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Minaret of Freedom Op-Ed Pieces

Letter to The Crescent: Moonsighting Conventions

[as submitted December 7, 2002]


To Crescent Newspaper website:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

As-salaamu `alaikum!

I was disappointed to see your article http://www.muslimedia.com/eid-split.htm. Not only is the tone unconstructive, but it contains erroneous allegations of fact.  In particular:

"The minimum age for moonsighting at the time of sunset is 20 to 24 hours in ideal conditions. These include no cloud on the horizon, a large angle of separation between sun and moon, and the moon being above the horizon for at least 30 to 45 minutes after sunset. Even on the West coast of North America the angle of separation at sunset will be only 6 to 7 degrees on December 4, and the moon sets shortly after sunset. Thus it will be very difficult to sight it anywhere in the world on the evening of December 4...."

This is INCORRECT. Under ideal conditions the moon can be seen as early as 14-15 hours. Further, a such condition DID obtain on Wednesday in the Western hemisphere (although not in the continental United States).  Except for weather conditions, there is no question but that the moon could be easily seen from the South Pacific including from certain American possessions that share part of the night with the East Coast of the United States. (Although more difficult, it might possibly have been seen even from even from Hawaii, where one of the best observing sites in the world is located, had anyone bothered to try!).

We are all disappointed that the community has been unable to unite over a single date for Eid. While I am on record as recognizing the role that the Saudis have played, misinformation such as is contained in this unsigned page is also one of the reasons for that failure. May Allah guide us all closer to the truth.

Please be so kind as to publish my comments on your site.

Eid mubaarak!

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, (Creator of the Uniform Islamic Calendar for the Western Hemisphere)
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Letter to The Wall Street Journal: Islamic Higher Education

[as submitted December 7, 2002]


Time will tell whether Naomi Schaefer�s doubts that a modern liberal university will soon be established in the United States. However, her Dec. 5 op-ed piece �A Muslim Notre Dame?� suffered from some important omissions. There was no mention of the Crescent University project (http://crescentuniversity.com), which is seeking to establish such a university in New York state.  Further, the claim she attributes to Khaled Abou El-Fadl that such a university could only exist in America overlooks both al-Akhawayn University, established in Morocco in 1995 and the International Islamic University, which has been in operation for almost two decades in Malaysia.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

Letter to The Wall Street Journal: Pipes and Emerson

[as submitted August 20, 2001]

The repeated cries of wolf by people like Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson (it was Emerson who blamed both the Oklahoma city bombing and the TWA crash on Muslims) are beginning to ring false to the American people.  The images don�t match the commentary.  Attempts to paint the Israeli occupiers as one-sided victims of violence are beginning to be seen as transparent propaganda (even when writers like Pipes/Emerson mention only one side of the statistical equation).  Journalist Alison Weir has described it well: �It�s like watching a foreign movie badly dubbed into English.�

What are thinking people of good will to make of their op-ed piece entitled �Rolling Back the Forces of Terror,� published in The Wall Street Journal on August 13, 2001?  The occasion of the bombing of a pizza parlor in Jerusalem that �pushed the total of Israeli deaths by Palestinian terrorists since September 1993 to more than 450� was launch pad for a call to �give Israel the green light to protect its citizens.�  Protect its citizens how?  By accelerating the Israeli�s provocative state terrorism against the Palestinians until it reaches the level of �final solution� proportions? The Israelis have already killed at least three times as many Palestinians as Palestinians have killed Israelis in the period cited.  Will a ration of 10:1 satisfy Pipes� and Emerson�s thirst or must it go to millions to one?

The article in question, however, is not only a foreign policy recommendation to the United States to turn a blind eye on the brutality by which the apartheid Israeli state maintains its continuing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  (The three month-old Palestinian girl with the Israeli mortar hole in her belly gets no mention by Pipes and Emerson.)    Their aim is also to persuade the American people to submit themselves to a frenzy of fear and hatred aimed at enabling the persecution of Muslims in America who engage in no terrorism whatsoever.  Pipes and Emerson associate certain groups with other groups identified with the killing of civilians, although the FBI, which has investigated these groups, has never found grounds to charge any of them. With a carefully scripted McCarthyite strategy they end their list with a man whose only crime is to criticize and expose Israeli apartheid and terrorism, Dr. Sami Al-Arian.

Pipes and Emerson call for a crackdown on Al-Arian, and by implication on all who dare to speak out against Israel�s continuing ethnic cleansing policy.  They want him fired from the University of South Florida.  They ignore the fact that, prompted by earlier such smear campaigns, the University administration had already sponsored an investigation of Prof. Al-Arian�s organization, WISE and concluded that it was a benign institution.

Pipes and Emerson explicitly call for the use of a �1996 law� against the groups they seek to target.  This law is of course the highly controversial Counter-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act that includes the unconstitutional �secret evidence� provisions under which over two dozen Muslims were held without charge and they and their attorneys were deprived of seeing the evidence against them.  Among the victims of this Israeli style legislation was Prof. Al-Arian�s brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, who was held for three years and seven months on secret evidence and without any charge against him until his release last December.  This month the government dropped its appeal of his release.

This technique is losing its efficacy.  All of the more than two-dozen Muslims incarcerated under the secret evidence provisions of the Counter-terrorism act of 1996 have been released.  Judges who wearied of the vague unsubstantiated �national security threats� under which persons accused of no crime were being held in American prisons for years on end began to demand summaries of the secret evidence.  They were horrified to learn that in some cases the secret evidence was no more substantial (nor secret) than newspaper accounts of the ilk of the piece by Pipes and Emerson.

Bit by bit cracks are opening up in the veil of ignorance that has protected Israeli policy from American scrutiny for so many decades. This was the month that the story of the Israeli bombing of the U.S.S. Liberty finally made it on national television.  It�s true that the story was on the History Channel and not one of the big four broadcast networks, but there it was.  The Zionist lobby has no need to be ashamed of its skill.  Suppression of the story for 34 years was quite an accomplishment.  However, I think Abe Lincoln will be proven right in the end: �You can�t fool all the people all the time.�


Imad A. Ahmad, Ph.D., President
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Letter to The Wall Street Journal: Scalia and Religious Freedom

[as submitted May 15, 2001]

Robert Bork is correct to reject the assertion that there are no liberals on the Supreme Court (�Blue-Slip Blackmail,� May 9).  On the other hand, there is irony in his attempt to bolster his claim that we need not fear �right-wing judicial activism� by quoting Justice Antonin Scalia�s observation that �Day by day, case by case, [the Supreme Court] is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize.�  Mr. Scalia himself has been a perpetrator such redesign, notably in the 1995 case of Boerne v. Flores.

That case dealt with the attempts of the city law in Boerne, TX that would have prevented a Catholic church from engaging in a much-needed expansion to meet the needs of its growing constituency despite the fact that the city had not met the strict scrutiny test imposed by federal law.  The majority struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that would have required that the city to show a compelling government interest in preventing the expansion and that preventing the expansion was the least restrictive means of meeting that interest.  At the heart of the matter is the question of whether the Fourteenth Amendment empowers the Federal government to protect religious freedom in the same manner that it protects other religious freedoms.  In a dissenting opinion in that case, Sandra Day O�Connor argued that the founders of our republic had, from the beginning, recognized �freedom to pursue one�s chosen religious beliefs was an essential liberty.�  Although Mr. Scalia conceded that no one could be against the �abstract proposition that government should not, even in its general, nondiscriminatory laws, place unreasonable burdens upon religious practice,� he nonetheless rejected Mrs. O�Connor�s view, concluding that the strict scrutiny test should not be allowed to impede the control of concrete cases by the people�s �elected representatives, or rather this Court.�  I for one �do not recognize� the United States as a country in which free exercise of religion is not a fundamental human right.  The distinction between Mrs. O�Connor�s responsible conservatism and Mr. Scalia�s extreme position should be noted, and understood.

The religious freedom clause of the bill of rights seeks a delicate balance between �the free exercise of religion� and its disestablishment.  While Mr. Bork is correct to criticize leftists who violate that balance to strike down �every trace of religion from public life� we must be equally concerned about those on the right who violate the balance in reckless disregard of this most essential of �essential liberties.�


Imad A. Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
Bethesda, Md.

Letter to The Wall Street Journal: Sudan: Who Dug Up The 'Hard Evidence'?

[as published Nov. 11, 1998]

Your Oct. 28 page-one article on the bombing of the factory in Khartoum ("In Sudanese Bombing, 'Evidence' Depends on Who Is Viewing It") makes it clear why the Clinton administration is opposed to any United Nations investigation of the factory. The EMPTA-laced soil sample seems to be the only "hard evidence" to support the administration's claims that El Shifa was anything more than what it claims to be: a pharmaceuticals plant. Every other allegation seems to go up in smoke on close examination. Could it be that the soil sample also would not stand close scrutiny? Should the White House have heeded Janet Reno's reported warning that "it was not clear, based on the information then available, that the United States had enough evidence against bin Laden to meet the standards of international law"? One cannot help but wonder about the credibility of the "CIA-trained agent" of unidentified nationality who "obtained" the soil sample. America's security demands that the administration consider its susceptibility to misdirection.

Imad A. Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
Bethesda, Md.


 Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad's Response to Howard Phillips

at the 1997 Separation of School and State Conference

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

I think Howard [Phillips] has addressed three particular  issues: The  main  subject,  the issue that  all  values  are  ultimately religious values, the issue that the conservatives have helped to cause the [education] problem that we are confronted with today, and  a  third  point  that  was,  perhaps  implicit  rather  than explicit, and that is that the dispute that we are discussing  is really one over power.

Let  me  briefly address the first issue,  because  I  think Howard has addressed it very well, that all values are  religious in  nature.  I would summarize the problem in these  words:  To absent values from teaching is to teach the absence of values and I  think that this is ultimately the problem we  are  confronting with the impossible concept of secular education.

Let   me  turn  to  the  second  problem,  the   role   that conservatives  have  played in [creating] the  problem,  which  I think  he  has understated. The conservatives and not  just  the liberals  have undermined the first amendment. I think  you  can see this even in Howard's speech, because he has only  criticized federal  government involvement in education. He brought up  the   idea that the fourteenth amendment applies the first amendment to the  states  as a rhetorical device, I think.  Well,  I  believe that the fourteenth amendment does make the first amendment apply   to  the  states,  and  therefore I  think  that  his  half-joking conclusion is a dead serious conclusion that we must be concerned with getting government at all levels out of education.

In fact, I believe that this is the main point. The  reason is  that  we are ultimately talking about issues of  power.  The state  involvement  in education, including  its  embroilment  in questions  of religious values, is a power issue. If we look  at the  rise of government education in the nineteenth  century,  we see  that religious conservatives played an unfortunate  role  in it.  The poor people at that time were often being  educated  in Catholic  and  high  Lutheran schools  and  Protestant  Americans didn't  like  that.  They  wanted  poor  people  to  get  a  good Protestant education. Since the Protestants were the majority, they naturally assumed that if there were government schools they would give the poor children a Protestant education. Well, it doesn't work that way, does it. By demanding, or even condoning, government education they are inviting the kinds of problems we are confronting today.

The liberals of the nineteenth century who supported the Protestant move for government schools knew what they were doing. I think that they knew that ultimately we would have the situation we have today and it was something that they wanted to bring about. For them the role of the schools is socialization. Their modern counterparts will say this explicitly. At one of the brainstorming sessions here yesterday someone quoted someone high up in the liberal educational establishment saying g that in the future all saying that in the future all education will be done at home, but the schools will still exist because they are necessary for socialization. (Laughter.) I think that is largely the case already that all education, worthy of the term is going on in the homes and the schools are for socialization--making us "good citizens." And by "good citizens" they do not mean what de Tocqueville meant by good citizens, they mean obedient servants of the state.

If you do not believe that this is what happened in the nineteenth century, I suggest that you look at what is happening today in Turkey. Turkey is a rabidly secular country in which they make no bones about the fact that their concept of secularism is not merely the separation of Church and State, but the removal of religion from public life. In Turkey right now, the military has successfully pressured out a popularly elected that was not trying to put religion in state schools, but which had come to power because of the religious teachings in the private schools. They have forced that government out and demanded that the new government institute government schooling to a much higher grade level than previously required in order to shut out the private schools and prevent them from educating citizens who are independent minded--independent of the government. Sometime, you ought to have a panel on that subject. It would illustrate these points.

 Right now I am almost out of time, so I will close with one last quote. Henry David Thoreau famous for refusing to pay taxes back in the early nineteenth century--before we had a government school system, and who was a teacher, in defending his refusal to pay taxes to support a particular church in his community said that he did not see why the schoolteacher should be taxed to pay the minister, but not the minister to pay the schoolteacher. Well, times have changed, but the point of the question still exists, turned on its head. Why should the minister be taxed to pay the schoolteacher and not the schoolteacher taxed to pay the minister? There is only one way to resolve this conundrum. It is to get the government completely out of all education.

Transcript of Debate Between Avinoam Bar-Yosef and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmadon NET's "Worldwise" National Cable Program

[Nationally cablecast on 12/18/96]

Excerpt from WORLDWISE (National Empowerment Television 12/18/96)

Stefan HALPER: Welcome back to Worldwise and our discussion on developments in the Middle east. With me now is Dr. Imad Ahmad, President and Chief Executive officer of the Minaret of Freedom Institute and Avinoam Bar Yosef, Washington correspondent for the Israeli news daily Ha'aretz, each with his own perspective on developments in the Middle East.... Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us.... Let me ask you, if I may, Dr. Ahmad, ... You're representing a kind of ... broad Islamic position. How--this question underpins the debate as a whole--do you recognize Israel's right to exist?

Imad AHMAD: Well, as you say, I'm representing a BROAD Islamic position, so I can answer that question different ways. Let me, instead, look at the question itself. .. I think when people talk about "land for peace," they forget that the original purpose of the Oslo accords was "recognition for recognition." ... If it's land for peace then it's a matter of the Palestinians giving the land to which they have claimed the right all these years--have lived on for thousands of years--to Israel's ... 1948 borders, to cede their claim to that land, and say Israel does justly have sovereignty over that land which since 1948 international law has recognized to be the Israelis, in exchange for peace, for an end to the persecution they have suffered under the occupation of territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

HALPER: So you accept this land for peace formulation.

AHMAD: Well, again, the issue is recognition for recognition. It was the first time in history that the PLO recognized the state of Israel's right to exist and the first time in history that the Israeli government recognized the PLO as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people.

HALPER; OK. Very good. Do you have a comment?

Avinoam BAR-YOSEF: Maybe you'll answer the question. Do you recognize Israel?

AHMAD: I said, I represent many different positions--

BAR-YOSEF: No, I understand--

AHMAD: You want my view?


AHMAD: My view is that Israel as a state has the same right to exist as any other state. It must therefore abide by the same law we expect other states to abide by, and it must abandon racism.

BAR-YOSEF: What laws you are talking about? The laws in Saudi Arabia?

AHMAD: I'm talking about international law. The international law that says that you cannot expel people from their homes in territory that you occupy. The international law that says Israel is not sovereign over Jerusalem,--


AHMAD: --though Mr. Netenyahu tried to prove that they were by opening that tunnel.

BAR-YOSEF: What expectation do have from the Arab world, from Iran, from Iraq, for abiding by international law, to talk about Israel? What moral right do you have to talk about Israel?

AHMAD: I do not represent the Iranian government or the Iraqi government. I demand that they abide by international law as well.


AHMAD: I also, by the way, demand that Iran abide by Islamic law, a demand I would not make on Israel. Although, I would like Israel to abide by Jewish law, where the Bible calls that justice should flow like a mighty river and stream.

BAR-YOSEF: Well....

HALPER: Let me turn a little on this, Mr. Bar Yosef. Bill Clinton seems to have joined Jim Baker and George Bush and some other Americans in saying that the settlements are an obstacle to peace. Does this surprise you?

BAR-YOSEF: That's not--that's not the viewpoint of the United States. There are different points of view about this. I think that there is a basic Israeli understanding that Jews can live everywhere on the land of Israel. That's why that we heard before that the land was settled by Palestinians, but the Palestinian nation is a new nation. I recognize its right to exist, as a new nation, but it's not a nation that exists forever. And we need to coexist, but the roots are Jewish. You can't change history.

AHMAD: No, but you're trying very hard to. If you look at the Bible, the Old Testament says that when the Jews came to Palestine, they came to Canaan, "the Philistine was in the land." The current day Palestinians are descended from many people, as the current day Jews are descended from a number of people. However, among the people the Palestinians are descended from are the original inhabitants of that land.

BAR-YOSEF: How exactly do you come to this conclusion? This really [is] to switch the history.

AHMAD: All you have to do is look at the Bible. When people say "Jerusalem 3000," how did Jerusalem get to be only 3,000 years old?

HALPER: Gentlemen, let me interrupt for a second. We've got a caller I'd like to chat with for a second, Marcia from Virginia.

CALLER: Good evening.

HALPER: How are you?

CALLER: I'm well, thank you.


CALLER: I am finally hearing from a Palestinian who seems to be angry, and understandably, because their land has been taken with guns and ammunition against so-called terrorists with as little rock in their hand to defend their interest. And the Israeli Jews have slaughtered more Palestinians than ever before. And they can't trust the Palestinians? And they expect the Palestinians to trust them? I'm sick and tired of my American dollars going over there to support such slaughtering. It is totally selfish, quite unfair, and it's about time some Palestinian got very angry.

HALPER: Thank you very much. Sir?

BAR-YOSEF: Well, Marcia, I want to answer. Well, we should just remember history. Who started the war in 1967? The Israelis? I really want--I would like to hear your answer, because in '67 Israel was attacked by Jordan lost the war.

AHMAD: You know, sometimes, the re-writing of history gets unbelievable. Israel attacked in 1967. It attacked Egypt. Jordan attacked Israel only after Israel attacked Egypt, because Jordan was Egypt's ally.

BAR-YOSEF: Israel attacked Egypt?

AHMAD: Yes, and it's amazing that you don't know that. You're a journalist.

BAR-YOSEF: Believe me, I know exactly what happened in 1967. It's right that after the Egyptian army moved through Sinai, Israel reacted. But Israel started the war? Israel started the war in the West Bank? While Jordan was such a strong state, stronger than--

AHMAD: Israel called it a pre-emptory strike, but Israel struck first.

HALPER: Okay, gentlemen, we're not going to solve this one at this point. Worldwise will return in just one moment. Join us in tonight's discussion by calling 1-800-5000.


HALPER: Louse in Florida, good evening.

CALLER: Hello?

HALPER: How are you?

CALLER: I'm fine. [Pause.]

HALPER: What--

CALLER: I love Israel.

HALPER: Okay. Is that your point, or do you have a question, or ...?

CALLER: I have a question.


CALLER: Why is that we in the United States and all of the countries all over the world seem to think they have the right to tell Israel what to do? They have a right to run their own government as any other government. Why, in the United States, do we dictate to them?

HALPER: Okay, I don't have an immediate answer for you, but I will turn to either of these gentlemen who might like to say their thought.

AHMAD: Well, I think it was a rhetorical question, but it does invite me to observe that there is an old saying that "Who pays the piper calls the tune." Given the billions of dollars that we send each year to Israel, perhaps that is why America feels it has the right to say something.

BAR-YOSEF: Well, I'll tell you something. First I thinks it's a very good bargain for America, Israel. Just having a partner in that difficult region, a real partner. That's one point. And I want to tell you something else. It's also a question how you use the aid and the money. Just coming here, and stepping in, I saw Mr. Abdur-Rahman coming with his Cadillac--his limousine--which is the car which he uses. I want to tell you that there is no Israeli representative who is using a Cadillac here in Washington. Why? Because it's a poor country. But maybe the Palestinian authority is so wealthy that they can afford to have a Cadillac in each capital.

AHMAD: Well, I can only say that I would rather than Mr. Netenyahu were spending the billions of dollars on Cadillacs than on bullets and bombs to destroy the houses of innocent Palestinians.

HALPER: Okay. Let's stop on this. I want to turn to another issue. Mr. Netenyahu promised not to establish new settlements, but he did not address the issue of expanding existing settlements. Do you have any thoughts on that or is your newspaper editorializing on this--.

BAR-YOSEF: I am not--I wouldn't want to speak behind my newspaper. I just want to tell you my thinking of things. I think Mr. Netenyahu should be very careful with settlement policy. At the same time we have to remember that during the Labor government the population in the settlements increased 40%--43% actually. And that's expanding the whole settlements. Now, you should remember that Netenyahu was not elected to cease the settlement expansion. He was elected, basically, by those who believe that the Israeli policy should be tougher.


BAR-YOSEF: So he has something to do for his voters.

HALPER: Okay. We want to take a call from Margot from Florida. Good evening Margot.

CALLER: Good evening. Thank you very much for taking my call.

HALPER: You're welcome.

CALLER: I have a question about settlements, but first I want to answer the journalist from Israel who seemed to be a little rude to the caller before last. What I remember about 1967 is Israel bombing the U.S.S. Liberty and killing American soldiers. That's what I remember about 1967. And, furthermore, I don't think Israel is a good deal for the United States. I think you're a pain in the butt. And about the settlements, I don't see how any right-thinking person could possibly go along with any more settlements. It would kill any chance of peace, and knowing you guys you'll drag us into your mess, and we've had enough, thank you.

HALPER: Thanks very much, Margot. We have only 30 seconds left, so if you could just respond to that. And I'll allow him to do that since this as directed towards him. Any thoughts on this comment--these three comments?

BAR-YOSEF: Well, first I think it was painful for us, the Liberty incident. It was a nation which fought for its life at that point and in such wars there have been mistakes and I think that in American history you'll find bigger mistakes were done than by Israel in '67. It happened sometimes Israel attacked Israelis in wars. It was not by intent and that's even more painful than you--you'll have losses caused by the enemy. That's life. I think that basically you're not right. I think if you think it over, if you try to understand the importance of the region, the geopolitical importance of the region, Israel is a good bargain for the United States.

HALPER: Thank you very much. I want to thank you both. You've been very, very helpful. Your comments are excellent and we hope you'll come back again.

Letter to The Wall Street Journal:Whose Homeland Is Palestine?

[Published 1/22/97]


 You reported former Bush and Carter administration officials' criticism of the obstacles to the "peace process" posed by illegal Israeli settlements (World-Wide, Dec. 17). Ronald Cope wrote a Letter to the Editor ("Palestine's History Has Been Distorted," Jan. 13) dismissing their concerns. "For anyone with a smattering of knowledge of this troubled region," he wrote, "it would be readily apparent that 'settlements' are not the issue regarding peace." Fortunately, James Baker and the other officials have more than a "smattering" of knowledge about the issue, and they are not likely to be taken in by the distortions in that letter. Consider the two examples that follow:

"Palestine was understood for at least the past several hundred years to be the homeland of the Jews."

Considered by whom? Such use of the passive voice is a dead giveaway of slanted writing. That the world community at large did not hold such a view as recently as the turn of this century is amply demonstrated by the jubilation with which the Zionist movement greeted the Balfour declaration. Zionists, seeking to colonize Palestine, were delighted that "His majesty's government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.... It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine...." If the world had "understood" that Palestine is homeland of the Jews for hundreds of years preceding, one would have expected Zionists to deplore a proposal that an already-understood-reality needed to be "established" alongside the "existing non-Jewish communities."

"These small towns [i.e., the illegal settlements] did not displace any Arabs and, to the contrary, have created employment opportunities for the Arabs in the region."

Explain that to the resident of the town of Silwan who returned from an all-night wedding celebration to find his home taken over by settlers who considered his one night absence an "abandonment" of the property. Even in cases where no physical displacement from the owners' homes takes place, however, the theft of their adjacent lands is certainly an obstacle to peace. I wonder how peaceably inclined the letter-writer would be if someone, having uprooted the garden in his back yard to build a high rise apartment there, were to offer the consolation: "We're letting you stay in your house, aren't we?"

Imad A. Ahmad, Ph.D.


Minaret of Freedom Institute

Bethesda, MD

Letter FROM Newsweek responding to our letter Jih� and Life on Mars

Dear Mr. Ahmad:

 Thank you for making known to us your concerns regarding our reference to Muslims in Kenneth Woodward's "'A Vindication of God'" (News of the Week, Aug. 19). A number of readers wrote to register their objections to our suggestion, in the context of new evidence of life on Mars, that Muslims might "wage holy war with aliens." Newsweek most certainly did not intend any offense, and we regret it if we offended some readers. We are aware that "Islam" means "peace" and that the Muslim concept of jih� does not entail so-called "holy wars" of aggression, but only defensive fighting to protect the community of Allah, as taught in the Quran. Out of respect for the importance of promoting a more accurate image of the Islamic faith, we published a letter very much in accord with yours, in the Letters column of the issue dated Sept. 9--the earliest opportunity we had to do so. We appreciate the fact that you took the time to write us about the matter.


 Abby Kulik

 Letters Editor

Letter to The Washington Times: Who's to Blame for the Escalation of Violence in the Middle East?

[Published Oct. 12 or 13, 1996]


 That the Israeli government has aggrieved the religious sensibilities of Palestinian Muslims and Christians by opening a long-disputed tunnel below the edge of the sacred site of the Temple Mount (Haram ash-Sharif) is only a symptom of an extremely serious impediment to the peace process. The Likud administration has defended its provocative actions by asserting its authority to such actions as sovereign of Jerusalem. But this is precisely what is makes the tunnel opening so provocative. From the point of view of international law, East Jerusalem is occupied territory, not part of sovereign Israel, the unilateral Israeli annexation notwithstanding. Neither the United Nations nor the United States, let alone the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, have ever recognized Israel's annexation of Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is one of the issues to be decided by the final status negotiations, and Netanyahu's obvious desire to short-circuit those negotiations by establishing prejudicial "facts on the ground" is the road not to peace, but to violence and death as the subsequent events have already shown. As American citizens, we must demand of our government an accounting as to whether the use of helicopters and tanks bought with American foreign aid against demonstrators protesting provocative acts of an illegal occupation force constitutes a violation of the Arms Export Control Act, and to take effective actions to end such violations.


Imad A. Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Unpublished Letter to Newsweek: Jih�d and Life on Mars

Sept. 6, 1996
251 West 57th Street
New York, NY 18019-1894


As the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer's Perspective on Religion and Science I am better placed than most to comment on Kenneth L. Woodward's callous remark that the discovery of life on Mars raises the question among Muslims as to whether they must "wage holy war with aliens to extend Islam" (8/19/96)? This affront errs on two grounds. The purpose of jih�d is not to force conversions, but to defend those aggressed against for their religion. Further, Muslims have never assumed that mankind is alone among the sentient beings in the universe.

The Qur'an forbids compulsion in religion (surah 2, verse 256). Only "to those against whom war is made permission is given (to fight) because they are wronged and verily God is Most powerful for their aid. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right (for no cause) except that they say 'Our Lord is God.' Did not God check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries churches synagogues and mosques in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure. God will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily God is Full of Strength Exalted in Might (Able to enforce His Will)" (Qur'an 22:39-40).

Islamic mythology is replete with stories about jinn ("genies") and other life forms. In modern times the speculation of life on other planets has been popular among believing Muslims and some have even speculated that humanity originated on an another planet. Islam has never held that mankind holds a unique position in the universe. The first verse of the Qur'an identifies God as "Lord of the worlds." Note the plural. This plurality of worlds over which God has sovereignty may be validly understood in many senses: the spiritual and the material, the various nations on earth, etc. But there is no doubt that it also means the plurality of cosmic bodies. Among the many names the Qur'an applies to God is "the Lord of Sirius, the mighty star" (53:49).

Yours truly,
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, President
Minaret of Freedom Institute
Bethesda, MD

Letter to The Wall Street Journal:Repression of Peaceful Dissent Breeds Violence

1996 June 30
Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281

Dear Editor:

With the recent bombing in Saudi Arabia, American interests once again have been dealt a shocking blow in the wake of foreign adventurism. Again, too, an inadequate understanding of the situation in the places that we intervene leads some to advocate an escalation of the policies that bring on our problems. The Wall Street Journal editorial "Death in Saudi Arabia" (6/27/96) reflects a shallow understanding of the situation in the Muslim world, including Saudi Arabia, and a shortness of memory on some important points of history. To argue that the inexcusability of violence against a policy means that the policy must be followed more resolutely is like arguing that the violence of the "Weathermen" in the 1970's justified a continuing American presence in Vietnam.

The editorial did not mention that last November's bombing was originally attributed to some local land dispute, in no way reflecting dissatisfaction with the ruling family. Only those who believed that explanation could be surprised by the recent violence. We must not let the Saudi regime's support of American geopolitical strategies blind us to the fact that it is an undemocratic one that arrests religious leaders who speak out against perceived corruption and hypocrisy. As Americans who cherish our constitutionally protected freedoms, we must understand the significance of Saudi attempts to obtain the cooperation of Western governments in its repression of peaceful critics of the regime--like the London-based Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights. As the suppression of the first generation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt showed, the suppression of peaceful dissent breeds violent successors. The real lesson of Algeria is that the repression of peaceful reform movements does not bring peace.

It may be decades before the situation in Saudi Arabia degrades to match the one in Egypt, but it is not in American interests to promote such a development by transmuting our outrage at the loss of American lives to a resolution to pursue an ill-informed policy. Our lingering presence in Saudi Arabia alienates the Saudi government from its own people: imagine the impact on the American administration's domestic popularity if it turned over an American base to United Nations troops.

I found the editorial's references to Beirut and to the fall of the Shah of Iran ironic. Without the withdrawal of US troops from Lebanon perhaps an "Iranian-style Revolution" might have followed. American policy towards Saudi Arabia now is in significant respects too reminiscent of the policies followed regarding the Shah at a similar stage in the process. Unless we change those policies, we should not be surprised if it begets the same results.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, President
Minaret of Freedom Institute

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