CSID Bulletin - December 7, 2015
In This Issue
Islam Was Never Intolerant and Warmongering. Read the Qur'an!
Countering the Islam vs. the West Paradigm
Anti-Muslim rhetoric isn't brave
Muslims in America Condemn Extremists and Fear Anew for Their Lives
Want to Beat the Islamic State? Help Tunisia
Support Tunisia, the Arab Spring's sole success story
UAE threatens to destabilize Tunisia for not acting in Abu Dhabi's interests
Tunisia's Wobbly Democracy
NDI Democracy Dinner:..."The Promise of Democracy"
Does the West want democracy in the Middle East?
Washington's Fondness for 'Friendly' Dictators
The Post's View:...Egypt's state of repression
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Islam Was Never Intolerant and Warmongering. Read the Qur'an!


Unfortunately, the horrific actions of the so-called Islamic State militant group (ISIS) - done in the name of Islam - often get attributed to Muslims as a whole. There is the underlying assumption that there must be some core aspect of the religion that is at fault, that the religion is incompatible with modernity.

Not surprisingly, Muslim reformers are returning to their earliest religious sources and history-the Koran and its commentaries, reliable sayings of Muhammad, early historical chronicles-for valuable guidance during these troubled times.

And much of what we regard as "modern, progressive values" - among them, religious tolerance, the empowerment of women and accountable, consultative modes of governance - can actually be found in this strand of Muslims' collective history.


Countering the Islam vs. the West Paradigm  

Symbolic integration refers to the inclusion of a particular group into the history and shared memory of a national community. Shared cultural practices divide the world into "friends" and "enemies.

Symbolic boundaries are thereby constructed around the "national community," both inter-nationally and intra-nationally. "Enemies" do not only reside outside of the territorial confines of the Nation-State, but also within, reflecting the "internal structure of social divisions."

Some groups are internal enemies (territorial, linguistic, or ethnic minorities), while others are external (hostile, foreign countries). Muslims are now both. The gap between the social and political reality of Islam and the construction of Islam as the enemy reveals a lack of symbolic integration.

A drastic change in the existing national narrative of each country could facilitate the symbolic integration of Islam into Western society by incorporating Muslims and Islam into the psyche and culture of the national communities to which they belong. It is a daunting task, but by taking a hard look at the differences between the constructed views of Islam and its realities, it can be done.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric isn't brave

"According to the FBI, the majority of domestic terrorist attacks are actually committed by white, male Christians... When those things occur, we don't suspect other people who share their faith and ethnicity of condoning them. We assume that these things outrage them just as much as they do anyone else. And we have to afford that same assumption of innocence to Muslims."
""According to the FBI, the majority of domestic terrorist attacks are actually committed by white, male Christians."  
But it is also important to remember that there are 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet. If you took the total number of deaths from terrorism last year - about 30,000 - and assumed that 50 people were involved in planning each one (a vastly exaggerated estimate), it would still add up to less than 0.1 percent of the world's Muslims.

While I believe that Muslims do bear a responsibility to speak up, non-Muslims also have a responsibility not to make assumptions about them based on such a small minority. Individuals should be judged as individuals and not placed under suspicion for some "group characteristic." It is dehumanizing and un-American to do otherwise.

Muslims in America Condemn Extremists and Fear Anew for Their Lives

American Muslims have reported a spate of violence and intimidation against them: women wearing head scarves accosted; Muslim children bullied; bullets shot at a mosque in Meriden, Conn.; feces thrown at a mosque in Pflugerville, Tex.


"Groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda," Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, "are trying to divide our society and to terrorize us. Our message to them is we will not be terrorized and we will not be intimidated," either by the terrorists or, he said, "by hatemongers who exploit the fear and hysteria that results from incidents like this."

But the message is apparently not getting through. Muslims and leaders of mosques across the United States say they are experiencing a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they have experienced since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

The attacks have left American Muslims feeling defensive and vulnerable just as the San Bernardino attack is forcing them to come to grips with the prospect that the threat from terrorists within their midst is very, very real.

