Archive for the ‘Islam and the West’ Category

Foreign Fighters Are Going to the Middle East to Fight for ISIS.

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

In the beginning,  Isis only had 10,000 fighters, some freed from prison by Isis.

Isis now called the Islamic State has increased between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria. The number is increasing because of the recruitment since June, and also  since the declaration of a caliphate by the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

They are recruiting  foreigners fighters through social media ( Twitter, Facebook, etc.). The foreign fighters come from more than 80 countries.

Sources:

International Business Times

CNN

NY Times

Questions:

How can nations stop their citizens going to the Middle East to fight for Isis.

Why are people joining Isis?

Some people say that the foreign fighters are joining Isis because of their beliefs about Islam or Allah, some seeking redemption, some want to improve the Islamic State, and some want to find something meaningful to their life.

“Humans of New York” Photographer Takes the Middle East

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

While constantly reading and hearing updates about the Middle East, people all around the world hear about the government, the political sufferings, the violence, and the worldly effects. But, how often is it that the public hears about something from the point of view of the people? The farmers, the merchants, the children. The press is often censored or biased regarding the region, and rarely, if ever, is it made clear what every day citizens are experiencing on a day-to-day basis. In addition, the public outside of the Middle East never considers these people to be average or normal people who go through the struggles that most humans do. We only consider their struggles to be monumentally horrific regarding the violence and corruption surrounding them.

Brandon Stanton, the creator of the photographic blog on Tumblr, Humans of New York, documents the lives of the day to day experiences of the people of New York City. But, over the past few weeks, Brandon has partnered with the UN to better get to know those living in the area. He began his tour in Iraq and Jordan. Coincidentally, he arrived just when the just as the ISIS crisis began to unfold and experienced the fleeing of many civilians. While he takes photographs of the people in the area, he asks them questions as well. Sometimes the questions are broad, while other times he does not need to say anything at all. Most of the things people say can be brutal and heartbreaking, including a young man who was taken to jail and harassed by the Syrian government into confessing his murder of eleven soldiers, when truthfully he had not killed any. The UN’s goal was indeed to reveal the horror going on. But, sometimes when scrolling through the site, it is also demonstrated that some people in this chaotic land really do live an absolutely normal life. These stories of often not told in public media, but they do exist. For example, in Erbil Iraq, two teenage boys told Brandon that they wanted to be doctors, but like many young people, they were struggling with math. This proves that there is a sense of normality and minor struggles even within the chaos.

The inside knowledge about the people in the Middle East really provides the rest of the world with a sense of understanding. Humans of New York’s, Brandon Stanton, put himself in danger to unfold the true happenings in the region. He reveals many horrible stories, tragedies and truths, and really opens up the eyes of many outsiders. I think it is extremely important for those outsiders to look at the site and analyze for themselves what the information provided really demonstrates.

Questions:

What does the information unveiled say about the Middle East?

How should the UN continue to interfere with the Middle East if at all?

Sources:

CNN

The Independent

 

Iranian and Syrian Nuclear Program

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The discussion about nuclear weapons in Iran and Syria continued as peaceful resolution was aimed for.

Iran’s recent fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law) against the use of nuclear weapons provided a positive foundation for agreement about the nuclear program; however, President Obama warned that these peace-intending words must be matched by similar actions. Obama emphasized that the US is prepared to use all elements of power to secure interests in the region.

As for Syria, Obama urges the Security Council to approve a resolution to make sure Syria keeps its commitment to turn over its chemical weapons. Obama has again stated that Syria will face “consequences” if it fails to do so; “The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests in the region.” There is still discussion about whether the deal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons should be enforced by a UN Security Council resolution Chapter VII, authorizing sanctions and allowing force if Syria does not follow through.

 

Questions

Do you think issues about nuclear programs can be resolved peaceful?

Do you think the sanctions and force should be imposed if Syria does not follow through (enforced by UN Security Council resolution Chapter VII)?

 

Sources

NY Times

BBC

Al Jazeera

Press TV

After US election, relationship between Obama and Netanyahu unclear

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

After hearing that Obama had been reelected as President of the United States this past Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who had supported republican candidate Mitt Romney, called the President to offer his congratulations. Regardless of what sources say, it is difficult for people to imagine that Netanyahu and Obama will maintain a close, warm and strategically aligned partnership, but rather both men will be forced to recalibrate their difficult relationship.

Netanyahu voiced his support for republican candidate Mitt Romney earlier this fall, making many sources speculate that as a result Netanyahu may be put in some uncomfortable situations regarding the close relationship between Israel and the United States. Many people are questioning President Obama’s current opinion on PM Netanyahu. One source said, “But some observers believe Obama will seek ‘payback’ for Netanyahu’s perceived high-handedness, attempts to browbeat the US into a tougher line on Iran, refusal to restrain settlement growth in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and meddling in the US election process.”

The official response from Netanyahu after Obama was reelected as the United States President, regardless of his personal stance, was, of course, congratulatory. Netanyahu said, “I will continue working with President Obama to ensure Israel’s vital national security interests. The strategic union between Israel and the US is stronger than ever.” Netanyahu finished by saying, ““I think the United States of America again demonstrated why it’s the greatest democracy on earth. The security relationship between the United States and Israel is rock solid. I look forward to working with President Obama to further strengthen this relationship and I look forward to working with him to advance our goals of peace and security.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, issued a more nuanced statement, referring to differences between the allies, saying, “I have no doubt that the Obama administration will continue its policy whereby Israel’s security is at its very foundations as well as its efforts to tackle the challenges facing all of us in the region; all the while continuing to strive for further progress in the peace process. I believe that in the tradition of deep friendship and with a backdrop of shared experiences accrued with President Obama, it will also be possible to overcome any differences in stance; should they arise.”

There are a handful of things that will characterize the relationship between the US and Israel over the next year, two of which are predominantly more significant. The first is Iran and the second is the Israel-Palestine conflict. After President Obama refused to be forced into specifying the involvement of the United States if Israel were to attack Iran which led to PM Netanyahu stating in a speech to the UN in September that it was unlikely that Israel would launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations before next spring or summer.

Some say that Obama will choose to involve the United States in Israeli politics with the hope of helping the country progress towards a settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu, whose inclination is to “manage the current situation in which millions of Palestinians live under occupation”, rather than advance towards a two-state settlement of the conflict, will attempt to resist pressure from Obama and the United States.

The hope is that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be able to move forward and accomplish goals while working together as one, strong, force. Both leaders want to make the best of their complex relationship and some US sources are guessing that this will lead to an official visit by Obama to Israel. Though Obama and Netanyahu currently have different stances regarding Iran’s nuclear power and the Israel-Palestine conflict, there is no question in the minds of international politicians that both Obama and Netanyahu will put their best foot forward and work to compromise on policies that allow for the countries to move forward, together.

Question: How would the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu be different if Netanyahu had chosen not to publically announce his support for Romney? Is it realistic to think that Obama and Netanyahu will be able to work together and compromise on issues as large as Iran’s nuclear power and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

News Sources: Jerusalem Online, the Guardian, Jerusalem Post, and Business Insider

Violence in Libya Not Caused By Video

Monday, October 29th, 2012

There have been recent  claims that the violence in Libya that resulted in the death of Chris Stevens was not caused by an offensive, American-made video, but rather by terrorism linked to al-Qaeda.  Libyan President Mohamed al-Magarief made the statement that the attacks on the United States Embassy were not spontaneous reactions to the anti-Muhammad video produced in the U.S., but were actually planned attacks by al-Qaeda.

On the date of the attacks, several people saw members of Ansar al-Shariah in the area of the attacks, carrying rocket-propelled grenades.  Ansar al-Shariah is said to have close ties with al-Qaeda, which is one of the reasons the Libyan government is now blaming the attacks on terrorism.  The attacks were also carried out using heavy weaponry including RPGs.  President al-Magarief said that this is a clear sign that the attacks were executed by ”experienced masterminds”.

In another more controversial piece of evidence, Ansar al-Shariah claimed responsibility for the attacks on Facebook after they happened.  A day after this claim, they denied responsibility.  The United States, and particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken the position that a claim on Facebook calls for further investigation before the U.S. fully commits to a new position, but many are criticizing the U.S. Government and particularly President Obama, stating that he wrongly blamed the video for the attacks, not condemning the fact that it was caused by terrorism.

There is also much controversy because, according to CNN, the Obama Administration knew that the attacks could have been caused by terrorism very quickly after they were carried out, and still said nothing about that.  CNN and The Wall Street Journal both try to emphasize the idea that Obama made several speeches about condemning the video that insults Islam and Muhammad, but did not mention “terror”, only “violence”.  He has recently changed this stance by removing a part of his speech that claims that al-Qaeda is on the run.

It is interesting that the article from Aljazeera is more than a month old, but the articles from U.S. sources are much more recent; it just goes to show that the U.S. is a bit late in the game in sorting out what really happened in these attacks.

QUESTIONS:  How might this information alter the course of the upcoming U.S. elections?  Both of the U.S. articles seem biased against Obama; are they a true indicator of how America really feels about this issue?  Are Facebook and heavy weaponry sufficient evidence to blame this on terrorism?  Should this change the punishment of the creators of the hurtful anti-Muhammad video? (the man who made the video was arrested in California for violating his parole)

Sources: CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Aljazeera

Enter the Dragon (Iran)

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

An Iranian Press Court found Reuters bureau chief  Parisa Hafezi guilty of publishing lies and negatively influencing public opinion after labeling a video of Iranian women participating in martial arts excersises as “Iran’s Assassins”. Reuters quickly changed the title from “Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran’s assassins,” to “Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran,”after receiving numerous complaints. Despite the change, the Reuters bureau chief is accused of calling the martial arts students terrorists. The Culture Ministry says that the women are housewives and university students who simply engage in the sport for recreation. Some believe, however, that there is a more malicious intent to these classes.

 

Was it wrong for Reuters to label the martial arts students as “assassins”? Should Parisa Hafezi be prosecuted for the title? Considering the notable restrictions of women’s rights in Iran, does this video surprise you?

 

CNN

Ninjas!

Obama Responsible for Offensive Film?

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

There is talk of the possibility of sueing the U.S. Government because of the offensive, anti-Muslim film that was produced by an American man.  According to PressTV, Javad Mohammadi, the deaputy head of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, the U.S. and specifically President Obama has violated articles 18 and 27 of the International Covenent on Civil and Political Rights.  Mohammadi stated that if a citizen of a country that has signed the ICCPR (which demands the respect of religious minorities) breaks it, the government of the country can be sued.  Although Bacile, the creator of the film, has taken full responsability for this film, Obama has been given much blame for not condemning the makers of the film more harshely.
The article is definitely biased against the U.S. Government, as it includes that Mohammadi has supported the movement against the U.S. that was spurred by this film.
In your opinion, should President Obama and the U.S. Government be sued because of Bacile’s actions?

Source: PressTV

Egypt Has a New President

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Egypt's new President Mohammed Mursi addresses the nation. Al-Jazeera.com, June 24, 2012

But, how much actual power the army will let him wield is another question. Translation of the Arabic in the box:

Headline – “Mursi seeks to reassure and promises to continue the Revolution”

Text – “Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Mursi delivered his first speech hours after he was declared the winner of the presidential race reassuring all parties on the domestic front and the world at large that the 25 January Revolution will continue as a mark of faithfulness to the souls of the martyrs who paved the way toward this historic event.”

It truly is a historic event: Mursi ran on the Muslim Brotherhood ticket and therefore becomes the first Islamist president as well as the first civilian president in Egypt’s history.

Coverage at the BBC

UPDATE — June 25, 2012 — This week’s issue of The Economist  (June 23, 2012) features an editorial, “Egypt in Peril” on p. 13 that contains the following:

“This newspaper did not want the Islamists to trounce the secular reformers, but they did. The best way to tame the Islamists, as Turkey’s experience shows, is to deny them the moral high ground to which repression elevates them, and condemn them instead to the responsibilities and compromises of day-to-day government.”

The editorial sees Turkey’s experiment with a moderate (or  ”mild”) Islamist government as a model for Egypt to emulate:

“Turkey has suffered more than its share of coups and political violence. But those dangers have receded as the Islamists have proved moderate and popular, winning three fair elections in a row and whittling away the generals’ power. Although the ‘deep state’, sinister and pervasive in Turkey as it plainly still is in Egypt, lingers in the apparatus of security and repression, Turkey’s Islamists have won the moral authority to send the soldiers back to barracks, and have exercised it. If Egypt follows this path, nothing the generals have done this week will stop the march to democracy for long.”

UPDATE — June 27, 2012 —  Oxford historian weighs in on the question of whether an Islamist democracy is possible in Egypt — Article at CNN.com. 

Multicultural Tensions Mounting in German City

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Multicultural tensions are on the rise  in Bonn, a city that once boasted of its tolerance:

“Today Bonn, once tranquil, is a volatile cocktail of social tensions between its Muslim newcomers, who include some German converts as well as immigrants from Arab-speaking countries, with some hard-core elements, and a far-right nationalist group that is mounting a growing campaign against them.”

Melissa Eddy, “Hostility Between Muslims and German Nationalists Rattles a Former Capital,” New York Times, June 5, 2012

More on the history of Muslims in Europe

 

Indonesia’s Democratic Image Challenged

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Indonesia, once touted by Western leaders and intellectuals as a model for Islamic democracy, is coming under fire for failing to protect religious minorities.

“While Indonesia has made great strides in consolidating a stable, democratic government after five decades of authoritarian rule, the country is by no means a bastion of tolerance. The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled. While Indonesia’s Constitution protects freedom of religion, regulations against blasphemy and proselytizing are routinely used to prosecute atheists, Bahais, Christians, Shiites, Sufis and members of the Ahmadiyya faith — a Muslim sect declared to be deviant in many Islamic countries. By 2010, Indonesia had over 150 religiously motivated regulations restricting minorities’ rights.”

Andreas Harsono, “No Model for Muslim Democracy,” New York Times Op-Ed piece, May 22, 2012