Is Saudi Arabia on Path Toward Balance?

kingdom tower saudi arabia, By faisal photography

kingdom tower saudi arabia, By faisal photography

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -  Geographically located at the geopolitical crossroads of the Middle East and the West, Saudi Arabia has come a long way from being known only as a religiously constrained nation dominated by hardline conservatives focused more on internal governance to the exclusion of Western opportunities because of their possibly corrosive influences.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 90, who died on 23 January 2015, was also known as 'the reformer' king, and under his decade long reign the socioeconomic transition strategies had already yielded positive results as the country became more open to doing business with partners that sometimes were at odds with the country's religious precepts. This fact was underscored by the number of world leaders and top dignitaries who visited Saudi Arabia to give their condolences.

The newly enthroned King Salman welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, Spain's King Felipe VI, Jordan's King Abdullah, Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik, Dutch King Willem-Alexander, and the United Kingdom's Prince Charles and others and will hopefully continue Saudi Arabia's embrace of a path that leads out of the religious cocoon that has historically governed it.

Though still a monarchy, the Saudi Arabian government is relatively stable, and the influx of new business partners is helping this thriving society to transform its image of being a totally Islam-centric culture to one that at least entertains and hosts people from different nations and backgrounds. This includes, doing business with Western companies that sometime send female executives to manage large scale projects.

However, Saudi Arabia is a nation that is built on Islamic principles and protecting these principles remains its cornerstone and governs every transaction. For instance, though Western women may come to work there, they are still expected to observe the decorum and customs that are unique to Muslim society. Even First Lady Michelle Obama was criticized in the media for not wearing an Abaya or head scarf during a recent visit; however, it was noted by the Associated Press that former First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush have also appeared in public meetings Saudi royals without an Abaya.

Even still, Saudi Arabia is realizing unprecedented global, economic and employment growth as people embrace the reality that it is simultaneously the ultimate ‘Hajj’ destination, but also for non-Muslims it is a country where they can achieve economic success, explore great job opportunities, or just visit as a great vacation destination.

Socioeconomic Transformation:  In 1970 Saudi Arabia introduced the first of a series of the ongoing five-year development plans. The long-range plan had in scope the implementation of a modern infrastructure, fostering the development of business relations with other nations, and making the kingdom an affordable place for one and all. As a result of assiduously following the scope of this program over a 30-year period, today Saudi Arabia has been transformed into one of the most modern and sophisticated Arab states.

The table below provides a high-level summary of some of the major social and political breakthroughs that were achieved as a consequence of the Social Economic Transformation policies.

Government Goals and Objectives

Achievements

2001, December (Fight for Values & Saving the grace of Islam)

The government calls for the eradication of terrorism, and publicly states that terrorist acts are explicitly prohibited by Islam. The government also takes the unprecedented step of issuing ID cards to women.

2002, May (Sabotaging the rule to “offer pain”)

The criminal code underwent major revision that included ban on torture and right of suspects to legal representation.

2005, November (The World knows the worth now)

The prestigious World Trade Organization (WTO) gives a green signal to Saudi Arabia's membership after 12-years of negotiations.

2009, June (Making relations rock-solid)

U.S. President Barack Obama visits Saudi Arabia as part of a Middle East tour. The visit was aimed at increasing U.S. engagement with the Islamic world.

2012 June (Let the souls breathe and get their dreams)

Saudi Arabia agreed to allow women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time. This decision was against the background of speculation that the entire Saudi team might be disqualified on grounds of sex discrimination.

2014 February (Banish the “Crude”)

New anti-terrorism law were introduced to fortify the suppression of violent groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

2014, June-September

Activists for women's rights have become more vocal and public in their demands for equal rights for women to fully participate in society, in particular, being able to drive. Among other platforms, social media users continue to push the boundaries and test the limits of freedom of expression.

The Employment Affairs:  Saudi Arabia currently possesses more than 25% of the world's oil reserves. The oil and gas sector in Saudi Arabia has created astounding wealth for the country, and has encouraged investment by other nations that buy oil and gas from this Middle East powerhouse. Experts believe that with social reforms that continue to take place, will encourage nations not traditionally inclined to do business with Saudi Arabia to reconsider. Such expansion should result in the creation of many high-paying job opportunities for foreign and domestic workers alike; a fact evidenced by Jeddah being named one of the top livable cities in the world.

Persistent Concerns:  Saudi Arabia still has much to improve upon when it comes to human rights especially with regard to meting out punishment. In this respect the country is still in a religious cocoon of ultra-conservative, orthodox ‘Wahhabism' which has been Saudi Arabia's dominant faith for the past two centuries. This religious interpretation of Islamic law takes a literalist view of Qur'an and the tenets, and thus continues to condone heinous acts such as "death penalty or stoning for adultery and fornication, flogging and amputation for stealing, and punishments of retribution, are sanctioned by the Qur'an and are unchangeable," legal scholar Shahid M. Shahidullah explains. Wahhabist interpretation of "sharia law is the exclusive foundation of criminal justice" in Saudi Arabia. (Source: VOX)

Frontline PBS featured an Analyses of Wahhabism and its rigidity that "has led it to misinterpretation and distortion of Islam, pointing to extremists such as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban." Indeed, many of the perpetrators of the September 11th air attacks against the U.S. were instigated and perpetrated by Saudi nationals, and indeed many people still believe that the government and constituent nations in the region harbor extremist.

Between 2014 and 2015 Saudi Arabia has more than redeemed itself with tangible efforts and resources in the fight against radical Islamist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, two of the greatest terrorists threats facing the world today. The "Saudis have sent jets to bomb the group in the Syrian regions where it [ISIS] first gained strength and broader influence. The result is that Saudi Arabia now has useful intelligence on the groups the U.S. will be arming and training within Syria later this year. Saudi Arabia is one of only three Muslim countries (the others are Turkey and Qatar) that would allow the U.S. to set up rebel-training camps on its soil." (Source: Huffington Post)

In summary, Saudi Arabia has realized vast improvements and it has boldly embraced the challenges that face a country that struggles to balance modernity with tradition; and though many may yet criticize this nation, its increased presence on and involvement in global affairs heralds its desire to move toward balance.

Middle East Correspondent:  @Vinita Tiwari

Ramadan: Airplanes, Athletes, and Reality TV

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ACCRA, Ghana -- Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and contemplation, began on June 28th.

Until recently, the concept of this religious event was distant to me as there isn't a large Muslim population in my North Carolina home.  However, since coming to work in Accra, the capital and largest city of Ghana, my interactions with Muslim people has increased.

I work next to a lovely Muslim village full of women in brightly colored Hijabs, and have witnessed demonstrations of peaceful coexistence, when in every conference that I attend, the opening prayer is done by a Christian and the closing prayer given by a Muslim.

Under terms of Ramadan, Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset. This fast means no food and in some cases no water, but it's also a time of restraint for other things, such as personal vices, unkind thoughts, and angry actions.

While I am not partaking of the fast myself, but out of respect me and many non-Muslims choose not to eat in public during Ramadan. Until I restricted my public eating habits, I never realized he availability of food. Vendors in every corner, sales ladies walking through traffic jams balancing baskets of bread or fruit or candy on their heads and selling their wares to people in cars, bicyclers pushing ice-cream carts.... All forbidden during Ramadan.

Even though it clearly requires a great deal of restraint, at least it seems pretty straightforward -- a time of self-sacrifice and re-devotion to Allah, a time to cut out the bad and nurture the good. However, the blessed month can come with some unexpected twists and hurdles.

For instance, while traveling. Technically, the Quran gives a pass to travelers, suggesting they keep up their strength for he journey and make up the missed days later. However, many Muslims continue adhering to as many guidelines as possible.  Timing is important during Ramadan, and a hassle for anyone flying through time zones. There is a time for prayers, a time for fasting, and a time for Suhoor (pre-fasting meal) and Iftar (meal to break the fast.) In places with a heavy Muslim population, there are public announcements or alerts reminding Muslims of the time.

I was caught off guard while watching TV last week when my regularly scheduled programming switched suddenly to play Arabic music and show a passage from the Qur'an. However, those mid-flight have a bit more trouble than those at home watching TV.  Luckily, airlines are usually sympathetic.  Recently, Emirates announced that along with providing traditional Muslim sunrise and sunset meals, with items such as vegetable samosas, dates and baklava, it would also be using a special tool that calculated latitude, longitude and altitude to provide the most accurate possible timing for the ceremonies.

Back on solid ground, athletes may also have problems.  This year, Ramadan coincides with the World Cup, which causes some Muslim players extra difficulties.  On the other hand, the Qur'an does give an exemption to warriors about to go into battle, so perhaps Football is covered in that fine print.  Ramadan's timing may even have affected betting odds on teams, as some suggested teams from Muslim regions might have performance issues.  France, Germany, Belgium, and Algeria all had prominent Muslim players and, in my humble opinion, they all played admirably, fast or no fast.  That may be thanks to a special team of nutritionists FIFA provided to advise the fasting players.

As well as lack of food and hydration fears, disrupted sleep schedules (for nighttime prayers) may result in athletes not being up to par. In the past, some coaches held nighttime practices so the players could be well nourished during practice, so at least the nutrition issue would be solved, if not the disrupted sleep issue. Especially in hotter regions, it isn't uncommon for any Muslim to burn the midnight oil during Ramadan, which unfortunately can lead to an increase in car accidents during the month.

On the other hand, in Brazil sun up to sundown is only 12 hours, so if athletes make sure their sunrise meal is adequate and they start the day hydrated, it shouldn't be a problem.  In the Netherlands, however, Muslims would have to be much hardier, as a day lasts almost 20 hours there this time of year. Australian Muslims have it easiest, with only ten hours of fasting.

Perhaps one of the more bizarre results of the clash of modernity and Ramadan is its recent mingling with Reality TV.  Though not without its share of controversy, as some think the TV personalities don't present the proper air of modesty and good taste representative of the faith.  However, some shows are better than others, and such idiosyncrasies vary from show to show.

For example, one where teens try to recite the longest passage from the Qur'an to win prizes, or shows where gifts of charity are awarded specifically to those less fortunate, to the "ever popular" cooking shows that in this instance, focus on Suhoor and Iftar -- each with the apparent intent of declaring that even the oldest and most sacred traditions can keep pace with changing times.

If you are not partaking in Ramadan, please be considerate to those who are.  Know that employees may need time off and it's not a "holiday" or "vacation" -- it requires dedication, commitment, and adjustment.  Extra attention to charity or one's family life, as well as daily prayers, require a more flexible schedule and understanding colleagues.  If in a Muslim neighborhood or workplace, be discrete in your dress and eating habits. And try to eat an Iftar feast if you get the opportunity.

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Kareem!

Omani Woman Nora Al-Daher, Gambled and Lost £2m in One Night, then Refuses to Pay Casino

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Gambling Addiction, Model A.A., Photo by Gregory CinqueUNITED KINGDOM, London - There is such a thing as gambling addiction, problem gambling, or ludomania which is the urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Pathological gambling is considered by the American Psychiatric Association to be an impulse control disorder rather than an addiction. However, for the DSM 5.0, Pathological Gambling is being considered as an Addictive Disorder as opposed to an impulse-control disorder. (Wikipedia) Then, there is the question of personal responsibility. In today's modern world there are a number of means to avoid the consequences of irresponsible or downright bad behavior i.e. if one is rich enough, if one can claim mental defect, or you can simply run away.

None of these options absolve the person of responsibility, but having a disorder such as a gambling addiction could potentially mitigate the ultimate judgment in the case of someone gambling away their savings, house, and car, thus leaving them in a position whereby they are unable to meet credit obligations.

Nora Al-Daher, whose husband is the foreign minister of Oman, told the High Court that she is a gambling addict. She was testifying in a suit which she brought against the exclusive Ritz Club in London where she gambled and lost £1million, but only after she had lost an equal sum earlier that night at other casinos around the city.

It is interesting to note that according to Islamic scholars gambling, is categorically forbidden, as is drinking alcohol. So, this begs the question of how Mrs. Al-Daher was able to lose millions of pounds, a sum which 99.9% of the world's population will never realize in their lifetimes? According to court documents, "between 1999 and April 2012, The Ritz alone had received more than £20million in buys-ins from Mrs. Al-Daher, of which she lost more than £7million." (Daily Mail U.K.)

