Category Archives: Islam and Elections

Iran at a Brezhnev Crossroad: an Aging Revolution, a Younger Unhappy Population, a Sistani Alternative…….

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On the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted this:
” @khamenei_ir
Dear prideful nation of #Iran! The greatness of your gatherings today, which, according to precise calculations, was more populated and morepassionate than previous years, was a resolute response to the enemies and oath-breakers….”
“Relying on their distorted false perceptions of Iran and Iranians, the enemies had spent all their propaganda efforts on trying to turn this year’s revolution celebration frigid or probably anti-revolution. You’ve exhibited the livelihood & dynamism of the revolution in practice…..”
Feb 11, 2018

This year’s anniversary of the last of the great popular revolutions of the twentieth century has been surrounded with interesting domestic developments. We know what happened with the other two revolutions, in Russia and China. In Russia they openly gave up on the ideology; in China they still pretend that the Communist system of Chairman Mao exists, but only as a means to legitimize one-party rule of a new oligarchy. In Iran, Ali Khamenei is trying to keep the flames of the old aging revolution alive. Did I leave out Cuba?

In a nation that is younger and wants more freedoms, more accountability, in an age of spreading social media and access to opinion. What to do?
Violent repression, for example Egyptian Sisi style, will not work anymore in Iran. During the recent protests a few weeks ago, many of the security forces were noticeably sympathetic to the protests. More subtle forms of protest continue. There will be more periodic protests; for years now people have been testing the limits of the freedoms allowed. And these limits have also expanded.

There has been gradual and incremental but unannounced openness by the regime, forced by the people. Giving in more publicly and at once will eventually open the floodgates to more encroachment of the feared global culture, and more demands for more openness and more freedoms.

What to do? Perhaps a Chinese solution? But the Chinese regime is now agnostic: politically Communist in the name of the one ruling party; economically and socially capitalistic and oligarchic to boot.

The Iranian ayatollahs pride themselves on some kind of “purity”, along the model of the old stubborn Soviet regime in the Brezhnev era, when all the revolutionary thrill was gone from the younger generation. But Iran is not a Soviet-style closed system: freedom of travel and emigration has never been curtailed. Social media thrive, as do international satellite television. Expatriate non-political Iranian exiles are freely allowed back into the country. All that has allowed a sort of safety valve but also created demands for more.

Rouhani is trying some short-term solutions. But that would only underline the need for a longer-term deal between the people and their government. The weak point is the position of the Supreme Leader. Chairman Mao is dead in China, but Ayatollah Khamenei is an unelected veto-holder. He is in a way selected by an elected assembly created to gate-keep access to power. But even so, he shares power with various other centers of power: the elected president of the republic (Rouhani), the elected and contentious parliament that takes its powers very seriously, other various senior clerics (more senior than Khamenei).

Then there is the ultimate theological marja’iya (last recourse in Shi’a theological matters) located in Najaf (Iraq). Najaf, where Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani is located, is like the Rome for Shi’a Muslims.

Ali Sistani does not support the idea of rule by the clergy, nor do many others, possibly most Shi’as. It is unlikely that this political ideology chasm between Najaf and Tehran/Qom will ever be closed on Tahran’s terms. If there is a closing, it will be Tehran and Qom moving closer to the Najaf school of thought in governing. A largely Islamic but diverse state with elected civilian non-clerical rule. That was the case in Iran under Mossadegh until August 1953, when his overthrow was engineered by Western intelligence agencies (CIA and British intelligence).

Iran has had at least one case of a Gorbachev in the past four decades. Khatami was paralysed by a conservative parliament, and the Supreme Leader. Rouhani may manage things better, but he has only a couple of years left of his presidency.

Meanwhile, the people, especially in the cities, will continue to chip away at the restrictions imposed by the clerics. The trend towards more openness will continue and accelerate; unless Donald Trump is talked by the hawks in the US Senate/Congress and by the Israeli likud and a couple of despotic Arab kings to start a new war. That will immediately lead to consolidation in Tehran. It happened before when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq started the eight-year war. He lost, but so did the people of Iran.

Oh, and forget about the regime change nonsense being peddled by frustrated hawks and chickenhawks in the USA. Remember: the 1953 Western intervention led to the current situation…….


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

French Islamic Micromanagement: Culture Wars and Democracy from Paris to the Gulf……..

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“France’s government is drawing up a new set of rules for theatres after Paris Opera ejected woman for wearing a veil during a performance, the institution’s deputy director said Sunday. The incident took place when a veiled woman was spotted on the front row of a performance of La Traviata at the Opera Bastille, Jean-Philippe Thiellay told AFP, confirming a media report. France brought in a law in 2011 banning anyone from wearing clothing that conceals the face in a public space, or face a 150 euro ($190) fine………. France’s ministry of culture said a bill was currently being drafted to remind theatres, museums and other public institutions under its supervision of the rules regarding veils……..”

The French worry a lot about losing ‘their culture’. Years ago they imposed rules and limits on how much foreign music French radio stations could broadcast. I am not sure how that affected stations that broadcast classical music: since the overwhelming majority of composers were Austrian, German, and Russian, with a smattering of other nationalities, including French. They were mainly worried about American music. Maybe that is why they were skeptical about NATO: they saw it as an Anglo-Saxon creation. They also tried to eliminate or limit ‘English’ words used in French media (no attempt was made to eradicate Latin influence since the original language of Gaul has vanished into it).

Now they continue to worry about hijab and niqab and Arabic (I have seen normally-rude Paris CDG airport staff openly mocking Arabic in front of foreign visitors). Yet, when they talk about ‘their culture’, they must mean the whole culture in France. That must surely include the ‘culture’ of the millions of French citizens and residents who are not of European descent. That means North African and African as well. Come to think of it, the French are as much in cultural denial as we are on the Gulf. This French denial is almost like, say, if the rulers of the United Arab Emirates ban such languages as Hindi or Urdu, which a majority of the population of the UAE and Qatar speak.

I am not fond of the Neqab or Burqa: they raise security issues at airports and elsewhere. They are also probably imposed on many of the women who wear them. But I must admit that some of these women are probably better off to keep on wearing them. After all, occasionally there is something positive to be said for the imagination. Yet all this also has some worldwide implications.

So, maybe if and when a majority of the French parliament become of Muslim descent, then maybe this attire policy will change. Just as it is possible now for the UAE parliament, for example, to vote to make Hindi and Urdu official languages. 
Wait, my bad: there is no elected parliament in the UAE. Maybe after they impose free elections in a liberated Syria they will import the idea and have their own free elections. The same can apply for the Saudis and the Qataris. I can’t wait to see King Whatishisname and Shaikh Whatishisass bumbling in election debates.

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UAE Pivoting: Brothers Karamazov to the Shores of Tripoli……..

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“From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and sea………”

“Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were responsible for carrying out two series of air strikes in the past week on armed Islamist factions in Tripoli, Libya, US officials said on Monday. The officials said the two Arab countries used aircraft based in Egypt. Earlier the New York Times reported that the two US allies acted without consulting Washington………..”

If you have a choice between believing Egyptian (and UAE) officials and American officials, whom would you believe? I’d take my chances with U.S. officials, since they are subject to public and media scrutiny (er, ahem, not that they would lie even if they could get away with it). Besides, Egyptian officials are notorious serial liars, possibly the lying-est in the history of the Middle East.

But the United Arab Emirates flexing military muscle in the MENA region (with help from their little man in Egypt)? The private fiefdom of the Bin Zayed Al Nahayan brothers? As someone who is rude and crude (which I am not) would exclaim: the UnitedFuckingEmirates? The funny country that is 87% composed of imported temporary foreigner laborers and reportedly relies on a Blackwater-advised foreign mercenary force of Colombians and White South Africans and Australians and others to keep order? That is a shocker.

The Al Nahayan brothers are pivoting from the Persian Gulf toward North Africa now. They helped mess up Bahrain by joining the Al Saud invasion to crush the popular uprising and prevent the liberation of Bahrain in 2011. They joined up with French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and John McCain and NATO bombers to help liberate Libya in the same year. They helped muddy the waters in Syria in 2011 and convert a popular uprising into a Wahhabi-financed and armed Jihadi terrorist campaign. There are some reports of a sisterly role for the brothers in the rise of ISIS and its Caliphate in Iraq and Syria and back to Iraq.
What Mr. Vladimir Putin should worry about now is if the brothers decide to pivot to the Ukraine and maybe seek to liberate the Crimea. Mr. Obama may have to worry about the brothers Al Nahayan pivoting toward the far east, thus complicating his own efforts at pivoting toward the arms of his Chinese business partners and Kim-Jong Un.


