Crushing a Flower of the Cedar Revolution

Crushing a Flower of the Cedar Revolution
By Dr. Walid Phares
FrontPageMagazine.com | November 23, 2006

The assassination of Lebanese Christian politician Pierre Gemayel this Tuesday has revealed that the Tehran-Damascus axis remains busy with terror activities across the Fertile Crescent. When UN Security Council resolution 1559 passed in 2004, reaffirming Lebanon’s political independence and calling for the withdrawal of the Syrian occupation army and the disarming of Hezbollah, Syria’s Ba’athist regime pledged heavy retribution against those Lebanese who would dare join the international campaign for freedom triggered by the U.S.-led War on Terror.

Damascus has kept its promise. In the fall of 2004, a former minister from the Druze community, Marwan Hamade, was targeted with a car bomb. While Hamade survived, Rafiq Hariri, the former Sunni Prime Minister of Lebanon, was not so fortunate. On February 14, 2005, he was killed in an explosion orchestrated by highly trained terrorists.

Dozens of Lebanese civilians were also killed and maimed in the blast. This prompted thousands, mostly students, to take to the streets and demand the withdrawal of Syrian forces and the end of the occupation of their country. In response, Syria ordered the Lebanese Army, via the pro-Syrian government headed by Prime Minister Omar Karami, to send in troops to shut down the “Lebanese intifada.”

The Lebanese people refused to be intimidated. As the world watched on television, the youth of Lebanon, soon joined by the masses of the country, painted the colors of freedom on their faces and marched through the lines of Lebanese soldiers. Women first, boys behind, and the elderly following, they crossed into downtown Beirut in an inspiring illustration of national defiance. One and a half million people marched through the capital and the suburbs in what came to be known as the “Cedar Revolution.”

Instead of authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism, the Lebanese longed for freedom and peace. Given political freedom, the Lebanese — Sunnis, Druze and Christians, along with a growing number of Shiite moderates — emerged as majorities in the country’s government, including in municipalities, student unions, and parliament.

It was a powerful slap in the faces of Syria’s Bashar Assad and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both disliked the emerging democratic forces. Hence, cooperation solidified between Tehran and Damascus. In partnership with their common client, Hezbollah, the two regimes launched a campaign to kill the idea of Middle Eastern freedom in its infancy.

In the summer of 2005, progressive Lebanese leaders George Hawi and Samir Qassir were assassinated. Journalist May Chidiac was maimed by a bomb. In December the bright, young and promising Jubran Tueni, a member of the Lebanese Parliament and publisher of the daily an Nahar, was killed. Hezbollah lured others, such as General Michel Aoun, into cooperation. During the winter and spring of 2005, Nabih Berri, the pro-Syrian speaker of the Parliament, played the role of Don Corleone, inviting the senior political leaders of the country to what the mafia calls a “sit down.” After weeks of sterile talks, the “loaded dialogue” failed.

But the effects of the intimidation campaign were palpable. The government of Fouad Siniora hesitated to call for U.N. implementation of resolution 1559. Non-governmental organizations who appealed for action on this front were informed that the fear was too great. “Hezbollah is up to terrible things,” Lebanese-Americans told the bipartisan committees in the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration. Lebanese memos to the United Nations stated: “The country has been taken hostage.”

This prophecy was soon realized when Hezbollah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah, with Machiavellian success, dragged Lebanon and Israel into a surprise war this past July. For Nasrallah, the war was an opportunity, a chance to reassert himself as a “legitimate” player in Beirut and destroy the gains of the people’s revolution. For Iran and Syria, it was a chance to undermine the newly independent Lebanese government. For the majority of Lebanese, it was a nightmare. They did not want a war, let alone a regional one.

By the end of October 2006, Hezbollah and its allies felt confident enough to launch a new bid for power. Nasrallah rallied his troops in the suburbs of Beirut, urging them to arm for the coming urban jihad. Thousands of militiamen, as well as the Syrian Mukhabarat intelligence service and possibly suicide bombers, were tasked to invade the capital.

Mukhabarat’ operatives were readied to cut off water and electricity and to surround Lebanese police stations. Hezbollah also demanded that Prime Minister Siniora’s government recant its decision to accept the UN Tribunal investigation of Rafik Hariri’z assassination. It was expected that the ensuing indictment would touch high-ranking officials in the Syrian regime, Hezbollah’s patron. Also discernible was the influence of Iran. If the Syrian regime were to be weakened, so too would be the Iran-Syria axis, leaving the mullahs alone in the Middle East. The Lebanese democrats had to go.

If Iran and Syria had any doubts about their strategy of destabilization, the midterm elections in the United States dispelled them. On November 7, the opposition party in the United States grabbed both houses of Congress. Although an unremarkable feature of American and Western politics, this shift in power was read by Iranian and Syrian elites as a collapse of American determination to defend democracies in the region. Ayatollah Khamenei declared: “The defeat of Bush in Congress is a victory for us.” He was echoed in Lebanon by Hassan Nasrallah: “America is being defeated and is leaving the region. Those who worked with the US will pay the price.”

Further reinforcing suspicions in Tehran and Damascus, the Iraq Study Group, headed by presidential advisor James Baker, is slated to recommend next month that Washington backtrack from its policy of promoting democracy in order to cut deals with…Iran and Syria.

On the basis of these developments, Iran and Syria concluded that the time was ripe to strike a punishing blow against democratic forces. But Lebanese leaders moved first. They emphasized that they would go to the UN and lead the masses into the streets against foreign interference in Lebanese politics. Calculating the numbers of the opposition, the “axis” commanders in Lebanon shifted tactics. Instead of sending in troops, a decision was made to send in the death squad to “mollify” the resistance.

The warning signs came last week. The ministers of Hezbollah and the Shiite Amal Party resigned from the Lebanese council of ministers to shake the “legitimacy” of the cabinet. They failed. The Lebanese Constitution is clear: You need more than one third of the members to collapse a cabinet. Therefore, the “axis” needed to eliminate three members, one after the other. Thus the decision was made to kill the youngest, brightest and most vocal Lebanese minister, a true symbol of Lebanon’s civic revolution: Pierre Gemayel.

Unlike the warlords and senior politicians, the 34-year-old MP acted like a head of a happy family, with a wife and children. He drove his own car in the middle of the most dangerous urban areas, and socialized with neighbors, partisans and friends. He was living the life he was struggling to defend: one of peace, freedom and democracy. It was abruptly ended on Tuesday. Two vehicles blocked Pierre Gemayel’s car, while several assassins shot the young leader “execution style.”

Gemayel is dead, but, as his younger brother Sami told his friends, “The march continues.” On these shores, the question arises: What should be done?

The answer is clear. The United States and the new Congress must be implacable in resisting the onslaught of terror and fascism in the Middle East. When cynical politicians, interest groups and apologist academics call for the appeasement of Iran and Syria, resist them. When a population is endangered and its leadership is being eliminated, assist them. Will the new Washington rise to the occasion?

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Iraq: The Democrats’ Tar-Baby — OK Dems it’s your turn

Iraq: The Democrats’ Tar-Baby
By David Keene
FrontPageMagazine.com | November 23, 2006

An old Democratic friend of mine stopped by the Monocle last week and while there ran into a Democratic senator of long acquaintance. The Senator was, of course, quite pleased with the outcome of the election and is looking forward to the perks and responsibilities that go with being in the majority.The two talked for a few minutes, but the Senator was more than a little taken aback when my friend asked him what he and his fellow Democrats intend to do with the war they managed to acquire with their new majority. “What do you mean?” he said. “Iraq is Bush’s war and his problem.”

“Oh, no,” my friend responded, “it was his war until Nov. 9, but your party ran condemning the war, Bush’s management of it and promised to end it in one way or another. Now, you guys are going to have to come up with a plan because you are in the majority and with the majority comes responsibility … especially on problems voters believe you promised to solve.”

It was a sobering thought and the senator was momentarily speechless, but then got very, very cautious and assured my friend that most Democrats believe it would be dangerous to do anything precipitous. Fortunately, there was no one from MoveOn.Org at the next table.

To be fair, my friend overstated the degree to which Democrats have to single-handedly solve the Iraq problem, but voters are not likely to long tolerate their pre-election act of attacking Bush at every turn while offering nothing, or less than nothing, in the way of a realistic alternative.

After all, while there was more to the election than the war, most of the 20 percent or so of those who voted and said the war was their No. 1 concern voted this year for Democrats because they don’t like the way things have turned out for us in Iraq and are hoping for better.

It is true that many of the Democratic Party’s ideological allies and financial supporters seem to actually believe that the problem is nutcases who would pervert their religion to justify terror, torture and genocide, all on account of the U.S. They would argue, one suspects, that since it is our presence in the region that “creates” terrorists, all we have to do is leave and the problem will vanish.

This reasoning may be persuasive within the fever swamps of the left, but most elected Democrats tend to be more realistic and few of them share this view of a world that would be a better place but for us. Moreover, as politicians they have to worry about what might happen if they “get us out of Iraq” and the forces we are fighting there decide to take us and our friends on elsewhere, or the Iranians and others look at the debacle there as evidence of our lack of will to oppose whatever it is they decide to do with their nuclear weapons once they develop them.

Some of them are hoping former Secretary of State Jim Baker’s Iraq Commission will save their bacon as well as Bush’s by coming up with a magical strategy and end game that will both work and satisfy their base. That, however, doesn’t seem likely given the intractability of the problem and the vehement insistence on the left that the war has to be ended now or that we at least begin withdrawing or “redeploying” troops soon.

Some Democrats in Congress are already responding by rejecting the idea that anything but getting out matters. They dismiss the importance of whatever might happen there after we leave and seem to buy into the notion that everyone will be so happy that we’re out that no one will blame them for “losing Iraq” or for the acts of an emboldened terrorist movement.

Others are trying to satisfy their base by suggesting that all we have to do is seek support from our allies or the U.N., as if the Bush administration hasn’t tried. Still others suggest that we do more to “train” the Iraqis but blanch at the thought that this course could require committing more U.S. forces, at least in the short term.

And then, finally, there are those who denounce the Bush administration’s “imperialist empire-building” on the one hand, while suggesting that what “we” ought to do is sit down and redraw the map of the Middle East along more “rational” lines.

The lack of any unified Democratic stance on a crucial national security and foreign policy issue — on which the party’s candidates ran and won control of Congress — means that my friend is at least partially right.

Iraq is many things, including a tar-baby that congressional Democrats are going to find as difficult to get away from as the Republicans they so gleefully beat up over the last few years.

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String of bombings kills more than 150 in Sadr City

String of bombings kills more than 150 in Sadr City

Sunni-Shi’ite Jihad Update. “150 die in deadliest attack of Iraq war” by Thomas Wagner for The Associated Press:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – In the deadliest attack since the beginning of the Iraq war, suspected Sunni-Arab militants used three suicide car bombs and two mortar rounds on the capital’s Shiite Sadr City slum to kill at least 150 people and wound 238 on Thursday, police said.

The Shiites responded almost immediately, firing 10 mortar rounds at the Abu Hanifa Sunni mosque as Azamiya, killing one person and wounding seven people in their attack on the holiest Sunni shrine in Baghdad.

The Interior Ministry imposed a curfew on Baghdad until further notice.

Beginning at 3:10 p.m., the three car bomb attackers blew up their vehicles one after another, at 15 minute intervals, hitting Jamila market, al-Hay market and al-Shahidein Square in Sadr City. At about the same time, mortar rounds struck al-Shahidein Square and Mudhaffar Square, police said.

As the fiery explosions sent up huge plumes of black smoke up over northeastern Baghdad, and left streets covered with burning bodies and blood, angry residents and armed Shiite militiamen flooded the streets, hurling curses at Sunni Muslims and firing weapons into the air.

Ambulances raced to the scenes and police Col. Hassan Chaloub said at least 145 people were killed and 238 wounded in the blasts, which destroyed many outdoor food stalls and parked automobiles and buses.

[…]

Sectarian fighting also broke in another part of northern Iraq on Thursday, when 30 Sunni insurgents armed with machine guns and mortars attacked the Shiite-controlled Health Ministry building. After a three-hour battle, during which Iraqi soldiers and U.S. military helicopters intervened, the attackers were repulsed. But at least seven guards of the ministry were wounded, said police 1st. Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq.

The Sadr City and Health Ministry attacks were the latest example of widespread sectarian fighting involving Sunnis and Shiites that is leaving Iraq either on the verge of a civil war or already fighting one.

At about noon Thursday, heavy clashes broke out between about suspected Sunni insurgent gunmen and guards at the Shiite-controlled Health Ministry building in northwest Baghdad, security officials said.

State-run Iraqiyah television said the Health Ministry was being attacked with mortars by “terrorists who are intending to take control of the building.”

Security officials said about 30 gunmen, believed to be Sunni insurgents, had launched the attack. Iraqi troops were being rushed to the area and all roads leading to the ministry in Bab al-Muadham neighborhood were closed, said the security officials on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Police Lt. Ali Muhsin said the attack began at 12:15 p.m. when three mortar shells hit the building, causing damage. After that, gunmen on the upper floors of surrounding buildings opened fire.

Ministry workers were trapped in the building.

“The gunmen fled as American helicopters and Iraqi armored vehicles arrived. Employees were able to leave starting about 3:15 p.m.,” Health ministry spokesman Qassim Yehyah said.

Health Minister Ali al-Shemari is a follower of al-Sadr, the radical anti-American Shiite cleric.

Grandmother commits first Hamas suicide attack in two years

Grandmother commits first Hamas suicide attack in two years

Hamas can now boast of having the Grandmother from Hell, along with the Mother from Hell. “Grandmother in first Hamas suicide attack in two years,” by Mahmud Hams for AFP:

JABALIYA, Gaza Strip (AFP) – A Palestinian grandmother blew herself up in the Gaza Strip, lightly wounding three Israeli soldiers, in the first suicide attack claimed by Hamas in almost two years.

The mother of nine and grandmother of 41 became the oldest Palestinian suicide bomber at the age of 57, selecting as her target troops operating near her northern Gaza home in Jabaliya, seeking to curb near-daily rocket attacks on Israel.

“Troops saw a woman approaching them in a suspicious manner and identified her carrying an explosive device,” an army spokeswoman said.

“They then threw a stun grenade in her direction but she managed to blow herself up,” she added, adding that three soldiers were lightly hurt.

Within minutes the armed wing of the Hamas claimed the bombing. This was the Islamist group’s first suicide attack since January 2005, when a bomber wounded seven Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

“The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades claims the martyr operation carried out by Fatima Omar Mahmud al-Najar, aged 57, in the middle of a group of Zionist soldiers,” an online statement said.

The operation came two weeks after the radical faction threatened to resume suicide bombings in response to a botched Israeli shelling in the Gaza town of Beit Hanun that killed 19 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

Najar was shown in a clip from a pre-taped video message aired on mainstream television stations, wearing a Hamas bandana in addition to a white veil and carrying a heavy kalashnikov, fighter-style in her arms.

“I am the martyr Fatima Najar from the town of Jabaliya. I work for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades and I sacrifice myself for God, the nation, the Al-Aqsa (mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest Muslim site),” she said.

Relatives said Najar left behind seven sons and two daughters, plus some 41 grandchildren, but insisted they were proud of her “martyrdom,” which daughter Azhar said was a direct response to the Beit Hanun shelling.

“She did this operation in response to the Beit Hanun massacre. She was very moved by what happened,” said Azhar, speaking from the family home in Jabaliya where relatives came to congratulate Najar’s nearest and dearest.

Azhar also said her mother had taken part in a daring rescue operation, staged by Palestinian mothers and wives, who acted as human shields to free more than a dozen gunmen holed up in a Beit Hanun mosque on November 3.

“We are really happy. It’s a big operation. She told us last night that she would do a suicide operation… We are proud,” said Zuheir, Najar’s 20-year-old son. “‘I don’t want anything, only to die a martyr.’ That’s what she said.”

[…]

Najar was the second Palestinian woman to blow herself up in the northern Gaza this month, following a November 6 attack claimed by Islamic Jihad.

Female Shiite Assassination Groups Dispatched to Baghdad

Female Shiite Assassination Groups Dispatched to Baghdad

By Abdul Hameed Bakier

Recent chatter on jihadi forums points to a new organized death squad in Iraq. The new group is allegedly composed of Shiite female assassination units that will target Sunnis. Sunni jihadi websites have warned their followers about this new threat, saying that these female units, called al-Zahra groups after Fatima al-Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet and the wife of the Muslim caliph Ali, are trained to kill Sunnis with bayonets and handguns equipped with silencers (http://www.tajdeed.org.uk, November 4).

On one Islamic website, a user by the name of Asad Misir (Egyptian Lion), posted a warning that the al-Mahdi Army’s and Mahmudiya’s Hussainiats (club-like meeting institutions for Shiite social and religious activities) have formed al-Zahra female groups to kill Sunni men and women and that these Iraqi female assassins are headed to Baghdad to carry out their missions. The assassins in the al-Zahra groups will pose as Sunnis and claim that Shiites dispelled them from southern Iraq. The killings will be executed either by handguns equipped with silencers or by bayonets, Asad Misir explained. Furthermore, the members of each group will consist of only females in some cases, and a mixture of males and females in others. Most of the fighters are probably ex-convicts who served sentences in Abu Ghraib prison and will carry false documents to conceal their identities. The jihadi websites are warning Sunnis, especially women and children, of the imminent threat posed by these Shiite assassination units. Sunnis are reacting to the Shiites’ threat by accusing Shiite men of cowardice for making their women face the mujahideen (http://www.hanein.net, November 4).

One individual, posting on a jihadi forum about this issue, accused Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of blasphemy for issuing fatwas that contradict Sunni Salafi ideology. This individual then posted a link to a video clip of an Iranian female police training unit, comparing the police squad to the al-Zahra group. As part of the video, women clad in the chador rappel down a building. Later, they shoot semi-automatic guns while hanging out of a car window during a vehicular pursuit (http://www.savefilez.com/922646). The purpose of the posting was to insinuate that Iranians had trained the al-Zahra units. In the same context, another Sunni user, Khaled al-Rawi, said that the Shiites’ current attack potential is a repeat of the Shiite attacks that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s against Sunnis. At the time, Shiite party al-Dawa al-Safawia organized and trained prostitutes to blow up cars and to assassinate Sunni figures and civilians in Iraq (http://www.iraqirabita.org, November 2). The website also contained pictures of Shiite females covered completely in black similar to the Iranian female police training video.

It is common knowledge that the first spark of the latest global conflict between the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority started in Iraq. The perception that each side is waging a war against the other has existed ever since. Although the conflict between the two sects is ideological, Sunni ideologues like Salman al-Odeh, a more mainstream Salafi ideologue, have been releasing warnings lately of the fast spreading Shiite political phenomenon that holds allegiance to Iran. Therefore, if these new assassination units truly exist, they will only exacerbate inter-sectarian tensions.

 

