Connect with us

Middle East

Islam: Beheadings, Decapitation, and Butchering

Published

on

The horrible pictures of the atrocious ritual beheadings of ICS, the Islamic Caliphate State, on the Internet, have shown an ugly face of Western leaders, avoiding and denying what is crystal clear, as if these heinous acts are not Islamic, and continuing their march of folly as if Islam is a religion of peace and compassion; as if ICS and Qaeda are in fact not Islamic; and as if these and other Islamic terrorist organization hijacked Islam, in order to smear it and de-legitimized its presence in the West.

However, these denials are not only a mental blindness processes of run-away leaders, but also represent Western demise and submission to Islamic encroachment.    

Let’s think. Do beheadings not represent the tenets of Islam, or perhaps beheadings are the most typical element characterizing Islam? Here is the short Islamic history record: The ritual beheading has a long precedent in Islamic theology and politics, as the cultural favorite form of execution. The practice of slitting the throats of the opponents meant to reassure rulers; to terrorize foes; to secure alliances; and to impress the masses of the power imposed by the ruler. Above all, it has been a cultural-religious-ideological trait.

To smite the neck was not only the order of the Qur’an, and the interpretation of the Islamic exegetes. This is also the interpretation the great Islamic theologians and historians, like al-Tabari and al-Zamakhshari. The most influential modern exegete who interprets and explains these passages of the Qur’an is Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi. He argues that under no circumstances should the Muslims start taking captives, but only after the enemy has been completely crushed. It is the task of the Islamic government to decide if it is necessary to kill prisoners, and he cites many historical examples of Muhammad ordering execution of prisoners.

Yusuf Ali, the acclaimed translator of the Qur’an interprets beheading as utilitarian: the neck is among the only areas not protected by armor, and mutilating an opponent’s hands prevents him from again wielding his sword or spear. In the famous battles of early Islam, Muhammad ordered to cut-off the heads of the enemy leaders and to put them on swords.

In the famous battles of early Islam, Muhammad ordered to cut-off the heads of the enemy leaders, and to put them on swords. Ibn Sa’d featured how the Muslims have dealt with Muhammad’s enemies: they cut off Muhammad’s enemy head and they cast his head before Muhammad, and he praised Allah on him being slain.

The well-known slaughter during Muhammad’s period was the beheadings of the Jewish Bani-Quraythah tribe after the battle of al-Khandaq. The Hadīth of Sahīh Muslim and Sahīh Bukhārī and the Sīrah of Ibn Ishaq clearly reveal that Muhammad ordered the execution by decapitation of 700 to 900 men of Bani Quraythah tribe at Medina for allegedly plotting against him. The men were lined up on huge dug up trenches and were brought out five or six at a time and beheaded. The women and children were taken as reward of booty to the Muslims. They were Islamized and traded off as Slaves.

In 680, the head of Hussein bin Ali was cut-off, put on a silver platter, and sent to Damascus. With him, the heads of all of Hussein’s 71 companions including a one-year-old baby boy were also chopped off.

During the Muslim occupation of Syria in 634, 4000 Christians were massacred; in Mesopotamia between 635 and 642, all Monasteries were destroyed and Monks were slain. In Egypt the Muslim conquerors slaughtered large groups of Christians, including women and children. Carthage was demolished and its people slain.

The Abbasids while taking control of the Islamic empire beheaded and massacred the Umayyads, their own brothers of religion, to the last person and baby.      

From the 11th century, Muslim massacred large groups in India, quoting the Qur’an’s order to have slain the idolaters. In the year 1193, a Muslim general order to slaughter 50,000 Buddhists, declaring them as idolaters who had no right to live. In the Gujarati Sultanate of Western India, Sayyid Muhammad Jawnpuri (d. 1505) asserted that he was the Mahdi, and after accused of takfīr, he was beheaded with his followers.

Yusuf b. Tashfin (d. 1106) conquered Western Sahara and central Spain, and after the battle of Zallaqa in 1086, he had 24,000 corpses of the defeated Castilians beheaded, piled up and sent to all the major cities of North Africa and Spain as an example of Christian impotence. This became the rule where Christians were beheaded after any lost battle.

The Ottoman Empire was the decapitation state par excellence. Upon the Ottoman victory over Christian Serbs at the battle of Kosovo in 1389, the Muslim army beheaded the Serbian king and thousands of Christian prisoners. At the battle of Varna in 1444, the Ottomans beheaded King Ladislaus of Hungary. Upon the fall of Constantinople, the Ottomans sent the head of the dead Byzantine emperor on tour to major cities in the sultan’s domains. In 1456, the sultan allowed the grand mufti of the empire to personally decapitate King Stephen of Bosnia and his sons, even though they had surrendered and, seven decades later, the sultan ordered 2,000 Hungarian prisoners beheaded.

