What’s Wrong With This Picture? Saudi Arabia
What’s Wrong With This Picture? Saudi Arabia
It’s amazing that some people protested against the French-led campaign in Mali. Surely the French have a host of national interests in doing so, including sustaining ties to its former colony. No one is naïve enough to believe that it was done out of true altruism. But at the same time, given what the Sharia bullies who ransacked their way through northern Mali and threatened the capital had done to the locals, the French should be applauded.
Tuareg rebels who had long been Libyan leader Colonel Qaddafi’s allies grabbed their weapons and fled to Niger and Mali in 2011 after their benefactor’s demise. Together with Islamist extremists, they overran the Malian military, and the hard-line Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) affiliated Islamists implemented harsh Sharia laws particularly restricting women. They demanded women to cover up and not be in public without a male chaperone, and to cardboard windows in their homes. They even turned against their Tuareg comrades and violently drove out anyone among the Tuareg rebels who didn’t join them. Islamist extremists meted out extrajudicial executions, stonings, whippings, amputations, and other forms of violent punishments with no due process. A man amputated his brother’s hand; a couple was stoned to death for “adultery;” and countless people have been whipped, humiliated, and bullied in public by bearded Taliban-like extremists alongside Kalashnikov-wielding adolescents.
Hundreds of thousands of Malians have fled as refugees. The refugees say that they fear the extremists, and economic activities are at a complete standstill thanks to the extremist thugs. A humanitarian disaster has ensued. In addition to their brutal treatment of fellow moderate Muslims, the extremists have destroyed centuries-old UNESCO heritage sites, including mosques and important Sufi mausoleums in Timbuktu, and they have burned irreplaceable old manuscripts in historical libraries.
Spiegel Online (October 29, 2012) describes “A Trip through Hell: Daily Life in Islamist Northern Mali”, starting with a checkpoint on the road to Gao:
“Adolescents wielding Kalashnikovs stand at the barrier with their legs apart. The oldest one keeps repeating the same instructions through a megaphone: ‘No cigarettes, no CDs, no radios, no cameras, no jewelry,’ an endless loop of prohibitions, a list of everything that’s haram, or impure, with which this journey to the north begins. The men stand guard in the name of the Prophet Muhammad.
… The Sharia court uses a former military base outside the city to carry out its grisly punishments. One of its victims is Alhassane Boncana Maiga, who was found guilty of stealing cattle. Four guards drag Maiga, wearing a white robe, into a dark room and tie him to a chair, leaving only one hand free. A doctor gives the victim an injection for the pain.
Then Omar Ben Saïd, the senior executioner, pulls a knife out of its sheath. ‘In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,’ he calls out, takes the convicted man’s hand and begins to slice into it, as blood squirts out. It becomes more difficult when Saïd reaches the bone, and it’s a full three minutes before the hand drops into a bucket. The executioner reaches for his mobile phone, calls his superior and says: ‘The man has been punished’.”
A few days later Maiga died, possibly from infection.
The Islamic extremists consist of a mix of different groups, including a fairly new one called Ansar al-Dine (“Defenders of the Faith”), which collaborates with AQIM and also is involved in the Saharan drug trade. Ansar set up shop in the city of Kidal, where –
“Islamic police in pickup trucks patrol the streets. The market is closed, and women are no longer permitted to go out in public alone in the city. The men were instructed to grow beards. Those who do not obey the muezzin’s call to prayer are either whipped or jailed for three days. Listening to the radio is banned, and the new rulers have simply sawed off satellite dishes on the roofs of houses.
… “Those stupid Salafists,” [says a Kidal resident]. He refuses to take them very seriously and isn’t fooled by their piety. He calls them bandits, not holy warriors.
… The Islamic police are everywhere … There are more than 20 ethnic groups in Mali, and until now, Muslims, Christians and animists coexisted peacefully. Religion was always a private matter … the people of Kidal are tired of being pushed around by adolescents [with Kalashnikovs].”
Those who so vocally espouse the brand of Sharia that the Mali terrorists wield should spend a day under their ruthless rule. Then let’s see who will be crying for someone to rescue them.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views
The shooting of the brave Pakistani teenager, Malala Yusufzai, underscores a reality, without exaggeration, about the degree and severity of misogyny of Islamic extremists. The shooting, which the 14-year-old activist and campaigner for girls’ education survived, is an ever-growing stain on Pakistan’s fabric of militancy and mindless misogynist orthodoxy. The list of threats and violence against women and liberal voices is long. This week BBC profiled an Afghan female rap artist, who is a proud patriot, yet receives regular threats by militants, including threats of acid attacks. In Dagestan, militants murdered the fourth Sufi cleric this year.
What drives these hyenas to commit senseless acts of violence against innocent civilians and even children? Are they so threatened by girls that they have to resort to such tactics as acid attacks and shootings of school buses? Is this what their seminary curricula have taught them, to hate everyone who doesn’t conform to their own way of thinking, and to fear girls, especially educated ones? I once reprimanded my students for using the word “barbaric” for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, but now I lament my actions. The behavior of these militants and extremists, which are not restricted to the Af-Pak region, is beyond barbaric. They transcend the Dark Ages in their regressive madness and extremes. They make me hate the news and cringe every time I reach for BBC or NPR. They are a dark cloud hovering ominously over the “modern” Muslim world today, and sadly many Muslims remain defensively in denial or apologetically rationalize the existence of these ugly elements, or re-frame Shariah (Islamic law) to distance themselves from such ideologies.
If so called moderate and liberal Muslims fail to acknowledge the reality of these extremists and their agendas, and, more importantly, fail to counter these militant and extremist forces in their midst, dire consequences await Muslim communities worldwide. Some of these consequences are already occurring, including:
The end result of this religious fascism is nothing but destructive, oppressive, intolerant, and violent, authoritarian male-dominated communities living anachronistically in a 7th century time warp. In fact, that itself is an untruth, because much of these extremists’ attitudes and behaviors pre-date Islam. Yet, they insist on attributing their take on Islam as replicating the time of the Prophet Muhammad in 7th century Arabia. Still, even the latter was not such a shining example of women’s emancipation and rights, certainly not by modern standards, nor was it brimming with religious tolerance and harmony. Pre-Islamic Arabia fared even worse of course, but to compare these historical contexts to modern times is a non-starter. Hence, the extremists’ backward regression is far worse than anticipated. We all thought the Taliban were the worst when they emerged in the 1990s, but now they have parallel groups and ideologies that mirror them in many respects. And we have the Saudis to thank for the proliferation of Wahhabi / Salafi ideologies that are inspiring these extremists and militants.
Last year and even earlier this year, I had high hopes for post-revolution political and socioeconomic development in Tunisia, where the 2011 Arab Awakening began. Now, Salafist thugs are threatening to derail stability and security in Tunisia, while continuing their violent agendas and attacks. Even as recent as October 31st, there have been fierce clashes in Tunis, as Al Jazeera reports:
“Wielding sharp tools and swords, the protesters went on the attack in the Tunis suburb of Manouba after police arrested a Salafist suspected of assaulting the head of the suburb’s public-security brigade, Khaled Tarrouche, interior ministry spokesman, said.
‘There has been a reinforcement of security, of the National Guard, of the army to prevent any retaliation’ by the Salafist movement, Tarrouche said on Wednesday.
‘The response by the security forces led to the death of an attacker who was hit by a bullet.’
Two security force members were also seriously injured, he said.”
These extremist elements are enemies of knowledge. They are haters of peace and harmony. They are the most intolerant towards tolerance. Muslims must not bury their heads in the sand about this. There is way too much at stake.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views
No one has learned anything from past lessons. The senseless violence snowballing throughout the Muslim world, supposedly in reaction to an amateurish 14-minute YouTube trailer for a film that no one can find in full length, is a stain on the 21st century. The news media are presenting the cause of the violence as solely stemming from the anti-Islamic film, entitled “Innocence of Muslims,” which ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. However, there is much more behind the causal factors of this epidemic violence than the simplistic headlines convey. Here are some variables, based on my assessment, pertaining to this outbreak of violence, and all of them are interrelated:
No doubt, many Muslims are expressing genuine hurt feelings and passionate emotions in reaction to insults and offenses targeting Muhammad, the last prophet of Islam, in the film trailer. If we look back at the Salman Rushdie affair in the 1980s, we see that such sensitivities have not changed, and on the part of more orthodox and conservative Muslims, they have only intensified. In addition, this film comes in a long series of anti-Islam expressions, like the Danish cartoons, the threat of Quran burning by Terry Jones, the accidental Qurans burned in Afghanistan, etc. These recent incidents have only reinforced the narrative among many Muslims that the West is against Islam and permits such offenses with impunity. That’s the perception fueling the anger and hatred. Yet, there is no condemnation of killings in response to these perceived offenses, like the murder of Theo Van Gogh, for example. Objective parity is not part of the narrative in this case.
