Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ramadan

Can Egypt’s New Leaders Handle Ramadan?

Ramadan, the Islamic month in which observant Muslims fast and refrain from any drink from sunrise to sundown, begins tomorrow evening. The tempo of life changes during Ramadan. Those observing the holiday eat before dawn, and then sleep late into the morning. Many television stations broadcast serials—some of which have received attention in the West for their outright anti-Semitism—in the Arab equivalent of sweeps week. Tempers can flare toward the late afternoon when the strain of fasting takes its toll, and it’s always best to stay clear of the roads in the couple of hours before sundown and drivers who might in any other month appear aggressive can during Ramadan bring road rage to a new level as they rush to get home.

The new Egyptian authorities will have three challenges, with very little time to prepare.

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Ramadan, the Islamic month in which observant Muslims fast and refrain from any drink from sunrise to sundown, begins tomorrow evening. The tempo of life changes during Ramadan. Those observing the holiday eat before dawn, and then sleep late into the morning. Many television stations broadcast serials—some of which have received attention in the West for their outright anti-Semitism—in the Arab equivalent of sweeps week. Tempers can flare toward the late afternoon when the strain of fasting takes its toll, and it’s always best to stay clear of the roads in the couple of hours before sundown and drivers who might in any other month appear aggressive can during Ramadan bring road rage to a new level as they rush to get home.

The new Egyptian authorities will have three challenges, with very little time to prepare.

First, while they will likely face quiet mornings, people flood into the streets at night. The evening activities need not be political, but with so much tension remaining throughout the country, the Egyptian government will probably face some middle-of-the-night clashes.

Second, food becomes even more important during Ramadan than during the rest of the year. Even poor families will try to put on a better spread to entertain friends and families. Mosques also provide iftar (break-fast) meals. Distributing food is a challenge on the best of days, but if the new government falls short during Ramadan, they may hemorrhage good will far quicker than many outsiders expect.

Lastly, Ramadan can be a period of religiosity. Just as many Jews might only appear in synagogue during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and many Christians might only visit their church on Christmas and Easter, many Muslims who are less observant might be more likely to visit the mosque for communal prayers during the holy month. As the mosques have traditionally been the political center for both the Muslim Brotherhood and the broader Islamist political underground, Egyptian government hopes that the Muslim Brotherhood rage will dissipate quickly as the coup becomes a fait accompli are probably optimistic at best.

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Celebrating Ramadan With Anti-Semitism

Last month President Obama noted, as he does with all major religious events, the start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan and commemorated the holiday by calling it a time to “cherish family, friends, and neighbors, and to help those in need.” That was an appropriate statement but in much of the Islamic world, it also appears to be a time to indulge in Jew hatred. While holiday specials in the United States are noted for their saccharine tone, Ramadan specials appeal to a very different sort of sentiment. As the Anti-Defamation League noted on Thursday, the 30 days of fasting and prayer has been marked in a number of Muslim countries with special television programs that are rife with anti-Semitism and intended to foment hatred of Jews and Israel.

The significant factor about these shows is not just that they are drenched in the traditional tropes of anti-Semitism in which Jews are portrayed as cheap as well as cheats and villainous victimizers of Muslims. It is that these programs are clearly crafted to appeal to a popular audience throughout the Middle East. While they can be rightly accused of promoting hatred at the same time they must also be understood as a reflection of the attitudes prevalent in Muslim societies. The producers of these shows are guilty of pandering to the deeply ingrained prejudices of the Islamic world as much as they are feeding them. That some of these shows like the Egyptian “Firqat Naji Attalha” are comedies in which the bias against Jews is merely the backdrop for humor tells us more about popular opinion in these countries than anything else. According to the MBC network, which is broadcasting the show throughout the Middle East, “Firqat Naji Attalha” gives audiences “the sweetest jokes about the ‘cheap Jew.’” Read More

Last month President Obama noted, as he does with all major religious events, the start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan and commemorated the holiday by calling it a time to “cherish family, friends, and neighbors, and to help those in need.” That was an appropriate statement but in much of the Islamic world, it also appears to be a time to indulge in Jew hatred. While holiday specials in the United States are noted for their saccharine tone, Ramadan specials appeal to a very different sort of sentiment. As the Anti-Defamation League noted on Thursday, the 30 days of fasting and prayer has been marked in a number of Muslim countries with special television programs that are rife with anti-Semitism and intended to foment hatred of Jews and Israel.

The significant factor about these shows is not just that they are drenched in the traditional tropes of anti-Semitism in which Jews are portrayed as cheap as well as cheats and villainous victimizers of Muslims. It is that these programs are clearly crafted to appeal to a popular audience throughout the Middle East. While they can be rightly accused of promoting hatred at the same time they must also be understood as a reflection of the attitudes prevalent in Muslim societies. The producers of these shows are guilty of pandering to the deeply ingrained prejudices of the Islamic world as much as they are feeding them. That some of these shows like the Egyptian “Firqat Naji Attalha” are comedies in which the bias against Jews is merely the backdrop for humor tells us more about popular opinion in these countries than anything else. According to the MBC network, which is broadcasting the show throughout the Middle East, “Firqat Naji Attalha” gives audiences “the sweetest jokes about the ‘cheap Jew.’”

The Egyptian comedy portrays the exploits of an attaché at the country’s Israeli embassy that performs acts of sabotage in Israel including robbing a bank disguised as an ultra-Orthodox Jew. The show includes lots of references to negative Jewish stereotypes and celebrates terrorist attacks on Israel.

Other Ramadan television highlights are less funny but not less disturbing. “Ashar il Sabt” runs twice a week in Egypt and features an Egyptian professor who pretends to be an expert on Hebrew literature and discusses anti-Semitic libels such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as part of an effort to trash Judaism.

Another Ramadan favorite is the Egyptian version of the old American standard “Candid Camera.” As we previously noted in Contentions, one episode centered on tricking Egyptian celebrities into thinking they were appearing with Jews on Israeli television which sent the victims in paroxysms of rage and violence, salted with anti-Semitic invective.

Also playing on Arab television screens this month is a production of the popular Al Manar channel run by Hezbollah. Their contribution for the holiday is a series called “Al Ghalibun” that predictably depicts Israelis as cruel invaders of Lebanon while treating anti-Israel terrorism as laudable.

As the ADL reports, this isn’t the first time Ramadan has been used by Arab and Islamic television to promote hatred of Jews. Both Egyptian television and Al Manar have run blatantly anti-Semitic shows in the past. Indeed, the entertainment industry in the region appears to believe such shows are exactly what their audiences want most during the holiday.

Those who believe such attitudes are caused by West Bank settlements or the refusal of Israel to make enough concessions to the Palestinians need to understand that the hatred of Jews is not so much a function of politics but of culture. Until there is a sea change within the Muslim world in which this kind of hatred is not only no longer popular but rejected by mainstream opinion, Middle East peace is just a dream.

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Chris Christie’s Troubling Appointment

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has earned legions of fans with his take-no-prisoners style over the last year as he defied the unions and other entrenched interests in his drive to return his state to fiscal sanity. But while Christie has sought to silence the buzz about a possible presidential run, it appears that there might be a better reason to abandon this fantasy than his understandable reluctance: the governor has some explaining to do about his cozying up to an Islamist group in the state both before and after his election.

Christie’s decision to appoint attorney Sohail Mohammed to a state Superior Court judgeship has raised questions not only about his nominee’s record but also about the governor’s own stand. Mohammed is mainly known for the fact that he was the defense attorney for Muslims who were arrested in the wake of 9/11 because of their ties to terror organizations. In one case, Mohammed fought the government’s effort to deport Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County and an influential member of the extremist — though well-connected — American Muslim Union. Though the New York Times praised him in 2008 during his deportation trial as a “revered imam” and portrayed the case as an overreaction to 9/11, Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Though he claimed to be an advocate of interfaith dialogue (and was accepted as such by some liberal Jews), Qatanani was no moderate on the Middle East. His ties to Hamas were well known, and just the year before his deportation trial, Qatanani endorsed Israel’s absorption into an Islamic “Greater Syria.” Qatanani clearly lied about his record as an Islamist on documents that he used to enter the country. But he was nevertheless able to evade justice in the immigration courts because the judge accepted his undocumented claim that the Israelis tortured him.

Qatanani also benefited from having some highly placed friends in the justice system as a result of the political pull of the American Muslim Union, which boasts Sohail Mohammed as one of its board members. The AMU was able to get former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, and then U.S. attorney Chris Christie to intervene on Qatanani’s behalf during the trial. As far as Christie was concerned, this was not a matter of merely signing a letter or making a phone call. The day before the Immigration Court announced its decision, Christie actually spoke at Qatanani’s mosque (Qatanani’s predecessor had boasted of raising at the mosque $2 million for Hamas via the now banned Holy Land Foundation) at a Ramadan breakfast dinner, where he embraced the imam while praising him as “a man of great good will.” Read More

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has earned legions of fans with his take-no-prisoners style over the last year as he defied the unions and other entrenched interests in his drive to return his state to fiscal sanity. But while Christie has sought to silence the buzz about a possible presidential run, it appears that there might be a better reason to abandon this fantasy than his understandable reluctance: the governor has some explaining to do about his cozying up to an Islamist group in the state both before and after his election.

Christie’s decision to appoint attorney Sohail Mohammed to a state Superior Court judgeship has raised questions not only about his nominee’s record but also about the governor’s own stand. Mohammed is mainly known for the fact that he was the defense attorney for Muslims who were arrested in the wake of 9/11 because of their ties to terror organizations. In one case, Mohammed fought the government’s effort to deport Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County and an influential member of the extremist — though well-connected — American Muslim Union. Though the New York Times praised him in 2008 during his deportation trial as a “revered imam” and portrayed the case as an overreaction to 9/11, Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Though he claimed to be an advocate of interfaith dialogue (and was accepted as such by some liberal Jews), Qatanani was no moderate on the Middle East. His ties to Hamas were well known, and just the year before his deportation trial, Qatanani endorsed Israel’s absorption into an Islamic “Greater Syria.” Qatanani clearly lied about his record as an Islamist on documents that he used to enter the country. But he was nevertheless able to evade justice in the immigration courts because the judge accepted his undocumented claim that the Israelis tortured him.

Qatanani also benefited from having some highly placed friends in the justice system as a result of the political pull of the American Muslim Union, which boasts Sohail Mohammed as one of its board members. The AMU was able to get former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, and then U.S. attorney Chris Christie to intervene on Qatanani’s behalf during the trial. As far as Christie was concerned, this was not a matter of merely signing a letter or making a phone call. The day before the Immigration Court announced its decision, Christie actually spoke at Qatanani’s mosque (Qatanani’s predecessor had boasted of raising at the mosque $2 million for Hamas via the now banned Holy Land Foundation) at a Ramadan breakfast dinner, where he embraced the imam while praising him as “a man of great good will.”

Terror researcher Steve Emerson was quoted at the time as calling Christie’s involvement in the case “a disgrace and an act of pure political corruption,” especially since “I know for certain that Christie and the FBI had access to information about Qatanani’s background, involvement with and support of Hamas.”

Why would a man who was otherwise tasked as a U.S. attorney with defending America against such Islamists intervene on behalf of a Hamas supporter? The answer was obvious. Christie was already looking ahead to his race for governor against Corzine in 2009 and wanted the enthusiastic support of the state’s not-insignificant Muslim population. Christie’s record in the Qatanani case is a troubling chapter in his biography, and his willingness to further solidify his friendship with the American Muslim Union with his appointment of Sohail Mohammed to the court shows that his judgment on the issue of support for terrorism is highly questionable. If Christie’s name is mentioned again in the context of a presidential politics or even as a possible nominee for vice president, he is going to have to answer some tough questions about all this.

(Hat tip to Daniel Greenfield’s Sultan Knish blog)

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Washington’s West Bank Pyromania

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a stunning admission last week that has garnered far too little attention. After a de rigueur assertion that the Israeli-Palestinian “status quo is unsustainable,” she added, “That doesn’t mean it can’t be sustained for a year, or a decade, or two or three.”

But if so, why the rush to solve the conflict now, when all signs indicate that a deal is unachievable and another round of failed talks could greatly worsen the situation?

One could simply say she’s wrong; the status quo is intolerable for suffering Palestinians. But the facts are on her side.

First, the territories are experiencing unprecedented economic growth. The World Bank reported last week that the West Bank economy grew 9 percent in the first half of this year, while Gaza (you remember — that giant Israeli prison locked in hopeless poverty and misery?) grew an incredible 16 percent. For the West Bank, this represents a second year of strong growth; last year’s was 8.5 percent.

The World Bank hastened to declare that we should never mind the facts; growth under occupation is unsustainable. And growth in Gaza (which isn’t occupied) might well be: it was artificially boosted by reconstruction after last year’s war and the abrupt easing of Israel’s blockade in May. But the West Bank’s two-year surge shows that economic reforms like those instituted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, coupled with a sharp drop in terror that has let Israel greatly ease its restrictions on Palestinian movement, make long-term growth quite feasible.

Second, West Bankers have evidently learned a lesson from the second intifada: support for terror there is very low, making a resurgence that would upset the current calm unlikely. Indeed, during a visit this month to the Balata refugee camp, once “a hotbed of extremism,” a Haaretz reporter “was hard-pressed to find any passersby who were willing to express support for it.” As resident Imad Hassan explained, “What good did this [terror] do us?”

By contrast, the current calm is doing West Bankers a lot of good, and they’re clearly savoring it. As Haaretz reported following a Ramadan visit to Ramallah last month:

The one phrase not on the lips of local shoppers in their conversations with this Israeli reporter on Wednesday was “the occupation” — unlike during prior visits, when the occupation and the conflict with the Jews were regularly raised. These days, the hot topic is business. Peace negotiations, and even the Gaza Strip, are irrelevant.

In short, West Bankers, too, consider the status quo tolerable; they’re more concerned with business than “the occupation.”

One thing, however, could yet disrupt this status quo: as several CONTENTIONS contributors have noted, negotiations that collapse amid mutual recriminations have triggered violent explosions in the past, and could well do so again.

So to try to achieve an agreement that overwhelming majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians believe is currently unachievable, the Obama administration is risking the violent implosion of a status quo that it admits is sustainable for decades. That isn’t “smart diplomacy”; it’s the irresponsibility of a pyromaniac near a barrel of gunpowder.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a stunning admission last week that has garnered far too little attention. After a de rigueur assertion that the Israeli-Palestinian “status quo is unsustainable,” she added, “That doesn’t mean it can’t be sustained for a year, or a decade, or two or three.”

But if so, why the rush to solve the conflict now, when all signs indicate that a deal is unachievable and another round of failed talks could greatly worsen the situation?

One could simply say she’s wrong; the status quo is intolerable for suffering Palestinians. But the facts are on her side.

First, the territories are experiencing unprecedented economic growth. The World Bank reported last week that the West Bank economy grew 9 percent in the first half of this year, while Gaza (you remember — that giant Israeli prison locked in hopeless poverty and misery?) grew an incredible 16 percent. For the West Bank, this represents a second year of strong growth; last year’s was 8.5 percent.

The World Bank hastened to declare that we should never mind the facts; growth under occupation is unsustainable. And growth in Gaza (which isn’t occupied) might well be: it was artificially boosted by reconstruction after last year’s war and the abrupt easing of Israel’s blockade in May. But the West Bank’s two-year surge shows that economic reforms like those instituted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, coupled with a sharp drop in terror that has let Israel greatly ease its restrictions on Palestinian movement, make long-term growth quite feasible.

Second, West Bankers have evidently learned a lesson from the second intifada: support for terror there is very low, making a resurgence that would upset the current calm unlikely. Indeed, during a visit this month to the Balata refugee camp, once “a hotbed of extremism,” a Haaretz reporter “was hard-pressed to find any passersby who were willing to express support for it.” As resident Imad Hassan explained, “What good did this [terror] do us?”

By contrast, the current calm is doing West Bankers a lot of good, and they’re clearly savoring it. As Haaretz reported following a Ramadan visit to Ramallah last month:

The one phrase not on the lips of local shoppers in their conversations with this Israeli reporter on Wednesday was “the occupation” — unlike during prior visits, when the occupation and the conflict with the Jews were regularly raised. These days, the hot topic is business. Peace negotiations, and even the Gaza Strip, are irrelevant.

In short, West Bankers, too, consider the status quo tolerable; they’re more concerned with business than “the occupation.”

One thing, however, could yet disrupt this status quo: as several CONTENTIONS contributors have noted, negotiations that collapse amid mutual recriminations have triggered violent explosions in the past, and could well do so again.

So to try to achieve an agreement that overwhelming majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians believe is currently unachievable, the Obama administration is risking the violent implosion of a status quo that it admits is sustainable for decades. That isn’t “smart diplomacy”; it’s the irresponsibility of a pyromaniac near a barrel of gunpowder.

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The Consequences of Clinton’s Expectations Game

Hillary Clinton’s happy talk about Middle East peace has become part of the soundtrack of the peace talks the administration has orchestrated. Both before and during her drop-in at Sharm el-Sheik, the secretary of state has exuded optimism about the American push for a renewal of a Jewish settlement freeze and the continuance of the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The rhetoric from the Americans has been largely devoted, as Jennifer noted, to direct pressure on the Israelis to make concessions, while demands on the Palestinians remain amorphous. But this imbalance in pressure is just part of the problem. The raising of expectations about peace arriving within another year (as Obama’s envoy George Mitchell keeps telling the press) may have negative consequences that neither Obama nor Clinton is prepared to face.

Given the realities of Palestinian politics, both parties to the talks know very well that the chances of an agreement on final-status issues are slim and none. With his Hamas rivals in control of Gaza and threatening him in the West Bank (where he maintains control only with the help of Israel), Abbas is in no position to make any move to advance peace. Meanwhile Netanyahu is getting beat up by the Israeli right for being weak in the face of American pressure. He may not wish to make concessions on settlements or borders that will compromise his country’s security and be considered irretrievably ceded to the Arabs no matter the outcome of the talks if there is little likelihood that the Palestinians will declare a complete end to their 62-year-old war to destroy Israel. But he also doesn’t want to be blamed for the collapse of the talks when he knows that sooner or later Abbas will bolt.

However long Clinton and Mitchell force Abbas and Netanyahu to dance with each other, at some point the music is going to stop, and when it does, the Americans will have little to show for this latest attempt to persuade Abbas to do what he knows he cannot do. (It was, after all, Abbas who turned down a Palestinian state only two years ago, when Ehud Olmert offered him the same deal Obama is talking about now.) At that point, the pressure on PA president to initiate a campaign of terror against the Israelis in an effort to compete with Hamas for Palestinian popularity may be irresistible. By building up hopes for peace when the foundation for a lasting agreement doesn’t exist, what Obama and Clinton may be generating is a repeat of the aftermath of Camp David 2000, when Israel said yes and Yasir Arafat said no to a deal very much along the lines that the peace processors claim they want now. Anyone who thinks another intifada is out of the question need only read the statements emanating from Hamas this week. As the New York Times reported this afternoon:

The commander of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, issued a harsh statement against the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying that Hamas remained committed to “liberating” Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, meaning both Israel itself and the West Bank it occupies. In a letter marking the end of the month of Ramadan, the Hamas military commander, Ahmad Al-Jaabari, said the path of jihad and resistance is the only way forward “until victory or martyrdom.” He criticized the Palestinian Authority under Mr. Abbas for negotiating “with the Zionist enemy.”

While the Americans may pretend that just a few more concessions from Netanyahu will do the trick, the specter of Hamas and a renewal of Palestinian violence remains the real obstacle to peace. Clinton’s sparkling optimism about the magic of diplomacy may be setting the stage for yet more bloodshed.

Hillary Clinton’s happy talk about Middle East peace has become part of the soundtrack of the peace talks the administration has orchestrated. Both before and during her drop-in at Sharm el-Sheik, the secretary of state has exuded optimism about the American push for a renewal of a Jewish settlement freeze and the continuance of the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The rhetoric from the Americans has been largely devoted, as Jennifer noted, to direct pressure on the Israelis to make concessions, while demands on the Palestinians remain amorphous. But this imbalance in pressure is just part of the problem. The raising of expectations about peace arriving within another year (as Obama’s envoy George Mitchell keeps telling the press) may have negative consequences that neither Obama nor Clinton is prepared to face.

Given the realities of Palestinian politics, both parties to the talks know very well that the chances of an agreement on final-status issues are slim and none. With his Hamas rivals in control of Gaza and threatening him in the West Bank (where he maintains control only with the help of Israel), Abbas is in no position to make any move to advance peace. Meanwhile Netanyahu is getting beat up by the Israeli right for being weak in the face of American pressure. He may not wish to make concessions on settlements or borders that will compromise his country’s security and be considered irretrievably ceded to the Arabs no matter the outcome of the talks if there is little likelihood that the Palestinians will declare a complete end to their 62-year-old war to destroy Israel. But he also doesn’t want to be blamed for the collapse of the talks when he knows that sooner or later Abbas will bolt.

However long Clinton and Mitchell force Abbas and Netanyahu to dance with each other, at some point the music is going to stop, and when it does, the Americans will have little to show for this latest attempt to persuade Abbas to do what he knows he cannot do. (It was, after all, Abbas who turned down a Palestinian state only two years ago, when Ehud Olmert offered him the same deal Obama is talking about now.) At that point, the pressure on PA president to initiate a campaign of terror against the Israelis in an effort to compete with Hamas for Palestinian popularity may be irresistible. By building up hopes for peace when the foundation for a lasting agreement doesn’t exist, what Obama and Clinton may be generating is a repeat of the aftermath of Camp David 2000, when Israel said yes and Yasir Arafat said no to a deal very much along the lines that the peace processors claim they want now. Anyone who thinks another intifada is out of the question need only read the statements emanating from Hamas this week. As the New York Times reported this afternoon:

The commander of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, issued a harsh statement against the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying that Hamas remained committed to “liberating” Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, meaning both Israel itself and the West Bank it occupies. In a letter marking the end of the month of Ramadan, the Hamas military commander, Ahmad Al-Jaabari, said the path of jihad and resistance is the only way forward “until victory or martyrdom.” He criticized the Palestinian Authority under Mr. Abbas for negotiating “with the Zionist enemy.”

While the Americans may pretend that just a few more concessions from Netanyahu will do the trick, the specter of Hamas and a renewal of Palestinian violence remains the real obstacle to peace. Clinton’s sparkling optimism about the magic of diplomacy may be setting the stage for yet more bloodshed.

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RE: Give Americans a Break Already

Aside from statistical data, there is a body of compelling anecdotal evidence that American Muslims really aren’t under siege at all. For example, CNN reports:

Far from the media frenzy dominating headlines, from the so-called “ground zero mosque” to a pastor’s planned Quran burning, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq traveled more than 13,000 miles into the heart of America over the last month, visiting 30 mosques in 30 days for Ramadan.

They began in New York, headed south and then cut across the country to California before making their way back, ending today in Michigan in the nation’s largest Muslim community. … Ali and Tariq were embraced nearly everywhere they went, from a Confederate souvenir shop in Georgia to the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, to the hills of North Dakota where the nation’s first mosque was built in 1929.

The report is worth reading in full. It suggests — surprise, surprise! — that the “rising tide of Islamophobia” is a creation of the liberal media. Out in America, the citizenry is pretty decent, it turns out:

“After 13,000 miles, I think that America still exists, and I’m happy to know that it does,” said Tariq, a 23-year-old American of Pakistani descent. “It’s really made America feel like home to me in a way that I’ve never felt before. The America that we think about [as immigrants] is still actually there. I’ve seen it! And I’m seeing it still.”

But that’s not nearly as “newsworthy” as a crackpot pastor with 50 congregants who in the end decided not to burn the Koran. Any chance these fellows would get on This Week with Christiane Amanpour? Puleeze.

Aside from statistical data, there is a body of compelling anecdotal evidence that American Muslims really aren’t under siege at all. For example, CNN reports:

Far from the media frenzy dominating headlines, from the so-called “ground zero mosque” to a pastor’s planned Quran burning, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq traveled more than 13,000 miles into the heart of America over the last month, visiting 30 mosques in 30 days for Ramadan.

They began in New York, headed south and then cut across the country to California before making their way back, ending today in Michigan in the nation’s largest Muslim community. … Ali and Tariq were embraced nearly everywhere they went, from a Confederate souvenir shop in Georgia to the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, to the hills of North Dakota where the nation’s first mosque was built in 1929.

The report is worth reading in full. It suggests — surprise, surprise! — that the “rising tide of Islamophobia” is a creation of the liberal media. Out in America, the citizenry is pretty decent, it turns out:

“After 13,000 miles, I think that America still exists, and I’m happy to know that it does,” said Tariq, a 23-year-old American of Pakistani descent. “It’s really made America feel like home to me in a way that I’ve never felt before. The America that we think about [as immigrants] is still actually there. I’ve seen it! And I’m seeing it still.”

But that’s not nearly as “newsworthy” as a crackpot pastor with 50 congregants who in the end decided not to burn the Koran. Any chance these fellows would get on This Week with Christiane Amanpour? Puleeze.

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RE: Spinning for CAIR

An extremely insightful counterweight to the Washington Post’s slobbering over American Muslim leadership comes from Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea. He rejects the notion that mosque opposition is based on bigotry. “I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a ‘rightwing’ smear campaign against one imam or another,” he says. “Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.”

Instead, he posits that the opposition is based on the very reasonable explanation that Americans ”view… the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.” For that and the missed opportunity over nine years to take “proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies,” he holds American Muslim leadership accountable:

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. …

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

Real Muslim outreach would therefore require a frank discussion of this serious problem. It would require that we abstain from encouraging the victimology meme, which merely fuels anti-Americanism.

In this, much of the responsibility lies with Obama. He, after all, made Muslim outreach an official government policy. He went to Cairo and fed his audience the fiction that Palestinians are akin to enslaved African-Americans. He has asked nothing of the Muslim community — not sensitivity, not repudiation of specific terrorist groups, and not rejection of the noxious idea that America was responsible for 9/11. He may think he is bolstering Islamic self-esteem, but he is infantilizing Muslims and absolving them of the responsibility that is required of leaders who want to enjoy the love and respect of their fellow citizens.

An extremely insightful counterweight to the Washington Post’s slobbering over American Muslim leadership comes from Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea. He rejects the notion that mosque opposition is based on bigotry. “I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a ‘rightwing’ smear campaign against one imam or another,” he says. “Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.”

Instead, he posits that the opposition is based on the very reasonable explanation that Americans ”view… the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.” For that and the missed opportunity over nine years to take “proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies,” he holds American Muslim leadership accountable:

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. …

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

Real Muslim outreach would therefore require a frank discussion of this serious problem. It would require that we abstain from encouraging the victimology meme, which merely fuels anti-Americanism.

In this, much of the responsibility lies with Obama. He, after all, made Muslim outreach an official government policy. He went to Cairo and fed his audience the fiction that Palestinians are akin to enslaved African-Americans. He has asked nothing of the Muslim community — not sensitivity, not repudiation of specific terrorist groups, and not rejection of the noxious idea that America was responsible for 9/11. He may think he is bolstering Islamic self-esteem, but he is infantilizing Muslims and absolving them of the responsibility that is required of leaders who want to enjoy the love and respect of their fellow citizens.

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Playing the Bigot Card

On the Ground Zero mosque, the left is playing the bigot card, big time. Some may honestly believe the mosque opponents are Muslim-haters, for they cannot fathom why their fellow citizens would object not to the 100 mosques in New York but to the one on Ground Zero. Others may have figured that 68 percent of America is lost to them so better to rally their own side (sliver?) of voters to put their finger in the electoral dike about to burst all over them. It’s the same thinking that demanded that Democrats pass ObamaCare.

But it’s tricky to label as diverse a group as the mosque opponents as bigots. Sarah Palin, Abe Foxman, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and, oh, a whole lot of thoughtful Muslims. (It’s the opposition that “looks like America,” as Bill Clinton bragged about his Cabinet.) As to the Muslim objectors, I have highlighted a few this week, and the Daily Caller is out with an interesting report:

Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, told The Daily Caller that despite their relative silence on the issue, many Muslims question the placement of the mosque.

“This is not a humble Islamic statement. A mosque such as this is actually a political structure that casts a shadow over a cemetery, over hallowed ground. 9/11 was the beginning of a kinetic war, it is not an opportunity for cultural exchange. It was the beginning of a conflict with those who want to destroy our way of life,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told The Daily Caller.

“I am in no way looking to infringe on First Amendment issues. I approach this as a Muslim that is dedicated to reform,” he said.

Jasser cited the Quranic verse, “Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book [Jews and Christians],” and said that Muslims backing the project should be introspective during this month of Ramadan.

Schwartz lists three reasons for Muslims to object to the project:

“First of all, aside from the issues of conflict with jihad, Islam teaches us, especially Muslims living in non-Muslim societies, to avoid conflict with our neighbors. … We think this is an incredibly heedless project. It went forward without adequate planning or foresight, without anticipating reaction and it is absurd to think that there would not have been reaction. It is simply absurd. Second, there is the problem of Imam Feisal’s propensity to mix with radicals. And thirdly, there is a problem with the lack of transparency about money funding.”

Doesn’t sound like a bigot to me. In fact, it’s the voice of empathy and reasoned argument, exactly what Obama says he wants to promote. (Or is that a one-way street that travels only to the Muslim World?) Dr. Jasser sums up:

“We are Americans who happen to be Muslims, not Muslims who happen to be Americans. … And this structure is all backwards. They just want to force Islam upon the American people and it is going to be used around the world, especially in Islamic media. From the ashes of this destruction comes the flourishing of Islam and I think that is just the wrong message. It is not good for America or for Muslims.”

That the president has no insight into this and seemingly no access to such opinions explain much about his counterproductive Muslim-outreach efforts. If only ideology really was “so yesterday” and Obama operated in the world as it is, not as Rashid Khalidi and the Ivy League taught him it was, we and he would be vastly better off.

On the Ground Zero mosque, the left is playing the bigot card, big time. Some may honestly believe the mosque opponents are Muslim-haters, for they cannot fathom why their fellow citizens would object not to the 100 mosques in New York but to the one on Ground Zero. Others may have figured that 68 percent of America is lost to them so better to rally their own side (sliver?) of voters to put their finger in the electoral dike about to burst all over them. It’s the same thinking that demanded that Democrats pass ObamaCare.

But it’s tricky to label as diverse a group as the mosque opponents as bigots. Sarah Palin, Abe Foxman, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and, oh, a whole lot of thoughtful Muslims. (It’s the opposition that “looks like America,” as Bill Clinton bragged about his Cabinet.) As to the Muslim objectors, I have highlighted a few this week, and the Daily Caller is out with an interesting report:

Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, told The Daily Caller that despite their relative silence on the issue, many Muslims question the placement of the mosque.

“This is not a humble Islamic statement. A mosque such as this is actually a political structure that casts a shadow over a cemetery, over hallowed ground. 9/11 was the beginning of a kinetic war, it is not an opportunity for cultural exchange. It was the beginning of a conflict with those who want to destroy our way of life,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told The Daily Caller.

“I am in no way looking to infringe on First Amendment issues. I approach this as a Muslim that is dedicated to reform,” he said.

Jasser cited the Quranic verse, “Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book [Jews and Christians],” and said that Muslims backing the project should be introspective during this month of Ramadan.

Schwartz lists three reasons for Muslims to object to the project:

“First of all, aside from the issues of conflict with jihad, Islam teaches us, especially Muslims living in non-Muslim societies, to avoid conflict with our neighbors. … We think this is an incredibly heedless project. It went forward without adequate planning or foresight, without anticipating reaction and it is absurd to think that there would not have been reaction. It is simply absurd. Second, there is the problem of Imam Feisal’s propensity to mix with radicals. And thirdly, there is a problem with the lack of transparency about money funding.”

Doesn’t sound like a bigot to me. In fact, it’s the voice of empathy and reasoned argument, exactly what Obama says he wants to promote. (Or is that a one-way street that travels only to the Muslim World?) Dr. Jasser sums up:

“We are Americans who happen to be Muslims, not Muslims who happen to be Americans. … And this structure is all backwards. They just want to force Islam upon the American people and it is going to be used around the world, especially in Islamic media. From the ashes of this destruction comes the flourishing of Islam and I think that is just the wrong message. It is not good for America or for Muslims.”

That the president has no insight into this and seemingly no access to such opinions explain much about his counterproductive Muslim-outreach efforts. If only ideology really was “so yesterday” and Obama operated in the world as it is, not as Rashid Khalidi and the Ivy League taught him it was, we and he would be vastly better off.

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Ignoring the Enemy

Cliff May has an important piece on the West’s reluctance to recognize the nature of the enemy we face:

We Americans are uncomfortable with such ideas as holy war and religiously motivated mass murder. Raised to believe in equality, tolerance, and diversity, we cannot imagine slaughtering fellow human beings so that adherents of the “true faith” might prevail over “enemies of God.” Nor can most of us imagine others acting in this way. Our imaginations are failing us.

As May explains, the averting-our-eyes problem is exacerbated by dim liberals searching for sociological or economic motivations for terrorists and by jihadist propagandists:

For example, Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss-born academic — he holds the His Highness Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Chair in Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford (no kidding) — last week told the Washington Post that jihad “has nothing to do with holy war. … Where you are trying to resist bad temptations and reform yourself with good aspirations that you have, this is a jihad of the self.”

What makes this lie so brazen — though the Post did not think to question it — is that Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Banna himself stated clearly that the Qur’an and other Islamic doctrines “summon people … to jihad, to warfare, to the armed forces, and all means of land and sea fighting.”

But, of course, the current administration has made the problem much worse, by refusing to name the enemy and by systematically downplaying in our Middle East diplomacy the nature of the jihadist threat. (This was on display in the Rashad Hussain interview, even as corrected by the State Department.) This only undermines the position of moderate Muslims:

Commenting on the Times Square bombing attempt, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a prominent American Muslim reformer, stated what so many others will not: “Islamists are at war intellectually and kinetically with western liberal democracies.” He added that while Americans are often the victims, “most Islamists globally actually target moderate Muslims who are their greatest existential threat.”

Anti-Islamist Muslims know, too, that the Islamists have not “hijacked” a “religion of peace,” comforting as that might be for us to believe. Islamists are fundamentalists, not heretics. Their reading of Islam is neither new nor unorthodox. They advocate a return to Islam as it was practiced in the seventh century. In that era, Islam was, without apology or ambiguity, a warrior faith dedicated to conquest — with power, wealth, and glory accruing to conquerors.

Americans’ natural disinclination to take at face value the extremist ideology of its foes can only be corrected by leadership from the president and his administration. It is their obligation to explain what we are fighting, to give support to anti-jihadist Muslims, and to focus all our anti-terror policies on aggressively combating an ideological foe. Until this is accomplished, we remain at a severe disadvantage against an enemy that suffers no lack of clarity, determination, and ideological focus.

Cliff May has an important piece on the West’s reluctance to recognize the nature of the enemy we face:

We Americans are uncomfortable with such ideas as holy war and religiously motivated mass murder. Raised to believe in equality, tolerance, and diversity, we cannot imagine slaughtering fellow human beings so that adherents of the “true faith” might prevail over “enemies of God.” Nor can most of us imagine others acting in this way. Our imaginations are failing us.

As May explains, the averting-our-eyes problem is exacerbated by dim liberals searching for sociological or economic motivations for terrorists and by jihadist propagandists:

For example, Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss-born academic — he holds the His Highness Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Chair in Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford (no kidding) — last week told the Washington Post that jihad “has nothing to do with holy war. … Where you are trying to resist bad temptations and reform yourself with good aspirations that you have, this is a jihad of the self.”

What makes this lie so brazen — though the Post did not think to question it — is that Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Banna himself stated clearly that the Qur’an and other Islamic doctrines “summon people … to jihad, to warfare, to the armed forces, and all means of land and sea fighting.”

But, of course, the current administration has made the problem much worse, by refusing to name the enemy and by systematically downplaying in our Middle East diplomacy the nature of the jihadist threat. (This was on display in the Rashad Hussain interview, even as corrected by the State Department.) This only undermines the position of moderate Muslims:

Commenting on the Times Square bombing attempt, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a prominent American Muslim reformer, stated what so many others will not: “Islamists are at war intellectually and kinetically with western liberal democracies.” He added that while Americans are often the victims, “most Islamists globally actually target moderate Muslims who are their greatest existential threat.”

Anti-Islamist Muslims know, too, that the Islamists have not “hijacked” a “religion of peace,” comforting as that might be for us to believe. Islamists are fundamentalists, not heretics. Their reading of Islam is neither new nor unorthodox. They advocate a return to Islam as it was practiced in the seventh century. In that era, Islam was, without apology or ambiguity, a warrior faith dedicated to conquest — with power, wealth, and glory accruing to conquerors.

Americans’ natural disinclination to take at face value the extremist ideology of its foes can only be corrected by leadership from the president and his administration. It is their obligation to explain what we are fighting, to give support to anti-jihadist Muslims, and to focus all our anti-terror policies on aggressively combating an ideological foe. Until this is accomplished, we remain at a severe disadvantage against an enemy that suffers no lack of clarity, determination, and ideological focus.

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Strange Herring

That light you’re supposed to walk into when you’re dying will probably fade if you breathe into a paper bag. Or not.

Tech companies don’t steal each other’s employees. So Justice wants to investigate. Because stealing is … oh I don’t get it either …

Mitt Romney wins straw poll. Now has the most straw of, like, anybody. I mean, an incredible amount of straw. If you’re out and about, and find yourself with a Coke, and you need a straw, I’m telling you — call this guy.

Google knows you’re weird. Now we know you’re weird. Please stop being weird. It’s scaring the children. (And please don’t Google “Does being weird scare the children?”)

Net no longer neutral, decidedly supralapsarian.

What’s the difference between Jack Kevorkian and Josef Mengele? One of them’s dead.

Nachos and Pop-Tarts no longer part of Chicago school menu, consigned to dustbin along with civics, ethics, and penmanship.

Hopefully you didn’t eat during this Ramadan or you would have found yourself bowing before the porcelain god.

You Googled “Does being weird scare the children?” didn’t you? And I asked you nice …

Pizza Hut flying out of Iceland like kids from the Neverland Ranch.

Among the candidates for Justice Stevens’s seat on the High Court are Janet Napolitano, Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Merrick Garland. Which one of these is not like the other — or is that a rude question?

If you can’t pay your taxes by April 15, you may be able to pay later. But you’ll have to pay a penalty. And if you can’t afford to pay the penalty, a large man in a mildewy worsted suit will come to your home and cut off your head with a rusty straight razor, seal it in a Zip-lock bag, and force your youngest child to carry it around in a Hello Kitty knapsack until your traumatized family pays up. (OK, I could be mistaken about that knapsack part. Damn Fox News…)

Cirque de Soleil does Elvis. Oh like you don’t want to hear “A Big Hunk o’ Love” as interpreted by a trapeze artist and a contortionist named Capucine.

If you have asthma, stay out of the South. And the Pollen and Spore Collection of the Museum of Natural History.

And finally, the Brat Pack will never die, despite proposed legislation.

That light you’re supposed to walk into when you’re dying will probably fade if you breathe into a paper bag. Or not.

Tech companies don’t steal each other’s employees. So Justice wants to investigate. Because stealing is … oh I don’t get it either …

Mitt Romney wins straw poll. Now has the most straw of, like, anybody. I mean, an incredible amount of straw. If you’re out and about, and find yourself with a Coke, and you need a straw, I’m telling you — call this guy.

Google knows you’re weird. Now we know you’re weird. Please stop being weird. It’s scaring the children. (And please don’t Google “Does being weird scare the children?”)

Net no longer neutral, decidedly supralapsarian.

What’s the difference between Jack Kevorkian and Josef Mengele? One of them’s dead.

Nachos and Pop-Tarts no longer part of Chicago school menu, consigned to dustbin along with civics, ethics, and penmanship.

Hopefully you didn’t eat during this Ramadan or you would have found yourself bowing before the porcelain god.

You Googled “Does being weird scare the children?” didn’t you? And I asked you nice …

Pizza Hut flying out of Iceland like kids from the Neverland Ranch.

Among the candidates for Justice Stevens’s seat on the High Court are Janet Napolitano, Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Merrick Garland. Which one of these is not like the other — or is that a rude question?

If you can’t pay your taxes by April 15, you may be able to pay later. But you’ll have to pay a penalty. And if you can’t afford to pay the penalty, a large man in a mildewy worsted suit will come to your home and cut off your head with a rusty straight razor, seal it in a Zip-lock bag, and force your youngest child to carry it around in a Hello Kitty knapsack until your traumatized family pays up. (OK, I could be mistaken about that knapsack part. Damn Fox News…)

Cirque de Soleil does Elvis. Oh like you don’t want to hear “A Big Hunk o’ Love” as interpreted by a trapeze artist and a contortionist named Capucine.

If you have asthma, stay out of the South. And the Pollen and Spore Collection of the Museum of Natural History.

And finally, the Brat Pack will never die, despite proposed legislation.

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Here’s a Housing-Freeze Idea

COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse asks a marvelous question: “How about an Arab ‘Settlement Freeze’?” Her point is a cogent one:

Of the children of Abraham, the descendants of Ishmael currently occupy at least 800 times more land than descendants of Isaac. The 21 states of the Arab League routinely announce plans of building expansion. Saudi Arabia estimates that 555,000 housing units were built over the past several years. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced during a meeting in Baghdad last year that “Some 10,000 units will be built in each province [of Iraq] with 100 square meters per unit” to accommodate citizens whose housing needs have not been met for a long time. Egypt has established 10 new cities since 1996. They are Tenth of Ramadan, Sixth of October, Al Sadat, Al Shurouq, Al Obour, New Damietta, New Beni Sueif, New Assiut, New Luxor, and New Cairo.

In 2006 the Syrian Prime Minister, Mohammad Naji Atri, announced a new five-year development plan that aims to supply 687,000 housing units. Kuwait expects to have a demand for approximately 100,000 private housing units by 2010. Last year Jordan’s King Abdullah launched a National Housing Initiative, which aims to build 120,000 properties for low-income Jordanians.

And the litany of housing goes on, as does the history of Arab rejectionism, which seeks to displace the Jewish state — housing units and all — from the region. As Wisse argues, “It is unfortunate that Arabs obsess about building in Israel rather than aiming for the development of their own superabundant lands. But why should America encourage their hegemonic ambitions?”

So why focus on the tiny Jewish state and 5,000 units in the undefined “East Jerusalem”? (By the way, the capitalization of “East” now employed by every journalistic outfit on the planet is misleading. There is east or eastern Jerusalem; there is no legal entity “East Jerusalem.”) We return then to her query:

Why does the White House take issue with the construction of housing for Jewish citizens within the boundaries of their own country? The same White House raised no objection when Jordan recently began systematically stripping citizenship from thousands of its Palestinian citizens rather than providing new housing units for them in a land much larger than Israel.

Perhaps Israel has been at fault for not doggedly insisting on unconditional acceptance of its sovereign existence, and for not demanding that Arab rulers adhere to the U.N. Charter’s guarantee of “equal rights of . . . nations large and small.” Preposterous as they would have thought it, perhaps Israelis ought to have called for a freeze on Arab settlements to correspond to unreasonable Arab demands on them.

It is a measure of how cockeyed our thinking has become that there is only a single country in the region — the one that affords its Arab minority more civil liberties than in the surrounding Arab states — that must play “Mother-may-I?” when it comes to housing its own population. Now there’s an “affront.”

COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse asks a marvelous question: “How about an Arab ‘Settlement Freeze’?” Her point is a cogent one:

Of the children of Abraham, the descendants of Ishmael currently occupy at least 800 times more land than descendants of Isaac. The 21 states of the Arab League routinely announce plans of building expansion. Saudi Arabia estimates that 555,000 housing units were built over the past several years. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced during a meeting in Baghdad last year that “Some 10,000 units will be built in each province [of Iraq] with 100 square meters per unit” to accommodate citizens whose housing needs have not been met for a long time. Egypt has established 10 new cities since 1996. They are Tenth of Ramadan, Sixth of October, Al Sadat, Al Shurouq, Al Obour, New Damietta, New Beni Sueif, New Assiut, New Luxor, and New Cairo.

In 2006 the Syrian Prime Minister, Mohammad Naji Atri, announced a new five-year development plan that aims to supply 687,000 housing units. Kuwait expects to have a demand for approximately 100,000 private housing units by 2010. Last year Jordan’s King Abdullah launched a National Housing Initiative, which aims to build 120,000 properties for low-income Jordanians.

And the litany of housing goes on, as does the history of Arab rejectionism, which seeks to displace the Jewish state — housing units and all — from the region. As Wisse argues, “It is unfortunate that Arabs obsess about building in Israel rather than aiming for the development of their own superabundant lands. But why should America encourage their hegemonic ambitions?”

So why focus on the tiny Jewish state and 5,000 units in the undefined “East Jerusalem”? (By the way, the capitalization of “East” now employed by every journalistic outfit on the planet is misleading. There is east or eastern Jerusalem; there is no legal entity “East Jerusalem.”) We return then to her query:

Why does the White House take issue with the construction of housing for Jewish citizens within the boundaries of their own country? The same White House raised no objection when Jordan recently began systematically stripping citizenship from thousands of its Palestinian citizens rather than providing new housing units for them in a land much larger than Israel.

Perhaps Israel has been at fault for not doggedly insisting on unconditional acceptance of its sovereign existence, and for not demanding that Arab rulers adhere to the U.N. Charter’s guarantee of “equal rights of . . . nations large and small.” Preposterous as they would have thought it, perhaps Israelis ought to have called for a freeze on Arab settlements to correspond to unreasonable Arab demands on them.

It is a measure of how cockeyed our thinking has become that there is only a single country in the region — the one that affords its Arab minority more civil liberties than in the surrounding Arab states — that must play “Mother-may-I?” when it comes to housing its own population. Now there’s an “affront.”

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The Middle East Needs Dubai

There is a large element of Schadenfreude in the media coverage of Dubai’s financial mess. The Gulf emirate has suspended payment on the debt of its flagship holding company, Dubai World, causing financial jitters around the world and raising suspicions that its balance sheet is a lot worse than it has been letting on. For years Dubai has been on a spending binge, which includes building the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands in “an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider.”

It is easy to look down one’s nose at the excesses of this global parvenu, which is trying to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, thereby usurping Beirut’s traditional position as the place where Arabs unwind. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago with a group of foreign-policy analysts, we were all amazed by the frenetic pace of construction. A sizable proportion of the world’s building cranes had been arrayed in this city-state and they were putting up too many skyscrapers to count. It was pretty obvious that the good times wouldn’t last forever, and they haven’t. The result of a building boom, we all know, is a glut of new structures, a lack of tenants, and a crash. That’s what has happened in the U.S. with residential homes in the past few years and now it appears to be happening with commercial real estate in Dubai.

So much, so familiar. But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point. No doubt some of Dubai’s competitors, the likes of Doha and Kuwait City and its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, are licking their chops at the prospect of benefitting from Dubai’s downturn but they will be hard put to it to match its dynamism because they remain much more in thrall to traditional Arab/Muslim pieties: a combination of religious and tribal traditions that have made the Middle East a laggard in many dimensions of development. Dubai has been a leader in the Arab world with respect to embracing modernity — which has repercussions both good and bad but in general is a force for positive change. We should all hope that it will get on its feet again soon. The Middle East needs Dubai.

There is a large element of Schadenfreude in the media coverage of Dubai’s financial mess. The Gulf emirate has suspended payment on the debt of its flagship holding company, Dubai World, causing financial jitters around the world and raising suspicions that its balance sheet is a lot worse than it has been letting on. For years Dubai has been on a spending binge, which includes building the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands in “an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider.”

It is easy to look down one’s nose at the excesses of this global parvenu, which is trying to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, thereby usurping Beirut’s traditional position as the place where Arabs unwind. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago with a group of foreign-policy analysts, we were all amazed by the frenetic pace of construction. A sizable proportion of the world’s building cranes had been arrayed in this city-state and they were putting up too many skyscrapers to count. It was pretty obvious that the good times wouldn’t last forever, and they haven’t. The result of a building boom, we all know, is a glut of new structures, a lack of tenants, and a crash. That’s what has happened in the U.S. with residential homes in the past few years and now it appears to be happening with commercial real estate in Dubai.

So much, so familiar. But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point. No doubt some of Dubai’s competitors, the likes of Doha and Kuwait City and its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, are licking their chops at the prospect of benefitting from Dubai’s downturn but they will be hard put to it to match its dynamism because they remain much more in thrall to traditional Arab/Muslim pieties: a combination of religious and tribal traditions that have made the Middle East a laggard in many dimensions of development. Dubai has been a leader in the Arab world with respect to embracing modernity — which has repercussions both good and bad but in general is a force for positive change. We should all hope that it will get on its feet again soon. The Middle East needs Dubai.

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Ramadan’s Outrage

As noted by Rachel Donadio in her recent post on the New York Times’s Paper Cuts blog, the Muslim political thinker Tariq Ramadan has joined the chorus of voices calling for the boycott of Turin’s book fair. Turin’s book fair has invited Israel as the guest of honour for this year’s edition–something that triggered the ire of all the usual suspects. In a recent interview given to the Italian news agency AKI-Adnkronos, Ramadan was quoted as saying of the book fair that the time has come to “declare in a clear fashion that one cannot accept anything that comes out of Israel.” Ramadan argues that, because Israel’s policies are so oppressive, Israel should not be given the place of honor. This at least is what he said in a press release when his initial statement was extensively quoted across Italian and European media.

Does that mean that the Turin Book Fair should also not invite, say, Egypt, and its writers? Not even if one of them won the Nobel Prize for literature? Apparently not. Egypt, it seems, gets a free pass on Ramadan’s universal values. In offering factual background of the story, Ramadan suggests that Egypt was the original guest of honour, but the organizers somehow dis-invited the Arab country, preferring the Jewish state instead.The truth is that Egypt is the guest of honour for next year, whenTurin is also having a special round of events on Ancient Egypt. The combination of two such cultural highlights, the Egyptian and Italian governments thought, would increase attendance and exposure. But these minutiae are beside the point. How can Ramadan lament the (imaginary) exclusion of Egypt in favour of “a country that refuses to respect the rights and the dignity of peoples,” given Egypt’s abysmal record on human rights, the way it represses dissidents, persecutes the opposition, and treats religious minorities?

The organizers wrote back to Ramadan—who has been their guest in the past—reminding him that “the true guest of honour is . . . Israel’s free culture, because it is on culture, and nothing else, that one measures a country’s honour.” Ramadan informed his interlocutors that he did not buy into their distinction between culture and government. One assumes he’ll be coherent enough to call for a boycott of Egypt next year, on the same grounds.

Ramadan wishes to boycott a book fair because Israel’s literature—one that rightly deserves a place in the sun—is being honoured. The organizers’ cowardly and disingenuous efforts to distance themselves from Israel’s policies and draw a line between government and culture were clearly not right response. But if a country’s honor can be measured on its culture, the honor of an intellectual is clearly measured on his rigor and honesty. And if these be the parameters, it is hard to see how Ramadan can qualify.

As noted by Rachel Donadio in her recent post on the New York Times’s Paper Cuts blog, the Muslim political thinker Tariq Ramadan has joined the chorus of voices calling for the boycott of Turin’s book fair. Turin’s book fair has invited Israel as the guest of honour for this year’s edition–something that triggered the ire of all the usual suspects. In a recent interview given to the Italian news agency AKI-Adnkronos, Ramadan was quoted as saying of the book fair that the time has come to “declare in a clear fashion that one cannot accept anything that comes out of Israel.” Ramadan argues that, because Israel’s policies are so oppressive, Israel should not be given the place of honor. This at least is what he said in a press release when his initial statement was extensively quoted across Italian and European media.

Does that mean that the Turin Book Fair should also not invite, say, Egypt, and its writers? Not even if one of them won the Nobel Prize for literature? Apparently not. Egypt, it seems, gets a free pass on Ramadan’s universal values. In offering factual background of the story, Ramadan suggests that Egypt was the original guest of honour, but the organizers somehow dis-invited the Arab country, preferring the Jewish state instead.The truth is that Egypt is the guest of honour for next year, whenTurin is also having a special round of events on Ancient Egypt. The combination of two such cultural highlights, the Egyptian and Italian governments thought, would increase attendance and exposure. But these minutiae are beside the point. How can Ramadan lament the (imaginary) exclusion of Egypt in favour of “a country that refuses to respect the rights and the dignity of peoples,” given Egypt’s abysmal record on human rights, the way it represses dissidents, persecutes the opposition, and treats religious minorities?

The organizers wrote back to Ramadan—who has been their guest in the past—reminding him that “the true guest of honour is . . . Israel’s free culture, because it is on culture, and nothing else, that one measures a country’s honour.” Ramadan informed his interlocutors that he did not buy into their distinction between culture and government. One assumes he’ll be coherent enough to call for a boycott of Egypt next year, on the same grounds.

Ramadan wishes to boycott a book fair because Israel’s literature—one that rightly deserves a place in the sun—is being honoured. The organizers’ cowardly and disingenuous efforts to distance themselves from Israel’s policies and draw a line between government and culture were clearly not right response. But if a country’s honor can be measured on its culture, the honor of an intellectual is clearly measured on his rigor and honesty. And if these be the parameters, it is hard to see how Ramadan can qualify.

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Re-branding Capitulation

The Dutch were arguably the first to harness the capital and military potential of the sea and establish a muscular free-trade empire; England followed, and then the U.S. In accordance with a simple timeline school of history the undoing of Dutch culture should proceed that of England or America. Sometimes history can be frighteningly simple.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports that Dutch Catholics have “re-branded” the Lent fast “Christian Ramadan.” Martin Van der Kuil, director of the Catholic charity Vastenaktie said, “The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent.”

Meanwhile, the second great sea power lays the groundwork. The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has recommended that England formally adopt certain aspects of shari’a law to “help maintain social cohesion.”

Williams’ sentiment is echoed by Van der Kuil, who said of Lent and Ramadan: “The agreements are more striking than the differences. Both for Muslims and Catholic faithful the values of frugality and spirituality play a central role in this tradition.”

As this plays out, former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was forced to flee the Netherlands under Islamist death threats, can’t find her way to the “social cohesion” of an interfaith Europe. She’s going from country-to-country in the hopes of convincing a government to protect her from would-be assassins. Hard to say what her chances are in Denmark, where police just arrested three men plotting to kill a cartoonist who drew a picture of the Prophet Mohammad.

The “re-branding” of Lent is really a re-defining of several things: Catholicism, European culture, and the fate of nations. “Re-branding” is one of those weaselly terms common to market-driven societies such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the U.S.. What’s really happening isn’t marketing, but product development: Anglican shari’a and Catholic Ramadan. When some version of this trend hits America, us savvy consumers should at least be able to call it by its name.

The Dutch were arguably the first to harness the capital and military potential of the sea and establish a muscular free-trade empire; England followed, and then the U.S. In accordance with a simple timeline school of history the undoing of Dutch culture should proceed that of England or America. Sometimes history can be frighteningly simple.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports that Dutch Catholics have “re-branded” the Lent fast “Christian Ramadan.” Martin Van der Kuil, director of the Catholic charity Vastenaktie said, “The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent.”

Meanwhile, the second great sea power lays the groundwork. The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has recommended that England formally adopt certain aspects of shari’a law to “help maintain social cohesion.”

Williams’ sentiment is echoed by Van der Kuil, who said of Lent and Ramadan: “The agreements are more striking than the differences. Both for Muslims and Catholic faithful the values of frugality and spirituality play a central role in this tradition.”

As this plays out, former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was forced to flee the Netherlands under Islamist death threats, can’t find her way to the “social cohesion” of an interfaith Europe. She’s going from country-to-country in the hopes of convincing a government to protect her from would-be assassins. Hard to say what her chances are in Denmark, where police just arrested three men plotting to kill a cartoonist who drew a picture of the Prophet Mohammad.

The “re-branding” of Lent is really a re-defining of several things: Catholicism, European culture, and the fate of nations. “Re-branding” is one of those weaselly terms common to market-driven societies such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the U.S.. What’s really happening isn’t marketing, but product development: Anglican shari’a and Catholic Ramadan. When some version of this trend hits America, us savvy consumers should at least be able to call it by its name.

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A New Direction?

From the Politico today:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she would bring a new Iraq measure to the House floor shortly to provide $50 billion in funds for the war, while requiring U.S. troops to begin redeploying out of Iraq immediately and conclude by the end of next year. “In last year’s election, the American people called for a new direction; nowhere was that direction more called for than in the war in Iraq,” Pelosi told reporters. “And so in the next day or so, we [will] once again bring to the floor legislation that makes a distinction, a clear distinction: choose a new direction from the Bush foreign policy in Iraq.”

This is yet more evidence—as if we needed it—that the goal of leading Democrats is to withdraw American troops from Iraq, even if withdrawal destroys our chances of success.

How can one come to any other conclusion? After all, the surge has been more successful than anyone could have imagined. This year we have seen progress made in Iraq on almost every front.

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From the Politico today:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she would bring a new Iraq measure to the House floor shortly to provide $50 billion in funds for the war, while requiring U.S. troops to begin redeploying out of Iraq immediately and conclude by the end of next year. “In last year’s election, the American people called for a new direction; nowhere was that direction more called for than in the war in Iraq,” Pelosi told reporters. “And so in the next day or so, we [will] once again bring to the floor legislation that makes a distinction, a clear distinction: choose a new direction from the Bush foreign policy in Iraq.”

This is yet more evidence—as if we needed it—that the goal of leading Democrats is to withdraw American troops from Iraq, even if withdrawal destroys our chances of success.

How can one come to any other conclusion? After all, the surge has been more successful than anyone could have imagined. This year we have seen progress made in Iraq on almost every front.

