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Old 02-07-2009   #21
Mike Innes
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Rex,

I've been on a bit of an Eyal Weizman trip lately, so your comment struck a chord. In Hollow Land: The Architectures of Israeli Occupation (Verso, 2007), he writes about the various spatial contortions that can be read into and physically observed of the Israeli-Palestinian experience. Terms like "prosthetic sovereignties" and "politics of verticality" feature prominently.
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Old 02-07-2009   #22
George L. Singleton
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Default Mosque as a defacto fort

Let's not forget that Sunnis, in particular, who are the style of Islam of the Taliban and al Qaida, use mosques as firing points to shot from at us, and also as arsenals, storage of weapoons and ammo.
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Old 02-07-2009   #23
Rex Brynen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George L. Singleton View Post
Let's not forget that Sunnis, in particular, who are the style of Islam of the Taliban and al Qaida, use mosques as firing points to shot from at us, and also as arsenals, storage of weapoons and ammo.
Yes, its a good thing we Westerners never used church steeples as forward observer or sniper locations, or fortified abbeys, during WWII
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Old 02-07-2009   #24
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Default I think the difference possibly revolves around the relatively

and almost infinitesimally small number of westerners who get really worked up about such usage of any religious building including their own and the seemingly quite large number of Muslims who make a very large and very public noise about the sanctity of Islamic religious edifices -- but only when the violators of said sanctity happen to be non-muslims...

You've spent more time in the Middle east than I have, most likely. Surely you've noticed the dual standard of behavior, the punctiliousness if westerners are present and distinct lack thereof among themselves...
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Old 02-07-2009   #25
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Default Warning: unplanned rant follows...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
Yes, its a good thing we Westerners never used church steeples as forward observer or sniper locations, or fortified abbeys, during WWII
From what I've read, it was pretty much SOP as the US army moved across Europe in WWII (and those who have been to Germany will understand this completely), get your forward observer to the treeline overseeing the next valley, take out the village church steeple first, then lay down an artillery barrage to suppress any potential defensive fires, and then dash across to gain the next position that you could observe fires from. Sounds like there were very few church steeples left on any line of advance by war's end.

But that is moot to the issue being discussed here.

Americans take an insanely conflicted position on Islam. On one hand we blame the 9/11 attacks and the GWOT in general on Islam ("Extremist Islamic Ideology is the strategic center of gravity"), on the other hand we bend over backward to accomodate our Western perceptions of Islam as we enter their lands to conduct military operations (policies on alcohol, mosques, etc).

One personal example. Shortly after Saddam invaded Kuwait, I was on a C-5 enroute to Saudi Arabia. We stopped at Dover, Delaware after leaving Ft Campbell, KY prior to heading overseas. Stations were set up to confiscate any potential contraband prior to heading into this state that sees itself as the keeper of Islam. On the list of offensive items that U.S. soldiers were expected to surrender prior to deploying into a combat zone? The Bible.

I am no fan of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; but it embarrasses me how we subjugate ourselves to serve their will out of our fear that they might somehow cut us off from the oil we need so desperately for our economy.

Saudis believe that any form of physical or technical labor is conducted by lower class people. They consider the American engineers who have designed the oil extraction systems that are the basis of their economy as well as the American soldiers who fight and die to preserve their borders in much the same light as they consider the Bangladeshi, Philippino or Pakistani laborer who empties their trash.

The Saudi Royal Family fears their own populace, and they fear Iran. They play the U.S. against both in order to protect the status that they have codified for themselves in their Constitution. They see it as their right to use us as hired security to sustain their arrogant and corrupt lifestyle.

The biggest threat to American national interests is not an Iran that has a government that resists the efforts of the U.S. to contain the regional influence that they have traditionally held, but with a populace that is largely pro-American. The biggest threat to American national interests is a Saudi government that holds itself out publicly as an ally, but that uses us as a hedge against their own dissatisfied populace and against a long suppressed Shia populace, both internal and external to the Kingdom. Worth considering, that Iranians are seeking legitimate nationalist goals, and their populace is frustrated that America seems hardset to prevent the same. The Saudi Populace, on the other hand, sees breaking U.S. support to the King as being phase one to any successful revision of their own governance at home.

This has little to do with religion, that is just the facade they hide behind because they fully understand how it throws us Americans for a loop.

I realize this is a bit of a rant, but I'm really fed up with how we are being treated by the Saudi Royal family, and also by how our own government has submitted to the same. Maybe I'm just still pissed because some little Airman, acting on orders of my own government, asked me to surrender my Bible. I still have my Bible, by the way.
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Last edited by Bob's World; 02-07-2009 at 10:40 PM.
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Old 02-07-2009   #26
Rex Brynen
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Bob:

The Saudis are, of course, an extreme, and hardly representative of the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. I suspect we don't disagree on the dysfunctions of that political order.

Regarding cultural sensitivity of the mosque, it depends to some extent on who is doing what. Yes, Iraqis and Afghans are extraordinarily sensitive about non-Muslim soldiers entering such places. On the other hand, as a civilian I've never encountered a problem entering a mosque in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Palestine, etc.—or, for that matter, pre-war Iraq.

Similarly, most Americans would be happy to invite a Muslim to their local church—but presumably would get rather more upset if it was (say) Iranian combat troops searching for American "resistance fighters."

I'm not drawing precise parallels (and I agree with Ken up to a point), only observing that the context matters.
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Old 02-07-2009   #27
Bob's World
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Rex,

I just stumbled into the rant. No way in response to your comments. Just triggered some old memories and current irritations as I was making what was intended to be a simple comment.

I guess complex issues don't really allow simple comments...

Bob
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 02-08-2009   #28
Ken White
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Default Context is everything...

Well, almost. Bob'sWorld said:
Quote:
"Americans take an insanely conflicted position on Islam. On one hand we blame the 9/11 attacks and the GWOT in general on Islam ("Extremist Islamic Ideology is the strategic center of gravity"), on the other hand we bend over backward to accomodate our Western perceptions of Islam as we enter their lands to conduct military operations (policies on alcohol, mosques, etc)."
I read similar things in the papers and on the internet but I travel a fair amount and no one I actually talk to expresses such sentiments. Either direction. Unless they're repeating the media or some talking head (which contrary to said media and Hollywood, very few Americans actually do. Fortunately). Few are inclined to blame Islam for all things or to say that Islamist ideology is a or the center of gravity -- that, BTW, is a much overused and abused term; Center of Gravity, I mean -- nor do I run across many willing to give Islam a pass on some of their more inane mutterings.

Thus I'm not sure most Americans are particularly conflicted about Islam. Some are, no question but most, I don't think so. Thus that would appear to me to be a matter of context as in who expresses such sentiments or conflicts -- and why...

Rex said:
Quote:
"Similarly, most Americans would be happy to invite a Muslim to their local church—but presumably would get rather more upset if it was (say) Iranian combat troops searching for American "resistance fighters."
Possibly. My guess would be about 5-10% would be truly upset on the religious angle, about the same amount would be angry over the military angle and another 40-60% would yell about it just for the heck of it and because it would be something to gripe about and perhaps garner some sympathy.

Like you, I've wandered in and out of mosques all over the ME with nary a problem. That leads me to believe that my guesstimate for annoyed Americans in your scenario is a fairly close match to the percentages of Muslims and their reasons for the protests over the 'violation of mosques' by infidels...

As you say, context is important...
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Old 02-08-2009   #29
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Man, what an interesting, experience filled, and adroit discussion.

Islam today in Pakistan, and for that matter Afghanistan, is another world compared to when I served there 1963-1965. Simply said.

I went back on active duty (volunteered) from my reserve slot in USSOCOM, and was Assistant Deputy Commander for Airlift at Charleston AFB, for the short Desert Storm War.

At Charleston AFB, as compared to Dover AFB as noted by our paratrooper good contributor who was then enroute from KY via Dover to the theater of operations in Saudi, we allowed groups to come on base and give out Gideon Bibles.

Yes, in days of yore I, too, was many times TDY through Saudi. I recall one very upset USAF Major put onto a flight I was on enroute to Wheelus AFB, Libya, who had just been declared "personal non grata" and kicked out of Saudi for...displaying a Christmas tree he had airlifted in from Europe in the window of his Saudi staff house!

I reguarly used to go to the US Embassy Commissary in Karachi and sent downto our boys in Daharan bottles of booze in the mid 1960s, at a mere $1.00 a bottle, gladly paid by a poor First Lieutenant, me.

In return, occasionally, our flight crews (known initialy during my tour of duty as ALC, then renamed MAC) coming through/from Daharan would drop of unexpected, uninvited, but glad to have leather goods, one leather carry all bag lo these many years later I still use on the odd trip as a carry on bag.

There are at least 25 or 26 different Arabic interpretations of their Holy Quran, and thereby more disconnects and conflicting/contradictory/confusing statements/interpretations as mankind of that belief system can imagine. I read this fact on one of "their", i.e, Pukthun, blog site discussions last week.

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Old 02-10-2009   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George L. Singleton View Post
Man, what an
There are at least 25 or 26 different Arabic interpretations of their Holy Quran, and thereby more disconnects and conflicting/contradictory/confusing statements/interpretations as mankind of that belief system can imagine. I read this fact on one of "their", i.e, Pukthun, blog site discussions last week.
The same could be said about Christianity too.
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Old 08-23-2011   #31
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Default Non-military engagement with mosques

I've just stumbled across this thread and on a quick scan it meanders slightly. In other threads there are posts on engagement with mosques in the USA, notably by the FBI.

There is quite a bit of literature now on non-military aspects of 'Engaging the Mosque' or community policing for counter-terrorism; usually as sub-sections of papers on counter-radicalisation and the potential pitfalls - in the UK and USA.

In the UK a good portion of the research is by a team based at the University of Birmingham, here an example:http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/News/Latest/Do...y%20Report.pdf

Their (new) website is:http://www.pcct-hub.org/

Not immediately found alas there are guides on the etiquette of visiting a mosque and initial steps in trying to build a relationship.
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Old 09-03-2011   #32
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No good engagement can happen unless it is done for its own sake, rather than some politicized ask, i.e. "okay so we'll refurbish your mosque for FREE.... BUT you gotta...."

This is how imams get killed in Afghanistan and this is why many of the Ulema Shura are considered by locals as corrupt and illegitimate.

All religious engagement should just be basic non-political support to strengthen the chosen body/entity for its own sake.
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Old 08-20-2012   #33
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Default Engaging the mosque, not guiding the mosque

Quote:
Originally Posted by francois View Post
What we should want to be careful of is empowering the mosque beyond its established role. We still want to set up a secular government, security and economic structure. If we support the mosque beyond its existing role, we could actually alienate it from the public and cause the reverse of the "human terrain" issue above. Or, equally, once it is empowered and we depart. Who might move in to exploit that power?
Francois,

Engaging the mosque is not "one size fits all" and in the Small Wars context there are very different situations. A mosque in Dearborn, Michigan is not like a mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan nor in the suburbs of Paris.

I don't recall anyone in this thread seeking to empower a mosque beyond its established role - very few mosques say in B'ham, UK want to have anything to do with governance or social improvement. Others want to with their congregation push their role, by providing full-time education at secondary level.

As for:
Quote:
We still want to set up a secular government, security and economic structure.
Perhaps for some, somewhere in a foreign land, in Dearborn?

Engaging the mosque wherever it occurs we, as outsiders and most likely non-Muslims too, seek to exchange views, gain understanding, respect and just maybe some partnership. The biggest gain is by listening.
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Old 08-22-2012   #34
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I'm going to jump in.

I'm going to relate a little story of mine. It was my sophomore year in college (2004) and I was taking a course called 'Religion and Resistance'. It was team-taught by a Professor of Islamic Studies and a Professor of Christian Studies, and it was a brilliant course. Great reading. Snagged an actual copy of Jalal al-e Ahmad's Gharbzadegi. Anyway, a debate was raging about religion and politics, as usual, and one student uttered, "Well, take the politics out of Islam." 'B', the Iranian Professor of Islamic Studies, looked up and said, "You can't. Islam is politics. Religion is politics." Everyone shut up and thought about that for a bit.

So, to run with that train of thought: If Islam is politics, and the heartbeat of Islam is where the faithful converge, then the mosque is politics also. Granted some mosques take on that role more so than others, but nevertheless, it is a political place. It's just as political as a church, temple or synagog.

Also, as a scholar of Islamic Studies, I'm a bit curious as to what you're all referring to when you say a "mosque's established role?"
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Old 08-22-2012   #35
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Default What is a mosque's established role?

Graphei asked:
Quote:
I'm a bit curious as to what you're all referring to when you say a "mosque's established role?"
I too went on a journey to reach a level of understanding, which is still far from adequate, but sufficient to enable my own engagement. For a long time even though policing a multi-ethnic and multi-religious area of Birmingham I had next to nothing to do with mosques and very few exchanges with the public on their faith. After time in Pakistan I knew a little more; mosques were visited for their architecture.

Skip forward I was lucky to have time to read, meet Muslims without conflict who knew I was a police officer and listen to others explain their views on the Jihad, not the Muslim faith.

Then I met several Muslims who wanted to explain themselves and it progressed from mutual points of interest to some conversations about their faith. One mosque repeatedly made me welcome, with invitations to Iftar and courses on understanding Islam.

In my journey it was clear each mosque had their common ground on enabling their faith - which I would describe as their 'established role' - but differed over interpretation. There is a wide divergence beyond that role, for example some play an active part in the wider community, encouraging voting and hosting non-Muslim organisations within mosque grounds on public safety and public health.

I think pushing the boundaries of the 'established role' depends on a wide range of factors. In the local context here, what language Fridays prayers are conducted in can attract or repel converts.
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Old 08-23-2012   #36
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One could engage if issues were rational.

Check this out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62k8o...layer_embedded

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Old 11-15-2012   #37
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Islam is a civilization, a total expression of life - religious, social, political, artistic, psychological, existential. The idea of conducting COIN Ops "around" the mosque instead of aiming center-of-mass at the three Ms - mullahs, mosques, madrassas - is a fool's errand, and in the final analysis gets people killed.

Westerners are interlopers - outsiders in an intense argument between Islamic believers of various degrees and distinctions. The only way to proceed with any expectation of lasting results is to back a faction and stay with them til the end. The idea of building neutral governance is impracticable. This is not the West. In fact, the idea of building neutral government in the West is a myth that is becoming more exposed each day as secular humanism continues to advance as a philosophy with religious tenets.

It is quite possible to have Islamic allies and partners. It is not possible to stand outside the polemics being vollied to and fro as a detached, impartial observer. This frustrates our allies and emboldens our enemies. The dirty little secret is that our defacto state religion - secular humanism - is our achilles heel over here (I am in Afghanistan). Secularism brings more ominous cultural baggae with it than anything a Christian civilization could bring. And for those fighting in this theater, it is instructive to recall that the USSR - an atheist empire - inflamed the zeal of the Mujahidin here and eventually succumbed to a defeat widely credited to jihadic forces and divine favor. Whether you believe in it or not is irrelevant. If the people are the center of gravity in a COIN fight, then what matters is what they believe.

Engaging the mosque is also no longer simply a problem of figuring out heroes and villians on the COIN battlefield. As the Europeans found out, when a society rejects its own religion for a secular ethic that results in rapidly declining birthrates, immigrants enter the vacuum. If we fail to understand mosque engagement in Kandahar and Najaf, we will not have the luxury of figuring out from a distance in Peoria or Poughkeepsie.
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