Friday, September 14, 2007

Prison Library Purge

by Michael Gerson from The Washington Post

The immediate effect of the new policy has been to decimate prison libraries collected over decades. A policy directed at jihadist literature has, for example, resulted in the removal of three-quarters of the Jewish books at the Otisville Prison in New York ... Few would dispute that prison security and the prevention of terrorism are compelling state interests. Convicted terrorists such as Richard Reid and Jose Padilla seem to have been radicalized while doing time for previous offenses. Subversive Wahhabi literature in American prisons is a threat as real as a smuggled knife ... By all means, the Bureau of Prisons should weed out hate-filled literature in prisons. But it needs to remember that the enemy is radicalism, not religion.

The General in Our Labyrinth

by Michael Young from Reason

Arab nationalism, instead of uniting Arabs in a single state, mainly dissolved into brutal authoritarianism and factionalism, with the Syrian and Iraqi branches of the Baath Party having fought most bitterly against each other between the late 1970s and early 1990s. Similarly, the Saudi ambition of spreading Wahhabism through the funding of mosques and educational institutions backfired, so that the most dangerous threats to the monarchy today are the violent Islamist groups it fostered and sustained for so long ... The Bush administration has abandoned the democratization goal, showing perhaps that it never seriously cared about it in the first place. But that shouldn't undermine a deeper truth. The only grand project that can ever really work in the Middle East is democratization, because only democracy won't leave behind bitter losers. But the Arab world may yet be a long way away from that enlightened step, despite what the optimists—present company included—believe. That Petraeus never mentioned democracy shows that he's integrating into the region.

Visions of Osama bin Laden

From The Economist

British intelligence agencies, which once thought that al-Qaeda had been so broken up that little was left but its brand name, have also revised their view. Most of the actual or attempted attacks in Britain appear to have direct links back to al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Other European governments are alarmed by the rebranding of Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French initials GSPC) as al-Qaeda's branch in the Maghreb. It has so far concentrated on attacking symbols of the Algerian state and foreign workers. If it exploits links to the large North African diaspora in Europe, targets there may be next. Al-Qaeda's ideology, if not the movement itself, has become more globalised ... Much of al-Qaeda's propaganda, as well as its military training manuals, are spread through a large network of jihadist websites. Muslims anywhere can become radicalised and join the fight, with little or no involvement from al-Qaeda's leaders.

Inspired by the Nazis

by Suzanne Fields for The Washington Times

A major figure connecting Nazi and Islamist ideologies was Amin al-Husseini, a self-styled "grand mufti" of Jerusalem who fomented riots against the Jews in the 1920s and ordered the murder of any Muslim who traded with Jewish settlers. Adolf Eichmann visited him in Palestine in the 1930s; he was a friend of Heinrich Himmler. He was a guest of Hitler in Berlin from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945 and directed the Muslim SS in the Balkans. He was responsible for stopping the Bulgarian government from releasing thousands of Bulgarian Jewish children to travel to Palestine. "It was he," says historian Paul Johnson, "who first recruited Wahabi fanatics from Saudi Arabia, transforming them into killers of Jews — another tradition that continues to this day." What's important about the Nazi-Islamist connection is the way it inspires terrorists today. It's fashionable to say that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, but that's misleading. In its charter, the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, which has morphed into the terrorist organization Hamas, enshrines conspiracy theories which blame the Jews for everything from the French Revolution to the Communist revolution.

Laugh till you protest: how satire is at the forefront of TV revolution

by Declan Walsh from The Guardian

This year's events have sorely tested the limits of Gen Musharraf's liberalism. Faced with a barrage of criticism, he tried clumsy press control measures, but it was too late ... Now the government exerts influence on the stations with more subtle techniques. According to several sources, ministers threaten to hurt owners' other business interests, arm-twist cable operators, and issue "advice" to individual journalists. Many in the media admit self-censorship over subjects such as army finances, the war in Waziristan and the nationalist revolt in Baluchistan. On Monday intelligence officials badly beat up two journalists trying to cover Mr Sharif's deportation from Islamabad airport. A day later the government ordered stations to tone down criticism of Saudi Arabia, which helped spirit the former prime minister into exile. Most complied.

the EU took its boldest step

from Journal of Turkish Weekly

The EU remains – for now – relatively uncontaminated by America’s disintegrating reputation in the Middle East. But the Union could see its reputation worsen if it allows its commitment to Lebanon to become part of the emerging US strategy of isolating Iran by hardening today’s regional Sunni-Shia divisions. To avoid this fate, the EU’s commitment in Lebanon needs to be supplemented with a nuanced political strategy that seeks to avoid isolating Lebanon’s long suppressed Shia population. The threats emanating from the Middle East are diverse: regional conflicts, totalitarian religious ideologies (mainly led by Shia Iran and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia), terrorism, nuclear armament programs, obstacles to modernization, and unstable regimes. All of these affect Lebanon, and are aggravated by the country’s own peculiar socio-political dynamics – i.e., its Maronite, Sunni, and Shia divisions.