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Posts tagged ‘Arab Spring’

Harvard’s Niall Ferguson: US in Global Retreat.

The United States’ “geopolitical taper” is having long-lasting, significant effects on the country’s national security strategy, as world powers stop taking President Barack Obama’s warnings seriously, says Niall Ferguson, Harvard history professor and Stanford University Hoover Institution senior fellow.

“The world remembers the red line that Mr. Obama once drew over the use of chemical weapons in Syria…and then ignored once the line had been crossed,” Ferguson writes in an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal.

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Ferguson’s use of the phrase “geopolitical taper” is a play off Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s use of taper” last June, when he announced modest reductions in the Fed’s large-scale asset-purchase program, creating repercussions worldwide..

But Obama’s tapering, or promising consequences only when other nations step “over the line” is far more significant, said Ferguson.

On Wednesday, when the president commented that “there will be consequences if people step over the line”  in the raging battles between Ukrainian protesters in Kiev and government forces, nobody took the warning seriously, Ferguson said.

“Ukrainian government snipers kept on killing people in Independence Square regardless,” he commented. “The compromise deal reached on Friday in Ukraine calling for early elections and a coalition government may or may not spell the end of the crisis. In any case, the negotiations were conducted without concern for Mr. Obama.”

The geopolitical taper can be traced to Obama’s first term, when he wanted troops out of Iraq and to have a minimum of U.S. overseas commitments, said Ferguson.

“Less easy to understand was his policy in Afghanistan,” said Ferguson, and the result was a compromise and a surge of additional troops, followed by a commitment to begin withdrawing.

Ferguson said Obama passively watched as the Iranian people arose against their rulers starting in 2009 and was caught off balance by the Arab Spring.

Obama’s other policies have been confused as well, said Ferguson.

“Mr. Obama backed the government led by Mohammed Morsi, after the Muslim Brotherhood won the 2012 elections. Then the president backed the military coup against Mr. Morsi last year,” said Ferguson.

“On Libya, Mr. Obama took a back seat in an international effort to oust Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, but was apparently not in the vehicle at all when the American mission at Benghazi came under fatal attack in 2012.”

And Ferguson said, “Syria has been one of the great fiascos of post-World War II American foreign policy” because of Obama’s “ineffectual” intervention.

The inaction has resulted in disaster, Ferguson said, with at least 130,000 Syrian civilians being killed and another 9 million driven from their homes. Further, the civil war has escalated into a proxy war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that involves jihadist groups.

“Obama’s supporters like nothing better than to portray him as the peacemaker to [former president] George W. Bush’s warmonger,” said Ferguson. “But it is now almost certain that more people have died violent deaths in the Greater Middle East during this presidency than during the last one.”

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By Sandy Fitzgerald

Changing the human heart…

By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body, you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” 
Colossians 3:15

The world that Jesus was born into was quite violent. War was constantly in the air. The Israelites, the Jewish people who were occupied by the Romans, were talking constantly about rebelling against the most powerful and ruthless empire at that time in history. There was injustice and many hurting and broken people. Ironically, religious leaders often hurt the very people that they were supposed to help. So, Jesus enters into this world to bring peace.

I wonder, now, do we live in a peaceful place now that Jesus has come? Even if there were no North Korea launching missiles, no Arab Spring, no political differences, would we, then, have peace?

Do people live in peace, today, surrounded by others but still lonely, constantly living in fear, living paycheck-to-paycheck, working jobs they don’t like, with cell phones ringing and in-boxes full, living in what Thoreau called “quiet desperation”?
Those things won’t change until we change. Jesus came to change human hearts because he knew that, if people had peace on the inside, there would then be peace everywhere else.

This Christmas, remember that Jesus came to be our Prince of Peace.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for filling my heart with a peace that passes understanding. Help me to be authentically peaceful and, thereby, an example of your peace to others. Amen.

Devotion: How might you, through encouragement or example, bring peace to the hearts of others?

Keane on Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Attacks ‘Will Grow’.

Image: Keane on Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Attacks 'Will Grow'

By Wanda Carruthers

The move by the army-backed government in Egypt declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization will not silence the radical elements in group, Ret. Gen. Jack Keane said Thursday.

He predicted during an appearance on Fox News that attacks on the Egyptian government “will grow in size and scale” as militants members of the brotherhood begin to assert themselves.

“There is a part of the Muslim Brotherhood that will wait for another political opportunity. But, then there’s another part of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the right and much more radical,” Keane said.

“They are already conducting armed violence, terrorist attacks. This will grow in size and scale.”

The Egyptian government formally declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization Wednesday. The move makes the group’s activities illegal, and is seen as an effort by the army-backed government to suppress opposition.

The Brotherhood played a significant role in the government itself before former President Mohamed Morsi was removed from power. Keane, a Fox News military analyst, said the Egyptian government was answering what they thought was the will of the people by getting rid of Morzi, who rose to power as a member of the brotherhood.

“The military regime believes that they are answering the clarion call of the people by suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood. They do not want them to participate in the political process again,” he said.

The current political tensions mask what Keane believes is the real problem facing Egypt — poverty among the majority of its people. He says the protests during the Arab Spring that eventually helped sweep Morsi into office were prompted by the nation’s economic and social problems.

“Remember the Arab Spring when they took to the streets a number of years ago? It was all about economic opportunity and social justice and political justice,” Keane said. ” And, hopefully, this regime will get back to trying to solve some of these problems.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Twitter Shuts Down Link to ‘Duck Dynasty’ Petition Site.

Twitter users trying to include links to a popular online petition site were disabled from doing so Monday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Attempts to tweet the URL  results in a message reading “Oops! A URL in your Tweet appears to link to a page that has spammy or unsafe content.”

“This marks at least the third major shutdown of a pro-Phil Robertson social media account since the story broke days ago,” The Reporter quoted a Christian advocacy group as saying. The other shutdown victims were not named.

Faith Driven Consumer, which runs the petition site told The Reporter it was unaware why it was being blocked since a diagnostic page says it “has not hosted malicious software over the past 90 days.”

A Twitter spokesperson would not comment on the case.

Such Twitter actions typically occur when users report a site and Twitter employees review the site.

Twitter has held itself out as a bastion of free speech. The Arab Spring protests were largely fueled by Twitter. But the company suspended the account of the terrorists who were tweeting body counts and blow-by-blow action during their attack on a Kenyan shopping mall.

The blocked petition site supports “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, who was put on hiatus from the show last week after saying in a GQ interview that homosexuality is a sin.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

With Christian Persecution Reaching Pandemic Proportions, Intercessors Unite.

persecuted church
Pastor Samuel was imprisoned for his faith for eight years. Join churches across the world Nov. 3 for International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. (Gospel for Asia)

With persecution of Christians at its highest rate in recent times, Gospel for Asia is calling for a chain of prayer to encircle the globe on Nov. 3 for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Prayer resources are available at

“Stripped of their rights, fleeing their homes, beaten by their own family members, imprisonment and martyrdom are all part of what it means to stand firm in the Christian faith in many parts of the world,” says Dr. K.P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia (GFA) founder and president. “We must stand with them through earnest prayer.”

Yohannan says there are millions of Christians around the world who are persecuted for Christ.

“Based on the promise of God about the time leading up to Christ’s return, persecution will only get greater,” Yohannan says. “We can expect persecution.”

The violence of the Arab Spring that began in December 2010, which saw uprisings in a number of Middle East and North Africa nations, was often specifically targeted against Christians. In Egypt, at least 40 Coptic Christian churches and other Christian properties, such as bookstores and schools, were attacked and burned. Tens of thousands of Christians have fled the violence and kidnappings targeting their communities in Syria. Two suicide bombers attacked a Pakistani church in September, leaving at least 81 dead and 140 injured.

In India, a Christian family hosting a house church was invaded as they prepared for dinner on Good Friday. The father and son were severely beaten, all because people wanted to drive Christians out of their community.

“The Bible tells us that the prayers of the righteous effect change,” Yohannan says. “Last year on the International Day of Prayer, we asked you to pray for the release of Pastor Ugyen, who was imprisoned for showing a film about Jesus and leading people to believe in Him. His miraculous release after three years in prison is witness to a faithful God who hears and answers prayer.

“We must not let our persecuted brothers and sisters stand alone. Let us all pray for those who are facing great danger for boldly believing and sharing the love of Jesus.”

Why Leadership Fails By Gabriel Osamwonyi Omozuwa.

By Gabriel Osamwonyi Omozuwa

Leadership failure is one depressing phenomenon that remarkably defines this era. The public domain is always awash with news about the moral and ethical failures of leaders.   High calibre leaders like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Silvio Berlusconi, Mohammed Morsi, Muammar Gaddafi, General Sani Abacha and many more are mostly remembered for their failures.  Unfortunately, the consequences of their failures are grave. Sometimes, they are irreversible.  They leave scars on public conscience, breed widespread mistrust of authority figures and ignite the forces of anarchy, which push society to the verge of moral and cultural collapse.

Apart from football, I wonder if there is any subject that dominates our conversation like leadership failure. In fact, many Nigerians seem poised to write theses on leadership failure.  There are many reasons for this. First, experientially, we know life is better with effective leadership and tough without it. Second, some leaders around us are not maximizing our collective potential for greatness. Third, our moral and ethical landscape is becoming very hazy as profligate leaders do not do the right thing the right way and for the right motives. In sum, service-oriented, effective and ethical leaders are in short supply everywhere.

As homes are increasingly becoming weaker due to lack of exemplary leadership, so are institutions of religion, society and state. This phenomenon is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is global. However, it can be reversed.  In fact, this piece is premised on the optimistic assumption that if we constantly and objectively examine why leaders fail, it will orient leadership towards optimal performance, ethical rectitude and enable many to sidestep pitfalls along the path to enduring greatness.

The beauty of leadership is seen when humane values inspire visions and pursuits. Not when power symbols, privileges and perks are flaunted.  Value-driven leaders have congruent behaviour, which is the bedrock of trustworthy relationships. Nelson Mandela exemplifies many sterling qualities of effective leadership. One of which is his historic mission to create an egalitarian society rooted in the core values of Ubuntu. This inspired hope in people. It facilitated the formation of broad alliances and promoted the spirit of cooperation. It is difficult for a leader to inspire rock-solid allegiances and build bridges across divides, if his value system, vision and pursuit are disharmonious. In other words, visions without values reduce leaders to rubble.

Credibility, which is the lifeblood of effective and ethical leadership, is safeguarded by open communication and accountability. If compromised, a leader’s quest for excellence in all things cannot be achieved. Discredited leaders can hardly elicit the needed cooperation to turn their vision to reality. This explains why wise leaders see credibility as their collateral, their greatest asset, never to be toyed with. Leaders often face the temptation to trade credibility for success and cheap popularity. Don’t give in. Ultimately, it is failure when you succeed by any means that endangers your credibility.

Leaders fail when infested by uncontrolled greed for wealth. Greedy leaders rank their material well-being above the common good, and their whims above the law. They hold power for self-enrichment.  Greed erodes the human capacity for empathy, making leadership insensitive to public needs.  Unfortunately, leadership ceases to be benevolent, progressive and people-empowering when emotional atrophy resulting from avarice disconnects it from follower ship.  In fact, dictatorship begins with lack of empathy. As central as noble and doable vision is to leadership, it does not guarantee success without empathy.  Empathy deficiency mutates the core essence of leadership.
The Arab Spring teaches many lessons. One is worthy of emphasis. Feelings of alienation balloon when the people’s development is outside a leader’s orbit of interest. Widespread latent hostility, which easily triggers violent revolution, is near inevitable when leaders luxuriate in enclaves of splendour, while their followers pine in misery in skid rows.

History is a fine teacher. The more we learn from it, the better we become.  King Farouk of Egypt plunged from the peak of power, prestige and prosperity to history’s grave of ignominy, because he became a victim of a certain psychosis caused by profligate high-living.  His famed hedonistic pursuits made him incapable of feeling public pulse. It made him docile even when intelligence report hinted to brewing revolt. In July 1952, when his Prime Minister called him one night to inform him of an impending coup d’état, on knowing the identity of the plotters, he deliriously retorted “A bunch of pimps” and went back to his gambling table.  Anything that distorts a leader’s perception of reality could bury him in the wreckage of misplaced priority, fractured reputation and failed projects.

Leaders fail when temperance ceases to be their governing principle. Without self-control, everything under a leader’s watch spins out of control. Self-control is the true measure of a leader’s power. Intemperance wrecks leadership. In a sense, intemperance could be spelt as lack of judgment and staying power.  Intemperate leaders almost always lack the nimbleness of mind to transcend mediocrity and broaden people’s vistas of experienced reality. It is not fitting for a leader to be impulse driven. Emotion-inspired decisions are almost always recipe for debacle. When upset, a leader must not make decisions or spring to action.

Leaders are principally knowledgeable trouble-shooters. But they are not encyclopedias. Like all men, their knowledge and problem-solving skills are limited. So, they always seek expert advice on strategic and complex matters. The danger is if a leader is disinclined to truth or is surrounded by sycophants, his advisers will tell him what he wants to hear and not what he needs to hear.

Leaders should be wary of the counsel of untested aides. King Rehoboam inadvertently triggered the division of Israel, because he discarded the wise advice of aged men of honour and prudence and listened to the sweet-coated folly of his peers.   Many unprincipled hunters of fortune masquerade as experts. On a whim, they will delude leadership and destroy lives to advance their self-interest.

Some self-appointed special advisers have the ability to muffle the voice of truth and reason. Any leader who seeks to finish strong and well must put such advisers and those who validate his mistakes on a checklist. He must do likewise with those who put him on the pedestal of inimitable and infallible sage. A leader is doomed to fail, if everyone around him unthinkingly agrees with all that he says.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters


WSJ: al-Qaida Affiliates Growing, Spreading Around Middle East.

The United States is facing a new front in the war against terrorism as jihadist organizations across the Middle East become increasingly fractured, requiring a new strategy to combat terror threats.

According to The Wall Street Journal, two new studies have found that while the core structure of al-Qaida has weakened, regional affiliate groups are on the rise. By one estimate, they now occupy double the number of areas they did five years ago.

“Even though core al-Qaida may be in decline, ‘al-Qaida-ism,’ the movement’s ideology, continues to resonate and attract new adherents,” says a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center‘s Homeland Security Project, chaired by former September 11 commission chiefs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton.

The warnings are also echoed in a report issued by the Soufan Group, which concluded, “Terrorists and extremists are, in many ways, in a stronger position today than in the past.”

The change signifies a new dimension to the terrorist threats facing the U.S., according to the reports, and will require America to do more to specifically fight jihadist ideology, recruitment, and propaganda if it is to deter “lone-wolf” terrorist attacks, such as the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s report says one key area of a potential long-term threat is the al-Qaida affiliate currently fighting the Assad regime in Syria. It warns the civil war conflict “could create an organization with the intention and capability to attack the West itself,” and points in particular to the possibility of jihadist groups accessing the regime’s chemical weapons.

Violent extremist groups operating in regional conflicts in the Arab Spring countries in Northern Africa could also ultimately become international terror threats, the report warns, according to the Journal.

The report recommends the creation of a permanent investigative panel to launch probes after terror attacks and to analyze clues authorities may have missed. It also recommends the Department of Homeland Security create a position focused on countering jihadist ideology and propaganda, the Journal noted.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Melanie Batley

Flashback: Left Lauds Obama’s Arab Policy.

Since the Arab Spring erupted in December 2010, President Barack Obama has struggled to chart a course, “leading from behind” in Libya, slow to react as Egypt careens between crises, and now planning military action in Syria.

However, Obama’s supporters on the left and many in the media have praised his approach to the Middle East ever since his speech the previous year in Cairo, where he said he was seeking “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.”

Here are words of praise for Obama’s foreign policy and approach to the Arab Spring:

MSNBC Anchor Chris Matthews, Feb. 2011: Obama “comes into office, and this jubilant situation in Egypt, with the first time in our lives we get to see people from the Arab world in a very positive democratic setting. Not as terrorists or not as people fighting Israel, or whatever. … In a way it’s like it took Obama to have this happen.”

Newsweek Editor Evan Thomas, June 2009: Reacting to Obama’s Cairo speech, “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God.”

Brian Katulis, senior fellow at Center for American Progress, Sept. 2012: “Since 2009, the Obama administration has undertaken the mother of all foreign policy cleanup jobs — rebuilding U.S. power and credibility with a pragmatic and reality-based policy in the Middle East.”

Elizabeth H. Prodromou, affiliate scholar at Harvard University, Sept. 2012: “The president clarified the liberal, democratic principles and security priorities that are nonnegotiable for continuing U.S. support for the Arab Spring movements.”

Marc Lynch, director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at the George Washington University, Sept. 2012: “President Barack Obama has handled the uprisings in the Arab world very well. Indeed, his pragmatic but principled approach has proven far more effective than any of the alternatives offered by his critics.”

Huffington Post contributor Stewart J. Lawrence, July 2012: “By any reasonable standard, Obama’s first-term foreign policy record is nothing short of astounding.”

Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, Nov. 2011: “Many revolutionary movements … have been driven more by ideology, whether it’s communism or some al-Qaida-inspired vision of Islamism, or nationalism, but these [Arab Spring] movements … are clearly and unequivocally democratic and people-driven. And number one, we need to embrace that and understand that that is a very, very good thing for us.… And it’s a major, major blow to al-Qaida and similar ideologies.”

Obama foreign policy spokesman Colin Kahl, Sept. 2012: “As the Arab Spring emerged in places like Tunisia and Egypt, should the United States have stood on the sidelines? Clearly the Republicans don’t think that because they think we should be ‘leading’ on these issues, and, of course, that’s what the president did, which was to get on the right side of history.”

John Kerry, Sept. 2012:
 “We have a president who has made America lead like America again.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Jennifer G. Hickey

A Point of View: Why it can be good to give in to your enemies.

Left: Protesters against coalition government cuts. Right: A protester's hand against a poster reading "Blair must go!"

In a democracy, leaders and the opposition must accept each other’s legitimacy, says Roger Scruton.

Last week I examined some of the institutions that form part of democracy as we in the West understand it. But I have yet to consider the fundamental point, which is that in a democracy we consent to be governed by people we dislike.

In Egypt today many people refuse to accept the result of the recent elections. The army has stepped in, ostensibly to maintain order, but in fact to impose the kind of disorder with which armies are equipped to deal – the disorder of the battlefield. Just why this has happened is a topic to which I will return next week. But we should not assume that the Egyptian people are any different from the rest of us when it comes to the hard discipline of being governed by people you dislike.

I know from my own experience just how hard this discipline can be. My father was a staunch Labour supporter. He believed that Tory politicians were all corrupt representatives of an oppressive ruling class, and that the entire English establishment – the Church of England, the House of Lords, the Monarchy, the “squire-archy”, the old universities, the industrialists and financiers, you name it – was a system of exploitation, erected to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

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Roger Scruton
  • Roger Scruton is a writer and philosopher
  • A Point of View is usually broadcast on Fridays on Radio 4 at 20:50 BST and repeated Sundays, 08:50 BST

I think that was a common view among Labour supporters in those days, and the Labour Party itself did not take a great deal of trouble to refute it.

As a result my father actually hated the Tory Party and all those who sat in Parliament as members of it. We could do nothing to pacify his rage when the Tory party made the mistake of winning an election, or when a Tory government passed some law that seemed to him to damage the interests of the trade unions or the working class. For several days in the wake of such events he would be unapproachable. But he accepted the result, accepted its legitimacy, accepted that he had no recourse other than to campaign for the repeal of the laws that offended him.

I experienced a version of my father’s habitual rage when the government of Tony Blair decided, in the face of massive opposition from ordinary people living in the countryside, to ban our traditional forms of hunting.

This seemed to me to be a new kind of legislation, aimed at a minority and fired by sentiments that ought to have no place in parliament. It affected me since hunting is part of my life, and the life of my rural neighbours. But I had to swallow my disappointment, and to acknowledge that the law is legitimate. I can campaign for a repeal, but I am duty bound as a citizen to obey it. Accepting it is one part of the burden that I and other Tories have suffered under 13 years of Labour government – the burden of being ruled by people we disagree with, some of whom we actively dislike.

Protesters from the Countryside Alliance holding banners

I think people are not as aware as they should be of how contrary to human nature it is, to accept orders from those with whom you do not agree. Many have seen the events of the Arab Spring as involving a popular movement for democracy against autocratic government, and to some extent this is true. But one thing that has been very noticeable, especially in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, has been the emergence of democratically elected governments that have no time for opinions other than their own.

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Egypt: Key facts

Protester holding Egypt flag
  • Population: 83.9 million (UN, 2012)
  • Capital: Cairo
  • Area: 1 million sq km (386,874 sq miles)
  • Major language: Arabic
  • Major religions: Islam, Christianity

In Western democracies our governments are aware that many people, perhaps even a majority, did not vote for them, and that they must therefore make themselves acceptable to their opponents.

Look at the pronouncements of the recently elected and recently deposed President Morsi of Egypt, however, and you will find little or nothing to suggest that he is aware that there are Egyptians who disagree with him and whose consent must be constantly solicited. It is impossible to discern from his speeches that there is a substantial minority of Egyptian citizens who are Christians, others who are atheists, others who, while following the Muslim way of life, would rather it did not make a show of itself as the state religion.

His view of elections is that they grant an absolute right to impose the ruling party’s agenda, and that opponents have lost all right to an agenda of their own. And the response of the army is to say, not so – the only ones with a right to impose their agenda are we, who represent the interests of all Egyptians and not just those of the Muslim Brotherhood. The fact that we have to kill quite a few Egyptians to prove that we represent them is just one of those things.

Protesters in gather in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morshi

In our own system the opposition is a legitimate part of the legislative process. Laws are seldom steam-rollered through Parliament without regard for disagreement, and the general assumption is that the final result will be a compromise, an attempt to reconcile the many conflicting interests. This idea of legislation as a compromise is an unusual one. The natural order is that described in the Old Testament, in which kings rule by decree, taking advice perhaps, but not allowing a voice to interests other than their own.

There are aspects of human life in which compromise is either suspect or forbidden. In battle you don’t compromise with the enemy. In religion you don’t compromise with the devil. And it is when religion intrudes into politics that the political process is most at risk. This is the reason why, in the history of modern Egypt, successive Presidents have tried to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of power. The Brotherhood believes that law and politics are not about compromise but about obedience to the will of God.

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Glorious Revolution?

Battle of Boyne
  • Term refers to the overthrow of King James II of England by parliamentarians and William of Orange
  • King James had grown increasingly unpopular because of his close ties to France and Roman Catholic faith
  • Opponents were worried that the throne would pass to a Roman Catholic heir
  • William of Orange, who was married to King James II’s Protestant daughter Mary, ascended throne of England in 1689
  • James II made another unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne at the Battle of Boyne in 1690. He was defeated and fled

In the 17th Century our country was torn apart by civil war, and at the heart of that civil war was religion – the Puritan desire to impose godly rule on the people of Great Britain regardless of whether they wanted it, and the leaning of the Stuart Kings towards a Roman Catholic faith that had become deeply antipathetic to the majority and a vehicle for unwanted foreign interference. In a civil war both sides behave badly, precisely because the spirit of compromise has fled from the scene. The solution is not to impose a new set of decrees from on high, but to make room for opposition, and the politics of compromise. This was recognised at the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when Parliament was re-established as the supreme legislative institution, and the rights of the people against the sovereign power were reaffirmed the following year in a Bill of Rights.

This raises what for me is the most important question concerning the Middle East today, which is that of reconciling religious obedience and the secular rule of law. That question was debated by the early Church, and indeed raised by Jesus himself, in the parable of the tribute money. In that parable Jesus invites us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. In other words, to obey Caesar when dealing with the ordinary affairs of government, while remaining obedient in our personal life to the commands of religion. His assumption was that we could reconcile the one obedience with the other, since the commandments of religion are simple and obvious. Indeed, there are only two of them, namely to love God entirely and your neighbour as yourself. Jesus rightly assumed that those two commandments would never jeopardise the legitimate demands of government, and this assumption was built into its pronouncements by the early church.

Of course, there is a long history of conflict in Europe between Pope and Emperor, and between religious enthusiasm and the secular law. But it is fair to say that by the end of the 17th Century, as the Enlightenment spread its influence far and wide across our civilisation, it was beginning to be accepted that we manage our affairs in this world by passing our own laws, that these laws are man-made, secular, and if possible neutral when it comes to the various religions that compete within the state. In any apparent clash between secular law and religious obedience, it has become accepted in our society that secular law must prevail. The hope has been that the two spheres of duty, the sacred and the secular, are sufficiently separate, so that there would in any case be little or no overlap between them. To put it bluntly, religion, in our society, has become a private affair, which makes no demands of the public as a whole.

The privatisation of religion has not occurred everywhere in the modern world, and certainly not in the Muslim world. Today we see a Turkey led to the brink of civil unrest by an Islamic Prime Minister in rebellion against the secular state. We see an Egypt in which the army has stepped in to depose a President who wishes to govern Egypt by Islamic law. We see a region-wide conflict between the Sunni and Shi’ah versions of the faith, which is now tearing Syria apart. And all across the Middle East, freedom of speech, association and religion are under attack. Why is this, and what should we do about it? I shall address those questions next week.

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Hoekstra: Mideast ‘Ablaze’ While US Has ‘Little Credibility’ in Region.

Image: Hoekstra: Mideast 'Ablaze' While US Has 'Little Credibility' in Region

By Todd Beamon

Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax on Thursday that “we have a Middle East that is ablaze” and that the situation reflects “a diminished U.S. influence” in the region.

“It’s chaos, and the U.S. and this administration have very, very little — if any — leverage to help resolve the crisis in Egypt,” the Michigan Republican told Newsmax amid news reports that as many as 638 people were killed in the country’s deadliest day since the Arab Spring began in 2011.

“We now have chaos throughout Libya, radical jihadists on the doorstep of getting into Western Europe,” Hoekstra said. “That was not possible under [Moammar] Gadhafi.

Latest: Is Benghazi a Cover Up? Is Obama at the Heart of It? Vote Here 

“You’ve got a dead American ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, and you’ve got Egypt ablaze,” he added. “You’ve got total chaos in Syria, and I don’t think that’s it yet. Who knows what’s going to happen in Jordan? Who knows what may happen in Turkey? And you’ve got chaos in Iraq.

“It’s like: ‘Wow! What a huge mess we have!’ It’s been a long time since we’ve had such little credibility in the Middle East as what we have today,” Hoekstra said.

A crackdown by the Egyptian military that began on Wednesday against the mostly Islamic supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi has caused 638 deaths and more than 4,500 injuries throughout Egypt.

President Barack Obama was among the world leaders condemning the bloody crackdown. On Thursday, he canceled joint U.S.-Egyptian military maneuvers.

In Thursday’s violence, government buildings were set afire near the pyramids, policemen were gunned down, and scores of Christian churches were attacked. As turmoil engulfed the country, the Interior Ministry authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions.

The Muslim Brotherhood, trying to regroup after the assault on their encampments and the arrest of many of their leaders, called for a mass rally on Friday to challenge the government’s declaration of a monthlong nationwide state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The violence marked Egypt’s deadliest day since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country into more than two years of instability.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Hoekstra served eight terms before leaving office to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010. He chaired the Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007, and currently serves on the Advisory Board for

“The actions in Egypt are horrific,” Hoekstra told Newsmax. “What appears now is the almost systemic slaughter of Coptic Christians.

“This administration is not speaking out about the slaughter of Christians in Egypt, and this has been going on for almost a year. The Muslim Brotherhood is now blaming Coptic Christians. They’re the convenient scapegoat for this.

“The least we should be doing is speaking up for human rights and religious freedom and the protection of the Coptics in Egypt,” he added. “There was always some persecution going on, but what’s been going on since the brotherhood came into power has been bad.

“They’re running people of the Christian faith out of the country, or they’re killing them.”

At this point, the bloodshed in Egypt is not about restoring Morsi to power, but it never has been, Hoekstra said.

“It was never about one person. It was never about Mubarak. It was never about Morsi,” he said. “This is about the Muslim Brotherhood and the kind of groups and ideology they represent versus the ideology and the kind of governance that people like Mubarak and the Egyptian military represent.”

More broadly, however, Hoekstra said the Mideast turmoil reflected a “relatively naïve” foreign policy by the Obama administration.

“They really believed that with a new president and a new administration in Washington that the Middle East and the radical elements would be much more open to discussions with the U.S. and with the moderates in these countries to reach some kind of an accommodation.

“In reality, when the radical jihadists see an opening, they don’t see it as an opportunity for accommodation, they see it as an opportunity to push their agenda — and they see weakness.

“We’ve seen that in Iran,” Hoekstra continued. “We see that in Egypt. We’ve seen that in Libya — and, so what do we have now? All of that makes Israel much more vulnerable.

“You just have a lack of clarity in terms of U.S. message. What is our message?” he asked. “It was about getting rid of Mubarak and having elections. What we found out in Afghanistan and in Iraq is that elections don’t give you democracy. Elections don’t guarantee stability. They don’t guarantee freedom.

“We need to decide what we want and what’s important in the Middle East,” Hoekstra added. “Is it elections? Is it stability? Security and stability for Israel? We’ve been all over the map as to what is important to the United States.”

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