Never Forget The Muslim Victims Of Islamic Terrorism

Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo has already inspired a backlash against France’s Muslim community, with several incidents targeting mosques, businesses, and even individuals:

Three grenades hit a mosque in Le Mans, in the early hours of Thursday while in Aude, southern France, two gunshots were fired at an empty prayer room. A Muslim family in their car in Vaucluse came briefly under fire but escaped unharmed, and a mosque in Poitiers was daubed with graffitti saying “Death to Arabs”. In Villefranche-sur-Saône, an explosion blew out the windows of a kebab shop next door to the town mosque. …

Nourredine, a taxi driver, said the cold-blooded attack on Wednesday at Charlie Hebdo had left him very saddened and angry. It had reminded him of his home country, Algeria, in the 60s and 70s, he said, where “journalists were often the first to be targeted” by extremists. “But you know, we will become victims of this atrocity,” he said. “There is real stigmatisation in France. I love this country, really I do, but this stigmatisation, this amalgamation, this tarring all Muslims with the same brush – all it does is feed the extremists. It helps the Front National, the people who hate and fear Islam.”

This tweet says it better than anything else:

H.A. Hellyer is dismayed that French Muslims are being called upon to condemn an act that, in the long run, stands to hurt them as much as anyone else:

While the attackers may claim to have killed in the name of the Prophet’s honor, they killed someone with the Prophet’s name in the process: a French policeman called Ahmed Merabet.

As a Frenchman, he was targeted by extremists; as a Muslim, his community is targeted by extremists worldwide; and as a French Muslim, his local community stands at risk of an anti-Muslim backlash. Muslim terrorists kill far more Muslims than non-Muslims, and far more Muslims than non-Muslims are fighting these extremists. The day of the Charlie Hebdo attack, several dozen Muslims were killed by radical extremists in Yemen. Many others die every day in Iraq and Syria. …

The disgraceful attacks on Charlie Hebdo may have further consequences, such as entrenching the false notion that Muslims and non-Muslims simply cannot coexist, or that civil liberties need to be rethought, with yet more powers given to the state, diminishing the commitment to human rights. That is merely giving the attackers a further victory, rather than honoring the loss of life that took place.

Merabet is being held up as a hero on Twitter with the hashtag #JeSuisAhmed:

“The story of Merabet’s confrontation with the Paris terrorists,” Jim Edwards writes, ” is turning out to be one of the most poignant in the whole affair”:

And it’s proof, if further proof were needed, that Muslims are much more frequently the victims of Islamic terrorism than Westerners are. According to the Global Terrorism Index, 80% of all the deaths from terrorism in 2013 were in Muslim-majority countries Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. Since 2000, only 5% of all deaths from terrorism have been in developed countries — although they have been among the deadliest. …

Merabet is the officer seen in the heartbreaking video of the shooters’ attack on the Charlie Hebdo office, as seen through a mobile phone from across the street. The worst part of the video — aside from the moment in which the gunmen finish him off with a shot to the head — is where Merabet, lying injured on the pavement, tries to raise his arms in surrender. He is clearly no threat to the gunmen. And they kill him anyway.

This is why, in John Cassidy’s opinion, the “clash of civilizations” narrative that some are trying to superimpose on this tragedy misses the point entirely:

But to interpret things in such black-and-white terms is to distort reality. Although Islam largely missed out on the Reformation and the Enlightenment, a point frequently made by its critics, it is far from a monolithic religion. And many ordinary Muslims, rather than being on the side of the jihadis, are taking up arms against them, and sometimes paying with their lives. In Iraq, the Iraqi, Kurdish, and Iranian soldiers battling ISIS are mostly Muslims. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the government forces fighting jihadis are also almost all Muslims.

On top of this, most of the victims of jihadi atrocities are Muslims. In Iraq last month, more than eleven hundred people were killed in acts of terrorism and violence, including nearly seven hundred civilians. It’s fair to assume that almost all of them belonged to the Islamic faith.

Houellebecq’s Nightmare

Charlie-Hebdo-Secondary2-320The massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo this morning coincided with the publication of controversial author Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel, Submission, which today’s Charlie either lampoons or praises (or both) in the cover seen to the right. Today’s attack was so clearly planned and premeditated that it likely wasn’t a response to Houellebecq’s book or Charlie‘s cover thereof, but there are plenty of parallels between Submission, which critics have derided as an anti-Muslim screed, and the offensive material that made the satirical weekly a target for Islamic fundamentalists. Ishaan Tharoor explains what the book is about:

“Submission” tells the story of France in the near future — 2022 — where a Muslim wins a presidential election against a far-right candidate and presides over the Islamization of French society. Persian Gulf monarchies pump in funds into new Islamic schools; teachers at the Sorbonne are compelled to convert to Islam; women slowly disappear from the workplace; polygamy becomes legally permissible. …

Houellebecq says his book leaves “unresolved” the question of “what we are meant to be afraid of” — Islamists or nativists. Ironically, the rule of a Muslim president in his book leads to stability and an improved economic outlook for France. But the premise certainly feeds into an already overheated conversation in Europe and sketches the disturbing end point for a polarization already taking place, even if its predicted outcome is completely implausible.

Bershidsky discusses how Houellebecq’s paranoid vision of the future, which far-right leader Marine Le Pen called “a fiction that could one day become reality”, fits into France’s ongoing culture war:

The point “Submission” makes isn’t so much political as cultural. It turns the integration debate on its head. Many in Europe want Muslim immigrants to merge into the host society on its terms. This is especially pronounced in France: the country has a profound shortage of mosques, and it bans wearing of Muslim face-covering scarves in public. What, the novel asks, if the French were told to integrate with the Muslims on the latter’s terms? What if the traditional parties had to join a coalition with an Islamic element? And what if ordinary people had to accept some Muslim traditions as part of living in a Muslim-run society — adopt polygamy, for example, bar women from working or convert to Islam to be able to teach school or college? Houellebecq posits that the French would submit. Why not, if unemployment among men is eliminated in the process and men could have three wives instead of resorting to prostitutes? …

No wonder the European far right portrays integration as a zero-sum game, in which one side must submit to the other — after all, isn’t that what the Muslims are after?

Submission is currently number one on’s bestseller list, and today’s events aren’t likely to hurt sales. But Houellebecq also faces some harsh criticism for what his detractors are calling a contribution to the wave of right-wing nationalist xenophobia currently making European Muslims nervous:

One German newspaper critic warned the novel could be seized on by anti-Islam protesters in Dresden as proof they are right to voice concern. Laurent Joffrin, editor-in-chief of left-leaning French newspaper Libération, argued that the novel “will mark the date in history when the ideas of the far-right made a grand return to serious French literature”.

“This is a book that ennobles the ideas of the Front National,” he added. Alain Jakubovitch, president of the anti-racism group LICRA, said: “This is the best Christmas present Marine Le Pen could wish for.” Houellebecq retorted that he could “see no novel that has changed the course of history” and that besides, “Marine Le Pen doesn’t need this. Things are working pretty well for her already.”

But Jonathon Sturgeon notes that Houellebecq, who once called Islam “the most stupid religion” and the Koran “badly written”, has softened his anti-Muslim edge of late:

More recently, Houellebecq appears to have shed his own atheism and disdain for religion, including Islam. In a recent interview with The Paris Review, the novelist admits that his atheism hasn’t “survived” in recent years, and, against a statement he made about the Koran thirteen years ago, he concedes:

…the Koran turns out to be much better than I thought, now that I’ve reread it—or rather, read it. The most obvious conclusion is that the jihadists are bad Muslims.

Although the new novel won’t be released in the US for some time, it’s clear that Houellebecq doesn’t consider it an affront to Islam. On the contrary, he sees it as a thought experiment meant to reflect the absence of political representation for Muslims in France. … With no present English translation, it’s impossible to tell whether Houellebecq’s new novel is a skilled experiment in political modality, or a thinly veiled attack on religion disguised as a mea culpa. In either case, Houellebecq may have seriously misjudged the power of novels to affect history.

Firebombs And “Love Bombs” For Swedish Mosques

Over the holidays, Sweden’s Muslim community was shaken by a string of attacks on mosques in several cities:

Swedish police launched a manhunt Thursday after the third arson attack against a mosque in a week, amid growing tensions over the rise of a far right anti-immigration movement.”People saw a man throwing something burning at the building,” police in Uppsala said in a statement, adding that the mosque in eastern Sweden did not catch fire and that the suspect had left behind “a text on the door expressing contempt for religion.” …

Thursday’s attack in Sweden’s fourth-largest city came just three days after a late-night blaze at a mosque in Esloev in the south, which police suspect was also arson. On Christmas Day, five people were injured when a petrol bomb was thrown through the window of a mosque in Eskilstuna, east of the capital Stockholm.

Local residents in Uppsala responded to the attack by “love-bombing” the damaged mosque with notes of support. Amanda Taub applauds:

The demonstration and “love bombing” were a powerful way for ordinary Swedes to reject racism and show support for Muslims. But the march also carried broader political significance, because it showed that Swedes felt a duty to publicly reaffirm the country’s identity as a place that is tolerant and welcoming towards immigrants.

In many countries, anti-immigrant populism dominates the public conversation about immigration not because it necessarily represents the majority view, but because people with more moderate and tolerant views don’t make it a priority to speak up publicly. These demonstrations suggest that Sweden may be different: thousands of people took to the streets to say that they are not willing to stay silent, and will not allow extremists to dominate the debate.

Still, many Muslims throughout Europe have reason to be wary of their neighbors; a new poll finds that one in eight Germans would join an anti-Muslim march if one were organized in their hometown:

The survey highlighted growing support in Germany, as in other European Union countries including Britain and Sweden, for parties and movements tapping into voter fears that mainstream politicians are too soft on immigration.

Some members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc worry that they risk losing support to the euro-sceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has shifted its focus to immigration and includes many who also back the PEGIDA protest movement — Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West. PEGIDA is holding weekly rallies in the eastern city of Dresden, and attracted more than 17,000 people to a Dec. 22 rally. A few small marches have taken place in other towns, and it plans to stage further rallies in other German cities.

Suspected Of Being Muslim

Back in September, the Justice Department announced “a new series of pilot programs in cities across the country to bring together community representatives, public safety officials and religious leaders to counter violent extremism”. While the DOJ avoided using the words “Muslim” and “Islam” in its press release, the targets of these programs are obviously American Muslim communities. Naureen Shah, who grew up in such a community, decries the initiative as way too broad:

There is tremendous risk of abuse and mistake in any program that tries to predict future criminals, including terrorists. Empirical studies show that violent threats cannot be predicted by any religious, ideological, ethnic, or racial profiling.’

The evidence suggests that there is no direct link among religious observance, radical ideas, and violent acts. Some of the theories underlying the government’s approach caution just that, but they nevertheless advise law enforcement—and now, American Muslim community “partners”—to connect the dots linking an individuals’ noncriminal behavior, his ideas, and his attitudes. That kind of monitoring shrinks the space for free expression by creating an atmosphere where people fear they must watch what they say and how they act, lest it be reported.

It also denies what it is to grow up. As a teenager, I became angry and difficult. I disappeared on weekends. I chatted online for hours as my family ate dinner downstairs. I wasn’t a violent terrorist in the making. But under the government’s program, community members will be encouraged to monitor these behaviors and intervene with teens who engage in them.

Writing from the UK, where authorities have taken a similarly community-based approach to addressing radicalization, Arshad Isakjee objects to the assumption that there is such a thing as a “Muslim community” in the first place:

It is tempting to readily accept the warm notion that Muslims collectively behave like characters in Eastenders, buzzing around Asian Albert Squares across the country, their families constantly interacting at the local mosque – their version of the Queen Vic. We would never accept similar notions of Christian communities or white communities – but when applied to minorities, the idea sounds authentic and credible. …

Look closer though, and the Muslim community is far more elusive. Until the Salman Rushdie fatwa affair, Muslims in the UK were not conceptualised by religious identity. Ethnic groups such as Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians were the more legitimate conceptions of migrant communities. Even today, in most British towns and cities with Muslim populations, different ethnic groups will have their own mosques and religious institutions, and in some instances membership of those establishments remains exclusive to those specific ethnic groups.

Abortion, The Islamic Way

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, also has one of the world’s highest abortion rates: 37 per 1,000 women compared to 16.9 in the US. While investigating what’s behind the high prevalence of the practice in Southeast Asia, Tom Hundley discovers that what Islam has to say about it is not as clear-cut as you might expect:

Islamic jurisprudence does not encourage abortion, but unlike the Catholic Church, it does not absolutely forbid it. Scholars of the Hanafi school of Islamic law, the most widely followed of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence in the Sunni world, generally accept that abortion is allowable within 120 days of conception. In Indonesia, where the Shafi’i school is predominant, the ulema (religious scholars) agree that abortion is allowed within forty days of conception—this reflecting the commonly held belief that Allah instills the fetus with a soul on the fortieth day.

Opinion varies widely on permissible grounds for abortion. Almost all religious scholars agree that abortion is allowed to save the life of the mother. A 2005 study in Indonesia found surprising tolerance among Muslim clerics for terminating a pregnancy in the event of contraceptive failure or when an unwanted pregnancy would result in severe economic or psychological stress.

Longing For The Caliphate

Shadi Hamid offers his take on what attracts people to ISIS, and why that attraction is specific to Islam:

ISIS draws on, and draws strength from, ideas that have broad resonance among Muslim-majority populations. They may not agree with ISIS’s interpretation of the caliphate, but the notion of caliphate—the historical political entity governed by Islamic law and tradition—is a powerful one, even among more secular-minded Muslims. The caliphate, something that hasn’t existed since 1924, is a reminder of how one of the world’s great civilizations endured one of the more precipitous declines in human history. The gap between what Muslims once were and where they now find themselves is at the center of the anger and humiliation that drive political violence in the Middle East. But there is also a sense of loss and longing for an organic legal and political order that succeeded for centuries before its slow but decisive dismantling. Ever since, Muslims, and particularly Arab Muslims, have been struggling to define the contours of an appropriate post-caliphate political model.

In contrast, the early Christian community, as Princeton historian Michael Cook notes, “lacked a conception of an intrinsically Christian state” and was willing to coexist with and even recognize Roman law. For this reason, among others, the equivalent of ISIS simply couldn’t exist in Christian-majority societies. Neither would the pragmatic, mainstream Islamist movements that oppose ISIS and its idiosyncratic, totalitarian take on the Islamic polity. While they have little in common with Islamist extremists, in both means and ends, the Muslim Brotherhood and its many descendants and affiliates do have a particular vision for society that puts Islam and Islamic law at the center of public life. The vast majority of Western Christians—including committed conservatives—cannot conceive of a comprehensive legal-social order anchored by religion. However, the vast majority of, say, Egyptians and Jordanians can and do.

Alabamans Defeat Imaginary Sharia Threat

Alabama’s Amendment 1, drafted by a lawyer who fears the non-existent problem of American courts applying Sharia law, passed on Tuesday with 72 percent of the vote. The amendment to the state constitution declares that Alabama courts “shall not apply or enforce a foreign law if doing so would violate any state law or a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States”. Many reports on the amendment (like the preceding link) claim that it bans the application of foreign law altogether, but Eugene Volokh disputes that:

Normal American “choice of law” principles often call for the application of foreign law in cases that involve foreign transactions, for instance in some tort cases arising from injuries in foreign countries, determining the family status of people who were married or adopted children in foreign countries, and more. American courts wouldn’t enforce foreign rules that violate Americans’ free speech rights, equal protection rights, and so on; but in the great bulk of cases in which foreign law would be applied, there would be no such constitutional problem. The Alabama amendment wouldn’t bar use of foreign law in such cases.

What it would do is less clear, Paul Horwitz explains, because the prohibition on applying foreign laws that contradict Americans’ constitutional rights is, er, “already the law in every state, including Alabama”. The redundant amendment, Horwitz argues, is a waste of time and money that will likely have unintended consequences and serves only as a gesture of hostility toward Islam:

Our state and federal constitutions prohibit discrimination against religion. An explicitly anti-Muslim law would be unconstitutional. But hostility to Muslims, or to any minority, always buys a few votes in some corners. So we now have the worst of both worlds. The law, in its past and present versions, is driven by religious hostility. But in order to avoid being struck down, the current amendment bars courts from recognizing Jewish or Christian (or, yes, Islamic) prenuptial contracts, or enforcing judgments by Southern Baptist arbitrators. At least, it would, if those judgments violated state or federal law. But our courts already forbid that. Amendment One is literally not worth the paper the law would be printed on–and printing laws costs money.

Even the state’s conservative evangelicals didn’t get behind the amendment:

Although anti-Shariah bills are often proposed and supported by conservative Christians, Amendment 1 was actually heavily criticized by many religious groups in the Cotton State — including several prominent evangelical Christians. Organizations such as Greater Birmingham Ministries publicly decried the measure, and Randy Brinson, the president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, blasted the law as “just silliness.” Brinson argued that the bill did not actually protect “Christian values,” and passing it could potentially jeopardize foreign adoptions, marriages to people outside of the U.S., and religious liberty. “This is a tremendous waste of effort. It’s a waste of time and it costs money,” Brinson said ahead of the vote.

Beyond the phantom menace of Sharia, Mark Joseph Stern characterizes Amendment 1 as an effort “to nullify Supreme Court decisions that lean on foreign law”, particularly regarding capital punishment:

According to the amendment, any decision that uses international law could not legally be applied in Alabama courts, since citing it would involve the “application” of foreign law. A state judge couldn’t overrule the execution of a minor based on Roper, since Roper relied in part on international law. Nor could she annul the conviction of a gay person for having gay sex, since Lawrence cited foreign courts. The execution of the mentally retarded, too, would be back on the table in Alabama; in fact, much of the Supreme Court’s modern death penalty jurisprudence would now seem to be inapplicable in the state. This is not some speculative overinterpretation of a poorly worded amendment; overturning established death penalty law was a stated goal of the amendment’s chief drafter. No doubt a team of lawyers is already poring over Supreme Court rulings, searching each decision for a reference to international law. Once they’ve found one, they can alert state judges: Use this ruling, and you’ll be breaking the law.

Looking over the situations in which Alabama courts would typically come into contact with foreign law, Amanda Taub remarks on the legal uncertainties the amendment creates:

Start with disputes governed by foreign law, which are common. Consider, for instance, what might happen if a couple was married overseas, but then sought a divorce in Alabama. Or if they adopted a child overseas, but then a custody dispute came before Alabama courts. Such cases would, by necessity, require Alabama courts to consider foreign law in order to determine the validity of the marriage, adoption, or custody agreement. After Amendment One, it’s not clear whether, or how, they will be able to do so.

It’s also extremely common for contracts to be governed by foreign law, through what is called a “choice of laws” clause. Amendment One carves out an exception for “Alabama business persons and companies,” who may decide to use foreign law in Alabama Courts. But it’s not clear how that exception will be applied, because the very same clause says that “the public policy of Alabama is to prohibit anyone from requiring Alabama courts to apply and enforce foreign laws” — which appears to directly contradict the exception. That’s a potential nightmare for companies that do business in the state, who now don’t know if their choice of law clauses will be enforced, or if global contracts will now become subject to uncertain interpretation as soon as they cross Alabama state lines.

Furthermore, Faisal Kutty points out, “the consequences” of such restrictions on Sharia and foreign law “may be counterintuitive”:

In August 2012, for instance, just one month after Kansas passed Senate Bill 79, a state court found its hands tied when Elham Soleimani sought the enforcement of the mahr (dowry) provision in her Islamic marriage contract. Her husband, Faramarz Soleimani, had agreed to pay 1,354 gold coins—valued at $677,000 at the time—in the event of divorce. Faramarz agreed to this at the time of the marriage, given that it was his second marriage and Elham was 24 years his junior. The Johnson City District Court refused to enforce Elham’s claim for various reasons, the most significant being the religious nature of the contract. In its 28 August 2012 ruling, the court concluded that enforcing the agreement would “abdicate the judiciary’s role to protect such fundamental rights, a concern that was articulated in Senate Bill No. 79.” Essentially, the court took the position that enforcing the Islamic contract would violate the foreign law ban and the separation of church and state doctrine under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Elham lost her claim to her dowry thanks to the law, which Republican State Senator Susan Wagle introduced as “a vote to protect women.” Elham would surely beg to disagree.