POLITICALLY INCORRECT SOLUTION FOR ALL ISLAM
Wary of Islam, China Tightens a Vise of Rules
By EDWARD WONG
New York Times
Published: October 18, 2008
KHOTAN, China — The grand mosque that draws thousands of Muslims each week in this oasis town has all the usual trappings of piety: dusty wool carpets on which to kneel in prayer, a row of turbans and skullcaps for men without headwear, a wall niche facing the holy city of Mecca in the Arabian desert.
Khotan’s mosque draws thousands of Muslims each week. In Kashgar, Uighurs prepared to break their daily fast during Ramadan last month.
But large signs posted by the front door list edicts that are more Communist Party decrees than Koranic doctrines.
The imam’s sermon at Friday Prayer must run no longer than a half-hour, the rules say. Prayer in public areas outside the mosque is forbidden. Residents of Khotan are not allowed to worship at mosques outside of town.
One rule on the wall says that government workers and nonreligious people may not be “forced” to attend services at the mosque — a generous wording of a law that prohibits government workers and Communist Party members from going at all.
“Of course this makes people angry,” said a teacher in the mosque courtyard, who would give only a partial name, Muhammad, for fear of government retribution. “Excitable people think the government is wrong in what it does. They say that government officials who are Muslims should also be allowed to pray.”
To be a practicing Muslim in the vast autonomous region of northwestern China called Xinjiang is to live under an intricate series of laws and regulations intended to control the spread and practice of Islam, the predominant religion among the Uighurs, a Turkic people uneasy with Chinese rule.
The edicts touch on every facet of a Muslim’s way of life. Official versions of the Koran are the only legal ones. Imams may not teach the Koran in private, and studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools.
Two of Islam’s five pillars — the sacred fasting month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj — are also carefully controlled. Students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, and the passports of Uighurs have been confiscated across Xinjiang to force them to join government-run hajj tours rather than travel illegally to Mecca on their own.
Government workers are not permitted to practice Islam, which means the slightest sign of devotion, a head scarf on a woman, for example, could lead to a firing.
The Chinese government, which is officially atheist, recognizes five religions — Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism and Buddhism — and tightly regulates their administration and practice. Its oversight in Xinjiang, though, is especially vigilant because it worries about separatist activity in the region.
Some officials contend that insurgent groups in Xinjiang pose one of the biggest security threats to China, and the government says the “three forces” of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism threaten to destabilize the region. But outside scholars of Xinjiang and terrorism experts argue that heavy-handed tactics like the restrictions on Islam will only radicalize more Uighurs.
Many of the rules have been on the books for years, but some local governments in Xinjiang have publicly highlighted them in the past seven weeks by posting the laws on Web sites or hanging banners in towns.
Those moves coincided with Ramadan, which ran from September to early October, and came on the heels of a series of attacks in August that left at least 22 security officers and one civilian dead, according to official reports. The deadliest attack was a murky ambush in Kashgar that witnesses said involved men in police uniforms fighting each other.
The attacks were the biggest wave of violence in Xinjiang since the 1990s. In recent months, Wang Lequan, the long-serving party secretary of Xinjiang, and Nuer Baikeli, the chairman of the region, have given hard-line speeches indicating that a crackdown will soon begin.
Mr. Wang said the government was engaged in a “life or death” struggle in Xinjiang. Mr. Baikeli signaled that government control of religious activities would tighten, asserting that “the religious issue has been the barometer of stability in Xinjiang.”
Anti-China forces in the West and separatist forces are trying to carry out “illegal religious activities and agitate religious fever,” he said, and “the field of religion has become an increasingly important battlefield against enemies.”
Uighurs are the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, accounting for 46 percent of the population of 19 million. Many say Han Chinese, the country’s dominant ethnic group, discriminate against them based on the most obvious differences between the groups: language and religion.
