Sunday, March 12, 2006

Egyptians vie for Islamists leadership

Two Muslim preachers compete for the leadership of Islamists: Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, an Egyptian radical cleric living and preaching in exile Qatar. Qaradhawi wears the Muslim uniform - a turban and a Jilbab (gown). The other, Amr Khaled, is a young soft-spoken Egyptian who wears a Western suit and a necktie.

Mishari Al-Thaidi writes in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (March 7): "A row has broken out between Khaled and Qaradhawi. The latter objects to Khaled's mission to Denmark, with 50 other preachers, to present 'real Islam' to the Danes." Qaradhawi does not believe that Khaled's mission would bring in any good results. On the contrary, it would kill the momentum which the anti-Islamic cartoons have generated. "At last, Muslims, all Muslims express their indignation and are united around their Prophet (PBUH)." Qaradhawi told Al-Jazeera.

Fahmi Huwaidi, also in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (March 8) stands by Al-Qaradhawi. "Amr Khaled should confine himself to preaching and should not interfere with theological issues. He should listen to learned people like Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi," Huwaidi argues.

My comment: Qaradhawi wants to exploit the Danish cartoon row to advance his political agenda. Qaradhawi, a traditionalist, wants to silence "modern" Muslim young preachers like Amr Khaled. Khaled seems to be palatable to young moderate Muslims. He addresses practical, contemporary issues. He is less dogmatic than fundamentalists like Qaradhawi. Preachers like Khaled are perhaps in a position to influence young Muslims and keep them off extremism.
Qaradhawi is not interested in dialogue and in spreading a moderate form of Islam. For his political Islam, he needs radical ideas, radical events, and radical preachers. Moderate Islam would dilute the line drawn between Islam and the rest of the world. Islamophobia and Westophobia nourish his "Kampf" (struggle) for Islam, Qaradhawi-style.

Both Qaradhawi and Huwaidi characterise Khaled as naive and simple-minded. For them, the West has "declared war" on Islam and this war must be ferociously fought. Radical Islamists like Qaradhawi hate to have competitors like Khaled. Moderate preachers would take the wind from the sails of radicals. Qaradhawi and Huwaidi would love to have radical preachers who charge young Muslims with hatred and violence against Westerners, the unbelievers.
Barbaric West!

Under the title "Barbaric West!" Abdulmin'em Saeed observes in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (March 3) that whenever Islamists and Pan-Arabists talk or write, they severely attack the West. Here are some samples: The West exterminated the Native Americans. The West is decadent. There is racial discrimination in the West, etc. All these things are true. Nobody denies them.
It seems, however, that we, Arabs and Muslims, know more about atrocities and decadence in the West than about our own atrocities and deficiencies. We excoriate atrocities everywhere, but not in our societies.

My comment: This may be attributed to the fact that the West is more critical of itself and more honest and freer than we Arabs and Muslims are. Let us count just a few instances of Arab and Muslim atrocities: Who murdered one and a half million Armenians? Our fellow Muslim brothers in Turkey. For half a century we have been demanding the liberation of Palestine, but we have denied 20 million Kurds a homeland. Who is to blame for that? Again our fellow Muslim brothers in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran.

According to UN reports, we have in our Muslim societies as much prostitution,homosexuality,rape and women trafficking as Western societies have. We have in our Muslim societies more corruption than Western societies have. In practice, we Muslims discriminate against people from certain countries/regions and colours. We also discriminate against women,homosexuals,Ethnic minority groups and look down on them, especially in the Arab Gulf region.

Muslim countries rate top in terms of child labour, something that is almost non-existent in the West. Where is more freedom, justice, and tolerance? In the West. Most Muslim countries lack freedom of speech, religious freedom and social justice. It is even forbidden in some Muslim countries to erect churches and temples.

Ethnic minorities in the West are protected per constitution and in practice. The small Danish community in northern Germany, for example, is allowed to have its own schools and cultivate its own culture. Until recently, the Kurds in Turkey were not even allowed to use their own language in public. Laila Zen, a former Kurdish MP was imprisoned for fifteen years because she used Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament.

Who is more civilised? The West? Or the Muslim Orient? Shame on those who deny atrocities amongst us.

Defenders of the Faith

FOR centuries, we have been told that without religion we are no more than egotistic animals fighting for our share, our only morality that of a pack of wolves; only religion, it is said, can elevate us to a higher spiritual level. Today, when religion is emerging as the wellspring of murderous violence around the world, assurances that Christian or Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual messages of their creeds ring increasingly hollow. What about restoring the dignity of atheism, one of Europe's greatest legacies and perhaps our only chance for peace?

More than a century ago, in "The Brothers Karamazov" and other works, Dostoyevsky warned against the dangers of godless moral nihilism, arguing in essence that if God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted. The French philosopher André Glucksmann even applied Dostoyevsky's critique of godless nihilism to 9/11, as the title of his book, "Dostoyevsky in Manhattan," suggests.

This argument couldn't have been more wrong: the lesson of today's terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted — at least to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, since, clearly, a direct link to God justifies the violation of any merely human constraints and considerations. In short, fundamentalists have become no different than the "godless" Stalinist Communists, to whom everything was permitted since they perceived themselves as direct instruments of their divinity, the Historical Necessity of Progress Toward Communism.

During the Seventh Crusade, led by St. Louis, Yves le Breton reported how he once encountered an old woman who wandered down the street with a dish full of fire in her right hand and a bowl full of water in her left hand. Asked why she carried the two bowls, she answered that with the fire she would burn up Paradise until nothing remained of it, and with the water she would put out the fires of Hell until nothing remained of them: "Because I want no one to do good in order to receive the reward of Paradise, or from fear of Hell; but solely out of love for God." Today, this properly Christian ethical stance survives mostly in atheism.

Fundamentalists do what they perceive as good deeds in order to fulfill God's will and to earn salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God's favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence.

Two years ago, Europeans were debating whether the preamble of the European Constitution should mention Christianity as a key component of the European legacy. As usual, a compromise was worked out, a reference in general terms to the "religious inheritance" of Europe. But where was modern Europe's most precious legacy, that of atheism? What makes modern Europe unique is that it is the first and only civilization in which atheism is a fully legitimate option, not an obstacle to any public post.

Atheism is a European legacy worth fighting for, not least because it creates a safe public space for believers. Consider the debate that raged in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, my home country, as the constitutional controversy simmered: should Muslims (mostly immigrant workers from the old Yugoslav republics) be allowed to build a mosque? While conservatives opposed the mosque for cultural, political and even architectural reasons, the liberal weekly journal Mladina was consistently outspoken in its support for the mosque, in keeping with its concern for the rights of those from other former Yugoslav republics.

Not surprisingly, given its liberal attitudes, Mladina was also one of the few Slovenian publications to reprint the infamous caricatures of Muhammad. And, conversely, those who displayed the greatest "understanding" for the violent Muslim protests those cartoons caused were also the ones who regularly expressed their concern for the fate of Christianity in Europe.

These weird alliances confront Europe's Muslims with a difficult choice: the only political force that does not reduce them to second-class citizens and allows them the space to express their religious identity are the "godless" atheist liberals, while those closest to their religious social practice, their Christian mirror-image, are their greatest political enemies. The paradox is that Muslims' only real allies are not those who first published the caricatures for shock value, but those who, in support of the ideal of freedom of expression, reprinted them.

While a true atheist has no need to boost his own stance by provoking believers with blasphemy, he also refuses to reduce the problem of the Muhammad caricatures to one of respect for other's beliefs. Respect for other's beliefs as the highest value can mean only one of two things: either we treat the other in a patronizing way and avoid hurting him in order not to ruin his illusions, or we adopt the relativist stance of multiple "regimes of truth," disqualifying as violent imposition any clear insistence on truth.

What, however, about submitting Islam — together with all other religions — to a respectful, but for that reason no less ruthless, critical analysis? This, and only this, is the way to show a true respect for Muslims: to treat them as serious adults responsible for their beliefs.

Slavoj Zizek, the international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, is the author, most recently, of "The Parallax View."

No Ports or Nukes for Muslims

THIS is not a good time to be a Muslim. Today, in the Western world, openly expressed hatred and contempt for Islam and Arabs has become the only socially acceptable prejudice.

The collapse of the Dubai ports deal is the latest striking example. The highly professional port operator, DP World, was forced to give up a deal to manage East Coast US harbours after an enormous political uproar in America. At the heart of the uproar was the fact that DP World was owned by the Arabs.

The cry went up from the US Congress and media: ‘Keep Arabs out of our ports!’ No one seemed to notice, or care, that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have invested $121 billion in US companies and property.

A bi-partisan coalition of Islam-hating conservatives, evangelical Christians, publicity-seeking Democrats and the mighty Israeli lobby, forced President George Bush to back down on the port plan. UAE, a staunch US friend and ally, was slapped in the face. But it had the good sense and good taste to withdraw from the no-win battle.

This ugly business came right after Bush’s trip to India where he completed the enshrinement of America’s double-standard nuclear policy. After preaching for years about stopping nuclear proliferation, Bush agreed to give India nuclear fuel and key US nuclear technology, while turning a blind eye to India’s ongoing production of nuclear weapons and denying old ally, Pakistan, any such aid.

Nuclear arms for largely Hindu India are good; nuclear arms for Muslim Pakistan and Iran are unacceptable. India, which is working on intercontinental and sea-launched nuclear missiles, is being fawned over by the US, while Pakistan stays in the dog house and even faces threats of US attacks on its nuclear infrastructure.

This week, US Vice-President Dick Cheney, addressed the Israeli lobby in the US and came close to threatening war against Iran over its alleged covert nuclear arms programme — which may not even exist, while India is estimated to have stockpiled around 100 deliverable nuclear warheads, and Israel reportedly has 200. North Korea, that nuclear-armed member of the axis of evil,’ seems to have been forgotten in Washington’s rush to chastise the ‘disobedient’ Muslim world. Of course, going after supposedly nuclear states that don’t have any such weapons, i.e. Iraq and Iran, is a lot safer than attacking a state that actually does have them.

No sooner was Bush back from India when he unblushingly again proclaimed the need for nuclear non-proliferation. A few days later, the BBC broke a fascinating story, revealing that in the 1960’s, Britain had secretly sold Israel nuclear components used to make its first atomic, then hydrogen warheads. Interestingly, some of this British technology, notably the use of the rare element tritium to boost the explosive power of nuclear weapons, was later sold by Israel to India.

Speaking of proliferation, I was always amused when I hear Britain’s sanctimonious prime minister, Tony Blair, sermonise about the evils of Iraq’s so-called weapons of mass destruction. His moralising reminds me of the media joke which made the rounds during the time of the US invasion of Iraq: ‘Of course we know Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. We have the receipts to prove it!’

In late 1990, on the eve of the first US attack on Iraq, I was covering the looming war from Baghdad. There, I discovered four British technicians who told me a remarkable story which they backed up with documents. The four technicians had been secretly sent to Iraq through a joint operation of the British Ministry of Defence and MI6 Secret Intelligence Service. Their job was to develop germ warfare weapons for Iraq, using anthrax, Q-fever, tularemia, and botulism. The germ raw materials were supplied to Iraq, with full US government approval, by an American laboratory in Maryland.

The British scientists worked at a top-secret laboratory at Salman Park, near Baghdad. They never progressed very far in turning the lethal germs into stable, deliverable battlefield weapons, but the technicians all insisted the germ weapons were intended solely for us against Iran, with which Iraq had been locked in a bloody, eight-year war. So the only potential arms of mass destruction in Iraq were actually those supplied by Great Britain, which today is warning about the dangers from Iran. Such hypocrisy is truly breathtaking. You need a fine Saville Row suit and the very best Queen’s English to pull it off. The moral of this story: if you want to run seaports or obtain nuclear weapons for self-defence, you had better change your name to O’Reilly, Schwartz or Patel and stop turning to Makkah in your prayers.

Eric S Margolis is an eminent journalist and columnist based in Toronto, Canada. He can be reached at

Friday, March 10, 2006

Half of Americans Hold Negative Views on Islam

There are some days you just want to throw up your hands in despair and today is one of them: A new US poll reveals that nearly half of Americans hold a negative view of Islam.

The survey also found that one in three Americans have heard prejudiced comments about Muslims lately. In a separate question, slightly more (43 percent) reported having heard negative remarks about Arabs. One in four Americans admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims, the same proportion that expressed some personal bias against Arabs.

The Washington Post and ABC News poll, released yesterday, found that 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam, a figure that is seven percent higher than in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Post reported.

Those polled who believe Islam helps fuel violence against non-Muslims has more than doubled since the attacks, from 14 percent in January 2002 to 33 percent today.

Several Mideast experts told the Post the poll results did not surprise them as they feel the Arab world has been demonized in the US since 2001.

Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan said Americans have been given the message to respond this way by the American political elite, the mass media and by select special interests.

A surprising item from the poll found that even Americans who said they understood Islam and who viewed the religion as peaceful and respectful, also said it harbors harmful extremists and were no less likely to have prejudiced feelings against Islam.

A total of 1000 randomly selected Americans were interviewed March 2-5 for the poll.

The Post quoted a school bus driver in Chicago, Gary McCord, 65, who said he is dealt with many children of Arab descent.Some of the best families I've ever had were some of my Muslim families. They were so nice to me.

But the Post said his good feelings do not extend to Islam. "I don't mean to sound harsh or anything, but I don't like what the Muslim people believe in, according to the Quran. Because I think they preach hate" he said.

The truth is Koran teaches love and humanity, there are Muslims who preach hatred. Majority of Muslims also have negative views on United States and the west, the best solution is exchange of ideas and clearing up all the negative views based on ignorance.
Last Friday a Iranian student who is mentally ill tried to kill his fellow students in UNC, luckily no one died, but reaction of non-Muslims were and is hostile toward innocent Muslims who had nothing to do with lunatic man.

For those who asked me about Iran; Iran is largest Shia Muslim country, Iranians are not Arabs, Majority of them are Aryans.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Egypt Arrests Islamic Radicals

Egyptian security forces have rounded up a number of Muslim Brotherhood members after briefly banning the Islamist party’s mouthpiece publication, a spokesman for the Islamist movement said yesterday. In the latest campaign against the banned but occasionally tolerated group, Issam Al-Aryan alleged that security forces had threatened to hold the family of one now detained member, Abdul Moneim Mahmud, hostage until he handed himself in.

Mahmud, 26, who lives in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, is an outspoken member of the Brotherhood. “This is a new phenomenon,” Aryan said.

“Now they are occupying homes in order to force their (Brotherhood members’) surrender,” Aryan said. In the past, Aryan said, security forces arrested Brotherhood members in the middle of the night or at dawn in their homes.

But the alleged holding of families hostage and recent arrests on the street and in public places such as coffee shops suggest a break with tradition, he said.

Fellow Brotherhood member Ayman Abul Ghani was arrested along with his wife as they were picking up their children from school in the northeastern Cairo suburb of Nasr city, he said. “The family members were detained for four hours while the police searched their home,” Aryan said.

He added that the arrests brought to more than 20 the number of Brotherhood figures detained since last week when the government unleashed a new campaign against the group, the largest opposition force in the country. Brotherhood officials suggested that the renewed hostility against them may have been triggered by an article by Rashad Bayyumi, a member of the group’s Guidance Office, in the Afaq Arabia weekly. He was picked up in a first wave of arrests last week.

The edition that carried the article criticizing Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal Mubarak, was banned outright and the paper has not appeared on the streets since then. The Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc issued a statement yesterday condemning the decision to ban the paper, which was launched under license from the liberal Ahrar party, but acts as the Brotherhood’s mouthpiece. “The bloc sees in this decision further efforts to backtrack on democracy and freedom of opinion and expression,” it said.

The Brotherhood said the authorities had justified their decision by saying it was due to a dispute within the paper’s management. However, a statement published later on the Brotherhood’s official website said the (governmental) Superior Press Council had reversed its ban “after solving the dispute.”

The Brotherhood, which fielded candidates as independents in legislative polls last year, won a record number of seats in parliament, taking 88 of the 454 seats up for grabs.

A government clampdown on the opposition in the run-up to the elections targeted Brotherhood members with a wave of arrests, though most of those detained were freed by the end of January.

Israel Will Attack Iran

If the UN Security Council is incapable of taking action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself, Israel’s defense minister said yesterday. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was asked whether Israel was ready to use military action if the Security Council proved unable to act against what Israel and the West believe is a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“My answer to this question is that the state of Israel has the right give all the security that is needed to the people in Israel. We have to defend ourselves,” Mofaz told Reuters after a meeting with his German counterpart Franz Josef Jung.

The Iranian delegation to an IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna issued a statement earlier warning that the United States could feel “harm and pain” if the Security Council took up the issue of Tehran’s nuclear fuel research and vowed never to abandon its atomic program.

“So if the United States wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll,” Tehran national security official Javad Vaeedi said.

Security Council diplomats said it would probably start debating Iran next week and US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said it would be Monday or Tuesday. Iran, the world’s No. 4 oil provider, also said it would review its oil export policy should the council tackle its case. “The United States may have the power to cause harm and pain but it is also susceptible to harm and pain,” Vaeedi said.

Asked about Iran’s warning, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in New Orleans: “Provocative statements and actions only further isolate Iran from the rest of the world.”

OPEC Agrees to Keep Taps Open

Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi talks to reporters at the beginning of an OPEC session in Vienna. He said the Kingdom was boosting spending on security for its oil installations after last month’s Abqaiq attack.

OPEC said yesterday it will keep oil output close to the limit to bring prices within consumers’ comfort zone and fill supply gaps, but a threat by Iran to review its oil exports cast a shadow.

Iran issued its warning at the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency even as the nation’s oil minister sat down across town with OPEC colleagues to discuss oil output, export disruptions in Nigeria and Iraq and prices above $60 a barrel.

Iran Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri struck a softer note, saying: “We have no intention of reducing any of our exports.”

OPEC President Edmund Daukoru of Nigeria said there will be no change to the group’s 28 million barrels per day ceiling in place since July 2005, despite forecasts for lower demand in spring. “There are simply too many geopolitical factors to change production,” he said.

Oil consumers have not felt this vulnerable for decades. Rebel attacks have cut exports from the world’s eighth biggest supplier Nigeria by 11 million barrels since the start of the year. Fellow OPEC member Iraq is in crisis and oil prices are at their highest level in real terms for 25 years.

OPEC’s economists forecast world oil demand will slow in the second quarter. Iran is struggling to sell its hard-to-refine high sulfur crude and top exporter Saudi Arabia has kept output flat since May 2004 in response to its customer needs.

Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah said OPEC was working to bring US crude below $60. He believed there was no need for the organization to cut output all year. “If we continue with the same production I believe the price will go below $60 in the second quarter,” the minister said.

Saudi Arabia, the most influential voice in OPEC, has said it believes a production cut now would be counterproductive.

Fellow OPEC ministers have lined up in support, drowning out price hawk Venezuela’s call for the group to look at reducing production by 500,000 barrels daily.

Some analysts are looking with concern to the peak winter season, fearing OPEC, which pumps over a third of the world’s oil, may struggle to meet demand if output problems persist. “If demand continues to be strong we are going to be struggling,” said Yasser Elguindi, senior managing director at Medley Global Advisors. “OPEC appears to be taking the view that the risks are weighted more to the upside than the downside.”

Demand from the United States, consumer of a quarter of the world’s oil, and China has been the main driver in a rally that has seen prices double in the past two years. So far the world economy has coped but analysts say an upward shift of $10 a barrel for about two years would begin to bite, driving inflation about 0.25 percent a year higher and paring growth by the same amount.

OPEC confirmed June 1 as the date of its next ministerial meeting in Caracas.Unless Israel or US attacks Iran's Nuclear facilities.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Port Deal Will Succeed Despite US Opposition

The head of a Dubai company facing a political firestorm over its multi-billion dollar bid to take over the operations of six major American ports voiced optimism Sunday the deal would succeed.

In an interview with CNN television, Dubai Ports World chief executive officer Muhammad Sharaf said: “As far as we’re concerned the deal is going to go through.” After initially approving the $6.8 billion deal, the administration of President George W. Bush has launched a fresh review of the transaction amid fierce political opposition from within the government’s own ranks motivated by Islamphopia and Jewish groups.

The deal, in which DP World would take over Britain’s Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Navigation Co. which currently runs the six ports, has provoked outcries that it would endanger US security.

Republican representative Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, is seeking to sink the takeover.

He told the ABC News “This Week” program on Sunday that government-owned DP World cannot be trusted to run US ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.

Numerous US lawmakers have lined up in opposition, citing the United Arab Emirates recognition of the Afghan Taleban government and concerns that it was home to two of the September 11, 2001 hijackers.

Links between the two nations have been strong for years; in 2000 Dubai cinched a multi-billion dollar deal to buy 80 high-tech F-16 fighter jets from the US.

Although some lawmakers, including Hunter, are moving to author legislation that would torpedo the deal, Bush has said he would veto such legislation.
Dubai rulers launched a massive public relation campaing in US, starting live coverage from Dubai by CNN anchorman Wolf Blitz. The Dubai port uses high technology to inspect all the cargo.

Islam’s Coming Crusade

The Crusades began with a rumor of defilement. In 1095, Pope Urban II denounced the Muslims as "a race utterly alienated from God." Among their many offenses, Muslims had seized the churches of Jerusalem: "They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcisions they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font." Such false rumors were already widespread in Christendom. Urban tapped them to launch the First Crusade.
Almost a millennium later, Muslim leaders and clerics are using the same language to stir the Muslim masses. They accuse the godless West of defiling the Prophet of God. Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas abroad, has demanded that Europe repent for the Danish cartoons. "Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. . . . Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good. . . . Since God is greater, and He supports us, we will be victorious." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck the same note, in a speech marking the 27th anniversary of Iran's revolution: "The Iranian nation is telling you now that although you have Mammon, you do not have God. But God is with us."

"A race utterly alienated from God" -- this is how Pope Urban II demonized the Muslims in the 11th century. This is exactly how Islam's leaders are demonizing the West in the 21st. The secular West had flattered itself, believing it had pulled the Muslim world into modernity. Yes, Islam has sent forth suicide bombers and terrorist insurgents. But they and their sympathizers were in the minority -- so the pollsters and analysts told us: "Don't judge Islam by the acts of a misguided few." This faith in the pragmatic Muslim majority has underpinned every Western policy, from the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" to the Bush administration's democracy promotion. The Muslim masses, the assumption goes, will choose peace and freedom, if given the chance. But they haven't. 9/11 could be attributed to a fanatic minority. Not so the Danish cartoon protests: Millions have taken part.

What about the Iranians who elected a president openly bent on confrontation with the West? What of those Egyptian voters who gave the Muslim Brotherhood a stunning success in parliamentary elections? And what about the supposedly secular Palestinians, who have swept Hamas into power? A poll conducted last year showed that 60 percent of Jordanians, Egyptians and Palestinians want Islamic shari'a law to be the sole source of legislation.

The experts resort to political and socioeconomic explanations: Syria incites proxies to punish Europe for its support of the U.S. over Lebanon. Iran stirs things up to escape possible sanctions over its nuclear program. Muslim minorities in Europe are protesting against racism and exclusion. Palestinians voted not for Islam, but against corruption.

There are plenty of inequalities in the world that cut against Muslims -- enough to explain any outburst. This is the default analysis, reassuring us that there isn't a "clash of civilizations," only a clash of interests. These analyses have their place, but they're not sufficient. The clash goes beyond differing interests. Hundreds of millions of Muslims who live alongside us and among us inhabit another mental world.

Ahmadinejad feels the presence of the Mahdi, Islam's promised messiah. Hamas, according to its charter, believes that the Jews have fomented every upheaval in the world since the French Revolution. Muslim opinion-makers deny the thoroughly documented Nazi Holocaust, but accept the patently fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an indisputable fact.

The present Muslim campaign has its share of opportunists. But it is also driven by a religious fervor. At some point, a Muslim equivalent of Pope Urban II could appear. This time, the crusade would be a Muslim one. Its advance scouts are already at work in Europe.

The West (and Israel) have mocked the prophet -- not Muhammad, but Samuel Huntington, author of A Clash of Civilizations. Our elites have spent a decade denying the truth at the core of his thesis: that the Islamic world and the West are bound to collide. Even now, we glibly predict that possession of political power and nuclear weapons will make Islamists act predictably. It all makes perfect sense -- to us. But the cartoon affair and the Hamas elections are timely reminders that our perfect sense isn't theirs. Fortunately, it isn't too late. There is a clash of civilizations, but there isn't yet a war of the worlds. "You do not have God," they say. "God is with us." That is their prayer. But they lack power, resources and weapons. Today they burn flags; a united West can still deny them the means to burn more. It can do so if it acts swiftly and resolutely, to keep nuclear fire out of Iran's hands, and to assure that Hamas fails.

By:Martin Kramer is the Wexler-Fromer fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Is the Time Appropriate for Oil Bourse?

The Iranian government intends to open a euro-based Oil Bourse in 1385 (March 2006-2007). Under the bourse’s trading mechanism oil payments will be in euro instead of the traditional U.S. dollar. The system will allow anyone willing either to buy or sell oil for euro to transact on the exchange, thus circumventing altogether the U.S. dollar. Oil has traditionally and historically been exclusively traded in U.S. dollar.

The Executive branch and the Majlis seem to be fully behind this idea and believe it will demonstrate Iran’s power and independence. Moreover, the Islamic Republic thinks the Oil Bourse will open new doors, markets and customers for Iranian oil instead of the limited market the country transacts with now.

The Oil Bourse will be based in Iran’s main Free Trade Zone Kish Island, specifically Kish’s famous financial bazaar. The main shareholders of the bourse will be Iran’s largest state-owned foundation (MJF) as well as a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company.

Analysts are skeptical about the prospects for success of the Oil Bourse. They remind that in the post-revolutionary years, Iran tried its hand in a number of such endeavors but the efforts were fruitless. Examples include the Kish Air Show that was supposed to serve as a regional market for aircraft and airplane parts. However, in reality, the idea was a bust and wasn’t enthusiastically received by the region’s aviation industry.

The idea to create a market in Iran to serve as a regional hub for the sale and purchase of oil industry equipment also failed to attract sufficient international and regional attention.

It takes two to tango and it isn’t enough for Iran to be determined to establish an Oil Bourse. If the international community shows little interest in such an idea the chances of such a bourse achieving its objectives are nil.

Furthermore, pundits add the reason some of our Persian Gulf neighbors such as Dubai have registered some successes in becoming a regional economic hub is because the international community is cooperating fully with the United Arab Emirates in turning Dubai into a success story.

If the international community was as interested in investing in Iran, our FTZs - particularly Kish - would have been as developed as Dubai by now.

For heaven’s sake, foreign banks aren’t even allowed to open a branch in Iran yet. How does the government expect Iran’s Oil Bourse to succeed if our banking, economic, commercial and investment rules, regulations and statutes are inadequate and unattractive to the rest of the world?

Is this really an appropriate time for opening an Oil Bourse when the Western powers are pushing to isolate Iran and impose economic and other types of sanctions on us?

Political and economic watchers think that under the prevailing circumstances opening an Oil Bourse will be fraught with problems and obstacles. After all, the government has already had to postpone the inauguration of the bourse by more than one year. Therefore, before the officials in charge pursue grandiose and lofty ideas such as an Oil Bourse, they should get to work in reforming Iran’s laws, relaxing investment restrictions, solving Iran’s various problems with the global community, etc.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Egyptian Police Detained a Leading Member of the Opposition

CAIRO - Egyptian police detained a leading member of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood and six other members in Cairo on Friday, Brotherhood officials said.
After Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak told his nation " Americans and western countries are no longer interested democracy in the Muslim and Arab Countries, Bush and neocons dreams about democracy was killed after Islamist took advantage and won elections in Palestine, Iraq and 88 seats in Egyptian parliament.

Police and intelligence officers went to the home of Rashad Bayoumi, a member of the group's 13-member Guidance Office, near the Giza pyramids and took him away for questioning, one official said. The office acts as the Brotherhood's executive committee.

Bayoumi is the most senior Brotherhood member detained since Essam el-Erian, now head of the political department. He was released in October after five months in jail without trial.

In a separate raid in the south Cairo suburb of Maadi on Friday, police detained six members of the Brotherhood active in student politics, the officials said.
"It (the detention) could be a message to the Brothers that the government is not going to change its way of dealing with them, even if the Brotherhood has 88 seats in parliament" added Abdel Galil el-Sharnougi, one of the officials.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said he had no information about the detentions.

The Brotherhood won the seats in last year’s elections, emerging as the largest opposition force in the country.After the elections the authorities gradually released without trial or charges hundreds of members and organisers held during the campaigning. Only one member has been charged with an offence related to the elections.

Membership of the Muslim Brotherhood is against the law, making it possible for the police to detain members at any time. But the organisation has an office open to the public and its candidates did not hide their affiliation during the elections.

Egypt is largest Arab country(Pop.80M). Sec. Of State Ms.Rice refused to meet elected members of Muslim Brotherhood during her visit to Egypt, when Egyptian Dicatator gave her subjucation lessons.

Egyptian goverment will arrest all the leading Islamist next week, the plan was approved by Washington, and Democracy in the middle east is dead.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Rice: Democracy in the Arab countries Needed a Generation

Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak boasted that Egypt had won over US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to its views on democracy in the Arab world and quoted her as saying it would take a generation for democracy to take hold. “She was very polite as she was listening to Egyptian opinions and points of view. She didn’t bring up difficult issues or ask to change anything or to intervene in political reform, as some people say,” he told newspaper editors.

Mubarak, who met Rice in Cairo last Wednesday, was speaking on Monday on his way back from a trip to the Gulf. His remarks were published in the government newspaper Al-Gomhuria. “She was convinced by the way that political reform and the implementation of democracy is being done in Egypt... She said that democracy in the Arab countries needed a generation,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

In public in Cairo, Rice said she had talked candidly with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit about what she called setbacks and disappointments in Egyptian domestic politics during 2005, including the jailing of liberal opposition leader Ayman Nour. Political analysts say the US campaign for democracy in the Arab world, which began in earnest as an explanation for the US invasion of Iraq, has lost steam in recent months and definetly abandoned.

Mubarak said that at their first meeting Rice told him she knew nothing about the Middle East. But after listening to the Egyptians, “she understood the truth about the situation in the Arab region,” he added. Mubarak had also urged US Vice President Dick Cheney to heed his advice “for once” and not to take military action against Iran, Egyptian newspapers reported yesterday. “I warned Cheney against a strike on Iran and told him: ‘Listen to my advice for once’,” he was quoted as telling Cheney, who was a strong advocate of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 despite Arab opposition.

Cheney and Mubarak met on Jan. 17 and discussed Iran’s controversial nuclear program during a visit by the vice president. Last month, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that Washington did not rule out using military force against Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Mubarak, quoted in the press, said an attack on Iran would only serve to strengthen the insurgency in neighboring Iraq.

Mubarak also said an Israeli attack on Iran was most unlikely because Tehran would respond by launching ballistic missiles at the Jewish state. “If an air strike (against Iran) took place, Iraq will turn into terrorist groups more than it is already...".

Mubarak is former Egyptian Air force General.