Her credit was extended by The Ritz because of her previous good payment history, and as a valued customer they wanted to accommodate the self-proclaimed addict. However, this time she wrote checks, which in the parlance of the poor, "bounced" and were not honored by her bank because of "Non-Sufficient Funds."

The idea that someone with access to that amount of money would be frivolous enough to gamble it away, and then refuse to pay the debt, disparages people of lesser means who have gambling addictions. With her extreme wealth she could have sought the best addiction treatment in a private and exclusive environment.

She could have also settled her debt and informed in advance all the casinos that she frequented and were known to extend generous credit to her, that she has a gambling addiction, and ask that they cut her off much like a bar tender is now legislated to no longer serve alcohol to a patron who is clearly intoxicated.

Instead, Mrs. Al-Daher called foul play after the fact, and used the condition to justify her not settling the debt. It is not as if she doesn't have access to the money, but it is curious that her checks bounced. Perhaps, this time her husband refused to provide her with the money to pay her debt, but in any case The Ritz should not be made the scapegoat.

Personally, I am against gambling, so this article is not written in support of these institutions that regularly fleece millions of customers each year in casinos all over the world. The fact that gambling, once illegal in many countries, has been granted the veneer of respectability under the guise that the taxes which they pay are used to better the communities in which they reside, does not confer upon them beneficence.

The logic behind the marketing scheme used to convince communities to allow these establishments to operate in their midst, is that by paying large sums in taxes to local and state governments, these funds can in turn be used by these governments to improve schools, social services, etc. However, in fact this premise is about as valid as the claims that cigarettes are safe and do not cause cancer. The fact that exorbitant taxes are paid is akin to bribery because very little of this money trickles down to the people or communities that are professed to benefit.

That said, this case has yet to be adjudicated, but in this court of opinion......she played, she lost, she has the millions, so she should pay the piper.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Norwegian Woman Jailed in Dubai for Reporting Rape

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 00:32 a.m. DST, 17 August 2013

Dubai Police, Photo by Willi GrillmaierDUBAI, UAE - A Norwegian woman was slapped with jail after reporting to the police in Dubai that she had been raped. Her sentence is longer than her convicted rapist’s.

During her business trip to Dubai, the woman found herself jailed for the consumption of alcohol and for having sex outside of marriage. The exact circumstances remain unclear, however. The Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that she had her passport taken away, and that she was unable to use a phone for three days.

After finally contacting her family, her family mobilized the Foreign Ministry and Norway’s consulate in Dubai. Both organizations were able to get her out of jail and housed at the local Norwegian Seamans Church, where she remained until she received her sentence: one year and four months. Anniken Meling of the Seamans Church told NRK that her attacker was only sentenced for one year and one month.

Alicia Gali was also faced with a similar situation earlier this year, when she was targeted and raped by three of her colleagues.

Gali had signed a managerial contract with an American-owned company named Starwood Hotels, who offered to pay for her ticket and accommodations. Shortly after Gali reached her hotel in Dubai, her colleagues purposely sabotaged her sink so that it would flood, forcing Gali to leave her room, where she entered the hotel’s bar. The colleagues then added additional ice to her drink, where she blacked out and woke up naked in her room.

According to the Blaze, when she wanted to go home, she was told by a senior manager that she owed a “debt” to them since they had paid for her flight and accommodations. The hotel was also holding her passport, which prevented Gali from leaving the country as advised by the Australian consulate.

Gali was sentenced for 11 months for sex outside of marriage, and 1 month for drinking alcohol. Two of the accused rapists received the same sentence, while the third got an extra month.

After eight months, Gali was pardoned and allowed to go home, along with her rapists.

Local laws in Dubai include laws against extramarital sex and drinking alcohol in public places. Additionally according to the Qur’an (2:282), a woman’s testimony is only worth of half that of a man’s in court. Without four witnesses, according to the Qur’an (24:13), the accuser is considered the liar in the eyes of Allah. Though rape is considered piracy of the body or hirabah, without witnesses, women in this situation are considered to actually be confessing to having sex.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki

Students Accused of "Devil Worship" in Jordan

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 11:16 a.m. DST, 28 March 2013

Jordan Student Elections, Photo by Roba Al-AssiBEIRUT, JORDAN - Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls for the release of five Al al-Bayt university students who are accused of desecrating the Quran and engaging in devil worship.

