrick Glenn, Legal Traditions of the World (Oxford University Press, 2007), 218-19.
4. Sahih Sunan Abu Dawud, #3052. (Emphasis added.)
5. Sahih Jami' Bukhari, vol. 9, Book 83, #49.
6. Zadul-Ma'ad, vol. l, 424.
7. Glenn, Legal Traditions, 219.
8. Tarikh at-Tabari, 2/308.
9. Sahih Jami' Bukhari, vol. 4, Book 52, #287.
10. Prophet Muhammad, "Prophet Muhammad's Letter to St. Catherine's Monastery at Sinai," in ZMD Corporation, Muslim History: 570-1950 C.E., trans. Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq (Gaithersburg, MD), 167.
11. See http://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=922®ion=E1&CR. Accessed August 12, 2012.
12. Thomas Walker Arnold, The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith (2007) 6
13. William N. Lees, Futuh ash-Sham ed. (Culcutta: Baptist Mission, 1854), 1/162.
14. Ibid. 137-38.
15. Ibid., 1/162.
16. Ibid., 138.
17. Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (2002), 57.
18. See http://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=922®ion=E1&CR. Accessed August 12, 2012.
19. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, 61-62.
20. Ibid., 60.
21. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links (2005), 6.
Qasim Rashid is a Lawyer, Speaker, Best-Selling Author of "EXTREMIST"
The False One: Islamic State's Caliph Is A Fantasy Enterprise
By Farrukh Dhondy
July 21, 2014
Tony Blair publicly denies any responsibility for the disaster that is overtaking West Asia. Blair and his publicity machine are attempting to blame the inaction of the present American administration and the British Parliament, which decisively rejected military intervention in Syria. Blair asserts that the war in Syria has expanded into Mosul and the territories of Iraq which are now under the control of the organisation that calls itself ISIS.
I suppose Blair is right about the geography, but not about anything else. As prime minister leading a Labour government Blair presented the British Parliament with a dodgy dossier claiming that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in possession of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which could be deployed against Britain in a matter of 45 minutes. Parliament gave his government a free hand to support the war in Iraq, which George Bush had all but declared.
The war succeeded in removing Hussein and in demolishing and dismissing his army. Bush and his neo-con advisers had made no assessment of the political dispensation of Iraq and had no strategies for stabilising the region apart from some western fundamentalist shibboleths about establishing a democracy. Bush, famous for his malapropisms and floundering grasp of English expression, probably didn’t know the difference between the Sunni and the Shia — or perhaps he thought these were Arabic pronunciations of ‘Sonny’ and ‘Cher’. His armies and those of Britain under Blair’s democratic but deceitful diktat succeeded in killing the cat that had kept the rats at bay.
And now, Baghdadi and his murderous, crucifying crew have set up their Islamic State, the IS, and declared a Universal Caliphate, drawing fanciful maps aspiring to territories from southern Spain to South-East Asia and China. So not long then before the United States, Northern Europe, Russia and Australia fall under the suzerainty of the black flag?
Bush and Blair’s destabilising of the dictatorship of Hussein was only the second-last scramble in the region’s history. The coup which brought the Hussein entourage to power was the previous one and the defeat of the Ottoman empire in 1918, the dismantling of the Turkish Caliphate and the creation of Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia by the French and the British, the ‘winners’ of World War 1.
Mythology tells us that TE Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia who had helped the Arab revolt against the Ottomans was a determining personality at the Cairo Conference in 1921 at which Winston Churchill and the French disposed of the Arab territories that they controlled after the World War 1. It was however Gertrude Bell, the daughter of a British industrialist and an adventurer who had extensively and courageously toured and mapped the uncharted territories of West Asia, who determined the fate of the countries that emerged from Cairo.
Both Lawrence and Bell were mindful of the promises that the Allies had given the Arab rebels before and during the War. They had been assured that they would be assigned Arab rule over Arab lands liberated from the Turkish Empire. The Hashemite Princes, kings without kingdoms, were now established as rulers of the territories now known as Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Prince Faisal was briefly crowned King of Syria and soon deposed by the French. With the help of Gertrude Bell, the young Sunni Prince was established as the king of the territory, which had a majority of Shia and Kurdish peoples, and from ‘Mesopotamia’ became ‘Iraq’. He ruled till 1958 when he was overthrown by a military coup.
The Caliphate that Baghdadi’s armies seek to set up is very different from the Caliphate that succeeded the death of the Prophet. The Caliph has been traditionally acknowledged as holding both spiritual and temporal power. Islam proclaims its universality and doesn’t accept the idea of nationalism, of belonging to a territory and owing allegiance to ‘king and country’. The Umma in the time of the Prophet was the civic council of Medina and consisted of the followers of the Prophet as well as of Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. Today the word has come to mean the universal community of Muslims alone, even though the newly declared Universal Caliphate doesn’t seem to acknowledge Shias as part of it.
The declaration of this Universal Caliphate is a fantasy enterprise. Though some disillusioned and brain-washed individuals may travel from Europe and other places to join the Caliphate, it is as likely to win over the transcontinental territories it claims as Santa Klaus is to shower me with a few Rolls Royces this Christmas.
The Saudi rulers, though Sunnis and Wahhabis and the supporters of this ISIS movement at its inception, are unlikely to countenance a Caliph who holds suzerainty over their Sheikhs, oil-fields and international wealth and influence in the Muslim world. There is no predicting whether it will be wiped out or whether it will, with some international support, set up a fragment of Sunni Iraq as a state. As a Caliphate and successor to the early Caliphs and the reign of Haroun-al-Rashid it doesn’t qualify.
Farrukh Dhondy is an author, screenplay writer and columnist based in London
Showdown begins between Syrian army, Islamic State
By Abdullah Suleiman Ali
July 25, 2014
The Syrian crisis is entering a new phase of intense battles between the Syrian army and the Islamic State (IS), following months of relative calm devoid of direct clashes between the two parties.
After about two weeks of skirmishes and limited engagements, IS launched a double offensive targeting Division 17 in Raqqa, and Regiment 121 (Melbiya Regiment) in Hasakah, in a move considered to be the largest military attack launched by IS since its establishment, leading to the most violent confrontations between it and the Syrian army since the crisis began.
This offensive came mere days after IS took control of the al-Shaer gas field in the Palmyra desert located in the Homs countryside, where dozens of Syrian army troops were killed. Despite the seriousness of that attack, it cannot compare to the July 24 double offensive, neither in scope nor repercussions, especially when taking into account the sectarian and ethnic diversity characteristic of Hasakah province.
The attack on Division 17
In the late hours of the night of July 23, IS launched its attack on Division 17 in Raqqa’s northern countryside, considered the last stronghold of the Syrian army in the region and the most heavily fortified after the Tabqa military airport.
As is customary, the attack began with a suicide car bomb driven by Saudi Abdul-Aziz al-Saudi (Khatab al-Najdi), who detonated a Kia automobile, the windows of which were adorned with the names of three female detainees in Saudi prisons, among them Hila al-Kasir, the suicide bomber’s niece.
Under the cover of heavy artillery and rocket shelling, the car sped toward the perimeter of Division 17’s base, where it detonated in a massive explosion that shook buildings in Raqqa city. The suicide bombing was expected to result in a breach through which 40 waiting attackers could infiltrate the base and clash with its garrison inside, causing confusion and impacting the morale of soldiers there. But the car exploded prematurely, having been hit by a shell fired by Syrian army defenders. As a result, a second Saudi suicide bomber, Abdullah Saleh al-Sadiri (nicknamed Abu Suhaib al-Jazrawi), again tried but also failed to reach his target adjacent to the Signal Battalion headquarters (one of the battalions that comprise Division 17), when the truck he was driving, filled with tons of explosives, exploded shy of its target.
According to available information, 600 IS militants and 40 infiltrator troops took part in the attack, where all types of medium and heavy weapons were used.
The attack came from three axes: The first followed a line adjacent to the military housing complex, the second targeted the division command and the third the Agrar Battalion. Violent clashes erupted between the two sides, as the division’s garrison, believed to number 300 Syrian soldiers, tried to repel the attack and prevent a breach of the perimeter wall, parts of which were destroyed in previous attacks last year. Syrian warplanes provided the garrison with air support by bombing the attackers and stopping their advance, while helicopter gunships targeted IS headquarters and sites inside Raqqa city.
Websites with ties to IS announced that two surface-to-surface rockets were detected: one near the Pharmacy Guild building, where it exploded in the air, and the other on the borders of Raqqa province, without giving an exact location.
The attacks' toll in dead and wounded remain unknown. Yet, the IS-affiliated Raqqa State Twitter account published photographs of six beheaded Syrian soldiers that its militants killed inside the base, while a source on the field confirmed that several IS militants had been killed, and whose identities and numbers remain unknown as a result of the total media blackout on the part of IS. This happened while clashes continued, ebbing and flowing from hour to hour.
Regiment 121 and the Baath Building
It's believed that the attack on Division 17 was to cover IS’ main objective to strike at Syrian army emplacements and prevent them from maintaining the military campaign that began a week prior in Hasakah’s southern and Deir Ez-Zor’s western countryside, both of which are controlled by IS.
On July 24, mere hours after the attack on Division 17 began in Raqqa, IS launched an attack against Regiment 121, known as the Melbiya Regiment, and the Panorama checkpoint in Hasakah’s countryside. Regiment 121 is considered one of the most important for the Syrian army in the region, and performs an important role of targeting the headquarters and emplacements of militants in Hasakah’s southern countryside, being deployed on high ground, which give it control by fire of large swaths of land.
A week ago, the Syrian army began a campaign targeting towns and villages controlled by IS, whether in Deir ez-Zor’s western countryside, such as the village of Ayash, which witnessed heavy clashes, or in Hasakah’s southern countryside, such as the Al Khair silos and the Karama village toward the city of al-Shadadi, considered a main IS stronghold, all in an apparent attempt by the army to isolate the areas controlled by IS and prevent the latter from achieving a fait accompli on the ground, following its control of Deir ez-Zor in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.
IS’ offensive thus came in the context of countering this military campaign, to end or disrupt it, particularly after it realized that the Syrian army was serious about relentlessly maintaining its pressure. According to a source close to IS, a large force took part in the attack on the regiment, with most of its members coming from al-Shadadi. The source denied media reports that the so-called Baghdadi Brigade came from Iraq to lead the charge.
Violent clashes ensued between the attackers and regiment forces, while four infiltrators attacked the Baath Party building in Hasakah, where they killed Hana Attallah, a member of the party’s regional branch committee, after gaining entry disguised as members of the Civil Defense.
There were a number of conflicting reports concerning the Melbiya Regiment front. While IS-affiliated sources claimed that attackers managed to breach the base and engage its garrison at close range, Regimental Commander General Mozid Salama and 20 soldiers were killed, and a number of soldiers were pinned down at the edges of the base. A field source knowledgeable about the defense of the base told As-Safir, “There is no truth to claims about terrorists breaching the regiment’s headquarters. Army troops succeeded in repelling the attack and thwarting the attainment of its objectives.”
In addition, a military source said, “The army imposed its control over all hillsides surrounding the al-Shaer gas field,” which put the field within range of their weapons. He further indicated that “wholesale numbers of IS militants were withdrawing under heavy fire from the Syrian army," and that the "battle will be decided very shortly.”
In a statement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that clashes had taken place between IS and Syrian forces on the perimeter of Quayres military airport in Aleppo’s countryside, while Syrian aviation bombed the city of al-Bab, north of the airport.
Islamic State Destroys Sacred Shrine In Mosul
By Ali Mamouri
July 25, 2014
The Islamic State (IS) bombed and destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Jonah east of Mosul on July 24.
Previously, IS had carried out numerous bombings, destroying important cultural sites such as the shrine of the Prophet Daniel west of Mosul, the shrine of one of the grandchildren of the second Caliph Omar Bin al-Khattab, as well as mosques, various shrines and numerous other churches. These sites are not only for Shiite Muslims or non-Muslims. Most of them are sacred places for Sunni Muslims as well, and some are even only affiliated with them, in addition to a significant number of statues of famous figures and other cultural sites that also were destroyed.
Sources inside the city confirmed this information to Al-Monitor. Activists on social media networks uploaded pictures and several videos showing the magnitude of the destruction of cultural sites around the city. Sources told Al-Monitor that a state of sorrow and regret reigns in the city and that they have seen plenty of people crying while witnessing the destruction of Jonah’s tomb. Jonah is considered sacred by all Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
What these groups are doing is based on an endemic Salafist principle common to most Salafist movements, whether they are jihadists or not. This principle underlines the need to purify the earth of polytheism and disbelief. These groups consider religious shrines or any other sites related to a certain person to be a kind of sanctification, which is, according to them, a true sign of polytheism.
The destruction of these sites is part of the process of returning to the authentic Islam and eliminating all alien elements, according to the Salafist understanding. This contradicts the traditional understanding of Islam by all Muslim confessions, which means that Islam does not contradict other sanctities, but rather understands them and considers them sacred, especially when the people of these sacred places are prophets of the Quran, such as the prophets Jonah and Daniel and many others from both the New and Old Testaments.
Therefore, international Muslim figures, such as the mufti of Egypt, condemned the destruction of sacred places by IS. The mufti also called for an urgent intervention from the authorities in Iraq and international organizations such as UNESCO to protect these sacred places.
The destruction of sacred places also happened during the establishment of Saudi Arabia, which was described as the first political entity for Salafists in the Islamic world. Hundreds of shrines of the prophet’s companions and family have been destroyed, in addition to other important historical sites related to different eras of Islamic history, from the establishment of the first and second Saudi states until this day. These actions also occurred in Afghanistan, Syria and certain areas in Iraq that fell under the control of Salafist groups.
IS threatened to continue the process of destroying sacred places of other confessions and religions, as well as others related to Sunnis. These threats raised the concerns of most Iraqis, especially the Shiites and the religious minorities, in addition to Sunnis who share the same respect and sanctification for these shrines and religious places.
It's mandatory for the international organizations concerned about human rights and preserving religious freedom and heritage, specifically UNESCO, to work harder and on a larger scale to put an end to this destruction. This is essential since a large number of these places are sanctified and respected by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The concerns about the destruction of sacred places are not limited to them being historic and cultural sites; they include forgiveness and coexistence between different religions and confessions in Iraq. Such destruction harms the long history of coexistence among Iraqi religions. It targets the symbols and main sites which attracted and gathered all confessions and paved the path for communication and understanding, and thus, their coexistence.
It also heightens intolerance and religious hatred and hostility between different confessions. This usually does not quickly fade away, and could create social divisions and demographic subdivisions on a large scale across Iraq. This could eliminate any sort of communication between the various elements of society and create severe conflicts between them.
Iraq is heading toward total destruction of its historic and human heritage, which will turn it into a barren desert isolated from its time-honoured cultural and religious history. This is taking place in light of chaotic circumstances involving terrorism that is on the offensive, Iraqi government ignorance, global silence and an international letdown — specifically from the United States, which completely abandoned its responsibilities toward the situation in Iraq.
Does Iraq's President Hold Any Real Power?
By Mushreq Abbas
July 25, 2014
The position of president in Iraq has always been described as an honorific one without privileges, which does not allow its occupant to affect the political course of events. However, this description does not stem from the Iraqi constitution’s texts, which grant the president significant privileges that put him in competition with the prime minister.
The Iraqi parliament elected Fouad Massoum president during the July 24 session as part of the second voting round, with a majority of 211 MPs out of the 269 who attended.
As soon as he receives the tasks attributed to his position, Massoum will have to recreate the position of president by regaining this role’s privileges, which have been suspended in recent years.
The task of restoring the privileges of the president starts by reviewing Article 66 of the Iraqi constitution, which states, “The federal executive power shall consist of the president of the republic and the Council of Ministers, and shall exercise its powers in accordance with the constitution and the law.”
This article is pivotal, since it joins the president and cabinet under one definition, which is summarized by the “executive power.”
Moreover, Article 67 of the constitution gives another clarification for the privileges and states, “The president of the republic is the head of the state and a symbol of the unity of the country and represents the sovereignty of the country. He shall guarantee the commitment to the constitution and the preservation of Iraq’s independence, sovereignty, unity and the safety of its territories, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.”
There aren’t any legal approaches capable of turning the president’s tasks mentioned in the Iraqi constitution into legitimate ones. The constitution, as well as the laws that are supposed to be approved by the Iraqi parliament, have not specified how the president can apply his description as the symbol of the country’s unity and ensurer of the respect of the constitution, and turn his tasks into clear executive plans of action.
It was important in the past few years for the Iraqi parliament to prepare a law that grants the president executive mechanisms to fulfill his constitutional description, especially when it comes to ensuring the respect of the constitution.
Article 60 of the Iraqi constitution presents proof that the president has executive powers. This article stirred wide controversy in the past four years after the Constitutional Court issued in 2010 an explanation for it, restricting the right of presenting draft laws to the executive authority. Parliament’s task became limited to voting on the draft laws submitted by the executive authority or presenting “law proposals” that the executive authority wouldn’t necessarily have to turn into draft laws.
