• Activites
  • September 27, 2006
  • 221 minutes read



  2. PRESS RELEASE:  CSID Responds to False Allegations from al-Ghad Party

  3. APPEAL:  Open Letter to President Bush re: democracy promotion

  4. EVENT:  Looking Ahead at the Muslim World After 9/11

  5. EVENT:  The Mighty and the Almighty: Religion’s Role in International Affairs

  6. ARTICLE:  Nour objects to democracy letter (by Pakinam Amer)

  7. ARTICLE:  Islam, Democracy In Essence The Same (by Motiur Rahman Nizami)

  8. ARTICLE:  Pope Says Dialogue with Islam Vital for Future

  9. ARTICLE:  A man with little sympathy for other faiths (by The Guardian)

  10. ARTICLE:  U.S. Bishops Support Pope’s Call for Dialogue

  11. ARTICLE:  A New Face for Islam in North America (by Stephanie Simon)

  12. ARTICLE:  U.S. rejects Visa for Muslim Scholar (by Larry Neumeister)

  13. ARTICLE:  Groups Condemn State Departments Decision to Deny Visa

  14. ARTICLE:  Islamo-Fascism Had Its Moment (by Sheryl Gay Stolberg)

  15. ESSAY CONTEST:  Freedom in the West and in the Muslim World



This event will be Webcast LIVE


CSID Monthly Lecture Series: Can we have Arab Democracy without the Islamists?


By: Neil Hicks & Amr Hamzawy


Wednesday, September 27th, 2006
:00 to 1:30 PM

1625 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Suite 601

Washington DC, 20036



Islamic political movements continue to grow in popularity throughout the Arab world suggesting that any progress towards democratization in the region must, by definition, be inclusive of this popular political trend.  At the same time, many Islamic political movements, including those that have received electoral support, contain elements and espouse positions that run counter to human rights and democratic values.  What can be done to ensure the integrity of democratic processes in which some key participants are less than fully committed to democracy?

About the Speakers:

Neil Hicks is Director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at Human Rights First, in New York, where he leads the efforts of the organization to advance the right to promote and protect human rights by supporting the work of human rights activists in several countries through research, advocacy and collaborative activities of various kinds.  In recent years, the program has focused on the theme of the impact of counterterrorism measures on the work of human rights defenders, emphasizing in particular the situation of defenders in Russia and in South-East Asia. Between 1985-91 he served as a researcher and executive assistant in the Middle East Research Department of Amnesty International in London . Mr. Hicks was educated at the University of Durham , School of Oriental Studies , the American University in Cairo and the Refugee Studies Programme, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University . In 2000 2001 Mr. Hicks was a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. Mr. Hicks recent work has focused on challenges facing the development of independent non-governmental human rights organizations in the Middle East and on attitudes of political Islamic movements towards human rights.

Amr Hamzawy is a noted Egyptian political scientist who previously taught at Cairo  University and the Free University of Berlin.  Hamzawy has a deep knowledge of Middle East politics and specific expertise on European efforts toward   political reform in the region.  His research interests include the changing dynamics of political participation in the Arab world, including the role of Islamist opposition groups, with special attention both to Egypt and the Gulf countries. Hamzawy’s  studies at Cairo  University focused on political reform and democratization in the Arab world, civil society, Islamism, and the cultural impacts of globalization processes.   He received his Ph.D. from the Free University of Berlin, where he worked at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.


Remember The event will be held at the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) at 12:00 o’clock :

1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 601

Washington DC, 20036


Space is limited, please RSVP to: [email protected]


This event will be available for viewing LIVE on the internet.
To view the meeting online, use this link: 


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CSID Responds to False Allegations from al-Ghad Party in Egypt:

 CSID wishes to inform the international public opinion that we did indeed receive an e-mail from Mrs. Gameela Ismail (wife of Dr. Ayman Nour) dated Sept. 10, and another e-mail from Mr. M. Nagui El-Ghatrifi (President of ElGhad Party) dated Sept. 12, asking us to include their names, as well as three other names from al-Ghad Party, in the list of signatures in the open letter to President Bush, re. democracy promotion.  We were, therefore, very surprised to learn through the media that they wish to re-tract their signatures.  They certainly have the right to change their mind (we have already removed their names from the list) but they do not have the right to accuse us of lying.  We understand that they probably came under a lot of pressure from their own members, or most likely from members of the security apparatus.  We still urge President Bush to do everything in his power to win the release of Ayman Nour, Esam El-Erian (a moderate leader of the Muslim Brotherhood), and countless other political prisoners in Egypt, and throughout the Arab world.  Without real democracy and transparency, the future of the Arab world is dim, indeed.


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Open Letter to President Bush re: democracy promotion 


Dear Mr. President:


As Arab and Muslim intellectuals and activists concerned about the promotion of democracy in our region, we urge you to reaffirmin words and actions America ’s commitment to sustained democratic reform in the Arab world.  It is our belief that the main problem with U.S. policies in the Middle East (in particular in Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere) is precisely their failure to live up to America s democratic ideals of liberty and justice for all. We have been heartened by the strong commitment to liberty you had expressed in your November 2003 speech at the National Endowment for Democracy and then your second inaugural address, when you said that “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”


Despite some initial skepticism, those statements nurtured hope in our region. We realize that democracy is not easily attained and must ultimately come from within. But it can receive encouragement and support, both of which it badly needs today in Arab countries. The minimum support the people of the region yearn for is precisely what you have undertaken in your NED speech: to break with 60 years of US support for non-democratic regimes in the region, and to make that known to the world in unequivocal terms. This would be more consistent with the principles of the United States, which has, since its birth, been intimately connected with the ideals of democratic governance enshrined in its founding documentsideals that speak to all generations and peoples everywhere.


We know that some in the United States, worried by recent Islamist gains among voters in Palestine and Egypt, are having doubts about the wisdom of pushing for freedom and democracy in the Middle East .  These worries are exploited by despots in the region to perpetuate the untenable status quo.  However, there is no way to advance liberty without inclusion of all elements that are willing to abide by democratic rules, and reject violence.  Democratic participation is the only way to combat extremism and pressure all groups, including Islamists, to moderate their stance in order to maximize their share of the vote.  The US should continue to press for an end to regime repression of democratically spirited liberal and Islamist groups, and to emphatically distance itself from such repression and condemn it in the strongest terms whenever and wherever it occurs. We are confident that if Arab citizens are able to have their choice, they will choose democracy, freedom, peace and progress.


A return to the pre-9/11 status quo is not the answer.  It will only embolden ruling autocrats, hurt Arab reformers, and damage America ’s credibility.  In the end, it will probably strengthen the very forces that America fears.  The shore of reform is the only one on which any lights appear even though the journey demands courage, patience, and perseverance.


Perhaps emboldened by the impression that America is wavering in its support for democracy, some autocrats have recently intensified repression.  This makes the need for sustained U.S. and international support and pressure more urgent than ever. The region needs to hear again that the course of freedom and democracy is the only course which America, guided by both interest and principle, will support.


To mention but one case where U.S. influence may do much good, Egypt has lately seen a regime crackdown on opposition activists. In February, the government postponed municipal elections and renewed the emergency law. The regime has not even spared Egypt ’ s venerable judiciary which has steadfastly proclaimed its independence in recent months. And liberal opposition politician Ayman Nour, who was allowed to run in last years presidential election and won 7.6% of the popular vote, second behind President Mubarak, was arrested and sentenced in a murky process to five years in jail. The health of Mr. Nour, a dear friend and colleague of many of us, continues to deteriorate. We pray that you will take his case to heart and let the Egyptian regime hear your concerns. Hundreds of other activists (including doctors, university professors, journalists and civil society activists) whose only crime was to express their desire for freedom, continue to languish in jail and suffer torture and police brutality. This brutality often included sexual molestation and public humiliation of women activists and journalists by pro-government thugs.


As you have argued, the war against terror and extremism can only be won by helping Middle Eastern countries reform their closed political systems. As societies become more open, citizens can voice their grievances through legitimate, democratic means, making them less likely to resort to violence. You are right to believe that democracy and pluralism point the way to peace and moderation.


We hope that you will consider our words, recall how much is at stake in the Arab world, and ponder how costly silence and mixed signals can be when freedom is under assault. We entreat you to do everything you can to ensure that a small number of authoritarian rulers will not control the future of more than 300 million Arabs, more than half of whom are not yet 20 years old.  Freedom and democracy are the only way to build a world where violence is replaced by peaceful public debate and political participation, and despair is substituted by hope, tolerance and dignity.




Name                           Organization                            Country


1.      Radwan Masmoudi, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, USA

2.      Aly R. Abuzaakuk, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, USA

3.      Sherif Mansour, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, USA/Egypt

4.      Khalid Cherkaoui Semmouni, President of Center Moroccan of Human Rights, Morocco

5.      Qamar-Ul Huda, United States Institute of Peace, USA

6.      Anwar N. Haddam, Liberty & Social Justice Movement, Algeria

7.      Randa Slim, International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (IISD), USA

8.      Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster, UK

9.      Ibrahim M. Hussein, Alliance of Egyptian Americans, USA

10.  Najah Kadhim, International Forum for Islamic Dialogue, UK

11.  Abdelazim Mahmoud Hanafi, Kenana Center for Research and Studies, Egypt

12.  Najib Ghadbian, University of Arkansas, US / Syria

13.  Anna Mahjar Barducci, Middle East Media Research Institute, Italy-Morocco

14.  Malath Arar, GE Infra, Energy, USA

15.  Ahmed Subhy Mansour, International Quranic Center, USA / Egypt

16.  Ahmed Shabaan, ICDS, Egypt

17.  Abbas  H.Rahi, Iraqi Organization for Rehabilitating Society and Environment, Iraq

19.  Amr Tharwat, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, Egypt

22.  Haytham Mouzahem, Independent Researcher and Journalist, Egypt

23.  Ibrahim Dadi, Islamic Thinker, Algeria

24.  Othman Mohamed Ali, Pharmacist and Islamic Researcher, Canada/Egypt

25.  Adel Mohamed, Center for the Study of Islam, Egypt

26.  Hamdi Shehab, Alwasiqa Center for Citizenship and H R, Egypt

27.  Ahmed Farghali, Alwasiqa Center for Citizenship and H R, Egypt

28.  Mohamed Abdel Aziz, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, Egypt

29.  Mohamed Allawzi, Activist, France

30.  Hamdi Abdelaziz, Sawasia Center for Human Rights, Egypt

31.  Ghassan Ali Othman, Islamic Researcher, Sudan

32.  Mohieb Alarnaoti, Activist, Egypt

33.  Safei-Eldin A. Hamed, Alliance of Egyptian Americans AEA, USA/Egypt

34.  Marwa Abdelkader Helmi, Activist, Egypt

35.  Mohamed Fawzi, Human Association for Development Studies, Egypt

36. Hazim Alluhaibi, President of the Iraqi National University, Iraq

37. Naiem A. Sherbiny, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, USA

38. Saeed Abdel Hafez Darwish, Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue, Egypt

39. Dhuha Rouhi, President of Association of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), Iraq

40. Ashur Shamis, Libya Human and Political Development Forum, Libya

41- Amr Hamzawy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, USA/Egypt

42- Nadia Lachiri, Forum Des Femmes Marrocaines- MEKNES-, Morocco

43- Chedley Aouriri, Tunisian Community Center, USA

44- Hesham Abdelsalam Alsadr, Secretary-General of the Iraqi Civil Group, Iraq

46- Randa Al Zoghbi, Program Director for Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Egypt

47- Cankurd MD, Member of KDP-S and Kurdish PEN Club, Germany

48- Dr Mohamed Gamal Heshmat, University Prof & former PM, Egypt

49- Jamal E. Ryane, Global Migration and Gender Network Consultant, Netherlands

50- Omar M. Najib, Attorney At Law, USA

51- Ali Al-Ahmed, the Institute of Gulf Affairs, USA

52- Louay Safi, Syrian American Congress, USA

53- Shifa Garba, Zaymar Services, Nigeria

54- Faeza AlEbadi, The New Iraqi Women Association, Iraq

55. Hassan AlIbrahimi, Iraqi Human Rights Watch Association, Iraq

56. Omar Hisham Altalib, Minaret of Freedom Institute, USA

57. Bachir Edkhil, President of ALTER FORUM, Morocco

58. Amer AlAmir, Architict, Painter, & Writer, Canada/Iraq

59. Mohammad Harbi, Journalist, Egypt

60. Abdellatif Saied, Activist, Egypt

61. Amir Aldargi, Thinker, Norway/Iraq

62. Zaienab Alsellami, Women and the Future Association, Iraq

63. Shaza Nagi, Women for Peace, Iraq

64. Abeer Azzawi, Women for Peace, Iraq

65. Kawther Rahim, Human Rights and Civil Society organization, Wasit Province, Iraq

66. Hafez Ben Othman, Activist, Tunisia

67. Omar S’habou, Director of the new magazine “Le Maghreb“, France

68. Sabry Fawzy Gohara, Surgeon and professor of surgery, USA

69. Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid, Professor, Cairo University, Egypt

70. Abdulmajid Biuk, Transparency Libya, USA/Libya

71. Mohamed Nabieh, Center for Developing Democratic Dialogue, Egypt

72. Said Galal, Activist, Egypt/Canda

73. Wagih Khair Ikladious, Rewak Ibn Khaldun Association, Egypt

74. Safia Fahassi, President of the Algerian Coordination of Families of Missing people, Algeria

75. Ibrahim AlHadari, Social and Environmental development Association, Egypt

76. Mohamed Hafiz Alhafiz, President of the Iraqi/Japanese Friendship Organization, Iraq

77. Sameer Jarrah, Arab World Center for Democratic Development, Jordan

78. Nadi Abou Zaher, Committee for International Complains (CIC), Palestine

79. Saleh Hadi, Association for Human Rights in Wasit, Iraq

80. Ibrahim Hussien, Egyptians Without Borders, USA/Egypt

81. Sayed Salem, Islamic Researcher, Palestine

82. Nuha Al Darwish, Model Iraqi Society Organization, Iraq

83. Mohamed Albadri, Egyptian Liberal Party, Egypt

84. Nesma Ahmed Ibrahim, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, Egypt

85. Mamdouh Nakhla, Alkalema Center for Human Rights, Egypt

86. Hatem Abdelhadi, Egyptian Writers Union, Egypt

87. Mohamed Youssef Bakeir, Economical Consultant, Egypt

88. Amal Mohey Eddin, Alwasat Islamic Party, Jordan

89. Alidrissi Omari Abdelmajid, Human Rights Activist, Singapore

90. Refaat Ismail, Independent Activist, Egypt.

91. Touria Khannous, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah University, Morocco

92. Sandra E. Parson, Independent Activist, USA

93. Wasef Tubishat, General Director, Democracy Watch, Jordan

94. Marwan Alfaouri, President of Alwasateya Forum, Jordan

95. Mohsen Ashri, Activist, Egypt

96. Mahmoudi Abdelkader, Egyptian Liberal Party, Egypt

97. Sami Bawalsa, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, USA/Jordan

98. Stuart Laughton, Musician, Canada

99. Tamer El-Tonsy, Activist, UK

100. Nor Ali, Businessman, Turkey

101. Khaled Chouket, Director of Centre to Support Democracy in the Arab World, Netherlands

102. Elhamy Elmeligi, Journalist and Activist, Egypt

103. Maytham Gaber Matar, High Commission for Civil Society Organizations in Diqaneya, Iraq

104. Emad Shahin, College Prof. at AUC, Egypt


For an updated list, please visit:  http://csidonline.org/


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You are cordially invited to a public event on:


Looking Ahead at the Muslim World After 9/11


A day-long conference on the challenges facing the United States in the Muslim world five years after 9/11


Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Time: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Location: U.S. Institute of Peace

2nd Floor Conference Room

1200 17th St, NW

Washington, DC 20036



In a unique, multidisciplinary event, experts on the Muslim world from each of USIP’s program areas will examine the “big picture” of regional and international trends, as well as bilateral and intranational challenges and opportunities confronting the United States in the years ahead. The purpose of this all-day conference is to look “beyond 9/11” by connecting the dots between the complex and changing dynamics of numerous, disparate conflicts as they emerge, develop, and shape attitudes across the Muslim World.


