New Age Islam Edit Bureau
19 August 2015
Defining Terror: Whether It's The Terrorists Assaulting School Kids, Beating Children To Death, Hacking Bloggers, Robbing Financial Institutions, Raping Women Or Planting Bombs At Public Places, They All Wear The Same Ugly Hat Of Evil
By Rubana Huq
Teaching the Quran in Uyghur Autonomous Region
By Hasan Kanbolat
Britain’s parochial politics are unfit for Mideast challenges
By Chris Doyle
ISIS using chemical agents not hard to believe
By Raed Omari
New Arab order should make meritocracy its priority
By Khaled Almaeena
Convert or die: Ethnic cleansing in CAR
By Khaled A Beydoun
Libyan conflict: The Daesh factor
By Osama Al Sharif
Defining Terror: Whether It's the Terrorists Assaulting School Kids, Beating Children to Death, Hacking Bloggers, Raping Women or Planting Bombs at Public Places, All Wear the Same Ugly Hat of Evil
By Rubana Huq
August 19, 2015
One would expect the concept of “terrorism” to convey the same meaning for all in this country. It is not quite the case yet.
For most people like your columnist, anyone committing acts of extreme aggression and cruelty is a “terrorist”. For me, the incident of a10-year-old boy being bludgeoned in the head with a crowbar after being accused of stealing fish is terrorism. For me, a 12-year-old allegedly who suffered the brutality of a compressor hose pumping air into his rectum and ultimately tortured to death by a former boss for joining a competitor is terrorism. For me, a13-year-old tied to a pole and beaten to death by men who accused him of stealing a van and the circulation of a cell phone video equals terrorism. The fourth incident that happened forty-eight hours back of a 16-year old being swatted to death in Hajaribag because of apparently having stolen a laptop is terrorism. In a span of a only a month, Rajon from Sylhet, Rakib of Khulna, Rabiul Awal of Barguna and most recently, Raja Mia from Hajaribag have all become victims of terrorists who we fail to spot early on while all of them run loose till it's too late to rectify reality. Frankly the incident of 40 school children of Bhuiyara High School being subjected to attacks in Chandpur and now being admitted to Kachua Upazila Health Complex for having protested the assault on their teacher for not giving in to an extortion attempt by young “leaders” who had demanded Tk 15,000 for observing national mourning day programmes, is also an example of terrorism.
Your columnist also sees no justification in calling terrorists “unidentified assailants” when they hack secular bloggers like Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy, Ananta Bijoy Das, Washiqur Rahman, and Avijit Roy to death in a country where ironically 90 percent of the 160 million people are followers of a religion that teaches utmost tolerance and upholds the concept of peace.
While we watch police spotting and arresting the accused, one also needs to reconcile with the fact that there are many corporate terrorists that run free in this soil. Hallmark Group, which just had Tk 1700 Crore written off by Sonali Bank, and Bismillah Group which also swindled Tk 1174.46 Crore using names of fake foreign buyers and forged documents, are no less than terrorists who terrorise and hold the financial sector hostage. According to the Finance minister 2-3 percent of the country's total GDP (almost Tk 450bn) is swallowed up by corruption while political unrest adds to another one percent (Tk 150bn). Yet, despite his admission, in July this year, 15 large business groups defaulting on repayment of loans of Tk 12,500 crore, applied for restructuring their debts under a Bangladesh Bank policy issued in January to aid top defaulters on the grounds of prolonged political crisis. Once again, groups, which submitted applications for restructuring loans below Tk 500 crore, will not be considered for getting the restructuring advantage as the policy is issued only for borrowers of loans over Tk 500 crore. After restructuring, these groups will be allowed to borrow up to 50 percent of the last approved amount for demand and current loans and 60 percent for term loans. The loans will be classified as special mention account and banks would maintain provision at required rates with the additional one percent. This prompts your columnist to quote Noam Chomsky at this point. Chomsky wrote: “It's ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They're totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There's about as much freedom as under Stalinism.” To put it simply, corporate terrorism is one of the worst forms of terrorism a nation can experience.
Day before yesterday, while I remembered 17th of August 2005, bombs exploded close to a shrine in another Asian capital, Bangkok, right at the centre, killing at least 16 people and injuring more than 118. That triggered further memories from10 years ago, when on the same day, in a span of half an hour, around 500 bomb explosions occurred at 300 locations in 63 out of the 64 districts of Bangladesh. A terrorist organisation, Jama’at ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) claimed responsibility for the bombings with the association of another terrorist group, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. In Dhaka starting from Bangladesh Secretariat, the Supreme Court Complex, the Prime Minister's Office, the Dhaka University campus, the Dhaka Sheraton Hotel and Zia International Airport, the bombs went off everywhere. At least 115 people were injured. When 7 bombs exploded at about 11:10 am at Biswa Road, rickshaw driver Rabiul Islam was injured and finally succumbed to death while school going Abdus Salam, only 10 years of age, died when a bomb exploded outside his house in Savar. Thankfully, the main perpetrators of the bombing, Bangla Bhai and Shaykh Abdur Rahman, were executed by hanging in 2007.
But that is no reason for us to assume that their ghosts have all disappeared. Terrorists walk in our own shadows, within our own frames and network. We may continuously convince ourselves about us being free from the clutches of the terrorists, but the truth is we are subjected to terrorism in multiple forms on a regular basis. Whether it's the terrorists assaulting school kids, beating children to death, hacking bloggers, robbing financial institutions, raping women or planting bombs at public places, they all wear the same ugly hat of evil. By not defining them aptly, by not identifying them from within our own selves, and most of all by denying their existence, most of us are indulging in lies, which are getting bigger by the minute. One of Hitler's closest associates and most devoted followers, Joseph Goebbels, ironically spelt the truth for many of us to pay heed to:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it…for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
Let this never happen in our soil where each one of us, including the highest authority speaks the same language in the case of handling terror. Let terrorism never assume the proportion of a deceiving reality while we ourselves trick ourselves into believing that we are all safe from terror. We are not. Therefore, while we redefine terror amongst ourselves, the war must go on.
Rubana Huq is Managing Director, Mohammadi Group.
Teaching the Quran in Uyghur Autonomous Region
By Hasan Kanbolat
August 17, 2015
Mosques fail to offer enough space for worshippers at regular Friday prayers for Muslims in two prominent cities of the Uyghur Autonomous Region of China: Urumchi and Kashgar. People have to take to the streets and squares without bothering others. The Idkha Mosque in downtown Kashgar is the largest mosque in the region. More than 30,000 people join the Eid prayers performed in the square that also hosts the mosque. The Idkha Mosque was built in 1442 and was enlarged three times. Around 700 people can perform prayers in the closed area of the mosque.
There are 28,000 clerics (24,000 appointed to mosques) officially assigned to the Uyghur Autonomous Region. There are schools teaching lessons on the Quran in the local towns that offer courses lasting two to three months. Graduates of elementary and high schools are admitted to these schools. China has nine years of compulsory education during which no religious courses are offered. There are 10 Quran courses in China. The Xinjiang Quran School is the only officially recognized school for teaching the Quran in Xinjiang Uyghur region in China. It is also the only school that teaches the Quran in the Uyghur language in China. The Hadiths are recited in Arabic but the explanations are in Uyghur. Students study for five years in the school to receive their qualifications and Muslim graduates who are appointed to serve the people are given a monthly allowance.
There are 10 different ethnic Muslim groups in Xinjiang and those other than the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Huis are able to communicate with each other. The graduates of the school teach the Quran to the public and some work as members of the local popular congress. The Chinese Religious Affairs Directorate and the Chinese Islamic Affairs Department regulate the appointment of students abroad. Of these, 37 students continued their education in Egypt. The Huis have nine other Quran schools in other parts of China. The Huis teach in the Chinese language. The construction of the Xinjiang Quran School started in 1983 and the school was completed in 1987. It receives financial aid from the state and the Chinese government gave 250 million yuan in 2012 to construct a huge new school that now hosts 300 students and 70 teachers. They train clerics in eight undergraduate and three pre-undergraduate programs. Mainly religious and cultural courses are offered, with cultural courses constituting 3 percent of the curriculum. The cultural classes include ethnic and religious policies. Uyghur literature, Arab language and literature, and history are also being taught.
Seventy percent of the courses are focused on religious studies, which include studying the Quran, recital, Tawjeed (rules of recitation), methodology, Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic theology and culture, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and Arabic grammar. Male high school graduates aged between 18 and 22 are admitted to the school in a two-stage exam.
The Xinjiang Quran School is a religious school that trains clerics. They do not admit female students. There are three different types of religious education: clerical school, Quran courses and Quran schools. Women are allowed to receive religious training from their fathers or husbands at home. The school offers help every year for those who would like to perform the pilgrimage in Mecca. The pilgrims have to meet several conditions, including having sufficient financial resources, being healthy and able to travel. Every year, nearly 14,000 people in China travel to Mecca for the pilgrimage. Of these, about 3,500 sign up for the pilgrimage in Xinjiang. Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate President Mehmet Görmez has paid a visit to Xinjiang twice. He was appointed president after he returned from Urumchi. For this reason, it is argued that Urumchi brings good luck.
Britain’s Parochial Politics Are Unfit for Mideast Challenges
By Chris Doyle
19 August 2015
Given the nature and scale of the challenges facing the world, the financial crisis, global warming, the future of the EU, Russia and the crises in the Middle East, the need for courageous bold leadership and dynamic politics gets ever more desperate. Sadly the last twelve months in British politics have highlighted this glaring absence, the dearth of talent and ideas, a trend dangerously repeated across the globe.
Twelve months ago, the United Kingdom came desperately close to losing Scotland largely thanks to a negative and ill-thought out pro-union campaign that eventually has led to the crushing victory of the Scottish Nationalists at the general elections in May this year. These elections were similarly lacklustre, highly negative and devoid of any compelling vision for the country let alone debate about events beyond its shores. The anti-Westminster sentiment has just grown and grown. May’s general elections did little to push back the tide.
The leadership elections for the Labour party, the main opposition, have so far been more akin to the sort of backbiting at a town council meeting not the election for the leadership of one of Britain’s largest parties.
The Labour leadership election is a four horse race with no thoroughbreds. Many Labour party supporters appear dejected and disappointed clinging to the hope that any elected leader may be replaced before the 2020 election.
The policy debate is lame to non-existent. The modern politicians seem brilliant at saying as little as possible of real substance with the aim of offending the least number of people possible. Meaningless sound bites follow yet more bland proclamations.
So should this trouble those in the Middle East? Well yes. Uncertainty about Britain’s role in the world is not helpful. At its best Britain has driven EU foreign policy and tempered the extremes in Washington with thoughtful, informed policy decisions. At its worst…well sadly one is spoilt for choice.
Britain has been involved in wars in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan so far this century. As a U.N. Security Council member it was party to the Iran deal. It was one of the largest donors assisting the Syrians. It has a Prime Minister, David Cameron whose primary foreign policy focus at present is the defeat of ISIS and Islamic extremism. His efforts on this front are to put it generously, mixed.
And yet on all these issues not to mention the other crises besetting the Middle East, both at the General and Labour leadership elections no politicians have truly proposed any radical or even semi-thought out proposals for tackling these crises. For the most part candidates are wary of exposing their own ignorance of the region and foreign affairs in general. None of the four has articulated a serious strategy to take on ISIS for example.
Understanding Jeremy Corbyn
The exception is that of the hard left wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn who has electrified up the race. Despite barely getting enough Labour Members of Parliament to back him to become a candidate, he is now according to the polls the clear favourite to win – the result to be announced on September 12. He appears to have attracted support because he is an atypical modern politician who speaks with clarity and conviction.
His policies hark back to the 1980s – he is anti-austerity Syriza-style, pro-nationalization, wants to exit NATO, get rid of Britain’s nuclear deterrent and is a diehard opponent of wars and arms sales. He opposed what he sees as the illegal Iraq war of 2003 and thinks former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, may have to answer charges of war crimes.
The Corbyn surge has happened to the sounds of severe cranium scratching in the Labour party's establishment whilst Conservative politicians are spending their summer holidays in total rapture a Corbyn-led Labour will leave them in power for one if not two more elections.
Understanding Corbyn’s success is instructive. His consistent anti-war stance and pro-Palestinian positions have served him well. The British public is tired of wars and remains largely appalled by Israeli actions. Many agree with him that the UK would be safer if it stopped following U.S. foreign policy. The Labour party won a large segment of the Muslim vote in May, perhaps an extra eight seats according to one study, not least because it had backed recognition for Palestine and had opposed Israel’s land invasion of Gaza. Other candidates are nervous of speaking out. Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate, even regretted Labour voted for the recognition of Palestine.
Whilst there has been no serious debate on these issues, Corbyn’s campaign has had to fend off serious charges of associating with racists and anti-Semites, something he rejects. His suitability has boiled down to his comments about his “friends” from Hamas and Hizbollah, and what associations he had with someone who is now an open holocaust denier and anti-Semite.
But I have known Jeremy Corbyn for many years and although I disagree with him on many issues, I am sure he is not in the least bit anti-Semitic. Nevertheless greater care should have been taken over whom he met and some of the expressions used. Corbyn never expected to be in the limelight and was not surrounded with the usual coteries of political chaperones to protect him from upcoming landmines.
Sadly there are some in the Palestinian movement who are truly anti-Semitic. In fact historically, anti-Semites have done massive damage to the Palestinian cause (as well as Arthur Balfour, who first promised Palestine to the Zionist movement and the anti-Jewish Christian right in the US as well). There is insufficient criticism of the actions, policies and statements of both Hamas and Hezbollah. For example, too few have condemned Hezbollah’s actions in Syria and out and out support for the Assad regime.
Yet there is a woeful and dangerous double standard and some have argued, there is a whiff of McCarthyism to this. Corbyn rightly has to answer questions on his views and links. But in all these elections, rarely has such an intrusive examination given to those with links to disreputable organizations and people, not least Islamophobes, those who failed to condemn the bombing of Gaza, the illegal settlement in the West Bank or those who have denigrated and dehumanized refugees and asylum seekers. Hate speech and bigotry is on the rise but it is not only anti-Semitism.
The lessons from Britain’s elections are that politics is failing. Not just in Britain but also across the EU and the United States, our political systems are not fit for purpose. They no longer attract the best strategists and brightest minds. (Donald Trump anyone?). The media is designed to advance petty, trivial, negative campaigning that chews over the minutiae of personal lives including what are their favourite biscuits, with little focus on political vision and strategy. Nowhere is this more painfully felt in international relations. Parochial politics simply cannot work for a globalized world.
Those in the Middle East may be best advised not to wait for Western states to help sort out their problems.
Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honours degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has traveled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
ISIS Using Chemical Agents Not Hard To Believe
By Raed Omari
18 August 2015
There have been reports recently of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) using poison gas in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled areas. Though as yet unconfirmed, such allegations are unsurprising. The White House said it was investigating the matter.
In July, two UK-based organizations - Conflict Armament Research and Sahan Research - said ISIS had used devices filled with chemical agents in late June against Kurdish forces and civilians in Hasakah province in northern Syria, and against Kurdish military positions near Mosul dam in northern Iraq.
The findings followed reports of ISIS using suicide bombs and improvised explosive devices including chlorine gas and other substances, and may seek to exploit the use of chemicals while developing new weapons.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said it had documented the use of projectile-delivered chemical agents by ISIS in an attack on a village near Tel Brak, Syria, on June 28. It said 12 Kurdish fighters had been exposed to the gas. The SOHR also said it had received information about the gas attack in Hasaka, but gave no further details.
Days before ISIS's alleged chemical attacks in late June, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: "The terrorist group is prepared to use any and all means, any and all forms of violence they can think of, to advance their demented cause." She added that ISIS had recruited "highly technically trained professionals" to develop chemical weapons, and had already used chlorine as a weapon.
Iraqi officials and Kurds have made similar allegations. In March, Kurdish officials accused ISIS of a chemical attack against Kurdish fighters on a road between Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul and the Syrian border, as Kurdish forces fought to seize a vital supply line used by ISIS.
With a lack of well-documented information about its activities and brutality - except what it publicizes - testimonies of locals under its rule or of those forced to leave are the only source of information.
Despite a lack of conclusive evidence, however, ISIS has displayed unsurpassed brutality, and is present in countries that had chemical weapons industries and still have remnants of such hazardous substances on the black market or in abandoned chemical weapons plants.
Concerns first surfaced in July 2014 following ISIS's capture of a former chemical weapons plant in Al-Muthanna, east of Baghdad, which was thought to have small quantities of precursor chemicals and badly damaged chemical munitions left after U.N. inspections in the 1990s.
ISIS has no red lines when it comes to its brutal treatment of civilians and prisoners of war. In addition, why should it be concerned about breaking international law when other chemical attacks have gone unpunished? Phrases such as "international law" and "international community" are not present in ISIS's lexicon.
Manufacturing primitive chemical weapons is not difficult, particularly in ISIS's case since many of its fighters have science degrees and are ex-Baathist officers with military experience. After all, it was not hard for the Japanese Aum Shinriko movement to manufacture and unleash Sarin gas on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English.
New Arab Order Should Make Meritocracy Its Priority
By Khaled Almaeena
18 August 2015
The Arab world is passing through its darkest phase in history. Even the most diehard optimist would find little to cheer about. Arab political pundits and newly self-appointed social media analysts have come up with many theories, mostly bizarre, for the predicament we are in.
They blame everyone under the sun but have not bothered even to give a cursory glance at what has led us to this sorry situation. Let’s be frank. All what has happened to us is of our own doing. Right from the so-called Arab independence movement through post independent stages, most Arab leaders failed their people as self-appointed generals, presidents for life and others were more focused on consolidating power through oppressive measures rather than uplifting their population.
I grew up hear messages blaring on radios haranguing Arab masses, and highlighting imperialistic plans to gobble up the Arab world. We saw a number of coups and counter coups, and the slaughter of thousands of innocent people because the new general was suspicious of them. But even then there was always hope.
However, today there is almost no light at the end of the tunnel. Bomb blasts, beheadings, massacres are a daily feature of our news diet. The Arab Spring, which was supposed to usher hope, has engulfed us and thrown us in the dark recesses of a world that has turned into a tumultuous frenzy, while prompting some Arab states to take sterner measures to stifle dissenting voices.
Learn From Your Own History
Can we continue like this? The answer is an emphatic no! Arab states should take examples of other states where discipline was maintained but voices were heard. Singapore and South Korea are but two examples that have shown there can be no progress without a free and responsible press. There can be no viable state if the leader does not lead from the front, implements good governance, demands accountability and transparency beginning with himself and leads the change against corruption.
The media should be viewed as a partner and the ruler should know that criticism would be constructive and can serve the state. That is the role of journalists to alert the state of the shortcomings. A society should be created where free flow of ideas and information could help create an atmosphere where the focus is on growth.
A new Arab order should make meritocracy its priority. We have been damaged by years of nepotism and corruption. We have been hindered by the inaction and the incompetency of those in charge. We cannot afford to procrastinate.
Dangers lurk where there are gaps and vacuums in society, we should not allow this to happen. There should be trust between all members of society and Arab government. An atmosphere of trust and accountability should prevail for the state to progress, and in order to create trust we must put an end to the divisive ways practiced by a certain section to hold sway over society.
Women are an important segment of society and they should be allowed to play a leading role. The voices of extremist and obscurantists should not be allowed to drown the voices of those who seek progress. Provincialism, tribalism and ethnic favouritism should be eradicated totally from the minds of those in power.
Arab governments should take a lesson from their own history. They cannot rule by sheer force and absolute control in an age of social media. Also great advances in technology, where a chip can be planted in humans to read each other’s thoughts, it will be futile to try to control the masses.
The Arab people are like their peers elsewhere they want to live in peace and dignity. In today’s world it is inevitable that everyone works to achieve peace and all are accorded dignity. The sooner our leaders realize this, the faster we will develop and progress.
Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also travelled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post.
Convert or Die: Ethnic Cleansing In CAR
By Khaled A Beydoun
18 Aug 2015
Muslims are only newsworthy when behind the gun, not in front of it.
Modern journalism continually reaffirms this baseline with regards to domestic crises and, perhaps even more so, international human rights calamities.
