Monday, September 17, 2007

Foreign Policy Failure

by R Hampton from Wahaudi

I'm compelled to introduce today's first story with a brief accounting of the US State Department's negligent handling of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia:
2003 - U.S. official: Saudi repression not 'severe'
2004 - U.S. State Department finally adds Saudi Arabia to list of religious liberty violators
2005 - US Delays Decision on Religion Sanctions on Saudi Arabia
2006 - State Department softens language on Saudi religious freedom
and now...

US Religion Report Faults Iraq, China But Commends Vietnam and Saudi Arabia

by David Gollust fromVOA News

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom John Hanford said the past year saw progress against religion-based discrimination in a diverse list of countries including Saudi Arabia ... The U.S. envoy said the Saudi Arabian government, which officially recognizes only the Wahabi branch of Sunni Islam, has undertaken to curb incitement against other faiths and allows at least private observances of non-sanctioned religions ... Eight countries - China, Burma, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan - were designated as "Countries of Particular Concern" by Secretary Rice late last year. A revised list is expected to be issued in November based on the new report. The delay is intended to give countries facing the designation and possible U.S. sanctions an opportunity to undertake reforms.

Annotate This... President Bush's Sept 13 Speech to the Nation on Iraq

by Stephen Zunes and Erik Leaver from Foreign Policy In Focus

President Bush: "If we were to be driven out of Iraq…Extremists could control a key part of the global energy supply."

Zunes and Leaver: Sunni extremists -- in the form of the Wahhabi-dominated kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- already control a key part of the global energy supply with little objections from the Bush administration, which sells billions of dollars of armaments and security assistance annually to that misogynist family dictatorship. And, in case less-acceptable extremists should end up in control of Iraq, the international community could simply refuse to buy the oil, as was done during part of Saddam Hussein's reign, without a serious negative impact on global markets.

Osamanomics and the greens

by Chan Akya from The Asia Times

There are economic reasons for Osama and his ilk to support the campaign against liberal capitalism, too. In another article, I wrote the following: Secular societies "work" because underlying economic organization allows them - indeed forces them - to separate religion from state. It is here that radical Islam fails to make the case. When removed from its agrarian or military origins and plonked into the modern world requiring frequent interactions with other communities, competitive industries and innovative thinking, it is secular countries that outrun their unilateralist counterparts. The difference between the economic performance of South Asian states highlights this view, and emphatically so. As an example, Wahhabi notions of restricting the economic participation of women simply do not work in resource-poor states.

Muslim world's hope - and ours - in culture war

by Mona Charen from Creators Syndicate

Gus Dur has asked members of his group to protect Christian churches from Islamist attacks, and they have done so, at the risk of their lives. He and LibforAll co-founder C. Holland Taylor, an American former telecom entrepreneur who speaks fluent Indonesian and is very familiar with Islam, have launched what they hope will be a worldwide effort to counter radical Islam by enlisting moderate Muslims ... Taylor believes passionately that we can affect the internal war now being waged for the soul of Islam. Admittedly, the extremists have a big head start. The Saudis have spent roughly $70 billion over the past 30 years to propagate their Wahhabi form of Islam (Question: What do you call an imam in a Mercedes? Answer: a Wahhabi.) And the threat the jihadists pose is dire for the Muslim world and for the West. On the other hand, of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, 85 to 90 percent are traditional, non-radical believers.

Third time unlucky

by Dyab Abou Jahjah from Al-Ahram Weekly

The war of July/August 2006 was a direct attempt to disarm Hizbullah by military force and we all know how that ended. Another attempt was the introduction into Lebanon of Sunni Salafi jihadis who were supposed to clash with the Shia Hizbullah, dragging it into a sectarian civil war and away from its role of facing Israel and weakening it militarily, but also making it lose its wider Arab credentials ... But the plans of the American and some Arab secret services to create a clash between Sunni jihadis and Hizbullah also did not go as desired. The group known as Fatah Al-Islam (FAI) started pursuing its own agenda instead of complying with that of their financers. It developed its own version of Al-Qaeda and had the illusion of creating an Islamic mini-state in the north of Lebanon where the Salafi movement is widely represented ... Many voices are demanding a full investigation to know the reality of what happened and who was involved in financing and supporting Fatah Al-Islam.

RAND on Saudi Arabia and ‘Ungoverned Territories’

by John F Burgess from Crossroads Arabia and RAND

The linked report (a 398-page PDF document) is comprehensive. Unfortunately, the section on the Arabian Peninsula is based on research conducted in 2005. I find that the two-year gap between then and now is an important one that should be filled ASAP. It misses both attacks and countermeasures, thus presenting an incomplete picture.

(from the report) The Saudis responded to the ideological challenge of Khomeinism by seeking to bolster their religious legitimacy. They tightened religious observances at home and, of greater consequence, stepped up the propagation of the official Wahhabi ideology abroad. The Saudi effort to co-opt extremists has not prevented, and may have accelerated, the rise of a neo-Salafi jihadist movement, a more virulent brand of extremists seeking to overthrow “apostate” regimes in the region that currently constitutes the most serious threat to stability on the peninsula.

Austria's 'Jihad by Telecommute'

by Yassin Musharbash from Spiegel Online

All three of the arrested are Muslims and Austrian citizens, though not converts, and all were unemployed. They are second-generation immigrants from the Arab world. They are accused of having been involved in the production of a video published on the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), homepage on March 11 that showed a disguised Arabic-speaking spokesperson threatening attacks in Germany and Austria if those countries did not withdraw their soldiers from Afghanistan ... Ariel Muzicant, the head of Vienna's Jewish community, warned on Wednesday that the number of al-Qaida sympathizers in Austria has seen "massive growth" in recent months. A planned mosque in the state of Carinthia may be blocked if far-right politician Jörg Haider, the state's governor, is successful in his attempt to get the permits revoked by changing building laws, claiming that the mosque would disturb the "image of the place" and that "Western culture must be protected."