Emily's blog

Norway’s Muslims rally against ISIS, but not against ‘Armed Jihad’

A sign at the protest against the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Norway.

A sign at the protest against the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Norway.

by: 
Tarek Fatah

“We have to kill each and every one of them, wherever we find ISIS.” Yezen Al Obaide was speaking to me amid last-minute preparations in the pouring rain for a rally Monday by Norway’s Muslims against the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.

As hundreds gather in Oslo’s historic Gronland neighbourhood with signs saying “No to ISIS”, Obaidea, one of the organizers of the event, told me as he arranged the podium:

“Our Prophet Mohammed had prophesized that evil men will emerge and spread terror in the name of Islam and we Muslims were ordered to kill them wherever we found them.”

Norway has been home to radical Muslims for quite some time.

In one event in Oslo last year, 4,000 Muslim attendees raised their hands in support of sharia law and the killing of gays. A week before the protest, their leaders urged Muslims in the country to back ISIS.

The Monday protest was intended to help stem the rising tide of Islamic radicalism.

2014-08-25 16.48.46-1I talked to many Arab and Somali women in hijab, and asked them if they renounced the doctrine of armed jihad, or opposed the use of sharia as a source of public law. Not one was against jihad, but they all insisted they were against ISIS.

Later, the crowd of more than 5,000 Norwegians, including hundreds of Muslims, marched to Norway’s parliament, where Prime Minister Erna Solberg spoke.

She quoted the Prophet Mohammed saying, “If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart and this is the weakest faith.”

Mehran Marri, exiled leader of Balochistan’s Marri tribe in Pakistan’s war-torn Balochistan, where ISIS affiliates are fighting Baloch nationalists, also attended the protest, but thought political correctness was in play.

Mehran Marri

Mehran Marri (right) with protest organizer Yezen Al Obaide (left)

Marri told me marching against ISIS was not enough.

“We cannot fight ISIS without fighting the doctrine of jihad and without exposing the bankruptcy of Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran,” he said.

“Too many leaders in the West are reluctant to identify the elephant in the room, which is Islamism. If they cannot fight the ideological foundation of ISIS, then we will see the ISIS cancer spread.”

I was hoping to see Emmy Award-winning, Oslo-born Muslim filmmaker Deeyah Khan, who had to flee Norway after harassment from Islamists, but she was not there.

Also missing was Norwegian activist Aliaa Magda al-Mahdy, who received death threats after she uploaded a picture of herself menstruating and defecating with another woman on an ISIS flag.

I asked Khalid Thataal, who came to Norway from Pakistan in 1970, why Islamists often dominate the Muslim discourse in Norway. He told me, “It’s because Islamic leaders have stifled any secular or humanist discourse among Norway’s Muslim community.”

Deeyah Khan told me in an email, the harassment she faced at the hands of Norway’s Islamists was not isolated.

“A Norwegian-Pakistani comedienne, Shabana Rehman, has been threatened and harassed for years, a young female Somali author was attacked and beaten in the streets of Oslo.”

Nevertheless, she said, the event was a step in the right direction.

The fact the keynote speaker was 19-year old Faten Al-Mahdi, a young woman who denounced the radical Norwegian group Profetens Ummah as “The Devils Ummah”, shows there is light at the end of the Muslim tunnel, but we have miles to go before we rest.

 

Bullied for Criticizing Hamas by Own Mosque: Dr. Zuhdi Jasser

Left: Dr. Zuhdi Jasser speaks at a press conference. Right: a Hamas terrorist.

Left: Dr. Zuhdi Jasser speaks at a press conference. Right: a Hamas terrorist.

by: 
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser

What happens in Syria, Egypt, Iraq or Gaza has an impact every day right here in the Valley [Scottsdale, Arizona].

Even in America, leading Muslim organizations and clerics bully with threats of ostracism those Muslims who dare to dissent. Old-guard ideologues, too, used to monopoly control, make it crystal clear to their Muslim critics: Take us on and we will make an example of you as a traitor to the Muslim community (the ummah).

On July 28, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr (Holiday of the Feast) marking the end of our holy month of Ramadan, a spiritual month of daily fasting from all food and drink. In Ramadan, we focus on scripture, self-reflection and atonement. My family and I attended the holiday Eid prayer service at the Islamic Center of the Northeast Valley of which we are longtime members.

Little did we know Imam Yaser Ali, a Valley attorney, would use this otherwise joyous family holiday occasion to target me in the presence of my wife and children.

With more than 500 local Muslims in attendance, he riled up the crowd, demanding a community "effort" against those Muslims "who go on Fox News and speak ill against our Muslim brothers and sisters … who make the mosques look bad." These individuals, he said, "hate Islam" and "vilify Muslims."

While Mr. Ali never had the courage to say my name, no doubt remained in the mosque, or later on social media, that he was referring to me. He finished his tirade with "they are not from amongst us … they don't represent us; we, the Muslim community represent one another, and we care for our brothers and sisters in Palestine."

Apparently, the Scottsdale mosque's leadership decided, or at the minimum voiced no disagreement, that for Muslims this Ramadan it is not Hamas, al-Qaida, ISIS, Boko Haram, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the evil regimes from Assad's Syria to Iran or Saudi Arabia or even radicalized American jihadists in Syria that deserve targeting from the pulpit, but only a local, reform-minded activist — Zuhdi Jasser.

This imam meticulously described what he knows too well would garner me a death sentence as a munafiq (hypocrite), or murtad (apostate), for the crime of riddah (apostasy, treason) according to the interpretation of Shariah law accepted by Saudi Arabia and most Muslim-majority countries.

What was the crime prompting my metaphorical flogging in the presence of my wife, children and friends' families on this holiday?

A few days earlier I had criticized the radicals of Hamas on national television for their supremacist Islamist doctrine hatched from the Muslim Brotherhood that daily and viciously oppresses the people of Gaza. I urged Hamas to stop the war mongering, refusal of cease fires, and launching of thousands of rockets that victimize Palestinian women, children and families, and I criticized CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations).

To Imam Yaser Ali that was worthy of takfir, a declaration of public apostasy. The mosque board and audience responded to his call to action against me, a Muslim he described as of "those who hate Islam," with a resounding "inshallah" (God willing).

In the days to follow, local social media filled with subtle and not-so-subtle threats against me and my family from some rather prominent Valley Muslims.

While the venue was new, the mantra was a cheap rehash of the old, scorched-earth smear tactics peddled by the CAIR. Right after declaring me the enemy of all Muslims, Mr. Ali spoke of the so-called religious obligation to donate generously to CAIR. This was all reminiscent of the May 9, 2014, sermon, visiting CAIR-LA director Hussam Ayloush, who regularly takes to Twitter with other CAIR directors tocall me an "Uncle Tom" and a "monkey," gave across town at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe to slam me as an "Islamophobe."

While CAIR claims to simply be a Muslim civil-rights organization, in response to a U.S. Senate inquiry, the FBI is on record since 2009 that, "until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner."

In the meantime, the growth of our reform groups like the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and our coalition of anti-Islamist Muslim groups makes Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups like CAIR livid. Their monopoly on American Muslim voices is in jeopardy so their bullies advance absurd claims like Muslim criticism of Hamas is equivalent to criticism of Islam or all Muslims. The vitriol against our work is only increasing because of our success at exposing their un-American and oppressive ideas, as well as our refusal to be deterred.

Their silence on the terror tactics of Hamas speaks volumes to terror apologia. Why is it that so many abuses of Muslims by Muslims go undiscussed – yet when the Jewish state acts, it becomes an Eid sermon?

All politics are local. Islamism (political Islam) is a mind-numbing, theo-political groupthink that fears and smothers critical thinking. Not only over there but here. Muslims squander this rare opportunity to reject both the evils of Arab fascism and Islamism for a new third path, the path of liberty.

It is heartbreaking to reflect that my family and I have been members of the Scottsdale mosque since long before its construction. Their board asked me to gather interfaith support and speak for our congregation at a rather hostile Development Review Board meeting in November 2001.

I recall having to publicly admonish a Scottsdale City Council member on religious liberty who suggested we "delay the project for a more appropriate time". On Sept. 11, 2002, I authored a paid advertisement in The Arizona Republic on behalf of ICNEV condemning al-Qaida and distancing our faithful from their barbarism. I also taught Islamic history for the mosque youth "Sunday school" until 2008.

What a difference a decade makes.

Intimidation and intolerance, from the bully pulpit by imams like Yaser Ali, are symptoms of a much deeper and broader conflict between political Islam (Islamism) and modernity — and more specifically, liberal democracy. Reform will not come easily. It must come from within, driven by both love for our faith and frank public critique of our leaders.

But it cannot be done without the support of our non-Muslim allies, for universal human rights, freedom of conscience and, indeed, American security hang in the balance.

 

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president of the Phoenix-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy,  founded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States as an effort to provide an American Muslim voice advocating for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. He is the author of Battle for the Soul of Islam. Dr. Jasser served 11 years as a medical officer in the U. S. Navy and was Staff Internist for the Office of the Attending Physician to the U.S. Congress. Jasser was the narrator of Clarion Project's film "The Third Jihad" about the threat of Islamic extremism in the U.S.

Just a Bit More Beheading than We Are Used To

American journalist James Foley before he was beheaded by a jihadi from ISIS who is suspected to be from London.

American journalist James Foley before he was beheaded by a jihadi from ISIS who is suspected to be from London.

by: 
Douglas Murray

Who is surprised? That is one question I have most wanted to know since the video was released of the murder of American journalist James Foley.

The politicians keep expressing it. And interviewers have kept asking people whether they feel it. But who can honestly say that he was surprised to learn that the murderer of the American journalist turned out to be a "British" man?

Did anyone really still think that a British Islamist would not be capable of doing this? Why wouldn't he, if he is capable of doing it in Syria or Iraq?

After all, it was only last year that two other Islamists beheaded one of our own soldiers – Drummer Lee Rigby – in broad daylight in London. And it is only twelve years since another Londoner – Omar Sheikh – arranged the abduction and decapitation of another American journalist, Daniel Pearl.

What is shocking is that expressions of "shock" seem to be regarded as an adequate response. Prime Minister David Cameron has pronounced himself "appalled" by the act, and made clear that he "utterly condemns" it. As though anyone should ever have expected him to think otherwise.

But this is to a great extent what government policy is reduced to in Britain, as in the United States. Politicians briefly break off their holidays in order not to do anything much, but to be seen to be doing "something." And they then make sure to stand in front of the cameras and say how opposed they are to "something."

It is the denigration of people in positions where they actually could do something, to the level of the commentariat.

The question, as written here before, is not how sorry any one political leader feels about such savagery, but what they are going to do about it. And here in Britain, we are in something of a bind. We can deal with fringe details.

But we are incapable of having the real debate or taking any real action that is needed. In lieu of such action, the political classes are left floundering, desperate to cling to any point, however unimportant, in order to look as they are acting.

So in the wake of the release of the Foley murder video by ISIS, the British Labour party's Shadow Home Secretary attempted to take political advantage of this affair.[1] The truth is that the Labour party seized on this debate because it was the debate they knew best, and the one they are most comfortable going round and round on.

Even the remarks of the former Conservative party Security Minister -- Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones -- who was reduced, on the BBC's Today program, to suggesting that the solution to tackling ISIS is to engage more in social media campaigns against the group. Neville-Jones is regarded as somewhat hawkish. But that even people of such stature are reduced to this, reveals something important.

Atrocity after atrocity is perpetrated by Muslims radicalized in the UK, and the debate over what to do about it remains bizarrely circumscribed and ineffectual. Surely somewhere in the conversation and response should be the expression of a desire for a strategy against ISIS which has at its base the utter eradication of the group -- wholesale battlefield victory against them, killing their members and leadership in their entirety.

Would that not be a desirable objective? I have yet to hear a mainstream politician suggest this or even talk in these terms. Indeed, there has been debate in the UK press suggesting we should hope that some of these ISIS killers come back to Britain, realize that jihad was all a phase and then head off to university for the start of a new term.

And then there are the longer-term objectives. Since writing about it in this place, a number of other media have finally picked up one of the most concerning statistics to show the failure of integration at which we are staring in Britain: that more British Muslims are fighting together with ISIS than with the UK Armed Forces.

This is just a tip of the problem. On a BBC show after news of the murder of James Foley, I found myself discussing these matters with young British Muslims. All condemned the act. One – the Ahmadiyya Muslim in the group – was superb in his utter abhorrence of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam and his repeated and sincere expressions of pride in Britain and British achievements in the world. But among the others?

Well one of them -- a nice and nicely presented young man said that this was totally abhorrent because "a non-combatant should not be treated like this." "Well sure," I was forced to say. "But why only non-combatants? Is there a time when even 'combatants' -- or anyone else -- should be treated in this way? And who is to say who is a combatant and who not?"

Even more concerning was a young woman from Nottingham who spent as much time as possible talking about the "alienation" and "rejection" which a lot of young Muslims feel. It was repeatedly pointed out to her that there isn't a young person of any religion or background who does not feel alienation at some point.

The vital question then, is not just whether such a sense of grievance is justified, but whether there are people seeking to manipulate and then play into such grievances and what extremes some individuals might urge vulnerable minds to as a result.

A snapshot of my fellow guest's own thinking was available in her own condemnation of the murder. The beheading of James Foley was terrible, she stressed, because among other things "we don't know what [his] views were."

Here again a little peep-hole into a mainstream and radical world view becomes possible. What if James Foley had not been -- as he appears to have been -- a man with a deep desire to bring out the terrible stories and sufferings of the region, but someone who was ambivalent to them?

What if he had been the most pro-intervention bomb-them-all-to-hell right-winger? Or a member of the Republican Party? What if he had been a Zionist? Or a Jew?

There are poisonous attitudes and lies going around unmolested in this country. And they are one of the causes of the repeated international shame that is coming down upon us.

These ideas -- hatred and suspicion of the actions of Britain, America, Israel and our other liberal, democratic allies -- act as the background music to radicalization. This music plays to exactly the sort of people who are going out to fight with ISIS and exactly the sort of people who think that although they might condemn a beheading in this circumstance, it isn't always a cut-and-dry issue.

The BBC is reporting about the voice of James Foley's killer: "Some experts think the accent sounds like the man comes from London, as it is a mixture of multicultural speech patterns often heard on the streets of the city."

It certainly does sound "like the man comes from London." And as I recall saying after the last decapitation performed by a British man, the unspoken British deal on multiculturalism appears to come to light at such moments.

The deal -- the acceptance and accommodation -- appears to be that mass, uncontrolled immigration has brought us all sorts of benefits, including a greater variety of food and cheap labour. The downside is that we have to put up with, among other things, a bit more beheading than we have been used to.

But much of the political class appears to be content with this bargain. I beg to differ. As horrors like those of this week mount, a great many more people might feel that way too.


[1] The Home Secretary said the problem was the government's watering-down of Control Orders -- which had been brought in by the former Labour government. Control Orders give the state the ability to put someone under 24-hour surveillance or house arrest, necessitated by the then Labour government's unwise signature of the European Convention on Human Rights.

True, the coalition government – under pressure from the Liberal Democrats in the coalition -- very slightly watered these Orders down to satisfy critics. But this has nothing to do with this case.

So far as anyone knows the murderer of James Foley is not somebody who slipped any surveillance measures in the UK. And rather obviously a TPIM or Control Order being slapped on an individual -- however British -- is no use if that particular individual is at present beheading American journalists inside the no-go-zone of the Islamic State.

That this was the best the Labour opposition could come up with is telling.

 

Douglas Murray is a writer, journalist and commentator. He was the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion from 2007 until 2011 and is currently an associate director of the Henry Jackson Society. Murray appears regularly in the British broadcast media and writes for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Spectator.

This article appeared originally in GatestoneInstitute.org

 

Time to Face the ISIS Inside of Us

ISIS militants massacre Iraqis.

ISIS militants massacre Iraqis.

by: 
Dr. Elham Manea

“We are ISIS.”

A startling statement? Yet this was the title of an article written by former Kuwaiti Minister of Information, Saad bin Tafla al Ajami, published by the Qatari newspaper al Sharq on August 7, 2014. He was not celebrating the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), nor the atrocities it is committing against civilians and minorities in Iraq and Syria.

He was reminding us that ISIS, while condemned by the majority of Muslims, is a product of an Islamic religious discourse that dominated our public sphere in the last decades – a mainstream discourse!

ISIS “did not come from another planet," he said. "It is not a product of the infidel West or a bygone Orient,” he insisted.

No, “the truth that we can not deny is: ISIS learned from our schools, prayed in our mosques, listened to our media… and our religious platforms, read from our books and references, and followed fatwas (religious edicts) we produced.”

He is right.

It would be easy to insist that ISIS does not represent the correct teachings of Islam. It would be very easy to do that. And yes, I do believe that Islam is what we, humans, make of it. Any religion could be a message of love -- or a sword for hatred by the people believing in it.

But the fact remains that the actions of ISIS have been ideologically mainstreamed long time ago: in mosques that curse "Christians-the Crusaders," "Jews" and "unbelievers" in every Friday sermons. By religious figures, who greet us every day through TV programs, preaching a message of hatred and intolerance against the ‘other’, regardless of whom this ‘other’ is. In schools that teach us that the penalty for converting from Islam is death; that Christians and Jews are "protected people," who should pay a tax to be left alone or they could face war. The fate of members of ‘other religions’ is left untold, but we can read it between the lines. In these classes we were never taught that a citizen has the right to choose his or her religion, or that a citizen is equal before the law regardless of religion or beliefs.

ISIS is the product of our religious discourse – a mainstream discourse.

It is a product of a political process. It started with the rise of political Islam’s ideology, propagated since 1973 by Gulf monarchies’ oil money and the Iranian revolution in 1979.

It is a product of a political strategy. State leaders take advantage of the phenomenon of political Islam, endorse certain Islamist groups rather than others, and forge political alliances with them. Their aim is political: to legitimize their rule in a religious sense or/and delegitimize that of their rivals.

The Machiavellian alliance comes with a price tag. In exchange for their support, Islamist groups are allowed to dominate the religious discourse with their ideology of hatred, exclusion, and intolerance – mosques, media and schools become a field to spread their ideology.

It is a product of political failure. States fail to fulfil their side of the social contract, unable to cover their citizens’ essential health, education and social needs. Islamist groups, flushed with money, fill the gap – with services packed in their ideological worldview.

It would be easy to insist that ISIS is a product of a foreign conspiracy. But even as we bury our heads in the sand, there is no hiding from the fact that ISIS is indeed our product. We mainstreamed it. And yet we seem surprised that it took the words of our religious discourse literally. Seriously?

Without acknowledging our responsibility, we will continue business as usual. Mosques will continue to curse the Jews, Christians and unbelievers every Friday. Preachers will continue to great us with their message of intolerance. And schools will continue to teach us that religion is the main marker of both identity and citizenship.

Just pause and think, ask yourself: How many women have been suppressed in the name of our religion lately? How many Pakistani Christians or Ahamadis have been targeted lately? How many Churches have been attacked in Indonesia and Nigeria? How many Egyptian Copts have been evicted from their villages? Their houses and shops torched? How many Sunnis are killing Shiites? How many Shiites are killing Sunnis? How many Baha’is have been brutally supressed in Iran? And how many British citizens have joined ISIS?

It would be easier to look the other way. It would be easier. But if we continue to blame the others, insist on our inaction and silence, it is we, we, no one else, who is letting our religion be hijacked by this fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

ISIS is within us. It is time to face the ISIS inside of us.

 

Dr. Elham Manea was bon in Egypt and is a Swiss-Yemeni political scientist, author and journalist. She also works as a consultant for Swiss government agencies and international and human rights organizations. Her research interests include gender and politics in Arab states, democratization and civil society in the Middle East, and politics of the Arabian Peninsula. Her most recent publication is "The Arab State and Women's Rights: The Trap of Authoritarian Governance" (London: Routledge Studies on Middle Eastern Politics), June 2011

This article appeared originally on the Human Rights Blog of the Global Minorities Alliance

Muslims: Outraged Over Gaza but What About Iraq and Syria?

Muslims in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles riot over the Gaza conflict, attacking synagogues and Jewish stores. Where is their outrage over atrocities committed by Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? (Photo:  © Reuters)

Muslims in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles riot over the Gaza conflict, attacking synagogues and Jewish stores. Where is their outrage over atrocities committed by Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? (Photo: © Reuters)

by: 
Raheel Raza

In Saturday’s National Post, Rex Murphy asks why there’s so much outrage over Israel’s response to Hamas rocket fire, but the same activists are silent about atrocities committed in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. In the same edition, letter-writer Al Lando argues that the people who are “attacking Jewish citizens, firebombing synagogues and launching protests against all things Jewish, in the name solidarity with Palestinian victims” seem to have no objection to the “200,000 innocent non-combatants [who] are in danger of genocide” at the hands of ISIS.

Indeed, today’s global events seem surreal and fictional in their evilness. The Yazidis of Iraq are facing genocide. Boko Haram and the Taliban continue their reign of terror: Horrifying, brutal, cruel and inhuman terror from beheadings to rape. Where is the outrage in the Muslim world over these atrocities?

I ask this as a Muslim activist who’s exhausted -- not from defending my faith -- but from asking the same question over and over again for the past two decades. When I asked this question in the aftermath of 9/11, I was criticized for being a “fear-monger.” Following the 7/7 terrorist attacks in the U.K., I called on the larger Muslim community to “wake up and smell the coffee before it’s too late.” For this, I was labelled a traitor. Later — as I uncovered and exposed the subversive agendas of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah — I was labelled a heretic.

Today, ISIS is indiscriminately killing women and children in Iraq. These terrorists want women to undergo female genital mutilation and cover their faces — essentially they want to push them back into the dark ages. At the same time, Yazidi women in Iraq are being kept as slaves, while their men are killed. In Pakistan, my country of birth, minorities are being persecuted with no accountability and the movement to eradicate them has been given a religious justification, so the perpetrators are celebrated as champions.

Yet, much of the so-called “civilized world” is frozen by either political correctness or ignorance. U.S. President Barack Obama would rather play golf than address the crisis unfolding all over the Muslim world. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau apparently sees no problem visiting a Wahhabi mosque with strong links to terrorism. And protesters at the Ontario legislature continue to focus their rage on Israel, rather than addressing the heinous crimes committed by Muslims.

So it falls upon the communities where these atrocities are happening to take action. And rightly so.

The world is once again asking, “Where are the moderate Muslim voices to counter the evil of ISIS and other terrorist organizations?”

Let me respond by saying that I’m completely revolted by what’s happening in Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Arab world. I wish I could say the same for my larger community. When a recent documentary exposed the crimes perpetrated against women in many Muslim countries was released, so-called “moderate and progressive” Muslim women opposed the cause.

I ask all Canadians to please stop asking where the moderate Muslims are. Our voices have been subsumed by the din of the mercenaries vying for power and hegemony in the Muslim world; we have become pawns in the games played by Saudi Arabia and Iran; we are shouted down by those who would lobby for political causes over human rights; and, most importantly, our communities still bask in the belief that all is well.

 

Raheel Raza is an award-winning author, journalist, and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity. She is one of nine women's rights activists who took part in Clarion Project's film "Honor Diaries" which breaks the silence on honor violence against women.

Human Rights Watch on Egypt Security Force Misleading

Muslim Brotherhood Protesters in Egypt (Photo: © Reuters)

Muslim Brotherhood Protesters in Egypt (Photo: © Reuters)

by: 
Tawfik Hamid

Human Rights Watch (HRW) argued in a recent report that Egyptian security forces intentionally killed at least 817 protesters during what they dubbed the "Rabaa massacre" last August. In fact, they described the attack as equal to, or worse, than China's Tiananmen Square killings in 1989. 

The 195-page investigation based on interviews with 122 survivors and witnesses has found Egypt's police and army "systematically and deliberately killed largely unarmed protesters on political grounds" in actions that "likely amounted to crimes against humanity."

The report recommends that several senior individuals within Egypt's security apparatus be investigated and, where appropriate, held to account for their role in planning the incident.

This HRW report is defective on several levels.

First, it relied primarily on a pool of biased witnesses. Those who were protesting in Rabba were more than likely supporters of the Islamists and thus predisposed to provide false -- or at least jaundiced --information that would hurt the Egyptian military. HRW should have given equal voice to the opponents of Morsi, particularly those who live near Rabba. As it happens, there were witnesses who were against both the Islamists and the military -- in other words, who were unbiased. And some of them actually videotaped the heinous crimes committed by the Islamists in Rabba prior to the intervention of the military.

The HRW report opted to ignore these important eyewitness accounts. 

Ignoring the crimes of the Islamists seems to fit quite nicely with the HRW modus operandi. Nick Cohen, writing in The Spectator in February 2013, castigated Human Rights Watch for "looking with horror on those who speak out about murder, mutilation and oppression if the murderers, mutilators and oppressors do not fit into their script."

One of the most shocking examples of the tendentiousness of the HRW report was the fact that they happily accepted the reporting of Mr. Maged Atef (a Newsweek journalist) when his reflections suited their purposes (i.e., criticism of the Egyptian military), but they flatly ignored his testimony when he blamed the violent protesters for killing police officers (which, according to Mr. Atef, sparked the violence that followed in Rabaa). That little tidbit, which Mr. Atef himself witnessed, completely changes the story. Rather than a planned attack by the military as conveyed in the HRW report, it seems it was instead a reaction to lethal violence initiated by the Islamist protesters.

Of course, the cherry picking of information by HRW is neither surprising nor unexpected. Their own founder has accused HRW of bias in research methods and evidence gathering. Robert Bernstein, founder of HRW, accused the organization of poor research for relying on "witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage." Furthermore, according to The Times, HRW "does not always practice the transparency, tolerance and accountability it urges on others." In fact, in 2012, New Europe wrote that HRW "allegedly erased references in its reports to its previous cooperation with the Gaddafi regime, including the role of the organization's MENA Director, Sarah Leah Whitson, in marketing Saif al-Islam Gaddafi as a reformer."

The HRW report on Egypt did mention that the demonstrators were armed, but with only a limited number of weapons. It remains unclear how just a few HRW reporters managed to count the number of weapons in such big crowd and in such a chaotic environment. Did they simply ask every Islamist whether or not they were carrying a weapon? Or perhaps they patted down each demonstrator in order to get an accurate count of the number of weapons in the crowd. The report also failed to mention the huge number of weapons that were discovered in storage areas in Rabba. Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Times, accused HRW of a lack of sufficient expertise to report on fighting or war situations.

And by the way, HRW's admission that the demonstrators in Rabaa were armed suggests that perhaps the Egyptian security forces in fact behaved prudently. And it utterly undermines any comparison to China's Tiananmen Square killings in 1989, where the demonstrators were most certainly not armed.

The claim that the protesters were not given enough time to leave the place is challenged by what millions have already seen on the Arab media: Thousands of protesters left Rabba peacefully after the police had informed them that they could leave safely and would not be persecuted. Indeed, the videos clearly show that the police were protecting the protesters who chose to leave peacefully. Those who remained in Rabba after being given fair warning and the opportunity to leave peacefully were the radical Islamist fighters who are by definition quite prepared to fight unto death.

In short, the recent report of HRW regarding the Rabaa incident in Egypt seems to be at best biased, unprofessional and misleading.

 

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who became later on the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Hamid recognized the threat of radical Islam and the need for a reformation based upon modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts. Dr. Hamid is currently a Senior Fellow and Chair of the study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

 

Iran: Common Denominator of Middle East Chaos

Iranian Revolutionary Guards shown saluting in front of a picture of the leader of the 1970 Islamist revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (Photo: © Reuters)

Iranian Revolutionary Guards shown saluting in front of a picture of the leader of the 1970 Islamist revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (Photo: © Reuters)

by: 
Shahriar Kia

Islamic Fundamentalism, the Iranian regime’s weapons of choice in the Middle-East

Everyone agrees that the Middle East region has become a hodgepodge of religious, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, with the prospects of a respite in death and destruction indeed being bleak. The effects are most evident in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and more recently in Libya and Lebanon. Other countries are not immune and are under the imminent threat of being pulled into the fray by joining one of the many confusing conflicts that are ravaging the region.

Where opinions diverge is how to deal with this crisis.

Erroneous interpretations by regional and world powers in pinpointing the true source of the disaster and careless dithering in laying out a suitable roadmap and an effective approach to tackle the problem have given rise to the perception that peace and stability in the Middle East as a hopeless cause.

The Iranian regime, the root of Islamic fundamentalism and the heart of problems in the Middle East

The common denominator of all calamities that can be witnessed in the region is Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, which is not only a regional but a global threat. This perverse interpretation of Islam has so far worked into the hands of dictators, helping to shore them up against their legitimate oppositions and has also buried the true face of Islam – which is in reality stands for peace and tolerance – under a thick crust of blood, violence, and death.

Islamic fundamentalism finds its main contributor in Iran, where the Velayat-e-Faghih (uncontested rule of the clergy) regime is being run by the mullahs. Their rule is based on regional expansionism and export of fundamentalism and terrorism abroad, and the violent suppression of the people at home.

The mullahs rely on their regional proxies to instigate civil conflicts and stoke the fires of sectarianism in the countries of the region in order to evade the many domestic and international crises that are entangling their own regime.

In this regard, Iraq and Syria have been hit the worst.

Iran’s role in the instigating the Iraq crisis

Had it not been for the oppressive and violent meddling of the Iranian regime, Iraq would have been moving along the path of democratization in the recent years. A peaceful and stable state led by an inclusive government would have left no room for the emergence of extremist groups in Iraq.

In fact, before the Iranian regime gained leverage with the nascent post-war Iraqi state, millions of Iraqi Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds had lived alongside each other peacefully for years.

But following the hasty withdrawal of U.S. forces, the government of Iraq came under the complete sway of the Iranian regime. At the behest of the Iranian regime, the government of Iraq undertook sectarian-oriented policies, consolidating power in a tight circle of Iran-friendly forces and militia, gradually and violently marginalizing the Sunni community, and eventually setting the stage for widespread peaceful protests which turned into an all-out uprising after being brutally suppressed by government security forces.

Naturally, extremist groups have tried taking advantage of the situation to gain influence over the masses of people disgruntled by the disaster caused by the Iranian regime and its proxies in Iraq.

Fearing the loss of its hegemony, the Iranian regime poured thousands of troops into Iraq under the excuse of protecting religious shrines, and is doing all within its power to transform a democratic uprising to a sectarian conflict.

Recent reports of high-ranking Iranian commanders among the casualties in clashes in Iraq are proof of how deeply the Iranian regime is entrenched in the conflict.

Meanwhile, dazed and confused from the sudden turn of events in Iraq, and frantic to find a short-term solution to the situation that is quickly slipping through its grasp, the U.S. government is entertaining the possibility of cooperating with the Iranian regime to stabilize the situation.

Such an undertaking would be a recipe for disaster, would deepen sectarian divides and push Iraq further away from becoming the stable and secure state that its people deserve.

Iran props up the dictator of Syria against the democratic opposition

In 2012, Syria was moving on the path to democratic revolution at a fast pace and Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad – a strategic ally of the Iranian regime – had all but lost the war. But the intervention of Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) gave him a boost and evened the odds.

Here again, the international community failed to respond appropriately. Fearing the unraveling of the much coveted nuclear talks with the mullahs, the West avoided a confrontation with the Iranian regime over its meddling in Syria, and therefore opted to turn a blind eye on the flow of supplies, arms and troops from Iran to the Assad regime.

The West’s idleness weakened the hand of the secular and democratic opposition forces and pushed the conflict into a stalemate, causing further bloodshed and giving rise to more extremist elements.

Now well into its third year, the Syrian crisis has claimed the lives of more than 170,000 people and has spilled over three million refugees into neighboring countries, with no prospect of a peaceful end in sight.

Even though the Iranian regime faces a precarious situation in Iraq, it refuses to relinquish Syria, and its officials continue to assert that holding Assad in power is a strategic goal. Thousands of Hezbollah fighters continue to fight for Assad on the behalf of the Iranian regime, and Iran continues to send troops to Syria.

Iranian regime, the main benefactor of bloodletting in Gaza

The situation in Gaza has so far served the interests of the Iranian regime by diverting international attention from the crises in Iraq and Syria.

While the world is calling for a cease-fire, the Iranian regime continues to hype the continuation of the conflagration and is using the conflict as a window of opportunity to extend its influence in the region.

Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, are openly scorning any sort of cease-fire and are adamantly calling for the continuation of the conflict. “If we do not fight in Palestine, Gaza and Lebanon,” Iranian MP said in a parliamentary session, “We would be forced to fight in streets of Tehran.”

The real solution to the grievances in the Middle East

The eviction of the Iranian regime from all countries in the region and eventually a regime change in Iran that would see the theocratic dictatorship replaced with a secular and democratic government would be the true, definitive solution to the crises plaguing the Middle East.

As much as a terrorism- and fundamentalism-exporting Iran – such as that of the mullahs – plays a pivotal role in the development of calamities in the Middle East, a peaceful and democratic Iran can have a crucial role in the establishment of lasting peace and stability in the region.

Such an idea is gaining more and more support worldwide, and was the focus of a momentous gathering in Paris on July 26 at a conference titled “Religious dictatorship in Iran, epicenter of sectarian wars in the Middle East.”

Attended by representatives and members of Shiite and Sunni communities from different countries of the Middle East region as well as dignitaries from the U.S. and European states, the conference offered accurate insights and solutions to the crises in the Middle East.

Speaking at the conference, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the principle opposition to the Iranian regime, called for the eviction of the Iranian theocracy from all countries in the region is the practical solution to the current situation.

Rajavi’s remarks were widely touted by other speakers.

Dr. Walid Phares, commentator on global terrorism and Middle Eastern affairs, criticized the West for abandoning the democratic opposition and engaging the dictatorship in Iran. Alluding to Rajavi’s movement, which represents a democratic, secular and nuclear-free alternative to the current regime in Iran, Phares said, “You are showing if liberty comes to Iran, every other country every other civil society would have more hope.”

Also speaking at the conference, Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, said, “We… understand the importance of having an Iran that lives side by side with every country in the region in freedom and dignity without the threat the Iranian mullahs pose to the world.”

Ginsberg described Islam as a “proud and peaceful religion” that has been hijacked by those in Iran who claim to preach the true word of Islam.”

A firm position in dealing with the Iranian regime can be decisive in determining the future of the Middle East.

The West can continue to try to reach a compromise with the Iranian regime in order to douse the flames of sectarianism and fundamentalism. But as proven in the past, failure awaits at the end of that path. It is past time that the U.S. and the international community stood with the Iranian people and their resistance for regime change in Iran, the only way to start on the path of ending the global threat of Islamic fundamentalism.

 

Shahriar Kia is a press spokesman for an Iranian opposition  group housed at Camp Liberty in Iraq. Kia says the group, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as MEK), advocates for a democratic, secular Iran with separation of church and state and gender quality that is nuclear-free. He graduated from North Texas University and currently resides in Iraq. His Twitter handle is @shahriarkia 

You can read Kia’s previous interview with the Clarion Project here

Ending FGM and Forced/Child Marriage: Inspiration from the Girl Summit

The author, Raheel Raza, third from left with participants in the Girl Summit including Jasvinder Sanghera (left)of Karma Nirvana. Both Raza and Sanghera appeared in Clarion Project's latest film, Honor Diaries.

The author, Raheel Raza, third from left with participants in the Girl Summit including Jasvinder Sanghera (left)of Karma Nirvana. Both Raza and Sanghera appeared in Clarion Project's latest film, Honor Diaries.

by: 
Raheel Raza

It was a great honour to be invited to attend the 2014 “Girl Summit” in the UK which was hosted by the UK Government and United Nations Children’s Fund.

But before I got there, I had to get a badge. Having experienced government bureaucracy in other countries, it was a pleasant surprise to reach Whitehall and find everything in order. That’s when I first discovered that there were 600 delegates coming to the summit. We were told that the program for the summit would only be available at the actual entrance to the event.

So I made my way to Walworth Academy on July 22 early in the morning. The security was very tight and media swarmed all over the place. When I got the program, I understood why. Starting with Ban Ki-Moon in the opening plenary to Sheikh Hasina, the female Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and David Cameron. It was a high profile event.

The theme of the summit was “A Future Free from FGM and Child and Force Marriage.” As an activist for women’s rights my entire adult life, I know how hard it has been to bring women’s issues on the front burner, especially those issues that are taboo to discuss or debate. So, it was with great pleasure that I started listening to the conversation around me.

When the documentary Honor Diaries was released, one of the criticisms against it was, “Why is the focus on Muslim majority societies?” Well, I got the answer at the summit. Today, in areas of the Muslim world ruled by despots like ISIS and Boko Haram, forced and underage marriage and FGM are being promoted – while in the UK, a country where these practices did not originate, an international charter is being drawn up to end FGM and forced/child marriages in this generation.

I felt proud and motivated to be part of the Honor Diaries movement which is still cutting-edge in breaking the barriers of silence.

Speaking of Honor Diaries, I was inspired by the number of women at the summit who had seen the film and commented on it. Jaha Dukuray found me in the crowd although she was being filmed by The Guardian, and we had a few moments of bonding.

All VIP’s were welcomed into the summit compound by the “Pandemonium Drummers,” so when we heard drumming, we knew someone important was entering. This is how I saw Malala Yousafzai and her father walk in.

I ran up to Malala to give her an Honor Diaries DVD and scarf and her handlers tried to brush me off, but I said, “Malala belongs to the same heritage as I am from, so her movement belongs to all of us, and I am from her homeland.” I managed to give her an Honor Diaries DVD and scarf before she was whisked away.

Later, I went to the plenary and, on the way, I saw the VIP and media room, so I just walked in with my journalist cap on. Here, I was able to meet many people face-to-face. An African girl walked up to me and said, “You are my hero.” I was a bit taken aback.

She introduced herself as Alimatu Dimoneken who is an FGM survivor and had seen Honor Diaries. She said my family reminded her of her family. I also met Malala’s father and gave him another DVD just to ensure that he has a copy. He promised to visit when he comes to Canada as we spoke the same language.

Then I met John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada. As a fellow-Canadian I was proud of his being the facilitator for a session on “Action for Change.” I also met Gordon Campbell, our Canadian High Commissioner in Britain.

 All of them spoke out against FGM and forced/child Marriage. Hina Jilani, Supreme Court Advocate from Pakistan, was there and she said, “It’s time to make governments accountable for their duties towards their citizens, and International relations need to be strengthened to change social policy.” 

At a later session, Malala was on a panel with Sheikh Hasina. Malala spoke about her visit to Nigeria to meet with the families of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. She is an impressive and eloquent speaker (without notes), and she said, “It’s we who create a culture in which women can’t be educated – so we can change those cultures that go against human rights.”

Her solution: educate all girls. Sheikh Hasina spoke about a move in Bangladesh to make education free for all girls until graduation.   

Heads of African states spoke about commitments, targets and change. But nowhere is the change more obvious than in the UK where the problems have been immense but, so too, have the solutions.

Prime Minister David Cameron made a surprise appearance. He spoke with great conviction about the changes made in the UK legal, justice and educational systems to tackle FGM and child/forced marriage. Not only have they invested finances into this movement but manpower as well. He said it’s now mandatory in the UK for teachers and doctors to report signs of FGM or forced/child marriages. Parents will be convicted. At the time he spoke, 21 countries had signed up with the Girl Charter as well as 230 organizations. I was able to present him with an Honor Diaries DVD as well.

Jasvinder Sanghera of Karma Nirvana who also appeared in Honor Diaries was up front and center having worked on forced marriages since her organization was formed. She introduced me to many of the movers and shakers in the field.

Over lunch, we had a short screening of the forced marriage clip from Honor Diaries, and there were some good questions. One young South Asian girl asked, “What about the victims?” and later she came to me and told me her story.

She is of Pakistani origin, born and brought up in London. She was only 12 when she came home from school one day and was asked to wear a bridal dress and married off against her will to a man much older than her because the family had decided that was her future.

She was not allowed to continue her education, and two years later, she gave birth to two kids. She was sent to Pakistan, came back and decided to leave her abusive husband for which she was ex-communicated from her family.

She managed to educate herself and now has grown-up children and spends her time counselling women like herself. The need for support systems for women in her situation became very apparent.

Later in the summit there were celebrities like actress Freida Pinto. I left inspired by what I had experienced. If North America could only take a lesson from the UK, we could solve a huge problem that exists on this continent as well. 

 

Raheel Raza is an award-winning author, journalist, and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity. She is one of nine women's rights activists who took part in Clarion Project's film "Honor Diaries" which breaks the silence on honor violence against women.

Presbyterian Church Divests From Israel, Ignores Persecuted Christians

A church bombed by Islamic extremists in Kirkuk, Iraq

A church bombed by Islamic extremists in Kirkuk, Iraq

by: 
Raymond Ibrahim

Days before the recent Israel/Hamas conflict erupted, the Presbyterian Church in America withdrew $21 million worth in investments from Israel because, as spokesman Heath Rada put it, the Israeli government’s actions “harm the Palestinian people.”

Soon after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and was asked if he was “troubled” by the Presbyterian Church’s move.

Netanyahu responded:

It should trouble all people of conscience and morality because it’s so disgraceful. You know, you look at what’s happening in the Middle East and I think most Americans understand this, they see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions. Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians—Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation. You know I would suggest to these Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice, one is, make sure it’s an armor plated bus, and second, don’t say that you’re Christians.

It’s difficult—if not impossible—to argue with Netanyahu’s logic. Indeed, several points made in his one-minute response are deserving of some reflection.

First, the obvious: Why is it that self-professed Christians completely ignore the horrific Islamic persecution of fellow Christians in the Middle East, while grandstanding against the Jewish state for trying to defend itself against the same ideology that persecutes Christians?

And he is absolutely right to say that the persecution of Christians in the Mideast has reached a point of “savagery of unimaginable proportions.” Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the atrocities Mideast Christians are exposed to—the slaughters, crucifixions, beheadings, torture and rape—is the absolute silence emanating from so-called mainline Protestant churches in the U.S.

Note also the nations Netanyahu highlighted for their brutal persecution of Christian minorities: Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Indigenous Christians were markedly better off in all three nations before the U.S. got involved, specifically be empowering, deliberately or not, Islamist forces. Now, according to recent studies, Christians in all three nations are experiencing the worst form of persecution around the globe:

  • Libya: Ever since U.S.-backed, al-Qaeda-linked terrorists overthrew Gaddafi, Christians—including Americans—have been tortured and killed (including for refusing to convert) and churches bombed. It’s “open season” on Copts, as jihadis issue a reward to Muslims who find and kill Christians. This was not the case under Gaddafi.
  •  
  • Syria: Christians have been attacked in indescribable ways—wholesale massacres, bombed and desecrated churches, beheadings, crucifixions and rampant kidnappings—since the U.S.-sponsored “Arab Spring” reached the Levant.
  •  
  • Iraq: After the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein, Christian minorities were savagely attacked and slaughtered, and dozens of their churches were bombed (see here for graphic images). In the last decade, Christians have been terrorized into near extinction, with well over half of them fleeing Iraq.

If the Presbyterian Church has problems with governments that persecute people—in this case, the Israeli government’s purported treatment of Palestinians, hence the Presbyterian Church’s divestment from Israel—perhaps it should begin by criticizing its own government’s proxy war on fellow Christians in the Middle East.

 

Christians are also being targeted in the Palestinian Authority territories—by the very same elements the Presbyterian Church is trying to defend.

In 2012, for example, a pastor noted that “animosity towards the Christian minority in areas controlled by the PA continues to get increasingly worse. People are always telling [Christians], 'Convert to Islam. Convert to Islam.' ” And in fact, the kidnapping and forced conversions of Christians in Gaza is an ugly reality.”

More recently, nuns of the Greek-Orthodox monastery in Bethany sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging him to respond to the escalation of attacks on the Christian house, including the throwing of stones, broken glass, theft and looting of the monastery property. “Someone wants to send us away,” wrote Sister Ibraxia in the letter, “but we will not flee.”

Sadly, the hypocrisy exhibited by the Presbyterian Church is not limited to that denomination. Some time back, 15 leaders from various U.S. Christian denominations—mostly Protestant, including the Lutheran, Methodist, and UCC Churches—asked Congress to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel, again, in the context of supporting “persecuted” Palestinians.

Yet nary a word from these same church leaders concerning the rampant persecution of millions of Christians at the hands of Muslims in the Middle East—a persecution that makes the Palestinians’ situation pale in comparison.

Other Protestants do find time to criticize Muslim persecution of Christians—but only to blame Israel for it. Thus, Diarmaid MacCulloch, a Fellow of St. Cross College, wrote an article in the Daily Beast ostensibly addressing the plight of Mideast Christians—but only to argue that the source of Christian persecution “in the Middle East is seven decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine.”

In reality, far from prompting the persecution of Christians, the Arab-Israeli conflict is itself a byproduct of the same hostility Islamic supremacism threatens all non-Muslims. The reason hostility for Israel is much more viral is because the Jewish state holds a unique position of authority over Muslims unlike vulnerable Christian minorities who can be abused at will (as fully explained here).

Little wonder, then, that more Arab Christians—double the number of each of the preceding three years—are now joining the Israel Defense Forces.

They know they can count on basic human rights protection from Israel -- more than from many of their fellow Christians in the West. After all, beyond the sophistry, distortions and downright lies emanating from some of these Christian denominations, the fact remains: Both Jews and Christians are under attack from the same foe and for the same reason -- they are non-Muslim “infidels” who need to be subjugated.

 

Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum. Mr. Ibrahim's dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Egyptian parents —has provided him with unique advantages to understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets.

Threat of Nuclear Iran Looms Due to the West's Weak Resolve

Iranian nuclear negotiators (Photo: © Reuters)

Iranian nuclear negotiators (Photo: © Reuters)

by: 
Shahriar Kia

The sixth and final round of talks between the Iranian regime and P5+1, which started on July 3, is quickly running its course toward its self-imposed July 20 deadline, at which time world powers and the Iranian regime are supposed to reach a final agreement on Iran’s illicit nuclear program and curb the nuclear capabilities of a regime that has already proven to be a regional and global threat without nuclear weapons.

The talks were initially launched with a lot of pomp and ceremony. Accordingly, a lot of optimism was pumped into mainstream media, mainly centered on the positive changes that would supposedly occur now that the Iranian regime’s new president Hassan Rouhani had assumed office, and his foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was at the helm of Iranian negotiating team.

Western states rushed to the negotiating table, offering the Iranian regime many concessions and not demanding much in return, seemingly forgetting that this same regime has so far defied six U.N. Security Council resolutions, and Rouhani has previously bragged about how he had duped the West and preserved the Iranian regime’s nuclear project during his 2003-2005 nuclear tenure.

Also being ignored is the proven fact that no matter who is up front, it is the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who has the final say on important matters, the nuclear project included.

Now, after many months of ongoing talks, it turns out that the Iranian regime had nothing new to offer and insists on preserving its nuclear program and its potential to produce nuclear arms.

Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who had touted the talks and had high hopes over the prospects of reaching a solution to Iran’s nuclear deadlock, now feels a little disgruntled and dubious about the whole affair.  “What will Iran choose?” he wrote in his June 30 op-ed in the Washington Post, “Despite many months of discussion, we don’t know yet.”

With a few days left on the schedule, many sticking points remain between Iran and world powers, including the number of centrifuges, the much-debated Arak heavy water reactor, the possible military dimensions of the program and the regime’s ballistic missile program, which could be used to launch nuclear warheads to intended targets.

If recent remarks by Khamenei are any indication, the gap between the Iranian regime and world powers is too great and isn’t likely to be bridged within the next weeks. Acknowledging that it is at a critical milestone, the Iranian regime’s supreme leader made it clear in a session with high-profile regime officials that his regime needs 190,000 SWUs (Separate Work Units) as compared to the 10,000 that the international community is willing to concede. He also dismissed any notion of shutting down military facilities or giving up on nuclear research.

Khamenei took advantage of the weak resolve of the international community to taunt the West and affirm that any attempts at further sanctions or possible military action against his regime would fail.

The best result that the talks could yield is a bad deal, one which allows the Iranian regime to preserve its capacity to create a nuclear bomb and make a break for it at a time of its choosing. The only amount of relief U.S. President Barack Obama might draw from the situation is that the catastrophe might not come to pass on his watch.

The alternative will be an extension to the talks, which will buy the mullahs more time to continue their nuclear program at its current pace while allowing them to enjoy sanctions relief that the West has conceded according to the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action.

Either way, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran will continue to loom on the horizon, and the international community will at best succeed in kicking the can a little further down the road.

What’s more disappointing is that the international community seems to ignore the fact that the real weapon of mass destruction in Iran is the regime itself, with its outdated religious fascist mindset and its policy of exporting Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism to the region and worldwide.

Even without nuclear bombs, the Iranian regime is already responsible for the ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq – to mention just a few – and the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the region. Furthermore, Iran has seen a spike in executions and human rights violations during the tenure of Rouhani, the self-proclaimed “moderate” president much touted by the West.

None of the above will dissipate when the final agreement over the Iranian regime’s nuclear program is penned, be it on July 20 or at a later date. Given its nature, the Iranian regime will never be a contributing force to peace and stability in the region, a fact that Obama and the other members of the P5+1 seem to miss altogether – or deliberately ignore.

The real solution to the grievances that the international community faces regarding the Iranian regime is not to engage it but to overthrow it and replace it with a democratic alternative.

This was the focus of a huge gathering held in Paris on June 27 by the Iranian diaspora, in which more than 100,000 people from 69 countries attended, representing all generations and walks of life in Iran.

The huge crowd had rallied around one cause: regime change in Iran.

Speaking at the convention, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton described the Iranian regime’s nuclear program as “the principal threat to peace and security in the region.”

“Combined with the regime’s roll in financing terrorism,” he said in his speech, “the ayatollahs have been the principal cause for the destabilization of the Middle East, resulting in conflicts that are erasing national boundaries and fostering the collapses of the regional states.”

His thoughts were seconded by many of the 600 parliamentarians and political figures who attended the conference from U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East, representing a wide spectrum of political tendencies.

“There is only one sure way to secure the world from the threat that this regime in Tehran represents,” said former U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman, who was among the first speakers at the event. “It is for the Iranian people to overthrow these tyrants, and for freedom loving people throughout the world to support this next great revolution.”     

Comparing Iran with other countries in the region that have either undergone or are undergoing regime change in recent years, former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani argued, “[R]egime change in Iran is easy.” Alluding to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its leader, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, he added, “There is an alternative in Iran, an alternative that stands for democracy, stands for freedom, stands for human rights, stands for the rights of women, is led by a woman, and most importantly at this time in our history, it stands for a non-nuclear Iran.”

The NCRI, the main opposition of the Iranian regime, was the first party to blow the whistle on Iran’s secret nuclear program in 2002, and has since provided the international community with valuable information about Iran’s nuclear sites and activities.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI, was the keynote speaker of the event. She made it clear in her speech that the Iranian regime could not be trusted, saying, “[The mullahs] want to take advantage of the West appeasement policy as much as possible to buy time and leave open the path to acquiring nuclear weapons.”

She stipulated that, in addition to the dismantlement of all its nuclear facilities, the Iranian regime must be forced to accept additional protocol and full inspections of its sites, plus unrestricted interviews with all those involved. She also emphasized that the Iranian regime must be held accountable for its record of blatant human rights violation and its role in the genocide of the Iraqi and Syrian people.

Rajavi underscored that the Iranian people want regime change, and change in Iran will be possible “through the Iranian people and their resistance.”

While reiterating her commitment to replacing the regime in Iran with a non-nuclear republic based on separation of church and state, gender equality and the abolishment of capital punishment, she emphasized, “The time has come for the international community to stand with the Iranian people.”

Making the wrong choices – especially in the Middle East – has become the hallmark of the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the past five years. The effects are clearly visible in Syria and Iraq today.

Despite his botched attempts, Obama continues to try to rein in the Iranian regime through appeasement and concessions, an endeavor that is doomed to fail again. Now at a critical juncture, he can either continue to side with the criminal, illegitimate dictatorship ruling in Tehran, or, for once, make the right choice and stand with the Iranian people and their resistance for regime change in Iran, an undertaking that will definitely help promote peace and stability in the region and across the world. 

 

Shahriar Kia is a press spokesman for an Iranian opposition  group housed at Camp Liberty in Iraq. Kia says the group, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as MEK), advocates for a democratic, secular Iran with separation of church and state and gender quality that is nuclear-free. He graduated from North Texas University and currently resides in Iraq. His Twitter handle is @shahriarkia 

You can read Kia’s previous interview with the Clarion Project here

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