The bad, the bad, and the sickening 138

We have often wondered how the staffers of the New York Times could stomach the poisonous ideas they swallow, digest, and apparently enjoy.

Now we learn there is something they have gagged on at last: this video. The maidens at The Times have blacked out half of it, being considerate of the public’s susceptibilities. We have seen worse, but apparently The Times staffers have not.

The result of their shock and horror seems to be that, at this late date, they find fault with the jihadist rebels in Syria, although their hero, Barack Obama, is keen on supporting them with American military might.

We have taken the video and text from The Daily Beast:

The raw video was so grisly, and so barbaric, that the New York Times staffers who watched and edited it for online publication were made “physically ill”, according to the newspaper’s spokeswoman. …

The scene of Syrian rebels standing over seven soldiers of the Syrian regular army while the rebel commander recited a bloodthirsty poem — and pointing rifles and a pistol at the heads of their prostrate, shirtless, and badly beaten prisoners — was shocking enough. Times video editors tactfully blackened the screen as the rebels — who, just like the United States government, oppose the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad — began to execute the soldiers; the only indication of the slaughter taking place was a noisy fusillade of 10 seconds in length. Then an image flashed of the broken bodies in a mass grave. …

The video — which the Times reported was obtained a few days ago from “a former rebel who grew disgusted by the killings” and smuggled it out of Syria — is suddenly haunting the Obama administration, and it could not have surfaced at a more inopportune moment. For the past six days, President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other officials have been waging an all-hands-on-deck public-relations and lobbying campaign to gain congressional authorization next week to punish the Assad regime with a military strike for its [alleged – ed.] illegal use of poison gas against thousands of Syrian civilians, including young children.

The potential U.S. action, probably a cruise-missile attack, is also being marketed as an early step to help the Syrian opposition — an inchoate agglomeration that apparently includes Islamic jihadists, al Qaeda members, and other avowed enemies of America [including the Muslim Brotherhood much beloved by President Obama – ed.— and ultimately drive Assad from power. But the president’s plan is widely unpopular domestically, and in terms of sheer impact, the Times video is not doing any favors for the campaign to sell it. It hardly matters that the executions reportedly occurred more than a year ago, in the spring of 2012—not this past April, as the Times initially claimed, while offering no explanation for its embarrassing mistake and correction.

“Because the White House and, more broadly, those arguing for direct U.S. military intervention are portraying this as a battle between ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’, to put it in crude terms, this video demonstrates that there are bad guys on both sides,” said Ed Husain, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It does make a mockery of Secretary Kerry’s praise on Wednesday [before the House Foreign Affairs Committee] for the Syrian opposition.”

But the brain-challenged Secretary of State John Kerry, who is making Obama’s pitch to Congress and the nation for interference on the rebels’ side, knows of quite another rebel army, having nothing to do with this vile lot, and insists – by implication – that the guys he and the President are supporting would never do anything like that.

Kerry, appearing Thursday night on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes, was at pains  to minimize the video’s influence on the debate in Washington and beyond. “No,” he insisted when Hayes asked if the killers in the video “become, by definition, our allies.” Kerry argued: “In fact, I believe that those men in those videos are disadvantaged by an American response to the chemical-weapons use because it, in fact, empowers the moderate opposition.” Kerry added that “they [the killers in the video and their co-fighters] are not part of the opposition that is being supported by our friends and ourselves”. 

And so does the other war advocate with special mental needs, John McCain:

Similarly, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the leading congressional voice in support of a more robust U.S. military intervention in Syria than even President Obama is proposing, all but ignored the video.

“He hasn’t put a [statement] out on it, except to point out that the moderate opposition and their military council immediately condemned it,” a McCain spokesman emailed me, citing a press release from the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces declaring that “they, and all mainstream opposition groups, condemn in the strongest possible terms any actions that contravene international law. Additionally,” the press release continued, “killing or mistreating captured soldiers, or those who have surrendered, is an affront to the hopes and principles [? -ed.] that fueled the initial popular uprising against the Assad regime.”

Oh yeah! How many people are members of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces? Our guess? Fewer than there are words in their grand-sounding name.

But Husain said the video presents a compelling argument against such reassuring boilerplate. “The implications are that Senator McCain and others leading the charge that the Syrian opposition seeks democracy are mistaken,” he said. “Time and again, opposition fighters have shown callous disregard for human life in the same way as the Assad regime … These images ought to be a wakeup call for those who think Syria is headed for a better future under the rebels.”

No Arab state is headed for a better future. None foreseeable even with that most powerful of telescopes, wishful thinking.

A fine fatwa and its sad fatuity 226

An Islamic scholar, Sheikh Dr Tahir ul-Qadri, has issued a fatwa against terrorism.

A prominent Islamic scholar has issued a religious fatwa condemning terrorism as “kufr” or an act of disbelief so severe that that those who believe in it forfeit their right to call themselves Muslims… Most previous fatwa rulings only go as far as calling terrorism “haram” or forbidden …

Dr Qadri is a “sheikh ul-Islam”, one of the highest positions in Islamic jurisprudence, and also the head of Minhaj ul-Quran, a global Islamic group whose members are mostly from the Pakistani community.

The 59-year-old scholar, who has written more than 400 books on Islamic jurisprudence, told fellow Muslims: “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching [but see our post Thou shalt kill, March 3, 2010, and the Koran and the hadith] and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses of ifs and buts. The world needs an absolute, unconditional, unqualified and total condemnation of terrorism”.

He also denounced those who try to justify suicide bombings by claiming Muslims who carry out such operations are martyrs destined for paradise. “They can’t claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim umma,” he said. “No, they become the heroes of hellfire and they are leading towards hellfire. There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered jihad.”

Although numerous fatwas condemning terrorism have been released by scholars around the world since 9/11, Sheik Tahir ul-Qadri’s 600-page ruling is both significant and unusual because it is one of the few available in English and online. Those hoping to combat terrorism have long spoken of their frustration at the traditional Islamic hierarchy’s inability to exert their influence on the internet, where violent jihadists and Saudi-influenced Wahabis have long reigned supreme.

The fatwa could of course be a very good thing if all Muslims everywhere obey it. But here is one Muslim’s comment, which discourages the hope that many will.

To quote the greater part of it –

Regarding Shaikh Dr Tahir ul-Qadri’s Anti-Terrorism Fatwa, recently launched in London, I guess any steps forward in fighting terrorism should be considered a good thing. However, these initiatives can be read in many ways and I’ll give you a few points off the top of my head, replicates what many others are thinking in the Muslim community.

Firstly, I doubt this will have the clout envisaged by one of it’s apparent key promoters the Quilliam foundation (a counter-terrorism think tank) as the fatwa itself does not have the unanimous backing of the most prominent scholars and Sheikhs, although the opinions and rulings of some prominent scholars do appear to have been involved in drawing it up. Also this is not the first fatwa to condemn suicide bombings/terrorism, and Qadri is not the first ‘important/eminent’ Sheikh to issue such a fatwa, as many more prominent scholars and Sheikhs have done so already …

Secondly, regarding Qadri’s status, the Sheikh in question appears to head a Sufi organisation and as such there will be many branches of the Muslim community that will not recognise his rulings… because in the past he has made segregating comments about some other [fundamentalist] Muslim communities such as Wahabbis and Deobandis. So I’d suggest that this fatwa is not really groundbreaking apart from inside his own organisation and will never be widely acknowledged apart from by his own followers.

Thirdly, although it is important that such a Fatwa has been publicised, the importance and reach perceived by the press, Quilliam foundation, etc, does appear overrated/overestimated. Why? Because those that commit such crimes have already heard existing Fatwa’s stating it to be wrong and ignore them, those that do not recognise this Sheikh would have already heard existing Fatwa’s stating it to be wrong, those that follow this Sheikh should already be clear terrorism is wrong and do not need a Fatwa to tell them this, and those non-followers that already know it to be wrong do not need another Fatwa to remind them.

I’ve read a cross-section of interesting views which collectively place this Fatwa in it’s correct context and weight it’s relevance:

“The fatwa, running to 600 pages, has been written by Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, founder and leader of a Muslim sect based in Pakistan, and highlighted in a press release from the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremism thinktank which last year received £1m funding from the British government.” (Guardian)

“It (the fatwa) plays on a widely-held (and sometimes willful) misperception that Muslim leaders have not spoken out against Islamist violence. Large numbers of Muslim leaders have denounced violence, suicide bombs, 9/11, 7/7 and many other bloody attacks by Islamist radicals.” (Reuters)

“Tim Winter, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Cambridge University, said while ul-Qadri’s step of declaring “miscreants as unbelievers” was unusual, it was unlikely extremists would take notice of his edict.” (Al Jazeera)

“I don’t think any Muslim will disagree with his fatwa .. Whoever has killed an innocent human beings regardless of religion , colour , race , nationality is a terrorist. At the same time he should have mentioned America and its allies are also terrorists (including govt of pakistan). They have also killed millions of innocent human beings in Iraq , Afganistan … We cant say one side is terrorist and other is fighting for so called democracy.(Islamonline forum) …

“What’s funny is that the Government have money to waste in what’s supposed to be a recession. They give money to the Quilliam Foundation to elicit fatwas from men who have virtually no influence on the Muslims in the UK…  these “scholars” are seen as a joke by the very Muslims they are meant to be deradicalising.” (Islamic Awakening forum)

So thinking more about the ‘Qadri Fatwa’ and the Quilliam foundation there are some concerns that need to be raised. The Quilliam foundation is headed by Ed Husain, a former religious extremist, and actually has minimal support from Muslims. … Husain has realized that, having tried to make a mark in the world through religious fanaticism, he can make more money and career progress by instead jumping on the anti-Islamist gravy train.

When Husain’s not traveling the world lecturing on the threat of ‘Islamist ideology’, he benefits from the fact that the UK government … has  thrown more than £1 million of taxpayers’ money at [the Quilliam foundation].

It’s about time the public (including Muslims) begin questioning and criticizing these self-proclaiming fatwa writers and the barrage of advice they give to the police and security agencies on counter-extremism methods that only serve to further demonise and stereotype Muslims.

– from which we may gauge  how much effect the well-meaning Sheikh’s fatwa is likely to have on Muslim terrorism.

Post Script: Ed Husain does heroic work trying to counter Islamic terrorism. He has said:

As I left extremism I realised that if you are born here [in Britain] and grow up here, then you belong here. The Islam that was preached 2,000 years ago isn’t going to work here in modern London. Muslims need to alter their lifestyles to a Western lifestyle. To criticise is not Islamaphobic. It’s about opposing certain ideas.