Posts Tagged ‘islamism’
Jews and Israelis have long known that the Palestinian Arab issue has been used by dictators to control their populations and unite against an imaginary evil. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other autocrats in the vilayet-i-faqih regime have most heavily utilized this tactic when they have sought to court the Arab street in particular and appeal to Islamists in general.
What has changed, however, is that Mir Hossein Mousavi has begun to expose Ahmadinejad’s manipulation for what it is:
This year, the day was also marked by bitter criticism of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s administration by his opponents. Dissident leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, issued a statement saying the government was using Israel as an excuse to crush its critics.
“The orchestrated violence against the opposition shows that the occupation of Jerusalem and Israel is just an excuse. They consider their real enemy people who are fighting to free our country from oppression,” said Mr. Mousavi’s statement.
Language like this is promising. It demonstrates that Persians, even those who aspire to positions of power, are increasingly willing to see and expose the tactics that entrench a fascistic regime, provoke conflict, ultimately, endanger Persian lives on multiple levels.
Many of the ordinary Persians I know have realized this for a long time. But, to have a major opposition leader say it demonstrates that the bulk of the people of Iran are ripe for hearing the truth. It means that the opposition does not need to jump on the bandwagon of bashing Israel, hating Jews, and denying the Holocaust to challenge the leaders of Iran. That is good for peace and good for the future of a liberal and democratic Iran.
In Jerusalem at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, more than a hundred thousand Muslim worshipers convened and listened to a Friday sermon that attacked not only the State of Israel, but also the very prospect of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority:
Tens of thousands of Muslims poured into the heavily guarded Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem for the last Friday prayers of Ramadan as Palestinians protested against newly re-launched peace talks.
Israeli police put the number of worshippers at 160,000 to 170,000, while Muslim authorities said it exceeded 200,000.
In his Friday sermon Sheikh Yusef Abu Sneineh criticized the re-launch on Thursday of Middle East peace talks in Washington, saying “these negotiations are a joke.”
He went on to accuse Israel of seeking normalization with the Arab and Muslim world while “continuing its colonization” of the occupied West Bank through the building of Jewish settlements.
When one considers that Saudi Arabia heavily regulates the practice of Islam and that Egypt has a long history of regulating sermons, it makes this kind of liberty, in a place far more threatened by Islamist extremism, all the more impressive. Even liberal Europe fails to display the degree of religious tolerance that exists in Israel.
And yet, if you listen to the European media or the Arab media, only Israel is the world’s oppressor. Perhaps rather than condemning Israel, they should seek to emulate Israel.
Jews can trace their history in Persia back at least 2,500 years to the time of Cyrus the Great, who restored the Jews to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile. Sadly, in the last several decades, the Jews in Persia have been reduced to one tenth their previous size. Most Jews fled Iran because of the rising antisemitism and persecution that accompanied the Islamic Revolution and went to Israel. A very large number also fled to the United States.
The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Weingarten has an amazing piece discussing the recent history of Persian Jews in the United States. Here is what she reports on Persian Jewish thought on the possibility of a military strike on Iran:
“Its very difficult for us,” explains Hooshang Nemat, the executive vice president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York. “You dont want to see your nation destroyed, and you dont want to see a conflict between your country of birth and the country that you sympathize with because of religion and because of shared history.” Nemat, a 67-year-old Mashadi Jew an small, ancient group from the Iranian city of Mashad, came to America in 1961 as a student at the University of Miami. He returned to Iran in 1972, and came back to the United States because of the revolution.
Like Nemat, most Iranian American Jews are against a military strike on Iran — whether it is from Israel or from the United States. But while theyd prefer a diplomatic solution, others say they would still support Israel in defending itself against a virulently anti-Semitic, and potentially dangerous, regime. Sam Kermanian, the former secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, believes that an Israeli strike “would be viewed as a justifiable act of defense,” adding that “the reaction of the Iranian American Jewish community wont be much different than the reaction of the majority of the people of Iran, who view the current regime as oppressive, and in conflict with the interests of the people of Iran.”
This is just a small sample of what Weingarten shares. The entire piece is worth reading and provides valuable insight on the views of religious minorities from Iran.
cross-posted at The View From Damavand
My column on the Park 51 project (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”) is in today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen. Here is the opening:
The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is not planned for anywhere on the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Manhattan. It is in the Financial District, but it is at least two blocks from WTC 7 — the nearest part of the massive WTC site.
… is not the same as getting stoned in America. In fact, it is nearly the opposite.
On Tuesday, major news outlets around the world were alerting people to the threat facing Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtianin. She has already been punished with 99 lashes for the simple crime of adultery. Now, she may face death by stoning for the same crime.
If you have difficulty imagining the horrific brutality and wanton cruelty of such a punishment, watch The Stoning of Soraya M. It is a difficult movie to watch, but its story is compelling. Although the intrigue of the movie is probably not matched in this case, the basic facts are similar. A woman – a mother – is accused and found guilty of adultery and is sentenced to death by stoning. The method requires the woman to be buried from the waist down before she is pelted by rocks – any one of which is non-lethal.
If you want to learn about the current case, there is much in the news. CNN has an excellent feature article on it. Here is an excerpt:
[T]he panel re-examined Ashtiani’s adultery sentence, and based on unspecified “judges’ knowledge,” decided she should be put to death for the alleged affair.
“Legally, it’s all over, and we have no chance. It’s a done deal. Sakine can be stoned at any minute. But we have experienced again and again that when we organize events world-wide, when we protest world-wide, and in particular when we contact European governments and these governments put pressure on the Islamic regime in Iran, sometimes we have a chance.”
Read more in the news at this link.
Soner Cagaptay from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy offers this observation at the top of his recent article:
At home, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has promoted the Islamist mindset of “us Muslims” in conflict with “the bad others” through the media and also by spreading Hamas’ views throughout Turkey, whether through official Hamas visits to Turkey or through AKP-supported conferences and fundraisers.
via WINEP – The AKP’s Hamas Policy: “Us vs. Them”.
While Cagaptay’s article goes on into other details, this observation is a core observation that many defenders of liberalism fail to make. Many people like to cast the war on terrorism as part of a clash of civilizations. That narrative serves only those who seek war. Al Qaeda pushes this narrative for this very reason. If the war is between Al Qaeda and other extremist groups on one hand, and moderate Muslims on the other hand, then they will lose. But, if it is between Islam and the West, they have a chance of winning.
Whatever you think of the political ideology of extremist Islamism, you should want to defeat it. Defeating it means rejecting the divisive narrative pushed by these extremists. It is important, therefore, that we always make sure that our language is focused on those extremists who seek to do us harm and not on Muslims generally.
My reading list is light on fiction. But, when I do read fiction, I look for those stories that will enhance my creative thinking around much of the nonfiction that I read. Recently, I have been reading Daniel Silva’s work, in large part because he draws on a fair amount of knowledge about terrorism and counter-terrorism. However, my reading has only touched the larger genre of terrorism/counter-terrorism fiction.
For anyone interested in the genre more broadly, Margot Lurie has an excellent review of three books in the just released Jewish Review of Books. Not only does she examine the books, but she draws in the connection between them and the real world. Here is one of her observations:
There are many such stories in the New York Police Department’s 2007 report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.” Its pages are filled with example after example of young men like Shahzad who have embraced, and acted on, a murderous jihadi-Salafi ideology, mostly in a progression whose four stages the NYPD calls pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, and jihadization. It is a novelistic arc, and it is fitting that several contemporary novelists have taken it up. In doing so, they have given us a new kind of antihero, a ripped-from-the-headlines young man, raised in the West, affluent, smart, idealistic, who works out his salvation through other people’s fear and trembling.
Access to the article is restricted, but if you aren’t a subscriber to JRB, maybe you should be …
[This is my column in today's Iowa City Press-Citizen. It can also be found at http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20090726/OPINION01/907260303/1019]
The situation in Iran in recent weeks has offered both much hope and much fear. Indeed, Iran seems to be on the brink of something not unlike the pivotal events of 1979. Those events triumphantly ended the monarchy in Iran … only to usher in a fascist theocracy.
Fortunately, two books have been released this year that illustrate both the hope and the fear. Both books are by accomplished journalists who have deep roots in Iran and mastery of the Persian language.
‘Honeymoon in Tehran’
Azadeh Moaveni’s “Honeymoon in Tehran” describes her experiences as a journalist in Tehran as she falls in love, marries and has a child with an Iranian man. Because her life is intertwined with the liberal modern culture that dominates northern Tehran, her story breathes rich life into the people we have seen in the news standing up so defiantly to the fascist regime that controls their country.
Moaveni shows that many people in Iran, across a variety of social categories, are not mere “moderates,” as that term is so euphemistically used to describe people in repressive countries who have merely suppressed the urge to murder. The people of Iran are largely liberals of the type we identify with in this country. They do not merely tolerate diversity and treat others politely; they embrace diversity and seek out cultural experiences beyond what the regime allows.
In spite of this hope, Moaveni also describes the creeping fascism that penetrates more severely after the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After a time of living in constant fear of arrest, she is compelled to leave Iran so that she can raise her child out from under the thumb of the fascist regime.
‘The Persian Night’
Amir Taheri’s “The Persian Night” more starkly shows the darkness and fear cast by the regime. He goes into great detail describing the repressive organs of the regime. He describes the morality patrols — known in Persian as Gasht-e Ershad — that oppress women who dress too colorfully, allow their hair to show, or converse with men.
Taheri tells about various horrors visited upon Iranians by the Baseej militia and the Revolutionary Guard. He examines how the regime exports its fascist ideology through the various arms of Hizballah that operate worldwide.
Most importantly, Taheri describes the regime’s insane pursuit of nuclear weapons and its lack of concern for the welfare of the Iranian people.
Perhaps the most troubling parts of both books are those that display the disregard the regime has for human life. From AhmadinNejad to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenehi, the regime’s leaders have expressed the sincere belief that the noblest act one can do for the regime is to die. These men justify the most evil acts with a messianic belief of divine rescue. During Iran’s war with Iraq, the regime most vividly displayed its ideology of death when it sent many thousands of young children to die, running across minefields.
When a fascist regime like this instigates foreign wars and pursues nuclear weapons, it poses a threat unlike any the world has faced. The Soviet Union and the United States were saved from nuclear annihilation because each side loved their children and wanted to see them live. What is the world to do when those controlling the nukes want to see their children die?
As we are forced to deal with this question more imminently in the coming months, Moaveni and Taheri explain that the world must make every effort to show solidarity with the people of Iran.
A small example of how America does this is the president’s Nowruz message to the Persian people. Nowruz is the celebration of Persian New Year that pre-dates the arrival of Islam in Iran. Even as the Iranian people have embraced Islam, Nowruz has remained a major holiday celebrated widely by the Iranian people. Because of its narrow theocratic ideology, the regime has tried to suppress Nowruz and has only failed because of the popular observance of it. When the U.S. president addresses the Iranian people on Nowruz, he sends a strong message that we stand with them against their oppressors.
As the Iranian people pursue regime change through boycotts, strikes, and other disturbances, we must continue to stand with them. Their actions provide an opportunity for us to pressure the regime through targeted policies and diplomacy that can reinforce the Iranian people’s efforts. With an intelligent strategy, we might provide the needed momentum to help the Iranian people change the fascist regime that oppresses them and threatens the world.
Argentina is among the better places for Jews living in South America. While my Jewish friends in Venezuela were prepared to flee on a moments notice and making long term plans to live in other countries, my Jewish friends in Argentina were mostly worrying about vandalism and lower level hate crime.
That said, Argentina was the site of one of the severest terror attacks on Jews in South America. In 1994, an Iran-backed Hezbollah attack on the AMIA (Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid) building murdered 85 and injured 300.
Now, one of the police who so bungled the case that he might have made himself an accessory after the fact (or worse) is getting the top police job in Buenos Aires:
Buenos Aires city mayor Mauricio Macri has appointed Jorge Palacios, a disgraced former Argentine Federal Police officer suspected of involvement in the cover up of the AMIA massacre, to be the head of the city’s first autonomous police force. Such is the strength of the suspicions attaching to Palacios’s role in the aftermath of the AMIA attack that State Prosecutor Albert Nisman is believed to be on the point of indicting him on charges of having warned a suspect , Kanoore Edul, that he was under investigation and that his home was about to be raided by the police.
Such is the situation of Jews in many places in the world. Even when Jews are relatively well off, they face dangers considered unacceptable to most other peoples. This is one of the reasons why Israel is so important. When other states refuse to protect Jews, whether out of malice or negligence, Israel is there to protect and receive them as needed.
I tend to read several books at once and that sometimes makes for slow turnover in my reading list. Usually, I wait until I am done before I recommend a book. But, I am about halfway through Amir Taheri’s ‘The Persian Night’ and I am ready to recommend it to people. It might be a little dense for some, but I have not read anything as good that deals with the issues taking place in Iran today. And, if you don’t want to take my recommendation consider Michael Totten’s.