How not to understand ISIS | openDemocracy

The group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or simply the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS, or IS) has attracted much attention in the past few months with its dramatic military gains in Syria and Iraq and with the recent U.S. decision to wage war against it.

As analysts are called to explain ISIS’ ambitions, its appeal, and its brutality, they often turn to an examination of what they consider to be its religious worldview—a combination of cosmological doctrines, eschatological beliefs, and civilizational notions—usually thought to be rooted in Salafi Islam.

The Salafi tradition is a modern reformist movement critical of what it considers to be misguided accretions to Islam—such as grave visitations, saint veneration, and dreaming practices. It calls for abolishing these and returning to the ways of the original followers of Prophet Muhammad, the “salaf” or predecessors. Critics of Salafism accuse its followers of “literalism,” “puritanism,” or of practicing a “harsh” or “rigid” form of Islam, but none of these terms is particularly accurate, especially given the diverse range of Salafi views and the different ways in which people adhere to them. [Read more]

It Doesn’t Add Up: Why Is the US Bombing Grain Silos in Syria? | AlterNet

The U.S. is conducting a curious humanitarian war against ISIS in Syria.While Kobani, the largely Kurdish district that straddles the border with Turkey is being attacked by ISIS forces and facing the very real possibility of mass civilian killings if it falls,  U.S. military spokespersonsclaimed that they are watching the situation in Kobani and have conducted occasional bombing missions but that they are concentrating their anti-ISIS efforts in other parts of Syria. Those other efforts appear to consist of  bombing empty buildings, schools, small oil pumping facilities, an occasional vehicle and  grain silos where food is stored to feed the Syrian people. Turkey also seems to be watching as the Kurds of Kobani fight to the death against ISIS. [Read more]

Diplomacy, immunity and justice | Al Jazeera

The British courts have long been considered a forum of independent and impartial justice. One of the principal components of this system of justice is the application of universal jurisdiction; a process which allows victims of torture committed outside its borders to bring claims before the British courts. The application of this process has recently been called into question in the case of F F, a Bahraini national, allegedly tortured during the Bahrain uprising in 2011.

In 2012, lawyers acting for F F sought the arrest and prosecution of Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of the King of Bahrain, when he visited the UK during the London Olympics. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) declined to prosecute on the basis that Prince Nasser was entitled to rely on diplomatic immunity. Prince Nasser was allowed to return to Bahrain. This decision was challenged in the High Court and a ruling was handed down on October 7 following consent being reached by the parties that the 2012 decision had been incorrectly decided and that immunity should not be a bar to prosecution. [Read more]

ISIS heralds the dawn of a dark age in the Arab world | Al Arabiya

In almost all the videos posted from Syria, most rebel fighters are bearded, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) every time they kill a regime soldier or target a military base. Female international reporters would appear veiled when reporting from rebel-held areas. The international community still views them as moderates.

When Aleppo was controlled by rebels in 2013, the Washington Post reported that they cooperated with al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra to operate a sharia council and impose Islamic law on one of the most diverse cities in Syria. Similar cooperation took place in rebel-held areas along the Euphrates river, and in Raqqah and Deir al-Zour. This makes it very difficult to distinguish moderate rebels from extremists. [Read more]

Think About It: A nostalgic visit to Haifa | Jerusalem Post

I was born in Haifa, but since I moved my elderly mother to Jerusalem in 1997, I have rarely visited there and when I have, it has usually been to Haifa University on Mount Carmel.

On the eve of Succot I drove to Haifa to visit a friend, who recently moved back there from Jerusalem, after convincing the government ministry that employs her to let her do her work from its downtown office in the city.

I was born in Haifa, but since I moved my elderly mother to Jerusalem in 1997, I have rarely visited there and when I have, it has usually been to Haifa University on Mount Carmel. [Read more]

Turkish President Declares Lawrence of Arabia a Bigger Enemy than ISIS | The Daily Beast

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took on the iconic Lawrence of Arabia Monday in a furious anti-Western diatribe.  The Turkish president compared the outside meddling in the region now to the role the renowned British army officer played during the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans during World War I. And Western diplomats here say the tirade bears a rather striking resemblance to some of the propaganda that has come out of the so-called Islamic State, widely known by the acronym ISIS or ISIL.

Last week, stung by Western criticism of Turkey’s conspicuous absence from the U.S.-led air combat against the terror organization, and the refusal of the Turkish government to rescue the besieged town of Kobani, just across the Syrian border, Erdoğan insisted he had no sympathy for the jihadists. [Read more]

Stability in Egypt? | Council on Foreign Relations

Egypt’s President Sisi visited New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly a few weeks ago, and just this weekend was the host for the donors’ conference on rebuilding Gaza. Much of the world, including the United States government, seems content to believe that all is well in Egypt.

But yesterday police stormed university campuses in Cairo. Here’s the story: [Read more]


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