Such hurt feelings and anger never justify the violence and vandalism that the recent protests have generated. In the big picture, so many films, TV shows, art exhibits, and popular culture programs and performances have insulted Christianity and other religions. Consider “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “South Park,” and “Monty Python,” to name a few, which are film producers and programs that have repeatedly ridiculed Christianity and other faiths with the sharpest irreverence and mockery, yet we never see violent reactions to them.
Among Islam’s ultra-orthodox and extremist elements, resorting to violence and calling for the death of the offenders are all too quick to the draw. No one seems to pause and consider the consequences and damage to Islam’s image as a whole, as they become so consumed by their emotions and hatred. There have been calls for peaceful protests by some, but mob mentality is hard to control especially once it gets out of hand.
This brings me to extremists pulling strings behind the scenes and having a field day. Undoubtedly, extremist leaders at local levels see an opportunity in manipulating and exploiting the emotions and passions of the masses, especially those who embrace common extremist ideologies. It is no coincidence that the attacks on the US consulate in Libya and the US embassy in Egypt fell on September 11th, which reinforces the theory that there is more to this violent fervor than just emotive reactions to the offensive film, which most protesters have not even seen (and for the record, the trailer is not worth one’s precious time). Some analysts are also pointing to the revenge factor, especially in the case of the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and his security detail. In June Al Qaeda’s number two leader in Yemen was killed, and he happened to be Libyan.
Furthermore, the extremist Islamists are dismayed at being sidelined and even delegitimized upon the 2011 uprisings and revolutions that toppled decades-long secular dictatorships. For just as long, these extremist groups spread throughout the region, although small in numbers, were forced to operate underground. Once the revolutions took place last year through mostly nonviolent protests and civil disobedience, the extremists had the rug pulled from under them. Even the Islamist parties that have come to power following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have to balance their respective Islamism with moderate secular and liberal ideals and policies. This also angers the extremists, who feel that these Islamist governments are “too soft” in their Islamism. Particularly in the case of Egypt and Sudan, Islamist hardliners are pressuring the governments to capitulate on some of their demands to implement stricter Shariah rules and policies. These Islamists constitute major political constituents in some cases, and so the governments cannot be seen as leaning too much toward secularism and liberalism.
Similarly, the protesters, especially the young men, continue to hold grievances against their own governments for failing to meet their needs, especially providing jobs and a better future for the next generation. Thus, woven into this discontent about the anti-Islam film are the underlying grievances against respective governments, especially for socioeconomic reasons. Change is not occurring fast enough for many, and this has been an opportunity to express their multi-layered anger.
Anti-Western and especially anti-American sentiments are also being exploited by various elements. Many people in the region, but certainly not all, see Western values, especially freedom of expression, as “boundary-less,” meaning that these freedoms and rights have no limits. This is not exactly true, because we have laws against “hate speech” and of course the exception to the First Amendment right to free speech and expression exists for the sake of public order and safety, prohibiting incitement of violence. The “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” phrase aptly describes this exception.
But, most people in the region are not aware of these provisions and exceptions. They simply see that an American national has funded and produced this vile film, and that the US government should take action against such offenses, and place boundaries or “reasonable limits” on free speech and expression. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama have unequivocally condemned this film, as well as the violence in the Muslim world. But, they have no authority to undo the constitutional laws that grant all Americans First Amendment rights and freedoms. The First Amendment embodies the fabric of American values, and, by the way, it also grants everyone the freedom of religion. We should never compromise on that.
