Thinking on the matter in the past few weeks, there is a strong case to be made for Sen. McCain to choose a woman as his running mate. In particular, the women committed to the Clinton candidacy–those who are feminists first and Democrats second–will have no trouble voting for McCain. He’s a moderate in many ways, after all. I don’t think another “white guy” (I’m thinkin’ Romney) adds anything at all. In fact, it probably would hurt him, since those swing voters who matter so much in the general will probably need something in the way of “change” to draw them in. Here’s a a piece in today’s Washington Times about the issue.
A few weeks back I spoke with U.S. Rep. John Peterson, and the Pennsylvania Republican told me about one House Democrat he almost persuaded to vote to expand oil and natural gas drilling in the nation’s outer continental shelf.
At the Huffington Post, Bill Press says that McCain’s “celebrity” ad is racist because it includes images of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. By featuring two “white blonde bimbos,” he says (note his sexist language), the McCain campaign “is simply trying to plant the old racist seed of black man hitting on young white woman.”
The only way Democrats can win is by running America down: the president stinks, the economy stinks, Iraq is still a failure, Afghanistan is weak, there’s no Middle East peace, Americans are morose and depressed, and the deficit is out of control.
Lots of good reading today. I don’t often recommend articles, but there are two (actually, three, but I won’t take up your time) especially worth noting. The first is Mark Hemingway’s very funny account of helping write the Democrat’s platform. But the reason to read it is not just the humor, but the splendid, terrible discovery he makes at the end: That if ideas are presented without “conservative” labels, liberals will agree with them. Splendid, for the obvious reason; and terrible, because labels aren’t going anywhere.
Federal officials aren’t supposed to cause bank runs. In fact, much of the New Deal bank regulatory apparatus was set up for the purpose of eliminating such panics. When FDR was hit with a massive set of bank runs shortly after taking office, he gave an address in order to calm terrified depositors, assuring them that the banks would reopen shortly, and that everything would be fine. But Chuck Schumer is no FDR. He doesn’t stop bank runs; he starts them. Or, at least, has started one.
The founding fathers gave us a legislative branch divided into two ‘houses’. The lower house is the House of Representatives, modeled to some degree on the British House of Commons. That’s where the firebrands were supposed to go. Some would be responsible populists, and some would be reckless demagogues, but spread out over a large number of reckless demagogues of opposing views, their damage would be mitigated.
One of the “endearing” qualities of liberals is their uncanny ability to promote totalitarianism as “concern.” Such is the nature of the LA City Council’s ban on new fast food restaurants in an “impoverished area” of the city with “above average rates of obesity.” Translation: poor people are too stupid to make the right food choices for themselves, so we’re going to do it for them.
Going to the Jewelry Exchange on 47th Street is like walking into a living anthology of stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bernard Malamud. Most of the stall owners have histories - either their own or their parents’ incredible tales of survival and relocation. Most of the jewelers speak several languages and are adept at adaptation to whatever life has thrown their way.
Many in the West and in other regions of the world were impressed by the issuing of a fatwa (Islamic theological edict) condemning Terrorism by one of the leading religious centers in the Muslim world, the Darool-Uloom Deoband in India. An Islamic seminary said to have ‘inspired’ the Taliban has, according to the said document denounced “terrorism” as against Islam, calling it an “unpardonable sin.”
Hoping for a major change in ideology, international counter terrorism authorities and policy makers have been asking experts to determine if the Deobandi declaration will help counter the calls for violent Jihad by al Qaeda and its ilk around the world. In the war of ideas with the Jihadists, many Western architects of strategic communications look for any sign that hearts and minds may be changing course and sympathies. From Washington DC to Brussels and beyond, bureaucrats tasked with exploring the Muslim world for new trends, shop around for what they call “counter-narrative against extremism.”
The Deobandi School, a classical third branch for Salafi Islamism (along with Wahabism and Muslim Brotherhood), has significant weight in the South Asia Theater. Its teachings based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law have reached many countries, including Afghanistan and Britain, where they are said to have indoctrinated the Taliban.
“If they change course, al Qaeda and the Taliban are finished,” I heard in Europe and the United States. So the question now is have they changed doctrinal direction and is this fatwa the evidence?
I regretfully conclude that it is not the case yet.
It looked good at first
Tens of thousands of clerics and students from around India attended a meeting at the 150-year-old Deoband, north of New Delhi, and declared that they stand “against acts of terrorism.”
“There is no place for terrorism in Islam,” Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, the older rector of Deoband, told Reuters. “Terrorism, killing of the innocent is against Islam. It is a faith of love and peace, not violence.” Rahman said it was unjust to equate Islam with terrorism, to see every Muslim as a suspect or for governments to use this to harass innocent Muslims.
