Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Religious Test for the Presidency

by Stephen Prothero from Beliefnet

I challenge journalists covering the presidential candidates to start putting these candidates to the test on the religion front. Ask them which form of Islam -- Sunni or Shia -- predominates in Iran (Shia), in Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and al-Qaida (Sunni). Ask them which religion predominates in Thailand (Buddhism), and what faith is practiced by the current Prime Minister of India (Sikhism). Ask them to name the three holiest cities of Islam (Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem). See whether they know that the four countries with the largest populations of Muslims (Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India) all lie outside the Middle East.

Countering our very own Frankenstein

by Beena Sarwar from The International News

The Lal Masjid story has been consistently in the forefront in Pakistan (and on the inside pages of newspapers in America) for the past week, but it actually began in 1979 when America enlisted Pakistan, led by the all-too willing Gen Ziaul Haq, as a front-line state against the Communists who had invaded Afghanistan. Soon the Pakistani madressahs were flush with money coming from America and Saudi Arabia and more madressahs were cropping up, along with training camps for the 'mujahideen' or holy warriors. Afghanistan's fight for national independence was transformed into a 'jehad' or holy war ... The links between Pakistan's intelligence agencies and the 'militant Islamists' or 'terrorists' as the mujahideen are now called, are all too apparent. Those involved in the Lal Masjid saga are no exception.

200 Explosive Belts Seized in Iraq

by Robert H. Reid from Associated Press

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters that 60 to 80 foreign fighters enter Iraq "in any given month" -- 70% of them through Syria. He said up to 90% of the suicide attacks in Iraq were carried out by "foreign-born al-Qaida terrorists." Bergner cited the July 1 suicide attack that collapsed part of a major bridge across the Euphrates River north of Ramadi ... The surviving attacker told interrogators he had been recruited by al-Qaida in his home country, flown to Syria and smuggled across the border to Ramadi, where he stayed for about 10 days before the attack. Bergner would not give the would-be attacker's nationality, but other military officials said he was a Saudi. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.

Challenging Hamas’ Religious Primacy

by Joshua Mitnick from The Jewish Week

Though the Palestinian Salafis would seem an ideal ally for Hamas, their allegiance is to the ruler — Abbas — opposing those who rise up against the ruler: Hamas. Even though there are only a few thousand Salafis in the Palestinian territories, they claim their numbers are growing and they have plans to build a seminary in Nablus ... But while the Palestinian Salafis are critical of Hamas and bombings, they are no peaceniks. Mazen el-Fares gave a theological view on territorial compromise: “We do not agree to territorial exchange. To us, it is a sin to give your enemy your land,” he said. “The Crusaders lived here many years and finally the Muslim empire returned.”

Zaoui’s beliefs

by Gordon Campbell from Scoop

Algerian social theorist and journalist Malek Bennabi’s life work was to promote a form of Islamic democracy grounded in Algerian values and history. His work stands consciously apart and consistently opposed to the pan-Islamic radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which became the wellspring of jihadism and the Wahhabi extremism of Bin Laden ... What Bennabi disparagingly called the Salafists were the ‘pure ones’ who rejected progress, shunned modernity and urged the faithful to return to the strictness that they discerned in the Prophet’s epoch ... Bennabi and his disciples always stood in strong opposition to the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and to its Egyptian ideologue, Sayyid Qutb - who was Bin Laden’s acknowledged guru.

Isolating Hamas In Gaza May Be Best Road Ahead

by Victor Comras from Counterterrorism Blog

Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi leaders are also particularly irked that Hamas is increasingly looking to Iran for sponsorship and support ... Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, once a supporter of Hamas, has reportedly developed “a new antipathy for Hamas,” as it has moved closer to Hezbollah and Iran. This is reflected also in a growing tension between Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood which it long supported as an ally in spreading Wahhabi Salafist theology overseas. Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi clergy are seriously upset that the Muslim Brotherhood is now cosying up to Iran.