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Netherlands’ parliament endorses religious extremism

Iqbal Khan

In a recent development, Netherlands’ parliament has permitted an ultra-Right Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, to hold a profane caricature competition in the protected office of his political party inside the premises of Netherlands’ parliament. While earlier such incidents were an act of non-state actors, parliamentary permission has made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious terrorism.

Time and again, European Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment.

Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In his electoral campaign in December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, supposedly sweeping the continent. Wilders urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and for his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also calls for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools.

Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky, where both the government and the opposition are more often than not competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was beaten in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and clai-med “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Situati-on is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to be more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank.

Pakistan has approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn has written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch ambassador and EU envoy to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said.

Pakistan’s new government has taken forth the process. During its first meeting, Pakistan’s new cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level as well. Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August13 and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign Office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam.

“Pakistan’s ambassador in The Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add.

Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva have also been directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. They should firm up an action plan if Netherlands goes ahead with the blasphemous competitions. The first step should be to boycott all Netherlands products and cut off diplomatic and trade ties with it until the country takes necessary action that prevent holding of such events in future.

The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering

Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to take up the issue with the Netherlands’ government. And raise the matter at the relevant international fora from preventing this and similar abhorrent acts taking place. However, in addition to diplomatic channels, option of taking the matter to Netherlands’ civil society should also be duly explored.

Iqbal.khan9999@yahoo.com

 

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Converting trash into cash

Zarish Fatima

One day all the worlds energy will be generated by renewable energy sources (like the sun, wind, water, and biofuels) rather than the fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas). Fossil fuels are considered as the conventional energy sources for over a hundred years, but these resources are finite while the global energy requirements are infinite.

Thus, we need an alternate source for a sustainable provision of energy in the future. Renewable energy can be used in many areas like; production of electricity, air/water heating/cooling, transportation and urban/rural energy production.

In Pakistan, the majority of the functional power generation projects and the new projects under the umbrella of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are fossil fuel driven posing a major threat to the environment and causing climatic changes leading to detrimental floods and excessive heat waves across the country.

The government has allocated almost $33 Billion in investments through the year 2022, solely for electricity generation via CPEC. But 60% of the produced energy is coming from fossil fuel-based generations. Subsidizing money to such projects is another strain to the economy as it involves the import of coal from other countries. Pakistan is an agricultural country. Agriculture serves as the largest contributor to the economy and generates 43 million tons of agricultural waste every year. It can be collected and utilized to produce Biofuel and Biogas.

Biofuels are renewable liquid fuels produced from solid biomass. Biomass is any organic matter derived from animal, plant or waste including agricultural crops, wood, fodder, municipal organic waste, and manure. While biogas is a gas produced from agricultural waste.

Currently, there is no proper Biogas/Biofuel model which is functional. There is an urgent need to allocate a budget for it and encourage farmers and rural population to set up mini biofuel plants. The types of waste produced in the rural areas are field wastes, animal wastes, and agro-industrial waste. If properly managed, it can result in the generation of precious sustainable energy. But instead, it all ends up polluting the air, ground, and water by giving out methane. Methane gas has a warming potential that is significantly 30 times higher than carbon dioxide.

Moreover, Pakistan is the world’s 6th largest populated country which produces almost 30 million tons of solid waste every year which is not recycled nor used for any purposes. Even this waste can be incinerated directly or treated to produce energy and biogas. As the country’s biggest challenge lies with combating the excessive garbage, any initiative will help to resolve this issue too.

I would like to request the newly formed government to adopt a new biofuel/biogas model, make a new policy and start allocating money for it instead of funding fossil fuel projects.

The model will have the potential to utilize almost all the agricultural and domestic waste which contributes to increase in climate by producing Green House Gases like methane (which can be collected to be used as a biogas). Appropriate initiation of training of the rural population can result in the successful production of biofuels. The pumps can be installed next to the farms.

Countries in Europe are now using biofuels in their cars, trains, jets and public transport, and the percentage of usage of green energy is increasing every year. According to a policy. Finland aims to have 20% renewables in transport by 2020, using mainly advanced biofuels feedstocks.

As plenty of agricultural waste is not utilized in Pakistan and goes to waste, there won’t be any need to cultivate new crops to produce green energy. In fact, Pakistan should use their agricultural strength to explore new opportunities and innovations in this sector.

The production and use of biofuels will not only reduce the oil and coal imports and usage but also contribute to the green environment and rural employment opportunities. It will transform their lives, generating hefty incomes and benefit the overall economy of the country making it self-sufficient one day.

Using both agricultural and domestic waste for energy and fuel production will be beneficial to the government but will solve many problems of the masses related to it like the spread of diseases, pollution and climate change.

But one should always remember that Energy shortfalls do not arise from a lack of energy, but from our high levels of energy consumption. Everyone can help solve the problem by trying to consume less and support the transition to an all-natural lifestyle which is more modest and minimalist.

The best way to get precious renewables to meet the energy needs is to simply consume less. The government should implement policies to encourage companies and masses to cut energy usage and switch to sustainable sources.

 

 

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Chemnitz: Germany’s urgent cry to fight racism

Farid Hafez

Last Sunday, a group of 800 people demonstrated in Chemnitz, eastern Germany. The rally was initiated by a right-wing extremist hooligan group called Kaotic. The reason for the mobilization was the killing of a 35-year-old man, who was allegedly German, by two men, a Syrian and an Iraqi, both in their early twenties. Both have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. Among the protesters was an estimated group of 50 people who turned violent against people of color.

Journalists reported seeing some protesters using bottles to attack people “who did not look German”. On Monday, a core group of around 200 right wing extremists gathered for another demonstration, eventually growing to more than 5,000 protesters, while the demonstration was countered by 1,000 people who protested against Nazism. It was later revealed that the person killed was actually a staunch anti-racist with Cuban roots, who was a supporter of the far-left party in Saxony.

One might say that this is a story of Chemnitz or more broadly of the county of Saxony, where the right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) as well as the street-level group Pegida are particularly strong. Pegida had called for demonstrations on Monday. And the AfD, which entered Parliament for the first time with 12.6 percent of the vote, meaning more than 90 seats, is especially strong in Saxony, where it almost doubled its national average by garnering 25 percent of the vote.

Indeed, the Saxon branch of the AfD called for a “spontaneous demonstration” in memory of Sunday’s victim, posting on its social media accounts a photo of the blood-spattered pavement where the victim, Daniel H., was stabbed to death. While the AfD did not participate in the larger protest held later in the day, it clearly supported the move to politicize the tragic incident along racial lines. And AfD lawmaker Markus Frohnmaier even went further by arguing that it was a “civic duty to stop this deadly ‘knife migration’”. While AfD representatives at the federal level condemned this call for “vigilante justice” by Frohnmaier, the latter had already contributed to the emotionally charged atmosphere in Saxony.

It was a matter of time before racist patterns of thought, which were something confined to the organized extreme right in the underground or were uttered in a subtle or polite manner, would begin to erupt. Today, racist thought is again on the rise and manifests itself in organizations such as Pegida and is represented in a radical form in parties such as the AfD. But it is now becoming mainstream and is being spread by ordinary members of the German society. One leader from the liberal party (FDP), for example, blamed Angela Merkel for the current crisis, arguing that it was her acceptance of refugees that was to blame.

The spokesman of Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with numerous other high-ranking politicians, unequivocally condemned the “hounding of people”, “vigilantism”, “racism” and “spread of hatred”. Even Merkel herself clearly spoke out against the hounding of people in the streets by extremists. This is important. But one must question where this movement comes from. One thing is the mobilization on the streets, which was started in large numbers by Pegida (preceding the often acclaimed source of contention, which is the influx of refugees that began in 2015), the German abbreviation for the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West. Obviously, the momentum of this movement and the ability of the right-wing extremist groups that mobilize a few thousands of people lies deeper. Additionally, the grossly dehumanizing act of hounding people who look ‘different’ done by these extremist protesters has to be evaluated at the backdrop not only of a growing far right political activism but also a general radical discourse.

In a way, these demonstrations remind us of the white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, the USA. Boosted by the electoral support for right-wing politics, the radical right takes to the streets to openly proclaim their slogans. Just as the KKK and other white supremacists felt empowered by the current US president, these Neo-Nazis feel empowered by the growing support behind the right-wing parties in Germany. Some of the protesters were holding placards saying “Stop Asylum Flood” while others were carrying placards that read “Give Islam no Chance”, resembling the traditional “Give Aids no Chance” logo. At the heart of these slogans stands a deep conviction of dehumanization. Essentially, the racialized other is degraded to such an extent that he can finally be eradicated. And these slogans are no strangers in the public debate on immigration and Islam in Germany. The framing of the refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq as a ‘crisis’ or a ‘flood’ is common not only in Germany but most countries in Europe. This kind of framing already suggests a problem that needs extraordinary measures to combat.

Although statistics clearly reveal that there is no correlation between violence and the immigration of people from war-torn countries, the occurrence of the current excesses basically stems from the imagination of barbarous, violent Muslim men who are invading Germany. Also, this imagination is not confined to a fringe right-wing extremist discourse that attempts to fight the ‘fake news’ of the mainstream media. Rather, overall media coverage in Germany suggests an increase in the number of violent and hyper sexualized brown North-African Muslims endangering white German manhood.

Hence, fundamentally countering these right-wing extremist tendencies, as we are seeing these days in Chemnitz, will take more than efforts to fight extremist organizations, be they Hooligans or new parties in Parliament. It involves fighting against the racism found right at the heart of the power structure.

 

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Christians in Iraq dwindle and struggle to survive

Ash Gallagher

The numbers of Christians in Iraq have plummeted and those who claim to help ensure their survival, often don’t even understand what they need. Christians in Iraq are dwindling. Chased out, targeted and caught in the middle of rival sectarian conflicts, the minority religious sect is struggling to survive.

The country once held over 1.5 million Christians, but since 2003 and the American invasion and occupation, the numbers have dwindled. The population had shrunk to under half a million in 2013 and after the rise of Daesh, it is estimated there are just 250,000 left.

Many have fled – first to surrounding countries, like Jordan and Turkey, but this still only makes up a small percentage of the total. As many as 20,000 are estimated to be in Lebanon, whichs holds one of the largest Christian populations in the region. Christian political parties in Lebanon have influence, were combatants in their own civil conflict, and have supportive communities.

Many Christians from Iraq are hesitant to go back. Some Christians of Arab descent say they’d consider going to the Kurdish region in Iraq—which thrives on ethnic over religious governance—but still others say they’ve been targets of Kurdish authorities pushing for ‘Kurdification’ in the northern Iraq region and have been subject to threats and intimidation.

In 2016, the US admitted at least 37,000 Christians, most of them from Syria, but only 7,800 were from Iraq. Interestingly enough, Christians in Iraq have been at a higher risk of being targeted by extremist groups because in Syria for example, they are either protected by the Assad regime, which carries joint minority support, or have family members in Lebanon. Nevertheless, despite US President Donald Trump’s claims that it was more difficult to get into the country as a Christian, only 32 percent of Muslim refugees have been admitted since 2003 as compared to 46 percent of those with a Christian background.

Even so, for the ones who stayed in Iraq, they’re not getting the help that the West promised. Earlier this year, US Vice President Mike Pence said, “Christianity is under unprecedented assault in those ancient lands,” as the US cut funding to the United Nations aid services and committed to giving money to smaller organizations for minority groups in Iraq and Syria.

Pence, a self-acclaimed Christian, has been key in leading the agenda for US evangelical groups who want to preserve Christianity in the Middle East. And since then, Pence has put pressure for at least 35 million dollars in funds to be released to Christian and Yazidi groups.

But many organisations supporting Christians in Iraq have been turned down by USAID – where much of the funding is funnelled. And with tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians outside of Iraq and hesitant to return, it will be hard to rebuild the communities.

Vested interests: Sadly, Evangelical groups in the US rave about protecting Christians in the region, but rarely do they actually understand the needs of their counterparts. And to make matters worse; they fail to understand the life or philosophy of their Middle Eastern counterparts.

They are under the impression that they’re pushing for the survival of some Western brand of Christianity – as a way to realise an end-times prophecy that will bring historical Jesus to earth.

This is not how Christians from Iraq see their own preservation. They’re considered one of the oldest sects in the world, some still carrying out church services in Aramaic, the language, believed to be spoken by Jesus, and their expansion into the region dates as far back as the first century.

For centuries after, they coexisted with other groups and after Arab conquests in the 7th Century; they still found some favour under historical Muslim empires. While it’s important to note that by the 13th and 14th centuries Christians faced persecution amid war and regional conflict, the Chaldean and Assyrian traditions survived.

Christians practiced their faith openly, and were often unified with their neighbours – who came from Sunni and Shia Islam and Yazidi faith. But many say that changed after 2003. And the lack of services, like electricity, water and jobs made it harder to survive particularly in Nineveh Province, in northern Iraq – even before the Daesh occupation.

Overa the last four years, many of the Christians scattered south to Baghdad, others north to Dohuk, where there are more resources – and don’t foresee going back to Nineveh, which still sits under a lot of rubble and debris. But there is also a lack of knowledge and education among American Christians about the Chaldean and Assyrian factions – who are part of the Catholic umbrella.

The rivalry between Catholics and Evangelicals in America is an age-old theological conflict, where Evangelicals see themselves as the ‘right’ kind of Christian.

It’s also worth noting white Evangelical Christians don’t find ethnic Arabs synonymous with Christian, branding them all as Muslim.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, over 100 Iraqi Christians were held up in airports across the country after Trump’s ban on Muslim majority countries was signed in 2017 – despite promises to prioritise Christian asylum seekers.

Many Christian towns and cities felt betrayed by the West during Daesh’s onslaught — forgotten and even abandoned. And now without security or funding, they don’t have an interest in returning home.

The Christian tradition in the Middle East is about a lifestyle and identity; it’s about unity with their neighbours and friends from other faiths.  They are far less worried about a Biblical theology in the future than they are worried about feeding their children and having somewhere to rest their head at night.

And it’s important to remember, Iraqis across all faiths believe if the Iraqi government doesn’t prioritise rebuilding Mosul and if the international community doesn’t help, the economic disparity could lead to further tribalism and another version of Daesh, or another sectarian conflict.

For now, the pews in the churches are seeing less people attend services, and like other minorities in Iraq, the Christian communities are fighting to survive. The priests, comforting and working with surviving families, can only pray more will come home and rebuild their lives and their history.

 

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Since Trump does not talk to Erdogan, Putin does

Murat Yetkin

A very interesting dialogue is occurring between Turkey and Russia on serious security matters, as the distance between Turkey and its biggest ally in the Western defense alliance NATO grows. On Aug. 24, following a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu with his host, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, he was also received by President Vladimir Putin, but not alone. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and the Director of Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan were with him.

What is more interesting, that was Akar and Fidan’s second visit to Moscow in a week. On Aug. 17, the two were in Moscow again to carry out talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) head Sergei Naryshkin. Naryshkin was in Istanbul on May 13 to talk to Fidan about cooperation on issues including terrorism and the Middle East, as the media were told. Shoigu was in Istanbul on July 2, right before the fifth round of Astana talks when Akar was still Chief of General Staff, before being named defense minister on July 9.

The Aug. 24 talks in Moscow are a follow up, or rather a roundup, of the former talks with the presence of the top diplomats of the both countries, Lavrov and Çavusoglu. After the talks, the Russian side told the media Shoigu has presented Moscow’s proposals to Ankara on the current and future situations in Syria. Within that week, between Aug. 17 and Aug. 24, two incidents took place involving Turkey, Russia and NATO. On Aug. 21, British Typhoon jets taking off from Romania’s Mihail Kogaliceanu air base near Constanta on the Black Sea Coast intercepted two Russian Su-30 jets claiming their way to NATO airspace, which is Romania. On Aug. 23, two Typhoon jets again taking off from the same base intercepted a Russian maritime Be-12 type electronic intelligence plane, flying southwest of the Ukraine’s Russian annexed territory of Crimea towards Romania.

A statement by United Kingdom Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson about the interception was made on Aug. 24, almost at the same time when Putin was receiving the Turkish delegation. British jets have been deployed in Romania last April as part of a NATO reinforcement in the Black Sea region, also with Turkish approval. (London, by the way is silently in talks with Ankara over lucrative and even strategic deals.) On Aug. 26, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami arrived in Damascus to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Recently, defying United States President Donald Trump’s warnings about leaving Syria immediately, who was also echoing Israel’s demands, Ali Akbar Velayati, the Special Envoy of Iran’s religious leader Ali Khamanei said Iran would stay in Syria and Iraq as long as the legal governments of both countries wish so.

Iran, Turkey and Russia are partners in the Astana process to maintain de-escalation zones in Syria and monitor ceasefire in those zones. One of them and the most crucial one is the city of Idlib near Turkish border. Having built 12 military observation posts around the city, Turkey says a regime attack on the entire city because of the terrorist elements there could trigger another wave of migration into Turkey.

That is one of the key issues discussed between Turkey and Russia nowadays.

And a new factor in the Syrian theater, which has created a bit of optimism in Ankara, is the new US Department of State Syria coordinator James Jeffrey. Having worked under the Bush and Obama administrations, Jeffrey has served as ambassadors to Baghdad and Ankara and worked on Iran files during his post as Deputy National Security Adviser. So, there is much more in the Turkish delegation’s talks in Moscow than an invitation from Erdogan to Putin for a “meeting at a fish restaurant by the Bosphorus,” as extended by Çavusoglu.

It seems there is more to it than “making the other jealous,” as Erdogan told Putin a month ago in South Africa on July 26.

The picture is really complicated, isn’t it? But there is another important detail. Since Trump refuses to talk to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan until the release of the evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, who by the way might feel quite uncomfortable for having been made the political material of a crisis, others do. Not only Putin but from Angela Merkel to Emmanuel Macron, from Hassan Rouhani to Tamim al-Thani and Xi Jinping, leaders are talking to Erdogan thinking there is a gap to be filled in the absence of the US.

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Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline only panacea to Pakistan’s energy crisis

Raghib Hussain

Last week, Imran Khan was sworn in as the new premier of Pakistan. In his first televised address to the nation, the cricketer-turned-politician outlined his vision for Pakistan and vowed to build the foundation of Naya Pakistan (New Pakistan), which was the dream of country’s founding fathers Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Sir Mohammad Iqbal.

There are many pressing issues facing the country and the new government faces myriad challenges on multiple fronts. The biggest challenge, as per experts, is the flailing economy. It will be an uphill task for the new government to turn around the crippling economy and rebuild various institutions that have debilitated due to rampant corruption, cronyism and lack of work ethics.

In his inaugural speech, Khan also asserted his willingness to improve ties with neighboring countries, including Iran. The relations between Islamabad and Tehran are significant because the two countries are inter-dependent in many ways. Pakistan has acute shortage of energy while Iran has abundant energy resources.  The two countries had in the past agreed to enhance cooperation in the energy sector but it didn’t see much headway. With the political transition in Islamabad, the two neighbors are expected to open a new chapter in their relations.

Pakistan is going through a critical phase in its history. According to latest reports, supply and demand has increased by whopping 40 percent. Load shedding in many of the major cities has reached 15 hours a day. Foreign investments have plummeted to a new low. Imports and exports gap is increasing sharply and several industries have shifted their base to other countries. The situation is alarming and the new government has its task cut out.

Pakistan has many options to address its energy crisis, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), CASA-1000 and Qatar LNG projects to name a few. But one of the important and less talked about projects that the new government needs to revive is the Iran-Pakistan gap pipeline project or ?peace pipeline?. It is not simply a gas pipeline, but an energy lifeline for Pakistan.

At a time when Pakistan is facing acute energy crisis, this ambitious project has assumed extraordinary significance. Khan has reportedly promised to revive the long-stalled gas pipeline project and implement it on priority basis, which definitely augurs well for Pakistan.

Economists believe this ‘peace pipeline’ alone can address Pakistan?s power crisis. In summer, power shortage reaches 6,500 MW. Demand for natural gas in Pakistan has exceeded supply. Pakistan’s domestic gas production, currently at about four billion cubic feet per day (CFD), will fall to two billion CFD by 2020 when demand will rise to eight billion CFD, as per a report published in Express Tribune.

This gaping hole of six billion CFD will be partially filled by Iranian gas. Statistical figures show around 750 MM CFD gas flow in the pipeline is projected to help add 4,000MW electricity into the system at an economical rate, along with creating job opportunities in remote areas of Baluchistan and Sindh.

The entry of Iranian gas will restore the 2,232MW of thermal power generation capacity with the diversion of about 406 MM CFD, leaving 344 MM CFD for other uses such as manufacturing fertilizers and supplying gas to domestic consumers. Overall, Pakistan will be saving the $2.3 billion in energy imports. Experts believe that Pakistan could have managed a better bargain, rather than settling for 70% of the market price of gas.

China already has also shown interest in this project and they are willing to invest in it. Because China already is involved in the Gwadar port project in Pakistan, for this project and many others projects, China needs gas and oil. Pakistan can make a plan. LNG terminal could be set up at Gwadar Port for handling and processing gas imports, which will give a boost to economic activities at the seashore.

Imran Khan’s government has vowed to revive the gas pipeline project, which can be a game-changer.

The two sides need to finalize all outstanding issues, especially in the wake of U.S. sanctions on Iran, and implement the project. It is a historic opportunity for the two countries to transform their relationship into energy partners. This project can be a panacea to Pakistan’s energy crisis.

 

 

 

 

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Ideas coming to mind in Mecca and unity of Muslims

Ihsan Aktas

One of the most significant works of the great Islamic scholar Ibn Arabi is the Meccan Illuminations (Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya). An Andalusian scholar and philosopher, Ibn Arabi departed from Spain to travel first to Konya in Anatolia and then to Mecca, and died in Damascus on his way home.
From the period of Abbasids to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Muslim scholars had been traveling in pursuit of knowledge from Western Europe to the Western borders of China by visiting all ancient cities from Andalusia to India. The greatest scholars of hadith and fiqh, along with pilgrims, typically embarked long journeys to acquire and exchange knowledge.
To carry out the duty of pilgrimage, I have come to Mecca and Medina this year. As hundreds of thousands of Muslims from all corners of the world do every year, I was astonished by the experience of witnessing such an immense unity of Muslims. Thus, I cannot help but thinking about the current situations in Muslim countries and their political deadlocks in the international arena.
When the Azan was being recited in Mecca or Medina, Muslims were surging toward the sacred Kaaba as rivers flowing into the oceans. While Muslims circumambulate the Kaaba shoulder to shoulder, denominational differences become insignificant. Whether Sunni or Shiite, all Muslims come together in the unity of Allah, in the leadership of the Prophet and in the Quran as the word of Allah. In his “World Order,” Henry Kissinger wrote about the spread of Islam and the establishment and the rise of the Ottoman Empire as extraordinary developments in the history of humanity. Then, Kissinger noted that Muslims are, in our present age, far from establishing an order in the world. The world order that was established after the First World War remains effective today. While Afghanistan and Pakistan have been struggling against terrorist organizations inhabiting around their borders, Iran has been pursuing solely the Shiite interests with an imperial claim. The African countries have still been under the yoke of poverty and colonialism, while the wealthy underground resources of the Arabic countries have been under the siege of the United States. Today, the Western states are not as strong and the Muslim countries are not as weak as they were during the First World War. For establishing a solid solidarity among the Muslim countries, the dece-ased Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan embarked the enterprise of the Developing 8 (D8).
Yet, the powers working for the Western tutelage overthrew his political power and gave a very clear message about the impossibility of establishing such solidarity among Muslims. When US President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by transporting the American Consulate General from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the OIC, under the leadership of the President Erdogan, condemned the US to isolation in the United Nations.
Until Muslim countries have realized the long-standing ideal of unity among the Muslims, the Western colonial empire will continue to exploit our resources and to enslave our minds.

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When Muslims condemn terrorism, does it matter?

Faisal Ali

Heraa Hashmi was propelled into the public eye when she compiled a worldwide list of as many different instances as she could find of Muslims condemning terrorism. A Muslim-American of Indian ancestry, Heraa was moved to action following a disappointing conversation with a classmate who wondered why Muslims are so silent about the violence of some of their co-religionists. The list was turned into a publicly available spreadsheet with 5720 examples of Muslim condemning terror which can be found on a website she created with some friends.

A year on, she visits Istanbul and ponders the efficacy of the decision due to her concern that the list played into the “moderate Muslim” narrative. The idea of a ‘moderate Muslim’ she argues is “an invention of a global system of capital and political hegemony” which uses the ‘moderate’ Muslim category “to include those Muslims whose lifestyles and beliefs are approved”, and exclude, arrest, torture and kill those who aren’t.

A student of molecular biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, Heraa is also a prolific YouTuber, a writer of fiction and runs an online blog with friends called Traversing Tradition which explores Islam for counter-cultural perspectives.  Heraa, 20, speaks to TRT World.

Explain to us the context and exactly what drove you to collect all these condemnations of violence?

HERAA HASHMI: This was around the time of the US election, there were quite a lot of terrorist attacks and there was a buildup of Islamophobic sentiment. And one thing that kept coming up in the media was why are Muslims so silent? Which was very interesting to me because growing up very well-acquainted with the Muslim community, from my perspective it felt like we were continuously talking about these things. We were developing programs to prevent radicalism, we were going out and speaking and building relationships with other communities and so it just felt very odd.

But I remember my breaking point, when it really set in that this was a problem was when I was in class and it was a few weeks before the election and we were studying the role of religion in European history.

There was one student who turned to me and asked why Muslims don’t condemn this violence. He suggested this violence was a “Muslim problem” and that really upset me. We talked and had a bit of a back and forth but I didn’t feel like that conversation was going anywhere. So, I went home thinking I’ll do some research and just send him a list.

As I started researching I realized that there is a lot of information out there. It’s not that Muslims aren’t speaking up, it’s just that message isn’t being received or covered enough in mainstream media. That’s the story behind the list. Take us through how you collected this list, because it seems really long and mundane process.

HH: I won’t lie it was very mundane at times. I was cooped up in my room for three weeks and missed a few classes, but the more I got into Google deep dive, the more I realised that there is so much information available. And you have to realise I’m not a computer science student. Someone even asked me if I used a web crawler and I didn’t know what that was then. There was no method to my madness, just raw googling. Page after page, right the way through to the end, searching phrases like “Muslims condemn” or “Muslims against terrorism” collecting all the information in a spreadsheet. I spoke with a friend after about three weeks of collecting the information, and she said it was good enough to turn into a public resource, so that’s what I did.

What did you hope to achieve by compiling this list?

HH: Part of me wanted to question discourses which present Muslims as violent, but I was also focused on how Muslims have internalised some of these ideas. To an extent we have internalised the idea that Muslims, and Muslim countries are backwards or barbaric, and violence prone. I just wanted to help people think critically about these issues, and consider the likelihood that there are other factors involved with Muslims in the US and outside the US.

In the long run, I hoped people would question the things they hear about Muslims, and investigate what’s causing this rhetoric and what’s actually behind it.

How was the initiative received by Muslims and your wider community?

HH: Within the Muslim community most of the feedback was positive. A lot of people felt like this was a problem and this was a great way to address it. But there were people who critiqued the idea and I feel like I’ve grown from that critique.

The biggest criticism was by people who told me I was pandering and was being apologetic. That in trying to set aside the accusations of those that say Muslims don’t condemn terrorism, I was falling into the “moderate-extreme” Muslim trap. With hindsight, I feel like that was a fair critique because if you look at US media the spectrum of Muslims that get a voice goes from terror hating to those who are apologetic, and we don’t really exist outside that frame. I actually wrote about this in Traversing Tradition, a blog that we run.

We sometimes play into this by attempting to present ourselves as “moderate Muslims”, Muslims who only exist in a way that makes other people feel comfortable in their prejudices. And of course, we condemn terror, but a Muslim isn’t just a person who has an ethnic sounding name, eats exotic food, and might wear strange clothes. Me practicing my faith makes people uncomfortable, and that feeds into ideas about Islam and Muslims being violent. That point helped me realize that this is just a symptom of a much larger problem and we need to talk about it.

What do you think that problem is?

HH: That problem is a general and unhealthy climate of fear regarding the Muslim community. There is a bias in the way we view violence and how we attribute these things. There are so many studies that show domestic terrorism by people who aren’t Muslim is a far larger threat.

It’s so interesting that when terrorist attacks happen in quote on quote “Western countries”, like the UK or the US people are shocked globally, but when an attack happens in Kabul, Morocco or Turkey even in areas that aren’t warzones the perception is that these places are just war-torn countries and its normal when in many cases they’re not. And we just don’t get as angry or as bothered by those things as a society. That double standard has a lot to do with the assumption that Muslims and Muslim countries are violent which links back into the problem of fear.

What more needs to be done?

HH: I was recently reading some research published by Pew, and they found that most Americans have never met a Muslim. I think a lot of the problems people have with the Muslim community, and their ideas about who we are come from the reality that many have never met any of us and a lot of the hatred could be resolved if people went out and talked to Muslims.

But we also need to uplift Muslims and give them a real space on different platforms without these unhelpful binaries. And it doesn’t make a difference where that is, whether it be comedy, acting, writing or politics. Young Muslims have a voice, they have ideas, but they just need a mic to reach larger audiences.

 

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Eid: Gaining proximity to God and one another

Ibrahim Kalin

Muslims celebrate today as Eid al-Adha, the day of pilgrimage, sacrifice and devotion. This is the day when Prophet Abraham proved his devotion to God, setting an example for the generations to come. This is a day of joy, celebration and remembrance. Given the realities of the Muslim world at present, however, one needs to ask if we are up to the challenge Prophet Abraham faced in his trial.

The Hajj (pilgrimage) is the supreme act of devotion whereby worshipers circumambulate the Kaaba to go beyond all that is petty, base and selfish. The Hajj itself is a trial from the beginning to the end. When the pilgrims stand in Arafah, they re-enact the Day of Judgment when we all will be held accountable for our actions in this world. Muslims pray five times a day and turn to Kaaba, standing before God in total devotion. But standing in the Arafah takes this act of submission to a higher level. In some languages, Eid al-Adha is also called “qurban,” meaning sacrifice. It refers to the sacrificial lamb, which was given to Abraham to replace his son, Ishmael, after Abraham showed his full submission to God by agreeing to sacrifice even his own son.

The word “qurban” comes from the root verb meaning “to get closer.” It is based on the fundamental idea that we get closer to God by performing godly acts. By sacrificing our own carnal soul and refraining from evil and vice, we gain proximity to God. This is a state beyond and above all worldly gains and pleasures. It makes our souls virtuous and beautiful and this is the key to making the world a more livable place for all.

Eid al-Adha is also an occasion for social interaction. This is a day when people are reminded again that they are all equal before God regardless of their social and economic status, wealth or poverty, race or color. They are enjoined to share whatever they have. They are encouraged to welcome relatives and neighbors into their homes, feed the poor, visit the elderly, help the orphans and anyone in need. Getting closer to God spiritually brings human beings together socially.

This is the principle, but how much of it is a reality in the Muslim world today is another story. Wars, conflicts, poverty, illiteracy, corruption, violence, regional rivalries, misuse of resources, lack of unity and a host of other issues plague Muslim societies from east to west, from the rich to the poor.

The picture of the Muslim world today is not a bright one. And we have to confront this reality with candor and honesty. The disunity of hearts and minds is the prime cause of social and political conflicts in many Muslim countries. External interventions and manipulations do have a damaging and destabilizing role. No one can deny it. But they are effective to the extent to which Muslim societies allow them to be. We have to take strong measures against manipulators and spoilers from within and outside our societies.

But we cannot be content with just blaming others for our own failings. Putting the blame on outsiders alone leads us to intellectual laziness and moral conformism. Lack of strong and wise political leadership makes the Muslim world vulnerable to all sorts of attacks and manipulations. As a result, wars and conflicts become inevitable and resources are wasted before our eyes.

The youth begin to lose hope in the future and this prepares the ground for recruiting by violent extremists. Every time Muslim countries fail at something individually or collectively, terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and Daesh clap their hands and become more emboldened. No one should expect the fight against terrorism and violent extremism to succeed when Muslim countries fail at political, economic and/or social issues.

Despite these challenges, Eid al-Adha is an occasion for celebration and remembrance. It is an opportunity for us to remember what is essential in life and set our priorities right. It is a blessing to get closer to God and to one another.

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Islamophobia and structuring the post-Cold War new world order

Hatem Bazian

The shift towards Islamophobia and using the Muslim subject as the singular global strategic threat emerged toward the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even though a case can be made that the 1979 Iranian Revolution intensified the negative representation of Islam and Muslims in the West, particularly in the US, nevertheless, the scope of the demonization was not on the same scale that emerged in the post-Cold War era. In the U.K. context, the appearance of Islamophobia as a concept into public policy can be traced to the Iranian revolution and the Salman Rushdie affair, which brought an intense focus on the Muslim community due to the perceived or real support for the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa calling for Rushdie’s assassination. Certainly, the political leadership and the media discourses at the time were filled with anti-Muslim rhetoric and drawing a distinction between Iran (representing a feared aspect of Islam) and the West.

It is not surprising that Edward Said’s book, “Covering Islam,” was written to explore the media demonization of Islam and Muslims after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. On the other hand, Said’s “Orientalism” navigated the long history of representations, scholarly writing and stereotyping that often served as a stable source material for the reproduction of Arab and Muslim ‘otherization.’

The anti-Iranian and anti-Shia discourses in the Western and Arab press were balanced at the time with constructing a favorable view of the Sunni Afghan Mujhadeen, who had an important strategic function in confronting and bleeding the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Thus, a certain Sunni jihadi worldview was incubated in the US and Europe that supported, on the one hand, the war in Afghanistan and on the other a readiness to oppose and confront the Iranian revolution, the pretext of defending the eastern gate of the Arab world from the Iranian Shia expansion. This means that between 1979 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Islamophobia was given a localized and distinct anti-Shia aim rather than being an all-encompassing strategy to demonize Islam or Muslims as a single category.

Importantly, the focus shifted on Dual Containment in US foreign policy, a policy fixed on countering Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism, which included targeting Iran for the Shia revolution and the nationalist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Libya, as well as Iraq until it joined the Arab and Western strategy to reverse, counter and bleed the Iranian Revolution. In this period, the “Islamic threat” specifically meant the Iranian Shia threat and “our” allies were the Sunni Jihadi fundamentalists that encompassed the full spectrum of Sunni-oriented groups and sects. Navigating this strategy required a careful cultivation of alliances and constructing a narrative that would resonate and enable Sunni majority governments to mobilize their intelligence agencies to recruit individuals to participate in the two-front war, the Afghan war against the Russians and on the Iraqi front opposing Iran. In both cases, construction of Sunni jihadi Islam was the needed “religious” tonic to bring forth foot soldiers to the battlefields in the thousands and unbeknownst to them assist the US, Europe, and the Arab and Muslim states in implementing the containment strategy.

Before and after the Cold War era: The watershed moment for the emergence of Islamophobia, an all-encompassing and undifferentiated in terms of sect and group, is directly connected to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the immediate outcome of the Gulf War and the Palestinian uprising that provided the stage for problematizing Islam and Muslims as a single threatening subject. Islamic groups, sects and organizations played an important role during the Cold War by providing a counter and indigenously framed religious epistemic to counter socialism, communism and self-determination oriented nationalism, which has proven to be a very successful strategy. However, the end of the Cold War and the shifts into a unipolar world produced contestation and a race at home and abroad to define the emerging “new world order,” but more importantly, a pursuit of opportunities to reshape the US military and economic priorities in the new era.

During this period and post-Cold War, Muslims and Islam become an otherized category in the US with multipronged levels of exclusion and forms of racialized discrimination inflicted upon individuals and groups. The othering process directed at Muslims was unleashed by the political elites that wanted to craft a strategy to contest and maintain power in the post-Cold War era, which included a heavy emphasis on the massive military expenditures, which might had been cut after the defeat of the Soviet Union. As the red “evil empire” came to an end, the machinery for crafting a “green menace” took shape in the form of Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis, which provided the needed shift and the utilization of cultural racism as the basis for differentiation and hostility. Using cultural racism as the basis for the “Clash of Civilization” thesis is the rebranding of the pre-WW II discredited biological racism and is offered as a signpost for the same sets of racist attitudes and perspectives that were deployed in the earlier biological version.

In this context, Islamophobia is less about Islam or even about Muslims themselves, their lives and hopes but more about the insecurity of Western societies as a whole. The Cold War created a common framework and presented “us” as the good side fighting collectively against “them,” the communists who represented evil, but the question was what to do afterward and what was the path forward. Targeting Islam and Muslims is the way to define politics, culture, economy, religion and identity in the post-Cold War period. By magnifying the differences and then transforming them into an existential threat in the mind of the US and Western public, the forging of a fictitious sense of patriotic unity and purpose is possibly actualized. The US political elites that were suckled on confronting the “evil empire” emerged less confident and unsure about the present and future considering all the global political, economic and social changes that unfolded rapidly. The use of Islamophobia and demonization of Islam and Muslims serves the perfect diversion for populist politicians who have no real vision for the future and are able to monetize fear to slither their way into seats of power with venomous rhetoric promising restoration and greatness.

The clash of civilizations

Bernard Lewis’s Clash of Civilizations thesis, made popular through the writings of Samuel Huntington, offered the new framing for post-Cold War era by stating: “It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.” For Huntington and the many who adopted his framing, the biggest challenge for the West will come from an emerging Confucian-Islamic connection, primarily concentrated around the asserted right to develop and deploy nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons, which are seen as a counter to the Western powers’ adoption of non-proliferation. In the Clash of Civilizations thesis, Western elites and state actors located a new enemy of choice through which the maintenance and extension of military, economic, social, and religious power can be extended.

The thesis translates Islamophobia into a foreign policy paradigm and re-orients Western states’ policies towards confronting the Islamic-Chinese alliance. Islamophobia becomes the tool needed for birthing the new world order. In an article published in the Nation magazine, Edward Said called the thesis “The Clash of Ignorance” whereby “Labels like “Islam” and “the West” serve only to confuse us about a disorderly reality.” Furthermore, Said said: “Neither Huntington nor Lewis has much time to spare for the internal dynamics and plurality of every civilization, or for the fact that the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture, or for the unattractive possibility that a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilization. No, the West is the West, and Islam [is] Islam.”In chapter one of the book, Huntington uses a quote that goes directly into framing post-Cold War anti-Islam discourses, which for him serves as the means to define “what we are” at a moment of global change: “One grim Weltanschauung for this new era was well expressed by the Venetian nationalist demagogue in Michael Dibdin’s novel, ‘Dead Lagoon’ – ‘There can be no true friends without true enemies. Unless we hate what we are not, we cannot love what we are. These are the old truths we are painfully rediscovering after a century and more of sentimental cant. Those who deny them deny their family, their heritage, their culture, their birthright, their very selves! They will not lightly be forgiven.'” The unfortunate truth in these old truths cannot be ignored by statesmen and scholars. For peoples seeking identity and reinventing ethnicity, enemies are essential, and the potentially most dangerous enmities occur across the fault lines between the world’s major civilizations.” The purpose of the thesis is to locate and love ourselves by means of locating and hating what we are not, which for Huntington is represented by Muslims and the Chinese.

Understood correctly, Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis is a call to affirm the worldview of the West, or more accurately the US, by drawing clear distinctions from the Islamic and Sinic civilizations. Here, Muslim and Islamic subjects (as well as the Chinese but this issue will not be addressed here) are instruments to forge an internal cohesion in the US that, in Huntington’s mind, is missing at present and is needed to maintain and extend America’s power and domination. Not surprisingly, Huntington’s follow-up book framed the problem as one of diversity and asserting that the perceived Western weakness is due to “multiculturalism,” which “is in its essence anti-European civilization. It is basically an anti-Western ideology.” In “Who are we?” Huntington is framing it as a question and answering it by problematizing the increasing presence of Mexicans in the US and viewing them as a threat to maintaining the cohesive nature of the country due to various factors that prevent assimilation into American society. Taken together, “Clash of Civilizations” and “Who are we?” provide an ideological blueprint for a new conceptualization of the problems that have beset right wing and conservative agenda since the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.

The new world order: Precisely, the emergence of the Clash of Civilizations thesis allowed for the state, the far-right counter-jihad movement, the neoconservative movement, sizable segments of the transnational Zionist movement and assorted liberal groupings, including the pro-war left and the new atheist movement, to unleash a barrage of Islamophobic discourses to rationalize the new world order and their central role in countering it. Thus, Islamophobia becomes an ideological policy funnel through which international and domestic alliances and coalitions are formed whereby participants use Islam and Muslim subjectivities as the foil to array their varied political, economic and military interests. All the forces mentioned produced materials to saturate political circles, media coverage and public discourses to the exclusion or marginalization of the voices that are not committed to this framing. The case of Islamophobia is the same as the way that the anti-communist and Cold War period produced horizontal and vertical domestic and international alliances and forces committed to the policy.