Earlier this week, for example, we learned from Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, that American forces have routed al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) from every neighborhood of Baghdad and that violence had declined since a spike in June. Murder victims are down 80 percent from where they were at the peak, and attacks involving improvised bombs are down 70 percent, he said. General Fil attributed the decline to improvements in the Iraqi security forces, a cease-fire ordered by the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the disruption of financing for insurgents, and, most significantly, Iraqis’ rejection of “the rule of the gun.”

We’re seeing early reports (it’s still far too early to call it a trend) of refugees and displaced persons returning to their homes, which, if it continues, will be among the most compelling indicators of progress. People vote with their feet.

We have also seen substantial progress in the “war of ideas,” with Sunnis forcefully rejecting bin Ladenism. Earlier this week Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower, told Hugh Hewitt about this development that took place in September:

Sheik Salman al-Awdah is a very prominent cleric in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden himself lionized this man. But on two occasions, most recently at the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that just concluded, Sheik Awdah condemned, personally condemned bin Laden. You know, my son, Osama, how long will this go on? You know, this stain on Islam. I mean, it was a direct repudiation of everything that bin Laden stood for.

Sheik Awdah’s “open letter to Osama bin Laden” asked:

Brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocents among children, elderly, the weak, and women have been killed and made homeless in the name of al Qaeda? The ruin of an entire people, as is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq . . . cannot make Muslims happy. Who benefits from turning countries like Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, or Saudi Arabia into places where fear spreads and no one can feel safe?

This is a stunning and important, if largely ignored, development.

In Iraq we’re also seeing some encouraging news on the economic front and very encouraging, even dramatic, progress on the local political front; “bottom-up” reconciliation is continuing apace. The main problem in Iraq lies with the central government and its unwillingness, still, to share power. Nevertheless, almost every important trend line in Iraq is positive. And yet to the likes of Speaker Pelosi, it matters not at all. She and her colleagues are ideologues in the truest sense—zealous and doctrinaire people committed to a path regardless of the evidence. And the fact that good news in Iraq seems to agitate her and other leading Democrats is astonishing, as well as unsettling.

Nancy Pelosi’s effort to subvert a manifestly successful (if belatedly implemented) strategy in Iraq is reckless and foolish—and it may succeed in driving down Congressional approval ratings, already at record lows, to single digits. Which is about where they belong.

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“Europeanization, Not Islamization”

In the long chain of provocative essays on Europe and Islam hosted at Sign and Sight, perhaps the most contrarian to date has appeared. Bassam Tibi, a political scientist at the University of Göttingen and visiting professor at Cornell—and a man who rejects Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Timothy Garton Ash, Ian Buruma, and Tariq Ramadan as self-seeking sensationalists—proposes a third way. He advocates neither the total victory of the values of the Enlightenment nor the gradual appropriation of Western Europe by dar al-Islam, but the development of an explicitly political “Euro-Islam”:

We are left with the following imperative: those who seek to come to Europe must also strive to become part of its community, adopting the democratic consensus expressed in its value system. They must want to become European and to participate in the European identity, rather than seeking to alter it. In a word: Europeanization, not Islamization. If this idea becomes a political concept of the EU, together with the political will to push it through, the Islamic enclaves of the parallel societies in city districts where the Turkish or other clearly non-European flags are brandished will no longer be tolerated. The alternative to this cultural segregation is inclusive Europeanization, not exclusion. This also goes for Islamic Turkey, which aspires to join the EU. . . .

In closing, I would like to refer to a concept developed by the last major Islamic philosopher Ibn Khaldun, who died 600 years ago. He coined the term asabiyya (esprit de corps, or collective comradeship), to measure the strengths and weaknesses of a civilization. How strong is European asabiyya? Only when Europeanization succeeds as a democratic answer to the Islamic challenge can one speak of a strong European asabiyya in Ibn Khaldun’s sense. The crucial thing is to integrate Europe as a civilizational entity in a pluralistic world. This entity must have its own asabiyya and a clear idea of its make-up, while remaining open to others and incorporating them through Europeanization. Europe is more than an economic or business community, and it is well worth preserving it as a “beautiful idea.” This can be achieved with Islamic participation, provided the vision of Euro-Islam becomes a political concept. The task of preserving Europe with Islamic participation is a peace project for the 21st century.

It’s not as implausible an idea as it may sound. The Muslim world once possessed more sophisticated and stable political structures than Europe; “Islamized” Iberia long served as a model of religious toleration and pluralism. A “Europeanized” Muslim community (which in Tibi’s mind seems to mean one that is habituated to Western political mores more than to Western cultural mores) seems not so far-fetched in light of this history. Tibi’s essay deserves attention; read the whole thing here.

In the long chain of provocative essays on Europe and Islam hosted at Sign and Sight, perhaps the most contrarian to date has appeared. Bassam Tibi, a political scientist at the University of Göttingen and visiting professor at Cornell—and a man who rejects Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Timothy Garton Ash, Ian Buruma, and Tariq Ramadan as self-seeking sensationalists—proposes a third way. He advocates neither the total victory of the values of the Enlightenment nor the gradual appropriation of Western Europe by dar al-Islam, but the development of an explicitly political “Euro-Islam”:

We are left with the following imperative: those who seek to come to Europe must also strive to become part of its community, adopting the democratic consensus expressed in its value system. They must want to become European and to participate in the European identity, rather than seeking to alter it. In a word: Europeanization, not Islamization. If this idea becomes a political concept of the EU, together with the political will to push it through, the Islamic enclaves of the parallel societies in city districts where the Turkish or other clearly non-European flags are brandished will no longer be tolerated. The alternative to this cultural segregation is inclusive Europeanization, not exclusion. This also goes for Islamic Turkey, which aspires to join the EU. . . .

In closing, I would like to refer to a concept developed by the last major Islamic philosopher Ibn Khaldun, who died 600 years ago. He coined the term asabiyya (esprit de corps, or collective comradeship), to measure the strengths and weaknesses of a civilization. How strong is European asabiyya? Only when Europeanization succeeds as a democratic answer to the Islamic challenge can one speak of a strong European asabiyya in Ibn Khaldun’s sense. The crucial thing is to integrate Europe as a civilizational entity in a pluralistic world. This entity must have its own asabiyya and a clear idea of its make-up, while remaining open to others and incorporating them through Europeanization. Europe is more than an economic or business community, and it is well worth preserving it as a “beautiful idea.” This can be achieved with Islamic participation, provided the vision of Euro-Islam becomes a political concept. The task of preserving Europe with Islamic participation is a peace project for the 21st century.

It’s not as implausible an idea as it may sound. The Muslim world once possessed more sophisticated and stable political structures than Europe; “Islamized” Iberia long served as a model of religious toleration and pluralism. A “Europeanized” Muslim community (which in Tibi’s mind seems to mean one that is habituated to Western political mores more than to Western cultural mores) seems not so far-fetched in light of this history. Tibi’s essay deserves attention; read the whole thing here.

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Jewish Voices?

Readers may recall the debate over the creation of Independent Jewish Voices, a new network of “independent” Jews in the UK. IJV’s manifesto is first and foremost a political document, lacking any real connection to the religious sensibilities and needs of Jews. A testament to this is the fact that the group’s second public outing took place Friday at the City Circle, a new Muslim organization whose aims are:

to promote the development of a distinct British Muslim identity; to assist the process of community cohesion and integration by building bilateral strategic alliances between Muslim and non-Muslim communities; and to harness and channel the skills and resources of Muslim professionals into practical projects thereby facilitating and empowering young Muslim women and men to “put back in” to the wider British community.

All commendable purposes, certainly. But why did IJV choose this venue? There is nothing distinctly Jewish about interfaith dialogue and cultural pluralism: they belong much more to the political order of secular modernity. An organization that claims to represent a part of the Jewish world marginalized by the Jewish establishment should strive to show more awareness of—to say nothing of identification with—specifically Jewish values.

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Readers may recall the debate over the creation of Independent Jewish Voices, a new network of “independent” Jews in the UK. IJV’s manifesto is first and foremost a political document, lacking any real connection to the religious sensibilities and needs of Jews. A testament to this is the fact that the group’s second public outing took place Friday at the City Circle, a new Muslim organization whose aims are:

to promote the development of a distinct British Muslim identity; to assist the process of community cohesion and integration by building bilateral strategic alliances between Muslim and non-Muslim communities; and to harness and channel the skills and resources of Muslim professionals into practical projects thereby facilitating and empowering young Muslim women and men to “put back in” to the wider British community.

All commendable purposes, certainly. But why did IJV choose this venue? There is nothing distinctly Jewish about interfaith dialogue and cultural pluralism: they belong much more to the political order of secular modernity. An organization that claims to represent a part of the Jewish world marginalized by the Jewish establishment should strive to show more awareness of—to say nothing of identification with—specifically Jewish values.

We live in a world where Jewish identity comes in many forms. It may not be exclusively expressed through a connection to Israel, or through religious observance, or through Yiddishkeit. But at least one of these elements should be present to some degree in the DNA of an organization claiming to speak for even a small segment of Jews. And all three are conspicuous by their absence from the words and actions of IJV.

The City Circle that played host to IJV has made it clear that its basic aim—to create an open and pluralist forum for British Muslims—will not contravene the tenets of Islam. The group shows (as is perfectly reasonable for a Muslim group) no similar sensitivity to Jewish ritual needs: its events calendar states that “Weekly events are held every Friday evening from 6:45 pm, except for public or Muslim holidays, or during the month of Ramadan.”

If the City Circle had been asked specifically, it might well have made an exception, and held the meeting on, say, a Sunday or a Thursday evening. On the other hand, why should it have? The Jews the organization is hosting are not, apparently, bothered by publicly breaking shabbos. The City Circle can be said to speak credibly for Muslims because it respects fundamental Muslim beliefs. IJV, however, has blithely violated one of the most basic principles of Jewish law, which should bring their much-touted identity as Jews into question.

