The Saudi Religious Leader Who Condemns Anti-Semitism and Calls on Muslims to Learn about the Holocaust

June 29 2020

For decades, Saudi Arabia’s export of an especially fundamentalist and intolerant brand of Sunni Islam encouraged the rise of Islamist terrorism across the globe. Mohammad al-Issa, the secretary general of the Saudi-funded Muslim World League, represents the best of the kingdom’s efforts to turn over a new leaf, writes Jeff Jacoby:

Issa vigorously criticizes religious extremism and vocally supports interfaith cooperation. . . . Especially notable has been Issa’s insistence on condemning hate crimes against Jews, including the lethal synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway, California. In January he led a Muslim delegation to Auschwitz, then published a column calling Holocaust denial a “crime” that should appall true Muslims.

This month, speaking from Mecca to an online conference on anti-Semitism, he said he had made it his “mission to work with my brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith” to advance inter-religious harmony, and “to confront the extremists . . . falsely claiming inspiration from our religious texts.”

Clearly it is significant that a Saudi religious leader and politician (Issa was his country’s minister of justice from 2009 to 2015) is impassioned in defense of religious tolerance and so strongly opposes “political Islam,” or Islamism. . . . Yet Issa’s views haven’t prevailed in his own land. Saudi Arabia is among the most unfree nations on earth, particularly for religious minorities and dissenters.

Still, Jacoby sees reason for optimism:

The 2019 Arab Youth Survey, a study of 3,300 men and women between eighteen and twenty-four in the Middle East and North Africa, found that two-thirds believe “religion plays too big of a role in the Middle East” and 79 percent believe that “the Arab world needs to reform its religious institutions.”

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Anti-Semitism, Muslim-Jewish relations, Saudi Arabia

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela