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Saturday, February 20, 2010

A New Envoy to the United Nations of Islam

Last weekend President Obama announced the appointment of Rashad Hussain as Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Already embroiled in controversy over remarks Hussain was alleged to have made in 2004 concerning the prosecution of Sami al-Arian, this appointment warrants careful consideration because of the problematic mission and track record of the OIC, which has embraced an intolerant religious agenda antagonistic to international human rights standards.

Comprising 57 states, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is the second-largest intergovernmental institution in the world after the UN. It is a unique body. A political organization, it pursues a religious mission. The charter of the OIC makes clear that it exists, not only to promote the economic and humanitarian goals of member states, but also to “defend” and “disseminate” Islam itself. The OIC even has a “Department of Islamic Propagation (Dawa) Affairs” dedicated to establishing Islam. Earlier this month the OIC’s High Commissioner for Dawa, Salem Al Houni, presented a speech in Cairo in which he affirmed the OIC’s commitment to spread Islam through the world.

It would be inconceivable for nations with Christian majorities to band together to form an intergovernmental organization devoted to advancing Christianity and the global interests of the Christian Church. The existence of the OIC is testimony to the reality that mainstream Islam recognizes no distinction between politics and religion.

In fact the OIC lobbies aggressively in UN forums to shield Islamic states from criticism on human rights grounds. The key issue is the role of the OIC in advancing Islamic Sharia. In 1990 the OIC promulgated the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which subordinates human rights to the Sharia, declaring in Article 24 that “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah,” and in Article 25 that “The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration.”

One of the subsidiaries of the OIC is the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, which claims to rule on doctrine and issue religious edicts in the name of the OIC for the whole Muslim world. In May 2009 it promulgated a series of fatwas, including rulings on Religious Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Domestic Violence. These affirm support for Islam’s traditional apostasy laws (which require that those who leave Islam should be killed); they call on the Muslim world to prevent freedom of speech from being used to criticize Islam; they declare that in Islam it is not “violence or discrimination” to criminalize homosexuality or apply Sharia laws for adultery (which include stoning adulterers); they endorse “non-violent beating” of wives; and they call upon Islamic nations to reject provisions of international covenants on the rights of women and children, if they “conflict with the provisions of Islamic law and its purposes”.

In announcing his new Special Envoy’s appointment, it is commendable that President Obama expressed hope that Rashad Hussain would be able to strengthen partnerships with the Muslim world in education, economic development, science and technology and global health.

But conspicuously absent from this list was human rights.

Without a doubt, Rashad Hussain has strong religious credentials for this appointment. The Texas-born and Yale Law School-educated Hussain was characterized by President Obama as a hafiz, someone who has memorized the whole of the Arabic text of the Koran. This skill reflects a pious Islamic upbringing. His position on individual rights and freedoms under Sharia conditions, however, is not so apparent. One clue can be found in a co-authored 2008 article he published through the Brookings Institute. In it, Hussain argues that the counterterrorism efforts “must reject labels that make mainstream Islam a part of the problem,” and the US should recognize “the benefit of strengthening the authoritative voices of mainstream Islam”. Does Hussain also believe that, when it comes to human rights in OIC member states, “mainstream Islam” is the solution, and not part of the problem?

At his most recent post as White House Deputy Associate Counsel, Hussain helped draft President Obama’s “New Beginning” address to the Muslim world in Cairo last June. That speech mentioned human rights, but it emphasized dialogue rather than defending individual liberties as the key to improving relationships with the Muslim world.

The OIC makes a strong claim for itself to be considered the global voice of mainstream Islam. However killing those who leave Islam, criminalizing homosexuality, banning any critical analysis of Islam, wife beating (non-violent or otherwise)—all these are antithetical to international human rights principles, and impediments to a true partnership between the OIC and the United States. Strengthening the authoritative voice of the OIC, while it actively works to defend such practices, would harm American interests. Lack of engagement on these central human rights issues would be understood as acquiescence or approval. This could be a high price to pay for a New Beginning with the Muslim world.
Originally publihed with On the Square, at First Things.

Also a shorter version was subsequently published by the Washington Examiner.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"We create a vacuum where no discourse is taking place"

Dr M. Zuhdi Jasser is a former lieutenant commander with 11 years service as a medical officer in the United States Navy.  He is also President and Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy

In an important article in The Daily Caller, Dr Jasser laments the entrenched inability of the US military to engage in meaningful discussion about faith.  He identifies a "paralyzing culure" of political correctness, which made it virtually impossible for Major Nidal Malik Hasan's superiors to act upon their concerns about his obvious Islamic radicalization prior to the Fort Hood massacre. Jasser points out that "Had they brought those concerns to his review process, they would have been vilified as Islamaphobes:" 
"When we are unable to discuss complex issues like this and Hasan without the fear of reprisal or labels, we create a vacuum where no discourse is taking place. In that vacuum, we allow the seeds of discontent to grow. For Nidal Hasan that culminated in his superiors ignoring his behaviors and eventually sending him to Fort Hood, where his fate was sealed."
According to Jasser, the Pentagon’s 84-page report reviewing the Fort Hood massacre is "a travesty"  because it scapegoats Major Hasan's superiors without addressing the underlying problem of a culture of silence.

While Jasser calls for "a full revision of how the United States military handles Islamist radicalization within its ranks," the vacuum of silence is not confined to the military.    It merely mirrors a wider analytical deskilling of American society today, where highly questionable presuppositions about faith and identity have become so deeply embedded in the outlook of so many, and placed so far beyond question, that a reasonable conversation about religious radicalization has been rendered impossible.

We find ourselves in a world where facts and analysis have been replaced by presupposition and fear.

This culture of silence, which is so vociferously policed, has become deeply threatening to America's harmony and security.  I plan to discuss it further in a subsequent post.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Third Choice in The New English Review

The New English Review has just published Dhimmitude Dominates, which is a review by Jerome Gordon of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.
Gordon writes:
While browsing through a Barnes and Noble in Westport, Connecticut in 1988, I chanced upon a book on the bottom shelf of the Judaica section with the curious title, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, by Bat Ye’or. Bat Ye’or is a nom de plume meaning in Hebrew “daughter of the Nile.” I perused the paperback volume shocked by the revelations that the Muslim realm was not the tolerant Islam that Medievalist scholars had conveyed.....  Click here to read on.

Also included in the February 2010 edition of New English Review is an essay The Dhimma's Return, which analyses the modern day re-imposition of Sharia conditions upon non-Muslims living under Islam, as well as the creeping advance of the 'dhimmitude of the West', as dual manifestations of the world-wide Sharia revival.  I argue that one of the distinctive characteristics of dhimmitude is silence: there is the silence of historians (see my critiques of Bernard Lewis and revisionist history text books), the silence of politicians, clergy and police, and machinations at the United Nations to impose silence as a legal requirement upon the whole world:
When the Ayatollah Khomeini ushered in the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979, Muslims all over the world greeted this event with enthusiasm. At last, so it was thought, Islam would be implemented rigorously to reinstitute an Islamic utopia on earth. Yet along with the Islamization of Iran came the return of the laws of the dhimma. Click here to read on.