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Ed Webb

The Post-WWI Migrations That Built Yugoslavia and Turkey Have Left a Painful Legacy - N... - 0 views

  • the religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity that characterized their territories in the Middle East and Eastern Europe no longer chimed with the new world order being organized around nation-states
  • Designing measures such as the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923, the League of Nations legitimized demographic engineering policies and made migration an intrinsic part of nation-building. With international encouragement, the states with Muslim minorities in the Balkans devised multipronged policies to push out the citizens they saw as undesirable. Turkey became the only destination for Balkan Muslims, even when they were not Turkish.
  • in 1938 Belgrade and Ankara concluded a little-known agreement to transfer 200,000 Yugoslav citizens to Turkey. The transfer did not materialize because of the start of World War II, but the migrations did eventually take place and continued into the 1950s. For both Yugoslavia and Turkey, new states created in the aftermath of World War I, migration was an important part of nation-building.
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  • In the 1920s, Catholic missionaries working in neighboring Kosovo, a former Ottoman province inhabited by Albanian Muslim and Christian populations and similarly incorporated into Southern Serbia, sent reports of massacres, assassinations, imprisonment and forced labor in a memorandum to the League of Nations, receiving no response.
  • Forced processes of homogenization are still part of the repertoire of nation-state building, and continue to shape our understanding of world order. Muslim presence in the southeastern periphery of Europe likewise continues to be viewed as problematic and even dangerous: As Piro Rexhepi observed in the book “White Enclosures,” their integration continues to be desirable for security but impossible racially.
  • Focus on religious identity allowed for a formal incorporation of these rather diverse populations into the Turkish national body. The asylum policy and the settlement laws defined migrants as Turks and those “affiliated with Turkish culture” to encompass all the Slav, Albanian and Greek Muslims, making Turkey­­ a safe haven for Muslim minorities fleeing oppressive regimes.
  • Dispossession, expulsions and massacres of diverse Muslim populations were already a grim reality of nation-building in southeastern Europe in the 19th century, when Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria were carved out of Ottoman provinces. In fact, the conquests of Ottoman Europe after 1699 normalized expulsion and compulsory conversion of local Muslims in the lost territories
  • During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria invaded the remaining Ottoman territories in Europe. Within several months, an estimated 1 million Muslims vanished, murdered and expelled from the regions taken over by these states. The shocking magnitude of the violence, which continued into World War I, made many Muslims wary of their future in the new nation-states and incited migration to the Ottoman Empire, itself in the midst of conflict.
  • 19th-century definitions of South Slavic brotherhood envisioned Slav Muslims as potentially assimilable, distinguishing between “the Turks” as the non-Slavic Ottomans and “our Turks,” that is, Slav Muslims
  • took as its model another such deal between Turkey and Romania in 1936 as well as the better-known Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923
  • so-called reform also included the vast properties of the Islamic pious endowments. Schools, mosques and Sufi lodges lost the land and incomes that were used to operate educational, religious and community services. Some land appropriations were symbolic: The 15th-century Burmali Mosque that visually defined Skopje’s main thoroughfare was simply torn down
  • Ivo Andric, an admired novelist and Yugoslav Nobel laureate, was also one of the highest-ranking Yugoslav diplomats in the interwar period. Eager to finalize the population transfer agreement with Turkey, he advised the government in Belgrade that Turkey was not only interested in the small group of ethnic Turks in Yugoslavia but also populations akin to Turks in their “mentality.” Repeating a constant theme in almost all of Andric’s novels, Muslims were described in his diplomatic correspondence as alien to the Balkans. For Andric, they were “Turks leftover in the territories of our Kingdom.”
  • over 2,000 Bosnians were settled along with Greek Muslims in the town of Izmir.
  • Turkish officials, faced with the constant influx of migrants, pursued agreements with the Balkan states that would offset the costs of migrant settlement. The 1934 Balkan Pact included minority clauses that allowed Turkish citizens to sell their properties in their former homelands. Turkish administrators also considered requesting an estimated payment from the Balkan nation-states to match the value of the properties that Balkan Muslims were forced to leave behind.
  • The Turkish Republic saw population growth as beneficial for economic development and national defense in the long term, as it worked to populate its eastern and western borderlands. Moreover, many of Turkey’s early administrators, as migrants and children of migrants themselves, understood these new waves of migration from a personal perspective.
  • Laws barred those speaking languages other than Turkish from settling in groups and limited the “foreign” presence to no more than 10% of a municipality, though the realities of the period frequently made these laws impossible to execute. The locals took on much of the burden of helping newcomers, begrudgingly sharing public resources. At the same time, the immigrants provided necessary manpower and introduced new methods in agriculture and certain industries. While Balkan languages largely disappeared with the following generation, enduring legacies, such as Balkan cuisine and music evoking the most personal memories of exile, acquired a place in the Turkish national heritage.
  • Today, no official recognition of the violent policies of “unmixing” exists, and barely anyone has heard of Yugoslavia’s attempted population transfer of 1939.
  • the international community’s preferred solutions to “ethnic conflicts” in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo remain equally tied to principles of nationalist homogenization and demarcation. A century after the foundation of modern Turkey and the first Yugoslavia, the legacies of that era’s mass migration and state violence persist.
Ed Webb

The 'Conscious Uncoupling' of Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • unprecedented statements and moves made by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, involving the role of Wahhabism in the country, from restraining the clerics to announcing initiatives to revise and update religious texts
  • Wahhabism’s decline as a movement has been many years in the making, and this has something to do with the political shift pushed by Bin Salman — but only to a certain degree. The decline preceded him and would have happened without these political changes, if not at the same speed or so quietly. This distinction matters, because it means that other factors contributed to the waning power of Wahhabism both in the kingdom and in the wider region, and it is this internal decay and the surrounding environment that make Wahhabism’s current troubles deep and permanent.
  • the decline of Wahhabism was primarily an unintended (and ironic) consequence of the Saudi leadership’s fight against hostile Islamist and jihadist forces in the country
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  • With Wahhabism, the only undeniably native Islamist ideology, he followed a different and incremental approach of pacifying and neutralizing the doctrine. His campaign started with hints and intensified over time until the unequivocal proclamation in 2021 that the kingdom should not be wedded to one person or ideology.
  • Juhayman al-Otaybi’s seizure of the mosque in 1979 was ended, but it was not without a lasting effect on politics. The new rebellion alarmed then-King Khalid bin Abdulaziz and led him to appease the clerical establishment and establish conservative practices, often at the expense of decades-old attempts at modernization with the advent of oil revenue. (Other geopolitical events, such as the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, equally contributed to the new policy.) It also meant that the kingdom had largely tolerated both Wahhabi and Islamist activists, especially throughout the 1980s.
  • Wahhabism started to face internal and external challenges with the increased involvement of jihadist ideologies in regional wars, the rise of satellite channels as well as technology and the youth bulge in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Before that, Wahhabis benefited from the simplicity, purity and unity of their message: return to the early generations of Islam and tawhid (monotheism). Wahhabism thrived when it was able to channel all its energy — with near-limitless resources — against the trinity of what it labeled polytheistic or heretical practices: the mystical current of Sufism, heretical ideas of progressive or moderate clerics, and “deviant” teachings of Shiite Islam and other non-Sunni sects. The puritanical and categorical nature of its message had an appeal in villages and cities across the Muslim world. Its preachers had immeasurable wherewithal to conduct lavish proselytization trips to Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and even Europe and the United States. Muslim expatriates working in Arab states of the Persian Gulf found it easy to obtain funds to build mosques in their home countries. Saudi embassies monitored Shiite proselytization and countered it with all the financial might they had, supplied by the Saudi state or charities.
  • Alamer argues that the biggest effect of the post-9/11 campaigns was that they did away with what he dubs “the Faisal Formula,” by which he means the Saudi balancing act of allowing Islamists to dominate the public space — whether in the educational, religious or social domains — without interfering in political decisions such as the relationship with the U.S. This balancing act was established by King Faisal, who wanted to use Islamists to safeguard the home front, including against sweeping ideologies like communism, liberalism and pan-Arabism, and to rely on the U.S. for security externally. The formula, which became the basis for dealing with the post-1979 threats, was challenged after the 1991 Gulf War, and the state response primarily involved security and authoritarian measures without doing away with the formula.
  • There are no fixed schools of thought and there is no infallible person. We should engage in continuous interpretation of Quranic texts, and the same goes for the traditions of the prophet.
  • Salafi-jihadists benefited from the ideological infrastructure or groundwork laid out by Wahhabism and Islamism but carved out their own distinct space, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11 and the regional wars that followed. The appeal of Wahhabism shrank even further with the Arab uprisings, as their liberal and radical rivals joined the conflicts against their regimes, while an already fragmented and hollowed-out Wahhabi establishment stood firmly by the status quo.
  • Bin Salman said the emphasis on the teachings of Wahhabism’s founder amounts to idolizing a human, which would go against the very teachings of the founding sheikh. The full response to the interviewer’s question is stark and damning to the core tenets of the Wahhabi establishment:When we commit ourselves to following a certain school or scholar, this means we are deifying human beings.
  • The progressive movement, opposed to both Islamists and the state, has likely not died. Rather, it is both latent and cautious. Understandably, any such voices will tread carefully under the current political atmosphere of crackdowns and lack of clarity, but the roots of this movement already exist and don’t need to form from scratch. The anti-Islamist movement will likely shape the ideological landscape in the kingdom in the coming years, as the forces of Islamism continue to wane.
  • Our role is to make sure all the laws passed in Saudi Arabia reflect the following: … that they do not violate the Quran and the traditions of the prophet, the Quran being our constitution; that they do not contradict our interests; that they preserve the security and interests of citizens, and that they help in the development and prosperity of the country. So, laws are passed based on this procedure according to international conventions.
  • multiple reasons, from the effects of the Arab uprisings and the rise of the Islamic State to the growing influence of geopolitical rivals in Iran and Turkey, coalesced to make Saudi Arabia focus more on fortifying the home front and move away from its global backing of the Wahhabi movement. The country has moved to close mosques and charities across the world, including in Russia and Europe
  • In Saudi Arabia and beyond, Wahhabism has been losing ground for too many years. The factors that once helped it grow no longer exist. Politically, the state no longer needs the ideology, which would not have flourished without the state. Even if the Saudi state decided to change its view about the utility of Wahhabism, it would not be able to reverse the trend. Wahhabism ran out of gas ideologically before it did politically. The ideology, sometimes seen as a distinct sect even from the Sunni tradition it emerged from, had long projected power disproportionate to its actual appeal and strength because it had the backing of a powerful and wealthy kingdom and a vast network of rich and generous donors. That bubble has now burst, and Wahhabism is reduced to its right size of being a minor player in the Muslim landscape, progressively including in Saudi Arabia.
Ed Webb

Opinion | France cynically targets Muslim women - again - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • France, more than any other European country, has struggled with a wave of Islamist violence that has led to the death of more than 230 people. One response to these attacks from the political right and the center-left has been a rhetorical hardening on Islam and its place in French society. But many French Muslims and other minority voices say this hardening has often stifled good-faith criticism of government policies
  • I was called a terrorist and repeatedly harassed by social media trolls, only to find out they’d been funded by the French government
  • several organizations were given money without having to demonstrate their previous work on radicalization or, for some of them, to demonstrate any work at all. And some of those organizations and their representatives had personal relationships with Schiappa. Then it appeared that some of the money doled out by the government was ultimately used in the 2022 presidential campaign to criticize opponents of Emmanuel Macron, which is not legal. The government’s money cannot be used in favor of a candidate during a campaign — it has to be neutral.
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  • some of those organizations used that money to harass people online, including me. A number of other anti-racist and feminist advocates were targeted. The worst was when they depicted a number of us together in an illustration that also showed the face of Salah Abdeslam, the convicted terrorist who was mastermind of the 2015 attacks on Paris. Even some of the government’s allies had to ask: Should tax dollars be used to harass and defame public figures who are seen as criticizing the government?
  • announced the ban of abayas and qamis — traditional garments — in public schools, interpreting them as “religious outfits.” This is in keeping with France’s principle of laïcité, or secularism, which enshrines the neutrality of the state toward religious observance and the freedom of belief. Since 2004, laïcité has become a political football, especially in schools.
  • There’s no question that all of this constitutes a legitimate national trauma, but this very real fear is used by the government to depict the way some Muslim teenagers dress not only as a “violation of secularism” but also as “an attack” and “an attempt to destabilize” the French republic.
  • This is warlike rhetoric, and it treats teenage female Muslims as a monolithic entity — and a threat.
  • recent years show that it is impossible for any Muslim woman who wears a religious sign to be visible in the public sphere. And I connect this to my own experience as a Black and Muslim woman. Being in the public eye and outspoken on Islamophobia, I have faced many attempts to silence me.
  • France has been tremendously ingenious and imaginative to make sure to enable its narrow conception of national identity. France pursues an ideal of assimilation and uses laïcité as an instrument to standardize the display of cultures
Ed Webb

How Andrew Tate and the Far Right Made Common Cause with Islamists - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • culture wars are even having an effect on the left. The Muslim Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have both openly supported LGBTQ causes, yet Omar and Tlaib’s most steadfast backer, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (arguably the largest and most influential Muslim organization in America), has recently shifted to the right on these causes. Previously supportive of LGBTQ rights, CAIR has expressed concern over proposed legislation strengthening these rights, stating that new amendments to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act could “jeopardize religious freedom.” In the state of Michigan, CAIR is working with Catholic and Protestant groups challenging the amendments.
  • The alliances may seem improbable, but the foundations of these anti-LGBTQ and pro-traditional family movements are firm and likely not only to endure but also reshape the political landscape. In the West, the social conservatism of the traditional Muslim way of life offers a prototype for what a “woke-free” society might look like. For a sizable reactionary contingent, conservative Islam’s patriarchal structures and gender and family norms seem vastly preferable to the direction the West is heading, thanks to feminism, “cultural Marxism” and liberalism. In turn, conservative Muslims have been embracing expressions like “red pill” and “the matrix” to describe the rejection of liberalism and feminism, while expressing solidarity with the West’s manosphere. The misogyny, transphobia, antisemitism and anti-liberal sentiments of both cultures are thus being bolstered and are in turn supporting and influencing the political expression of the new radical right, represented by Trump, DeSantis and other populists. The new right may only be a splinter group, but with allies among extreme conservatives of all stripes, its power to potentially change societies and geopolitics is undeniable.
Ed Webb

Tunisia: Attack on Djerba synagogue was premeditated by national guard member - Al-Moni... - 0 views

  • Tunisia’s Interior Ministry has identified the man behind an attack that killed five people earlier this week, saying Thursday that he intentionally targeted a synagogue on the Mediterranean island of Djerba in a premeditated act. The ministry described the shooting as a “cowardly criminal attack” but refrained from calling it an act of terrorism.
  • The French National Terrorism Prosecution Office has launched its own probe into the attack. Benjamin Haddad, who was French, was killed in the attack along with his cousin Aviel Haddad, who held dual Tunisian and Israeli citizenship.
  • The shooting coincided with the annual Jewish pilgrimage that is part of Lag Ba’omer celebration. Thousands of Jews from around the world gather at El-Ghriba synagogue, believed to be the oldest in Africa dating back 2,500 years.
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  • Djerba’s Jewish population is one of North Africa’s biggest, although in recent years it declined to 1,500, down from 100,000 in the 1960s
  • Tunisia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, but Israelis can apply for a visa to travel to Djerba for the pilgrimage.
  • During his electoral campaign in 2019, Saied, who has since cemented his one-man rule, labeled normalization with Israel “high treason.”
Ed Webb

The Death of Syria's Mystery Woman - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • since the early 2000s, when Bashar al-Assad came to power and loosened the country’s restrictions on private schools and colleges, educational institutions run or influenced by the Qubaysiyat have become ubiquitous in Syria
  • franchises across the Middle East and even as far afield as Europe and the Americas
  • family members who have watched wives, mothers, sisters or daughters burrow deeper into the organization do occasionally complain openly about the group’s peculiar ideas and practices
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  • hybrid hierarchical structure
  • By the early 1980s, just before members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-government Islamist groups went into exile following a failed uprising against then-President Hafez al-Assad, it was commonly said that almost every conservative woman in Damascus was either a disciple of the Qubaysiyat, attended their classes occasionally or at the very least admired them. The group had sunk deeper roots into Syrian society than many who had chosen to challenge the regime directly. Today, the knotted veil and loose dress of the Qubaysiyat have become symbolic of urban Damascene culture as a whole.“When my 20-something-year-old daughter comes home one day wearing the hijab, and slowly grows more religious, how can I, her mother, not wear a hijab also?” recalled one Damascene whose entire family converted from secularists to observant Muslims after their daughter joined the Qubaysiyat.
  • For many supporters of the Syrian revolution, the group was tarnished by the decision in the early years of the uprising by leaders of the Qubaysiyat to be photographed meeting with Assad. The organization itself has exhibited fractures amid the pressure of a conflict that has impacted every sector of Syrian society, with divisions emerging among rank-and-file members over how to respond to the cataclysm of the war and their own leaders’ pragmatic relationship with the Syrian regime.
  • Al-Qubaysi never made public appearances or spoke directly to the press
  • unusually for women in a deeply conservative society, al-Qubaysi (like many of her group’s leadership) never married — devoting her entire life instead to the cause of women’s education.
  • its abandonment of politics led the movement toward other avenues of influence over Syrian society. The organization would come to influence the social scene in Damascus through a network of affordable private schools that offered high-quality education to young women, many of whom were drawn from the city’s conservative upper class. The growth of the movement reflected al-Qubaysi’s own organizational genius, employing tools like strategic marriages with elite figures, well-placed gifts and the acquisition and refurbishment of old properties to serve as schools. At its peak, nearly 40% of private girls’ schools and tutoring services in Damascus are believed to have been run by the organization.
  • the group was divided between leaders who sought to accommodate the regime and rank-and-file members who often sympathized with the opposition. In December 2012, leaders from the group were forced to break their public silence on the uprising to attend a meeting with Assad, where, implicitly, they projected support for the regime by appearing with its leader. A few days later, a protest video by ostensible Qubaysiyat disciples was uploaded to YouTube titled, “Free Women of Damascus Defect from the Qubaysiyat” — a complaint against what many saw as collaboration with an increasingly murderous dictatorship.
  • In 2014, Salma Ayyash, a leader in the group, was appointed as assistant to Mohammed Abdul Sattar al-Sayed, the Syrian government’s minister of endowments. There was no public protest against this appointment from within the movement. More changes would soon follow. In 2018, the same ministry announced the nationalization of the Qubaysiyat and its activities, a development that signaled to many the end of the movement as an independent entity. Since then, the Qubaysiyat has come under the umbrella of a government that has, in the wake of the conflict, sought to extend its influence into every remaining corner of Syrian society.
Ed Webb

How Austria made the study of Islamophobia a crime | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • my academic work on Islamophobia was cited as a reason for the terrorism allegations. The intelligence agency’s regular reports outlining why I was seen as a security threat delved deep into my academic work on Islamophobia, relating it to conspiracy theories and claiming that my Catholic director at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, was a staunch Islamist.
  • According to the regional court, my “activities in the preparation of the so-called Islamophobia Report and activity with the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University is intended to disseminate the fighting term ‘Islamophobia’ with the goal of preventing any critical engagement with Islam as a religion […] in order to establish an Islamic state […]”.
  • there is a lot of work to be done on behalf of the Austrian intelligence service, which has been primed by alarmist experts spreading conspiracy theories to draw a picture of an immediate Muslim threat.
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  • the Austrian political elite has to ask itself how it sees the future of Muslims, who constitute nine percent of the population, in the country. While most political parties have been either silent or supportive  of anti-Muslim policies, the infamous Operation Luxor is a welcoming occasion to rethink the approach of the past years.
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