In the early nineteenth century, even the British were victim to the Ottoman scimitar. An 1807 British expedition to Egypt resulted in “a few hundred spiked British heads left rotting in the sun outside Rosetta. In 1842, the Afghans massacred 2000 British soldiers in Kabul, including their wives and children, by slitting their throats and hanging their heads on the walls of the city.

In Sudan, in 1880, Muhammad Ahmad declared himself Mahdi and led Jihad against the Ottoman Empire, by beheading his opponents, Christian and Muslim alike. The British governor, General Gordon, and his garrison had all been beheaded by the Mahdi. In Somalia, the rebel Mullah, had a large collection of Italian and British heads.

In recent history, beheadings in the name of Islam have become a show in front of world spectators on Arabic satellite stations and the internet.

In Afghanistan, in the 1980’s, 3000 Soviet soldiers were massacred and their heads cut-off by the Mujahideen. In 1986, the head of William Buckley, the CIA’s Beirut station chief was cut-off. The Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl’s decapitation in February 2002, catalyzed this cultural practice. The beheading of Nicholas Berg, Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley, and others from Korea, Bulgaria, Britain, Japan, including many Muslim Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, Algeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, and in Chechnya. The Dutch beheading of Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker, in Amsterdam in November 2004; the Egyptian Coptic family in New Jersey in January 2005; the slaughter of Rafsanjani in Paris.

Beheading has particular prominence in Saudi Arabia. In 2003 alone, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia beheaded more than fifty people. Over the past two decades, the Saudis have decapitated at least 1,100 for alleged crimes. In Iran the average of the yearly beheadings is 25. That is what we know about.

To the ignorant Western public opinion, Islamists sell a twisted and false reality, as if “beheadings are not mentioned in the Qur’an at all” (Imam Muhammad Adham al-Sheikh, head of the mosque in Falls Church, Virginia); “there is absolutely no religious imperative for this” (Asma Afsaruddin, an associate professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame); “beheadings do not represent the tenets of Islam” (Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as well as the American Anti-Arab Discrimination Committee (ADC)).

Unfortunately, Western news media, academics and intelligentsia’s denial, out of political correctness, or their bias, or out of ignorance, has twisted the reality of Islamic history and propagated such lies. It is ordered literally in the Qur’an as a religious duty:

I shall fill the hearts of the infidels with terror. So smite them on their necks and every joint, and smite off all of their fingertips (Sûrat al-Anfāl, 8: 12).

When you clash with the unbelievers, smite their necks until you overpower them, and then bind the prisoners tightly… (Sûrat Muhammad, 47: 4).

To smite the neck is not only the order of the Qur’an and the interpretation of the Islamic exegetes, but they even put stress on the legitimate reasons to do so to the enemies of Islam, whether they are infidels, people of the book, or apostate Muslims. This is also the interpretation the great Islamic theologians and historians, like al-Tabari and al-Zamakhshari. The most influential modern exegete who interprets and explains these passages of the Qur’an is Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi, who argued that under no circumstances should the Muslims start taking the enemy soldiers as captives, but only after the enemy has been completely crushed. It is the task of the Islamic government to decide if it is necessary to kill prisoners, and he cites many historical examples of Muhammad ordering execution of prisoners.

The siege and occupation of Constantinople (1453) is well known in its bloody savagery history by Ottoman Muslims. The Ottomans, Seljuk Turks, a tribe from Central Asia who appeared in the 11th century. The first blockade occurred between 1390 and 1402, which was failed. Then came the double siege of Constantinople, in 1411 and 1422, which were unsuccessful. But these failures strengthened the Ottomans’ will to occupy the city, as the model for the destruction of Christianity, with bloody results.

The occupation of Constantinople (İstanbul’un Fethi), the capital of the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire on 29 May 1453, witnessed the great massacre of Christians. It marked the end of the Roman Empire, which lasted for 1,400 years. The city became Istanbul, the new Capital of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, by Sultan Mehmed II.

After the occupation, Mehmet II allowed his troops to plunder the city for three days and spoils of war, like women and possession. The Ottomans made a great slaughter of Christians through the city. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed, and 30,000 civilians were enslaved. The sea was full with huge piles of the Christians bodies floating around. Eyewitnesses described the horrors of massacres and rapes, without any resistance. They were intent on pillage and roamed through the town killing, raping, taking captives, and using all sorts of beheadings and decapitating. Rape was the most common. The frantic brutes stormed into the young girls and women, tore them, raped them at all sorts, and made them submit to the most terrible outrages. Tender children were brutally snatched from their mothers’ breasts and crushed to the stones. Temples, holy icons and books were desecrated, pillaged and set on fire. The Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque.