Article 60 of the constitution states the following, “First: Draft laws shall be presented by the president of the republic and the Council of Ministers. Second: Proposed laws shall be presented by 10 members of the Council of Representatives or by one of its specialized committees.”
The first clause of the article joins again the cabinet and the president under one definition and grants both parties the right to submit draft laws. However, the past four years did not show that the president practiced his right to submit draft laws or even participate in preparing ones for the cabinet to present to the parliament, as per the constitution. The only exception was when former President Jalal Talabani presented the “demarcation of provinces” draft law in November 2011. The law was more political, rather than being an attempt to restitute the privileges of the president.
In fact, the consensual system in Iraq did not allow Talabani to perform a role in the structure of the executive authority. He could not contribute to preparing the laws that the country urgently needed — laws whose absence constituted a weak point for the political process in Iraq.
Today, the question is raised to the Iraqi president: Is he or the political party to which he adheres, the Kurdistan Alliance, willing to take a personal initiative, or use the presidential system, to effectively participate in filling the huge legal vacuum in Iraq? Is he ready to start by seizing his constitutional privileges and exerting them on par with the prime minister?
The answer to this question will be very important in the coming weeks. Past experiences have proven that the legal gap was one of the main aspects of the governmental failure, on the security, political and economic levels, to explain the constitution. Moreover, the parties have accused each other of violating the constitutional texts, and this is because the constitutional text that grants the president the privilege of “ensuring the respect of the constitution” was not applied.
Iraq needs dozens of laws that would clear the air between the executive and legislative authorities as well as among Baghdad, Iraqi Kurdistan and the provinces. It also needs laws that remove the system of governing the state through a group of acting officials. Those have been occupying interim positions for years, although the constitution stipulates the positions must be elected in Article 61.
Continuing legal chaos in Iraq requires that the Iraqi president play a new role to contribute to the foundations of the state and seeking the needed balance between the government and the presidency. The president should also play a role in improving Iraq’s foreign relations and governing a consensual system between the political parties, thus restoring the dialogue that has been disrupted between them for years.
The presidency is a position with suspended powers. It is not true that the presidency in Iraq is an honorific position, as some have been saying. The Iraqi constitution places the president in a very delicate position, whether regarding his ability to propose laws and protect the constitution, or through his effective contribution in formulating governmental political and security decisions.
The next stage in Iraq should be accompanied by reconsideration for the position of president, whose privileges have been suspended under a previous political consensus.
Prepare for the Middle East’s version of the Thirty Years’ War
By Richard N. Haass
Jul. 25, 2014
It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith. But the conflict is also between militants and moderates, fueled by neighboring rulers seeking to defend their interests and increase their influence. Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish. Governments often forfeit control to smaller groups – militias and the like – operating within and across borders. The loss of life is devastating, and millions are rendered homeless.
That could be a description of today’s Middle East. In fact, it describes Europe in the first half of the 17th century.
In the Middle East in 2011, change came after a humiliated Tunisian fruit vendor set himself alight in protest; in a matter of weeks, the region was aflame. In 17th-century Europe, a local religious uprising by Bohemian Protestants against the Catholic Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand II triggered that era’s conflagration.
Protestants and Catholics alike turned for support to their co-religionists within the territories that would one day become Germany. Many of the era’s major powers, including Spain, France, Sweden, and Austria, were drawn in. The result was the Thirty Years’ War, the most violent and destructive episode in European history until the two world wars of the 20th century.
There are obvious differences between the events of 1618-1648 in Europe and those of 2011-2014 in the Middle East. But the similarities are many – and sobering. Three and a half years after the dawn of the “Arab Spring,” there is a real possibility that we are witnessing the early phase of a prolonged, costly, and deadly struggle; as bad as things are, they could well become worse.
The region is ripe for unrest. Most of its people are politically impotent and poor in terms of wealth and prospects. Islam never experienced something akin to the Reformation in Europe; the lines between the sacred and the secular are unclear and contested.
Moreover, national identities often compete with – and are increasingly overwhelmed by – those stemming from religion, sect, and tribe. Civil society is weak. In some countries, the presence of oil and gas discourages the emergence of a diversified economy and, with it, a middle class. Education emphasizes rote learning over critical thinking. In many cases, authoritarian rulers lack legitimacy.
