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Russia’s Demographic Revolution: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Oct. 22, 2013— The stabbing murder on October 10 of an ethnic Russian, Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, apparently by a Muslim from Azerbaijan, led to anti-immigrant disturbances in Moscow, vandalism and assaults, and the arrest of 1,200. It brought a major tension in Russian life to the fore.
Outside the World’s Media Glare, Bangladesh is Fighting Against Militant Islam: Jonathan Kay, National Post, Oct. 15, 2013 — A single spasm of violence that shook Egypt earlier this month serves as a metaphor for what’s become of the Arab Spring. In fact, it’s a useful symbol of the existential religio-political crisis unfolding everywhere in the Islamic world.
Inspiring Hope Among Muslim Women: Fouad Ajami, New York Post, Oct. 17, 2013 —The picture on the front page of Saturday’s New York Times was worth a thousand words. Young Pakistani girls, one of them clutching a notebook, were awaiting the news from Oslo. Their heroine, Malala Yousafzai, was in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Iraq Tips Toward the Abyss, Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2013: — Fifty-four Iraqis were killed and another 70 injured Sunday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a Baghdad cafe. But you probably didn't catch the news.
It’s Time for the ‘Muslim 500’ to Make Their Voices Heard: Afsun Qureshi, National Post, Oct. 21, 2013
Islamists Target Islamists: Douglas Murray, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 21, 2013
Talk About Political Dysfunction: Jason Pack & Mohamed Eljarh, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2013
New Islamist Approach to Turks in Germany: Veli Sirin, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 11, 2013
RUSSIA’S DEMOGRAPHIC REVOLUTION
National Review, Oct. 22, 2013
The stabbing murder on October 10 of an ethnic Russian, Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, apparently by a Muslim from Azerbaijan, led to antimigrant disturbances in Moscow, vandalism and assaults, and the arrest of 1,200. It brought a major tension in Russian life to the fore. Not only do ethnic Muslims account for 21–23 million of Russia’s total population of 144 million, or 15 percent, but their proportion is fast growing. Alcoholism-plagued ethnic Russians are said to have European birth rates and African life-expectancy, with the former just 1.4 per woman and the latter 60 years for men. In Moscow, ethnic Christian women have 1.1 children. In contrast, Muslim women bear 2.3 children on average and have fewer abortions than their Russian counterparts. In Moscow, Tatar women have six children and Chechen and Ingush women have ten on average. In addition, some 3 to 4 million Muslims have moved to Russia from ex-republics of the USSR, mainly Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan; and some ethnic Russians are converting to Islam.
These trends mean that Christians are declining in numbers by 0.6 percent a year and Muslims increasing by that same amount, which will have dramatic effects over time. Some analysts foresee Muslims becoming a majority in the 21st century — a demographic revolution that would fundamentally change the country’s character. Paul Goble, an expert on Russian minorities, concludes that “Russia is going through a religious transformation that will be of even greater consequence for the international community than the collapse of the Soviet Union.” A Russian commentator he quotes envisions a mosque on Red Square in Moscow. The facile assumption that Moscow is and will remain Western-oriented “is no longer valid,” he argues. In particular, he predicts that the Muslim demographic surge “will have a profound impact on Russian foreign policy.”
Within a few years, Muslims will make up half the conscripts in the Russian army. Joseph A. D’Agostino of the Population Research Institute asks: “Will such a military operate effectively given the fury that many domestic Muslims feel toward the Russian military’s tactics in the Muslim region of Chechnya? What if other Muslim regions of Russia — some of which contain huge oil reserves — rebel against Moscow? Will Muslim soldiers fight and kill to keep them part of the Russian motherland?”
Russia’s increasingly confident Muslims, who constitute the majority of 57 of the country’s 182 ethnic groups, have started to use the term “Muslim Russia” to signal their ambitions. According to Muslim analyst Daniyal Isayev, this term affirms that Islam is “an inalienable part of Russia” and that “Russia as a state and civilization could not exist without Islam and the Muslims.” He notes that Muslims preceded ethnic Russians in much of the territory that is now Russia. His sweeping claims for Muslims include the exaggerations that they made critical contributions to Russia’s culture and its military victories.
Such talk can cause ethnic Russians to shudder over the country’s population loss of at least 700,000 people a year. Some have returned to their faith and some have turned against Muslims. The reactions against a “Muslim Russia” include biased media portrayals of Muslims, attacks on mosques and other crimes, efforts to block Muslim immigration, and the rise of extreme Russian nationalist groups such as Alexander Belov’s “Movement against Illegal Immigration.” The Kremlin has responded to the issue in contradictory ways. Then-president Dmitri Medvedev tried appeasement in 2009 by stressing the importance of Islam to Russia, noting that “Muslim foundations are making an important contribution to promoting peace in society, providing spiritual and moral education for many people, as well as fighting extremism and xenophobia.” He also announced that, because of its large Muslim population, “Russia does not need to seek friendship with the Muslim world: Our country is an organic part of this world.”
But, as Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council points out, “the Kremlin has discriminated against its Muslim minority and ignored (even abetted) the rise of corrosive xenophobia among its citizens. This has bred resentment and alienation among Russia’s Muslims — sentiments that radical Islamic groups have been all too eager to exploit.” Added to existing Islamic-supremacist attitudes, this results in an increasingly restive Muslim minority.
Discussions of Islam in Europe tend to focus on places like Britain and Sweden, but Russia, the country with the largest Muslim community in both relative and absolute terms, is above all the place to watch. The anti-immigrant violence this week will surely be followed by much worse problems.
OUTSIDE THE WORLD’S MEDIA GLARE,
BANGLADESH IS FIGHTING AGAINST MILITANT ISLAM
National Post, Oct. 15, 2013
A single spasm of violence that shook Egypt earlier this month serves as a metaphor for what’s become of the Arab Spring. In fact, it’s a useful symbol of the existential religio-political crisis unfolding everywhere in the Islamic world. Sunday, October 6 marked the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The war didn’t end with an Arab victory. But Arab armies pushed into Israeli territory in the campaign’s early stages, and struck existential panic into the Jewish state’s citizens. In Egypt, this early thrust restored a measure of credibility and pride to a military establishment that had seen its forces annihilated in a matter of days during the Six Day War in 1967. For four decades, the date has served as a rallying point for Egyptians of all stripes.
But 10 days ago, when Egyptians took to the streets for October 6 celebrations, they were divided into two camps. “As the military’s supporters celebrated the anniversary in Tahrir Square in Cairo with music and fireworks, officers and armed civilian loyalists set upon Islamist protesters who were also trying to reach the square, driving back their marches with tear gas and gunfire,” The New York Times reported. “[The] Islamist supporters, who have re-branded themselves under the banner of the ‘anti-coup’ movement … said they intended to salute ‘the soldiers who fought the October war — so our brave army regains its commitment to the true Egyptian military doctrine and knows the difference between the enemy and its people.’”
The fact that Egypt’ Islamists and military secularists can’t even join together in staging a remembrance event for the Arab-Israeli War is telling. For a century, anti-Zionism has been the only creed binding Arab nations together (especially in Lebanon, where Hezbollah’s radical agenda is otherwise completely antithetical to the conceit of a sovereign and united Lebanese state). It’s the creed that allowed Hamas and Fatah to co-exist under Yasser Arafat, and it once gave a measure of legitimacy to the Assad dynasty in Syria.
But now, Muslims in the region are turning inward. In the propaganda and political demands articulated by the Egyptian government and its Islamist critics, Israel barely registers anymore. The memory of the last major war in the Sinai, which took place before most Egyptians were born, now is just a contentious branding gimmick. The larger question of “What defines us — secularist nationalism, or an unquestioning obedience to the dogmas of Islam?” — is what most politically engaged Egyptians really care about. Analogous debates (often accompanied by hideous violence) are taking place in Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Kashmir, Afghanistan, the Muslim areas of the former USSR and, in an embryonic form, the nations of the Persian Gulf.
And then there’s Bangladesh, a country that gets scant attention in the Western media, but actually is home to more Muslims than any Arab country. Like Egyptians, Bangladeshis also are engaged in an existential, and occasionally violent, fight over the character of their nation. In 1971, what is now Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in a hideously bloody campaign that featured ethnic cleansing and genocide. The schism between Islamists and secularists became permanently embedded in the new country’s character during that conflict, because local Islamist leaders took sides with Pakistan.
Unlike the citizens of Egypt — where the legacy of the early 1970s has been a crutch to national unity — Bangladeshis remain embittered about events that took place four decades ago, especially since some of the anti-independence fighters who committed war crimes during that period later rose to become prominent Islamist political figures in Jamaat-e-Islami, an organization that now seeks the creation of a theocratic state governed under shariah, and which is roughly comparable to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Political developments in Bangladesh and Egypt are now very much running in parallel. In August, the Bangladeshi Supreme Court banned Jamaat-e-Islami from contesting elections, just as Egypt’s new leaders have similarly cracked down on the Brotherhood. And last month, the Court sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami lieutenant Abdul Quader Molla to death for the rape and murder of hundreds of Bengali civilians during the war. (Molla is now 65 years old. At the time of his crimes, he was a college student.)
In Egypt, the political struggle between Islamists and secularists has produced moral confusion in the West. Supporting the country’s current military-dominated government is problematic, since its leaders took power through a coup. But the theocratic tendencies of deposed president Mohamed Morsi also were troubling — even if the Muslim Brotherhood, unlike Jamaat-e-Islami, isn’t prominently infested with leaders who committed war crimes.
The moral stakes are more plain in Bangladesh than they are in Egypt. In 1971, Bangladeshis saw the face of militant Islam on their own blood-soaked streets for months on end. Moreover, Pakistan itself, the country from which Bangladesh broke free four decades ago, provides Bangladesh with a case study in the depths of dysfunction, repression and terrorism produced by Muslim theocratic movements.
Bangladesh is a country with many problems, as Western critics of the country’s garment industry will tell you. But its situation can only be made worse by Islamists bent on pushing it in the direction of Somalia, Sudan, Taliban-led Afghanistan, Gaza, Iran or Waziristan. Whether in the Middle East, or in South Asia, the world doesn’t need another theocracy.
INSPIRING HOPE AMONG MUSLIM WOMEN
New York Post, Oct. 16, 2013
The picture on the front page of Saturday’s New York Times was worth a thousand words. Young Pakistani girls, one of them clutching a notebook, were awaiting the news from Oslo. Their heroine, Malala Yousafzai, was in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize. They were to be disappointed. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was given the honor.
What girls in the Muslim world thought and hoped for was of no concern to the selection committee, which knew what it was doing. But let us — in the fashion of The Tablet magazine, which, unimpressed with the selection of Alice Munro for the Nobel in literature, “gave” the award instead to Philip Roth — announce that Malala won. The news release would have been stirring. It would have celebrated the recipient’s age — Malala is 16; the average age of the winners had been 62. It would have hailed the schoolgirl’s courage and resilience. It was only a year ago that a would-be assassin boarded Malala’s school bus in the Swat Valley in Pakistan and shot her point-blank in the head. The shooter had asked for her by name. She had given an amazing answer: “I am Malala.” (This would become the title of her memoir.)
Tranquil, wealthy Oslo would have done a world of good for modern Islam, because Malala had come to embody the cause of freedom for young Muslim girls. Upon reaching puberty, girls throughout the Muslim world enter into a kind of bondage. What freedom they knew is taken away. They become temptresses, the enforcers of misogyny maintain and social virtue demands their seclusion. The Taliban on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border are a breed apart in their fierce oppression of women. Their worldview, it seems, rests on keeping women separate and under lock and key.
As her biography has it, Malala, the daughter of an enlightened educator, ran afoul of the Taliban by speaking out in favor of the education of girls. At 11, she kept a diary for the BBC about her hopes and daily routine. She was articulate, and foreign reporters and dignitaries were drawn to her. The assailant who boarded her school bus had been dispatched to serve a warrant on the very idea of modernism. Malala would not be silenced. She was taken to a British military hospital in Birmingham, and she recovered. Last July she turned up at the United Nations, delivering a speech with startling composure. “So here I stand, one girl among many,” she said. By then, she knew she had become the standard-bearer in the fight against the afflictions that torment Islam. She didn’t want to be herded into an early marriage; she didn’t want to be silenced. She sought the company of books and the joys of learning.
There is something odd about the place of women in the Islamic world today. Things were a good deal better for them in the early and middle years of the last century. This repression, this phobia, has come with the rise to power of the Islamists — half-educated men who take the faith literally and employ the techniques of modernity in their war against it. The tale repeats from one Muslim country to the other: the journey toward modernity broken in the 1980s. Religious bigots rose, mainly in the crowded cities, newly urbanized men who weaponized the faith and bent it to their needs. Malala’s birthplace, Pakistan, was once freer than it is today. The first three decades of its national life (1947 to the late 1970s) were dominated by a secular culture. The nation’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had meant Pakistan to be a state for the Muslims but not an Islamic state — a crucial distinction. A stern soldier, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, seized power and imposed a stultifying mix of despotism and religious conformity.
Malala matters. Onto her, untold millions can project their hopes for a dignified life within the faith. If Islamic modernity is to have a chance, Malala should be embraced by Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia. In her modesty and dignity, she should be Islam’s beloved daughter, her journey a return to the early promise of Muslim modernism.
IRAQ TIPS TOWARD THE ABYSS
Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2013
Fifty-four Iraqis were killed and another 70 injured Sunday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a Baghdad cafe. But you probably didn't catch the news. The tree falls in the forest, the country collapses in the desert, and the question remains the same: Does either of them make a sound if nobody can be bothered to listen? Iraq, where 4,488 Americans recently and bravely gave their lives, and over which Washington obsessed for two decades, has effectively ceased to exist for the purposes of U.S. politics. The show has been canceled; there will be no reruns. Barack Obama's Iraq achievement is that you are now free to think of suicide bombings in Baghdad as you might a mud slide in Pakistan or a cholera outbreak in Haiti: As a bad, but remote, fact.
Except there have been a lot of suicide bombings lately in Iraq. Consider just the past two months: Aug. 22: Insurgent attacks, including a suicide bomber at a wedding, kill 24 people throughout the country. Aug. 23: A suicide bomber kills 36 people in a park in northern Baghdad. Sept. 21: Two suicide bombers kill 72 mourners at a Shiite funeral in Baghdad. Sept. 22: A suicide bomber kills 16 and wounds 35 at another Baghdad funeral. Sept. 23: At yet another funeral, two more suicide bombers murder at least 14. Oct. 5: A suicide bomber kills 66 Shiite pilgrims and injures 80 in Baghdad. Oct. 6: A wave of attacks kill at least 33 people throughout the country, including 12 children at an elementary school. Oct. 7: A wave of bombings hit multiple neighborhoods in Baghdad and kill at least 45. Oct. 17: Another 61 people die in nine car bomb explosions.
Altogether some 7,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far this year, approaching levels last seen in 2008. Most of the killing has been done by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a group that in 2009 had been so thoroughly beaten by the combination of the U.S. surge and the Sunni Awakening that it barely existed. Now it's back, killing more people than any other al Qaeda franchise, attempting to tip Iraq toward civil war and joining ranks with its jihadist allies in Syria. At what point does all this start to, you know, worry us? Maybe when they start killing Americans again. Until then, the reflex political reaction regarding the return of AQI is to insist that it is a local group with mostly local ambitions, and that it is largely a reaction to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's purportedly anti-Sunni policies. Nothing in life is harder to unseat than a settled and comfortable assumption.
Still, assumptions must inevitably run up against facts. No ostensibly "local" al Qaeda branch has ever remained local for long, a point brought home last month when Somalia's al-Shabaab went on an epic killing spree at Nairobi's Westgate Mall. By doing so little to stop the spiralling chaos in Iraq and Syria, the administration isn't keeping America out of harm's way. It is allowing the next generation of jihadists to incubate, hatch and grow, mostly undisturbed by us. For more on how that works out, think about U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, 1989-2001.
It's also a fact that, despite his reputation as an inveterate sectarian, Mr. Maliki still runs a more-or-less democratic state, an American achievement worth trying to preserve. He faces elections next year, does not have a united Shiite bloc and has been reaching out to Sunnis in order to find a political settlement. The effort includes allowing former Baathists to hold government offices and devolving power from the central government to the provinces. The problem in Iraq isn't that Mr. Maliki is too much of an autocrat. It's that America took itself almost entirely out of the picture.
The point doesn't square with the conventional wisdom that developed about Iraq midway through the last decade. Back then, the idea was that it was America's presence in the country that strengthened AQI, and that America's departure was therefore bound to weaken it. "Without that rallying cry [of opposing U.S. occupation], what would al Qaeda have left?" the Cato Institute's Christopher Preble and Justin Logan asked in late 2005. The answer, as this year's bloody mounting toll testifies, is plenty.
Let's make this simple: What al Qaeda wants is power. It believes it can achieve power through what one of its theoreticians once called "the management of savagery." The more chaotic the Middle East, the more hospitable it is to al Qaeda's goals. That is why Mr. Obama's retreat from Iraq and his refusal to intervene in Syria in the war's early days have been such a boon to al Qaeda. The longer this goes on, the stronger al Qaeda will get.
Mr. Maliki is scheduled to visit the White House next week. Iraq has been asking the U.S. for help with counterterrorism, including the use of U.S. drones to help secure its porous border with Syria. An administration more mindful of U.S. security interests than of its campaign slogans should help the Iraqis out. Americans may think they've changed the channel on Iraq, but the grisly show goes on. Pay attention before it gets worse.
It’s Time for the ‘Muslim 500’ to Make Their Voices Heard: Afsun Qureshi, National Post, Oct. 21, 2013—“Don’t you feel embarrassed, even frustrated about being a Muslim right about now?” I asked a family member who is a particularly devoted follower of Islam.
Islamists Target Islamists: Douglas Murray, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 21, 2013: — The thought that the lot of us — both Muslims and "Islamophobes" — are all finding our way onto the same death lists might suggest to some of the Islamists that the problem is not everybody else's, but their own.
Talk About Political Dysfunction: Jason Pack & Mohamed Eljarh, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2013 —On Oct. 5, American Special Forces captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, an operative of Al Qaeda living in Libya. Five days later, a group of Libyan militiamen kidnapped their own prime minister, Ali Zeidan.
New Islamist Approach to Turks in Germany: Veli Sirin, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 11, 2013 —The alignment of a German Islamist party with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP tends to demonstrate that an AKP campaign to penetrate and, ultimately, dominate German Turks has begun in earnest.
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