The program will explore ideological extremism/terrorism, the potential for reform and democratization in the Muslim world, and the issue of how best to “bridge the gaps” with the Muslim world. A question-and-answer session will follow each panel presentation. This event is open to the public; please see below for RSVP information if you are interested in attending.




9:35 AM – 9:45 AM  Welcome

Richard Solomon, President, U.S. Institute of Peace


9:45 AM – 10:00 AM  Program Introduction

Abdeslam Maghraoui, Director, Muslim World Initiative


10:00 AM – 11:00 AM   Panel I: Countering Extremism and Terrorism

Moderator: Theodore Feifer

Deputy Director, Professional Training Program


Rethinking the War on Terrorism

Paul Stares, Vice President,

Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention


Recruiting Terrorists: Myths, Facts, and Unknowns

C. Christine Fair, Senior Research Associate,

Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention


11:00 AM – 12:15 PM  Panel II: Reforming the Muslim World

Moderator: Abdeslam Maghraoui

Director, Muslim World Initiative


Islamists: Between Radicalism and Moderation

Judy Barsalou, Vice President,

Grants and Fellowship Program


Engaging with Moderate Islamists: Why and How?

Mona Yacoubian, Special Advisor

Muslim World Initiative


Building Effective Democratic Opposition in the Arab World

Daniel Brumberg, Special Advisor

Muslim World Initiative


12:15 PM – 1:15 PM   Lunch Break


 1:15 PM – 2:30 PM    Panel III: Bridging the Divide

Moderator: John Crist

Acting Associate Vice President

Jennings Randolph Fellowship Program (to be confirmed)


Religion and Peacemaking

David Smock, Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution

Associate Vice President, Religion and Peacemaking Program


Can Muslim-Americans Bridge the U.S.-Muslim World Divide?

Qamar-ul Huda, Senior Program Officer

Religion and Peacemaking Program


Teaching Peace and Tolerance through Education

Jeff Helsing, Deputy Director

Education Program


Lessons Learned from the Philippines

Eugene Martin, Executive Director

Philippine Facilitation Project



2:30 PM – 3:45 PM  Panel IV: Pivotal Conflicts

Moderator: Daniel Serwer

Vice President

Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations,

Centers of Innovation


Prospects for Peace and the Threat of Violence in Sudan

Dorina Bekoe, Senior Research Associate

Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention


Iran: Regional Ambitions for a Domestic Agenda?

Daniel Brumberg, Special Advisor

Muslim World Initiative


What Can Be Done to Save Iraq?

A. Heather Coyne, Senior Program Officer

Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution


Emerging Uncertainties in Afghanistan

J Alexander Thier, Senior Rule of Law Advisor

Rule of Law Program


Beyond Lebanon: Vision for a Comprehensive Peace in the Middle East

Scott Lasensky, Senior Research Associate

Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention



3:45 PM – 4:00 PM  Concluding Remarks

Abdeslam Maghraoui, Director, Muslim World Initiative


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You are cordially invited to a public event on:


The Mighty and the Almighty: Religion’s Role in International Affairs


A dialogue between former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Professor Susan Thistlethwaite


Date: Thursday, October 5, 2006

Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Location: U.S. Institute of Peace

2nd Floor Conference Room

1200 17th St, NW

Washington, DC 20036



Given the increasing role of religion in international affairs, how should the U.S. government relate to religious communities and factor religious issues into policymaking? Is it time for the traditional secularization of foreign policy to be rethought? How do the religious convictions of policymakers factor into decision-making?


These and other issues will be explored through dialogue between former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Prof. Thistlethwaite in the context of Secretary Albright’s new book, The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs.



Madeleine K. Albright

Former Secretary of State, 1997-2001


Susan Thistlethwaite

President, Chicago Theological Seminary


David Smock, Moderator

Vice President, Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution and Associate Vice President, Religion and Peacemaking Program, U.S. Institute of Peace


with an introduction by:

Richard Solomon

President, U.S. Institute of Peace


To RSVP, please send your name, affiliation, daytime phone number, and name of the event to Kuimba Boston at [email protected]


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Nour objects to democracy letter


By Pakinam Amer

September 26, 2006




CAIRO: Jailed politician Ayman Nour, his wife and supporters from El-Ghad party are furious about a letter that urges U.S. President George Bush to take action to free Nour. The letter, allegedly sent by activists living in various foreign and Arab countries, is meant to defame Nour and destroy him morally, comments Gameela Ismail, Nours wife and El-Ghad party spokesperson.


As Arab and Muslim intellectuals and activists concerned about the promotion of democracy in our region, we urge you to reaffirm in words and actions Americas commitment to sustained democratic reform in the Arab world, began the controversial letter sent out by the U.S.-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID).


The letter asked Bush to fulfill his promise during an earlier speech when he said the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressor, and that the United States will stand with those who stand for their liberty.


Notably, the letter contains the signatures of many high-profile activists and politicians, including some high profile El-Ghad members who vehemently deny ever seeing the letter.


El-Ghad published an official statement Sunday deeming the letter a hoax sent out by the Interior Ministry to defame Nours image and make him look like he was backed by the United States backing negatively regarded by many political forces in Egypt and the Arab world.


On numerous occasions, opposition forces in Egypt have rejected what they saw as foreign intervention from the United States. The opposition heads said that even goodwill acts like imposing democracy or bolstering a political figure from their ranks were unacceptable, when done by a foreign country. Nour, himself, has publicly rejected any form of intervention as he himself was quoted as saying in a recent hearing held by the prosecution last Saturday.


The politician’s supporters, on the other hand, stated in their letter that even though they realize that democracy “must ultimately come from within,” they believe that encouragement and support from Western states is “badly need[ed]” in the Arab world.


“The minimum support the people of the region yearn for is to break with 60 years of U.S. support for non-democratic regimes in the region, and to make that known to the world in unequivocal terms,” read the letter. “This would be more consistent with the principles of the United States.”


Nour’s apparent enthusiasts urged the United States not to be affected by other countries experiments, and not to ignore the governments crackdown on the opposition. The letter said that some autocrats have recently intensified repression, under the impression that U.S. support for democracy is wavering.


This is a kind of political fraud, said Amir Salem, Nours lawyer, in a published statement from El-Ghad headquarters. I call this moral assassination, a personal injury to a figure [Nour] who in the first place refuses to go into discussion [about his case] with any foreign country, especially the United States.


Strangely enough, the letter features the signature of Salem himself, who strongly denies knowing about the letter before it began circulating in the press and on the Internet. Salem said that he would never send a letter to Bush, since he regards the American leader as another face of the coin of state terrorism.


