Archive for July, 2010

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Butt out of Lebanon, says Treasury

July 30, 2010

OFAC has announced renewed sanctions blocking the assets of “persons” who would seek to interfere with Lebanon or undermine its sovereignty.  Persons = Syria.

For more, LebanonNow.com has run an article, “Obama renews asset freeze of people working with Hezbollah.”

If for some reason you forgot to read the always riveting Federal Register today, the specific sanctions rules are available here.

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8 years ago tomorrow, a tragedy remembered

July 30, 2010

Tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of the terrorist bombing of a cafeteria at Hebrew University on July 31, 2002.  Four Israelis and five Americans died in the explosion.  This video shows both the carnage of the attack and the disgusting words of Hamas, the organization that ordered the bombing.

The Rewards for Justice program we mentioned yesterday still has a $5 million reward listed for information on this particular terrorist act.

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Uncle Sam still offers $5 million bounties

July 29, 2010

And $25 million for Osama Bin Laden.  The State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program continues to provide rewards, usually of $5 million, that lead to the prevention or resolution of terrorist acts.  (State’s website actually discourages “bounty hunting,” but prefers “information” instead…)  The program began in 1984 and was expanded by the Patriot Act in 2001.  It also provides rewards for information about terrorist financing.

Stop the Flow of Blood Money

"Rewards for Justice" program offers $5 million for terror finance info

When George W. Bush talked about wanting to catch the terrorists, “dead or alive,” he was dismissed as a cowboy—a Wild West relic—foisted on an American public slowly moving to a kinder, gentler approach to the war on terror (or “contingency operations against violent extremism”).

But there’s still something visceral, direct, and logical about putting a price on the heads of our worst enemies.  The Rewards for Justice program helped lead to the arrest of Ramzi Yousef and in locating Uday & Qusay Hussein.  It goes to show that, sometimes, the best approach is to keep it simple.

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Weekly word: Khadija

July 28, 2010

Okay, so it’s more of a person than a “word,” but this week we look at Khadija, the first of Muhammad’s sixteen wives.  Just look (h/t Zombietimes) at Khadija in her veiled glory (or scandalous display of neck and face, depending on your point of view):

Khadija, Muhammad's rich, older wife

Chick Publication's illustration of Muhammad & Khadija

But who was this lady?  The love of Muhammad’s life?  Her soul mate?  No—his sugar mama!  From A Dictionary of Non-Christian Religions:

Khadija.  The first wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and during their twenty-four years of married life his only wife.  Khadija was a rich merchant’s widow, who first of all employed Muhammad in her service.  She was said to have been married twice before, with children of her own.  She was about forty years of age, but bore Muhammad seven children.  Their marriage was happy, and Khadija encouraged Muhammad after his visions and during his early preachings, being virtually his first convert.  Her cousin Waraqa (q.v.) was a Christian and no doubt this helped to make her sympathetic to Muhammad’s teaching of one God.  Her death in A.D. 619 was a grievous loss to the Prophet, and only then did he take other wives.*

If you can’t strive (for jihad) with your own wealth (Q. 9:41), why not strive with someone else’s?  Of course, many important men throughout history would never have made it so far if they hadn’t married a rich woman.  Isn’t it inspiring for the prophet of one of the world’s biggest religions to have done so?

In addition to Khadija’s money, Muhammad amassed personal wealth in his lifetime through his role in early Islam including Safi (special gifts from the spoils of war), khums tax revenues (both as the prophet who was entitled to one-fifth of khums and as a Muslim soldier who was entitled to an individual share for four-fifths of the remaining ghanima), and 100 percent of the spoils of Khaybar, the oasis he stole from the Jews.

Muhammad understood that to be Prophet, he needed profit.  Money, both the legal acquisition of and the illegal confiscation of it, were central to fueling Muhammad’s rise to power and the spread of early Islam.

*Parrinder, Geoffrey, A Dictionary of Non-Christian Religions (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971). 

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Clinton may designate Haqqani Network as terrorist organization

July 27, 2010

In an interview with BBC World Service on July 18, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the State Department is (finally) considering designating the virulently Islamist Haqqani Network in Pakistan as a terrorist entity:

The Haqqani Network is widely recognized as a threat to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the U.S., and was involved with the Taliban in carrying out deadly attacks in Kabul earlier this summer.  Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) requested the designation back in May.  Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and Gen. Petraeus have made similar requests over the last two weeks.  If the State Department is ready to pull the trigger, it’s overdue but somewhat encouraging. 

The Haqqani Network has close ties to Al Qaeda and is probably funded by Pakistan’s spy service, the ISI.  Treasury official David S. Cohen has claimed that the U.S. is active in curtailing the network, but currently there are no financial sanctions, asset freezes, or restrictions on Americans doing business with Haqqani Network (other than a recent freeze of just one Haqqani Network’s members).  Recently, a reporter at a State Department press briefing asked Asst. Sec. Philip Crowley, “Don’t you think the delay in this [Haqqani designation] would help these organizations to have transfer of funds and even raise funds here in the U.S.?”  Crowley’s answer?  Spin and boilerplate.

Apparently our executive branch has taken this slow approach in order to retain warm relations with Pakistan.

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U.S. tax prof puts cart before horse, misreads zakat data

July 26, 2010
Russell Powell, an associate professor of law at Seattle University has penned a glowing review of zakat-based tax systems as a progressive model for the rest of the world to adopt (h/t TaxProf Blog).
 
Leaving aside that problematic premise, we’ll focus instead on one supposed “correlation” that Prof. Powell sees in the Islamic world.  There are countries in the Islamic world with mandatory zakat laws (such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan), countries with voluntary zakat programs run by the government, and countries with no government run programs.  Powell argues that there is a positive relationship between national wealth and economic equality and which countries adopt zakat systems.
 
Powell says the slight relationship in his chart, which shows that the Middle Eastern countries with the highest per capita GDP are likelier to have zakat systems than poorer countries, is worthy of futher study:
 
Zakat systems in the Islamic world sorted by GDP

Chart by Russell Powell, Seattle Univ. School of Law

I’ll help you out.  The relationship is not about national wealth.  It’s not that these countries experience a economic boon because of zakat.  Collecting zakat, skimming off the top through corruptly high tax administration, and transferring whatever is left over to a mishmash of political cronies, imams, terrorists, and a few poor Muslims, does not “produce” a higher gross domestic product.
 
It’s somewhat true that richer countries may impose zakat because their citizens can actually afford to pay it.  But get beyond the materialist arguments and take a look at the actual countries that mandate zakat:  Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, and Yemen.  What’s the common thread?  Look elsewhere, sir, than GDP to explain it.  These are all Muslim theocracies or countries that have outsourced vast realms of public policy to Islamists.
 
National wealth (ie, oil wealth) can fuel the degree and speed of Islamization of the country, which itself could lead to calls for a host of Islamized public policies.  But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking zakat creates wealthy, egalitarian societies.

(I may address Powell’s broader points at a later date, but for now I’ll simply say that the paper is well researched but profoundly myopic.  One cannot examine Islamic tax law properly by researching only zakat.  Powell even suggests that zakat presents a model for small government because zakat is simply passed through and not retained by government hands.  This ignores that the bayt al mal of the caliphate throughout history has been funded by the jizya and kharaj taxes against non-Muslims.  Professor, I look forward to reading your next article if you take Islam’s total tax picture into account.)

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Libya amends income tax, keeps “jihad tax”

July 25, 2010

PricewaterhouseCoopers has released its biannual update on taxes in the Middle East (see Zawya’s article on July 20 about the report here).

Libya, which operates a nasty little Islamist zakat system alongside its income tax laws, features in PwC’s report for several changes related to flattening Libyan income tax rates and allowances.

One thing that has not changed, however, is Libya’s jihad tax (which PwC calls a “jehad tax” to misdirect you).  What?  A jihad tax?  (Not to be confused with zakat or jizya taxes.)  That’s right!  Daffy Qaddafi has imposed a jihad tax since the 1970s for the purposes of “national defense.”  Individuals pay a 3 percent jihad tax; corporations, 4 percent (see also here and here).

Like much of the money in the Islamic world, it’s not clear where these revenues wind up.  The funds are thought to support attacks by Palestinian terror groups against Israel.

PwC’s report is supposed to help clarify tax rules for corporations doing business in the Middle East.  But would you really enjoy conducting business in a country where, on top of every other silly banana republic tax you get smacked with, you have to pay an additional 4 percent to pay for Qaddafi’s jihad?

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