“There are so many examples of people from other communities being caught with bombs and weapons, why are they never convicted?” said Qazi Mohammed Usman, deputy head of Deoband. The meeting defined terrorism as any action targeting innocent people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, whether committed by an individual, an institution or a government.
These statements could be seen as impressive when quoted by news agencies rushing to break the good news, but to the seasoned analysts of Salafism, the solid doctrinal roots of Jihadism were kept untouched. Here is why.
Goals of the fatwa
From the fatwa itself and the statements made as it was issued, the following political goals likely motivated the gathering and the fatwa.
Create a separation in the eyes of the public discourse between Islam (as a religion) and terrorism as an illegal violent activity.
Such a move is legitimate and to be encouraged as it diminishes the tensions towards Muslims in non-Muslim countries, particularly in the West, as some are claiming that the Islamic religion is theologically linked to the acts and statements of the Jihadists. The logic of “we are Muslims and we are against Terrorism,” helps significantly the disassociation between the community and the acts of violence. However, without criticizing the ideological roots of this violence, the fatwa seem to state a wishful thinking, not an injunction. A more powerful fatwa should have openly and expressly said: “we reject the calls for violent Jihad regardless of the motives.” For the followers of Jihadism do not consider their Jihad as “terrorism.” Their answer has always been -to these types of fatwas- “but we aren’t performing terrorism, we are conducting Jihad.” Thus, at this crucial level, the Deobandi fatwa missed the crux of the problem.
Deny governments the ability to use the accusation that Islam condones Terrorism to oppress Muslims.
The fatwa is concerned with geopolitics more than theological reform. Concern for the safety of one’s co-religfionists is of course legitimate and should be addressed. But Jihadism, the legitimizing root of political violence, cannot be ignored in any effort to protect the lives of Muslims.
There is no evidence that modern day governments have expressly linked religion to terrorism; quite the opposite. Almost all national leaders involved in the confrontation with Jihadi forces since 9/11 have clearly made a clear distinction between religion and terrorism.
Some even went further by negating any link whatsoever between theological texts and Jihadism, which of course is not accurate. For in the texts, there are passages used by the Terrorists in their indoctrination. Hence, the Deobandi fatwa should have instead asked clearly the Jihadists not to use these citations or else they would be considered as sinners themselves. But instead of using their religious prominence to remove the theological weapon from the hands of the Jihadists, the Deobandi clerics are attempting to shield the Jihadists from the actions of Governments by denying that these extremists are indeed using — and abusing — religion.
Some may argue that the fatwa’s open goal is to defend Muslims from being unjustly targeted by non-Muslim governments (a positive move) but a thorough analysis of the text used shows that the main intention of that declaration is to defend the Islamists from being contained by both Muslim and non-Muslim Governments around the world. In other words by denying that Jihadism is the root cause of many acts of Terror in Europe, the US, Africa, the Greater Middle East and Asia, the Deobandi fatwa in fact is shielding the Jihadists from the accusation of Terrorism, thus protecting them.
Who is “innocent”?
The fatwa defined terrorism as violence “targeting innocent people.” Such a definition is not new and doesn’t set clear boundaries. For the question at hand is what does “innocent” mean? On several web sites and on many shows on al Jazeera television, Jihadi apologists often use the Arabic term“bare’e” for “innocent” and assure the audience that Jihad cannot target the latter.
But Usama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, and to some extent Hassan Nasrallah, all claim that innocence is relative. Al Qaeda explicitly targets innocent civilians and has authorized the massacre of 4 million US citizens as of 2001. Bin laden explains that civilians who vote for and pay taxes to the infidel enemy are not “innocent.”
Hezbollah targets innocent civilians as well, not only in Israel but also in Lebanon and overseas (as in Argentina). The concept of “innocent” isn’t that innocent in Jihadism. For the militant ideologues can render individuals and groups “bare’e’ or not “bare’e” at their discretion.
Leading Islamist scholar Sheikh Yusuf al Qardawi expounds at will on the innocence of civilians, detailing how civilian populations have been considered as part of the war efforts of the enemies of the Caliphate. In short, the status of “innocence” doesn’t overlap fully with the status of “civilians.” It is a matter of discretion in Jihadi warfare. Hence, to claim that Terrorism is defined as targeting innocent people is to claim that not all civilians are innocent, and that not only breaches international law, but gives credence to Jihadi violence.
Who is a “terrorist”?
Moreover, still the fatwa doesn’t identify al Qaeda, or any other similar group, including the Taliban, as Terrorist organizations. And as of now, no subsequent fatwas based on this Deobandi fatwa have done so yet. Therefore, in terms of identification of terror entities, the edict has failed to show its followers who is the terror perpetrator.
