Posts tagged islam
Posts tagged islam
The Pentagon stated on Wednesday that the top U.S. military officer has ordered a review of training material after a course for officers was found to consider that the United States is at war with Islam, Reuters reported.
According to the agency, “Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey sent a letter on Tuesday to leaders of the Army and other services, along with regional commanders and officials heading the National Guard, ordering a review of relevant training and education material across the military.”
Dempsy said that “this review will ensure our professional education programs exhibit the cultural sensitivity, respect for religion and intellectual balance that we should expect in our academic institutions.”
The review was prompted by a soldier who sent a complaint after having completed an elective course entitled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamite Radicalism” at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.
The course included an assertion “that the United States is at war with Islam and we ought to just recognize that we are war with Islam,” Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby was quoted as saying.
Kirby added before reporters that “that’s not at all what we believe to be the case. We’re at war against terrorism, specifically Al-Qaeda, who has a warped view of the Islamic faith.”
Reuters quoted him as saying that “US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also felt deep concern over the discovery, which follows a string of incidents that, more than 10 years after the Afghan war began, have exposed a persisting gap between people in the conservative Muslim nation and the Western soldiers fighting Islamist militants there.”
Tarek Mehanna, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced Thursday in Worcester, Mass., to 17½ years in prison. It was another of the tawdry show trials held against Muslim activists since 9/11 as a result of the government’s criminalization of what people say and believe. These trials, where secrecy rules permit federal lawyers to prosecute people on “evidence” the defendants are not allowed to examine, are the harbinger of a corporate totalitarian state in which any form of dissent can be declared illegal. What the government did to Mehanna, and what it has done to hundreds of other innocent Muslims in this country over the last decade, it will eventually do to the rest of us.
Mehanna, a teacher at Alhuda Academy in Worcester, was convicted after an eight-week jury trial of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq and providing material support to al-Qaida, as well as making false statements to officials investigating terrorism. His real “crime,” however, seems to be viewing and translating jihadi videos online, speaking out against U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and refusing to become a government informant.
Stephen F. Downs, a lawyer in Albany, N.Y., a founder of Project Salam and the author of “Victims of America’s Dirty War,” a booklet posted on the website, has defended Muslim activists since 2006. He has methodically documented the mendacious charges used to incarcerate many Muslim activists as terrorists. Because of “terrorism enhancement” provisions, any sentence can be quadrupled—even minor charges can leave prisoners incarcerated for years.
With Tunisia’s economy in crisis, the Islamist party Ennahda should look beyond US and Bretton Woods principles to save it
I meet Mustafa and Kamal on Avenue Bourguiba, where they protested in January 2011 to get rid of the dictator who ruled their country with an iron-fist for 23 years. Tunisia has changed a lot since then – and celebrated its 56th independence day last week as a free nation. Both men said they will be out again to consolidate the gains of the revolution. “We couldn’t have [talked like this] before, no way,” says Mustafa, a 25-year-old originally from Tabarka in the north of Tunisia. “The only thing I could have told you is how great Ben Ali is, what a good man he is.”
But how independent is free Tunisia from the grips of its former colonial master and its allies? A demonstration last week by a group of fringe fundamentalists calling for sharia law has got some secular Tunisians in a funk again, as well as worrying the French, who are opposed to Ennahda. An opposition politician told me there are even rumours of a French-supported coup. It is clear that the next stage of western connivance in the subjugation of the Tunisian people is the widespread media and political fear over the democratically elected Ennahda party, which is Islamist. But despite constant derision by the western media, Ennahda revealed on Monday that they would not make sharia, or Islamic law, the main source of legislation for the new constitution. Wouldn’t it be better to judge them on their actions rather than conspiracies about their intentions? “We realise we have a historic responsibility to get this right, we are genuinely inclusive,” Said Ferjani, who sits on the Ennahda politburo, told me.
The course from actively arming a kleptocratic dictator to pushing for the Tunisians to support “western values” is familiar. As Frantz Fanon wrote in The Wretched of the Earth: “As soon as the native begins to pull on his moorings, and to cause anxiety to the settler, he is handed over to well-meaning souls who … point out to him the specificity and wealth of western values.”
Initially, when people were getting shot by snipers on the streets of Tunis, Hillary Clinton, said the US “didn’t want to take sides” and was worried about the “unrest and instability”. Sarkozy’s administration even offered to send police advisers to Ben Ali to quell the uprising. In the end, over 200 perished. Since the revolution has won out, Clinton and Sarkozy have moved on to praising “progress” in the country while also expressing apparent concern that Ennahda don’t impose Iranian-style dictatorship on the Tunisian people (the US or French didn’t care when it was Pinochet-style dictatorship).
But the fear of Ennahda is misplaced, and based on western desires to remain in firm control. There are plenty of clear differences in Tunisia to 1979 when the Iranian revolution overthrew another western-backed torturing tyrant, the Shah. First, Ennahda have assembled a coalition including secular socialists and social democrats to form their government. The president Moncef Marzouki is a secular human-rights activist who spent decades in the wilderness fighting the US-backed atrocities being committed against dissidents in Tunisia.
The second point is that Tunisian civil society is engaged with the process and will only grow. One of the retrograde patterns you see in a Middle East speckled with US-backed dictatorships is that Islamism is often the only avenue to express dislike of the current state of affairs. The space for secular left movements has been completely crushed since the pan-Arabism of Nasser in Egypt worried the US enough to extinguish the left across the region. Clearly what scares the west more than any Islamist, then, is a secular revolutionary left opposed to the neoliberal order we set up over the past 40 years. That would really hurt the bottom line.
Islamists themselves have often been quite welcoming to the model of the Bretton Woods institutions and with the neoliberal order trying to impose itself on Tunisia, it will be near-impossible for the ruling parties to try something else (even if they want to). Ennahda at the moment has no discernible economic programme, and talked to me mainly about how much it wanted to attract foreign investment, rather than launching on the massive public works initiative that the country really needs. So far, Tunisia has followed US and Bretton Woods dictates to the book, privatising many of its state-owned assets and eviscerating public institutions and subsidies for fuel and food. Many actually compare Ennahda to the Justice and Development party (AKP) in Turkey, and it is no secret that the AKP has been a dream for business and international capital.
In its time in power, the AKP privatised a raft of public assets including Tekel, the state-owned tobacco and alcohol company, which it agreed to sell off as part of the “structural adjustments” attached to a $16bn loan agreement with the IMF. Before Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, started acting like the new sultan, the business press was in raptures about the AKP. This is why I worry for Tunisia – not because of Islamists, but because of neoliberals. With the period of dictatorship over, the economy in Tunisia is now the big issue – with high unemployment everyone here talks jobs. Bretton Woods dictates have proven a disaster around the world as a development model. Ennahda should look elsewhere, for its own survival.