Fareed Zakaria: Trump has drawn three red lines that are bound to be crossed

February 5, 2018

Fareed Zakaria: Trump has drawn three red lines that are bound to be crossed

by Dr, Fareed Zakaria


Image result for fareed zakaria in davos 2018

NEW YORK — President Trump’s State of the Union speech mostly ignored the world outside of America. He made a few tough statements on things like the Iran deal and Guantanamo and described (accurately) the evil nature of the North Korean regime, but he said very little about his foreign policy. This masks a more dangerous reality. The Trump administration has in fact, either accidentally or by design, laid out aggressive markers in three different parts of the world — three red lines — without any serious strategy as to what happens when they are crossed.

The first is with North Korea. Trump and his top officials have asserted that the era of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over. They have ruled out any prospect of accepting North Korea as a nuclear state and believe traditional deterrence will not work. The president has specifically promised that North Korea would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States. Meanwhile, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says Pyongyang is “a handful of months” away from having this capability.

Image result for State Department Victor ChaDr.Victor Cha is a Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington DC and served as Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.
Image result for State Department Victor Cha

So what happens when that red line is crossed? What would be the American response? Victor Cha, a seasoned expert who was expected to be the nominee for ambassador to South Korea, explained to the administration that there really is no limited military option, not even a small strike that would “bloody” the nose of the North Korean regime. For this frank analysis, he was promptly dropped from consideration for the ambassadorship.

Cha simply raised the fundamental problem with the Trump administration’s approach. It has outlined maximalist goals without any sense of how to achieve them. In response to North Korea’s new capabilities, would Trump really rain down “fire and fury” and “totally destroy North Korea”?

Image result for State Department Victor Cha

Trump has done something similar with Iran. He has announced that he will withdraw from the nuclear deal if Congress and the European allies don’t fix it. The Europeans have made clear they don’t think the pact needs fixing and believe it is working well. In about three months, we will reach D-Day, when Trump has promised to unilaterally withdraw if he can’t get a tougher deal.

Image result for iran

Were Trump to unilaterally abrogate the accord, the Iranians have several options. They could pull out themselves and ramp up their nuclear program, which would mean the Trump administration would have to deal with another North Korea, this time in the Middle East. Or Iran could simply sideline the United States, keep adhering to the deal, and do business with the rest of the world. Most likely, Tehran would make the United States pay a price by using its considerable influence to destabilize Iraq, which is entering a tumultuous election season.

The third arena where the White House has talked and acted tough without any follow-on strategy is Pakistan. The administration has publicly branded that country a terrorist haven and suspended military aid on those grounds. This is an entirely understandable impulse, because the Pakistani military has in fact been supporting terrorists and militants who operate in Afghanistan, even against American troops, and then withdraw to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. As then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen noted in 2011, one of these terrorist groups “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.”

Image result for Pakistan and the US

Demonstrators shout slogans in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan Dec. 12, 2017.

But being right is not the same thing as being smart. Most experts predicted that Pakistan would respond to the American action in two ways: First, by pursuing closer relations with China, which can easily replace the aid. Second, the Pakistani military would ratchet up the violence in Afghanistan, demonstrating that it has the capacity to destabilize the pro-American government in Kabul, throw the country into chaos and tie down the U.S. forces that are now in their 17th year of war. And that’s what has happened. China immediately voiced support for Pakistan after the American announcement. And in the last two weeks, Afghanistan has suffered a spate of horrific terror attacks.

Image result for Thomas Schelling,

Thomas Schelling, the Nobel-prize winning scholar of strategy, once remarked that two things are very expensive in international affairs: threats when they fail, and promises when they succeed. So, he implied, be very careful about making either one. President Trump seemed to understand this when his predecessor made a threat toward Syria in 2013, and Trump tweeted, “Red line statement was a disaster for President Obama.” Well, he’s just drawn three red lines of his own, and each of them is likely to be crossed.

Fareed Zakaria is a columnist for The Washington Post and host of Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN.

Indonesia’s Rising Fundamentalism Gets Uglier in Election Year

January 18, 2018

Indonesia’s Rising Fundamentalism Gets Uglier in Election Year

by Dewi Kurniawati


Image result for Indonesia's Islamic Fundamentalism

Indonesia’s Islamic Owls

On December 12, hundreds of Islamists protested outside Facebook’s headquarters in Jakarta, accusing the social media giant of discrimination for blocking pages operated by hardline groups that allegedly inflame religious tensions.

Image result for islamic defenders front (fpi)

Habib Rizieq, spiritual leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI)

The protesters, many dressed in white and including members of the extremist Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), marched to Facebook’s offices demanding that they remove the blockage, accusing Facebook of Islamophobia in posters they carried and waved.

