“Photos of beheadings, extremist propaganda and violent hate speech related to Islamic State and the Taliban were shared for months within Facebook groups over the past year despite the social networking giant’s claims it had increased efforts to remove such content.
The posts — some tagged as “insightful” and “engaging” via new Facebook tools to promote community interactions — championed the Islamic extremists’ violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, including videos of suicide bombings and calls to attack rivals across the region and in the West, according to a review of social media activity between April and December. At least one of the groups contained more than 100,000 members.
In several Facebook groups, competing Sunni and Shia militia trolled each other by posting pornographic images and other obscene photos into rival groups in the hope Facebook would remove those communities.
In others, Islamic State supporters openly shared links to websites with reams of online terrorist propaganda, while pro-Taliban Facebook users posted regular updates about how the group took over Afghanistan during much of 2021”
“Facebook said it had invested heavily in artificial intelligence tools to automatically remove extremist content and hate speech in more than 50 languages. Since early 2021, the company told POLITICO it had added more Pashto and Dari speakers — the main languages spoken in Afghanistan — but declined to provide numbers of the staffing increases.
Yet the scores of Islamic State and Taliban content still on the platform show those efforts have failed to stop extremists from exploiting the platform.”
“As the world increasingly speaks out against China’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, the quietest voices continue to belong to the leaders of Muslim-majority countries.
Look no further than Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s interview this week with Axios’s Jonathan Swan. Swan asked why the premier, who often speaks out on Islamophobia in the West, has been noticeably silent on the human rights atrocities happening just across his country’s border.
Khan parroted China’s denial that it has placed roughly 2 million Uyghurs in internment camps and then evaded the issue over and over again. “This is not the case, according to them,” Khan said, adding that any disagreements between Pakistan and China are hashed out privately.
That’s a jarring statement. Instead of offering a pro forma “Yes, of course we’re concerned by this” before moving on, Khan chose instead to minimize the problem altogether.
Why would Khan do such a thing during a high-profile interview, with his self-enhanced image as a defender of Muslims on the line? The prime minister gave the game away later in the interview: “China has been one of the greatest friends to us in our most difficult times, when we were really struggling,” Khan told Swan. “When our economy was struggling, China came to our rescue.”
China has given Pakistan billions in loans to prop up its economy, allowing the country to improve transit systems and a failing electrical grid, among other things. China didn’t do that out of the goodness of its heart; it did so partly to make Pakistan dependent on China, thus strong-arming it into a closer bilateral relationship.
It’s a play China has run over and over through its “Belt and Road Initiative.” China aims to build a large land-and-sea trading network connecting much of Asia to Europe, Africa, and beyond. To do that, it makes investment and loan deals with nations on that “road” — like Pakistan — so that they form part of the network. The trade, in effect, is that China increases its power and influence while other countries get the economic assistance they need.”
“”In 2019, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt were among 37 countries that signed a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council praising China’s “contribution to the international human rights cause” — with claims that China restored “safety and security” after facing “terrorism, separatism and extremism” in Xinjiang…
When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited China in 2019, he declared that “China has the right to take anti‐terrorism and de‐extremism measures to safeguard national security.” And a March 2019 statement by the Saudi‐based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) praised China for “providing care to its Muslim citizens.”””
“In 2009 — as Chinese authorities cracked down on Uyghurs amid ethnic violence in Xinjiang, and long before there were credible reports of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and forced labor — the Turkish leader spoke out about what was happening.
“The incidents in China are, simply put, a genocide. There’s no point in interpreting this otherwise,” Erdoğan said.
ut now his tune has changed. In January, Turkish police broke up a protest led by local Uyghurs outside China’s consulate in Istanbul, and the government stands accused of extraditing Uyghurs to China in exchange for Covid-19 vaccines.
Why such a shift? You guessed it: Money.
The Turkish economy was in a downturn well before the coronavirus pandemic, but China has come to the rescue. Erdoğan and his team have sought billions from China in recent years, and China became the largest importer of Turkish goods in 2020. Saying anything negative about the Chinese government — especially on the Uyghur issue — could sever the financial lifeline China provides.
That said, the pressure from the pro-Uyghur public in Turkey has forced a slight shift in the Erdoğan regime’s rhetoric in recent months. In March, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his administration has brought up the plight of the Uyghurs in private discussions with Chinese officials.
Still, that falls far short of what the world should expect from Muslim leaders.”
“a federal judge affirmed that Jake Angeli, the Capitol rioter known as “Q Shaman,” should be granted his request for organic food while being held in a Washington, DC, jail, citing his religious beliefs. It is puzzling that Angeli’s accommodations were met, not only because the DC jail found no research to show that an organic diet was a tenet of Shamanism — but also because it’s deeply hypocritical given the treatment of so many Muslim prisoners in this country who are denied, among other things, halal food. This demonstrates how so many white practitioners of faith are not just immune to discrimination, but are even awarded favors when it comes to treatment in prison.”
“The policy, colloquially known as the “Muslim ban,” first went into effect in January 2017 and became one of Trump’s signature immigration policies. The ban has slowed or altogether halted legal immigration from certain countries that the former administration deemed to be security threats, keeping families apart and even stymieing refugee resettlement.”
“The ban was amended several times in the face of numerous court challenges arguing that Trump did not have the legal authority to issue it and that it unlawfully discriminated against Muslims. The third version of the ban, ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, barred citizens of seven countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea — from obtaining any kind of visas, largely preventing them from entering the US. (Chad was taken off the list of countries subject to the ban in April 2019 after it met the Trump administration’s demands to share information with US authorities that could aid in efforts to vet foreigners.)
Trump expanded the ban last February to include additional restrictions on citizens of six more countries: Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. While they could still visit the US, citizens of these countries were, for the most part, barred from settling in the US permanently.”
“The human cost of the travel ban has been devastating. Not only has the policy torn families apart, but it has also contributed to crises including doctor shortages in rural America and a dramatic drop in enrollment among foreign students from affected countries.
More than 41,000 people have been denied visas due to the ban. Citizens of any of the banned countries could qualify for a waiver that would grant them entry to the US if, for example, they needed urgent medical care or were trying to reunite with their immediate family in the US. But those waivers proved exceedingly difficult to obtain.
Data from the State Department suggests that fewer people have been applying for visas since the ban was enacted: In fiscal year 2019, immigration authorities granted about 39,000 visas to noncitizens from the original seven countries covered by the ban as compared to almost 338,000 just three years prior — about an 88 percent drop. Iran and Venezuela saw the biggest declines.”
“National security experts have argued that the suffering of those like Alghazzouli was largely in vain: The travel ban has not made America safer, despite the Trump administration’s arguments to the contrary.
The Trump administration claimed that all the affected countries pose threats to US national security based on the findings of multiple government agencies. But the agencies’ findings were never made public, meaning the nature of those threats remains unclear. The administration broadly cited terrorist activity, failure of the countries to properly document their own travelers, and insufficient efforts to cooperate and share information with US authorities as justification for the ban.
But dozens of former intelligence officials have opposed the ban. Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Homeland Security Department under the Trump administration, said in a press call earlier this month that the ban has hurt America’s relationships with foreign governments, which are critical to US national security interests. The US government should have worked with foreign governments to improve their own security procedures and information-sharing structures, without punishing them for not already being up to standard, she said.”
“Recent events underscore the need for a reformed reading of Islam. But such reformation will not be brought about by stigmatizing Islam or Muslim communities, as the French president did. What is needed is to challenge Muslim institutions to take a clear position on Islamic jurisprudence justifying violence.”
“It was a policy statement about cracking down on “radical Islamist” influence among French Muslims to prevent their transformation into a “counter-republican” community. However, Macron’s bizarre remark that Islam “is in crisis all over the world today” unsurprisingly got most of the attention in the Middle East.”
“What was meant to be a debate about combating Islamic radicals in France turned into an outcry against “Macron’s stigmatization of Islam.” Nuanced Muslim voices got lost in the noise.
The Macron fiasco didn’t overshadow the problem of violence in the name of Islam for long. The beheading of a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, on Oct. 16 for showing his students images of a caricature depicting Islam’s prophet came as a crude reminder of the problem. Calling it an isolated act, as the grand mufti of Egypt did, doesn’t cut it any longer. Nor does the lamentation over French atrocities in Algeria half a century ago. The problem of violence motivated by a certain interpretation of Islam is real.”
“Three key premises held by the Islamic Salafist tradition lie at the source of the problem. First, the idea that sovereignty lies with “God,” not the people, restricts the role of legislatures to enacting Islamic law, which is also understood in its most literalist interpretation. Rulers who don’t uphold this principle are deemed idolatrous. Second, Muslims’ “apostasy,” often defined as having a different interpretation of their faith, is punishable by death. Third, when Muslim leaders fail to enact these rules, individual Muslims have a duty, under certain conditions, to carry them out themselves.
These interpretations of Islam underpin most of the violence in its name, since the Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutb wrote his call for Jihad more than half a century ago, all the way to the Islamic State and “lone wolves” violently punishing those who “insult Islam” today. Islamic institutions such as Al-Azhar often denounce that violence and insist that its perpetrators do not represent “true Islam,” as Egypt’s mufti just did. Yet they rarely address the intellectual foundations of these belligerent interpretations of Islamic texts.
Independent-minded Islamic thinkers have long been advocating more clement readings of Islam, its laws and its relationship with non-Muslims. From Muhammad Abduh in the 19th century to Nasr Abu Zayd, Mohammed Arkoun and many others more recently, thinkers have critically reviewed Islamic jurisprudence to show its emphasis on reason, individual freedom and equality. But religious institutions and movements did not follow their lead. And political leaders, including those of the so-called secular regimes, hedged their bets and walked a fine line between reformers and Salafists. Decades of social, economic and political decay, foreign encroachment and military interventions, along with Saudi support, helped Salafi thought grow. Today, Salafi thought is no longer a fringe: It has penetrated mainstream religious institutions as well as the Islamist movements that had started off as modernist, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Those who are interested in promoting a reformist vision of Islam should challenge the foundations of Salafism within these institutions and movements — not “Islam” as a whole, as Macron did, nor the already stigmatized Muslim minorities who are struggling with racism and discrimination in Western countries.
Instead, Islamic institutions and movements should be pressed to come up with unambiguous answers to the key questions that Salafism poses: Does their interpretation of “true Islam” allow Muslims to use violence against others? Does it allow Muslims to uphold modern political institutions and their laws? Does it allow Muslims to live peacefully with people they consider apostates or infidels?
Challenging these institutions and movements will help, not undermine, the debate among Muslims over what Islam is — the debate that will shape the future of Islam.”