Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Unwinding of the Arab Spring and The Resurgence of Extremism

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Tuesday, December 17th marked the third anniversary of the Middle East and North Africa popular uprisings or the so-called Arab Spring, which all started with the self-immolation of a Tunisian street against the harsh and humiliating treatment of his authoritarian government.

It was remarkably unprecedented for average Arabs to be able to topple their long-time dictators from the streets.

The ousting of Middle East dictators, who had long enjoyed Western support, made many argue for the emergence of strong moderate and electoral Muslim forces one the one hand, and the weakness, if not entirely irrelevance, of radical groups such as al-Qaeda, on the other.

It was at this time when Osama Bin Laden was killed. And earlier in May, after nearly a dozen years since the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Obama sought to narrow the scope of the so-called War on Terror.

“Al-Qaeda was on the path to defeat,” he declared at the National Defense University in his nation’s capital. But over the past few months, things seem to have been turning upside down. In Egypt and Tunisia, the first democratically elected Islamist leaders have been forced to resign.

Elsewhere, radical Islamists seem to have been on the rise rather than “ on the path to defeat,” as their militants have found new safe havens in Libya and Syria and continue to kill, kidnap and sow terror across much of Africa and the Middle East.

The attacks launched by al-Qaeda and its proxies have been powerful and indiscriminate. They have targeted shopping malls in Africa, government and rebel forces in Syria, and also broken into major prisons, setting their fellow fighters free in Afghanistan and Iraq.

- So as the Arab Spring hopes are fading, is radical Islamism resurgent?
 - How does Obama treat these developments?
Apart from the massive drone campaign, does the Obama Administration have a coherent counter-terrorism policy?

To discuss this subject, Rudaw's Namo Abdulla talk to:
- David Rennie, Washington Bureau Chief of The Economist magazine.
- Ahmad Majidyar, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative foreign policy think thank, is joining us.

Is Islam A Religion of Peace?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, DC -The near-three-year-old civil war in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people. It has also caused a refugee crisis, resulting in the displacement of millions of people.

For many, the conflict appears like a religious war between the Sunnis and the Alawites, who are an offshoot of Shia Islam.

Almost all Sunni countries support Sunni-dominated rebels, while Shiite-led nations and groups such as Iran, Iraq, and Hizbollah support and aid the Allawite regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

External support has only intensified the conflict, resulting in more bloodshed and deaths of more civilians. Every side of the conflict argues that Allah or God is on their side.

The intensification of conflicts in the Muslim world has prompted many to ask a more fundamental question: Is Islam a religion of peace?

Critics of Islam may say there’s no point in asking such a question: just look at all the killings and suicide attacks Muslims carry out across the globe.

The answer is clear. Supporters of Islam may say it’s utterly offensive to blame an entire faith for the actions of a small group of Muslims?

Can we blame Christianity as a religion for the conflicts of the medieval ages or more recently the genocide in Rwanda?

To debate whether Islam is a religion of peace, Rudaw's Namo Abdulla talks to:

- Dr. Sayyid Syeed, Director of Interfaith & Community Alliances at Islamic Society of North America.
- Dr. David Wurmser, a Middle East expert who served as an advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney.