Islamophobia Threatens Democracy in Europe, Report Says

In a report on the health of democracy in the post-Soviet world, Freedom House painted a bleak picture of the state of liberal values in parts of Europe. The Washington-based human rights advocacy organization, which publishes a global freedom index every year, highlighted a number of worrying trends in 29 countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia.

Chief among them was the strengthening of authoritarian politics in a number of countries, as well as the rise of “illiberal nationalism” in others, particular European Union democracies like Poland and Hungary. The European struggle to come to grips with the migrant crisis on its borders, as well as ongoing economic turmoil, are the leading causes of this democratic malaise, according to Freedom House.

The new assessments were published this week in Freedom House’s annual Nations In Transit report, focused on the countries that started transitioning toward democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. It usesthe organization’s specific ratings that evaluate nations across a range of criteria, from corruption to the strength of electoral institutions to the independence of the media. Weighted for population, the average Democracy Score in the 29 countries profiled by Freedom House has declined for 12 years in a row.

“The biggest challenge to democracy in Europe is the spread of deeply illiberal politics,” details Freedom House’s press release. This, as WorldViews has charted over the past year, has been very much on display in the response to an influx of refugees and migrants from Syria and other countries. Right-wing politicians, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, fanned populist flames by grandstanding over the threat of Muslim migration.

Their rhetoric, garbed in ominous declarations of a clash of civilizations, played to domestic audiences and, in a few cases, boosted the political prospects of some ruling parties. Governments from Poland to Slovakia to Hungary rejected E.U. proposals to accommodate tiny numbers of refugees.

Leaders in these countries, the report states, “exploited the crisis to strengthen their populist appeal, disregarding fundamental humanitarian principles and the ideals of democratic pluralism for short-term partisan gain.”

The mood exacerbated wider strains within the European Union, whichfaces an existential moment in June as Britain votes in a referendum on its membership in Europe.

“Claiming that Europe faces a Muslim invasion has become standard fare for a range of politicians and political parties in Europe,” Nate Schenkkan, project director of Nations in Transit, said in a statement. “This kind of speech undermines democracy by rejecting one of its fundamental principles—equality before the law. There is a danger that this kind of hateful, paranoid speech will lead to violence against minorities and refugees.”

The report also digs into various social and political crises in Eurasia sparked by the drop in global oil prices, the scourge of corruption in Ukraine and the deepening dictatorships of Central Asia. You can read it in full here.

OP-ED: Freedom of the press and global jihad (J. Cesari)

At the offices of French satirical magaizne "Charlie Hebdo." (Photo: Reuters)
At the offices of French satirical magaizne “Charlie Hebdo.” (Photo: Reuters)

Since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo on 7 January, the saying (wrongly attributed to Voltaire), “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” has become a motto against radicalism. Unfortunately, this virtuous defense of freedom of speech is not only inefficient but is backfiring, as demonstrated by protests in Muslim countries against the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, which was released in the aftermath of the attacks.

The challenge of global jihad in Europe is broader and is the result of the lack of symbolic integration of Islam within liberal democracies, as well as the preeminence of a global theology of intolerance which Al Qaida and ISIS have used to build their political ideology.

See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2015/02/freedom-press-global-jihad/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=oupacademic&utm_campaign=oupblog#sthash.4vkcNJ4u.dpuf

Pew Study: Growing Concern about Rise of Islamic Extremism at Home and Abroad [PDF DOWNLOAD]

A recent Pew Study of 2,000 American adults indicates that Americans are increasingly concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism. In the survey, Pew found that 62% of Americans polled were “extremely” concerned about a global rise in Islamic extremism, while 53% are concerned about Islamic extremism within the United States. These are the highest numbers since 2007. [PDF DOWNLOAD OF PEW STUDY]

Pew Center study shows Americans are increasingly concerned with the rise of Islamic extremism abroad and at home.
Pew Center study shows Americans are increasingly concerned with the rise of Islamic extremism abroad and at home.

VIDEO: Muslims and Jews Vow to Stand Up for Each Other, Build Global Movement of Reconciliation

There is a widely accepted belief that Muslims and Jews are enemies and will always remain so. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

For the past six years The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding has not only challenged this narrative, but has facilitated a global dialogue between Muslims and Jews that is taking place on all six populated continents.

This Muslim-Jewish dialogue is our annual Weekend of Twinning which encourages joint Muslim and Jewish programming on the grassroots level in every community across the world where Muslims and Jews reside.

Our efforts reveal the actual harmony that exists between these two faiths and peoples and here is a video that we produced with Unity Productions Foundation, which documents this global Muslim Jewish coalition that is vowing to stand up for one another by combating Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred.

Join our movement by sharing this message with your networks via social media, email, or word of mouth.

 

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-marc-schneier/

Video: http://youtu.be/vEHVannOkj8

Could principles of Islamic finance feed into a sustainable economic system?

October 18, 2013

 

Islamic finance has been a significant global force for the past few decades, but in recent years sharia-compliant saving and investing have become more common. For example, in June, Goldman Sachs provided a loan to Arcapita Bank, an Islamic investment company, that in compliance with sharia law did not charge interest. In July, a US-based trade association, the World Council of Credit Unions, published a manual explaining to would-be community financiers in developing countries how to operate sharia-compliant credit unions.

Western discussions of sharia law often focus on extremist groups imposing brutal interpretations of these legal codes on unwilling populations. But sharia law, which derives from the Qur’an and the religious teaching of Islam, can also be applied to the finance sector. Importantly, Islamic finance can be seen as part of a wider movement towards the promotion of sustainability as a key element of economic life.

The basic premise under sharia law that no one should profit purely from money leads to a shift in both parties’ perspective away from the short-term transaction and towards the longer-term relationship and its consequences.

In short, the structures that have evolved do away with classic debt – and the banks that provide such financing – in exchange for direct participations in risk and reward. For example, an ijara can be used to purchase real estate for the purpose of leasing it out to tenants and the rental income is distributed pro rata to subscribers. A sukuk is a fully negotiable certificate that can be bought and sold on the secondary market, and allows the new owner to “step into the shoes” of the original holder, taking all the rights, obligations and liabilities relating to the underlying assets that accompany the certificate.

Importantly, participants in an ijara and holders of a sukuk have no guaranteed return and are all economically aligned in the long-term success of the project. If the project fails, they cannot simply take their profits to date and sell of the loan collateral to make themselves whole. As a result, Islamic finance encourages the creation of social value alongside economic value.

But Islamic finance is a legitimate expression of an economic philosophy of the use of money. This shouldn’t be stigmatised or criminalised – especially in light of the excesses and abuses that preceded the recent global financial crisis.

Islamic finance is becoming an important part of important emerging economies in the Middle East and Asia – high-growth markets where businesses will want to compete and succeed. And the Muslim population is continuing to grow and can be an engine for further growth.

 

The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/islamic-finance-sustainable-economic-system

‘White widow’: Interpol arrest warrant issued for Samantha Lewthwaite

Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for Samantha Lewthwaite, the British woman dubbed the “white widow” who has been linked to the Kenyan shopping centre attack, in connection with suspected terrorist offences in 2011. The international police agency said its red notice had been issued at the request of Kenya and circulated to police authorities in 190 countries around the world, activating “a global tripwire” for the Briton.

 

The warrant does not relate to the terrorist attack at the weekend on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, despite intense speculation linking Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the July 7 London bombers, to the atrocity, for which the al-Qaida-linked Somali group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility. Instead, said Interpol, the 29-year-old is being sought on charges of possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011.

 

Lewthwaite, the daughter of a British soldier, grew up in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, and later in Aylesbury, where she converted to Islam as a teenager. She was married to July 7 bomber Germaine Lindsay at the time of the attacks, but insisted in their aftermath that she was horrified by them. But she later disappeared with the couple’s two children, only to re-emerge in Kenya as a committed jihadi who is believed to be working with al-Shabaab.

 

There has been intense speculation that Lewthwaite may have had a role in the Nairobi attack after Kenyan intelligence reports suggested that a British woman could have been involved and a number of witnesses described seeing a white woman among the gunmen.

 

At least 67 people died in the Westgate attack, and according to the latest figures from the Red Cross, 72 people are still missing and could be trapped under rubble in the mall.

 

Who loves and hates America: A revealing map of global opinion toward the U.S.

One of the most common answers I hear when I ask foreigners what they think about the U.S. is some variation of this: “You Americans are all so obsessed with how you’re perceived overseas.” In that spirit, even if it means reinforcing a stereotype, I’ve mapped some new data on global opinion of the United States, as part of a series of posts on Pew’s fascinating and just-out “global attitudes” study.

The map at the top of the post shows positive and negative opinions of the U.S. across the world. The poll works just like a presidential poll: Pew called people up and asked them if they had a favorable opinion of the U.S. or an unfavorable opinion (there was also a choice for no answer). Countries with a more favorable opinion are in blue (the darker the blue, the more favorable); red shows more unfavorable attitudes. A quick note about the data: most of it is from 2012, but I also pulled the 2011 numbers for Kenya, Ukraine, Indonesia and Lithuania; as well as the 2010 numbers for Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea; these countries were not included in the most recent survey.

The harshest views of America are in, no surprises, the Middle East and South Asia. Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks and Pakistanis all seem to see the United States in an overwhelmingly unfavorable light. As Turkey’s economy grows, its foreign policy becomes more assertive and democratization gives the Turkish people a stronger role in government, the negative view of the U.S. there could become more important for the world.

Still, it’s important not to make the mistake of confusing these four anti-American countries, which have their own reasons for disliking the U.S. (drones in Pakistan, perceived support for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt), with the entire Middle East or “Muslim world.” Indonesia and India, which have two of the largest Muslim populations in the world, both returned mildly positive views of America. Views vary even in the Arab Middle East; Tunisians and Lebanese seemed ambivalent, reporting roughly equivalent favorable and unfavorable numbers. And Nigerians, half of whom are Muslim, positively beam pro-Americanism: They report a more favorable view of the U.S. than Americans themselves do.

The U.S. is most popular in continental Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the northeast Asian countries of South Korea and Japan.

U.S. dominates list of world’s ’500 Most Influential Muslims’

There are more Muslims from America than any other country on this year’s “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims,” compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, a respected think tank in Jordan, including two in the top 50.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, a California-born convert who founded Zaytuna College, an Islamic college in Berkeley, Calif., and is a leading Islamic authority in America, ranked No. 42, two places ahead of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic studies professor at George Washington University known for his work in Islamic philosophy.

America’s roughly 2.6 million Muslims are a tiny fraction of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, but they took 41 spots on the 500 list. Countries with the next highest number of names were Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom, with 25 Muslims each, followed by Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, with 24.

“Compared to the global Muslim population, the representation of U.S. Muslims in this list is disproportionate, but yet representative in the way they shape global discourse,” said Duke University Islamic studies professor Ebrahim Moosa.

Rick Santorum denies questioning Obama’s faith

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Sunday denied questioning President Obama’s Christian faith but said the president has an environmental belief “that elevates the Earth above man.”

Santorum was quoted Saturday as telling an audience in Ohio that although he accepts the president’s Christianity, he believes Obama adheres to “some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

Asked to explain on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” Santorum framed the issue as a disagreement over global warming and how “radical environmentalists” care for the Earth.

“I accept the fact that the president’s a Christian,” he said. “I just said that when you have a worldview that elevates the Earth above man, and says that, you know, we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the Earth by things that frankly are just not scientifically proven, like for example that politicization of the whole global warming debate, this is just all an attempt to centralize power, to give more power to the government.”

Last month in Florida, Santorum faced criticism when he failed to correct a woman who told him that Obama is “an avowed Muslim.” He was later quoted as saying it wasn’t his job to correct such assertions.