There’s a man named John, aged somewhere in his 50s, who sometimes loiters near the entrance to the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Myanmar’s ruling party as of one year ago. If you say hello to him, preferably in his native Burmese, there’s a very good chance that he will tell you all about the day the White Bridge turned red.
John says that on March 13, 1988, he was shot in the back — he readily displays a scar as evidence — and his college girlfriend was killed when police violently cracked down on a student protest that had morphed into an openly antigovernment march. The White Bridge atrocity was one of the early events that led to Myanmar’s 1988 uprising, which by August of that year had grown into a nationwide effort to overthrow the country’s brutal military regime. Authorities responded, predictably, with more brutality.
One year ago, on March 30 , the NLD was sworn in as Myanmar’s ruling party with a resounding majority after it swept the country’s first free election in decades on Nov. 8, 2015. The party, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, now 71, was founded in the wake of the 88 popular uprising, and after a decades-long struggle she marshaled its members to a dramatic comeback and she became State Counselor, the country’s highest civilian role. This was the stuff of screenplays: in a rare vindication of history, a former political prisoner, the quiet and dignified daughter of the country’s late independence hero, stepped out of the sidelines to trounce the corrupt, inept and violent regime that had kept her in confinement for the better half of two decades.
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US President Donald J. Trump has succeeded in naming a jihadi problem, political Islam, but it is hard to single out defective products from the factory without closing the factory — if one does not want them to appear again.
This does not mean that what Trump intends to do is not important; on the contrary, we need him after most Western politicians faced Islamic terrorism awkwardly, if they faced it at all. Sometimes they even cooperated with these terrorist organizations, invited their members to the White House; to Iftar dinners during Ramadan, and hugging what they falsely call “moderate Islam” — especially the Muslim Brotherhood, the incubator that most terrorist organizations come out of — instead of the true “moderate Muslims” who have been struggling to be heard above the crush of “influence,” infiltration and petro-dollars.
We can say that so far “Trumps’s recipe” for facing radical Islam had been tried before and failed. Dictatorships and military regimes in the Middle East, such as the presidents of Egypt Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, and now el-Sisi, faced political and radical Islam. Russia did, and Saddam did in Iraq, Gaddafi in Libya, Bourguiba in Tunisia and others.
Perhaps the saddest failure is the Turkish model. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk built a dictatorship-state on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. He decisively confronted all forms of political Islam, and destroyed the military wing of the army that dreamed of restoring that Empire. Atatürk founded a dictatorship guarded by the army’s broad powers, but within a constitutional and legal framework, to deter Islamists who might want to change his modernist structure. It was also meant to stop any move to Islamic rule that might want to change the relatively open and pro-Western ideas of the Kemalist Republic.
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How incoherent is today’s dominant discourse about the jihad threat? Here is an illustration.
I reported here about the controversy at Rollins College, where Professor Areej Zufari taught “that the crucifixion of Jesus was a hoax and that his disciples did not believe he was God.”
That’s all that we get about what Professor Zufari said in the Central Florida Post story that both the Clarion Project (below) and I referenced. Both assertions are straight from the Qur’an. It says that Jesus was not crucified: “And their saying, ‘Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.’ And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but it appeared so to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.” (Qur’an 4:157)
It also has Jesus denying before Allah that he told people that he was God, thus indicating that his disciples, who were faithful Muslims (Qur’an 3:52, 5:111) would not have believed that he was God: “And when Allah will say, ‘O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, “Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?”‘ He will say, ‘Exalted are you! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, you would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within yourself. Indeed, it is you who are knower of the unseen.’” (Qur’an 5:116)
So Areej Zufari was simply restating Qur’anic belief about Jesus. For challenging her, student Marshall Polston was suspended and a police report was filed. As far as the Clarion Project, is concerned, Polston was suspended for challenging “radical Islam.” Clarion has to put it this way because it is an exponent of the mainstream conservative/Republican establishment (George W. Bush, etc.) view that Islam itself is wholly and entirely benign, and every problematic action by Muslims, from jihad terror to Sharia oppression, must be described as a manifestation of “radical Islam” (which is at least a trifle more realistic than the Left’s “violent extremism”).
However, the Islam/radical Islam distinction all too easily entangles in absurdity those who wish to exonerate Islam of all responsibility for the crimes done in its name and in accord with its teachings, and this is an example. From the Central Florida Post report that Clarion picks up on, all Areej Zufari did was repeat Qur’anic teaching. According to Clarion’s official line, doing this ought to be an entirely benign, and indeed beneficial exercise. But in this case it sparked a controversy, and so Zufari’s Qur’an-invoking becomes “radical Islam.” Is the Qur’an, then, radical Islam? Of course Clarion officials would say no, it isn’t, it’s the beautiful holy book of the peaceful religion that has unfortunately been hijacked by radical extremists. But if that is so, then how is what Zufari said “radical”?
These issues cry out for clarification, and I would be happy to engage any Clarion Project official in public discussion or debate of them. Too often, however, they are covered over by name-calling (I’ve been called a “jihadist” for pointing out how jihadis use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims) and sloganeering and left at that. The victims of jihad terror deserve better.
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A striking aspect of Palestinian culture is its resistance to the realities of the past.
On September 22, 2016, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas addressed the UN. He said, “100 years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people.” He went on to demand an apology from Britain. Abbas has had previously threatened to sue London for damages resulting from the declaration and the creation of Israel.
This storm against the past was also on display at a recent conference at University College London that brought together British Islamists and revisionist Israelis to demand that the British government apologize for the Balfour Declaration, with the ultimate aim of exposing “the illegality of the state of Israel while giving practical steps in campaigning towards an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
What do such efforts tell us about Palestinian culture and the prospects for peace?
The Balfour Declaration is a singular datum for Israelis and Palestinians alike. After lengthy negotiations between the British government and the Zionist movement, Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, issued his famous statement on November 2, 1917. Balfour’s letter to Zionist leader Lord Rothschild, in which he stated that the Cabinet viewed “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” was only one of a series of British wartime communications regarding the fate of the Levant. The correspondence between the British High Commissioner for Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, and Hussein Ibn Ali, Sharif of Mecca, and the secret Anglo-French agreement between Sir Mark Sykes and Charles Georges-Picot were no less consequential in the shaping of the contemporary Middle East.
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I am Ayala, almost fourteen. I live in El Matan in the Shomron; I like to read, write stories and draw. I would like to describe to you what it feels like to have a terrorist attack directed at you.
The truth is, at the moment it happened I didn’t really understand what was happening. I saw a ball of light coming towards us. My father quickly stepped on the brakes. The ball of light shattered my window and landed between us. It was a Molotov cocktail. I remember that everything around us was burning. I thought I was going to die.
Afterwards, I started to act. I tried to open my door, but wasn’t able to. I was sure that the central door lock had melted in the heat, but then, my father opened the door from the other side. My entire left side was on fire, but I couldn’t free my seat belt with my left hand, so I put my right hand into the flames, too. Then, I just started running. My father told me to roll around on the road to put out the fire burning me.
Only then did I begin to feel pain. I told my father that his shirt was also on fire and I asked him to also roll around on the road, but he didn’t stop. He wanted to save me first.
I was hospitalized for eight months; that’s where I understood that my life was about to change drastically. Sometimes, I really miss being outside and feeling the sun and doing all the things I want to do. The hardest thing is when people look at me. I see it. I most appreciate the people who don’t try to hide it; they look at me but ask what happened to me – why am I all covered up?
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Georgetown University’s Qatar campus is set to host Sami Al-Arian for a lecture tonight in Doha. According to a news release from the school’s Middle Eastern Studies Student Association, Al-Arian is a “civil rights activist” who hopes to challenge students to “make it a better, and more equitable and peaceful world.”
Those are charitable descriptions for Al-Arian, a documented member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Majlis Shura, or board of directors. According to the Islamic Jihad’s bylaws, which law enforcement agents found during searches of Al-Arian’s home and offices, there can be “No Peace without Islam.” The group’s objective is to create “a state of terror, instability and panic in the souls of Zionists and especially the groups of settlers, and force them to leave their houses.”
It’s an agenda Al-Arian took to heart. Following a double suicide bombing in 1995 that killed 19 Israelis, Al-Arian solicited money from a Kuwaiti legislator. “The latest operation, carried out by the two mujahideen who were martyred for the sake of God, is the best guide and witness to what they believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse at the heels of the Zionist enemy…” he wrote.
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