A Statement of Solidarity Between Egyptian Revolutionaries and October2011.org Participants

Preliminary Signatories:
Chris Hedges – former Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times
Noam Chomsky – author; Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Kevin Zeese – co-director of ItsOurEconomy.us
Asmaa Mahfouz – Egyptian activist, blogger, and participant in 2011 Egyptian Revolution
Alaa Abd el Fattah – Egyptian blogger, software developer, activist
Dr. Yahia Mahran – Egyptian Lawyers Union
Ruby Amatulla – Executive Director, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
Amin Mahmoud – Egyptian Association for Change-USA
Ehsan Yahia – Egyptian Nurses Union
Abdallah Helmy – co-founder, Revolution Youth Union
Margaret Flowers, M.D. – Congressional Fellow, Physicians for a National Health Program
Mokhtar Kamel – Alliance of Egyptian Americans
Medea Benjamin – Cofounder, CODEPINK and Global Exchange
Mike Ferner – Interim Director, Veterans for Peace
Justice Arthur Brennan – retired Superior Court NH; former deputy director, Iraq Reconstruction Management Office; director, Office of Accountability and Transparency.
Carol E. Gay – President NJ Industrial Union Council
Afra Jalabi – democracy activist, Collective for Syria in Montreal
Iman Mosharafa, Egyptian American activist, City University of New York instructor
Matthew Cappiello – student; political activist, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
Tarak Kauff – Veterans for Peace Action Network
Samantha Williams – Feminism without Borders; student, University of Maryland.
Rev. Dr. Bruce Wright – board member, Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign
MORE FORTHCOMING
*All descriptors for identification purposes only.

A Statement of Solidarity between Egyptian Revolutionaries and October2011.org Participants

While our nations face many different challenges and remain thousands of miles and cultures apart, we find that we share many of the same concerns within our respective countries. As we recognize that our destinies are intertwined, we wish to highlight the similarities and goals we share in common. We suspect that others from around the world would also join us in supporting this statement.

1. Both the people of the United States and Egypt require real democracy so that the views of the people are represented.

Currently, desires for free and fair elections have not been achieved according to the level of popular demand in both nations.

Under the regime of Hosni Mubarak, this falsehood was evident to the world and to Egyptians, even though Mubarak and the US government labeled Egypt a democracy. Ballots were consistently rigged, opposition candidates were routinely jailed, and parliamentary candidates were happily bribed. Many regarded Hosni Mubarak as a manifestation of the arrogant Pharaoh himself. While his demise brought great relief and celebration to all Egyptians, many are worried about Egypt’s current transitional process towards parliamentary elections. Reformist political parties have not had adequate time to prepare or fundraise for elections. Requests from nonpartisan international monitors to oversee upcoming elections have been summarily denied. In addition, many are skeptical about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ agenda, as the transition to a civil, non-military government is occurring much more slowly than many Egyptians would desire.

The United States also faces similar challenges to democracy from special interests. While some say that the United States is the greatest democracy on Earth, American elections are actually dominated by the wealth of economic elites and concentrated corporate power, as money manipulates votes through concentrated corporate media. Presented with the choice of corporate- approved candidates, only half of the American public bothers to register to vote, and only approximately half of registered voters bother to vote. In essence, US democracy has become a manipulative system in which voters choose from corporate-approved candidates within a rigged election system.

The people of both movements call for real democracy in which all eligible voters are automatically registered, in which barriers are removed for candidates to run for office, in which debates are open to all ballot-approved candidates, in which elections maintain public funding in order to check the tide of private handouts, in which voting systems are transparent with public observation and participation in all aspects of the counting of the vote, and in which media organizations provide sufficient free airtime for candidates to present their views to the public. Elections should be held on holidays to make voting easier without conflicting with the demands of work.

2. End US foreign policy positions which undermine the Egyptian democracy movement as well as the character and reputation of the United States.

The people of both movements call for an end to hegemonic foreign policy positions among US policymakers. It is time for the United States to join the global community of nations as a partner rather than a predator, as a collaborative multi-lateralist rather than as an American exceptionalist.

The United States has the largest empire in global history, with more than 1,100 military bases and outposts around the world. America has supported military rule in Egypt, and attempted to put in power Mubarak’s carefully groomed heir Omar Suleiman despite his record of participation in torture and other crimes. It now supports the military government much more extensively than other infrastructural components of the nation, spending approximately $1.2 billion per year. Even USAID funds to Egypt have strings attached, as 85% of USAID Egyptian funds since January 25 went to US organizations, with only a small fraction going to civil society organizations in Egypt.

US diplomatic and developmental policies in nations such as Egypt, as well as military actions in nations such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are ventures of destruction, death and chaos for the people of those countries; and undermine the rule of law and democracy around the world. These actions have resulted in the deaths of millions of people, the creation of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the internment of thousands of prisoners who are often tortured and held without charges. Rather than collaboratively assisting in the development of authentic democracy around the world, the United States has too often hindered democratic efforts in many regions of the world for many decades.

The United States needs to work more collaboratively with nations such as Egypt and to stop leveraging its economic power to bribe other countries, to force them to follow US wishes, or to threaten them with unwarranted military action. In order to permit accountability for its actions, the United States should also join the International Criminal Court.

3. Both countries need to end the wealth divide in order to provide for the necessities of the people and to create new sustainable economies for the 21st Century.

Both Egypt and the United States suffer from a broad wealth divides that has lead to widespread poverty and economic stagnation. In each country, it is not a lack of wealth but the distribution of wealth that creates widespread suffering. The economic power of the wealthiest sectors of both countries engender corruption through bribery, campaign donations, and a wide range of forms of payment for special privileges. When policies begin to eliminate the wealth divide, we will take the first steps towards ending crony-dominated economies held in place by corrupt oligarchic governments in both nations.

One of the most important steps towards reducing economic injustices involves provision of adequate human services. Quality health care should be available to all people in both countries, as is mandated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. High-quality education from pre-school through graduate school should remain free, equitable, and available to all. Basic needs for income should be met by ensuring robust employment opportunities in both countries, as well as the right to affordable housing, food, health care, transportation, and retirement security. Horrible statistics such as the existence of three million street children in Egypt and over 44 million poverty stricken people in the United States should remain unacceptable across the board. In addition, wealth needs to promote ecologically sustainable economies that utilize clean energy at a viable level. Both Cairo and Los Angeles residents understand the horrors of pollution! If we want 21st century economies, we need to work from a 21stcentury perspective regarding the barriers to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness around the world.

4. Both countries need to respect human rights, this involves an end to torture, a method for systematic documentation of human rights abuses, and mechanisms to ensure accountability for those responsible for human rights abuses.

Both Egypt and the United States suffer from decades of human rights abuses, which include suppression of free speech, illegal detention, secret rendition, and torture on the part of both nations. Even in the post-Mubarak era, free speech protests in Tahrir Square have been repeatedly shut down, freedom of the press has been repeatedly muzzled, and bloggers and activists have been repeatedly detained, tried, and sentenced to prison for mere infractions such as criticism of the military on blogs. (And that’s just the post-Mubarak era.)

Compare this with the United States, where rates of imprisonment are higher than those in any other nation, especially for minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status. Prison conditions are often inhumane in both nations and increasingly privatized in the United States, with few resources dedicated to rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Human rights should be respected according to the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A full documentation of human rights violations should occur in both countries so that these practices are ended, and so that those responsible are held accountable regardless of the demands or interests of the current individuals in power. As examples of mechanisms to work towards achievement of these goals, the United States should join the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the Egyptian military should end trials of civilians before military courts.

ARABIC TRANSLATION:

بيان للتضامن بين الثوار المصريين و حركة أكتوبر 2011

بينما دولنا تواجه تحديات عديدة ومختلفة ، و بالرغم من بعد آلاف الأميال و تباين الثقافات ، نجد أننا نتقاسم الكثير من نفس المخاوف داخل بلداننا. ونحن ندرك أن مصائرنا متشابكة ، نود أن نسلط الضوء على أوجه التشابه والأهداف المشتركة . راجين أن آخرين من مختلف أنحاء العالم سينضمون لنا أيضا في دعم هذا البيان.

1. كلا من الشعب المصري و الأمريكي يتطلب الديمقراطية الحقيقية ، وذلك بحيث يتم تمثيل آراء الشعب.

إجراء انتخابات حرة ونزيهة تحقق وفقا لمستوى الطلب الشعبي لم تتحقق بعد في كلا البلدين.

في ظل نظام الرئيس المخلوع حسني مبارك ، وضحت الديمقراطية المزيفة على العالم والمصريين ، على الرغم من مبارك والحكومة الأميركية المسمى مصر الديمقراطية. زورت البطاقات باستمرار ، ومرشحي المعارضة وسجن بشكل روتيني ، وكانت رشوة بسعادة المرشحين لعضوية البرلمان. اعتبر العديد من حسني مبارك باعتباره مظهرا من مظاهر الغطرسة فرعون نفسه. في حين رحيلة جلب ارتياح كبير واحتفال لجميع المصريين ، يشعر الكثيرون بقلق حول العملية الانتقالية الحالية في مصرو نحو الانتخابات البرلمانية. الأحزاب السياسية الاصلاحية لم يتح لها الوقت الكافي لإعداد أو جمع التبرعات للانتخابات ، وتطلب من المراقبين الدوليين غير حزبية للاشراف على الانتخابات المقبلة. بالإضافة إلى ذلك ، العديد من يشككون في جدول أعمال المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة ، كما أن التحول إلى حكومة مدنية غير عسكرية ، ويحدث ببطء أكثر بكثير من كثير من رغبة المصريين.

الولايات المتحدة تواجه تحديات مماثلة أيضا إلى الديمقراطية من المصالح الخاصة. في حين يقول البعض ان الولايات المتحدة هي أكبر ديمقراطية على وجه الأرض ، ويهيمن على الانتخابات الأمريكية في الواقع ثروة من قبل النخب الاقتصادية والشركات تتركز السلطة ، والمال بالتلاعب الأصوات عبر وسائل الإعلام تركز الشركات. لجنة المناظرات الرئاسية ، وهي شركة خاصة التي يسيطر عليها الحزبان الكبيران ومصالح الشركات ، ويمنع المرشحين لجهة خارجية ومستقلة عن مناقشة القضايا المطروحة على الرأي العام الأميركي. قدمت مع اختيار مرشحين اثنين فقط من الشركات المعتمدة ، سوى نصف الشعب الأمريكي يزعج لتسجيل أسمائهم للتصويت ، وفقط ما يقرب من نصف عدد الناخبين المسجلين عناء التصويت. في الجوهر ، أصبحت الولايات المتحدة الديمقراطية نظام الاستغلالية التي يختار الناخبون المرشحين من الشركات وافق اثنان في إطار نظام الانتخابات المزورة.

الشعبين على حد سواء الحركات المطالبة بالديمقراطية الحقيقية التي تسجل تلقائيا جميع الناخبين المؤهلين ، حيث تتم إزالة الحواجز للمرشحين لشغل المناصب العامة ، والتي هي مناقشات مفتوحة لجميع المرشحين الاقتراع التي وافق عليها ، في الانتخابات التي حفاظ على الأموال العامة من أجل للتحقق من المد والجزر من النشرات الخاصة ، الذي نظم التصويت وشفافة مع الملاحظة العامة والمشاركة في جميع جوانب عملية فرز الأصوات ، والمؤسسات الإعلامية التي توفر البث حرة كافية للمرشحين لعرض وجهات نظرهم إلى الرأي العام. ينبغي أن تعقد الانتخابات في أيام العطل لجعل التصويت أسهل ، دون أن يتعارض مع متطلبات العمل.

2. وضع نهاية للسياسة الخارجية الأميركية التي تقلل من شأن الحركات الديمقراطية المصرية وكذلك شخصية وسمعة الولايات المتحدة.
يجب على الناس من مختلف الحركات الدعوة لوضع حد لهيمنة مواقف السياسة الخارجية بين صناع القرار في الولايات المتحدة. حان الوقت للولايات المتحدة للانضمام الى المجتمع العالمي للدول باعتبارها شريكا بدلا من المهيمن المفترس، باعتبارها شريك بالتعددية التعاونية بدلا من أن تكونالإستثناءات الأميركية.

الولايات المتحدة لديها أكبر امبراطورية في التاريخ العالمي ، مع أكثر من 1100 القواعد العسكرية والبؤر الاستيطانية في جميع أنحاء العالم. وقد دعمت أمريكا الحكم العسكري في مصر ، وحاول أن يضع في السلطة مبارك اعدادهم بعناية ريث عمر سليمان على الرغم من سجله من المشاركة في التعذيب وجرائم اخرى. الآن انها تدعم الحكومة العسكرية على نطاق واسع أكثر بكثير من عناصر البنية التحتية الأخرى للأمة ، لتصل قيمتها إلى حوالي 1.2 مليار دولار سنويا. أموال المعونة الأمريكية لمصر حتى يكون قيود حيث أن 85 ٪ من أموال المعونة الأمريكية المصرية منذ 25 يناير ذهب إلى المنظمات الأمريكية ، مع مجرد جزء صغير ذاهب الى منظمات المجتمع المدني في مصر.

سياسات الولايات المتحدة الدبلوماسية والتنموية في دول مثل مصر ، فضلا عن العمليات العسكرية في دول مثل العراق وأفغانستان وباكستان هي مشاريع الموت والدمار والفوضى لشعوب تلك البلدان ؛
ويقوض سيادة القانون والديمقراطية في جميع أنحاء العالم. هذه الإجراءات أدت إلى وفاة الملايين من الناس ، وخلق الملايين من اللاجئين والمشردين داخليا ، واعتقال الآلاف من السجناء الذين غالبا ما يتعرضون للتعذيب واحتجز دون توجيه اتهامات لهم. بدلا من مساعدة تعاوني في تطوير الديمقراطية الأصيلة في جميع أنحاء العالم ، والولايات المتحدة كثيرا ما عرقلت الجهود الديمقراطية في مناطق كثيرة من العالم على مدى عقود عديدة.

الولايات المتحدة بحاجة إلى المزيد من العمل بصورة تعاونية مع دول مثل مصر والتوقف عن الاستفادة من قوتها الاقتصادية لرشوة البلدان الأخرى ، لإجبارهم على اتباع رغبات الولايات المتحدة ، أو لتهديدهم بعمل عسكري لا مبرر له. من أجل السماح للمساءلة عن أفعالها ، يجب على الولايات المتحدة أيضا الانضمام إلى المحكمة الجنائية الدولية.

3. كلا البلدين بحاجة الى وضع حد لتقسيم الثروة من أجل توفير الضروريات للشعب ، وتهيئة اقتصادات مستدامة جديدة للقرن 21.

كل من مصر والولايات المتحدة يعانون من ثروة واسعة الانقسامات التي تؤدي الى انتشار الفقر والضائقة الاقتصادية. في كل بلد ، فإنه ليس من نقص في الثروة ولكن توزيع الثروة التي تخلق معاناة واسعة النطاق. القوة الاقتصادية من أغنى قطاعات كل من البلدان تولد الفساد عن طريق الرشوة ، والهبات الحملة ، ومجموعة واسعة من أشكال الدفع للحصول على امتيازات خاصة. عندما تبدأ السياسات لتخفيف الفجوة في الثروة ، وسوف نتخذ الخطوات الأولى نحو إنهاء المحسوبية التي يهيمن عليها الاقتصادات التي عقدت في المكان من قبل حكومات القلة الفاسدة في كلا البلدين.

واحدة من أهم الخطوات نحو الحد من الظلم الاقتصادي ينطوي على تقديم الخدمات الإنسانية المناسبة. وينبغي أن جودة الرعاية الصحية ستكون متاحة لجميع الناس في كلا البلدين ، كما هو بتكليف من الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان. وينبغي تعليم عالي الجودة من مرحلة ما قبل المدرسة من خلال كلية الدراسات العليا تظل حرة ومنصفة ، ومتاحة للجميع. وينبغي تلبية الاحتياجات الأساسية للدخل عن طريق ضمان فرص عمل قوية في كلا البلدين ، فضلا عن الحق في السكن بأسعار معقولة ، والغذاء ، والرعاية الصحية والنقل والتقاعد والضمان. وينبغي أن الإحصاءات مروعة مثل وجود أطفال الشوارع ثلاثة ملايين في مصر والناس من الفقر أكثر من 44000000 المنكوبة في الولايات المتحدة ما زالت غير مقبولة في جميع المجالات. بالإضافة إلى ذلك ، يجب أن تولد الثروة اقتصادات مستدامة بيئيا التي تستخدم الطاقة النظيفة على مستوى قابلة للحياة. كل من القاهرة وسكان لوس انجليس فهم أهوال التلوث! اذا كنا نريد اقتصادا القرن 21 ، ونحن بحاجة للعمل من منظور القرن 21 بشأن الحواجز في الحياة والحرية والسعي لتحقيق السعادة في جميع أنحاء العالم.

4. كلا البلدين بحاجة إلى احترام حقوق الإنسان ، وهذا يتضمن وضع حد للتعذيب ، وهو أسلوب منهجي لتوثيق انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان ، وآليات لضمان مساءلة المسؤولين عن انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان.

كل من مصر والولايات المتحدة تعاني من عقود من انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان ، والتي تشمل قمع حرية التعبير ، والاحتجاز غير القانوني والترحيل السري ، والتعذيب من جانب كلا البلدين. حتى في عصر ما بعد مبارك ، تم احتجاجات حرية التعبير في ميدان التحرير أغلقت مرارا وتكرارا إلى أسفل ، وقد حرية الصحافة مكممة مرارا وتكرارا ، ولقد تم اعتقال المدونين والنشطاء مرارا وتكرارا ، حاولت ، وحكم عليه بالسجن لارتكاب مخالفات مثل مجرد الانتقاد من العسكريين على بلوق. (وهذا فقط في عصر ما بعد مبارك.) قارن هذا مع الولايات المتحدة ، حيث معدلات السجن هي أعلى من تلك الموجودة في أي دولة أخرى ، وخاصة بالنسبة للأقليات ، وتلك حالة من انخفاض الاجتماعية والاقتصادية. وغالبا ما تكون ظروف السجن غير الإنسانية في كلا البلدين وخصخصتها على نحو متزايد في الولايات المتحدة ، مع القليل من الموارد المخصصة لإعادة التأهيل وإعادة دمجهم في المجتمع.

وينبغي احترام حقوق الإنسان وفقا لمواد الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان. وينبغي أن يكون التوثيق الكامل لانتهاكات حقوق الإنسان تحدث في كلا البلدين بحيث يتم إنهاء هذه الممارسات ، وبحيث يتم محاسبة المسؤولين عنها بغض النظر عن مطالب أو مصالح الأفراد الحالية في السلطة.
كأمثلة على آليات للعمل من أجل تحقيق هذه الأهداف ، ينبغي على الولايات المتحدة الانضمام إلى المحكمة الأمريكية لحقوق الإنسان ، والجيش المصري يجب أن ينههي محاكمة المدنيين أمام محاكم عسكرية.

MPJP in Jordan Times

Cross-posted from the Jordan Times:

http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=40813

Making Friends out of Enemies – The Arab Spring and the International Community
By Ruby Amatulla and Matthew Cappiello
August 23, 2011

The Arab Spring has shocked and awed skeptics from around the world with its beautiful statements of resistance against oppression. But in order for these statements to be translated into region-wide changes that are politically built to last, we need involvement from nonpartisan members of the global community.

Although justifiable suspicions exist, foreign assistance still remains important in these transitional stages. Foreign assistance has helped to save nations from disasters, tragedies, and terrible social injustice. Aside from historical examples such as the international pressure exerted on countries such as Bosnia and South Africa, millions to billions of dollars travels to developing countries all over the world every single year. Members of the global community can assist towards development of progressive societies and fast-growing economies, such as was the case during America’s involvement in the reconstruction of post-World War II Germany and Japan.

It is obvious that many aid allocations throughout recent global history have been counterproductive and manipulative. But, no nation is monolithic. It is one thing to remain vigilant against foreign abuses, but it is quite another thing to categorically and stubbornly reject any support.