The systematic targeting of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR), a nation ravaged by strife since March of 2013, has devolved into massive scale ethnic cleansing.
However, few outside of the African nation and beyond the human rights community are even minimally aware of this humanitarian crisis.
In the past several weeks, armed militias have roved through the western part of the nation, intimidating and brutalising Muslims.
Anti-Balaka, a fundamentalist group comprised of animists and Christians, is forcing Muslims to worship in private, remove religious garb, and convert at gunpoint.
Brandishing religious fervour
While the term fundamentalism seems reserved exclusively for Muslim actors, Christian and animist militias in CAR have brandished religious fervour in one hand, and endless rounds of ammunition in the other to terrorise the nation's 750,000 Muslims - which make up 15 percent of the nation's population.
Anti-Balaka's aim is as plain as it is gruesome: rid the nation of its Muslim population. At any cost.
While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remains in the headlines and at the tip of everyone's tongue, the mere mention of anti-Muslim terrorism in CAR - which has claimed at least 6,000 lives, pushed 30,000 Muslims to live in UN protected enclaves, and left scores of mosques destroyed - remains a largely unknown menace.
This would not be the case if Muslims were the villains of the human rights atrocities in CAR, instead of victims.
Mainstream media outlets have long neglected the humanitarian plight of black victims, particularly on the African continent.
This is most vividly highlighted by the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s, which was brought to the attention of the masses too late, and only garnered international sympathy a decade later with the popular film, Hotel Rwanda.
In recent memory, stories of black victimhood that have been actively covered by the mainstream media have centred upon either white heroes (the fleeting Joseph Kony craze), or Muslim villains (Boko Haram's kidnapping of schoolchildren in Nigeria).
Or both, as was the case in Sudan, which framed American celebrities and organisations as interveners, saving "black Christians in the south" from "Arab Muslims in the north".
Similarly, the media is quick to gravitate towards Muslim villains, but it is consistently slow - or wholly absent - when the victims are Muslim.
This is duly illustrated by ISIL's ubiquity in global headlines, coupled with the failure to illustrate the fact that its greatest victims - by a far stretch - are Muslims.
Unfortunately, the victims in CAR are both black and Muslim, and therefore, occupy an extremely vulnerable intersection where both dimensions of their identity are linked to villainy instead of victimhood.
Stuck between an anti-black animus and Islamophobia that underlies and frequently drives media coverage, the unseen and unheard plight of CAR Muslims results from believing black Muslim bodies as incapable of victimhood.
Gathering Global Consciousness
Media coverage, particularly within the most prominent outlets, means far more than simply highlighting and sharing a story.
For an international crisis, like the events in CAR, coverage means generating global consciousness that would spur political mobilisation, fundraising, and pressure on governments to act.
This is particularly true with the emergence of social media, which, when discursively viewed as being distinct and separate from traditional media, is typically energised by headlines featured in the latter.
Media outlets may fashion themselves as objective bystanders, but they are functionally key actors in unfolding crises.
Robust and active media intervention can check the actions of culprits and prompt humanitarian rescue, while neglect facilitates, and indeed emboldens, the aims of terrorists. The CAR case vividly illustrates the latter.
Anti-Balaka forces have benefited immensely from the lack of coverage. Their numbers have grown, and their violence is ever increasing in severity.
In addition to compelling Muslims to convert and decimating mosques, reports about Muslims paying anti-Balaka militants large sums of money to spare their lives are widespread.
Media Attention Saves Lives
Anti-Balaka militants intensified their killing and forced-conversion spree during this past Ramadan, which proved dangerous, and even fatal, for CAR Muslims fasting, praying, and openly observing the holy month.
Cameras and reporters flocked to Rwanda when it was far too late. When they arrived, the genocide had claimed virtually all of its targets.
Since then, scores of scholars, human rights advocates, statesmen and stateswomen have argued that timely media attention could have created the pressure needed to spur more comprehensive humanitarian intervention.
Thousands upon thousands of lives, and future generations of Tutsis, could have been saved.
As highlighted in CAR, lessons from Rwanda have not been heeded, exposing its diminishing and imperilled Muslim population to unspeakable violence and arming its anti-Muslim militias with the green light to continue the killing spree.