The idea of contacting Bush has never crossed our minds during the past two years; not me, not Ayman Nour and not even El-Ghad party, adds Salem.


Salem, backed by El-Ghad and Ismail, filed two complaints to the general prosecutor about the letter. Salem said he would sue the president of the center who had sent the letter in court for stealing their names.


In addition to El-Ghad members, the letter features names of political figures from top organizations inside Egypt, including Saad-Eddin Ibrahims Ibn Khaldun Center, the Muslim Brotherhoods Sawasiya Center for Human Rights, the American University in Cairo and the Kenana Center for Research and Studies to name a few.


This is a conspiracy, comments Gameela Ismail in El-Ghads official statement in response to the letter. Whoever is doing this is targeting Nours popularity and credibility among his supporters.


Our party believes in Nours innocence and in divine justice, we would never direct any calls to President Bush, or any other leader for that matter, Ismail adds. Ismail was quoted by Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper as saying that she accuses the Ministry of the Interior of masterminding such incidents to defame her jailed husband and destroy him politically and morally.


Ismail had told The Daily Star Egypt last week that she does not measure American support for Nour anyway, and any statements made by President Bush, or the U.S. State Department are all diplomatic statements, and they do not mean more than that.


Ismail added that it is not the support of the United States that her husband awaits. “We never really gave that much attention to American support, she said.


Nour was indicted in a forgery case in December of last year, following a fierce political battle against presidential candidates in Egypts first multi-candidate elections. The politician was sentenced to five years in prison, which he is currently serving in the ill-reputed Tora Mazraa Prison.


Nour was accused of faking member signatures needed to register and legitimize his liberal El-Ghad party. More charges were later added to the list. The politician was indicted with “assaulting and injuring members of the ruling party on the day of the presidential elections, insulting and distorting the image of Egypt’s regime symbols and president of the state, [and name-calling] President Mubarak.


The court of cassation had refused his lawyers successive requests for appeal. It has also refused to give the leader a pardon based on his medical condition, even though he suffers from diabetes and needs heart surgery.


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Islam, Democracy In Essence The Same


By Motiur Rahman Nizami

Wed, 13 Sep 2006, 10:11:00




The right to choose is the core principle of Islam to the extent that Almighty Allah Himself accorded man the freedom to choose between faith in Him and disbelief. Since right to choose is also the fundamental principle on which democracy is evolved, I will argue that as far as system of governance is concerned Islam and democracy is in essence one and the same. Islam rejected hereditary Kingship, autocratic rule as well as use of force to gain power. While describing an ideal Muslim society the Qur’an recommends consultative political process in these words : “And their affairs are administered in a consultative way”. The time of democratically elected rightly guided Khalifs is considered as the golden period of Islamic history.


The politics of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh is based on this core Islamic principle. It works to bring about political change employing only democratic means even if it takes a hundred years. It would be wrong to think that this is a new opportunistic approach just to comply with the new feverish attempt to export democracy to Muslim lands; in fact ever since its inception the Jamaat made it clear that ’political power must stem from approval of the populace. According to Maudoodi resorting to undemocratic methods to bring about political change in democratic country is unislamic. The Permanent Programme and Procedure Section of the Constitution the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh stipulates for lawful movements to bring about political change. Maudoodi also made it clear that the Islamic movement cannot adopt a clandestine and secretive approach.


Not just in theory the Jamaat has demonstrated this unflinching commitment to democratic means through its long and distinguished history of political participation. It has taken part in the electoral process ever since the creation of Pakistan and refused to resort to any violent or undemocratic means even in the face of ruthless persecution and extreme provocation. True to its expressed ideals the Jamaat worked to change autocratic government by taking part in various opposition alliances both during the Pakistan period and in the Independent Bangladesh. During the Pakistan period it played a very important role in Combined Opposition Party (COP), Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the Democratic Action Committee (DAC) in the fight against the autocratic dictatorship of President General Ayub Khan and during the Bangladesh period it joined the Awami League and other opposition parties against the military Dictator General Ershad’s autocratic rule. It is currently taking part in the governance of the country as a result of its participation in a four party alliance against Awami misrule. Such alliances were always constituted and run in a democratic and peaceful manner.


Even its opponents accepted Jamaat proposed Caretaker Government, a system that resolved political stalemate, consequently started democratic political process. Today it is widely recognised that the Jamaat enjoys a reasonable popular support in the country. It may not be enough to win power in its own right but it remains significant nonetheless and is rising. So much so that during pre-independence 1970 election, the Jamaat came second only to the Awami League with about 10% popular vote and won at least one seat while every other party was totally wiped-out by the all-engulfing Awami League landslide. The constant barrage of hostile propaganda by the pro-India politicians and media failed to dent such support. The party continues to make progress in every election by improving its popular support. Jamaat’s democratic credential is now widely acknowledged by independent observers both inside and outside the country. As early as September 1988 Library of Congress Country Studies commented that ’it advocated the resignation of Ershad and restoration of democracy’. Recently US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher and former US Ambassador to Bangladesh Harry K. Thomas acknowledged that the Jamaat is a democratic party.


One of the aims of the Jamaat is to cleanse politics from the scourge of corruption and establish honest and sincere leadership in the country. While I do not wish to blow my own trumpet, yet it has to be said for the sake of record that it has succeeded to demonstrate that even in the midst of widespread corruption, it is possible to conduct a clean and efficient administration. Philip Browning writing in the International Harold Tribune wrote, ’The Jamaat has not pressed an Islamic agenda too overtly, but its ministers have acquired a reputation for being competent and uncorrupt, which could serve it well if disillusion with the major parties spread’. The Jamaat firmly believes that if this could be replicated across the board it has the potential to rid the nation from much of its miseries.


The Jamaat rejects the view that it is Bangladesh’s destiny to remain poor; the history of the country tells us otherwise. There was a time when this part of India was considered most rich. Not long before the British arrived 1/3rd of a ton of rice used to cost only one Taka (less than 100th of a pound). Europeans used to flock to the country much the same way people from the subcontinent now flock to Europe. This is evidenced by the formation of a series of East India Companies, British, French and Dutch. They all were fighting with each other to secure a share in the resources of the country. The Jamaat believes that with competent and honest management the country’s fortunes could be changed for the better. The picture is already looking promising under the leadership of Alliance Government.


Bangladesh’s GDP has grown from 5.3 percent in the financial year 2003 to 5.5 percent in 2005 and is expected to be 6.5 percent in 2006, the foreign export has gone up from million $6492 in 2003 to Million $8579 in 2005 with an expected amount of million $9773 in 2006. Goldman Sachs predicts that 11 developing nations including Bangladesh have the greatest potential to emulate the long term economic success expected from China, India, Brazil and Russia and can succeed in long term. According to Ifzal Ali, Chief Economist of Asian Development Bank the country’s growth now ’stands between 6 to 7 percent’.


The Jamaat also wishes to establish a welfare state based on justice and fair play, where the state will guarantee the provision of work, housing, education and healthcare. It will try to ensure common good and opportunities for all. By curbing unlimited greed and implementing the Islamic principle of zakat it will work towards lifting up the poorer section of the community.


Keeping to the rich Islamic tradition of fair treatment of the minorities the Jamaat will ensure that the minorities’ rights and properties are fully protected and they enjoy their life with full respect and freedom. Throughout history Muslim states provided such rights to their minority citizens, they were allowed to be governed by their own religious laws, their faith institutions were maintained and renovated with state funds. In Bengal for example a fourteenth century Muslim ruler Hussain Shah commissioned and paid for the translation of great Hindu religious texts the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. More recently, Mr. Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid the Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Country’s Social Welfare Minister risked criticism from some extreme religious leaders for visiting the Durga Puja pandels and reassuring the Hindu minority that the state will take full responsibility so that they can enjoy their festivities in total security.


This, is a very brief outline of the Janiaat approach within the democratic process in Bangladesh. However, I must also mention here that apart from the Jamaat some other Islamic political parties also contribute to the democratic process of the country. They include the Nizame Islam Party, the Khilafat Majlis, Islami Oikko Jote and the Muslim League.


In conclusion I would like to point out that religion plays a very important role in Muslim societies and will continue to do so in countries like Bangladesh for the foreseeable future. Artificial attempts to sanitise politics from religion did not work in Muslim lands, despite outward pretence even secular parties are forced to tinge their political presentation with religious flavour. Today we are witnessing a gradual progress of Islamic political parties across the Muslim World and they are going to shape and reshape Muslim nations whether others like it or not.


The Western policy planners and the media on the other hand continue to do disservice to them by refusing to acknowledge this truth. They still prefer to remain comfortable with the spoon-feeding of their secular clones in those countries and get biased lies or at best half-truths. The West must make a fundamental paradigm shift in their attitude if they wish to develop productive relations with Muslim nations.


Motiur Rahman Nizami, Minister for Industries and Ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh made this presentation on “Islamic political parties within the democratic process in Bangladesh: The Jamaat approach” at Chathan House on Asia programme Meeting on September 11, 2006 in London


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Pope Says Dialogue With Islam Vital for Future

Meets With Muslim Leaders and Diplomats




CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 25, 2006 .- Benedict XVI met with Muslim leaders of Italy and diplomats from 21 Islamic countries and stressed that the dialogue between Christians and Muslims is decisive for the future of humanity.


The Pope said he called today’s meeting to “strengthen the bonds of friendship and solidarity between the Holy See and Muslim communities throughout the world,” in the wake of controversy over his Sept. 12 address at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The Arab-language broadcaster Al-Jazeera carried the papal speech live.


“In this particular context, I should like to reiterate today all the esteem and the profound respect that I have for Muslim believers,” said the Holy Father.


He recalled the Second Vatican Council declaration “Nostra Aetate,” which expresses officially the Church’s “appreciation” for Muslims who “worship the one God.”


Benedict XVI’s address, delivered in French, was also distributed among the diplomats in an Arabic translation, in addition to the English and Italian versions.


The Pope did not address the issue of the interpretations of his address at Regensburg. On two occasions last week he clarified his quotation from the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus as a means to present the problem of the relationship between religion and violence. The quotation sparked violence and drew criticism from some Muslims.


To dispel doubts, the Holy Father said that “I have had occasion, since the very beginning of my pontificate, to express my wish to continue establishing bridges of friendship with the adherents of all religions, showing particular appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians.”


Not an option


“Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends,” Benedict XVI said. Thus he confirmed what he explained on Aug. 20, 2005, in Cologne, Germany, when meeting with representatives of Muslim communities.


He continued: “In a world marked by relativism and too often excluding the transcendence and universality of reason, we are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures, capable of assisting us, in a spirit of fruitful cooperation, to overcome all the tensions together.


“Continuing, then, the work undertaken by my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, I sincerely pray that the relations of trust which have developed between Christians and Muslims over several years, will not only continue, but will develop further in a spirit of sincere and respectful dialogue.”


This dialogue, Benedict XVI added, must be “based on ever more authentic reciprocal knowledge which, with joy, recognizes the religious values that we have in common and, with loyalty, respects the differences. Interreligious and intercultural dialogue is a necessity for building together this world of peace and fraternity ardently desired by all people of good will.


“Faithful to the teachings of their own religious traditions, Christians and Muslims must learn to work together, as indeed they already do in many common undertakings, in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence; as for us, religious authorities and political leaders, we must guide and encourage them in this direction.”


Among the common challenges faced by Muslims and Christians, the Holy Father mentioned “the defense and promotion of the dignity of the human person and of the rights ensuing from that dignity.”


He added: “When threats mount up against people and against peace, by recognizing the central character of the human person and by working with perseverance to see that human life is always respected, Christians and Muslims manifest their obedience to the Creator, who wishes all people to live in the dignity that he has bestowed upon them.”

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A man with little sympathy for other faiths


Pope Benedict is being portrayed as a naive, shy scholar who has accidentally antagonised two major world faiths in a matter of months. In fact he is a shrewd and ruthless operator, argues Madeleine Bunting – and he’s dangerous


Tuesday September 19, 2006

The Guardian




Only 18 months into his papacy and already Pope Benedict XVI has stirred up unprecedented controversy. As the explanations and apologies pour out of the Vatican – and thousands of Catholic churches around the world – the questions about what exactly this man intended by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor’s insult of the Prophet Mohammed have only multiplied.


Some say this was a case of naivety, of a scholarly theologian stumbling into the glare of a global media storm, blinking with surprise at the outrage he had inadvertently triggered. The learned man’s thoughtful reasoning, say some, has been misconstrued and distorted by troublemakers, and the context ignored.


But such explanations are unconvincing. This is a man who has been at the heart of one of the world’s multinational institutions for a very long time. He has been privy to how pontifical messages get distorted and magnified by a global media. Shy he may be, but no one has ever before accused this pope of being a remote theologian sitting in an ivory tower. On the contrary, he is a determined, shrewd operator whose track record indicates a man who is not remotely afraid of controversy. He has long been famous for his bruising, ruthless condemnation of those he disagrees with. Senior Catholic theologians such as the German Hans Kung are well familiar with the sharpness of his judgments.


But in the 18 months since Benedict was elected, the wary critics who have always feared this man were lulled into believing that office might have softened his abrasive edges. His encyclical on love won widespread acclaim and the pronouncement on homosexuality being incompatible with the priesthood (and its inference that homosexuals were to blame for the child sex abuse problems in the church) were explained away as an inheritance from Pope John Paul II’s reign.


But while the Pope has tried to build a more appealing public image, what has become increasingly clear is that this is a man with little sympathy or imagination for other religious faiths. Famously, the then Cardinal Ratzinger once referred to Buddhism as a form of masturbation for the mind – a remark still repeated among deeply offended Buddhists more than a decade after he said it. Even his apology at the weekend managed to bring Jews into the row.


In fact, Pope Benedict XVI’s short papacy has marked a significant departure from the previous pope’s stance on interreligious dialogue. John Paul II made some dramatic gestures to rally world religious leaders, the most famous being a gathering in Assisi of every world faith, even African animists, to pray for world peace. He felt keenly the terrible history of Catholic-Jewish relations, and having fought with the Polish resistance to save Jews in the second world war, John Paul II made unprecedented efforts to begin to heal centuries of hostility and indifference on the part of the Catholic church to Europe’s Jews. John Paul II also addressed himself to the ancient enmity between Muslims and Catholics; he apologised for the Crusades and was the first Pope to visit a mosque during a visit to Syria in 2001.


In contrast, Pope Benedict has managed to antagonise two major world faiths within a few months. The current anger of Muslims is comparable to the anger and disappointment felt by Jews after his visit to Auschwitz in May. He gave a long address at the site of the former concentration camp and failed to mention anti-semitism, and offered no apology – whether on behalf of his own country, Germany, or on behalf of the Catholic Church. He acknowledged he was a “son of the German people” … “but not guilty on that account”; he then launched into a highly controversial claim that a “ring of criminals” were responsible for nazism and that the German people were as much their victims as anyone else. This is an argument that has long been discredited in Germany as utterly inadequate in explaining how millions supported the Nazis. Given his own involvement in the Hitler Youth movement as a boy, and his refusal to make a clean breast of the Vatican’s acquiescence in the horrors of Nazism by opening its archives to historians, this was a shabby moment in Catholic history. Not for this pope those dramatic, epoch-defining gestures that made the last Pope such a significant global figure.


Even worse, in his Auschwitz address, he managed to argue in a long theological exposition that the real victims of the Holocaust were God and Christianity. As one commentator put it, he managed to claim that Jews were the “themselves bit players – bystanders at their own extermination. The true victim was a metaphysical one.” This theological treatise bears the same characteristics as last week’s Regensburg lecture; put at its most charitable, they are too clever by half. More plainly speaking, they indicate a deep arrogance rooted in a blinkered Catholic triumphalism which is utterly out of place in the 21st century.


But if his visit to Auschwitz disappointed many and failed to resolve outstanding resentments about the murky role of German Catholicism, this latest incident seems even worse. Quoting Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos, he said: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” It was a gratuitous reawakening of the most entrenched and self-serving of western prejudices – that Muslims have a unique proclivity to violence, a claim that has no basis in history or in current world events (a fact that still eludes too many westerners). Even more bewildering is the fact that his choice of quotation from Manuel II Paleologos, the 14th-century Byzantine emperor, was so insulting of the Prophet. Even the most cursory knowledge of dialogue with Islam teaches – and as a Vatican Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI would have learned this long ago – that reverence for the Prophet is a non-negotiable. What unites all Muslims is a passionate devotion and commitment to protecting the honour of Muhammad. Given the scale of the offence, the carefully worded apology, actually, gives little ground; he recognises that Muslims have been offended and that he was only quoting, but there is no regret at using such an inappropriate comment or the deep historic resonances it stirs up.


By an uncanny coincidence the legendary Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci died last week. No one connected the two events, but the Pope had already run into controversy in Italy by inviting the rabid Islamophobe to a private audience just months ago. This is the journalist who published a bestseller in 2001 which amounted to a diatribe of invective against Islam. This is the woman who was only too happy to fling out comments such as “Muslims breed like rats” and “the increasing presence of Muslims in Italy and Europe is directly proportional to our loss of freedom.” At the time of her papal audience, Fallaci’s ranting against Islam had landed her in court and there was outrage at the Pope’s insensitive invitation. The Pope refused to backtrack and insisted the meeting was purely “pastoral”.


Put last week’s lecture in Bavaria and the Fallaci audience alongside his vocal opposition to Turkish membership of the EU, and the picture isn’t pretty. On one of the biggest and most volatile issues of our day – the perceived clash between the west and the Muslim world – the Pope seems to have abdicated his papal role of arbitrator, and taken up the arms in a rerun of a medieval fantasy.


An elderly Catholic nun has already been killed in Somalia, perhaps in retaliation for the Pope’s remarks; churches have been attacked in the West Bank. How is this papal stupidity going to play out in countries such as Nigeria, where the tensions between Catholics and Muslims frequently flare into riots and death? Or other countries such as Pakistan, where tiny Catholic communities are already beleaguered? Or the Muslim minorities in Catholic countries such as the Philippines – how comfortable do they feel this week?


Two lines of thought emerge from this mess. The first is that the Pope’s personal authority has been irrevocably damaged; how now could he ever present himself as a figure of global moral authority and a peacemaker after this? At the weekend, a message was read out from Cardinal Murphy O’Connor at all masses in Catholic churches in England; he spoke of the regret at any offence caused and urged good relations between Catholics and Muslims. For a church that prides itself on taking centuries to respond, this was unprecedented crisis management. It cannot but damage the pope’s authority with the faithful that such emergency measures were necessary, and it compromises not just this pope but the papal office itself. (This is a job, after all, that is supposed to be divinely guided and at all times beyond reproach: a claim that looks a bit threadbare after the past few days.)


The second is a more disturbing possibility: namely, that the Catholic church could be failing – yet again – to deal with the challenge of modernity. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it struggled to adapt to an increasingly educated and questioning faithful; now, in the 21st century, it is in danger of failing the great challenge of how we forge new ways of accommodating difference in a crowded, mobile world. The Catholic church has to make a dramatic break with its triumphalist, bigoted past if it is to contribute in any constructive way to chart this new course. John Paul II made some dramatic steps in this direction; but the fear now is that Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of following suit, and that he has another direction altogether in mind.


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U.S. Bishops Support Pope’s Call for Dialogue

Essential Between Christians and Muslims, Says Official




WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 21, 2006 .- The U.S. bishops’ conference echoed Benedict XVI’s call for dialogue between the Christian faith and the modern world and between all cultures and religions.


In a statement, Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. conference, said that the episcopal body “enthusiastically supports the call for dialogue made by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his audience message today, Wednesday, September 20.


“Given the circumstances of the last week, it is clear that dialogue is essential between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue in which we respect, in the words of the Holy Father, ’what is sacred for others.’


“In the United States, the bishops are participating in such a dialogue. We recognize, with Pope Benedict, that Catholics and Muslims ’worship the one God.’ Because of the events of the last five years, this dialogue is especially urgent so that Christians and Muslims are able to work together to promote ’peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity,’ as Pope Benedict has said.


Bishop Skylstad added: “We hope that the context of the talk which the Holy Father gave last week at the University of Regensburg in Germany, in which he described the right relationship between faith and reason, will be understood fully and correctly.


“That is, as the Holy Father said during his Angelus of Sunday, September 17, it is a talk ’which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.’”


“It is this attitude of the Holy Father,” the U.S. prelate contended, “that deserves the world’s attention rather than the centuries-old words of another which express a point of view that we cannot deny existed but which no longer motivates the authentic Christian.”

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A New Face for Islam in North America


She’s white. She’s Canadian. She’s a former Catholic. Who better to lead the largest Muslim organization on the continent?


By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer

September 21, 2006




ROSEMONT, Ill. Ingrid Mattson had given up God. She had stopped saying her rosaries, stopped taking Communion. She was an atheist, abroad in Paris the summer before her senior year of college.


But she could not stop listening to the Koran.


“Forget it,” she told herself. “This can’t be happening to me.” Yet day after day, she popped the cassette into her Walkman, mesmerized by the chanting and oddly moved by lines such as: “The sun and the moon follow courses computed. And the herbs and the trees both bow in adoration. It is he who has spread out the earth for [his] creatures.”


When she returned home to Canada after that summer of 1986, Mattson signed up for the only Arabic class she could find. It was full of 8-year-old immigrants, who soon came to resent her for winning so many of the chocolates the teacher awarded top students. Mattson wanted to enjoy hanging out in bars with her brothers, the way she always had. Instead, she found herself at her sewing machine, stitching head scarves. That spring, she gathered several Muslim friends as witnesses and pledged herself to Allah.


It was an unusual move for a white Canadian ex-Catholic. And it set Mattson down a trailblazing path.


About 60,000 Muslims in the U.S. and Canada recently elected Mattson, 43, president of the largest Muslim organization on the continent, an educational and professional association called the Islamic Society of North America. She is the first woman, nonimmigrant or convert to Islam to become president of the group.


Her election comes at a tumultuous time for the estimated 6 million Muslims in the U.S. Nearly 40% of Americans admit prejudice against Muslims, according to a recent poll by USA Today and Gallup. A similar percentage support mandatory identification cards for Muslims. And one in five Americans said they would not want a Muslim neighbor.


Many Muslims are hoping Mattson can soften this fear. She does not speak with a foreign accent. She doesn’t wear a veil, though she does cover her head with a thick, dark scarf. Soft-spoken and quick to smile, Mattson is a suburban soccer mom; she cheers at her son’s games, helps her daughter with college applications, gardens, hikes, reads the New Yorker, laughs at Paris Hilton’s reality TV.


