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Showing posts from 2021

The Battle for the Soul of Islam: Will the real reformer of the faith stand up?

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  By James M. Dorsey Saudi and Emirati efforts to define ‘moderate’ Islam as socially more liberal while being subservient to an autocratic ruler is as much an endeavour to ensure regime survival and bolster aspirations to lead the Muslim world as it is an attempt to fend off challenges rooted in diverse strands of religious ultra-conservatism. The Saudi and Emirati efforts to garner religious soft power have much in common even though the kingdom and the United Arab Emirates build their respective campaigns on historically different forms of Islam. The two Gulf states are, moreover, rivals in the battle for the soul of Islam, a struggle to define what strand or strands will dominate the faith in the 21 st century. The battle takes on added significance at a time that Middle Eastern rivals are attempting to dial down regional tensions by managing their disputes and conflicts rather than resolving them. The efforts put a greater emphasis on soft power rivalry rather than hard po

A shift in militants’ strategy could shine a more positive light on failed US policy

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  By James M. Dorsey A paradigm shift in jihadist thinking suggests that the US invasion of Afghanistan may prove to have achieved more than many counterterrorism experts would want policymakers and military strategists to believe. Similarly, the paradigm shift also hints at the possibility that the presence in a Taliban-governed Afghanistan of various militant Islamist and jihadist groups could turn out to be an advantage in efforts to prevent and contain political violence. The evolution of tensions and unfolding of differences in the world of Afghan militancy will constitute a litmus test of the shift and how history will ultimately judge the United States’ 20-year forever war in Afghanistan in terms of counterterrorism. The shift involves a move away from cross-border and transnational acts of violence towards local militancy and the garnering of popular support through good governance based on an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam . It is a difference in strategy t

Indonesian G20 presidency promises to put a ‘battle for the soul of Islam’ on the front burner

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By James M. Dorsey Indonesian religious affairs minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas set the bar high for President Joko Widodo as well as Nahdlatul Ulama, the religious backbone of Mr. Widodo’s government when he laid out the agenda for his country’s presidency of the Group of 20 . The G20 groups the world’s largest economies. Speaking to the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna as Italy prepared to handover its presidency to Indonesia, Mr. Qoumas also threw down a gauntlet for Indonesia’s Middle Eastern competitors in a battle to define the degree to which Islam incorporates principles of tolerance , pluralism, gender equality, secularism and human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The battle, which is likely to likewise determine which Muslim-majority country or countries will be recognized as leaders of the Islamic world, takes on added significance with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and concerns about Taliban policy towards militants on Afghan soil.

Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions

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  By James M. Dorsey Controversy over a recent ‘ Dismantling Global Hindutava’ conference that targeted a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that go far beyond the anti-Muslim discriminatory policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and ruling party. The conference and responses to it highlight a debilitating deterioration in the past two decades, especially since 9/11, of the standards of civility and etiquette that jeopardize civil, intelligent, and constructive debate and allow expressions of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes to become mainstream. Organizers of the conference that was co-sponsored by 53 American universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, insisted that they distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutava, Mr. Modi’s notion of Hindu nationalism that enables discrimination against and attacks on India’s 200

Initial Taliban moves fail to convince Afghanistan’s neighbours

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  By James M. Dorsey      The Taliban’s record in recent weeks on making good on promises to respect human and women’s rights as well as uphold freedom of the press is mixed at best. Afghanistan’s neighbours and near-neighbours are not holding their breath even if some are willing to give the Central Asian country’s new rulers the benefit of the doubt. A litmus test of Taliban willingness to compromise may come sooner than later. It’s most likely only a matter of time before China knocks on newly appointed Afghan acting interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani’s door demanding the extradition of Uighur fighters. The Chinese demand would be challenging not only because of the Taliban’s consistent rejection, no matter the cost, of requests for the expulsion of militants who have helped them in their battles. The Taliban already made that clear two decades ago when they accepted the risk of a US invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 by refusing for the umpteenth time to hand o