bin-Laden is dead. A decadent symbol has been assassinated. For some time before his demise, his influence on contemporary terrorism had been on the wane. Most likely Osama had little choice but to agree to retire to his Pakistani prison under the ‘supervision’ of the Pakistani secret services and Taliban tribes. I did not write any blog post at the time of bin-Laden’s execution. There was nothing to say. His story has had the feel of a work of fiction from beginning to end, complete with impressive pyrotechnics, blood and splatter, where the director, producer and star of the drama was none other than bin-Laden himself. He died as he wished: one bullet in the chest, a few stumbling steps, and a final gore splattering bullet in the head. Continue reading
Many would have noticed that western leaders and countries seem to shift from one position to another about the wave of revolts in the Middle East and Arab world. One prime example: Tony Blair, who incidentally is the official envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, shifted from praising Mubarak on Wednesday 2 February 2011, to praising the protests for democracy on 13 February. At the same time, in those interviews, he first presented the Muslim Brotherhood as a dangerous para-terrorist organization and then ending in declaring that politicians should “not be hysterical about them, they are not terrorists or extremists”. Although we need to acknowledge that each revolt finds its raison d’être in local contexts and issues, we have also to recognize that Arab youth in the region want a change: they wish to end the long post-colonial period of time marked by dictators at the service of western economic and geopolitical interests. Continue reading
Libyan protesters are facing one of the most violent repressions that the wave of Arab revolts have witnessed to date. Yesterday reports of Libyan aircraft and Apache helicopters bombing and shooting the protesters started to circulate. This was just after Gaddafi’s son proclaimed to the world that Libya was not witnessing a revolt against one of the most oppressive and inhuman regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, but rather a civil war. In reality this is a regime that has declared, as many other times before, war on its own population. The question that we may ask, however, is why Gaddafi has preferred the bloodbath to an easy, and wealthy, exit. Many were the options open to him before he started the massacre. Now, of course, few are left. Is Gaddafi just defending his own interests? Is there something more than just a struggle to maintain power? Continue reading
All religions have their scholars since no religious text or even tradition can escape the slavery of human exegesis; no exegesis, no religion. Since Ayatollah Khomeini’s famous 1989 Fatwa, which made Salman Rushdie famous for books that few succeed in reading from cover to cover and others find unpalatable, fatwas have become a symbol of all the evil or stupidity (depending the circumstances) people believe to find in Islam (rather than in the ‘scholar’ issuing them). Many fatwas have received more attention from non-Muslims than from Muslims thanks to the mass media hyper-focus on whatever is related to Islam. Indeed, fatwa means simply ‘advice’ and Sunni Muslims are not bound to accept them, particularly if the religious edicts are irrational or illogical. Continue reading
Days have passed since the so-called ‘Gaza Flotilla’ was brutally raided by Israeli forces. As usual in these cases, I tend to take my time before writing my opinion. Let me start from some simple observations:
The Gaza blockade is irrational. It breaches international law and affects the most vulnerable people within Gaza. By contrast, politically, it reinforces Hamas. Indeed, anybody with even a minimum of knowledge or contacts in Gaza knows that supporting Hamas or becoming an active member remains the only solution to enjoy some benefits and relieve one’s family from the hardship of the illegal embargo, enjoying the few products smuggled through the endless number of Egyptian border tunnels controlled by Hamas. Continue reading
I am pleased to inform my friends and readers that my latest book Understanding Muslim Identity Rethinking Fundamentalism, is finally on the bookshelf of (more or less virtual) book shops.
Another book on Islamic fundamentalism?’ I can hear the question echoing among friends, colleagues and readers. Since 2001, more than 100 books and 5,600 articles have been published on Islamic fundamentalism. Broadening the research to agnate labels – such as Islamism (about 200 books and 243 articles), political Islam (345 books and 4,670 articles) and Islamic extremism (only 16 books and 1610 articles) – we can appreciate the amount of scholarly publication pressed into the past seven years.
So, why write another book? I have tried to explain the reasons in the Introduction, which you can read for free. The book provides a very different analysis of what has been labeled ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, and what I prefer to call ’emotional Islam’. Continue reading
Israel’s military has bombed whatever stands, lives and moves in Gaza, including the UN facilities and aid. No other state in the world has behaved, without facing dire diplomatic consequences, in such a way. The Israeli state which, although located in the Middle East, claims a ‘western’ civilizational link and heritage has surely fallen short of it. The Israeli government has failed totally in its actions: Hamas is still able to rocket blast South (and possibly North) Israel, the Israeli military actions have killed 130 ‘militants’ sacrificing about 630 civilians, it has prevented the rescue of the injured, causing the Red Cross to condemn the actions, and has attacked UN convoys (a “deja vu” since the Israeli army has a certain preference for “mistakenly” bombing the UN). Among the disturbing facts of the Israeli Kadima government is that 257 children have been killed and 1,080 wounded. Continue reading