Showing posts with label Islam State. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Islam State. Show all posts

February 12, 2015

Pres.Obama Compares Radical Islam to the Crusades,This is why he is Right

It's a day that ends in the letter "Y," which means that President Barack Obama has once again had the temerity to state his opinion on matters of state, policy or religion, an action for which his Republican opponents have declared the pillory too light a punishment. 
In a speech Thursday at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, an annual brunch-and-prayer-a-thon coordinated by the Fellowship Foundation, a secretive Christian organization with Dominionist tendencies, Obama had the nerve to suggest that religious fundamentalism and violence is not solely the legacy of Islam, and that Christianity's past is just as checkered by acts of brutality and inhumanity in the ostensible name of faith.

"Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history," Obama said. "And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Cue the freakout: The president's comments "goes further to the point that [Obama] does not believe in America or the values we all share," former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore told the Washington Post, arguing that Obama "has offended every believing Christian in the United States." His "ignorance is astounding and his comparison is pernicious," the Catholic League declared in a statement. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, deemed the remarks "an unfortunate attempt at a wrongheaded moral comparison." Michelle Malkin, conservative commentator was a bit more direct direct: "ISIS chops off heads, incinerates hostages, kills gays, enslaves girls. Obama: Blame the Crusades."
Obama, those critical of the speech are suggesting, is condemning the wrong people. "The evil actions that he mentioned were clearly outside the moral parameters of Christianity itself and were met with overwhelming moral opposition from Christians," Moore told the Washington Post. While Obama's remarks were intended to make sure "he is not heard as saying that all Muslims are terrorists," Moore added, "I think most people know that at this point." 
Too bad that's not true. According to a Gallup poll of Muslims sampled from around the world, more than half stated they believed Muslims in the West are not treated as equal citizens. Even when non-Muslims are asked about Islamophobia in the U.S., about half agree that "in general, most Americans are prejudiced toward Muslim Americans."

Source: Gallup
As for the contents of Obama's speech, they're historically accurate. Although Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, cites 98-year-old Orientalist scholar Bernard Lewis in declaring that "the Crusades were a defensive Christian reaction against Muslim madmen of the Middle Ages," the historicity of that statement is suspect. Although Lewis and some other historians see the Crusades as defensive war against jihad, others, such as Thomas Madden, have deemed the conflicts the machinations of a powerful Roman Catholic Church to expand Christendom.
In his seminal workThe New Concise History of the Crusades, Madden writes that the "crusade, first and foremost, was a war against Muslims for the defense of the Christian faith," and that the goal of Pope Urban II, the pontiff who initiated the First Crusade, was that "the Christians of the East must be free from the brutal and humiliating conditions of Muslim rule." In other words, the Crusades were arguably an attempt to use violence to expand the power and influence of the religion in a foreign land.
Does that sound familiar? It should.

The crusaders attack Jerusalem: Godfrey of Bouillon (Goffredo) has been wounded in the leg by an arrow: he breaks off the shaft but the learned Paduan healer Erotimus cannot remove the head. In this print, the angel who has fetched the purple-flowered herb dittany from Mount Ida in Crete descends and squeezes juice from the herb into a jar held by an attendant. Erotimus stands by with his surgical instrument. With the aid of the herb, the arrowhead will come out of its own accord. Right, Christian cavalry. Centre background, the Christian assault on Jerusalem. The image illustrates Episodes in Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso, canto XI, especially stanza 74.
Source: Antonio Tempesta/Wellcome Trust/Wikimedia Commons
Which leads us to the Obama's real message: Not all Muslims are terrorists, and not all terrorists are Muslim. The reaction of the National Prayer Breakfast's attendees plays straight into the modern trope that extremists are only "terrorists" when they're Muslims. 
Despite assertions to the contrary by dimwitted breakfast television hosts, the vast majority of terror attacks in the West are perpetrated not by Islamist religious fanatics but by right-wing nationalists or separatists. What's that "vast majority," exactly? Around 98% in the European Union in the last five years. In fact, an FBI study analyzing acts of terrorism committed on American soil between 1980 and 2005 found more than 90% of terrorist attacks were perpetrated by non-Muslims.
The suggestion that Christians might also be terrorists has been anathema to religious conservatives in the West before. When Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 and wounded 319 in the deadliest peacetime shooting in modern European history, his 1,518-page manifesto made clear that the motivation for his attacks was rooted in anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant sentiment: Norway's leaders "are committing, or planning to commit, cultural destruction, of which deconstruction of the Norwegian ethnic group and deconstruction of Norwegian culture. This is the same as ethnic cleansing."
The suggestion that Breivik was a "Christian terrorist," however, was deemed impossible by American conservatives. Bill O'Reilly called the description "outrageous." One commentator declared that Breivik didn't count as a Christian terrorist because his actions were "in no way prompted by any commonly held understanding of the teachings of Jesus."
If the hypocrisy of violence in the name of religion is enough to discount that person's faith from being considered as a motivational force behind said violence, then there are no such things as Muslim terrorists: There are more than 200 verses calling for compassionate living in the Quran, including for those of other faiths.
Fight in the cause of God those who start fighting you, but do not transgress limits (or start the attack); for God loveth not transgressors. — Quran 2:190
The truth is, Christians should embrace the faith's troubled history. No religion with a history marked in millennia can possibly hold up a pure moral slate under the scrutiny of modern scholars. Just as horrors have been committed in the name of Islam and Christianity, so too have crimes been perpetrated by those who justified their actions in Buddhism, or Hinduism or Judaism. 
But some of Obama's critics may have a point — the comparison between Islamic terrorism and the Christian justification for slavery in the U.S. isn't perfect. After all, the death toll from global terrorism since 2000 is estimated to be around 107,000 people.
The death toll for the Crusades? Three million.

September 17, 2014

The Islamic State is Determined to Get a The Pope


The news: Pope Francis, famous for his progressive and down-to-earth papacy, has a dangerous new enemy.
The Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See has warned the Vatican that the Islamic State is intent on assassinating the Argentine pontiff. 
Pope Francis will be traveling to Albania on Sept. 21, a predominantly Muslim country, and he is refusing to ramp up security during his stay, despite the fact that Ambassador Habeeb al-Sadr warned Vatican officials that the jihadists "don't just threaten," according to Italian newspaper La Nazione.
Even though al-Sadr's claims are not tied to specific intelligence, he is basing the threat on IS's track record of abuse, torture and mass killings  — in particular the massacre of Yazidi Christians in Iraq and thedestruction of holy Islamic sites — represents an "indication of their intent."
With escalating conflicts in Gaza, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine over the past few months, the Pope has been outspoken about a need to end the global cycle of violence and bloodshed. He pleaded with terrorists and world leaders alike Saturday to put a stop to the slaughter happening around the world. "All war, he said, is 'madness,'" the Daily Beast reported
Francis is just the latest addition to the IS's "enemies list." With the Islamic State’s manpower around an estimated 20,000 to 31,500 militants, the group's threats are not to be taken lightly.

Here's a rundown of IS's other targets:
Prime Minister David Cameron. In the Sept. 13 IS video, showing the execution of British aid worker David Haines, Haines reads a script saying, "I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution. You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State. Unfortunately, it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament's selfish decisions." 
Additionally, an 18-year-old British woman who is reportedly in Syria with the Islamic State is tweeting vicious threats like she wants, "David Cameron's head on a spike," noted the Independent
Twitter Employees. On Sept. 7, various tweets related to IS accounts emerged encouraging assailants to "bring the war" to Twitter by killing its staff. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin. In early September, the Islamic State released a video threatening Putin because of his ties to Syrian leader Bashar Assad and Russia’s control over Chechnya, which the insurgents in the video promised to free. 

Turkey. Back in August, IS warned that it would "liberate" Istanbul if the country didn't reopen the dam on the Euphrates River, which is a major water source for Syria, Iraq and Turkey. In Vice’s video report, one member says that this is "a clear threat." Jordan and King Abdullah. Jordan shares borders with both Iraq and Syria, and IS already has a stronghold in the country. So in a video (below) from April, IS militants threaten to invade the country and "slaughter" the King, who they see as a "tyrant." The video also depicts Jordanians denouncing their citizenship and promising future suicide attacks within the country.  The takeaway: The Islamic State is ruthless when it comes to threatening leaders, countries and people. IS is a sophisticated and skilled insurgent group that's shown a capacity for brutal, highly orchestrated acts of destruction, whether it's targeting the Yazidi or individual executions like journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley and aid worker David Haines. 

The Pope is taking a big risk by traveling around in Albania in an open-topped car, but he is also sending a powerful message to insurgents: The pontiff is a man of the people, and he isn't afraid. 
h/t ABC News

September 15, 2014

US Can Destroy Islamic ISIL and Syria without Help from Iran but it Will Get Help from Some Allies

Contrary to this weekends American News channels there is a lot of support for the US to wipe out ISIL. Not only that, thanks to ISIL American and Iran’s interests are on the same side of the courtyard.

Is America at war with the Islamic State? On Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said as much. “In the same way that we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL,” he said, using the acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The remark set a thousand Washington keyboards aflutter, as Secretary of State John Kerry had said pretty much the opposite only a day earlier—and President Obama never used the word “war” in his primetime speech on Wednesday.

Washington loves nothing more than to oversimplify the complex. But the fight against the radical jihadist movement that has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq is not simply a war. In a conventional war, you are fighting a massed army seeking to gain or hold territory; such an army can be destroyed by superior force and skilled tactics. In a civil war, you are fighting guerrillas or militias seeking to free themselves from the central government, or to take it over. They can be defeated by giving the central government military and financial support to defend itself, building up secure zones to protect civilians and killing or capturing rebel leaders. ISIL, by contrast, is conducting a revolutionary war, in which civilians are recruited to support an ideological cause and rallied to overturn and replace regimes that are widely seen as unjust and illegitimate.

The distinction matters. To destroy the threat embodied in ISIL requires approaching the task as one of counter-revolution. ISIL, after all, is at its core only about 30,000 fighters, tops; what has made them the group force that could take over much of two countries with a total population of more than 50 million people is that they are supported by millions as the vanguard of a revolutionary movement for justice. That support ranges from military recruits from former supporters of other rebel groups who are joining ISIL to financial support from conservative co-religionists in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states to the quiet support of tens of millions of Syrian and Iraqi Sunnis.

How could such a barbarous and brutal group as ISIL, as Obama described it Wednesday, earn the support of those millions? By promising to protect and avenge them against the Assad regime in Syria, which has slaughtered their children and gassed their relatives and fellow townspeople and tribesmen; and against the Shiite regime in Iraq, which has stolen their jobs and destroyed their livelihoods, contemptuously dashing the hopes and careers of Sunni Arabs in that country.

The history of revolutions shows that such ideologically extremist groups typically emerge from periods of chaos in the wake of weak or disrupted regimes. ISIL is, within its Islamic framework, the heir of the Jacobins of the French Revolution, and the Bolsheviks of the Russian Revolution, who engaged in terror tactics and the killing of tens of thousands to reinforce their power in the wake of regime collapse and civil war. We know from this history that if the extremist vanguard is able to win the support of the masses, and turn them against the elites and moderate leaders left over from the old regime, they will carry the day and create an expansionist revolutionary state. Only if the radicals can be separated from the broader population, and the latter brought within the framework of other institutions that can provide order, security and start to respond to the population’s legitimate goals, can the radicals be effectively hunted down and destroyed.
Now we start to grasp the size of the task. 

In the case of the French Revolution, it took the combination of Britain, Prussia and Russia cooperating to destroy Napoleon’s forces at Waterloo to finally end the threat of a revolutionary conquest of Europe. In the case of the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution, it took the combination of all NATO countries, with support from Australia and New Zealand and Japan, to contain the Soviet Union’s plans for global communist expansion and eventually produce its implosion and fall. Both of these cases show that revolutionary ideological states, once established, are robust; it took more than two decades of conflict on three continents to turn back Napoleon, and more than seven decades of global Cold War to turn back Soviet communism. To turn back ISIL and separate it from its supporters will likewise take a broad coalition and years of arduous effort, but failure to succeed now will likely mean many decades of further conflict ahead.

The difficulty lies in the dual nature of counter-revolution. It is necessary to do two things: First, isolate and weaken the revolutionary forces by attacking their military force and limiting their access to funding and to external allies. Second, and even more essential, displace their ideological appeal to the masses by providing an alternative regime that can offer security, opportunity and inclusion to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the people. Only then can military actions to destroy the radical forces be effective.
That is why the success of President Obama’s strategy to destroy ISIL depends on political solutions in both Iraq and Syria that provide inclusive and resilient civilian regimes. Yet so far unspoken is an essential fact of life in the Middle East: There can be no political solution in either Iraq or Syria without Iran’s assent.

Fortunately, events in both Iran and the Middle East have moved in a direction favorable to improved U.S.-Iranian relations. The new regime of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appears sincerely interested in negotiating limits on its nuclear program in order to obtain relief from international sanctions. Iran is now also deeply reliant on U.S. help to sustain a stable and friendly Iraq next door. And ISIL is a mortal threat to both U.S. interests and to Iran. Rarely have U.S. and Iranian interests aligned so cleanly.

Jack A. Goldstone is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Hazel professor of public policy at George Mason University. He is the author of Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction.The views expressed in this article are those solely of the author. 
adamfoxie blog Int

"I think Iran now realises they cannot win the Syrian conflict whilst Assad is in power," said one. Another diplomat, who has recently held talks with Iranian leaders, said the rise of Isil had injected a new dynamic into the conflict, which Iran was no longer sure Mr Assad could win. He said he thought the Iranian government would now be prepared to "burn" Mr Assad, especially if it eased a broader deal on Tehran's nuclear programme. Western diplomats, who have supported the opposition to Mr Assad from the start, have a vested interest in hoping that Iran may ultimately drop its support for him.
But his defeats in recent weeks were the most humiliating since rebels swept into Aleppo two years ago.
Isil seized Tabqa military air base in the province of Raqqa last month, removing the last major government-held post in a province the extremists claim as part of their new "Islamic State". The jihadis tortured and summarily executed Syrian soldiers, publishing videos of a long line of men being led at a jog into the desert in their underwear, some still weeping and begging to be rescued. Meanwhile another band of extremists in Syria - a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe - poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.
At the centre is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qa'ida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.
But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of Assad. Instead, they were sent by al-Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a US-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)
Irish Independent 

How Steven and James Fell Prey to Islam


Steven Sotloff and I did not know each other. But I knew the country and the conflict he was trying to show to the world.
 When Sotloff was kidnapped I was only a few minutes’ car drive away, dozing in a safe house between the Turkish-Syrian border and the city of Aleppo, waiting for my fixer to return with breakfast. It was August 2013, and the moderate opposition, known as the Free Syrian Army, was getting hammered by regime airstrikes and shelling, and somewhat jealously eyeing the emerging Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which was well-equipped with guns, ammo and money from wealthy Gulf donors. Most Western journalists had given up covering Syria because ISIS was actively hunting down reporters. I was there to report for the German paper BILD on the war that had been ravaging Syria for more than two years then.
“Stay safe — don’t wanna see you in some YouTube video” had become a common, now darkly prophetic, line between parting journalists in the hotels on the Turkish side of the border.
We all knew that on the crossing in the Turkish town of Kilis, there were spotters working for ISIS, watching us while we stamped out of Turkey and headed into Syria. We all knew that on the other side, in the town of Azaz, ISIS had established a dangerous presence, roaming the streets in pickup trucks, watching all the strategic intersections one had to pass to drive on to besieged Aleppo.
Man sitting in bulletproof vest on chair holding a camera
Julian Reichelt in the Old City of Aleppo
The drive through Azaz was nerve-wracking, rife with potential kidnappers — some motivated by money, others by ideology — waiting behind every corner of that sleepy, filthy town. Street vendors sold cigarettes and SIM cards in a place once famous for olive oil and soap handmade from olives. Now, it smelled of black-market diesel being sold out of canisters and barrels along the road. This was where hardened jihadis came to gather, from all over the world. Battle-worn Jordanians who had fought the Americans in Iraq, Chechens with bushy red beards and AKs at the ready.
That was what Steven Sotloff stepped into on that day in August. From what I know, he must not have made it past Azaz.
“We have to leave, man,” my fixer said to me when he entered our safe house that afternoon. He carried bread and a plastic bag filled with the wonderfully sweet figs of the hills that roll from Turkey into Syria. “We eat breakfast and then I get you out of Syria. You are not safe here anymore.”
“Why?” I asked, noticing a rare seriousness in his face.
Daula kidnapped another journalist just down the road,” he answered, using the Arabic word for “state” that ISIS goes by in most parts of Syria.
I rose from my mattress on the floor, with every muscle aching from another sleepless, uncomfortable night.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“I’m trying to find out,” my fixer said.
He got on his iPhone, checking Twitter, Facebook and Skype, while I stared out of the only small window that sober room had, looking at a brown field where a mild breeze was kicking up clouds of dust.
After half an hour of silence, my fixer showed me a Skype chat on his phone. Someone had produced a name: Zotlof.
“Don’t know him,” I said with impassivity.
My guards were constantly swinging their heavy guns toward the ISIS Toyotas, signaling to them that I was under their protection.
All journalists in war zones operate on the assumption that bad things are what happens to other people. I almost feel ashamed to say it, but that day, Steven’s disappearance was just more than proof of that concept. Something bad happens, you block it out, you carry on.
My fixer, though, was frantic. Determined to get me back into Turkey as soon as possible, he was making calls for the rest of the day to find out about ISIS checkpoints along the road to Azaz where Steven had been abducted. His plan was to get us two pickup trucks full of armed fighters from the FSA and then speed down that road toward the safety of Turkey during prayer time, when many of the checkpoints were not manned.
But I wanted to do yet another story before leaving Syria. We argued. My fixer said I was crazy, but finally he agreed to help me with that story that would put us right in the sights of the people who kidnapped Steven.
Early the next morning we drove to Minnagh, a small town that sat next to a military airport. A year of constant fighting between rebels in the town and regime forces defending the airport had annihilated Minnagh. Not a single house had been spared. The town was a gray desert of rubble, controlled by a shaky alliance of moderates — mostly Syrians — and extremist ISIS troops, mainly foreign fighters. The FSA had relied on ISIS firepower to finally capture the airport from the regime a few days earlier.
My fixer had arranged for my protection. Walking through Minnagh, I was surrounded by three pickup trucks with mounted anti-aircraft guns and a dozen fighters forming a bubble around me. Journalists like Steven and me had been relying on people like this throughout the Syrian uprising: decent, hospitable locals fighting the regime to create a better Syria.
Person sitting on chair next to building
A boy sits in his bombed-out school in Minnagh after a year of fighting that leveled the city and expelled all its citizens.
Only minutes into Minnagh, where all the remaining trees and bushes stood gray from the dust of bombed buildings, two Toyota trucks covered in mud camouflage started circling us like sharks. One of the trucks was flying the black flag of ISIS. I could see the bearded fighters inside the trucks, watching us, preying, waiting for that one unguarded moment they needed to ambush us and disappear with yet another Western hostage.
The situation turned into an hourlong floating standoff as I made my way through Minnagh, taking photos of a boy who returned to his bombed-out school; my guards were constantly swinging their heavy guns toward the ISIS Toyotas, signaling to them that I was under their protection. Finally, they loaded me on one of their trucks and drove me to the border at breakneck speed.
When I crossed into Turkey that day, I was done. I couldn’t go back.
What happened to Steven and what I luckily escaped that week is now covering Syria like a black blanket. Facing a strong likelihood of abduction, most journalists have withdrawn from Syria. Locals die unnoticed. ISIS — and the despicable Assad regime — has won. They have turned Syria into the darkest place on earth.
Julian Reichelt is the chief editor of and was a war reporter in Syria from 2012–2013.

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