“Many Americans think we didn’t arrive in this country until 9/11. She helps people know we’re part of the American landscape,” said Aneesah Nadir, the president of an Islamic social services agency based in Phoenix.


Such comments were a frequent refrain at the Islamic society’s annual convention, which drew more than 32,000 Muslims to this suburb of Chicago earlier this month. Mattson was mobbed by fans wanting to take her picture. One father brought his five daughters from South Carolina to meet her. “She’s a visible refutation of stereotypes,” said Hasan Aijaz, a college student from Virginia.


Outside the organization, Muslims have greeted Mattson’s election more warily.


She’s received angry letters from conservatives who resent having a woman in charge. Such critics often cite an ancient hadith, or narrative about the life of the prophet Muhammad, stating that no good will come from entrusting leadership to a woman.


The Islamic left has questioned Mattson’s credentials as well. A traditionalist who dresses in modest ankle-length skirts and loose blouses and who prefers, whenever possible, to avoid shaking men’s hands Mattson pushes women’s rights only so far.


She has called for mosques to dismantle any barriers that block women from seeing or clearly hearing the imam during prayer. But she does not support the more radical, feminist notion that women should pray alongside men or even lead men in prayer. Many Muslims argue that such an arrangement would distract men from God or lead to immoral conduct. Mattson explains her objection this way: The prophet would not have approved.


Mattson’s journey to Islam began when she was a teenager in the Canadian town of Kitchener, Ontario. As a girl, she had been the most pious in her family of seven children, but when she entered high school, she began to find bedrock concepts such as the Holy Trinity illogical. The nuns and priests at her Catholic school were unable to answer her questions. “Accept the mystery,” they told her. She couldn’t.


Though she stayed on at St. Mary’s High School, Mattson stopped looking for God.


Years later, during her summer in Paris, Mattson became friendly with several West African Muslims. They introduced her to Islam; her spirit stirred. “What moved me most was the way the Koran described the majesty and beauty of creation,” she said.


One of her favorite passages tells of God’s handiwork: “He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together. Out of them come pearls and coral. And his are the ships sailing smoothly through the seas, lofty as mountains.”


After graduating from the University of Waterloo, Mattson worked in a refugee camp in Pakistan, where she met her husband, an Egyptian engineer. He took care of their small children while she earned a doctorate in Islamic studies from the University of Chicago. Since 1998, she has been teaching about Islam at Hartford Seminary, a nondenominational Christian institution in Connecticut.


As president of the Islamic Society of North America an unpaid part-time post Mattson will lead a diverse organization that trains Muslim leaders, sets standards for hundreds of mosques, helps immigrants adjust to American life and serves as an umbrella uniting associations of Muslim engineers, doctors and other professionals.


She will also be a very visible spokeswoman for the faith a role she relishes. In particular, she can’t wait to refute the notion that Islam is a religion solely “for brown and black people,” she said.


“When African Americans make the move to Islam, it’s considered valid. When I do, it’s considered cultural apostasy, as if somehow I’ve abandoned my whiteness to become an ’other,’ ” Mattson said.


In the past, many Muslims like evangelical Christians before them argued that they had to isolate themselves from American politics and culture in order to keep their faith pure. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Mattson argues that Muslims no longer have that luxury.


“We need to form an axis of good with our neighbors,” she said. “We’re 2% of the American population. How are we going to be effective unless we make alliances?”


Her push for interfaith partnerships got off to a shaky start when the Islamic society invited former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to address the convention. Jay Tcath, vice president of the Chicago Jewish Federation, accused the organization of “a dereliction of civic responsibility” for honoring Khatami despite his record of human rights abuses.


The Anti-Defamation League also takes issue with the Islamic society for having provided a forum for anti-Semitic language at several conferences over the years, said Deborah Lauter, the group’s national civil rights director. The organization’s leaders “have been in bed with extremist groups,” Lauter said, “[so] we go into these relationships with some serious concerns.”


Mattson says her group does not invite speakers “known for offensive statements,” but offers “as broad a platform as possible for legitimate views.” At the convention’s opening seminar, Mattson urged her fellow Muslims to step proudly into mainstream society, to engage their neighbors and promote their good works until Americans stop associating Islam with terror.


“Islamic medical clinics. Islamic ethics. Islamic charity. These are the terms that should come off the tips of tongues,” she told a cheering crowd. “Islamic intellectuals. Islamic peace movements. Islamic human rights. This is who we are!”


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U.S. Rejects Visa for Muslim Scholar



Sept. 25, 2006, 4:41PM




NEW YORK The government has rejected a prominent Muslim scholar’s application to enter the country, contending that he gave support to a terrorist group, but his attorneys allege the U.S. is using charitable donations he made as a pretext for stifling his views.


Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen who teaches at Oxford University, was denied a temporary business and tourism visa Thursday “based solely on his actions, which constituted providing material support to a terrorist organization,” said Janelle Hironimus, a State Department spokeswoman.


Hironimus said she could not reveal specifics about Ramadan’s case due to confidentiality rules regarding visa applications.


The American Civil Liberties Union said the U.S. government notified Ramadan he was being excluded because he donated $765 to French and Swiss organizations that provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians.


The ACLU said the organizations are legitimate charities in France, but the Bush administration contends the groups gave funds to the Islamic militant group Hamas, and has invoked a law allowing it to exclude individuals whom it believes have supported terrorism.


The ACLU said the decision to bar Ramadan amounts to censorship.


“This case is really about speech,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer. “The government is using the immigration laws as a means of silencing and stigmatizing a prominent cleric.”


Ramadan has said he opposes the U.S. invasion of Iraq and U.S policies in Israel and the Palestinian territories, but that he has no connections to terrorism, opposes Islamic extremism and promotes peaceful solutions.


He said in a statement he was disappointed by the government’s decision but was glad that the State Department had abandoned its initial allegation that he endorsed terrorism.


“I think it’s clear from the history of this case that the U.S. government’s real fear is of my ideas,” he said. “I am excluded not because the government truly believes me to be a national security threat, but because of my criticisms of American foreign policies in the Middle East; because of my opposition to the invasion of Iraq; and because of my criticism of some of the Bush administration’s policies with respect to civil liberties.”


Hironimus defended the government’s policies, saying the United States “welcomes the exchange of culture and ideas with the Islamic world.” She said that in the past three years more than 450 religious scholars and leaders, the vast majority of them Muslim, had visited the United States as guests of the U.S. government.


Jaffer said the ACLU would decide whether to pursue the issue through the courts once it speaks with organizations it represents that filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s exclusion of Ramadan.


Ramadan applied for a visa last year that would allow him to temporarily visit the United States to lecture or attend conferences, as he had prior to 2004 when he had spoken at Harvard University, Stanford University and elsewhere.


When the State Department did not rule on the application, the ACLU brought a lawsuit on behalf of several groups which had invited Ramadan to speak to force it to act.


In June, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty in Manhattan ordered the government to rule on Ramadan’s application within three months.


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Groups Condemn State Departments Decision to Deny Visa to Oxford University Professor Who Criticized U.S. Policies



September 25, 2006


CONTACT: Paul Silva, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; [email protected]


NEW YORK – The United States government has denied a visa to Oxford University Professor Tariq Ramadan despite dropping its previous allegation that he endorsed terrorism, the American Civil Liberties Union announced today.


The ACLU, American Academy of Religion, American Association of University Professors, New York Civil Liberties Union and PEN American Center sued the government for preventing their members from meeting with Ramadan and hearing constitutionally protected speech. The lawsuit came after the government invoked the Patriot Acts “ideological exclusion” provision to prevent Ramadan from accepting a teaching position at the University of Notre Dame in 2004. The provision applies to those who have “endorsed or espoused” terrorism, but government attorneys failed to produce any evidence showing that Ramadan had done so.


“Although the U.S. government has found a new pretext for denying Professor Ramadans visa, the history of this case makes clear that the governments real concern is not with Professor Ramadan but with his ideas,” said ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer, who is lead counsel in this case. “The government is using the immigration laws to silence an articulate critic and to censor political debate inside the United States.”


In June, a federal court rejected the governments attempt to indefinitely delay a judgment on Ramadans visa application, and ordered the government to grant the visa or explain why it would not do so. The court also issued a ruling stating that the government cannot bar non-citizens from the United States simply because of their political views.


This week, after more than two years of investigating Ramadan and faced with a deadline imposed by the court, the State Department offered a new pretext for excluding Professor Ramadan: that he had donated about 600 Euros to French and Swiss organizations that provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians-information Ramadan voluntarily provided to the State Department months ago. Although the organizations are legitimate charities in France, the Bush administration contends that the groups gave funds to Hamas and has invoked a law known as the “material support” law, which allows the government to exclude individuals whom it believes have supported terrorism.


However, as United States District Judge Paul A. Crotty noted, Ramadan has been a consistent and vocal critic of terrorism. In fact, Ramadan was appointed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to a United Kingdom government taskforce to combat terrorism and was recognized by Time magazine as one of 100 “innovators” of the 21st century. Time also labeled Ramadan “the leading Islamic thinker among Europes second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants.” Ramadan currently teaches at the University of Oxford.


“I am deeply distressed by the governments decision to exclude Professor Ramadan, an eminent and respected scholar, from the United States,” said Roger Bowen, General Secretary of the American Association of University Professors. “As the court has recognized, no form of communication substitutes for in-person dialogue. At this time more than ever, it is crucially important that academic discourse remain unfettered, and the government has struck a blow against that fundamental principle.”


The American groups, which had each invited Ramadan to speak with their respective members, say that the government is excluding Professor Ramadan because it disagrees with his political views.


“The American Academy of Religion is dismayed to be deprived of the opportunity for discussion and exchange with Ramadan who was to address our annual meeting in November,” said Diana L. Eck, President of the American Academy of Religion. “Ramadan is one of todays leading Muslim theologians and his voice is vital to the contemporary discussion of Islam in the West. His ongoing exclusion sends exactly the wrong message about Americas commitment to the free exchange of ideas.”


The groups further criticized the governments use of the material support law as a “six degrees of separation” approach to block Ramadan and others from entering the United States.


“We are deeply disappointed that in light of Judge Crottys ruling the government sought the narrowest procedural opening to deny Professor Ramadan a visa, and thereby to deny us the opportunity our colleagues in Europe enjoy to engage him directly and debate his ideas with him in the United States,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “An overly broad material support law should not be used as a back-door route for ideological exclusion.”


The ACLU has challenged the constitutionality of material support laws in numerous other cases. In a recent California case, a federal judge struck down part of the statute as unconstitutionally vague. The government appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the ACLU and a coalition of human rights groups argued that the statute unconstitutionally interferes with efforts to provide humanitarian aid to civilian populations in war zones.


In addition to Jaffer, attorneys in the Ramadan case are Melissa Goodman, Judy Rabinovitz and Lucas Guttentag of the ACLU, Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU, and New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky. The lawsuit was brought against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


A statement from Tariq Ramadan is online at: www.tariqramadan.com/article.php3?id_article=788&lang=en


More information on ideological exclusion is online at: www.aclu.org/exclusion.


The ACLU brief in the California case, Humanitarian Law Project v. Gonzales, is online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/25628lgl20060522.html.


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Islamo-Fascism Had Its Moment



Published: September 24, 2006




WASHINGTON – SHORTLY after terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, President Bushs speechwriters began grappling with a linguistic puzzle: What to call the enemy? In the five years since, Mr. Bush has road-tested an array of terms: evildoers, jihadists, Islamic extremists, even Al Qaeda suiciders.


But no phrase has crashed and burned as fast as the presidents most recent entry into the foreign policy lexicon: Islamic fascists, or, Islamo-fascism.


This latest iteration, which has percolated in neoconservative circles for several years, turned up in one of the presidents speeches last year, and resurfaced in August when British authorities foiled a plot to blow up airliners headed for the United States. It was, Mr. Bush said then, a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom.


By Labor Day, Islamic fascists and Islamo-fascism were the hot new conservative buzzwords.


And then, just as suddenly, they were gone at least from the presidents lips.


The debate that we wanted to launch was about an ideological struggle against an enemy that has very specific plans, ambitions and aspirations, much like movements of the past, like fascism and Nazism, said Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president. Addressing the term Islamic fascists, Mr. Bartlett said, Im sure hell use it again.


But it seems unlikely Mr. Bush will use it again, given the outcry it provoked.


Muslims, both here and in other countries, were deeply offended. Even Karen Hughes, the former counselor to Mr. Bush who now runs the public diplomacy arm of the State Department, pushed back, telling CNNs Wolf Blitzer that she typically does not use religious terms for fear they will be misinterpreted around the world.


The problem with the phrase is that it confuses more than it clarifies, says David Gergen, a former speechwriter for Richard Nixon. Its important to find a phrase thats meaningful in the Arabic world, and Islamic fascism has no meaning.


The precise etymology of Islamo-fascism is unclear. Some say that the writer Christopher Hitchens introduced it into post-9/11 discourse. But Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, which promotes moderate Muslim views, also takes credit, describing the phrase in a recent article as one that refers to the use of the faith of Islam as a cover for totalitarian ideology.


If Islamic fascists and Islamo-fascism have disappeared from Mr. Bushs oratory they were nowhere to be found in his 9/11 anniversary speeches, for instance questions about the phrases have not. The president was forced to grapple with such inquiries twice last week alone. On Friday, in response to a Pakistani journalist, Mr. Bush invoked a far more general term: these extremists.


All of which leaves the central problem what to call the enemy unresolved.


Id prefer to call them Islamists, said Frederick W. Kagan, a military historian and neoconservative thinker at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Fascists, Mr. Kagan said, idealize a strong man, like Hitler or Mussolini. Bin Ladens stated aim is for Allah to be venerated, so I think its a very different thing.


David Frum, a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush, said the president turned to evildoers right after Sept. 11, 2001, in part because it translated well in Arabic and in part because it appeared in Psalm 27, which Mr. Frum says is one of the presidents favorite psalms. (When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh.)


But evildoers has a kind of comic-book sound, and in any event, Mr. Frum says, it isnt specific enough. He suggests Mr. Bush find an Arabic phrase to popularize so long as it does not involve the word jihad, a term with a negative connotation in the United States, but positive overtones in the Muslim world.


Peter Beinart, the editor at large of The New Republic, has his own solution: jihadi salafi, which he loosely translates as someone who would use violence, and ultimately state violence, to bring about a utopian vision of Islam. So what if no one knows what it means.


If Bush had been using it all these years, Mr. Beinart said, people would know it like the back of their hand.


Maybe he should have stuck with Al Qaeda suiciders.


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ATLAS ESSAY CONTEST:  Freedom in the West and in the Muslim World


The Atlas Economic Research Foundation has extended the deadline for the international essay contest, Finding Common Ground: The Challenge of Freedom in the West and in the Muslim World to September 30, 2006. The contest targets students and other young people in the Middle East and North America (U.S. and Canada), who are interested in the question of freedom and its prospects in these regions. The first place winner will receive a $2,000 prize. Please contact [email protected] with questions. (The Arabic character above means freedom.)


Application Deadline: September 30, 2006


Click here to read the essay submission guidelines: