Beyond Reproach


by Sid (Faisal)
22nd December, 2008 at 1:14 pm    

Pakistani blogger, Alexpressed, is concerned that Pakistan continues to be blamed for spawning all Islamist terrorist and extremist activity plagueing the world today, whereas Saudi Arabia continues to benefit from timid to full-on support from Western powers who are particularly concerned about maintaining supine and frictionless relations with the Royal Family, for various but obvious reasons.

First off, he presents us with a crash coarse on the historical context of the religious authority of the Saudi royal family:

One thing must be made clear that this doctrine or the ideology is not any close to the old Islamic traditions. The Western belief that the kind of belief system and ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia represents the real face of Islam is not true. So is the Western belief that the House of Saud enjoys a credible historic claim over Arabia. The orthodox ideology emerged only 250 years ago under the guidance of an obscure fanatic known as Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab who later formed an alliance with a group of desert bandits, the Sauds. He established kind of an agreement with the desert tribe leaders (clan chiefs) for the creation of the modern Saudi state, the Saudi-orthodox movement spread across the peninsula brutally defeating and enslaving non-alike or rebellious elements.

The result of the political, ideological and theological agreements between the Saud clan, the tribes and the orthodox mullahs was the fall of Makkah in 1924. This solidified their grip on the power. After they had conquered Makkah, the centre of power, they were in control of the state. They knew they could use the vast oil wealth of the kingdom to export their radical ideology across the globe.

Many a theory has been put forward by terrorism “experts” on explaining why Pakistan offers the ideal geo-political incubator for Islamic terrorism but very little information is desseminated on Saudi Arabia’s role in spreading extremist Islamist ideology. We rarely discuss the causal links between the the the Saudi provenance of extremism, its role in exporting it to South Asia and the West and of individual patrons high up in the Saudi food chain.

Alexpressed forces this very point home:

Trying to find a reason for the failure of West to suspect KSA, and to investigate its involvement instead of attacking FATA in Pakistan, I believe there can be multiple factors, combined with interests of West in KSA. The Saudi elite has been attempting to confuse the world claiming that it is too a target of Islamic terror which is actually a hollow gesture to hide its involvement in terrorism. For a country that maintains repressive control over the people using Police and other forces, getting rid of extremist elements would have been easy, keeping in view it’s a monarchy and its geo-political location and history is very different from Pakistan. The reality remains that the spread of radical, orthodox, fundamentalist version of Islam is credited to Saudi clerics and the international terrorist are directly impelled by them. The KSA, the Saudi clerics and the Saudi royal family have been acting as incubators of violence and extremism across the globe. The bottom line is that Al-Qaeeda or other terrorist organizations would not have existed without the Saudi membership and financial support.

And the clincher:

This nerve centre of Islamic extremism needs a transition to a reasonably open parliamentary model from its current medieval state. The West, if seriously concerned about the Islamic extremism, should stop the blame game on Pakistan and open its eyes to the KSA and help with the transition it needs for the good of the world. A more representative legislature concentrating the power and the Saudi Monarchy remaining as just a symbolic body. May be a Malaysian model can suit here as well. The argument that a more fundamentalist Islamic system will emerge if the House of Saud is set aside, is absurd.

I completely agree.


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  1. Shariq — on 22nd December, 2008 at 1:51 pm  

    Fantastic post by Alexpressed but lets not forget the strategic use of Islamic militants by the ISI.

  2. Armin Grun — on 22nd December, 2008 at 2:21 pm  

    The only obvious reason I can think of is their fondness of Western “prostitutes”.

  3. AsifB — on 22nd December, 2008 at 3:46 pm  

    Personally I metaphorically agree with Uncle Ken that the day can’t come soon enough when the Saudi royal family are hanging from lamposts.

    I think Alexexpressed is somewhat confused though – what’s so great about the Malaysian model which for post imperial reasons institutionalises positive discrimination for the 60% pure Malay population and maintains laws on apostasy for Muslims? You either believe in democracy and a secular based polity or you don’t.

    Alex and Sid are right that the Wahabii/Saud alliance has been a historical disaster for the Muslim world – and that it is modern communications and oil wealth that has disseminated Wahbbii/Salafi/Deobandi obscurantism aroud the world – but that also means that the blame for their continuing consequences is spread around as well – so Pakistan as a centre of violent islamisist groups and state where secular parties and politicans do not speak out against hudood punishments , deserves it’s fair share of criticism.

    Interestingly, he cites the fall of Makkah in 1924 as a key point- the same year Attatutk abolished the caliphate, which some fundamentalist groups like to refer to as the height of Western inspired efforts to damage Islam (even though any serious history of the decline of Muslim led/Ottoman empires in the Middle East would start hundereds of years before)

    No doubt, Western self interest in maintaining undemocratic regimes in oil rich parts of the world plays its part in Westerners accepting ‘Wahbbi/Gulf Arab’ views of what is Islam (and it was clever of the British empire to cultivate Islamic potentates in places as far apart as Brunei, Nigeria and Kuwait – which just happen to sit on large reserves of oil – and in Brunei’s case weren’t even independent until the 1980s)

    But it’s too late to just blame the West – which yes Virgina, did under the guise of the cold war, undermine popular/democratic secular governments throughout the Muslim world (Nasser/Mossadeq/Sukharno/Mujib) and support right wing clerical backed alternatives.

    Enough Muslims have bought into the right wing clerical view of life – helped enourmously by the failures and corruption of the post colonial generation of popular left wing secular leaders – for it to be as much a question of Muslims putting their house in order, as it is for asking outsiders and manipulators not to knowingly or otherwise assist the fundamentalist forces that keep the Muslim world backward.

    And , I’ll go out on a limb here – and say democracy is the only answer – the three leading examples of theocratic states in the contemporary Muslim world – KSA/Talibafgahnistan and Iran – would all be wiped out in free elections – Iran for example at the height of its anti imperialist and anti Israeli rhetoric – paid Arab and Israeli middlemen for US arms, knowing the profits would be sent by the CIA to the Contras fighting their supposed anti-US Sandinista allies.

    In the West, this is portrayed as evidence of corruption and black ops by the Reagan presidency – when the more important historical observation is about how weak a threat to the West fundamentalist regimes really are. It’s almost as if its in the Western self interest to encourage Muslim obscurantism rather than have Muslim countries develop along Western lines.

  4. AsifB — on 22nd December, 2008 at 3:55 pm  

    ps; Conclusion And that’s why understanding history though important, doesn’t help, it just perpertuates the blame the West game – when the urgent need is to address actually existing issues in the world as it actually is.

  5. Shamit — on 22nd December, 2008 at 4:03 pm  

    ” Conclusion And that’s why understanding history though important, doesn’t help, it just perpertuates the blame the West game – when the urgent need is to address actually existing issues in the world as it actually is.”

    Very well said — good posts Asif

  6. Sid — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:05 pm  

    **applauds AsifB**

  7. bananabrain — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:08 pm  

    *applauds sid for applauding asifb*

  8. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:13 pm  

    “I think Alexexpressed is somewhat confused though – what’s so great about the Malaysian model which for post imperial reasons institutionalises positive discrimination for the 60% pure Malay population and maintains laws on apostasy for Muslims? You either believe in democracy and a secular based polity or you don’t.”

    I think this needs unpacking a little – why Malaysia maintains positive discrimination. It isn’t about giving the Malay state a religious identity – it’s more about trade negotiations and protecting jobs for ethnic Malays against increasing immigration into the country/competition from ethnic Chinese. It’s about business. The ethnic Chinese are the predominant business cadre in these countries – remittance from which is pumped back into China.

    The policy is also linked to tactics to resist US crashing into Malaysian markets. The Malaysians have been fighting a campaign against the US in the WTO in the last few years as the US and others wants them to dismantle this system of positive discrimination. The Malays see this a challenge to its sovereignty. Foreign businesses complain about transparency in Malaysian tendering processes and the lack of procurement opportunities, partly due to the affirmative action policies to help Malays boost their share of equity, but i am not sure these business folks are interested in anything more than crashing the Malaysian markets. The US is still the biggest advocate for protected procurement in US markets so US supplies benefit – but it seems is resisting this practice by other countries. This is also why the US trade unions and farmers are the biggest advocates against child labour in poor countries – not because they have the interests of children at heart , but because they don’t want the competition. Currently the US is also one of the biggest threats to public transparency on procurement which isn’t picked up by many commentators, but this is a dicussion for another topic. For the moment, here’s an abstract on the Malaysia case study. Leaving aide, Islam, both Malaysia and Indonesia have been seen as ripe pickings for multi-nationals for most of the 20th century …

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=907658

    ‘WTO Government Procurement Rules and the Local Dynamics of Procurement Policies: A Malaysian Case Study’

  9. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:17 pm  

    My general point is that such topics seem to be discussed in light of usual frameworks that conflate trade, economics and culture into simple contestations between religion versus secular or west versus the islam and what have you. Life isn’t black and white as most of you will probably agree. Keeping things so black and white sets up false trade offs.

    I guess the last point is that there are enough Muslims that follow the right wing clerics as there are those that follow left wing mantras. And neither do I recognise the West as a blob with a common view to the ‘Islamic’ world.

  10. Sid — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:26 pm  

    I think this needs unpacking a little – why Malaysia maintains positive discrimination. It isn’t about giving the Malay state a religious identity – it’s more about trade negotiations and protecting jobs for ethnic Malays against increasing immigration into the country/competition from ethnic Chinese. It’s about business. The ethnic Chinese are the predominant business cadre in these countries – remittance from which is pumped back into China.

    Discrimination to ensure bhoomiputra’s (indigenous) their jobs and alienationg an ethnic group because they remit earnings back to their families “back home”. Do you really think these are measures that are worthy of defending?

    The broader point is that in spite of Malaysia’s faults, it does present a Muslim-democratic formula of sorts which could be applied to Saudi Arabia’s beleagured system of government paid clerics who use the Quran to justify the position of the House of Saud and an unworkable Shura-majlis which appoints itself and represents no one but the House of Saud.

  11. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:34 pm  

    I think they’re worth debating yes, very much so. My point is that it aint about simply preserving a religious or secular identity for the Malaysian state.

    The ethnic Chinese in SE Asia have a complicated and long history – as you know the ethnic Chinese are the previledged business elites in these countries, and the idea of protecting jobs was to ensure equity for less advanataged ethnic Malays who are the larger population group in Malaysia – and also happen to be longer settled – though this in my book doesn’t merit special consideration ( being longer settled). But protecting equity in face of a more priveledged class , yes, does merit debate.

    and it seems I am not the only one interested in debating this – as the WTO also debate this point. Whether i wish to defend is another question all together – and that’s why I said it would be the subject of another thread: transparency on tendering and public procurement. Like i said , it wouldn’t be Malaysia in the firing line here, it would be the US. So i was merely pointing out the grey in all of this.

  12. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:40 pm  

    Sid

    I don’t see Malaysia’s formula ( perhaps misguidingly as I don’t see the world always in religious/secular terms) as one being a particularly Muslim -democratic formulae, I see it as an attempt to preserve equity for larger, disadvantaged population group – against a smaller, business elite.

    But yes, the broader point on the Saudi Royal family sticks. I’d support many reforms there – again on equity grounds.

  13. Sid — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:41 pm  

    I think they’re worth debating yes, very much so. My point is that it aint about simply preserving a religious or secular identity for the Malaysian state.

    ai haiee! Yeah, its about money and securing foreign exchange. But why does that make racism any more palatable?

  14. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:43 pm  

    You’ve lost me. Is protectionism racism?
    You’d probably say affirmative action is also racist?

    This is the irony of it all – the measures that some countries/ groups might use to equalise the playing field – is fielded as racist? I am not defending either position, Sid, but provoking and seeing where your argument/mine goes …

  15. Sid — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:44 pm  

    if executed in terms of race, then yes.

    If Irish workers could send money back home to Cork but Bangladeshis could not to Sylhet, would that be justifiable protectionism and no less racist?

  16. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:48 pm  

    But this is semantics.

    So US protectionism which acts against the interests of poorer parts of the world that is amost certainly non-white. Does this make the US protectonist policies indirectly racist?

    You’re still stuck on the remittance point. It isn’t about the remintance per se- it’s about the larger majority ethic majorities in Malaysia, Vietnam, Philipenes, Indonesia wanting to protect their business from chinese competition for jobs and money. And you also miss the point about equaliy of opporunity. It’s not about race, it’s about whose disadvantaged – majority or minority here shouldn’t matter, but in these cases, the ethnic Chinese is the minority and the more prividged. It’s leveling the playing field.

  17. Sania — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:49 pm  

    The best things:

    1- He didn’t use the word WAHABI/SALAFI.

    2- He did not sound a sectarian nerd or a nationalist. He was balanced in his approach.

    3- Its very true !

  18. Sid — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:53 pm  

    So US protectionism which acts against the interests of poorer parts of the world that is amost certainly non-white.

    But surely that’s protectionist for their country and, like it or not, its dirty trading and vile but not racism by definition. If they applied protectionism to protect white businesses against black businesses *in their own country* – that would be racism. But that is not the case with trade restrictions.

    The whole concept of bhoomiputri stinks to high heaven and puts paid to Malaysia’s claims of being a modern, Muslim liberal society.

  19. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 5:58 pm  

    Sid

    Protectonism – good or bad is a debte and the world is having it. I don’t support protectinism in the US/Europe but do for emerging countries before they go fully fairer/free trade. I’d apply the same formulae to Malaysia – intra-countrie wise competition.

    Here because you are seeing things in ‘race’ terms you think it is racist. i am seeing it in terms of equality of opportunity – and making the playing field fairer. There will come a time when ethnic Malays can compete effectively against the smaller ethnic Chinese and the rules would need reviewing. But Malaysia isn’t there yet. And this is the wider point about positive discrimination – it’s not mean to to be permanent.

    Also , my initial concern with the post was actually that this is being presenting as an religious versus secular issue, not whether Malaysia has it right/wrong.

  20. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 6:01 pm  

    “The whole concept of bhoomiputri stinks to high heaven and puts paid to Malaysia’s claims of being a modern, Muslim liberal society.”

    It also applies to foreigners. I tried to get a job in Malaysia and faced quite a lot of problems, on grounds that I could only apply for a job that couldn’t be filled by a Malay. Fair enough.

  21. Sid — on 22nd December, 2008 at 6:06 pm  

    Yeah lets take this offline.

    This post has nothing to do with a religion versus secular issue. This is about how the Saudi regime escapes deserved charges of culpability by both the West and Muslims for being the single largest source of exporting extremist ideologies. Whereas Pakistan seems to be accused much more than it actually deserves. This is not to preclude or justify the strategic nurturing of extrmists by the ISI, as Shariq notes above.

  22. halima — on 22nd December, 2008 at 6:12 pm  

    “Yeah lets take this offline.”

    If i say any more, I might have to go read my Malaysia book upstairs – and that would be nerdy! But will check out for future convo with you.

    On Saudi regime..The floor is all yours…didn’t mean to derail…I don’t know enough to comment .. much..

  23. comrade — on 22nd December, 2008 at 8:15 pm  

    Its a known fact that the Saudis where sponsering the Mardassa in Pakistan through the ISI, the Saudis continue to sponser the the sucide bombers in Iraq, and it’s an ally of US. I am surprised its news, to some of you, who are well read, may you listen to the BBC too much.

  24. Zak — on 22nd December, 2008 at 8:16 pm  

    Well d-uh the Saudi state is insular and mthe west is dependent on it for oil..by contrast pak is comparatively open and dependent on the west ..that’s why Pakistan gets the brunt of it..

    The radicalisation of the borderlands between pakistan and afghanistan is because of a variety of factors, the west focussing on Iraq, Pakistan’s establishment’s insecurity vis a vis the pro Indian elements in Karzais gov and it’s belief that abandoning the taliban would allow a resolution of kashmir.

  25. Munir — on 22nd December, 2008 at 11:32 pm  

    AsifB

    “I think Alexexpressed is somewhat confused though – what’s so great about the Malaysian model which for post imperial reasons institutionalises positive discrimination for the 60% pure Malay population and maintains laws on apostasy for Muslims? ”

    But the laws for Malay are surely a corrective to the legacy of British rule which deliberatly left business and the economy entirely in the hands of the Chinese minority and Malays excluded. Its certainly more civilized than communist takeovers of property or nationalist pogroms

    “You either believe in democracy and a secular based polity or you don’t.”

    By this token the US isnt a democracy as it has affirmitave action for black people

  26. soru — on 23rd December, 2008 at 12:04 am  

    ‘stop the blame game on Pakistan and open its eyes to the KSA’

    Is it just me, or, until the last month or so, wasn’t there about 3x as much stuff written in the west ‘blaming’ KSA as anyone else?

    ‘wahhabi’ gets 469,000 google hits, ‘deobandi’ 168,000.

    ‘Saudi sponsored terrorism’ gets lots of US links, ‘pakistan sponsored terrorism’ gets mostly south asian ones.

    You could obviously make some points about the connection between the Texas oilman Bush and the oil princes of the House of Saud, but I don’t think you can reasonably claim ‘very little information is desseminated on Saudi Arabia’s role in spreading extremist Islamist ideology’.

  27. Sid — on 23rd December, 2008 at 1:27 am  

    but I don’t think you can reasonably claim ‘very little information is desseminated on Saudi Arabia’s role in spreading extremist Islamist ideology’.

    Oh sure, but almost all of those hits are well argued guesses, educated musings and logical conjectures. Circumstantial analysis but no hard evidence or anything like a paper traill that can’t be refuted by Saudi’s many apologists, most of whom are stakeholders in the West. The quality of that kind of stuff might preach to the converted but unfortunately has little more worth than propaganda or source material for Little Green Footballs.

    Not many of your Google hits can prove a direct correlation between the KSA elites, their corporate fronts and the recipients of the prodigous amounts of money getting hundeed from A to B, even though we *know* this to be true. We know this to be true because of investigative journalists like Craig Unger, but there aren’t many that can boast the quality of objective research that Unger has.

    Posts like Alexchange are very welcome because you don’t even see much objective, honest low-rhetoric stuff coming out of Pakistan these days.

  28. MSK* — on 23rd December, 2008 at 2:14 am  

    Dear Sid,

    Lumping together the Saudi royal fam/regime with the Wahhabi clerics would be like lumping together the Pakistani gov’t with the ISI and then them with the army.

    I do understand Alexpressed’s anger but he lets it get the best of him.

    –MSK*

  29. Sunny — on 23rd December, 2008 at 2:57 am  

    Sid: Discrimination to ensure bhoomiputra’s (indigenous) their jobs and alienationg an ethnic group because they remit earnings back to their families “back home”. Do you really think these are measures that are worthy of defending?

    Well, yeah, in economics its the ‘infant industry’ argument, that I actually quite like. I think Malyasia itself has conflated the trade issues with religion, but frankly its not entirely a bad policy. During the 2002 (I think) Thailand currency crisis, Malaysia was the only country that said it would chuck out foriegn speculators – everyone threatened dire consequences. A few years later Malaysia recovered the fastest.

    Other than that, I’m rather amused the blogger in question duly avoids mentioning anything to do with the Pakistani ISI… not to say the Saudis are great chaps. But hello, who funded the Taliban in the early days?

  30. Desi Italiana — on 23rd December, 2008 at 6:21 am  

    “But hello, who funded the Taliban in the early days?”

    The CIA, with the ISI as the intermediary to train and arm them.

    Ref: John Cooley, ABC correspondent: http://www.amazon.com/Unholy-Wars-Afghanistan-International-Terrorism/dp/0745319181/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1230013440&sr=1-1

  31. Sid — on 23rd December, 2008 at 10:48 am  

    Well, yeah, in economics its the ‘infant industry’ argument, that I actually quite like. I think Malyasia itself has conflated the trade issues with religion, but frankly its not entirely a bad policy.

    Correct me if I’m wrong: Malays are not exclusively Muslim and therefore Hindu and Buddhist too. If that is the case, the good news for supporters of bhoomiputa-exclusivity is that this can be called a secular policy rather than an order of religious supremacism. ;-)

    Personally I’m averse to any ethnicity-based spoils system because it only causes increased competition and resentment between the various races involved. Sure Malaysia has been successfull economically, but at what price to long term social cohesion?

  32. platinum786 — on 23rd December, 2008 at 10:55 am  

    The war of terror is lost. It was America’s last attempt to control the Muslim world and secure itself more resources. You can fool yourselves and call it a theological conflict between Democratic values and extremism if you like, but that is the side show.

    The majority of the Muslim world wants an Islamic style of government, we just haven’t reached that formula yet. Attempts to impose secular democracy on us have failed.

    Yeah in the short term in elections right now, the ayatollah would lose, because he is a turd, but if a viable and agreeable Islamic party presented itself, it would win. Look at Turkey for example. sick of extremist secularism.

  33. Sid — on 23rd December, 2008 at 11:16 am  

    Lumping together the Saudi royal fam/regime with the Wahhabi clerics would be like lumping together the Pakistani gov’t with the ISI and then them with the army.

    It would seem so, MSK.

  34. Sid — on 23rd December, 2008 at 11:26 am  

    You can fool yourselves and call it a theological conflict between Democratic values and extremism if you like, but that is the side show.

    haha, if that’s the case, looks like Pakistanis are sick of top-billing, all-singing, all-dancing autocratic self-appointed Superstar-Generals, even more than they are of democracy. :D

  35. Jai — on 23rd December, 2008 at 11:39 am  

    The majority of the Muslim world wants an Islamic style of government, we just haven’t reached that formula yet. Attempts to impose secular democracy on us have failed.

    Since when is Derby a part of “the Muslim world”, Platinum786 ?

    You’re not claiming your neighbourhood of the Midlands as territory for the Khilafat are you, buddy ? ;)

  36. ALE-Xpressed — on 23rd December, 2008 at 12:06 pm  

    Thanks Sid, for the post and everyone for the comments.

    About the ISI, I am very much informed and aware of the role of ISI, Pakistan Army in supporting the fundamentalism for their own benefit. To get more amounts from the budget, the Army has to keep the fire burning in Kashmir, and to do so they have used Mullahs, thus supporting fundamentalism has been an economic reason for them. But I disagree with the notion that they sponsored them, sponsorship only came from the CIA/USA during the Russian invasion.

  37. Sofia — on 23rd December, 2008 at 12:13 pm  

    the muslim world? now what’s that? as far as i can see, it’s a bunch of countries that have religion (if that) loosely linking them…with nothing else in common…why lump them together?

  38. fug — on 23rd December, 2008 at 12:30 pm  

    because they do so themselves, within this they find commonalities and brotherhood. some are realistic, others overdo it, to be so pessimistic is probably unhelpful also.

  39. The Common Humanist — on 23rd December, 2008 at 12:35 pm  

    “The majority of the Muslim world wants an Islamic style of government, we just haven’t reached that formula yet”

    The male half might, not so sure the female half is ready to be a second class citizen again though.

    For something that is supposed to be the word of god etc etc ad nauseum Islam is certainly short of viable political structures and mechanisms.

    Its almost if…..well….its almost as if it wasn’t divine and just some stuff written down in the desert 1400 years ago.

    File away with the more obscure classical philosophers and move on……..

  40. The Common Humanist — on 23rd December, 2008 at 12:38 pm  

    And when Pakistan goes Taliban think of the flood of talented liberal urban Pakistanis who will want to get out pronto – who wants to live in a medieval themed nightmare after all? The UK and the US will be the prime beneficeries of the talent. So not all bad then.

  41. Sid — on 23rd December, 2008 at 12:42 pm  

    ALE-Xpressed, thanks for dipping in.

    But I disagree with the notion that they sponsored them, sponsorship only came from the CIA/USA during the Russian invasion.

    You’re right, and of course, you’re responding to the muddle-headed assertion that US sponsoring of anti-Communist forces in Afghanistan in 1979 is a bigger evil than the subsequent Saudi funding that was solicited by the ISI to pay off militant fundamentalists and the Taliban warlords throughout the 80s and 90s and to this day.

  42. Sid — on 23rd December, 2008 at 12:56 pm  

    And how do Saudis keep a veil of secrecy over their funding efforts of militant fundamentalism?

    With the use of libel laws:

    The unanimous decision interpreting a New York law now goes to a federal court. There, I sought to combat what my attorney argued was a chilling effect on free speech by the billionaire, Khalid Salim A. Bin Mahfouz. The Saudi businessman has sued or threatened more than three dozen times over writings on terrorism and those who fund it, including my 2003 book. The U.K. judge ordered me to pay the legal fees and damages, despite the fact that nothing in my book about Saudi funding of terrorism was ever disproved in an adversary process.

    I fought back, filing a First Amendment lawsuit she filed against Mahfouz in New York.

    The New York Court of Appeals decision in Ehrenfeld v. Mahfouz, may be read here: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2007/2007_09961.htm

    This case has been described as one of the most important First Amendment cases of the past 25 years. The case originated when Mahfouz filed a libel suit against me and my book Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop It.

    “Mafhouz has single-handedly wiped out an entire genre of reportage. Researchers are chilled into dropping the entire subject.” said Rob Pfaltzgraff, producer of The Libel Tourist, a short film about Ehrenfeld’s struggle which may be viewed here: http://www.thelibeltourist.com/cgi-local/content.cgi

  43. platinum786 — on 23rd December, 2008 at 2:28 pm  

    Dual national, deal with it….lol

    Sid, you got to keep upto date with politics in Pakistan, you sound like daily mail reader, out of date, out of touch etc.

    Currently the entire country is rallying behind the military considering we’re nearly at a state of war with the Indians, not that you’d know that. The air force has been practicing aggressive maneuvers for the last two days, armed with live ammunition.

    The generals are not the solution, but democracy has failed before, is failing now and will continue to fail in the future in Pakistan. Zardari started his term about as unpopular as Musharraf and has gone down since.

  44. Sid — on 23rd December, 2008 at 2:45 pm  

    The generals are not the solution, but democracy has failed before, is failing now and will continue to fail in the future in Pakistan. Zardari started his term about as unpopular as Musharraf and has gone down since.

    Sounds great. If you’ve rejected the generals and secular democracy (not that secular democracy ever saw the light of day in Pakistan), then what are you left with?

    What form of governance are you suggesting for Pakistan?

  45. douglas clark — on 23rd December, 2008 at 3:49 pm  

    I think libel laws are becoming antiquated. It is reasonable that someone should have access to the court to establish a ‘cease and desist’ order against someone else, and perhaps even ensure a written apology. It is not reasonable that they should be able to use wealth, or the impoverishment of another, as a bludgeon to ensure silence. So, that part of sentencing should be removed by statute from the Courts’ discretion.

    I think libel cases should be heard in the Lowest Courts in the land, and if there are any freedom of speech implications, the defendents should have their costs met by the state. There should be no appeal, as most of it is vexatious use of court time in any case.

    ‘Course a decent free speech provision would make all of that moot, anyway.

    This is inconsistent with a just society.

  46. Jai — on 23rd December, 2008 at 5:46 pm  

    Dual national,

    …..while being safely ensconced thousands of miles away in another country — and one, horror of horrors, in the West, of all places. Very brave and very patriotic. I see that you’re a fan of the Sean Connery school of jingoism, although I’m sure that glamorous Derby is a poor substitute for somewhere more tropical.

    Explains a lot, though…..

  47. Trofim — on 23rd December, 2008 at 6:30 pm  

    platinum 786
    The majority of the Muslim world wants an Islamic style of government, . . .

    Could I ask how you know? What question was asked to elicit this assertion? To whom was the question put? Do you have details?

    we just haven’t reached that formula yet.

    And how will you know when you have “reached that formula”? And how will you “reach that formula”? Like this, for instance?:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7792239.stm

  48. George — on 23rd December, 2008 at 7:42 pm  

    May be it’s time for s ahowdown between the Paks & Indians. Relations between these most destitute and religion-driven of Asians have been smouldering far too long. Besides the two have lined up a hugh arsenal of weapons – all untested.
    One thing is clear. If India begins to fumble and stumble, it will rush to Israel for help.
    So let battle commence.

  49. halima — on 23rd December, 2008 at 8:34 pm  

    “Personally I’m averse to any ethnicity-based spoils system because it only causes increased competition and resentment between the various races involved. Sure Malaysia has been successfull economically, but at what the price to long term social cohesion?”

    Where was the social cohesion in leaving a system where the larger Malay groups were under-represented from national wealth creation and discriminated against?
    Usually, though affirmative acton is associated with a disadvantaged minority – but here in Malaysia it was promoted in favour of a disadvantaged majority – that’s the scale of discrimination and how unequal employement opporunities were in Malaysia.

    ‘Affirmative’ ( as the Malay term it, though it isn’t affirmative action as we might describe it) to increase ethnic Malay people’s share in jobs, in a context where the minority chinese dominate jobs, isn’t a bad thing. The rationale is to make Malay share of national wealth to be representive to their share of their population.

    The criticism i might level against the current system is that perhaps it hasn’t worked or achieved the equity results intended. Instead it’s turned into a political patronage system for the ruling party to give out to whoever they please. Patronage isn’t good anywhere, but can occur under any institutional or governance arrangements.

    To illusrate further – and to use a non-Muslim case study. In Nepal government has moved to see 33% of all public jobs go to women – mainly to address the fact that women are invisible and haven’t had a look in to jobs for centuries – cemented by discrimination. Now you might disagree with this affirmative action approach – but without it Nepal would stay an immensely unequal society – and that in the long-term is bad for social cohesion. The resentment occurs in many cases as we know – but it can be managed – and is a risk to mitigate against. Without a bolder approach to get more women and excluded groups like Janatatis and Dalits into the system – Nepal will be economically and socially doomed.

    Personally to me, affirmative action in such situations strike at the heart of how progressive a country aspires to be – in order to address the long-term, deep-seeted, structural inequalities in any country. I am talking about the extent of discrimination where a Dalit is not able to enter the same room as a another higher caste and/or ethnic group – let alone compete effectively for a job. I am talking about doctors refusing to treat Dalit patients because the medical professional is from a higher caste.

    I also think it’s helpful to discuss affirmative action with some distance to our own situations in the UK/Europe where everything is so racialised and emotionally triggered – rather than just being pragmatic.

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