Dutch go to polls in anti-immigrant mood

Dutch go to polls in anti-immigrant mood

David Rennie, Rotterdam
November 23, 2006

Other related coverage

THE Netherlands’ mainstream parties were expected to re-establish their dominance at the country’s general election overnight after uniting around anti-immigration policies that would once have been unthinkable.Less than a year after being written off for dead, the Christian Democrats are set to emerge as the single largest party.Led by centre-right Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende — whose studious image and glasses have earned him the nickname Harry Potter — they are likely to gain a narrow advantage over the centre-left Social Democrats.A “grand coalition”, which could take weeks or even months to form, is the most likely outcome as the parties seek to form a new government to replace the one that collapsed in June over infighting about immigration.The creation of a new administration is expected to seal a dramatic shift to the right that five years ago would have seemed impossible amid the cosy and, frankly, dull consensus politics that had until then dominated the country’s postwar history.The Netherlands used to boast some of the dreariest politics in Europe, with power cosily parcelled out between a handful of interest groups.All that ended after the September 11 attacks, which helped catapult the populist Pim Fortuyn to national prominence with his attacks on Muslim “intolerance” and declaration that “Holland is full”.His Liveable Rotterdam party seized control of the port city in local elections in March 2002. The country was stunned when Mr Fortuyn was murdered by an animal rights activist two months later, on the eve of a general election he was expected to win easily. His murder was followed two years later by the killing of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, stabbed to death by a Muslim extremist for making an anti-Islamic film.Now, One Netherlands, a party founded by Mr Fortuyn’s political heirs from Liveable Rotterdam, is expected to win two seats at best in the 150-seat parliament. The big parties are back in charge — proof that they have absorbed the protest politics of the Fortuyn era and made them their own.Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk noisily revived discussions about a law to ban the wearing of the burqa by Muslim women, in what was seen by her critics as a transparent electoral ploy to shore up the fortunes of her own smaller centre-right party, the VVD.The proposal was welcomed by all the main parties, including the Social Democrats, effectively killing it as an election issue.Voters in Rotterdam — where nearly half the 600,000 population are immigrants — said yesterday that the old cosiness was gone forever.“The whole political scene has changed. It’s more populist now,” said Edwin Larkens, an architect. “The main parties know they have to be more outspoken and take positions on things nobody talked about before. Even the most left-wing politicians now say immigrants should learn Dutch. That means the splinter parties are not important any more.” 

Rape case has Saudis asking questions about legal system

Rape case has Saudis asking questions about legal systemWoman who says she was raped faces punishment

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

By DONNA ABU-NASR
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

AL-AWWAMIYA, Saudi Arabia — When the young woman went to the police a few months ago to report that she was gang-raped by seven men, she never imagined that the judge would punish her — and that she would be sentenced to more lashes than one of her rapists received.

The story of the Girl of Qatif, as the alleged rape victim has been called by the media here, has triggered a rare debate about Saudi Arabia’s legal system, in which judges have wide discretion in punishing a criminal, rules of evidence are shaky and sometimes no defense lawyers are present.

The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges. These include one in which a group of men got heavier sentences for harassing women than the men in the Girl of Qatif rape case or three men who were convicted of raping a boy. In another, a woman was ordered to divorce her husband against her will based on a demand by her relatives.

In the case of the Girl of Qatif, she was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married — a crime in this strictly segregated country — at the time that she was allegedly attacked and raped by a group of other men.

In the sleepy, Shiite village of al-Awwamiya on the outskirts of the eastern city of Qatif, the 19-year-old is struggling to forget the spring night that changed her life. An Associated Press reporter met her in a face-to-face interview. She spoke on condition of anonymity.

Her hands tremble, her dark brown eyes are lifeless. Her sleep is interrupted by a replay of the events, which she describes in a whisper.

That night, she said, she had left home to retrieve her picture from a male high school student she used to know. She had just been married — but had not moved in with her husband — and did not want her picture to remain with the student.

While the woman was in the car with the student, she said, two men intercepted them, got into the vehicle and drove the couple to a secluded area where the two were separated. She said she was raped by seven men, three of whom also allegedly raped her friend.

In a trial that ended this month — in which the prosecutor asked for the death penalty for the seven men — four of the men received one to five years in prison plus 80 to 1,000 lashes, the woman said. Three others are awaiting sentencing. Neither the defendants nor the plaintiffs retained lawyers, as is common here.

“The big shock came when the judge sentenced me and the man to 90 lashes each,” the woman said.

The sentences have yet to be carried out, but the punishments ordered have caused an uproar.

Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia. Judges — who are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council — have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment.

Saudis are urging the Justice Ministry to clarify the logic behind some rulings. In one recent case, three men convicted of raping a 12-year-old boy received sentences of one to two years in prison and 300 lashes each. In contrast, another judge sentenced at least four men to six to 12 years imprisonment for fondling women in a tunnel in Riyadh.

Saleh al-Shehy, a columnist for Al-Watan, asked Justice Minister Abdullah Al-Sheik to explain why the boy’s rapists got a lighter sentence than the men in last year’s sexual harassment case.

“I won’t ask you my brother, the minister, if you find the ruling satisfactory or not,” wrote al-Shehy. “I will ask you, ‘Do you think it satisfies God?’ “