These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 13, 2011.
Sunday, 13 November 2011
Two Days Late, Protesters to Finally Show
These people seems like the usual pacifists. Still no sign of the rowdy, violent groups the Hutton Hotel was so afraid of they felt forced to cancel the conference. Even when Wilders was here, the protests never amounted to more than a dozen people holding signs. I spoke to them a couple of times and took them some iced tea once as it was a very hot day. Everybody maintained an atmosphere of cordial disagreement and there was never any threat of violence, not in the least. Are these the people Hutton was afraid of? The Tennessean reports:
A Colorado-based ministries group is planning to hold a vigil outside Cornerstone Church in Madison during morning services today in response to the Constitution or Sharia conference held there Friday.
In a letter to Cornerstone pastor Maury Davis dated Nov. 5, Charles E. Carlson of Project Strait Gate urged the church to cancel the conference.
“The lead speakers are inflammatory, anti-islamic racists, who engender, if not openly advocate, war in Iran,” Carlson wrote. “This program is not about ‘Shariah’ law or ‘Jihad,’ as is its pretext, it is about war. … One or more hotels have canceled the event with good reason, and you have picked it up out of the gutter.”
The letter also encouraged Cornerstone members to meet with the group outside the church. Promises of a large sign reading, “WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?” being displayed at the vigil also were made.
According to its website, Strait Gate is an action program started by We Hold These Truths, a volunteer-led organization formed in 1996. The purpose of both groups, according to the site, is to reach out to “lost sheep” within the church who don’t know they’re “lost.”
Project Strait Gate also focuses on war and its causes. It has confronted more than 50 megachurches, the site says.
About 500 people attended the Shariah law conference Friday.
One of the best and strongest speakers at the conference on Friday, was Rep. Rick Womick. He received a standing ovation for his remarks on the untrustworthiness of Muslims in the military. This is a man who could go far in politics.
MURFREESBORO — Local and national Muslims called for state officials Saturday to rebuke state Rep. Rick Womick for remarks he made that all Muslims be removed from the U.S. military.
At least one local Muslim, Saleh Sbenaty of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, went further, saying Womick “needs to be impeached immediately.”
Womick, though, stood by his comments and offered no apology when contacted byThe Daily News Journal.
“Who are we at war with?” Womick said. “We are at war with al-Qaida and the Taliban, who are Muslims. It’s a Catch-22. They are not allowed to kill their fellow Muslims; we’re at war with Muslims. The only solution I see is that they not be allowed in the military.”
Womick, R-Rockvale, set off a cascade of criticism for remarks that he made during an interview with Eli Clifton of thinkprogress.org Friday at an anti-Shariah conference in Nashville.
“Personally, I don’t trust one Muslim in our military,” Womick said in the interview. “If they truly are a devout Muslim and follow the Quran and the Sunnah, then I feel threatened because they’re commanded to kill me.”
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on the Tennessee General Assembly to formally rebuke Womick for calling for removal of all Muslims from the military.
CAIR also called on state and national Republican Party leaders to repudiate Womick’s bigoted “un-American” comments.
Womick said Saturday that he has no opinion on what CAIR had to say.
“They are a radical Islamic group,” said Womick, who fought as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in the first Gulf War to force Iraq’s military out of Kuwait in 1990-91. “Whatever they have to say, I choose to ignore.”
Womick’s comments particularly bother Islamic Center of Murfreesboro member Saleh Sbenaty.
“It’s really sad to see Mr. Womick’s comments coming on Veterans Day,” said Sbenaty, a 19-year MTSU professor in the Department of Engineering Technology. “He needs to be reminded that there are thousands of Muslims who serve and are serving (in the U.S. military), and there are many of them who gave up their lives to preserve the freedom of this country and the freedom that he is enjoying.”
'Narrow vision' decried
A Friday story on the website Muslims for a Safe America estimates that between 5,000 to 20,000 Muslims out of 6 million who live in the United States serve in a U.S. military that has a force of 1.4 million.
First of all, the Muslim population of America (including Nation of Islam) is 2.5 million according to Pew.
“Hundreds of American Muslim soldiers have been involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11,” the website states.
A New York Times story published Nov. 8, 2009, reported that 3,557 military personnel identified themselves as Muslim among 1.4 million people in the active-duty population, according to U.S. figures.
Again, we're not told how many are Nation of Islam and how many are regular Muslims who are obligated to follow the Koran, haditha and Sira and so are forbidden to engage in war on the side of the infidel against Muslims. It's bad enough our soldiers are charged with arming and training Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan who have shown a great willingness to turn on their trainers. There have been instances of desertion, espionage and even murder and mass murder by American Muslim military personel against their fellow soldiers already. Major Nidal Hasan laid it all out in a powerpoint presentation that apparently nobody in the army took seriously.
Sbenaty suggested that Womick is just as extreme as al-Qaida is.
“Al-Qaida doesn’t believe in freedom of religion,” Sbenaty said. “They want to rule the world according to their views. And Mr. Womick wants to rule the United States according to his narrow vision.”
Sbenaty worries that rhetoric such as Womick’s can lead to more attacks against his congregation. In August 2010, someone set earth-moving equipment on fire at the congregation’s future mosque location on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike. The congregation also faced a bomb threat just before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks.
“We had to cancel a kids play and the weekend school because of the bomb threat,” said Sbenaty, who feels Womick should be held accountable for his remarks.
It turns out that various politically active, generally far left-wing Israeli NGOs, some of which deny the very legitimacy of the Israeli government, get funding from various European governments (see, e.g., this detailed NGO Monitor Report, which focuses only on funding through the EU itself; member states provide substantial additional funding). Some of these organizations, for example, support the international “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” efforts against Israel. (Exactly why European governments fund NGOs whose views diametrically oppose the governments’ official policies vis a vis Israel is an interesting question that we’ll leave to another time).
These NGOs are often given special legitimacy in the international media because they are purportedly Israeli NGOs. NGO Monitor’s investigations show that many of them are, in fact, organizations with little if any domestic base within Israel and instead represent the views of the international far left with a fig leaf of Israeli leadership drawn from its domestic far left.
Israelis, tired of this rather subtle form of ideological warfare emanating from their purported friends among governments in Europe, are now considering a measure that would ban foreign government funding of political NGOs above a certain low level. Whether this particular measure is workable, and whether it’s the best way to deal with the situation, I’ll again leave for another time.
The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, contacted the prime minister’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, on Thursday and warned him that passage of the legislation could harm Israel’s standing in the West as a democratic country.
So the idea here, obviously is that a “democratic” country must allow foreign governments, who represent foreign citizens and not Israelis, to interfere in its domestic politics by supporting organizations that range from the fringe left to beyond the fringe left.
Now that is chutzpah! Imagine if Israel was funneling millions of Euros annually to Basque separatists in Spain, Flemish nationalists in Belgium, or to one of numerous neo-fascist fronts in Norway and France. I have a very strong feeling that the EU’s views of what “democratic” countries must tolerate from foreign governments would change rather quickly.
UPDATE: Among other laws, in the U.S. the NGOs in question would be subject to the Foreign Agent Registration Act which, according to the official website, “requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.” Last I heard, Israel had no such requirements, but perhaps the EU thinks that the U.S. is “undemocratic” as well.
The Art World Created To Service And Snooker The Ill-Educated Rich
From The Sunday New York Times:
Nov. 13, 2011
Show of Hands, Please: Who Can Buy Art?
Yana Paskova for The New York Times
A room to mingle in at the opening reception for Andreas Gursky's show at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea.
By JULIA CHAPLIN
November 11, 2011
THE artist Cindy Sherman stood underneath “Bangkok II,” a new large-scale photograph by Andreas Gursky that was being unveiled Nov. 4 at the fortress-like Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea. Ms. Sherman stared in amusement as Mr. Gursky and Klaus Biesenbach, the MoMA P.S. 1 director, fawned over her sequined Marni handbag. “Oooh, nice,” cooed Larry Gagosian, the super gallerist. “Are you coming by later?”
Yana Paskova for The New York Times
The artist Rachel Feinstein, center, at dinner at Sant Ambroeus after the opening of “Grisaille.”
Mr. Gagosian was circling shark-like amid the well-coiffed art patrons, recruiting for a private dinner he was holding later at his Upper East Side house. “Make sure they know how to get there,” he yelled across the room to a blond woman in black.