Want to Beat the Islamic State? Help Tunisia

One of the best ways to undermine the jihadists is by helping Tunisia prove that democracy offers a better way of life.


Military victories over the Islamic State's fighters will certainly help to undermine their image of invincibility.
But if we really want to defeat IS for good, we also need to beat it in the realm of ideas. 
But if we really want to defeat IS for good we also need to beat it in the realm of ideas. And that includes presenting a serious ideological alternative.

If Tunisia can maintain and expand its democratic institutions, it will send a vital message to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. It will show that Arabs and democracy don't have to be mutually exclusive. It will show religious Muslims that they have nothing to fear from the separation of religion and state. And it will show liberals that they don't have to tolerate corrupt dictators as their only protection against religious dictatorships. A prosperous and vibrant Tunisian democracy is our best counter-argument to jihadist dictatorship.

Right now, unfortunately, Tunisia's democratic experiment is struggling, plagued by
political infighting, economic turmoil, and weakening security. So it's time for the international community to coordinate its efforts and do everything it can to ensure that Tunisia gets the help it needs.


From Tunisia, a voice of hope in the Muslim world


"The most important contest in the world right now is between the ISIS model and the Tunisian model," said Rachid Ghannouchi, who was visiting New York this week. "It's not between Islam and the West. It's between ISIS and us."
"The only way to truly defeat ISIS is to offer a better product to the millions of young Muslims in the world. We do: Muslim democracy," he said.
Ghannouchi is the intellectual leader of Ennahda, Tunisia's Islamist party that, despite winning the country's first free elections, compromised with its political foes, relinquished power and helped make Tunisia the Arab Spring's only success. He explained why his small country's story is crucial to the struggle against militant Islam across the world.

"Throughout the Middle East, for decades, dictators suppressed Islam. In Tunisia, any kind of Islamic education was forbidden. It was forbidden for women to wear the veil. People were persecuted if they demonstrated any interest in Islam. It is these policies that produced a reaction, the generation of Islamic terrorists that we are living with now."

Ghannouchi remains optimistic about the Arab Spring. "People will not go back to the old ways of tyranny. Like the French Revolution, the Arab Spring has produced turmoil and violence and reaction - but eventually it will transform all these dictatorships and monarchies in the Muslim world."


Support Tunisia, the Arab Spring's sole success story


This lone success story is Tunisia, the birthplace of the region's fight for democracy, freedom and the rule of law. As Congress decides in the coming weeks how to use our annual spending bill to encourage peace and stability around the world, we cannot overlook the importance of adequately supporting the extraordinary progress the Tunisian people have already made.
"That's why it is in America's interest to see that a pluralist democracy and a vibrant economy develop in Tunisia." 
Just last month, a group of 114 foreign policy experts - including a bipartisan group of former Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) - urged both chambers of Congress to fully fund bilateral assistance for Tunisia and specifically noted that the funding shortfall proposed by Senate appropriators has drawn intense public scrutiny in Tunisia, where it has been perceived as a sign of waning U.S. commitment.

Tunisia has made extraordinary progress and proved true the old Tunisian proverb that "the multitude is stronger than the king." America was founded on the same conviction. Now it is up to us to show that this principle still rings true.


UAE threatens to destabilize Tunisia for not acting in Abu Dhabi's interests...
The UAE has been accused of trying to buy influence with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi.

The United Arab Emirates has threatened to destabilise Tunisia over concerns the country's leadership is not serving the interests of Abu Dhabi, a senior Tunisian source told Middle East Eye.
Algerian officials warned their Tunisian counterparts in early November about an Emirati plan to interfere in their country, the source, who is a senior political figure in Tunisia, said on the condition of anonymity.
Since Algeria warned Tunisia of the potential Emirati interference on 9 November, there has been another attack in the Tunisian capital. On 24 November 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated on a bus in central Tunis.

"The UAE will continue pursuing destabilizing methods because it believes it is untouchable - they have the money to project power without fear because everyone, including Europe, is dependent on their cash."
Tunisia's Wobbly Democracy

The Arab Spring stuck in Tunisia, but that doesn't mean the country can be ignored.

Tunisia remains the wobbly exception to what has become the overwhelming rule of failed states emerging from the Arab Spring in the Middle East. The country launched the movement in 2011, when its popular revolt became the first ever to unseat an Arab dictator.
"To skeptics who say that democracy can't make it in the Middle East and North Africa, I reply with one word: Tunisia," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech on Middle East policy last month in Washington, D.C. "What is happening in Tunisia is important for the people there, obviously, but guess what? It is instructive for the entire region. Tunisia is showing what it means to be builders in the Middle East."
Abassi said international support is required if his still-fragile country is to continue with its successful transition to democracy. He warned that the region cannot afford another collapsed state like Syria, Libya or Yemen.


Watch videos from the event.

The theme of this year's dinner, "The Promise of Democracy," was evident both in celebrating the accomplishments of Tunisia, as well as in the somber reminder of what can occur where democracy faces considerable obstacles, often at the hands of long-standing dictators.
 Does the West want democracy in the Middle East?

  By Owen Bennett-Jones  - BBC News

Religion, economic deprivation and Western foreign policy are all put forward as possible drivers of jihadism. The one thing most people can agree on is that the West is unsure how to react to the so-called Islamic State (IS).

If Iraq convinced some in the West that it was not possible to impose democracy, the Arab Spring revived the issue of whether the West actually wants democracy in the Middle East. Or is it, in fact, frightened of what democracy might bring?

But by failing to back the Brotherhood government, the West handed radical Islamists a victory.
"There is no point voting for the Brotherhood," they could now argue, "because they will be kept out of power even if they win. You might as well fight with us instead."

In fact, political developments in Tunisia suggest that democracy can be trusted to work. The Muslim Brotherhood equivalent there - Nahdha - won the post-Arab Spring election and then proved willing to compromise.

That the West has been unable to transform the yearning for democracy, freedom and security in the Middle East into defeats for ISIS and al-Qaeda is in part a result of the contradiction inherent in arguing for democracy but fearing its results.

Washington's Fondness for 'Friendly' Dictators

The Obama administration's Egypt policy is a microcosm of a troubling pattern in U.S. foreign policy. At least with respect to the Third World, throughout both the Cold War and the so-called war on terror, U.S. policy makers seem to prefer compliant autocrats to feisty, unpredictable democratic leaders.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm for Sisi appears to be a bipartisan folly. During the recent prime time televised debate of GOP presidential candidates, Texas senator Ted Cruz heaped praise on the Egyptian autocrat for confronting Islamic radicals.

There are few signs that U.S. officials have learned that their preference for authoritarians is both sleazy and counterproductive. The ongoing embrace of el-Sisi confirms that Washington is still alarmingly fond of friendly dictators.

The Post's View:

Egypt's state of repression
THE OBAMA administration continues to provide $1.3 billion in annual military aid to the Egyptian regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sissi on the grounds that it is a necessary if unsavory ally in the fight against the Islamic State, which has established an affiliate on the Sinai Peninsula.

But the harsh repression pursued by Mr. Sissi, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the Sinai, is strengthening rather than weakening terrorist groups and leading to a steady decline in security.

Now a prominent Egyptian journalist has been arrested for making that point. Ismail Alexandrani , a researcher and writer on the Sinai who has collaborated with think tanks in the United States, France and Germany, was arrested when he returned to Egypt on Sunday. After holding and interrogating him for two days, prosecutors ordered him detained on charges of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and "disseminating false news," a charge the regime uses to silence critical journalists.

" We are closely following his case. We continue to have frank discussions with the government of Egypt about our human rights concerns." There was no call for the journalist's release. There should be - and those in the administration who still believe that U.S. military aid to Egypt is productive should read his papers.