Posted tagged ‘muslim’

Human Rights

September 14, 2017

There has been a flurry of news reports and opinion columns calling into question Burma’s (Myanmar) handling of its Rohingya minority. The ruling party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been criticized because she, who was once a political prisoner, has not spoken out about her country’s treatment of the Rohingya. The cry of “human rights” fills the air. The Myanmar military, on the other hand, claim the many of the Rohingya are dissidents and seek to cause trouble for Myanmar.

Over the years, American foreign policy has been influenced by factions who stressed “human rights” and sought American officials to speak out when visiting with foreign leaders.

American officials were expected to point out that America’s successful economy was based upon certain human rights, particularly freedoms of religion, speech, and travel.
In practice, foreign affairs is both complicated and complex, often balancing security with commercial opportunities in countries which have little culturally in common with the US. Singling out human rights as a requisite condition for the US to entertain a relationship with another country, history shows, set conditions the US can not always meet .

First, America sees human right violations in others much clearer than it sees violations at home. Second, many so called human rights violations are difficult to distinguish from  behaviors attributed to culture, religious, or martial law events.

When a foreign country imprisons or summarily executes one of its citizens, Americans are often quick to claim that unfortunate person’s human rights had been violated. And to be sure, news reports often show little “due process” involved. But what about the recent spade of police shootings on unarmed Americans? Officials usually claim the officers were fallowing procedures and “feared” for their lives. From another country’s perspective, however, someone with a gun shoots someone without a gun, it might look quite different.

And what about throwing people in jail for long hard sentences? Would it surprise you to hear that the US incarcerates more people per capita than any other country? Of course we hear that these people were given a fair trial, with representation. Hmmm.

And when we hear of ethnic cleansing in some distant country, most everyone thinks this is simply unacceptable behavior. So, how does one judge the Buddhist expulsion of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar and the isolation of Rohingya in Muslim Pakistan? How does one make peace with educated Saudis denying women the right to walk, talk, or express themselves within their Kingdom?

And while one is considering these confusing situations, how does one make sense of American Christians (remember love thy neighbor) finding space within their religious beliefs to shun and discriminate against others based solely upon the other person’s sexual and gender identity?

Calling out some other nation over perceived “human rights” violations could be well intended. What would have happened had Hitler been confronted in 1939 over human rights abuse?

In today’s world, with nuclear weapons available to many countries whose interpretation of human rights differs from what we feel proper, a wiser position for the US might be to redouble its efforts on domestic human rights issues, and if necessary, speak in private with foreign leaders about perceived violations in their country.


Too Much Talk

September 6, 2014

The NATO summit held the past few days in Wales presented a confusing picture. The 24 member meeting had a jam packed schedule dealing with what seems like an unprecedented number of world hotspots. From the Middle East to the Ukraine to Afghanistan and points in between, the leaders had to deal with issues where “let’s study it” seemed too little, to late.

The Middle East, specifically the radical group ISIS, seem to require the most energy and immediacy even though Russia meddling in the Ukraine present a much closer threat to Europe.  Afghanistan was almost an after thought.

ISIS, however, drew upon the potential domestic and foreign threat fears.   Most member countries worry that their Muslim minorities might try to imitate ISIS.  

Theatrically, the NATO response was wonderful. Holding hands, NATO leaders announced (almost reminiscent of D-day) a coordinated effort “to destroy” ISIS. With that promise, the world was expected to relax on the comfort that ISIS would soon disappear. Oh, if the world were that simple.

ISIS, however, represents two distinct things. First, ISIS is a composite of real people, real weapons, and occupiers of real real estate. Second, and much more important, ISIS is the fulfillment of a dark marketing plan.

There should be no surprise that a modern Army, possessing airpower and a well equipped ground component, could easily eliminate the smaller, newly formed ISIS insurgents. It is the ISIS marketing plan that should get more attention.

Reintroduced by Osama ben Laden, a Caliphate rebirth, has given forth the following similar organizations; the al Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, al Shabaab, or boko Haram, all of which have followed the same basic plan. “Tell the population that you are hear to save them but they must submit to a strict interpretation of the Koran. Kill anyone who does not join.”

The scheme has tremendous advantages for the male leaders. Women are reserved for sex and children (new soldier) rearing. The young and strong men become foot soldiers and many get to become martyrs.

The marketing plan also calls for the designing an enemy coupled with a support appeal to Arab deep pockets. It almost seems as if “it was good enough for the dark ages, it is good enough for today”.

The defect which NATO has baked into its response should be obvious. NATO is raising ISIS to a status consistent with a legitimate organization possessing legitimate grievances. In the 21st century, there is no place for stone-ings, forced conversions, or beheadings.

