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Once promised paradise, IS fighters end up in mass graves

(THE JAKARTA POST) — Dhuluiyah, Iraq

Once promised paradise, Islamic State fighters end up in mass graves.

The Islamic State group once drew recruits from near and far with promises of paradise but now bodies of jihadists lie in mass graves or at the mercy of wild dogs as its “caliphate” collapses.

“They should have ended up in the stomachs of stray dogs,” local police officer Mohammed al-Juburi told AFP.

“We buried them here not out of love but because we wanted to avoid diseases.”

At one stage, IS ruthlessly wielded power over a vast swathe of territory straddling Iraq and Syria, but a military onslaught on multiple fronts has seen its fiefdom shrink to a last few pockets.

Since the launch in 2014 of air strikes in Iraq and Syria against the group, a US-led coalition says around 80,000 jihadists have been killed.

The overall number of dead is higher if you include those targeted by Russian and Syrian strikes.

Buried with bulldozers

In agricultural Dhuluiyah on the banks of the Tigris river, residents faced a common dilemma over what to do with the corpses of IS fighters after local Sunni militiamen beat back the jihadists in fierce clashes.

“We could have thrown them into the water, but we love the river too much to pollute it,” said the local policeman, who lost his own brother in the violence.

“The people here as well as their animals drink from the Tigris.”

Local finally decided to dig a mass grave for the fighters — but they said they refused to honor them with Islamic rites.

“We buried them with bulldozers. Even in the ground they are still mired in their own filth,” said farmer Shalan al-Juburi.

“They said that they would go to paradise to enjoy the gardens of delights, but this is how they ended up.”

The desolate site is in stark contrast to a nearby graveyard surrounded by a red-brick wall a few hundred metres (yards) away.

There the “martyrs” who died helping to stop the jihadist advance lie in well-tended tombs adorned with their portraits and shaded by trees.

Elsewhere, in western Iraq’s Anbar province, the luckiest among the IS dead appear to be those killed during its offensives against the army in 2015.

In the centre of Fallujah, the first major city captured by the group in 2014, hundreds of memorials in a makeshift cemetery bear the noms de guerre of foreign fighters buried by their comrades.

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Inside ISIS’ suicide bomb-making factories where fanatics painstakingly create deadly explosive and ball-bearing-laden vests

(THE SUN) — By Patrick Knox

CHILLING footage of ISIS bomb-makers painstakingly creating powerful suicide vests has been released on social media.

Photos of the factory, said to be close to Baghdad in Iraq, show masked bomb-makers assembling devices designed to kill or horribly maim as the doomed death-cult plots a last ditch murder campaign.

Wearing latex gloves, the ISIS jihadis are seen laying out plastic explosive and ball bearings as shrapnel before binding it up and stuffing it into a camouflage vest.

Another shot shows a room with several finished bombs.

A picture then shows a fighter fitted with the deadly cargo and what appears to be two triggers on the vest.

Last week it was revealed the terror group is on the run across the Middle East, according to the US led-coalition.

Col Ryan Dillon said: “ISIS is losing on all fronts, and they are losing their grip on their few remaining strongholds in both Iraq and Syria.”

The coalition and its partners on the ground – the Iraqi security forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces – remain committed to defeating the enemy, he said.

“But make no mistake,” Col Dillon added, “we fully expect fierce fighting in the days ahead.

“And while these terrorists remain a dangerous and desperate enemy, our ISF and SDF partners have proven they are up to the task.”

Iraqi forces have made significant progress in the fight, Dillon said.

“Our Iraqi partners have fought a long, bloody war and have sacrificed a great deal to liberate their people and clear terrorists from cities and villages,” he told reporters.

More than 26,000 square miles in Iraq have been cleared and more than four million people are now free from ISIS control, the colonel said.

“ISIS is on the run, and we must remain focused on delivering a decisive defeat in their few remaining holdouts in Iraq,” he added.

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ISIS warns U.S. Muslims of new attacks: Stay out of public places

(WASHINGTON FREE BEACON) — BY: Adam Kredo

The ISIS terrorist organization is using social media devices to warn U.S. Muslims and those in other Western nations to avoid public places in advance of possible terror attacks, according to a copy of that message obtained by a Middle East media watchdog group.

ISIS is said to be using Telegram, an encrypted messaging application, and other social media to disseminate a message instructing Muslims in the United States, France, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, and elsewhere “to remove themselves from public places that are prime targets for ISIS fighters,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.

“ISIS attacks on these sites are imminent and the organization will use any killing method available,” according to MEMRI, which published a copy of the message, which was also sent to Muslims in Australia, Belgium, and Italy.

ISIS is threatening to “explode, run over people by vehicles, and cut off their necks,” according to the threat.

Nasher News, a part of ISIS’s propaganda arm, chiefly circulated the warning, which appears to indicate the terrorist group is trying to avoid killing Muslims in their terror attacks, according to MEMRI.

“Get far away from the gathering places of the Crusaders before the Military places from their markets, way, and Parkings,” the message states. “All of these places are Targets for the Soldiers of the Caliphate and we will explode, Run over people by vehicles and Cut off their necks anytime. [sic]”

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Saudi textbooks ‘teaching hatred’ of Jews and other faiths

(JERUSALEM POST) — Saudi Arabian secondary school pupils are taught that the day of resurrection will not come until Muslims kill Jews, Human Rights Watch found during a recent review of textbooks that also revealed hateful and disparaging references to Christians, Shi’ites and Sufism.

“As early as first grade, students in Saudi schools are being taught hatred toward all those perceived to be of a different faith or school of thought. The lessons in hate are reinforced with each following year,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said in a press release last week. The New York-based group reviewed 45 Saudi textbooks and student work books produced by the Education Ministry for the primary, middle and secondary education levels.

As part of the curriculum on tawhid, or monotheism, a textbook explains one of the markers by which one can recognize the approach of the Day of Resurrection with the following passage: “The hour will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews and Muslims will kill the Jews. The Jew will hide under the rock and tree and the rock or tree will say O Muslim, servant of Allah, this Jew is behind me, kill him.”

The passage is from a hadith, or saying, attributed to Muhammad.

Moderate Palestinian Islamic thinker Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi described the hadith as a “fabrication,” and condemned Saudi Arabia for teaching it. “The prophet couldn’t have said that and it contradicts the text of the Koran. The prophet said anything attributed to me not in harmony with the Koran is not true. This can’t be true because it totally contradicts the text of the Koran. Teaching this to children is incitement and antisemitic. Saudi Arabia and any other Arab countries teaching such nonsense should stop and this should be eliminated from the educational systems.”

Human Rights Watch noted that the Saudi curriculum describes Jews, Christians and people of other faiths as kuffar, or unbelievers. In one fifth-grade textbook, the curriculum calls Jews, Christians and al-wathaniyeeen [pagans] the “original unbelievers” and declares that it is the duty of Muslims to excommunicate them. It says: “For whoever does not [excommunicate them] or whoever doubts their religious infidelity is himself an unbeliever.”

The vitriol also extends to fellow Muslims. Human Rights Watch found that a secondary school textbook describes Sufism as “a perverse path that began with the claim of asceticism or severe self-discipline, then entered into illicit innovation, misguidedness and exaggeration in reverence to the righteous.” Other books condemned Sufi and Shi’ite practices of visiting graves of prominent religious figures, saying this will lead to eternal damnation and that those who turn such tombs into worship sites are “evil natured.”

A fifth-grade book condemns Sufis for celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. “Celebrating the prophet’s birth in the spring of every year is prohibited, for it is a new innovation and is in imitation of the Christian celebration of what is known as the birth of Christ.”

Human Rights Watch said that after the September 11, 2001, attacks, in which 15 of the 19 perpetrators were Saudi citizens, Saudi officials said they would carry out educational reforms. But the textbook review shows they did not keep their promises, the NGO said.

“The Saudi government’s official denigration of other religious groups, combined with its ban on public practice of other religions, could amount to incitement to hatred or discrimination,” HRW said. It added that international human rights law requires countries to prohibit “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

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London attack: Parsons Green bomb contained ‘mother of Satan’ explosive used in Manchester bombing

(UK INDEPENDENT) — The bomb that failed to detonate on a London Underground train contained the same powerful explosive used in the 7/7 attacks and deadly bombings across Europe, it has emerged.

Ben Wallace, the security minister, confirmed the homemade device contained triacetone triperoxide (TATP), known as the “mother of Satan”.

The moniker is earned by the instability of the explosive, which can be ignited by heat, friction, static or even movement, causing the deaths of several would-be bombers.

“The [Parsons Green bomb] used the type of explosive similar to that used in Manchester [but] it didn’t go off,” Mr Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We are trying to track down who did it, whether it’s a bomber or bombers…there’s potentially a very dangerous individual or individuals out there and we need to track them down.”

Salman Abedi, the Manchester Arena bomber, built his device using TATP and nails, while the explosive has been found mid-production in several plots across Europe.

TATP, which can be made in under a day using chemicals widely available on the high street, has become a hallmark of Isis attacks including those in Paris and Brussels.

The group claimed responsibility for attempted bombing in Parsons Green with a statement saying it was carried out by “soldiers of the caliphate”.

Mr Wallace said work was ongoing to prevent people buying the necessary ingredients and accessing bomb-making manuals distributed by terrorist groups online.

The Terrorism Referral Unit has taken down more than 250,000 pieces of extremist information down, he said, adding: “There is definitely more to be done.

“We take a lot down but sometimes these things reappear and we go at them again.”

The failed bomb may look crude but don’t write it off as amateur

The Independent was able to access the bomb-making manual believed to have been used for the device in Parsons Green – as well as the Boston bombings and other massacres – in under five minutes on Saturday morning.

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Reporting on the Rohingya: “The tip of a huge iceberg of misinformation”

(NEW ENGLISH REVIEW) — by Hugh Fitzgerald

Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar, is now all over the news, being taken to task for “not speaking out” against the mistreatment of the Rohingya, the Muslim minority in Myanmar, almost all of whom live in the western Rakhine State of Myanmar. 365,000 people have signed a petition demanding she be stripped of her Nobel Prize for not speaking out and denouncing the Buddhists of Myanmar; in Pakistan, a country renowned for its humane treatment of minorities, her photograph has been publicly burned; Al Jazeera has denounced her, and so has that champion of justice Tariq Ramadan.

In the last month, the world media reports, 250,000 Rohingya have now fled the latest cycle of violence, that began with Rohingya attacks on the military in mid-August, for Bangladesh. In fact, Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken out, but not in the way that many expected. They wanted her to categorically denounce the Burmese military and to depict the Rohingya as entirely innocent victims of Buddhist attacks; this she has refused to do. She believes the story of the Rohingyas in Myanmar is more complicated than the outside world believes. She has noted that “fake news” about atrocities in Myanmar have been relied on by much of the world’s media. More than a few of the stories about the Rohingya have indeed been accompanied by photos purportedly showing the violence against them, but which, in fact, have turned out to be photos of other atrocities experienced by other peoples, having nothing to do with Myanmar. Even the BBC’s south-east Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, concedes that “much of it [the photos, and the coverage] is wrong.” A closer look reveals that many of the pictures supposedly from Myanmar have come from other crises around the world, with one of those tweeted by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek even dating back to the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Jonathan Head discusses at the BBC website four of the most widely-circulated photographs, ostensibly showing Rohingya victims of current Buddhist violence, that are examples of “fake news.” The first photograph, showing a number of bloated corpses, “does appear on several websites dated last year. This suggests the image is not from the recent violence in Rakhine state.’’ “Suggests” is British understatement for “clearly shows.”

The BBC has ascertained that the second photograph, of a woman mourning a dead man tied to a tree, was taken in Aceh, Indonesia, in June 2003, by a photographer working for Reuters.

The third photograph, of two infants crying over the body of their mother, is from Rwanda in July 1994. It was taken by Albert Facelly for Sipa, and was one of series of photos that won a World Press Award.

It has also been difficult to track down the fourth image, of people immersed in a canal, but it can be found on a website appealing for funds to help victims of recent flooding in Nepal.

In other words, not one of the four photographs widely distributed as examples of Rohingya suffering has anything to do with the Rohingyas. This is what the BBC’s south-east Asia correspondent has confirmed. Surely that ought to be made widely known, and just as surely, it won’t.

This “fake news” is, according to Aung San Suu Kyi, “simply the tip of a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different communities and with the aim of promoting the interest of the terrorists.”

Let’s refresh our memories of what has been going on in Myanmar this last month. All the news reports coming from Myanmar (Burma) tell the same story: tens of thousands of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, have been fleeing into Bangladesh, to avoid the sudden upsurge in violence from both Burmese military and civilians. The Rohingya are presented as the innocent and long-suffering victims of “racist” Burmese Buddhists (Islam being, for propaganda purposes, a “race”). Only a handful of the reports mention, and only briefly, as if in passing, that the current violence began when, in mid-August, Rohingya fighters attacked 30 different police stations and an army base, as part of their campaign to stake their claim to Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, and showing themselves able “to strike terror in the hearts” of the Infidels to get it. The attacks left more than 70 dead, Muslims and Buddhists.

The Rohingyas unleashed still other attacks, and the Burmese army then retaliated, and the Rohingya continued to strike back during the last two weeks in August, and then there was more retaliation from the Buddhists. Many Rohingya have fled the retaliatory violence — a violence which they began — for Bangladesh, but it is their flight, and that retaliation by the Buddhists, which is getting almost all of the attention in the Western press, complete with photographs of victims of other conflicts who are presented as Rohingya (the “fake news” of which Aung San Suu Kyi complained), rather than what prompted it.

Seldom mentioned is that the August attack by the Rohingyas was preceded by a similar attack, last October, by the Rohingyas on the Burmese (Buddhist) police, and again, it was not their initial attack, but almost exclusively the retaliation by the Buddhist army, that was the focus of reports in the foreign press last fall. Reports of Rohingya villages being burnt down are reported uncritically. The Myanmar authorities have claimed that Islamic militants, having infiltrated Rohingya communities, have themselves been setting fire to houses in Muslim villages in order to get the world even more on their side. Instead of assuming these claims must be false, why not investigate them?

According to most of the world’s media, an unfathomable tragedy has been unfolding in Myanmar. The Buddhist majority, inflamed by rabble-rousing anti-Muslim monks, has been persecuting, killing, even massacring, members of the entirely inoffensive Muslim Rohingya minority in the western state of Rakhine (formerly, and in some places still, known as “Arakan”). An example of this hysterical coverage can be found in a report from, unsurprisingly, the pro-Muslim Guardian. It describes a sinister senior monk, Shin Parathu, who is repeatedly accused by the Guardian of “stoking religious hatred across Burma. His paranoia and fear, muddled with racist stereotypes and unfounded rumors, have helped to incite violence and spread disinformation.” One might note that no examples of these “racist stereotypes” are ever given. Could it be that the “stereotype” that this monk is accused of spreading has to do with depicting Muslims as intent on Jihad in the path of Allah, unwilling and even unable to integrate into a Buddhist society, and with a history, going back to 1942, of violence against Buddhists, that is the Rakhine people of Arakan State, and even attempting to join part of East Pakistan, and through the late 1950s, and in the 1970s, and again in the 1990s, conducting a low-level insurrection against the Burmese state — all of which is true?

And while the Guardian insists that the Rohingya are never the instigators of violence, the policemen they attacked without warning and nine of whom they murdered last October, and the people they killed in 31 coordinated attacks in mid-August, and those Buddhists they have killed since, might beg to differ. The Western press remains resolutely unsympathetic to the Buddhists of Myanmar, unwilling to find out why those Buddhists might have reason to be alarmed.

The Western media have uncritically repeated the Rohingya claim that they have inhabited Arakan for many centuries or “since time immemorial.” Others beg to differ, among them a well-known historian, and author of many works on Burma, Professor Andrew Selth of Griffith University in Australia. He has stated categorically that the name “Rohingya” was taken by “Bengali Muslims who live in Arakan State…most Rohingyas arrived with the British colonialists in the 19th and 20th centuries.” It is true that a handful of Bengali Muslims drifted down to Burma over the centuries, but Professor Selth makes the important point — unknown to Western reporters — that the vast majority of Rohingyas are recent arrivals, their great migration made possible by the fact that Burma was administratively part of British India until 1937, which meant there was no formal border to cross.

Particularly disappointing for many in the West (not to speak of the reactions of Pakistan, Al Jazeera, and Tariq Ramadan) has been what they regard as the unforgivable silence of Aung San Suu Kyi, currently the head of the Myanmar government. For Aung San Suu Kyi was formerly the leader of the nonviolent opposition to the Burmese military, placed under house arrest by the generals, then freed, and awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. For more than two decades she was, for her continued defiance of the generals, and willingness to endure that house arrest, a darling of the international media. Since the end of military rule, which she helped to bring about, she has held a number of important government posts, and is now the State Counselor (equivalent to Prime Minister) in Myanmar.

But in her continuing refusal to condemn outright the attacks on the Rohingya, and in her insistence that in Myanmar there has been “violence on both sides” — for which there is ample evidence — Aung San Suu Kyi is now seen by many outside Myanmar in quite another light. Many have criticized Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the 2012 Rakhine State riots, when, after the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman by three Rohingyas, Buddhists retaliated, and then the violence escalated when hundreds of Rohingyas went on a rampage following Friday prayers at a mosque, throwing rocks and setting fire to houses and buildings. Four Buddhists, among them a doctor and an elderly man, died of multiple knife wounds. Recent accounts in the foreign media ignore all that. For the Western media, the narrative remains the same; the Rohingya are always the victims, and the Buddhist violence against them is always unwarranted.

The outside world deplores Aung San Suu Kyi’s refusal to condemn the Buddhists and what they see as her general indifference to the ongoing mistreatment of the Rohingya by Burmese Buddhists. Twenty-three Nobel laureates and other “peace activists” signed a letter in November 2016 asking Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out about the Rohingya: “Despite repeated appeals to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas,” their Open Letter states. “Daw Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion.” But perhaps she has an understanding of the situation, based on an intimate knowledge of her country’s history, that the outside world does not possess.

Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to address accusations that the Muslim Rohingya may be victims of crimes against humanity, and in an interview with the BBC’s Misha Husain in March 2016, she refused to condemn violence against the Rohingya and denied that Muslims in Myanmar have been subject to ethnic cleansing. She insisted that the tensions in her country were due to a “climate of fear” (among the Buddhists) caused by a “worldwide perception that global Muslim power is very great.” And apparently, according to some reports, she was angry that the BBC had chosen a Muslim to interview her. Given the BBC’s history of pro-Rohingya advocacy, can you blame her?

What shall we make of this attitude from someone who had previously been put on a Nobel Peace Prize pedestal? Has she metamorphosed from being a moral exemplar to becoming a moral monster who needs correction, someone who, as researchers on state crime at St. Mary’s University in London claim, is “legitimizing genocide”? It is genocide if you attempt to kill all the members of another racial or religious group; it is not genocide if you seek to expel them from your country because of the threat you believe they pose. When Eduard Benes in Czechoslovakia attempted to remove several million ethnic Germans from his country after World War II, based on what they had done before and during the war, in taking Germany’s side, and what he feared they might someday do again should Germany again become a threat, it was not “genocide,” and the Benes Decree, as it was known, was accepted by the West.

It’s not surprising that for the giddy globe’s Great and Good, as the Economist put it, her “halo has even slipped among foreign human-rights lobbyists, disappointed at her failure to make a clear stand on behalf of the Rohingya minority” and to “give details on how her government intends to resolve the violence faced by the long-persecuted Muslim minority.” Or might it just be conceivable that the well-educated Burmese liberal Aung San Suu Kyi knows more about the Rohingyas, and the past history of Muslims in her own country, Myanmar, than do her critics, and that that knowledge makes her more studied and nuanced in her judgments, less credulous about the Rohingya claims of innocent victimhood, and more sympathetic to the fears of the Buddhists of Myanmar?

If we examine the last 150 years of Burmese history, we may find that Madame Suu Kyi has more of a point than her foreign critics think. It is that history that is in the minds of, and explains the behavior today of, the Buddhists of Myanmar. In 1826, after the Anglo-Burmese War, the British annexed Arakan (Rakhine State), where almost all of the 1.1 million Rohingyas now in Myanmar still live, to British India. And they began to encourage Indians, mainly Muslims, to move into Arakan from Bengal as cheap farm labor. They continued to encourage this migration throughout the nineteenth-century. The numbers of Bengali Muslim migrants is impressive. In Akyab District, the capital of Arakan, according to the British censuses of 1872 and 1911, there was an increase in the Muslim population from 58,255 to 178,647, a tripling within forty years. At the beginning of the 20th century, migrants from Bengal were still arriving in Burma at the rate of a quarter million per year. In the peak year of 1927, 480,000 people arrived in Burma, with Rangoon in that year surpassing New York City as the greatest migration port in the world. And many of these migrants were Bengali Muslims who joined the Muslims already in Rakhine State, renaming themselves the Rohingyas. The Buddhists continued to call them, as they still do today, “Bengalis.” And the immigration of Bengali Muslims continued for decades. In a 1955 study published by Stanford University, the authors Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff concluded that “’the post-war (World War II) illegal immigration of Chittagonians [i.e., Bengali Muslims from Chittagong in East Pakistan] into that area [Arakan state] was on a vast scale, and in the Maungdaw and Buthidaung areas they replaced the [Buddhist] Arakanese.”[READ MORE]

Why the West should do nothing about the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar

(THE FEDERALIST) — The Kashimiri pandits are known for their dark humor, quite similar to Soviet dissidents during the 1980s. Pandits say when there is an Islamist minority, they go on TV and demand human rights against genocide. When there is an Islamist majority, there are no human rights.

For the uninitiated, Kashmiri pandits are Hindu minorities who used to live in the northern Indian side of Kashmir, bordering Pakistan up until the late 1980s. The state of Kashmir is a point of contention ever since India and Pakistan got independence from the British, with both claiming it. During the 1980s, and after three lost wars, the Pakistani government understood that there’s no military solution to Kashmir and no possibility to win or capture the Kashmir region from a mightier Indian conventional army.

Pakistan then started to supply arms to the jihadist groups in Kashmir. That morphed into an insurgency, which led to the severely under-reported ethnic cleansing where thousands of Hindus were killed and raped in the region, leading to hundreds of thousands of them fleeing deeper into Indian heartland. India in the 1980s was incapable of dealing with such early instance of jihadist violence and hybrid warfare, especially with a porous Himalayan border and steady stream of Islamists and sophisticated arms pouring in. As a result, the demographics of the region changed permanently, and we now have one of the most intractable geopolitical conflicts of the region.

This brings us to the latest flare-up of the historic Rohingya problem in Myanmar. Recently, violence has flared up in the northern Rakhine region of Myanmar, where government forces are battling an Islamist insurgency with the Rohingya Muslims. Needless to say, the government forces of Myanmar are extremely brutal, although in the fog of war accusations of genocide and massacres are often uncorroborated, with zero independent media sources present in the field. Nonetheless, it is an important problem, precisely because with the collapse of ISIS, Islamists are now returning back to their home countries, with a bunch now back in Philippines waging a war against the Filipino government.
The Narrative Is One-Sided

However, a quick glance through the media would show the lament of the liberal interventionist ideologues in full force, presenting a one-sided narrative of persecuted Muslims. Reality is rather more complicated. The Guardian and Al Jazeera weep that this is a crime against humanity, as CNN joins the Taliban, Turkey and Ramzan Kadyrov in denouncing “a massacre” going on in Myanmar, almost completely ignoring that this is a vicious, both-sided conflict.

Some random creative writer and blogger in Huffington Post even advocated a humanitarian intervention to bring “justice” to the Rohingya. Others took to Twitter to signal their virtue, and suggest to the standard fallback option of taking in thousands of refugees.

Let us forget for a moment the puerile fantasy that there will be a Western-led military and humanitarian intervention in Myanmar, backed by a United Nations mandate. While superficially similar, Myanmar is not the Balkans in the early ‘90s. Myanmar borders both India and China, two nuclear armed states, the former an ally of the west, and the latter a geopolitical adversary. Both the powers have strategic and military interest and ties with Myanmar, and both suffer from regular Islamist insurgency, thereby naturally aligning themselves to Myanmar.

None of them are like a weakened impotent Russia in the early nineties, and the idea that it is possible to overstep their interests right in their backyard is frankly juvenile. Let us also momentarily ignore that there are zero Western geo-strategic interests in Myanmar other than those which are purely humanitarian, and therefore defy strategic logic.

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Vast new intelligence haul fuels next phase of fight against Islamic State

(LOS ANGELES TIMES) — W.J. Hennigan

U.S. intelligence analysts have gained valuable insights into Islamic State’s planning and personnel from a vast cache of digital data and other material recovered from bombed-out offices, abandoned laptops and the cellphones of dead fighters in recently liberated areas of Iraq and Syria.

In the most dramatic gain, U.S. officials over the last two months have added thousands of names of known or suspected Islamic State operatives to an international watch list used at airports and other border crossings. The Interpol database now contains about 19,000 names.

The intelligence haul — the largest since U.S. forces entered the war in mid-2014 — threatens to overwhelm already stretched counter-terrorism and law enforcement agencies in Europe, where Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks in Paris, London and Stockholm this year.

With the extremist group’s army and self-declared caliphate fast shrinking, U.S. officials are concerned that foreign-born militants who once flocked to Iraq and Syria will try to escape before the U.S.-led coalition or other military forces can kill them.

In recent weeks, U.S.-backed ground forces have sent an estimated 30 terabytes of data — equal to nearly two years of nonstop video footage — to the National Media Exploitation Center in Bethesda, Md., a little-known arm of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence.

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Rohingya crisis: Muslim villages in Burma’s Rakhine state burned to the ground as hundreds of thousands flee

(UK INDEPENDENT) — Rohingya villages are being burned to the ground in Burma’s Rakhine state, eyewitnesses have said.

BBC journalists reported seeing buildings ablaze in a village near the town of Mungdaw, including homes and a religious school.

The fires had allegedly been lit by a group of Rohingya Buddhists.

A group of men carrying weapons were spotted leaving the village, one of whom admitted he had lit the fires with help from the police, the BBC reported.

The government claims members of the persecuted minority have been destroying their own homes, which has been disputed by Rohingya who have fled the country into neighboring Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees say the Burmese military and Rohingya Buddhists are setting their villages alight to drive them out, after attacks by Rohingya Muslim militants on police posts.

In August, Rohingya Muslim insurgents attacked several police posts and an army base, which led to a military crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of at least 400 people and forced tens of thousands to flee.

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Top Muslim scholar: Stop pretending orthodox Islam and violence aren’t linked

(TRUTH REVOLT) — Yahya Cholil Staquf, 51, is one of Indonesia’s most influential Islamic leaders. The general secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s biggest Muslim organization (about 50 million members strong), Yahya advocates a modern, moderate Islam, and he pulls few punches about the relationship of violence and fundamentalist Islam in an interview reposted in TIME magazine recently.

Below are translated excerpts from the interview, first published on Aug. 19 in German in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Check out how Yahya confounds the interviewer, who is clearly uncomfortable with the Islamic leader’s frank answers about the “religion of peace”:

Many Western politicians and intellectuals say that Islamist terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. What is your view?

Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam.

Radical Islamic movements are nothing new. They’ve appeared again and again throughout our own history in Indonesia. The West must stop ascribing any and all discussion of these issues to “Islamophobia.” Or do people want to accuse me — an Islamic scholar — of being an Islamophobe too?

What basic assumptions within traditional Islam are problematic?

The relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, the relationship of Muslims with the state, and Muslims’ relationship to the prevailing legal system wherever they live … Within the classical tradition, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity.

Perhaps there were reasons for this during the Middle Ages, when the tenets of Islamic orthodoxy were established, but in today’s world such a doctrine is unreasonable. To the extent that Muslims adhere to this view of Islam, it renders them incapable of living harmoniously and peacefully within the multi-cultural, multi-religious societies of the 21st century.

A Western politician would likely be accused of racism for saying what you just said.

I’m not saying that Islam is the only factor causing Muslim minorities in the West to lead a segregated existence, often isolated from society as a whole. There may be other factors on the part of the host nations, such as racism, which exists everywhere in the world. But traditional Islam — which fosters an attitude of segregation and enmity toward non-Muslims — is an important factor.

And Muslims and the state?

Within the Islamic tradition, the state is a single, universal entity that unites all Muslims under the rule of one man who leads them in opposition to, and conflict with, the non-Muslim world.

So the call by radicals to establish a caliphate, including by ISIS, is not un-Islamic?

No, it is not. [ISIS’s] goal of establishing a global caliphate stands squarely within the orthodox Islamic tradition. But we live in a world of nation-states. Any attempt to create a unified Islamic state in the 21st century can only lead to chaos and violence … Many Muslims assume there is an established and immutable set of Islamic laws, which are often described as shariah. This assumption is in line with Islamic tradition, but it of course leads to serious conflict with the legal system that exists in secular nation-states.

Any [fundamentalist] view of Islam positing the traditional norms of Islamic jurisprudence as absolute [should] be rejected out of hand as false. State laws [should] have precedence.

How can that be accomplished?

Generations ago, we achieved a de facto consensus in Indonesia that Islamic teachings must be contextualized to reflect the ever-changing circumstances of time and place. The majority of Indonesian Muslims were — and I think still are — of the opinion that the various assumptions embedded within Islamic tradition must be viewed within the historical, political and social context of their emergence in the Middle Ages [in the Middle East] and not as absolute injunctions that must dictate Muslims’ behavior in the present … Which ideological opinions are “correct” is not determined solely by reflection and debate. These are struggles [about who and what is recognized as religiously authoritative]. Political elites in Indonesia routinely employ Islam as a weapon to achieve their worldly objectives.

Is it so elsewhere too?

Too many Muslims view civilization, and the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths, as something they must combat. Many Europeans can sense this attitude among Muslims.

There’s a growing dissatisfaction in the West with respect to Muslim minorities, a growing fear of Islam. In this sense, some Western friends of mine are “Islamophobic.” They’re afraid of Islam. To be honest, I understand their fear … The West cannot force Muslims to adopt a moderate interpretation of Islam. But Western politicians should stop telling us that fundamentalism and violence have nothing to do with traditional Islam. That is simply wrong.

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