But since Muslims are in front of the gun instead of brandishing it, this story will continue to be sidelined from the headlines.
Khaled A Beydoun is an assistant professor of law at the Barry University Dwayne O Andreas School of Law.
Libyan Conflict: The Daesh Factor
By Osama Al Sharif
19 August 2015
Western nations’ reaction to the deteriorating security situation in Libya, especially in the beleaguered city of Sirte, is pathetic to say the least.
A joint statement by the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and US on Sunday offered nothing more than the usual words of condemnation over “the ongoing barbaric acts by Daesh-affiliated terrorists in the Libyan city of Sirte;” it called on “all parties in Libya aspiring to a peaceful and unified nation to join efforts to combat the threat posed by transnational terrorist groups exploiting Libya for their own agenda.”
The western nations reiterated “that there is no military solution to the political conflict in Libya and remain concerned that the economic and humanitarian situation is worsening every day.”
Such rhetoric is unlikely to have an effect on stalled peace talks between various Libyan parties, who remain pinned down since a provisional accord was reached in Morocco last month.
The internationally recognized government and Parliament in Tobruk have failed to extend control over much of the Libyan territory. The national army is in dire need of weapons and ammunition, but influential western powers refuse to lift sanctions despite repeated pleas by the government. Even in Benghazi militants continue to challenge the national army.
The latest statement on Libya underlines a lack of clear vision by Europe and the US. It ignores the deepening of the humanitarian crisis in that country and the fact that Libya remains a launching pad for tens of boats carrying migrants to European shores. Hundreds die every month as they make this perilous journey.
In Tripoli, where another government and Parliament still claim legitimacy, the situation is not better. The country has been carved up by various militias and tribal alliances. Libya is already a dysfunctional state and since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in October 2011, western interest in the war-torn country started to wane. The price of abandoning Libya will prove to be high both regionally and globally.
Daesh has used the political void in Libya to set up a base for itself, first in Derna, where local militias were able to chase its fighters out few weeks ago, and now in Sirte. Foreign jihadists had managed to ally themselves with local tribes, some from Qaddafi’s own clan, in order to spread in areas beyond the control of the two rival governments.
It is perplexing that while an international US-led coalition is striking Daesh positions in both Syria and Iraq, the militant group is allowed to grow in a strategically situated country, few hundred miles from European shores.
But it is not only western nations that are unable to adopt a clear strategy on Libya. Arab countries as well have failed to move beyond the rhetoric. The collapse of the Libyan state has affected the security situation in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. Arms and fighters have slipped through the long desert borders to and from Libya. Egypt and the UAE have launched airstrikes against suspected militant bases in the past, but even as the threat of militant groups increases in Libya key Arab players are unable to agree on a united strategy.
The recognized Libyan government has asked for help to deal with the recent fall of Sirte including the launch of airstrikes. The Arab League was scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the Libyan situation. This will be the first real test for the recent Arab League resolution to create a joint Arab force and one wonders if the will to put such a force to work will prevail.
If no action is taken, either by the Arabs or the international community, against the background of continued divisions by Libyan interlocutors, Daesh will continue to expand. It will be able to use the current political void to carve a chunk of Libya for its so-called caliphate. The threat to the region and to Europe will increase dramatically. That mini-state will attract insurgents from neighboring countries and the militants will become part of human trafficking and illegal migrant business. It is only a matter of time before Daesh will be able to smuggle fighters into Europe.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni echoed such concerns on Monday when he urged Libyans “to quickly agree to a power-sharing agreement.” He told a newspaper that “we either close (a deal) in a few weeks, or we will find ourselves with a new Somalia near (our) coast and we will have to react differently.” Such a scenario, he said, will change the international community’s goal in Libya from stabilizing the country to containing terrorism.
It would be prudent to consider the latter objective now and quickly. The reality is that the Libyans parties are too divided to agree on a national unity government anytime soon. Even if they do, implementing the accord will not be easy. Intervening in the Libyan conflict back in 2011 remains a controversial issue and is believed to have precipitated the collapse of an already fragile state. But the Daesh factor has changed everything.