Thursday, July 28, 2005

On defining terrorism

Isn’t it ironic that "terrorism", a word in everyone’s mouth now, and arguably the most debated issue over the last five years, has yet to be explicitly defined? Neither the United Nations, nor less prestigious institutions, - let alone individual nations- have ever dared to propose a concise definition of the word “terrorism”.

Owing to the recrudescence of terrorism in the recent weeks, Kofi Annan looks more eager to convince all the protagonists on a single and clear definition. According to this article, he seems to have convinced Amr Moussa the head of Arab League for accepting this definition: Terrorism is "any intentional maiming or killing of civilians as terrorism, regardless of cause". Amr Moussa’s reaction "This is a definition we can agree on", certainly under the pressure of the last bombings in London and Charm Sheikh, is not in line with that of the Arab states, who are not reluctant for condemning terrorism per se but do not want this definition to be applied to Palestinian suicide bombings, because, they say, this should be seen as a "right of national liberation movements to fight foreign occupation".

In my view, this attitude, in addition of being morally unacceptable, is defensive and counterproductive. If anything, it is only fueling the misunderstanding between Muslim and Western civilizations. What are Arab States expecting when they show reluctance to back such a clear statement as "intentional maiming or killing of civilians is terrorism, regardless of cause", other than a further alienation of Muslims and Arabs from the rest of the world? My guess is that Arab leaders fear the anger of the Arab “Street” that a condoning of Annan’s proposal might entail. They will be seen, they think, as “selling the Palestinian cause” and acting as a proxy of Western imperialism. This is nonsense and the kind of things, which are preventing us from moving ahead.

Instead of adopting a hardly defendable stance, Arab states should be much more offensive. They should condemn any Palestinian suicide bombings targeting civilians. They just can’t hide behind the eternal excuse of resistance. After all, Bin Laden and company, use this very argument to justify terrorism, which, they claim, is a response to injustices done to Palestine, Iraq and other Muslim lands. By offensive, I mean they should not only accept without questioning Annan’s proposal, but go beyond. They should say, that yes, Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians is terrorism. They should insist, moreover, that the definition of terrorism stated above should be as protective of civilians as possible. By this, I mean that any excuse by somebody (or some entity) killing civilians that he (it) intended to kill some “enemy” that happened to be close to them is unacceptable. In this case, any bombing of an enemy is some urban street or place should be considered as terrorism. Accordingly, Sheikh Yassine and Rantissi assassinations should be declared as terrorism because along with them many civilians were assassinated. Otherwise, the definition of terrorism above will be useless. Any suicide bomber might also claim that killing those civilians in Israel was intended to kill the military personnel that happened to be 30 meters away… The moral of the story is that, to effectively fight terrorism, we shouldn’t play games with coherence. Either we decide once for all to be coherent either we must admit that we are fooling ourselves and are acting irresponsibly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Tharwa project

Diversity is a notion that is not sufficiently appreciated in the muslim world these days. Today, I want to share with you a website that is dedicated to increasing the muslim people's awareness of the rights of minorities within their societies and of the benefits of cultural and ethnic diversity. The website bears the name of "Tharwa", or wealth. Its motto says it all: "Difference is Wealth" (The arabic version of the website says: "الإختلا ف ثروة") This is a international initiative, with financial support provided by several NGOs from across Europe, and with a diverse advisory committee, with such serious academics and journalists as Saad Eddine Ibrahim, Gilles Kepel, or Brian Whitaker. The mission statement of the Tharwa project states that it is " an independent initiative that seeks to provide a free platform for the discussion and dissemination of ideas that can contribute to raising the standards of civic awareness in the Broader Middle East and North Africa Region".

The goals of the project include:

• Facilitating the occurrence of a constructive dialogue between the various communities inhabiting the Broader Middle East and North Africa Region.

• Supporting ongoing processes of democratization in the Region, especially local independent initiatives.

• Supporting ongoing peace-building initiatives in the Region.

• Providing a more objective and balanced coverage of developments in the Region, specifically those with potential implications for inter-community and gender relations as well as youth issues.

• Creating a network of organizations and individuals interested in raising the standards of civic awareness and involvement in the Region.

• Engaging in activities and programs meant to help empower the Region’s youth movements.

• Helping in bringing greater understanding to gender-related issues in the Region.

• Assisting in monitoring and assessing developments with potential impact on the Region’s physical environment.

• Remaining committed to and helping promote the basic principles of human rights and dignity outlined in such charters as the International Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, among others.

I invite you to have a look at the Tharwa website [english, arabic], it's worth the detour. Happy reading!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Best and worst articles on London attacks: Jallal's selection

Well, here is my own list of the top ten articles (in decreasing order) regarding the terrorist attacks in London. This post will be edited in order to add new entries and update the ranking according to the quality of the articles. I might also add a list of worst articles.

Top Ten Articles

1. Khaled al-Harrub, Palestinian writer and London resident, in al-Hayat.

2. The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means, by Robin Cook.

3. The reaction of Tariq Ramadan, in English et en Français.

4. Ken Livingstone's statement

5. So who was it? First impressions, by Jason Burke

6. Al-Qaida: Wrong answers to real problems, by Soumayya Ghannoushi

7. We rock the boat, by Dilpazier Aslam

8. Challenge to civic society, by Leader (The Guardian). This is a highly respectable reaction to the shocking announcement that the suicide bombers are likely to be four British-born youngsters.

9. The Sun and the terrorists: an unholy alliance, by Oscar Reyes.

10. The label of Catholic terror was never used about the IRA, by Karen Armstrong

Worst Articles

1. Nothing surprising, Why here and why now? by Anthony France (The Sun).

2. Sans surprise, Pascal Bruckner : «Gare à la rhétorique de l'«apaisement !»

3. Du sang et des larmes, par Alain Hertoghe

4. Needless to even mention the likes of Ann Coulter, D. Pipes, Scarborough, Savage, O’Reilly, Bill Maher and many others. I stopped watching/reading them a long time ago.

Top ten opinion articles on London attacks: Karim's picks

Here is a short list of the most interesting articles I have read so far on the London attacks (I will update the list in the next few days as I read more articles). After I am done with the list, I will try to comment on each article and why I included it in my list (at Jallal's suggestion, I might also do a "worst article" list):

1. Khaled al-Harrub, Palestinian writer and London resident, in al-Hayat, on how the muslim community in England should respond to the London attacks.

2. Op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman in the NY Times: If it's a muslim problem, it needs a muslim solution. [For an arabic version of this article, click here.]

3. The Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria, in Khaleej Times International: Prevailing over terror

4. Abdurrahmane Arrashid, in Asharq al-Awsat: قلنا لكم امنعوهم.. واليوم نقول اطردوهم

5. Ghassan Charbal, Editor in chief of al-Hayat: في سياق الحرب العالمية

6. Carlos Fuentes, in the spanish newspaper El Pais: London, the terror

7. Tareq al-Hamid, in Asharq al-Awsat: ارفع القبعة احتراما

8. Jamal Khashqaji, in al-Ittihad: من بين ركام تفجيرات لندن: لماذا يتطرف مسلم ويعتدل آخر؟

9. Olivier Roy, entretien accorde au quotidien francais Le Monde du 09 Juillet 2005.

10. Jihad al-Khazen, in al-Hayat: (الارهاربيون لا يستحقون الحياة)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

On today's terrorist attacks in London

As I arrived to work this morning, and went online for my usual tour of newspapers and media outlets, I discovered, to my horror, that the London subway has been the target of terrorist attacks. In the words of Ken Livingstone, mayor of London: "This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners," he told reporters. "Black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindus and Jews, young and old," he said. It was an "indiscriminate attempt to slaughter irrespective of any considerations for age, class, religion -- whatever."

In these sad moments, my thoughts and prayers go to the victims and their families.

Today's cowardly attacks show one more time the ugly face of ignorance combined with religious fanaticism. Let's face it: muslims today are in a state of deep moral crisis, and the large majority of them do not even know it. The day the muslim ummah will realize how much the religious discourse of certain currents within it has deviated from Islam's ideals of humanity and justice, we will have gone a long way toward eradicating this evil among us.