Islam: A Reactionary Religion? US Foreign Policy and the “Muslim World”

Original article: http://chicagomonitor.com/2012/09/islam-a-reactionary-religion-u-s-foreign-policy-and-the-muslim-world/

I would like to start off by stating that there is no excuse and no justification for violence against innocent civilians. I am not here to act as an apologist for violence or criminal behavior of any sort whatsoever. This is an attempt to gain understanding of the supposedly inexplicable and largely violent reaction from so many Muslim countries in response to a badly made film on the internet.

The American Muslim community condemns the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his staff and expresses condolences to their families. Though they may claim it, those who participated in this crime are not true followers of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who taught forgiveness and mercy and lived his life as an example of these lessons. The only purpose of the film, “Innocence of Muslims”, was to incite hatred and violence. Unfortunately, this is exactly the reaction rioters in Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen gave as a response to the film, although many countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, and Afghanistan reacted with largely non-violent protests. Critics argue that the film in question is so terribly made that it should not even have seen the light of day, much less have caused such violence and tragedy. But could the film have been the only reason that so many Muslim countries felt enraged, protested and burned American flags? Or is the underlying answer a little more complicated, and is the truth a little murkier, as it always is?

Why weren’t there such far-reaching riots when Norway published cartoons portraying Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist? Or why aren’t the French embassies in the Middle East being attacked right now as a French magazine has published naked cartoons of the Prophet? Shouldn’t the creators of such disrespectful cartoons have faced the same outrage that the creator of “Innocence of Muslims” faced?

The truth is that much of the so-called “Muslim world” sees, specifically, the US government’s international interests and interventionist foreign policy as counter to the safety and well-being of its people. It sees drone attacks, which are supposed to target extremists as opposed to civilians, but rarely do, in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. It sees the unconditional and unquestionable support the American government gives to Israel in the form of military and financial aid even when Israel commits war crimes and human rights violations against Palestinians. It sees President Obama’s claim that Guantanamo Bay Prison will be shut down and the prisoners – many of whom are kept there without many constitutional rights or any hope of trial – will be released as ignored. It tries to make sense of the decades of baffling support for dictators in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Jordan, and horror of horrors, Libya and Egypt – the two countries which saw the worst protests as a response to the film. It sees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi and Afghan civilians who suffered unspeakable brutality, the destruction of their economy, infrastructure, and national psyche, and the installation of uncertain and shaky governments. Then, as a final straw, they see “Innocence of Muslims”, a trashy, low-budget and downright spiteful attempt at mocking their revered religious figure, their faith and their way of life.

It is not so difficult to believe, then, that countries around the world with Muslim majorities would confuse and conflate this film’s contemptuous message as a partner in crime to the aggressive military action and intervention the American government has utilized as part of its foreign policy. The above-mentioned countries, albeit wrongly, see the US government’s support of anti-Islamic rhetoric as predictable as they have already witnessed said government adopting questionable practices and policies in regards to the “Muslim world”. This is not to promote the rioters’ burning of public property, attacking civilians, or damaging their own infrastructure or to accept this violent response as practical. It is to attempt to understand the history of Middle Eastern-American relations which extends beyond “Innocence of Muslims”, as the film was only a nudge which caused the deck of cards to crumble.

 

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The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding – Taking a Lead

Original article: The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding – Taking a Lead

 

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding is a think tank and research facility founded in Detroit, MI and located in Washington D.C., that conducts extensive, crucial research, and offers nuanced policy analysis and context to the issues facing the Muslim community in the United States and abroad. ISPU’s research and analysis are performed by highly trained scholars in the economic, foreign policy, national security, and public health fields.

Founded in 2001 in the wake of the September 11th attacks as a result of growing curiosity about Islam and Muslims, ISPU has since established itself as a respected and trusted source of valuable information about Muslim traditions, values, practices, and institutions. Since then, ISPU has published hundreds of articles, reports, and research papers written by more than two hundred scholars, graduate students, lawyers, professors, and various other academics. ISPU’s website has been accessed by people in more than 115 countries; the institute has a budget of less than a million dollars annually, and is the only think tank focused on American Muslims.

More than $42 million have been donated to Islamophobic think tanks since 2001, a frightening fact, which gives even more importance to the work that ISPU does to counter stereotypes and anti-Muslim policies in America. In 2011 alone, ISPU published extensive research on topics including the Arab Spring, Al Qaeda and terrorism, the bullying of Muslim children in schools, the legality of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, how the media is improving the image of American Muslims, and the effects of the September 11th attacks on European Muslims.

ISPU scholars have been featured heavily in the news, television, online, and print media. The institute has provided ample analysis of the futures of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the U.S. and how the American government might make new policies which could ease tensions between these nations.

With her work at the Center for Global Health at ISPU, Dr. Sania Nishta a Pakistani cardiologist, healthcare reformer, medical academic and writer produced “Through the Health Lens: The Aftermath of the 2010 Pakistan Flood”; a report which analyzed the challenges Pakistan faces as a result of the destruction the floods caused. Currently, ISPU’s Director of Research, Farid Senzai is conducting research on the political and civic engagement of American Muslims in the ten years since 9/11 (from 2001 up till 2011).

Julie Macfarlane, a Fellow at ISPU and a Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Windsor is writing a report on the use of Islamic family law principles and values in divorce processes conducted by third parties in North American mosques. Two research reports titled “A window into American Muslim traditions” and “Aging Muslim Families” are also under production and are being actively worked on by ISPU’s experienced scholars.

In light of the societal, political, economic, and international issues still facing the Muslim community in America, it is essential that policy research institutes such as ISPU not only function well, but that they are actively supported and promoted on an international stage. Only through dialogue, policy making, civic engagement and developing a deeper understanding of Muslims and Islam will the stereotypes and injustices against them end. To that end ISPU is a much needed and appreciated tour de force of activism and information. Take the opportunity to learn more about ISPU at their website www.ispu.org and their Annual 2012 banquet in Dearborn, MI on September 15th.

NATO Supply Routes to Afghanistan – Reopened

Original article: NATO Supply Routes to Afghanistan – Reopened

Pakistani customs officials have reported that two trucks from Pakistan carrying NATO supplies crossed into Afghanistan through the Chaman border on Thursday, July 5th. This is the first time since last November that Pakistan has allowed the US to use its supply routes in order to strengthen American troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan had refused to let US supplies be brought into Afghanistan through its borders after the Salala check post incident on November 26th, 2011. In the incident US-led NATO aircraft had attacked and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and wounded 13 others who were stationed near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The Pakistani government’s decision to reopen the supply routes into Afghan territory comes two days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement in which she admitted that the U.S. is sorry for the losses the Pakistan military suffered during the regrettable incident and offered condolences to her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar. According to Clinton, Pakistan will also continue to not charge any transit fees for incoming materials, which will save the US hundreds of thousands of dollars in transport costs.

The US relies heavily on Pakistan to supplement its war against the Afghan Taliban, not only to steadily transport supplies across the border, but also to gradually withdraw US and NATO reservoirs from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, when the US plans to leave the country. The closure had forced NATO countries to bring supplies into landlocked Afghanistan through an alternate route to the north; a tedious, longwinded process that costs more than twice as much as shipping them to, and then across, Pakistan.

Several militant groups have threatened to attack supply vehicles in Pakistani territory, which makes this route a dangerous and difficult one. Before the closure, hundreds of supply trucks, which travel in convoys, were targeted in different areas of the country.

Pakistan, which has had a long history of enabling the US to carry out its conflicts against other countries in the name of diplomacy and alliances, is facing domestic backlash. The rampant anti-American sentiment in the country is a direct result of the Pakistani government’s failure to force the U.S. to stop drone strikes targeting militants, but often killing civilians, and agree to other demands made by parliament.

According to modest estimates, more than 2,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed by US drone attacks in the country and more than 5,000 civilians have died because of suicide bombings which were virtually unheard of before 2001, when Pakistan agreed to support the US in its war on terror. Critics of the Pakistani government’s foreign policy say that Pakistan’s leadership is more interested in promoting US imperialist goals and western capitalist interests rather than protecting the interests of its own people: the US has promised to give more than a billion dollars in military aid to Pakistan on the condition that it keeps these supply routes open; an offer that Pakistan is expected to take advantage of.

Simultaneously, President Barack Obama, currently battling for reelection, also faces criticism from Republicans who are angry his administration apologized to a country allegedly giving safe haven to militants attacking American troops in Afghanistan.