Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ahmadinejad at the UN - Transcript and issues

The full transcript of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2007 address to the United Nations is given here. Ahmadinejad's "opting out" of cooperation with the Security Council raises a number of issues regarding Iran's nuclear development program, which are complicated by fresh revelations and even boasts that Iran may have a concealed nuclear program in addition to the facilities now under IAEA inspection.
Read it -- think about it. Perhaps it doesn't mean what you think it means.
Ami Isseroff

The US is probably in Iraq to stay, maybe

A remarkable fact emerged from a recent debate among top Democratic party contenders for the US presidency. Unless they are lying, which is not unheard of as regards politicians, the US is in Iraq to stay. None of the candidates would promise to withdraw troops by the end of the next presidential term in 2013.
As Washington Post explains, For a Democrat, Options in Iraq Could Be Few. On the face of it, this seems to mean that there just is no responsible way to walk away from Iraq. Both the domestic political fallout, and the actual geopolitical consequences for US presence in the Middle East, would be disastrous.
On the other hand, it could just mean that campaign managers decided that any candidate who says they are going to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq will lose the election. Or, circumstances, such as rising casualties and increasing budgetary concerns, could force a re-evaluation.
Nonetheless, it is a fact that cannot be ignored. Middle East geopolitics just changed dramatically. Nobody can count any longer on an imminent US collapse in Iraq
Ami Isseroff

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sense and nonsense about Democracy in the Middle East


A recent debate aired by NPR exposes the weaknesses of Western approaches to democracy in the Middle East.

The debate asked the question:

Is it really in the United States' interest to promote free elections in countries where the most politically powerful groups may be fundamentally anti-American and undemocratic?
...the formal proposition was "Spreading Democracy in the Middle East is a Bad Idea."

The usual people were invited, and gave the expected sorts of answers. For example, Flynt Leverett stated:

While there is no evidence
that democracy reduces the incidence of terrorism, there is ample evidence -- from places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- that holding more open elections in these and other societies would produce governments that are more anti-American than incumbent regimes ... The best hope for modernization, and ultimately liberalization, in the Arab and Muslim worlds today lies in incumbent regimes who recognize that, first of all, economic modernization is essential to their country's future."

Continued here.

Middle East losing war for talent

Middle East losing war for talent - an unsurprising headline, but a surprisingly  contradictory story about Middle East countries attracting talent. Compare:
Saudi Arabia and Egypt rank in the bottom five of the Global Talent Index, a new 30-country survey, worse still, their position in the table is forecast to remain static over the next five years, the research found.
It found that the situation in the Middle East is slowly improving. Egypt and Saudi Arabia will both move up one place over the next five years in the overall rankings; Egypt will overtake Brazil and Turkey.

Saudi Arabia will rank ninth in 2012 for the quality of its universities and business schools. The Kingdom's relatively high disposable incomes are also a plus, and will help its score for attractiveness to talent rise from 23rd place to 20th over the next five years.

Egypt is seeing improved FDI and will move from 11th to seventh position based on this specific rating between 2007 and 2012.
If these two countries are both in the bottom five places, how could Saudi Arabia be in the 23rd place??? Is it getting better or not? What is "FDI"??
Ami Isseroff

Who is starving Gaza??

Next time you read about the evil Zionists who are starving the poor residents of Gaza, and who do not want peace,  consider this:
Most of the 54 mortars fired Wednesday landed near the Sufa crossing terminal. The mortars fired Thursday by Hamas militants targeted crossing points at Eretz and Kerem Shalom. There has also been a great deal of intelligence on Hamas' plans to target the crossing points into Gaza.
As such, a paradox has emerged in which the Israeli government, the U.S. and Fatah believe that by exerting greater pressure on the Gaza Strip's residents, the people will overthrow the Hamas regime there, while the Islamic group is doing its best to shut down the crossings - perhaps assuming that if the civilians suffer more, they will side with Hamas.
Senior Hamas officials deny that they intend this. Ismail Haniyeh says Hamas is interested in opening the crossings, but he was hard-pressed to explain the obvious attempt by Hamas militants to destroy the crossings.
"The military wing decides its targets in an effort to bring an end to the siege over the Strip," he told Haaretz.
But how is shooting at the crossings expected to contribute to lifting the siege? Only Hamas seems to know the answer.
Among the militants continuing the attacks are those encouraged by Iran. As for Hamas, it is keeping to the limits it has set for itself: It claims responsibility for the mortar attacks, but the Qassam attacks are being outsourced to other groups it supports.
These attacks are expected to intensify as we close in on the summit scheduled to take place in Washington in November.
Every time there is movement toward peace, the attacks intensify. What is the conclusion?
Ami Isseroff

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia - and Israel

Ralph Seliger thinks it was not wise to invite Ahmadinejad, and I suppose he is right.

Ahmadinejad at Columbia: Really about Israel

Columbia University's president Lee Bollinger was most impressive when I saw him speak last spring at a conclave of Jewish lay leaders and professionals  organized by the American Jewish Committee in response to Jimmy Carter's "apartheid" book. He has been outspoken in his opposition to academic boycotts of Israel and the "Israel = apartheid" charge.
He may have misstepped in inviting Ahmadinejad to Columbia the other day, but it was with the best of intentions: to challenge and expose the latter's outrageous views on the Holocaust and Israel. Bollinger's take-no-prisoners introductory remarks made this abundantly clear.

But while he and Columbia were in their rights to invite this guy, it was not wise. It gave Ahmadinejad a high-profile forum to espouse his odious views. Although this revealed his bigotry on homosexuality and his unwillingness to forthrightly own up to his antisemitism, Ahmadinejad expertly used Columbia as a platform to advance his propaganda assault against Israel.

When confronted on his Holocaust-denying ways, he denied his denial but called for more "research," implying that its historicity is an open question. He then deflected the issue by pointedly asking,  "Why should the Palestinians pay for an event they had nothing to do with?" (my paraphrase) to a round of applause.

While I certainly understand why this answer resonates with some, I wish to refute it. I do so not to deny the sufferings and injustices endured by the Palestinian Arab people in the wake of the Holocaust, but to provide some important historical details and to add moral texture.

Palestinian-Arab nationalist forces were uncompromising in their demand that Jewish immigration to the British Mandate of Palestine be ended, despite the fact that the Jews of continental Europe desperately needed a place of refuge from the looming Nazi onslaught. The most powerful Palestinian wartime leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, was an active ally of Hitler; he fought for the establishment of a pro-Nazi regime in Iraq and after fleeing to Germany following the defeat of the Iraqi rebellion in the spring of 1941, made propaganda broadcasts for the Axis and against the Jews and even recruited Balkan Muslims to the SS.

When the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan of 1947, they launched an all-out assault on the Yishuv, the Jewish presence in Palestine, attempting to destroy it a full six months before Israel's declaration of independence and the invasion of Palestine by regular armies from neighboring Arab states. They did not attack to implement a "binational state" in Palestine, but to extinguish Jewish autonomy in that country and perhaps even the physical existence of Jews there.

Again, this is not to excuse the harsh treatment meted out by Jewish militias and then by the nascent Israeli Defense Force in the fighting of November 1947 through January 1949. Nor to excuse Israel's uncompromising stance toward the refugees over the decades or to condone the second-class status that Arab citizens of Israel have lived under. But Israel was reacting to a traumatic effort to destroy it at its birth, one that came close to succeeding during the darkest days of the independence war in the first half of 1948. Neither side was pristine in their actions;
innocents suffered on both sides in their thousands.

If not for Iran's strident hostility, and its active assistance to Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel would pose no military threat to Iran — a non-Arab country that it has never fought and that does not even border on any of Israel's immediate neighbors. It is raw antisemitism that fuels Iran's hatred of Israel and Ahmadinejad's infuriating Holocaust denial.

Iran's Jewish community of 25,000 is not persecuted in a wholesale way, but there is no question that its status is precarious. Prominent Jews have been imprisoned as "Zionist agents" and the community has shrunk precipitously from its peak of about 80,000 at the time of the Islamic revolution, 28 years ago.

Ralph Seliger, editor,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ahmadinejad Columbia remarks removed from his Web site

Guess what?
But then they eliminated the whole QA it seems (see here for transcript) :

by PageOneQ

The official website of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has removed a portion of a transcript of his speech yesterday at Columbia University. In the scrubbed section, part of a question and answer period, Ahmadinejad said there are no homosexuals in Iran.

In a statement released by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission the organization noted that the comments had been removed from the Persian language version of the site, but left in the English transcription of the speech. Following an inquiry by PageOneQ made to the Iranian embassy, the entire question and answer period has been removed from the site.

PageOneQ and Raw Story reported Monday on Ahmadinejad's comments (Story - Video). In response to a question on the execution of gays in Iran, Ahmadinejad said there were no homosexuals in his country.

"In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country," he said. Audience members booed and howled at the guest. "In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don't know who has told you that we have it," he added.

"The first reaction of many of us was to join in the astonished response to President Ahmadinejad's clearly outrageous view that no lesbian or gay people live in Iran," said IGLHRC executive director Paula Ettlebrick. "But, the whitewashing of his comments from the eyes and ears of most Iranian citizens speaks to something more troubling. His denial attempts to simply erase from public view the lives of men and women who face regular abuse in his country. Perhaps he knows he could not credibly get away with such a denial among his own people."

The president's website normally contains full transcripts of Ahmadinejad's speeches. According to IGLHRC, no Persian language papers have reported on the remarks. "To date, not a single Persian-language media outlet in Iran - including Iran's official news agency, IRNA, and the semi-independent news agencies, ISNA, Mehrrnews and Farsnews, and the Wednesday morning newspapers - has reported on the President's comments," said IGLHRC's statement.


Anti-Zionist and anti-American quotes - Ahmadinejad in his own words

Following are some real anti-Zionist quotes from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
September 24, 2007:
Ahmadinejad about Homosexuals (Iran hangs them):
 In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country. (Laughter.) We don't have that in our country. (Booing.) In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it. (Laughter.)  Ahmadinejad at Columbia University
Ahmadinejad on Islam and the West and related matters:
(from an e-mail distributed by
Religious extremism and martyrdom:
  • "We don't shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world." 1
  • "The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world." 2
  • "Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi." 3
  • "Soon Islam will become the dominating force in the world, occupying first place in the number of followers amongst all other religions."4
  • "Is there a craft more beautiful, more sublime, more divine, than the craft of giving yourself to martyrdom and becoming holy? Do not doubt, Allah will prevail, and Islam will conquer mountain tops of the entire world." 5
  • "What is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow.'' 6 [President Ahmadinejad's comments on an aircraft crash in Tehran that killed 108 people in December 2005].
  • Ahmadinejad praises Iran for being able to recruit thousands of suicide bombers a day. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised his country's ability to recruit "hundreds of suicide bombers a day," saying "suicide is an invincible weapon. Suicide bombers in this land showed us the way, and they enlighten our future.??????? Amadinejad said the will to commit suicide was "one of the best ways of life." 7
  • "This regime (Israel) will one day disappear."8
  • "The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm.9
  • Israel is "a disgraceful stain on the Islamic world" 10
  • Israel is doomed to be "wiped from the map" in "a war of destiny." 11
  • Ahmadinejad said that "the countdown for the destruction of Israel" has begun. 12
  • Zionists are "the personification of Satan."13
  • "In the case of any unwise move by the fake regime of Israel, Iran's response will be so destructive and quick that this regime will regret its move for ever." 14
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that the Holocaust is a "myth."15
  • "Them (the Wt) invented the myth of the massacre of the Jews and placed it above Allah, religions and prophets."16

Iran, its nuclear ambitions and sanctions:

  • "By the grace of Allah, we (will be) a nuclear power."17
  • Ahmadinejad fired off a fresh barrage of warnings to the United Nations, saying Iran did "not give a damn" about demands to freeze sensitive nuclear work. 18
  • "Iran does not give a damn about resolutions." 19
  • "The Islamic republic of Iran has the capacity to quickly become a world superpower. If we believe in ourselves... no other power can be compared to us." 20
  • "Iran's enemies know your courage, faith and commitment to Islam and the land of Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders and the integrity of the Iranian nation and cut off the hand of any aggressor and place the sign of disgrace on their forehead." 21
  • "Our enemies should know that they are unable to even slightly hurt our nation and they cannot create the tiniest obstacle on its glorious and progressive way." 22
  • "In parallel to the official political war there is a hidden war going on and the Islamic states should benefit from their economic potential to cut off the hands of the enemies." 23
2 Pryce-Jones, David, ???????A Particular Madness????????Understanding Iran????????s Ahmadinejad,??????? National Review, May 8, 2006
3 Agence France Presse, April 28th, 2006
6 La Guardia, Anton, ???????????????Divine mission???????? driving Iran????????s new leader Ahmadinejad????????s confidence,??????? The Daily Telegraph, January 14th, 2006
7 Cohen, Dudi, ???????Iranian President lauds suicide bombers invincible,??????? YnetNews, April 1st, 2007
9 Baldwin, Tom, ???????The state of Israel will soon be history, says Iran????????s President,??????? The Times, April 15th, 2006
10 Agence France Presse, April 28th, 2006
11 Agence France Presse, April 28th, 2006
16 Ghazi, Siavosh. ???????Ahmadinejad qualifie de "mythe" l'Holocauste, ne c????de pas sur le nucl????aire,??????? Agence France Presse, 14 December, 2005
17 ???????Les prix du p????trole reculent avec la dissipation des craintes sur l'essence,??????? Agence France Presse, April 27th, 2006.
18 Agence France Presse, April 28th, 2006
29 Agence France Presse, April 28th, 2006
20 Agence France Presse, April 28th, 2006
21 Agence France Presse, April 28th, 2006
22 Agence France Presse, April 28th, 2006
Ahmadinejad On Israel and the Holocaust:
Source: here
August 28, 2007
"Zionists are people without any religion.  They are lying about being Jewish because religion means brotherhood, friendship and respecting other divine religions?
They are an organized minority who have infiltrated the world. They are not even a 10,000-strong organization."
(At a news conference in Tehran)


August 18, 2007 
"The Zionist regime is the flag bearer of violation and occupation and this regime is the flag of Satan. ?It is not unlikely that this regime be on the path to dissolution and deterioration when the philosophy behind its creation and survival is invalid."
(Address to an international religious conference in Tehran)
June 3, 2007
[Friendly intentions toward Israel]  "With God's help, the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed by the hands of the children of Lebanon and Palestine . . . By God's will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future."
(Speech, as quoted by the Fars News Agency)

March 21, 2007
"It is quite clear that a bunch of Zionist racists are the problem the modern world is facing today. They have access to global power and media centers and seek to use this access to keep the world in a state of hardship, poverty and grudge and strengthen their rule. The great nation of Iran is opposed to this inhuman trend. Of course, the Iranian nation will stick to its rightful stance. The Zionists and their supporters do not know that they are using failed approaches to take on human values, human civilization, nations and the great nation of Iran. Admitting the right of the dear Iranian nation and submitting to justice and the rule of law are the best way to salvation and the best way out of the deadlocks they have created for themselves."
(from a recorded New Year's message aired on Iranian television)

February 28, 2007
"The Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan . . . Many Western governments that claim to be pioneers of democracy and standard bearers of human rights close their eyes over crimes committed by the Zionists and by remaining silent support the Zionists due to their hedonistic and materialistic tendencies."
(to a meeting of Sudanese Islamic scholars in Khartoum)

December 12, 2006
"Thanks to people's wishes and God's will the trend for the existence of the Zionist regime is downwards and this is what God has promised and what all nations want?Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out"
(Comments to Iran's Holocaust Conference)
November 29, 2006
[About the "Israel Lobby'] "What have the Zionists done for the American people that the US administration considers itself obliged to blindly support these infamous aggressors?  Is it not because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors?"
(Letter from Ahmadinejad "to the American people")

November 13, 2006
[Friendly intentions toward Israel]
"Israel is destined for destruction and will soon disappear"
Israel is "a contradiction to nature, we foresee its rapid disappearance and destruction."
October 19, 2006
"The Zionist regime is counterfeit and illegitimate and cannot survive"
(as quoted by Iranian state television)
August 6, 2006
"They (Israel) kill women and children, young and old. And, behind closed doors, they make plans for the advancement of their evil goals."
(as quoted by Khorasan Provincial TV)
August 4, 2006
"A new Middle East will prevail without the existence of Israel."
(as quoted by Malaysian news agency Bernama website)
August 2, 2006
[Lebanon War] "Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented."
(as quoted by Iranian TV)
"Are they human beings?... They (Zionists) are a group of blood-thirsty savages putting all other criminals to shame."
(as quoted by Iranian TV)

July 16, 2006
"The Zionists think that they are victims of Hitler, but they act like Hitler and behave worse than Genghis Khan."
(as quoted by the Iranian News Agency)
July 13, 2006
"The Zionists and their protectors are the most detested people in all of humanity, and the hatred is increasing every day."
"The worse their crimes, the quicker they will fall." 
"[Israel] has blackened the pages of history".
(as quoted by Iranian state television)
June 16, 2006
[Holocaust denial] "I think we have sufficiently talked about this matter and these Holocaust events need to be further investigated by independent and impartial parties."
"An event that has influenced so many diplomatic and political equations of the world needs to investigated and researched by impartial and independent groups."
"If it is true, then the response to this question should not be solved in Palestine. The Palestinian question should be settled as soon as possible.  If it is false, why should such measures be taken against the people of Palestine?"
(a news conference following a meeting with China's president)

May 28, 2006
"I believe the German people are prisoners of the Holocaust.  More than 60 million were killed in World War II . . . The question is: Why is it that only the Jews are at the center of attention?"
"We say that if the Holocaust happened, then the Europeans must accept the consequences and the price should not be paid by Palestine.  If it did not happen, then the Jews must return to where they came from."
(in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine)
May 11, 2006
Israel is "a regime based on evil that cannot continue and one day will vanish."
(to a student rally in Jakarta, Indonesia)
April 24, 2006
''We say that this fake regime (Israel) cannot not logically continue to live. Open the doors (of Europe) and let the Jews go back to their own countries."
(In a news conference held on April 24, 2006)
April 14, 2006
"The Zionist regime is an injustice and by its very nature a permanent threat. Whether you like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation.  The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."
"If there is serious doubt over the Holocaust, there is no doubt over the catastrophe and holocaust being faced by the Palestinians. Holocaust has been continuing in Palestine over the past 60 years."
(In a speech at the opening of the "Support for the Palestinian Intifada" conference on April 14-16 hosted in Tehran)
February 23, 2006
[About terrorist bombings in Iraq] "These heinous acts are committed by a group of Zionists and occupiers that have failed. They have failed in the face of Islam's logic and justice . . . They invade the shrine and bomb there because they oppose God and justice . . . But be sure, you will not be saved from the wrath and power of the justice-seeking nations by resorting to such acts."
(In a speech broadcast on state television, where Ahmadinejad suggested that the bombing of a major Shiite shrine in Iraq ?y Sunni insurgents was plotted by Israel and the U.S. to divide Muslims.)

January 5, 2006
"Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final."
(To a group of Muslim clerics in the Iranian city of Qom, as quoted in the semi-official student news agency ISNA, in a reference to the illness of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon).
"[N]o Muslim nation would put up with this entity [i.e. Israel] in Islamic lands, not for one moment ? If it's true that the [Europeans] committed a big crime in World War II, then they must take responsibility for it themselves, and not ask the Palestinian people to pay the price ? Those countries that support this regime [Israel] were terrified at the suggestion that [Israel] should be relocated to their neighborhood. So why should the Palestinians and the countries in our region accept this entity?"
(In a speech before an audience in the Iranian city of Qom, aired on television)
January 2, 2006
"[The creation of Israel after World War II] killed two birds with one stone [for Europe] ? [The objectives achieved by Europe were] [s]weeping the Jews out of Europe and at the same time creating a European appendix with a Zionist and anti-Islamic nature in the heart of the Islamic world ?Zionism is a Western ideology and a colonialist idea ... and right now it massacres Muslims with direct guidance and help from the United States and a part of Europe ... Zionism is basically a new [form of] fascism."
(In written answers to questions from the public reproduced in several Iranian newspapers)
December 14, 2005
"Today, they [Europeans] have created a myth in the name of Holocaust and consider it to be above God, religion and the prophets ? This is our proposal: give a part of your own land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to them [Jews] so that the Jews can establish their country."
(Speaking to thousands of people in the Iranian city of Zahedan)

December 8, 2005
"Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces.... Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: Is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem?  If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe -- like in Germany, Austria or other countries -- to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe."
(While speaking to reporters at an Islamic summit in Mecca)
November 27, 2005
"You [the United States], who have used nuclear weapons against innocent people, who have used uranium ordnance in Iraq, should be tried as war criminals in courts."
(During a nationally televised ceremony of the establishment of Iran's volunteer Basij paramilitary)
October 29, 2005
"They [the United States] think they are the absolute rulers of the world."
(Marching in a demonstration alongside a crowd of students in Tehran)
October 28, 2005
"They [International Zionist and Expansionist Policies of the World Arrogance, i.e. United States and Israel] are cheeky humans, and they think that the entire world should obey them. They destroy Palestinian families and expect nobody to object to them."
(Defending his earlier comments)
October 26, 2005
"Israel must be wiped off the map ? The establishment of a Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world . . . The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of the war of destiny.  The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land."
(In an address to 4,000 students at a program titled, 'The World Without Zionism')
June 19, 2005
 [About the UN] "It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege."
(In an interview with state television shortly before his election)
June 8, 2005
The UN structure is one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam.
(In an interview on state television)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Transcripts: Ahmadinejad at Columbia, Press Club

The full transcripts of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's performances in the United States can be viewed here:
For those who remember, it is reminiscent of the visit of Khrushchev to the United States.
Ami Isseroff

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why Israel is not attacking Gaza

There are a lot of good reasons why Israel should attack Gaza, or there seem to be. But there are other over-riding considerations, as I argue here - Israel's Gaza Dilemma. Israel needs to give the Hamas a chance to hang themselves. They are doing a good job of it, since every day that they rule in Gaza makes their rule more and more unpopular. Palestinians generally insist that the Hamas government is unbearable. Eventually they might understand that the thing to do about an unbearable government is to replace it.
Ami Isseroff

Sabotaging moderate Muslims

Guess who wrote this?
"Islamist fundamentalist groups, which have concentrated virtually all their efforts on recruitment and consolidating forces, fear the open door from which the winds of independent thought might shake their unity of rank. Thus, their members have been left to create the contours of the fundamentalist dream on the basis of ancient works of jurisprudence. As a result, they have become even more rigid than their leaders and have come to form a powerful pressure group within the movement that not only hampers their leaderships' ability to proclaim fresh ideas but also restricts their leaderships' manoeuvrability, which is one of the essential prerequisites for any drive to attain a dream. What remains, then, is the vast ability to cause problems, bring down disaster on others and generally obstruct progress and development. "
Was it a Zionist Islamophobic Neocon? An advocate of war of civilizations? If we believe some Western whitewashers of Islamist fanaticism, only such people would write bad things about the nice Islamists like the Hezbollah, the Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood Group (see for example, Islamism: Perception versus Reality )
But in fact, it was written in Al Ahram newspaper, by Salah Eissa. In Muslim societies troubled by Islamist (or Jihadist) extremism, there is a growing movement of justifiable alarm and disillusionment with the extremist views and the narrow and reactionary concepts of society that these groups want to impose. Where "Islamist" or more properly "Islamic" political parties have succeeded democraticaly, in countries such as Turkey, they have abandoned, at least temporarily, the ambition of imposing Sha'aria law on all of society.
Paradoxically, in the West, the Islamist fanatics have recruited a coterie of apologists, who insist that any criticism of Islamism is "Islamophobia," and that Westerners had better learn to love restriction of intellectual life, persecution of homosexuals and repression of women in the interests of dialogue and multipluralistic liberal values. This paradoxical acceptance of an ultra-reactionary movement by "liberals" threatens to sabotage the efforts of moderate Muslims to return their societies to sanity, and to find a reasonable and progressive path between the corruption and failure pan-Arabist dictators and reactionary sheikhs on the one hand, and the threat of totalitarian religious societies posed by Islamists.
Ami Isseroff
Islamist inertia
In shutting the door to change, difference and reason, contemporary Islamist movements bind themselves to a mummified past, writes Salah Eissa*

Since 1979, when the Iranian revolution succeeded in toppling the peacock throne and founding an Islamic republic, "The Islamists are coming!" has been a cry that voiced the hopes of some and the fears of others.
For Islamist groups across the Arab- Islamic map, the Iranian revolution rekindled dreams of a victory of their own, even though these groups still suffered the after effects of successive waves of assault waged against them by Arab nationalist regimes from the early 1950s to the mid- 1970s. Not only did these campaigns throw Islamist groups into organisational disarray, and most of their leaders into prison, they also succeeded in turning the majority of the Arab public against them while luring it to the Arab nationalist model which seemed poised to realise their social and national aspirations.
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, the credibility of the Arab nationalist project waned and its popularity dwindled. By the time of the Iranian revolution, Islamist groups had just begun to emerge from their cocoons and present themselves as the alternative to all preceding national revival projects, as the untried path untainted by disaster and defeat.
Since then, all signs indicated that the Muslim fundamentalist movement was marching relentlessly forward. A military coup paved the way for their seizure of power in Sudan. They were steadily gaining ground in the parliaments in Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Algeria and, indeed, they won sizeable majorities in legislative elections in Palestine and Turkey. Their mounting popularity across the Arab world was also reflected in their growing, if not controlling, presence in many civil society organisations, notably in the occupational syndicates.
One factor that facilitated this progress was that some governments allied themselves with moderate Islamists in the hope of obstructing the danger of radical fundamentalists that espoused the use of violence. Some political parties and movements also pursued the same tactic, if for different ends, such as to combine forces against a common external enemy (the US and Israel) or against a domestic adversary (dictatorial regimes) or merely to hitch up with the Islamist trend in order to win more votes in the polls.
The West, spearheaded by the US, was alarmed at this development, in spite of the fact that it was instrumental in fostering it. The West had worked assiduously to destroy Arab nationalist governments that were once a bulwark against the fundamentalist tide. It also enlisted Muslim fundamentalists in its fight against communism. This alliance reached its zenith in the war to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet occupation and came to a reverberating close with the events of 11 September 2001.
But is the march of Muslim fundamentalists towards power in the Arab world, whether they succeed by coup or through democratic processes, irreversible? Has the civil state ended as a phase in political evolution and must we ready ourselves for a theocratic state?
The answer to these questions is affirmative if we judge solely by the balance of power between Muslim fundamentalists and other political forces. But it quickly moves to the negative once we take a closer look at the contradictions within the greater Islamist movement itself and unearth a number of weak points that could hamper its progress and perhaps thwart its goals entirely.
The problem with the Muslim fundamentalist project is that it is founded upon the utopian dream of reviving the Islamic state as it existed in its golden era. What is conspicuously lacking in the discourse of proponents of this project is a clear conception of the material means needed to resuscitate that past so many centuries after its death and to revive all the attendant circumstances that had enabled that state to flourish.
True, the ability of abstractions to tickle the deep religious grain of the Muslim people is a major reason for the widespread popularity of the fundamentalist project. However, when forced to come down to earth and deal with the difficulties that obstruct its path, or with the brass tacks of rule as dictated by balances of power and the various demands of reality, the project runs out of steam.
The fact is that the fundamentalist project has an Achilles heel. It posits a dream of reviving the glory of the Islamic empire but ignores the fact that what enabled that empire to flourish was its openness to other cultures and civilisations. This applies to Muslim jurists and theologians, as long as the doors to dialogue and the exercise of reason in light of the changes and challenges of contemporary reality remained open, furnishing a constant source of inspiration and renovation. Conversely, the decline of Islamic civilisation began when the door leading to the application of reason and independent thought was slammed shut. If their aim is to revive our ancient glory, proponents of the fundamentalist project should first strive to breach the gap between the 4th century in the Islamic calendar, when the door to ijtihad was closed, and the present, so as to be able to formulate a philosophy that suits the times in which we live.
But this seems unlikely. Islamist fundamentalist groups, which have concentrated virtually all their efforts on recruitment and consolidating forces, fear the open door from which the winds of independent thought might shake their unity of rank. Thus, their members have been left to create the contours of the fundamentalist dream on the basis of ancient works of jurisprudence. As a result, they have become even more rigid than their leaders and have come to form a powerful pressure group within the movement that not only hampers their leaderships' ability to proclaim fresh ideas but also restricts their leaderships' manoeuvrability, which is one of the essential prerequisites for any drive to attain a dream. What remains, then, is the vast ability to cause problems, bring down disaster on others and generally obstruct progress and development.
The danger, therefore, is not so much that "The Islamists are coming," but that they still have the power to obstruct progress towards democracy in Muslim countries.
* The writer is editor-in-chief of Al-Qahira weekly newspaper.