This text simply doesn’t bring novelty to the debate about Jihadi-rooted Terrorism. For years, particularly since 2001, Islamist ideologues and militant groups have refrained from simply naming those terror groups as such. Spokespersons have constantly repeated that condemning terrorism in general is enough.
If the Muslim scholars followed this logic on the question of occupations, then neither Iraq nor Palestine should be specifically mention. But that is not the case.
The Deobandi fatwa didn’t explain what where the legal basis for the edict. Was there any new ground broken? Which were the previous rules that have changed regarding terrorism? Is the fatwa a reminder of a principle or a new principle to be adopted? Is the rejection of terrorism a duty (wajib) and what kind of obligation?
All these questions are warranted so that a fair assessment of the statement can be issued. Unfortunately, the legal grounds are not specific enough to enable readers — and eventually followers — to understand the absolute injunction of rejection of Terrorism.
The body of fatwas
Historically, there have been similar statements and fatwas issued in other quarters of the Middle East, yet they haven’t had a definitive impact on reality. And by exploring the reason behind the inefficiency of these declarations, one finds that the body of fatwas remains below the level of a reform, of a doctrinal radical rejection of Jihadism as a aqidah (doctrine).
The Deobandi fatwa — like its predecessors — tells followers that the principle of Jihadi wars (efforts) is sound and that the level of innocence of the target is discretionary but that engagement in violence has to be disciplined and not chaotic. In short, don’t give the infidels an alibi to compromise the ultimate goals by waging irresponsible acts of violence. Simply put: we don’t need Jihadism to be labeled as Terrorism.
Because of its unclear stipulations, there is room for more precise fatwas calling for violence against one or another targets, and receiving support from indoctrinated segments of society. These future fatwas could undo this Deobandi fatwa.
So in the end, how to deal with this and with similar edicts? At first one should welcome any statement that delegitimizes al Qaeda’s hot-headed Jihadism, even if the fatwa doesn’t cross the doctrinal line. Any call to stop terrorism is positive and should be built upon.
In principle the Deobandi fatwa should be considered as a step that needs more steps in the direction of a doctrinal reform. Minimally, these fatwas should name al Qaeda and similar groups as Terrorists. But to be considered as breaking a new ground, they must render Jihadi violence illegitimate and terrorism against non combatants illegal, regardless of any theological, ideological or political goals.
Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. He is the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War Against Future Jihad.
I have several friends from the South who tell me they will never live in California because they are deathly afraid of earthquakes. Naturally, when I point out the fact they have far more deadly possibilities with hurricanes and tornadoes their argument is, “Yeah, but we KNOW those are coming. With an earthquake you don’t!” I just shake my head and smile smugly, “We love our earthquakes out here. They are our creative friends who give us a free amusement park ride from time to time. They are harmless.” I really believed that…until yesterday.
I had the privilege of MCing an event in Dallas last night (July 28) featuring an apparent rarity– famed pollster and analyst Frank Luntz as the featured speaker for a campaign fundraiser for a specific candidate.
The big news is that Keira Knightley isn’t allowing her image in print ads for the forthcoming film “The Duchess” to enhance her bust size. Explaining her position, Knightley said, “I didn’t maintain my anorexia for the past 10 years so that I could still have something sticking out.”
Please please please, Senator Obama, pick Tim Kaine for your vice president! A governor not known outside of his own state (it’s Virginia, where I live) with no significant achievements to speak of and the charisma of paste. He and Obama combined have been outside the country in their adult lives about 27 minutes. He’ll help a little in Virginia but not much–somehow political folks imagine that he is the second coming of Mark Warner (whom they assume you know and swoon for–betcha don’t, on either count; you probably don’t even know who he is). Please, Senator Obama, pick this Mr. Anti-Excitement.
Over the past year and a half, Barack Obama has sold himself as the Hope Guy Who Transcends Party, Race, and Generation and Who Can Bring Us All Together. Americans tired of fierce and unproductive partisanship and of the same, old tired political fistfights look to Obama to usher in a new way of doing things: a post-partisan, civilized coming together to find common ground and compromise.
In the past few days, bombs have been blowing up in India and Turkey and they have more in common than meets the eye and I do not mean merely the fact that both are developing countries that work hard to disprove the fashionable notion that democracy is too complex a form of government for Muslims, Hindus and Budhists. Could that be the reason they are repeatedly targeted?
In an interview with the Slovak News Agency, Professor Walid Phares visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy said Europeans must begin to distinguish between Islam as a religion and Jihadism as an ideology. “European Governments and Union must allow and encourage debates between Jihadists counter Jihadists in the Muslim communities. Phares was interviewed by Monika Polakova of the Slovak News Agency (TASR) on 30-Jun-2008. The interview was published later. The interview original posting can be found here [ Visit Website ]