Outside actors, by what they did and failed to do, added fuel to the fire. The 2003 Iraq war was highly consequential, for it exacerbated Sunni-Shiite tensions in one of the region’s most important countries and, as a result, in many of the region’s other divided societies. Regime change in Libya has created a failing state; lukewarm support for regime change in Syria has set the stage for prolonged civil war.
The region’s trajectory is worrisome: weak states unable to police their territory; the few relatively strong states competing for primacy; militias and terrorist groups gaining greater influence; and the erasure of borders. The local political culture confuses democracy with majoritarianism, with elections used as vehicles to consolidate power, not share it.
Beyond the enormous human suffering and loss of life, the most immediate byproduct of the region’s turmoil is the potential for more severe and frequent terrorism – both in the Middle East and emanating from it. There is also the potential for disruption of energy production and shipping.
There are limits to what outsiders can do. Sometimes, policymakers need to focus on preventing things from getting worse, rather than on ambitious agendas for improvement; this is one of those times.
What this calls for, above all, is prevention of nuclear proliferation (beginning with Iran), whether through diplomacy and sanctions, or, if need be, through sabotage and military attacks. The alternative – a Middle East in which several governments and, through them, militias and terrorist groups have access to nuclear weapons and materials – is too horrific to contemplate.
Steps that reduce global dependence on the region’s energy supplies (including improvements in fuel efficiency and development of alternative sources) also make great sense. Economic assistance should go simultaneously to Jordan and Lebanon to help them cope with the flood of refugees. Democracy promotion in Turkey and Egypt should focus on strengthening civil society and creating robust constitutions that diffuse power.
Counter-terrorism against groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria – whether by drones, small raids, or the training and arming of local partners – must become a staple of policy. It is time to recognize the inevitability of Iraq’s break-up (the country is now more a vehicle for Iran’s influence than a bulwark against it) and bolster an independent Kurdistan within Iraq’s former borders.
There is no room for illusions. Regime change is no panacea; it can be difficult to achieve and nearly impossible to consolidate.
Negotiations cannot resolve all or even most conflicts.
That is certainly true, for the time being, of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Even if this changes, a comprehensive settlement would help the locals but not affect the dynamics of neighboring countries or conflicts. That said, a narrow ceasefire between Israel and Hamas should be pursued.
Likewise, diplomacy can work in Syria only if it accepts the reality on the ground (including the survival of the Assad regime for the foreseeable future), rather than seeking to transform it. The answer is not to be found in drawing new maps, though once populations have shifted and political stability has been restored, recognition of new borders might prove both desirable and viable.
Policymakers must recognize their limits. For now and for the foreseeable future – until a new local order emerges or exhaustion finally sets in – the Middle East will be less a problem to be solved than a condition to be managed.
Richard N. Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate © (www.project-syndicate.org).
House Votes To Tie Obama's Hands In Iraq
By Julian Pecquet
July 25, 2014
House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on July 25 in favor of a resolution demanding a say before President Barack Obama can send more troops to Iraq.
The 370-40 vote demonstrates growing concern that Congress has abdicated too much power to the executive branch in the decade-old war on terrorism. While non-binding, the vote could make it more difficult for the president to ramp up the fight against Islamist militants by making clear the widespread reluctance to engage the United States in what many lawmakers view as a sectarian civil war.
“The main text of this resolution is simple: The president shall not deploy or maintain United States armed forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without specific statutory authorization,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. “This is a monumental step toward reclaiming our constitutional authority.”
Jones co-sponsored the resolution along with Reps. James McGovern, D-Mass., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif. It would initially have demanded the withdrawal of all US troops not there to protect US diplomats and other personnel but was toned down in negotiations with the Republican leadership.
The resolution follows the president’s decision to ramp up US support, with 825 military personnel now reportedly in the country.
“The time to debate our re-engagement in Iraq, should it come to that, is before we are caught in the heat of the moment — not when the first body bags come home, not when the first bombs start to fall, not when the worst case scenario is playing out on our TV screens,” McGovern said.
He made it clear that his personal opinion was that “it would be a grave mistake for the United States to re-engage militarily in Iraq.”
Iraq war veteran Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., was one of the few voices of dissent.
“Instead of giving the president an ability to blame Congress for his indecisiveness,” he said, “I think it’s time that we stand up and say we have to defend our interests.”