Friday, October 26, 2007

Aaron Mannes in the Jewish Week on HLF Trial

The New York Jewish Week ran an article that included my thoughts on the Holy Land Foundation mistrial.

As it happens, years ago I debated Ed Abingdon (a key witness for the defendants) at a pair of events in Las Vegas and Reno on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After his diplomatic service he was a consultant to the Palestinian Authority. He was always cordial and very smooth. No doubt the jury found him impressive.

No Convictions in Hamas Terror Case
Trial linking U.S. Arabs to terrorists ends with acquittals and mistrial.

by Jonathan Mark
Associate Editor

The Bush administration is losing “the war on terror,” at least in the courtroom.
For the third time in less than two years, the Justice Department couldn’t convince a jury on even one of 197 charges attempting to link radical American Moslems to Hamas, resulting in acquittals and a mistrial last week for leaders of a Texas-based charity that has been openly sympathetic to the Gaza-based terrorists.

The government was attempting to prove that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development—at one time the largest Islamic charity in the United States — had been funneling $12 million to Hamas-controlled Palestinian agencies. The defense claimed Holy Land was simply supporting humanitarian causes in the face of Israeli “oppression.”

On Monday, in a Dallas court, Holy Land’s former chair, Mohammed El-Mezain was acquitted on 31 counts and the jury stalemated, resulting in a mistrial, on one count – the key charge of whether El-Mezain provided material support to a foreign terrorist organization. After deliberating for 19 days, the divided jury couldn’t reach a verdict for the Holy Land’s former chief executive Shukri Abu Baker, former chair Ghassan Elashi, operatives Abdulrahman Odeh, Mufid Abdulqader and the Holy Land Foundation as its own entity.

The government plans to retry the case.
Mark Briskman, the Dallas-based regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said, “I think the jury was overwhelmed” by the complexity of the government’s case. “I’ve looked at virtually all the evidence” — wiretaps, money transfers, documents — “and at times I was nearly overwhelmed, it was difficult to sort out, and I’ve been following [Holy Land] for ten or twelve years; imagine a jury made up of people who are totally unfamiliar [with Palestinian and international financial, political and military networks].”

Daniel Pipes, of the Middle East Peace Forum, said, “It seems to me that asking jurors to decide on 197 counts — complex counts — may be just too much. At a certain point you can be overwhelming the jury,” a complaint echoed by numerous other observers of this trial and the other recent anti-terror cases that failed to convict.

Adding to the haze in the Holy Land case, said terrorist expert Steven Emerson, was the fact that “some of the documentary evidence was in foreign languages.” He also noted the success by defendants, in this and other trials, to convince American juries that the Palestinian terrorist war against Israel is one of “liberation,” simply a “dispute between only Israelis and Palestinians, rather than seeing it as part of the radical Islamic fundamentalist war against the west.”

Aaron Mannes, a terrorism expert at the University of Maryland, told The Jewish Week that, by and large, juries seem to be more receptive “when the United States itself is directly targeted,” such as cases relating to the two World Trade Center attacks; with juries more reluctant to decipher the ambiguities of the financial trail of a West Bank infirmary or Gaza social center that might also be a terrorist front.

Robert Chesney, a professor at Wake Forest University law school, whose specialty is national security law regarding the threat posed by terrorism, told The Jewish Week that the case did not indicate anything faulty with the basic statute prohibiting financial support for terrorist groups. Rather, the government presented “a mountain of evidence of some kind, but having a huge amount of evidence isn’t always the issue if it doesn’t directly tie into these specific defendants, which I assume was the jury’s sense, from the way the jury was having trouble.”

This mistrial was the third consecutive high-profile terrorist case in which juries seemed to have that same problem. In 2005, after a six-month trial, Florida college professor Sami Al-Arian, Islamic Jihad’s top man in America, pleaded guilty to a lesser terrorist charge, with acquittal or mistrial on the major terrorism charges. He is now being jailed for refusing to testify before a Virginia grand jury investigating Islamic charities, similar to Holy Land. In a second case, in Chicago this February, the government failed to convict two alleged Hamas activists on terrorist charges, convicting them only on obstruction of justice.

Chesney pointed out that the Justice Department is having some success with non-Palestinian cases that are lower profile: “The same day [of the Holy Land verdict] they got a guilty plea from someone accused of supplying material support for a Columbian terrorist organization.”

Ironically, the Holy Land defendants’ best witness for rebutting the government came from the government: Edward Abingdon, U.S. consul general to Jerusalem from 1993 to 1999. Abingdon testified that Holy Land monies did indeed go to humanitarian relief.

The prime witness for the prosecution was an Israeli agent, only identified as “Avi” who testified that many of the Holy Land beneficiaries were Palestinian schools and institutions controlled by Hamas.

But Abingdon told the jury that he found Israeli agents to be unreliable, they had an “agenda” to provide “selective information to try to influence U.S. thinking.” He questioned the legitimacy of evidence linking Holy Land to Hamas that was seized by Israel in West Bank raids in 2002.

Holy Land was founded in California in the 1980s, moved to the Dallas area in 1992, and FBI surveillance began in 1993, when a wiretap revealed the group was supporting Hamas attempts to derail the Oslo accords. It became illegal to financially support Hamas in 1997. Holy Land was shut down by the government in the wake of 9-11.

Although the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land case, has frequently charged that American Muslims are targets of suspicion and even hatred, what is clear from the three recent federal cases is that juries are not automatically siding with the government.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Anniversary of the Marine Barracks Bombing

Almost a quarter-century ago today a multiple simultaneous suicide bombers struck the barracks of U.S. Marines and French paratroopers who (along with British and Italian soldiers) were attempting to stabilize the war-torn city of Beirut. International terrorism had long been on the world scene since the PLO sky-jackings that started in 1968 and continued throughout the 1970s. Suicide bombings had only just become a major tactic (most notably a deadly strike against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut only a few months earlier). But this bombing, in which nearly 300 lives (241 Marines and sailors and 58 French paratroopers) were snuffed out in moments, took this phenomenon to a new scale. Politically, the attack caused the peace-keeping operation to fold - sending terrorists the message that if you hit the Western powers hard enough they will retreat.

Lebanon was then left as prey to Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran.

In the mid-1990s Osama bin Laden met with the attack's mastermind, Hezbollah's top killer Imad Mughniyah (view his network graph here). Bin Laden expressed his admiration for Mughniyah's achievement. An alliance was cemented and Hezbollah tutored the nascent al-Qaeda in this tactical innovation, the multiple simultaneous suicide attack.

This attack has raised certain questions about the definition of terrorism. The victims were uniformed military and terrorism is generally defined as the targeting of civilians. There is the argument for modifying the definition of terrorism, or viewing the Barracks Bombing as an act of war rather than terrorism.

The debate is academic and to some extent trumped by the inscription on the monument to the victims of the attack at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina -

Aaron Mannes in NRO on the Attack on Bhutto

This morning NRO ran my article on the suicide bombing attack on Benazir Bhutto.

October 23, 2007, 9:50 a.m.

The Bhutto Attacks
Cold comfort is the best we can hope for.

By Aaron Mannes

The question of who was behind Friday’s assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto is the whodunit from hell and, instead of a pistol, the drawing room dénouement will feature Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s October 18 return from a decade of exile was bound to be a pivotal moment in Pakistani politics, and thus, also will likely to be a violent one. Frustrated with President Musharraf’s unending military dictatorship and stagnating living conditions, the people of Karachi turned out in huge numbers to greet Bhutto as their potential savior.

The attack, which struck as Bhutto’s convoy slowly made its way through the city of Karachi, did not injure Bhutto. It did, however, kill 140 people, half of whom were members of Bhutto’s security detail. So far details remain unclear, although security services claim to have identified the heads of two suicide bombers.

At the best of times Pakistan is a society with a penchant for conspiracy theories, and the circumstances of the attack can only fuel this speculation. Despite ample warning that an attack on Bhutto was likely, security was inadequate to control the massive crowds that formed to meet Bhutto. Because of these crowds Bhutto’s convoy took about ten hours to travel about ten miles, while Karachi became a giant street party — and a perfect target for terror. Oddly, streetlights along the convoy’s route were turned off, complicating security efforts to spot possible attackers. In fairness however, Pakistani infrastructure is spotty at best, and these failings may have been due to raw incompetence. The government’s response to Bhutto’s accusations is that Bhutto ignored their security advice and insisted on a massive rally — of course such rallies are central to Pakistani politics.

Bhutto has vowed to fight Pakistan’s Islamists. Reportedly, a Taliban leader in South Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud, who has been linked to the bombing attacks that were a response to the government’s storming of the Red Mosque earlier this summer, promised to greet Bhutto with suicide bombs. Mehsud has since denied making this statement. Even if this particular band of Islamists had nothing to do with the attacks, there is a vast constellation of Pakistani Islamist groups — most with at least tangential links to al Qaeda - that would object to Bhutto taking power and many would be savvy enough not to advertise their intentions.

However, many Pakistanis, including Bhutto herself, believe that if the Islamists were involved, they did so as cat’s paws for Pakistani intelligence. Pakistani intelligence has supported various Islamist groups to further its interests in Aghanistan, Kashmir, and Pakistan. Bhutto goes further and has stated that while she does not hold Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf responsible; there are three officials, whom she will not name, linked to former President Zia ul-Haq (who overthrew and executed her father), behind the attack. Not surprisingly, there is a great deal of speculation about these individuals. Topping the list is retired General Ejaz Shah, the head of the Intelligence Bureau (and consequently ultimately responsible for Bhutto’s security). Shah was reportedly the intelligence community’s liaison to the Taliban, al Qaeda, and to Omar Sheikh who is in prison for the murder of Daniel Pearl.

Also suspected are Chaudhru Pervez Ellahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. When Musharraf deposed the last elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, the intelligence services engineered a split of Sharif’s party, the Pakistani Muslim League (PML). The Chaudhry cousins head the faction loyal to Musharraf. Bhutto, head of the other major national party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), has been in ongoing negotiations with Musharraf about entering a power-sharing arrangement. Few in Pakistan think much of the Chaudhry faction of the PML, while the PPP (as seen in the turnout to Bhutto’s homecoming) commands a substantial following. With Bhutto providing civilian legitimacy to Musharraf’s regime, the Chaudhry brothers would be out of the equation. Another possible candidate for Bhutto’s list is Ejaz ul-Haq, currently Musharraf’s Minister for Religious Affairs and the son of Zia ul-Haq, who executed Bhutto’s father.

Although Bhutto’s charges are a fascinating window into Pakistani politics, their veracity is uncertain. It is possible that as Bhutto moves closer to Musharraf, these are rivals that will need to be removed. She had previously called on Musharraf to fire General Shah because of his Islamist links. PML chief Hussain has responded that there was in fact a conspiracy, engineered by Bhutto’s husband (nicknamed Mr. 10% for his “deal-making” activities when Bhutto was in office) in order to garner sympathy for Bhutto.

There are other, more harrowing potential motives behind the attempt on Bhutto’s life. In courting Western support for her return to Pakistan, Bhutto promised that the International Atomic Energy Agency would receive access to A. Q. Khan, father of the Pakistani nuclear program and head of an international clandestine nuclear proliferation ring, who is currently under house arrest. The full extent of Khan’s network remains unknown. It is inconceivable that Khan carried out his operations without substantial assistance from figures in Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. This is information that the intelligence services would not like to see revealed. Another player that would prefer that the IAEA not have access to A. Q. Khan would be his leading customer. Khan may be able to reveal critical details about Iran’s nuclear program that would galvanize the international community against the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has launched suicide terror attacks around the world in support of their strategic interests, and there are militant Shia organizations in Pakistan with links to Iran.

Because of the long links between Pakistani intelligence and the Islamists, none of these scenarios are mutually exclusive. The government has refused Bhutto’s request for international participation in the investigation, which will only foster conspiracy theorists. But, in all likelihood, the attack on Bhutto was linked to a Pakistani Islamist organization. However, it is a cold comfort that attributing a massive terror attack to the Islamist “usual suspects” is the least disturbing scenario.

— Aaron Mannes, editor of TheTerrorWonk, researches international security affairs at the University of Maryland’s Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics and is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Aaron Mannes in Jane's on Science in the Muslim World

Last spring, Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst ran this article I wrote on science in the Muslim world, looking at the reasons why a society that was once at the pinnacle of scientific achievement now lags behind even other under-developed countries in conducting research. (Jane's is a British publication so some of the language follows their style, not my Americanisms.)



Science in Islamic societies

At its intellectual peak, Islamic civilization was the world's most sophisticated and scientifically advanced.

In modern times, Muslim countries have suffered a deficit in scientific research and development, in comparison to non-Muslim states.

Two obstacles to development in this field are a lack of funding from governments and a determinist worldview, whereby life is guided by religious, not scientific principles.

Although science flourished during Islam's Golden Age (850CE to 1250CE), the current level of scientific research in the Muslim world is very low. Competing in the modern world requires mastery not only of technology, but also of scientific principles. While there are many structural and institutional barriers to scientific development in the Muslim world, the greatest obstacles may be cultural.

Viewed from nearly every perspective, the state of scientific research in the Muslim world looks bleak. The key indicators of the level of research in a country are its per capita publication of science and engineering articles. By this and most other indices, Muslim nations rank behind other comparable states. According to the National Science Foundation, between 2000 and 2003 the world average publication of science and engineering articles per million inhabitants was 137; the nations belonging to the Organisation of Islamic Conferences have an average of just 13.

While the limited scientific achievements of impoverished African Muslim countries are less surprising, oil rich middle-income Muslim states rarely conduct as much scientific research as comparable non-Muslim nations, with a few exceptions. The Middle East's traditional leaders in this field, Egypt (described by the World Bank as a lower-middle income economy) and Saudi Arabia both produce about 25 articles per million inhabitants. Brazil, also a lower-middle income economy, produces 45 articles per million inhabitants. Malaysia, although home to a high-tech economy, publishes less than 21 articles per million inhabitants, higher than China (which produces 19 papers per inhabitant).

Pakistan, a low-income country and home to the 1979 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Abdus Salam, as well as the only Muslim country to develop a nuclear weapon, has been a leader in scientific achievement in the Muslim world. Yet, it produces less than three scientific articles per million people, whereas its similarly situated rival India produces over 11.

Even more crucial than raw production of articles is how frequently the articles are cited, which shows their importance to international science. Judged by this measure, most Muslim states have a marginal role in international science. In 2003, science and engineering articles produced by the Arab world were cited 12,182 times, representing 0.28 per cent of the world's total. Articles from Brazil alone were cited approximately twice as often. Articles from Pakistan represented 0.02 per cent of international citations, compared to India, which accounts for 0.73 per cent.

The cause of this low level of scientific achievement is under-investment in research and development throughout the Muslim world. According to World Bank figures, with a few exceptions, Muslim countries invest less in research and development than non-Muslim countries with similar income levels. Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia spent only 0.2 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development. The international average for high-income countries is ten times that level, but between 1997 and 2002 Pakistan's rival India, also a low-income country, spent over 0.7 per cent of its GDP on research and development. Non-Muslim middle-income states usually invest an average of nearly one per cent of GDP on research.

The reasons for this lack of investment in research and development are linked to the broader malaise facing much of the Muslim world. Muslim states top the indices of the most corrupt and least free nations. This means that the application of resources is at the discretion of a small ruling elite. Governments across the region have chosen not to focus o scientific research. Particularly in the Middle East and in Pakistan, governments have chosen to spend disproportionately on armaments, at the expense of scientific research.

In addition to problematic policies, the government and social systems are not conducive to scientific research. Endemic corruption means resources that are applied to research needs are not well spent. The education systems in most of the Muslim world are low quality and do not prepare students for university-level scientific study.

In most countries, substantial research and development is conducted in the private sector that operates in parallel to, and is sustained by, dynamic civil societies. However, these sectors are weak throughout the Islamic world. Inadequate bureaucracies and legal frameworks hamper the functioning of large institutions, particularly universities and corporations, essential for productive scientific research. In much of the Muslim world, the business sector is formally (through direct ownership) or informally (through ties among the elites) linked with the government and consequently their actions reflect the government's priorities.

Scientific associations reflect the general weakness of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Muslim world and are narrowly focused and poorly funded. Finally, modern science is an international affair, but there are minimal systematic exchanges of ideas between scientists both within the Muslim world and with the international scientific community as a whole, very often because of inter-state rivalries.

These failings have not been limited to Islamist regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Ostensibly secular regimes have allowed research and development to stagnate. Some countries, particularly secular Baathist-ruled Syria, have persecuted their scientific communities. At the same time, very few Muslim regimes are opposed to technology. Enormous sums have been spent by wealthy and impoverished Muslim regimes on technology transfers from the West. These turn-key projects, in which the technology is operated but not truly mastered, have been detrimental to developing local capabilities.

Radical Islamists are also comfortable with technology. Substantial numbers of engineers have been recruited by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, including 11 September 2001 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his nephew, 1993 World Trade Centre bomber, Ramzi Yousef. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood is sometimes lightheartedly referred to as the Al-ikwhan al-muhandisun (Engineer Brothers).

An insight into this paradox can be seen in the efforts, particularly in Pakistan, to develop Islamic science. Prominent Pakistani scientists claim that the principles of science can be gleaned from the Quran. While these scientists readily embrace technology and have demonstrated substantial technical competence, seeking explanations from the Quran rather than through experimentation does little to develop the necessary scientific base. This situation encapsulates the position of science in the Muslim world. It is seen as a strictly instrumental means of achieving certain goals, but not as a means of understanding the world. However, without the study of scientific principles and the attendant pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, science stagnates.

These attitudes are in stark contrast with the ideals of Islam's Golden Age. During its intellectual peak, Islamic civilization was the world's most sophisticated and highly conducive to scientific inquiry. Muslim civilization built on a rich heritage of ancient knowledge of the Greeks, which Arab scholars translated and commented on. The Middle East-based Muslim civilizations absorbed learning from other centres worldwide, most notably India and China. This project of preservation and combination was substantial in its own right (later Western advances would have been impossible without the groundwork laid during this time), but the great scholars of this period also engaged in research, making discoveries in numerous fields including chemistry, mathematics, astronomy and medicine. Among the outstanding achievements of this period were the development of algebra, the beginnings of analytic geometry and important advances in trigonometry. In astronomy, Muslim scientists improved upon the work of the ancients and developed star maps that were used worldwide for centuries.

This Golden Age stagnated. Although Muslim civilization recovered, science did not. The Ottoman Empire rose to become one of the great powers of the world, its armies ranging deep into Europe. However, Ottoman attitudes towards science paralleled those of modern Muslim states. Heavily centralised, with little in the way of civil society, research was entirely dependent on the discretion of the Sultan. The Sultans generally preferred to purchase Western devices and import Western technicians than to finance their own.

One factor in the stagnation of Muslim science could be in the realm of philosophy and theology. Like the other monotheistic religions, Islam wrestles with the conflict between free will and determinism. An all-powerful deity reduces the scope for human initiative and reason. Muslim philosophers adopted Aristotelian philosophy and posited a universe set in motion by a radical deity and governed by laws that could be grasped by human reason.

The great Muslim philosophers such as Al-Farabi (d. 950), Avicenna (980-1037), and Averroes (1126-1198), had a profound impact on Western philosophy and ultimately this worldview entered into a creative tension with determinism in the West. In the Muslim world, however, this worldview was marginalised. The greatest anti-philosopher Al-Ghazali (1059-1111) argued for revelation over reason and that a universe governed by physical laws placed unacceptable limits on divine power.

Al-Ghazali and later thinkers posited a universe continually recreated at the deity's discretion. Although Ghazali later inspired radical theoreticians such as Ibn Taymiya (1263-1328) and Ibn Wahhab (1703-1791) who argued for purifying Islam through strict adherence to the precepts of early Islam, it would be simplistic to characterise the Muslim world as simply being gripped by radical orthodoxy.

The Ottomans offered, by the standards of the time, minority protection and opportunities for advancement to all inhabitants of the empire. For centuries there was a greater flow of dissidents from Europe to the Ottoman Empire than vice versa. A more determinist worldview also had advantages for maintaining social harmony and avoiding political disruptions. For individuals, the determinist worldview that many tragedies are out of an individual's hands can be a great source of comfort and is central to Islam's appeal to hundreds of millions of people.

However, this view reduces the scope of human endeavor and curiosity. If phenomena occur according to divine whim, then there is less incentive for studying how phenomena occur. This dearth of curiosity in the Muslim world extended to areas outside of science. The 2002 Arab Human Development Report notes that the entire Arab world translates 330 books annually, one-fifth the number translated in Greece alone.

Further, the report notes that in the past millennia the Arab world has translated as many books (about 100,000) as Spain translates in a single year. This curiosity deficit extends into history. Even Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), one of the last great Muslim scholars, writing about a reported revival of philosophy in Europe, wrote dismissively: "But God knows what goes on over there!" Over the next few centuries there was minimal Middle Eastern exploration of Europe, while Europeans traveled
to the Middle East, studied the languages and translated the literature and established university departments to study the region.

There are a few exceptions to the overall weak state of science in the Muslim world. Turkey, which in per capita production of scientific papers and rates of international citation compares favourably to similarly situated Latin American countries, embarked on an extensive process of Westernisation under its national founder, Attaturk.

Jordan, a lower-middle income nation, also compares favorably with similarly situated non-Muslim states. The Jordanian royal family is committed to Westernisation, has generously sponsored the Royal Scientific Society and, unlike most Arab states, been willing to engage in scientific research programmes with Israel. Several of the wealthy Gulf states have begun developing national science programmes. Malaysia, the only Muslim state to be a major exporter of high tech products, had embarked on a national programme to develop these industries.

In recent years, Iran has increased its research output, having started from a very low base. The reformist governments of the 1990s encouraged scientific research and increased investment in higher education, which had been devastated by the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the Iran-Ira War of the 1980s. It is worth noting that many of the leading scholars of Islam's Golden Age were Iranian and that although Iran is under an Islamic regime, it remains proud of its distinct pre-Islamic culture. Clearly, political leadership willing to invest the resources is essential to developing effective research and development programmes, but the willingness to diverge from mainstream Muslim thinking also appears to be crucial.

The adoption and expansion of scientific research in the Muslim world will be an important indicator of how Islam is coming to terms with modernity. Although Muslims may choose not to Westernise, it is not feasible for a society to compete in the modern world without substantial mastery of modern technology. However, the spread of modern science in the Muslim world may be more than an indicator of modernisation, it may also be the catalyst.

Country Number of publications in journals 1995-2004
Turkey 82,407

Egypt 27,723

Iran 19,114

Saudi Arabia 17,472

Malaysia 10,674

Morocco 10,113

Pakistan 7,832

Indonesia 5,118

Bangladesh 4,745

Source: Thomson Scientific Web of Science database

PULL QUOTE: "Seeking explanations from the Quran rather than through experimentation does little to develop the necessary scientific base"

RELATED ARTICLE:'Understanding Arab media analysis' in Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst, 24-Jul-2006.

Aaron Mannes in AP on Intra-Muslim Violence

Associated Press quoted me for this story about terror attacks by Muslims on Muslims. The story was in the wake of the attack on Bhutto in Karachi. One note, I wasn't checking my notes and said Pakistan's population was 200 million. It isn't yet, it is only 145 million. Still, my basic point stands.

Muslims killing Muslims
In the aftermath of the deadly attempt on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's life, asap's OTIS HART examines the notion of Muslim extremists murdering fellow Muslims.
Friday, 19 October, 2007, 17:05 EDT, US

There were no foreign dignitaries Thursday night in Karachi. No Americans on parade, no "infidels." The convoy belonged to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a Muslim who hopes to reshape Pakistani politics.

Just like the bombers who tried to kill her.

Yes, the intra-denominational slaughter that has characterized Iraq's descent into what some call a civil war hit Pakistan especially hard, killing up to 136 people and injuring another 250. Bhutto said Friday that she believed the Taliban and Al-Qaida initiated the attack.

The assassination attempt highlights the fractured state of Islam, a religion defined these days by its degrees of faith. Extremists target their moderate brethren as if they carried crosses. Sects quibble violently over interpretation of Islamic law.

But this is hardly religion's first deadly identity crisis.



Intra-denominational wars have raged for ages, according to Dr. Henry Munson Jr., the chairman of anthropology at the University of Maine.

"Historically, it has happened a lot in other religions," he said. "Christians have slaughtered each other for centuries. For instance, there was the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) between Catholics and Protestants. Muslims certainly do not have a monopoly on this sort of thing."

For an example closer to home for Americans, look no further than the Ku Klux Klan, Munson said.

"The KKK was very much engaged in violence against fellow Christians," he said. "In the 1920s it was very much a fundamentalist movement that would go around attacking people accused of adultery and such. It wasn't just a matter of race."

More recently, Israel has had to deal with schisms in Judaism, with Orthodox Jews threatening to attack then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon if he gave up the Gaza Strip. A right-wing fanatic assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 for his moderate views and compromises with the Palestinians.

"You find in most religions, virtually all, that it's permissible to kill people of your own religious grouping if they are deemed in some sense to be heretics," Munson said.



When Muslims kill Muslims today, it's tempting to simplify it as moderates vs. extremists, said Aaron Mannes, author of "Profiles in Terror: A Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations." But while that is in some cases true, Mannes believes there is much more to these crimes.

"Islam is in a complicated phase now," Mannes said. "Pakistan is in many ways a tribal society, ridden with all types of ethnic tensions. When human nature is at its best, perhaps religion counteracts some of these things, but often it goes the other way, where religion becomes an exacerbating factor."

Fundamentalism can sometimes take a back seat to more elemental issues, like land rights, food and (surprise!) money.

"Religion provides a convenient excuse, but if you look at Somalia, it's not clear that Islam is what tore it apart," Mannes said. "There's always a mix of issues."



Suicide attacks resonate for nearly everyone, most often in a negative light. Mannes cited Pew Research Center studies that suggest that countries who are hit by suicide bombers tend to come to that negative view even more readily than those who observe at a distance.

However, it only takes one impressionable young man to pick up where a previous "martyr" left off and continue the wave of terror in the name of Islam, for example.

"Overall, there'll be a revulsion (after a bombing)," Mannes said. "But Pakistan is a nation of 200 million people ... so if 1 percent are inclined to be thinking a certain way, that's a pretty huge number. The fringe remains formidable."

That's something Bhutto knows all too well.


Otis Hart is an asap staff reporter in New York.

Aaron Mannes in the CSM on the Red Mosque siege

The Christian Science Monitor cited my comments on the Pakistani government's storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad. (My comments are at the end.)

from the July 10, 2007 edition

Pakistan mosque siege continues
Islamabad mosque siege remains tough test for Musharraf and reveals US frustration.
By Dan Murphy

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, a close ally of US President George W. Bush, backed off from plans to storm a mosque controlled by militants in the heart of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, deciding that a negotiated solution to the standoff is still possible.

The siege of the Red Mosque, whose leaders have sought to impose Taliban style rule in Islamabad, is proving a rallying point for at least some of Mr. Musharraf's Islamist opponents, the Associated Press reports.

The siege sparked an anti-government protest Monday by some 20,000 tribesmen, including hundreds of masked militants wielding assault rifles, in the northwest region of Bajur.

Many chanted "Death to Musharraf" and "Death to America" in a rally led by Maulana Faqir Mohammed, a cleric wanted by authorities and who is believed to be a close lieutenant of al-Qaida No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

"All of Musharraf's policies are against Islam and the country therefore he has become our enemy. He will not be spared and revenge will be taken against him for these atrocities," he said.

Reuters reports that Pakistani soldiers fired tear gas into the Red Mosque compound and traded gunfire with an estimated 200 to 500 militants inside late on Monday, but there was "no sign of an imminent assault."

The mosque has an attached school for girls, and the government is worried about the fallout from an assault that could result in the deaths of many unarmed women and children. At least 21 people have died in the violence, and government forces have tried to give women and children a chance to evacuate the compound.

A woman who feared her daughter had been killed and buried inside the compound waited with around a dozen other anxious parents behind barbed wire barriers. "I request the law enforcement agencies to let me go

inside. I can go alone, and I know nobody will fire from inside. I know these people very well," Asia Bibi said, adding she wanted to discover her daughter's fate for herself.

There are concerns some children have been either coerced or persuaded to stay behind to act as human shields.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Pakistani authorities are denying claims made by Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the cleric leading the militants inside the mosque, that 300 of his followers have been killed by the security forces.

Pakistan's leading English language newspaper, The Dawn, reports that a helicopter flyover of the compound on Sunday revealed no signs of dead or injured students. The paper also says the government is being pressured by clerics to promise freedom to Mr. Ghazi in exchange for surrender, but the government is ruling that out.

Interior Minister Aftab Sharpao told reporters that the government would never provide a safe passage to Maulana Ghazi. He said the government was avoiding an attack on the mosque in order to save the lives of innocent students who had been made hostage by hardcore militants.

Talking to Dawn, Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah said that at least 15 suicide bombers were present in the mosque and they had been given explosive belts. "We also have information that militants have heavy

ammunition, landmines and rocket launchers," he said.

The British Broadcasting Corp. carries a profile of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, describing him as once having a "relatively westernized lifestyle" when he worked for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

His life changed when his father Abdullah Aziz, who headed the Red Mosque, was shot dead by a lone gunman, believed to be from a rival Islamic group. There are dark hints of links with Pakistani intelligence services, and then the Taleban in Afghanistan.

What is clear is that by the time the US launched its campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan's President Musharraf chose to support it, Abdul Rashid Ghazi's friends said there was no trace left of the moderate history student.

President Musharraf, who came to power in a coup, receives large amounts of aid from the US, and his government has been intimately involved with US efforts in neighboring Afghanistan. But the pro-Taliban sentiments of many Pakistanis, and the desire of many there for religious rule, has at times made him a reluctant partner, and left President Bush leery of pushing too hard.

The New York Times reports that the US military thought it knew where Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri and other Al Qaeda leaders were hiding inside Pakistan in early 2005, but a planned raid to capture the men was called off because administration officials worried it would "jeopardize relations with Pakistan."

But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning. The decision to halt the planned "snatch and grab" operation frustrated some top intelligence officials and members of the military's secret Special Operations units, who say the United States missed a significant opportunity to try to capture senior members of Al Qaeda.

In recent months, the White House has become increasingly irritated with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for his inaction on the growing threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Certainly, the Pakistani economy has benefited from increased American support in exchange for the country's cooperation in the "war on terror," reports The Christian Science Monitor. It's a familiar cycle for Pakistan, which is no stranger to American interventions. The Pakistani economy grew at a rate of 6.5 percent annually in both the 1960s, when Pakistan allowed the US to base anti-Soviet spy planes there, and the 1980s, when Pakistan served as America's "front line" against the Soviets in Afghanistan. When US support dwindled, economic growth fell to 2.7 and 4 percent, respectively.

This same has been true this time. The government is receiving some $2.5 billion a year from other countries – mostly the US – and, more important, it had much of its debt forgiven in return for its pledge to fight terrorism after Sept. 11.

Before 2001, one-third of the budget went toward paying debts and economic growth was at 2 percent. Because of the debt burden, "throughout the 1990s, Pakistan did not have the fiscal space to carry out any developmental work," says Dr. [Kaiser] Bengali, [an independent economic analyst in Karachi].

On Friday, Reuters reported that an attempt was made to shoot down Musharraf's plane as it flew over the town of Rawalpindi, where Pakistan's Army is headquartered, citing an unnamed intelligence official. A Reuters photographer said he saw an antiaircraft gun mounted on the roof of a house near the city's airport.

Aaron Mannes, an author who specializes in writing about terrorism, says on the Counterterrorism Blog that the attempt on the president's life and the Mosque siege highlight the weakness of US policy and the problems inside Pakistan that he argues are fueling militancy there.

The Red Mosque siege indicates that the government does not even control its own capital city. That a large campus – with over a thousand residents – is incubating radical Islamists minutes from the Supreme Court is nerve-wracking (particularly in light of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.)

This has led the United States and other nations to view Musharraf as the indispensable man, holding back the tide of radical Islam in Pakistan. Whatever Musharraf's virtues or faults, it is essential that policy look beyond him. The rise of radical Islam has, in great part been fueled by the economic and social stagnation of military rule. Parts of the military have also supported radical Islamist groups, both to counter civilian political parties and as proxies in fighting India in Kashmir and extending Pakistani influence in Afghanistan.