British Muslims are in an anguished position over Syria, with profound distrust of western military intervention clashing with a desire to see the demise of President Assad. “I was in Oldham yesterday talking to a large crowd and people usually think, here we go again, another Muslim nation being attacked,” said Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, one of the UK’s most senior Muslim politicians. “But here they see it is right for Syria’s chemical weapons and air strike capability to be dismantled. People know that there’s a real problem and that 100,000 people have been killed. People can see millions of children being moved and being bombed. Charities working with women who have been raped and that is a very sensitive issue.”
“On every occasion America has gone to war it has used the same argument that it will be selective,” added Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, chairman of the East London Mosque. “It doesn’t wash with the Muslim community. By interfering in Syria it is going to antagonise Iran, Russia and China and open a Pandora’s box that will take Syria into a darker age that will leave the Muslim world further divided.”
“There is sceptism about who has used chemical weapons and there needs to be a clear proof,” he said. “It if was chemicals why can’t America convince China and Russia? Chemical weapons used against civilians are an atrocity. If Russia, China and Iran are in a civilised world, they should take more action. If they took a strong stand Assad would be crippled.”
Jehangir Malik, UK director of the aid agency Islamic Relief, said he agreed with Lord Ahmed that British Muslim anxiety about attacks is tempered by the feeling that something must be done.” The Muslim community will be sceptical of this intervention, going in after two and a half years,” he said. “But no other Muslim country has done anything so what are the options?”
Malik said the fact that the action against Assad was not being sold as part of the “war on terror” meant feeling was “not as anti as with Afghanistan and Iraq”. But he also warned that any strikes could result in the conflict escalating and the humanitarian situation worsening.
In this extract from the book For God’s Sake, one question is asked to four Australian writers with very different beliefs.
Religion is powerfully motivating and belligerent humans fight over it. Yet it’s true, religion has been a major feature in some historical conflicts and the most recent wave of modern terrorism. Religion has taken on extra significance today because globalisation is challenging and changing everything. Religious identity not only survives but can take on heightened significance when national and political alliances break apart. That religion can be so markedly different in the hands of the power-hungry, as opposed to the altruistic and virtuous, really says more about human psychology than it does about religion. That’s why so many human conflicts unfortunately involve religion.
None of this is to excuse the undeniable barbarity unleashed by religionists over the centuries. The misogyny, beheadings, terrorism, killings, beatings and cruelty are real. They continue. Today we see a growing battle in the Middle East between Shi’ite and Sunni; a Jewish state unleashing militancy against Christian and Muslim Palestinians; and an anti-gay crusade led by some Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders that threatens the sanctity of life itself.
Claiming religion is the source of the world’s evils is a careless comment. It’s far too easy to blame the Muslim faith for honour killings. I’m under no illusion about the fact that religion is routinely used to justify the more heinous crimes. But the 20th century is filled with examples, namely Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China, that didn’t need God as an excuse to commit genocide against a state’s own people.
Joe Lieberman has always been a great pioneer for internet freedom. Last year, he suggested that the United States should implement an internet kill switch in the event of a cyberattack by taking its cues from China. Now Lieberman is calling for the world’s most popular search engine to censor material that could potentially be used to spread terrorist information.
Lieberman sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking the company to implement a system where users can report websites harboring terrorism and Google will remove them from their Blogger platform. Lieberman brought up the case of Jose Pimentel, who was recently arrested in New York for attempting to make a pipe bomb, and used the internet to do it! Lieberman gave Google some praise for banning any terrorist content from YouTube and allowing users to flag videos, but insisted they do more and implement a similar system on their search platform.
Bright moments in the Dark Ages
If “1001 Inventions” does nothing else, it teaches that “Dark Ages” is a misguided moniker.
The period between the seventh century and the Renaissance was, in fact, a time of explosive creativity in the expansive Muslim world, which stretched from Spain to China. The breakthroughs in science, math, astrology and medicine continue to be influential.
The “1001 Inventions” exhibit, visited by more than 1 million people during its stops in the United Kingdom, Istanbul and New York, currently resides at the California Science Center. A 376-page companion book includes additional facts about the era.
No, it’s not “Harry Potter.” But this 13-minute film starring Ben Kingsley as a librarian who becomes a famed old-world inventor serves to grab a young person’s attention, and explains in simple terms what the exhibit entails.
At the end of the exhibition’s opening movie, Kingsley says, “Spread the word.” That’s what the creators of “1001 Inventions” hope to accomplish. They want the “Dark Ages” to be relabeled the “Golden Age.”
November 18, 2010
Switzerland has been cited in a recent US report on threats to religious freedoms in the world. While normally the report focuses on countries such as North Korea, Iran, China, and Burma, according to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, “several European countries have imposed severe restrictions on religious expression.” The Swiss minaret ban was highlighted as an example of these restrictions by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Michael Posner, as well.
With the rise of new economic powers such as India and China, as well as the ever-growing population with foreign origins in Europe, universities in Austria have begun to recognize the importance of intercultural communication as a field of study. Master’s programs in “Migration management” have been created at the University of Salzburg in cooperation with the Austrian Integration Fund, while the Danube University now offers a specialized course of study entitled “Islam and Migration in Europe.” Approximately half the students enrolled in these courses have migratory backgrounds.
Human rights activists have urged the Swiss government to give shelter on humanitarian grounds to two ethnic Uighurs held in the United States’ military prison of Guantánamo.
“The two brothers are the unluckiest of the unlucky,” said Elizabeth Gilson, an American lawyer who represents them. She said even the US government admitted that the members of the Muslim community in northwestern China were not terrorists but refugees. “There is no evidence to believe that they are dangerous,” Gilson told journalists on Thursday. She is visiting Switzerland for talks with government officials.
The two brothers are part of a group of more than 20 Uighurs, arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan, suspected of links to militant Muslim organisations following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US.
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear the appeal of 13 Chinese Muslims at Guantanamo Bay naval base who are cleared for release yet are still being held.
The justices rejected the Obama administration’s plea that they stay out of the case. Since 2004, the court has issued decisions ensuring that judges play a strong role in protecting prisoner rights at the U.S.-run naval base in Cuba.
The Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority originally living in western China, had fled to Afghanistan. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, they were among hundreds of men transferred to U.S. forces and sent to Guantanamo.
They initially were held as “enemy combatants,” but that status was lifted. They would be free to return to China if they did not fear persecution there. This summer, ethnic rioting in Western China led to a crackdown on Uighurs.
A district court judge last year ordered the Uighurs brought to the U.S. and freed, but an appeals court reversed.
Administration lawyers argue in a brief that judges lack the power to order the release into the U.S. “outside of the framework of the immigration laws.” Lawyers for the Uighurs counter that judges may intervene when the government has “brought the prisoners to our threshold, imprisons them … without legal justification, and — as seven years have so poignantly proved — there is nowhere else to go.”
The case will test the strength of a 2008 Supreme Court decision giving Guantanamo detainees a constitutional right to challenge their imprisonment.
Obama has set to close Guantanamo by January 22 of next year. The administration has been working on developing resettlement options for the Uighurs but has had little success.
Islam may be most closely associated with the Middle East, where it emerged in Arabia in the seventh century, but today the region is home to only one in five of the world’s Muslims, according to a study of the religion’s global distribution conducted by the Pew Forum.
Europe is home to about 38 million Muslims, or about five per cent of its population. Germany appears to have more than 4 million Muslims – almost as many as North and South America combined. In France, where tensions have run high over an influx of Muslim immigrant labourers, the overall numbers were lower but a larger percentage of the population is Muslim. Of roughly 4.6 million Muslims in the Americas, more than half live in the United States although they only make up 0.8 percent of the population there. About 700,000 people in Canada are Muslim, or about two percent of the total population.
The top five Muslim countries in the world include only one in the Middle East Egypt behind Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, in that order. Russia, the survey shows, has more Muslims than the populations of Libya and Jordan combined. Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon. China has a bigger Muslim population than Syria.
The fatal stabbing of an Egyptian Muslim woman in a German courtroom two weeks ago sparked anger across the Muslim world and fueled demands for a formal apology from Germany. But while the region rages about the story of the “headscarf martyr,” holding her up as a symbol of persecution, the plight of China’s Muslim population has provoked a more muted response. On July 5 police cracked down on a demonstration by minority Muslim Uighurs in the city of Urumqi, capital of China’s western Xinjiang region. Hundreds of Uighur young men rioted, attacking majority Han Chinese civilians with knives, clubs and bricks. In the end authorities say 137 Hans, 46 Uighurs and one member of the Chinese Muslim Hui ethnic group were killed. But, says Diaa Rashwan, a political analyst at the government-backed Ahram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, “there is not a lot of interest or attention paid to these events in the Arab and Muslim world.” ABIGAIL HAUSLOHNER REPORTS.