July 2012

The gaffes of Republican nominee Mitt Romney have put him up against the wall several times, including the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages. But his latest “stump” in Israel, with the obligatory picture of Romney at the Wailing Wall, has even brought out a critique from the New York Times editorial page. Romney is visiting Israel and veering hard to the right, even outdoing the neocons that fueled our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Here is what the editorial says, followed by my own comments.

Mr. Romney Stumps in Israel

Mitt Romney made a point of insisting that he would adhere to an unwritten rule and often violated rule about candidates not criticizing each other or contradicting American foreign policy on foreign soil. About the only effort he made to keep that promise during his stop in Israel was to avoid mentioning President Obama by name.

Beyond that, with some of the biggest investors in Republican politics in tow, Mr. Romney made no effort to disguise the target and intent of rhetoric that was certainly inflammatory but largely free of any sense of how we would carry out policies he was championing.

The message — on Iran, Jerusalem, the Palestinians — was all anti-Obama: Mr. Romney would be a much better friend to Israel than Mr. Obama ever could be. He would be much tougher on Iran. He would recognize Jerusalem as the capital. For good measure, he insulted the Palestinians by declaring that cultural differences — not decades under Israeli occupation — are the reason Israelis are more successful economically. It’s hard to say how this could affect policy if he were president, but it is not encouraging.

The real audience for Mr. Romney’s tough talk was American Jews and evangelical Christians, some of whom accompanied him on his trip. He is courting votes and making an aggressive pitch to donors, including Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate with the hard-line pro-Israel views who is spending more money than any other American — $100 million — to defeat Mr. Obama. (more…)

It as heartening to note that several prominent Republican politicians, especially John McCain, immediately repudiated the offensive letter that Michele Bachmann and several of her tea-party ilk sent on official House letterhead to government agencies asking for an investigation of Huma Abedin, a well-respected professional aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. When the news first unfolded, I was pleased to applaud the range of reaction in a previous post. Then on July 24, Tarek Fateh published a commentary in the neocon tabloid Toronto Sun called “Beating Up on Bachman.” My initial thought was to ignore the piece altogether, but then it was picked up, in a longer version no less, by the Huffington Post, which generally does not promote neocon causes. But I suppose Huff Post and the Toronto Sun do share something in common: the Toronto Sun‘s daily sunshine-drenched pin-up girls and Huff Post’s penchant to dwell on the arousing apparel of superstar actresses.

Tarek Fateh is a prolific op-ed writer of the kind that rarely provides edification and almost always proffers conspiratorial rumors. He is, in effect, the Fouad Ajami of Canada. I will pass on his argument, which is innuendo in defense of offensive innuendo, and focus on one statement, which is a gem:

To put this in context, imagine a political aide to Henry Kissinger being the daughter of two members of the Soviet communist party politburo. There would have been hell to pay.

Hell to pay? This is a helluva stretch. (more…)

[Webshaykh’s note: The Moroccan American scholar Anouar Majid, Founding Director of the Center for Global Humanities and Associate Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of New England, has recently published a book well worth reading. Following on his earlier analysis of the evolving relations between America and the Islamic world, this is a personal foray that calls for building a future of mutual respect without prejudice. Below is a brief excerpt, but I heartily endorse reading the entire book, Islam and America.]

I know for a fact that Muslims and Americans can engage in meaningful discussions that can lead to progress, if such discussions are anchored in some knowledge of history. I witnessed such debates in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. in 2005, after I had given a lecture to a packed hall of Moroccan and American students, as well as a couple of officers from the US embassy, on the meaning of American freedom. At that time, the US government was trying hard to reach Muslims, but Muslim skepticism and fear were aggravated by US military actions in the region and by the aspersions cast on their religion in the media. Still, the topic of freedom generated such a lively debate that it planted the idea for this project in my consciousness.

As I did with the topic of freedom in Rabat, I am using this book to survey American-Muslim relations within the old clash of religions before we ask ourselves –Muslims and non-Muslims alike –whether our beliefs and prejudices still make sense today. I wouldn’t be surprised if my readers –American and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian, Jew and Arab, or just simply religious and secular – found themselves uncomfortable at different points in the narrative. No nation, religion, or ethnicity gets a free pass, not because I want to be provocative, but because I am at a point in my life when, both intellectually and, even more importantly, emotionally, such rigid tribal divisions mean very little to me. The blind passions they engender are plunging our already fractured world into a deepening abyss. If gun lobbyists in the United States often claim that people – not guns – kill, then we must make sure that people carrying guns are not ideologically predisposed to shoot. I do respect the intensity of religion or nationalist convictions, but I also hope that such sentiments do not prevent us from engaging in serious conversations about our common future.

Excerpt from Anouar Majid, Islam and America: Building a Future without Prejudice (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012, p. 20).

[Note: With all the current battles going on in the Middle East, here is a novel on one that took place a very long time ago.]

The Battle of Poitiers: Charles Martel and ‘Abd al-Rahman
Authored by Jurji Zaidan
Translated by William Granara
Published by CreateSpace, April 2, 2012
ISBN/EAN13: 0984843507 / 9780984843503

It is the year 732 AD. Ten years after the Arab conquest of Spain in 711AD, Emir Abd al-Rahman Governor of Spain, conquered and became Governor of southern France. He is moving northwards towards Poitiers to confront the Franks under Charles Martel and then overrun Rome and Constantinople and reach Damascus, the capital of the Islamic Empire. Will Europe be able to thwart the plan to bring Islam to the whole Mediterranean basin? As the armies of Abdel Rahman and Charles Martel confront each other at Poitiers, the future of Christendom in Europe depends on the outcome of this epic battle…

Romance and intrigue provide the central plot of this historical novel that are woven into the events culminating in the Battle of Poitiers. The beautiful Maryam is a woman of extraordinary honor and great courage who has fought in many battles. She has many suitors: Hani, Captain of the Arab Cavalry and Bustam his rival and Chieftain of a Berber Tribe. Last but not least Emir ‘Abd al-Rahman, is also enamored with her. A fast paced game of spies and counterspies is played out as the identity and true loyalties of many of the novel’s main characters, straddling both the Christian and Muslim worlds, is revealed — influencing the outcome of the Battle of Poitiers and the contest for Maryam’s heart…

Shibam in Central Highlands, 1979; Photo by Daniel Martin Varisco

Shibam in Central Highlands, 1979; Photo by Daniel Martin Varisco

Traditional Ramadan Lanterns displayed on Egyptian streets

by Karim Adel, Open Democracy, 23 July 2012

It’s safe to say Uncle Ramadan is not going to sleep while he’s with us this year…

Uncle Ramadan is back and to Egyptians he’s back after what seems like a long while…

Although it’s an annual event this is the first time in two years that we celebrate without any turmoil and under a civil president… so it’s just safe to say Uncle Ramadan is not going to sleep while he’s with us this year…

Tunis Traditional Ramadan Lanterns displayed on Egyptian streets

You can see him walking down the old ancient alleys in the Al Hussein area in Islamic Cairo making sure all the colourful lights are hung well from building to building, he’s making sure all the giant colourful [12] lanterns [13] are hanging on every balcony…

He’s passing from home to home to make sure everyone, poor or rich gets a chance to eat after sun set…

He makes sure all those who have money have gathered some to give out to the poor and that every area and street has at least one charity group meal, set up for the poor and homeless every day of the 30 days of fasting… (more…)

If one thing is clear in the build-up to the 2012 presidential election, it is that the Republican candidate Mitt Romney is less someone most Americans want to vote for than Barack Obama is someone that many people do not want to vote for. The elephant in the debate room, or at least one of the herd that has swelled with the ramping up of polemical rhetoric on all sides, is Islam. Not the real Islam, which most Americans would have a hard time recognizing anyway, but two prominent distortions. The most conservative born-again, Bible-believing Christians, often lumped together in the loose term “Evangelical,” have long viewed Mormonism as a dangerous cult modeled after Islam. Some of these same folk, including those less devout who drink a redneck portion of beer and say they belong to a tea party, have decided that President Obama is really a Muslim. So for the conspiratorial fringe, this election boils down to voting for one Muslim (or should I say Mohammedan) or another.

No doubt many of the Bible-believing saints are praying for the Rapture before November. Let’s face it: what would Jesus do if his choice was between voting for a Mormon (that born-againers say are heretics) or a stealth Muslim (as the birthers contend)? I suspect few would quote the biblical passage (Matthew 22:21) where Jesus says “Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” since taxation is obviously Satanic. Besides, Caesar died a long time ago. And I imagine that the Sermon on the Mount mantra of not smiting back, when someone is cheeky. and not resisting evil would also not be quoted. If you happen to be a Mormon, of which there are over 6 million in the United States, then you would expect Jesus to vote for Mitt, since Mormons teach that Jesus has returned to visit various Mormon leaders here in America, as recently as 1918. Muslims are not very likely to vote for Romney because the Mormon church borrowed several ideas (like a divine book delivered by an angel and polygyny) from Islam. So the right wing that has come to vote Republican without thinking is really between the Rock of Ages and a hard place. (more…)

The Pew Foundation has recently released a report entitled Most Muslims Want Democracy, Personal Freedoms, and Islam in Political Life on July 10, 2012. Click here to read the overview and gain access to a free pdf of the full report.

Here is what they say about Muslims views of extremists…

“Extremist groups are largely rejected in predominantly Muslim nations, although significant numbers do express support for radical groups in several countries. For instance, while there is no country in which a majority holds a favorable opinion of the Palestinian organization Hamas, it receives considerable support in Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt.

The militant Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah receives its highest overall ratings in Tunisia, where nearly half express a positive opinion. Sizable minorities in both Jordan and Egypt also have a favorable view, but Hezbollah’s image has been declining in both countries in recent years. In its home country, views about Hezbollah are sharply divided along sectarian lines: 94% of Shia, 33% of Christians, and 5% of Sunnis give the group favorable marks.

Across all six nations, less than 20% have a positive opinion about al Qaeda or the Taliban. In Turkey and Lebanon, support for these groups is in the single digits. However, fully 19% of Egyptians rate these extremist organizations favorably.”

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