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.
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?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
By Nader Hashemi, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Nader Hashemi is director of the Center for Middle East Studies at University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. This opinion piece is in part based on a recent British Council policy brief. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
While the onset of the Arab Spring was widely celebrated in the West, the second anniversary of these democratic uprisings has been marked with waning optimism over the future of the Arab world. A recent Pew Research Poll revealed that nearly 60 percent of Americans do not believe that the changes in the Middle East will lead to lasting improvements for the people of the region. More than half of Americans polled, meanwhile, also believe it is more important to have stability in the Arab world, even if there is less democracy.
So what should the world’s expectations be? How should Western policymakers, intellectuals, and members of the public understand these developments? History should be our guide.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
Fareed Zakaria speaks with Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, Anne Applebaum, about democracy and Islam.
When people look at the Middle East now, they’re struck by how difficult it is to build genuine democracy. And there’s some argument they don’t have the institutions. But I think there’s a lingering suspicion that they’re not part of the Western world. They haven’t had the history. And the contrast is often to Eastern Europe, and to 1989. And the idea is that that happened so easily that the Berlin Wall fell and, hey, presto, all these countries became good, solid democracies. Is that a fair reading?
It’s not really. I mean, first of all, after ’89 was not so smooth. I mean though the countries that were communist before then had very different fates. The fate of Poland and the fate of Albania and the fate of Russia are quite different. And so it was more in many cases, actually, the degree to which civil society in those societies had been maintained or had been reconstructed that made the big difference between how well they recovered.
By Jonathan Adelman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The views expressed are his own.
The rapid rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt after the deposing of Hosni Mubarak last year prompted many observers to see an Islamist Egypt as inevitable. After all, the Muslim Brotherhood was the best organized and most popular political party in Egypt, the opposition was divided, there was little Western support for the secular opposition and the United States welcomed Muslim Brotherhood delegations to meet White House officials. Most recently, it worked openly with President Mohamed Morsy to achieve a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict. All this seemed to many to be a rough replay of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Yet, as the mass demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood recently in Tahrir Square and across Egypt have shown, an Islamic Egypt, while still likely, is far from inevitable.
Successful revolutions are usually led by charismatic leaders with strong political intuition – think Mao, Lenin, Tito, Castro and Ayatollah Khomeini. All personified their revolutions and drove the masses on to victory. But Morsy is no Ayatollah Khomeini, who embodied revolutionary mysticism and spent a lifetime steeped in political thought. The reality is that Morsy lacks charisma, and spent his life gaining a PhD and chairing an Egyptian engineering school until 2010. His abrupt and radical moves belie a lack of political savoir faire.
By Sahar Aziz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Sahar Aziz is a fellow at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and an associate professor of Texas Wesleyan School of Law. She serves as the president of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association. The views expressed are her own.
In October, in a blatant act of discrimination, a Muslim woman wearing a veil in an Oklahoma bank was reportedly told she had to be escorted from the door to the teller. The Valley National Bank in Tulsa stated that this was not an act of religious discrimination, but rather part of their “no hat, no hood” policy instituted to allow security to clearly identify and take surveillance pictures of customers.
But as Executive Director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Adam Soltani said, "singling out Muslim women or other people of faith who wear religiously mandated head coverings that do not hinder identification is inappropriate and discriminatory."
By Ashley Fantz, CNN
Watch Fareed Zakaria’s full interview with author Salman Rushdie on GPS, Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
Manufactured outrage such as that seen in recent protests in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere is “much more prevalent and much more widespread” than it was when The Satanic Verses was published, the book’s author, Salman Rushdie, has told Fareed Zakaria.
Rushdie sparked controversy, and enraged Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989 with his novel The Satanic Verses, a book widely praised by critics but condemned as blasphemous by Khomeini.
Back then, a fatwa was issued, and on Monday, Imam Hojatoleslam Hassan Sanei raised his little-known organization's original bounty on Rushdie by half a million dollars, to $3.3 million, according to Iran's Mehr news agency. Sanei’s organization, the 15th of Khordad Foundation, made news when it first offered its bounty, but it had in recent years largely faded from public view.