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Revolutionary Mufti Urges Muslim Leaders to Repress their Peoples with Respect ……


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Saudi Mufti Shaikh Al Al Al Shaikh has gone revolutionary, or so it seems. He has warned leaders of Islamic countries against imposing “restrictions” or insulting the “dignity” of their peoples. He urged leaders to build bridges with their peoples. He did not specify polygamy, taking many wives from many tribes, as a form of bridge-building either. He was apparently talking about something deeper.

Interesting, since in the past Shaikh Al has usually urged the people to obey and respect and love their leaders (except in Libya and Syria and Iraq and possibly Belize). The shaikh also called for some half-assed Islamic “union”, to be led by his princes, the very same princes the Caliph Omar, and two others, would have ordered publicly whipped for corruption on earth, and rightly so.
If the Saudi case is an example, then he has no worry. The princes and their retainers rob and repress the people with the utmost respect. Those who object to being robbed and repressed are made to vanish with the utmost discretion, so discrete that you never ever hear a Western leader criticizing them, which is one way to show you’re being respectful.


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Imams, Potentates, Generals, and Scoundrels………


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What is all this with “Imams” these days? Nowadays it seems Muslim Imams are coming out of the woodwork. Suddenly I found out a few weeks ago that Shaikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi is calling himself Imam on his website. Now. More recently, they are calling the Shaikh of Al Azhar the Imam, nay the Grand Imam no less, of Al Azhar. Ali Al Sistani in Najaf does not yet call himself Grand Imam, and I hope he does not. Nor does the Saudi Mufti Shaikh Al, yet. but It is probably coming.

Historically and traditionally anyone who leads people in prayer, prays in front of them, is called Imam. That is what the Arabic “Imam” word means, someone who leads in prayer. It can imply wisdom and experience, but obviously not necessarily so. Even Generalissimo Al Sisi of Egypt can be called Imam one of these days if he leads people in prayer. He just might do that someday if things get tough in Cairo. Dr. Mohamed Morsi never did and we know where he is now. Mr. Erdogan of Turkey has not taken that plunge yet. Bashar Al Assad would never consider it: he knows it won’t work in Syria.
This “Imam” business is becoming a fad. Soon the former Shaikh of Bahrain, now self-styled King, will start calling himself Imam. Or maybe the prime minister will. King Abdullah may start calling himself Imam, although he does not lead in prayer. No, not Abdullah of Jordan, the other Abdullah. It will be a problem in the UAE: the rulers of the seven emirates can’t all be Imams. Most likely one of the Al Nahayan brothers. I was just thinking of the goateed Saad Hariri of Lebanon and…………never mind.


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Wahhabi Distortion of Islam: Banning Elections, Idolizing Kings and Princes………


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“She said: Kings, when they enter a land, they ruin it, and make its noble people its meanest, thus do they behave…….” Holy Quran (Saurat al-Naml: The Ants)
(Some might say I am taking it out of context. They’re probably wrong)

“Election is banned in Islam: Saudi scholar. A well-known Saudi Islamic scholar has issued a new fatwa (edict) saying holding elections for a president or another form of leadership is prohibited in Islam. Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Nassir Al Barrak, reputed for his radical views, described western-style elections as an alien phenomenon to Islamic countries.“Electing a president or another form of leadership or council members is prohibited in Islam as it has been introduced by the enemies of Moslems,” he wrote on his Twitter page, according to Saudi newspapers. “Selecting an Imam (leader) must be up to the decision-making people not the public…election is a corrupt system which is not based on any legal or logical concept for those who enforce this system by some Moslems…this system has been brought by the anti-Islam parties who have occupied Moslem land.”………..”

This Wahhabi shaikh played music to the ears of the absolute princes: “Selecting a leader must be up to the decision-making people not the public”

This “scholar” will probably get his rewards in this world. It must be clear by now that many if not most of these Saudi clerics and muftis are basically mercenaries (or outlying extremists, or both) . The chief Mufti Shaikh Al Shaikh repeatedly calls protesters and dissidents infiltrators who seek to create “fitna” (except in Syria and Libya for some odd reason). Most of the rest of the Saudi clerics, those who are not in prison or in exile, usually fall in line.
Of course they are distorting history and Islam, these Wahhabi shaikhs of the palace. It is they who are un-Islamic, since Islam was, is, against absolute hereditary monarchy. Islamic leaders, in the early decades when true Islam ruled, where chosen by the Muslims. (They probably also did some politicking). That was how the first four caliphs came to be leaders: from Abu Bakr to Omar and Othman and Ali. Later, the Umayyads in Damascus started the first hereditary dynastic monarchy in Islam. That started a trend that continued until the Mongols sacked Baghdad.


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