UN Human Rights Commissioner Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein

[ by Charles Cameron — WINEP hosts Countering Violent Extremism and Ideology discussion ]

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Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy earlier this month, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Jordanian Ambassador to the United States said of the IS / Daesh “caliphate”:

I think it requires a much deeper sort of analysis than what we often see coming through to us via the media outlets.

He went on to explain what he meant — emphasizing not military force but an Islamic theological response to the Daesh doctrinal claims:

We listened very carefully in Geneva to the remarks made by Walid Muallem, the foreign minister of the Syrian government, and he was dismissive of the efficacy of the airstrikes. Now this is something that I think has to be studied because we have learned from other sources that this may well be the case – or at least, if they were not supplemented by a concerted discussion within the Islamic world to confront, line by line, the thinking of the takfiri groups, that the results may not be what we hope they will be, and fall short of where we want them to be.

The letter that I have alluded to [..] was issued by a hundred and twenty-six Muslim scholars back in September as a response to the July Jumaa sermon issued by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And what I found really quite unfortunate is that this letter which was remarkable, in the sense that it was scholarly, it was backed by Muslim scholars from all over the world, it dealt by each of the points raised in the sermon, rebuttal followed by another rebuttal to each of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s points, that this received far less in the way of media attention than the decisions to launch airstrikes and take very active military operations. Because I felt at the time and still do that this letter needs to be supported and alluded to and spoken about and referred to by politicians in the Islamic world and beyond — not least because if it isn’t shown that the Islamic world is responding, at least from a scholarly angle, then we will continue to see the phenomena we see in Europe and we saw in germany yesterday, of demonstrations basically targeting Islam as a religion, as opposed to the takfiri ideology where the denunciations should be properly be directed.

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Here, then, so that we can better grasp these issues as they can be understood within Islam, is the Letter al-Hussein spoke of:

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The Letter can also be downloaded as a .pdf. Among the highlights of the Executive Summary:

9. It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.

10. It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture’.

11. It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.

12. The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.

13. It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.

14. It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.

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For those of you who watch the video of the WINEP discussion, I should warn you that the close captioning is inexcusably poor. I’m betting, eg, that Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein did not say “jihadi nostra” (cute though that might be) when the context clearly suggests “Jabhat al-Nusra”.

2 comments on this post.
  1. carl:

    The fight against and destruction of the Daeshers is something that will be accomplished by Muslims and it is a two part fight. The first part is the physical part, the killing and breaking part, which a lot of Muslims are engaged in right now at risk of their lives.
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    The second part which is just as important as the first is the intellectual part and religious part as exemplified by the letter from the Muslim scholars. That Muslims are now engaged on both fronts is encouraging.
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    Now just because we must recognize that Muslims are going to be doing the heavy lifting in this fight doesn’t mean we can’t say which way we want it to go and do practical things to push it that way. We are doing a little bit on the physical front though I’ve read that what we are doing is so hesitant the Kurds joke they can’t tell if the Americans are pretending not to fight and fighting or pretending to fight and not fighting.
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    On the theological intellectual front we aren’t doing anything at all influence things which is Prince Zeid’s point. Like he said this letter should be widely known and the Western govs should be some of the ones making it widely known. But it isn’t. Some of the letter writers should be on Letterman or the Jon Stewart Show. But to my knowledge they aren’t. We don’t do anything beyond bleating “Daesh isn’t Islam” which is nothing.
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    Political correctness has disarmed us intellectually and on occasion mostly disarmed us physically. Our elites are afraid to publicize and say plainly the things the scholars pointed out for fear that they will be criticized for being anti-Islam. That is now only moral cowardice it is intellectually lazy. They won’t take the time to differentiate between Daesh’s homicidal version of Islam and the rest of the religion. They don’t believe either that us flyover people, residents of one of the most religious nations on earth, will be able to grasp the difference between a Malaysian shopkeeper and a takfiri killer. Those beliefs rob us of our ability to influence the outcome of the fight in the Muslim world and do a disservice to those Muslims on the cutting edge of that fight.
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    This translates to to the physical side of the fight which leads to Kurdish humor. It is a funny observation but people are dying who shouldn’t have to. We gotta decide, really decide, that these guys are the enemy and act accordingly. The problem is I question whether our inside the beltway genii can come to any firm decision about anything dealing with foreign policy.

  2. Charles Cameron:

    Hi Carl:

    Some of the letter writers should be on Letterman or the Jon Stewart Show. But to my knowledge they aren’t.

    I suspect part of the problem is that while all the signatories are firmly against the “caliphate”, some of them mey view other groups which we term “terrorist” as “freedom fighters” — particularly when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue — and it might be very easy to sidetrack such people from a tight focus on IS.
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    In some ways, the Letter is ideal because it can’t be led off topic…