Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This Labor Day—Stand up and stop the rapes at Wal-Mart, Hanes and Sears supplier in Jordan - Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights

Dear Friends,

In honor of Labor Day, we are launching a second petition drive,  asking Queen Rania of Jordanherself a leading women’s rights advocate—to intervene to stop the sexual abuse and gross violations against the 5,000 young Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Indian women workers at the Classic sweatshop.
Queen Rania launched the “Stop Violence Against Women” campaign in Jordan in 2004.

“At least one out of every three women in the world has been beaten or abused. It is a worldwide shame. And no country has won that battle yet.”
                                                                                    - Queen Rania

Also, if you have not done so already, please sign the petition to Wal-Mart, Hanes, Sears, Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s to stop the rapes at the Classic sweatshop in Jordan—and please spread the word to your family and friends.   The good news is that to date 138,932 people have signed the petition on Change.org!
Student Power:  Chicago High School Students Leaflet Sears!

Nine high school students joined by a faculty member handed out over 650 flyers outside Sears’ flagship store on State Street in Chicago on Sunday, August 28. Over 100 shoppers approached the students asking for more information about Sears’ sweatshop production across the developing world. They plan to do this weekly until the abuse is ended. The students also found Lands’ End fleece garments that were made at the brutal Classic factory in Jordan. Two hundred and fifty students at Dundee Crown High School have joined the Youth Labor Committee to support the rights of young people—often their same age—across the developing world, who are locked in sweatshops, paid pennies an hour to produce the goods we buy. The Youth Labor Committee is now spreading to other high schools in the Chicago area.
More Rapists Emerge at Classic Sweatshop in Jordan
Anil Santha--Classic’s general manager, who is also a serial rapist--has left Jordan, scurrying back to Sri Lanka. Anil is not stupid.  He knows exactly how many young women he has brutally raped. If the repression at Classic is ever lifted allowing the rape victims come forward, Anil knows he will rot in prison for the rest of his life.
With Anil gone, Classic’s corrupt owner, Sanal Kumar, has put a Bangladeshi production manager, Mr. Faruk Miah, in charge of threatening and coaching the young Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan women, instructing them to lie that factory conditions are good and the women are treated with respect.
The only problem is that Mr. Faruk Miah is himself a rapist! He violently raped a young Bangladeshi woman in her dorm. After the victim threatened to denounce him, Faruk Miah locked her in the dorm for three weeks before forcibly deporting her back to Bangladesh under false charges. (Within a matter of days, a video tape interview with the rape victim will be available.)
More Trouble and Abuse in Jordan
Four hundred Bangladeshi garment workers have struck the Chinese-owned IBGM factory over miserable and harsh sweatshop conditions. Management responded by invading the women’s dorm, beating the women and dragging them back to the factory. Two male workers were burned when managers forcibly held their hands to hot press machines. Twelve workers suspected of being strike leaders have been fired and are to be forcibly deported.

What sense does it make for Chinese-owned factories in Jordan to hire exploited guest workers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, strip them of their rights, abuse them, and then export these sweatshop garments duty-free to the U.S.?

Is this how the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement was meant to function? Of course not. But we must now demand that the Jordanian Ministry of Labor finally implement the worker rights provision in the Free Trade Agreement.
Surely the IBGM managers who have brutally beaten and deliberately inflicted serious burns on their employees must face criminal prosecution. The Ministry of Labor cannot remain so passive. If factory managers violently and illegally abuse workers, they must be held accountable. If they sat in jail a few months, it would likely have a very positive impact on their behavior.
Note: The Jordanian Ministry of Labor has inexplicably rewarded the Chinese-owned IBGM sweatshop by putting it on the Ministry’s “Golden List” of better factories in Jordan. What is going on? Can the Ministry of Labor possibly explain this?

This year, students and their parents will spend $68.8 billion on back to school goods! There are 76 million elementary, high school and college students in the United States.
16 million high school students will spend an average of $604 each on back to school purchases.
- On average, 20.6 million college students will spend $809 each. Collectively, college students will spend $46.03 billion on back to school shopping.
- Did you know that for the big retailers, back to school spending is second only to the winter holidays?

Corporations want to “brand” students while they are young—so they will be loyal consumers for the rest of their lives. They are desperately afraid that young people will stand up, begin asking serious questions, and join the campaign to hold corporations accountable to respect human and workers rights!
Where are the Police when the Workers are Beaten? 
Mr. Sadi, a Jordanian manager at the Chinese-owned IBGM sweatshop, acted deliberately and forcibly to inflict paid by burning the hands of two foreign guest workers in retaliation for their seeking their legal rights. However, when the injured workers when to the Jordanian police to file a complaint, they were summarily dismissed.
Mr. Sadi and several other abusive IBGM managers should be fired for routinely punching and slapping the workers, forcing them to work excessive overtime hours without pay. The abusive supervisors are: Sohel, Alamgir, Babul, Arif, Zia andHakim.

Please ask Queen Rania and Princess Basma to intervene to stop the sexual abuse and gross violations against the 5,000 young Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Indian women workers at the Classic sweatshop.
Go to the Classic-Jordan Campaign page for a full list of reports, action alerts, news articles, testimony videos and transcripts related to this case.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

25 Years Later, How ‘Top Gun’ Made America Love War - David Sirota

Americans are souring on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military budget is under siege as Congress looks for spending to cut. And the Army is reporting record suicide rates among soldiers. So who does the Pentagon enlist for help in such painful circumstances?

In June, the Army negotiated a first-of-its-kind sponsorship deal with the producers of “X-Men: First Class,” backing it up with ads telling potential recruits that they could live out superhero fantasies on real-life battlefields. Then, in recent days, word leaked that the White House has been working with Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow on an election-year film chronicling the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

A country questioning its overall military posture, and a military establishment engaging in a counter-campaign for hearts and minds — if this feels like deja vu, that’s because it’s taking place on the 25th anniversary of the release of “Top Gun.”

That Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster, made in collaboration with the Pentagon, came out in the mid-1980s, when polls showed many Americans expressing doubts about the post-Vietnam military and about the constant saber rattling from the White House. But the movie’s celebration of sweat-shined martial machismo generated $344 million at the box office and proved to be a major force in resuscitating the military’s image.

Not only did enlistment spike when “Top Gun” was released, and not only did the Navy set up recruitment tables at theaters playing the movie, but polls soon showed rising confidence in the military. With Ronald Reagan wrapping military adventurism in the flag, with the armed forces scoring low-risk but high-profile victories in Libya and Grenada, America fell in love with Maverick, Iceman and other high-fivin’ silver-screen super-pilots as they traveled Mach 2 while screaming about “the need for speed.”

Today, “Top Gun” lives on in cable reruns, in the American psyche and, most important, in how it turned the Hollywood-Pentagon relationship into a full-on Mav-Goose bromance that ideologically slants films from their inception.

The 1986 movie, starring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, was the template for a new Military-Entertainment Complex. During production, the Pentagon worked hand-in-hand with the filmmakers, reportedly charging Paramount Pictures just $1.8 million for the use of its warplanes and aircraft carriers. But that taxpayer-subsidized discount came at a price — the filmmakers were required to submit their script to Pentagon brass for meticulous line edits aimed at casting the military in the most positive light. (One example: Time magazine reported that Goose’s death was changed from a midair collision to an ejection scene, because “the Navy complained that too many pilots were crashing.”)
Although “Top Gun” was not the first movie to exchange creative input for Pentagon assistance and resources, its success set that bargain as a standard for other filmmakers, who began deluging the Pentagon with requests for collaboration. By the time the 1991 Persian Gulf War began, Phil Strub, the Pentagon’s liaison to the movie industry, told the Hollywood Reporter that he’d seen a 70 percent increase in the number of requests from filmmakers for assistance — effectively changing the way Hollywood works.
As Mace Neufeld, the producer of the 1990 film “The Hunt for Red October,” later recounted to Variety, studios in the post-“Top Gun” era instituted an unstated rule telling screenwriters and directors to get military cooperation “or forget about making the picture.” Economics drives that directive, Time magazine reported in 1986. “Without such billion-dollar props, producers [have to] spend an inordinate amount of time and money searching for substitutes” and therefore might not be able to make the movie at all, the magazine noted.

Emboldened by Hollywood’s obsequiousness, military officials became increasingly blunt about how they deploy the carrot of subsidized hardware and the stick of denied access to get what they want. Strub described the approval process to Variety in 1994: “The main criteria we use is . . . how could the proposed production benefit the military . . . could it help in recruiting [and] is it in sync with present policy?

Robert Anderson, the Navy’s Hollywood point person, put it even more clearly to PBS in 2006: “If you want full cooperation from the Navy, we have a considerable amount of power, because it’s our ships, it’s our cooperation, and until the script is in a form that we can approve, then the production doesn’t go forward.”

The result is an entertainment culture rigged to produce relatively few antiwar movies and dozens of blockbusters that glorify the military. For every “Hurt Locker” — a successful and critical war film made without Pentagon assistance — American moviegoers get a flood of pro-war agitprop, from “Armageddon,” to “Pearl Harbor,” to “Battle Los Angeles” to “X-Men.” And save for filmmakers’ obligatory thank you to the Pentagon in the credits, audiences are rarely aware that they may be watching government-subsidized propaganda.

Until this year, this Top Gun Effect seemed set in stone. But a quarter-century after that hagiographic tribute to the military’s “best of the best,” an odd alignment of partisan interests has prompted some in Congress to question the arrangement.

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, recently sent letters to the CIA and the Defense Department demanding an investigation of the upcoming Bin Laden movie. He criticized the practice of granting ideologically compliant filmmakers access to government property and information that he says should be available to all. The “alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history,” he argued.
Considering King’s previous silence on such issues, it’s not clear whether he’s standing on principle; more likely, he is trying to prevent a particular piece of propaganda from aiding a political opponent. Yet, even if inadvertent, King’s efforts make possible a broader look at how the U.S. government uses taxpayer resources to suffuse popular culture with militarism.
If and when King holds hearings on the matter, we could finally get to the important questions: Why does the Pentagon treat public hardware as private property? Why does the government grant and deny access to that hardware based on a filmmaker’s willingness to let the Pentagon influence the script? And doesn’t such a practice violate the First Amendment’s prohibition against government abridging freedom of speech?

David Sirota is is a syndicated columnist, radio host and the author of “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now.”

A Collected Zakat - Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi - 27/08/2011

Allah the Exalted says (2:208):

You who believe! enter Islam totally.
Do not follow in the footsteps of Shaytan.
He is an outright enemy to you.
Tawus and Mujahid said that it means, “Enter under the authority of the Deen.”

The entry of a new generation of Muslims obeying this ayat will mean a revival of Islam and the end of “Islamism”, that is the Deen reduced to a political doctrine like communism or liberalism.

The Deen is transactional – Mu’amala.

Islam has always been understood, until the modernist politicised sects, as being set up on rulings concerning Salat, fasting, Zakat, Hajj and all the specific and general rulings on trade and contracts with specific indications to assure avoidance of usury. In this last Imam Malik used a method specially to assure application of the Shari’at in this matter which he defined as Sadd adh-Dhara-i’, that is “cutting off the means to wrong”.

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: “No one should trade in our market except someone with Fiqh. Otherwise usury will be practised.” The Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “A time will come upon people when there will not be anyone left who does not consume usury, and even one who does not consume it will be touched by its dust.”

Allah the Exalted says (2:275):

Those who practise usury will not rise from the grave
except as someone driven mad by Shaytan’s touch.
Our great mufassir, Ibn ‘Atiyya, said on this: “The words of the ayat contain a simile for the state of someone who engages in trade in this world with avarice and greed, comparing him to a madman because greed and desire affect him to the extent that his limbs become disordered. This is like when you say, ‘He’s mad!’ about someone walking quickly whose movements are agitated, either by anxiety or something else.”

This confirms my position that capitalism is not in fact a system but a psychosis.

Political democracy which pretends to permit elected representatives to make laws on your behalf has altered its writ of governance in order to take on debt on your behalf which now you are liable for – to the usurious institutions. That contract itself is criminal for us. Doubly so. Since the debt incurred on you as citizen is then sold on to other national banking entities.

Allah the Exalted says (5:1):

Fulfil your contracts.
Mass or group, indeed national endebtment is simply inconceivable within the deep sanity of Islamic Law.

Do not be misled by people who imply that our opposition to usury/capitalism implies some disdain of or recommendation to avoid wealth. What is at issue is practice by which wealth is acquired.

Rasul, Allah’s blessings and peace on him, said: “Nothing helped me like the property of Abu Bakr.”

And he told Sa’d: “It is better to leave rich heirs than to leave them poor, begging from other people.”

Talha left three hundred thousand measures and every measure weighed three hundred-weight.

Az-Zubayr left two hundred and fifty thousand.

Ibn Mas’ud left seventy thousand. Sufyan left two hundred Dinars. He used to say, “Wealth in this time is an armour.”

The civic responsibility of Muslims today is to make Jama’at and appoint an Amir. The Fuqaha are advisers and not necessarily leaders. He in turn must appoint the Zakat Collectors. It must be understood that there is no Zakat on paper money and this has no debate since the matter was definitively clarified by our Mauritanian scholars.

There is one further matter which will have to be confronted especially by our poor lost Arab brothers plunged in the crisis of the paper-money capitalism which they have mistaken for a political matter of dictatorship when it is clearly a fiduciary collapse – why else did they wait forty or so years to cry “freedom”?

There is Zakat on oil. It clearly comes under the heading of Zakat on mines and minerals, rather than that of treasure. If it is defined under the rulings concerning treasure the Khums is payable, but since oil is effectively mined, using labour, the normal Zakat on the extracted mineral will be the same amount as taken on gold and silver mines.

The only path to a return to Islam for the Arab peoples is to restore the Zakat on oil. The only path to a return to Islam for our Muslim ‘Umma is to restore a collected Zakat overseen by an Amir at the level of the local Jama’at.

Remember the fast purifies the body. Zakat purifies wealth and property. Without Zakat – Tasawwuf simply cannot exist.

We ask Allah’s tremendous Bounty and Sakinah, and Fatihah on all the followers of the Best of Mankind, Allah bless him and grant him peace.

  *   *   *    *    *  
“ The only path to a return to Islam for the Arab peoples is to restore the Zakat on oil. ”

Friday, August 26, 2011

Put Babar Ahmad on trial in the UK - Action Alert from Voice of the Ummah

Responsible department: Home Office

Babar Ahmad is a British Citizen who has been detained in the UK for 7 years without trial fighting extradition to the USA under the controversial no-evidence-required Extradition Act 2003. In June 2011, the Houses of Parliament, Joint Committee on Human Rights urged the UK government to change the law so that Babar Ahmad’s perpetual threat of extradition is ended without further delay. Since all of the allegations against Babar Ahmad are said to have taken place in the UK, we call upon the British Government to put him on trial in the UK and support British Justice for British Citizens.

Sign the Petition Below:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Obama's Options in Damascus: Why It's Time to Rein in Syria and Turkey - Tony Badran

"Syria ... is engaging in horrific, revolting attacks on its own people," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a June 11 interview. "The region, however, is trying to -- behind the scenes -- get the government to stop.... We listen very closely to what people in the neighborhood, in the region, say." By "the region," Clinton meant Turkey, the country from which the Obama administration has been taking most of its cues on Syria.
U.S. President Barack Obama seems to have decided early in his administration that Turkey would be the United States' primary gateway to the Middle East, and that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would be the leader who could help him implement his grand vision: to reduce the U.S. profile in the Middle East, engage Iran and Syria, and broker a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. The Turkish agenda, developed by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Erdoğan's foreign minister, seemed to dovetail perfectly with Obama's strategy. It was dubbed "zero problems with neighbors," and centered on Turkey's increasing its leadership role across the region, improving its relations with Iran and Syria, and mediating Arab-Israeli peace talks.
Obama also saw Erdoğan's close personal relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as an opportunity. A leaked 2009 diplomatic cable revealed that the administration believed that Erdoğan offered "the best hope of luring Syria out of Tehran's orbit." Pulling Syria away from Iran by jump-starting the Arab-Israeli peace process, the thinking went, Turkey would weaken Iran's influence in the Middle East.
Obama failed, however, to realize that Davutoğlu's "zero problems with neighbors" policy did not simply mean outreach to Iran and Syria; it was also a strategy for managing U.S. power in the region. Davutoğlu and Erdoğan's policy of non-alignment works to position Turkey as an intermediary between competing blocs -- the Iranian alliance system, which includes Syria, and the U.S.-led system, which includes Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, among others. If Turkey were to actually succeed in reducing tensions between the two, its mediation would no longer be needed. It seems clear that part of Turkey's strategy is to consciously exploit, not solve, Middle Eastern conflicts. When the Arab Spring spread to Syria this year, Erdoğan sought to position Turkey as Syria's lead handler, simultaneously playing up the policy as an assertion of independent regional leadership and presenting Ankara as the good cop to Washington's bad cop. But his efforts largely failed. Rather than reform, as Turkey wanted him to do, Assad became increasingly violent, laying bare the limits of Turkish power and the problems with Obama's dependence on it.
Only a great power could balance the complex agendas of the Middle East's several regional players. Turkey is not a great power. That role remains the United States' alone.
The United States' engagement with Turkey on the Syrian crisis started soon after the first protests. On April 26, Leon Panetta, then the director of the CIA, paid a surprise visit to Ankara. There, he met with Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey's National Intelligence Agency, and discussed what to do about Syria. Fidan had just been to Damascus and told Panetta that the uprising had reached a "critical threshold." He emphasized the need to broker an agreement between Assad and "the Sunni opposition" and explained that if Assad were to fail to "take an immediate step towards reforms, then the nation could be drawn into serious internal strife." In short, the Turks told the Americans to pursue regime-led reform. The Obama administration did so, but to no effect. The crackdown in Syria grew uglier. Even as Panetta was meeting with Fidan, the Syrian military laid siege to the town of Deraa, where the uprising began, committing atrocities beyond any the Arab Spring had yet seen.
Protests continued. By mid-May, the United States was again seriously debating whether to call on Assad to step down, and a major U.S. presidential speech on the Arab Spring was looming. Erdoğan, seeking to forestall a hardening of Obama's policy, took his position on regime-led reform public in the United States. He appeared on Bloomberg TV on May 13 and referred to the Syrian dictator as a "good friend." When asked whether Assad should step down, Erdoğan said, "It's early to make a decision today, because the final decision will be made by the people of Syria." As his speech was being finalized, President Obama made a special effort to reach out to Erdoğan, who was busy on the campaign trail and difficult to reach. At the last minute, Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, arranged a dramatic meeting at a heliport in a suburb of Ankara, where he relayed Obama's concern about Assad and told Erdoğan that the two countries should synchronize their messages. Erdoğanreportedly responded by saying, "The region is already undergoing a significant transformation. We shouldn't disrupt the balance in the region any further." Following the meeting, Turkey continued toemphasize the need to give Assad more time to reform.
In his May 19 speech on the Arab Spring, Obama refrained from declaring Assad illegitimate, stating instead that "President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way." Obama, echoing a standard Turkish talking point, also called on Assad to "start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition."
This episode set a recurring pattern: Obama has edged several times toward calling on Assad to step down, only to pull back after speaking to Erdoğan. Another dramatic example of this came in July when, in an unscripted remark at a joint press conference with Catherine Ashton, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Clinton stated that "from our perspective, Assad has lost legitimacy." The next day, in a television interview, Obama walked back from Clinton's remarks. Four days later, at a joint press conference with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Clinton spoke out once again for regime-led reform.
Yet the Turkish solicitude toward Damascus bore no fruit. Assad did not reform, and the Syrian military became ever more emboldened. Throughout the summer, it brutally cracked down on protestors in Hama. When the Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Bahrainis recalled their ambassadors from Damascus on August 8, pressure built for the White House to take a firmer line on Assad. Several media outlets reported that Obama planned to do just that on August 11. But again, Turkey seems to have pulled him back. On August 10, unnamed officials revealed that Obama was not ready to issue the statement, partly because he wanted a full account of Assad's talks with Davutoğlu the day before.
August 11 came and went without a statement. In its place, the White House produced a summary of Obama's August 11 phone call with Erdoğan, stating that the two leaders "agreed to closely monitor the actions that the Syrian government is taking, and to consult closely in the days ahead." For their part, Turkish officials claimed that Erdoğan had asked Obama not to call for Assad's ouster.
The total absence of reform in Damascus has revealed a contradiction in Turkey's strategy. A "zero problems with neighbors" policy is possible only if those neighbors have no problems with each other. Once the Syrian people sought to overthrow the regime, Turkey faced an uncomfortable choice: did it have zero problems with the regime or with the people? Turkey tried to hedge its bets by supporting Assad while pushing him to reform, but the Syrian dictator consistently rebuffed the effort.
Consider events in early April: Turkey allowed the leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to hold a press conference in Istanbul, during which he denounced Assad. This incident gave rise to speculation that Ankara sought to push Assad to reach an accommodation with the Brotherhood. Turkey was seeking to extend its mediating role into the domestic Syrian arena, but Assad was having none of it. Days later, the Syrian ambassador to Turkey publicly criticized Erdoğan, stressing that true friendship means unconditional support, no questions asked. He continued, "For us, the Muslim Brotherhood is like the PKK is for Turkey," referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the illegal separatist movement that has long bedeviled Ankara. His remarks were a veiled threat; Syria had supported the PKK in the 1990s. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem repeated the threat a month later, warning Turkey against destroying the quiet that has reigned along the Turkey-Syria border for just over a decade. For good measure, Assad sent troops to conduct operations in towns near the Turkish border even as Davutoğlu held another round of talks in Damascus in early August.
Turkey's zero-problems policy is predicated on good relations with both Syria and Iran. But as the Turks reached out to the Syrian opposition they incurred the wrath of Tehran. Iran's official media accused the Turks, for instance, of complicity in a U.S. plot against Syria and claimed that Turkey was arming Syrian protestors. In a July effort to rescue the zero-problems policy, Davutoğlu headed to Tehran, reportedly to convince the Iranians to stop supporting Assad's campaign against the protesters. He was summarily rebuffed.
Since then, the tension between Ankara and Tehran has become public. An Iranian media outlet that belongs to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards threatened last month that "if the Turkish authorities insist on their current position ... the strategic logic will lead Iran to select Syria" instead of Turkey. To drive the point home, Iran has reportedly frozen its intelligence cooperation with Turkey against Kurdish militants. For its part, Syria also appears to have discontinued its cooperation with Turkey on the fight against the PKK, and has been harboring some of the Kurdish group's top leaders. These decisions were reminders to Turkey that, far from being a dominant power, it is vulnerable to pressure.
Embarrassed about Assad's persistent defiance, the Turkish foreign minister was forced to issue a statement on Monday -- "a final word to the Syrian authorities" -- in which he demanded a stop to Assad's military operations "immediately and unconditionally." If Assad failed to do that, Davutoğlu added, obliquely, "there will be nothing left to say about the steps that would be taken." The following day, a senior Turkish diplomat vaguely suggested that those measures might include moving toward a "disengagement policy," the consequences of which "will be the isolation of Assad." He added that, "economic measures will also come onto the agenda." However, in remarks after a dinner on Tuesday night, Davutoğlu reiterated Turkey's opposition to any "foreign intervention" in Syria.
The Syrian crisis has demonstrated a number of stubborn facts. Assad will not reform. He will not break with the Iranians. And, therefore, Obama has miscalculated. Turkey was never powerful enough to implement Obama's original vision. However unsuccessful Turkey's zero-problems policy has been, it was only ever intended to triangulate between Tehran and Washington. Turkey has sought regime-led reform, not because it is the most likely solution to the crisis but because Turkey needs Assad in power to preserve good relations with Tehran and maintain its role of mediator with Washington. Revolution in Syria will alienate the Iranians and allow the United States to develop its own direct relations with the Syrian people.
Turkey and the United States are now pursuing two mutually exclusive outcomes in Syria. Many in the United States believe that Syria would be a better place without Assad and that Assad has lost his legitimacy. In other words, United States policy is on the verge of calling for regime change, while Turkey continues to hold out hope for a reform program led by Assad, precisely in order to preserve its own influence as an intermediary between Iran, Syria, and Washington. As one Turkish senior official put it on Friday, Turkey is the "sole actor that can talk to Assad." This boast should give the Obama administration pause, because the Turkish goal is to preserve this status.
It is time for Obama to exercise leadership and press the United States' preferences for the region on Ankara. As Iran evidently explained to Turkey, the Turks must make a choice. The United States, for its part, does not owe Assad a soft landing. Strategically, it should favor his ouster and the breaking up of the Iranian alliance system. Morally, the United States should favor policies that might actually prevent slaughter on Syrian streets. Those who claimed that Assad is the last bulwark against chaos should realize by now that his regime is, in fact, destabilizing to the entire region. By all indications, it is time to actively back a democratic Syria, without Assad. Only a great power could do so and balance the complex agendas of the Middle East's several regional players. Turkey is not a great power. That role remains the United States' alone. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Action Alert from Change.org

Sign the Petition

On Monster.com, employers are allowed to prevent anyone who is currently unemployed from applying for a job
It's cruel to the millions of Americans out of work -- but you can put an end to it this week. 
Kelly Wiedemer, who lost her job in 2008, has launched a campaign demanding that Monster.com ban these discriminatory ads.  Please click here to sign Kelly's petition
A nationwide backlash against the company, which treasures its reputation as a website that helps people find jobs, will force Monster.com to act. 
Thanks for being a changemaker,
- Jess and the Change.org team

Is capitalism doomed? The recent credit rating downgrade and Eurozone debt crises are slowly showing signs of The Great Depression 2.0 - Nouriel Roubini

As the economic crisis persists around the globe, the value of capitalism continues to be questioned [GALLO/GETTY]
The massive volatility and sharp equity-price correction now hitting global financial markets signal that most advanced economies are on the brink of a double-dip recession. A financial and economic crisis caused by too much private-sector debt and leverage led to a massive re-leveraging of the public sector in order to prevent Great Depression 2.0. But the subsequent recovery has been anaemic and sub-par in most advanced economies given painful deleveraging.
Now a combination of high oil and commodity prices, turmoil in the Middle East, Japan's earthquake and tsunami, eurozone debt crises, and America's fiscal problems (and now its rating downgrade) have led to a massive increase in risk aversion. Economically, the United States, the eurozone, the United Kingdom, and Japan are all idling. Even fast-growing emerging markets (China, emerging Asia, and Latin America), and export-oriented economies that rely on these markets (Germany and resource-rich Australia), are experiencing sharp slowdowns.

Until last year, policymakers could always produce a new rabbit from their hat to reflate asset prices and trigger economic recovery. Fiscal stimulus, near-zero interest rates, two rounds of "quantitative easing", ring-fencing of bad debt, and trillions of dollars in bailouts and liquidity provision for banks and financial institutions: officials tried them all. Now they have run out of rabbits.

Fiscal policy currently is a drag on economic growth in both the eurozone and the UK. Even in the US, state and local governments, and now the federal government, are cutting expenditure and reducing transfer payments. Soon enough, they will be raising taxes.

Another round of bank bailouts is politically unacceptable and economically unfeasible: most governments, especially in Europe, are so distressed that bailouts are unaffordable; indeed, their sovereign risk is actually fuelling concern about the health of Europe's banks, which hold most of the increasingly shaky government paper. Nor could monetary policy help very much. Quantitative easing is constrained by above-target inflation in the eurozone and UK. The US Federal Reserve will likely start a third round of quantitative easing (QE3), but it will be too little too late. Last year's $600bn QE2 and $1tn in tax cuts and transfers delivered growth of barely three per cent for one quarter. Then growth slumped to below one per cent in the first half of 2011. QE3 will be much smaller, and will do much less to reflate asset prices and restore growth.

Currency depreciation is not a feasible option for all advanced economies: they all need a weaker currency and better trade balance to restore growth, but they all cannot have it at the same time. So relying on exchange rates to influence trade balances is a zero-sum game. Currency wars are thus on the horizon, with Japan and Switzerland engaging in early battles to weaken their exchange rates. Others will soon follow. Meanwhile, in the eurozone, Italy and Spain are now at risk of losing market access, with financial pressures now mounting on France, too. But Italy and Spain are both too big to fail and too big to be bailed out. For now, the European Central Bank will purchase some of their bonds as a bridge to the eurozone's new European Financial Stabilisation Facility. But, if Italy and Spain lose market access, the EFSF's €440 bn ($627bn) war chest could be depleted by the end of this year or early 2012.

Then, unless the EFSF pot were tripled - a move that Germany would resist - the only option left would become an orderly but coercive restructuring of Italian and Spanish debt, as has happened in Greece. Coercive restructuring of insolvent banks' unsecured debt would be next. So, although the process of deleveraging has barely started, debt reductions will become necessary if countries cannot grow or save or inflate themselves out of their debt problems.
So Karl Marx, it seems, was partly right in arguing that globalisation, financial intermediation run amok, and redistribution of income and wealth from labour to capital could lead capitalism to self-destruct (though his view that socialism would be better has proven wrong). Firms are cutting jobs because there is not enough final demand. But cutting jobs reduces labour income, increases inequality and reduces final demand.

Recent popular demonstrations, from the Middle East to Israel to the UK, and rising popular anger in China - and soon enough in other advanced economies and emerging markets - are all driven by the same issues and tensions: growing inequality, poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness. Even the world's middle classes are feeling the squeeze of falling incomes and opportunities.

To enable market-oriented economies to operate as they should and can, we need to return to the right balance between markets and provision of public goods. That means moving away from both the Anglo-Saxon model of laissez-faire and voodoo economics and the continental European model of deficit-driven welfare states. Both are broken.

The right balance today requires creating jobs partly through additional fiscal stimulus aimed at productive infrastructure investment. It also requires more progressive taxation; more short-term fiscal stimulus with medium- and long-term fiscal discipline; lender-of-last-resort support by monetary authorities to prevent ruinous runs on banks; reduction of the debt burden for insolvent households and other distressed economic agents; and stricter supervision and regulation of a financial system run amok; breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and oligopolistic trusts. Over time, advanced economies will need to invest in human capital, skills and social safety nets to increase productivity and enable workers to compete, be flexible and thrive in a globalised economy. The alternative is - like in the 1930s - unending stagnation, depression, currency and trade wars, capital controls, financial crisis, sovereign insolvencies, and massive social and political instability.

Nouriel Roubini is Chairman of Roubini Global Economics, Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business, New York University, and co-author of the book Crisis Economics.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Islam and the Question of Nationalism [1] - Imam Zaid Shakir

The nation-state, which involves wedding a specific people to a sovereign territorial entity, is a modern phenomenon. For example, the unity of the Italian city-states into a coherent modern nation-state did not occur until the late 1850s. The unification of Germany under Prussia did not occur until 1871. Even though there were many French kingdoms, and even a French empire under Napoleon, it could be argued that the emergence of France as a viable, modern nation-state did not occur before Jules Ferry established universal public education during the 19th Century. Outside of Europe, excluding European settler states such as America, and with the notable exception of Japan, one can not meaningfully discuss the existence of viable nation-states until the 20th Century.

Nationalism, the movement of a people to establish an autonomous state, a phenomenon instrumental in the creation of the contemporary international system, is also strictly modern. It can be seen as part a 19th Century European reaction, a political offspring of Romanticism, to the universalizing and anti-authoritarian tendencies of the earlier Enlightenment. There are, however, elements of nationalist thought, which are extremely ancient. Most of these, such as an exclusivist, chauvinistic attachment to a particular group, and the sacrificing of universal human concerns on the altar of particular national interests, are strongly rejected by Islam. It is from this point of departure that we can develop a credible Islamic critique of nationalism.
Islam, the last of the Abrahamic religions, has been defined as, “submission to the will of God,” also, “the state of peace resulting from submitting to the will of God,” and, “acknowledging, then being led by everything brought by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him.” One of the distinguishing features of Islam, emphasized in the last definition, is its comprehensiveness. The way of life it informs has been viewed as touching on every aspect of human existence.
This comprehensiveness can be gleamed from a cursory view of most expansive Islamic law manuals. For example, in the introduction to a contemporary work on the jurisprudence of the Shafi’i school, the authors mention the seven basic areas covered by Islamic Law:
1) Worship (al-Ibadah): prayer, fasting, etc.
2) Family Matters (al-Ahwal al-Shakhsiyya): marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.
3) Interpersonal Relations (al-Mu’amalat): buying, selling, legal claims, etc.
4) Duties and Responsibilities of the Political Governors and the Governed (al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya): establishing justice, preventing oppression, rights of obedience, etc.
5) Criminal Justice and Maintaining Public Order (al-Hudud): punishing thieves, adulterers, eradicating threats to public safety, etc.
6) International Relations (al-Siyar): war, peace, truces, etc.
7) Character Reformation and Good Manners (al-Akhlaq w’al-Adab): abstention, patience, humility, courage, etc. [2]
Since nationalism, as stated, is a modern phenomenon, it has not been explicitly dealt with in any of the above-mentioned areas. However, as we will attempt to show, Islam contains teachings which clearly argue against elements of nationalist thought. It also argues against the chauvinism and exclusiveness which the nationalist project engenders. These phenomena are a major part of what we will call the nationalist question. In this article, we will attempt to critically examine the nationalist question in light of fundamental Islamic teachings. That examination will begin with a section which examines Islamic teachings of relevance in examining that question, followed by a section which defines nationalism more rigorously than above, and then analyzes it in the light Islamic teachings. Although this arrangement will involve a degree of redundancy, it will hopefully make the overall discussion more meaningful for those not familiar with the Islamic concepts we introduce initially. Finally, I will conclude the article with some reflections on the role Islam can play in our efforts to move beyond nationalism. 
Nationalist Concepts in the Light of Islam
Islam posits that humanity shares a common ancestry. God says in the Qur’an, “O Humankind! We have created you from a single pair, a male and female, then made you into nations and tribes in order that you come to know one another [not that you may despise one another]. The most honored of you with God is the most pious. And God is Well Informed, Knowledgeable [49:13].”  God also says, “O humankind! Be mindful of your Lord who has created you from a single soul, and created from that soul its mate, and has brought forth from them multitudes of men and women [4:1].” Humanity, as these verses emphasize, has a common ancestry, which creates inseparable bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood between us. Islam, in this regard, does not sanction any scheme that negates or trivializes those bonds, as occurs with conflicting nationalisms.
Islam advocates the essential equality, human worth, and dignity of all people. God says, “We have ennobled the human being [17:70].” Similarly, “And their Lord accepted their prayer, and answered them, I will never allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female, you are from one another [3:195].” These, and similar verses, emphasize that the fundamental worth of all humans transcends race and gender divisions. Understanding this equality is central if we are to gain a true understanding of how Islam approaches the issue of nationalism. While recognizing the validity of national, racial, tribal, ethnic, and cultural differences, Islam views them as signs of God’s creative power, not as the basis for the creation of mutually destructive political agendas.
As for culture and race, God says, “And among His Signs is the creation of Heaven and Earth, and the variation of your languages and your colors. Surely, in this are signs for those endowed with knowledge. [30:22].”  We mention this verse here because of our belief that language is the most important element in any cultural system. Hence, it is one of the strongest bases of national identity.
Islam also acknowledges that distinct people, nations, and tribes can be vested with unique historical missions. God says, “The Romans have been defeated, in a nearby land. However, despite this defeat of theirs, they will soon be victorious, within a few years. And with God is the Command, in the past and the future. And on that day, the believers will rejoice [30: 2-4].” The point here is that God decreed this victory for the Romans as a people. Their historical destiny as a people was to defeat the Persians. Conversely, the Persians, after their initial triumph, were destined to be defeated by the Romans in the end. He also says concerning the idea of distinct nations, “Every nation has a fixed term. When that term expires, they can neither delay nor hasten [their inevitable demise] [7:34].
This idea of distinct historical missions is further born out by the fact that nations, prior to the advent of the prophecy of Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, were addressed by prophets sent specifically to them. Noah was sent specifically to his people. [2] Hud was sent specifically to the people of ‘Ad. [3] Salih was sent to the people of Thamud. [4] The message of these and other Prophets, Peace of God be upon them all, was directed towards their respective peoples, constituting a divine affirmation of their distinct national identities.
However, one should not be led to believe that the specificity of those prophetic missions, which preceded that of Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, can be used as a justification for pursuing narrow nationalistic agendas. That is because the specificity of those messages was abrogated by the universality of the message of Muhammad, Peace and Blessings of God upon Him. God says, describing that message, “Say to them, [O Muhammad!], ‘I am the messenger of God to you all [7:158]!”
This verse is especially significant in that it occurs after a lengthy description, in Sura al-‘Araf, of the earlier Prophets and their messages. Consider the previous four citations in that regard. It is as if God is especially emphasizing the universality of the mission of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God upon him, by presenting it in contradistinction to the earlier messages. It is significant that this transition from specific messages to a universal one occurred at the advent of an era when the overland trade routes which would be created by the vast, functionally unified Islamic Empire would integrate the entirety of the “known” world to an extent unprecedented in history. That is to say, it came just when the world was prepared to receive such a message.
The universality of that message counters the idea that the division of humans into their respective nations, tribes, cultural and ethnic identity groups, possessors of distinct historical missions, or any other groupings, should constitute the basis for the creation of destructive, mutually exclusive, potentially belligerent agendas. It also rejects the idea of these distinctions being the basis for any claims of superiority. God reminds us that these differences are rooted in the accident of birth. They exist as a means for our mutual recognition of the creative power of God, and as a means for us to come to know and appreciate each other. [5] Any claim of superiority can only be based on superior devotion and ethics, bases which transcend the accident of birth. God says in that regard, “The most honored of you with God is the most pious [49:13].”

Assessing Nationalism
In this part of our article many of the concepts outlined above will be revisited in the context of a more rigorous assessment of nationalism from an Islamic perspective. This assessment will be structured around the following definition of nationalism, namely, “The belief that each nation has both the right and duty to constitute itself as a state.” [6] According to this, and most other definitions, the essence of nationalism involves the wedding of a nation to a state. However, if we are to understand the dynamics involved in the formation of national identity, the organizational impetus which moves a nation to seek statehood, we need to understand six terms, some of which we have previously mentioned in this article: 1. nation, 2. culture, 3. state, 4. fear, 5. anger, 6. and victimization.

A nation has been defined by as “an historical concept founded on a cultural identity shared by a single people.” [7]  As mentioned earlier, Islam does not reject the idea of a nation. All of the Prophets, before Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, were sent to specific nations. However, if that shared identity leads to a scheme where the rights or humanity of other groups are denied by an exclusive quest for sovereignty, the ensuing nationalist enterprise is questioned by Islam. The reason for that will be clarified towards the end of this article.
Culture, defined anthropologically and sociologically, “denotes indifferently all manifestations of social life which are not concerned with the reproduction and sustenance of human beings. Thus customs, habits of association, religious observances, even specific beliefs, may be spoken of as part of a culture.” [8] Culture is the glue which holds a nation together, for it provides the basis for the tangible distinctions that differentiate one group of people from another. The basic elements of cultural distinction are compatible with Islamic beliefs. This is illustrated by the following verse in the Qur’an, “And among His Signs is the creation of Heaven and Earth, and the variation of your languages and your colors. Surely, in this are signs for those endowed with knowledge [30:22].” This verse, which has been previously referenced, articulates the Islamic ethos concerning cultural diversity. Diverse cultures, symbolized by varying languages, contribute to the beauty of human society. This diversity is also reflected in the attitude of Islam towards religious diversity, another cultural manifestation. Although Islam can be interpreted as asserting the possession of ultimate truth, it has never negated the right to other forms of religious expression, neither in creed, nor in practice. There are many well-known examples of religious and cultural tolerance in Islamic history. Perhaps the most frequently cited are the Golden Age of Islamic Spain, [9] and the Ottoman Millet system. [10]
The state is a political unit defined in terms of a population, demarcated borders, and an autonomous government. [11] The creation of a state is the ultimate objective of a nationalist movement, in the case of most stateless nations. The potential destructiveness of nationalism is rooted in the fact that most states are nationally heterogeneous, and most nations are stateless. If the nationalist aspirations of all people were enthusiastically pursued, a state of perpetual war and severe persecution would probably ensue. Islam anticipates this eventuality and warns against it in unequivocal terms. As we have mentioned earlier in this article, the Qur’an states that national and ethnic diversity exists, ” …in order that you come to know one another, [not that you despise each other] [49:13].”

Nationalism involves the effort of a nation to create or maintain an identity with a state. Here our last three terms: fear, anger, and victimization; become relevant. Fear is one of the principle factors motivating a nation to consolidate its control over a particular territory and create a state. Such fear revolves around a real or imagined enemy that is seen as a threat to the existence or interests of a particular nation. Although one of the positive benefits of group solidarity has often been security, when the promise of security is manipulated for political purposes the consequences can be extremely destructive. Such manipulation has inevitably been part of the formula that led to most modern-day genocides.
This security/genocide consanguinity is perhaps best illustrated in the horrific slaughter of Rwanda’s Tutsis by the majority Hutus in 1994. Commenting on the propaganda campaign, which preceded and accompanied that genocidal episode, Samantha Power notes, “As genocidal perpetrators so often do as a prelude to summoning the masses, they began claiming the Tutsi were out to exterminate Hutu and appealing for preemptive self-defense.” [12] That appeal was answered, resulting in one of the most brutal and intense massacres in modern history.
Islam strives to remove this motivation from human society. We read in the Qur’an, “Thus does Satan attempt to instill the fear of his dupes into you. Do not fear them. Rather, fear Me, if indeed you are believers [3:175].” In this verse, God tells the believers not to fear their enemies, rather, to fear Him. And perhaps more importantly, when they establish their political community, to establish it on the fear of God, not on the fear of a real or imagined human adversary, often described in contemporary discourse as the “other.” Believers are encouraged to understand that they are united in a human family, and that there are fundamental rights accruing to members of that family regardless of their religious affiliations. As mentioned earlier, God has ennobled the human being. This ennoblement precedes the division of humanity into religions, nations, tribes, and other identity groups. At this level of supra-historical existence, all of humanity belongs to a single tribe, the tribe of Adam (Bani Adam).
It is interesting to note, that in Islamic teachings, Satan, who attempts to instill fear of the “other” into human beings, also attempts to base superiority on accidental physical differences. God mentions in the Qur’an, What prevented you from prostrating yourself to Adam when I ordered you to do so?  He (Satan) said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire, and you created him from clay [7:12].” This prototypical racist attitude is reflected in the rhetoric of many bigots, past and present. Satan, blinded by his arrogance, apparently forgot that Adam’s distinction lay in the fact that his supposedly low physical origin was augmented by the life spirit (Ruh), which was breathed into him, and by the fact that God had ennobled him.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God upon Him, emphasized the fact that physical distinctions are irrelevant in the sight of God. He said, “God does not look at your physical forms, or your wealth. Rather, He looks at your deeds and your hearts.” [13] This prophetic tradition argues against using physical distinctions arising from the accident of birth as the basis for any claims of superiority, or as the focal point for the creation of chauvinistic movements or states.

Anger and Victimization
Anger is the actualization of fear. In other words, anger is one of the greatest factors urging people to act against the source of their fear. One of the greatest sources of such anger is a feeling of victimization. Ernest Gellner, one of the foremost writers on nationalism, explains the role of victimization in contemporary nationalist thought, thus:
As the tidal wave of modernization sweeps the world, it makes sure that almost everyone, at some time or another, has cause to feel unjustly treated, and that he can identify the culprits as being of another ‘nation’. If he can also identify enough of the victims as being of the same ‘nation’ as himself, a nationalism is born. If it succeeds, and not all of them can, a nation is born. [15]
As is the case with fear, Islam condemns anger as a motivation for political action. Commenting on the Qur’anic verse, When the unbelievers had set up in their hearts the zealotry [for battle] which they had demonstrated during the days of pre-Islamic ignorance, God sent calm and tranquility upon the Messenger and the believers… [48:26] Imam Ghazali says, at the beginning of the introduction to a chapter on the condemnation of anger in his famous Quickening the Religious Sciences, “The unbelievers are condemned for the unjustified zealotry they manifested due to their anger [16].”
One of the keys to beneficial political decisions, or decisions of any type, is a firm intellectual command. For this reason, Islam expressly forbids a judge from issuing a decision in a state of anger. [17] The above verse extends this principle into the realm of political action. It was revealed concerning the critical negotiations between the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God upon him, and his Mekkan enemies over the terms of the treaty which was struck at Hudaybiyya. The followers of the Prophet, are praised for not letting their anger over the apparently humiliating terms of the treaty distort their better judgment, thereby preventing them from accepting what the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God upon him, deemed acceptable. Hence, anger is rejected as a motivation for political action.
Islam also argues against appeals to a sense of victimization as a basis for political action. As opposed to seeking an external culprit or scapegoat to blame one’s problems on, Islam encourages individual and group responsibility. God says, in a revealed prophetic tradition:
Rather it is your actions which I reckon for you. Then I reward you fully for them. Therefore, whoever finds good, let him praise God, and whoever finds other than that, let him blame no one but himself. [18]
The Prophet himself, peace and blessings of God upon him, said, “Everyone of you is a guardian, and each of you will be asked concerning his/her wards.” [19] This cultivation of individual responsibility is so essential in Islam that the person who lacks any wards or possessions, is to be reminded of his/her guardianship over his/her very body, and to do those divinely sanctioned things which are best for the preservation of that body. Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani mentions, commenting on the above tradition:
The single person, who lacks a wife, servant, or child, is responsible for his very limbs, to insure that they implement the commandments, and avoid those things which are forbidden in speech, action, and belief. Therefore, his limbs, faculties, and senses are his wards. [20]
These, and similar proof texts, make it clear that Islam wants each individual to take responsibility for his or her actions, and to begin to address undesirable situations by seeing how he or she has fallen short in meeting the conditions God has established for the attainment of favorable outcomes in this life. A similar analysis could be made for groups and their collective fates. In a worldly sense, they are responsible for their own uplifting or debasement. God says clearly in this regard, “God does not change the condition of a people until they change the state of their souls [13:11].”
From the above discussion, it should be clear that Islam is against exploiting fear and anger, or cultivating a sense of victimization in order to create the zealousness which pushes a nationalist agenda. It should be noted that this zealousness, which is closely described by what we will term zealous tribal fealty (‘Asabiyya), has been specifically condemned by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God upon him. The Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him, was asked about zealous tribal fealty. He replied, “It is aiding your folk in [their] oppression.” [21] He also said, “One who is killed under the banner of zealous tribal fealty, or raises the banner of zealous tribal fealty, or aids a party on the basis of zealous tribal fealty, [he/she has died] a death of pre-Islamic ignorance.” [22]
These condemnations by the Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him, are aimed at cutting off a dangerous source of disunity and discord in the Muslim ranks. For example, before accepting Islam, the Madinan tribes of al-Aws and al-Khazraj were engaged in long and destructive internecine warfare. Islam united their hearts and joined them politically under one banner. However, on one occasion, their unity was threatened by the effort of a third party to stir up zealous tribal fealty among them. That effort was staved off by the direct intervention of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him. [23]
It should be noted here, that the Arabic term, Jahiliyya, refers to more than the ignorance of the pre-Islamic Arabs. It also refers to their social, cultural, and political condition. Hence, it includes their practice of burying female newborns alive, their revenge motivated wars, and other practices. Ibn Mandhur says, explaining this term:
It is the state which the Arabs were in prior to Islam. [It refers to] their ignorance of God, be He exalted, His Messenger, the laws of the religion, their boasting over their lineage, their arrogance and haughtiness, and other characteristics. [24]
Again, these narrations should make it clear that Islam in no way endorses the idea of mobilizing to pursue an exclusivist political agenda based on tribal or national bonds. Such mobilization, which lies at the heart of the nationalist venture, not only runs counter to clear Islamic teachings, as we have attempted to show, it has also been the source of many of the most brutal and costly wars in recent history, and has manifested itself in all of the genocides that occurred during the 1990s.
The defenders of nationalism, while acknowledging its latent danger, point to its great triumphs, specifically, its role in stopping the advance of the twin totalitarian menaces of Nazism and Stalinist Communism. However, even here, nationalism does not stand above indictment, if we view Nazism and Stalinist communism as grotesque manifestations of German and Russian nationalism, respectively.
In the lands of Islam, as has been the case in other parts of the developing world, nationalism has had its most profound impact on western-educated elites. Those elites were instrumental in articulating a post-colonial national consensus. That consensus, as to the meaning, purpose, and direction of the post-colonial state, was initially greeted with significant mass support throughout the Muslim world. However, the systematic and oftentimes cynical negation of any meaningful mass participation in the political process has led to a widespread view of the nation-state as a foil for self-serving autocratic rule. This perception, coupled with the developmental and strategic failures of the nation-state in the Muslim world, have left many Muslims begging for new forms of political identity, and a new basis for political action.

Humanity will not be able to move towards a harmonious state where the actualization of true human unity and our collective security are realities, if we do not move beyond the nation-state. Improved means of communications and transportation continue to “shrink” the world. Continuous improvements in weapons technology, conventional and non-conventional, greatly enhance the efficacy of our ability to kill each other. Global problems, such as AIDS, SARS, pollution, and increasingly disastrous economic inequalities defy unilateral solutions. In light of these and many other pressing facts, we can no longer accept a scheme where, in the words of William Pfaff, “…a nation conceives itself licensed to validate itself by the victimization of another society.” [25] Mutual victimization, an unfortunate result of conflicting national interests, creates conditions which could well lead to our mutual destruction.
That said, nationalism is an reality, which lies at the heart of the contemporary global order. Therefore, transcending it will require more than a mere understanding of its inherent dangers. New ways of thinking about the meaning of life, humanity, and human civilization will have to be developed, and new institutions will have to be constructed. Many daunting problems relating to the meaning of national sovereignty, self determination, and citizenship will have to be resolved.
Fortunately, many contemporary developments have already started that process. International finance markets and the real time operations of the largest multinational corporations have already transcended the effective control of individual states. Although these developments currently facilitate oftentimes exploitative and irresponsible corporate behavior, they are part of an evolving global system which could potentially render the nation-state an irrelevant institution.
At the level of the individual citizen, the concept of human rights, and the associated phenomenon of humanitarian intervention present additional challenges to the idea of state sovereignty. Human rights imply that the rights owed to individuals supersede the rights that are owed to states. The idea of humanitarian intervention accentuates that conclusion, as in the interest of assisting affected individuals, the sovereignty of the state where intervention occurs is oftentimes completely bypassed.
These and related developments are forcing a reevaluation of the meaning of national sovereignty in the postmodern world. A similar reevaluation is occurring around the meaning of citizenship in the context of the nation-state. One of the greatest issues in that regard revolves around resolving the challenge of multiculturalism. Of issue here is the political role of collective identities. In other words, how can a privileged majority, in whose interest the state was founded, meaningfully accommodate excluded, disenfranchised, or marginalized minorities. If a meaningful resolution to this issue can be affected within the legal and constitutional framework of individual states, then replicating that solution within the framework of international law should be within the realm of possibility. Both developments, once achieved, will eventually translate into new social and political institutions.
Just as the institutions which facilitated the rise, consolidation, and entrenchment of both nationalism and the nation-state occurred in a distinctive social, cultural, and political milieu, a milieu that was in turn fostered by a distinctive social psychology, a new institutional reality, rooted in its distinctive socio-political culture, will require its own distinctive social psychology. Herein lays the contemporary relevance of Islam. As we have endeavored to demonstrate above, Islam provides a set of beliefs and principals that simultaneously foster cultural distinction and universalism. Accommodating these twin developments in an equitable fashion is one of the greatest challenges to be overcome by the emerging globalization of our times.
At the height of its civilization, Islam was able to meet and overcome this challenge, by creating a culturally diverse, politically decentralized, but functionally integrated “global” realm which extended from Spain unto China. The fact that an individual such as Ibn Battuta, the great Moroccan traveler, could go from one end of that realm to another, communicate in a single language, Arabic, and be accepted as a judge in the distant Maldives, testifies to the globalization fostered by Islam during that period. [26]
One of the greatest keys to the emergence of that realm was the social psychology fostered by Islam. Perhaps the most important fruit of that social psychology was the creation of a political culture which generally discouraged the development of nationalist thinking. Such a political culture is desperately needed today as many people are beginning to struggle with new forms of transnational organization. If Islam is allowed, by both its enemies and advocates, to contribute to a new global socio-political consensus by helping to resolve the nationalist question, humanity will be well served.
This article is reprinted from my book, Scattered Pictures:Reflections of an American Muslim
[1] The article is based on a lecture by the same title given by the author at the University of California, Berkeley, in September 2003.
[2] Dr. Mustafa al-Bugha, et al.,  Al-Fiqh al-Manhaji (Damascus, Syria: Dar al-‘Ulum al-Insaniyya, 1989), 12-13.
[3] Al-Qur’an 7:59.
[4] Al-Qur’an 7:65.
[5] Al-Qur’an 7:73.
[6] Al-Qur’an 49:13.
[7] Adam and Jessica Kuper, eds., The Social Science Encyclopedia (London, New York: Routledge, 1985), 551.
[8] Theodore Couloumbis and James H. Wolfe, Introduction to International Relations: Power and Justice (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1978), 37.
[9] Roger Scruton, A Dictionary of Political Thought (New York, NY: Hill and Wang), 109-110.
[10] An excellent study of the culture of tolerance that existed at the height of Islamic rule in Spain can be found in Maria Menocal’s, Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain(Boston, New York, London: Little, Brown, and Company, 2002).
[11] For a concise, balanced assessment of the nature of the Millet system, see Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 33-34.
[12] Columbis and Wolfe, 37.
[13] Samantha Power, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Harper Collins, 2003), 340. Although Powers writes convincingly as a theorist, politically she is a strong advocate of humanitarian intervention. Hence, she supports using the US war machine to selectively invade countries, such as Libya, whose government are viewed as threatening civilian life.
[14]  Muslim bin al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim, ‘Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, trans. (Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1976), 4:1362, no. 6221; Ibn Majah, al-Sunan (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar al-Salaam, 1999), 604, no. 4143.
[15] Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism  (Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 1983), 112.
[16] Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, 3:244.
[17] See Shihab al-Din b. Abi ad-Dimashqi-Shafi’i, Kitab Adab al-Qada’,  Muhammad az-Zuhayli, ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr al-Mu’asir, 1982/1402), 111.
[18] Sahih Muslim, 4:1365-1366, no. 6246.
[19] Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, The Meanings of Sahih al-Bukhari (Chicago, Ill: Kazi Publications, 1979), 7:81-82, no. 116.
[20] Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Fath al-Bari: Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari(Riyadh: Dar al-Salaam; Damascus: Dar al-Fayha’, 1997), 13:141.
[21] Abu Dawud as-Sajistani, Sunan Abu Dawud (Riyadh: Dar al-Salaam, 1999), 720, no. 5119.
[22] Sahih Muslim, 3:1030, no. 4561
[23] This incident is mentioned in the Qur’an, 3:100-101. The text of this verse reads, “O Believers! If you obey a party from those previously given the scripture, they will return you to disbelief after your faith. How could you ever revert to disbelief while the Scripture of God is yet being revealed and His Messenger is yet with you. Whoever holds fast to the [Religion of] God will be guided to a straight path. ”
[24] See Ibn Mandhur, Lisan al-‘Arab (Beirut: Dar al-Sadir, 2000), 3:229.
[25] William Pfaff, The Wrath of Nations: Civilization and the Furies of Nationalism (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), 238.
[26] For an excellent and concise account of Ibn Battuta’s travels, see, Douglas Bullis, “The Longest Hajj: The Jouneys of Ibn Battuta,” Aramco World, 51:4 (July/August, 2000) 3-39.