Trump: You should ban Islamists, not Muslims

Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, called on Dec. 7 for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.” Replace one word in this formulation and it goes from outrageous to brilliant.

Reacting to massacres by Muslims in Paris and San Bernardino, Trump pointed to a Muslim hatred “beyond comprehension” for the West. Therefore, he concluded, “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad.”

The negative responses, domestic and international, Muslim and non-Muslim, came in fast and furious – and rightly so, as Trump's crude blast is unconstitutional, unacceptable, unworkable, and unstrategic.

Unconstitutional: Every Western basic law is secular, disallowing a religious test for immigration, rendering Trump's statement less an exercise in practical policy making than a gadfly provocation.

Unacceptable: Beyond legalities, secularism represents a Western core value, up there with freedom of speech, a value hardly anyone accepts gutting for reasons of momentary expediency.

Unworkable: Islam is not a permanent identity like skin color. Nothing prevents Muslims from renouncing Islam or converting to another religion. Unless Trump extends his “total and complete shutdown” to former Muslims – which is even more unconstitutional – he just encourages the already-existing phenomenon of Muslim conversions of convenience (as symbolized by a church in Berlin).

Unstrategic: Trump's presidential campaign once again is counterproductive; he simultaneously makes conservatives look like idiots and brings adoring attention to those who oppose his views, in this case radical Muslim groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (widely known as CAIR), which has enjoyed an unprecedented cornucopia of media coverage to spread its deceitful message.

That said, Trump has raised a critical and urgent issue that all Westerners must face, as symbolized by the recent tsunami of illegal immigration to Europe and the huge strains it has created. Simply put, Muslims present a disproportionately large source of problems, as becomes clear when they are compared with Hindu immigrants, who are roughly the same in number but generally fit quietly into the West.

Violence is the headline topic relating to Muslims, whether large-scale plots (Paris) or sudden jihad syndrome lone wolves (San Bernardino), but violence is hardly the whole problem. Muslim hostility toward non-Muslims takes many other forms, such as teaching Islamic supremacism in mosques, spewing antisemitism in the streets, and threatening anyone who dares publicly to criticize Islam. Issues concerning women include female genital mutilation, honor killings, polygyny, and forced marriages. Islamic mores lead to strong antipathies against seeing-eye dogs, mixed swimming pool usage, and homosexuals.

Polls show widespread – and legitimate – concern about these issues as well as growing impatience with governmental dismissal of those concerns. When Germany's Angela Merkel welcomes an unlimited number of illegal immigrants or Barack Obama ridicules concerns about Syrian immigrants, populist voices like that of Donald Trump inevitably find followers.

Indeed, he is just the latest anti-immigrant figure to find a message that increasingly resonates. Geert Wilders' PVV in the Netherlands wins 39 out of 150 seats in parliament in a recent survey, up from his current 15 and almost twice that of any other party. In the French regional elections a week ago, Marine le Pen's National Front led in 6 out of 13 districts. This upward trend will continue until one of these ostracized insurgent parties gains over 50 percent of the vote and enters office. In this sense, Trump stands at the cutting edge.

How to deal with Muslim immigration in a responsible and uncontroversial manner? I offer two suggestions. First, replace the “Muslims entering the United States” in Trump's formulation with “Islamists entering the United States.” Islamists are those Muslims who seek to apply Islamic law, oppress women and non-Muslims, and establish a worldwide caliphate. They make up about 10-15 percent of the Muslim population; they, not Muslims in general, are the barbarians who “believe only in Jihad.”

Second, engage in serious research into all would-be visitors and immigrants, not the pro-forma review that prevails these days. Doing so requires money and time, as well as creative inquiries to smoke out ideological proclivities, but each person entering the country must be checked to make sure no Islamists are allowed in, ever, at all, even for brief visits, thereby increasing our common security.

Mr. Pipes (, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Islamic Movement of Israel leader gets 11-month sentence for incitement

An Israeli court sentenced a prominent Islamist leader to 11 months in prison for incitement to violence and racism.

Thursday’s ruling by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s court comes after Sheikh Ra’ad Saleh, the leader of the northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, appealed an eight-month sentence he received last year.

The prosecution charged Saleh in connection with a sermon he delivered in 2007 in Jerusalem, Army Radioreported.

“May the streets of Jerusalem be purified with the blood of the innocent, who shed it in order to separate from their souls the soldiers of the Israel occupation, also in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said during that sermon.

Last year, the court sentenced Saleh, who has multiple convictions for incitement, to eight months in prison for incitement to violence.

In that ruling, the court acquitted Saleh of the added charge of incitement to racism. In ruling on the appeal on Thursday, the court reversed that finding, and added three months to his sentence for the racism charge.

Avigdor Feldman, Saleh’s lawyer, told Army Radio that Saleh’s statements were “dwarfed” by by those made during the recent elections by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, “who refer to Israeli Arabs as a fifth column and their vote as a threat.”

During the 2007 sermon, Saleh also said: “Our finest moment will be when we meet Allah as martyrs in Al-Aqsa.” A crowd of Palestinian men confronted Border Police troops at the end of that sermon, wounding three of them.

Israel’s General Security Service has accused Saleh’s movement of collaborating with Hamas.

Egyptian Islamists attack on Gaza border

Islamists attacked Egyptian military posts in the Sinai, killing at least one on the Gaza border.

The attack on the police post at Rafah, a city on the Gaza-Egypt border with a Palestinian side and an Egyptian side, was one of several attacks Friday by Islamists on Egyptian security forces. Two other men were wounded in the Rafah attack.

Assailants also fired fired rocket-propelled grenades at army checkpoints at the El-Arish airport in the Sinai.

The attacks came as Egypt was bracing for mass protests Friday by supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president who was deposed Wednesday by the army after a year in power. Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, called the action a coup.

Egyptian Army and Islamists in deadly clashes

Egyptian soldiers killed at least three supporters of Mohamed Morsi in Cairo hours after Islamists attacked sites in the Sinai.

The Morsi supporters were shot while trying to breach the Cairo barracks where the deposed Egyptian president is being held by the army.

Supporters in cities across Egypt on Friday protested Wednesday’s coup, which removed Morsi from power a little more than a year after his election as president.

Earlier in the day, Islamists attacked Egyptian military posts in the Sinai, killing at least one on the Gaza border.

The attack on the police post at Rafah, a city on the Gaza-Egypt border with a Palestinian side and an Egyptian side, was one of several attacks Friday by Islamists on Egyptian security forces. Two other men were wounded in the Rafah attack.

Assailants also fired fired rocket-propelled grenades at army checkpoints at the El-Arish airport in the Sinai.

Egypt broadens Sinai campaign against militants

Egypt’s military said on Wednesday it would broaden its offensive against militants in the Sinai Peninsula, a campaign that has raised concerns in Israel about the movement of heavy armor into the area near its border.

After militants attacked and killed 16 border guards on Aug. 5, Egypt launched an operation using the army and police to raid militant hideouts, arrest suspects and seize weapons, including rockets and other arms, that are rife in the area.

Disorder has spread in Sinai since former President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow last year. Analysts say Islamists with possible links to al Qaeda have gained a foothold. This has alarmed Israel.

Israeli officials have privately voiced concerns about heavy equipment being sent to areas where there are restrictions on weapon deployments under a 1979 peace treaty.

Egypt has sent hundreds of troops, along with tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters into the North Sinai region since the start of military operations there on Aug.8.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told Reuters on Monday in his first interview with international media that Egypt was committed to all treaties and, without naming Israel, said no other states should worry about its actions in Sinai.

“As of the morning of Aug. 29, in continuation of the military operation, there will be a redeployment of forces in various locations in Sinai to complete the hunt for terrorist elements,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

A military source told Reuters this would involve spreading security forces over a wider area to root out militants.

The campaign is led by the defense minister and head of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, appointed by Morsi in a shake-up of the military top brass on Aug. 12. The Islamist president has promised to restore order.

Sisi briefed Morsi on the Sinai operation on Monday.

The ministry statement on its website said 11 militants had been killed and 23 arrested in the campaign. It said 11 vehicles had been seized, along with ammunition, including five boxes of Israeli-made ammunition, but did not give details.


The 1979 peace treaty limits the military presence in the desert peninsula though in recent years Israel has agreed to allow Egypt to deploy more forces there to stem weapons smuggling by Palestinian gunmen and crime.

An Egyptian security source said on Wednesday tanks were being withdrawn from the border area in a move that could calm Israel’s concerns. Three other security sources confirmed this and said the tanks were being moved to another part of Sinai, without giving further details.

