The Saudi Religious Scholar Who Is Trying to Fix Islam’s Anti-Semitism Problem

March 1 2018

Since his appointment as head of the Muslim World League in 2016, Muhammad al-Issa has taken the organization—which has historically been used by the Saudi monarchy to spread fundamentalist, intolerant, and often anti-Semitic teachings around the globe—in a decidedly anti-Islamist direction. He has, in recent months, also been trying to offer a new attitude toward Jews. Having interviewed Issa, Ben Cohen writes:

[I]t is plain to see why, at this particular juncture, [Issa] is an asset to a Saudi government eager to convince the West that, finally, it stands resolute against both Sunni and Shiite variants of Islamism and is determined to establish Islam as a religion of peace and coexistence. Still, to reduce Issa’s own message to a strictly political calculation would be a grave mistake, if only because its theological content needs to be heard irrespective of the political machinations in Gulf capitals. . . .

Throughout our discussion, Issa was adamant that Muhammad’s faith was predicated on an appreciation for a divine order in which differences among religions and nations are a cause for peace, rather than conflict—the diametrical opposite of the vengeful teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations. . . . Moreover, Issa stressed that—in contrast to the long-standing Christian depiction of the Jews as eternally responsible for the death of Jesus—Islam did not approach Judaism from the vantage point of “original sin.” . . . A Muslim, then, faces no challenge to his faith when it comes to “respecting the Jewish religion and the right of the Jews to live in dignity.”

When that “dignity” includes an independent, sovereign state that is yet to exchange ambassadors with Saudi Arabia after 70 years of existence, what then? Again and again, Issa emphasized the political neutrality of the Muslim World League, and the need for a strict separation between religious faith and political orientation. At the same time, he gave no succor to historic Arab ambitions for Israel’s elimination. Peace begins, Issa said, by recognizing that all the nations of the region will remain exactly where they are.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Anti-Semitism, Islam, Islamism, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Jewish relations, Religion & Holidays, Saudi Arabia

To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy