Sunday, May 30, 2010
Non-Muslims should keep this in mind when they want to criticize the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Muslims have no problem with debate and disagreements. It is apart of our religion to respect the beliefs of others. However, disrespecting the Prophet Muhamad (pbuh) merely to prove that you can, only creates more division and hatred in the world. It serves no real purpose and fails to convince anyone of anything. All that is being accomplished is merely angering and disrespecting an entire religious group. What religion teaches to do that?
Muslims should also keep in mind that our love should not always turn us to anger. Muslims need to stop acting aggressively and start acting progressively when faced with ignorance and hatred. All too often, this love blinds us from acting appropriately to a situation where someone defames Habibullah (the Beloved of God, peace be upon him). We need to remember his (pbuh)
sunnah (way) and act in a way that would please Allah. Wouldn't it be better, for example, to, instead of getting angry and banning facebook, to send articles to non-Muslim friends about the greatness of Rasulullah (pbuh)? Wouldn't it be prudent to tell them about how amazing he (pbuh) was and show them why we love Rasulullah (pbuh) so much and why they should too?
Taken from here.
Bangladesh has blocked access to Facebook after satirical images of the prophet Muhammad and the country's leaders were uploaded, say reports.
One man has been arrested and charged with "spreading malice and insulting the country's leaders" with the images, an official told the AFP news agency.
Officials said the ban was temporary and access to the site would be restored once the images were removed.
It comes after Pakistan invoked a similar ban over "blasphemous content".
A spokesman for the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) told AFP Facebook had "hurt the religious sentiments of the country's majority Muslim population" by carrying "offensive images" of Mohammed.
"Some links in the site also contained obnoxious images of our leaders including the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the leader of the opposition," said the commission's acting chair, Hasan Mahmud Delwar.
On Saturday, one man was arrested by the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Dhaka and charged with uploading the images.
"Facebook will be re-opened once we erase the pages that contain the obnoxious images," said Mr Delwar.
Pakistan blocked all access to Facebook - along with YouTube, Wikipedia and Flickr - last week after images of Muhammad started to appear online.
People were invited to submit their images of him in the run-up to "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" held by some users of Facebook on 20 May.
Most Muslims consider representations of the Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemous.
Thousands of people joined anti-Facebook protests in Bangladesh on Friday demanding the site be blocked over the contest.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Stephen Biddle, Roger Hertog Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, CFR
Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org
May 13, 2010
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's four-day trip to Washington was marked by an amicable tone from the White House after a period of intense criticism by U.S. officials. The Obama administration's intention is to persuade Karzai to "start behaving like a wartime leader and less like an innocent bystander in a fight between Americans and other Westerners and the Taliban," says CFR defense expert Stephen Biddle. Biddle notes that while the U.S. still wants Karzai to reform corruption and improve governance, those are messages best delivered in private rather than in public. Obama's pledge to begin U.S. troop withdrawal by July 2011 may help him with Democrats in the United States, says Biddle, but it also worries Pakistan and causes Karzai to hedge his bets.
Was the principal purpose of this trip to repair relations after the frictions of recent months?
That was clearly the single biggest purpose of the trip. I don't think it was the only one, but fences needed to be mended and it was entirely appropriate and important that they do that. I would hope that behind the scenes it was also made clear to Karzai that there are still changes we need from him: We need corruption reform, we need governance improvement. But that has to be done privately rather than publicly. The biggest single problem with the administration's approach to Karzai in the first part of Obama's term has been public as opposed to private use of sticks. The other thing this trip could accomplish is to help get both Karzai and his cabinet out of an insular environment in Kabul. One of the interesting things about this trip is just how large an entourage Karzai brought with him.
How many people did he bring?
It was practically the entire cabinet. Many Westerners in Kabul have a perception that Karzai lives is in a bit of a bubble, that he's isolated and that his information sources are limited. General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander, has been trying to help Karzai get out and meet his constituents in places like Helmand and Kandahar. We provide military transport and military security to enable him to get out and travel around and just see the place. A common reaction among Western military who've been along on these trips is that they've been quite struck by how much Karzai has seen as a result.
Part of this trip to Washington, I'm sure, is similarly to get him and his cabinet in touch with a wider range of American opinion. Get them out to Capitol Hill, get them to less senior figures in the executive branch, increase the amount of information they have about American attitudes toward the conflict, as a way of improving their decision-making, given that they may not have been given this information otherwise.
Is it true, as has been reported in the American press, that even though the U.S.-led military intervention in Marja took place in February, it's still not run by the Afghan civilians?
What's being reported is what, to some degree, can be expected in the natural history of an operation like that. Establishing counterinsurgency success in a place like Marja means going through a series of stages: clear, hold, build, transition. If you're going to have a counterinsurgency with the United States involved, it's much more likely to fail in the hold and build phase than in the clear phase, and we're fairly early on in the hold and build phase in Marja. It would be very surprising, just in terms of the normal timelines of counterinsurgency, if Marja looked like Atlanta right now.
It would be very surprising, just in terms of the normal timelines of counterinsurgency, if Marja looked like Atlanta right now.
My sense is that the ordinary indicators of progress are occurring somewhat sooner than you would normally expect. We were getting a surprisingly early transition to civilian tips about locations of roadside bombs, and the presence and identity of insurgents. That's a strong indicator of local civilian attitudes: It's very dangerous for a civilian to tip off a government counterinsurgent official because he risks retaliation from insurgents. Normally it takes a long physical presence by the counterinsurgent, in apparent control of the environment, before civilians will take these risks in any significant numbers.
There's a lot that could still go wrong, and there's a lot that has to go right before Marja can be put in the success category. That is particularly true of the "governance in a box" concept that we're debuting in Marja---bringing in a government team once the military has secured the area. There have been the usual, to-be-expected growing pains in making that work. My assessment of Marja is that the early phases went about as well as you could reasonably expect, but the real test is how it performs over time, and it's really too early to know very much about that.
The United States has advertised in advance that it's going to have a major offensive this summer in Kandahar, where the Taliban has been based traditionally. Was preparing for that offensive part of the aim of the visit?
I'm sure that was one part of a pretty lengthy agenda. Part of what we want Karzai to do is, we want him to start behaving like a wartime leader, and less like an innocent bystander, in a fight between Americans and other Westerners and the Taliban. General McChrystal has been trying to get Karzai to make decisions and take responsibility: to "authorize" and "approve" things like the Kandahar plan and the offensive that's to take place there. Karzai has had a tendency in the way he talks to Afghans to behave as though he's some sort of third-party intermediary, rather than an actual combatant.
What is this peace "jirga" [assembly] that he has planned for May 29 to work out a program for assimilating Taliban into Afghan society?
It's related to the problem of getting Karzai to take responsibility for victory over the Taliban, to have him portray himself as a national leader in a war by his government against the Taliban, in which the United States is assisting. Karzai would like to be seen as the man who made peace. He's much more comfortable in that role than he is in the warrior role.
Part of what's going on with the peace jirga is Karzai would really like to forge some sort of negotiated settlement that everyone can live with. Another reason for the jirga is we are pressuring him to do things he doesn't want to do, including, for example, corruption reform. When one party is trying to pressure another to do something they don't want to do, the other party pushes back and tries to use leverage in another direction. One of Karzai's potential forms of pushback is the very subtle threat of a separate peace with the Taliban on terms that the Americans can't or won't tolerate. He's a sovereign leader. If he wants to deal with the Taliban, he can do it with or without our approval.
Is there any sign the Taliban leadership is at all interested in this?
The general perception, certainly, in the United States, is that the Taliban still believes that they're winning the war, hence they're not willing to compromise much, and therefore the talks aren't likely to go anywhere in the near term. Other actors in this process have other perceptions. Generally speaking, the British, for instance, seem to be more bullish on this than we are. Karzai seems to be more bullish on this than we are. The reality seems to be that we don't know. Our ability to discern what's in the heart of Taliban leadership is limited by all the filters through which we can observe this. This is a very secretive collection of insurgent organizations, which have very substantial divisions among them.
Do we know who's going to show up at this meeting?
It is primarily an outreach effort to some 1,500 Afghan community leaders to discuss the way forward in reconciliation. U.S. Special Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has implied that the jirga could include some "insurgent leaders," and presumably some of their sympathizers could be among the participants. But the primary purpose of the session is to discuss approaches to negotiation, rather than to negotiate directly with the Taliban as such.
Karzai has had a tendency in the way he talks to Afghans to behave as though he's some sort of third-party intermediary, rather than an actual combatant.
What should we look for in coming weeks and months in Afghanistan?
We're going to see the slow buildup of security forces in and around Kandahar, and an attempt to shoulder aside the Taliban shadow government that's gradually been rooted there. We'll see continued attempts to solidify governance in Marja and elsewhere in the Helmand River Valley. We'll eventually see an effort to secure the limited part of the Helmand River Valley that is not currently secure. And I hope we will see a policy toward Karzai that, to a greater degree than in the past, balances sticks and carrots--that isn't overwhelmingly carrot, as the Bush approach was, or overwhelmingly stick, as the Obama early approach was, but to track back to the center and combine the two in a way that makes the use of sticks privately and delivery of carrots publicly.
What about Obama's pledge to begin withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July 2011? Is there any change in that policy?
The president in the press conference with Karzai had some very calculated ambiguity. He made clear that the United States will remain economically and diplomatically engaged long after July 2011. He didn't say anything about military presence one way or another. You can draw the implication that the military presence would persist as well, albeit in some reduced numbers. But he didn't say anything about it explicitly either way. I'm sure that was deliberate. I suspect there are several aspects to that. One is that the president has domestic political considerations to keep in mind; the progressive wing of the Democratic Party wants a substantial and rapid withdrawal. But secondly, the administration believes that an absolute commitment to perpetuity of large military forces creates disincentives for Karzai to reform. They want Karzai to think that he needs to do some things in order to get continued American military support. Now, the whole problem with this sort of use of withdrawal threats for leverage is that it has complex effects, some of which help you and some of which hurt you.
It helps you in the sense that it reduces the partner's belief that they have no need to change because the United States will keep their chestnuts out of the fire in perpetuity militarily. All things being equal, that's a good thing. But other things aren't equal. One thing it does--by creating uncertainty about whether or not you'll stay long enough to make good on your promise to defeat the insurgency--is cause your partners, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, to say, "I'm not so sure how committed the Americans are to this thing, I have to hedge my bets, given that uncertainty."
Certainly for the Pakistanis, the way they hedge their bets is by retaining links to the Afghan Taliban. Because they're the Pakistanis, they want an insurance policy against American abandonment of Karzai, the collapse of his government. The danger is that if they didn't keep links to the Afghan Taliban, the result could be a successor government that could be closely aligned with India and seriously affect Pakistan's interest. If Karzai think there's some chance the United States is going to walk out in him, then he has to start hedging his bets. And part of that process is, maybe you don't want to be too harsh with at least all elements of the insurgency, because some of them might end up overwhelming your government, and perhaps you might need to do a deal with them on terms that are more favorable to them than you would like.
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Monday, May 17, 2010
(May 17) -- Flying menacingly over northwest Pakistan, U.S. unmanned drones have become the deadliest tool in America's war on terror. While wreaking havoc on al-Qaida's leadership, they have extended the anti-terrorism fight to include al-Qaida's nominal Pakistani Taliban allies, the TTP. So it should come as little surprise that the TTP is now targeting the U.S.
According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the group is suspected of hatching the recently bungled Times Square bombing plot. Suspect Faisal Shahzad has allegedly cited the drone strikes against the Pakistani Taliban as his motivation.
Have U.S. military actions in Pakistan -- including the reported assassination of the TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud last year -- helped to increase the threat of terrorism on American soil?
It's an important question, but there's a good chance it won't be asked. Since Sept. 11, 2001, those who have sought to kill innocent Americans have been portrayed as "evildoers" or "haters of freedom." In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, for example, President George W. Bush spoke to a joint session of Congress and declared that those who attacked America "hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."
While there's no question that al-Qaida resents Western influence in the Muslim world -- and has yet to make peace with the forces of modernity -- many of its grievances are more specific. It resents the presence of U.S. soldiers near Islamic holy places in Saudi Arabia. It is angered by U.S. support not only for Israel but also for corrupt Arab regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. And it seeks to weaken U.S. influence throughout the Middle East.
It's not that terrorists simply hate American values -- they hate America's foreign policy and its impact on the Muslim world.
This is not to suggest that America's policy choices have been necessarily wrong. There's plenty of justification for them. But there's been very little discussion in the U.S. as to whether these policy choices continue to serve America's interests -- and may in fact be doing more harm than good.
Does unwavering support for Israel hurt our image, particularly in the Arab world? Should the U.S. be pushing countries like Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia toward greater political openness, even if it risks strengthening Islamic political movements? Has the use of military force in Iraq and Afghanistan, to paraphrase former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, helped to create more, not fewer, terrorists? Finally, would changing any of America's behavior on the world stage leave our country safer?
The tendency among policymakers, legislators and journalists is to not even broach these questions. But only focusing on the inherent "evil" of terrorists provides Americans with an incomplete understanding of the threats they pose.
Along these same lines, current U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan have focused on the importance of weeding out Taliban militants from the Afghan population. Military officials boast about the reduced number of civilians being killed by American arms, ignoring the fact that our very presence in southern Afghanistan helps to inflame the insurgency, plays into the Taliban's anti-occupation rhetoric and almost certainly leads to more civilian casualties.
If, in fact, the Pakistani Taliban is actually responsible for Times Square attack, it raises the question: If the U.S. were not dropping bombs on TTP leaders in northwest Pakistan, what would be the rationale for Pakistani militants -- whose main grievance is with their own government -- to kill New Yorkers?
Earlier this year, an Afghan national named Najibullah Zazi was arrested for plotting to attack the New York subway system. Is it so incomprehensible to imagine that U.S. military actions in Afghanistan may have prompted Zazi to act?
Again, this is not to say that American actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are necessarily wrong. Attacking al-Qaida leaders who are plotting to kill Americans is certainly appropriate. But if broadening those attacks creates new and greater terrorist threats to the U.S., then perhaps the ends don't justify the means. At the very least, it is a matter worthy of public debate.
When it comes to the war on terrorism, the U.S. likes to portray itself as a benign force in the world: We're innocent bystanders being attacked by terrorists for who we are, not what we do. In that plot line, terrorists are fundamentally irrational and "evil." In reality, they're often rational political actors using what they believe to be their most effective weapon: terror.
A more honest national discussion about terrorism would recognize that America's policies and its broad definition of national interests -- for better or for worse -- can have direct, and often deadly, consequences for the American people. In other words, what we do -- rather than what we are -- matters.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Brett H. McGurk, International Affairs Fellow in Residence
Brett H. McGurk, International Affairs Fellow in Residence
Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrives Monday for a week of high-profile meetings in Washington. He will be hosted at the State Department, Pentagon, White House, and Capitol Hill in a visit that is essential to repairing a troubled but vital partnership.
The administration has been divided on how best to handle the Afghan leader. Public spats over corruption and cabinet appointments only hardened Karzai and caused him to lash out at the United States. This was not a good development for Afghanistan or for the United States--which needs a steady partner in Kabul over the next eighteen months, perhaps the most critical window of the war.
Afghanistan has presented U.S. President Barack Obama with a host of thorny "multiple audience" problems. On the one hand, he wants to signal to the American people and to Afghan leaders that American patience is not unlimited--thus the July 2011 date for beginning to withdraw U.S. surge troops. On the other hand, however, he needs to reassure Afghan leaders and ordinary Afghans that the United States is committed to long-term success in Afghanistan. The Taliban is not going anywhere, and they let Afghans know it.
This visit should be tailored to reassure the Afghans that the United States has a vision for a multidimensional long-term partnership. With military operations beginning in Kandahar, the heart of the Taliban insurgency, a strategic signal must be sent early and often that the Taliban cannot simply wait America out. That signal is essential to isolating the most hardened elements of the insurgency and weaning rank and file fighters off the battlefield.
Reassurance will also strengthen Karzai's hand as he tries to divide and weaken the insurgency. He had intended to start the process last week to build support for opening discussions with Taliban leaders but smartly delayed the talks until after his White House meeting. Closed-door sessions this week must ensure that Karzai's vision for these talks is generally aligned with our own and complement joint operations in Kandahar.
The anchor to the visit should be a commitment to negotiate a long-term strategic framework between Afghanistan and the United States, to include an enduring security partnership. As in Iraq, such agreements are the bookend to a surge policy--and vehicles for strengthening Afghan sovereignty with a template to guide future relations.
Another audience, finally, is Pakistan. Its leaders want to know the United States is committed to stabilizing its northern neighbor--before stepping up its own counterinsurgency campaign. Once again, a message of reassurance plus a pledge to forge enduring ties is in our own self interest and something to watch for as this important week unfolds.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Editor's note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and legal fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C.
(CNN) -- Within the last month, our country has witnessed two senseless, high-profile acts of criminal violence that would have been labeled terrorism if brown-skinned Arab Muslim men with foreign-sounding names had committed them.
Because two white men committed these acts of violence, however, our political and media chattering class never used the word "terrorism" in its discussions.
Most recently, John Patrick Bedell, a 36-year-old man from California, walked up to two security guards outside the Pentagon Metro station in suburban Washington and started shooting. He was then shot and killed. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Bedell appeared "to have been a right-wing extremist with virulent anti-government feelings" and also battled mental illness before his shooting rampage.
A few weeks ago, on February 18, another white anti-government extremist named Joseph Stack flew his small airplane into an Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Texas, killing two people and injuring 13 others.
According to media reports, Stack had left behind a disjointed suicide letter in which he expressed his hatred of our American government and outlined grievances with the IRS, chillingly stating that "violence not only is the answer; it is the only answer."
Both the Pentagon Metro and IRS attacks come at a time of "explosive growth in [domestic] extremist-group activism across the United States," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A recently released law center report showed so-called patriot groups -- steeped in anti-government conspiracy theories -- grew from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009 -- a 244 percent increase that the Southern Poverty Law Center report judged to be an "astonishing" rise in the one-year period since President Obama took the oath of office. The number of these groups that are domestic extremist paramilitary militias grew from 42 in 2008 to 127 in 2009, the report said.
Even so, for any reasonable observer who is still skeptical about labeling the recent Pentagon area shooting and IRS attack terrorism, keep one thing in mind:
Let us imagine that these Pentagon and IRS attacks had been committed by an olive-skinned Arab Muslim man named Ali Muhammad.
Our national media and political commentators would have wasted little time in calling both of these acts terrorism, and some might have also called for the closings of other IRS and federal government office buildings around the country as a necessary counter-terrorism safety precaution.
Instead, shortly after the IRS plane attack, some prominent media commentators immediately asked why people -- especially conservatives on the right -- were not calling the IRS attacker a terrorist.
"If this had been done by a brownish-looking Muslim guy whose suicide note paralleled Islamist political themes," wrote media commentator Matthew Yglesias, then right-wingers would "demand that anyone who refused to label the attack 'terrorism' be put up on treason charges."
In a recent piece, Robert Wright, of the New America Foundation, wrote: "In common usage, a 'terrorist' is someone who attacks in the name of a political cause and aims to spread terror -- to foster fear that such attacks will be repeated until grievances are addressed." Following suit, the IRS attacker's suicide manifesto before his aerial kamikaze attack reads in part: "I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after ... I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be whitewashed and ignored" -- at which point, God willing, -- "the American zombies wake up and revolt."
If this same above-mentioned suicide letter had been instead written by an Arab Muslim man named Ali Muhammad right before crashing his airplane into an IRS building, most of the right-wing blogosphere would instantaneously erupt with screaming headlines of another act of Muslim terrorism.
Because Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh; Atlanta, Georgia, Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph; the Pentagon shooter and IRS attacker were all white men motivated by their respective ideologies, surprisingly, the term "terrorism" has never seemed to stick to any of them. To prove my point even further, the recently indicted American woman Colleen LaRose, who called herself "Jihad Jane," can rightfully be termed a wanna-be terrorist. But why does this not apply to other white extremists?
If our nation is truly conducting a ''war on terror'' and not a "war on Islam," it is our duty as Americans of all colors, political persuasions and nationalities to condemn and distance ourselves from all acts of terrorism, regardless of the race or religion of those who commit violent acts in the name of extreme ideology. Simply put, terrorism is terrorism, whether it is committed by a white, black or brown person anywhere in the world.
If we as a nation fail to adequately condemn all acts of terrorism equally, the only clear message that we will be sending to the rest of the world is that the word "terrorist" applies only to those with olive skin and foreign-sounding last names.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
"Let us not give them what they want from the Times Square incident: endless debates about threats we face from jihadists and debates about whether we are safer but not yet safe. Our adversary revels in the publicity from failed attacks. They spread the message that we are weak as we writhe in self-scrutiny about why security isn't perfect. Our adversaries take pleasure in being called jihadists, warriors. They want to be seen as gallant fighters, carrying a banner inherited from equally gallant forebears.
It is not so. The ideology unfurled by al Qaeda a decade ago may have had ideological resonance then; it has less now, as potential adherents understand that the only message is one of wanton bloodshed in pursuit of a goal that is unclear and unachievable.
Let Times Square go. Don't let our adversary glory in it. And, if the purported plotter, Faisal Shahzad, is in fact the perpetrator, let him rot without comment. If he did this, he is no jihadist, no revolutionary. He may be, instead, just a man bent on killing innocent women and children. That is not jihad. It is murder."
Philip Mudd is a senior research fellow with the New America Foundations' Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative. He managed Iraq analysis for the CIA from 1999 to 2001; during the George W. Bush administration, he served as the first deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Security Branch. He was nominated by President Obama -- and later withdrew his nomination -- as undersecretary of intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security in early 2009.
What I want to stress is the spirit of the article. We choose to live in a democratic society where we have freedoms and rights which, unfortunately, some violent people (Muslim and non-Muslim) use against us. We should not let such random spurts of violence scare us into taking back the freedoms and rights we hold so dear. It is much braver to stay the course of reason than it is to begin any sort of war on anything.
Monday, May 3, 2010
In February 2009, President Obama appointed 25 prominent religious and community leaders to spend one year advising him on policy issues including global and domestic poverty, climate change, the promotion of responsible fatherhood, and interfaith cooperation. The panel also studied partnerships between the government and faith-based social service organizations. On March 9, the advisory council presented its final report, including more than 60 policy recommendations, to the president and senior administration officials. Watch several council members discuss their work, including Melissa Rogers, Wake Forest University Divinity School; Jim Wallis, Sojourners; Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Peg Chemberlin, National Council of Churches; and Eboo Patel, Interfaith Youth Core.