Showing posts with label Civil Society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Civil Society. Show all posts

June 1, 2017

The Trump Administration does not recognize Muslim Americans

    Thursday, June 01, 2017   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*


On May 26, President Trump released a statement on Ramadan, the lunar month that Muslims spend fasting from sun-up to sun-down every day. Unlike statements by other U.S. presidents who used the occasion to recognize the presence and contributions of Muslim Americans, Trump used it to denigrate them and stigmatize their religion and deny the fact that they exist.

As a statement of best wishes on the occasion of a religious event, the intended receiver is supposed to feel good about who they are and what they do. Instead, Trump’s statement made Muslim Americans feel demeaned and defamed. Trump’s statement connected all of Islam to terrorism and portrayed Muslims as people who are prone to violence. Not once did the president use the phrase Muslim Americans. Instead, he talked down to Muslims as foreigners who live in far way places everywhere else in the world, though he acknowledged that some of them--Muslims--live in the United States, but not as Muslim Americans.

If that offensive message was not enough, Trump’s choice for the post of the nation’s top diplomat emphasized the same attitude. On May 29, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, declined a request to host an event to mark Ramadan, breaking with a bipartisan tradition in place for nearly 20 years. Taken together, it is clear that this administration does not recognize Muslim Americans as full citizens of this country. This statement is not based on speculations, it is based in facts—the kind of facts that withstand legal scrutiny. Four courts and judges found Trump to hold anti-Muslim views and for that reason they ruled against his Executive Orders--widely known as the Muslim Ban--in the original and revised editions.

Muslim Americans will resist these odious speech and acts because their right to be recognized as full citizens enjoying all the due protections of the law and shouldering all the responsibilities are not bestowed by one person or by one administration. Muslim Americans exist as a matter of fact: they are 1% of the population, they are represented in all ethnic and racial communities, and they contribute to all aspects of life in the United States. They lead productive lives and they speak against the violent ideology and practices espoused by violent Wahhabi-Salafists. American Muslims are well aware of the double-edged sword of extremism and fanaticism: the absolute majority of victims of terrorism (82-97% of all fatal terrorist attacks) are Muslims and Muslim Americans are victims of domestic terrorism and hate speech disguised as acts of patriotism reacting to “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase made popular by Trump and many of his leading supporters and associates.

Trump does not seem to recognize that, upon taking the oath of the presidency, his primary responsibility becomes to uphold the Constitution—not pursue personal ideological goals. With his words, when he denigrates a specific group of citizens, he incites hate and violence. Muslim Americans don’t expect him to change his belief or convictions about Islam and Muslims, but he is expected to uphold his oath of office and stand for the Constitution and for the rights of all citizens, including Muslim Americans.

As a presidential candidate, he insisted on using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” arguing that terrorism must be accurately defined for it to be defeated. He knows the power of words and he has used words as weapons against anyone or any group of people who stand in his way. Muslim Americans now insist that he acknowledges them as citizens by calling them by their proper name: Muslim Americans.


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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.
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Trump's Statement on Ramadan:


January 8, 2016

Journalism and media in Islamic societies in conflict zones

    Friday, January 08, 2016   No comments


al-Sharq al-Awasat coverage
Journalism in Arab countries: With the increased violence and potential for sectarian war in the Middle East, one would think that the media and journalists would pay more attention to details, facts, and the language they use to report about the death and destruction in that part of the world. Instead, journalist and the media in general sided with their benefactors or religious/ethnic community, betraying the profession and their duty to objectively inform the public.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which wanted to be the New York Times of the Arab world showed its true identity: the mouth piece of the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Aljazeera, whose funders wanted it to be the BBC of the Arab world, resigned to its limited true function: serving the Qatari ruling family and its political allies—the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey. Alarabiya has become the Fox News of the GCC ruling families. Alahram serves Sisi… and the list goes on. 

Here is an example of the kind of headlines the “professional” journalists at al-Sharq al-Awsat ran recently:

December 23, 2014

“This is What the Arab Spring Looks Like”

    Tuesday, December 23, 2014   No comments


Tunisia’s transition to representative governance brings hope to Arab Societies




Four days after the fourth anniversary of the spark that ignited the fury of protests widely known as the Arab Spring, Tunisian voters reminded the world about what the Arab Spring is supposed to look like. The election of a new president this week capped four years of hard work that involved politicians and leaders of civil society institutions. In four years, Tunisians elected a constituency assembly primarily tasked with forming a transitional government and writing a new constitution. Those goals, despite many setbacks, were finally achieved. In the past three months, Tunisian voters elected a parliament, narrowed the field of presidential candidates (of more than 24 candidates) during a first round of presidential elections, and finally chose Beji Caid Essebsi, giving him 55% of their vote over the interim president, Mohamed Mouncef Marzouki.

