SYRIA: Three million people need food aid – UN

SYRIA: Three million people need food aid – UN

DUBAI, 2 August 2012 (IRIN) – The Syrian conflict has left up to three million people in need of food assistance and agricultural support in the next year, according to the UN and the Syrian government.

Family income has dropped; the cost of fuel is rising; remittances are down; farmers and herders have lost their assets and livelihoods; the wheat harvest has been delayed; and deforestation is rising, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform found in a joint assessment conducted in June.

Syria’s agricultural sector has lost US$1.8 billion this year because of the Syrian crisis, the assessment found.

“The effects of these major losses are first, and most viciously, felt by the poorest in the country. Most of the vulnerable families the mission visited reported less income and more expenditure – their lives becoming more difficult by the day,” WFP Representative and Country Director in Syria Muhannad Hadi said in a statement.

WFP and FAO say they need $100 million to scale up food distributions and assistance to rural people. A broader appeal by the UN for $180 million, launched in April, to respond to humanitarian needs in Syria remains one-quarter funded.

7 Ways America Can Get Its Mojo Back in Egypt

7 Ways America Can Get Its Mojo Back in Egypt

Eric TragerForeign Policy, The Washington Institute

August 2, 2012

With its initial attempts at building bridges in Cairo having backfired, the Obama administration is looking for new ways to improve America’s image in Egypt.

Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsy is trying to get down to business, but the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) isn’t making things easy. The Muslim Brotherhood leader’s newly appointed cabinet keeps holdovers from the previous cabinet in top positions, which suggests that the military junta is preventing Morsy from radically reshaping Egyptian policy, at least for the time being. Indeed, the power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF continues to define Egypt’s post-Mubarak transition — and it could be years before either emerges victorious.

This is a messy political environment for the United States to try to improve its relationship with the Egyptian people, and it is not going well. Just last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s motorcade was showered with rotten vegetables upon her visit to Egypt, and thousands-strong crowds protested her appearances in both Cairo and Alexandria.

Of course, anti-American sentiment in Egypt is nothing new. Ordinary Egyptians have long objected to various aspects of U.S. foreign policy, from Washington’s support for Israel to its global counterterrorism campaigns, and former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime stoked anti-Western anxieties to divert attention from its own misdeeds.

But the protests that confronted Clinton were new in one important sense: Christians and non-Islamists — historically two of Egypt’s most pro-American demographic groups — organized them. And for this reason, U.S. policymakers fear that anti-American sentiment is not only worsening, but broadening beyond the Islamists and Arab nationalists who have traditionally opposed U.S. policy in Egypt. With its initial attempts at building bridges in Cairo having backfired, President Barack Obama’s administration is looking for new ways to improve America’s image in Egypt.

Here are seven ideas to get things started:

1. Engage non-Islamist parties

One of the most visible changes in Washington’s post-Mubarak policy has been its engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood. This shift was born of necessity: The Brotherhood’s organizational strength made its political emergence practically inevitable, and Egypt’s strategic importance meant that sidelining the Brotherhood was no longer a viable option.

Yet the administration’s single-minded focus on building ties with the Brotherhood has alienated non-Islamist parties, which include members who were already wary of the United States due to its longtime support for Hosni Mubarak. “When any person of the USA comes to Egypt, they just visit the government, the SCAF, and only the Muslim Brotherhood,” Basem Kamel, an Egyptian Social Democratic Party parliamentarian and former revolutionary youth activist, told me. “But they never ask to meet any of us.”

Meanwhile, the speed with which the United States went from dodging the Brotherhood to working with it has fueled conspiracy theories that the United States has rigged Egyptian politics to facilitate the Brotherhood’s rise. On the basis of these rumors, many non-Islamist parties participated in the July protests against Clinton’s visit.