It would have been far better for NATO (representing its member countries) to have just said it found ISIS behavior incompatible with human rights. Then quietly, without big press announcements carried out what ever military actions it supposedly has planned. Instead, NATO has advertised the “destruction of ISIS” and regardless if that happens militarily, ISIS will now live on and become the poster child for any Muslim minority group, any where in the world.

Sensitive Eyes

August 22, 2014

Deborah E Lipstadt wrote an opinion column this week in the New York Times, titled “Why Jews Are Worried”. Lipstadt cites demonstrations in several major European cities in which anti-Jewish rhetoric was publicly used. The implications is that anti-Semitism is not dead in Europe and in fact is on the rise. Hmmm.

I cannot speak to whether Jews are worried, or whether anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. I can however, speak to what Ms Lipstadt references and what I saw in some of these same European cities in August.

First we must recognize that many major European cities have sizable Muslim populations. These groups have either emigrated for economic reasons from former colonies or have been invited in as “guest workers”.

Regardless, theses Muslim groups see the conduct of the Israeli-Gazan conflict as grossly unfair to their Muslim brethren. Speaking out against a perceived injustice is a freedom most Western democratic nations strongly support. Hmmm.

For these Muslims, Israel is using its power unfairly.

There should be little doubt that these demonstrations are aimed at impressing the host governments to put diplomatic (or any other form of) pressure upon the Israeli government to come to some peace with Hamas. This is hardly a return of anti-Semitism (even though the demonstrators maybe highly anti-Sematic).

I visited Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne, and Bonn and witnessed demonstrations in each city. All were lead by “guests”, and all were directed against the Israeli actions in Gaza. Not anti-Semitism.

The Israeli Gazan action is not straight forward and difficult to either condemn or to support. Like most Middle East conflicts, tracing the cause back to square one leads one to totally lose the connection with what is happening today.

Both Israel and Hamas possess the means to end this bloody conflict today. Neither seems ready to carry on their disputes without involving innocent civilians. This is not anti-Semitism.

World opinion is a nuanced entity. The world tends to support the oppressed and resist the aggressor. Israel has some how overlooked this part in its choice of means to combat the reckless Hamas behavior. Most Europeans have seen the same news as we have in America and many have privately concluded that Israel has used disproportionate force. So have many Americans.  This is not anti-Semitism.

This is not, also, an endorsement for Hamas. I believe it is a sign of sympathy for the Palestinian people.

Lipstadt’s referenced demonstrations in European cities so far have been lead by Muslim guests or immigrants and have been used to make headlines. (These demonstrations have not been by European college students, for example.)

Hopefully Ms Lipstadt’s column reflects her interpretation of these events and not an attempt by friends of Israel to influence American support. Hmmm.

Do You Hear Dick Cheney Calling?

August 21, 2014

The media is abuzz with what to do about ISIS. ISIS, ISIL, or just IS (Islamic State In Syria) has captured the media’s attention with a fresh, but not original marketing plan aimed at making the 5th and 6th century look attractive.

With ISIS, women know their place, and unless someone is a follower of ISIS strict Koran interpretation, that person is a subject for elimination. Does not sound like an attractive proposition to me. Hmmm.

Even more astounding, pundits are contrasting ISIS with al Qaeda and claiming ISIS is much worse. Hmmm.

The most recent ISIS stunt was the video beheading of an American journalist. Previously, ISIS had distinguished itself with wholesale religious or ethnic cleansing, slaughtering those who did not convert or did not leave quickly enough. Nice guys.

Now the President’s staff is hinting about using “feet on the ground” to stamp out this extreme brand of Islam. Apparently, a fair number of Muslims living in western countries (including the US) have been recruited by ISIS. Once trained, these jihadists, carrying western passports, could slip back into their home country. Once home, the “sky in falling” crowd worry that all hell will break out.

So the answer is to reoccupy parts of the Middle East? No way.

This is the time to think. Isn’t it the choice of Middle East residents to choose their own leaders? And what makes anyone think that an ISIS state could meet basic needs of its governed? Isn’t it more likely that if ISIS could gain control of a place like Syria, ISIS would need to morph into a less radical state.

The neoconservative crowd with their icon, Dick Cheney, are poised to shout encouragement for a US military return to the Middle East. The American public needs to remain calm and not give support, via their elected representatives, to a reoccupation.