October 15, 2013

A Moroccan view on Catalan independence: Madrid's continued support for the independence movement in the Western Sahara is hypocritical when compared with their attitude towards independence movements closer to home

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013   No comments
by Hassan Masiky*
Sahara

Behind Spain’s European veil is a country struggling to deal with its painful history. Catalonians’ quest for independence exposes Spaniards’ agony over Franco’s legacy and the destructive historical ramifications of the dictator’s actions in Europe and North Africa. For Moroccans, Madrid’s opposition to Catalans’ rights to self-determination while Spain supports the same rights for the Western Sahara represents an example of Spain’s’ political hypocrisy and dual personality.

July 16, 2013

Between the two camps, Egypt's media outlets have chosen to take sides in the ongoing tragic split

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013   No comments
by Ahmed Magdy Youssef*
 
Egypt's last two weeks’ incessant events not only gripped the minds and hearts of the Egyptians, but they captured the interest of the national and international media as well.

For many Egyptians, mostly those who filled public squares across the country to demand Mr. Morsi's removal and early presidential elections, the military's intervention on July 3 was inevitable to save the most heavily populated Arab country from slipping into a civil war.

July 8, 2013

Islam and democracy

    Monday, July 08, 2013   No comments
Tunisia at a crossroads 
by Genevieve Theodorakis*

A primary driver of the Tunisian revolution was the unanimous call for freedom of expression and mass participation in national politics. With the demise of the Ben Ali regime, Tunisians hoped their liberation would remove controls on freedom of speech and freedom of the press and further expand women’s rights. In theory, journalists were freed up to share information, unhampered by fear of imprisonment or the harassment that characterised press censorship under Ben Ali, while newly empowered citizens exercised their right to vote in Tunisia’s first democratic elections. However, after recent developments, not only are Tunisia’s newfound liberties under threat, but rights previously enjoyed for decades are being eroded in the process.

May 23, 2013

Tunisia’s security syndrome

    Thursday, May 23, 2013   No comments
By Noureddine Jebnoun*

On May 19, the Tunisian government banned Ansar al- Sharia (Supporters of Sharia), a Salafist group, claiming to be jihadist, from holding its third annual rally in Kairouan – a city located 114 miles south-central of Tunis and which houses the mosque of the general Uqba Ibn Nafa‘a, the “conqueror of Africa” around 670 AD. The “battle of Kairouan”, heavily publicized by the Tunisian media did not occur, despite several clashes between the police and citizens of the same city who protested against the overwhelming police presence as well as the intrusion of the FEMEN movement activist Amina. Her sudden appearance in the city allegedly sought to disrupt Ansar al-Sharia’s congress, ended provoking the sensitivity of the locals while she wrote “FEMEN” on the wall of the graveyard next to the Uqba mosque.

April 4, 2013

The origins and evolution of the Grinch that derailed the Arab Spring

    Thursday, April 04, 2013   No comments
The Pakistanization  of Turkey and the Afghanization of Syria in the new proxy-war

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Witnessing the first democratic elections in Tunisia in 2011, I stood at the edge of the city listening to residents explaining the role of “neighborhood watch committees” in keeping peace and protecting personal and public property. I listened as my interlocutors told me stories of new connections emerging to create tighter relations between neighbors to face unprecedented violence and loss of security. On a rotating basis, residents, carrying wooden sticks, stood guard at the main intersection separating one neighborhood from another. To them, safety developed a new meaning. Without thinking of the American context (gun control debate) for my question, I asked if they would have felt safer if they had guns instead of sticks and brooms while guarding their families and properties. Without hesitation, one of the people accompanying me stated that he is alive because people did not have guns.  

On February 26 (2013), the Tunisian government announced that three suspects in the  murder of Chokri Belaid had been arrested and that authorities were searching for the person who shot the victim. Ali Laraydh, the current prime minister, stated that “extremist Islamists [islamiyyun mutashddidun] code name for takfiri fighters, were behind the murder. This formal accusation confirms what many Tunisians had said even before the assassination:  Takfiris are behind the violence and unless they are restrained they will continue to use violence to intimidate and eliminate those who criticize them and oppose their interpretation of Islam.

January 26, 2012

Islamists win again in Egypt confirming an emerging electoral trend

    Thursday, January 26, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Two days before the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that forced Hosni Mubarak out on February 11, 2011, the newly elected members of the Egyptian parliament (Majlis al-sha`b) convened for the first time and endorsed a member of the Muslim Brethren as speaker. Saad al-Katatni was elected on Monday receiving 399 votes out of 498 cast.

The 59 year old botany professor was elected to the current parliament as the representative from the province of Minya (south of Cairo). However, he is not new to politics. Katatni is a seasoned legislator who served as the leader of the Muslim Brethren parliamentary bloc between 2005 and 2010, when they ran as independents because, then, the Islamist movement was not allowed to field candidates directly.

The Egyptian results, compared to those of similar elections in Tunisia, Palestine, Iraq, and Turkey suggest that in any fair and transparent elections in the Islamic world, Islamist parties and their affiliates can easily win at least 40% of the votes. In fact, in the case of Egypt, Islamist parties together won over 77% of the seats. These results can be used as predictors of future elections in other Arab and Islamic countries in the area. Arguably, if fair elections were in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, Islamists are likely to win 40% or more of the votes. The question, then, is no longer whether Islamists could win a majority in elections, but which strain of Islamism and by how much.


By all accounts, the elections in Egypt were unprecedented. More than 30 million people voted (over 60% of the eligible voters), and more than ten million of them voted for the party of the Muslim Brethren, the Freedom and Justice Party (al-Hurriyya wa-‘l-adala). This margin of victory allows that party to govern without needing to form a coalition with any of the major parties. The party won 127 seats through the party list and 108 individual seats for a total of 235 seats. The parliament consists of 498 elected members, ten appointed, for a total of 508 seats. They only need about 20 seats to establish a governing majority. Therefore, the Freedom and Justice Party has many options to form a majority government.


The FJP could enter into a coalition with al-Nur, the Salafi party that came second after winning 24% of the votes, a result that surprised most observers. The FJP could also merge with another Islamist party, the Center Party (al-Wasat), which won 10 seats and attract some of the independent members. Alternatively, it can enter into a governing coalition with both Islamist parties, a move that will heighten secular politicians’ anxiety. The so-called liberal parties combined won a mere 15% of the seats, led by the oldest party, al-Wafd, which came in third after securing 38 seats. However, despite the weak performance of al-Wafd, the FJP might be inclined to enter into a coalition with it instead of one or both of the Islamist parties, which it considers to be direct competitors.

Regardless of the coalition choices the FJP may make in the next few days, this body of elected representatives will be tested as it faces a host of problems during this transition period. Importantly, the leaders of the parliament must appoint a committee consisting of one hundred members tasked with drafting the new constitution. The FJP will face pressure from the right as well as from the left.

The ultraconservative al-Nur party, whose supporters have generally shunned democracy as un-Islamic, will likely push for the inclusion of explicit language about the shari`ah being the main source of law in the new constitution. Liberal politicians and western governments will advocate for a constitution that favors secularism. It is likely that a compromise will be struck that will enshrine shari`ah as a main source of law. Short of that, and if leaders of the parliament cannot reach consensus on this and other critical issues, the military would likely intervene—a scenario favored by a number of military leaders.

One thing is certain however: the next Egyptian president will not be allowed to consolidate power the way Mubarak and his predecessors did in the past. The Muslim Brethren implicitly endorsed such a plan. First, immediately after the fall of the regime, that party announced that it will not field a presidential candidate. The move was interpreted as reassurance to the Egyptian public and foreign governments that Islamists are not interested in a power grab. That move did not mean that Islamists are disinterested in the position. Instead, they are interested in reforming it. Second, all indications show that the Muslim Brethren favors a ceremonial presidential position and a strong government under the oversight of the parliament. Ultimately, this divested-power model might benefit Egyptian society, which has suffered under authoritarian rule since independence. It may also promote the emergence of autonomous civil society institutions, which is necessary for accountable government.

The most important achievement of these elections, however, remains the embrace of the electoral paradigm for the determination of political legitimacy. Indeed, the ban on Islamists in past turned them into political martyrs. The Salafis’ rejection of democracy attempted to discredit the representative governance model. Now, the participation of more than one Islamist group in local and national elections takes religious absolutism out of the equation and empowers the people to determine their political leaders and institutions; that in and by itself is a step in the right direction.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of the book, Contesting Justice. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

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