United States Action
Islamism, and the United Nations
February 1, 2008
Jihad, Islamism, and the United Nations
By Jeffrey Imm
In the ongoing battle against Jihad, the most important advances are not tactical, but rather those advances that allow us to define, address, and counter the ideology behind Jihadist actions. As the 9/11 Commission report states, "Islamist terrorism is an immediate derivative of Islamism." (Notes, Part 12, Note 3, page 562) Recently, a little-noticed advance in countering Islamist ideology was achieved in the one of the least likely places of all: the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The UNHRC has a reputation of being used by its Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) nation members for an endless litany of condemnations exclusively on Israel; it has condemned Israel 15 times in less than 2 years. The UNHRC is also notorious for its refusal to condemn Hamas or any other Islamist organizations. Furthermore, the UNHRC's commissioner Louise Arbour recently welcomed the ratification of the Arab Charter on Human Rights which equates Zionism with racism; her office issued a separate statement noting the charter was "not in conformity with General Assembly Resolution 46/86, which rejects that Zionism is a form of racism."
But in a December resolution
on protection of religions, the majority of the UNHRC
broke ranks from the OIC's Islamist vision for a moment, offering
instead a resolution that could be used to challenge both Islamism and
Sharia. While it is not likely that UNHRC will use the "remedial
measures" in this resolution to
challenge Islamism, it provides a basis for such measures and for
related debate that should be leveraged by those fighting Jihad and by
those who seek to determine the role of political Islamism in Islamist
terrorism. At a minimum, the UNHRC should be held accountable as to why
it does not seek "remedial measures" regarding Islamist injustices, in
accordance with its own resolution protecting religions. Most
importantly, this provides another forum to draw the distinctions
between Islam and political Islamism in the effort to address and
confront the roots of Islamist terrorism, as part of a larger effort
than merely addressing tactical operations of Jihadists.
A. Tool to Challenge Anti-Democratic Islamism
On December 14, 2007, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed resolution A/HRC/6/L.15/Rev.1 "Elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief", which was widely and inaccurately reported to only address discrimination against Islam. In fact, this UNHRC resolution condemns "Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia" (paragraph 2), urges states to allow "the right to practice freely one's religion, including the right to change one's religion or belief" (paragraph 9.a), and urges states to make it illegal for "advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to... violence" (paragraph 9.d).
In seeking to protect the religious rights of the individual (rather than the protection of religious rights based on organizations), as demonstrated by resolution A/HRC/6/L.15/Rev.1's defense of the right to "change one's religion", this resolution provides a clear distinction from the goals of political Islamist organizations and Sharia law. Under Sharia law, the changing of religion (from Islam to another religion) is illegal, and a number of Islamist states have apostasy laws forbidding such an individual choice of religious freedom.
Notably, 15 Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) nations in the UNHRC abstained from voting on this resolution, as they felt this resolution conflicted with the OIC's support for Sharia, which is fundamental to their Islamist view of "human rights", as described in the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. Pakistan (representing the OIC) urged for an Amendment to this resolution via A/HRC/6/L.49 to eliminate verbiage about the right to change one's religion. Saudi Arabia felt that the resolution "went against Sharia law", and Egypt felt that resolution needed to be applied "within the context of the tenets of Islam."
This A/HRC/6/L.15/Rev.1 resolution also stated "that no religion should be equated with terrorism" (paragraph 13) and this demonstrates the crux of the challenge with the political ideology of Islamism. Almost none of the OIC states could support this resolution, because their commitment is not the promotion of Islam as a religion, respecting diversity among Islamic practitioners (including allowing its members to change religions), but the promotion of the political ideology of Islamism, using a legal tool of Sharia to enforce one view of Islam as an anti-democratic political ideology. The efforts by pro-Islamists to obtain dual status of Islamism as both a political ideology and a religion failed in this UNHRC resolution. In effect, while Islam should not be equated with terrorism per this resolution, the political ideology of Islamism remains a target for criticism because of the inherent anti-democratic, anti-religious freedom nature of political Islamism itself.
The ongoing fight against the ideology behind Jihad should leverage the UNHRC resolution's calls to "recommend remedial measures" to address questions that the U.N. and the UNHRC have failed to address in the past. Per the 9/11 Commission Report, "Islamist terrorism" finds its ideological basis in Islamism, and such an anti-democratic ideology should be challenged in the actions of states and organizations that have accountability to the United Nations.
Some of the areas where such U.N. "remedial measures" regarding
actions, and threats to human rights should be sought could include the
following objectives. While it is unlikely that the UNHRC would ever
take "remedial measures" on such manners, world opinion should continue
to press the UNHRC and the United Nations to get answers as to why it
won't take such action:
1. "Remedial Measures" against Islamist Organizations with a basis
in religious hatred.
Moreover, the Hamas religious intolerance is not only to Jews, but also extends to other Muslims, as shown in documented efforts by Hamas to control prayer of other Muslims. The only comments by the UNHRC about Hamas after the passing of this resolution have been to criticize Israel for not continuing to supply Hamas-led Gaza with utilities to build bombs to attack Israel. It is past time for the UNHRC to act in accordance with its own resolution on A/HRC/6/L.15/Rev.1 on the Hamas organization.
The UNHRC should take against Islamist apostate laws in every Islamist nation, including the actions in Afghanistan, where the "democratically" elected Afghanistan parliament sought the death penalty for an "apostate" in 2006. This anti-democratic apostasy law is used by Islamists to threaten death towards any who disagree with their views. The term "apostate" is used by Islamists like Abu Bakar Bashir to intimidate those who support anti-terrorist measures. The U.N. should take "remedial measures" against nations of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, and Mauritania where such apostasy laws have a death penalty.
3. "Remedial Measures" against Islamist Blasphemy Laws.
On January 23, in "democratic" Afghanistan, an Afghan journalist Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh was sentenced to death for distributing an article about the number of wives that someone could have, which was written by his brother. An Afghanistan court viewed this as "insulting Islam", and the journalist was sentenced to death. On January 30, the Afghanistan senate, called the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), endorsed the actions of the Afghan court in this death sentence for "blasphemy". As one Afghan member of parliament states, Islamist law is being used in Afghanistan today to repress its population. In a massive understatement, a U.N. organization is investigating the case for "possible misuse of the judicial process".
In November 2007 in "democratic" Indonesia, members of Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah Islamic sect were arrested throughout the country, simply because other Muslims in Indonesia did not share their religious beliefs.
Wherever Islamist law allows such charges, "blasphemy" charges will continue to be used to abuse individual rights and rather than "protect" any religion, ensure that those with unpopular religious views are oppressed, tortured, and killed. It is past time for U.N. "remedial measures" on such Islamist laws.
As an example, one of the Pakistani Islamist organization leaders that the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan met with to promote "democracy" in Pakistan is the pro-Taliban Pakistan JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman. At the beginning of January, Maulana Fazlur Rehman reiterated his goals to enforce a "true Islamic system" throughout Pakistan via implementation of Sharia law. The implementation and enforcement of Sharia law throughout Pakistan is also the stated goal of the Taliban, frequently repeated by the Taliban. In Pakistan, this problem continues to grow, where the Pakistan North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has gone from considering Taliban rule of some territories in November to drafting regulations for the establishment of Sharia-based courts in Swat, Dir and Chitral districts.
In Afghanistan, the United Nations has encouraged negotiations between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban in an attempt to "mainstream" the Taliban into a political party. Tom Koenigs, the U.N. Secretary General's Special Envoy in Kabul, may view the Taliban as "multi-faceted", but the fact remains that the Taliban's Islamist position is not only pro-Jihad, but also anti-religious freedom. In the interests of religious freedom, the U.N. should take "remedial measures" to condemn the numerous Islamist political parties throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other nations that promote an anti-democratic ideology.
One of the most widespread Islamist international political organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood represents another Islamist political organization whose ideology is based on seeking Islamist superiority, and which openly promotes religious violence. As shown on January 25 in Jordan, Muslim Brotherhood supporters call for "suicide bombers" and violence to kill, maim, and destroy. The stated objective of the Muslim Brotherhood political organization is: "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." It is no accident that Osama bin Laden was influenced by Muslim Brotherhood-linked professors as Sayyid Qutb and his brother Muhammad Qutb. In addition to such support for religious violence, the Muslim Brotherhood political leaders have been documented in calling for unequal rights for non-Muslims and Holocaust denial.
While there have been efforts over the past year to repaint the Muslim Brotherhood as a "moderate" organization, the facts remain that the Muslim Brotherhood's commitment to political Islamism alone demonstrates the anti-democratic nature of the organization. While individuals claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is "evolving", the reality is that when it comes to democratic values such as freedom of religion, Islamist organizations' views on democracy might well echo the words of Mustafa Mashhour, the Muslim Brotherhood’s late Supreme Guide, who said: "Democracy contradicts and wages war on Islam. Whoever calls for democracy means they are raising banners contradicting God’s plan and fighting Islam."
Moreover, Islamist political organizations as the Muslim Brotherhood also attack other Muslims that do not share their views. As documented in October, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was accused by the Egyptian Interior Ministry "of using iron poles and batons to prevent clerics from holding prayers." Such political Islamists are not only a threat to peace (due to their threats of violence against other religions), but also a threats to other Muslims.
With Muslim Brotherhood branches throughout Egypt, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, United States, and its influence on United States' Muslim organizations (as shown during the Holy Land Foundation trial), the role of such a widespread Islamist political organization with goals that would encourage religious violence and prevent religious freedom makes the Muslim Brotherhood a logical target for "remedial measures" according to the UNHRC resolution.
Moreover, the UNHRC should be required to also seek "remedial measures" against the numerous Islamist expansionist organizations across the world, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, that seek to promote Islamism as the anti-freedom expansionist vision to deny religious freedom. Last August, Hizb ut-Tahrir president Fadi Abdullati (who owns a previous conviction for publicly urging his members to kill Jews) called for the creation of an Islamist caliphate. Another of its leaders called for use of force to get a union of nations under "common Islamic law". Hizb ut-Tahrir has been associated with Jihadist groups in the United Kingdom, but is yet to be banned. Such organizations have a goal in the expansion of an ideology, which based on denying freedom of religion, to be promulgated across the world. Shouldn't the U.N. resolution to protect religions be the basis of recommendations against such an anti-religious freedom expansionist organizations as Hizb ut-Tahrir?
At the center of the controversy of religious protection versus Islamism is the definition of Islamism itself. The primary protection that Islamist organizations enjoy for their behavior is that such Islamist statements and actions are in accordance with a "religion" and that Sharia is merely "Islamic law". The duality that Islamists seek of being both a political ideology and a religion, as convenient, must be challenged by those who genuinely seek protection of religious freedoms.
The sampling of Islamist challenges (listed in the previous paragraphs) to freedom of religion where the UNHRC resolution should be used to seek "remedial measures" serve as an illustration of precisely why Islamism is not a religion, but is only a political ideology. This UNHRC resolution could help the international community in confronting the cover story used by Islamist organizations - that they represent a religion, rather than a political ideology.
The consequences of acknowledging this reality would be significant for any international organization, especially the United Nations. The UNHRC and the U.N. clearly recognizes an Islamist international organization, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), whose views on Human Rights are not based on those of a democratic society or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The views of the OIC are firmly based on the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which states in Article 24: "All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah". It was this same Islamist OIC organization that attempted to shape and edit the very UNHRC resolution on protection of religion, so that it could be used to deny freedom of religion.
But the facts remain that Islamists do not speak for all Muslims, and any organization that seeks to protect religious freedoms must first acknowledge this. Islamist organizations seek to convey themselves as spokespersons for a so-called "Muslim World" -- when, in fact, they only represent political Islamists, and not Muslims who oppose and do not recognize Sharia. In a recent article, Alex Alexiev, Vice President of Research at the Center for Security Policy, points out that Shariah law is not "Islamic law", except as interpreted by Islamists. Alex Alexiev states "shariah is mostly a post-Quranic, man-made medieval doctrine that is almost completely at odds with modern norms of human rights, political freedoms and international relations... and [s]hariah doctrine, though claiming to be derived from the Quran, is thus a politicized interpretation of the Muslim scriptures and other non-revealed sources" [Alexiev article, page 3]. Alex Alexiev further points out that "the word shariah is mentioned only once in the Quran, and not at all as a system of jurisprudence, but in its traditional meaning of the 'right path'" [Alexiev article, page 3].
Other international organizations have spoken out against Islamism. In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights in its Judgment in the case of Refah Partisi (The Welfare Party) Erbakan, Kazan, and Tekdal v. Turkey, stated: "the institution of Sharia law and a theocratic regime, were incompatible with the requirements of a democratic society."
Because the ideology of Islamism tolerates no such religious choice, as seen in the examples in the previous paragraphs, Islamists who choose to use terrorism as a tactic feel that they are acting on behalf of the Islamist ideology. How far is it from seeking the death penalty for an article viewed as "blasphemous" to actually committing terrorist acts against those viewed as "blasphemous"? Political Islamists and Islamist terrorist Osama Bin Laden share the same ultimate goal, as stated by Osama Bin Laden on October 22, 2007: "The greater state of Islam from the ocean to the ocean, Allah permitting."
While the 9/11 Commission Report found that "Islamist terrorism is an immediate derivative of Islamism," the issue of political Islamism remains a subject not addressed by American political leaders. American and international leaders who support democracy and freedom of religion must make their position on Islamism clear. A non-position is a position - one of tolerance and acceptance of an ideology that fuels the very Islamist terrorism that such leaders claim to condemn.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, the founder and Chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, stated in a recent column: "This tactic of terror we are fighting will continue to exponentially regenerate itself as long as its fuel remains. The fuel is political Islam - Islamism. Islamism is effectively incubated in a culture like ours in the United States which stubbornly (to our own detriment) refuses to engage political Islam because of its invocation of a faith. The American people need leadership that not only understands the need to bring freedom and liberty to the world, but leadership ready to confront our Islamist enemies with the pathologies of their own ideas - leadership which can separate personal spiritual Islam from political Islam and genuinely engage liberty-minded anti-Islamist Muslims."
While Dr. Jasser's comments are for the American government, certainly they should also be applied to international peace organizations and American allies as well. It is past time for the United Nations, the United States, and our allies to address the issue of Islamism as an ideology behind Islamist terrorism. As long as the free world's standards of action in this war are based on fighting only terrorist tactics, and not recognizing or confronting the ideology that spawns Islamist terrorism, then we have not yet begun to fight.
July 18, 2007 - Family Security Matters: "Preventing the West from
Understanding Jihad" - Dr. Walid Phares