But however misdirected the group’s efforts at self-definition may be, they are worth examining. In the end, IJV’s “Jewishness” seems to consist largely in its claim to embody the authentic tradition of the Hebrew prophets. As Brian Klug, one of IJV’s founding members, wrote:

When the language of human rights is spoken, many of us (secular and religious) hear the voices of those Hebrew prophets, rabbis, writers, activists, and other Jewish figures down the centuries for whom Judaism means nothing if it does not mean social justice.

Jacqueline Rose, another IJV stalwart, has taken issue with my criticisms of the incongruence of these fully secular, anti-Zionist Jews evoking the prophets to defend their positions on Israel. That shows, I would argue, how uncomfortable she is with the real ideas of the prophets, who championed the violent destruction of Israel’s enemies, the exclusive and divine Jewish right to the whole land of Israel, and stringent adherence to the Torah.

She might feel more at home with another Jewish prophet, Jesus (a well-known preacher who once suggested turning the other cheek to one’s enemies). IJV’s representatives should have quoted from his teachings at the City Circle meeting. It would have proved beyond any reasonable doubt what kind of Jewish identity IJV actually posseses: none at all.

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The Closing of the European Mind

The Times of London reports today on yet another episode in the closing of the European mind—in this instance, a shocking case of academic censorship.

Matthias Küntzel, a German political scientist from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was invited by the German department at Leeds University for three days of lectures and seminars this week. His lecture on “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Anti-Semitism in the Middle East” was expected to draw a large audience. Then the university’s student Islamic society complained about the lecture’s “provocative” title. Last Tuesday, at the behest of university authorities, the words “Hitler” and “Islamic” were excised and the title was amended to read: “The Nazi Legacy: The Export of Anti-Semitism to the Middle East.” But when Küntzel arrived at Leeds this Wednesday, he was informed that his lecture and the rest of his program had been cancelled “on security grounds.” Küntzel was understandably indignant: “I value the integrity of academic debate, and I feel that it really is in danger here.”

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The Times of London reports today on yet another episode in the closing of the European mind—in this instance, a shocking case of academic censorship.

Matthias Küntzel, a German political scientist from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was invited by the German department at Leeds University for three days of lectures and seminars this week. His lecture on “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Anti-Semitism in the Middle East” was expected to draw a large audience. Then the university’s student Islamic society complained about the lecture’s “provocative” title. Last Tuesday, at the behest of university authorities, the words “Hitler” and “Islamic” were excised and the title was amended to read: “The Nazi Legacy: The Export of Anti-Semitism to the Middle East.” But when Küntzel arrived at Leeds this Wednesday, he was informed that his lecture and the rest of his program had been cancelled “on security grounds.” Küntzel was understandably indignant: “I value the integrity of academic debate, and I feel that it really is in danger here.”

What had happened? Stuart Taberner, the head of the German department, says he was summoned to a last-minute meeting with staff from the office of Michael Arthur, the university’s vice-chancellor, and the head of security, after which he was obliged to cancel Küntzel’s lectures and seminars. The university claimed that proper arrangements for stewarding the lecture on anti-Semitism had not been made, and that it had been cancelled for purely bureaucratic reasons. “The decision to cancel the meeting has nothing to do with academic freedom, freedom of speech, anti-Semitism, or Islamophobia,” a Leeds spokeswoman said. (She added insult to injury by accusing “those claiming that is the case”—including Küntzel—of “making mischief.”) The spokeswoman did not explain why the university had not offered to provide additional security during the visit, nor whether the police had been involved.

Was there a threat to security? The president of the Islamic society, Ahmed Sawalem, denied responsibility for the affair: “We just sent a complaint, we did not ask for the talk to be cancelled.” Küntzel was shown two e-mails, one of which—apparently written by an Arab Muslim student—is quoted in the Times. The writer claims that the lecture is an “open racist attack” but makes no explicit threats.

The Küntzel case shows that Muslims do not even need to resort to the threat of violence in order to close down academic debate on subjects they dislike. Anthony Glees of Brunel University has been warning for years of the danger posed by Islamists on campus—a danger to which university authorities are notoriously weak in responding. Before his death last year, I spoke to Zaki Badawi, the leading Muslim opponent of Islamism in Britain, about this problem, which he saw as one of appeasement. This case, however, goes beyond appeasement. Leeds has set a new precedent: the pre-emptive cringe. Islamists everywhere will take heart from the spectacle of a reputable university setting a lower value on academic freedom than on the possibility that Muslim students might take offense.

It will be fascinating to see whether any other British university tries to efface this shameful episode by inviting Küntzel to give the lecture cancelled by Leeds. Perhaps Oxford will follow the example of Yale and many others by offering Küntzel a platform to explain how the Nazis supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. After all, Oxford is proud to provide just such a platform for that scion of the Muslim Brotherhood, Tariq Ramadan.

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Ramadan’s Exclusion

Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Muslim celebrity academic and British government adviser who teaches at Oxford, is complaining again of his exclusion from the United States, where he was unable to take up a chair at Notre Dame. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he claims that he has been denied a visa “because of my criticism of [the Bush administration’s] Middle East policy and America’s unconditional support for Israel.” He lists an impressive-sounding array of U.S. organizations that “have understood that the real issue is my freedom of speech” and support his legal challenge.

In fact, Ramadan was denied a visa because of his donations to a Palestinian “charity” that supports Hamas. His claim that he was then unaware of this link is implausible, given his record as a hardline Islamist who has repeatedly refused to condemn Palestinian terrorism. In fact, Ramadan has a record of contacts with Islamist terrorists. The Algerian terrorist Djamal Beghal, who plotted to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris, claimed that he “took charge of preparing the lectures of Tariq Ramadan” while studying with him in Geneva. Ramadan was excluded from France for his contacts with Algerian terrorists, though this ban was later lifted.

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Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Muslim celebrity academic and British government adviser who teaches at Oxford, is complaining again of his exclusion from the United States, where he was unable to take up a chair at Notre Dame. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he claims that he has been denied a visa “because of my criticism of [the Bush administration’s] Middle East policy and America’s unconditional support for Israel.” He lists an impressive-sounding array of U.S. organizations that “have understood that the real issue is my freedom of speech” and support his legal challenge.

In fact, Ramadan was denied a visa because of his donations to a Palestinian “charity” that supports Hamas. His claim that he was then unaware of this link is implausible, given his record as a hardline Islamist who has repeatedly refused to condemn Palestinian terrorism. In fact, Ramadan has a record of contacts with Islamist terrorists. The Algerian terrorist Djamal Beghal, who plotted to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris, claimed that he “took charge of preparing the lectures of Tariq Ramadan” while studying with him in Geneva. Ramadan was excluded from France for his contacts with Algerian terrorists, though this ban was later lifted.


Even leaving aside this and other contacts with leading terrorists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s deputy, and the “blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, who masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center—all of which Ramadan denies—his claim to be a leading moderate who seeks to “westernize Islam” and believes in freedom of speech does not square with his public pronouncements. (For fuller documentation of these charges against Ramadan, please see this from the indispensible Daniel Pipes.) It is rank hypocrisy for Ramadan, who rarely condemns censorship in the Muslim world, to accuse the United States of “muffling critical opinion” and “requiring all its citizens to think the same way.”

Ramadan justified the protests against Danish cartoons of Mohammed, claiming that the Koran prohibits representations of Islamic prophets. (In fact, it does not.) He supported the Islamist campaign to ban Voltaire’s play about Mohammed, Fanaticism, at the French town of Saint-Genis-Pouilly. He refers to Islamist atrocities such as 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and Bali as “interventions” and denies that bin Laden was behind 9/11. He has praised the genocidal Sudanese Islamist regime. He attacked the French intellectuals Alain Finkielkraut and Bernard-Henri Levy for “betraying the French Republic” by their support for “sectarianism”, a euphemism for Zionism, and scandalized many by identifying them as Jews. According to Mike Whine, head of the British Community Security Trust, an organization which monitors anti-Semitism, Ramadan has made many anti-Jewish statements and “is at the soft end of the extreme Islamist spectrum.”

We do not know precisely why the U.S. Department for Homeland Security has repeatedly turned down his application for a visa, despite elements in the State Department who would like to revoke the ban. The evidence against him may well include classified information. What we do know is that Ramadan has never abandoned his project of Islamification, and that he wants to pursue it in the heart of the United States. As the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ramadan sees his own destiny in exalted terms. In his Chronicle piece, he speaks of the “period of transition” on which the West has embarked since the emergence of large Muslim minorities, who will require the host societies to make “major adjustments” to accommodate them. “We must move forward from integration,” he declares, while Muslims “must no longer see themselves as a ‘minority.’”

What does all this mean? What is Western society supposed to be in transition to—an Islamic one? What are these “major adjustments” that the Western democracies must make? What is wrong with the model of integration, which has served the United States well in the past, and why is it no longer good enough for Muslims? And why must Muslims no longer see themselves as a minority, if that is what they are?

Ramadan’s manifesto, moderate as it may sound, in reality amounts to a program of Islamification by stealth. His family was exiled from Egypt, and Ramadan remains persona non grata there, because the Muslim Brotherhood was and is seen as dangerous. It was the first and is still the largest Islamist organization in the world. Ramadan has achieved respectability in Europe, where he is feted by academics at Oxford and Geneva—he was even invited by the British government to sit on an advisory committee after the 7/7 subway bombings in London.

But the United States has looked more carefully at his record and decided that he represents a threat. To allow Ramadan’s brand of Islamism a platform in the heart of the American academy would be the equivalent of allowing, say, Martin Heidegger or Carl Schmitt to lecture in the United States during the Third Reich. It was the judge who had prosecuted many Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, Robert H. Jackson, who warned that the Constitution is not a “suicide pact.” It is not incumbent on a democracy to allow its enemies the freedom to subvert its very existence. Tariq Ramadan is just such an enemy.

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