In December last year, a photo showing a piece of an agreement paper signed by several heads of local neighborhood Muslim units in Tangerang district purportedly listing several “Do’s and Don’ts for Non-Muslims” went viral through Facebook this week, steering yet another brouhaha through Indonesia’s netizens.

Among other things, according to the signed agreement paper, non-Muslim religious groups should be barred from having congregations at home, not allowed to invite preachers, and must bury their deceased within 24 hours, a teaching that is close to Islamic traditions.

Within hours however, the outrage over social media was “answered” by higher authorities who amended the agreement, saying it had not been “discussed, or approved” by them in its original form.

These scenes of various provocations and propaganda based on religion seem to be pouring straight through Indonesia’s political atmosphere after a tough presidential election in 2014 that delivered Joko Widodo, a Muslim moderate, to the presidency. Throughout the campaign, religious and ideological sentiments were used against him by supporters of his opponent, millionaire businessman Prabowo Subianto, a former Special Forces general and onetime son-in-law of the late strongman Suharto.

Image result for Prabowo Subianto and Aburizal Bakrie

Prabowo Subianto with Aburizal Bakrie

These same religious and ideological sentiments intensified against Basuki Tahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian universally known as “Ahok” during the gubernatorial election in February, which political experts describe as “the rise of Islamization in Indonesia.”

Image result for Indonesia's Islamic Fundamentalism

Basuki Tahaja Purnama aka  Ahok

Ahok’s election campaign galvanized the country’s conservative base, with some religious groups preaching that Muslims shouldn’t vote for “non-believers.”  He was mischaracterized during a speech as having blasphemed the Quran, a charge that was widely disseminated prior to the election and played a major role in his defeat by Anais Baswedan, an ethnic Indonesian and Muslim even though he was considered arguably Jakarta’s most effective governor by far.

Months after the election, the Police arrested three leaders of an organized fake news syndicate known as Saracen that poured hundreds of thousands of bogus hacks onto the Internet, inflaming public opinion against Ahok, who was jailed after the election on the blasphemy charges. Worldwide human rights organizations have objected to Ahok’s imprisonment, calling it a political travesty.

According to research by the Wahid Institute, a moderate research center on Islam, in mid- 2017, as many as 11 million people are willing to take radical action. The data is based on survey results on radicalism and intolerance by the agency. The survey was conducted with 1,520 respondents using multi stage random sampling. As many as 0.4 percent of Indonesia’s population had committed what they called “radical” acts, while 7.7 percent said they would act radically if possible.

Image result for Jenny Zannuba Wahid,
 Jenny Zannuba Wahid, Director of the Wahid Institute


“That means 600,000 people have acted radically and 11 million people want to, including residents of Jakarta and Bali,” said Jenny Zannuba Wahid, Director of the Wahid Institute, who explained that economic disparities and hate-filled lectures are responsible for the development of radicalism in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, many political observers believe that the use of religion-based identities will continue during simultaneous regional elections this year as well as the 2019 presidential election, where Jokowi, as the President is known, will seek re-election.

This perception is fueled by the fact that Jokowi’s administration seems to be “waging war” against radicals, religious critics say. That perception has grown after he decided to disband the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) last year. HTI has been open about wanting to establish a “Khilafah” – a caliphate or Islamic state under former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. That has gained ground with the state originally turning a blind eye to their open movement.

However, in mid-2017, the government decided to disband them for conducting activities that contradict the state ideology Pancasila, which counsels five principles of moderation, as well as the principle of a unitary state of the republic of Indonesia.

The Law and Human Rights Ministry officially revoked HTI’s status as a legal entity on following the issuance of a regulation in lieu of law (Preppy) on mass organizations. It was the first group to be disbanded under the controversial regulation, which grants the government the power to disband any groups it deems to be anti-Pancasila.

The Perppy has sparked concerns over potential violations of the right to assemble as it grants the government the power to disband mass groups without due process.

The Head of the State Intelligence Agency, General Budi Gunawan, described Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia as a transnational organization that aims to replace the state of Indonesia in a written statement, an apparent reference to its similarity to the Islamic State, which sought to establish a caliphate in the Levant and was defeated by Russian, American, Syrian and Iraqi forces. It has since been disbanded and its brutal adherents have fled back toward their home countries.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a radiogram after the dissolution of HTI by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, warning Indonesians to be aware of the possibility of violent activities carried out by former HTI members and their supporters. Local officials are also required to ban all activities that HTI may undertake.

Malaysian Government caught Pol Pot’s habit of banning books and persecuting writers and public intellectuals

December 31, 2017

Malaysian Government caught Pol  Pot’s habit of banning books and persecuting writers and public intellectuals

by FMT Reporters


Image result for Zaid Ibrahim's Book on Islamisation


Former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim says his book “Assalamualaikum: Observations on the Islamisation of Malaysia”, which was launched in October 2015, has now been banned by the government.

The former minister took to Twitter to make public the decision which comes under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry.

“So the year didn’t end that well, My book ‘Assalamualaikum’ is now banned. Looks to me this govt prefer Muslims to burn effigies of political opponent(s), destroy beer bottles than reading books,” he tweeted earlier today.

In the book, Zaid shares his thoughts on a new and fresh conversation about the role of Islam in Malaysian politics and in public life.

A check with a local bookstore website indicates that the book, which was on sale for RM19, is banned.

FMT is still waiting to get confirmation from the Home Ministry on the banning of the book. This is the latest case of book banning related to publications that touch on Islam.

Image result for Farouk Musa and Din MericanDr. Ahmad Farouk Musa and Blogger Din Merican


On October 3, the Home Ministry had announced the banning of five books with Islamic content, by Turkish author Mustafa Akyol, and two Malaysians – Ahmad Farouk Musa and Faisal Tehrani.

Image result for Faisal Tehrani.
Prolific Writer Faisal Tehrani


In an official government gazette dated September 28, 2017, the Home Ministry said the books were banned as they were likely to be prejudicial to public order as well as to alarm public opinion.

The sole English book banned was “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty”, written by Akyol, and which has been an international best-seller since it was first published in the United States in 2011.

Image result for Akyol's book on Islam without extremes

The Bahasa Malaysia version of the book, “Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan” was also banned. Aside from Akyol, Farouk, Nur Asyhraff Mohd Nor and Shuhaib Ar Rumy Ismail are also credited as authors for the translated work.

Two of Farouk’s own books – Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid 1) and (Jilid 2) – were also banned.

The publisher of the three books in BM is Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), an Islamic NGO of which Farouk is chairman.

‘More corruption than anytime in history’

Image result for Najib Razak

At the launch of his book in 2015, Zaid had said that Malaysia was deeply divided along racial, religious and class more than ever before.

“We have more corruption than at anytime in our history. Greed has become a way of life. Democracy and Rule of Law have been pushed aside.”

“Jakim, proclaiming itself as the protector of Islam, is more involved in big business and overseas travels than in promoting the principles of the religion,” he had said, referring to the Malaysian Islamic religion development department by its acronym.

“These are the complete antithesis of an Islamic government. Islam is a pristine, pure and a simple religion. It’s a religion of peace, promoting honour and integrity.”

Saying then that he was hoping for the book to be a conversation starter, Zaid said: “If the idea of Islamisation was to promote Malaysia as the country that exemplifies the virtues of the religion, then we have failed.”

Populist Politics in Indonesia

December 8, 2017

Image result for asia-pacific bulletin

Number 407 | December 7, 2017


Populist Politics in Indonesia

by  Ehito Kimura

Indonesia’s Varieties of Populism

Image result for Jokowi and Prabowo

Indonesia–From Sukarno to Jokowi–Prabowo next? “Prabowo offered his angrier and even demagogic populist style. He railed against corruption, called for economic nationalism and for more “firm leadership.”  Prabowo’s populism looked backwards, with the candidate self-styling himself on the image of Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president”.–Ehito Kimura

Populist politics burst onto Indonesia’s national stage in 2014 during the country’s presidential election which pitted two leaders with starkly contrasting styles. Joko Widodo, dubbed a “polite” or “technocratic” populist campaigned against the establishment by portraying himself as an affable “man of the people” and a pro-poor reformer with a track record of getting things done. Prabowo Subianto also campaigned against the establishment but more angrily and bombastically, condemning corruption and economic ‘traitors.’ More recently, Jakarta’s 2016 gubernatorial elections saw a surge of Islamic forces engaging in populist-style politics, organizing mass rallies against the Chinese Christian incumbent and claiming that he had committed blasphemy.

What explains the rise of this form of politics in Indonesia?  Is it part of  a global wave of populism seen in places as disparate as Austria and the United States? What role do Indonesian national and local conditions play?  Part of the answer is that populism is not just a movement but also a political strategy. Indonesia is the world’s second largest democracy and voting rates are high.  The varieties of populism in Indonesia can in part be understood as a function of the varied roots of populism and its appeal to different kinds of audiences.

Global Roots

Populism is often associated with reactions against globalization and neo-liberal reform policies.  In Europe, the recent spate of populist elections suggests a frustration with free and open trade as well as migration and immigration, both of which are components of a more globalized world.

Indonesia is no stranger to the politics of globalization, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis led to the fall of the Suharto regime and the transition to democracy.  Since then, Indonesia has been experiencing broad based economic growth, although globalization and neo-liberal development policies over the years also arguably led to rising inequality, a large urban poor, and an emerging but fragmenting middle class including an Islamic middle class which may feel that they have not reaped the full benefits of developmental policies.

In this context, one audience of populist politics is the constituency which views the global economy and ‘foreign powers’ as culprits in their own economic malaise.  This became a central part of Prabowo’s campaign in 2014. It may also be part of the structural foundations of an Islamicized populist politics which in 2016 came to frame the discourse of an ethnic Chinese Christian as incompatible with or even hostile to economic and spiritual well-being. But global factors only partially explain populist appeal.

National Context

Nationally, Indonesia was not experiencing any profound degree of economic or political turmoil in 2014. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration oversaw not just an era of broad-based economic growth but also a decade of political stability, including the institutionalization of many parts of the political system.

However, deep structural problems persist. The sheer size of Indonesia’s population meant that even though poverty rates fell to about 16 percent, tens of millions still lived below the poverty line. Corruption too remained endemic. The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigated and prosecuted several high level officials for financial improprieties including graft and extortion. In 2012, investigations tarnished the president when several members of his own party were accused of corruption, with some eventually jailed. Furthermore, in the waning years of his term, President Yudhoyono engaged in nepotistic tendencies, pushing to transfer power to his other family members, a prospect that led many voters to eventually abandon his party.

By the 2014 election, it became clear that Indonesians were ready for a change, and both Jokowi and Prabowo offered stark contrasts to the Yudhoyono era. Jokowi emerged as the fresh and humble candidate, forward-looking and drawing on his own biography and his local experiences as mayor of Solo and governor of Jakarta.  Prabowo offered his angrier and even demagogic populist style. He railed against corruption, called for economic nationalism and for more “firm leadership.”  Prabowo’s populism looked backwards, with the candidate self-styling himself on the image of Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president.

Local Roots

Finally, local politics mattered too. In the wake of Indonesia’s democratization and ‘big-bang’ decentralization in the late 1990s, local leaders had been empowered in new and unprecedented ways. In some cases it led to the decentralization of corruption and personalist politics in the regions. But it also produced leaders like Joko Widodo, whose national popularity emerged from his local level success.

A decade before becoming a household name, then-Mayor Widodo implemented pro-poor reformist policies in areas such as healthcare, education, welfare, and infrastructure. He gained a reputation as a leader who embodied both pro-investment and also pro-poor goals, and he was charismatic yet “down-to-earth” and humble. Under his tenure, his city, Solo rose to the top ranks in national governance and business attractiveness surveys and Mr. Widodo gained national and international recognition.

By the end of his second term, Jokowi’s popularity soared to the extent that in his reelection campaign, he received an extraordinary 90% of the vote. He rode that momentum from the mayor of Solo to the governorship of Jakarta and then all the way to the presidential palace. In other words, Jokowi’s ‘technocratic’ populist appeal can only be understood from its local beginnings.


If recent trends are any indication, the 2019 presidential elections in Indonesia will once again feature populist politics though in what configuration is still impossible to say.  Today, President Jokowi’s popularity remains relatively high, especially around his technocratic agenda such as infrastructure development initiatives. At the same time, the sheen of his reformist and populist image has worn off somewhat as he has become mired in the everyday politics of governing. Prabowo may be seeking an electoral rematch and honing his angry and demagogic populist style. And the role of Islamic populism which surprised many in 2016 may also have a pivotal role to play.

About the Author

Ehito Kimura, is Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Hawai’I at Manoa. He can be contacted at Ehito@Hawaii.edu.

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.
Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

The Tariq Ramadan Scandal and the #Balancetonporc Movement in France

The Tariq Ramadan Scandal and the #Balancetonporc Movement in France

by Adam Shatz


Image result for tariq ramadan oxford

Professor Tariq Ramadan, 55, was said to have attacked Henda Ayari (pic above) after inviting her to his hotel room following a conference on Islam in Paris in 2012. The 40-year-old author, who spoke about the allegations on social media, claimed she had decided to “name and shame” Prof Ramadan as a “pervert guru” following the Harvey Weinstein scandal.–The Telegraph

Soon after the #MeToo movement formed in the United States, in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, #balancetonporc (“expose your pig”) erupted in France. The effect has been an unprecedented blow to what Sabrina Kassa has described, in Mediapart, as the “patriarchal belly” of a country where harassment and other sexual crimes have often been concealed, or explained away, by a Gallic rhetoric of flirtation and libertinism.


In 2008, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was subjected to an internal I.M.F. inquiry over allegedly coercing a subordinate to have sex with him. Although he apologized for his “error of judgment,” he was celebrated in the French press as “the Great Seducer.” Had he not been arrested in New York, in 2011, on charges (which were eventually dropped) of assaulting Nafissatou Diallo, a maid, in the presidential suite of the Sofitel Hotel, Strauss-Kahn, a powerful figure in the Socialist Party, might have been elected President of France in 2012.

The #balancetonporc movement has exposed prominent men in business, entertainment, and media, but the most high-profile scandal has been that surrounding Tariq Ramadan, an Islamic scholar and activist whom several women have accused of rape and sexual abuse. (Ramadan has denied all allegations.)

Ramadan has been a controversial figure in France for more than two decades—a kind of projection screen, or Rorschach test, for national anxieties about the “Muslim question.” Like Strauss-Kahn, he has often been depicted as a seducer, but the description has not been meant as a compliment: he has long been accused of casting a dangerous spell on younger members of France’s Muslim population, thereby undermining their acceptance of French norms, particularly those pertaining to secularism, gender, and sexuality.

Born in 1962, in Switzerland, Ramadan is the son of Said Ramadan, an exiled Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader who was the son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Tariq Ramadan, who is not a member of the Brotherhood, is nonetheless a religious conservative—a “Salafi reformist,” in his words—who has long preached the virtues of female “modesty” in dress and sexual comportment. (His brother Hani Ramadan, the head of the Islamic Center in Geneva, is notorious for his support for stoning female adulterers, his hatred of homosexuals, and his belief that the attacks of 9/11 were a Western conspiracy.)

In the nineteen-nineties, Tariq Ramadan attracted a following among French Muslims, both in the banlieues and in the professional middle classes. His message was simple, revolutionary, and electrifying: Islam was already a part of France, and so Muslim citizens were under no obligation to choose between their identities. They could practice their faith freely, even strictly, and still be French, so long as they respected the country’s laws. French Muslims, he argued, should overcome their “victim mentality” and embrace both their faith and their Frenchness. By the same token, France should recognize that Islam is a French faith; Muslim citizens are scarcely in need of “assimilation” into a country to which they already belong, a paternalist notion with roots in France’s colonial history. He did not object to laïcité, the French code of secularism, but he argued that it was applied in discriminatory ways against Muslims, particularly when it came to the wearing of the foulard (head scarf), which was ultimately banned in public schools, in 2004.

Ramadan, with his elegantly trimmed beard, sports jackets, and open shirts, cut a charismatic, rather silken figure. (He is arguably the inspiration behind Mohamed Ben Abbes, the Muslim who becomes France’s President in Michel Houellebecq’s novel “Submission.”) A kind of Muslim Bernard-Henri Lévy, he appeared to be as fluent in the jargon of Parisian intellectualism as he was in that of the Quran. Although not of the left, Ramadan earned the respect of some of its most prestigious figures, including Edwy Plenel, the former editor-in-chief of Le Monde and the founder and publisher of Mediapart; Alain Gresh, the former editor of Le Monde Diplomatique; and the sociologist Edgar Morin. When Ramadan spoke, politicians and journalists, Muslim celebrities and shopkeepers, imams and anti-globalization activists listened. By the early two-thousands, he was juggling so many audiences that, as the Islam expert Bernard Godard, a former official in the Interior Ministry, said, he seemed to be at once “everywhere . . . and nowhere.”

Then, in 2003, at the height of his influence, Ramadan’s campaign to ingratiate himself with the French intelligentsia began to crumble. First, he provoked an uproar with an article accusing a group of prominent “Jewish” intellectuals—one of whom was not, in fact, a Jew—of abandoning universalist principles in their defense of Jewish and Israeli interests. The outrage was even louder when, during a televised debate with Nicolas Sarkozy, who was the Interior Minister at the time, he declared his support for a “moratorium,” but not a ban, on stoning women in cases of adultery. Ramadan made it clear that he was personally opposed to the practice, but, as a Muslim theologian, he explained, “You can’t decide on your own to be progressive without the communities; it’s too easy.”

Image result for Brother Tariq

“Frère Tariq,” a book published in 2004  by  Caroline Fourest

In “Frère Tariq,” a book published in 2004, the journalist Caroline Fourest luridly portrayed Ramadan as an unreconstructed member of the Muslim Brotherhood who “plays on the weaknesses of democracy to advance a totalitarian political project.” Never mind that Ramadan had made no secret of his beliefs, even on the controversial matter of stoning; he was a practitioner of what Fourest called a “double discourse.” If he advocated respect for French law along with observance of Islam, this was further evidence of his malign intentions.

Since then, the French élite has come to regard Ramadan as a danger, inciting the restless, alienated Muslims of the banlieues to Islamization, or even jihadism. Ramadan has found it difficult to organize public meetings with his supporters in France; his attempt last year to apply for citizenship (his wife has French citizenship) was unsuccessful. In 2009, he took up a chair at Oxford—financed by the emirate of Qatar, through one of its foundations—and now spends much of his time in Doha, where he runs a government-subsidized center on Islamic law and ethics. These days, his interlocutors are more likely to be orthodox clerics in the Muslim world than European intellectuals.

Most French Muslims have either grown tired of his heavy-handed cult of personality or simply outgrown him. As for the jihadists of the Islamic State, with whom conspiracy theorists on the French right believe him to be in cahoots, they have condemned him as an apostate because of his belief in democracy.

Ramadan looked on his way to becoming a has-been—albeit one with two million fans on Facebook—when, on October 20th, a forty-year-old Muslim woman named Henda Ayari publicly accused him, among other things, of raping her in a Paris hotel room in 2012. Ayari, who has since received death threats, is a former Salafist who broke with Islam and became a devout feminist and secularist à la française. She is something of a heroine in the extreme-right circles of the fachosphère, where Islamophobia is a ticket of admission. (“Either you are veiled, or you are raped,” she has said of women’s condition in Islam.) Ayari’s political affiliations raised some eyebrows, but a week later, a woman identified as “Christelle,” a French convert to Islam, claimed that Ramadan raped her in a hotel room in 2009. Seven days later, new accusations surfaced, this time from three of Ramadan’s former students, who were between the ages of fifteen and eighteen when they were allegedly raped. According to numerous sources, the accounts are multiplying.

Image result for Tariq Ramadan and Anwar Ibrahim

Dr.Tariq Ramadan (center), Dr. Noam Chomsky and Author Karen Armstrong

And yet the Ramadan affair has never been simply about whether Ramadan committed the crimes for which he is charged, or even about the suffering he allegedly inflicted on his accusers. Ramadan, who has taken a leave of absence from Oxford, claims that he is the victim of a campaign of defamation. His closest supporters have raised cries of a Zionist conspiracy, a theory echoed by his fundamentalist brother Hani.

Ramadan’s adversaries in the French establishment have been quick to seize upon the accusations as an opportunity to discredit their own critics. On November 5th, Manuel Valls, who served as Interior Minister, and then Prime Minister, under President François Hollande, denounced Ramadan’s intellectual interlocutors as “complicit” in his alleged crimes. Valls, the son of Spanish immigrants, is a hard-line secularist who has helped make a home for anti-Muslim demagoguery, as well as anti-Roma prejudice, in the Socialist Party. (He has described the very concept of Islamophobia as the “Trojan horse” of Salafists.) As Prime Minister, he helped push through the temporary emergency measures proclaimed after the terrorist attacks in 2015, parts of which have now been written into law, and thus normalized, under President Emmanuel Macron.

Valls had never before expressed much concern for the victims of sex crimes by powerful men. In fact, he had deplored the “unbearable cruelty” of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York. (A few members of the Socialist Party, including Strauss-Kahn himself, claimed that he was a victim of a plot engineered by President Sarkozy, who saw Strauss-Kahn as a threat to his reëlection. Sarkozy denied the allegations.) But in early October, Valls condemned the journalists at Mediapart as left-wing fellow-travellers of political Islam; later, he insinuated that Plenel had deliberately concealed what he knew about Ramadan’s sexual depravities. (Valls made no such public accusations against either Bernard Godard, who worked under his authority in the Interior Ministry, or Caroline Fourest, although both admitted that they had long been aware of rumors about Ramadan’s mistreatment of women.) It is perhaps no coincidence that Plenel, the president of Mediapart, had skewered Valls in his 2014 book, “Pour les musulmans,” an eloquent critique of Islamophobia in French public life, which was inspired by Émile Zola’s 1896 denunciation of anti-Semitism, “Pour les juifs.” In fact, Plenel was responsible for publishing a five-part profile of Ramadan, by Mathieu Magnaudeix, which portrayed him as an authoritarian, egotistical “showman” who “built his renown on a mix of bad buzz (him against the élite) and a seduction worthy of the best televangelists.”

Plenel insisted that he had known nothing of Ramadan’s misconduct, adding that one of the most thorough reports on what Mediapart has since called the “Ramadan system” of sexual abuse had appeared in Mediapart hardly a week after the scandal broke. But the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo soon recycled Valls’s charge against Plenel. Since the shooting at its offices, in January, 2015, Charlie Hebdo has acquired a halo of martyrdom, and “Je Suis Charlie” has become a motto almost as sacred as “liberté, egalité, fraternité.” At the same time, the magazine has become increasingly provocative in its mockery of anything to do with Muslims or Islam. The cover of the November 8th issue featured a grid of four caricatures of Plenel, under the headline “Ramadan affair, Mediapart Reveals: ‘We didn’t know.’ ” In the drawings he is covering his mouth, shielding his eyes, and plugging his ears—the three monkeys who don’t speak, see, or hear evil. (Charlie also published a cover on which Ramadan declares himself the “sixth pillar of Islam,” as an enormous erection bulges from his pants.) Within a couple of weeks, the Ramadan affair had morphed into the Plenel-Valls-Charlie affair: a debate less about Ramadan and his treatment of women than about French intellectuals, their relations with Ramadan, and their views of Islam in French life.

On Twitter, Plenel derided the caricature as an “affiche rouge,” an allusion to the notorious red poster distributed by the German occupiers in Paris, in 1944, as part of their efforts to vilify a group of resistance fighters as a “foreign conspiracy against French life.” Charlie’s front page, he argued, was an extension of “a general campaign . . . of war against Muslims” in France. In response, Laurent (Riss) Sourisseau, the editorial director of Charlie, accused Plenel of “condemning Charlie to death a second time.” To accuse Charlie of whipping up anti-Muslim hatred, as Plenel did, is to risk being accused of incitement, as Valls surely knew when, on November 15th, he declared, of Mediapart, “I want them to be removed from public debate.”

For many in France, Ramadan’s alleged guilt was not so much evidence of the prevalence of misogynistic behavior in France, or a betrayal of his religious obligations, as it was evidence that he was no different from other “Islamic obscurantists” who preach modesty to women while taking cruel advantage of them, as Sylvie Kauffmann, Le Monde’s editorial director, argued in an Op-Ed for the New York Times. This prism has a history as old as French colonialism. As Joan Wallach Scott argues in her new book, “Sex and Secularism,” the idea of the repressive yet lustful Muslim patriarch has long served to deflect attention from French society’s discrimination against women, just as Muslim women’s “purported state of abjection” has been held up as “the antithesis of whatever ‘equality’ means in the West.”

In recent years, Muslims in France have discovered that it is not enough to respect France’s laws: to truly belong to France, they must denounce bad Muslims, praise Charlie, and make other shows of loyalty, just as their ancestors in colonial North and West Africa learned to honor “our ancestors, the Gauls.”

The more French they have become, the more their Frenchness, their ability to “assimilate,” seems to be in question, which has deepened their sense of estrangement. Muslim organizations and institutions have largely refrained from commenting on the Ramadan scandal—a silence that, for some, has been an expression of solidarity with a fellow-Muslim who has long been vilified in France. Others who have been asked to comment publicly on the Ramadan affair have chosen to remain quiet as a result of their discomfort, or perhaps irritation, at being summoned to pass yet another litmus test to prove their worth as citizens, or at the “Islamization” of the affair, in which Ramadan is either viewed as a victim of an anti-Muslim conspiracy or as a symbol of Muslim sexual violence.

Lallab, a Muslim feminist association, was never asked to comment on #balancetonporc, but immediately fell under pressure from the media to respond to the accusations against Ramadan. It was, a spokesperson wrote, “as if we were Muslims before being women . . . As if we only had the legitimate right to denounce violence committed by other Muslims.”

Another product of this historical estrangement was the birth, in 2005, of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (the Party of the Indigenous People of the Republic), a groupuscule composed largely of activists of North and West African heritage who flaunt their alienation from French society as a badge of pride. The P.I.R. sees French Muslims and other people of color as internally colonized, eternally second-class citizens, and advocates a politics of separatism far more radical than Ramadan’s message of inclusion. Houria Bouteldja, the Party’s charismatic spokeswoman, has in recent years won notoriety for her defense of Muslim men accused of sexual violence. Faced with “testosterone-fuelled virility among indigenous men,” she has argued, women of color should look for its redeeming side, “the part that resists colonial domination,” and stand with their brothers. But the many accusations against “Brother Tariq” appear to have given even Bouteldja pause. In a terse and uncharacteristically restrained statement on Facebook, she warned against “racist instrumentalization of this affair” but also said that the court should decide “if the facts are true and if Henda Ayari is honest in her approach.”

Image result for henda ayari tariq ramadan

Desperately seeking cheap publicity

While most of the commentators on the Ramadan Affair have been—as tends to be the case with conversations about Islam, laïcité, and terrorism in France—white and male, some of the most important insights on the scandal have come from those Muslim feminists who are dismayed both by the prejudice of Valls and Charlie, and disappointed with Bouteldja’s seeming indifference to victims of abuse. For them, the scandal dramatizes the need for the kind of “intersectionality,” or understanding of the overlapping nature of racist and sexist oppression, that has been a part of feminist discourse in the U.S. since the late eighties. As Souad Betka wrote in an essay published in the online magazine Les Mots Sont Importants, “we Muslim feminists refuse to sacrifice the struggle against sexism and patriarchal violence to the fight against racism.” For several years, she wrote, Muslim feminist activists had told her of their ordeals with Ramadan’s “insults, manipulation, and sexual harassment.” But the anti-racism activist groups in which these women worked had chosen to ignore sexual violence perpetrated by “indigenous” men for fear of fanning French Islamophobia. It was little wonder that Muslim women like Henda Ayari were turning to writers like Caroline Fourest for “support that others, closer to them, have been too late in providing.” For much of French society, Betka wrote, “a Muslim man is always more than a man. He is the tree that represents the forest.” For Manuel Valls and Charlie Hebdo, Ramadan represents the threat of Islamic conquest; for Ramadan’s Muslim supporters, the umma itself. For those caught between Valls’s racist manipulation of Ramadan’s alleged crimes and his supporters’ denial of them, the most radical act is to insist that he is nothing but a man.



The cancer of Islamist extremism spreads around the world

November 3, 2017

The cancer of Islamist extremism spreads around the world

by Fareed Zakaria



This week’s tragic terrorist attack in New York was the kind of isolated incident by one troubled man that should not lead to generalizations. In the 16 years since 9/11, the city has proved astonishingly safe from jihadist groups and individuals. And yet, speaking about it to officials in this major global hub 10,000 miles away, the conclusions they reach are worrying. “The New York attack might be a way to remind us all that while ISIS is being defeated militarily, the ideological threat from radical Islam is spreading,” says Singaporean Home Minister K. Shanmugam. “The trend line is moving in the wrong direction.”

The military battle against Islamist extremist groups in places such as Syria and Afghanistan is a tough struggle, but it has always been one that favored the United States and its allies. After all, the combined military forces of some of the world’s most powerful governments are up against a tiny band of guerrillas. On the other hand, the ideological challenge from the Islamic State has proved far more intractable. The terrorist group and ones like it have been able to spread their ideas, recruit disaffected young men and women, and infiltrate countries across the globe. Western countries remain susceptible to the occasional lone wolf, but the new breeding grounds of radicalism are once-moderate Muslim societies in Central, South and Southeast Asia.

Image result for People rally on behalf of Jakarta's former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

Governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama after the sentencing in his blasphemy trial in Jakarta on May 9, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

Consider Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, long seen as a moderate bulwark. This year, the governor of Jakarta, the country’s capital and largest city, lost his bid for reelection after he was painted by Muslim hard-liners as unfit for office because he is Christian. Worse, he was then jailed after being convicted on a dubious and unfair blasphemy charge. Amid a rising tide of Islamist politics, Indonesia’s “moderate” president and its mainstream “moderate” Islamic organizations have failed to stand up for the country’s traditions of tolerance and multiculturalism.

Or look at Bangladesh, another country with a staunchly secular past, where nearly 150 million Muslims live. Founded as a breakaway from Pakistan on explicitly nonreligious grounds, Bangladesh’s culture and politics have become increasingly extreme over the past decade. Atheists, secularists and intellectuals have been targeted and even killed, blasphemy laws have been enforced, and a spate of terrorist attacks have left hundreds dead.

Why is this happening? There are many explanations. Poverty, economic hardship and change produce anxieties. “People are disgusted by the corruption and incompetence of politicians. They are easily seduced by the idea that Islam is the answer, even though they don’t know what that means,” a Singaporean politician explained to me. And then, the local leaders make alliances with the clerics and give platforms to the extremists, all in search of easy votes. That political pandering has helped nurture a cancer of Islamist extremism.

In Southeast Asia, almost all observers whom I have spoken with believe that there is another crucial cause — exported money and ideology from the Middle East, chiefly Saudi Arabia. A Singaporean official told me, “Travel around Asia and you will see so many new mosques and madrassas built in the last 30 years that have had funding from the Gulf. They are modern, clean, air-conditioned, well-equipped — and Wahhabi [Saudi Arabia’s puritanical version of Islam].” Recently, it was reported that Saudi Arabia plans to contribute almost $1 billion to build 560 mosques in Bangladesh. The Saudi government has denied this, but sources in Bangladesh tell me there’s some truth to the report.

Image result for Moderate Muslims in SingaporeHE Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s Eighth President, is a Muslim Malay.


How to turn this trend around? Singapore’s Shanmugam says that the city-state’s population (15 percent of which is Muslim) has stayed relatively moderate because state and society work very hard at integration. “We have zero tolerance for any kind of militancy, but we also try to make sure Muslims don’t feel marginalized,” he explained. Singapore routinely gets high marks in global rankings for its transparency, low levels of corruption and the rule of law. Its economy provides opportunities for most.

Asia continues to rise, but so does Islamist radicalism there. This trend can be reversed only by better governance and better politics — by leaders who are less corrupt, more competent and, crucially, more willing to stand up to the clerics and extremists. Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince spoke last week of turning his kingdom to “moderate Islam.” Many have mocked this as a public-relations strategy, pointing to the continued dominance of the kingdom’s ultra-orthodox religious establishment. A better approach would be to encourage the crown prince, hold him to his words and urge him to follow up with concrete actions. This is the prize. Were Saudi Arabia to begin religious reform at home, it would be a far larger victory against radical Islam than all the advances on the battlefield so far.