Shameless Islamist Doublespeak Rages On
Hezbollah’s “New” Manifesto in Context

by Raymond Ibrahim
Pajamas Media
December 24, 2009

“Al-Qaeda’s Zawahiri Accuses Obama of Trying to ‘Enslave’ Arab World.” So reads the headline of a recent Fox News report, which goes on to quote Zawahiri saying things such as “Obama’s policy is nothing but another cycle in the Crusader and Zionist campaign to enslave and humiliate us, and to occupy our land and steal our wealth.”

Two years earlier, Zawahiri was even more dramatic. Then he implored “blacks in America, people of color, American Indians, Hispanics, and all the weak and oppressed in North and South America, in Africa and Asia, and all over the world, to know that when we wage jihad in Allah’s path, we aren’t waging jihad to lift oppression from Muslims only; we are waging jihad … to lift oppression from all mankind. … This is why I want every oppressed one on the face of the earth to know that our victory over America and the Crusading West — with Allah’s permission — is a victory for them, because they shall be freed from the most powerful tyrannical force in the history of mankind.”

Unfortunately for al-Qaeda, its very own words — the Arabic ones directed at fellow Muslims which Westerners rarely see or read — unequivocally contradict its repeated attempts to portray itself as an organization out to spread Robin Hood-style justice and equanimity vis-à-vis a tyrannical U.S. For in these Arabic treatises, al-Qaeda makes it perfectly clear that, short of submitting to Islamic hegemony, the non-Muslim world is the enemy, ipso facto.

Yet doublespeak is definitely not the sole province of al-Qaeda; the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict has furnished the world with some of the most flagrant examples of Islamist doublespeak — emanating from such players as Arafat, the PLO, and Hamas. Hezbollah offers a recent example:

According to Reuters, the terrorist organization’s newly revised manifesto “tones down Islamist rhetoric but maintains a tough line against Israel and the United States. The new manifesto drops reference to an Islamic republic in Lebanon, which has a substantial Christian population, confirming changes to Hezbollah thinking about the need to respect Lebanon’s diversity.”

In fact, this “new” manifesto has been hailed as a progressive step forward for the terrorist organization: an AFP headline tells us that “Hezbollah strikes softer tone in second manifesto: [according to] analysts,” such as one Paul Salem, head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, who asserts that the “manifesto is reassuring as it shows Hezbollah’s integration with Lebanese political life.”

Meanwhile, back on earth, a Jerusalem Post report reveals that this “toning down” exists solely in the “for-infidels-only” English version of the manifesto: “It is correct that the new manifesto does not include the previous document’s call for the establishment of an ‘Islamic republic’ in Lebanon. But here an interesting discrepancy emerges. The longer, Arabic version of the manifesto is steeped in religious rhetoric and Islamist terminology.”

In fact, words and phrases that do not appear in the English version — “resistance in the way of jihad,” the “jihadi way,” “mujahidin” and “martyrs,” even oblique praise for Sharia rule — appear in the Arabic version, demonstrating that Hezbollah does not “respect Lebanon’s diversity” and is not “integrat[ing] with Lebanese [i.e., half-Christian] political life.”

As the Jerusalem Post concludes, Hezbollah “considers it in its interest to tone down or remove the pro-Iranian and jihadi parts of its identity when presenting itself to the outside world. But the full document in its original form suggests that the movement has not strayed far from its original path.”

(Ironic, too, that Hezbollah ignored the fact that the Arabic and English versions would inevitably be compared and exposed. Perhaps its Shia proclivities, including an instinctual reliance on taqiyya, that is, doctrinal deceit, blinded it to this fact — that and perhaps its more plausible expectations that, even if they were to find out, few Westerners would care anyway.)

Aside from the fact that Hezbollah perfectly mirrors al-Qaeda by saying one thing in English to infidels and another in Arabic to Muslims, so too does it employ the grievance-against-the-West paradigm. A CNN headline concerning this new manifesto summarizes by saying, “Hezbollah blames U.S. for all terrorism.” In fact, the manifesto’s first section, entitled “Domination and Hegemony,” is dedicated to portraying the U.S. as the “root of all terror” and a “danger that threatens the whole world,” including by trying to dominate the Muslim world “politically, culturally, economically, and through all aspects.”

There is one final irony worth noting: Though duping infidels has a long pedigree, that the current deception revolves around Muslims portraying themselves as weak victims who need to rely on the goodwill of the despised infidels; that the lie reduces Muslims to evoking, of all things, “humanitarianism” — otherwise a maudlin Western abomination that directly contravenes Islamic law — surely this must sting Muslim pride. For it is incongruous to believe, as Islamists certainly do, that might not only makes right, but is a sign of divine approval; that Islam must proudly spread its hegemony, including by the sword, brooking no infidel nonsense, no talk of “equality,” “freedom,” “tolerance,” etc. — I say, it is incongruous to believe all this and then turn around and play the role of poor victim, evoke lofty, liberal standards, implore the international (that is, infidel) community for aid, and whine about that big meanie, the U.S. and its supposed quest for “domination and hegemony” — precisely what all Islamists most desire.

Yet so long as (naive or arrogant) Westerners continue believing their ideals are universally shared, irrespective of all evidence otherwise — from the antithetic dictates of Islamic law to al-Qaeda’s, Fatah’s, Hamas’, and Hezbollah’s open advocacy for it (in Arabic at least) — the indignity of assuming an effete and, from an Arab point of view, emasculated role is a small and, quite possibly, temporary price to pay.

Originally published at:

Raymond Ibrahim is the associate director of the Middle East Forum and the author of the Al Qaeda Reader, translations of religious texts and propaganda.


The System “Worked Really Very, Very Smoothly” in Detroit?

by Daniel Pipes
December 28, 2009

The near-success of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, to set off an explosive on Christmas Day should open the American public’s eyes to the sad state of counterterrorism eight years after 9/11.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, is one of the most privileged young men of Nigeria.

The incident involved a Nigerian national in Seat 19A – ideally placed over the fuel tanks, atop the wing, and next to the exterior of the aircraft – of Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. As summarized by the Wall Street Journal, it

happened as the Airbus 330-300 carrying 289 people was approaching Detroit. Mr. Abdulmutallab went to the plane’s restroom for about 20 minutes, and upon returning to his seat he stated that his stomach was upset, and he pulled a blanket over himself, according to the Justice Department complaint. As the flight was heading for a landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport before noon, the complaint alleges, Mr. Abdulmutallab set off the device. Passengers heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor, and some observed Mr. Abdulmutallab’s pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire.

Subsequent investigations learned that the plot was organized and launched by Al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen, who arranged for 80 grams of PETN (pentaerythritol) to be sewn in Abdulmutallab’s underwear. Investigators concluded that only a chance malfunction prevented the explosives from bringing down the Northwest plane.

Umar Farouk’s father, Umaru Abdulmutallab, former chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria and one of his country’s most prominent businessmen, recently went to the U.S. embassy in Abuja to warn about his son’s “radicalization and associations,” prompting American officialdom to place the son on a terror watch list of about 550,000 names, the Terrorist Screening Data Base.

Abdulmutallab being taken off Northwest flight 253 on Dec. 25.

But they did not place him on the list of about 15,000 individuals who must go through additional screening, much less the list of about 4,000 people on the “no-fly” list, who are not allowed to fly to or in the United States. Nor did they revoke Abdulmutallab’s two-year, multi-entry tourist visa. Nor did an air marshal accompany his flight.

Despite these multiple failures, Janet Napolitano, the Department of Homeland Security secretary, astonishingly claimed that the system “worked really very, very smoothly” in Detroit. This institutional myopia increases my worries about U.S. law enforcement. Of course, had the system worked, Abdulmutallab would never have entered the airplane, much less set off an explosive device.

Looking ahead, the Transportation Security Administration has issued an emergency order requiring travelers headed for the United States to undergo a “thorough pat-down” at the boarding gate, with a focus on the upper legs and torso and a secondary inspection of carry-on baggage. During the final hour on all U.S. flights, passengers must remain seated, may not access carry-on baggage or keep personal items on their laps.

More delights may follow, reports the New York Times: “Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item aboard the plane. … On one flight, from Newark Airport, flight attendants kept cabin lights on for the entire trip instead of dimming them for takeoff and landing. … In effect, the restrictions mean that passengers on flights of 90 minutes or less would most likely not be able to leave their seats at all.”

As Phyllis Chesler plaintively asks, “Are we all going to be subjected to underwear checks before boarding our flights? If so, Al-Qaeda will soon secrete explosives in body cavities. Will we all be searched there as well?”

In other words, because U.S. security agencies refuse to take the sensible precaution of concentrating their resources on the small target pool of suspects, namely Muslims, about 1 percent of the population, hundreds of millions of passengers must bear the burden of extra cost, inconvenience, and loss of privacy.

The Detroit episode renders invalid several aphorisms I honed over recent years:

  • Had U.S. law enforcement devoted the attention to the 9/11 plotters that it has since given to counterterrorism, 9/11 would never have taken place.
  • While Sudden Jihad Syndrome by isolated individuals remains beyond the abilities of American institutions to stop (viz., the Ft. Hood shooter last month), terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda are well under surveillance.
  • Government authorities have terrorism under control, so we private analysts can focus instead on the non-violent forms of radical Islam known variously as “stealth jihad,” “creeping Shari’a,” “lawful Islamism,” or “Islamism 2.0.”

The Northwest incident takes me back to 9/11 itself, when I wrote a bitter analysis how the U.S. government had “grievously failed in its topmost duty to protect American citizens from harm.” That failure continues.

What size disaster must occur to inspire a serious approach to counterterrorism?

Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum, Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

Moderate Islam: Western Ally or Western Myth?
A Debate

by Daniel Pipes and Wafa Sultan
December 1, 2009

Can there be a truly moderate Islam compatible with liberal-democratic notions of human rights and democracy? Is “radical Islam” a modern phenomenon or is Islam itself inherently radical? Such were the questions addressed in a recent debate between Dr. Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, and Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-born American psychiatrist. James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal moderated.

Mr. Pipes began by emphasizing that he and Ms. Sultan are allies, fighting the same opponents, namely, the Islamists. They agree on the past and present of Islam but disagree about the future. Ms. Sultan argues it cannot change while he believes it can. The idea that Islam cannot change is an essentialist view that ignores how much Islam has changed over history, an aspect that he, as a student of Islamic history for forty years, appreciates. He stressed that many of the requirements of the Shari’a, or Muslim sacred law, are impractical to implement, resulting in what Mr. Pipes has coined as the “medieval synthesis,” whereby loopholes are devised to get around impractical tenets, such as the prohibition against usury.

In the 1800s, with the onslaught of Western influence, the medieval synthesis collapsed, replaced by secular, reformist, and fundamentalist strains. The last of these is the totalitarian mentality that Mr. Pipes describes as “Islamism,” which transformed the religion into a political movement. And while Islamism dominates today, there are even at this bleak moment signs that Islam itself can change. For example, jurists in Turkey recently ruled that women can pray next to men in mosques, a small but important step for women’s rights.

Ms. Sultan began her argument by quoting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who says that there is no “moderate or immoderate Islam. There is Islam; that is it.” She contends that terms like “radical Islam” conceal the true nature of Islam itself—a political ideology. She adds that the aim of Islam is to subdue the entire world under Shari’a. To prove her position, she quoted from the Qur’an; she also argued that the true nature of Islam can be seen in the Sira, or biography, of Muhammad, which, she says, has come to define Islam itself. For instance, Ms. Sultan claims that Muhammad’s actions—such as marrying a 9-year-old and taking many women as concubines —means that there can be no equality for women under Shari’a.

During the question and answer session, Mr. Pipes pointed out that those who argue that Islam itself is the problem leave the West with no solutions, adding that, to truly reform Islam, Western governments must begin to empower genuine moderates. Asked what policies she would adopt toward the Muslim world, Ms. Sultan asserted that Islam can be reformed, and recommended Western pressure on the Saudi king as the surest way.

Mr. Pipes and Ms. Sultan agreed on some specifics, for instance, that Western governments must not welcome non-violent Islamism and should monitor the hate being taught in Muslim schools in the West. Overall, however, Mr. Pipes, while not denying what Islam has been or is, insists that Islam, like other religions, can and will change, whereas Ms. Sultan was more pessimistic.

Summary written by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.

Not Jolly Good II: Islamists Funded by the UK Government

by David J. Rusin  •  Dec 30, 2009 at 11:27 am

The British government’s history of employing Islamists and placing them in sensitive positions, the subject of the previous IW blog post, is only part of the problem. Equally troubling is the record of UK bureaucrats sending money to Islamists in the form of grants. Two recent scandals:

The TaxPayers’ Alliance released a report in September on the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) program, through which the government teams with private organizations in efforts — often highly misguided — to combat radicalization. But consider some recipients of the largess.

The study finds that “around £850,000 has been given to the Muslim Council of Britain’s official affiliates” over the past several years. Not only has the group heavy-handedly sought to implant Islam in public schools, but the government suspended links with it in early 2009 after one of its leaders signed a document indirectly “advocating attacks on the Royal Navy if it tries to stop arms for Hamas being smuggled into Gaza.” Then there is this embarrassing grantee:

One organization, the Muslim Welfare House (MWH), has received just under £50,000 in PVE funds over the last two years. The MWH is a member of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), which represents the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Europe. The FIOE has very close ties with Holocaust promoter and leading MB scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and his European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) was founded by the FIOE.


The MB connections with the MWH are strong and up until 2007, of the five registered owners of the MWH, three were also directors of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the Brotherhood’s main presence in the United Kingdom.

One month later the Telegraph disclosed more funding follies: The government, through various programs, paid £113,411 in 2008 to a foundation operated by senior members of the international Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. Specifically, the money has supported schools “where children are taught key elements of Hizb’s ideology from the age of five.” The Telegraph article goes on to outline the anti-Semitic and pro-jihad aspects of this ideology, summarizing Hizb ut-Tahrir’s separatist worldview as follows:

Hizb regards integration as “dangerous” and says that British Muslims should “fight assimilation” into British society. It wants to create a global Islamic superstate, or “caliphate,” initially in Muslim-majority countries and then across the rest of the world.

Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, responded to the report by accusing officials of “sleeping on the job.” He is far too polite. Only one adjective properly describes a government that funds those who seek its destruction: suicidal.

Syria’s Path to Islamist Terror

by Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2010

While the Obama administration and congressional leaders may justify renewed engagement with Syria with their desire to jumpstart the Middle East peace process, they ignore the very issue that lies at the heart of the Syrian threat to U.S. national security: Syrian support for radical Islamist terror. This may seem both illogical and counterfactual given past antagonism between the ‘Alawite-led regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is overwhelming evidence that President Bashir al-Asad has changed Syrian strategic calculations and that underpinning terror is crucial to the foreign policy of the country.


On February 14, 2005, a huge bomb killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri as his motorcade drove through Beirut. All eyes fell on Damascus.[1] Syria’s leaders had motive: Hariri was a prominent Lebanese nationalist who opposed their attempts to grant Lebanon’s pro-Syrian president Émile Lahoud an unconstitutional third term. The Syrians had the means to carry out such an attack: Their army had occupied Lebanon for more than fifteen years. Syrian military intelligence (Shu’bat al-Mukhabarat al-‘Askariya) operated freely throughout the tiny republic and maintained operational networks there.[2] Asad had actually threatened Hariri: Druze leader Walid Jumblatt reported that at a meeting with Asad and Hariri a few months before the latter’s murder, Asad told him, “Lahoud is me … If you and [French president Jacques] Chirac want me out of Lebanon, I will break Lebanon,” a remark Jumblatt interpreted as a death threat to Hariri.[3]

Following the assassination, Syria became an international pariah. U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan dispatched a fact-finding mission. This mission resulted in the establishment of an international, independent investigating commission headed initially by German judge Detlev Mehlis.[4] U.S. president George W. Bush and French president Jacques Chirac, two leaders whose views of the Middle East seldom coincided, agreed to isolate Syria diplomatically.[5] The State Department withdrew its ambassador, Margaret Scobey, and maintained only a lower-level diplomatic presence in Damascus. Under immense pressure, the Syrian army finally withdrew from Lebanon. But, over subsequent months and years, as Asad detected chinks in the West’s diplomatic solidarity—and as U.S. members of Congress began to defy the White House and re-engage with Asad—the Syrian regime began to put cooperation with the U.N. investigators on the back burner. Today, Syrian cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the successor to the more ambitious Investigation Commission, is negligible.

Obama’s Approach to Syria

Barack Obama campaigned on a platform which made engagement central to his foreign policy. “Not talking [to adversaries] doesn’t make us look tough—it makes us look arrogant,” he declared during his campaign.[6] In his inaugural address, he declared, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”[7]

The Syrian regime signaled that it would accept Obama’s offer, so long as the White House’s hand preceded the unclenching of the Syrian fist. In a congratulatory telegram to Obama, the Syrian leader expressed “hope that dialogue would prevail to overcome the difficulties that have hindered real progress toward peace, stability, and prosperity in the Middle East.”[8]

While the Syrian regime had yet to cooperate with the Hariri investigation, cease its sponsorship of and support for terrorism, stop interfering in Lebanon, or stop helping Hezbollah build up its rocket force, the Obama administration wasted little time in easing pressure on Damascus. This rush to dialogue was undertaken in order to create a more conducive atmosphere for engagement. On March 7, 2009, the State Department dispatched Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state and the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria in more than four years, to Damascus for talks with Syria’s foreign minister.[9] The Obama administration called an abrupt end to the moratorium initiated during the Bush administration forbidding U.S. officials’ attendance at Syrian embassy functions in Washington when it sent Feltman and senior National Security Council aides to Syrian National Day festivities.[10] Feltman’s participation in the renewed engagement was particularly symbolic given his previous posting as ambassador to Lebanon during the Cedar Revolution of 2005 when he led the diplomatic charge to rid Lebanon of Syrian influence and troops.

On June 24, 2009, the State Department announced that it would once again nominate an ambassador for the U.S. embassy in Damascus.[11] Just over a month later, the Obama administration announced that it would ease sanctions on Syria. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly explained that “Senator [George] Mitchell [the president’s Middle East envoy] told President Assad that the U.S. would process all eligible applications for export licenses as quickly as possible.”[12]

While the easement did not include those sanctions imposed by Congress in the wake of Hariri’s assassination, they, nonetheless, reflect the White House’s desire to bring Syria in from the cold. Nor will Congress necessarily act as a check on this enthusiasm to roll back even those sanctions. Less than two years after Hariri’s assassination, senators Arlen Specter (Democrat of Pennsylvania), Bill Nelson (Democrat of Florida), John Kerry (Democrat of Massachusetts), and Christopher Dodd (Democrat of Connecticut)[13] traveled to Syria to promote engagement. Four months later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also visited Asad for the same purpose, declaring, “The road to Damascus is a road to peace.”[14]

Can Syria Be Divorced from Terrorism?

Flipping Syria away from its axis with Iran is a diplomatic priority for the Obama administration as it seeks to revitalize the Middle East peace process.[15] Many Western diplomats and analysts hoped that Syria would reform when the young, Western-educated Bashir al-Asad succeeded his hard-line father Hafiz as president of Syria in 2000. But the Damascus spring proved fleeting. Syria remained a police state at home and an enabler of terrorism abroad with

policies rooted firmly in rejection of Israel’s right to exist and opposition to U.S. regional interests. Should Syria be flipped, the theory goes, not only would it mitigate the threat of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, but it could enable Syria to join forces with Lebanon to make peace with Israel. According to Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, “Syria is a strategic linchpin for dealing with Iran and the Palestinian issue. Don’t forget, everything in the Middle East is connected.”[16]

To seek a resolution to conflict in the Middle East is a noble goal. And yet, to base that deal on Syrian goodwill is not only naïve but requires a perception of Syria and its intentions that is seriously out-of- date. While many in Washington and other capitals continue to perceive Syria as a largely secular state with a leadership fundamentally hostile to radical Islam, today’s Syrian leadership encourages both radical Islam and international Al-Qaeda.[17] The traditional assumption that support for extremist Islam is limited to Saudi Arabia and wealthy Persian Gulf financiers is no longer valid. Bashir al-Asad is playing a dangerous game, one that is not only inimical to U.S. interests in the short term but also employs a strategy that could undercut Syrian stability in the long term.

It was not long after the start of military operations against Iraq in March 2003 that the Pentagon grew concerned at Syrian support for the insurgency there. Speaking at a press conference held in Baghdad in 2004, Gen. Richard Myers, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “There are other foreign fighters. We know for a fact that a lot of them find their way into Iraq through Syria for sure.”[18] According to some estimates, perhaps 80 percent of foreign

fighters who infiltrated Iraq crossed the Syrian border.[19] These were disproportionately responsible for the most devastating suicide bombings in Iraq.[20] An Italian investigation of foreign fighter recruitment in Italy found that “Syria has functioned as a hub for an Al-Qaeda network.”[21] Syrian president Asad repeatedly denied any involvement in facilitating terrorism in Iraq. In 2007, he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer: “If you stoke [terrorism], it will burn you. So if we have this chaos in Iraq, it will spill over to Syria … So saying this [that Syria aids Iraq’s insurgency], it’s like saying that the Syrian government is working against the Syrian interest.”[22]

Two common assumptions handicap an understanding of terrorist networks. The first is that Shi’i and Sunni groups or governments do not cooperate. Hence, some scholars argue that it is impossible that the Iranian regime could supply arms to the Taliban. In 2007, Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan, wrote, “Among the more fantastic charges that Bush made against Iran was that its government was actively arming and helping the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. In fact, the Taliban are extremist Sunnis who hate and have killed large numbers of Shiites. Shiite Iran is unlikely to support them.”[23] The evidence that they have done so, however, is overwhelming as U.S. forces have seized truckloads of Iranian weaponry en route to the Taliban.[24]

Another false argument—and one that applies specifically to Syria—is that secular regimes do not support radical Islamist groups. The Egyptian government, for example, has long turned a blind eye to the supply of Hamas terrorists through tunnels from Egyptian territory.[25] Libya, too, has engaged in the practice, supporting the Islamist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines even as Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi sought to present himself to the West as an ally in the fight against radical Islam.[26] To ensure U.S. national security, U.S. analysis must be based on reality rather than image. Despite Asad’s stated animosity toward Islamist terrorism and his regime’s trumpeting of its own vulnerability to radical Islamism, the Syrian record shows a willingness not only to tolerate but also to aid Islamist groups and assist Al-Qaeda violence.

The assumption that the Syrian government would not support Islamism is rooted in the regime’s troubled history with radical Islam. The originally Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood established a branch in Syria in the late 1950s. The group remained quiet for two decades but, in 1979, it began to engage in terrorism, most famously when members of the group murdered several dozen ‘Alawi military cadets near Aleppo.[27] Three years later, after some 200 Islamists staged an insurrection in Hama, Syria’s fifth largest city, the Syrian military razed much of the city, killing between 10,000 and 20,000 civilians, including women and children. In the aftermath of Hama, many analysts note that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood renounced violence although only the most prescient Syria hands have observed that, behind the regime’s veneer of secularism, Hafiz al-Asad subsequently sought to co-opt Islamism.[28]

In recent years, however, the Syrian government has blamed domestic terrorism on shadowy and often unnamed Islamist groups. In July 2005, the Syrian government returned alleged Islamist terrorists to Saudi Arabia and Tunisia[29] although, more often, Damascus has refused to extradite terrorists, suggesting that the decision to release is linked more to immediate diplomatic necessity rather than a principled commitment to combat terrorism. Still, the Syrian government has sought to project an image of victimization. In June 2006, Syria’s tightly-controlled national television showed the aftermath of a gun battle in Damascus between Islamists and state security forces, suggesting that the government—normally secretive on security matters—wanted to cast itself as a victim of Islamism.[30] The Syrian government cited the September 27, 2008 car bombing in Damascus, which killed seventeen people, as an indication that Islamist terrorists—in this case it named Fatah al-Islam—had targeted the country for its cooperation with U.S. efforts to strengthen security along its border with Iraq.[31] Pointing the finger at Fatah al-Islam may also have been meant to deflect suspicion that the Syrian government had supported the group’s activities in Lebanon. A precedent of staged violence, such as the attack on the Danish embassy in Damascus during the Muhammad cartoon crisis, suggests analysts should consider the possibility that other such incidents were also faked.[32] Asad’s stated animosity toward radical Islam and Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups is mirrored in Al- Qaeda’s traditional hatred of the ‘Alawi regime in Syria. A year before the 9/11 attacks, a leading Al-Qaeda tactician, ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Hakim (better known by his nom de guerre Abu Mus’ab as-Suri) penned a lengthy polemic against the Syrian regime. Suri described the ‘Alawis as heretics, fanatical Shi’a descended from Jews and Zoroastrians.[33] About Hama, he related not only how the “lives of more than 45,000 [sic] unarmed Sunni civilians were claimed” but also how the Syrian security forces continued to kill an additional 30,000 Sunni Muslims over the subsequent fourteen years.[34] After a rambling religious discourse on the meaning and necessity of jihad, Suri concluded, “It is not permissible for Muslims to stay under their [‘Alawi] rule for one moment …They must be pursued and killed to cleanse them from Greater Syria and the face of the earth. They should be killed as individuals and groups, and Sunni Muslims must ambush and kill them all.”[35]

Such hatred is real, but in the Middle East alliances shift and enmity can be deferred. Enemies cooperate against those whom they consider a mutual threat. Iran and the Taliban—who hardly like each other and were on the verge of military conflict in 1998—nevertheless found themselves allied only a decade later in efforts to undermine U.S. stability efforts in Afghanistan. For all his diplomatic promises about non-cooperation with terrorists, the evidence that Bashir al-Asad aids and abets Al-Qaeda is damning.

Syrians in the Iraqi Insurgency

In September 2007, U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, twelve miles from the Syrian border, discovered computers and a cache of documents that included the records of more than 600 foreign fighters who had infiltrated into Iraq between spring 2006 and summer 2007. The documents show a pattern of Syrian behavior at odds with the regime’s public statements and diplomatic posture. While the records listed Syrian as the nationality of only forty-four of the foreign fighters—behind Saudis (237) and Libyans (111)—Syrians coordinated the insertion into Iraq of almost all the fighters listed.[36] The insertion of the Saudi terrorists is especially instructive as Saudi Arabia shares a lengthy and porous border with Iraq. The Saudi jihadists presumably choose to travel to Iraq through Syria because Asad tolerates what the Saudi leadership will not. It is also possible that the total Syrian numbers are underrepresented since Syrians formed a majority of the detainees held at Camp Bucca, the main U.S. detention camp in Iraq.[37]

The Syrian jihadists themselves come from across Syria although most originate in the inland Dayr az-Zawr region, which abuts Iraq. Still others come from Latakia, the home province of the Asad family, and from Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo.[38] At just thirty-four individuals, the sample size of Syrians whose hometown is listed in the Sinjar records is too small to draw definitive conclusions about the roots of all Syrian jihadists, but it is clear that the radicals come from all across the country.

The Sinjar records also detail recruitment methods. Those recruiting most jihadists were “ikhwan (brothers),” not necessarily Muslim Brotherhood (al-ikhwan al-muslimun) members, but rather those whom the recruits considered devout or to be members of radical groups. Friends and relatives also recruited young Syrians for terrorist missions in Iraq. Most damning for Syrian government denial of culpability for facilitating terror was the Sinjar record’s notation that recruiters reached several Syrians through the Internet. Given strict Syrian monitoring of electronic communication, Syrian statements that they did not know of such recruiting activities on their soil are not credible.

Underlining the extent and intensity of these recruitment efforts was the fact that almost

two-thirds of the Syrian nationals who volunteered for jihad in Iraq—and all those who reported initial recruitment by the Internet—became suicide bombers.[39] The recruitment of suicide terrorists is complex. It requires psychological screening and indoctrination. If the Syrian government claims to be unaware of such activities in its own towns, cities, and mosques, then Syria’s future stability cannot be assumed. It is far more likely that the Syrian regime chose to turn a blind eye to terrorist recruitment on its soil. Again, however, this Syrian blind eye should raise concerns about the country’s future stability as it suggests a vulnerability to blowback should these same Islamist terrorists decide to return to Syria to take on the Asad regime.

The Syrian government’s denials of facilitation for Islamist terror are less credible given the country’s role as a transit point for radical fighters and arms. Almost all Saudis, Libyans, Egyptians, Algerians, Kuwaitis, Yemenis, and Moroccans transited Syria to reach Iraq. Syria is a police state. It is implausible that its government is unaware of the transit of large numbers of foreign nationals, some through Damascus International Airport, others across the border from Jordan and Turkey. Nor can the Syrian government simply blame spontaneous outrage at U.S. occupation of Iraq: Many of the foreign fighters who traversed Syria—and more than one-fifth of the Syrians represented in the Sinjar records—made cash contributions to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, often more than $1,000 and, in some cases, more than $10,000.[40] For an outraged jihadist to take a weapon and try to cross the border is one thing; to acquire information necessary to donate to Al-Qaeda and actually transfer the money takes more direction.

The underground railroad through Syria is lucrative not only to Al-Qaeda but also to many Syrians. Trafficking people across Syria’s border with Iraq is a complex and lucrative business. Smugglers will bribe border guards and, depending upon the size of the operation, officials in Damascus. Taking individuals across the border requires false papers, and acquiring these depends on corruption in Syrian government offices. In order to smuggle sensitive cargo through border checkpoints, smugglers often require intelligence about shifts and rotations of personnel at the border. This, in turn, suggests the complicity of higher levels within the Syrian regime. Indeed, many Syrian intelligence officials accept money to turn the other way. While the Syrian government sought credit for the prevention of terrorist infiltration following the U.S. siege of Fallujah in the summer of 2004, jihadists and fixers established an elaborate network of safe houses on the Syrian side of the border to enable the flow of fighters into Iraq to continue.[41] After the capture of Fallujah, U.S. troops found photographs of the leader of the Jaysh Muhammad insurgent group meeting with a senior Syrian official. While officials refused to name the Syrian official, the Iraqi ambassador to Syria said that he had protested to the Syrian government.[42]

The Sinjar documents describe a network of Syrian coordinators who facilitate travel through Syria, receiving between $19 and $34,584 for their services, the differential apparently dependent both upon the nationality of the jihadis as well as the demands of specific Syrian fixers. Saudis paid, on average, $2,500. However, the different pricing schemes offered by various fixers suggest the parallel operation of multiple networks rather than a single, coordinated system.[43] While cross-border tribal links aided infiltration, so too apparently have security forces expelled from Lebanon. These latter augmented smuggling networks into Iraq in order to make up for income lost when Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon.[44] Because the Syrian security forces are the domain of the ‘Alawis, the involvement of the security forces in smuggling and in the “taxation” of smuggling suggests the direct complicity of the regime. Indeed on December 6, 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department designated seven individuals based in Syria as suppliers of financial support for the Iraqi insurgency. Six were members of the Syrian Baath Party.[45]

Matthew Levitt, a former FBI terrorist analyst and now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, highlighted the case of an individual known as Fawzi al-Rawi. “The extent of the Syrian role in al-Rawi’s activities is noteworthy,” Levitt explained. “Al-Rawi was appointed to his position in the Syrian Ba’ath Party by Syrian president Bashir al-Asad in 2003.” Levitt also noted that the Treasury Department found that Rawi “is supported financially by the Syrian Government, and has close ties to Syrian intelligence.”[46]

Syrians in the International Jihad

The Asad regime’s support for Al-Qaeda extends far beyond the Iraqi theater of operations. Ryan Mauro, assistant director of intelligence at The Counter Terrorism Electronic Warfare and Intelligence Centre, has observed: “Many international Al-Qaeda plots have Syrian links.” He has also recounted Syrian links to Al-Qaeda attacks in Jordan and Morocco.[47] For example, the cell of Abu Mus’ab az-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was based in Syria.[48] Zarqawi’s group was responsible for the October 28, 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan,[49] as well as numerous killings of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

It has been reported that at least one alleged bomber from the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain (a Moroccan Al-Qaeda affiliate that claimed responsibility for the May 2003 suicide attacks on restaurants, hotels, and the Belgian consulate in Casablanca) trained in Syria.[50] In 2004, foreign students enrolled in Islamic schools in Syria participated in terrorist bombings in Israel and Turkey.[51] Analysts might dismiss the attack on Israel as motivated by long-standing Syrian policies, but the attacks in Turkey occurred at a time when a sympathetic Turkish government was helping the regime in Damascus ease its international isolation. U.S. defense officials allege that Mustafa al-‘Uzayti (Abu Faraj al-Libi), a senior Al-Qaeda official captured by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence on May 2, 2005, met several terrorists in Syria to plan attacks not only on the United States but also in Europe and Australia.[52] Jordanian authorities narrowly averted a massive chemical terrorist attack in downtown Amman, which the Jordanian authorities estimate might have killed 80,000 people.[53]

Following its 2005 expulsion from Lebanon, the Syrian regime used its connections to jihadists to attempt to destabilize the Lebanese government, sponsoring the Al-Qaeda affiliate Fatah al-Islam, which established itself in Nahr al-Barid, a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. According to Lebanese government interrogation reports, captured jihadists reported links with Syrian intelligence.[54] Jihadist cells in Iraq also spoke casually of Syrian veterans of the Jund ash-Sham (Soldiers of Syria) in Lebanon.[55] Until an October 26, 2008 U.S. raid from Iraq killed him, Zarqawi’s deputy, Sulayman Khaled Darwish (Abu ‘l-Ghadiya), continued to receive safe haven in Syria.[56] Following Darwish’s death, Sa’d al-Shammari took over his foreign fighter facilitation network and continued to operate it from inside Syria.[57] The list is long enough to suggest that a Syrian link to Al-Qaeda is more the rule than the exception. By providing a safe haven, the Syrian government is as complicit in assisting the terrorist group as was the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The Duplicity of the Regime

There is a growing discrepancy between the image the Syrian regime seeks to convey—that it cooperates in the war on terrorism by cracking down on radical Islamists—and the reality, which is that senior Syrian officials coddle and protect radical Islamists and Al-Qaeda operatives. Ironically, reports from international organizations such as Amnesty International have provided the Syrian regime with unwitting international legitimacy by endorsing its claim to intolerance for radical Islamists. Amnesty criticized the regime for the arrest of twelve and for the incommunicado detention of ten alleged Islamists in Dayr az-Zawr and also complained about the imprisonment of an Islamist returned to Syria in a “suspected unlawful rendition to Syria by the U.S. authorities.”[58] Such criticisms may be true, but without a proper context, they suggest that the regime exhibits complete hostility to Islamism.

In reality, Asad’s position is more nuanced. The media plays its part in endorsing this carefully constructed image of the regime, which is accepted blindly by many journalists. The Economist, for example, cast doubt on the October 26, 2008 U.S. commando raid on a compound in Syria in which U.S. officials claim to have killed a senior Al-Qaeda figure. “What makes the raid odder still is that the Syrian authorities have themselves embarked on a nationwide confrontation with Al-Qaeda types in Syria,”[59] the magazine noted, apparently assuming the Syrian crackdown was more substance than show.

Lee Smith, a leading Syria analyst and scholar at the Hudson Institute, has speculated that any Syrian crackdown on foreign jihadists might be mere Machiavellian calculation. “Damascus has an important card to play against the Saudis, who fear that Syria is holding several hundred Saudi fighters in prison,” he writes, adding, “Damascus could embarrass the Saudis by publicly announcing the existence of these extremists—or even worse, allow those jihadis to return home to fight the House of Saud.”[60]

Asad’s motivation may be multifaceted. Abdel Halim Khaddam, vice president under both Hafiz and Bashir al-Asad and now a leading opposition figure in exile, speculated that Bashir gambled that the popularity of enabling resistance outweighed the dangers of antagonizing the United States. “Fighting the Americans in Iraq is very dangerous … But it also makes Bashir popular. Under the banner of resistance, anything is popular.”[61]


The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran suggested that religious rule might be the wave of the future and not an ideal of the past. Three years later, Hafiz al-Asad’s “Hama rules” (as columnist Thomas Friedman anointed the bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood) were a wakeup call for Islamists. The fall of secular, nationalist governments rose to the top of their agenda, but the task would neither be preordained nor easy.

After Hafiz al-Asad reasserted his authority, the Syrian government quietly began to use religion to co-opt those who might otherwise be attracted to the Muslim Brotherhood and its message. The Syrian regime financed mosques, subsidized clerics, and broadcast more religious programming on the tightly-controlled state television.[62] Just as Saddam Hussein—once embraced in Western capitals for his staunch secularism and hostility to political Islam—found religion after his 1991 defeat in Operation Desert Storm, so, too, has the Asad regime cynically turned toward religion even as, like Saddam’s regime, it seeks to maintain its image of hostility to radical Islam.

Speaking at a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Damascus on May 23, 2009, Bashir al-Asad endorsed the group’s theme of “Promoting Islamic Solidarity,” condemned the “ferocious campaign against Islam with the objective of tarnishing its image as a frame of reference in terms of the civilization and religion of our peoples,” and beseeched the gathered Arab leaders to become more religiously conservative, declaring, “How can we defend a religion whose obligations we fail to carry out: these obligations of unifying our ranks and positions, stating the word of truth against the arrogant, and defending our honor and dignity against those who usurp them?”[63] Although Asad paid lip service to curtailing terrorism (albeit with rhetoric infused with moral relativism), his depiction of the threat posed to Islam by the West brought to mind the belligerent anti-Westernism of ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s intellectual mentor, more than it did the Arab nationalism of Gamal Abdel Nasser or Baath Party founder Michel ‘Aflaq.

Syria is now behaving like Saudi Arabia did in the 1990s and early 2000s when it chose to export Islamist radicalism while denying its own culpability and its vulnerability to attacks from the same quarter. Asad should heed history, however. Just as an Al-Qaeda blowback struck Saudi Arabia in the end, so, too, could Damascus’s coddling and support for jihad abroad come back to haunt Syria.

Indeed, this appears to be a possibility to which Al-Qaeda theoreticians are not blind. Among the documents found in the Sinjar cache was a lengthy and detailed tract examining the lessons learned from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s violent campaign in Syria. It found that the brotherhood lacked a comprehensive plan, was fractured into too many groups, failed to indoctrinate sufficiently, had weak public relations, and was too dependent on outsiders for resources.[64] Al-Qaeda blamed the failure of jihad in Syria up to Hama on failed Muslim Brotherhood leadership but found that “most of the base members, some of the mid level leaders, and maybe a few high level leaders are innocent and decent people … Those faithful were driven to the jihad with true resolve; they willed their leaders to act. Unfortunately all their efforts went in vain despite … the abundance of possibilities, and they set an example for ‘Jihad Quality’ by working diligently, persistently and silently, and by avoiding in-house and partisan bickering.”[65] Al-Qaeda’s analysts found the ground in Syria still fertile for jihad should Al-Qaeda spark a movement that had learned the lessons of the past.

The Obama administration may hope to cultivate Bashir al-Asad as a partner for peace, but diplomatic ambition should not trump reality. As Asad plays with fire, far more than Syria could get burned.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is a senior lecturer at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

[1] The New York Times, Feb. 16, 2005.
[2] Gary C. Gambill, “Syria after Lebanon: Hooked on Lebanon,” Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2005, pp. 35-42.
[3] The New York Times, Mar. 20, 2005.
[4] UN S/RES/1595 (2005).
[5] The Times (London), Oct. 26, 2005.
[6] “Sen. Barack Obama Remarks on Iraq,” Clinton, Iowa campaign stop, Sept. 12, 2007.
[7] Barack Obama, “Inaugural Address,” The White House, Jan. 21, 2009.
[8] (Dubai), Nov. 8, 2008.
[9] Los Angeles Times, Mar. 8, 2009.
[10] Al-Quds al-Arabi (London), Apr. 22, 2009, BBC Worldwide Monitoring, trans.
[11], June 24, 2009.
[12] Agence France-Presse, July 28, 2009.
[13] Sen. Arlen Specter, “Why Congress Can and Must Assert Itself in Foreign Policy,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 5, 2007.
[14] “The Truth about Syria,” The Washington Post, Apr. 12, 2007.
[15] Seymour M. Hersh, “Syria, Israel, and the Obama Administration,” The New Yorker, Apr. 6, 2009.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ryan Mauro, “Has Damascus Stopped Supporting Terrorists?Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2009, pp. 61-7.
[18] Gen. Richard Myers, chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander, Coalition Ground Forces, “Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing,” Baghdad, Apr. 15, 2004.
[19] “Jihadist Blowback?” The Economist (London), Oct. 2, 2008.
[20] Brian Fishman, ed., Bombers, Bank Accounts & Bleedout: Al-Qa’ida’s Road in and Out of Iraq (West Point, New York: Harmony Project, 2008), p. 6.
[21] The Los Angeles Times, Apr. 28, 2003, quoted in Matthew Levitt, “Foreign Fighters and Their Economic Impact: A Case Study of Syria and Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI),” paper presented at “Foreign Fighter Problem” conference, Foreign Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C., July 14, 2009.
[22] Diane Sawyer, “A Rare Interview with the Syrian President,” ABC News Now, Feb. 5, 2007; “Syria’s President Assad Speaks about Chaos in Iraq,” NBC News transcripts, May 7, 2007; “Interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” CBS Early Show, Sept. 7, 2007.
[23] Juan Cole. “U.S. Sanctions on Iran,”, Oct. 26, 2007, accessed Aug. 7, 2009.
[24] Adm. Mike Mullen, Department of Defense briefing, Pentagon, Apr. 25, 2008; Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberley Kagan, and Danielle Pletka, Iranian Influence in the Levant, Iraq, and Afghanistan (Washington: American Enterprise Institute Press, 2008), p. 41.
[25] Doron Almog, “Tunnel-Vision in Gaza,” Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2004, pp. 3-11.
[26]Abu Sayyaf History,” Center for Defense Information, U.S. Pacific Command, Mar. 5, 2002.
[27] Fouad Ajami, The Arab Predicament (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 215.
[28] Eyal Zisser, “Hafiz Al-Asad Discovers Islam,” Middle East Quarterly, Mar. 1999, pp. 49-56.
[29] Agence France-Presse, July 25, 26, 2005.
[30] Associated Press, June 16, 2006.
[31] Associated Press, Sept. 28, 2008; “Jihadist Blowback?” The Economist.
[32] Agence France-Presse, Feb. 5, 2006.
[33] Abu Musab as-Suri, “The Confrontation between the Sunni population of ash-Sham against An-Nasiriyah, Crusaders, and Jews,” June 22, 2000, p. 11, Harmony Database, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, document ID: AGFP 2002-600966.
[34] Ibid., pp. 24-6.
[35] Ibid., p. 62.
[36] Fishman, ed., Bombers, Bank Accounts & Bleedout, p. 3; Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, “Becoming a Foreign Fighter: A Second Look at the Sinjar Records,” in Fishman, ed., Bombers, Bank Accounts & Bleedout, p. 32.
[37] Felter and Fishman, “Becoming a Foreign Fighter,” p. 36.
[38] Ibid., pp. 40-1.
[39] Ibid., pp. 45-6, 56-7.
[40] Ibid., pp. 47, 53.
[41] Anonymous, “Smuggling, Syria, and Spending,” in Fishman, ed., Bombers, Bank Accounts & Bleedout, pp. 86-7, 90, 91.
[42] The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 23, 2004.
[43] Felter and Fishman, “Becoming a Foreign Fighter,” p. 48-9.
[44] Anonymous, “Smuggling, Syria, and Spending,” p. 85.
[45] Levitt, “Foreign Fighters and Their Economic Impact.”
[46] Ibid.; “Treasury Designates Individuals with Ties to Al Qaida, Former Regime,” U.S. Treasury Press, Dec. 6, 2007.
[47] Mauro, “Has Damascus Stopped Supporting Terrorists?” p. 62.
[48] Secretary of State Colin Powell, remarks to the United Nations Security Council, Feb. 5, 2003.
[49] Jane’s Security News (Surrey, U.K.), June 16, 2003.
[50] Emerson Vermaat, “Madrid Terrorists Possessed an Important Al-Qaeda Manual,” Militant Islam Monitor, Feb. 20, 2007.
[51] Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States after the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Jan. 10, 2005.
[52] “Summary of Evidence for Combatant Status Review Tribunal—Al Libi, Abu Faraj,” U.S. Department of Defense, Feb. 8, 2007.
[53] The Jordan Times (Amman), Feb. 16, 2006.
[54] Ar-Ra’y (Amman), June 8, 2007.
[55] “Husayn Cell/Network Status Update Report,” Aug. 11, 2007, Harmony Database, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Document #NMEC-2007-658086.
[56] Mauro, “Has Damascus Stopped Supporting Terrorists?” p. 62.
[57] Levitt, “Foreign Fighters and Their Economic Impact.”
[58] “Syria,” Amnesty International Country Report, 2009.
[59] “A Puzzling Raid,” The Economist, Oct. 30, 2008.
[60] Lee Smith, “Damascus’s Deadly Bargain,” The New Republic, Nov. 14, 2008.
[61] Ibid.
[62] Prados and Sharp, “Syria.”
[63] “Speech of President Bashar al-Assad,” Council of Foreign Ministers, Organization of Islamic Conference, Damascus, May 23-25, 2009.
[64]Chapter One: Observations on the Jihad Ordeal in Syria,” AFGP-2002-600080, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, trans., accessed Sept. 22, 2009.
[65]Chapter Two: Lessons Learned from the Armed Jihad Ordeal in Syria,” AFGP-2002-600080, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, trans., accessed Sept. 22, 2009.

America’s First Islamic College?

by Stephen Schwartz and Irfan al-Alawi
American Thinker
December 6, 2009

Who would imagine that a convert to Islam calling himself Hamza Yusuf Hanson, living in the San Francisco Bay Area and in his late ’40s, would be listed as number 38 among the “Top 50 Muslims in the World” by a leading government body in Jordan? Or that the same Hanson would have announced recently, in grandiose terms, the prospective launch of an American Islamic institution of higher education to be called Zaytuna College, and aimed at becoming a “Muslim Georgetown” in academic prestige?

“Shaykh Hamza,” as he prefers to be known, achieved so high a rank among the “Top 50 Muslims” thanks to an inventory produced by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, in cooperation with Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU). The full, illustrated catalogue is titled, “The Muslim 500” and may be perused online by clicking here. It was edited by two Georgetown faculty members: the notoriously Saudophilic Islamic studies professor and ACMCU Founding Director John L. Esposito, and Islamic studies professor Ibrahim Kalin. Kalin was recently described in Today’s Zaman, organ of the Islamist Fethullah Gülen movement, as the “chief foreign policy adviser” to Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the “soft fundamentalist” Justice and Development party, or AKP.

Esposito and Kalin’s opulent presentation of “The Muslim 500” names Saudi King Abdullah as number one in the “Top 50.” Osama bin Laden is relegated to the remaining 450, as is Zaid Shakir, an African-American convert and Hamza Yusuf’s caliph, or deputy, in the Zaytuna enterprise.

Who, then, is Hamza Yusuf Hanson? And what is Zaytuna College?

“Shaykh Hamza” was long known as one of the most outspoken Muslim radicals in America. Two days before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Hanson, speaking in Southern California, declared that America stood “condemned” and “unfortunately has a great, great tribulation coming to it.” This diatribe, reported in The Washington Post on October 2, 2001, was delivered at a benefit dinner for the prominent black nationalist known in the 1960s as H. Rap Brown, and later as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, who is now serving a life term without parole at the U.S. federal prison in Florence, Colorado, for murdering a police officer in Georgia (among other charges). The dinner was advertised on an Islamist website,

After 9/11, Hanson adjusted his idiom, meeting with President George W. Bush and assuming a posture of Sufi spirituality. But Hanson’s basic loyalties did not change. While he now claims to be a moderate Muslim and opponent of Wahhabi radicalism, a 2007 interview on an Al-Jazeera English television program moderated by Rizwan “Riz” Khan showed him turning on a Saudi dinar, so to speak, when asked about Wahhabism. Having expressed a benevolent view of the West, Hanson responded to an anti-Wahhabi comment telephoned to the show by a British Muslim named Mohammed Sami by claiming to dislike Wahhabism (at minute 8:00, here). Yet Hanson then insisted that the Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia have “consistently condemned suicide bombing” and even offered the hallucinatory argument that Saudi Wahhabi clerics have forbidden such actions in Israel! He also took pains to dissociate himself from his reputation as a provider of advice to President Bush.

Still, Hanson remains an inexhaustible self-promoter. He was embarrassed in 2006 when the Saudi daily Okaz inaccurately described him as the “mufti” – i.e. the chief Islamic religious official – of California. But the Hamza Yusuf show has few original tricks to offer; he inevitably falls back on his associations with fundamentalists and radicals. In Britain, he has participated in the bizarre, government-funded “Radical Middle Way” (RMW) project which operates “roadshow” tours defending extremist ideology, yet allegedly discouraging violence. In RMW, “Shaykh Hamza” stands alongside such Islamist bigots as Jamal Badawi, author of a famously-retrograde volume, The Status of Woman in Islam, which recommends that females be excluded from political leadership. Badawi, who taught religious studies and is professor emeritus at St, Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, Canada, has also endorsed wife-beating and polygamy.

Other RMW luminaries in Britain include the fundamentalist Swiss theoretician Tariq Ramadan, still ensconced as a senior research fellow at Oxford University although dismissed from municipal and academic positions in The Netherlands.

To justify elevating the stature of Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir, “The Muslim 500” praised their Zaytuna Institute in California as “incredibly successful” and described it as “one of the most well-respected centers of Muslim education in North America.” Yet during fall semester, 2009, the Zaytuna Institute offered only three courses in Arabic language instruction.

After changing its name to the more impressive-sounding Zaytuna College, Hanson and Shakir announced that they would set up “the first Islamic college in America” — a publicity gambit that briefly gained considerable attention in the mainstream media. But when one examines the new “college” and its programs — promoted by a deceptive website replete with images typical of a normal, functioning campus — one finds that it promises nothing more than the same Arabic language courses, plus studies in Islamic law and theology.

Further, “Zaytuna College” claims to have developed “a unique curriculum for a Bachelor’s program,” but has only begun its first freshman courses and has no academic accreditation. Its website warns: “Full accreditation is generally a four- to seven-year process.” This means, presumably, that even if Hanson and Shakir were to convince some naïve persons to sign up for a bachelor’s degree — with tuition set at $11,000 per year — it might be useless when they receive it.

The so-called “Zaytuna College” is merely a more elaborate effort at establishment of a personal madrassa for “Shaykh Hamza.” He would probably shy away from such a description, given the negative connotations of the term in the West. Instead, Zaytuna publicity describes a religious training component as an “Islamic seminary program.” Not every madrassa has to be radical; some in the Muslim world are notably moderate. Yet there is little evidence that Zaytuna would emulate them.

Rumor in the UK, where “Shaykh Hamza” has toured, has convinced some Muslims there that the Zaytuna College will be affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley. This absurd suggestion seems to derive from the naming of Hatem Bazian, a UC Berkeley lecturer in both the Near Eastern and ethnic studies departments, as “Academic Affairs Chair” for Zaytuna. Bazian has a long resume as an extremist, like his radical colleagues Hanson and Shakir, the latter a prominent associate of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading force in America’s Wahhabi lobby of radical Islamist groups. Bazian became a public figure in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1994 when, as former student body president at San Francisco State University, he agitated for a college mural that equated Jewish and American symbols with trading in “African blood.” A decade later, in 2004, Bazian called for an “intifada” in the U.S.

Promotion of “Shaykh Hamza” Shakir, and the Zaytuna Institute by Esposito, Kalin, and “The Muslim 500” does not appear coincidental. All of them, along with Rizwan Khan, have been leading participants in the so-called “Common Word” series of “dialogues” between Muslims and Catholic authorities.”Shaykh Hamza” distinguished himself as a major proponent of the “Common Word” effort, from its beginning in 2006, with a letter of 38 mainly second-rank Muslim figures addressed to Pope Benedict XVI. Like “Shaykh Hamza” and the Zaytuna campaign, the “Common Word” has been extravagantly promoted as a major event in the history of Muslim-Christian relations, having produced ever-expanding meetings at Yale and Cambridge universities, as well as discussions in Rome.

The latest such performance, also supported by the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, was held at Georgetown on October 6-9, 2009. In reality, the “Common Word” encounters are public events of an all-too-familiar kind, at which many speeches are made but nothing new or important is said or done. Nevertheless, they obscure the differences between Muslim moderates and Muslim radicals by suggesting that a single, undifferentiated Muslim delegation may treat with the Catholic Church on a basis of equality.

To re-emphasize a crucial point: the essential self-aggrandizement of “Shaykh Hamza,” who aspires to become the authoritative spokesman for Islam in the English-speaking countries, does not change; he merely rebrands his product in continuous attempts to expand his credibility. “A Common Word” had its media moment, then faded into the background without perceptibly improving interfaith relations. “Zaytuna College” also grabbed some headlines. Whatever its future, one thing about “Zaytuna College” is certain: so far, it is as much a mirage as the puffed-up reputation, to say nothing of the alleged moderation, of “Shaykh Hamza” himself.

Stephen Schwartz is executive director, and Dr. Irfan Al-Alawi is international director, of the Center for Islamic Pluralism ( They co-wrote this article for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

Sheikh Obama and His Two Wars

by Daniel Pipes
December 10, 2009

A visibly embarrassed Barack Obama shows off his Nobel Peace Prize.

Obama’s Nobel “lecture” offers critics the usual cornucopia of opportunities for criticism but I shall focus on just two statements:

“I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars.” And here I thought there were three wars. Obama’s two are Iraq and Afghanistan; missing is what George W. Bush termed the “war on terror” and I call the “war on radical Islam.” Obama apparently reduces that third one to Al-Qaeda and counts it as just part of the Afghan war. His mistake has real consequences; long after American troops have left Iraq and Afghanistan, Islamists will be attacking and subverting us. If we don’t see their efforts as a war, we lose.

“Religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam.” Here, Obama follows his predecessor in presenting himself as an interpreter of Islam. I ridiculed “Imam Bush” for telling Muslims about true Islam and its distortion, and now I must ridicule “Sheikh Obama” for the same. He’s a politician, not a theologian. He’s now a Christian, not a Muslim. He should steer completely clear from the topic of who are good or bad Muslims. (December 10, 200

Cross-posted from National Review Online: The Corner

The Mideast Peace Deal You Haven’t Heard About

by Steven J. Rosen
December 18, 2009

For a year or two at an early stage in his career, I commuted to and from our adjacent offices each morning and evening with Martin Indyk, later a top peace-process official of the Clinton administration at the Camp David negotiations and now vice president for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. I had just left the Rand Corporation to work at AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington.

Even in those pre-Oslo days of 1982 to 1983, Martin was a True Believer in the idea of a grand land-for-peace bargain between Israel and moderate Palestinians. Reviewing each day the latest installments in the Middle East epic as we rolled down Rock Creek Parkway, we argued all the way. I heaped scorn on any solution that required Israel to trust Palestinian intentions, and I held that Israel’s security could only be based on a qualitative military edge and the balance of power. I told Martin that he and our mutual friends Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller, and Dan Kurtzer, though with the noblest of intentions, were pursuing an illusion.

Martin emphatically thought I was wrong about the Middle East, and he also thought I was blind to an enduring reality in Washington. He said that Democratic and Republican administrations of the left and right may come and go, and some presidents will have less confidence in Middle East peacemaking than others, but no U.S. president will be able to sustain a policy of benign neglect of the peace process for long. The American people, the United States’ European allies, and U.S. friends in the Arab world all need to have a ray of hope. They need to believe that active diplomacy under U.S. leadership is bringing closer a resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, because it is a conflict that roils other American interests and destabilizes U.S. relations in the region and throughout the world. Martin often cited our friend, the late Peter Rodman, who taught us that U.S. policy in the Middle East is a bicycle. You can keep your balance if you roll forward even at a snail’s pace, but if you try to stand still you will fall off.

Martin never did succeed in converting me to the peace camp, but over time I saw the undeniable evidence that he was right about the imperatives of U.S. foreign policy. Sooner or later, every president turns to the peace process, and the Mideast advisors who move to the president’s inner circle are the ones he thinks have the best ideas about how to move forward toward a contractual peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

I think Benjamin Netanyahu has gone through a personal evolution a little like my own. He continues to be profoundly skeptical that signing a piece of paper can put an end to this conflict. He is a fierce advocate of defensible borders and military strength as the true guarantors of Israel’s security. Nevertheless, he has come back to a second term as prime minister with a deeper appreciation of the reality that his relations with the United States, Europe, and moderate Arab neighbors depend on the perception that he can be a partner in the search for diplomatic progress with the Palestinians. And he certainly knows that many harbor doubts about him.

That is why Bibi agreed to do something unprecedented, something that six previous Israeli prime ministers since the 1993 Oslo Accords (Rabin, Peres, Barak, Sharon, Olmert, and Netanyahu himself in his previous term) refused to do. Very much against the will of his party and coalition, Netanyahu consented to putting a freeze on “natural growth” of settlements. He has drastically curtailed the volume of construction starts, even in the “consensus” settlement blocs that he believes were conceded to Ariel Sharon by George W. Bush.

Now, below the radar, Netanyahu is making a series of additional concessions to Barack Obama and his Mideast peace envoy, George Mitchell. Their current priority is negotiating “terms of reference” to permit the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations (TORs in negotiators’ vernacular). Dismissed by some as mere “talking about talking,” TORs are in fact vital elements to create the parameters for serious negotiations. For example, then-Secretary of State James Baker shuttled around the region for eight months to negotiate the TORs that made the 1991 Madrid conference possible. All that was done just to phrase a letter of invitation that all sides could accept. The result was far from trivial; it was a framework that opened the way to all the direct negotiations that followed over the ensuing two decades.

Mitchell’s challenge today is to define such a framework that can bridge differences between Netanyahu and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas. Defying skeptics who say you can bridge a river but not an ocean, Mitchell keeps going at it, and his perseverance is paying off. While no one was watching, Netanyahu has in fact agreed to language that Mitchell can accept. With the Israeli agreement in his pocket, Mitchell is now working to bring Abbas around, according to sources close to the discussions.

The issues are not small. Abbas wants to enshrine the 1967 boundary as sacrosanct, even though that line was merely a military demarcation after the war that ended in 1949 and had never been recognized by the Palestinians or anyone else as a legal border. Reflecting the Israeli consensus, Netanyahu insists that future agreed frontiers have to meet Israel’s security imperatives and reflect post-1967 demographic realities, whether or not they diverge from the former armistice line. But Netanyahu has accepted a solution based on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s formulation: “an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

Abbas wants Israeli territorial concessions in Jerusalem as a precondition for negotiations. Netanyahu has accepted that the Palestinians will bring their claims for Jerusalem to the table, but he is not going to make this or any other concession just to bring Abbas to negotiate. Mitchell’s TORs will include implementation of all existing agreements between the parties, as well as the 2003 “Roadmap” for a two-state solution. These already define Jerusalem as a subject for discussion.

Abbas wants an absolute two-year deadline for the achievement of a permanent agreement. Netanyahu is accepting target dates for agreements, but he does not believe achievement can be guaranteed. Mitchell has the language he needs for the TORs regarding target dates.

Abbas wants language that obliges Israel to repatriate and compensate descendents of Palestinians who lost their homes in the upheavals before 1949. Netanyahu has agreed to participate in multilateral solutions for this “refugee” problem, provided these solutions do not include an obligation that will dilute Israel’s own Jewish majority. Mitchell will point out that a solution to the refugee question is already incorporated in the documents to which the TORs will refer.

Abbas wants the 2002 Saudi-initiated Arab Peace Initiative to be the basis of negotiations. Netanyahu has agreed to have it listed among the references, though it is not among the signed agreements whose specific terms are binding. In any case, the Roadmap already contains a positive reference to the Saudi peace plan, and the Roadmap will be a major source document for the TORs.

The Palestinians eschew the concept of interim agreements because they fear that any temporary arrangements will become final. Israel believes that interim steps are a necessity for building confidence between the two parties. The Roadmap’s Phase II already contains “the option of creating an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty,” and the Oslo Accords are replete with interim steps. This will not be an obstacle to agreed TORs.

Mitchell has not announced the agreement with Netanyahu because delicate negotiations with Abbas still lie ahead. He did say on Nov. 25, “We have been in discussions with both Israelis and Palestinians for some time regarding terms of reference for negotiations. We have closed many gaps between them. And while admittedly important differences remain, we’ve made very substantial progress.”

Now, a month later, the work on the Israeli side is done. Netanyahu has put the ball in the Palestinian court.

Steven J. Rosen served for 23 years as foreign-policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and was a defendant in the recently dismissed AIPAC case. He is now director of the Washington Project at the Middle East Forum.

by Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
The American Spectator
December 3, 2009

Countries from Italy to Sweden are debating the right of women to wear the niqab. Canada is the latest country to enter the fray, with the Muslim Canadian Congress desiring to ban it. Is such a ban possible in the U.S., where its prevalence is evident in certain urban centers, like Philadelphia?

Muslim women’s wearing of niqab, the veil covering everything but the eyes, and, by extension, the face-concealing mesh that is combined with a long garment to form the burqa in South Asia, has been introduced into the West as a purported religious obligation, and therefore, is put forward by ideological Islamists as a prospective civil right.

Niqab has become a matter of controversy in almost every Western country, most recently when the French government opened an inquiry into its prohibition – with the support, perhaps counter-intuitive, of that country’s leading Muslim figure, Dr. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris. France had already banned all forms of religious dress and symbolism from its state schools. In 2008, Dutch State Secretary for Education Ronald Plasterk, representing the immigrant-friendly Labor Party, called for banning niqab, as well as the burqa and abaya, from the country’s primary and secondary schools, both for pupils and for visiting mothers.

The burqa, with its niqab-like eyescreen, is barred from British and some Belgian public schools. Earlier controversies include Quebec’s 2007 decision that women must remove niqab if they vote, and a demand in 2006 by British Labour politician Jack Straw that women take off niqab before visiting his constituency office.

The U.S. has seen a number of bizarre attempts to establish niqab as a right. In 2001, Sultaana Freeman obtained a Florida driver’s license while wearing niqab, but the license was then canceled.

Niqab is not the same as other practices often referred to generally as “veils” or “veiling” like the:

  • hijab, or head-covering,
  • the abaya, a loose full-body covering imposed on women in Saudi Arabia , although it is required in that kingdom that it be supplemented by niqab,
  • the chador, an Iranian cloak,
  • or jilbab, a loose garment covering the body except for the head, face, and hands.

Distinctions between these and various Western styles for women are difficult to make, especially in a civil-liberties environment. Head scarves and long coats or cloaks are worn by many women in cultures around the world, non-Muslim as well as Muslim. But since a hijab or head-covering may resemble a hat, it may be prohibited for all women in certain settings. Also in 2007, a Georgia judge barred a Muslim woman from entering court unless she removed her hijab, just as men and women are required to take off hats and caps when a judge is present. The radical Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) unsuccessfully challenged the judge’s decision on the false claim of religious freedom. But religious claims do not override judicial practice, at least in the U.S., any more than they would justify carrying a driver’s license that conceals the bearer’s identity.

Niqab as a security problem encourages non-Muslim suspicion of Muslims, since it encourages Muslims toward separatism from their non-Muslim neighbors. And the security issue is real. Male terrorists in such varied countries as Pakistan, Britain, Afghanistan, and Israel have donned female coverings in attempting to escape police. Ordinary criminals have put on niqab as a disguise while committing robberies in the U.S., Britain, Canada, India, and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Niqab is not Islamic. Covering of the face by women is nowhere mentioned in Qur’an, and the opinions of Islamic legal scholars on it are not unanimous. The Hanafi school of Islamic law, which is most widespread among Muslims, specifically rules out face covering, on the basis of women’s needs while dealing normally with men, in commerce and elsewhere. In traditional Islam, men are called on to act modestly, and women are not ordered to disfigure and subordinate themselves by masking their features. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that women making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca should not cover their faces or wear gloves, although in their typically perverse manner, Saudi Wahhabi clerics now seek to impose it upon them even then.

Millions of Muslim women around the world do not wear so-called Islamic dress, but have retained local customary garments, which do not distort their form or personality. Many have adopted the same fashions as Western or Far-Eastern women. Women in Hejaz, the Western Arabian region in which the holy cities of Mecca and Medina are located, did not, in the past, cover their faces, and increasingly protest against the imposition of this practice.

The radicals who promote niqab try to pretend that a woman becomes a “better Muslim” by covering her face. This concept is no more Islamic than niqab itself. In traditional Islam, division of Muslims between the good and the bad, aside from those who have committed terrorist or criminal acts, will be decided by God, not by men or women.

According to established Islamic guidance, Muslims who migrate to non-Muslim societies are required to accept and obey the laws and customs of the countries to which they move. Attempts to introduce niqab into Western countries represent an obvious violation of this principle.

Western nations have developed a doctrine of “reasonable accommodation” of religious beliefs and practices. But acceptance of niqab in the West would embody “unreasonable accommodation.”

Appeals for an immediate ban on niqab or face-coverings in Western countries are, in the view of many moderate Muslims, correct. To rid the Muslim world of niqab will require a sustained debate and social development in each country where it is presently found, based on a pluralistic discussion leading to its recognition as a non-Islamic, and dehumanizing, practice.

Author Irfan Al-Alawi is international director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism and a contributor to Islamist Watch. Stephen Suleyman Schwartz is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, D.C. and a contributor to Islamist Watch


Niqabs and Burqas – The Veiled Threat

by Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem Post
September 2, 2009

What’s new on the niqab and burqa front?

To remind, both garments are designed for the modesty of Muslim females; the niqab covers all but the eyes and the burqa covers the entire face. In “Ban the Burqa – and the Niqab Too,” two years ago, I documented how these two items pose criminal and terrorist dangers.

Is that still the case?

Criminality: Jordan offers a glimpse into the potential for niqabs and burqas as illegal accessories: one news report indicates that 50 people committed 170 crimes using Islamic garments during the past two years, or roughly one incident every four days, a crime wave that has prompted some Jordanians to call for restricting or even banning these Islamic head coverings.

No other country reports nearly so many head-garment-related crimes, but Philadelphia, Pennsylvania boasts multiple robberies (3 banks and 1 real estate leasing office) in a sixteen-month period in 2007-08, including the murder of a police officer.

The United Kingdom has the West’s second-worst record. Jewelry stores – some owned by Muslims – have been targeted in the West Midlands, Glasgow, and Oxfordshire. Two travel agencies were attacked in the adjoining towns of Dunstable and Luton while an armored truck driver was assaulted in Birmingham. Robbery is not the only motive; teenagers in London, used niqab-style face coverings when stabbing a younger boy.

Other criminal incidents in the West include east European pickpockets wearing Islamic headgear in Rotterdam and a burgundy burqa’ed armed robbery at the People’s Bank in Hiddenite, North Carolina (population: 6,000). The man who abducted Elizabeth Smart, 14, of Salt Lake City, forced her to wear a niqab-like garment that hid her in plain sight for nine months.

In response, banks, credit unions, jewelry stores, and schools are limiting access to persons of cover. For example, the Carolina Federal Credit Union of Cherryville, North Carolina, not far from Hiddenite, steers anyone wearing hats, sunglasses, or hoods to an isolated teller where special security measures obtain.

Terrorism: Taliban reliance on burqa’ed terrorism, often of the suicide variety, makes Afghanistan the current world epicenter of this tactic. On two occasions, authorities foiled would-be suicide bombers before they could act – one a Russian male convert to Islam with 500 kilograms of explosives in an automobile in Paktia Province, the other an Afghan woman hiding a bomb in Jalalabad.

Usually, though, violent intentions are hidden by the burqa, becoming apparent only after an attack begins:

  • A Taliban commander, Haji Yakub, was killed in burqa as he tried to escape a house in Ghazni Province while attacking U.S. forces.
  • A Taliban operative, Mullah Khalid, attacked a police patrol in a crowded market in Farah Province. killing at least 12 people (7 police, 5 civilians).
  • A suicide bomber in Helmand Province killed a Pashtu-speaking British soldier before being shot in the forehead.
  • About fifteen suicide bombers in burqas armed with suicide vests, Kalashnikovs, and grenade-launchers drove to government buildings in Paktia Province and killed 12 persons.

Iraq suffered three such incidents (a male insurgent disguised as a pregnant woman, an attempted assassination of a governor, and two suicide bombers killing 22 Shi’i pilgrims) while Pakistan suffered two (one, operating from a rickshaw, killed 15 people). The attack on Mumbai that left nearly 200 dead included a mysterious burqa’ed woman. Elsewhere, incidents involved an attack on French tourists picnicking in Mauritania and a Molotov cocktail attack in Bahrain.

Oh, and on the bright side, Herve Jaubert, a Frenchman falsely accused of embezzling $3.8 million managed to escape Dubai by donning a niqab.

As an ancillary problem, new studies in both England and Ireland have found that covered women (and their breast-fed children) tend to get rickets disease due to an insufficiency of vitamin D, which the skin absorbs from sunlight.

(For greater detail on all these issues, see my weblog entry, “The Niqab and Burqa as Security Threats.”)

I have previously called for a ban on “these hideous, unhealthy, socially divisive, terrorist-enabling, and criminal-friendly garments” from public places. Now joining with fed-up Jordanians, I reiterate that call. Islam requires that women wear neither niqab nor burqa, while public welfare emphatically requires their public prohibition. How many more cases of robbery and terrorism must occur for this common-sense stricture to be applied from Afghanistan and Jordan to the United Kingdom and Philadelphia?