The students were accused of ripping and burning Quran manuscripts while performing a “religious ritual.” Prior to their detainment, they were attacked by a crowd of other students. HRC wants these attackers to be brought to justice.

HRC additionally said that authorities in Jordan should investigate reported remarks, which include remarks by well-known Salafi Shaikh, that advocate for the students’ deaths. Further, HRC said that authorities should prosecute those who made incitements to murder.

Other Al al-Bayt students alleged that the five detainees were engaged in “devil worship” and desecrated the Quran, however relatives to the detainees claim there have been no evidence of criminal behavior presented.

One United States based rights groups said that the sister of one of the detained students said that approximately 200 students attacked her sister and four others after the desecration of the Quran rumor spread throughout campus, Aljazeera reports. The group statement further said, “She said the attackers appeared to have targeted the five students because they frequently dress in black and are rock music devotees.”

A father of one of the detainees told HRC that his son phoned him in the morning of March 12 begging for help, saying, “Father they are beating me and I don’t know why.”

The Jordanian news website al-Sabeel reported on March 21 that the Office of the Public Prosecutor extended their detention for another seven days while they investigated them for “sowing discord [fitna] and defaming religion.” The father told HRC that his lawyers said that the authorities have not filed any charges.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a majority Muslim country with over 90% of citizens practicing different forms of Islam. The Constitution provides for the freedom to practice one’s religion, so long as they are in accordance with the customs in Jordan, and so long as they do not violate public order or morality.

HRC said that Jordan is obligated as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to protect the rights to security for all people within the country, and to uphold rights of freedom of expression and thought, conscience, and religion. Additionally, under international law, Jordan cannot prosecute people for peacefully expressing their views and should protect them from attempts by others to limit their ability to express their opinions and religious beliefs.

It remains unclear what actually happened on March 12. If the detainees were burning the Quran, they could be brought in under charges of violation of public order. However, they have yet to be charged with a crime. Relatives of the detainees claim that the students did not commit the crimes they are accused of.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki

Muslim Brotherhood & Vatican Condemn UN Efforts to Eliminate Violence Against Women

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 02:37 a.m. DST, 19 March 2013

Muslim women in burqas navigate a set of stairs at the Al-Ghouri complex in Islamic CairoEGYPT -- The battle between cultural and universal human rights has resurfaced at the United Nations. The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held their 57th conference from March 4 - 15th to approve the declaration that would work toward the elimination of violence against women and children.

The declaration passed on March 15, despite the objections from the Muslim Brotherhood, conservative Muslim countries, and the Vatican. The text of the declaration has not yet been published.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood criticized the document, claiming it was “deceitful” and clashed with Islamic principles about family, community, and Islamic societies. Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, Honduras, and the Vatican, though having expressed reservations about the declaration, did not block the adoption of the declaration.

CSW was established in 1946 for the advancement of women and gender equality. The declaration is non-binding, however, Aljazeera reports that diplomats and rights activists say that the declaration carries “enough global weight to pressure countries to improve the lives of women and girls.”

Prior to the passing of the declaration, a participant in the negotiations said that Egypt will seek out an opt-out clause, which would allow countries to implement the declaration according to their own traditions. However, Egypt’s motion failed, several countries saying that this clause would undermine the entire document.

According to the Muslim Brotherhood, the declaration is destructive to the institutions of family and community, and that the declaration calls for the return for the early Jahiliyyah. Jahiliyyah is the Islamic concept of “the state of ignorance of the guidance from God,” referring to the time period prior to the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.

The Brotherhood also decried the declaration’s defense of homosexual rights, declaration of equality in inheritance, the use of contraception and abortion under the name of sexual and reproductive rights, and to cancel the obligatory authorization of the husband in travel, work, going out, or use of contraceptive.

The Muslim Brotherhood is one of the largest political forces in Egypt, and the group won Egypt’s presidency and controls the parliament. Its credo is, “God is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations.”

The Brotherhood calls upon rulers of Islamic countries, their Foreign ministers, and their representatives in the UN to reject the declaration. Further, according to the translation of the Arabic statement by Jee Paules, the Muslim Brotherhood “call[s] for women’s organizations to adhere to their religion and the morals of their communities and the elements of our social life and not to be seduced by the deceptive, misleading and destructive calls for urbanization.”

The Associated Press said that even Libya’s top cleric raised similar concerns, saying that the document violates Islamic teachings.

However, according to Aljazeera, Egypt’s delegation said “it would not stand in the way of the declaration for the sake of women’s empowerment.”

The duality between universal and cultural human rights has been long debated. Cultural relativism asserts that human values are far from universal, and vary according to cultural perspectives. Groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood argue that human rights are culturally relative and should be subject to State discretion rather than international legal imperative. If the UN were to take the cultural relativism as their stance, States could then use this as a way to declare that their cultural norms were above international law.

Universal human rights suggest that regardless of culture, that there is a baseline of rights assumed for every human being. However, what is considered “universal rights” are constantly changing. Ultimately, the continuation of the fight for finding a medium between universal and cultural rights over time will allow for the opening of avenues for human rights in the international arena.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki

Ambassador Steven's Death Provoked by Jones?

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:29 PM EDT, 12 September 2012

U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, Photo Courtesy of the White House

BENGHAZI, Libya – This morning the White House confirmed that the California born U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and four consular staffers were murdered during a mob attack on the consulate following the release of a video which denigrated the Prophet Mohammed.

Though it is unclear when and how the four diplomats died, it is surmised that they were rushed to a secret safe house after the initial attack to await evacuation by a U.S. commando unit.

Members of the evacuation team arrived from Tripoli soon after receiving notification of the escalating violence which claimed the lives of Steven and three others diplomats.

The Libyan government issued a statement immediately condemning the violence and sympathizing with the families of the murdered. Libya's Deputy Interior Minister Wanis Al-Sharif expressed surprise that the armed groups knew the location of the safe house.

"It was supposed to be a secret place and we were surprised the armed groups knew about it. There was shooting," Sharif said. Two U.S. personnel were killed there, he said. Two other people were killed at the main consular building and between 12 and 17 wounded. (Source: Reuters)

The violence was incited by a low-budget film which was made in the summer of 2011 but was recently promoted by Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who previously garnered international attention when he threatened to burn the Qur'an. He was subsequently persuaded to abandon this incendiary act by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

However, Jones remained undeterred in his efforts to provoke Muslims, and is reported to have been actively promoting the low-budget film which denigrated the Islamic faith, the Prophet Mohammed, and Arabs.

It appears that his vigorous internet promotion of the film which also portrayed Mohammed engaging in a sex act with a woman, as a fool, a philanderer, and religious charlatan, is a culmination of his original efforts to defame and inflame Islamic sentiment.

Sam Bacile, a self-proclaimed Jew and real-estate developer, wrote and produced the movie, but is currently in hiding for fear of being murdered like the Dutch filmmaker, Van Gogh, who was killed in 2004. However, that is where the comparison ends, because Van Gogh's film titled Submission was made in conjunction with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who desired to highlight the plight of women who are forced into arranged marriages.

The White House will certainly spend the next few days consoling the families of the victims while simultaneously investigating the attacks against the U.S. Embassies in both Libya and Cairo. The newly elected, President Mohamed Morsi who represents the Muslim Brotherhood has yet to issue an apology or any statement acknowledging the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Cairo which may have been more spontaneous than the apparently well-organized coordinated attack of the Benghazi embassy.

Though it is early in the process and blame has yet to be assigned, certainly a significant amount of responsibility for fomenting the unrest that precipitated the death of these four Americans needs to be placed firmly on the shoulders of Pastor Terry Jones for promoting an obscure video with the clear intent of provoking violence. He had precedence, he knew it was incendiary, and his motives are Machiavellian at most and irresponsible in the extreme.

As many have expressed today throughout Social Media outlets, this is not something that Jesus would have done because he advocated peace and ended all conflicts out of love. It is unfortunate that religions as interpreted by extremists have led to more heart-ache, tragedy, and death of human beings since time immemorial, and we would be well served to embrace tolerance in this era of greater interconnectedness.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias