Sunday, June 05, 2005

Terrorists Not Responsible for Terrorist Attack

It happened in Balad, Iraq. Or Mazaari or Yethrib or Saud. Truly it happened in a remote village north of Baghdad. Late Thursday or earlier on Thursday a man drove a car or a minivan or a minibus laden with explosives into a gathering of Sufi Muslims belonging to the Kasnazani or Rifai order. Or else he strapped a belt of explosives onto himself and walked into the gathering of Sufis. It was a headquarters, a house, a mosque, monastery, or simply a "place of worship." ( Witnesses used the term tekiya or takia). The explosives detonated, injuring many people. Nine or ten people died.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but fingers have been pointed at the usual suspects. Juan Cole, an expert on such matters by trade, attributes the attack to Salifis expressing outrage at the order's betrayal of the guerrilla movement. Edward Wong of the New York Times also points to Salafis, though in the context of "sectarian violence" rather than a "guerrilla movement." He writes, "adherents of the conservative Salafiya sect, another branch of Sunni Islam, have killed Sufis for centuries and desecrated their tombs, denouncing them as infidels. Prominent Salafi fighters include Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant, and Osama bin Laden." Sam Knight writing for a different Times explains that "Sufi mystics are a target of Islamic extremists, who dispute their interpretation of the Koran." Andy Mosher and Salih Saif Aldin of the Washington Post tie together themes of sectarian violence and the insurgency®: "Although Iraq's Sufis generally consider themselves part of Sunni Islam, they practice a mystical form of Islam that is distinct from the Sunni mainstream and is rejected by the more austere, hard-line Sunnis who form the core of the insurgency in Iraq." Ashraf Khalil, writing for the Los Angeles Times, cites unnamed Sufi adherents who claim that the attack "was an inevitable extension of standing suspicion toward Sufism from Sunni extremists whose ideas have permeated the insurgency." Khalil adds that "Sufis tend to be viewed with a certain bemused suspicion by mainstream Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere, particularly in recent years as Wahhabism, a fundamentalist Islamic doctrine, has spread from the Gulf states. Sufism is banned in Saudi Arabia but is officially recognized and respected in most other states." Khalil interveiwed a Sufi Sheikh in Baghdad who pointed a finger squarely at Al Qaeda. But further into the story Khalil writes that the Sheikh "and others blamed the attacks on takfiriyeen — a catch-all term for Sunni fundamentalists who declare Sufis, Shiites and any other variant on what they consider 'pure' Islam, to be kafir, or apostates."

One thing I have learned from all these stories is that nobody suspects that terrorists carried out the attack which killed at least nine defenseless people and injured many more. That's rather curious because a lot of people are pointing fingers at members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization. If bin Laden's followers can't be accurately described as terrorists--a catch-all term for those who deliberately carry out violent attacks against defenseless people--then nobody can be fairly or accurately described as a terrorist. Now that is an interesting development.

posted by Fido the Yak at 5:28 PM. 1 comments

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mahjoub Salih Awarded Golden Pen

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has awarded its annual press freedom prize, the Golden Pen of Freedom, to Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, the editor of Sudan's oldest independent newspaper, Al-Ayam (reported here and here). "In a country with one of the most restrictive media environments in Africa, Mr. Salih is a pioneer and a hero for the independent press," said WAN board members. Ibrahim Nawar concurs (pdf). "Mahjoub Saleh is by far the real hero of the Sudanese free and independent media. He has always enjoyed the respect and the admiration of his fellow journalists in Sudan, in the Arab world and internationally. Mahjoub Saleh’s lifetime achievements qualify him for a remarkable place in the history of the Arab media. Arab Press Freedom Watch (APFW) and I are proud of the work of Mr Saleh and of the international recognition awarded to him."

Salih used his acceptance speech to stress that a free press is vital to the promotion of peace, justice and democratic government.

You may be aware that Sudan has recently signed a peace accord that brought to an end Africa’s longest civil war that over two decades claimed over two million lives and displaced four million people. We are at the moment negotiating yet another peace agreement, which will hopefully end the tragic armed conflict in the Darfur of Western Sudan. In addition to that we have embarked on a constitutional democratic transformation process. Both local and international media should feel proud of this achievement. Had it not been for its concerted effort to uncover and publicise the facts of this tragic conflict peace could not have been achieved. Resistant and courageous efforts of journalists all over the world exposed and publicised the atrocities of the war and mobilized world public opinion to press for peace.

This underlines the importance of independent and committed journalism. I cannot help feeling that had the press been free in exposing these atrocities from the beginning of the conflict, peace would have been achieved years back and a lot of tragic miseries could have been avoided. But unfortunately this had not been possible then, because of repressive laws that imposed a curtain of silence which prevented truthful reporting and kept the world ignorant of event until sustained and courageous professional efforts pierced that curtain and exposed the tragedy.

Salih was asked whether he thought the existence of free media in Sudan could have influenced events in Darfur.

I definitely think so. The proof is simple: all the present attention Darfur is receiving, is due to media coverage of the tragic situation there. Had Sudanese media been allowed to focus on Darfur when the crisis was just starting, a lot of misery could have been avoided and the conflict resolved before it became such a complex catastrophe. Al Ayam started focusing on Darfur two years back but we were stopped, punished and eventually closed down. A complete news black out set in. This allowed the conflict to rage unabatedly.

posted by Fido the Yak at 9:28 PM. 0 comments