Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Facebook, Religious Critique & Egyptian Law

An Egyptian has been tracked, arrested, and sentenced to 3 years in prison for insulting Islam on Facebook. Dissent and religious discourse is an interesting and problematic area that is worth more research.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blowback in Somalia

Here are some interesting summary points about the history of "terrorism" and CIA activities in Somalia by journalist Jeremy Scahill:

"The United States has been waging asymmetric warfare campaign throughout the Horn of Africa and extending into Yemen, as we saw by the recent assassination by U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. The U.S. has begun building new drone facilities in the region. The Obama administration has expanded drone attacks into Somalia. So, What we’re seeing is U.S. Special Operations Forces and CIA doing these targeted killings, and then Al-Shabab also doing these targeted killings. So, this is the new sort of landscape of war. It’s all asymmetric warfare. It’s not uniformed militaries fighting one another, it’s these sort of shadow forces from both, what Washington would call, the terrorist side of it and then the U.S. Military and CIA side of it; they’re both using similar tactics...

The bottom line here, is that not only did the U.S. support these proxy forces and these CIA war lords and give rise to Shabab, but the people, now, that Washington is working with, are the very people who form the Islamic Courts Union that the U.S. overthrew. So, they’re now backing some of the most notorious war lords that were affiliated with the Islamic Courts Union. In fact, the President of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was the chairman, the head of the Islamic Courts Union overthrown by the U.S. You can go online and see pictures of him shaking hands with Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton celebrating him as a partner in the fight against terrorism. I could show you clips of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed calling for jihad against the United States. So, what goes around, comes around. The United States has a confused policy in Somalia that has, primarily, benefited the countries of the African Union that have a military campaign going in Somalia, and the Islamic radicals from a Al-Shabab. Those are the beneficiaries of U.S. policy.

Before the famine of this year and the drought and grabbing headlines and Angelina Jolie and all these celebrities talking about it, I think for most Americans, Somalia sort of evoked one image, and that was of Blackhawk Down, the infamous shoot-down of U.S. helicopter in 1993 that ultimately led to the withdrawal of about 20,000 U.S., so-called, peacekeepers from Somalia. When 9/11 happened, the Bush administration actually had Somalia on a list of countries that it wanted to intervene in directly. The was a sort of ragtag group of Islamist militants there, and the Bush administration was concerned that they were going to give refuge to Al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan when the U.S. went in there. But ultimately, the Bush administration decided not to go into Somalia right away, and instead what it did was to begin waging a proxy war using a network of ruthless war lords. And this network of warlords but were supported by the CIA and U.S. special operations forces after 9/11, had a name that just reeked of CIA involvement; it was called the Alliance for Counter-terrorism and the Restoration of Peace. And so, these warlords were essentially tasked with hunting down individuals that Washington determined were Al Qaeda militants or were supporting Al Qaeda.

The end result, though, of this program was that these militia leaders, these warlords backed by the CIA, operated as an effective death squad, believing they had the full support of the CIA. The CIA funded them and gave them lists of people to go after. And so they started hunting down anyone that they could accuse of being or did accuse of being an Islamic radical. But, many of the people who were killed by these CIA-funded warlords had nothing to do with Al Qaeda and nothing to do with any form of terrorism, they were prayer leaders, they were principles at madrasas, religious schools in Somalia, or they were just people that had clan rivalry with the CIA war lords. So, it’s a classic tale that has played out through U.S. history. So, these warlords were tasked with hunting down, what really amounted to about a dozen people, were in the estimation of true Somalia experts, former U.S. diplomats that worked in the country, and they turned it into these, sort of, killing fields. What happened as a result of that, is that regionally throughout Somalia, these Islamic courts started rising up, and they literally were that. They were a Islamic courts. They were a form of justice; because it was lawless in Somalia.

The last time there was a stable government there was 1991. And so, these were, sort of, indigenous movements of religious leaders that were helping to mediate land disputes or implementing some form of a criminal code. And many people, while these courts were very pronounced Sharia court practitioners, brought some sort of semblance of stability to the various regions where they established these courts. While the CIA and the U.S. Military began to grow concerned that Somalia was becoming a pronounced Islamic republic. And so, the warlords, backed by the CIA, intensified their campaign against these Islamic courts. The courts, in turn, got tremendous support from local business people, from clan leaders and others. People were fed up with the warlords—-the CIA backed war lords. So, these little autonomous courts formed an Islamic courts union and very swiftly, with the support of the vast majority of Somalis across the country, overthrew the CIA warlords and expelled them from Mogadishu and brought stability to Somalia, to the Somali capital, for the first time since the government of Siad Barre fell in 1991. It was a tremendous achievement. The vast majority of the people involved with these courts were not Islamic radicals, were not supporting Al Qaeda.

There were 12 courts; they largely represented Somalia’s clan-based system of governance and decision making. There was a 13th entity within the Islamic Courts Union known as Al-Shabab. They were tolerated by people within the courts. They were viewed as sort of radical, outside of the mainstream of Somali society. There’s is not an Islamic—-a historic Islamic radical tradition in Somalia. And this small group was the group that Osama bin Laden and others exploited, and they started sending in small groups of foreign Al Qaeda operatives to embed within Shabab. But, Shabab was kept in check by the other members of these Islamic courts, and they were a ragtag militant group. of relative nobodies within Somalia. In 2006, then, General John Abizaid, the Head of U.S. Central Command, gives the green light to the Ethiopian military—-Ethiopia and Somalia, sworn enemies, have fought multiple wars—-to invade Somalia; 30-40,000 troops, backed by U.S. air power, the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command. They go in and they overthrow the Islamic Courts Union; the only government that was able to bring any sort of stability to Mogadishu in a long, long time, and they start killing the leaders and forcing them on the run, and rendering them to Djibouti where the U.S. has a major base. And Somalia then turns into, once again, a state of utter chaos.

Within the context of U.S. dismantling the ICU, you have Al-Shabab, this relatively non-powerful entity, become the vanguard of the fight against the United States and the Ethiopians, who everyone viewed as a proxy for Washington. So, they took this group of nobodies, who were the smallest player within this revolution within Somalia, and turn them into the premier vanguard, and Al-Shabab, very swiftly, started to capture territory throughout rural Somalia and to wage a very successful, violent insurgency against the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government. And that has been the state of affairs since 2007. Shabab control far more territory than Somalia than the U.S.-backed government. So, you can say that Shabab would not have existed, in its current form, had the United States not backed those warlords, had they not overthrown the only real indigenous popular group of people to govern Mogadishu. This would not be happening. The bombings that we’re seeing, today, would not be happening. Shabab would not be in control of as much territory in the country as they are."

Timeline on post-9/11 political dissent

Check out this great Interactive Timeline on post-9/11 political dissent.

CIA-NYPD Spy Alliance on Muslim Communities Post-9/11

Recent AP investigation on deploying foreign spy agencies on those in the US.

With CIA Help, New York Police Secretly Monitored Mosques, Muslim Communities Post-9/11


"A new investigation by the Associated Press reveals how, after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the New York City Police Department decided it could no longer trust other agencies to prevent terrorism and started expanding its own intelligence gathering. In the process, it became "one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies," targeting ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. The report, titled "With CIA Help, NYPD Moves Covertly in Muslim Areas," also finds that these operations "benefited from unprecedented help from the CIA, a partnership that has blurred the line between foreign and domestic spying." The report details how police used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even without any evidence of wrongdoing. Also falling under NYPD’s scrutiny were imams, taxi cab drivers and food cart vendors — jobs often done by Muslims."

Islamophobia Network in the United States

Here's an interesting piece of media activism on the politics of knowledge production concerning Islam and Muslims in the US.

"Fear, Inc." Exposes the So-Called Experts and Donors Behind Islamophobia in the United States


"A new report by the Center for American Progress called "Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America" shows how a small group of self-proclaimed experts backed by a host of donors are spreading fear and hostility toward Muslims in the United States. According to the report, these so-called experts peddle Islamophobia in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs and carefully crafted anti-Islam talking points. It also notes that right-wing Norwegian murderer Anders Breivik repeatedly cited these "experts" in his so-called "Manifesto." Among those the report highlights is Robert Spencer, author of a blog called "Jihad Watch" and leader of the group Stop Islamization of America, which coined the term "victory mosque at Ground Zero" to refer to a local effort to build a moderate Islamic center in New York City, turning it into an international spectacle."