Arab democrats ‘drawing on indigenous liberal tradition’

The Arab Spring confirms the bankruptcy of violent Jihadist groups and the Islamist narrative that stresses religion as the basis of political identity, says a new report on Muslim modernism.

“In recent years, the voices of extremists have dominated Muslim political discourse,” writes Ghaffar Hussain, author of Modern Muslim Political Thought: The Progressive Tradition. “Now however, with the advent of the Arab Spring, we are seeing the re-emergence of older democratic and liberal ideas and values that actually pre-date Islamist movements. One of the most heartening aspects of the Arab Spring is to see Muslims reclaiming not only their freedom but also their democratic heritage.”

The Jihadist violence of groups like al-Qaeda is “a schismatic offshoot of the Islamist struggle to seize state power in Muslim majority countries,”. But “it is also symptomatic of the failure of Islamist groups, and many governments, to provide real solutions or improve the lives of ordinary Muslims.”

The report, published by Quilliam, the London-based counter-extremism think-tank, highlights progressive trends in Muslim political thought and the work of key Muslim intellectuals who affirm the compatibility of Islam with secular, liberal and democratic governance.

“For over a century, Muslim political theoreticians have created a rich tradition of progressive political thought that seeks to harmonize Islam and liberal democratic politics,” says Hussain. “When looking at the events of the Arab Spring therefore, it is important to understand that Arab democrats are not just following the West but are also drawing on their own long-standing indigenous liberal traditions.”

The Arab Spring is “a testament” to the fact that ordinary Muslims want change and “seek to live in more stable, productive and prosperous societies. But this can only be achieved if road-blocks, such as Jihadist groups and corrupt autocrats, are removed and democratic culture is allowed to take root.”

During colonialism, early Muslim modernists understandably looked to Islam as a form of political identity and mobilization. But Hussain contends that innovative a new generation of Muslim thinkers “has shown the way by highlighting the fact that political norms and conceptions of citizenship have developed over the years, and religion no longer dictates one’s political identity.”

Like citizens of any other state, Muslims’ political interests and identities are not primarily driven by religious convictions [a recent survey by the International Republican Institute revealed that 80% of the Jasmine revolution’s supporters were motivated more by socio-economic grievances around living standards and unemployment] . Consequently, political arrangements should not privilege Shariah or elevate Muslims above other religious minorities. “The focus should be on achieving parity through good and accountable governance, social justice and economic development,” the report concludes.

Quilliam has today released its latest publication, Modern Muslim Political Thought: The Progressive Tradition, authored by Quilliam’s Head of Outreach and Training, Ghaffar Hussain.

The publication is the latest in a series of digestible analyses of issues relating to democracy, extremism and Islamism, including A Brief History of Islamism and Islamism and Language – How using the wrong words reinforces Islamist narratives.

Arab democrats ‘drawing on indigenous liberal tradition’

The Arab Spring confirms the bankruptcy of violent Jihadist groups and the Islamist narrative that stresses religion as the basis of political identity, says a new report on Muslim modernism.

“In recent years, the voices of extremists have dominated Muslim political discourse,” writes Ghaffar Hussain, author of Modern Muslim Political Thought: The Progressive Tradition. “Now however, with the advent of the Arab Spring, we are seeing the re-emergence of older democratic and liberal ideas and values that actually pre-date Islamist movements. One of the most heartening aspects of the Arab Spring is to see Muslims reclaiming not only their freedom but also their democratic heritage.”

The Jihadist violence of groups like al-Qaeda is “a schismatic offshoot of the Islamist struggle to seize state power in Muslim majority countries,”. But “it is also symptomatic of the failure of Islamist groups, and many governments, to provide real solutions or improve the lives of ordinary Muslims.”

The report, published by Quilliam, the London-based counter-extremism think-tank, highlights progressive trends in Muslim political thought and the work of key Muslim intellectuals who affirm the compatibility of Islam with secular, liberal and democratic governance.

“For over a century, Muslim political theoreticians have created a rich tradition of progressive political thought that seeks to harmonize Islam and liberal democratic politics,” says Hussain. “When looking at the events of the Arab Spring therefore, it is important to understand that Arab democrats are not just following the West but are also drawing on their own long-standing indigenous liberal traditions.”

The Arab Spring is “a testament” to the fact that ordinary Muslims want change and “seek to live in more stable, productive and prosperous societies. But this can only be achieved if road-blocks, such as Jihadist groups and corrupt autocrats, are removed and democratic culture is allowed to take root.”

During colonialism, early Muslim modernists understandably looked to Islam as a form of political identity and mobilization. But Hussain contends that innovative a new generation of Muslim thinkers “has shown the way by highlighting the fact that political norms and conceptions of citizenship have developed over the years, and religion no longer dictates one’s political identity.”

Like citizens of any other state, Muslims’ political interests and identities are not primarily driven by religious convictions [a recent survey by the International Republican Institute revealed that 80% of the Jasmine revolution’s supporters were motivated more by socio-economic grievances around living standards and unemployment] . Consequently, political arrangements should not privilege Shariah or elevate Muslims above other religious minorities. “The focus should be on achieving parity through good and accountable governance, social justice and economic development,” the report concludes.

Quilliam has today released its latest publication, Modern Muslim Political Thought: The Progressive Tradition, authored by Quilliam’s Head of Outreach and Training, Ghaffar Hussain.

The publication is the latest in a series of digestible analyses of issues relating to democracy, extremism and Islamism, including A Brief History of Islamism and Islamism and Language – How using the wrong words reinforces Islamist narratives.

Kick ‘tyrannies’ off UN Human Rights Council, say dissidents

The United Nations should suspend China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council, several leading dissidents and former political prisoners said today.

In a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights commissioner Navi Pillay (full text below), the activists call on them to “remove tyrannical governments from special positions of power in the United Nations human rights system.”

Welcoming the suspension of Libya’s Gaddafi regime from the Human Rights Council earlier this year and the success of efforts to stop Iran and Syria joining the same body, the dissidents ask the UN “to continue on the path of reform” by suspending China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights Council, which is currently in session; removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women; and expelling Saudi Arabia from the Executive Board of UN Women.

Signatories include Yang Jianli and Rebiya Kadeer, former Chinese political prisoners; Ahmad Batebi, former Iranian political prisoner; Fidel Suarez Cruz, former Cuban political prisoner; Grace Kwinjeh, Zimbabwean dissident and torture victim; and Jacqueline Kasha (above), Ugandan activist for LGBT rights. Witnesses included Irwin Cotler, a Canadian MP and counsel to prisoners of conscience, and David Lowe of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

The activists adopted a dissidents’ declaration and action plan at the We Have A Dream: Global Summit, organized by 22 human rights NGOs on the fringe of last week’s UN General Assembly.

___________________

Date: Sept. 28, 2011
To: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon & UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
Dear Madam High Commissioner,

On behalf of the dissidents, activists and 22 human rights NGOs that participated in the We Have A Dream: Global Summit Against Discrimination and Persecution, on September 21-22, 2011, I present to you below the outcome document adopted there, being the Declaration of Dissidents for Universal Human Rights. It includes eight draft resolutions on compelling human rights situations. We respectfully ask you to please bring these to the attention of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, both of which are now in session, as well as all other relevant departments of the United Nations, and to support urgent United Nations action on these country situations and thematic areas of concern.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Hillel C. Neuer
UN Watch

Kick ‘tyrannies’ off UN Human Rights Council, say dissidents

The United Nations should suspend China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council, several leading dissidents and former political prisoners said today.

In a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights commissioner Navi Pillay (full text below), the activists call on them to “remove tyrannical governments from special positions of power in the United Nations human rights system.”

Welcoming the suspension of Libya’s Gaddafi regime from the Human Rights Council earlier this year and the success of efforts to stop Iran and Syria joining the same body, the dissidents ask the UN “to continue on the path of reform” by suspending China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights Council, which is currently in session; removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women; and expelling Saudi Arabia from the Executive Board of UN Women.

Signatories include Yang Jianli and Rebiya Kadeer, former Chinese political prisoners; Ahmad Batebi, former Iranian political prisoner; Fidel Suarez Cruz, former Cuban political prisoner; Grace Kwinjeh, Zimbabwean dissident and torture victim; and Jacqueline Kasha (above), Ugandan activist for LGBT rights. Witnesses included Irwin Cotler, a Canadian MP and counsel to prisoners of conscience, and David Lowe of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

The activists adopted a dissidents’ declaration and action plan at the We Have A Dream: Global Summit, organized by 22 human rights NGOs on the fringe of last week’s UN General Assembly.

___________________

Date: Sept. 28, 2011
To: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon & UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
Dear Madam High Commissioner,

On behalf of the dissidents, activists and 22 human rights NGOs that participated in the We Have A Dream: Global Summit Against Discrimination and Persecution, on September 21-22, 2011, I present to you below the outcome document adopted there, being the Declaration of Dissidents for Universal Human Rights. It includes eight draft resolutions on compelling human rights situations. We respectfully ask you to please bring these to the attention of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, both of which are now in session, as well as all other relevant departments of the United Nations, and to support urgent United Nations action on these country situations and thematic areas of concern.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Hillel C. Neuer
UN Watch

Putin Mk II signals re-set of the re-set?

Does Putin’s Kremlin return threaten the re-set of US-Russian relations?

“There will not be a rollback of the major accomplishments of the reset,” says Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But a Moscow-based Carnegie colleague isn’t so sure.

Even before news of Putin’s elevation, Lilia Shevtsova predicted that the fragility of the reset would present problems for one of its principal architects - Michael McFaul,* President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next US envoy to Moscow.

“McFaul is a friend of mine, but I have mixed feelings about his posting to Russia,” says Lilia Shevtsova of the Moscow Carnegie Center:

On the one hand, it’s good to have an ambassador who knows Russian realities, is versed in the subject, including Russian culture, speaks the language, and has great empathy with what’s happening in this country. On the other hand, I think the reset policy is over, that its main targets have been reached….However, no cardinal changes have occurred in the relations between America and Russia, so willy-nilly Michael will have to go through the motions of maintaining partnership which is actually nonexistent. There is still a strong touch of suspicion to these relations and it is hard to say how Michael will find a way out of this trap, maintaining normal intergovernmental relations on the one hand and being aware of the direction in which Russia is headed on the other; what means he will find of responding to this situation.

Republicans on Capitol Hill “may choose to use the nomination as an opportunity to confront the Obama administration on other aspects of the ‘reset,’” reports suggest.

* McFaul is a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.