The issue is not that ISIS represents the worst of mankind. Instead, the real issue is that the Middle East must sort out whether they wish to live in the 5th century or move into the 21st. At the heart of this is that Muslim men must forego the Koran interpreted “sexually privileged position” they are desperately trying to retain. This need to control women has rendered men easy prey for money seeking Mullahs who in turn will either lead militias, or cast their lot with others who look like they will be successful with the sword. This direction is a straight line to the 5th century.

The US has a right to slap about ISIS for action they do outside their home base.  We must also recognize that there will be some equally abhorrent group who will follow ISIS unless the basic Middle East muslim changes.

Islamic nations were once great leaders in math, science, and literature, and could be again. They simply cannot live as in the 5th century no matter how hard they try.

We also do not need to listen to the Dick Cheney’s who have never fought a war themselves but have been comfortable letting other people’s children do it

Accidents of Birth

August 10, 2014

Do you ever think how fortunate you are to have been born in North America (or Europe, or South America, or most of Asia)? To be sure, some people are more fortunate than others. Regardless, just about all of these people are more fortunate than those born in the Middle East.

The first measure of good luck is education. In the Middle East, most residents have a good chance of growing up “rock stupid” either from an extremely truncated education or one lacking in any sense of enlightenment.

With stupidity firmly in place all sorts of other misfortunes are possible. In a situation somewhat similar to those who “study” the Bible, most Middle East residents are told to study the Koran. Being “rock stupid”, however, makes the case easy for a “learned” one to interpret and explain the Koran’s meanings.

Again not unlike those who study the Bible, the learned ones ask a small tribute for their efforts. A small tribute from a lot of people means more money and makes life much more pleasant for the learned one.

“Learned ones” have come to know that they can be even more effective in attracting “students” and much more secure from another learned one trying to poach a student, by banding together under an umbrella organization name (like Sunni or Shiite).

There is no free lunch. The learned ones’ umbrella organization now must contend with equally large competitive umbrella organization for the hearts and minds of their followers. This leads to the need for a better rationale for following this learned one and not that one.

For rock stupid people, assurance of entrance to the after life by following the learned ones directives is the preferred line. It is only a small step from this ludicrous reasoning to getting the rock stupids to cover their women from head to toe, limit their education, and when asked blow themselves up without every really knowing why.

Indoctrinating the young that other people are the enemy, even if they read the same Koran, is quite simple. All it requires is for the audience to be rock stupid and to repeat the same story with the same incentives time and time again.

This broad general practice and misfortune of birth is not limited to the Middle East. Christianity wrote its own book on brutality and absurdism, and wrote it in various parts of the world. And, Christian extremism closely paralleled the accumulation of wealth by church leaders and supporters, much as in the Middle East today.

When rock stupid Christianity followers wallowed in inhumane excesses, enlightenment based education brought the scale back into balance. There was a time when Muslims were a highly educated people. Great accomplishments in science, mathematics, and literature flowed from their great minds.  Today there are many educated Muslims but it is the Muslim masses I am referring to.

Regrettably, those Muslims who have “made it”, and attained a level of education have not found the formula to break the Mullah’s “learned man” head lock on the masses’ thinking. Ironically, with a little less ambition (less of the “I want it all” attitude), these learned man could live in peace as could their followers. They could seclude themselves with other like minded people and not try to spread their philosophies forcefully to others.


That sounds like a good prescription for bible thumpers here in America too.

A Strange World

May 4, 2014

At least 29 Muslims were killed this week in India’s northeast State of Assam. They were not members of the local tribe and the wrong religion to boot. How could there victims have picked the wrong God.

Thanks to todays New York Times, the following stories were made known.

In Indonesia, a local Muslim man spent almost two years in prison. Why? Because he professed to believe in no God. Hmmm. You are either with me or you are against me…

In Afghanistan, a young 18 year old woman who did not want to marry the person her parents had selected, was killed by her relatives. Her parents had video taped their permission for her to not marry the intended, but this did not seem to mean much.  Honor is something larger.

In the Vatican, a special commission is grappling with creating clear rules on how to deal with priest pedophiles. They were trying to make the rules on what to do when child abuse takes place. Hmmm. These church leaders were focusing on what happens after abuse, not how to prevent pedophiles from ever getting into the church priesthood in the first place.

The message in all these cases is alarmingly similar. In a large number of cases, religion has little or no relevance to how people lead their lives. An active supreme being, if that’s the god you choose. has ample opportunity to intervene yet seems to prefer not to. The watch maker god, on the other hand, if that’s your preference, has created some unfathomable behaviors to watch. Doesn’t seem like a wise watch maker.

Of course these incidents all involve human beings and display just a small scope of how inhumane man can be to fellow man. Some men choose to hide their aggression behind religion, other choose nationality or race, or tribal connection. When these terrible acts are called out, one is left being thankful there were no lions to feed or witches to burn, or any cannons that volley and thunder.

Troubled Times

August 7, 2013

It’s August.  This is the time for summer’s last flings.  Time for picnics and the beach.  And it’s so pleasant in Washington with Congress on break.  But, as the news reports indicate, all is not good around the world.  In fact in some spots life is down right miserable.

From Pakistan to Tunisia (including Sudan, Somalia, and other middle African countries) life is down right tenuous.  Why there and not here?

In these lands there is much killing.  Guns are plentiful.  Explosives, however, are used to boost the numbers. Bombs are so effective since others can be caught by surprise.  Suicide bombers are the method of choice.  Apparently there is a limitless number of eager volunteers.  You might say these life enders are just dying to make a point.  But what point?

Suicide is not unique to the Islamic world.  The US actually records higher numbers of suicides each year than any country in the Islamic world.  What seems to be the difference is that Americans (and Westerners in general) commit suicide for personal reasons.  They choose to end their own lives and do not choose to disturb anyone around them.  Only in the Islamic world do we find people who willingly self destruct at the behest of someone else.  And unlike many Buddhists who self immolate in recognition of some cause, these Islamic suiciders seems sure that taking as many other lives as possible is a worthy idea and will bring them accolades when they enter paradise.  Hmmm.

So what advice should the US be giving countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan?  Should the US be sharing Thomas Paine’s writings?  How about explaining the US Constitution and how it is constructed?  Or, possibly the “Western Cannon” might find fertile ground.


I feel comfortable that Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain (who visited Egypt yesterday) thought that (1)after first helping Senator Graham’s upcoming Senate election campaign that (2) they could explain how the US would resolve a situation like the current Egyptian military take over.  Hmmm.

It is just striking that those who backed (and still back) the Iraq invasion and occupation are firmly convinced that Egypt will be different.

My guess is that they are correct, but just not now.  Maybe in 50 or 100 years.  Until Arabs clearly confine their chosen religion to their private lives and restrict the exercise of its ideology amongst themselves and do not interfere with others, communications will be limited to who holds the biggest stick.

Disclaimer.  Not all Muslims would choose to be a suicide bomber.  Not all Imams would teach or ask their followers to act this way.  And, for sure there is a thin line between some military actions where soldiers are sent into action where death is almost certain.


Old News

July 7, 2013

Syria is no longer front page news.  The killings and woundings continue.  They just don’t seem so newsworthy anymore.

The forces loyal to Bashar al Assad seem to be gradually regaining much of the land lost to the insurgents.  Syrian killing Syrian, Shiite killing Sunni (and vice versa), and a country decaying before the our eyes is no longer  qualify as new information.  With no end game in sight, this war’s 15 minutes of fame has come and gone.

And besides, there is Egypt.  The rich Egyptian fabric of social confusion offers much new to write about.  Like many third world countries, the discrete but powerful military is a cut of society all to itself.  The brass may speak of civil order, but behind those words is the unmistakeable intention to remain in power and in control of their way of living… (regardless of what some clerics say Allah wishes).

In Egypt, there are secularists and Islamists.  Some see modernity as the curse and others see the Koran as positive if balanced with western dress and technology.  The poor, like the poor everywhere, want bread and a place to live.  The young want jobs and then they will worry about Islam (isn’t it, Allah helps those who help themselves?).

Many Egyptians distrust the US and envy the paternalistic approach US foreign policy has taken.  On the other hand, those who hold the strings of power realize that US aide is essential to keep Egypt from blowing up in civil war.  The US quietly supports the Egyptian military and the military hold the reigns of power (new type of democracy?).

The intrigue of establishing an interim Egyptian government and the squashing of the inevitable street demonstrations will fill front pages and evening news reports for weeks to come.  Lost in this attention will be the gradual Assad consolidation of power.  The justice or lack there of concerning the continued rule of Assad will be lost.  Many Americans have thought it just sounded so right to want the insurgents to over throw a minority government.  Hmmm.

My guess is that when President Obama goes to sleep at night, his pragmatic mind dreams of Egypt finding some stable compromise between the Muslim Brotherhood and an Islamic but religiously impotent government.  More of what Mubarak brought but this time without Mubarak.

Instead of counting sheep, President Obama thinks of Syria settling down with Assad at the helm.  This outcome is not ideal since there will continue to be Iranian influence (fueling Hezbollah for mischief in Lebanon and Israel) but the Sunni religious extremists who populated much of the insurgents don’t portend a great future either.  The President dreams that Iraq is too complex to even worry about, but an insurgent victory in Syria almost certainly would foretell of new Sunni versus Shiite trouble in Iraq.

What a mess the Middle East seems to be.  If there was anything in modern experience which is reminiscent of “pandora’s box”, the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq certain makes my list.  Oh, for the good old days.


Leading By Standing Still

July 6, 2013

The New York Times today seemed to criticize President Obama for taking up an “aloof” stance versus the mess taking place in Egypt.  There were no suggestions as what a more active role might be.  The Times did say there was probably little the US could do given its relationship with Egypt.  So, what other relationship would serve to influence this Muslim country?  Hmmm.

The press refers to the Morsi Government as the only freely and democratically elected government Egypt has ever known.  While factual, one wonders what the meaning of that statement is?  Does the press mean that the US should be more involved in saving the fledgling democracy regardless of where this “democracy” was heading?

It is difficult to know what the Obama Administration is thinking.  You can be sure that if Israel thought the US should be intervening, AIPAC would have their Congressional spokespersons on the talk shows already.  The absence of any rhetoric traceable to Israel probably means they think the overthrow of Morsi is the better of two poor options.

Criticism from hard line Islamist groups suggest a disgust for Morsi.  They seem to think Morsi tried to play the democracy game (as opposed to outright power grab) only to fail in bringing about stronger Koran influence.  Morsi did not break ties with Israel, he did not denounce the US, and he did not mandate more Sharia law initiatives (some but not a lot yet).

Others might look at his record and say Morsi was just getting started.  He had already changed the Constitution (majority vote, but very close) and by edict, he assumed wide new authorities.  He had already begun to tip “democratic” policies into “non-inclusive” Muslim ways.  These efforts carried a seemingly unrecognized lost opportunity cost.

The street demonstration, however, are all about the economy and jobs.  Hmmm.

Citizens do not place great demands on governments that bring food and work to the poor.  While no one likes corruption, hungry and out of work citizens like that condition even less.  In a country that is almost 100% Muslim, the winning side will be the side which delivers jobs.  This will be a tall order in Egypt.

Leading by standing still might not be a bad strategy after all.


Erdogan’s Problem

June 12, 2013

Fighting for front page attention are the demonstrations and the Turkish government’s response.  Protesters have been driven from Taksim Square after riot police applied sufficient force.  Erdogan has not been asleep while Tunis, Libya, Egypt, and now Syria enjoyed the Arab Spring.  Erdogan is not going to let these protests get out of hand.  Or have they already?

The Turkish cause is much different than that of those other uprisings.  Erdogan caused this one and he can fix it.

Turkey lies between Europe and the Middle East.  Within its borders reside very wealthy, very poor, Christians, Muslims, educated, not educated, progressives, and conservatives.  A true mixture and probably not a melting pot.

Strategically, Turkey is an important US ally.  It’s secular history (since the founding of modern Turkey) brings needed balance to the more conservative Islamic States which lie nearby.  Turkey has also maintained a supportive position towards Israel unlike its neighbors.

So why all this fuss?

Prime Minister Erdogan has been democratically elected three times and seems to want to be elected again.  Unfortunately along this path, he has appeased the conservative Muslim faction (in return for votes) with “small step by small step” hoping to reintroduced Ottoman Empire relics.  Each step seemed insignificant but in total are threatening to swallow the secularness of modern Turkey.

Last August, following Ramadan, during the two day national holiday, I witnessed in Istanbul, modern Turkey.  Everywhere one went, thousands of citizens, dressed in their best, were out and about.  Mosques, museums, parks, the Golden Horn, and public transportation were flooded with holiday enjoyers.  Dressed neatly in both western garb and traditional modern ethnic Muslim coverings, the Turks I saw were polite and respectful.  They were able to enjoy the holiday and demanded nothing of me or any other Western visitor.

The ironic aspect of Erdogan’s pro=Muslim policies (like with alcohol limits, dress, and women’s rights) is that in secular Turkey, 99% of the citizens are Muslim.  No one is required to drink alcohol or wear western dress (even though most men do).  Traditional dress for women, long skirts or pants, kerchiefs, and modest blouses and coats can be seen everywhere.

It is one question why, as a personal choice anyone would seek to reintroduce ultra conservative muslim dress, but the more telling question is why would Turkey step back in history by allowing Islamic clerics to specify what others should wear?

If Erdogan is to be remembered as a great leader, he will take this Taksim Square demonstration as a wake up call.  Young, modern, and entrepreneurial Turkey is saying “enough”.  Supporters (and there are plenty) tend to be the far less educated.

The loss of secularism will deal Turkey a severe economic blow and cement Erdogan as the anti-Mustafa Ataturk anti-hero.