Is Asia facing a new wave of religious extremism?
March 28th, 2014
04:50 PM ET

Is Asia facing a new wave of religious extremism?

By Maha Hosain Aziz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Maha Hosain Aziz is a professor of politics (adjunct) in NYU's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, a senior analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat and advisory board chairwoman of Afghanistan’s first university e-mentoring program (New Silk Road Generation). The views expressed are her own.

Asked to name organizations tied to extremism, most people would likely list the usual suspects – Islamist militant groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban. But a spate of recent attacks has highlighted a growing problem that is threatening to destabilize parts of Asia, and it hails from what might seem to many a surprising source – a militant strain of Buddhism.

In Sri Lanka, for example, reports surfaced in January that eight Buddhist monks were involved in an attack on two churches in the southern town of Hikkaduwa. Another group, the Buddhist Power Force, is said to have been targeting Muslim minorities, and has pushed to ban headscarves, halal foods and other Muslim businesses. In July 2013, Buddhist mobs reportedly attacked a mosque in the north-central town of Dambulla; in August that year, a mosque was attacked in Colombo, sparking clashes between Buddhists and Muslims that left at least a dozen people injured. Sadly, the response from the Sri Lankan government, distracted as it is by the ongoing fallout since the end of the civil war with the Tamil Tigers, has been muted at best.

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Topics: Asia • Islam • Myanmar • Religion
September 24th, 2013
09:49 AM ET

Zakaria: Jihadi ideology one of great cancers at heart of Muslim world

CNN speaks with Fareed about the Nairobi attack, reports that attackers singled out non-Muslims as infidels for slaughter, and a suicide bombing at a church in Pakistan that killed 81 people.

What's going on here with these attacks on Christians? Now, there are reports in Kenya, a slaughter of Christians in Pakistan. We know Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted, including at their church. Give us some perspective.

It’s a very serious and tragic situation. Remember, many of these groups have always had this kind of very strong, violent attitude towards what they regard as heretics, any non-Muslims. What's interesting here is in most cases, these terror groups are now attacking locals because they have despaired of the prospect of doing the kind of large attacks on Americans, on American military installations.

In al-Shabaab’s case, they have been driven back in Somalia very effectively. But it’s always possible to attack civilians. It’s always possible to do terrorism. So, where they are failing to advance politically and even militarily in places like Somalia, in Pakistan, they then turn to these more spectacular acts of terrorism as a way of getting attention.

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Topics: Islam • Terrorism
Muslim Brotherhood ripe for re-radicalization
August 15th, 2013
09:09 AM ET

Muslim Brotherhood ripe for re-radicalization

By Mohammed Ayoob, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is author of the upcoming bookWill the Middle East Implode?' The views expressed are his own.

Wednesday’s massacre by the security forces in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt has left hundreds dead and perhaps thousands more injured. The old order is lashing out with ferocity against those who dared challenge it. What is worse, a substantial segment of the Egyptian public – mesmerized by the rhetoric of the military brass and its civilian henchmen – consider this a “restoration of democracy” to use John Kerry’s Orwellian term to describe the July 3 military coup.

It is becoming increasingly clear that history is repeating itself as tragedy in Egypt, although with its own peculiar twist. This year reminds me of 1954, when Colonel Nasser, who had led the Egyptian military coup against the then corrupt monarchy in 1952 with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood, turned against his Islamist allies, banned the party, threw its leaders in jail and ultimately executed several of them. The Brotherhood, which had emerged into the open after years of clandestine activity against the monarchy, was forced underground once again.

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Topics: Egypt • Islam • Middle East • Terrorism
July 27th, 2013
12:33 PM ET

'Burka Avenger' to take fight to extremists

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Remember Malala Yousafzai? She's the 16-year-old Pakistani who was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education. But she bravely recovered to continue her fight. Well, she has another ally now – another super girl, like her.

Meet “The Burka Avenger,” a new animated series that debuts on Pakistani TV next month.

The hero is a young girl. She wears the burka not as a sign of oppression, but as a ninja-style costume to keep her identity secret. Each episode has a moral payoff as she uses her karate skills to fight off corrupt politicians and evil magicians (or, the Taliban, it seems).

The series has the backing of top Pakistani singers, who perform in each episode.

It is said that women are the stealth reformers of Islam. In Pakistan, now they have the help of the Burka Avenger.

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Topics: Islam • Pakistan • Taliban
How Muslims should respond to terror
May 25th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

How Muslims should respond to terror

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

The sheer barbarism of the attack on a British soldier in Woolwich is really beyond comprehension – the alleged murderers are said to have hacked the victim to death, waited for the police to arrive, and seemed to encourage people to videotape their brutality.

And yet, we have to search for some way to think about what appears to be our future.

Terrorism used to be about something big and dramatic. But perhaps because groups like al Qaeda are on the run, their people hunted, their money tracked, their hideouts bombed, Woolwich and Boston have become the new faces of terror – a few people, disturbed or fanatical, radicalized by things they have read or watched, decide to commit evil.

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Topics: Islam • Terrorism • United Kingdom
Why Obama needs to act in Syria
May 22nd, 2013
09:39 AM ET

Why Obama needs to act in Syria

By Mark N. Katz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mark N. Katz is professor of Government and Politics at George Mason University, and the author of ‘Leaving without Losing:  The War on Terror after Iraq and Afghanistan.’ The views expressed are his own.

The ongoing civil war that is devastating Syria is increasingly threatening to spill over and engulf neighboring countries. Indeed, all the ingredients are there for what would be a disastrous region-wide Sunni-Shiite conflict.

Just look at what has been going on. Turkey is hard pressed to deal with the growing number of Syrian refugees flooding into its territory, while tiny Jordan may soon be overwhelmed by them. In addition, the conflict between Syria’s Alawite minority regime and its Sunni majority opposition is spilling over and re-invigorating Sunni-Shiite conflict both in Iraq to the east and Lebanon to the west. Meanwhile, Shiite-dominated governments in Iran and Iraq, as well as the radical Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement, are all actively assisting Syria’s Alawite regime, while Sunni-dominated governments in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan are helping the Sunni opposition.

And what has been the Obama administration’s response to all this? Surprising – and troubling – restraint.

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Topics: Islam • Israel • Middle East • Syria • Turkey
Muslims to Tea Party: Welcome to our world
May 15th, 2013
12:02 PM ET

Muslims to Tea Party: Welcome to our world

By Sahar Aziz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Sahar Aziz is an associate professor at Texas Wesleyan School of Law where she teaches national security and civil right law. She previously served as a senior policy advisor at the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The views expressed are her own.

Reports that the Internal revenue Service has been targeting Tea Party-affiliated nonprofit organizations has grabbed headlines, but should come as no surprise. In part because of ten years of expanding government powers, much of it under the guise of national security, selective enforcement of the law has increasingly become a norm rather than an aberration.

But some in the Muslim community might have a question – why are conservatives so surprised (and outraged) by this news when Muslim nonprofits and their leaders have been under intense scrutiny for over a decade? And when so many Muslim groups and individuals have faced scrutiny simply for the religion they follow?

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Topics: Human Rights • Intelligence • Islam • Terrorism • United States
April 28th, 2013
01:46 AM ET

Can Europe teach U.S. something about engaging Islam?

By Fareed Zakaria

Jonathan Laurence of Boston College, who's done extensive research of Muslim communities in Europe, found that before 1990 European countries were largely indifferent towards their Muslim populations - letting foreign embassies, like Saudi Arabia, set up the mosques and meeting centers for these groups. They realized that this produced a radicalized and unassimilated migrant community. So now, in recent years, governments at all levels are engaging with Muslim communities, taking steps to include Muslims in mainstream society but also trying to nurture a more modern, European version of Islam.

It's worth noting, Islamic terrorism has declined in Europe in recent years. The lesson from Europe appears to be: engage with Muslim communities. That's a conclusion U.S. law enforcement agencies would confirm. The better the relationship with local Muslim groups, the more likely those groups are to provide useful information about potential jihadis.

For more on this, read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Europe • GPS Show • Islam
April 24th, 2013
08:57 PM ET

A better way for America to integrate Muslims

By Fareed Zakaria

Since 9/11, foreign-inspired terrorism has claimed about two dozen lives in the United States. (Meanwhile, more than 100,000 have been killed in gun homicides and more than 400,000 in motor-vehicle accidents.) One crucial reason the number of terrorism deaths is so low is that America does not have large pools of alienated immigrants. Polls repeatedly have shown that Muslim immigrants to the United States embrace core American values. The American assimilation machine continues to function well.

What’s surprising is that things have been improving in Europe, where Muslim migrants have often had much greater problems assimilating. Jonathan Laurence of Boston College, who has done extensive research on Muslim communities in Europe, found that before 1990 European countries largely ignored their Muslim populations and allowed the embassies of countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia to cater to their needs by building mosques and training imams. “This wasn’t multiculturalism so much as indifference,” Laurence wrote recently. Those countries had little interest in helping migrants assimilate; in fact, their efforts were to do the opposite: Maintain ties with the old country and old ways.

Read the full column at the Washington Post

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Topics: Islam
Don’t punish Muslims for Boston attack
April 24th, 2013
01:57 PM ET

Don’t punish Muslims for Boston attack

By Haider Mullick, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Haider Mullick is a fellow at Tufts University, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and a lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. The views expressed are his own.

Last week, evil visited Boston. In the ensuing weeks and months we will debate preventing and fighting terrorism. Why did a 19-year-old Chechen-American allegedly place a bomb next to an eight-year-old child? How can we stop this from happening again? Some think the answers are in expanding security for all, but by restricting civil liberties and immigration of Muslims. Others believe the best response is business as usual – defeating terrorism by not being terrorized. But before we act we must reflect on what we’re trying to protect and punish: American pluralism and intolerance.

Unlike the founders of many nation-states, America’s founding fathers did not fight for an ethnic or religious state; they fought for Protestants and Deists, blue blood and blue collar, slave owners and humanitarians, soldiers and Quakers, and British loyalists and British-Americans. Soon after, thousands of Irish, Italians, and Germans arrived, and as years went by the American garden of liberty welcomed the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the lonely Christian cross accepted the Star of David, the Islamic Crescent, and Darwin’s fish. The union was – and still is – imperfect and incomplete; yet human malice cannot live long under the seal of E pluribus unum (out of Many, One).

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Topics: Islam • Terrorism
Denmark’s unnecessary clash of civilizations
March 1st, 2013
11:55 AM ET

Denmark’s unnecessary clash of civilizations

By Fabrizio Tassinari and Mona Kanwal Sheikh, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Fabrizio Tassinari is Head of Foreign Policy Studies at the Danish Institute for International Studies. Mona Kanwal Sheikh is a post-doctoral researcher at the same institute. The views expressed are their own.

It may have escaped most people’s attention, but Denmark is in the midst of a clash of civilizations. And while it may not be an actual war, the perceived fight among some Danes is hardening the lines of conflict between Islam and the West.

It all started a few weeks ago, with a failed attempt to kill one of the country’s staunchest critics of Islam, Lars Hedegaard. Despite the fact that there still is no trace of the gunman, and that the police have not yet established the motive behind the incident, politicians from across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, quickly framed the tragic attack as a possible blow against the principle of freedom of expression.

Last Thursday, in a hastily arranged meeting at the country’s parliament, influential politicians and opinion makers echoed the view that free speech is under siege and needs to be defended.

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Topics: Immigration • Islam
Democracy best served diluted
February 27th, 2013
09:37 AM ET

Democracy best served diluted

By Madhav Nalapat, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Madhav Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair at Manipal University in India. The views expressed are his own.

Despite the 2008 economic crash and lingering possibility of a Eurozone collapse, the West still clings to its one-size-fits-all mentality – especially when it comes to political systems. Democracy is still almost inevitably defined in terms of the Western model, with periodic elections to choose representatives to a parliament or head of state. Local variants, such as Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga system, are dismissed as not really democratic. But this “universalization” of the Western approach – especially for countries embarking on the path of democratization – is misguided.

I was an early believer in the Middle East democracy project, with the caveat that first there needs to be a comprehensive reform of school curricula. The present fare offered to young minds, especially in Saudi Arabia, is a mishmash of confused ideas cloaked in theology. The result is that the education system fosters minds that are in many cases unable to properly grasp reality, ones that instead too often focus on vague concepts that get superimposed onto the real world. It’s little wonder that conspiracy theories are so prevalent in the region.

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Topics: Arab Spring • Human Rights • Islam • Saudi Arabia
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