Is Trump Seeing Mid-East Countries to Combat Religious Extremism, or Visiting Religious Sites to Promote Coexistence?

On May 4, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that he will visit the Middle East. He saidThe purpose of this meeting is to bring together all the different countries and all the different religions in the fight against intolerance and to defeat radicalism.” The destinations on the trip included the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Israel and the Vatican. The GOALS of the visit were to fight against intolerance and radicalism.


President Trump announcing intention to visit the Middle East
May 4, 2017

Can Trump “bring together” the countries and religions in such an effort?

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

KSA is just one of 50 Muslim-majority countries, so Trump could have visited any of the fifty to make a point of connecting with Islam.

But KSA has a number of key attributes that the other Islamic countries do not have:

  • It holds the two holiest sites for Islam, Mecca and Medina
  • It is a US ally, compared to several Muslim countries that are not
  • It is a major opponent to Iran, which is a US-designated state-sponsor of terrorism
  • KSA has received billions of dollars in US military equipment and is engaged in joint strikes against targets in war zones like Yemen

Trump will not get to visit Mecca or Medina, the central places holy to Muslims because KSA forbids non-Muslims from visiting the Islamic holy sites. However, his meeting with the custodian of the holy sites – the KSA royal family – will make clear that the trip is not simply a visit to any Muslim country, but one that is willing to fight alongside America.

Is KSA a repressive regime? No question. It’s human rights record is appalling and many Trump critics think it outrageous to give the royal family such honor. But Trump made clear in his remarks:

“Our task is not to dictate to others how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism, and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East.”

Trump’s focus is narrow: the war on terror. However, KSA is actually a supporter of Wahabism and radical Islam. It happens to be a foe of Iran which earned its designation of a sponsor of terrorism well before it got involved in regional wars in Syria and Yemen, wars in which KSA is opposing Iran.

In visiting KSA, Trump will be visiting a country that is both a custodian of religious holy sites and a military partner. He will not get to visit religious sites nor showcase religious tolerance.

The Vatican

There are dozens of countries with a majority of Christians that Trump could have visited. And the Vatican isn’t even a country according to the UN.

But Catholicism is the largest of the Christian denominations, and the Pope is unique in being a central figure of a church. No other single individual has a command over such a flock.

While the Pope has no army to engage in a military battle against violent extremism, his message of tolerance is one that Trump seeks to connect with and spread throughout the world.

Israel

There is only one Jewish majority state, which makes the choice of Israel apparently simple in rounding out the Trump tour of the monotheistic faiths. In the other two countries with a significant Jewish populations – the United States and France – the Jews make up just a small percentage of the overall population, 2.1% and 0.8%, respectively.

For many decades, Israel has been America’s closest ally in the entire Middle East. It is the only true democracy in the region and Americans and Israelis share many of the same values. Israel has also been an important ally for the US in the ongoing War on Terror.

But there are large differences between Israel and the other stops on Trump’s trip:

  • Israel is the only country in Trump’s Mideast tour to tamper radicalism, that suffers from ongoing terrorism
  • Israel is the only country that had the (former) United Nations Secretary General stand up and state that he supports a terrorist regime (Hamas) and their inclusion in a Palestinian Authority government
  • The Jewish State is the only country where the world doesn’t recognize its holiest location and where the Muslim Waqf forbids Jewish prayer.

Israel promotes religious tolerance but receives none. It does this while confronting ongoing terrorism.

Trump will visit the holiest site in Judaism accesible to Jewish prayer today – the western wall of the Jewish Temple Mount. But he will do so WITHOUT Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the US is not comfortable stating that the Jewish state is the custodian of the religion’s holiest site.

It is an interesting backdrop on which to draw further comparisons.

The War on Religious Radicals and
the Promotion of Religious Tolerance

As Trump navigates the Middle East, he will attempt to promote two messages: of religious tolerance and of the battle to stamp out religious violence.

Religious Tolerance:

  • Saudi Arabia is 100% Muslim and the Vatican is 100% Christian. Only in Israel is there a mix of religions (75% Jewish and 25% non-Jewish)
  • Saudi Arabia restricts access to its holy sites only to Muslims. The Vatican welcomes all religions to the city. In Jerusalem, the Islamic Waqf which is overseen by Jordan, prohibits Jews from praying at its holiest site, the Temple Mount.
  • Saudi Arabia restricts bringing religious artifacts like a cross or Jewish bible into the country. The Vatican and Israel have no such restrictions.

The list goes on. Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia clearly has nothing to do with rewarding it for promoting religious tolerance. Perhaps that is an aspiration. Israel is the prime example of religious tolerance to be emulated in the Middle East

War on Radicalism:

  • In the attacks of 9/11/01, fifteen of the 19 terrorists were from KSA. Saudi Arabia continues to fund a radical form of Islam in schools around the world. For its part, the Catholic Church tries to convert people to Catholicism, but not by force and it does not promote violence. Israel and the Jewish State do not attempt to convert anyone in any manner and is not engaged in terrorist activities around the world.
  • Saudi Arabia does not fight radical Islam; it fights Iran and the Islamic State as discrete entities in an ongoing war between Sunni and Shia Islam. The Vatican has no army to participate in any war. For its part, Israel is actively fighting terrorism in its homeland, principally against an enemy that is rabidly anti-Semitic that wants to rid the region of Jews.

In short, only in Israel will Trump find both a partner in promoting religious tolerance and a partner in combatting violent religious extremism. Only in Israel will Trump see a people that faces terrorism on a daily basis.

Together:

Trump stated that he sought to bring parties “together.” With the exception of Egypt and Jordan, the rest of the Arab countries have refused to recognize the legitmacy of the State of Israel. Perhaps Trump hopes that this initiative to eradicate radical jihadists will change that dynamic. It would appear to be wishful thinking: The Saudi royal family has funded the families of Palestinian terrorists for years.

 

These are important points for Trump to address during his Mideast visit. A key victory in advancing both agendas of combatting religious violence and promoting religious tolerance would be to get the Palestinian Authority to finally rip up the anti-Semitic law which calls for the death sentence for any Arab that sells land to a Jew. Nothing demonstrates the vileness of intolerance and radicalism as much as the Palestinian Land Law.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Cancer in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Palestinian’s Three Denials

How the US and UN can Restart Relations with Israel

Saudi Arabia, “Ally” of the United States

Ban Ki Moon Defecates on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Extreme and Mainstream. Germany 1933; West Bank & Gaza Today

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Grading Evil and Evil Doers

On December 14, 2015, US President Obama told Americans that “the United States and our Armed Forces continue to lead the global coalition in our mission to destroy the terrorist group ISIL (the Islamic State).”  He laid out the ongoing efforts to “destroy” the group in its various facets, including “their fighting positions, bunkers and staging areas; their heavy weapons, bomb-making factories, compounds and training camps.

He used the word “destroy” five times in the speech.

That address stood in sharp contrast to his detailed comments on fighting “violent extremism.”

On February 18, 2015, Obama penned a piece in the Los Angeles Times called “Our Fight Against Violent Extremism.” He mentioned terrorism and terrorist threats from a range of countries, including: Yemen; Libya; Syria; Iraq; US; Canada; Australia; France; Denmark; Pakistan; Somalia and Nigeria.  His plan to deal with the global threat involved several initiatives: “We know that military force alone cannot solve this problem. Nor can we simply take out terrorists who kill innocent civilians. We also have to confront the violent extremists — the propagandists, recruiters and enablers — who may not directly engage in terrorist acts themselves, but who radicalize, recruit and incite others to do so…. Our focus will be on empowering local communities.”

Obama’s plan to fight global violent extremism was broad.  Below is a review of Obama’s approach for confronting evil and evil-doers.

Evil to Destroy

President Obama referred to an “evil ideology” when he commented on the murder of American photojournalist Luke Somers.  For Obama, the evil of AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) was a “disregard for life” that threated to “harm our [American] citizens.”

Regarding ISIL/ the Islamic State, the evil was described in a similar manner.  In November 2015, after attacks in France and Turkey, Obama said ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I’ve said many times, is to degrade and ultimately destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.”  He echoed comments he made with French President Hollande just a few days before when he saidthis barbaric terrorist group — ISIL, or Daesh — and its murderous ideology pose a serious threat to all of us.  It cannot be tolerated.  It must be destroyed.”

Evil had certain traits: barbarity and murder.  According to Obama, the root of the evil ideology was to “promote a twisted interpretation of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims.

Particular evil that needed to be destroyed, was evil that threated America, and in some cases, its allies.  Other evil could be addressed using other methods.

Consider Obama’s comments over his presidency about his desire to destroy evil.  It is limited to two terrorist groups who attacked Americans: al Qaeda and ISIL/ Islamic State.

  • December 1, 2009: “America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network and to protect our common security.
  • March 28, 2010: “Our broad mission is clear:  We are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies.  That is our mission [in Afghanistan].”
  • October 29, 2010: “we will continue to strengthen our cooperation with the Yemeni government to disrupt plotting by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and to destroy this al Qaeda affiliate.
  • September 10, 2014: “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”
  • February 11, 2015: “America’s armed forces are working with some 60 nations to degrade and destroy ISIL, a terrorist group that has committed countless barbaric atrocities and poses a grave threat to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, regional stability, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners.”
  • July 6, 2015: “ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple… Our main objective is to degrade and destroy this group through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.

Obama with military leaders
Obama discussing anti-Islamic State plan, surrounded by military leaders including
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff on July 6, 2015 (photo: DoD/ Glenn Fawcett)

ISIL/ Islamic State and al Qaeda remain the only groups targeted for destruction by Obama.

Condemned Evil

There are other groups – and countries –  that are barbaric murderous entities which are not in Obama’s crosshairs.  They receive Obama’s condemnation and disapproval, but not concerted military attention.

Boko Haram is a barbaric, murderous terrorist group operating in Nigeria.  Like the Islamic State, it seeks to install an Islamic country in the place of the Nigerian secular government through a murderous campaign.

Obama has condemned the group’s actions, but remained measured in his call for action:

  • May 7, 2014 (an offer to help find abducted teenaged girls): “Boko Haram, this terrorist organization that’s been operating in Nigeria, has been killing people and innocent civilians for a very long time. We’ve always identified them as one of the worst local or regional terrorist organizations there is out there…So what we’ve done is we have offered — and it’s been accepted — help from our military and law enforcement officials. We’re going to do everything we can to provide assistance to them. In the short term, our goal obviously is to help the international community and the Nigerian government as a team to do everything we can to recover these young ladies. But we’re also going to have to deal with the broader problem of organizations like this that can cause such havoc in people’s day-to-day lives.” Obama did not offer to help destroy Boko Haram.
  • March 23, 2015: “Boko Haram, a brutal terrorist group that kills innocent men, women and children must be stopped…. by casting your ballot you can help secure your nation’s progress.”  Obama gave no support to destroy the group; he just suggested that Nigerians vote peacefully in elections and the Boko Haram threat would disappear.
  • July 10, 2015: “[The president of Nigeria is] very concerned about the spread of Boko Haram and the violence that’s taken place there, and the atrocities that they’ve carried out, and has a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremists of all sorts inside of his country.” Obama noted the President of Nigeria’s concern, but did not mention his own.

While the evil of Boko Haram and other groups operating in Africa was the same, the Obama Administration would not target the groups for destruction as Americans were not targeted.  Obama would only condemn the evil and offer American support:

  • In Chad: “support the governments and people of the Lake Chad Basin region in their ongoing struggle to defeat Boko Haram
  • In Lebanon: “fully support the Lebanese authorities as they conduct their investigation… reaffirms its commitment to Lebanon’s security, and will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Lebanon in confronting terrorism

The same evil ideology is held by other groups such as al-Shabaab in Somalia which has killed hundreds.  In Ethiopia, after a brutal attack in the country’s capital, Obama saidWe don’t need to send our own marines in to do the fighting: The Ethiopians are tough fighters and the Kenyans and Ugandans have been serious about what they’re doing.”  The comment suggested that Obama’s modus operandi is that America will only engage militarily to destroy evil, if the local government is ill-equipped to do so.

Tolerated Evil

The evil ideology of barbarism and murder is not confined to a few terrorist groups that “promote a twisted interpretation of religion.”  Several countries also engage in barbarity of its own citizens.  Consider Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria.  These countries commit barbarity including:

  • killing gays by hanging them from cranes in the streets and throwing them off buildings;
  • stoning people to death for adultery;
  • beheading people in the middle of the streets;
  • executing minors;
  • capital punishment for activities that do not hurt anyone such as apostasy (converting from Islam)

The Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people, crossing an Obama “red line.”  However, in the end, it did not matter.  Obama would not attack the Syrian government, and opted to negotiate with them to remove chemical weapons.

Regarding Iran, Obama stated that while they may be anti-Semitic, the country’s leaders were not so consumed by evil that they would do something that would harm their own interests.  Obama would not attack the country, but chose to negotiate to slow the pace of its nuclear program, even as the Iranian leaders chanted “Death to America.”

And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which publicly beheads “witches” and apostates, remains an American ally.  It receives billions of dollars of military hardware from the US.

ObamaAbdullah
Obama and the Saudi King

In short, evil perpetuated by countries is tolerated by the Obama administration.  The one country where Obama decided to launch an attack to remove its leader was Libya, a much less evil regime than in Syria, Iran or Saudi Arabia.  It just happened to be easier to remove Muammar Gaddafi, than the leaders of other countries.

Ignored Evil

The last category of Obama’s treatment of evil is “Ignored Evil”.  It is basically the same as “Tolerated Evil” except it is used for a group rather than for a country.

Palestinian Arabs have many groups that are labelled terrorist organizations by the US State Department including: Abu Nidal; Hamas; Palestine Liberation Front; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine; PFLP- General Command; and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, among others.  These groups have stated their intention to destroy Israel, a US ally; to target Jews for murder; and install an Islamic state in Israel. The groups also torture fellow Arabs if there is suspicion of collaboration with Israel, and drag their bodies through the streets.

Obama has not called for these groups to be destroyed.  He does not tolerate their evil, as he doesn’t negotiate with them.  He simply ignores their barbarity, as he pushes Israel to tolerate and negotiate with them.

While Obama may state that he has “no sympathy for Hamas, he pushed Israel to release terrorists in exchange for… nothing.  When Hamas and Fatah announced a unity government in June 2014, the Obama administration said “we intend to work with this government.

There are Palestinian groups that are not labelled by the US as terrorists, that also incite violence against Israelis.  Acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas called for jihad several times against Israel without rebuke from the Obama administration.

Conclusion

Obama has refused to label the evil that touches much of the world as “violent Islamic terrorism”.  By doing so, he compartmentalized the evil ideology: between those that threaten America and those that don’t; between established governments and terrorist groups seeking to replace countries.

As described above, each category received a particular treatment by the USA.  Only in Israel, did Obama opt to break his formula by ignoring the radical Palestinian jihadists, as acknowledging their evil, would likely undermine any chance for a two-state solution with Israel.

While some liberals think the nature of the evil ideology is different in particular places, most people understand the contours of jihadist terrorism and remain angered by Obama’s refusal to call out the religious barbarity in various corners of the world by its proper name.  Israel supporters are particularly enraged by Obama’s unique treatment of Palestinian Arab jihadist violence.

Liberals remain convinced that not all evil is the same, and that the barbarity has nothing to do with Islam.  Conservatives believe that all violent jihadist violence is very much the same, and should be dealt with in a singular fashion.

However, for Obama, remaining obtuse about the nature of the evil ideology enables flexibility in engaging particular evil-doers, while avoiding a broader conflict with the Muslim world.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Pick Your Jihad; Choose Your Infidel

The Banners of Jihad

I’m Offended, You’re Dead

Murderous Governments of the Middle East

My Terrorism

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Actions and Adjectives: Cluster Bombs

Summary: When it comes to reporting on the death of civilians, it is interesting to review how and when some media outlets choose to simply report facts, rather than delve into critical reporting. Here is a comparison of the New York Times discussion of cluster bombs being used by Syria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Remarkably, the party that is lambasted the most in the articles is Israel.

 Actions and Adjectives

The “Actions and Adjectives” series discusses the media’s use of language. Oftentimes, the press chooses to be fairly clinical in describing a situation, while at other times, it chooses to direct (or redirect) the conversation in a particular fashion.

For an example, an article can have different ways of describing a car crash:

  1. “Three people died in a car crash,” is purely factual.
  2. “Three people were killed in a car crash when a teenager crashed his car into oncoming traffic,” provides more color about the incident, giving an account of how the crash happened.
  3. “Three innocent people were killed when an irate teenager plowed his car into oncoming traffic after the teen had a big fight with his girlfriend,” takes the article to an entirely different place.

While all of the sentences are factual, the third description does two significant things:

  • It gets the reader to be more engaged- “innocent people were killed” by an “irate teenager,” phraseology gets the reader more excited and angry.
  • Further, the conversation moves the reader away from the victims, towards the driver. The reader is intentionally led towards possible motivation and background which caused the incident. Most likely, a more detailed description of the driver and his relationship would follow in the article. Should the balance of the article focus on teenage relationships, the headline would unlikely be about the car crash; the accident was there solely as a tool to delve into the main focus, which in this example, is the potential danger and ramifications of teenage love.

With that general overview about word choice and focus, consider the New York Times description of the use cluster bombs by Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Cluster Bombs Used by Saudi Arabia

On May 3, 2015, the New York Times published a piece entitled “Saudi-led Group Said to Use Cluster Bombs in Yemen“. The 14 -paragraph article showed up at the bottom of page 10 and discussed a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) which concluded that Saudi Arabia used cluster bombs on at least two occasions. No casualty figures were supplied.

Saudi Arabia cluster bombs

The article made clear that “cluster munitions, which are banned by much of the world, though not by the United States, Saudi Arabia or Yemen,… pose a long-term danger to civilians because of the unexploded bomblets they leave behind.” The article included a single condemnation of KSA for its use of the weapons: “Saudi Arabia has come under growing international criticism for the high civilian death toll during its aerial campaign, which has been carried out over more than five weeks alongside a coalition of Arab states and with intelligence and logistical support from the United States. More than 1,000 people have been killed in fighting since late March, when Saudis said their military was intervening to roll back gains by the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group that had captured large parts of Yemen and forced the president, supported by Saudi Arabia, into exile.

These sentences may look unremarkable on their own, but consider what was actually written and the direction of the article as a whole:

  • It was clear that the parties that engaged in the use of the cluster bombs had not signed onto the treaty barring their usage
  • The “unexploded bomblets” were left behind by the cluster bombs, not by the Saudis which were a step removed
  • KSA was portrayed in a negative manner only a single time in the article: “growing international criticism
  • The aerial campaign was described as having wide support from a “coalition” which included “support from the United States”
  • A rationale was given for the KSA military attack- to “roll back” a “rebel group

The article stayed roughly true to the HRW report. This was in very stark comparison to an article in the New York Times published on August 28, 2014 called “Heavy Use of Banned Cluster Bombs Reported in Syria”

Cluster Bombs Used by Syria

In September, FirstOneThrough wrote a detailed analysis of the August 2014 article which outlined how the story about Syria’s use of cluster bombs ended up becoming harsh a critique of Israel. Below is some added comparisons to this week’s NYT article.

The 2014 article had a single negative comment for Syria’s use of cluster bombs, attributed to a HRW lawyer: “This year’s use of cluster munitions shows that while these weapons have been banned by most countries of the world, some actors still flout international opinion and standards,” Mary Wareham, the advocacy director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division,” in a statement that did not specifically mention Syria.

However, the Times did heap condemnation many times upon Israel, even though it was presumably not the focus of the article.  The author, Rick Gladstone, redirected the timely article about Syria towards Israel’s use of the cluster bombs eight years earlier.

 “Israel-Lebanon conflict that triggered global outrage and contributed to the establishment of the ban convention. Israel’s military was widely criticized at home and abroad for its heavy cluster-bomb use in Lebanon,”

Gladstone’s 16-paragraph article mentioned Israel in six of the paragraphs. In almost each case, Israel was lambasted.

  • In the 2015 article, KSA had “growing international criticism” while in 2014, Israel had “global outrage” and was “widely criticized” and many other uses of such critical language for Israel, including “insane and monstrous”  and “completely immoral.” Syria was not condemned by name.
  • In 2015, KSA fought against “the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group,”  However, in the 2014 article, Hezbollah, a Shiite army that is considered a terrorist group by the United States, was mentioned only once while “Israel-Lebanon” was used repeatedly.
  • The 2015 article articulated the reason KSA waged its aerial campaign; the 2014 article did not describe Hezbollah’s firing rockets into Israel and blowing up military vehicles which initiated the war.

 

As evidenced in this week’s KSA article on cluster bombs, the Times can write an article about the current news when it desires. It has also shown that it is deft at inflaming passion and redirecting an article towards Israel, as it did in August 27, 2014.  Why did the New York Times report on cluster bombs in such a different manner?

In August 2014, Israel and Hamas had just ended a bloody war in which the New York Times covered Israel as an evil, murderous aggressor against civilians.  The story of cluster bombs in Syria served as an excuse to continue to portray Israel as indifferent to the lives of civilians in a war.  The choice of critical adjectives and adverbs such as “insane,”  “monstrous” and “immoral” for Israel were meant as permanent monikers.

Other questions arise when reviewing the two cluster bomb -articles:

  • Why does the New York Times goes out of its way to portray Saudi Arabia as an ally of the United States that receives “support” but does not do the same for Israel?
  • Why was the United States’ usage of cluster bombs in 2009 buried at the bottom of the 2015 article, and the thousands that the US dropped in Vietnam mentioned in passing in the 2014 article?

Articles do not just convey facts. They tell a story that the editors want you to follow and believe. What do you believe?


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Every Picture Tells a Story- Whitewashing the World (except Israel) 

New York Times Talking Turkey

 

I’m Offended, You’re Dead

The US President and the media have portrayed “radical extremists” as angry about cartoons of the Muslim prophet by western media. Such a view focuses very narrowly on the recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. This is because democracies consider freedom of speech a fundamental right in their societies and object strongly to such rights coming under fire. Should the media and democracies look more broadly, they would note the broader attacks on basic human rights that Islam imposes where it is in control.

The “hateful ideology” (as US President Obama calls it) is not simply an “ideology” by a few “extremists”. The basic laws of several Islamic countries trample on many fundamental human rights. Islamic laws do not only challenge what you can say, but often attack the essence of who you are, and enforce double standards regarding what you can do. To aggravate the Islamic illiberal attitudes further, the laws impose severe punishments to the offenses, often the death sentence.

 muslim protest
Muslim Protest in England

What you said

Blasphemy is clearly part of the objection of the Muslim killers. Whether Charlie Hebdo (2015), Copenhagen (2005; 2015) or Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands (2004), the drawings of the Islamic prophet Mohammed were considered offenses deserving of murder. Those attacks made news and drew world attention because they happened in Western Europe. In the Islamic world, blasphemy is considered a crime in over a dozen countries. Pakistan recently sentenced a blasphemer to death, but the laws and actions do not often attract the world’s attention.

Asa Bibi
Asa Bibi sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy,
November 2014

Who you are

Islamic countries impose the death sentence on people for simply being who they are.  Innocent civilians are viewed as criminals even though they harm no one.

  • Apostasy is the act of changing religion. In several Islamic countries, the act of converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by death. Those countries include: Afghanistan; Brunei; Mauritania; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; United Arab Emirates; and Yemen. Many other countries also consider it a crime, punishable by a year or more in prison.
  • Being Gay is considered a crime in 76 countries in 2015. There are several Islamic countries that sentence gays to death including: Iran; Iraq; Mauritania; Nigeria; Qatar; Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
  • Islamic terrorists targeted Jews in recent attacks in Jerusalem; Paris and Copenhagen. Many Muslims feel that non-believers are doomed and should be killed according to Islamic teachings. While many Islamic countries do not sentence non-Muslims to death, they subject the non-Muslims to secondary “dhimmi” status and make them pay special taxes. There are “radical” Islamic groups like Boko Haram and ISIS that are actively killing non-Muslims throughout NigeriaIraq, and Libya.

gay hang iran
An estimated 4,000 gays have been killed in Iran since 1979

What you do

Some Islamic countries have laws that prevent persecuted segments of society from doing what other members of society (Muslims, men) can do freely.  The double standards and misogyny are simply part of the culture that the world ignores.

  • In Saudi Arabia, there are laws that prevent women from driving cars; only men can drive.
  • In Pakistan, girls are prevented from going to school to get an education; only boys can go to school.
  • In many Southeast Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, a girl who reject a boy’s marriage proposal may be disfigured either by having her nose and ears cut off, or acid poured on her face. Boys do not deal with such issues.
  • In Israel, the Jordanian Muslim Waqf prevents Jews from praying on the Jewish Temple Mount; only Muslims are allowed to pray on the entire 35 acre site.
  • In Gaza and Islamic countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, people kill female family members in “honor killings” if they dress inappropriately or date unapproved men. Men do not face honor killings.

KSA women drive
Woman arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia,
December 2014

How they Respond

The punishment for many of these basic activities that people in the western world take for granted, is death.  The death sentence is often brutal and public.

“Minor” infractions also can yield a death sentence:

  • Adulterers are stoned to death in Iran; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Sudan; UAE; Yemen
  • Drug traffickers are killed in: Egypt; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Kuwait; Oman; Saudi Arabia; South Sudan; Syria and UAE
  • Prostitutes are killed in Sudan

The Danger

The view that a few “extremists” have hijacked Islam and are attacking the freedom of press is both myopic in terms of history and geography, and hazy in terms of numbers and scope. In reviewing the laws and actions of several Islamic countries, one can better understand the gross intolerance and extremism in their societies. Many Muslims are offended by a great many things, and will kill the offender.

If the West limits its review to freedom of speech in the world of social media, the conversation becomes limited as well.  Hate speech versus freedom of speech, and attitudes towards censorship of social media (such as in Turkey) are worthwhile discussions, but far too narrow.  The value of jobs and economic development for a handful of radicals is brought up by the Obama administration because he misses the larger point. Obama argues for “reasonableness and restraint” from countries because he views the attacks on them as limited to a handful of radicals.

That flawed worldview led Obama to abandon Iraq without helping secure the vacuum.  It will lead an Obama administration to enable Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

Perhaps it is time for Obama to visit Cairo again as he did on his first international trip in 2009.  This time he will meet a new leader in al-Sisi who has called for a “revamping” in Islam. Maybe al-Sisi should be on Obama’s Iran negotiating team.


Related First.One.Through articles:

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Obama and the Saudis

obamaabdullah

His foreign policy is like putting diesel into a car instead of gasoline.”
-satire of KSA King Abdullah on US President Obama’s foreign policy

The United States maintained a strong tie to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for decades due to its stable monarchy and enormous supply of oil on which the US economy (and its allies) depended.  Many US administrations looked past the KSA’s human rights abuses to keep the relationship on solid footing.

That warm relationship between the countries existed until US President Obama began to change the traditional order of foreign relations.  Obama did not favor stability; he did not reward allies.  Instead, he advanced a new foreign policy paradigm in which he would undermine allies and try to build bridges to enemies.  He would favor public opinion over the rule of law.

Obama’s “New Beginning” speech in Cairo in 2009 was indeed a new beginning.  Within two years, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, began calling for removing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power.  Shortly thereafter, the Muslim Brotherhood assumed power in a democratic election, just as the MB’s Palestinian branch, Hamas, won elections in 2006.  The stability of the monarchies and dictators throughout the Middle East soon began to implode, and the “Arab Spring” shook the stability of the region.

As Saudi King Abdullah watched Egypt, his ally and neighbor to the west collapse with the assistance of the United States, he watched Obama establish warmer relations with his enemy, Iran to the north.  Remarkably, Obama seemed content letting the Iranians obtain nuclear weapons.

In Syria, Abdullah watched Obama let Iranian ally Syria prance right through a bright red line that Obama had drawn loudly and publicly, after Syrian President Assad used chemical weapons in his civil war.  Was this an ally to be trusted in the volatile Middle East?  How long before he turns on his kingdom to reform and open elections to the masses?

More importantly for him, how long before Obama’s actions enable a firestorm in the Middle East that destroys his kingdom?


Sources:

King Abdullah hated Obama: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/397044/nbcs-engel-king-abdullah-could-not-stand-president-obama-brendan-bordelon

White House “New Beginning” speech in Cairo: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/NewBeginning/

Fouad Ajami on the Arab impression of Obama: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703499404574558300500152682

Related First One Through article:

Obama’s confused foreign policy: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/obamas-foreign-policy/

Dancing with the Asteroids

Mankind has always been enamored with stars. Since our earliest history, people have looked up at the stars in wonder. The bright points of lights inspired some of civilization’s greatest poetry and stories of heroism. The beacons of light in the darkness guided sailors lost at sea and eased the fear of night for children at home.

Today, some of our favorite celebrities and sports heroes are referred to as “stars”. Compared to the heroes in mythology immortalized in the sky, today’s stars are modern heroes on the sports field and movie screens on earth. We cheer their successes as our own and wait anxiously for the next opportunity to watch them.

Conversely, asteroids are lightless, lifeless pieces of rock. They lack any internal source of light and warmth. Some may have, once upon a time, been a part of something greater and noble, but those days are long past.

A hit television show developed in 2005 called “Dancing with the Stars” in which famous celebrities were paired in dance competitions with ballroom dancers. The shows quickly rocketed to number one as audiences loved watching their stars compete in an entertaining new setting. The phenomenon spread to more than 40 countries around the globe, including in: Western Europe; North America; parts of South America; Australia; Russia and China. Almost all of Africa and the Middle East did not adopt the show, with the only exceptions being Israel, Lebanon and South Africa.

Dancing_With_the_Stars_Map.svg
The map in blue of countries with “Dancing with the Stars”



The Politics of Dancing with Asteroids

In the fall of 2014, US President Obama formed a coalition of forces to fight the Islamic State or ISIS. Obama stated that: “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.” Over 50 countries pledged support for the fight, but only a handful agreed to take part in military action.

Obama worked hard and touted his success in bringing Arab countries into the fighting coalition: Bahrain; Jordan; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; and the UAE. This was the US dance card Obama sought for what he claimed was “going to be a long-term campaign”.

  • Qatar: one of the leading financiers of terrorists, especially Hamas, but also extremists in Libya and Egypt. It’s Al-Jazeera TV has helped spread Salafism throughout the Middle East. It’s treatment of migrant workers is infamous.
  • Saudi Arabia: home to 15 of the 19 September 11 mass murderers. The greatest offenders of women’s rights in the world. Zero political empowerment for the masses.
  • Bahrain: a monarchy that successfully crushed the pro-democracy movement in its country (out of the lens of the western press or United Nations).
  • Jordan: a leading funnel of jihadists that cross into and out of Iraq and Syria.
  • UAE: another financier of terrorists

Obama’s dance card of the dark was seemingly not quite full. Reports emerged that Obama sent a secret letter to Iran to help battle the Islamic State.

  • Iran: perhaps the only country to finance and export terror more than Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It helped undermine the stability of Iraq. It is building nuclear capability while it threatens to destroy Israel.

KerryIran
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (L)

Those are the partners Obama chose when he claimed that the battle is larger than ISIL, and that the coalition is “fighting an ideological strain of extremism that has taken root in too many parts of the region.That is the very definition of the coalition he assembled.

Obama may argue that allying in the fight with such parties is a necessary evil. It arguably protects the US from criticism that it is not acting alone against an Arab/Muslim foe, as fellow Arab and/or Muslim countries are alongside of America in the fight. Practically speaking, it is easier to wage a battle from nearby territory, so many of these coalition partners are simply the neighbors of ISIS. Perhaps.

It may be politically expedient to dance with the asteroids, but it is certainly not pretty to watch.



Sources:

Dancing with the Stars show: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2287630/Strictly-Come-Dancing-global-hit-BBCs-successful-export-rakes-millions.html

The coalition against Islamic State forms: http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2014/09/heres-map-obamas-coalition-against-islamic-state/95000/

Obama’s speech to the coalition: http://www.politicususa.com/2014/10/15/president-obama-talks-strategy-anti-isil-coalition.html

America’s coalition partners: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/23/350877632/obama-coalition-against-isis-shows-it-is-not-americas-fight-alone

A perspective on the coalition partners: http://lubpak.com/archives/74002

Obama letter to Iran: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/11/07/lawmakers-slam-obama-letter-to-iran-ayatollah-ali-khamenei/

Saudi Arabia, “Ally” of the United States

The USA has many allies in the world. Many are natural due to common language or culture between the countries (such as United Kingdom and Canada). These allies have deep relationships that extend beyond military ties between the governments. The connections extend to the populations where there are natural flows of business and tourism. The relationships extend to the founding of the countries.

Other American allies developed over time for a number of reasons. A country may have discovered valuable natural resources (such as oil) or the geographical location of the country may have grown in significance because of evolving military dynamics. Other than such practical (sometimes temporary) reasons, the countries may share little in common. Saudi Arabia is such an example.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has one of the most repressive governments in the world. Minorities have virtually no rights and women have few freedoms. Still, the US government chooses to ignore Saudi policies and distrust between the populations, and focuses narrowly on Saudi oil and military cooperation between the countries.  US President Obama underscored the point again on September 10, 2014, with an announcement of strategic military cooperation.

On the 13th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/01, it is worth remembering that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Countries with few common values will always remain tenuous friends.

A political music video (music by The Cars):


Sources:

http://nypost.com/2014/09/10/obama-moves-to-aide-syrian-rebels-in-fight-against-isis/

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