Freedom’s Moment: An Arab Democracy

In a brilliant move, the coalition forces turned over control of Iraq two days early. This clearly pre-empted any plans for terrorist attacks on the day of the turnover or before. As of June 28, 2004, Iraq is now a sovereign nation- a historical moment for Iraq and for the Middle East. Any terrorist acts committed against coalition forces will be against protecting forces of the sovereign nation of Iraq and thus more obviously against the very people of Iraq. The road to freedom is now an Iraqi road and will begin with a new national ownership. There is no better way to disarm the militant Islamists. There is no greater inoculation against terrorism and against the scourge of oppressive theocratic Islamism than stepping up the timetable and perhaps seeing the following this week: 1. Bringing Saddam Hussein back to an Iraqi judge of a sovereign Iraq to be indicted for crimes against the Iraqi nation, the Iraqi people, and crimes against humanity as Saddam heads in due process toward the death penalty. His public trial in Arabic will speak volumes toward changing the climate of dictatorship in the Middle East. 2. President Bush may now speak this week to NATO about the new era in the Middle East of a free and sovereign Iraqi people at the NATO meeting held in Turkey, the only Islamic nation member of NATO. What a grand political move to have what is now a sovereign Iraqi nation ask NATO directly for troop assistance and other cooperation in the near future? 3. Paul Bremer will leave and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will begin the process of interacting and bonding with the anti-American Middle eastern media and its viewers and no longer do so through easily marginalized American forces. Al Jazeera and Co. will have to deal with Allawi and the Iraqi government as one of them. 4. America sets soon to celebrate its Independence day and we, as Americans will remember our history of the sacrifices our forefathers made in establishing a free nation based on liberty and with equality for all. It is the collective memory of this spirit and the rough road thereafter that will put the rocky road of Iraqi sovereignty and independence in perspective. 5. Prime Minister Allawi and his cabinet will now have to begin to set forth and articulate their own vision for a free Iraq, a united Iraq, and an Iraq that honors the equality of all citizens while avoiding theocracy. 6. A sovereign Iraqi government of majority Arabs and Muslims can now credibly articulate a believable plan for ridding their nation of terror networks like al-Qaida and their ilk. Freedom-minded Iraqi leaders can now open a steady daily discourse from Muslims directed toward Muslims on the need to marginalize militant Islamists and the terrorists. As they seek to stabilize their own nation with free markets, free media, and free assembly, they will have to effectively and swiftly eliminate those who target innocents and exploit the Islamic religion. This will also require the beginning of a new articulation of a supporting moderate Islamic theology. 7. Syria and Iran will have to scurry to develop a discourse with an Iraq that is sure to be painful for those who have survived on the mutual thuggery of Middle Eastern governments. How will they interact with a nation that carries standards of freedom and justice that only highlight their own oppression of the Syrian and Iranian people? How will the Baathist Syrian government publicly deal with the impending public trial in Arabic of a fellow Baathist thug, Saddam Hussein? 8. Which heads of state of Arabic or Muslim nations will give Prime Minister Allawi a congratulatory phone call this week? A major moment in history in the Middle East has arrived early and we pray will be a major step toward peace, freedom, and liberty in the region. This column originally appeared in the Arizona Republic at this link.

Hooded al-Qaida thugs real enemies of Islam

Whatever the beheadings of Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg left untold, the recent beheadings of American Paul Johnson and South Korean Kim Sun-il certainly clarify, for those who remained uncertain, what our country is up against. As a Muslim, it also clarifies what my faith is up against. These acts are not those of humans, nor even animals. These acts are demonic, pure and simple. The kidnappings and beheadings join the litany of gruesome savagery that has been done in the name of my religion – Islam. I am filled with incalculable sorrow, but it also stiffens my resolve to no end. As much as the hooded demons of al-Qaida are enemies of freedom, they are enemies of Islam. The terrorist ideology, clothed in religious jargon, is similar to that of Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany. It is all based on one thing, destroying the spirit and will of others through fear and chaos so that a brutal ideology may reign supreme. That is why this battle is all about preserving freedom. It is only through freedom that we can get closer to God. Faith is when man freely chooses to relate to God, and is not dictated to do so by the commands of others. This is diametrically opposed to what Islamist fanatics believe. Their belief is medieval, just like those beheadings that are torn out of the pages of medieval history. They think that through the terror of the sword, they can kill and intimidate people into believing as they do. But they will not win. They are, in fact, a dying breed. This recent gruesome series demonstrates that they feel the terminal nature of their militancy. They are the dinosaurs of the modern era. They may, and probably will, still inflict tremendous damage as they continue to exploit our freedom. But their day is fading. These fanatics can only destroy. They cannot create. They cannot bring prosperity or happiness. All they can do is manufacture rage and a cowardly exploitation of religion. For too long, the so-called leaders of the Muslim world have, for the most part, remained quiet in the face of these atrocities. Their reprimands have been continually couched with qualifications or passive platitudes, but the time for denial is long over. The South Koreans have responded by dispatching 3,000 more troops, which sends an unmistakable message that targeting innocents only raises the resolve of freedom-loving nations to extinguish al-Qaida. My resolve and the resolve of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is, in fact, exponentially magnified. I see a two-headed poisonous snake, against which our resolve is necessary. One head, not of this world, is violently militant and must be defeated on the ground; the other is oppressively theocratic and must be defeated in public discourse. For their vicious killers, Nicholas Berg, Paul Johnson and Kim Sun-il were merely pawns in their game. Their real enemy is freedom. Their actions are meant to silence and intimidate people of good faith. But they will not succeed. If we have seen one thing in the titanic battles played out in the 20th century, it is that the forces of tyranny and oppression will eventually lose to the forces of freedom. This column originally appeared at the Arizona Republic at this link.

Corruption of Faith: Defiling what is good

The Arizona Republic and the East Valley Tribune both ran a poignant op-ed by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe Tuesday on “Mutilations and Muslim Law.” Jacoby expressed his outrage at the barbaric proclamations of some medieval Muslim clerics. He cited the statements of Saudi sheik Shehabi and that of Sheikh Mawlawi of the European Council for Fatwa and Research from Islamonline. These are only two examples of many abroad. It is certainly obvious from their explanations of mutilation and bizarre defense of vengeance that the expression of faith of these self-appointed clerics bears no resemblance to the faith of Islam I know and yet we use the same text – the Holy Koran. The amount of damage done by such backward proclamations by self-appointed Islamic pseudo-scholars is profound. They misrepresent their faith, they embolden anti-Muslim sentiment, and they fuel militant Islamist hate. Their fatwas will continue – this week on mutilation and next week on whatever strikes their fancy. These malignant fatwas are cloaked in false theology and only clarify the theological sewage in which the enemies of freedom in Iraq and Saudi Arabia travel. To displace the sewage with learned ecumenism is the challenge for Muslims around the world. The never-ending series of militant Islamists who target innocents and behave like animals – in not only killing human beings but in mutilating corpses – continues to be too much to handle as an American and as a Muslim. What can be said, is that this global war against militant Islamo-fascism is clearly against a two-headed snake of one mind – militant Islamists and their clerical mentors, with their one ideology, the false religious justification of terrorism. To defeat them we must defeat the militants in the war on the ground and intellectually defeat the clerics who facilitate them in the ideological war within Islam. As the stream of poison from both heads of the snake continues, it is clear that war must be waged symmetrically. To wage it only on the ground will not be enough. These clerics are in fact illegitimate in a religion which has no clergy. Interestingly, they have only contrived the concept of fatwa in order to exert control much like heresy is often used in any institutionalized religion. Unfortunately or fortunately depending upon perspective, the concept of an institutionalized church with clergy is antithetical to Islam and no where to be found in the Koran. These radical clerics are simply tribal warlords basking in their nauseating light of the instant international media of the 21st century. They render self-serving violent edicts for war in the name of religion and falsely justify barbarism. We should not be deluded into thinking that medieval clerics can be reformed. But these false theologians can certainly be displaced to the ‘ intellectual dustbin of religious history’ by moderate, tolerant, compassionate teachers of a tolerant pious secular Islam. Let me be clear. In a religion which includes over a billion people world-wide most of whom currently live in autocracy, one can certainly line up hundreds if not thousands of so-called clerics bred in bastions of hate who will endlessly render horrific statements in the name of a faith . These deviant clerics have arisen out of the ashes of many of their freedom loving coreligionists who have died fighting against them for their very own religious freedom. Shades of this continues to this very day. For this reason, the liberation of Iraq will go a long way toward defeating militant Islam. For as long as the dictatorships remain, radical Islam will find a home. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak and his regime, “granted the state-operated Al Azhar seminary the authority to supervise and seize material deemed in violation of Islamic law {ellipsis} the regime has approved the formation of an Al Azhar force to inspect book stores and kiosks for material that counters the Sunni Islamic mainstream.” Just a small example of the pervasive pathological parasitism between Arab dictatorships and religious theocracy. No matter how well intentioned Al-Azhar University and Mubarak may be in eliminating the radical element and their systemic educational indoctrination, the use of state-sponsored entrenched theologians to enforce this remains antithetical to freedom and inculcates the very practices which they are trying to thwart from the radicals. Islamo-fascist terrorists can no longer be given a free ride without active displacement and world-wide response by moderate Muslims. They can no longer be allowed to remain unanswered in their use and misuse of Koranic verses to justify actions of revenge and vengeance that are clearly prohibited in the Koran as being against the laws of God. It is time to wake-up those who will displace the radical clerical enablers of militant Islam in the international war of ideas within Islam. Organizations like AIFD (the American Islamic Forum for Democracy) here in Phoenix are trying to do just that. For there are certainly moderate imams (‘teachers of religion’) in Islam and their voices are not often heard in global media. A body of tolerant religious commentary will have to further evolve from freedom-minded Islamic scholars. In the end, the solution will come from the disciplined relegation of Islamic scholars or clerics to a strict academic advisory role visa vie the rise of grass roots Muslim voices which are able to separate affairs of religion from that of the state. Only when Muslims can as a majority openly free themselves of the reigns of any pseudo-clergy will they be able to displace this harmful global coexistence of clerics and radicals. Organizations like AIFD here in Phoenix are in fact actively waging this type of frontline intellectual struggle for the soul of Islam in order to ultimately defeat the clerical head of the militant Islamist snake This column originally appeared online at the Arizona Republic at this link.

Taking Back Islam

Talking to the Devil: The Saudi Problem

Our terrorist enemies of freedom, this time aiming at oil interests and destabilizing Saudi Arabia, continued their barbaric ways in Khobar this weekend killing more than 22 and taking more than 40 hostage. Soon thereafter, we witnessed the Saudi Royal family’s rush to the media declaring their oneness with America in the war on terror and that they are vowing now to root out the al-Qaida “deviants.” This is certainly an epiphany for the Saudi royals and a single step in the right direction in the war on terror. However, this is a journey of many, many miles. Sadly, they are being nudged not by calls to freedom for their people but by reaping the seeds they sowed in Islamist fundamentalism. When the terrorists in Khobar discharged the Muslims and then began to slit the throats of the remaining non-Muslims, their actions came from the same fabric as Nazi Germany. They are pure and simple an attempt to create religious division in the free world that is dependent upon mass media coverage of their crimes. I am waiting for an explanation of the supposed wisdom of letting crazed animals escape and of bargaining with terrorists. Whoever let them escape forgot the first rule in dealing with terrorists: “You never to deal with terrorists”. So even as the Saudi family was declaring their oneness with our war on terror – they were still dealing with terrorists by letting them escape. This certainly seemed eerily reminiscent of the behavior which led to the ousting of Osama Bin Laden and company after shipping them off to Afghanistan in the 90’s as they would end up planning 9-11 from their new base in Afghanistan. Let terrorists loose and they will bring only further havoc to society and to the world. When will the Saudis begin to understand that they are not only victims, which is cheap talk in war, but they are long-time co-dependent facilitators of al-Qaida who must finally come clean? Their deep-seated religious intolerance and theocratic society, devoid of pluralism, liberty, freedom and equality for all faiths and genders, serves as an incubator for the Islamo-fascist terrorists. The Islamo-fascists, while certainly more militant and nihilistic than the Saudi family, only hate the Saudi family because they are in control of the country and its assets, which they so badly want to wreak more havoc on the rest of the world. Also, this is not to mention their clash on expression of orthodoxy. At this time, the Saudi family certainly remains the lesser of two evils in maintaining necessary stability in the region. One can only hope that behind the scenes we are working toward maintaining stability in the Saudi peninsula as they possibly teeter on civil war. One can only hope that the U.S. protects them, not only on the precondition of a stable global economy, but on the more important strict precondition of laying the ground work for a transition within Saudi Arabia to a parliamentary democratic government. The Saudis need to agree to work toward a free society with true Islamic principles of freedom, free markets and free minds, leaving only a figure head monarchy. They need to agree to begin spending money on distributing books and “Islamic” education on the synergy of democracy and liberty with Islam to Muslims around the world rather than on their version of a one-dimensional intolerant Islam. They can talk about tolerance and freedom all they want but until they walk the walk, the talk is vacuous. This will finally serve to militarily and intellectually suffocate the source of the Islamo-fascism that has been exported around the world. In the long run, this will decrease their own and America’s threat of terrorism. This column first appeared in the Arizona Republic at this link.