May 28, 2013


Irrational Rhetoric of Boston, Brazil and Islam

May 1, 2013 by

Street placard on Boylston Street. Photo by Rebecca Hildreth

During his talk sponsored by the New American Foundation in March 2008, author Parag Khanna addressed the rising challenges facing the US’s global hegemony. According to Khanna, China and the European Union are the new contenders with the battlefield being a global ‘geopolitical marketplace.’

Aside from Khanna’s insight, one statement particularly puzzled me greatly. “Why am I talking about Europe, China, and the United States? What about Russia, what about India, what about Islam…what about all those other powers?” Initially, I thought it must have been an error. The speaker must surely realize that Islam is a religion, not a political entity with a definable ‘geopolitical marketplace.’ But it was not an error, or more accurately, it was a deliberate error. Khanna went on to explain that Islam doesn’t have ‘that kind of coherence’ that allows it to spread its power and influence, unlike the dominant other powers which he highlighted. According to that odd logic, Islam and Brazil were discussed in a similar context.

This sort of twisted reasoning has flourished as an academic discipline-turned-industry since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sure, it existed prior to this date, but its ‘experts’ and their then few think-tanks were largely placed within a decidedly pro-Israel, Zionist and right-wing political orthodoxy. In the last decade or so, the relatively specialized business multiplied and became mainstream wisdom. Its numerous ‘experts’ – who are more like intellectual purveyors – became well-known faces in American news networks. Their once ‘politically incorrect’ depiction of Arabs, Muslims and the non-western world at large, became acceptable views which were then translated into actual policies used for invading countries, torturing prisoners and flushing Holy Korans down toilets.


Read more about:

Education Reform in Indonesia Likely to Backfire

January 11, 2013 by

Students in Central Jakarta. Photo by Charles Wiriawan

The decision by the Indonesian government to radically alter its current primary school curriculum by replacing science with classes focused on religion and courses that strengthen nationalism will have a generational impact that may prove to make the country less economically competitive and less attractive to foreign direct investment in the years ahead. The drastic changes in primary school curriculums in Indonesia’s public school system, slated for implementation this summer, could lead to greater persecution of the nation’s Catholic, Buddhist, and Protestant religious minority groups.

With religious violence on the rise and the declining effectiveness of the educational system in Indonesia, reform efforts to address these issues are a logical pursuit. However, the decision to remove science and social sciences classes will likely backfire and create a lost generation, which will lead to economic decline, social instability, and religious radicalization.


Read more about:

Copts Represent the Struggle and Power of Minorities in Egypt

December 13, 2012 by

Coptic Christians have long been discriminated against in Egypt. Mohamed Omar/EPA

There was hope for minorities in Egypt during the recent overthrow of the Mubarak regime. Dramatic images of revolution streamed into the West including women handing soldiers flowers, Christians making protective body barriers around Muslims praying in the streets during protests, and food handouts in Tahrir Square.

However, the days of rebel-momentum are over. Minority groups in Egypt have faced uncertainty with the ousting of the previous 30-year leadership, all trying to determine their new place in a rapidly changing political and social landscape.


Read more about:

Will Islamists Trump Democracy?

November 29, 2012 by

Salafi Islamists rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Photo by Jonathan Rashad

The Arab Spring led to the overthrow of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, which unleashed the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi Islamists in their quest to take control of the country. President Mohammed Morsi assumed office on June 30, 2012, supported by Islamists. His goal is to establish an Islamic state ruled under Sharia, the Islamic law. The ultraconservative Salafists also want to participate in the governing process.

More bloodshed in Egypt can be expected, since democracy in a Muslim society will be difficult to attain. The protesters have said they wanted ‘change’, which the U.S. interpreted as our form of democracy. In reality the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists both observe narrow tenets of early orthodox conservatives, which are not compatible with the tenets of democracy. The State Department has defended the regime change noting, “It was the process that matters, not the ideologies of those taking part,” and that, “[We] trained and gave guidance to the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist candidates in the electioneering process.”


Read more about:

Media Savvy Reconquistadores: Identitarians in France

November 6, 2012 by

France’s far right is growing, like Marine Le Pen’s National Front. Ian Langsdon/EPA

Last month, about 70 activists of Generation Identitaire (GI) occupied the site of the unfinished Poitiers Grand Mosque.  They unfurled a banner that read, “732 Generation Identitaire”, and asked for a referendum on halting Islam and immigration into France.  The action was not without precedent, nor was it without warning.

GI launched its two and a half minute “Declaration of War” on YouTube on the 4th of October. The “declaration de guerre” features an array of young faces denouncing the legacy of the French left radicals of 1968. They paint a picture of anti-white racism, the deliberate destruction of French traditions, failed multiculturalism, pointless foreign wars, and a parlous economic future.  The narrative is emotionally driven and gives no details of the conflict to be. It can only be assumed the Poitiers occupation was the first act in their war.


Read more about:

Ethnic Strife in Burma: A History of Violence

July 25, 2012 by

Rohingya refugees in the Nayapara refugee camp. Ruben Flamarique/Austcare

For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a month of peace and calmness. That is hardly the case for the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The ethnic rift between them and the ethnic Buddhists since June has spiraled out of control, leaving scores of Rohingya Muslims dead and homeless. Many have crossed the border into Bangladesh. Amnesty International’s Benjamin Zawacki said the latest violence has been “primarily one-sided, with Muslims generally and Rohingya specifically the targets and victims.”

Branded by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities of the world, Rohingya’s live in the Rakhine State, located in west of Myanmar. With a population of 3 million, the Rakhine state borders Bay of Bengal to the west and the majority of its residents are Theravada Buddhists and Hindus.


Read more about:

Banning the Snip: The Debate on Circumcision

July 24, 2012 by

Chancellor Angela Merkel has a plateful of matters to deal with, most of them of an economic nature. Europe is stuttering and staggering, and the Dame of Austerity is finding herself with fewer friends by the day. With the recent decision by the regional court in Cologne disapproving the legality of circumcision for underage boys, a storm has erupted that has given her another issue to worry about. The debate may never have taken place had the doctor who performed the circumcision on the couple’s child not been charged with bodily harm.  The Chancellor’s sentiments were recorded in the Bild daily: “I do not want Germany to be the only country in the world where Jews cannot practise their rituals.”

“Otherwise we will become a laughing stock,” Merkel continued rather emphatically.


Read more about:

The Vice of Memory: Vidovdan and Serbia’s Jerusalem

June 28, 2012 by

Patriarch Pavle at Gazimestan. Photo by Darko Dozet via the Serbian Orthodox Church

In the Belgrade fortress that used to boast one of the Ottoman Empire’s most formidable bastions, rests a charming church aromatic with incense. A strict placard lies in wait at the entrance, warning the attendees that they should dress properly, keep their hands out of pockets, take their hats off and observe in respect.

The side entrance of the ‘Rose’ or Ružica church is flanked by the sentimental sculptures of two Serbian soldiers from different eras – one from World War I, the other from the 14th century.


Read more about:

The Arab Spring and the Image of Islam

June 12, 2012 by

Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Vince Millett

The multi-season Arab Spring is the third anti-imperialist Arab revolt in less than a century: against the Ottoman empire, against the Western Italian–French–English empire, and now the US-Israel empire. The empires hit back. The Ottomans were weak, but England–France–Israel even invaded Egypt in 29 October 1956––in the shadow of the Hungarian revolt against the Soviet empire that crumbled nearly a quarter century later. And now it is the turn of USA–Israel to try to maintain an illegitimate structure.

So much for the background. In the foreground is class, pitting the powerless at the bottom against the powerful at the top. Wealth flows upward, accelerated by corruption; military, police and secret police forces protect the top against revolts; decision-making is by dictatorships; all of this that used to be justified by the fight against communism is now hitched on to fight against Islamism.


Read more about:

Politics and Islam in Central Asia and MENA

April 24, 2012 by

Following the democratization of predominantly Muslim countries in Central Asia and MENA there are many challenges still yet to be met. For the overall development of the region to progress and to assure alternatives to the autocratic governments that dominate these two regions, more will need to be done by the West and international institutions.  Following the Six-Day War in 1967 there was a movement towards radical Islam.

Since that time, radical politicized Islam has become an alarming trend that adversely affects the development of MENA and Central Asia, and also adversely affects its people and their economies. Anti-Western ideologies do not promote democracy and they adversely affect opportunities to provide economic growth.


Read more about:

When Free Speech and Islam Collide

February 24, 2012 by

Internet café in Saudi Arabia. Image via Kami ArabianEye/Redux

Demands for religious and speech freedoms in Saudi Arabia have taken a heightened tone of urgency in the Western media following Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari’s ill-advised tweets allegedly denigrating God and the Prophet Muhammad. Imaginary conversations with the Prophet, deemed an insult in Islam, landed Kashgari in jail pending trial for blasphemy.  Kashgari’s remarks have sparked outrage in the West over how a man’s seemingly crisis of faith could lead to a death sentence. Yet there is little to debate in Saudi Arabia: Blasphemous statements require harsh punishment.

Kashgari had the poor judgment to tweet imaginary conservations with the Prophet with statements that included, “On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”


Read more about:

The Slaughter Benches of History: Hegel and Radical Extremists

July 31, 2011 by

Oslo, six days after the attack by Anders Behring Breivik. Photo by Eirik Newth

The correlational dichotomy between words and deeds is as old as history itself, ranging from Alexander the Great reading the Iliad, which supposedly inspired him to conquer the world, to the disturbing image of Nietzsche’s writings inspiring Hitler’s crazed fantasies of a new Aryan age.  A more positive example is Abraham Lincoln seeking inspiration in the King James Bible and in Shakespeare to understand the nature of politics.

Political men in this context should be read as men of action (including radicals).


Read more about: