مصر… حراك سلمي لا يتوقف

عمرو حمزاوي

إزاء إلغاء الفضاء العام والحصار الممنهج المفروض على المجتمع المدني ومحدودية فاعلية الأحزاب السياسية إن المهادنة للحكم أو المعارضة له والتراجع البين في القدرات التنظيمية والجماهيرية لليمين الديني، بدت أوضاع مصر بين 2013 و2018 وكأن السلطوية الجديدة قد صارت في إخضاعها للمواطن والمجتمع وسيطرتها على مؤسسات الدولة دون منازع، وكأن فرص مقاومتها والضغط السلمي من أجل انتزاع شيء من حقوق وحريات الناس قد أضحت إلى الخيال أقرب.

وظفت السلطوية الجديدة أدواتها الإعلامية للترويج لقراءة الأوضاع المصرية على هذا النحو، ولسان حالها باتجاه المواطنين هو «لا جدوى للمواجهة، لا بديل عن الامتثال»! وأضافت أيضا تفسيرها التآمري البائس لثورة يناير 2011، ومرادفتها التحول الديمقراطي بهدم الدولة ونشر الفوضى وإلحاق البلاد بمصائر سوريا والعراق وليبيا. تدريجيا، وبفعل استمرار الانتهاكات والقمع والتعقب دون توقف، تملك الشعور بالإحباط وفقدان الأمل من المطالبين بالديمقراطية ومن المدافعين عن الحقوق والحريات واتجهت نظرتهم إلى الأوضاع المصرية أيضا إلى الدفع بغياب فرص المواجهة السلمية للسلطوية الجديدة وانتفاء القدرة على التغيير الإيجابي. حدث ذلك في سياقات إقليمية وعالمية أرادت بها القوى الفاعلة إغلاق ملف الانتفاضات الديمقراطية 2011، ونعتها بالفشل، وإعادة ترتيب أولويات بلاد العرب والشرق الأوسط لتأتي في الواجهة الحرب على الإرهاب وإدارة الصراع السني ـ الشيعي المتوهم والبحث عن مناطق نفوذ في دول وطنية منهارة (سوريا واليمن وليبيا) ودعم صعود وبقاء حكام أقوياء يعدون بالأمن والاستقرار ولا تعنيهم الديمقراطية من قريب أو بعيد. في مثل هذه السياقات الإقليمية والعالمية اكتسبت السلطوية الجديدة في مصر شرعيتها خارج الحدود، تلك الشرعية التي حققت منها قسطا داخليا باستعادة شيء من الأمن وبعض السياسات الاقتصادية والاجتماعية الناجعة.

غير أن الاستسلام لقراءة «لا جدوى للمواجهة، لا بديل عن الامتثال» فيما خص الأوضاع المصرية يتجاهل واقع الحراك المجتمعي ضد الممارسات القمعية للسلطوية الجديدة بين 2013 و2018. فقد تطورت مبادرات احتجاجية لتوثيق وكشف انتهاكات الحقوق والحريات المتراكمة، وضمت بين صفوفها طلاب وشباب ونشطاء وحقوقيين. غابت عن مبادرات مثل «الحرية للجدعان» الأطر التنظيمية المحددة، والتزمت كل منها بقضية واحدة فقط مثل جرائم الاختفاء القسري أو سلب حرية مواطنين بسبب القوانين القمعية كقانون التظاهر أو جرائم التعذيب داخل السجون وأماكن الاحتجاز، واستطاعت بنجاح مواجهة الإنكار الحكومي لحدوث انتهاكات للحقوق والحريات والتأسيس وإن بين قطاعات محدودة من المواطنين لوعي شعبي جديد بشأن ضرورة رفض القمع وإفلات المتورطين في الانتهاكات من المساءلة القانونية

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كذلك نشطت بين 2013 و2018 نقابات مهنية اشتبكت مع السلطوية الجديدة بشأن قضايا تتعلق بالدفاع عن استقلالها التنظيمي، وغل يد الأجهزة الأمنية عن العبث بداخلها، والانتصار لحقوق وحريات الأعضاء ومن بينها حرية اختيار ممثليهم والحماية من التعرض للتعقب والعقاب والتعبير العلني عن الرأي إن فيما خص القضايا النقابية أو القضايا العامة. وبرزت هنا نقابة الأطباء ونقابة الصحافيين اللتان اضطلعتا بأدوار حاسمة في مواجهة السلطوية، وفي المجمل مثل حراك النقابات المهنية استعادة لحيوية تلك المساحة الهامة الواقعة بين الحكم وبين المواطنين والتي كانت في ثمانينيات وتسعينيات القرن العشرين في صدارة الدفاع عن حرية التعبير عن الرأي وحرية التنظيم في مواجهة سلطوية ما قبل كانون الثاني/يناير 2011.

وفيما خص الحراك الطلابي، لم تتمكن السلطوية الجديدة من الضبط الأمني للجامعات الحكومية والخاصة والقضاء التام على الحراك. استخدمت السلطوية كل ما في جعبتها من أدوات للقمع والتعقب ومن أدوات للحصار باسم القوانين واللوائح والإجراءات، بل واستعانت بشركات أمن خاصة للتواجد داخل حرم الجامعات ودفعت الإدارات الجامعية لإنزال عقوبات قاسية بالطلاب غير الممتثلين وسلبت حرية بعضهم وأحالتهم إلى المحاكم. على الرغم من ذلك، استمرت الجامعة حاضرة كمساحة رئيسية للمواجهة، بين 2013 و2015 تظاهرا واعتصاما وبين 2015 و2018 مشاركة كثيفة في انتخابات الاتحادات الطلابية لإنجاح مرشحين غير مرشحي الأجهزة الأمنية والاستخباراتية. هنا أيضا شكل الحراك الطلابي استعادة للمساحة الجامعية كمساحة لمنازعة السلطوية والتعبير المنظم عن معارضة سياساتها وممارساتها، وجدد في الوعي الشعبي للمصريين دور الجامعة والطلاب في الدعوة للتغيير الديمقراطي.

أخفقت السلطوية الجديدة أيضا في القضاء على الحراك العمالي الذي واصل تصدر المشهد الاحتجاجي بين 2013 و2018. لم يفلح المزج بين القمع والتعقب وبين إجراءات الترهيب المتراوحة بين الفصل التعسفي من مكان العمل وبين إحالة بعض العمال المحتجين إلى القضاء العسكري في إنهاء الاحتجاجات العمالية، وتواصلت الاحتجاجات باستخدام أدوات التظاهر والاعتصام والإضراب للمطالبة بحقوق اقتصادية واجتماعية معرفة جيدا، وامتدت خريطة الاحتجاجات العمالية لتشمل القطاعين العام والخاص ولتجمع بين العمال وبين موظفي الخدمة المدنية (موظفو بيروقراطية الدولة والأجهزة الحكومية).

كما تكرر خروج بعض المواطنات والمواطنين إلى المساحات العامة للاحتجاج على قرارات وإجراءات وممارسات حكومية بعينها كتورط عناصر أمنية في تعذيب وقتل مصريين داخل أماكن الاحتجاز الشرطي أو للاعتراض العلني على سياسات حكومية. بالقطع، حاولت السلطوية الجديدة أن تدير أمنيا المبادرات الاحتجاجية والحراك النقابي والطلابي والعمالي مستخدمة تارة لأدوات القمع المباشر وتارة أخرى لأدواتها القانونية المصاغة لتهجير المواطن ولإغلاق الفضاء العام. بين 2013 و2018، استعادت السلطوية ماضي الحصار الأمني للنقابات المهنية وللحركات الطلابية والعمالية وأضافت لقوائم المسلوبة مواطنين خرجوا عفويا وسلميا إلى الشارع لمعارضة قرارات وممارسات حكومية. تكررت أيضا مشاهد ما قبل كانون الثاني/يناير 2011 مثل «التفخيخ الأمني» للنقابات المهنية التي عارضت مجالس إدارتها المنتخبة السياسات الرسمية، و«الاصطناع الأمني» للصراعات بين المجالس المنتخبة وبين أعضاء في النقابات عرف عنهم التبعية للحكم وللأجهزة الأمنية، و«الأطواق الشرطية» المحيطة بمقار النقابات وبالمصانع التي تحدث بها تظاهرات أو اعتصامات أو إضرابات، والإحالة السريعة للنشطاء العماليين والمواطنين المشاركين في الاحتجاجات إلى عمليات تقاضي (إن أمام القضاء المدني ـ الطبيعي أو أمام القضاء العسكري). على الرغم من كل هذا القمع الممنهج، وجدت السلطوية الجديدة صعوبات حقيقية في السيطرة الكاملة على الحراك المجتمعي وبدت من ثم في مأزق سياسي يتناقض من جهة مع سيطرتها المطلقة على المساحات الإعلامية التقليدية وإغلاقها للفضاء العام وحصارها للمجتمع المدني وتسفيهها للمساحات الرسمية لممارسة السياسة وللأحزاب السياسية ومرشح من جهة أخرى للاستمرار في الفترة القادمة.

تم نشر هذا المقال في جريدة القدس العربي

ماذا ستكون الاستراتيجية الأمريكية الجديدة إذا انسحب ترامب من الاتفاق النووي مع إيران؟

روبرت ساتلوف

خلال زيارة الرئيس الفرنسي إلى واشنطن في الأسبوع الماضي، أرسل الرئيس ترامب إشاراتٍ متضاربة حول مستقبل الاتفاق النووي مع إيران. فقد وصف الاتفاق بـ “الجنوني” و”التافه”، ولكنه قال إن واشنطن قد تتوصل إلى تفاهم جديد مع باريس والعواصم الأوروبية الأخرى “بسرعة كبيرة”، وأنه ملتزماً بـ “المرونة”.

وإذا أُخِذت هذه التصرفات سوية، فإنها تعكس [الشخصية] الكلاسيكية لترامب. فهو الذي يتفاخر بإثارة حيرة الحلفاء والخصوم على السواء حول خطوته التالية. وعندما سيأتي 12 أيار/مايو، وهو الموعد المحدد في القانون لتمديد الاعفاءات من العقوبات، سيبقى من غير المعلوم ما إذا كان سيلغي اتفاقاً سَخَر منه منذ فترة طويلة ووصفه بأنه أسوأ صفقة تم التفاوض بشأنها على الإطلاق – غير أنّ ما كشفته إسرائيل مؤخراً عن أرشيف إيران النووي السري سيعزز بالتأكيد الحجج الداعية إلى “إلغاء الاتفاق”.

ولكن إذا [قرر] الرئيس الأمريكي سحب الولايات المتحدة من الاتفاق واكتفى بسرد ما يشوبه من عيوب، فلن يحظى حتى بتهليل منتقدي الاتفاق (بمن فيهم كاتب هذه السطور). إذ لا يوفّر الانسحاب وحده نهجاً بديلاً لمنع إيران من امتلاك قدرات [لإنتاج] أسلحة نووية. كما أن الانسحاب وحده لا يفسّر كيف ستردّ الولايات المتحدة على ردود فعل الأصدقاء والخصوم، بمن فيهم إيران. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، لا يوفّر الانسحاب وحده دليلاً على الأهداف العامة للإدارة الأمريكية تجاه إيران والسياسات اللازمة لتحقيقها.

بعبارةٍ أخرى، يشكل الانسحاب من الاتفاق خطوة وليس استراتيجية. ونحن بحاجة إلى استراتيجية للتعامل مع إيران.

وإذا قرر الرئيس الأمريكي الانسحاب من الصفقة النووية، ستتبلور أربعة خيارات رئيسية حول الاستراتيجية تجاه إيران:

التفاوض على اتفاق أفضل يقوم بتصحيح عيوب الاتفاق الأصلي من خلال تضمين قيود دائمة على التخصيب، وفرض حظر على تطوير الصواريخ الباليستية واعتماد نظام تفتيش أكثر تقحماً. وقد يتطلب ذلك ورقة ضغط تُجبر إيران على العودة إلى طاولة المفاوضات، ويشمل ذلك إعادة فرض العقوبات التي وضعتها الأمم المتحدة والولايات المتحدة، وربما فرض غرامات ثانوية على الدول التي لا تقلّص مشترياتها من النفط الإيراني إلى مستويات منخفضة بما فيه الكفاية.

وعلى خلاف مناورة الرئيس أوباما التي سعت إلى عرض الاتفاق الإيراني على أنه “اتفاق تنفيذي”، يتعين على الرئيس ترامب أن يَعِد بتقديم أي اتفاق إلى مجلس الشيوخ على أنه معاهدة، الأمر الذي سيعزز الضغط على الشركاء الأوروبيين للولايات المتحدة كي يساعدوا على التوصل إلى اتفاق يستأهل عدد الأصوات المطلوبة بموجب الدستور، أي 67 صوتاً.

التفاوض على اتفاق أكثر أهمية لا يقوم فقط بإصلاح العيوب في الاتفاق القديم، بل يتناول الأنشطة الإقليمية الإيرانية الخبيثة أيضاً. وفي هذا الصدد، أدّى دعم طهران للإرهاب والتخريب والميليشيات الشيعية في سوريا والعراق إلى تغيير الوضع الأمني في المنطقة، مما أثار قلق العرب والإسرائيليين على حد سواء. إن التوصل إلى اتفاق أكثر طموحاً سيكون أكثر تعقيداً، إلاّ أنّ النجاح سيشكّل تأكيداً مثيراً للقيادة الأمريكية – ولبراعة الرئيس ترامب في إبرام الصفقات.

إطلاق سياسة تسعى إلى تغيير النظام. قد يأتي هذا النهج الجريء نتيجة تقييمٍ يبرز فيه فساد النظام في طهران، بحيث لن ينفع معه أي اتفاق. ويمكن للرئيس الأمريكي أن يجادل بأن سعي إيران للسيادة الإقليمية يشكل خطراً واضحاً وشاملاً على المصالح الأمريكية. وبطبيعة الحال، قد تأخذ الجهود الرامية إلى إحداث تغيير في النظام أشكالاً عديدة، مع استبعاد احتمال قيام مواجهة عسكرية. ولكن من شأن تحديد الهدف فقط أن يرسم مساراً جديداً للانخراط الأمريكي في الشرق الأوسط.

تنفيذ استراتيجية الانكماش في الشرق الأوسط تقلّص بموجبها الولايات المتحدة تعرّضها للمشاكل الخطيرة والمستعصية في المنطقة. وربما كان أوباما قد صمّم الاتفاق النووي كأداة لانتشال أمريكا من مستنقع الشرق الأوسط، لكن قد يجادل ترامب بأن الولايات المتحدة ما زالت عالقة هناك كما كان الحال دائماً. ويمكن أن يتصوّر المرء قيام الرئيس الأمريكي بإعطاء تصريح يقول فيه، “دعونا لا نكون ملزمين مثل جليفر باتفاق مرهِق يبقينا مقيّدين بإيران لسنوات قادمة”، مضيفاً “دعونا نتمتع بِحرية اختيار المكان والزمان المناسبين للتصرف”.

وفي هذا السيناريو، ستواصل الولايات المتحدة تقديم (أو، حتى أفضل من ذلك، بيع) الأسلحة إلى حلفائها المحليين لكي يتمكنوا من مواجهة إيران ووكلائها. ويمكن للرئيس الأمريكي أن يربط الانسحاب من الاتفاق النووي بعقيدة الردع الجديدة التي تنص على ما يلي: أي دليل على قيام إيران بتخصيب المواد الانشطارية إلى درجة تتخطى مستوى معيّن من شأنه أن يؤدي إلى قيام الولايات المتحدة بعملية عسكرية ضخمة تهدف إلى إنهاء النظام.

وعلى الرغم من أن هذه الخيارات تطال طيف السياسات، إلّا أنه ليس من الصعب تصوّر تأييد ترامب لأي منها. وهذا خير دليل على غياب التماسك الاستراتيجي في الإدارة الأمريكية فيما يتعلق بإيران والشرق الأوسط على نطاق أوسع.

وإذا اختار الرئيس الأمريكي الانسحاب من الاتفاق، فستتمثل الخطوة الصحيحة في شمل هذا القرار في استراتيجية جديدة [تهدف إلى] التوصل إلى اتفاق أفضل. وستؤدي هذه المقاربة إلى تقليل المتاعب بين أصدقاء الولايات المتحدة في أوروبا، حيث يشارك بعضهم قلق واشنطن بشأن عيوب الاتفاق الحالي، كما أنها تتمتع بفرصة أفضل للنجاح.

إلا أنّ هذا ليس كافياً. يتعين على الرئيس الأمريكي أن يعزز سياسة تتمثل [بالتوصل إلى] “اتفاق أفضل” يضم العناصر الأساسية للخيارين الثاني والثالث، من دون تحمّل التكلفة السياسية لتبنّي تلك المسارات الأكثر تطرفاً بشكلٍ علني وكامل. يجب أن يتضمن ذلك اعتماد تدابير أكثر فعالية وأكثر حزماً لمواجهة سلوك إيران المزعزع للاستقرار في جميع أنحاء الشرق الأوسط، فضلاً عن اتخاذ مبادرات جديدة – في مجال حقوق الإنسان والحرية الدينية والوصول إلى شبكة الإنترنت، على سبيل المثال – التي تضع أمريكا بشكل مباشر إلى جانب الإيرانيين الذين يناضلون من أجل الحرية. وقد تشكّل هذه المقترحات مجتمعة سياسةً حقيقيةً تجاه إيران – هي الأولى منذ عقود – وليس مجرد سياسة نووية تجاه إيران.

وهناك خطوة خاطئة أيضاً، وهي رد الفعل البغيض المتمثل بالانسحاب من المنطقة خلف جدار من التهديد والتوعّد. ففي نهاية المطاف، لا يقوم الانخراط الأمريكي في الشرق الأوسط على الغيريّة. فإلى جانب دعم مصالح الولايات المتحدة وحلفائها التقليديين، يكمن الهدف الأناني لواشنطن في حل المشاكل هناك قبل أن يتم تصديرها إلى الولايات المتحدة.

لنأمل أن يستمدّ الرئيس الأمريكي قراره بشأن الاتفاق النووي من خيار استراتيجي سليم ومعقول تجاه إيران، وليس من حافز انعزالي مضلّل أو من عدائية متأصلة تجاه الإنجاز الذي حققه سلفه.

روبرت ساتلوف هو المدير التنفيذي لمعهد واشنطن.

UK drones firing organ-destroying ‘vacuum bombs’ on the rise in Syria – FOI request reveals

The UK is ‘indiscriminately’ using thermobaric missiles as part of its ongoing air war in Syria, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request has revealed.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted, for the first time, using thermobaric weapons during strikes carried out by Royal Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drones during missions in January and February, in response to the FoI request by anti-war campaign group Drone Wars UK.

Thermobaric weapons, known colloquially as “vacuum bombs,” differ from conventional munitions – which cause damage by spreading shrapnel – as they create a high-temperature explosion with an extremely powerful blast radius. The pressure created causes severe internal damage to the organs of people caught in the blast radius.

According to Drone Wars, the request saw “officials give a breakdown of the type of Hellfire missiles fired, stating that 19 AGM-114N4 and 44 AGM-114R2 had been used. The ‘N’ version of the missile uses a Metal Augmented Charge (MAC) warhead that contains a thermobaric explosive fill using aluminum with the explosive mixture. When the warhead detonates, the aluminum mixture is dispersed and rapidly burns.”

While use of vacuum bombs remain legal under international law, their use has been criticized by human rights organizations as they have the potential to create unnecessary human suffering.

“Anyone in the vicinity is likely to die from internal organ damage,” the group added.

Manufactured by US arms giant Lockheed Martin, the company boasts that over 21,000 units of the missile have been delivered to the US Air Force and over 13 of Washington’s international partners, including the UK.

Coming in three configurations, Hellfires have been integrated on a variety of air platforms including the Apache and Super Cobra attack helicopters. As well as Predator and Reaper drones. They have also been added to turboprop fixed-wing aircraft, offering operators a cheaper platform to carry out counter-insurgency missions.

Increased use by the RAF

The UK’s use of thermobaric missiles was first reported in 2008 when the British military used Apache helicopters equipped with Hellfires to tackle Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. News that troops were using such weapons caused a stir in Westminster with The Times reporting that “MoD weapons and legal experts spent 18 months debating whether British troops could use them without breaking international law.”

They settled on redefining the missiles as “enhanced blast weapons” in order to get around any potential legal wrangling.

Since then, and until the request granted by the FoI, the MoD has tried to avoid answering questions on their use of the thermobaric variant of the Hellfire.

READ MORE: RAF strike killed one civilian in Syria as it targeted ISIS, defence secretary admits

Admission of their use comes the same week as UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson admitted that a recent RAF airstrike resulted in a civilian casualty. In a ministerial statement, Williamson said that the casualty “crossed into the strike area at the last moment,” during a targeted strike in northeastern Syria on March 26, that killed three militants of the Islamic State (IS).

In recent months, the RAF has been upping its use of drone strikes in Syria in favor of its dedicated multi-role strike bomber, the Tornado. According to Drone Wars, between January and March of this year, “UK drones fired as many weapons in Syria (92) as they have over the previous 18 months,” and is seeking further information on whether their use is increasing in favor of manned aircraft.

source: RT

Hamas: Constrained or Nimble?

IMAD ALSOOS,  NATHAN J. BROWN

While other Palestinian institutions are in crisis, Hamas has maintained its integrity and survived political turmoil. But to capitalize on this, it will need to revise its strategy.

n 2017, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas made news by taking three major steps that did not involve firing a single shot: it issued a new charter; it elected a new leadership; and it allowed the administration in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to answer to the ministries of the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank, a relationship that had been sundered a decade earlier.

These measures were interpreted by observers as having been brought about by external political constraints. There were good reasons for reaching such a conclusion, since Hamas was, and to an extent still is, hemmed in from all sides. However, focusing solely on external considerations misses a great deal and is hardly sufficient for explaining why and how Hamas behaves as it does. The movement’s ability to take observers by surprise was dramatically illustrated in April 2018 with a series of marches on the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Rather, three additional factors must be taken into account. First, Hamas’s leadership does not passively respond to outside conditions, but actively evaluates them in order to optimally manage its responses. Second, international pressure does not so much directly affect Hamas’s calculations as it has an impact on domestic public opinion, which in turn shapes the group’s understanding of opportunities and constraints. And third, Hamas is distinctive on the Palestinian scene in that it has developed an institutionalized rather than a personalized organization, one with mechanisms linking its leadership with the rank and file.

Understanding Hamas’s internal dynamics helps to show how its actions reflect strategic choices, allowing for a better comprehension of the way the organization interacts with political realities, makes concessions, and capitalizes on these to maximize its gains. This, in turn, allows observers to grasp how Hamas achieves its goals, manages challenges, maintains its integrity, and survives, despite the formidable obstacles it has encountered in recent years. Such resilience has particular resonance at a time when Hamas’s main rival, Fatah, is showing signs of incoherence and decay, when many Palestinian political structures are in crisis, and when the Palestinian national movement is facing an uncertain predicament.

THE HEADACHE OF GOVERNING

Hamas was founded on the eve of the First Palestinian Intifada (1987–1993) as an “Islamic resistance movement.” While it has long sought to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), this has never happened. Fatah has dominated the PLO since 1969 and is unwilling to cede to Hamas any part of its power. Hamas rejected the Oslo Accords of 1993 and the negotiations with Israel that followed. When this process led to the election of a Palestinian president and parliament in 1996, as part of a supposedly temporary Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas refused to go along with it.

In 2000 the Second Intifada broke out, following the failure of the Oslo process to establish a Palestinian state. Hamas was active in the protests, solidifying its standing in Palestinian society. When new parliamentary elections were scheduled for January 2006, Hamas decided to participate, even though it continued to reject the Oslo process. The organization quickly showed a remarkable capacity for mobilizing in opposition to the PA, and this helped propel it to a stunning electoral triumph.

A picture and its story: Smoke clears and photographer captures momentÊof protest

That triumph, which led to Hamas’s entering government for the first time, was met with a harsh international response. The Middle East Quartet—an ad hoc body created to mediate in Middle East peace talks, made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations—sought to impose conditions on Hamas for negotiations to continue. These involved recognizing Israel, accepting past agreements with Israel, and renouncing violence. When Hamas demurred, Israel and the United States took steps aimed at generating popular discontent with the Hamas government in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel ceased transferring tax revenues to the new Hamas-led Palestinian government while Western backers stopped providing it with budgetary support. Even private banks, fearing sanctions, put an end to their dealings with the new government. Under such pressure, Hamas did agree in principle with Fatah to form a national-unity government in 2007, but the efforts to unseat it continued. These efforts, spearheaded by the Palestinian security forces loyal to Fatah, failed, showing Hamas’s significant ability to maneuver domestically.

Power struggles between Fatah and Hamas over control of PA institutions escalated during that period, until there was a major outbreak of violence in June 2007, when the two groups engaged in a military showdown in Gaza. The ensuing Hamas victory allowed the organization to take over PA institutions in the territory. This provoked a rift in Palestinian areas, with Hamas ruling over Gaza and Fatah over the West Bank, from where it retained control of the PLO. While Hamas’s refusal to comply with the Middle East Quartet’s conditions had led to a momentary increase in its popular support, this did not help Hamas to overcome growing public dissatisfaction with the tightened blockade on Gaza imposed as a result of its victory, which began eating away at its popularity.

Hamas’s leaders justified their military takeover in 2007 as a reaction to what they said was a planned coup by Fatah, but their actions placed them in a difficult position. The organization had crossed its own self-imposed redlines of never killing Palestinians or attacking other Palestinian groups. Hamas imposed a tight grip on power in Gaza, but it also lost its reputationas a more principled movement in the eyes of much of the population.

Even if the situation was corrosive to Hamas’s status, it was manageable. The PA deposed the Hamas-led cabinet after its takeover of Gaza, but this came with a decision to continue funding the salaries of PA employees in the territory, allowing it to retain a base of loyalists there. In response, Hamas set up a parallel administration, hiring thousands of people, whose salaries the PA refused to pay. To counter the stranglehold on Gaza by Israel and Egypt, Hamas encouraged the growth of a “tunnel economy,” whereby economic activity took place through hundreds of tunnels dug under Gaza’s border with Egypt. This provided Gaza’s inhabitants with work and cheap goods, generating renewed satisfaction.

As a result of the tunnels, Hamas’s revenues rose, so that by 2009 they totaled $150–$200 million annually, a figure that would rise to about $375 million in 2011, when the regime of Egypt’s then president Hosni Mubarak fell. During the same period, unemployment in Gaza dropped from 45 percent to 32 percent. This led to the increased stability of Hamas rule and a bigger regional role for the organization after the election of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s president in 2012. All this seemed to promise an end to Hamas’s isolation.

Periodically, the rival Palestinian leaderships would pledge to reconcile, and at times specific steps were taken to further this, such as extensive negotiations in 2011. Generally, it was the weakness of one side or the other at a particular time, and sometimes both, that led to efforts to appear to favor unity. However, neither side was willing to risk surrendering authority in its respective realm and international actors remained guarded, with some even hostile to such attempts.

Things changed for the worse for Hamas after July 2013, when Egypt’s military overthrew Morsi and the political system led by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s sister organization. The military-dominated regime in Cairo put an end to the tunnel economy, exacerbating the impact of the blockade on Gaza. The ensuing economic strains forced Hamas to accept the Shati Agreement of April 23, 2014, an unprecedented development in the Fatah-Hamas relationship that was aimed at allowing the Fatah-led PA to govern Gaza again. The accord collapsed following the war between Hamas and Israel in summer 2014, as both Palestinian groups focused on retrenchment rather than reconciliation. However, the brief opening revealed that Hamas was looking for a way out of the Gaza straitjacket in a manner that would strengthen its domestic popularity.

HAMAS CHOOSES RENEWAL

In early 2017, amid the continuing stalemate in Hamas-Fatah relations, Hamas once again faced a crisis. In an attempt to raise the heat on Hamas, the PA cut the salaries of some of its own employees in Gaza as well as other forms of support for the territory, because such revenues facilitated Hamas’s continued rule by reducing discontent. The organization concluded that, despite widespread dissatisfaction with the PA, “popular agitation would turn against [Hamas] rule,” as one activist put it.1 The collapse of the tunnel economy and the PA’s punitive measures had pushed Gazans to their limit, given the misery in which they lived. Hamas’s stark choice was either “reconciliation at any cost” and handing Gaza’s administration over to Fatah, or accepting an “inevitable catastrophe.”

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This new reality forced Hamas and its electorate to be pragmatic with regard to the internal and external challenges the organization was facing. Hamas elections in February and October 2017 brought in Saleh al-Arouri, as deputy head of the Hamas Political Bureau, and Yahya al-Sinwar, as the movement’s head in Gaza. While both were seen as hardliners, they moved forward on a reconciliation agreement with the PA. The difficulties all around seemed insurmountable, but the two new leaders’ status as former Israeli prisoners and the fact that they represented new faces gave them the latitude to take Hamas in a new direction. As Sinwar stated in a meeting with Gaza trade unions in October 2017, reconciliation was a collective decision by the movement at home and abroad.

Under the reconciliation agreement that ensued, ministers from the PA in Ramallah are supposed to take formal control of political structures in Gaza, with Hamas ending any governing role there. However, full implementation seems unlikely at present. A unified cabinet in Ramallah nominally governs Gaza, but its effective control of the bureaucracy there is shaky and untested. Several outstanding issues, such as Hamas’s insistence on retaining an armed wing, will likely remain unresolved. But even if parts of the agreement remain frozen, it has allowed Hamas to cede governing responsibility without losing influence over much of what goes on in Gaza. Even a bomb attack in Gaza in March 2018 targeting visiting PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, though it raised tensions, failed to bring about a collapse of the accommodation between Fatah and Hamas.

Why was Hamas willing to discontinue governing Gaza? And how did the election of seemingly uncompromising figures lead to its more relaxed grip on power and a more flexible ideology? External constraints, acting on public discontent in Gaza, had generated enormous pressure on Hamas, making its leaders realize that they could no longer govern, let alone wait out the blockade. However, Hamas also had choices, and in 2017 it showed that it could react not by accepting defeat passively but by turning crisis into opportunity.

Hamas was able to do this because its internal deliberations are conducted in such a way as to allow for the emergence of a broad consensus. The organization has always striven to have in place mechanisms allowing it to sustain itself, maintain links between the leadership and the base, and ensure that its members are united around party structures and a common strategy. That is why when Hamas faced external challenges, geographical isolation, a lack of allies, and rising popular discontent in 2017, it reacted by electing a new leadership. During this period it also altered its charter in a protracted, movement-wide process that suggested a willingness to compromise without formally repudiating past positions. These moves, aimed at giving new momentum to the organization, came as part of Hamas’s preparation to disengage from its governing role in Gaza.

While Hamas has decisionmaking institutions, it gains by being able to anchor its choices in interactions between these institutions and local activists on the one hand, and between the organization and the broader public on the other. Hamas activists emphasize that all members were involved in deciding on a number of strategic choices in recent years, through forums providing for intense discussions—including whether to participate in local or legislative elections, to approve of a truce with Israel, or to endorse reconciliation talks with Fatah.2

A mechanism that Hamas uses for internal dialogue is monthly gatherings that it calls lailat katiba (or “battalion night”), in which its leaders share the movement’s ideas with all members in each region.3 Hamas also depends upon local bodies to create informal networks based on kinship, friendship, and neighborhood ties. In addition, these local bodies build a profile of the population by conducting surveys and registering people in the organization’s database of inhabitants.4 This allows Hamas to get a sense of the public mood about issues, in particular its standing and general attitudes toward its behavior and political choices.

WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR HAMAS?

Were the measures Hamas adopted in 2017 anything more than a quick fix? Hamas’s ability to reestablish its position will depend on regaining the popular support it once enjoyed in Gaza, as well as on its success in rebuilding regional alliances to mitigate its political and geographical isolation. Achieving breakthroughs on these fronts depends on Hamas’s organizational potential and its strategic choices.

Hamas’s support dropped sharply as a result of its military takeover of Gaza and preservation of order through the heavy hand of its security forces. The organization realized it had to pursue conciliation as the violence had led to the death of dozens of people, leaving influential local families embittered. Hamas’s social and political interaction with the public had shifted its initial approach, from direct and largely unrestricted access toward more limited contact suiting an autocratic governing authority. Hamas sought to reverse course and once again position itself as the protector of the population, rather than as a force policing society and suppressing the political opposition.

Hamas does have a history of reviving itself. During the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2005, after years of repression by the PA at a time when Palestinian-Israeli negotiations were ongoing, Hamas was able to persuade many of its compatriots that the arrest of its cadres and the torture of some of its top leaders had been necessary to defend popular interests.5

However, while the post-2007 period allowed the movement to organize freely at the local level throughout Gaza, its current quest to regain public support could prove more difficult. Hamas’s decision to abandon governance in the territory and work in favor of Palestinian reconciliation, particularly societal reconciliation in Gaza, might facilitate this task. However, the organization’s enemies will not make it easy for Hamas to regain its previous stature.

Regionally, Hamas is attempting to revive its past relationships in a highly contested environment. The Middle East is polarized between a Saudi-led coalition that includes Egypt, Jordan, and the PA, and an Iran-led alliance that includes Syria and Hezbollah. Hamas is caught between the two poles. To bridge the gap with the Saudi-led camp, Hamas accepted some ambiguity about a two-state solution in its amended charter. It also dropped any mention of its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt and Saudi Arabia consider a terrorist organization, a contrast with how Hamas had presented itself in the past. However, such efforts will be complicated by the fact that Sinwar and Arouri come from Hamas’s military wing, whose primary supporter has long been Iran.

It is unlikely that Hamas will be able to navigate the regional split for long. The divisions are too strong and bitter for the organization to succeed in retaining a foot in both camps. Today, Egypt and Iran are the main rivals for Hamas’s allegiance, each important with regard to the organization’s specific political priorities, which are themselves a reflection of its multifaceted identity.

Hamas’s relations with Egypt deteriorated after Mohamed Morsi’s removal from power. However, the organization cannot afford to be on bad terms with the largest Arab country and the neighbor that controls Gaza’s major lifeline, its twelve-kilometer southwestern border. Egypt is also the one actor that can persuade the PA to implement a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, and push Israel to go along with it. For its part, Egypt needs Hamas’s cooperation to combat the Islamic State, a common enemy that has been effectively contained in Gaza, but not on the Sinai Peninsula, where an insurgency continues.

At the same time, there are strong forces attracting Hamas to the Iranian camp, even if the relationship worsened in 2012. Khaled Mishal, then the head of the Hamas Political Bureau, publically supported the uprising against the Syrian regime, Iran’s major regional ally. Yet Hamas needs Iran’s financial support, which was suspended following that fissure, to pursue its social and political activities. Rebuilding the alliance would allow Hamas to resume providing services to the population and would help it regain regional standing as a major opponent of Israel. Iran, in turn, believes that renewed ties with Hamas would permit the Islamic Republic to recover its reputation as leader of the regional “resistance axis,” rather than just as the sponsor of a sectarian Shia coalition.

The regional context suggests that the Iranian pull may be stronger since it is based on a longer-term, strategic concurrence of views. Arouri has described the relationship as being built on “solid ground.” By contrast, the connection with the Saudi-led coalition seems to reflect détente more than any strong alignment. However, the lesson that Hamas learned from the failure of its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood after the Arab uprisings in 2011 is that it is better not to be tied to an ideological framework, but, instead, to pursue Hamas’s interests according to circumstances. A Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar, has emphasized this, arguing, “We are not at a stage where we are comfortable with ideological alliances [as they involve us in] regional [political] games.”

But the cold pursuit of Hamas’s interests may prove tricky today. Regional polarization between the Saudi- and Iranian-led camps leaves little room for the organization to maneuver as it pleases. Hamas is also at its weakest internally and regionally since its establishment in 1987, which means that it is not in a position to play each side off against the other. Any attempt by Hamas to generate advantage from one camp will provoke problems with the rival camp.

FOLLOWING IN FATAH’S FOOTSTEPS?

Hamas has stood out among Palestinian groups for its ability to maintain its power and effectiveness over time, while remaining united and cohesive. But if the organization is strong, its strategy has been more problematic. Hamas’s control over Gaza highlighted the contradiction between the organization’s resistance role, intended to defend Palestinians, and its governance tasks, which frequently meant imposing strict, unpopular control over the population.

Against this backdrop, Hamas and its electorate reacted in 2017 by bringing in a new leadership, introducing hints of compromise into its charter, and showing a greater readiness to adjust to internal Palestinian and regional political realities. In a comparison that Hamas leaders would find distasteful, the organization had to manage the same tensions faced earlier by Fatah in the period after each Palestinian intifada, when it sought to prioritize a political strategy over armed resistance. Fatah’s unpersuasive performance led directly to its electoral defeats in local elections in 2004 and legislative elections in 2006.

As an organization, Hamas may fare better than Fatah, because it has a greater ability to deliberate, decide collectively, and even vote internally. But while the organization is likely to survive and renew itself, it faces a real problem down the road. The new leadership of Hamas has no clear solution to the strategic vacuum lying at the heart of the Palestinian national movement that it seeks to lead.

Source: Carnegie ME Center

أصوات مهمّشة: ما يحتاجه اللاجئون السوريون للعودة إلى الوطن

مهى يحيَ,  جان قصير,  خليل الحريري

مع استعادة النظام السوري السيطرة على مناطق عدّة، تصاعدت الدعوات، في الدول المجاورة، المطالبة بعودة اللاجئين إلى بلادهم. لكن اللاجئين يرهنون عودتهم بشروط لطالما أُهملت إلى حدّ بعيد في خضم المساعي السياسية الرامية إلى إيجاد حل للنزاع السوري. وفي سبيل فهم مواقف اللاجئين من العودة، أنصت مركز كارنيغي للشرق الأوسط إلى مخاوف مروحة من السوريين- من ذكور وإناث، وشباب ومسنّين – الذين يسعون جاهدين إلى بناء حياة ذات معنى في لبنان والأردن. واللافت أن غالبية اللاجئين، وعلى رغم تفاقم التحديات التي تواجههم – لايرغبون في العودة مالم يتوافر انتقال سياسي يضمن سلامتهم وأمنهم، والوصول إلى القضاء والعدل، وحق العودة إلى مسقط الرأس. وعلى الرغم من أن توفير الفرص الاقتصادية والسكن اللائق يُعدّ من أولوياتهم، إلاّ أنها لا تُعتبر من متطلبات العودة. وفي المرتبة الأولى، أظهرت مواقف اللاجئين بجلاء أن وجود حل سياسي مستدام وعودة جماعية وطوعية هما على السواء رهن عمليات سلام دولية تأخذ أصواتهم بعين الاعتبار.

الاستماع إلى اللاجئين

  • في مواجهة صعوبات اجتماعية واقتصادية متفاقمة، يشعر اللاجئون بأنهم عالقون بين رحى مطرقة بلدان مضيفة لا ترغب فيهم وبين سندان سورية لايسعهم العودة إليها
  • ينظر اللاجئون بتشاؤم إلى آفاق اتفاق سلام سوري. وهم يلفظون أي اقتراحات قد تؤدي إلى تذرر سورية، ويعارضون فكرة إنشاء مناطق خفض تصعيد، ولايثقون في المناطق الآمنة
  • شرط اللاجئين الأولي للعودة يتمثّل في ضمان سلامتهم وأمنهم. لكنهم يرون أنه لايمكن تحقيق ذلك من دون انتقال سياسي، وهم لايعتقدون أن في مقدورهم العيش قريباً في سورية التي يتوقون إليها
  • لايثق اللاجئون باللاعبين السياسيين الضالعين في سورية. ولايرى شطر راجح من اللاجئين المعارضين للنظام أن المعارضة تمثّلهم فعلياً
  • النساء والشباب اليافعون هم أكثر من يخشى العودة إلى سورية. فهم ينظرون بقلق إلى غياب الأمان واحتمال أن يضطهدهم نظام بشار الأسد. ويخشى كثير من الشباب التجنيد العسكري الالزامي
  • مع توالي الحرب فصولاً وتدهور ظروف اللاجئين في البلدان المضيفة، يدرس عدد متزايد من اللاجئين إمكانية التوطّن خارج المنطقة، تحديداً في أوروبا. لكنهم يخشون أن يعجزوا عن العودة إذا ما غادروا الشرق الأوسط
  • يتلاشى ببطء معنى فكرة العودة الطوعية للاجئين. فالسياسات المقيّدة في لبنان والأردن قد تحمل اللاجئين على العودة إلى ظروف غير آمنة في سورية، في حين قد تجعل سياسات النظام في سورية – تحديداً تلك المتعلقة بالإسكان وحقوق الملكية والتجنيد العسكري وإجراءات التدقيق – عودتهم عسيرة أو حتى غير محبّذة.

إرساء إجراءات سياسية مُيسِّرة

  • تقتضي العودة الآمنة والمستدامة للاجئين إرساء إطار عمل يقرّ بالجذور السياسية للأزمة السورية، ولايكتفي باحتساب أبعادها الإنسانية وحسب، وبأن السلام مستحيل من دون العدالة؛ ويعترف بحقّ اللاجئين في العودة إلى مسقط رأسهم.
  • لايمكن ضمان الأمن والسلامة سوى من خلال عملية سياسية ترسي آليات حكم شاملة، وتضع حدّاً لإفلات المجرمين من العقاب، وتيسّر إعادة الدمج ونزع السلاح، وتوفر القدرة على الوصول إلى القضاء والعدل.
  • على الرغم من أن إرساء هذه العملية يتطلّب وقتاً، نظراً إلى أن قوات كثيرة تنشط في سورية، حري بجهود الإعداد لعودة اللاجئين أن تبدأ الآن. وقد تشمل هذه الجهود إعداد أصحاب الكفاءة، من محامين سوريين أو مدربين في الشؤون القانونية لاطلاع اللاجئين على حقوقهم والمساهمة في حل كثير من النزاعات المحلية المتوقّعة. وكذلك قد تشمل المساعي هذه إرساء شبكة من الوسطاء المحليين الموثوقين.
  • ينبغي ألا يساهم تمويل إعادة الإعمار في تعزيز النظام السوري من دون قصد. لذا، قد يكون بدء تمويل إعادة الإعمار على نطاق ضيق في مناطق غير خاضعة إلى سيطرة النظام، بديلاً أمثل في دعم مساعي إعادة الإعمار المحلية.
  • يجب أن يكون التمويل مشروطاً بعودة اللاجئين إلى منازلهم والحصول على ملكياتهم. ولابدّ من إرساء عملية تدقيق تثبت عدم ضلوع الكيانات المحلية التي تتلقى تمويلاً دولياً بجرائم حرب، وتتأكد من أنها ليست واجهة للنظام.
  • في هذه الأثناء، يجب احترام حق اللاجئين في العودة. وفي سبيل تشجيع البلدان المضيفة على التزام سياسات توفر حاجات اللاجئين الأساسية، حري بالدعم الدولي أن يجمع بين المساعدات الإنسانية والاستثمارات الاقتصادية التي تهدف إلى خلق فرص عمل لمواطني البلدان المضيفة واللاجئين على السواء
  • Source: Carnegie ME Center
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Unheard Voices: What Syrian Refugees Need to Return Home

MAHA YAHYA,  JEAN KASSIR,  KHALIL EL-HARIRI

 

As the Syrian regime regains territory, there have been growing calls in neighboring countries for refugees to go home. Yet refugees have conditions for a return—conditions that political efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict have largely ignored. To understand refugee attitudes toward return, the Carnegie Middle East Center listened to the concerns of Syrians—both male and female, young and old—struggling to build meaningful lives in Lebanon and Jordan. What is most striking is that despite the increasingly difficult challenges they face, a majority are unwilling to go back unless a political transition can assure their safety and security, access to justice, and right of return to areas of origin. Economic opportunity and adequate housing are important but not requirements. Above all, their attitudes make it clear that both a sustainable political settlement and a mass, voluntary return are contingent upon international peace processes that account for refugee voices.

LISTENING TO REFUGEES

  • Facing mounting social and economic difficulties, refugees feel trapped between host countries that do not want them and a Syria to which they cannot return.
  • Refugees are pessimistic about the prospects for a Syrian peace deal. They reject any proposals that could lead to Syria’s fragmentation, oppose the idea of deescalation zones, and have no confidence in safe zones.
  • The refugees’ primary conditions for return are safety and security. But they do not believe they are achievable without a political transition and have little faith that the Syria to which they aspire will soon be attainable.
  • They have no confidence in the political actors involved in Syria, and most anti-regime refugees do not believe the opposition truly represents them.
  • Women and young men are among those most fearful of returning to Syria. They are concerned about the lack of security and possible persecution under President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Many young men fear conscription.
  • As the war drags on and conditions in their host countries worsen, an increasing number of refugees are considering resettling outside the region, particularly in Europe. However, they fear that once they leave the region, they may not be able to return.
  • Essentially, the notion of a voluntary return of refugees is losing meaning. Restrictive policies in Lebanon and Jordan may force refugees to return to an unsafe environment in Syria; while the regime’s policies in Syria—on housing and property rights, military conscription, and vetting procedures—may make it difficult, if not undesirable, for them to return.

ESTABLISHING CONDUCIVE POLICY MEASURES

  • A safe and sustainable return of refugees requires a framework that acknowledges the political roots of the Syrian crisis rather than just its humanitarian dimension; concedes that peace is not possible without justice; and recognizes the right of refugees to return to their areas of origin.
  • Safety and security can only be guaranteed through a political process that creates inclusive governance mechanisms; ends criminal impunity; and facilitates reintegration, demilitarization, and access to justice.
  • While this process will take time given the many forces operating in Syria, efforts to prepare refugees for a return should begin now. These could include creating a cadre of Syrian lawyers and paralegals to inform refugees of their rights and help resolve the many anticipated local disputes. They could also include establishing a network of trusted community mediators.
  • Reconstruction funding should not inadvertently empower the Syrian regime. Starting on a small scale in regions that are not under regime control could provide a better alternative for local rebuilding efforts.
  • Any funding should also be conditional on the return of refugees to their homes and access to their property. A vetting process should be established to ensure that local entities receiving international funding have not been involved in war crimes and are not regime fronts.
  • Meanwhile, the refugees’ right to a voluntary return must be respected. To encourage host countries to adopt policies that secure the basic needs of refugees, international support must include both humanitarian aid and economic investments geared toward job creation for host country nationals and refugees.
  • For access to the full article, please write to ME Politics via the contact page.
Source: Carnegie ME Center

 

A Review of Jonathan Brown’s ” Perspectives on Salvation Outside of Islam “

By Mobeen Vaid
A common misunderstanding among Muslims is that criticism is equivalent to denunciation. When people disagree, it must be out of a deep-seated hatred, or an underlying contempt for those with whom they disagree with. This, however, is rarely the case (though of course it sometimes is). Perhaps some of this is due to the WWE/Kardashian/Democrat v. Republican/etc. style of arguing that we have grown accustomed to witnessing and finding amusement in. At its core, there is something satanic about relishing unhinged disputation, and many otherwise kind people absorb this behavior and manifest it in their online persona. I pray to Allah that I am not of them, and welcome any  naṣīḥa (publicly or privately) should it seem that I am headed down that path.
I offer this as a disclaimer for what follows. Below is an admittedly brief reflection and review of Jonathan Brown’s recent Yaqeen Institute piece on Salvation and Non-Muslims. Prior to proceeding, it should be noted that I think very highly of Dr. Brown as a scholar and person. He has an endearing personality (and odd interest in movies!), and his erudition puts him in rare company. Indeed, very few people exist today with his ability to defend the Islamic tradition against those who call into question its foundations. But it is not merely his abilities that are worth noting, but his willingness to employ those abilities in addressing some of the most complex and sensitive topics of the day. Here, he should be lauded for addressing  and rather directly so the hadith tradition, the scriptural integrity of the Quran, the presumption of innocence, Islamic political engagement, homosexuality, slavery, the age of Aisha (ra), and much, much more. These are not easy subjects to broach, and plenty have elected to avoid them altogether.
For that, Dr. Brown should be commended, and readers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with his scholarly works, including, but not limited to, his excellent treatment of the interpretive legacy of Islam in Misquoting Muhammad Given this history, it should come as no surprise that Brown has elected to once again broach a rather delicate and complex subject in attending to the question of salvation and non-Muslims in the hereafter. There are many strengths in the paper, and I will begin by highlighting them. Thereafter, I will address what I consider to be problematic in the paper and conclude with a few thoughts for reflection.

The Islamic Tradition

Brown should be credited for a number of things in this piece. He correctly asserts, and categorically so, the correct position, namely, that salvation is found in Islam alone. This should not be made light of, particularly given the many voices misrepresenting Islamic soteriology, either on account of alternative philosophies/worldviews, or after succumbing to the ‘all paths’ model as cohering more readily with a pluralistic and ecumenical society (a notion Brown discusses well in the piece). Aside from the correct position of salvific exclusivity, Brown attends to two approaches that admit a more expansive notion of salvation. In presenting these two approaches, Brown problematizes key arguments made by their exponents and proceeds to ultimately repudiate them as inconsistent with Islamic teachings found in the Quran and Sunnah.
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In addition to this survey of varying approaches, God’s mercy is appealed to, alongside God’s ultimate judgment being just, and that the justice of God is something believers should find comfort in. That said, the article suffers from several problems, some less severe, while others are rather significant. To begin, perhaps the first issue stems from the general framing of approaches, all of which are said to belong to the “Islamic tradition.” However, the two other views, as Brown himself notes, are relatively recent and hold no precedent in what would qualify as the Islamic tradition. Fazlur Rahman, Farid Esack, and Perennialists (exponents unnamed, though tendentious attribution to Ibn Arabi is thankfully rebutted) are all modern advocates of the two heterodox views Brown adumbrates. Accordingly, it would have been better to characterize them as contemporary approaches to make clear their newfangled revisionism, and to describe only the “correct” position, alongside the annihilationism of Ibn Taymiyya, as part of the Islamic tradition proper. Although such a concern may seem pedantic to some, what we construe as representing the tradition is in fact quite serious, particularly insofar as we consider that tradition as meaningful and representing a discourse that we hold fidelity to.

How Important is Islam?

Aside from dubious attribution to the Islamic tradition, Brown’s piece is replete with an attitude of internal conflict. The correct position is outlined briefly and declared correct in the conclusion, but only as an academic, theoretical submission that is then attenuated immediately thereafter. Brown asks his reader in the concluding remarks to consider the following question: Does one believe that accepting the specific religious message of Muhammad , as it has been preserved and transmitted down to our times, is so important that rejecting it means suffering eternally in Hellfire, whether that punishment is physical or a spiritual alienation from God? Put more simply, is believing in Islam so important that you’re willing to declare that non-Muslims have no hope for peace in the Afterlife? In an egregious sleight of hand, Brown imputes blame upon his readership for the position of Islam and the words of Allah.
The problem here is not that Allah has stated unequivocally that shirk is unforgivable, or that Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) have required submission to the Islamic message for salvation, but that obdurate believers have chosen to put themselves in God’s place. Who are you to say which doctrine is salvifically acceptable? What qualifies  you to place judgment, even in conceptual terms (that abstain from individual judgments aside from those designated in scripture and reliable hadiths), on those who refuse the call of Islam and persist in unbelief and associationism? But the rhetorical ask is not merely one of blame, but of inquisition. Is Islam really that important to you? Must Islam be made into the ultimate human pursuit such that unbelief leads to eternal damnation? It is unclear what the alternative would look like.
If following the specific religious message of Muhammad (pbuh), which itself claims to abrogate all pre-Muhammad dispensations, is an inadequate basis for eternal damnation, then why did Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) mention eternal damnation at all? And given that they did, what sin would truly qualify for this ignominious end? The question Brown presents speaks to larger existential questions of existence, the afterlife, human purpose, and devotion. Muslim theologians agreed that the fundamental tenets of Islam had to be rationally apprehensible for this exact reason, and the human condition is such that Allah created in all the primordial disposition recognizing in these tenets Truth. Indeed, the path of Islam is the purpose for which we were created, and it is only through it that we can find complete peace, spiritual fulfillment, and an opportunity for paradise. We ask Allah to forgive us and grant us entry into it.

Conclusion

Though there is much laudable and important in this latest Yaqeen Institute paper, it ultimately falls short in significant areas. Brown’s piece reads with a stream of uncertainty, containing rhetorical asks of whether believing in Islam is “important enough” to declare which doctrines qualify as salvifically efficacious. At times, one feels when reading the paper that finding comfort in God’s absolute justice and mercy is done
as a concession for a belief that doesn’t entirely seem to make sense it seems, or perhaps is too judgmental when taken at face value. Given the stakes, we should be confidently explaining what the consensus-based position of Islam is and offering a full and comprehensive treatment of it as understood and expressed by our tradition, and then defending it against contemporary accusations of arrogance, bigotry, hatred, and the like.
The net result of the paper is to see the question of salvation as a complicated one that requires no direct engagement or reflection for the average Muslim. Who is saved and not saved is beyond our calling, so we shouldn’t worry about it it seems. Yet this is precisely the opposite of what we should be calling our community and youth to be considering – salvation is an essential question for all individuals, and our commitment to Islam’s exclusive salvific efficacy should be something that motivates us to live according to its tenets such that we can faithfully claim Islam on the Day of Judgment and perhaps then find ourselves worthy of Allah’s Mercy and the Prophet’s (pbuh) company.
It should further prompt us to care about spreading this message and teaching it to those ignorant of its teachings and are inundated with misrepresentations. On a final note, I wish here to remind my readers what I mentioned in the outset. Dr. Jonathan Brown is a scholar of the highest order, and this critique should not be construed as a slight in any form or fashion against his scholarship, integrity, piety, or contributions to the community. We are blessed to have him as a voice representing Islam, and I certainly look forward to future writings of his (particularly his forthcoming book, which as I understand is in the works). May Allah bless him, his family, and the Yaqeen Institute for the good that they do, and may He overlook their shortcomings. Ameen.
“Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims (Q 7:126). Ameen.
Allah Knows Best
Source: Academia