Archive for the ‘Active Islam’ Category

The Washington Post about Jordan’s role as a CIA holding prison and proxy interrogator. Nothing you havent previously heard. Some excerpts:

The building is the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department, Jordan’s powerful spy and security agency. Since 2000, at the CIA’s behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated here, according to documents and former prisoners, human rights advocates, defense lawyers and former U.S. officials.


The General Intelligence Department, or GID, is perhaps the CIA’s most trusted partner in the Arab world. The Jordanian agency has received money, training and equipment from the CIA for decades and even has a public English-language Web site. The relationship has deepened in recent years, with U.S. officials praising their Jordanian counterparts for the depth of their knowledge regarding al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic networks.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, however, the GID was attractive for another reason, according to former U.S. counterterrorism officials and Jordanian human rights advocates. Its interrogators had a reputation for persuading tight-lipped suspects to talk, even if that meant using abusive tactics that could violate U.S. or international law.


Sharqawi said he was threatened with sexual abuse and electrocution while in Jordan. He also said he was hidden from officials of the International Committee for the Red Cross during their visits to inspect Jordanian prisons.

“I was told that if I wanted to leave with permanent disability both mental and physical, that that could be arranged,” Sharqawi said in his April 2006 statement, which was released by a London-based attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, who represents Guantanamo inmates. “They said they had all the facilities of Jordan to achieve that. I was told that I had to talk, I had to tell them everything.”

Bush administration officials have said they do not hand over terrorism suspects to countries that are likely to abuse them. For several years, however, the State Department has cited widespread allegations of torture by Jordan’s security agencies in its annual report cards on human rights.


Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the “grilled chicken,” in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten.


 On June 26, 2006, just after 6 p.m., Nowak, the U.N. investigator, paid a surprise visit to GID headquarters in Amman.

The Jordanian government had previously agreed to give Nowak carte blanche to inspect any prison in the country, with no preconditions and unfettered access to inmates. As a new member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Jordan was eager to win Nowak’s seal of approval. GID officials permitted Nowak to tour its prison wing. But they refused to allow him to speak with prisoners in private. When Nowak asked about allegations that the CIA had used the building as a proxy jail, department officials said the reports were untrue.

“The response was just very flat, a simple denial, ‘We don’t know anything about that,’ ” Nowak recalled in an interview.

“It is common for prisoners to make false allegations about torture in a pathetic attempt to evade punishment and to influence the court,” the government wrote.

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“If Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were alive today, he would celebrate the expansion of his Islamist vision.”

This is how

Take this for example:

Perhaps the most alarming feature of the draft platform is the call to create a Majlis Ulama, or Council of Islamic Scholars, that could end up being elected by Islamic clerics, not through free and fair elections. Reminiscent of Iran’s Guardian Council, this undemocratically selected body could have the power vested by the state to veto any and all legislation passed by the Egyptian parliament and approved by the president that is not compatible with Islamic sharia law. [emphasis added]

First off: could?!?! What is this could based on? Conjecture? The problem is that people dont take note of the could. They only register the substantive part. I think it’s very immature to spread speculation. Perhaps if this was supported by some indication that they would indeed by appointed, it would carry a little more weight. Second: i dont know about anyone else but an elected council (provided it’s open, free elections, of course) influencing laws sounds pretty ok to me. Like a house of parliament. As i’ve stated before, it could be a reformed (reformulated, replaced) Shura council, making it the upper house. Third: what the hell is wrong with wanting to base law on shari`a? It doesnt matter where the law came from. What matters is the process by which it is legislated. If the majority of people wish to be governed in a certain manner, then so be it. Unless the argument is over the merits of a majority-rule system.

Moving on:

Still, having gone since 1928 without releasing any official party platform, the Muslim Brotherhood has escaped an honest and critical review – until now. In publishing this draft, it missed a golden opportunity to prove its pro-democratic stance. [emphasis added]

What kind of bullshit statement (in italcs) is this? Thousands upon thousands of pages have been written in many languages about the MB and its many local and international offshoots. Much of it has been critical. First: How can you take yourself seriously, when you claim that only parties can be critically reviewed? Second: How can something that’s not a party release a party platform? I suppose it’s not then surprising to see this statement a few paragraphs down:

Many people used to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood was simply a political movement using religion to gain support and present itself in contrast to the ruling National Democratic Party, but now it appears that the inverse is true. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religious movement using politics to spread its values and beliefs.

Actually, in 1928 the Muslim Brothers were founded as a SOCIAL movement to spread Islam one person at a time through proselytizing. Over the decades the organization’s means and methods (including adopting violence for a few decades) have evolved to react to myriad changes both internal and external. It was only recently (as of the 80s) that it began to participate in electoral politics first on a syndicate/union/student level and then later in parliament. (There’s an excellent article on just this by Mona El Ghobashy, which i’m a little lazy to look up.)

Just a couple of brief other points: First: I dont like the way there’s so much nit-picking. FOr example, while i disagree with restricting presidency based on sex or religion, i think that it’s a rather irrelevant point in a country where female and coptic representation has dwindled over the decades to next to nothing (usually the appointees). Let’s get some female decision makers elsewhere before moving on to bigger things. Second: This piece doesnt suffer so much from the problem, but i dislike how people are constantly calling the MB on supposed contradictions in positions and statements. On what basis are the US democrat nominees being selected? Isnt it ostensibly at least in part based on their differences of opinion? Are they not part of the same party? Is the democratic party being duplicitous? Should it, therefore be shunned? No. What friggin nonsense.

I’ll leave it at that.

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The October ARB offers another article, i feel deserves some attention. Eric Goldstein writes about non-state actors’ violations of human rights and how HR organizations in the Arab world need to be dealt with. The main issue seems to be with Hizbullah and Hamas. Specifically, the firing of rockets onto civilians in Israel.

While i would generally agree that human rights principles should be applied across the board, regardless of statehood, or lack thereof, this seems like just another example of HRW falling prey to bias [look here for more]. Maybe it’s just easier to bash the non-Israelis.

Sure, “the credibility of human rights organizations hinges on their confronting armed movements as well as governments.” But are you really going to take similar issue with low-tech rockets as with cluster bombs? Maybe HRW should lobby the international community to better-equip Hizbullah for their next confrontation with Israel. Give them smart bombs, I say.

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Muslim Brothers’ Party Platform

Amr Hamzawy criticizes the MB’s draft party platform in the current issue of the Arab Reform Bulletin. While he admits that it has yet to be endorsed by the decision-making Guidance Bureau, i think he’s a little hasty with the judgments he passes. I’ll just not the points i take issue with:

Second, the draft Brotherhood platform identifies implementation of sharia as one of the party’s main goals. Although this is consistent with the group’s interpretation of Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution (“Islam is the religion of the state, and Islamic law is the main source of legislation”), it departs from the pragmatic spirit of various Brotherhood statements and initiatives since 2004 in which less emphasis was given to the sharia issue. The return to a focus on sharia in the platform has led to positions fundamentally at odds with the civil nature of the state and full citizenship rights regardless of religious affiliation.

Assuming basic democratic principles such as rotation of power, I dont see what’s wrong with this. I dont see how wanting to base laws on Sharia, or anything else for that matter, has anything to do with citizenship rights. This is clearly muddling issues.

The platform undermines the principle of a civil state by stipulating that senior religious scholars would have the right to veto legislation that does not conform to the principles of Islamic law. It calls for the establishment of a board of elected senior religious scholars, with whom the president and the legislature would have to consult before passing laws. In effect, this would put the legislature and the executive under the scrutiny of an extra-constitutional body.

Good point. But they are elected. So, if we elect a group of scholars to form a council that can decide on the law, wouldnt that make them legislative? Like an upper house. Perhaps they should be consulted before it goes to the pres. Or maybe they could form the membership of the Shura Council. Point being, while i dont want it to happen, being excessive and unthoughtful about the criticism, undermines Hamzawy’s points.

The second point is this: extra-constitutional body?!? What the hell are you on about? Obviously, if such a body were to come into existence it wouldnt be extra-constitutional. Not that something being constitutional gives it much weight. Unlike the US’s, ours changes every few years.

Finally, the party platform’s treatment of social and economic issues reveals a preference for a strongly interventionist state that would mitigate the effects of free trade. By contrast, the platform’s provisions regarding political reform and democratic change focus on a more limited role for the state and a greater role for civil society and nongovernmental organizations. Calling for a state that systematically intervenes in social and economic spheres while at the same time advocating limiting its political role is contradictory.

So what? And, no, it’s not contradictory. They’re different things.


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John Judis looks at two books mentioned by bin Laden in a recent tape: Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris and Emmanuel Todd’s After the Empire.

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I just noticed (on the Arabist, where else?) that Hodeiby who i mentioned yesterday, has written a response to the Mona el Tahawy article i’d posted.

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I never particularly liked Ibrahim El Hodeiby (for his positions, not his person). Even since he’s become so prolific. But here is a not-so-well-written article that’s hard to disagree with. He basically points to the OBVIOUS fact that although democracy may not benefit the US’s short-term interests, it definitely beats their current game plan that inevitably generates anti-Americanism. Naturally the regime-bashing inspired some inward glee.

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