Meanwhile, a group had gathered under one of Mr. Gursky’s “Ocean” photographs. “I already saw these in Los Angeles,” said a woman in shiny equestrian-style boots, referring to a Gagosian show there last March, before she moved to the next room.
If the mood seemed tense, it was understandable. The contemporary-art auctions were about to start, amid signs of a troubled economy. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Mr. Gursky said of the auctions. His photo, “Rhein 2,” was up for sale at Christie’s.
Cecelia Dean, a founder of Visionaire, was on her way out. “I’m not going to the auctions,” she said. “I’m not part of the 1 percent.”
The postwar and contemporary-art auctions happen twice a year in New York — in November and May — setting much of the tone for the global art market. Despite the debt crisis engulfing Europe and an Occupy Wall Street protest directed at Sotheby’s, life inside the art bubble remained effervescent, buoyed by a marathon of flawlessly orchestrated parties, invitation-only dinners and blue-chip openings.
Rock bands played to $25,000-a-table crowds. Red-carpet celebrities crashed the party. And by week’s end, record prices were set not only for the pop master Roy Lichtenstein and the abstract expressionist Clyfford Still, but for trendier contemporary artists like Paul McCarthy and Gerhard Richter.
To build anticipation, the three major auction houses hold competing brunches, an important social ritual where gossip and observations are traded. At the Sotheby’s brunch last Sunday, collectors and dealers gathered in the 10th floor dining room for mimosas and quiche like it was a country club. (Sotheby’s, the most staid of the lot, serves brunch in a separate hall, so as not to mix food and art; Christie’s serves mini-muffins and scones in the galleries, and guests are allowed to carry them around.)
Many last saw one another in October in London, at the Frieze Art Fair and the contemporary-art auctions. Topic A was the Maurizio Cattelan retrospective “All” at the Guggenheim and the negative reviews. (The New York Times art critic Roberta Smith called the hung show “ultimately disrespectful and perverse .” )
Several works by Mr. Cattelan were up at auction. Mr. Cattelan, who loves toying with the rich, had a stretch Hummer limousine parked outside of his opening at the Guggenheim the previous Thursday marked with the words “Toilet Paper,” the title of his magazine; he used the limo to reach his after-party at the Boom Boom Room.
Others spoke of the billionaire Peter Brant’s reception the day before at his estate in Greenwich, Conn., for the Canadian artist David Altmejd. Mr. Brant had converted his stone barn into a nonprofit art foundation, where Mary-Kate Olsen and China Chow, host of the Bravo reality show “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist,” were among the celebrities spotted.
“I always like to see what Peter shows,” said Stavros Merjos, a collector and dealer in Los Angeles, standing in front of a red fluorescent Plexiglass and stainless steel sculpture by Donald Judd. (He ended the week with a few acquisitions, including Ed Ruscha’s “Strange Catch For a Fresh Water Fish,” for $3.8 million.) “The auctions have become a lot more social in the last few years,” Mr. Merjos said.
Nearby, Anthony Grant, a specialist of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, was working the crowds that had gathered by the four abstract Clyfford Still paintings, including “1949-A-No. 1,” a red-and-black canvas that would sell three days later for $61.7 million, a record price for the artist at auction.
“I hope the Occupy Wall Street group doesn’t show up,” Mr. Grant said to Meryl Rose, whose family founded the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Mass. (About 100 protesters did show Wednesday night, shouting “Shame on you.” They were protesting a labor dispute between union art handlers and Sotheby’s. Bidders had to exit through a side door, but the auction, and spending spirit, were otherwise unmolested.)
The auctions themselves were the main event. Tommy Hilfiger raised his paddle several times at Phillips de Pury auction house. And Leonardo DiCaprio, nearly incognito under a baseball cap, sat on his hands Tuesday evening at Christie’s, but the crowd was more awed by Lichtenstein’s 1961 painting “I Can See the Whole Room!... and There’s Nobody in it.” A collective gasp was heard when, at the last moment, Guy Bennett, a New York dealer, raised the bidding by $500,000, to $38.5 million, setting another record price for an artist at auction.
For some, the real jockeying takes place afterward, when the art cabal ducks out early around 8:30 p.m. (evening sales often trail on till after 9 p.m.) for their reservations at power spots like Casa Lever or Café Boulud. Just as coveted are invitations to the private dinners.
Last Monday, after the somewhat disappointing sales at Phillips, collectors had to pick between the Hauser & Wirth party for Paul McCarthy at Le Caprice and the Luxembourg & Dayan group-show dinner at Sant Ambroeus on Madison Avenue.
“We always plan openings for between auction weeks,” said Amalia Dayan, an owner of the gallery, dressed in a black Balenciaga tuxedo. “It’s when everyone is in town and you get a much bigger, international crowd.” She and her husband, Adam Lindemann, greeted their guests, who arrived with catalogs in hand and prices scrawled in pen, a badge of attendance.
Rob Pruitt, the artist, was standing by the long bar with David Mugrabi, of the New York art dealer family, who stopped by for a drink before heading to another dinner. Mr. Mugrabi had just purchased Mr. Pruitt’s three panels of glitter and enamel penguins titled “Ladies and Gentleman..(Art Awards Penguins)” for $55,000. Mr. Pruitt seemed pleased but a little confused. “You’d think after 20 years in the art world I’d have been to an auction,” Mr. Pruitt said. “But I’m not really sure how to get a ticket. Do you call up? Do you have to be invited?”
Guests, including the artists John Currin and Rachel Feinstein, Hope Atherton, the model Linda Evangelista and the Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal, sat down for a three-course Milanese meal of artichoke salad, mushroom risotto and tiramisù lubricated by bottomless glasses of wine.
At table No. 1, Dennis Freedman, the creative director at Barneys, traded gossip with Frank M. Moore, a collector and neurosurgeon. “Have you ever noticed a certain woman who always shows up a few minutes late for the auctions in a tight dress?” Mr. Moore asked. “I mean it makes total sense: some of the world’s richest, sophisticated men are there with the best taste ... well, maybe not the best taste.”
At another table was the Parisian gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin, the artist Chris Ofili, the architect David Adjaye and the Russian art collector Inga Rubenstein. “Auctions can be kind of boring, but I went to one in London last spring where protesters had snuck in and started moaning,” said Ashley Shaw Scott, a model and Mr. Adjaye’s girlfriend. “They had to be hauled out by security, it was so much fun.”
By 11:30 p.m., the guests began to make their way toward cars idling on Madison Avenue. Mr. Lindemann stood by the bottleneck at the door. “See you tomorrow at the auctions,” he said in lieu of goodbye.
La Russie continue d'honorer ses contrats de livraison d'armes à la Syrie, puisque aucune décision internationale ne l'en empêche, a déclaré aujourd'hui un haut responsable du secteur cité par Interfax depuis le salon aéronautique de Dubaï.
"Puisqu'il n'y a aucune restriction aux livraisons d'armes à la Syrie, la Russie remplit tous ses engagements contractuels à l'égard de ce pays", a déclaré le directeur adjoint du service fédéral russe de coopération militaro-technique Viatcheslav Dzirkaln, cité par l'agence.
Allié de la Syrie depuis la période soviétique, la Russie avait déjà indiqué en août poursuivre ses livraisons d'armes à ce pays, en dépit des appels notamment de la secrétaire d'Etat américaine à se ranger du "bon côté de l'Histoire".
Les pays occidentaux réclament le départ du président Bachar al-Assad en raison de la répression qui a fait, selon les Nations unies, plus de 3500 morts depuis le 15 mars en Syrie. Début octobre, le président Dmitri Medvedev avait appelé pour la première fois le président syrien à accepter des réformes ou à démissionner. Mais la Russie s'oppose à toute résolution du Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU imposant des sanctions, insistant sur la nécessité du dialogue et faisant porter une part de la responsabilité des violences sur l'opposition elle-même. Elle a répété à plusieurs reprises qu'elle refusait toute ingérence, a fortiori militaire.
More than one hundred years ago, in 1909, Professor Zielinski, of St. Petersburg University, published a series of lectures he had prepared for the "highest classes" of the secondary schools in that capital city. The resulting book was about the need to recognize the signficance, in Russia, of the cultural debt owed to classical antiquity and, new for Russia, to Romans as well as to Greeks.
The book appeared under the title "Our Debt To Antiquity," It has been republished recently, with an introduction, part of which I've pasted below:
THE following lectures were delivered by
Professor Zielinski of St. Petersburg Uni-
versity in the spring of 1903 to the highest classes
of the secondary schools in the capital. In the
same year they were published in the Journal of
the Ministry for Popular Education and appeared
in separate book form. Despite a somewhat un-
favourable reception in the Press the work created
widespread interest, and a second edition was
soon called for. In preparing it Professor Zielin-
ski retained the form of the first. "I do not
want to undo it and undo therewith the memory
of hours which I count among the happiest in my
life." But he emphasises the fact that this
second edition, which the translators have used,
is meant for the world at large. He feels strongly
and reasonably that "the regeneration of the
classical school, which is indispensable in the
interests of Russian culture, will come about only
when Society itself is convinced of its necessity."
It is hoped that the work may be found of no
less interest to English readers than it has proved
to students on the Continent. Its interest seems
to the translators to consist first and foremost in
the reasons advanced for the maintenance of the
vi Our Debt to Antiquity
classics as the groundwork of education. These
arguments are in some cases different from those
which we are accustomed to hear from partisans
of the classical school in Western Europe. The
whole question indeed is surveyed from a fresh
standpoint ; the lectures form a stimulating and
suggestive treatment of a familiar subject on new
lines. Certain statements and theories are perhaps
open to question, but the work throughout is dis-
tinguished by a high level of discussion, unflagging
spirits, and a philosophic breadth of view which
make powerful and constant claims on the
reader's interest and sympathy. A welcome note
of enthusiasm and insight pervades the whole
subject, and the clear-sighted and original ideas
that are strewn throughout the pages must arrest
the attention and compel thought. They are for
the most part expressed with that characteristi-
cally Russian naivete and use of vigorous and
illuminating similes which give the style a flavour
of the peculiar charm familiar to readers of
Perhaps professors of history will choose to assign the book, or parts of it, when they come to that subject once known as "the Renaissance" but now, to take all the eurocentric fun out of it, known denaturedly as "the Early Modern Period." Think of it as that expanded century, from 1450 to 1620, that constitutes the High Renaissance.
And when they do, with a further perhaps to be understood, those with a sense of humor will note that in 2011, as the chief representative of Western civilization, the E.U. chose to pay -- to Greece and now to Rome -- that "debt" to classical antiquity, in the only coin anyone now appears to understand.
I am a Muslim liberal activist in Lebanon and the son of Mustafa Geha the author of several books on Islam, Shi’ism and reforms. My father’s legacy stretched two decades prior to, during, and following Lebanon’s conflict in the mid-1970s and 1980s. Among the many books he authored was a daring essay titled, Mihnat al Aql fil Islam (English: “The Crisis of Islamic Thinking”) which opened the way, not only for critical thinking in Shia and Islamic theology, but in Islamic history and politics. Although Mustafa Geha’s body of literature was perhaps too early for his time, most of his calls for action, including rational thinking, civil society and democracy were espoused many decades later in what is today known as “the Arab Spring,” or at least the authentically secular part of it.
But writing on challenging topics in the Middle East and particularly in Lebanon during the fifteen-year conflict was extremely dangerous. My father paid a heavy price for his attachment to intellectual freedom. Indeed he was cowardly assassinated in 1992 by pro-Syrian operatives while he was about to take a ride into his car. I didn’t enjoy having a father in my life because of the totalitarian views that dominated Lebanon in the 1990s.
My father wasn’t the only writer who was killed by Terrorists. Before him Yussef Kamal al Hage, a leading Lebanese thinker of the 1960s, was assassinated in the 1970s by radicals. Salim al Lawzi, editor of the weekly al Hawadeth, Riad Taha, the president of the Union of journalists, Gebran Tueni, editor of daily al Nahar, and many others who lived and fought with the pen, were executed, assassinated and, in some cases, tortured. During Lebanon’s bloody war, as in most of the region’s conflicts, there were men and women who pursued their vision of freedom and democracy through ideas, irrespective of affiliation or geographic location.
Among those Lebanese intellectuals persecuted for advocating freedom, is Dr Walid Phares, a man I respect and admire. Dr. Phares has cultivated a respected academic and publishing career in the United States for over two decades. As a Lebanese Muslim and an Arab liberal I have been following his work and statements in favor of democratization and liberalization in the Middle East and salute his relentless efforts in publishing books, articles, and lectures in English, French and Arabic. I am writing this article, in particular because of his achievements before he emigrated to the US, and after he became an American citizen. I am also dedicating this piece to express my frustration against the sinister attacks leveled against him in US media by pens serving the same goals as those behind the assassins of my father.
I have read recent disgusting pieces of propaganda against Phares, published in media promoting itself as progressive and friendly to Muslims, while in reality they are the farthest from true liberalism and side systematically with the ideological forces that are oppressing our Muslim civil societies in the region. The campaign against Walid Phares incited by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) which has been accused by US Counter Terrorism experts as being a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, has been aptly named “The Jihad against Phares” (*) by an American expert. Other sources claim CAIR serves the interests of the Iranian regime via Hamas (*). This Islamist lobby asked a leading Presidential Republican to drop Professor Phares as an advisor on the Middle East. The hateful CAIR letter accused Phares of ignominious false allegations including being “Islamophobic” and somehow linked to militiamen who shot Palestinians in Beirut back in 1982 and being. Dr. Phares had no involvement with any military. I am all too familiar with these Mafioso intimidation tactics as we had experienced and continue to experience them in the Middle East and in Lebanon. My father, a peaceful writer and reformer was accused of worse matters by the propaganda machine of the Jihadists and the Syrian-Iranian regimes. Reformers and intellectuals during Soviet times were often demonized and muddied by the totalitarians. Walid Phares is not an exception.
But what surprised me was to read articles published at one day intervals in magazines and on sites claimed to be progressive and liberal, at least according to American norms. How can Salon.com, The New Republic, the Daily Beast, Mother Jones and others claim they are on the side of social justice and the weakest segments of society when they carry these kind of stories against a man who has spent the last three decades of his life standing for liberty around the world, and paid a dear price for it in his own community and mother country? I understand if Nihad Awad of lobby group CAIR or As’ad Abukhalil, known to be a Hezbollah propagandist, rage against Phares but why would so-called liberals like McKay and Serwer defame the author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East? Are they part of the same campaign as CAIR and the Hezbollah propagandists? Whatever are the answers to this imbroglio in US politics, one matter is clear to me from my end of the world: Professor Phares’ image is untarnished.
During the Lebanon conflict, Walid Phares was a young man who accomplished a difficult task to be a published intellectual, public speaker, active in democratic politics in the face of two heavy challenges. He, like most members of his community and many Lebanese, accepted the duty of defending Lebanon against Syrian occupation and terror domination. From the time he was a law student, Phares chose the path of writing, publishing and speaking in public. But his interests weren’t only his motherland. Since his first book and subsequent articles in the early 1980s, Phares raised the issues of multiethnic societies and spoke for the weakest: Kurds, South Sudan, Copts, Berbers, Assyrians, and other minorities. He was perhaps unlucky that he had to develop a regional and international scholarship in a country that has been at war since he was in high school. While other intellectuals chose to either flee Lebanon or submit to the narrative of the Arabists and Islamists in the Middle East, the young attorney turned publisher, stubbornly stayed his intellectual course and offered his thoughts wherever he could. This is why the supporters of Islamism and Pan Arabism never forgave him and never forgot about his long train of achievements. They have a score to settle with a thinking process that approximates Soviet dissidence and that courageously promoted the fall of totalitarian regimes and ideologies. Phares did it from his own habitat, the Maronite and Christian community, while my father Mustafa Geha did it from our habitat, the Shia Muslim community. Phares has been a target of character assassination by these forces of totalitarianism while my father was actually assassinated by them.
It is stunning to read in the so-called “progressive” US press today that Phares is blamed for having lectured in his own community in East Beirut during the early 1980s. Where should have he lectured? Under Hezbollah auspices or in collaboration with the Syrian occupation? It was natural that he would speak to audiences in his own environment. My father, a Shia thinker, spoke to the same Lebanese Christian audiences, Lebanese Forces included, and praised Walid Phares’ comments rigorously focused on pluralism and achieving democracy. And more puzzling is critics lashing out against Phares participation in a policy council along with all parties in the free areas of the country to oversee the defense forces and management of society. Bringing him and representatives to that council was a move to widen participation of society’s political forces after years of dominance by one political party in East Beirut. In the circumstances of the times, this was an important advance towards political pluralism, although it failed in the end.
But Phares’ other efforts, that is democratization inside East Beirut, were the most challenging, and unfortunately not acknowledged by his critics. The young attorney and writer aimed at pushing for higher levels of democracy and freedoms inside the so-called Christian areas, while the Syrians and Hezbollah dominated the Muslim areas. He was part of a Social Democratic group, launched a Labor Union, student committees and a coalition of Middle East minorities, and was a sharp critic of authoritarianism, even within wthe so-called free areas. His work was often suppressed and towards the end of the decade, Phares ability to promote democracy was lost. The challenge came from the Syrian-Hezbollah axis on the outside and from the dominant forces within the Christian community on the inside. Indeed it has been an almost impossible task for freedom advocates in the 1980s to promote their ideas of liberty in the midst of an ethnic conflict, sandwiched between the threat to the community and the little freedoms inside the community.
But we Muslim liberals understood Walid Phares’ message then, and even more decades later. My father visited his younger intellectual colleague at his home in East Beirut and they often appeared on radio or on panels. Mustafa Geha and Walid Phares coming from different communities had one thing in common, seeking freedom, each one in his own context. For Phares participation in the political council of parties in East Beirut (known as Lebanese Front or Lebanese Forces) was in fact a guarantee, not a challenge, to the rights of Muslims, because he spoke of pluralism and federation, the most advanced formulas for political participation. Islamists and Pan Arabists opposed him naturally, but those who among Muslims were struggling for liberal ideas, understood Phares and supported him, despite the sectarian barriers of the time.
My greatest admiration for this man was his longstanding publishing and push in the United States, after he emigrated, for the sake of freedom in the Arab world and the Middle East. Relentlessly he briefed and testified, authored and advised on the rise of Jihadi threat and on the region’s civil societies’ aspirations for freedom. To many among us, young liberal Muslims in the region, Phares was doing more for our cause than many organized self-declared Muslim groups in America. While the latter were siding with dictators, in some cased funded by them, and advocating for Islamists, Phares and his colleagues were presenting our case to the American and Western public. The case of seculars, moderates, liberals and conservatives but not Jihadist Muslims. In his three books published after 9/11, which were criticized by Islamist lobbies in the US, Professor Phares was strongly advocating US partnership with secular Muslims. Remarkably Phares published his last book, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, one year before the Arab Spring, predicting the uprisings. The Islamist lobbies fell silent about it, because in his book Phares talks about Muslim civil societies not the Islamists. He unveiled the existence of a large mass of youth who refuses the fundamentalist view of the world in the region, while Muslim Brotherhood and Khomeinists claim the region wants them to rule the peoples.
I am assuming this was the fundamental reason behind the dirty assault against Professor Walid Phares in the blogosphere by the Islamist militants online. It is not about Phares honorable achievements in Lebanon or his involvement in a Presidential campaign. It is about the scholar’s strategic ability to help his country, the United States, understand the challenges and partner with the peoples of this region. His enemies are the enemies of American values and of real freedom in the Middle East. He was accused of Islamophobia while those who accuse him are the ones blocking the minds of young Muslims and keeping them in a state of Islamophobic fears.
In a preface to Phares’ essay “Thirteen Centuries of Struggle” published in 1982, St. Joseph University Professor Jean Aucagne compared Walid Phares to Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik. “He is to the Muslim world what Amalrik was to the Soviet Union, seeking the rise of freedom.” Walid Phares continued what my father wanted to pursue, a gigantic work to reform the region to realize pluralist democracy. My father was killed in the line of intellectual duty. Professor Phares picked up the message and took it to the free world. We Muslim liberals are looking forward to see this message come back to free us from the prison of fundamentalism and totalitarian realities.
Mustafa Mustafa Geha is a Muslim Lebanese Liberal activist based in Beirut.