October 23, 2006

Bush's Crusade

There's an interesting guest post over at Jesus' General that argues that President Bush's various references to religion regarding the so-called "war on terror" indicates a semi-conscious but real belief in Bush's mind that America is actually waging a war on Islam (not that that's any real surprise to most Muslims, I'm sure). An excerpt:

So if terrorism isn’t a real target in this war, nor is the ideology behind those who engage in terrorism, what’s left? Apparently, Islam and Muslims are what’s left — after all, non-Muslim terrorists aren’t pursued with the same zeal and rhetoric as the administration and its Christian supporters use against Muslims. Perhaps the more extreme versions of Islam and their Muslim practitioners will always be primary focus, but Islam as a whole and Muslims in general seem to be the principle targets of the Republican Party’s self-fulfilling War on Terror.

Given how much prejudice there is in America towards Muslims, and how much support has been expressed for imposing a subordinate standard of civil rights on Muslims, this doesn’t seem like an entirely implausible option. I’m sure that there are other possibilities, but given the facts on the ground it would be difficult to successfully argue for them.

The religion of those targeted by the Bush administration is not the only issue — the religion of those pursuing their war of aggression is an important factor as well. For many Americans, religion is political and politics is religious. They recognize no valid distinction between True Patriotism and True Religion, between the best political policies for America and the only valid religion for all human beings. Because of this, religious language will necessarily creep into political discourse — preventing it would require erecting a wall between religious theology and political ideology which simply cannot exist for them.

Theological beliefs structure, inform, and determine the course of political decision-making which can be difficult for more secularly-minded people to fully comprehend (even those who are themselves religious on a personal level). Thus any discussion of the War on Terror will necessarily include references to religion and religious terminology — not simply because religion is a motivating factor, but because these people cannot think in categories and concepts that are not religious in nature. Enemies are demonic, not simply mistaken or misguided. Wars are crusades because rather than having merely political causes, they are part of God’s agenda for humanity.

When Bush speaks about the War on Terror as a “Crusade,” he may be doing so because he really is targeting Islam and because he simply can’t avoid religious terminology. It appears, then, that we are being given a glimpse into the true workings of such people’s minds and we should not dismiss such evidence as irrelevant, unimportant, or “much ado about nothing.”

October 13, 2006

Arab Heroes of the Holocaust

There was an interesting article in WaPo's "Lost History Department" Sunday regarding the Arab heroes of the Jewish Holocaust during WW2. The article starts off with a review of how some Arab countries and leaders currently deny the Holocaust, but the bulk of the article states that, while there were large numbers of Arabs who did nothing while the Germans rounded up the Jews of North Africa or, worse, collaborated with the Germans in rounding up and guarding the Jews in various labor camps, there are a number of noteworthy stories about Arabs in North Africa and Europe who helped to save some Jews from the Germans. What follows are some excerpts from the article that I think deserves greater exposure:

Neither Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to Holocaust victims, nor any other Holocaust memorial has ever recognized an Arab rescuer. It is time for that to change. It is also time for Arabs to recall and embrace these episodes in their history. That may not change the minds of the most radical Arab leaders or populations, but for some it could make the Holocaust a source of pride, worthy of remembrance -- rather than avoidance or denial.

The Holocaust was an Arab story, too. From the beginning of World War II, Nazi plans to persecute and eventually exterminate Jews extended throughout the area that Germany and its allies hoped to conquer. That included a great Arab expanse, from Casablanca to Tripoli and on to Cairo, home to more than half a million Jews.

Though Germany and its allies controlled this region only briefly, they made substantial headway toward their goal. From June 1940 to May 1943, the Nazis, their Vichy French collaborators and their Italian fascist allies applied in Arab lands many of the precursors to the Final Solution. These included not only laws depriving Jews of property, education, livelihood, residence and free movement, but also torture, slave labor, deportation and execution.

There were no death camps, but many thousands of Jews were consigned to more than 100 brutal labor camps, many solely for Jews. Recall Maj. Strasser's warning to Ilsa, the wife of the Czech underground leader, in the 1942 film "Casablanca": "It is possible the French authorities will find a reason to put him in the concentration camp here." Indeed, the Arab lands of Algeria and Morocco were the site of the first concentration camps ever liberated by Allied troops.

About 1 percent of Jews in North Africa (4,000 to 5,000) perished under Axis control in Arab lands, compared with more than half of European Jews. These Jews were lucky to be on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, where the fighting ended relatively early and where boats -- not just cattle cars -- would have been needed to take them to the ovens in Europe. But if U.S. and British troops had not pushed Axis forces from the African continent by May 1943, the Jews of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and perhaps even Egypt and Palestine almost certainly would have met the same fate as those in Europe.

The Arabs in these lands were not too different from Europeans: With war waging around them, most stood by and did nothing; many participated fully and willingly in the persecution of Jews; and a brave few even helped save Jews.


Arabs welcomed Jews into their homes, guarded Jews' valuables so Germans could not confiscate them, shared with Jews their meager rations and warned Jewish leaders of coming SS raids. The sultan of Morocco and the bey of Tunis provided moral support and, at times, practical help to Jewish subjects. In Vichy-controlled Algiers, mosque preachers gave Friday sermons forbidding believers from serving as conservators of confiscated Jewish property. In the words of Yaacov Zrivy, from a small town near Sfax, Tunisia, "The Arabs watched over the Jews."

I found remarkable stories of rescue, too. In the rolling hills west of Tunis, 60 Jewish internees escaped from an Axis labor camp and banged on the farm door of a man named Si Ali Sakkat, who courageously hid them until liberation by the Allies. In the Tunisian coastal town of Mahdia, a dashing local notable named Khaled Abdelwahhab scooped up several families in the middle of the night and whisked them to his countryside estate to protect one of the women from the predations of a German officer bent on rape.

And there is strong evidence that the most influential Arab in Europe -- Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris -- saved as many as 100 Jews by having the mosque's administrative personnel give them certificates of Muslim identity, with which they could evade arrest and deportation. These men, and others, were true heroes.

According to the Koran: "Whoever saves one life, saves the entire world." This passage echoes the Talmud's injunction, "If you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world."

Arabs need to hear these stories -- both of heroes and of villains. They especially need to hear them from their own teachers, preachers and leaders. If they do, they may respond as did that one Arab prince who visited the Holocaust museum. "What we saw today," he commented after his tour, "must help us change evil into good and hate into love and war into peace."

October 8, 2006

Great Moments in Presidential Speeches

These are hysterical (some of the speeches repeat). From Letterman. Run times: 0:39, 0:33, 0:35, and 0:36.

October 6, 2006

"Conviction" as the Weakest Form of Faith

I'm sorry for the long delay in posting anything. I started a new job last week that's sucked up more time than I expected, and I've been rather tired and occasionally ill from fasting this Ramadan. However, as some of you may have seen, I've continued to visit other blogs and made the occasional comment here and there. Yesterday, I made a comment at Safia Speaks, a blog I was unfamiliar with as it doesn't appear on many, if any(?), of the blogrolls of people whom I visit. Anyway, Safia wrote about a recent "conference" in Denmark in "honor" of the one-year anniversary of the Danish cartoons that defamed the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Irshad Manji and Wafa Sultan were attendees, and some of Safia's post and the comments were with regard to these two women (in addition to Danish MP Naser Khader, who was born in Syria and seems to be a bird of the feather).

In the comments, a certain "Ignoramus" (seriously, that's his/her nick) wrote, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't being Muslim a matter of conviction ?" His/her thought was, "I'm a member of the People's Church of Denmark (like most everyone else) if I declare myself a Christian, who in the world has the right to say I'm not, no matter what I do or don't ? ... I can call myself a Christian and not celebrate Xmas, never go to church etc. It's an inner thing y'know. Belief in Allah and His Prophet are convictions. Salad , zakat and hajj are actions: you can do these w/out conviction. ... If he says he's a Muslim I'll take his word for it, when you say _you're_ a Muslim, I'll take _your_ word for it."

My response to his initial comment was:

No; you're wrong. Islam, as a word, means "Submission," submission to the Will of Allah (swt) as expressed through the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). To submit to the Will of Allah (swt) means to practice your faith; for example, by following the five pillars of Islam and avoiding those things in life that are haram (forbidden). To merely express the "conviction," to say "I'm a Muslim," is the least form of faith. For the likes of Irshad, Naser, et al, to claim they are Muslim (if they really do), then not to follow the precepts of Islam, merely exposes them as hypocrites (and Allah (swt) has said that they will face their own punishments in the hereafter). We know that people slip into and out of a state of Islam throughout their lives and, insha'allah, people like Irshad, Naser, et al, may realize the errors of their ways before it is too late. But to act in the matter of a hypocrite as many of these people do will not impress the Muslim community one bit. Non-Muslims love the likes of Irshad because of her hypocrisy; this is what they want Muslims to be. Muslims know better.

I think this is a problem for many non-Muslims: their knowledge of Islam and Muslim personalities is so limited that they have little to no understanding of whom many of these people are or what they stand for. You and I, the knowledgeable Muslims, know that the likes of Manji and Sultan have severely warped understandings of Islam, let alone whether they are really Muslims (something not my right to decide). But I feel it is our duty - not merely our right, but a duty - to take away their voice as representatives of Islam. Not literally, of course. I'm not saying these people should be physically assaulted in any way; however, with airtime on radio and TV as limited as it is, we Muslims need to be the ones whom the media approaches for information, not the likes of Manji, Sultan, et al, whom the West adores because they don't know any better.


On a completely separate note, I also want to add that Danya has written an excellent post: Thoughts on Hijab: Post-Kharabsheh. Check it out.