To be sure, conspiracy theories are an unfortunate reality in Egyptian politics, and there is little the United States can do to prevent them entirely. But by casting a wider net in engaging Egyptian political leaders, the administration can avoid the impression that it is playing favorites. And it makes little sense for the United States to turn its back on non-Islamist parties, especially those that are more favorably disposed toward U.S. interests and values than the historically anti-Western, theocratic Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood seems ascendant at the moment, and it is easy to imagine how it would remain Egypt’s most powerful group for years to come. But Mubarak’s sudden ouster last year should caution Washington against betting on any one party, no matter how dominant it may seem. Egypt’s revolution is still percolating, and the best policy for Washington is using broad engagement to spread its risk.

2. Talk about the Camp David Accords as primarily an Egyptian interest, not as an American one.

Egyptians’ most common complaint about American foreign policy in the Middle East is that the United States is “biased” toward Israel, and that U.S. policy is aimed at keeping Israel strong and Arabs weak. They therefore view Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel as something that was imposed on them for Israel’s benefit — a favor they were forced to do for the United States and Israel. This is why the Muslim Brotherhood has frequently sought excuses for ridding itself of the Camp David Accords, such as by proposing to put the accords to a referendum or accusing Israel of somehow violating the treaty.

Egyptian audiences need to be told very bluntly: The Camp David Accords are not primarily an American interest, but an Egyptian one. The treaty has prevented war between you and your much stronger neighbor for more than 30 years, and saved innumerable Egyptian lives. The treaty enabled Egypt to grow its economy after decades of conflict, and a breakdown in the treaty will prevent Egypt from getting the international investment it sorely needs. After all, what sane company will invest in a country that isn’t firmly attached to a peace agreement with its much stronger neighbor? More importantly, if you break the treaty, the odds of Egyptians dying in renewed conflict rises considerably. That would be bad for American interests — but you, Egyptians, will feel the pain first and foremost.

The key point should be that American support for Egyptian-Israeli peace has given Egypt a shot at a prosperous, stable future. Far from being an American imposition, it is an Egyptian life-saver.

3. Frame engagement with Islamists in terms of interests, not in terms of “supporting democracy.”

Washington’s engagement with Islamists was, and remains, a pragmatic decision. Simply put, Islamists’ political victories made them necessary partners if the United States hoped to achieve its interests in Egypt — though, to be sure, this remains a big “if.”

Yet, rather than framing its policy in terms of narrow strategic interests, the Obama administration has occasionally dressed up its outreach to Islamists — and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular — as support for democracy. For example, during his visit to Egypt in January, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns repeatedly referred to the Muslim Brotherhood as a “democratic party that is committed to democratic principles.” At other points, administration officials have explained this policy by portraying Islamists as progressives, such as intelligence chief James Clapper’s comment in February 2011 that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “heterogenous” and “largely secular” organization.

The problem with these types of statements is that they are patently false. Islamists’ call for establishing sharia as the source of all Egyptian legislation makes them theocratic — not democratic, and certainly not secular. Brotherhood political leaders have been quite clear that they will brook no opposition in this regard. “It’s not allowed for Christians to come and say that the sharia is wrong,” Alexandria parliamentarian Saber Abouel Fotouh told me during a December interview. “They are not specialists.”

Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood has demonstrated repeatedly in recent months that it is not dedicated to democratic principles. During the presidential run-off election, for instance, the Carter Center reported that the Brotherhood used its vast social services networks to buy votes. Prior to being disbanded in June, the Brotherhood-dominated parliament was investigating a non-Islamist parliamentarian for insulting SCAF chief Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi.

Unfortunately, Washington doesn’t have the luxury of dealing exclusively with democrats, which is why it partnered with Mubarak for 30 years and will try to work with the Brotherhood now. But pretending that non-democratic leaders are otherwise makes the United States look gullible, and further convinces real Egyptian democrats that we have put all our eggs in the Brotherhood’s basket. A better public diplomacy strategy would explain U.S. cooperation with Egypt’s newly elected leaders in terms of mutual interests, but also communicate concerns about those new leaders’ restrictive views on civil liberties.

We should further encourage non-Islamists to continue fighting for a more secular Egyptian future. This was, after all, a major theme of last year’s Tahrir Square protests — which the Islamists joined only belatedly.

4. Speak out more forcefully for minority rights.

One of the most alarming aspects of the protests that greeted Clinton’s most recent visit to Cairo was the heavy presence of Christians demonstrators, as well as Coptic leaders’ refusal to meet with her. After all, Egyptian Christians have historically been among the most pro-American communities in Egypt — in part because of U.S. policy that had previously mostly sidelined Islamists, and in part due to America’s Christian heritage.

Christian mistrust of Washington, however, emerged shortly after last year’s revolt, when the Obama administration responded weakly to a wave of anti-Christian violence that included church burnings and sectarian clashes. By March 2011, frustration with Washington’s silence was a common theme of Coptic demonstrations held at Egypt’s state media headquarters in downtown Cairo. “Obama doesn’t care about all of these horrible things that are happening to Christians,” a protester told me at the time. “Obama only cares about Muslims. … Bush was willing to defend Christians, but Obama won’t say a word in our defense.”

Christians’ feelings of betrayal deepened in October, when the White House responded to a brutal military assault on the mostly Christian demonstrators outside the same state media building, which left 25 dead, by meekly calling for “restraint on all sides.” And in the aftermath of successive Islamist electoral victories, the Obama administration’s overwhelming focus on engaging the Muslim Brotherhood — often at the expense of engaging other segments of Egyptian society — has deepened their alienation.

Given Washington’s low popularity in Egypt, the United States can hardly afford to turn off one of the few historically pro-American communities. The Obama administration can begin winning Egyptian Christians back by speaking out more forcefully in support of minority rights. In this vein, the administration should argue that protecting minorities is not only a moral imperative but a strategic necessity, since Egypt is unlikely to attract much needed international investment if Egyptian Christians continue to flee the country. The administration must therefore communicate to the Brotherhood very clearly that, having won an election, it is now the Brotherhood’s responsibility to make sure that Christians feel safe in their country, and that they will be judged accordingly.

The administration can also improve its relationship with Egyptian Christians by responding more aggressively to anti-Christian violence — such as a recent episode in the village of Dahshur, in which a Muslim mob attacked a Christian launderer who accidently burned a Muslim customer’s shirt while ironing it, catalyzing strife that forced 120 Christian families to flee. At a minimum, the administration should issue strong public denunciations of these attacks, rather than falling back on flaccid calls for “restraint.” The U.S. government might also consider sending emissaries to these communities — and to the hospitals where injured Christians are being treated — so as to communicate that Christian suffering in Egypt is not going unheard.

5. Talk loudly about the concrete benefits of U.S. aid to Egypt.

Egyptians frequently complain that Washington uses Egypt as a geostrategic pawn, and that U.S. policy has therefore done little to address the needs of the Egyptian people. “America just looks out for its own interests,” Ahmed Abdel Salam, a Muslim Brother, told me in Tahrir Square in June, shortly after Mohamed Morsi was elected Egypt’s next president. “We wish they would deal with us as a country now.”

But the fact is that U.S. policy has done a great deal to help Egyptians. American economic aid, which totals approximately $250 million per year, has built schools, hospitals, roads, phone systems, and water treatment plants, among many other social services. Moreover, U.S.-brokered Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs), within which Egyptian companies are granted duty free access to U.S. markets so long as 10.5 percent of their components come from Israel, have been a boon for Egypt’s economy. The QIZs employ approximately 150,000 Egyptians, account for one-third of all Egyptian exports, and earn Egypt nearly $2.5 billion in annual revenue.

These are the tangible benefits of their relationship with the United States that Egyptians should know about — and which American diplomats should not be shy about highlighting. Just as Egyptians know that the Cairo Opera House was built by the Japanese and the Metro was built by the French, they should know that many of their social institutions, as well as a key economic engine, came courtesy of the United States.

By emphasizing the extent to which U.S. aid to Egypt has benefited ordinary Egyptians, policymakers can communicate the true depths of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. Our partnership, they should say, is not only strategic, but societal.

6. The U.S. Embassy in Egypt needs an Arabic-language Twitter account, with an actual face attached to the handle.

The U.S. Embassy in Egypt made a noble foray into social media when it established a Twitter account, @USEmbassyCairo, in September 2009. The account, which is managed by a member of the embassy’s press office, serves three useful purposes: It publicizes American diplomatic news, responds to queries from other Twitter users about U.S. policy, and combats falsehoods about America’s role in Egypt (such as, for example, the notion that the United States aided the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral victories).

There is, however, much room for improvement in the embassy’s social media presence. First, the embassy’s English-only tweeting habit — though occasionally interrupted by Arabic retweets — substantially limits its outreach to the broader Egyptian public. It particularly undermines the embassy’s efforts to address anti-American conspiracy theories that spread quickly among Arabic-language Twitter users, as well as in the Arabic-language press. The first step should be to open an Arabic-language account, which will allow the embassy to reach a far wider Egyptian audience than it does now.

Second, the embassy’s Twitter usage would be more valuable if it attached a face to its Twitter handle, rather than simple tweeting as the institution itself. Online engagement is most effective when conducted by named individuals rather than brands or organizations, and the Twitter accounts of foreign governments are likely to feel especially inauthentic. Putting an actual diplomat’s name on the embassy’s Twitter account would make its tweets seem more personal, and enhance the embassy’s ability to connect with Egyptian web users.

7. Don’t over-obsess about America’s image in Egypt.

Policymakers are right to be concerned about America’s image in Egypt. While Egypt’s revolution is ongoing, the uprising has already produced a more open political culture that has made Egyptian public opinion more influential than ever before. But U.S. officials should also be cognizant about the limits of what public diplomacy can achieve.

Anti-Americanism has deep roots within Egyptian political culture, and — even more than a year and a half after Mubarak’s ouster — it still features prominently in the state-run press. Moreover, the Egyptian public’s disagreements with Washington on many matters cannot be papered over by even the most savvy public relations campaign.

For this reason, the rule of thumb of U.S. public diplomacy in Egypt should be “do no harm.” If diplomats can avoid alienating our allies within Egypt and explain the benefits of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, they can at least prevent America’s unpopularity from growing.

Eric Trager is the Next Generation fellow at The Washington Institute.

Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels Wed, Aug 01 17:58 PM EDT

Wed, Aug 01 17:58 PM EDT

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence “finding,” broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.

This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still circumscribed, support for Assad’s armed opponents – a shift that intensified following last month’s failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.

The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.

But U.S. and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by Western officials, who previously characterized Assad’s opponents as a disorganized, almost chaotic, rabble.

Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.

The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment.


A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.

This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

Turkey’s moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad’s departure with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former U.S. government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment.

European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad’s departure.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles, weapons that could be used against Assad’s helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Syrian government armed forces have employed such air power more extensively in recent days.

NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.

On Wednesday, however, Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the Free Syrian Army, denied the NBC report, telling the Arabic-language TV network Al-Arabiya that the group had “not obtained any such weapons at all.” U.S. government sources said they could not confirm the MANPADs deliveries, but could not rule them out either.

Current and former U.S. and European officials previously said that weapons supplies, which were being organized and financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were largely limited to guns and a limited number of anti-tank weapons, such as bazookas.

Indications are that U.S. agencies have not been involved in providing weapons to Assad’s opponents. In order to do so, Obama would have to approve a supplement, known as a “memorandum of notification, to his initial broad intelligence finding.

Further such memoranda would have to be signed by Obama to authorize other specific clandestine operations to support Syrian rebels.

Reuters first reported last week that the White House had crafted a directive authorizing greater U.S. covert assistance to Syrian rebels. It was unclear at that time whether Obama had signed it.


Separately from the president’s secret order, the Obama administration has stated publicly that it is providing some backing for Assad’s opponents.

The State Department said on Wednesday the U.S. government had set aside a total of $25 million for “non-lethal” assistance to the Syrian opposition. A U.S. official said that was mostly for communications equipment, including encrypted radios.

The State Department also says the United States has set aside $64 million in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, including contributions to the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid agencies.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury confirmed it had granted authorization to the Syrian Support Group, Washington representative of one of the most active rebel factions, the Free Syrian Army, to conduct financial transactions on the rebel group’s behalf. The authorization was first reported on Friday by Al-Monitor, a Middle East news and commentary website.

Last year, when rebels began organizing themselves to challenge the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Obama also signed an initial “finding” broadly authorizing secret U.S. backing for them. But the president moved cautiously in authorizing specific measures to support them.

Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.

Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.

Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.

U.S. and European officials say that, so far, intelligence agencies do not believe the militants’ role in the anti-Assad opposition is dominant.

While U.S. and allied government experts believe that the Syrian rebels have been making some progress against Assad’s forces lately, most believe the conflict is nowhere near resolution, and could go on for years.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Warren Strobel and Peter Cooney)

Ramadan and religious freedom

Ramadan and religious freedom

By Azizah al-Hibri and M. Zuhdi Jasser, The Washington Post, 8/2/12

From North and South America to Europe, and Africa and Australia to Asia, including the Middle East, Ramadan reminds Muslims of the soulful ties that bind them together. For Muslims, it is a month to strengthen faith in God and reaffirm love and reliance upon Him and His Word as revealed through the message of the prophet Muhammad. The month also is an opportunity for Muslims to fulfill God’s commandment to fast from sunrise to sunset (2:185) , an act that joins Muslims together as equals. It is also far more. Whether reciting the Koran, offering prayers, performing charity, or sharing in the nightly iftar dinner, Ramadan is a month for self-reflection and atonement. It also is a time for Muslims to come closer to God, scripture, family, friends, and neighbors, while gaining a deeper understanding and empathy for those who are less fortunate.

Given all that is happening in today’s world, Ramadan provides an especially important inflection point this year. In this time of reflection, we are particularly disturbed that Muslims and non-Muslims alike continue to have their right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion violated by governments, religious extremists, and sometimes even their misguided neighbors.

As members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, we serve an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government body that monitors these violations around the world and makes recommendations to the president, the secretary of state and Congress. We promote and defend international standards of religious freedom and advocate equally for all, regardless of creed. Both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights declare that countries must uphold principles of religious freedom, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom to change one’s religion or belief; and the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief peacefully. Many countries do not adhere to these principles — although they are signatories to international agreements — leading to the oppression and harassment of, and violence against, those who believe and those who do not believe. As commissioners, we continue to urge the U.S. government to hold countries accountable for violating international standards of human rights and religious freedom.

During this most holy month of the Islamic calendar, we trust that all Muslims will reflect on how this freedom relates to their devotion to God as well as to the Koranic injunction: “Let there be no coercion in religion.”(2:256) Thus, faith can bolster the inalienable right to religious freedom for those of different religions and beliefs. It is our hope that in this holy month, Muslims will remember that God imparted to this world people of great diversity, including diversity in religions and beliefs. As the Koran states repeatedly, “Had God so willed, He could have made [all human beings] a single people…” (42:8). Furthermore, He created differences among us not to divide us but to have us learn from one another (49:13).

It is also our hope during Ramadan that non-Muslims will take this opportunity to get to know better their Muslim neighbors and friends, and break bread with them at an evening iftar. Only through friendship and dialogue can we discard oppressive stereotypes and build communal bonds.

Finally, it is our hope that all of us remember that the respect and freedom, including religious freedom, which we seek for ourselves are only as possible, protected, and meaningful as the freedoms we allow for others and help them achieve.

Ramadan Kareem!

Azizah al-Hibri and M. Zuhdi Jasser serve as commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom whose members are appointed by the president and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

John Walker Lindh: A Terrorist Manipulating Islam, Aided by Western Islamists and their Sympathizers


John Walker Lindh

John Walker Lindh, infamously serving a 20-year prison sentence for aiding the Taliban, is now seeking new ways to insult the United States, including insulting the many liberty-minded Muslims who value our nation’s freedoms.

The prison where Lindh is held has had a generous policy for its many Muslim prisoners. Until they were disciplined for not responding to a fire alarm, the prisoners were permitted to gather in congregation for three of the five daily prayers. Now, the prisoners are only permitted to gather for the Friday afternoon “jummah” prayer.

Lindh is not satisfied with this accommodation of his religious beliefs and practices. He has asserted that the prison’s restriction on gathering for prayer is an infringement on his religious rights, and that he must gather with other Muslims for the daily prayers. He has even brought his case to court, suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the right to pray in congregation more than once per week.

Islam does not require Muslims to perform their daily prayers in congregation, and allows for Muslims to miss the Friday prayers if circumstances make attending them impossible. Imam Ammar Amonette of Richmond, Virginia has commented on Lindh’s case, affirming this widely-known Islamic guideline. Despite this, Lindh continues to insist that he receive special treatment.

This kind of arrogance is no surprise coming from a notorious terrorist convicted of numerous crimes against the United States and innocent people everywhere. It is also a hallmark of the Islamist mindset, which seeks to use the freedom and reason of the West in its quest to defeat it. Islamists relish the opportunity to demand even accommodations well outside of mainstream Islamic practice: niqabs (face-veils) in the courtroom, extra congregational prayers for terrorists. Islamists make these absurd demands with full knowledge that they act against both non-Muslims and the majority of Muslims worldwide. They view their mission as a holy war, in which they seek to defeat all people who believe in freedom and the preservation of human rights. To them, no sacrifice is too great – and those Muslims who won’t fight alongside them are primary targets.

This is not the first time Islamists in the prison system have petitioned for special privileges: in 2009, Randall T. Moyer (a former spokesman for the Muslim American Society, or MAS and member of the “Virginia Jihad Network”) was housed in the same prison as John Walker Lindh, and also sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons for additional congregational prayer rights. Louay Safi, former director of leadership development for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), backed Moyer’s request, saying that Moyer’s demands followed the “prophetic tradition,” and that Muhammad promised greater rewards to those who pray in congregation. (Read more about Safi and his career in ISNA’s leadership here and here.)

The ACLU is defending Lindh, and they may be well-intentioned in doing so. We certainly support protecting civil rights for all Americans.  By choosing to support Lindh, however, the ACLU seems to be trying to support an identity group – Muslims – but are instead supporting Lindh’s Islamist interpretation of Islam, which actually subjugates individual Muslims and restricts their rights. Islamism doesn’t value individual liberty, freedom of expression, or civil rights.

As liberty-minded Muslims, we are intensely grateful for the freedoms granted we enjoy in the United States, where we are freer to practice our faith than we would be anywhere else in the world. We believe that John Walker Lindh’s demands for greater privileges are not just unreasonable, but also dangerous. He, like other Islamists, seeks to define Islam as a faith utterly incompatible with modernity, freedom, and human rights. We urge those who may be swayed by Lindh’s argument to recognize that they may be setting a dangerous precedent by helping to advance a jihadist’s interpretation of Islam, which seeks to strip us of the very liberties that make us who we are.


Disturbing: a jihadi song in in honor of John Walker Lindh, aka Mujahid Sulayman al-Faris.