The last few days have been extremely sad, tragic, and disheartening. Too many breaches have occurred, including the murder of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues. Also, the loss of life of protesters is, in my opinion, such a waste.
According to a Reuters article (9/14/2012), entitled “Anti-American fury sweeps Middle East over Film” –
“At least seven people were killed as local police struggled to repel assaults after weekly Muslim prayers in Tunisia and Sudan, while there was new violence in Egypt and Yemen and across the Muslim world, driven by emotions ranging from piety to anger at Western power to frustrations with local leaders and poverty.”
The article also explains the balancing act that Egypt’s President Mursi must play regarding the Cairo protests and US relations (Egypt is the second highest recipient of US foreign aid):
“Mursi must tread a line between appealing to an electorate receptive to the appeal of more hardline Islamists and maintaining ties with Washington, which long funded the ousted military dictatorship.”
The Salafists are involved in most if not all of these violent protests. I have repeatedly written about the dangers of Salafists, even in Tunisia, as the Reuters article describes:
“Further west along the Mediterranean, a Reuters reporter saw police open fire to try to quell an assault in which protesters forced their way past police into the U.S. embassy in Tunis. Some smashed windows, others hurled petrol bombs and stones at police from inside the embassy and started fires. One threw a computer from a window, others looted computers and telephones.
A Tunisian security officer near the compound said the embassy had not been staffed on Friday, and calls to the embassy went unanswered. Two armed Americans in uniform stood on a roof.
The protesters, many of whom were followers of hardline Salafist Islamist leaders, also set fire to the nearby American School, which was closed at the time, and took away laptops. The protests began after Friday prayers and followed a rallying call on Facebook by Islamist activists and endorsed by militants.”
This is shameful, disgusting, and criminal behavior, not much different in measure than the film producer, and in fact is even worse because lives have been lost.
This behavior also exhibits extreme immaturity at so many levels. Islam is the youngest of the Judeo-Christian faiths, and its internal ideologies and diverse compositions and manifestations are still evolving. As one student put it, Christianity used to be very puritanical, with the Inquisition, the Crusades, witch-burnings, and the like. Islam is going through its phases and evolutions as well, some aspects of which are still very medieval in their outlook. It’s imperative for the world’s Muslims to reconcile the internal conflicts and facilitate enlightenment and stamp out the extremist ideologies that are so harmful. Puritanism serves no purpose, especially in the modern era. It is extremely counterproductive and threatens regional and global peace and security.
Another point for the Muslim world to ponder is this: given all the anti-Americanism and knee-jerk emotional and violent reactions that we’ve been witnessing throughout the Muslim world, Western powers will think twice before helping Muslims again, and that might include the opposition in Syria.
Finally, why people continue to take the bait is beyond comprehension. Clearly, this film was intended to provoke anger and emotions. Yet, it seems that repeatedly Muslims fail to transcend the temptations to react, especially so destructively. Consider that the Prophet Muhammad’s own reputation and character should speak for himself. Does he really need people to defend his name violently? Isn’t something wrong with this picture? It only gives perpetual license to the world’s provocateurs, who are probably rolling on the ground laughing, at the expense of global peace.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views
Pakistan is not the only country that is debating the nature of its national identity, as religious or secular, but the intensity of its internal divisions has been cause for worry for a long time now. The mullah-versus-secularist rivalry is truly a fight for rights and freedoms, and the right to live without religious bullying. To be fair, most of the Middle Eastern dictators who have shown their ruthless authoritarianism have ruled “secular” states, but the vicious and violent totalitarian religious theocracies of Saudi Arabia and Iran are no less brutal.
The ambiguity and subjectivity of calls for “implementing Shariah” make me extremely apprehensive, whether it’s in Pakistan, parts of Nigeria, Somalia, Egypt, Tunisia, or even in the US. I have asked people what they mean by wanting Shariah in the US, for example, and I never get an answer. This is very alarming. Even the silence itself is cause for concern.
A young Pakistani economist has this to say about the matter, which I am sure will spur further debate … take a look:
I vote for neither Shariah nor secularism, but I embrace humanism. Too many grandiose claims have been made by all these “ism’s” that have only proven to be the worst violators of human rights. Isn’t it about time that the world embraces the “human” in human rights?
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.