This disservice is especially apparent in recent characterizations of Western aid as a manipulative foreign scheme. While certainly imperfect, the West has a lot of experiences with their own attempts towards self-rule. Take America, for example. One American identity might champion war, economic injustice, and global hegemony. However, the other American neighbor speaks the language of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, using the fires of liberty and justice to ignite social movements at the doorstep of ordinary citizens. Thus, it is imperative that Arab Spring activists engage with nonpartisan Western experts in order to mutually share ideas – even if individuals on either side are smeared as sellouts or foreign agents.

Mutual cooperation can facilitate activists in identifying which kinds of aid are productive and which are counterproductive, rather than shortsightedly rejecting all assistance from outside powers as a manipulative scheme. A team of both leaders and activists should come up with a creative process to handle foreign aid in a manner more effective than previous efforts, like the failures of Egyptian foreign assistance documented in previous USAID audits.

We must not solely categorize Western nations as selfish or bigoted institutions. Arab Spring uprisings have earned unprecedented respect from the Western public, even though they came from some of the most conservative parts of the Muslim world.
Western citizens are increasingly aware that their governmental policies are responsible for many of the problems faced around the world. They are increasingly interested in reforming counterproductive governmental policies, and they are more open towards engaging with people on all sides. Bridge-building common denominators, such as Western Muslims and their respective ethnic communities, can help to form game-changing lobbying coalitions for the interests of Arab Spring activists. It is important to remember that governments in Western countries still respond relatively well to popular will when they are pushed hard enough.

In addition, it is an enormous disservice to one’s cause if one brands a political system as a Western concoction, especially when many supposedly ‘Western’ political systems have helped to internally stabilize their societies through rule of law, checks and balances, meritocratic ideals, and other political principles. It is possible for these systems to comply with the core values of Islam: equality before God and equality before society, freedom of choice for all humans, accountability before God, and inherent dignity within a human being due to his or her ‘true nature’ (‘fitratulAllah,’ Quran 30:30) as a vicegerent of God on earth.

Ultimately, Western nations and Arab Spring activists will both have to give a little if they want to get a lot. If the Arab Spring activists categorically reject Western assistance, they will only push Western policymakers towards preference for the elites and old guards. If the West shows hesitation and mixed signals towards revolutionary activists, they will only ensure that more and more extremist groups make strange ‘bed fellows’ with existing elites and militaries in order to subvert progressive forces.

We must ensure that commonalities between cultures are emphasized over current differences or past wounds. People all over the world value freedom and human dignity. Many are sympathetic towards the assistance of deprived peoples. Geographic and political boundaries are becoming less and less of a barrier to the needs of all humanity. In this respect, the world is becoming more democratic and Islamic in nature. We must utilize this global spirit in order to foster long-term reforms in post-Arab Spring nations.

A Civil Rights Movement for the Muslim World

Ruby Amatulla, Executive Director, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress

Today, Western Muslims have an enormous responsibility knocking at their door.

In all societies undergoing upheaval, there exists a primordial period immediately subsequent to political and economic transitions. In this period, the future is uncertain. Key factors and events in this period can end up dictating the affairs of nations for decades to come.

Considering the context of many Muslim-majority societies, we must understand that one ruthless group of leaders might be replaced by yet another group of ruthless individuals with rigid ideologies. Even if they initially camouflage themselves in the flags of freedom, they might still opportunistically exploit the enthusiastic political atmosphere in order to enrich themselves at the expense of their nation’s people.

This situation would be incredibly sad. So much can be done for countries such as Egypt and Tunisia right now, and similar circumstances might not exist in the near future. Unfortunately, history is filled with failures, even at the apex of success. We must ensure that we do not fail at this moment.

Before we start to think about solutions, we must concede that a long-standing divide exists between the West and Muslim world. Even if this divide is often artificially cooked up by special interests, these fanned flames of hatred still create serious diplomatic conflict between these sides of the world. Thus, any advice given by the West regarding transitional governments in the Muslim world will get taken with a grain of salt. Regardless of whether the advice is correct or not, many in the Middle East will be inclined to doubt the opinions that are voiced from the megaphones of Western media.

In order to ensure that bridges can be built rather than burnt, we need a voice that can speak for both sides. Western Muslims, especially American Muslims, are common denominators between the Muslim world and the West. Those American Muslims with little conflicts of interest and many common interests can bring about an immensely powerful voice for change. The Western world has its problems, but it also has technology, wealth, and a popular will for open societies which is unmatched. The Muslim world has its problems, but it also has tremendous potential for improvement.

Western Muslims can advocate like no other Western minority group for changes that need to occur in the Muslim world, especially at this critical time. As a transnational alliance working towards multi-track diplomacy, we can be instrumental in helping to foster a strong civil society in these communities, which can thus help to sustain good governance and socioeconomic progress.

So how do we involve Western Muslims, and their respective ethnic expatriate communities, at a greater level? We need to network with leaders from social movements in places like Tunisia and Egypt — especially the open-minded youth leaders — and we need to work with them to advocate for their needs at the level of Congress and the executive branch. Grassroots people-to-people communication is imperative if we want to build bridges abroad.

Ideally, this involvement would manifest itself as a delegation of Western Muslim leaders that traveled to the region during the transition government period. In turn, this could create leverage for a post-delegation Congressional hearing on social change in the Muslim world, as well as a creative media campaign that could alter misconceptions and stereotypes of international communities in order to bring about new paradigms. By engaging intensively with America and Europe, Western Muslims can help to bring about the right mindset and modus operandi towards foreign policy in the Muslim world. At the same time, their intimate interconnectedness with Muslim societies can ensure that their voice resonates on the ground.

To achieve sustainable development in the Muslim world, it is imperative that an open, answerable, and impartial rule of law be allowed to exist in these nations. No government will be successful unless it provides a legitimate and representative system of governance which reflects the will of the people. If we do not offer peaceful and constructive transitions for societies in turmoil, bloodshed and terrorism become inevitable. We need Western Muslims to work towards an international civil rights movement in the Muslim world, and we need it now.

Letter to Islamic Scholars and Imams

Peace and blessings upon His chosen Prophet, and upon his household, his noble blessed companions, and upon all the messengers and prophets.


True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance – however much he himself may cherish – it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God. (Qur’an 2:177)

Dear religious leaders and imams from around the world,

Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu!

Religious leaders have played a profound role in shaping history. From the pulpit of spirituality and moral authority, they have aroused the consciousness and inspiration to fight against wrongs. Our Prophet SAW himself serves as a paramount example for mankind, in his ability to bring about a complete social transformation as a prophet of God.

Today, the Muslim world desperately needs a visionary leadership to help to save it from unfolding disasters. One root of many evils today involves the moral decay in the Muslim world, and within this ummah there cannot be a better catalyst of change than dedicated and courageous people of faith.

Many key areas of the Muslim world share alarming resemblance to the pre-Islamic period of jahiliyya, with blind conformity to antiquated and incorrect cultural traditions that do not accurately reflect Islam as well as false indoctrination and lack of exercise of human intellect. In the jahiliyya period, unconditional tribal and ethnic loyalties often defied reason and ethics, helping to precipitate violence and hatred as well as shameful and counterproductive internecine bloodshed.

Today, symptoms of a much deeper crisis of hearts and souls penetrates many Muslim-majority societies around, including but not limited to: rampant corruption and mismanagement, disproportionate levels of violence and turmoil, lack of a balance of power to help sustain healthy social functionality, lack of legitimate and accountable governance which consequently creates volatility, alarming wealth disparities between rich and poor, and serious infrastructural deficiencies leading to unacceptable levels of illiteracy, poverty and degradation of the overall human condition. We are busy pointing our fingers at the faults of others, but we fail to mind our own failures — and we are failing ourselves in a big way.  It is long overdue that a group of faith leaders rise up to address these moral crises among Muslims of the world in a comprehensive manner, helping to move them in the right direction towards a better future.

Two especially vicious agents — extremists as well as illegitimate, corrupt, and abusive rulers with their regimes — create the biggest roadblocks against peace, justice and social welfare. These two corrosive groups appear on opposite sides of a conflict, yet they reinvigorate and reinforce each other, thus keeping conflict alive and victimizing the very people they claim to serve. They continuously raise fear and hatred against each other, attributing to each other the reasons for their own destructive behaviors. This dangerous and oppressive pattern must be changed.

Foreign powers involved in the affairs of Muslim-majority societies are not the answer, and they cannot truly deliver an effective solution. The solution lies in the hearts and minds of Muslims, and thus their institutions and rule of law.  They must change their inner selves in order to receive God’s mercy which can bring about the change they need. That is the recipe of success laid down in the Qur’an [13:11].

Although much of the world sees the benefits of integration as well as regional and global cooperation towards uplifting the human condition, much of our ummah — one-fifth of humanity, in fact — spirals towards disintegration and divisions. While much of the world is moving towards the perspective of a global society championing collective responsibility, 1.3 billion Muslims often demonstrate a propensity to cause divisions and dissent, even within themselves. This is indeed counterproductive. These are reflections of deep moral and spiritual decay among the followers of the Qur’an, the blessed scripture which commands unity and integration on fundamental ideas. We need to have the courage to ask why the Muslim world controls over 76% of the world’s oil reserves, yet fails to be an equally proportionate powerbroker and leader of human ethics today. We need to ask why more than 50 Muslim-majority societies fail to exert a collective will that can bring about a better state of affairs.

Foreign powers are just instruments. Depending on the party in control of the instrument, they can be used to serve the welfare of indigenous people or to do disservice to them. It all depends on the mindset and character of the operators, often existing powerful elites. Many nations in the world used foreign powers to further their own causes and national interests, while others failed because of their own shortcomings. Despite the skeptics, constructive engagement actually enhances one’s ability to do good on earth, while war and violence depletes that capability. The Qur’an exhorts us repeatedly to become pioneers towards peace, justice and progress. Reactionary sentiment, insecurities, egocentric behavior, false pride, and unconditional rejection are not signs of leadership.  True leadership exhibits vision, wisdom, humility, generosity, restraint, tact, balance, and a perspective which works from the moral high ground. We need this type of leadership in the Muslim world.

The Muslim world could benefit enormously through constructive engagement with the rest of humanity, including the West. To help to achieve that, a change of mindset is needed, which could only come about through deep introspection. This change of mindset could be aroused by the most visionary clerics of our day.

If we fail to recognize the rare opportunities dropped at our doorstep, and if we close the door, we will fail ourselves and do great disservice to our people. Neither Americans nor their governments are monolithic. At any given time and on any given issue, different forces are at play. We only see the outcome of these complex power interplays. We could fail to assess the abilities and characters of different forces if we only judge them by the outcome. We must go deeper to understand the complex interplay of the most versatile, advanced, influential, pluralistic, enigmatic society in the world and its extraordinary history in order to come to terms with its founding values and principles — much of which are in alignment with the equality, dignity and liberty of all people that the Qur’an prescribes for mankind. If we fail to understand this superpower, we will do a great disservice to ourselves.

The nations who succeeded at utilizing this superpower in the best possible way emerged victorious in their own causes in our time. For Muslim leaders, the agenda should be to engage ourselves with decision-makers in order to help set the direction in international diplomacy which can bring about a win-win situation. In order to tame of an elephant, we need tact, not confrontation. If wisdom prevails, the superpower could be found to be an ally, with enormous potential to make positive contributions in collaboration with Muslim-majority societies. Let imams be the vanguards of that potential.

Our leadership should invalidate extremism, and it should promote conflict resolution and constructive engagement. Arousal of hatred and confrontation is one of the most counterproductive modus operandi in our time. Humanity is moving towards broader integration, while the Muslim world is tending towards disintegration. This is counterproductive indeed.

Irrespective of their real intentions, the foreign powers who are involved with Muslim-majority societies often seek to ally with the one whom they think is the lesser of two evils. Their engagements often reinforce and provide justifications for the other group to continue violence and destruction. The real victim, however, is the welfare and future of the people. These self-defeating engagements must be changed to help bring about a win-win state in which the greatest welfare could be achieved for the greatest number of people.

Establishing peace, justice and progress in human affairs is the cardinal call of the Qur’an. Individuals of faith should be at the forefront to respond. The responsibility of Muslim clerics in our time is enormous, given the current geopolitical context as well as the current opportunities available for lasting and positive social change.

Allah has commanded us in the Qur’an to be less judgmental in working among diverse groups of humans to do good work on earth [5:48]. Today, there exists great urgency to act on that injunction. We are obsessed with negative forces, while we overlook the enormously positive forces emerging in our time. In the global community, there is ever-increasing awareness for human rights and collective responsibility, as well as an ever-increasing demand for transparent and accountable governance and justice. Using these emerging forces of our time, Muslims can fight against wrongs and backwardness through effective and peaceful means, attaining a speed of transformation that was unthinkable in the past. There must be a catalyst to help Muslims to stop living in the past, and to help move forward into the future.

Transnational citizen alliances can play a powerful role in helping to bring about a healthy chemistry of openness and accountability in governmental engagements. If done effectively, a transnational citizen alliance can help to arouse international attention towards the West-Muslim dynamic, and bring about a compelling force as citizens of different countries work together to exert simultaneous pressures from different directions on the matter.

Among these emerging forces of change, Western Muslims are one of the most vital and potential catalysts of peace in our time. They are the common denominator of two vital but confrontational camps of humanity — the Muslim world and the West.

Many reports, including the Pew report in America, have revealed the potential of this sleeping giant. American Muslims are well-educated, well-to-do, versatile, ethnically diverse, and well-exposed minorities in the Western world, with many strings still attached to the rest of the Muslim world. Being conversant with both worlds, they are some of the best bridge-builders and mediators regarding issues linking these two polarized camps of the world.  The confrontational state of these two polarized worlds fuels the fire in many places of the Muslim world. This ‘fire’ can be effectively dealt with by a transnational alliance of Western Muslims to bring about conflict resolution.

It is therefore imperative that visionary Muslim clerics transcend this divide, and work with Western Muslims as allies in order to establish peace, justice and progress between and within civilizations. However, time is running out on us. All sides are exhausted, and all desperately need a better option on the table. After many years gone, countless lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, there is no solution in sight. As the enthusiasm and commitment from the Western world dwindles down, and as the anger of the Muslim world escalates, the window of opportunity for win-win peace is shutting down fast. As the spirit and resources deplete from both sides, the gateway to success is closing on us as peace activists.

In the absence of a courageous stand, a tiny minority of extremists hijacks the future of one-fifth of humanity and destroys enormous possibilities for change existing before the Muslim world today. Extremism and violence-mongering is robbing the collective bargaining power of Muslims to get their due share of progress and prosperity. It is imperative that a new leadership emerges with a new agenda for constructive engagement.

The following pages, overseen by esteemed and visionary Islamic scholars and imams, serve as an advocacy proposal among Muslim religious leaders for constructive engagement between civilizations, in the true spirit of Islam. We propose that you engage vigorously with us to raise a dialogue for change among people on both sides of the conflict. We need to re-orient distraught and disturbed Muslims engaged in a counterproductive agenda of extremism to come and work with us in constructive ways to establish themselves as legitimate power brokers in an accountable and transparent due process of law. The best jihad in our time can be fought through nonviolent and diplomatic methods, through the moral high ground.

We are going through a critical time in history. Two civilizations — both interdependent and indispensable to each other — remain at war with one other. This stance is a most self-depleting and self-defeating state of mind. This stance is also avoidable. We need to generate a win-win situation in our time to help uplift the human condition for countless people on earth.

We also need speedy peace and reconciliation faster than ever before in human history. In this extremely interdependent global society, a conflict may not be contained, and it may conflagrate to cause misery to countless people, especially in the difficult regions of the Muslim world. As this planet is spinning fast on edge, with record numbers of human beings living in poverty, and and record numbers of citizens displaced in despair and environmental degradation, we need speed to utilize the limited resources we have in our time to face these enormous challenges before humanity today. There is no time to deplete our energy and resources in conflict and division with one another.

Today, we as a group of American Muslims are dedicated to helping to bring about conflict resolution. We are approaching you to work with us in order to bring about a voice of change desperately needed to avoid this catastrophe unfolding before our eyes.

We invite you to come to America for a meeting with Congressional leaders and prominent leaders of faith in order to help raise a dialogue for change among people on both sides of the conflict.Today’s religious clerics and imams have enormous responsibilities to help establish peace, justice, and progress in our time. These religious leaders could be at the forefront of this movement.

Jazakallah Khair,
Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress [MPJP]

Islam and Conflict Resolution in Afghanistan

(Cross-posted from Ariaye.com, located at http://www.ariaye.com/english/noori2.pdf )

‘A MUSLIM APPEAL TO COMMON SENSE’

By Khalil Nouri and Matthew Cappiello

Executive Summary

Given the tremendous cost of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (OEF-A), the likelihood of indefinite continuation of similar levels of military interventions in Afghanistan remains slim. The United States economy is strained, limited political capital exists to boost support from the war within both Congress and the White House, and most importantly, the war remains unpopular among the American people. However, given the national security risk that could occur as a result of a destabilized Afghanistan after de-escalation of conflict, policymakers and military leaders must craft an evidence-based strategy engendering greater levels of support from local Afghans towards international diplomacy and counter extremism efforts.

A growing wave of intellectual thought towards “rethinking Afghanistan‟ is currently spreading throughout think tanks, universities, and media institutions worldwide. However, this intellectual thought often lacks clarity with regards to practical strategies necessary to provide an action plan on the ground for change. As one example relevant to this discussion, a forthcoming report from the Afghanistan Study Group — a group of 40 foreign policy experts, scholars, former officials, and activists assembled by Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation — recommends within a larger set of points that “diplomatic efforts…improve America’s overall image and undermine international support for militant extremism.” We must ask how to achieve this goal when those advocating against extremism often lack the effective cultural, religious, and regional abilities to resonate with the local population. The full text of Solution #1 advocated by the New World Strategies Coalition indicates that terrorists and extremists have command of an impressive media infrastructure, propagating a message combining religious perversions with fueled ideological rhetoric that speaks of a „clash of civilizations. While these nefarious actions obviously don’t speak for Islam as a whole, this extremist infrastructure is often able to manipulate, coerce, or convince individuals to join opposition movements for a variety of reasons — religious manipulation spurred on by low levels of education among the population, economic comparative advantage as a result of joining opposition forces, political anger as a result of perceptions of poor governance and lack of political representation, etc. Often, extremists can utilize both Muslim conviction and/or anti-Western sentiment as effective „centers of gravity‟ which can persuade Afghans to turn to opposition forces that have various levels of toleration for extremism. If voices advocating against extremism arise from Western or non- Muslim locations, their abilities to resonate with the local population is limited, especially behind a backdrop of the following: nine years of arduous war between Afghans and NATO/ISAF forces, tremendous economic deprivation, low levels of education, governance widely regarded as ineffective among Afghans, growing levels of Islamophobia in the West, and frustration over American abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion.

This backdrop of difficulties suggests a tremendous uphill battle in order to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan, meaning that new voices in the conversation may be required to change the narrative. Counterterrorism requires coordinated multilateral and multidimensional efforts that go beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders. We must introduce a new matrix to the struggle, a compelling construct that deprives our enemy of the ability to resonate with audiences around the world; prohibiting them from expanding and energizing their ranks. We must appropriate their “center of gravity” — their source of strength — by forcefully contesting their ideas at the same time that we prohibit their ability to spread them; while offering undeniable truths of our own that are based on historical facts as well as powerful new events that resonate throughout Muslim-majority societies around the world. It would be extremely helpful to utilize Muslim religious leaders as partners in this struggle against extremism, using methods which simultaneously speak to the need for national security in Western countries as well as respect for religious and cultural sentiments in Muslim-majority societies.

However, a larger degree of engagement with Muslim leaders around the world is required by Western policymakers and government officials, especially American leaders. While the United States has made sincere attempts to integrate Islamic leaders into international counterterrorism and public diplomacy efforts, these efforts have primarily been small in scope and uncoordinated, utilizing a somewhat parochial selection of leaders and providing them with a significantly limited window in which to voice the concerns about foreign policy towards Muslim-majority societies around the world. With regards to countries with significant levels of American troops such as Afghanistan and Iraq, this need is especially apparent. Globally respected Muslim leaders, such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf from the Zaytuna Institute, have publicly commented that their services were not properly utilized by the American government in order to win Muslim hearts and minds in American military engagements abroad. Reflexively, the failure of this diplomatic opportunity also leaves these leaders open to demagogic “smearing‟ by terrorist and extremist forces around the world, potentially as “Western imperialist sympathizers‟ or colluding forces with personal self-interest in maintaining disorder in these countries. There must be a better way to utilize religious leaders in peace building and conflict resolution within these regions, in order to bring about win-win outcomes for all parties involved.

Many Islamic religious leaders are actively engaged in public and private methods of combating terrorism, as well as combating extremist perversions of Islamic law. The Amman Message, an internationally recognized document by the King of Jordan which led to an international conference of 200 respected Muslim scholars from over 50 countries, vociferously condemns terrorism. Along with numerous other internationally recognized examples, the globally respected Pakistani imam Tahir ul-Qadri recently issued a 600-page fatwa specifically to enact a firm stance against terrorism, and the widely signed document “A Common Word Between Us and You‟ affirms essential principles of Christian-Muslim unity in order to prevent divisions related to extremism. Along with the growing Islamic reform movement in the West and in Muslim countries, many Muslim leaders are speaking out more and more against perversions that threaten the well-being of the global Muslim community. Many of these scholars also articulate the technological, scientific, and political progress that has occurred in much of the Western world in a manner which is understandable to Muslims, thus countering extremist anti-Western rhetoric that stokes societal divisions. There are literally thousands of respected Islamic scholars who would be interested in bringing a speedier end to wars in countries such as Afghanistan, if they were given the confidence that they were participating in a viable initiative that could bring about effective change. These leaders could provide an engaging voice which resonates among the Afghan people, thus invalidating extremist arguments.

However, it is necessary to find cultural mediators who can effectively identify key leaders that can resonate with the local population in Afghanistan, communicate with them in culturally competent ways in order to engender their support and enlist their feedback, and engage in all the necessary preparations required to secure logistics, such as paperwork and international travel, in order to consolidate partnership. If the United States government, military, or intelligence apparatus were to attempt to directly engage imams from the esteemed Al Azhar University in Egypt, they would most likely encounter significant resistance and suspicions regarding their intentions, and potentially invalidate the whole matter of outreach for the foreseeable future. This means that we need cross-cultural leadership that can serve as a bridge to bring together state and non-state parties. The American Muslim and Afghan Americans communities are the best possible group of mediators that we have to carry out these goals. Numerous American Muslims are well-educated, well-to-do, well-connected with the societies which they come from, and vibrantly engaged in civil and political discourse through a wide variety of nonprofit and civil society organizations which work internationally. Conversely, numerous Afghan Americans serve as vital experts who understand the complex religious, cultural, ethnic, regional, and tribal dynamics which comprise the affairs of Afghanistan. Like Muslim religious leaders from around the world, Western Muslims and Afghans could potentially engage with diplomacy and development efforts in Afghanistan at a much larger level than previous years, if they were given a viable initiative that had the potential to promote real and constructive change.

Recommendations

Initially, Muslim religious leaders can promote a platform of unity which can serve as a springboard for various other constructive downstream effects. We propose outreach to the most prominent Islamic religious legal bodies in the world (e.g. Al Azhar in Cairo, Dar ul Uloom in Deoband-India, Umm Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia, etc.) from key Afghan American and American Muslim organizations regarding the composition and endorsement of a fatwa against terrorist and extremist actions, and for support of constructive engagement between civilizations in order to promote common welfare. This fatwa will be utilized in relation to Afghanistan in order to promote: reconciliation between opposing parties including local, national, and international parties; re-integration of negotiable members of opposition forces; population-centric approaches to counterinsurgency; counter extremism and counterterrorist efforts including establishment of rehabilitation centers in prominent Islamic seminaries; sustainable economic development and reconstruction; and increased opportunities for good governance, rule of law, and protection of essential human rights. A preliminary example of language from this document is enclosed within this presentation, to be later edited and approved by senior religious bodies. This initiative must be transmitted through the international media to a worldwide audience, and it could be repeated annually in order to provide a continued presence from these leaders.

On the heels of this initiative, we propose a number of American Muslim and Afghan American civil society organizations to organize a Muslim-Afghan summit in Washington DC, in which a select number of globally representative and diverse Islamic religious scholars — including, but not limited to, a number of ethnically and regionally representative Afghan religious leaders — are invited to participate in a conference with members of the United States Congress and other key parties as a follow-up to this legal ruling. If successful, outreach to other NATO member states will shortly follow. A „host committee‟ of key American Muslim and Afghan American organizations will be formed, and issue letters of invitation to key Muslim religious leaders from around the world. Following a one-day DC summit, leaders will agree on a set of principles that foster mutual understanding and respect, issuing a signed declaratory statement. In addition, a taskforce will be formed consisting of religious, civic, and political leaders whose goal will be meet regularly and deliberate upon ways and means to influence domestic and international policies and players in the region towards a just and comprehensive peace for all parties. The initial goal of this taskforce will be a peace mission to a key conflict zone in Afghanistan where parties are relatively amenable towards a win-win peace settlement, in order to build confidence among state and non-state actors that greater engagement from this taskforce is realizable.

Full caution must be taken that the financing of such an endeavor cannot be seen as coming directly and fully from a non-Muslim state, nor an Islamic country with significant self-interest in the Afghan region. Otherwise, the consequence of a media backlash regarding ‘funding’ could jeopardize and derail the whole project. Limited funding from governments and state actors is a possibility, but nonprofit foundations, philanthropists, and grassroots donations should also be considered as part of a comprehensive mix of support.

Peace and blessings upon His chosen Prophet, and upon his household, his noble blessed companions, and upon all the messengers and prophets.

Verily, for all men and women who have surrendered themselves unto God, and all believing men and believing women, and all truly devout men and truly devout women, and all men and women who are true to their word, and all men and women who are patient in adversity, and all men and women who humble themselves [before God], and all men and women who give in charity, and all self-denying men and self-denying women, and all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who remember God unceasingly: for [all of] them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward. (Quran 33:35)

Assalamu alaikum wa ramatullahi wa barakatu,

Brothers and sisters in Islam –

Today, we as a group of imams and religious scholars from Muslim communities around the world are appearing before you, the Muslim ummah, with an appeal to common sense. We believe that all of us in history are a frontier for actions which could change the direction of global crises. Only through active participation in the world can we engender a win-win outcome for as many people as possible, thus saving nations and regions and bringing about improved welfare for countless individuals. Our trust in God is dictating to our conscience that today, inshallah, we reach out to you for a heart-to-heart conversation.

As clerics and men of faith, we are generally a peace-loving people. We are often reluctant to get involved in the turmoil of geopolitical conflicts. Therefore, for a long time we watched the unfolding drama of human tragedy and self-destruction, hoping and praying that wisdom in the end would prevail. To our utter dismay — after many years gone, countless lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent — we now see global affairs spiraling out of control, inflicting even more loss and misery for the Muslim world and causing danger and hopelessness for the world in general.

Our Own Failures:
A number of unfortunate episodes of human failure in our time are hijacking Islam, and holding the welfare and future of 1.3 billion Muslims around the world hostage. Facing such monstrous evils, there is absolutely no provision for total silence in Islam. Today, we are compelled to speak out.

It is wrong to use Islam to promote ideas that are not Islamic. It is wrong for a Muslim to prohibit ideas which are in compliance with the spirit of the Qur’an, and which the Qur’an definitely does not prohibit. The Qur’an clearly and repeatedly warns followers that the worst transgressors are those who distort the Word of God and replace it with fabrications. It is unfortunate that these rampant failures and distorted mindsets in the Muslim world serve as the cause of many of our failed states today. We must remain vigilant against the instruments of Satan that Qur’an warns us about. We must exercise our intellects, as God has empowered us humans to do the right thing. We must forsake the domain of evil and penetrate layers of false innovations and indoctrinations. Over time, these false ideas and practices — validated and reinforced in past generations — became a part of the Muslim world, even though they are contrary to the teachings of Islam. We must forsake falsehood.

The Qur’an says that God dislikes aggression. A true Muslim cannot initiate aggression. Islam allows wars and violence for self-defense, and only to fight against injustice and oppression. There are definite conditions that need to be met before wars can be declared, and violent actions can only be a legitimate weapon to fight injustice and oppression when there is no other way out, and when legitimate authorities — not self-proclaimed protectors of Islam — decide and undertake such an action. Violence can only be used after trying all other ways to settle the conflict through peaceful and diplomatic methods. Our Prophet ﷺ exemplified this process throughout his entire life, as he attempted to resolve conflicts with others and to protect his community in peaceful ways before he took up the sword.

The question paramount in our mind should be this: have we exhausted all alternative means before resorting to violence? Or may it be that many of us are indulging ourselves in aggression due to hastiness, or in order to further our egos and ambitions, or just to cause mischief in the world? Killing innocent villagers or citizens is by no means a jihad. It is a criminal activity that violates a cardinal law of the Qur’an. The religion which defines crimes against humanity as killing one innocent human being, be he or she Muslim or non-Muslim [Qur’an 5:32] cannot support this kind of behavior. The Qur’an warns us to stand guard against the instigations of Satan. He indeed is our avowed enemy.

Yet from among us come groups — self-proclaimed saviors of Muslims — who work day and night to arouse hatreds and polarizations, and to build barriers against the interests and welfare of countless Muslims. In the absence of a courageous collective voice, a tiny minority of extremists rob the collective bargaining power of the Muslim world to attain its due share of progress and prosperity. We must stop them now from telling lies about Islam.

The extremists must be invalidated on the one hand, and on the other vested interests and corruption must be confronted. Both sides of the conflict do disservice to the vast majority of common people. We must not fail to see that their counterproductive activities, furthering their own self-gratifications, are in fact reinforcing and reinvigorating the conflicts and polarizations. The victims of these evil pursuits are the vast majority of the world. We must not fail to see this.

It is an imperative that new agents of peace emerge from among us to fight this evil of our time with a transformative agenda for constructive engagement. There is nothing passive or timid about nonviolent methods of change. In fact, these ways of the moral high ground actually require great courage and determination, in order to effectively make a change where change is due.

A change is long overdue among the mindsets and modus operandi of these extremist forces in the Muslim world. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own failures. The Qur‟an repeatedly indicates that we cannot finger-point at others for our own failures. Let us undertake a critical introspection and soul search. Satan can only penetrate our hearts and minds when we fail to take responsibility for our own actions, and when we look the other way when some of us commit wrongs.

Failures of Others

Obviously we also need to be mindful about others‟ failures towards Muslim-majority societies. Greater harm has been done in the name of help and assistance. We do not need help — even if it is from the superpowers of our time — if that means our societies become fragmented and polarized, with continued violence and the lives of our common people ripped apart. Investing a huge sum of money in an irresponsible and unaccountable societal infrastructure does more harm than good. It corrupts a system and renders it dysfunctional through and through. It also engages formidable vested interests and cronies, who work day and night to maintain profits and the status quo at the cost of common welfare. Instead of resolving conflicts, these interests are often more interested to continue wars and destructive behaviors.

Vested interests are becoming enormously powerful, the middle class often has no truly effective political voice, and the lives of the vast majority are desperately poor and insecure. After many years of involvement, countless lives lost, and billions of dollars spent, we cannot look the other way as to what has happened in our societies in the name of fighting terrorism. It is self-evident that unreliable parties were reached out to, that incorrect means were used towards outcomes, and that incorrect approaches were applied. It is long overdue that outside forces, especially America, must now use new faces, new agents, and new methods to help us to reclaim our societies and our future.

We Muslims are proud people. Given proper aid applied in a proper way, we are best able to build our own societies and infrastructure. We will continue to fail if the past modus operandi continues to exist. We must not allow others to dictate our affairs. We may consult, we may hire services, and we may cooperate, but we can never allow dictation from others. If we allow a dictatorial role from an outside power, we will simultaneously invite exploitation and reactionary extremism.

We do, however, invite people from America and other Western countries to work closely and responsibly with the people of Muslim-majority societies with which they are involved in order to help bring about transparency and accountability in governmental affairs. Due to past difficulties in governmental involvements, the abilities of governments to effect change might become more and more ineffective in certain areas, as they inherently carry conflicts of interest. As humanity is becoming a global village, as nations and countries are increasingly becoming interdependent, and as a higher sense of human rights and collective responsibility reigns in human conscience, governmental engagements should be simultaneously managed and directed with people-to-people engagements.

We fully agree with all those who believe that enormous injustices and corruption infests our planet and destroys the future of the common people. In our time, it is not necessarily one country versus another, but vested interests across political boundaries colluding with each other and harming the welfare of people of all sides. Therefore, people across borders and oceans must unite hand-in hand to fight against these evil forces in our time. We must work together with one voice to defeat extremism, and at the same time we must work together to marginalize the unholy alliances that enact unholy things in our societies. Be aware that Satan is ever-present among us.

Bridge-Builders as New Agents of Change

In our modern global community, there is an ever-increasing awareness of individual and collective moral responsibility. Using these emerging forces in our time, Muslims can fight against extremism and injustice most effectively through peaceful and constructive means. If they can effectively engage themselves as peacemakers, the Muslim world could attain a speed of transformation that has been unthinkable in the past. We all remain responsible before God if we fail to recognize this enormous opportunity brought before us. There must be a leadership to help Muslims to engage with the future in a manner which fits both our faith as well as the modern challenges which come before us. There cannot be a better catalyst of change than dedicated and courageous people of faith.

As one example, two most vital camps of humanity — Muslim-majority countries and Western countries — remain polarized and confrontational towards one another. These two parts of the world, deeply connected and intensely interdependent, are often engaged in counterproductive engagements which produce a lose-lose scenario. Paradoxically enough, there exists an enormous opportunity to transform this fighting into a win-win situation. This is the most doable and most desirable outcome in our time.

Western Muslims can be incredibly effective bridge-builders between these two regions, as they are the common denominator between two estranged worlds. These Muslims are part of the West, and they have many characteristics which could enable them to become effective mediators of conflicts and catalysts for peace and stability. They are well-educated, well-to-do, and the vast majority of them were born in different lands than they currently live in. They still have close connections with these native lands. We invite the Western governments to reach out to Western Muslims that are well-respected among the global Muslim community, and to engage with them at a higher level of foreign policy and work with them side-by-side to bridge the gap and to bring about a win-win situation in a number of disadvantaged regions. As Muslims around the world, we must also reach out to them in order to help them to help us in our pursuits. Being a part of both camps, it is in our best interests to see a win-win outcome, and to endeavor to bring about this outcome.

Transparent and Accountable Governance

The best way to fight against formidable forces of exploitation — with which some of our fellow Muslims are also collaborating — requires good governance in our societies. We must make our governments legitimate and accountable. A government becomes answerable to people only when there a proper balance of power exists in a society, and when the government derives its legitimacy directly from the people. Then, the rulers become servants, not masters, of people, as they know they are neither invincible nor immovable. They know that if they do not serve their people well, they will be out of power, as the real power lies with the people. When a system of rule of law is strong, this sense of vulnerability among rulers can be rightfully instituted, thus providing the background for positive social change.

We have to help create such systems of rule of law in our lands. This is the only way that societies stabilize and perpetuate in the right direction. We must make our governments legitimate, our systems as solid as rock and, our judicial systems as the Rock of Gibraltar in upholding justice. An illegitimate government is like a house of cards. It comes through the back door, and it departs through the back door when the next party arrives. We have seen the changing hands of power occurring in history. Unrepresentative changing hands of power render societies unstable as well as victims to injustice. These systems often depend not on the rule of law, but on vested interests who sustain corrupt and dysfunctional infrastructures. They become inherently weak, and the people suffer for their weakness as leaders reach out to make unholy alliances.

We need vulnerability among rulers, but not among systems. Our systems of governance and our constitutions must be based on the fundamental principles and values of the Qur‟an, which aligns with essential principles and human values that are respected by all legitimate societies. Our Lord has created us all, and as the Qur‟an expounds in Sura Rome, verse 30, the one ever-present and true religion involves following the true nature or conscience [fitra] that God has implanted in us. Whenever we go against that nature, we do disservice to ourselves. That is why the socialist-communist principles failed, as they worked against the inherent nature of human beings. Extreme greed, ego, ambition, and power also work against this fitra. These principles are also double-edged swords which do disservice to humanity when used without faith and wisdom. There must be proper checks and balances to manage the negative propensities of human beings to serve people instead of serving God. The need for a proper balance of power is laid down in the Qur‟an. Fundamental tenets are timeless: establishing a just society as well as governance based on consultation and mechanisms to challenge the system and/or rulers when they do wrong. The ultimate loyalty of a believer is to his or her Creator, in enacting right actions and in pursuing right values.

We become unjust and we fail whenever we go against the true nature that our Creator implanted in us. Let us be resolved that we build systems of governance based on that true nature which can sustain and perpetuate peace, justice, and progress.

We need to build stable and accountable systems. Without the right to know the truth and reliable means to know the actions of governance, these systems are prone to corruption and mismanagement. Therefore, we demand freedom of speech and the press. With proper balance of power installed in our societies, openness would compel our governments to remain accountable, acting as good servants of people. Freedom is our God-given right for which we will remain responsible to Him on the Day of Judgment. Liberty, equality, and dignity of all human beings are part of the fundamental tenets of Islam. We are caretakers of God‟s world — the vicegerent [„khalifa‟] of God on earth. In order to fulfill our obligations to be good caretakers of the environment and the world, we must remain open and diligent as responsible maintainers of our rights. There is no substitute for legitimate systems which can sustain stability and due process to allow prosperity to take place. When good governance and an impartial system of justice prevails in a society — no matter how diverse — it integrates. This process of integration within a nation accelerates the speed of development. Let us focus on establishing good governance in our societies around the world.

The Children of Adam

Our time is like no other time in history, marked by paradoxes and contradictions. The possibilities for good and possibilities for evil never existed in such contrast side-by-side as they do today. Never before was the world at a crossroads like it is today. The choices we make and the modus operandi that we establish will dictate our collective future for a very long time.

The Quran commands us to do good work with others among diverse human communities. We are commanded not to be judgmental, and we are commanded to be cooperative with others in promoting good on earth.

It is long overdue that we as clerics and imams must warn all of the consequences of following the ways of Jahiliyya — a period involving blind conformity to invalidated and antiquated traditions, false indoctrination, and a tremendous lack of exercise of human intellect. It was a time when unconditional tribal or ethnic loyalty often defied reason and ethics, precipitating violence towards women and children, unnecessary hatred, and shameful and counterproductive internecine bloodshed. Today, it is alarming that the modus operandi of much of the Muslim world has many resemblances with that failed period. Let us be aware and act accordingly.

Our prophet ﷺ made treaties and engaged in good relations with many non-Muslim tribes and groups in order to establish peace and security in the region. In protecting the interests and welfare of his own community, he never hesitated to reach out to other communities for mutual security and welfare. This is the spirit of Islam — helping to establishing peace in the world.

Afghanistan – The Way to Win

Hello and salaam to all,

Please read the attached information below regarding our newly announced campaign, “The Way to Win,” related to improved diplomacy and constructive engagement between the United States and Afghanistan. Afterwards, please email us ASAP at mpjp@mpjp.org if you are interested in joining the project, either as a participant or as a volunteer. We need your support in any way possible. Also, please forward this link to ten of your closest colleagues, and please feel free to email us with any feedback, comments, or suggestions.

Peace be to you,

Executive Board
Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
www.mpjp.org
mpjp@mpjp.org

Afghanistan remains a critically important place for the Muslim world today as well as the West. If war, death, and destruction continue, victimization will continue to increase on both sides of the conflict. A change of course in Afghanistan remains imperative. Nuclear-armed areas of this region are drifting quickly into chaos and conflict. This is a concern for Western nations, and potentially an excuse for powerful Western elites to continue to escalate military involvements. Escalation of military conflict, however, will ultimately lead to the destabilization of the wider region due to more violent confrontations, more polarization, and the disintegration of cooperation.

The good news is that greater opportunities exist today to bring about a countervailing movement for constructive engagement, accountability, and a more equitable balance of power in human affairs. This movement could have powerful and transformative results. The mindset and modus operandi of humanity has changed in our increasingly more open, interconnected, and interdependent world.

This emerging backdrop is conducive towards the mobilization of transnational civil societies to create a paradigm shift in international affairs. Powerful catalysts are needed. American Muslims are in a critical place and time in history to become one such catalyst of change. We need leadership and vision in order for the “sleeping agent” of our time to see our compelling need, enormous opportunity, and monumental responsibility right in front of us. Past and present American Muslim organizations have performed commendable jobs, albeit often in limited and issue-specific areas. It is long overdue that our leadership needs to be taken to a new frontier.

In Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslim world, American Muslims can help to spearhead a transnational movement of change through dialogue and diplomacy. They are citizens of the West, which generally offers a more conducive and open environment to engage with the due process and create dialogue. They also live in a society whose government is confrontationally involved with many Muslim-majority societies. They are at the center of very important events in world history, and due to their knowledge of both worlds, they have incredible potential to become agents of positive change.

In order for American Muslims to carry out this work effectively, a united front is a must. We all know that the Muslim communities in the West and in rest of the world are diverse, at times divided. This diversity is no reason to become divided, especially when pursuing a goal that will uplift the human condition for hundreds of millions of people in the Muslim world. Cynicism, insecurity, and reactionary stances have not worked for us. The Muslim world desperately needs a visionary leadership to overcome the staggering problems that exist today.

To build such a transnational movement for constructive engagement, we need to begin with a keystone area that can mobilize Western Muslims to participate in a movement for peaceful change. President Obama has announced an increase in 30,000 troops within the region. Many Western Muslims are concerned about the prospect of further military engagement in Afghanistan, believing instead that diplomatic and humanitarian assistance can serve as a more ideal alternative to military interventions in order to stop extremist and terrorist movements. Many American Muslims are highly educated, possessing skills in high-level professions. The Pew report exposed that 65% of American Muslims were born in foreign lands, with deep connections in those societies. Many of them are the ‘cream of the crop’ from the well over 50 countries that they come from. We can utilize these human resources in order to build economic and social bridges between the war-torn and socioeconomically deprived regions of the Muslim world and the affluent and technologically advanced industries in the West. Western Muslims are the common denominator between these two vital but polarized camps of humanity. Enormous responsibility rests on their shoulders to bridge the gap.

Our existing system of international powerbrokers and mediators often involve numerous conflicts of interest, which can ruin even well-intentioned engagements. These conflicts of interest can spoil peace efforts. We must remember that corruption and mismanagement does not only take place within foreign countries. Elites and vested interests among both occupier countries and occupied countries collude in order to maintain their own joint interests, regardless of the victimization that occurs to lay citizens on both sides. Cynicism, extremism, terrorism, non-cooperation, corruption, and other counterproductive behaviors take place when indigenous peoples lose trust and confidence in foreign powers that intervene in their affairs and make their condition worse rather than uplifting them.

Afghanistan is a glaring example of that failure. Please see Table 1 below for more information related to the country. After eight years of occupation and hundreds of billions spent in Western taxpayers’ money, the Karzai government is still extremely ineffective and corrupt. In many of the 34 provinces, it is almost dysfunctional. Half of Kabul lacks electricity, 40% of Afghans are unemployed, and 53% remain below the poverty level. There is extreme insecurity among the general public as military confrontations and violence continue, and narcotics cultivation threatens to overtake subsistence crops in a country where 80% of the population depends on agriculture and related trade. After eight years, the Taliban is still strong and well-organized, and their vicious guerilla warfare is polarizing and destabilizing the society. Unless and until this grim reality changes, there is no hope for Afghanistan. And the West will remain in the quagmire for a long time.

Our way out is through an aggressive and visionary agenda that supports constructive engagements through dialogue and mediation among all conflicting parties, including the insurgents. Even prominent military leaders advocate dialogue with resistance forces. No long-term solution is possible without bringing majorities of less extreme factions to the negotiating table and winning them over to constructive social processes.

Throughout the conflict, we have heard a common trend voiced by numerous governmental, military, and NGO leaders — constructive engagement with Afghanistan must occur in order for peace and progress to be viable. However, in spite of all the rhetoric, only an insignificant percentage of military expenditures go towards social developments.

Many international organizations such as Oxfam state that “there is no purely military solution to Afghanistan.” and that it is imperative now to bring about strategic changes regarding the handling of Afghan affairs. Prominent generals on both sides of the Atlantic state that war maintains little capacity to ensure long-term solutions, even though it may be necessary sometimes to prevent injustice. When interviewed after a strategic summit in Berlin, General Petraeus stated that our top priority in Afghanistan should be “to drink more tea with the locals.”

However, we largely disagree with his assertion that it is possible to resolve conflicts simply by maintaining a good relationship between the military and indigenous civilians. The whole setup and engagement style needs to be changed, and the human condition must be uplifted in order for viable solutions to take place. New agents such as MPJP have been advocating for these changes for a long time. In conjunction with other groups, American Muslims must play a vital role by offering services as watchdogs, mediators, and informal diplomats in order to help bring about trust and confidence among the indigenous people.

At the same time, this activism by the Western Muslims can serve as a direct link between the people of the region and Western people. The Western Muslims can become trusted informants and advisers.

All of these reasons serve as a profound rationale for American Muslim leaders to participate in this activism in order to promote conflict resolution and an expeditious military exit strategy in Afghanistan. If this groundbreaking work can be achieved with some degree of success, in shaa Allah, we will gain incredible amounts of leverage, legitimacy, and recognition.

Neither America nor its government is monolithic. There are opposing forces on any issue at any given time. We may face difficult challenges from some groups while pioneering this work. However, we may also receive support and cooperation from many others. We will reach out and establish a dynamic and large network of civil society organizations conducive to our work.

Even if we began this process as an ant, we will emerge as an elephant, God willing. This initiative in Afghanistan will empower the Western Muslim community and help to uplift our image and position as peace brokers. This leverage will also enable us to forge ahead on other endeavors of international importance with newfound political capital. These thoughts are a tall order indeed, but our initiative in Afghanistan is certainly achievable today under a consolidated leadership from American Muslims.

The following are some humble suggestions for prerequisites in order to ensure success in this visionary endeavor:

1) A core cadre composed of a cohesive group of leaders and thinkers that can formulate a visionary agenda, including multiple leaders that possess national and international importance. We need support and guidance from visionary American Muslim leaders. We also need to meet face-to-face in order to brainstorm such an agenda. This requires a degree of commitment, but not so much commitment that these leaders have to disengage themselves from the rest of their present work. A group such as MPJP can provide the legwork necessary to carry out this agenda, under the leadership of visionary American Muslims.

2) A dynamic structure within the coalition, with by-laws that incorporate diversity among the body of participants yet maintain intimate cohesion at the top levels due to the need for agility and adaptability during decision-making processes. Without proper top-level management — necessary to adapt to a changing environment and to respond quickly — our work could potentially become compromised. Diversity will provide us with legitimacy and strength, while cohesive decision-making will increase our effectiveness.

3) Form an ad-hoc committee that will arrange a diplomatic delegation to Afghanistan, making sure to include meetings with citizens, activists, and leaders of all sides including opposing forces such as the Taliban. Our involvement and dialogue will gear towards convincing all parties to participate in negotiations and peacefully settle conflicts. Many prominent generals concur that sustainable conflict resolution can occur through negotiation with the insurgents. They are indigenous people with a difficult terrain and an open border with Pakistan, and their guerilla strategy will be extremely difficult to defeat. Through a creative path that utilizes constructive engagement, it is possible that they can be brought back to the negotiating table.

4) We must strive to keep a broad agenda throughout this initiative, an agenda that comprehensively takes into account social, political, and economic dimensions in order to foster sustainable long-term solutions. Many international organizations perform commendable jobs in issue-specific areas such as human rights and women’s rights, but as a result more holistic issues such as good governance and economic sustainability get neglected by NGOs. We need to avoid compartmentalizing our goals in order to assist the Afghan people towards a win-win situation.

5) In order to create a transnational presence, we need to engage with civil society organizations throughout America, the rest of the Western nations, and the Muslim world.

6) Our true leverage will come from grassroots support among mainstream people in the West and in Muslim societies.

7) We must engage with different governmental institutions among the West and among Muslim-majority societies. In America, these governmental circles include the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Obama administration including the State Department. We already have initial connections that can be utilized to the fullest, in shaa Allah.

8) We should fully utilize the Internet and media as conduits for our message and our ideas.

9) We must remain as independent, credible, and professional as possible. Therefore, our financing and support must not come from any source that could create a conflict of interest — governmental or non-governmental, home or abroad.

Initially, America had gained enormous trust and command in the region in the 1980s. The Taliban and al-Qaeda did not initially exist, and Mujahideen forces allied with America fought against the Soviet occupation and ousted them in 1989. Confidence and goodwill skyrocketed after the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall fell. In the long history of Afghanistan, no foreign power received as much trust or goodwill as America received at that time. If this political capital had been invested into the transformation of this difficult region, our successes would have dwarfed the Marshall Plan and the face of this region would have been quite different today.

Instead, America faces a deep quagmire today, and the United States government devotes much more money to military operations than to foreign aid and reconstruction. As of June 2009, Congress had approved a total of $944 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but only 5% of these funds went to foreign aid and embassy operations, while 94% went directly to the Department of Defense.

However, both the West and the Muslim world desperately need the peaceful activism that MPJP offers today. The Muslim world needs the West in order to achieve rapid economic progress that can overcome the volatility caused by frustrations among a vast and fast-growing young generation in the Muslim world. In this globalized society, the West also needs stability and prosperity in the Muslim world in order to achieve its greater interests of national security. The Muslim world constitutes one-fifth of humanity spread over roughly fifty countries, and it controls 75% of the oil reserves in the world. Our mutual need for common welfare and long-term solutions remain more compelling than ever before.

Our challenge in our time is to search for political and social catalysts that can bring about the credibility, trust, and confidence needed to create win-win situations. With proper grooming, support, and leverage, we can raise a visionary and forceful leadership from among American Muslims to spearhead an international movement for peace, justice, and progress.

Ruby Amatulla
Executive Director
Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
www.mpjp.org
mpjp@mpjp.org

TABLE 1: AFGHANISTAN AT A GLIMPSE

—Defense Secretary Robert Gates states that “the civilian component and the development component of our relationship with Afghanistan will become predominant.”
—Oxfam stated that “there is no purely military solution to Afghanistan.”
—Shura consultations in Afghanistan repeatedly reaffirm that brainpower is needed in Afghanistan rather than firepower in order to ensure a stable future.

—Although much has been achieved since the fall of the Taliban, many indicators for quality of life in Afghanistan remain low. Only 26% of the adult population is literate, along with only 34% of children. Many classrooms are overburdened and are conducted under trees or in tents, and gangs have attempted to attack schools as recently as 2008, when 15 girls were violently assaulted with battery acid outside of the Mirwais School in Kandahar. 46% of Afghans do not believe that they were better off than in 2001. The country has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, along with an average adult life expectancy of 46 years.

—Currently, the United States government devotes much more money to military operations than to foreign aid and reconstruction. As of June 2009, Congress had approved a total of $944 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but only 5% of these funds went to foreign aid and embassy operations, while 94% went directly to the Department of Defense.

—The human cost of war is also high. Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed, both directly due to both foreign military and insurgent action as well as indirectly as a result of displacement, poor living conditions, and crime. Almost 900 American servicemen have died in the war in Afghanistan, with an additional 4500 wounded including 2500 not returning to duty. This does not count additional casualties suffered by all the members of the international coalition forces.
—As stated in the mainstream press, Obama recently announced an increase in 30,000 troops to the region. However, Obama conducted nine closed-door meetings to assess recent deployment of troops to Afghanistan, lacking any public testimony on Capitol Hill or Congressional hearings to guide his decisions. No consultation was conducted with the shura elders in Afghanistan, and the Washington decision-making process lacked the openness and transparency that is imperative for such a serious endeavor.

—Prominent national and international leaders continually assert the need for civilian and nongovernmental organizations to assist in the path towards peace in Afghanistan. MPJP’s core idea is to work along that line. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that civilian efforts are as “vital as military operations” in the region, as “we have begun to elevate diplomacy and development alongside defense in our national security strategy. When interviewed after a strategic summit in Berlin, Commander of the US Central Command David Petraeus stated that our top priority in Afghanistan should be “to drink more tea with the locals.” In other words, the US government and military should focus on building relationships in order to ensure long-term security. Chris Kolenda, one of General McChrystal’s own advisors, has said that the conflict will ultimately be won through education that promotes peace, tolerance, and prosperity rather than bombs and bullets. Civilian organizations such as Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute and Pennies for Peace have already encountered fantastic success in humanitarian and diplomatic work throughout Afghanistan.

Lead Activists Needed for Upcoming Campaign!

Salaam alaikum! We are Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress, a nonprofit organization that is building a movement for constructive engagement and peaceful conflict resolution between the West and the Muslim world. (See: www.mpjp.org) We have seen too much war, too much cynicism, too much hatred, and too much Islamophobia in the last few years. We’re sick of it. We need peace instead of stupidity. Our organization has already attracted international interest, as well as the support of numerous esteemed scholars and MSA groups at high-profile American universities. In other words, we can get worldwide support for this powerful and visionary new movement…..if, of course, individuals like you participate in our movement as well!

We are currently looking for Lead Organizers in all regions across the United States. Essentially, all Lead Organizers will spread the word about any current campaigns we have going on at the moment (i.e. placing flyers in masjids, publishing articles in newspapers, talking to local Muslim community leaders, etc). This work will help to ensure that we have grassroots publicity and support for our work. Again, this is easy work; we are not looking to take up too much of your time or to create any undue difficulties for you, nor do we expect you to organize rallies with hundreds of people in attendance. But we need interested individuals in every state and in every city to do what they can. This grassroots support is ESSENTIAL for our organization to succeed.

If you are interested, please send us 1) your name, 2) a few sentences describing yourself and your skills, 3) your email, and 4) your phone number (if you feel comfortable giving it out). We don’t really like mass mailing lists, so we aren’t going to send you 5 million emails a day. Our goal is to make the personal connections necessary with individuals like you in order to make this movement succeed.

What are our accomplishments so far? We have received support from prominent individuals such as Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati from the Muslim Public Affairs Coalition, Imam Zaid Shakir, Muzammil Siddiqi from the Fiqh Council of North America, Dr. Sayyid Syeed, and others. Our director, Ruby Amatulla, formerly co-founded the American Muslim Iraq Peace Initiative, a coalition of 22 organizations including CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, UMAA, IIIT, IECOC, and many others. We recently hosted a conference at Emory University with guests such as Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Juan Cole, and Hamid Dabashi. Right now, we are currently building the momentum for a lobbying office in Washington DC, as no current Muslim American organization specifically works on international reconciliation.

With a broad movement such as this, in shaa Allah, we hope to bring a noticeable presence for peace that Western leaders will recognize as legitimate. This is probably the best time in American history to do this work, as the Obama administration – regardless of its faults – remains more open to change than any other previous administration. We also hope to collaborate with other movements and organizations that have similar goals to ours.

Peace be to you, and we hope to hear from you soon. JazakAllah khair,

Muslims for Peace, Justice and Progress
www.mpjp.org
mpjp.org@gmail.com

MPJP on The American Muslim radio show

Hi everyone,

Earlier this morning on 11-28-09, we were the featured guest on Robert Salaam’s great DC-based radio talk show, The American Muslim Radio Show. If you want to listen to it, our show is archived at this website:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theamericanmuslim/2009/11/28/the-critical-r…

Robert Salaam’s show is featured every Saturday at 11AM EST if you are interested in listening weekly.

A Monumental Task for American Muslims

(Reprinted from front page of AltMuslim, http://www.altmuslim.com/a/a/print/3408/ )

A MONUMENTAL TASK FOR AMERICAN MUSLIMS

By Ruby Amatulla
November 13, 2009

As a Muslim, I condemn the horrific tragedy that occurred at Fort Hood last Thursday. My heart goes out to the families of American service members who were killed and wounded in the shooting. I am afraid that this incident will disrupt the collective interests of all human beings due to a new wave of distrust and cynicism.

Islam does not condone such killings. The Qur’an clearly states that deliberate killing of an innocent human being constitutes crimes against humanity. Incidents like this can shatter the composure of hundreds of millions of Muslims who want peace and work every day for peace within themselves and their societies.

Who are the victims of this tragic and shameless act? It is not only the victims and their families. Our whole world is victimized by this hatred, anger, and violence. As a result of these events, churches may turn against mosques and media groups may stereotype minorities. People may eye one another more suspiciously and pundits may grow angrier in tone. Vested interests may also manipulate these societal divisions in order to pursue their own ends.

How can we save societies from such abhorrent events? Criminals and crime exist in every community. However, against a larger context of antagonism between cultures, an event like this breeds an ever-increasing cycle of hatred. Given the current confrontational attitude between the West and the Muslim world, any single event like this can victimize countless people through guilt by association.

Strangely enough, these events resemble modern Indian history. Within India, Hindus and Muslims lived side by side for over a millennium until the British colonized both communities, utilizing the dreaded policy of “divide and conquer.” With instigation from several vested interests, a small band of lunatics started several communal riots and led the sub-continent to disorder.

In order to prevent such destructive and divisive behavior, we need to bridge the gap and build trust across cultures and nations. Transnational citizen activism can serve as an inspiring catalyst towards transformational diplomacy. And who can promote peace and reconciliation between cultures more effectively than the common denominator between cultures? American Muslims have a compelling need and a great opportunity to promote constructive engagement between the West and the Muslim world right now.

The confrontational standoff between the United States and the Muslim world remains a failure in our era. Violent conflicts for the last several decades have become tragic liabilities for all parties involved. Two wars in two countries have left hundreds of thousands people dead, hundreds of billions of dollars spent, nothing measurable achieved, and no end in sight. If we want to change our future, we should learn from our past.

I believe that nonviolence has enormous potential to bring about positive social change. While war is sometimes necessary to prevent massive injustice, war cannot rebuild a nation. Many recent wars have maintained little capacity to foster long-term solutions. Prominent military generals all across the Atlantic readily admit this fact. Long-term solutions can only occur through diplomatic engagement.

In other times in history, America has succeeded with flying colors when it promoted constructive engagements in periods of conflict. The Marshall Plan rebuilt devastated and defeated enemy nations after World War II, setting a new paradigm for international diplomacy. After the repressive and closed-door Cultural Revolution, America reached out to China and helped the nation to become a global partner. Regarding the Soviet Union, the abandonment of proxy wars of “containment” led to a more constructive policy of “détente” and a transformation that culminated with the end of the Cold War. These endeavors are giant leaps in the pursuit of global cooperation and collective welfare.

In these times, however, we have fallen profoundly short of our goals. America has failed to pursue a similar approach for the Muslim world, even though this region constitutes roughly 20% of humanity and possesses 75% of the world’s oil reserves. But American Muslims can still step up to the plate and call for change. They can initiate a civil discourse within America, and they can spearhead transnational activism to bring about a win-win agenda in our time.

A recent Pew Research survey stated that 65% of American Muslims were born in foreign lands. They have close ties with more than fifty countries around the world, and many of them are the cream of the crop from these lands. Many of the other 35% of Muslim Americans are African Americans, and this community has a stunning history of leadership in American social movements such as abolitionism and civil rights. In other words, American Muslims have enormous political capital if they unite to form a movement for diplomacy between East and West.

This incident at Fort Hood was only a symptom of a larger disease that exists between our civilizations. For the sake of our common welfare, American Muslims need to stand up for peace, justice, and progress.

(Ruby Amatulla is the Executive Director for Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress and a co-founder of the American Muslim Iraq Peace Initiative.)