No one had yet claimed responsibility for the killing of the border guards. But a Sinai-based Islamist militant organization, the Salafi Jihadi Group – which denies any involvement in the attack – warned the Egyptian army last week that the crackdown would force it to fight back.

Leaders of the Cairo-based Jihad Group, which fought against Mubarak but has since renounced violence, met earlier in the week in Sinai with members of the Salafi Jihadi Group in an attempt to defuse tensions.

“We went to prevent a new rivalry with the state,” said Magdy Salem, a member of the Cairo group. He said the visit was approved by Morsi.

The unrest has occurred mainly in North Sinai, where many people have guns and where Bedouin tribes have long complained of neglect by central government. They say they have seen no benefits from the expanding Sinai tourist resorts.

Mubarak’s military-backed government worked closely with Israel to keep the region under control. Diplomats say security contacts continued after Mubarak’s fall. But Egyptian security sources said Israel should not expect day-to-day reports.

Opinion: Islam navigates the shoals of extremism

Which is the more serious problem today: Islamic extremism or anti-Islamic bigotry?

The latest contribution to this debate comes from The Nation, the leading magazine of America’s left, in its current special edition on “Islamophobia: Anatomy of an American Panic.” Its articles address a real and serious issue — but they also illustrate the pitfalls of ignoring its other side.

There’s no doubt that virulent rhetoric depicting all Islam as inherently evil and violent, and virtually all Muslims as potential jihadists, has gained alarming currency on the right. Such Muslim-bashing is not simply demeaning but also can lead to violence, harassment and infringements on the fundamental liberties of American Muslims. The New York Police Department has been criticized for overly broad surveillance of ordinary Muslims. Recent years have seen a wave of attempts to block construction of mosques and Islamic centers across the country. Bills seeking to outlaw the use of Sharia law in American courts — already illegal if it infringes on citizens’ constitutional rights — could interfere with private contracts rooted in religious law.

Yet nowhere in The Nation will one find recognition that extremism in Islam is a particularly serious problem. One author dismisses the issue by stating that “every group has its loonies.” Another writes that while misogyny and religious repression in some Muslim countries should be denounced, it can be done without generalizing about Islam.

Of course all religions have fringe groups and ideas. But for complex historical and cultural reasons, radicalism in Islam is far closer to the mainstream than in other major religions right now. There is no country today where a Christian government executes people for blasphemy, apostasy or illicit sex; several Muslim states do, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Some supposedly moderate Muslim clerics, such as Qatar-born Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, defend executions of gays, sanction “light” wife beating and peddle hatred of Jews.

Most American Muslims do not share such repugnant views; the Muslim community here is far more integrated into the mainstream than it is in Europe. Yet the problem of radicalization is real. Freedom House, an esteemed human rights organization, reports that many U.S. mosques carry extremist literature. Supposedly moderate Muslim groups such as the Islamic Circle of North America have hosted speakers with extreme ideas. A 2007 Pew poll found that 27 percent of American Muslim men younger than 30 believe suicide terrorism in defense of Islam is at least sometimes justified.

Many American Muslims stress the importance of combating not only anti-Muslim bigotry but also extremism in Muslim ranks. The modernization of Islam is an essential priority for the world. Right-wing Islamophobes such as bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are hostile to this effort, insisting that Islam is beyond reform and any talk of moderation is a deceptive smoke screen.

But where do left-wing defenders of Muslims’ civil rights stand? One of The Nation’s articles attacks philanthropist Nina Rosenwald for bankrolling supposedly Islamophobic causes. Some groups Rosenwald has funded deserve the criticism, but the article also singles out her support for the work of “dissident” Muslims such as Irshad Manji, an openly gay Canadian journalist who argues that Islam must overcome the still-powerful legacy of sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. When a progressive leftist magazine goes after a gay Muslim feminist because she is too outspoken against religious reactionaries, something’s wrong.

Concerns about bigotry are justified. But they should not deter legitimate debate about problems in modern Islam.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and a columnist at The Boston Globe. She is the author of “Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood.”

Israel rushes airliner defenses as Libya leaks SAMs

Israel has accelerated the installation of anti-missile defenses on its airliners, a security official said on Friday, seeing an enhanced risk of attack by militants using looted Libyan arms.

Jets flown by El Al and two other Israeli carriers are being equipped with a locally made system known as C-Music that uses a laser to “blind” heat-seeking missiles, the official said, giving a 2013 target for fitting most of the fleet.

As a stop-gap, Israel is adapting air force counter-measures for use aboard civilian planes, said the official, who declined to elaborate on the technologies involved, or to be identified.

“We have long been aware of the threat and were ahead of the rest of the world in preparing for it. Libya has meant government orders to step things up even further,” the official said, citing intelligence assessments that chaos during the North African nation’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi allowed trafficking of Libyan shoulder-fired missiles to Palestinians and al Qaeda-linked groups in the Egyptian Sinai.

Israel began deploying another system, “Flight Guard,” on El Al after al Qaeda tried to shoot down a planeload of Israeli tourists in Kenya in 2002. Flight Guard’s use of diversionary flares set off safety concerns abroad and the Israelis turned to C-Music, manufactured by Elbit Systems Ltd..

According to the Israeli official, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is covering the $1 million to $1.5 million that it costs to fit C-Music to each plane.

The bathtub-sized pods, built into the planes’ bodies, increase drag in flight, meaning “a few million (dollars) a year” in extra fuel expenses, the official said, adding that this, too, would be borne by the government.

Israel’s main international gateway, Ben-Gurion Airport, is 10 km (6 miles) from the West Bank where, along with the Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip, Palestinians want a state.

The Israeli official said he had no information indicating the presence of anti-aircraft missiles in the West Bank—unlike in Gaza, which has seen an influx of smuggled weaponry from Egypt since Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers in 2005.

The official said Netanyahu had, in closed-door discussions, described C-Music as a way to help reassure the Israeli public about security should the government one day give disputed land to the Palestinians under a peace agreement.

Asked for confirmation, Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, quoted him as saying that “in any possible peace deal there have to be effective security arrangements that can deal with a range of security threats, including shoulder-fired missiles.”

Israel also wants to protect traffic to its small airport in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, which abuts Jordan and Egypt, where Islamist militants have operated in the past. Armed infiltrators killed eight Israelis on the Egyptian border on August 18.

Editing by Alistair Lyon

Israel ready to stop boats heading for Gaza

The Israeli navy will prevent two yachts carrying pro-Palestinian activists which left Turkey on Wednesday from breaching an Israeli blockade and reaching the Gaza Strip, an Israeli military official said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, speaking to reporters by telephone, would not say how the boats might be stopped, saying only “we will have to assess and see if we are facing violent passengers.”

Israel was aware two yachts had set sail carrying Irish, Canadian and U.S. activists, Leibovich said. Describing their journey as a “provocation,” she said they were still far from the Israeli and Gazan coast.

Israel would offer to unload any aid supplies on board and deliver them to Gaza, Leibovich said. Israel blockades the Gaza coast to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Palestinian gunmen in the territory, she added.

The military spokesman’s office said the navy was “prepared to contact” the vessels and had “completed the necessary preparations in order to prevent them from reaching the Gaza Strip.”

Israel has blockaded Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, after routing Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel permits humanitarian aid and supplies to reach the territory through a land crossing, and Gaza also shares a border with Egypt.

An Israeli government official told Reuters earlier that Israel “will take whatever measures will be necessary” to maintain its blockade.

Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish nationals on one ship in a Gaza-bound flotilla last year when the activists fought them with clubs and knives as the commandos tried to seize control of the ship to enforce the blockade.

The incident badly damaged ties between Israel and Turkey, which reached a crisis point two months ago when Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador after Israel rejected Turkey’s request for an apology for the flotilla deaths.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Tim Pearce

Pakistan Reaction: Something dark is growing in our own backyard

This is the first of two parts on Pakistan and terror. Next week: Anti-Semitism and Pakistan.

“Abhi India me pat’ta bhi nahi hil sakega.”

“Now even a leaf will need permission to stir in India,” remarked R, a young Indian woman at an expat dinner off London’s Baker Street on the Saturday after the Mumbai bombing. She was deep in discussion with three Pakistanis and nine fellow Indians about the expected tightening in security measures after the tragedy.

“It will be like the U.S. after 9/11,” she said, as heads nodded in agreement around the room. One of the Pakistanis opened her mouth but shut it quickly.