The Uighurs began adopting Sunni Islam in the 10th century, although patterns of belief vary widely, and the religion has enjoyed a surge of popularity after the harshest decades of Communist rule. According to government statistics, there are 24,000 mosques and 29,000 religious leaders in Xinjiang. Muslim piety is especially strong in old Silk Road towns in the south like Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan.
Many Han Chinese see Islam as the root of social problems in Xinjiang.
“The Uighurs are lazy,” said a man who runs a construction business in Kashgar and would give only his last name, Zhao, because of the political delicacy of the topic.
“It’s because of their religion,” he said. “They spend so much time praying. What are they praying for?”
The government restrictions are posted inside mosques and elsewhere across Xinjiang. In particular, officials take great pains to publicize the law prohibiting Muslims from arranging their own trips for the hajj. Signs painted on mud-brick walls in the winding alleyways of old Kashgar warn against making illegal pilgrimages. A red banner hanging on a large mosque in the Uighur area of Urumqi, the regional capital, says, “Implement the policy of organized and planned pilgrimage; individual pilgrimage is forbidden.”
As dozens of worshipers streamed into the mosque for prayer on a recent evening, one Uighur man pointed to the sign and shook his head. “We didn’t write that,” he said in broken Chinese. “They wrote that.”
He turned his finger to a white neon sign above the building that simply said “mosque” in Arabic script. “We wrote that,” he said.
Like other Uighurs interviewed for this article, he agreed to speak on the condition that his name not be used for fear of retribution by the authorities.
The government gives various reasons for controlling the hajj. Officials say that the Saudi Arabian government is concerned about crowded conditions in Mecca that have led to fatal tramplings, and that Muslims who leave China on their own sometimes spend too much money on the pilgrimage.
Critics say the government is trying to restrict the movements of Uighurs and prevent them from coming into contact with other Muslims, fearing that such exchanges could build a pan-Islamic identity in Xinjiang.
About two years ago, the government began confiscating the passports of Uighurs across the region, angering many people here. Now virtually no Uighurs have passports, though they can apply for them for short trips. The new restriction has made life especially difficult for businessmen who travel to neighboring countries.
To get a passport to go on an official hajj tour or a business trip, applicants must leave a deposit of nearly $6,000.
One man in Kashgar said the imam at his mosque, who like all official imams is paid by the government, had recently been urging congregants to go to Mecca only with legal tours.
That is not easy for many Uighurs. The cost of an official trip is the equivalent of $3,700, and hefty bribes usually raise the price. Once a person files an application, the authorities do a background check into the family. If the applicant has children, the children must be old enough to be financially self-sufficient, and the applicant is required to show that he or she has substantial savings in the bank. Officials say these conditions ensure that a hajj trip will not leave the family impoverished.
Rules posted last year on the Xinjiang government’s Web site say the applicant must be 50 to 70 years old, “love the country and obey the law.”
The number of applicants far outnumbers the slots available each year, and the wait is at least a year. But the government has been raising the cap. Xinhua, the state news agency, reported that from 2006 to 2007, more than 3,100 Muslims from Xinjiang went on the official hajj, up from 2,000 the previous year.
One young Uighur man in Kashgar said his parents were pushing their children to get married soon so they could prove the children were financially independent, thus allowing them to qualify to go on the hajj. “Their greatest wish is to go to Mecca once,” the man, who wished to be identified only as Abdullah, said over dinner.
But the family has to weigh another factor: the father, now retired, was once a government employee and a Communist Party member, so he might very well lose his pension if he went on the hajj, Abdullah said.
The rules on fasting during Ramadan are just as strict. Several local governments began posting the regulations on their Web sites last month. They vary by town and county but include requiring restaurants to stay open during daylight hours and mandating that women not wear veils and men shave their beards.
Enforcement can be haphazard. In Kashgar, many Uighur restaurants remained closed during the fasting hours. “The religion is too strong in Kashgar,” said one man. “There are rules, but people don’t follow them.”
One rule that officials in some towns seem especially intent on enforcing is the ban on students’ fasting. Supporters of this policy say students need to eat to study properly.
The local university in Kashgar adheres to the policy. Starting last year, it tried to force students to eat during the day by prohibiting them from leaving campus in the evening to join their families in breaking the daily fast. Residents of Kashgar say the university locked the gates and put glass shards along the top of a campus wall.
After a few weeks, the school built a higher wall.
The Case for Nuking Mecca
In this post I make the case that nuking Mecca would be a rational deterrent to radical Islamists bent on using WMD against American civilians. However, even if there is no deterrent effect, attacking Mecca and wiping out the central locus of Islamic ritual worship may be in the long-term interests of the US and Occidental world.
Ace: What would we do if we get nuked? Continue to "hunt down the terrorists" who nuked us? At what point does the desire to survive outweigh the desire to be merciful and sparing in the use of force?
Bill Whittle: If a suitcase nuke detonates in Times Square, or Long Beach harbor, or outside the Capitol building, what do we do? Nuke Mecca? Incinerate Damascus? Because – so help me God, I tremble to say it – that is exactly the response our enemies would hope for. They care not a whit about their own people because they have no allegiance to anyone but themselves and their vision of a vengeful and bloodthirsty Allah.
In response to Bill Whittle's and Ace's considerable thought on how you deter terrorists, I thought I'd add a couple of thoughts that have been ruminating between my ears for awhile now.
Let me make a couple of points first. One: I do not advocate using nuclear weapons. Two: I do not advocate killing Muslims or any other follower of any religion. Three: I do not imagine in any way possible the US government actually doing this--or even thinking it. Four: These are rudimentary thoughts. This post is used as a sounding board only. Much of what I say may be wrong and all is subject to revision. The purpose of this post is to start a conversation.
First point: Bill's major argument about deterring terrorists is well taken and mostly on the money. I think he's right, for the most part: you cannot deter these guys, only defeat them. And if incinerating Damascus were the only threat we could use to deter terrorists then certainly a MAD scheme would not work in this new Cold War we find ourselves in.
However, Mecca is not Damascus. It plays a central role in Muslim worship. Five times a day Muslims pray toward it. All Muslims who have the means are expected to make the Hajj--a pilgrimage to Mecca which revolves around the Kaaba stone. The Kaaba stone is really the reason Mecca is considered holy. Muslims believe the site was used for worship as far back as Adam and that the shrine around the stone was first placed there by Abraham (Ibrahim). There is a 12 mile zone around the stone that infidels are restricted from entering. It's that holy. No non-Muslims near it. In fact, without Mecca and the Kaaba stone, Islam would be very different.
Mecca, then, is quite unlike any other place in the world for Muslims. It is an entire city dedicated to Muslim worship. A place set apart. A holy place. It is an entire city that is thought to be the Temple of God.
Islamist terrorists also consider Mecca the holiest place in the world. It is central to their mode of worship. They face it when they pray. They too believe they must make the hajj. If we take them at their word, then the reason they commit terrorist acts is because they take their religious convictions so seriously. When they kill us, it is because they believe that this is what their God wants them to do.
So, ask yourself the question again: Can terrorists be deterred from using WMD against American targets?
Maybe they can. If Islamic extremists really love their religious institutions in the way that they claim they do, then pointing an ICBM at Mecca may not be the most irrational thing to do. They may not care if the rest of the world goes up in a nuclear mushroom cloud, as Bill points out, but Mecca is not the rest of the world. Would they really risk blowing up New York City if they believed the consequences of such an action would be a 30 kiloton nuclear explosion over the Kaaba stone? After all, the nuclear destruction of Mecca would end Islamic forms of worship as they presently exist.
If I might misquote Sting for a moment, "Is it such a crazy thing to do, if the Terrorists love their Mecca too?"
Second point: Why would destroying Mecca have potentially beneficial long-term affects to US and Occidental interests?
I have already made the case that Mecca is central to Islamic forms of worship. Mecca, I have argued, is a Temple City. Although many Muslim theologians will deny that any place is holy in Islam, there is at least a de facto holiness ascribed to the area surrounding the Kaaba stone. In many ways the city of Mecca is central to Islam in just the same way that the Temple of Solomon was central to ancient Judaism. It is this similarity which is so striking, and why the destruction of Mecca might do to Islam what the final destruction of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem did to Judaism. While the bloody events surrounding Rome's sacking of Jerusalem are indeed disgusting and tragic, that event forced Jews to rethink their relationship with God. More importantly, that event forced Jews to rethink their relationship with their fellowman.
Without wishing to reduce all of Jewish history or life to one paragraph, and thus leaving out the many facets of ancient Hebrew worship, let me go ahead an do that anyway (with many apologies up front--and welcoming any corrections or differing opinions). Ancient Judaism had a legal structure which was similar to Islamic sharia in that they both unify the religious codes thought to be handed down by God with secular authority. In fact, the Old Testament laws seem just as draconian as any I would find in sharia. There is just something about stoning adulteresses that I kind find of harsh, that's all. I know such applications of Mosaic law were probably rare, but Muslims would argue the same thing about the strict application of sharia law in the ideal Islamic state.
Ancient Judaism also had another commonality with Islam: worship was centered on a holy place of ritualistic practice. After the destruction of the Temple, though, Jews had to ask new questions about the meaning of being holy. Stateless, they found that strict religious codes of conduct could not be enforced in the same way as before. While the Jewish Diaspora had already begun the process of transforming Judaism, the final destruction of Temple centered worship forced this transformation on a broader scale.
Jews found that God no longer had a place to reside in. Jews found that they could no longer perform the rituals required by God to be purified. Jews found that they could no longer enforce God's law. Jews found that their specialness was different than they had previously supposed. Worship changed. Everything changed.
What I propose is simply this. Would destroying Mecca begin a similar process for Muslims? Perhaps only the threat of destroying Mecca would be enough.
Radical Muslims believe they are in a race to bring about the world wide Caliphate. They believe that Muslims are destined to rule the world. What I propose is simple: show them that they cannot rule the world. Show them that Allah is not on their side--at least, not in the way that they believe.
Osama bin Laden once famously said that people will choose the strong horse over the weak horse. What if Islam is shown to be the weak horse? What if one of the central tenants of Muslim worship, the hajj, was gone? Would this not force some serious rethinking in the Islamic world?
Today we are told by Muslims that the true meaning of jihad is internal struggle. Unfortunately, the actions of too many Muslims shows that they believe jihad means armed struggle against the infidels. Destroying Mecca may have the long-term affect of convincing radical Muslims that Allah really doesn't want sharia law around the world. That all that stuff about killing the infidels in the Quran--that's all metaphor.
After all, if Muslims can be convinced that the whole hajj thing is just metaphor, then what else might they consider as metaphorical? Perhaps jihad. Perhaps sharia. Perhaps the global Caliphate.
These are just some thoughts. No one should take them too seriously.
Posted by Dr. Rusty Shackleford
Iran's Final Solution Plan
by Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
November 1, 2005
"Iran's stance has always been clear on this ugly phenomenon [i.e., Israel]. We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region."
No, those are not the words of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking last week. Rather, that was Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Republic of Iran's supreme leader, in December 2000.
In other words, Ahmadinejad's call for the destruction of Israel was nothing new but conforms to a well-established pattern of regime rhetoric and ambition. "Death to Israel!" has been a rallying cry for the past quarter-century. Mr. Ahmadinejad quoted Ayatollah Khomeini, its founder, in his call on October 26 for genocidal war against Jews: "The regime occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history," Khomeini said decades ago. Mr. Ahmadinejad lauded this hideous goal as "very wise."
In December 2001, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president and still powerful political figure, laid the groundwork for an exchange of nuclear weapons with Israel: "If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce minor damages in the Muslim world."
In like spirit, a Shahab-3 ballistic missile (capable of reaching Israel) paraded in Tehran last month bore the slogan "Israel Should Be Wiped Off the Map."
The threats by Messrs. Khamenei and Rafsanjani prompted yawns but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement roused an uproar.
The U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, expressed "dismay," the U.N. Security Council unanimously condemned it, and the European Union Martin of Canada deemed it "beyond the pale," Prime Minister Blair of Britain expressed "revulsion," and the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, announced that "for France, the right for Israel to exist should not be contested." Le Monde called the speech a "cause for serious alarm," Die Welt dubbed it "verbal terrorism," and a London Sun headline proclaimed Ahmadinejad the "most evil man in the world." condemned it "in the strongest terms." Prime Minister
The governments of Turkey, Russia, and China, among others, expressly condemned the statement. Maryam Rajavi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a leading opposition group, demanded that the European Union rid the region of the "hydra of terrorism and fundamentalism" in Tehran. Even the Palestinian Authority's Saeb Erekat spoke against Mr. Ahmadinejad: "Palestinians recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist, and I reject his comments." The Cairene daily Al-Ahram dismissed his statement as "fanatical" and spelling disaster for Arabs.
Iranians were surprised and suspicious. Why, some asked, did the mere reiteration of long-standing policy prompt an avalanche of outraged foreign reactions?
In a constructive spirit, I offer them four reasons. First, Mr. Ahmadinejad's virulent character gives the threats against Israel added credibility. Second, he in subsequent days defiantly repeated and elaborated on his threats. Third, he added an aggressive coda to the usual formulation, warning Muslims who recognize Israel that they "will burn in the fire of the Islamic umma [nation]."
This directly targets the Palestinians and several Arab states, but especially neighboring Pakistan. Just a month before Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke, the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, stated that "Israel rightly desires security." He envisioned the opening of embassies in Israel by Muslim countries like Pakistan as a "signal for peace." Mr. Ahmadinejad perhaps indicated an intent to confront Pakistan over relations with Israel.
Finally, Israelis estimate that the Iranians could, within six months, have the means to build an atomic bomb. Mr. Ahmadinejad implicitly confirmed this rapid timetable when he warned that after just "a short period … the process of the elimination of the Zionist regime will be smooth and simple." The imminence of a nuclear-armed Iran transforms "Death to Israel" from an empty slogan into the potential premise for a nuclear assault on the Jewish state, perhaps relying on Mr. Rafsanjani's genocidal thinking.
Ironically, Mr. Ahmadinejad's candor has had positive effects, reminding the world of his regime's unremitting bellicosity, its rank anti-Semitism, and its dangerous arsenal. As Tony Blair noted, Mr. Ahmadinejad's threats raise the question, "When are you going to do something about this?" And Mr. Blair later warned Tehran with some menace against its becoming a "threat to our world security." His alarm needs to translate into action, and urgently so.
We are on notice. Will we act in time?
by Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
December 5, 2006
An effective counterterrorism strategy must focus on the fact that terrorism by Muslims in the name of Islam presents the strategic threat today to civilized peoples, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.
On the low end, this threat involves lone individuals seized by the Sudden Jihad Syndrome who unpredictably set off on a murder spree. At the high end, it involves an outlaw organization like Hamas running the quasi-governmental Palestinian Authority, or even Al-Qaeda's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In all, were terrorism by Muslims halted, this would be a major advance toward winning what some call World War IV.
Can this be achieved?
Yes, and partially via effective conventional counterterrorism. Individuals must be hunted down, organizations closed, networks smashed, borders monitored, money denied, WMD restricted. These steps, however, address only the symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself. "The problem itself" consists of the motivating forces that lie behind the surge of violence by Muslims in the name of Islam. Only by isolating why terrorism has emerged as so prominent a feature of Muslim life can the violence be countered.
This aggression results not from some perverse impulse to inflict damage for its own sake; nor does it flow from the religion of Islam, which just a generation ago did not inspire such murderousness. Rather, it results from political ideas.
Ideas have no role in common criminality, which has purely selfish ends. But ideas, usually ones about radically changing the world, are central to terrorism. and especially to its suicidal variety. Unlike the rest of us, who generally accept life as it is, utopians insist on building a new and better order. To achieve this, they demand all powers for themselves, display a chilling contempt for human life, and harbor ambitions to spread their vision globally. Several utopian schemas exist, with fascism and communism historically the most consequential and each of them claiming tens of millions of casualties.
By 1945 and 1991, respectively, these two totalitarianisms had been vanquished through defeat in war, one violently (in World War II), the other subtly (in the cold war). Their near demise emboldened some optimists to imagine that the era of utopianism and totalitarianism had come to end and that a liberal order had permanently replaced them.
Alas, this view ignored a third totalitarianism, growing since the 1920s, that of Islamism, most briefly defined as the belief that whatever the question, from child-rearing to war-making, " Islam is the solution." As the result of several factors – an historic rivalry with Jews and Christians, a boisterous birth rate, the capture of the Iranian state in 1979, support from oil-rich states – Islamists have come to dominate the ideological discourse of Muslims interested in their Islamic identity or faith.
Islamic law, in retreat over the previous two centuries, came roaring back, and with it jihad, or sacred war. The caliphate, defunct in real terms for over a millennium, became a vibrant dream. Ideas proffered by such thinkers and organizers as Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Shah Waliullah, Sayyid Abu'l-A'la al-Mawdudi, Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Rouhollah Khomeini aggressed successfully against traditional, modernist, and centrist approaches to Islam. To advance the poisoned vision of these utopians, their followers adopted violent means, including terrorism.
The most effective form of counterterrorism fights not the terrorists but the ideas that motivate them. This strategy involves two main steps. First, defeat the Islamist movement just as the fascist and communist movements were defeated – on every level and in every way, making use of every institution, public and private. This task falls mainly on non-Muslims, Muslim communities being generally incapable or unwilling to purge their own.
In contrast, only Muslims can undertake the second step, the formulation and spread of an Islam that is modern, moderate, democratic, liberal, good-neighborly, humane, and respectful of women. Here, non-Muslims can help by distancing themselves from Islamists and supporting moderate Muslims.
Although theoretically possible, the weakness of its advocates at present makes moderate Islam appear impossibly remote. But however dim its current prospects, the success of moderate Islam ultimately represents the only effective form of counterterrorism. Terrorism, begun by bad ideas, can only be ended by good ones.
Threats on Islam sites could deter terrorists
By The Denver Post
U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., speaks with supporters during a campaign stop at Silver Eagle Harley-Davidson/Buell motorcycle dealership in Waterloo, Iowa, Saturday, May 12, 2007. Tancredo participated in a local annual motorcycle ride of ABATE of Iowa, a statewide motorcycle safety and awareness group. (AP | Scott Mussell, The Waterloo Courier)
Washington - Republican presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo says the best way he can think of to deter a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S. is to threaten to retaliate by bombing Islamic holy sites.
The Colorado congressman on Tuesday told about 30 people at a town-hall meeting in Osceola, Iowa, that he believes such a terrorist attack could be imminent and that the U.S. needs to hurry up and think of a way to stop it.
"If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina," Tancredo said at the Family Table restaurant. "Because that's the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they otherwise might do."
Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia, are Islam's holiest cities.
A Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group responded Thursday, calling Tancredo's statement "unworthy of anyone seeking public office in the United States."
"Perhaps it's evidence of a long-shot candidate grasping at straws and trying to create some kind of a controversy that might appeal to a niche audience of anti-Muslim bigots," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
This isn't the first time Tancredo has suggested such action.
In 2005, he drew international criticism after he told a radio talk-show host that "you could take out" Islamic holy sites if terrorists ever launched a nuclear attack against the United States.
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