When Justice Is Not Seen to Have Been Done
Maha Akeel, Arab News
JEDDAH, 1 August 2005 â€” Last Thursday, thousands of people gathered in front of the family home of a murdered man in Khamis Mushayt to ask his family to forgive the murderer, a young married woman and mother of three who has been in jail for six years waiting to be executed. She allegedly killed the man in self-defense when he tried to rape her.
The case received wide attention and sympathy from the public who signed up by the thousands at a website imploring the family to forgive the woman and accept blood money instead, around SR8 million so far, from the womanâ€™s family according to Okaz newspaper.
Is the manâ€™s family holding out for more money as some people claim? All attempts to get the family to forgive the woman during the past six years failed and so the chances of her being executed are almost certain. Does she deserve the death sentence for killing a man supposedly in self-defense? She confessed to the police and the religious court of being involved with the slain man but when he demanded sex and threatened her, she defended her honor and killed him. Her husband, her family and the whole community had stood by her throughout this time. She expressed remorse over her actions and during her prison stay she memorized the Qurâ€™an and has been a good prisoner according to the warden as reported in Okaz newspaper.
This is a very good article, worth your attention. In it, Maha Akeel, a Saudi woman journalists, counts off a number of cases in which the Saudi justice system is not meeting the expections of fairness that most Saudis expect. She focuses on an immediate, capital case where the courts have done their duty, but an injustice remains due to the strict application of Shari’a law. She doesn’t complain abou the law per se, but that the results in this case are far more extreme than other cases at least as serious.
She does highlight grave deficiencies in the legal system, however, calling for reform and transparency.
Those who in the name of Islam plan and carry out terror attacks and those who support and shelter them commit two great wrongs. The first and greater is to utterly distort the teachings of the Qurâ€™an that manâ€™s mission in this world is to make life more productive, spiritually and materially. Osama Bin Laden and his deluded followers offer only hate and destruction. The world has heard nothing from them about how they will help Muslims improve their lives, nothing about the quest for knowledge, nothing about the creativity and the building that marked Islamic civilization from its early days â€” in the Abbassid Empire in Baghdad and its rival, the Omayyad Empire in Spain, in particular. Instead, all they offer is an unrelenting campaign of butchery that destroys both Muslims and non-Muslims and offer nothing whatsoever constructive, only blood, chaos and tears.
And the second great wrong may have very far-reaching implications for decent Muslims everywhere…
This unsigned editorial from the Arab News is a good one. It spells out, perfectly clearly, the costs that ordinary Muslims are being forced to pay for their hesitation in condemning terror. The first price comes in the deprecation of their religion; the second, in an increased likelihood of challenges to their personal freedoms:
It is for this reason that moderate Muslims around the world must now become â€œimmoderate,â€ not just in their condemnation of Al-Qaedaâ€™s evil, but in their pursuit and eradication of Bin Ladenâ€™s people hiding in their midst. The initial anger and horror at what these deluded fools are doing, ostensibly in their name, must now be channeled into positive action to root them out and root out also the evil men who train and direct them in their wicked deeds.
Fighting Terrorism: Recommendations of Arab Reformists
By: A. Dankowitz
The question of how to fight Islamic terrorism preoccupies many Arab reformists who are working to denounce Islamist thought, to encourage independent and critical thinking, and to establish values of democracy and human rights in the Muslim world. For example, in February 2005, a group of reformists submitted to the U.N. a request that it establish an international court to judge Muslim clerics who incite to violence and bloodshed. The request was examined by the U.N. legal counseland distributed to the U.N. Security Council.
Following the July 7, 2005 London bombings, Arab reformists further expanded their criticism and honed their arguments, not only regarding Muslim extremists, but also regarding the European countries, particularly Britain, which allows extremist activity within its borders in the name of protecting individual rights. They also increased their criticism of the silent Muslim majority and moderate Muslim intellectuals, who capitulate to Islamist pressure and do not speak out decisively against it.
The following are some of the recommendations by reformist Arab writers…
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates into English stories appearing in the Arab media. It’s principal focus is on outrageous stories, citing anti-Semitic diatribes from the mosques and appearing on state-run TV stations or in state-operated newspapers. Over the past few years, though, it has expanded its coverage of the Arab media to include recognition of those who challenge the status quo. This report is an excellent example of that.
There is true outrage in the Arab Muslim world about what is being done in their names. The extremism of UBL and his cohorts goes far beyond what even fundamentalists can accept. Read the whole piece to get an idea of what else is being said in the Arab world, besides the braying of terrorist-supporting jackasses.
A bloody history
The conversation below on the history of al Qaeda and roots of extremism took place a few days ago.
Q: How are we to explain the bloody violence currently engulfing every corner of our world, from London , to Lebanon , to Sharm al Sheikh, and of course Iraq ?
A: Let us leave Lebanon aside for the time being and tell the story of Iraq another time. The truth remains that Islamic extremism, otherwise loosely referred to as al Qaeda and is affiliates, is squarely to blame for all the death and destruction we are currently witnessing.
Q: Is it possible that a small number of fundamentalist young men are able to plan and execute a complicated military operation such as the one in Sharm al Sheikh, the Egyptian city of peace?
A: Of course they can! …
This article, taken from the English-translated website of Asharq Alawsat newspaper, is well worth reading in its entirety. It’s written by a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsatâ€™s opinion page Editor. He is blunt about the sources of contemporary terrorism:
Islamic extremism will remain in our midst, sometimes behind the scenes, other times at the center of events. The fundamentalist movement is convinced us non-believers lead worthless lives, stuck in the dark ages, lacking divine inspiration. Our problem is due to a lack of a genuine Islamic system of government.
This is the true crisis which for too long we have failed to address, in our thought, our education system, and political reality. Our societies ought to create individuals liberated from the failings of the past and focused on the future. There are some who jump on the bandwagon and support extremism because of its popularity, others are duped into supporting fundamentalisms, and some are even genuinely convinced extremism is the answer to our regionâ€™s ailments.
Yet, the truth remains: The problem will remain unless we realize the bloody dream of an Islamic Caliphate is a fantasy. The road to recovery is fraught with dangers and setbacks but it is a road we need to embark on if we are to cure ourselves from this pervasive age-old illness that is extremism.
This article was originally in Arabic and was read across the Arabic-speaking world. Asharq Alawsat‘s head office is in London, but the daily editions are simultaneously published in Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, and the US. It is the largest circulating Arabic language daily newspaper in the world. The message was not confined to an English-speaking audience.
US Muslims Issue Fatwa Against Terrorism
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News
WASHINGTON, 29 July 2005 â€” American Muslim religious scholars who interpret religious law for their community issued a formal ruling yesterday condemning terrorism and forbidding Muslims to cooperate with anyone involved in a terrorist act.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a news conference yesterday in Washington, D.C., to announce that a fatwa against terrorism and extremism had been issued by the 18-member Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and endorsed by major US Muslim groups.
Arab News‘ coverage of the fatwa is straight-up reporting at this point. I anticipate editorial comment tomorrow, after people have a chance to talk it over to see just what they do think of it.
If You Want to Catch a Fish, Do Not Go to a Desert
Dr. Mohammed T. Al-Rasheed, firstname.lastname@example.org
The summer of heat and bombs continues unabated. The condemnations of terrorism are deafening yet meaningless. Are we to get used to the sight of the wounded being carried away from beaches, hotels, and transport modes? As for the dead, the charred bodies leave nothing to contemplate.
The Brits have tempted fate with their â€œstiff upper lipâ€ till their police lost their cool and killed an innocent man. Chalk up one more for the terrorists. The Egyptians on television keep telling the world that it was â€œimportedâ€ and could not have been an Egyptian that did the Sharm atrocities. Well, possible, but Ayman Zawaheri is an Egyptian and bosom buddy of Bin Laden.
Are we seeing and experiencing the dementia and frustration of the powerless? I think we are. The world seems impotent for the time being in the face of these atrocities. The world does not lack the means to combat this menace. The history of humanity is full of such struggles and invariably the majority wins and terror recedes. But today we lack the will to combat it. If you want to catch a fish, you do not go to the desert. And if you want to catch a terrorist you do not man tube stations. Once you are in the station trying to catch the perpetrator, you have already lost the game. The most effective way to combat vermin is to strike at their breeding grounds and not under your sink.
Dr. Al-Rasheed has another powerful op ed in today’s Arab News. He recognizes–and tips his hat to Prime Minister Blair for realizing–that the war against terror is not an anti-crime action, but a war against an ideology that is dangerous to any and all liberal thought. While it may have succeeding in fooling millions that it was all about religion, it is not. It is about power and the delusions of a few that they have the right to dictate to all how they should live–and die.
Note, too, that when Al-Rasheed says, “Read the books that their mentors publish and distribute for free,” he isn’t talking about philanthropists with deep pockets, but rather those writers who, through whatever device, are able to solicit support of governmental printing presses.
It’s an excellent piece. Read the whole thing.
ON Tuesday, Lebanon took another step on its difficult road to recovery and stability with the release of former Lebanese Christian warlord Samir Geagea after a parliamentary amnesty Monday ended his eleven years in jail. The message for the world was that the Lebanese were putting their past behind them.
Geagea, who was convicted in 1994 for four political murders including the assassination of Prime Minister Rashid Karami, was the only Lebanese warlord ever to pay for his actions, even though cogent criminal cases could at one time or another have probably been made against most of the faction leaders during the bitter civil war.
Geagea had always protested his innocence. When he emerged yesterday he revealed that for most of his sentence he had been kept in solitary confinement in a basement cell beneath the Ministry of Defense. He said his life had been â€œ very, very hardâ€. But apart from this brief and measured statement about his imprisonment, what he told supporters at Beirut airport as he prepared to fly to an unrevealed destination abroad for medical tests was notably lacking in recrimination.
Indeed, he went out of his way to thank his former political foes including Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Sunni leader Saad Hariri, son of the murdered former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, for their roles in securing his release. He concluded by calling for national reconciliation and saluted all the people of Lebanon in what he characterized as their struggle for survival. A staunch opponent of Syriaâ€™s role in the country, Geagea compared his release from his little prison to Lebanonâ€™s release from the big prison of Syrian influence. He also deplored the continuing campaign of bombings for their clear purpose of undermining newfound peace and amity between Lebanese communities.
What Geagea did not do however was to once again protest his innocence or comment on the fact that he alone, of all Lebanonâ€™s warlords, had been prosecuted and imprisoned. Implicit in everything he said was that the past was the past and that only danger lay in looking back. Instead, he chose to look forward resolutely to a new and independent Lebanon, free of rancor and prejudice.
This is an excellent editorial from The Arab News, noting that in order to move into the future, it’s necessary to move out of the past. In applauding the fact that Samir Geagea did not focus on the past, but instead looked forward to a new Lebanon, the editorial makes it clear what needs to be done throughout the Arab world.
US Delegation to Visit Kingdom to Discuss Detainee Issues
M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News
RIYADH, 28 July 2005 â€” A US delegation will visit Saudi Arabia within a week to discuss the repatriation of Saudi detainees to the Kingdom, said a US Embassy spokesman here yesterday.
A total of 121 Saudi citizens are still detained at the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; three Saudi citizens were handed over to the Kingdom by the US authorities last week.
This is a good article from the Arab News, providing a lot of detail about the efforts of the USG to repatriate detainees from Guantanamo. As more information becomes available, I’ll be posting it.
The following story is not identified as an anti-terror effort on the part of the Saudis. That the counterfeiter they arrested had materials to fake passports, as well as entry into Saudi airbases, though, necessarily shines the light of that potentiality.
Asian Being Questioned in Connection With Forged Passports
Muhammad Al-Hilali & Raid Qusti, Arab News/Al-Eqtisadiah
JEDDAH, 28 July 2005 â€” Security authorities began to interrogate a wanted Asian suspect yesterday for his involvement in forging passes in order to enter several security areas in the Kingdom. The suspect was also wanted for forging several Asian passports, contract deals, and several letters to prominent people in society.
Preliminary investigation has revealed that the suspect used to forge passports for Asian nationals in the Kingdom and would also fake iqamas for a fee for those who wanted to stay in the Kingdom. The suspect was also believed to have forged several checks…
A source told Arab News that officers who raided the suspectâ€™s home in Bani Malek confiscated dozens of forged papers, some of which were passes to the air base issued by the air force, in addition to 44 blank sheets with the letter head of the Water and Sewage Department, driversâ€™ licenses, Pakistani identification cards, vehicle insurance cards, two Saudi ID cards, contracts, six check books, seven Asian passports, company ID cards with photos and several fake stamps to a number of departments. [Emphasis added]
I’m informed by a reader that attempts to comment are, for some reason, being blocked.
I have a policy of not automatically blocking comments, no matter who they’re from, no matter what they say (with the exception of clear hate-speak and obscenities). I do, in fact, encourage your comments–particularly if they take exception to something I’ve written.
Unfortunately, I receive something on the order of 300-400 pieces of comment spam from a variety of gambling and pornographic sites, daily. To block that, and save myself from having to delete each one manually, I employ a spam filter.
While my settings for the filter are only at a medium level, it seems that the filter is blocking some legitimate comments.
If you find your comment blocked, please notify me by e-mail. If you can provide me with your IP (Internet Protocol) address, I will make sure that your address is not blocked.
To those who may have had comments blocked, my apologies. It most definitely was not intentional.
Iâ€™m Not Going to Apologize
Khaled Almaeena, email@example.com
â€œThe contrast cannot be more striking. Four Muslims out of millions commit a barbaric crime in London. All the Muslims have been put on the defensive not just in the UK but the world over.
â€œThree soldiers of the British Army are charged with war crimes. The rallying call goes out that we must all support the army and be sympathetic toward them in this difficult time.
â€œThe pundits were pontificating this morning on Radio 4â€™s Today program, self-assured that these bozos will be tried sympathetically and â€˜hopefully will be acquitted.â€™ How reassuring! No one is talking of dangerous ideologies being preached among the ranks of Her Majestyâ€™s armed forces. No one suspects any cells/schools â€” dare I say madrasas â€” teaching the ranks to do unimaginable things. But best of all, no one expects any apologies from any or all of the army.
â€œOne young man from Leeds put it very nicely in a news story filed on the BBC 6 p.m. news last evening: â€˜I am not going to apologize for this. I condemned this crime, and those who did it did not do so in my name. Why should I be expected to apologize for them?â€™
â€œThis eloquently sums up the feeling of many of us at a time when most of our community leaders are losing their heads. â€” Hashim Reza.â€
This is a strongly worded–because strongly felt–op ed from the Editor of Arab News. He’s had enough demands for apologies for the acts of others. He’s also had enough of those demands coming from people who don’t apologize for their own acts, instead perfering to find extenuating circumstances.
You don’t have to accept his reasoning, of course. But you should be aware that endless demands to achieve what it is not possible for individuals to achieve comes with its own price. Recognizing that terrorism is a real problem means also recognizing that not all Muslims, not all Arabs, not even all Saudi Arabs are responsible for terrorism. They, too, can demand “not in my name,” disassociating themselves from the terrorists, but they cannot make it go away.
More Terrorists Arrested
Samir Al-Saadi, Arab News
JEDDAH, 27 July 2005 â€” Security forces yesterday arrested four terror suspects in Madinah. No casualties were reported in the early morning operation that took place in the southwest of the holy city, said Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour Al-Turki.
The new arrests came a day after Saudi security forces captured Muhammad ibn Saeed Al-Siyam Al-Amri and two of his associates in Madinah and another terror suspect in Riyadh.
The Saudi government continues its arrests of terrorists and Saudi citizens continue to help out.
This Arab News story also offers details of the arrest of Al-Amri yesterday.
As a note of cultural translation, it should be noted that Saudi Arabia, particularly during the summer, has a nocturnal society. With temperatures reaching 135Â°F during the day, many people avoid the heat by shifting their schedules. They sleep during the day and become active as the sun sets. Thus, it’s not peculiar that a young woman will be up between midnight and 3 am. That her father was asleep at the same time just goes to show that not everyone in Saudi Arabia walks in lock-step.
Muslims Are Condemning Terror, But Whoâ€™s Listening?
Linda Heard, firstname.lastname@example.org
While discussing last weekâ€™s terror attacks on CNN, Sen. Dianne Feinstein appeared to heap blame on Muslim clerics, urging them to issue â€œfatwa after fatwa denouncing jihad and denouncing terrorâ€. She claimed that mosques have become â€œenablersâ€ with few leading imams â€œif anyâ€, saying, â€œEnough of this. Stop! This is not Islam.â€ No doubt, Feinstein is well-intentioned but she is also, unfortunately, grossly misinformed.
Last week, some 500 British imams issued a fatwa prohibiting suicide bombing and the killing of innocents, while Sheikh Al-Azhar Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, considered a high authority for the worldâ€™s one billion Sunni Muslims, has repeatedly condemned terrorism in all its forms.
Earlier this year, a leading Saudi cleric Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudeis told pilgrims to Makkah that â€œfaith does not mean killing Muslims or non-Muslims living among us. It does not mean shedding blood, terrorizing or sending body parts flying.â€
…Yet, Feinstein says that â€œfew, if any, leading imams are saying â€˜enough of this. Stop. This is not Islamâ€™â€, which cannot but lead one to imagine she has spent the last few years in solitary confinement without media access….
Indeed, wonders never do cease…
I find that I have to agree with an op-ed written by the usually rancid Linda Heard! But this time, she does get it right, mostly.
Muslim imams have, in fact, been condeming terrorism. For years. It seems no one cares to listen, but then blames the imams for their own deafness. Perhaps critics are waiting for an imam to come up to them on the street and condemn it personally. Perhaps they’re expecting full-page ads in the local paper or 30-second spots on every TV channel.
Heard’s article cites other instances where prominent Muslims and Muslim groups have publically condemned the terror, but the condemnations never quite seem to make it through the media filters. Or the Congressional Staff filters. Heard goes on to a mildly tendentious rant about how “jihad is a fundamental” of Islam, without really discussing the topic other than to obfuscate the issue.
But she then goes on to cite a former Labour government advisor, David Clarke, who notes:
As David Clark, a former advisor to the Labour government, points out in yesterdayâ€™s Guardian, â€œthe moral denunciation of terrorism is psychologically comforting [ED: to the listener], and, â€œwhile it is important to stigmatize terrorism, that in itself offers little prospect of bringing it to an end.
â€œDo suicide bombers really care what we think of them?â€ he asks. â€œThose who indulge in condemnation to the exclusion of everything else have failed to produce a single useful policy prescription, or even the semblance of a coherent analysis, that might equip us to deal more effectively with the threat we face. They have nothing positive to contribute to the debate about what needs to happen next.â€
The screaming and yelling are easy. Where are the suggestions for a solution? They have to start with an honest understanding of what’s going on in the Islamic world, not a heap of ill-informed assumptions.