For Pakistanis at home, the fear is more palpable. It is not necessarily fear of immediate violence, but of something much darker growing in our very own backyard. Initially, the tragedy had seemed somewhat distant, but then came the damning reports that the terrorists used a boat to travel from Karachi. If Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackproven true, this confirms yet again what the people of Karachi (and all over Pakistan) have known for a long time, that this city is being used as a base for terror groups. The long-term implications are terrifying. In the short term, Pakistan is worried that, as in 2001, when the Kashmir-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) — the same group being named for the Mumbai terror — attacked the Indian parliament, the two countries could be brought to the brink of war.

Caution vs. the Blame Game

The Mumbai attacks made front-page news across Pakistan in the English-, Urdu- and regional-language media. All political statements condemning the merciless assault were carried, and Pakistan was one of the first countries to make its stance clear.

However, much of the media debates were fed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that it was evident the group that carried out the attacks was based outside the country, and that India would act against any neighboring country that allowed itself to be used as a base for attacking India. These words raised alarm bells all over Pakistan and in a way have provided a case study of the divisions between the English and Urdu media. Also important was that President Asif Ali Zardari denied any Pakistani role in the attacks, pledged action against any group found to be involved, and advised New Delhi not to “over-react.”

The timing of the Mumbai attacks is extremely suspicious to some analysts. It just so happens that whenever the government of Pakistan reaches out to work on peace with India, something terrible happens to sabotage the process. Sabotage may be a strong word to use here, but consider Taliban expert Ahmed Rashid’s words. The author of “Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia” said on Nov. 4, just weeks before the attacks, that he would hardly be surprised if something were to happen to derail the talks initiated by Zardari. He gave examples of how the military had sabotaged diplomatic efforts for peace with India in the past: Benazir Bhutto met Rajiv Gandhi in her first term, following which problems in Kashmir flared up; Nawaz Sharif met with A.B. Vajpayee, following which then-President Pervez Musharraf went into Kargil, a border hot spot with the two countries.

Thus, there are sections of society and the media that harbor a general mistrust, and help perpetuate it between the two countries, despite the fact that the two were one nation for hundreds of years until 1947. Some sections of the Urdu media exemplify this stance. They condemned the loss of life, but nonetheless fed into the blame game, an old tack. Their opinions ranged from the alarmist to the paranoid. Jang, one of the more widely read Urdu newspapers, warned in an editorial that Pakistan should be careful. But the editorial’s use of the word “propaganda” against Muslims to malign Pakistan had an old-school ring to it. The same line was taken by daily Urdu newspaper Nawa-i-Waqt, saying in its editorial that this was part of a “great game” by America, India and Israel against Pakistan.

Daily Urdu Ummat went so far as to indirectly support the “Deccan Mujahideen” by saying that their demands for the independence of Kashmir were “proof” enough that India could not “oppress” its Muslim populations for long. Urdu daily Khabrain chose to extrapolate on the earlier arrest of one Indian army lieutenant colonel for conspiracy by saying that India needed to get its own house in order. Similarly, daily Urdu newspaper Express felt that the “Indian rulers ought to change their thinking of hatred towards Pakistan,” urging them to look in their own backyard for terrorists hiding there, a reference to the time when Hindu extremists attacked a church in Mumbai.

This is not to say that one should dismiss the possibility of homegrown terrorism for India. But as some sections of the English media demonstrated, in a much more cautious, balanced and well-informed tone, there is another way of factoring that into the analysis of the situation rather than just by being accusing. For example, Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a well-respected political and defense analyst, pointed out in an op-ed piece in Daily Times that the blame game between India and Pakistan serves the political agendas of both hard-line Hindus and hard-line Muslims, who have always opposed normalization of India-Pakistan relations.

“India will soon learn what Pakistan already knows: It is not easy to control shadowy militant groups, especially when they cultivate support in sections of society,” he wrote.

Similarly, in its editorial, Dawn — one of the most widely circulated and oldest English newspapers — cautioned that those implicated in previous attacks in India have been homegrown Muslim militants. “In addition, Hindu militants have been linked to attacks targeting Muslims and Christians in India. What this all clearly adds up to is that India has a massive problem of domestic terrorism that it appears ill equipped to respond to…. But Pakistan cannot afford to be smug as India suffers. We have a grave problem of militancy, and the attacks in Mumbai are a grim reminder of the endless possibilities of terror.” These voices, mostly from the English media, acknowledge the problem, but instead of perpetuating insular rhetoric colored by anti-Semitic bias, urge cooperation; opinion based on historical trends and emerging facts; and transborder, regional solutions — given that the terrorists operate globally.

Photo: The Chabad House in Mumbai (before.) Next page: Chabad House interior (after)

Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin dead in Mumbai attack

(JTA) – A Chabad rabbi and his wife were among the dead after Indian forces retook a Jewish center in Mumbai, India from terrorist gunmen.

The deaths of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, the Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, were confirmed Friday by the director of American Friends of Lubavitch, Rabbi Levi Shemtov.

Earlier Friday, CNN quoted local Indian media sources as saying that five hostages at the building were dead; the hostages were not identified.

Conflicting reports following the takeover of Mumbai’s Chabad-Lubavitch house in the terrorist attacks in India, which left more than 140 dead, prompted confusion and anxiety surrounding the fate of the house’s occupants, including the Holtzbergs.

Four Israelis were among those freed from the Trident-Oberoi luxury hotel along with other hostages late Friday morning, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

As many as two dozen Israelis, some of whom are thought to have been in the house, remained unaccounted for late Thursday night.

complete coverage on mumbai chabad attackGunmen armed with automatic rifles and grenades struck 10 separate locations in Mumbai on Wednesday night in coordinated attacks at sites frequented by Westerners, including hotels, restaurants and a railway station. Witnesses said the gunmen — who killed more than 120 people, set buildings ablaze and took hostages — targeted Americans, Britons and Jews. Mumbai’s Chabad house was among the targets.

On Thursday afternoon, Indian commandos surrounded the Nariman House, where Chabad is located, with plans to storm in and release the hostages. There reportedly were four terrorists holed up inside with six hostages. Indian special forces reportedly killed one terrorist in the building.

Earlier Thursday, the hostage takers released the Holtzberg’s 2-year-old son and the building’s cook, who said that the couple was alive but unconscious.

The Israeli consul in Mumbai told Israel Radio on Thursday that the consulate was working to locate approximately 25 Israelis known to be in Mumbai who had not contacted their families at home.

The terrorists also took hostages at the Taj Mahal Palace and Trident-Oberoi luxury hotels. The identity of the attackers is not known. A little-known organization calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility.

One terrorist inside the Chabad house called an Indian TV channel Thursday afternoon and offered to enter into talks with the government to release the hostages, Reuters reported.

The Chabad house is located at 5 Hormusji Street in Mumbai. India is a popular destination for young Israeli backpackers, who often make the trip after their army service. The Holtzbergs moved to Mumbai from Brooklyn, New York in 2003 to do Jewish outreach work in India.

One Indian TV channel said five or six Israelis were also among the 100 to 200 hostages being held at the Oberoi hotel, Ynet reported. Some 10 to 15 Israelis are said to be held hostage in sites throughout the city, the Israeli Foreign Ministry told Ynet.

Concern about the fate of the Chabad rabbi and his wife mounted throughout the day, with the Brooklyn-based organization issuing calls for prayer to Jews the world over. The National Council of Young Israel also sent out an alert asking Jews to pray for the rabbi and his wife.

“One friend of Gavriel Holtzberg reported receiving an e-mail from the Mumbai rabbi at 11:30 p.m. local time,” reported. “The Israeli Consulate was in touch with Holtzberg, but the line was cut in middle of the conversation. No further contact has since been established.”

On Thursday morning, according to the Jerusalem Post, the Chabad rabbi’s toddler son was rushed from the house in the arms of one of the Jewish center’s employees, Sandra Samuel.

“I took the child, I just grabbed the baby and ran out,” said Samuel, 44, who was identified as a cook.

She said that the rabbi, his wife and two other unidentified guests were alive but unconscious, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Jews recall Musharraf ties and wonder what comes next

With control of the world’s only nuclear-armed Muslim state up in the air, many Jewish and Israeli observers are watching the political turmoil in Pakistan with unease.

Pervez Musharraf, who resigned as Pakistan’s president on Monday, might not have been a great friend of the Jewish people, but he was seen as an ally of the West and a relatively moderate leader of a nuclear state with powerful Islamist elements.

He also had some ties to Jewish groups.

In 2005, Musharraf addressed a Jewish gathering in New York, where he said Pakistan would establish ties with Israel after the Palestinians have a state. During that same visit, Musharraf shook hands with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the U.N. General Assembly. Musharraf also is rumored to have exchanged letters of friendship with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

With Musharraf out, it’s not clear whether or not the open door Jewish organizational leaders have had in Islamabad is in danger of slamming shut.

“It’s a big plus for the Jewish people to have an opening to the world’s only nuclear-armed Muslim country,” David Twersky, senior adviser for international affairs at the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress), said of the relationship between American Jewish groups and Musharraf. “I hope the idea of being open to American Jews doesn’t get thrown out with Musharraf.”

AJCongress chairman Jack Rosen, who has shuttled between New York and Islamabad multiple times to meet with Musharraf on issues of Jewish interest, said he’s confident that the new government in Pakistan won’t sever the country’s dialogue with the Jews.

“I know everybody wants to talk about Musharraf the individual, who was at the center of the stage for the past few years, and everyone wonders what happens next,” said Rosen, who is also chairman of the Council for World Jewry, which is affiliated with the AJCongress. “Our reason for having initiated the contact, and his reason, doesn’t change with the new administration.

“For moderate Muslim leaders around the world, which includes Pakistan, they want to engage America, they want to engage the West, they want to have a dialogue with members of other faiths,” he said. “That doesn’t falter with Musharraf leaving.”

Musharraf’s tenure saw the first high-level diplomatic contacts between Israel and Pakistan. The countries’ foreign ministers met in Istanbul 2005, and after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in September of that year, Musharraf said it was time for Pakistan to engage with Israel.

Even as Musharraf’s 2005 speech to a Jewish audience in New York was criticized by Jews for being pro-Palestinian, it was criticized in Pakistan for being too accommodating of Israel.

Musharraf’s resignation this week comes after months of political instability in Pakistan. Last fall, the president moved to suspend the country’s constitution and scuttle planned parliamentary elections. Massive protests prompted Musharraf to back off and eventually resign his position as commander of the armed forces.

The assassination of opposition figure Benazir Bhutto last December further fueled calls for Musharraf to resign as president. Some charged him with being complicit in the Bhutto slaying by not providing her with adequate security.

When he announced his resignation Monday, Musharraf said he was doing so to spare the country his impeachment.

The president of Pakistan’s Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro, becomes the acting president. According to Pakistani law, the next president must be chosen by the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies within 30 days.

The country’s 4-month-old coalition government is led by Asif Ali Zardari, who heads the Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nawaz Sharif, the chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League and a former prime minister. Sharif’s term was ended in 1999 by Musharraf’s bloodless coup.

Whoever emerges as the next president, analysts say the new leader is unlikely to wield the same broad-ranging powers as Musharraf.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, expressed fears that Pakistan could choose someone with an Islamist orientation.

“I’m very worried about it,” he said.

Nevertheless, Hoenlein and other Jewish organizational officials interviewed for this story stressed the ongoing contacts Jews have had with Pakistani governments over the years — long before Musharraf — and expressed confidence that they would persist in the future.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations once even hosted a kosher lunch for some Jews at his residence, said Hoenlein, who attended the event.

Even if a pro-Western regime endures in Islamabad, however, it isn’t clear whether the next leader will be able to keep Pakistan’s hard-line Islamists at bay.

Within hours of Musharraf’s resignation on Monday, a suicide bomber in Pakistan’s Northwest province — a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban — killed 23 people in a hospital emergency room, according to reports.

We must stand for victory In Iraq

It’s gotten pretty lonely.

A convention of Democrats who still support the Iraq war could be held, if not in a phone booth, then in a medium-sized walk-in closet.

The argument among congressional Democrats now is just how fast to withdraw the troops. Even many Republicans have turned against President Bush’s vision of a peaceful, democratic Iraq, seeing it as a pipe dream. The war is unpopular.

But “unpopular” is not necessarily “wrong.” A majority can be mistaken. I ask open-minded people to consider the following points:

The war against Islamism is the single most important issue of our generation. Islamism, also called radical Islam, political Islam, militant Islam or Islamofascism (not Islam itself) is the most malevolent and dangerous political force in the world today. While there isn’t yet a generally accepted definition, “Islamism” can be taken to mean a conservative, illiberal reading of Islam, with the desire to impose an Islamist state by force both on other Muslims and on non-Muslims.

As Paul Berman shows in his book Terror and Liberalism, Islamism has two parents: Islam and European fascism. Islamism shares with fascism a fascination with nihilistic mass slaughter. The enemy, one’s own people — it hardly matters. For example, Ali Benhadj, a leader of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, said: “If a faith, a belief, is not watered and irrigated with blood, it does not grow. It does not live. Principles are reinforced by sacrifices, suicide operations and martyrdom for Allah. Faith is propagated by counting up deaths every day, by adding massacres and charnel-houses.”

During the Iraq-Iran War, the mullahs sent waves of Iranian children into battle as human mine sweepers. Palestinian schools teach that a child’s loftiest ambition should be to become a suicide-murderer. Iran is on its way to creating a nuclear arsenal, which it has threatened to use against Israel. Islamists are very open about their desire to obtain weapons of mass destruction in order to kill thousands, if not millions, of Americans and Jews. Only the most suicidally naive would assume that they don’t mean what they say.

While some Islamists focus on the “liberation” of “Palestine” (i.e., the destruction of Israel), this is merely the first act of their proposed drama. World domination is the goal of the Islamists, cartoonish as that may sound. They view any land conquered by Muslims at any time in history as an Islamic “waqf” (trust), forever Muslim. Thus, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member Yusuf Qawadari issued a fatwa in December 2002, calling on Muslims to reconquer al-Andalus (Spain), the Balkans and southern Italy.

Islamists regard liberal democracy, along with all other non-Islamist philosophies, as illegitimate. They speak openly about replacing the constitutions of the Western democracies with sharia (Islamic law). During the “cartoon intifada” over the Danish caricatures of Muhammad, Islamists marched in London and elsewhere under banners that read, “Freedom go to Hell,” “Behead those who insult Islam,” and “Be prepared for the real Holocaust.”

The threat of Islamism is not marginal or insignificant. There are an estimated 1 billion Muslims throughout the world. Even if only 1 percent of them were committed Islamists (an exceptionally low estimate), that would mean 10 million Islamists willing to use violence to convert Dar es Harb (the realm of war, i.e., us) to Dar es Islam (the realm of Islam).

Nor is the Islamist program simply reactive. It does not depend on particular American or Israeli policies, nor will it disappear should America abandon the Middle East or Israel be destroyed, God forbid. Appeasement is impossible.

This is not a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between civilization and barbarism. Every liberal should be on the side of civilization. It’s a puzzle that many self-styled liberals and progressives seem indifferent to Islamism, an ideology so hostile to liberal values. No liberal would want to live in a society where people accused of sorcery or homosexuality are subject to the death penalty, as in Saudi Arabia. No liberal would want to live in a society where women accused of adultery — actually rape victims, in some cases — are stoned to death, as in Iran. Liberals ought to embrace the war against Islamism with the same seriousness of purpose we displayed in the war against fascism.

Supporting liberal democracy in the Muslim world is the surest long-term defense against Islamism. Islamist terrorists today enjoy the material and moral support of many Islamist and Muslim states. Without such support, Islamists’ freedom of action would be severely impeded, rendering them far less dangerous. Moreover, a person is influenced by his environment. An Islamist society is more likely to produce Islamists; a liberal society, less so. Liberal democracies historically are not dangerous to one another.

Consequently, our policy must distinguish between Muslims and Islamists, and support voices of liberal democracy in the Muslim world. American aid and favorable relations with Muslim countries should be conditioned on steady progress toward liberal democracy. President Bush has adopted this position rhetorically, but has not implemented it consistently.

Some explicitly or implicitly claim that Muslims by culture or history are incapable of becoming democrats. This would be racist, if race were the relevant category. Natan Sharansky notes in “The Case for Democracy” that among the nations formerly seen as unsuited for democracy are Japan, Germany and Italy — all robust democracies today.

There are already Muslim democracies, such as Turkey. There is movement toward democracy in some Arab countries, such as Kuwait’s decision in 2005 to give Kuwaiti women the right to vote and run for office. Such progress must be encouraged, not simply because as liberal democrats we want others to enjoy the same freedoms. It is also a matter of our national security.

The war to liberate Iraq is a battle in the larger war against Islamism. The argument that Saddam was a secular Baathist, and therefore could not have had anything to do with Islamism, is unsophisticated. It’s rather like claiming that there never actually was a Hitler-Stalin pact, since Nazis and Communists hated each other and could have no common interests.

The facts are that Saddam’s financial support for the families of Hamas suicide-murderers is well known. Investigators in Iraq recently translated documents revealing that Saddam used money from the United Nations’ oil-for-food program to fund the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Abu Abbas, the murderer of American Leon Klinghoffer, was living peacefully in Baghdad until American forces captured him in 2003.