The massacres in Greece and the Balkans. From 1453 with the fall of Constantinople until the revolution in 1821 Greece was under the cruel occupation of the Ottoman Turks who control the entire Middle East and the Balkans, to the gates of Vienna. Their rule was cruel, fanatic and barbaric, in which collective punishment of beheadings, rapes and kidnapping was on daily basis. Military attacks were part of the system, like the attack on the inhabitants of Chios, in April 1822, resulted in the deaths of twenty thousand civilians, and the forced deportation into slavery of almost all the surviving seventy thousand local inhabitants.

For almost three hundred years, beginning from the late 14th century, the Ottoman Empire used the Devshirme system (collection). Christian boys and girls between 7 and 18 but mainly between 7 and 10, from the Balkans, were kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam as slaves to serve the Ottoman government, mainly the military: the cavalry (Kapıkulu Süvari, the Cavalry of the Porte) and infantry (Yeni Çeri, the New Corp, transliterated as Janissary). The girls were taken as concubines and slaves.

The Devshirme was a ‘forcible removal’ of children of the Christian subjects from their ethnic, religious and cultural environment. It was cruel penalization imposed on the Balkan peoples since their ancestors resisted the Ottoman invasion. It was a periodic conscription of kidnapped tribute boys and girls from their families and communities to be molded into Ottoman praetorians owing their total allegiance and literally their life to the Sultans. From Islamic perspective, “The conquered are slaves of the conquerors, to whom their goods, their women, and their children belong as lawful possession”.

The Armenian Genocide (Medz Yeghern, “Great Crime”). The word “genocide” is the combination of the Greek prefix geno- (tribe or race) and caedere (to kill in Latin). It is defined as “a systematic organized and premeditated extermination of a people and a nation.” The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in 1948, defined genocide as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including by the means of killing members of the group.

The Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against its religious-Christian minority was the first modern mass murder in large scale. It was started on April 24, 1915 and ended with the estimate death toll of almost 1.5 million victims.

For the objective of executing the genocide, Special Forces (Teşkilat-i Mahsusa) were organized by the Turkish government. Like other mass-massacres during Islamic history, and followed by the ICS (Islamic Caliphate State) massacres and ethnic cleansing in Iraq and Syria, the Armenian Genocide has been an organized policy and it was legitimized by state laws.

The preamble to the genocide was the Hamidian Massacre. On 1 October 1895, 2,000 Armenians massacred in Istanbul, and very soon it engulfed the rest of the Armenian-populated provinces, with 100,000 and 300,000 victims. It was followed by Adana Massacre of April 1909, ended with a total of 30,000 victims.

Deportations. On 29 May 1915, the Central Committee of the Young Turks passed the Temporary Law of Deportation, and the mass slaughter of the Armenians ensued, and their property was confiscated. The systematic mass murder of the Armenians was “authorized and organized by the government,” in the face of the world. It was clear that the deportation order was genocidal. Theodore Roosevelt would later characterize it as “the greatest crime of the war.” World media reported it almost on a daily basis, and yet nobody did anything to stop it.  

Death marches and systematic starvation. The Armenians were marched out to the Syrian town of Deir al-Zour. Hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees were forced to march to the Syrian Desert without food and drink, condemned to death.

Concentration camps. A network of 25 concentration camps situated in the region of Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria, was set up by the ottoman Government, as to dispose of the Armenians who had survived the deportations and massacres. They also used Mass burnings, drowning, poison and gas slaughtering, and Typhoid.

Like ICS today, the Turks decapitated the heads of many Armenians, mainly their political and intellectual elites and displayed them of central public places. They served as a model to the systematic policy of extermination.

Confiscation of property. Following Abandoned Properties Law, the Ottoman parliament passed the “Temporary Law of Expropriation and Confiscation”, on 13 September 1915 that all property, including land, livestock, and homes belonging to Armenians was to be confiscated by the authorities.

The Greek genocide was the systematic massacre of two million Christian Greeks, instigated by the Ottoman Empire, during the First World War and its aftermath (1914–22). This included massacres and extermination; forced deportations and death marches; and ethnic cleansing from their historic homeland in Anatolia. By the end of the 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish war, most of the Greeks of Asia Minor had either fled to Greece or had been exterminated. The remaining were transferred into Greece under the terms of the “1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.” The Ottoman government was accused of crimes against humanity, and the International Association of Genocide Scholars passed a resolution in 2007 recognizing the Ottoman Empire massacre against Christian minorities as genocide.

The genocide of Buddhists and Hindus. The Brutal Islamic Jihadi campaigns against the infidels have reached its peak concerning the genocide of Buddhists and Hindus. Though every country the Muslim Jihadi invaders conquered has a separate history of blood bath, plundering, rapes, and slavery, however, Buddhists and Hindus perhaps have taken the lion’s share. From the 8th to 18th century, the number of the butchered Buddhists and Hindus is between 80 and 90, these figures exceeds all the massacres carried out all over the world put together. The number of Hindu and Buddhist slaves and raped women kept as sex slaves is almost the same.

Just imagine, the two perhaps most horrible states concerning the treatment of women, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Buddhist before the Islamic occupation. Just imagine the horrors the Muslim invaders brought to the peoples: plundering, torturing, crucifying the males, while shouting the frantic cry, “Allahu Akbar,” and meanwhile raping the wives and daughters, to begin to understand how that is these countries has become Muslim.

Starting in 712, Muslim jihadi raiders, headed by Muhammad Bin Qasim, entered the port city of Dubal, near todays Karachi, plundered palaces and temples, killed vast number of men and carried off their women and children to slavery, after mass rape and torture. Hajjaj Bin Yousef, the governor of Iraq, wrote to him, quoting Surat Muhammad, 47:4: when you encounter the infidels, strike off their heads. This command of Allah must be obeyed and followed. You should not be fond of mercy. Able-bodied men are to be killed and their women and children are to be enslaved. This order was obeyed on the attack of the city of Brahminabad, when massacring over 10,000 men and enslaving their women and children, after mass-rape. The same process with huge butchering occurred in Afghanistan by Mahmud al-Ghazni in Afghanistan, starting in year 1000, and was the tide of plundering, butchering, mass-rape and slavery endorsed and executed over 800 years on the vast lands of Asia.

Perhaps the worst of all Muslim invaders was Timorlane. His invasion of Hindustan, Tuzk-i-Taimuri, records:

“In a short space of time all the people in the fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of 10,000 infidels were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels. The Muslims set fire to the houses and reduced them to ashes, and they razed the buildings and the fort to the ground. All infidel Hindus were slain, their women and children and their property and goods became the spoil of the victors. One hundred thousand infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain. Maulana Nasiruddin Umar, a counselor and man of learning, who, in all his life, had never killed a sparrow, now, in execution of my order, slew with his sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives.”

The fate of the Hindu women captured alive by Muslims was worse than death. Even as their fathers, husbands and children lay killed they had to dance and sing before Muslims and after mass rape they would then be given in slavery to the Muslims.

One can conclude with the harsh situation of contemporary Christians in the Middle East. Among the so many anomalies of Obama Administration, like the refusal to label “Islamic” and “terrorism,” and to continue labelling Islam as a religion of peace, the most vicious is his refusal to call the persecution and annihilation of Christians in the Middle East as genocide. What is happening to religious minorities in the Middle East is not only prejudice and persecution, but systematic extermination.

One has to recall that the Middle East is the embodiment of Arab Islamic total imperialism and colonialism. The European, Soviet and American imperialism were here and gone. The Arab-Islamic imperialism has occupied the Middle East and perpetrated systematic policy of Arabization and Islamization in the entire region, by exterminating its genuine peoples.

Today the Christians have become an extinct species in the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities have been driven from their ancestral homes; have been slaughtered, butchered, crucified and beheaded; and have been raped and desecrated by the Muslims. However, this is also true to slaughtering of Muslims who do not behave according to the strict order of the Shari’ah, and they are labelled as infidels too. Iraqi Christians were about two million, now tens of thousands left. In Syria, out of 1.2 million, perhaps three hundred thousand left, living in deep intimidation and harsh conditions. Only in Egypt, due to the military regime of al-Sisi, the Christians’ condition is better, after they have passed through persecution, women kidnapping, and conversion to Islam during the short-lived period of Mursy Muslim Brotherhood’s regime.  

These events occurred all along Islamic bloody history do tell us why Muslims today who strictly follow Islam want to carry out the same things of the Islamic past. It leaves no doubt that the events on our screens today, the beheadings, the barbarism, the bombs are a byproduct of an Islamic era that is being revived by the fanatic Muslims all over the world.

Continue Reading
Comments

Middle East

Saudi religious moderation: the world’s foremost publisher of Qur’ans has yet to get the message

Published

on

When the religious affairs minister of Guinea-Conakry visited Jeddah last week, his Saudi counterpart gifted him 50,000 Qur’ans.

Saudi Islamic affairs minister Abdullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh offered the holy books as part of his ministry’s efforts to print and distribute them and spread their teachings.

The Qur’ans were produced by the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, which annually distributes millions of copies. Scholar Nora Derbal asserts that the Qur’ans “perpetuate a distinct Wahhabi reading of the scripture.”

Similarly, Saudi Arabia distributed in Afghanistan in the last years of the US-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani thousands of Qur’ans produced by the printing complex, according to Mr. Ghani’s former education minister, Mirwais Balkhi. Mr. Balkhi indicated that the Qur’ans were identical to those distributed by the kingdom for decades.

Mr. Ghani and Mr. Balkhi fled Afghanistan last year as US troops withdrew from the country and the Taliban took over.

Human Rights Watch and Impact-se, an education-focused Israeli research group, reported last year that Saudi Arabia, pressured for some two decades post-9/11 by the United States and others to remove supremacist references to Jews, Christian, and Shiites in its schoolbooks, had recently made significant progress in doing so.

However, the two groups noted that Saudi Arabia had kept in place fundamental concepts of an ultra-conservative, anti-pluralistic, and intolerant interpretation of Islam.

The same appears true for the world’s largest printer and distributor of Qur’ans, the King Fahd Complex.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has, since his rise in 2015, been primarily focussed on social and economic rather than religious reform.

Mr. Bin Salman significantly enhanced professional and personal opportunities for women, including lifting the ban on women’s driving and loosening gender segregation and enabled the emergence of a Western-style entertainment sector in the once austere kingdom.

Nevertheless, Saudi Islam scholar Besnik Sinani suggests that “state pressure on Salafism in Saudi Arabia will primarily focus on social aspects of Salafi teaching, while doctrinal aspects will probably receive less attention.”

The continued production and distribution of Qur’ans that included unaltered ultra-conservative interpretations sits uneasily with Mr. Bin Salman’s effort to emphasize nationalism rather than religion as the core of Saudi identity and project a more moderate and tolerant image of the kingdom’s Islam.

The Saudi spin is not in the Arabic text of the Qur’an that is identical irrespective of who prints it, but in parenthetical additions, primarily in translated versions, that modify the meaning of specific Qur’anic passages.

Commenting in 2005 on the King Fahd Complex’s English translation, the most widely disseminated Qur’an in the English-speaking world, the late Islam scholar Khaleel Mohammed asserted that it “reads more like a supremacist Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian polemic than a rendition of the Islamic scripture.”

Religion scholar Peter Mandaville noted in a recently published book on decades of Saudi export of ultra-conservative Islam that “it is the kingdom’s outsized role in the printing and distribution of the Qur’an as rendered in other languages that becomes relevant in the present context.”

Ms. Derbal, Mr. Sinani and this author contributed chapters to Mr. Mandaville’s edited volume.

The King Fahd Complex said that it had produced 18 million copies of its various publications in 2017/18 in multiple languages in its most recent production figures. Earlier it reported that it had printed and distributed 127 million copies of the Qur’an in the 22 years between 1985 and 2007. The Complex did not respond to emailed queries on whether parenthetical texts have been recently changed.

The apparent absence of revisions of parenthetical texts reinforces suggestions that Mr. Bin Salman is more concerned about socio-political considerations, regime survival, and the projection of the kingdom as countering extremism and jihadism than he is about reforming Saudi Islam.

It also spotlights the tension between the role Saudi Arabia envisions as the custodian of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, and the needs of a modern state that wants to attract foreign investment to help ween its economy off dependency on oil exports.

Finally, the continued distribution of Qur’ans with seemingly unaltered commentary speaks to the balance Mr. Bin Salman may still need to strike with the country’s once-powerful religious establishment despite subjugating the clergy to his will.

The continued global distribution of unaltered Qur’an commentary calls into question the sincerity of the Saudi moderation campaign, particularly when juxtaposed with rival efforts by other major Muslim countries to project themselves as beacons of a moderate form of Islam.

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Muslim World League convened some 100 Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist religious leaders to “establish a set of values common to all major world religions and a vision for enhancing understanding, cooperation, and solidarity amongst world religions.”

Once a major Saudi vehicle for the global propagation of Saudi religious ultra-conservatism, the League has been turned into Mr. Bin Salman’s megaphone. It issues lofty statements and organises high-profile conferences that project Saudi Arabia as a leader of moderation and an example of tolerance.

The League, under the leadership of former justice minister Mohammed al-Issa, has emphasised its outreach to Jewish leaders and communities. Mr. Al-Issa led a delegation of Muslim religious leaders in 2020 on a ground-breaking visit to Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi extermination camp in Poland.

However, there is little evidence, beyond Mr. Al-Issa’s gestures, statements, and engagement with Jewish leaders, that the League has joined in a practical way the fight against anti-Semitism that, like Islamophobia, is on the rise.

Similarly, Saudi moderation has not meant that the kingdom has lifted its ban on building non-Muslim houses of worship on its territory.

The Riyadh conference followed Nahdlatul Ulama’s footsteps, the world’s largest Muslim civil society movement with 90 million followers in the world’s largest Muslim majority country and most populous democracy. Nahdlatul Ulama leader Yahya Cholil Staquf spoke at the conference.

In recent years, the Indonesian group has forged alliances with Evangelical entities like the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Jewish organisations and religious leaders, and various Muslim groups across the globe. Nahdlatul Ulama sees the alliances as a way to establish common ground based on shared humanitarian values that would enable them to counter discrimination and religion-driven prejudice, bigotry, and violence.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s concept of Humanitarian Islam advocates reform of what it deems “obsolete” and “problematic” elements of Islamic law, including those that encourage segregation, discrimination, and/or violence towards anyone perceived to be a non-Muslim. It further accepts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, unlike the Saudis, without reservations.

The unrestricted embrace of the UN declaration by Indonesia and its largest Muslim movement has meant that conversion, considered to be apostasy under Islamic law, is legal in the Southeast Asian nation. As a result, Indonesia, unlike Middle Eastern states where Christian communities have dwindled due to conflict, wars, and targeted attacks, has witnessed significant growth of its Christian communities.

Christians account for ten percent of Indonesia’s population. Researchers Duane Alexander Miller and Patrick Johnstone reported in 2015 that 6.5 million Indonesian had converted to Christianity since 1960.

That is not to say that Christians and other non-Muslim minorities have not endured attacks on churches, suicide bombings, and various forms of discrimination. The attacks have prompted Nahdlatul Ulama’s five million-strong militia to protect churches in vulnerable areas during holidays such as Christmas. The militia has also trained Christians to enable them to watch over their houses of worship.

Putting its money where its mouth is, a gathering of 20,000 Nahdlatul Ulama religious scholars issued in 2019 a fatwa or religious opinion eliminating the Muslim legal concept of the kafir or infidel.

Twelve years earlier, the group’s then spiritual leader and former Indonesian president Abdurahman Wahid, together with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, organised a conference in the archipelago state to acknowledge the Holocaust and denounce denial of the Nazi genocide against the Jews. The meeting came on the heels of a gathering in Tehran convened by then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that denied the existence of the Holocaust.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Iran Gives Russia Two and a Half Cheers

Published

on

Photo: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Moscow, March 15 2022. Credit: @Amirabdolahian via Twitter.

Iran’s rulers enthusiastically seek to destroy the liberal world order and therefore support Russia’s aggression. But they can’t manage full-throated support.

For Iran, the invasion of Ukraine is closely related to the very essence of the present world order. Much like Russia, Iran has been voicing its discontent at the way the international system has operated since the end of the Cold War. More broadly, Iran and Russia see the world through strikingly similar lenses. Both keenly anticipate the end of the multipolar world and the end of the West’s geopolitical preponderance.

Iran had its reasons to think this way. The US unipolar moment after 1991 provoked a deep fear of imminent encirclement, with American bases in Afghanistan and Iraq cited as evidence. Like Russia, the Islamic Republic views itself as a separate civilization that needs to be not only acknowledged by outside players, but also to be given ana suitable geopolitical space to project influence.

Both Russia and Iran are very clear about their respective spheres of influence. For Russia, it is the territories that once constituted the Soviet empire. For Iran, it is the contiguous states reaching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean — Iraq, Syria, Lebanon — plus Yemen. When the two former imperial powers have overlapping strategic interests such as, for instance, in the South Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, they apply the concept of regionalism. This implies the blocking out of non-regional powers from exercising outsize economic and military influence, and mostly revolves around an order dominated by the powers which border on a region.

This largely explains why Iran sees the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity that, if successful, could hasten the end of the liberal world order. This is why it has largely toed the Russian line and explained what it describes as legitimate motives behind the invasion. Thus the expansion of NATO into eastern Europe was cited as having provoked Russian moves. “The root of the crisis in Ukraine is the US policies that create the crisis, and Ukraine is one victim of these policies,” argued Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei following the invasion.

To a certain degree, Iran’s approach to Ukraine has been also influenced by mishaps in bilateral relations which largely began with the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet by Iranian surface-to-air missiles in January 2020, killing 176 people. The regime first denied responsibility, and later blamed human error.

Iran, like several other of Russia’s friends and defenders,  the ideal scenario would have been a quick war in which the Kremlin achieved its major goals.

Protracted war, however, sends a bad signal. It signals that the liberal order was not in such steep decline after all, and that Russia’s calls for a new era in international relations have been far from realistic. The unsuccessful war also shows Iran that the collective West still has very significant power and — despite well-aired differences — an ability to rapidly coalesce to defend the existing rules-based order. Worse, for these countries, the sanctions imposed on Russia go further; demonstrating the West’s ability to make significant economic sacrifices to make its anger felt. In other words, Russia’s failure in Ukraine actually strengthened the West and made it more united than at any point since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

A reinvigorated liberal order is the last thing that Iran wants, given its own troubled relations with the collective West. The continuing negotiations on a revived nuclear deal will be heavily impacted by how Russia’s war proceeds, and how the US and EU continue to respond to the aggression. Iran fears that a defeated Russia might be so angered as to use its critical position to endanger the talks, vital to the lifting of the West’s crippling sanctions.

And despite rhetorical support for Russia, Iran has been careful not to overestimate Russia’s power. It is now far from clear that the Kremlin has achieved its long-term goal of “safeguarding” its western frontier. Indeed, the Putin regime may have done the opposite now that it has driven Finland and Sweden into the NATO fold. Western sanctions on Russia are likely to remain for a long time, threatening long-term Russian economic (and possible regime) stability.

Moreover, Russia’s fostering of separatist entities (following the recognition of the so called Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” and other breakaway entities in Georgia and Moldova) is a highly polarizing subject in Iran. True there has been a shift toward embracing Russia’s position over Ukraine, but Iran remains deeply committed to the “Westphalian principles” of non-intervention in the affairs of other states and territorial integrity. This is hardly surprising given its own struggles against potential separatism in the peripheries of the country.

Many Iranians also sympathize with Ukraine’s plight, which for some evokes Iran’s defeats in the early 19th century wars when Qajars had to cede the eastern part of the South Caucasus to Russia. This forms part of a historically deeply rooted, anti-imperialist sentiment in Iran.

Iran is therefore likely to largely abstain from endorsing Russia’s separatist ambitions in Eastern Ukraine. It will also eschew, where possible, support for Russia in international forums. Emblematic of this policy was the March 2 meeting in the United Nations General Assembly when Iran, rather than siding with Russia, abstained from the vote which condemned the invasion.

Russia’s poor military performance, and the West’s ability to act unanimously, serve as a warning for the Islamic Republic that it may one day have to soak up even more Western pressure if Europe, the US, and other democracies act in union.

In the meantime, like China, Iran will hope to benefit from the magnetic pull of the Ukraine war. With so much governmental, military and diplomatic attention demanded by the conflict, it will for the time being serve as a distraction from Iran’s ambitions elsewhere. 

Author’s note: first published in cepa

Continue Reading

Middle East

Ignoring the Middle East at one’s peril: Turkey plays games in NATO

Published

on

Image source: NATO

Amid speculation about a reduced US military commitment to security in the Middle East, Turkey has spotlighted the region’s ability to act as a disruptive force if its interests are neglected.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set off alarm bells this week, declaring that he was not “positive” about possible Finnish and Swedish applications for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO membership is contingent on a unanimous vote in favour by the organisation’s 30 members. Turkey has NATO’s second-largest standing army. 

The vast majority of NATO members appear to endorse Finnish and Swedish membership. NATO members hope to approve the applications at a summit next month.

A potential Turkish veto would complicate efforts to maintain trans-Atlantic unity in the face of the Russian invasion.

Mr. Erdogan’s pressure tactics mirror the maneuvers of his fellow strongman, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban. Mr. Orban threatens European Union unity by resisting a bloc-wide boycott of Russian energy.

Earlier, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia rejected US requests to raise oil production in an effort to lower prices and help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

The two Gulf states appear to have since sought to quietly backtrack on their refusal.

In late April, France’s TotalEnergies chartered a tanker to load Abu Dhabi crude in early May for Europe, the first such shipment in two years.

Saudi Arabia has quietly used its regional pricing mechanisms to redirect from Asia to Europe Arab “medium,” the Saudi crude that is the closest substitute for the main Russian export blend, Urals, for which European refineries are configured.

Mr. Erdogan linked his NATO objection to alleged Finnish and Swedish support for the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the EU.

The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey in support of Kurds’ national, ethnic, and cultural rights. Kurds account for up to 20 per cent of the country’s 84 million population.

Turkey has recently pounded PKK positions in northern Iraq in a military operation named Operation Claw Lock

Turkey is at odds with the United States over American support for Syrian Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State. Turkey asserts that America’s Syrian Kurdish allies are aligned with the PKK.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey opposes a US decision this week to exempt from sanctions against Syria regions controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“This is a selective and discriminatory move,” Mr. Cavusoglu said, noting that the exemption did not include Kurdish areas of Syria controlled by Turkey and its Syrian proxies.

Referring to the NATO membership applications, Mr. Erdogan charged that “Scandinavian countries are like some kind of guest house for terrorist organisations. They’re even in parliament.”

Mr. Erdogan’s objections relate primarily to Sweden, with Finland risking becoming collateral damage.

Sweden is home to a significant Kurdish community and hosts Europe’s top Kurdish soccer team that empathises with the PKK and Turkish Kurdish aspirations. In addition, six Swedish members of parliament are ethnic Kurds.

Turkey scholar Howard Eissenstat suggested that Turkey’s NATO objection may be a turning point. “Much of Turkey’s strategic flexibility has come from the fact that its priorities are seen as peripheral issues for its most important Western allies. Finnish and Swedish entry into NATO, in the current context, absolutely not peripheral,” Mr. Eissenstat tweeted.

The Turkish objection demonstrates the Middle East’s potential to derail US and European policy in other parts of the world.

Middle Eastern states walk a fine line when using their potential to disrupt to achieve political goals of their own. The cautious backtracking on Ukraine-related oil supplies demonstrates the limits and/or risks of Middle Eastern brinkmanship.

So does the fact that Ukraine has moved NATO’s center of gravity to northern Europe and away from its southern flank, which Turkey anchors.

Moreover, Turkey risks endangering significant improvements in its long-strained relations with the United States.

Turkish mediation in the Ukraine crisis and military support for Ukraine prompted US President Joe Biden to move ahead with plans to upgrade Turkey’s fleet of F-16 fighter planes and discuss selling it newer, advanced  F-16 models even though Turkey has neither condemned Russia nor imposed sanctions.

Some analysts suggest Turkey may use its objection to regain access to the United States’ F-35 fighter jet program. The US cancelled in 2019 a sale of the jet to Turkey after the NATO member acquired Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defence system.

Mr. Erdogan has “done this kind of tactic before. He will use it as leverage to get a good deal for Turkey,” said retired US Navy Admiral James Foggo, dean of the Center for Maritime Strategy.

A top aide to Mr. Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, appeared to confirm Mr. Foggo’s analysis.

“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Mr. Kalin said, referring to the Turkish leader’s NATO remarks. “Of course, we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with Swedish counterparts.”

Spelling out Turkish demands, Mr. Kalin went on to say that “what needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence to…exist in those countries.”

Mr. Erdogan’s brinkmanship may have its limits, but it illustrates that one ignores the Middle East at one’s peril.

However, engaging Middle Eastern autocrats does not necessarily mean ignoring their rampant violations of human rights and repression of freedoms.

For the United States and Europe, the trick will be developing a policy that balances accommodating autocrats’, at times, disruptive demands, often aimed at ensuring regime survival, with the need to remain loyal to democratic values amid a struggle over whose values will underwrite a 21st-century world order.

However, that would require a degree of creative policymaking and diplomacy that seems to be a rare commodity.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

South Asia37 mins ago

Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political...

World News3 hours ago

Food insecurity threatens societies: No country is immune

“When war is waged, people go hungry,” Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council on Thursday during a debate on...

USA China Trade War USA China Trade War
East Asia5 hours ago

U.S. Violates Its Promises to China; Asserts Authority Over Taiwan

As Werner Rügemer headlined on 28 November 2021 and truthfully summarized the relevant history, “Taiwan: US deployment area against mainland...

Health & Wellness7 hours ago

How functional medicine can transform your life

With an increased focus on functional medicine and lifestyle changes to prevent diseases, the market for global functional medicine is...

Reports8 hours ago

New Resilience Consortium to Forge Strategies for Recovery and Growth in Face of Multiple Crises

COVID-19, climate change and, most recently, the war in Ukraine and the ensuing refugee crisis, are the latest reminders of...

World News9 hours ago

First international day spotlighting women working in the maritime industry

The first ever International Day for Women in Maritime kicked off its inaugural celebration on Wednesday with a seminar to...

Tech News11 hours ago

The small things make a big difference in the science of measurement

Scientists must make ever more sophisticated measurements as technology shrinks to the nanoscale and we face global challenges from the...

Trending