Challenging Fundamentalist Ideology In Democratic Arena

Political theology and literature

—Ahmad Ali Khalid

The surrender of religious interpretation to reactionary clerics has opened a vacuum for conservatives and violent extremists to thrive. There are few clerics in Pakistan who have made any authoritative study into human rights theory and philosophy and translated this successfully to the public sphere at large

The exchange and competition of ideas happens through mediums, they do not appear in a social vacuum and literature is one of the most important mediums for the propagation of ideas.

It is clear that the major genre of literature in Pakistan is of a religious nature. Pakistani liberals cannot shy away from the fact that religion defines the consciousness of the people. The radicalisation of Pakistani society by religious groups producing, on a mass scale, literature about politics and civic values such as the validity of tolerance underlies this fact even further. People in Pakistan do read; what they read is of a religious nature and the use of language is cosmic not secular. The growing phenomenon of jihadi cyber media and publications further illustrates how radicals and extremists can tap into this religious sentimentality to further their discourse of political theology.

The answer lies in the language and the importance of critical and rigorous engagement with the religious traditions of Islam. Political ideology is concerned with goals and visions and the method to achieve them. It is quintessentially a normative thought process, discussing how things ought to be. It is a disparate and diverse corpus and tradition of thought, with excursions in multiple domains of human activity and intellectual endeavour whether it is science or economics. Hence, it is markedly different from political theology. Political theology is the interaction of political philosophy and faith; it is where a framework of scriptural hermeneutics defines political ethics and morality.

Hence, the whole conceptual scheme of pitting ‘conservative Islamists’ with ‘progressive liberal secularists’ is a false one. There are liberal Islamists, conservative Islamists and radical Islamists. Since Islamism in itself is an expression of political theology, it can have various persuasions, for instance the Tunisian Rashid al-Ghannouchi is considered a liberal Islamist, while the AKP Party in Turkey is considered Islamist but has introduced multiple democratic and social transformations that can be seen as liberal. Hence it can be quite alienating to many Muslim communities to equivocate Islamism with violent extremism. Be that as it may, conservative proponents of political theology are more media savvy, mobile and tend to be better at communicating their ideas to societies at large from the grassroots up than their liberal and reformist counterparts.

On the question of why, in Pakistan, there is no viable mainstream discourse of liberal political theology, the answer remains that the Left and liberals, while lamenting the loss of the secular paradise Jinnah was meant to have propagated, have abdicated and surrendered religious discourse to the conservatives. Pakistani governments have always made concessions to accommodate the religious right in all matters, including the repeal of discriminatory laws. The surrender of religious interpretation to reactionary clerics has opened a vacuum for conservatives and violent extremists to thrive. There are few clerics in Pakistan who have made any authoritative study into human rights theory and philosophy, argued for a liberal position of respecting rights in terms of equality and discriminatory practices and translated this successfully to the public sphere at large.

Whereas conservatives frequently publish pamphlets and manuals denouncing concepts such as human rights and democracy, arguing for a crass cultural and ethical relativism, liberals have been trying to accommodate this rather than directly challenging the weak religious foundations of this political theology. In Pakistan the puritanical strains of religious tradition are dictating political norms and they remain unchallenged in terms of counter liberal political theologies. It is no good to simply quote a few Quranic verses and have a piecemeal application and utilitarian use of religious rhetoric to combat this phenomenon; a deep and critical engagement with the religious tradition is needed to produce new hermeneutical, ethical and political frameworks. This can only be done through the printed word.

For Pakistani liberals to have a truly transformational effect, they need to speak in the religious idiom and bring to the table a rigorous and charismatic theology of liberality. It is critical to talk about the arts, Urdu literature and the humanities but not as a hope that it will act as a creative buffer against radicalisation. The real buffer against terrorism with a religious impulse is a culture of religious tolerance and pluralism borne out of a unique theology of liberality in combination with these aforementioned disciplines.

Examples of liberal theology, the use of the religious tradition to cultivate democratic sensibilities and cherishment of tolerance and diversity do exist among Muslim intellectuals. Unfortunately, their presence is being felt mainly in traditionally non-Muslim societies in the US and Europe. There is an issue of outspoken religious liberals being exiled or forced out from their own countries due to their writings such as Nasr Abu Zayd in Egypt, Abdul Karim Soroush in Iran or the late Professor Fazlur Rahman in Pakistan. These are the theologians and religious intellectuals who call for greater democracy, tolerance and pluralism, but do so from within the religious tradition which is why their voices are more potent than say the secular left who try and locate these same concepts but in a foreign idiom. That is not to say that one should reject an idea on the basis of its origin. However, this is the reality of social and political discourse in Muslim societies.

Conservatives and the right cannot alone determine social, political or cultural norms, since they have a second hand and superficial grasp of the complex and interconnected issues associated with the establishment of such norms. Hence, there is a requirement for Muslim intellectuals in other traditions to contribute to the process of religious interpretation. In short, a reintroduction of critical rationalism back into the jurisprudential and ethical-legal traditions of Islam has been one of the defining contours of the projects of these intellectuals.

In short, liberals need to break the monopoly conservatives have over religious discourse in Pakistan. Liberals and progressives should not concede religious discourse to conservatives. Rather, they should reclaim the arena of religious interpretation and challenge these conservative political theologies. In order to move from the fanaticism and intolerance that brings about so much bloodshed, we can draw on our own religious traditions, such as the Prophet’s (PBUH) saying, “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.” Moving from jihad to ijtihad is needed to shape a religiosity that endorses rationalism, pluralism and diversity.

The writer is a student at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England

Russia won’t immediately send troops to Kyrgyzstan

[It is not in Russia’s interests at this time, to intervene militarily in Kyrgyzstan.  Russia’s allies, the Uzbeks have been the target of ethnic cleansing, but that apparently is no reason to help-out.  Russia’s allies, the Uzbek govt., has stopped the flow of US materiel to Afghanistan.  The world is getting sick and tired of American and Russian mind games.]

Russia won’t immediately send troops to Kyrgyzstan

By D. Dalton Bennett, AP
Ethnic Uzbek gather near the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in southern Kyrgyzstan, on Saturday, trying to seek refuge in Uzbekistan from mobs of Kyrgyz men attacking the minority Uzbek community.
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — Kyrgyzstanasked Russia for military help Saturday to quell ethnic rioting in the central Asian nation, but the Kremlin refused to immediately send troops and offered only humanitarian assistance. Nearly 70 people were reported killed and 945 wounded in the violence.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva acknowledged that her government has lost control over the south as its main city of Osh, the country’s second largest, slid further into chaos and thousands of minority Uzbeks fled to the border. Her government sent troops and armor into the city of 250,000, but they have failed to stop the rampage.

Otunbayeva asked Russia early Saturday to send in troops, but the Kremlin responded that it wouldn’t meddle into what it described as Kyrgyzstan’s internal conflict.

“It’s a domestic conflict, and Russia now doesn’t see conditions for taking part in its settlement,” Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said in Moscow without elaborating. She added in a statement that Russia will consult other members of a security pact of ex-Soviet nations on the possibility of sending a joint peacekeeping force to Kyrgyzstan.

Timakova said the government would send a plane to Kyrgyzstan to deliver humanitarian supplies and help evacuate the victims of the violence.

Kyrgyzstan hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases, but they are in the north. Russia has about 500 troops there, mostly air force personnel, and would have to airlift more if it decides to help. The United States has the Manas air base in the capital, Bishkek, that is a crucial supply hub for the coalition fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, but it was not known if interim government had asked for any U.S. military help.

Much of central Osh was on fire Saturday, and the sky was black with smoke. Gangs of young Kyrgyz men armed with firearms and metal bars marched on minority Uzbek neighborhoods and set homes on fire. Stores were looted and the city was running out of food.

Thousands of terrified ethnic Uzbeks were rushing toward the nearby border with Uzbekistan. An Associated Press reporter there saw the bodies of children killed in the panicky stampede.

“The situation in the Osh region has spun out of control,” Otunbayeva told reporters. “Attempts to establish a dialogue have failed, and fighting and rampages are continuing. We need outside forces to quell confrontation.”

The unrest is the worst violence since former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was toppled in a bloody uprising in April and fled the country. It comes as a crucial test of the interim government’s ability to control the country, hold a June 27 vote on a new constitution and go ahead with new parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

Otunbayeva on Saturday blamed Bakiyev’s family for instigating the unrest in Osh, saying they aimed to derail the constitutional referendum.

Ethnic tensions have long simmered in the Ferghana Valley, split by whimsically carved borders among Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that were drawn up on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin‘s orders. In 1990, hundreds of people were killed in a violent land dispute between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh, and only the quick deployment of Soviet troops quelled the fighting.

The official toll rose Saturday to at least 69 people dead and 945 wounded, the Health Ministry said. The real figures may be much higher because doctors and human rights workers said ethnic Uzbeks were too afraid to seek hospital treatment.

At a hospital in the Nariman district, near Osh airport, an AP photographer saw the bodies of 10 people killed in fighting, and a health worker said a pregnant woman also died after being unsuccessfully treated for gunshot wounds.

In mainly Uzbek areas on the edge of Osh, residents painted the letters “SOS” on the road in a futile bid for help.

Otunbayeva said there were food shortages in Osh after virtually all stores were looted or shut. A state of emergency was declared around Osh and the government sent armored vehicles, troops and helicopters to pacify fighting that erupted late Thursday. Fighting quieted down Friday night but resumed with new strength Saturday.

“Young men in white masks are marauding and stealing from the remaining stores, offices and houses, and then setting them on fire,” said Bakyt Omorkulov, a member of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, a non-governmental organization.

Omorkulov said ethnic Uzbeks called to say their houses were on fire and they were terrified. “They called us and were sobbing into the phone, but what can we do?” Omorkulov said.

From the Osh airport, where hundreds of arriving passengers were stranded, fire from heavy machine guns and automatic weapons was heard as troops tried to gain control of roads into the city.

Omurbek Suvanaliyev, a leader of the Ata-Zhurt political party that tried to organize local militia, said the warring parties even used armored vehicles in fighting.

“It’s a real war,” he said. “Everything is burning, and bodies are lying on the streets.”

Police and residents said young Kyrgyz men with metal bars and guns were streaming into Osh by road from other parts of the country and marching toward Uzbek neighborhoods.

At one border crossing, a crowd of refugees, mostly women and children, fashioned improvised flimsy bridges out of planks and ladders to traverse the ditches marking the border.

Additional reinforcements were arriving at the Osh airport, including 100 elite police officers from Bishkek. “Our task is to restore the constitutional order,” said the group’s leader Nur Mambetaliyev.

Turkmenistan proposes to hold inter-Afghani peace talks under UN aegis

Turkmenistan proposes to hold inter-Afghani peace talks under UN aegis

Turkmenistan, Baku, June 12 / Trend H. Hasanov /
“The Turkmen side is ready to provide its own political space to hold inter-Afghani peace talks under UN aegis, as well as necessary conditions for such a process,” Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov said at the meeting of the Council of SCO member-states, observer-countries and distinguished guests.

“We stand for peaceful settlement of the situation in Afghanistan. It means the development of new political and diplomatic mechanisms for resolving the Afghan problem,” he said, recalling that United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy Central Asia was opened in December 2007 in Ashgabat.

“Afghanistan is our neighbor and friend. That is why we always pay great attention to the difficult issues related to Afghanistan. We support international efforts to bring peace and security in Afghanistan, the reconstruction of the socio-economic infrastructure,” he said.

Berdimuhammedov noted that Turkmenistan will continue to assist the Afghan people, primarily in the humanitarian sphere, in the construction of social infrastructure, supplies of electricity and fuel. It is a concrete contribution to the economic development of Afghanistan.

“Being deeply interested in establishing reliable guarantees of universal peace and security, Turkmenistan is considering the strengthening of stability in the Central Asian and Caspian regions, and of course in Afghanistan as one of the main priorities,” he stressed.

“Turkmenistan’s foreign policy remains unchanged. It follows the fundamental principles of positive neutrality, carries out a strategic partnership for global peace, progress and creative development with all countries and competent international organizations, including SCO.

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U.S strives to improve relations with Azerbaijan by reconsidering its foreign political positions

Experts: U.S strives to improve relations with Azerbaijan by reconsidering its foreign political positions

Azerbaijan, Baku, June 9 / Trend E. Tariverdiyeva /

The Administration of the White House intends to establish relations with Azerbaijan, deteriorated last year, recognizing the importance of the country as a strategic partner in the region, experts said.

“Azerbaijan can expect the U.S to make strong efforts to improve relations given the need for Azeri support in the continuing nine-year-long war in Afghanistan possibly reaching its climax, as well as Azerbaijan’s geostrategic location regarding oil and possible membership in NATO,” U.S expert on South Caucasus, professor of political science at Tennessee Technological University, Michael Gunter, said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates brought a letter from Barack Obama addressed to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during his visit to Baku June 6-7.

The head of the White House thanked the Azerbaijani leader for supporting of the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, and expressed hope for expanding and intensifying of the Azerbaijani-U.S ties.

“The United States recognize the important contribution of Azerbaijan in ensuring regional and international security. I hope that we will be able to broaden and deepen our relations in the next months and years,” the letter said.

Gates also told about U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s expected visit to Baku.
The relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan have significantly deteriorated after Washington insisted on opening of the Turkish-Armenian border without considering the interests of Azerbaijan. The U.S. Congress’s provision of humanitarian assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh to the amount of $8 million added fuel to the fire.

A resolution on so-called “genocide” of Armenians in March 2010 adopted by the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs played another negative role in the deterioration of the complex relations between Washington and Baku.
Experts said that after the failure of the Armenian-Turkish process, lobbied by the United States, Washington has revised some foreign political positions. It is now trying to mend relations with Baku.

The Obama letter, Biden and Clinton visits, and Bryza appointment are all part of the effort to improve U.S-Azeri relations, U.S expert on South Caucasus and Turkey, Professor of Government and Politics, Department of Public and International Affairs, Mark N. Katz, said.

The Obama Administration that its previous effort to improve Turkish-U.S relations would lead to an improvement in Azeri-Armenian relations as well.  This, of course, did not occur, he said.

“The Obama Administration now understands that Azerbaijan needs to be included in the diplomatic effort, Katz told Trend via e-mail.

Azerbaijani political analyst Tofig Abbasov said that the U.S. definitely deals with restoration of shaky relations with Azerbaijan.
It is a paradox that the U.S lost much from the suspended state bonds, he said.
“I would say that their positions rapidly weaken in the Eurasian space. In case of loss of Azerbaijan, Americans can lose not only a major transit link, but also a partner with a positive image, which functionally affects the geopolitical situation in the region,” “Lider-TV” analytic group expert Tofig Abbasov toldTrend.
It is too bad that Washington made attempts to rein Azerbaijan, although the country does not deserve such a treatment, he said.

All of this means a more balanced U.S position regarding Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, Gunter said.

“The U.S appointment of Matthew Bryza further indicates the importance the U.S now places on Azerbaijan as Bryza is most knowledgeable concerning the post-Soviet situation,” Gunter told Trend via e-mail.

Improvement of relations between Azerbaijan and Georgia is connected with a gradual reconsideration of some of foreign political actions by the United States that were taken during Barack Obama’s administration in the White House at first, former Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan, deputy executive director of the Foundation “Russian world” Vasiliy Istratov said.
Istratov said that not all actions of the Obama administration were ready for enduring the test of time in long-term-prospect.

Now the Obama administration has to gradually re-from. The changes that occur in the relations of Azerbaijan and the U.S. are not associated with certain actions of Baku, but with Washington’s position, in which a realistic interpretation of events prevailed, Istratov said.

“Many questions which the Obama administration wanted to solve by Cavalry raids on the international scene, not solved. For this reason, they return to certain basic points,” – he said.

Time will tell how much one can derive benefit for the South Caucasus region, Istratov said.

Experts said that Azerbaijan began to play a large role for the U.S. and because of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Washington.

Just as importantly, with the deterioration in Turkish-American relations that has occurred, improving U.S-Azeri relations now appears to be both more urgent and more achievable than improving U.S-Turkish relations, Katz said.

Abbasov said that the U.S. really in a position to influence the improvement of the situation in the Caucasus region by pressing on Armenia for it to cease speculating by the myth of “genocide” and return to its former pre-war borders.
“Washington has all the tools and capabilities that include parallelization of efforts with Russia, France and other countries,” he said.
He said that such a development will benefit not only Azerbaijan, but also the mediating countries, as recovery of the great powers’ image lies through healthy and mediation.
Experts said that improvement degree of relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan depends on many factors.

Katz said that whether the U.S effort to improve relations with Azerbaijan will succeed, very much depends on whether the leadership in both countries want it to succeed enough to work at it, Katz said.

It is possible that the U.S-Azeri relationship will now improve, but this is not inevitable, he said.

Therefore, if Azerbaijan is interested, its relations with the U.S stand to improve considerably in the near future, Gunter said.

However, Russia will certainly watch this development very closely, Gunter said.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at trend@trend.az

Turkey at the Crossroads of Neo-Ottomanism and Neo-Liberalism

[Will Turkey throw its weight behind visions of a “Middle East Union,” or remain faithful to the complex dreams of a “Greater Middle East”? ]

Sevil KÜÇÜKKOŞUM
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

Increasing economic integration between Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan has prompted visions of a new “Middle East Union” to rival the EU, but Turkish officials have taken pains to downplay the idea.

“It would be more accurate to call it a regional-cooperation model rather than a union,” diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Friday. In describing what he has in mind, however, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu seems to be talking about something more than mere regional cooperation.

“From Kars in Turkey, to Morocco and Mauritania, from Sinop in Turkey to Sudan, from the Bosphorus to the Gulf of Aden, Turkish and Arab geographies own the most strategic belt in the world,” Davutoğlu said at the Turkish-Arab Cooperation Forum held Thursday in Istanbul, expanding on the idea of the current cooperation. “We want to turn it into a security and economic-integration belt.”

The foreign minister’s reference to a region ruled for centuries by the Ottoman Empire may reignite debate about whether the Turkish government is pursuing a policy of neo-Ottomanism and shifting its gaze away from its tradition Western orientation.

A change in foreign-policy direction was rejected by top members of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, on Friday, with Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin saying there had been no change in the country’s policies and that “Turkey is not going anywhere.”

Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan have announced an agreement on integrating their economies through creating free-trade zones in a borderless region. The four countries have also agreed to set up a joint council for cooperation, which other countries may be able to join in the future.

“There are some other countries in the region planning to join this cooperation, but it is better for them to announce [their decisions] themselves,” diplomatic sources said.

This High-Level Quadruple Council will convene at the prime ministerial level every year, but ministers will collaborate more frequently, meeting four times a year under a rotating group president system. The mechanism is expected to enhance the economic cooperation between the countries. Turkey already has free-trade agreements with Syria and Jordan and negotiations for a trade agreement with Lebanon are being formulated.

The announcement of the new alliance came amid Turkey’s symbolic disengagement from Europe and the United States, demonstrated this week in its vote against the U.S.-backed sanctions on Iran. But Davutoğlu stressed that the zone of free movement of goods and people should not be considered an attempt to create an alternative to the European Union.

Experts drew attention to the fact that the AKP has implemented policies to boost economic ties with its neighbors and the Arab world since the party came to power in 2002.

“It will be beneficial for the global integration of these regional economies. Engagement of these countries with Turkey will serve not only the global economy but will also contribute to the stability in the region,” Güven Sak, the director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, or TEPAV, told the Daily News.

Turkey, a potential member of the EU with a strong interest in the direction of the European bloc, would not want to establish “a kind of a ‘Middle East Union. Turkey may merely be a gate for Western investment actors to enter the region,” Sak said.

“There will be more moves regarding economic affairs. Since Turkey’s economy is stronger, other countries will benefit more from this cooperation,” Muharrem Hilmi Özel, a Middle East expert for the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies, or TASAM, told the Daily News. “But stronger economic ties with Turkey will also provide these countries with a closer political proximity to Ankara.”

Since the AKP came to power, Turkey’s exports to its Muslim neighbors have increased sharply. Exports to non-Arabic Iran have grown 500 percent since 2002, while trade between Turkey and all 22 members of the Arab League has more than doubled over the past five years, reaching 24.7 billion euros annually. In 2009, Turkey exported $1.4 billion worth of goods to Syria and $690 million worth to Lebanon.

Two BSO-Azad activists gunned down in Khuzdar

[These motorcycle riding terrorists with maching guns attacked within sight of two FC outposts.]

Two BSO-Azad activists gunned down in Khuzdar

The Baloch Hal News

KHUZDAR: Two activists of Baloch Students Organization (BSO-Azad) were shot dead and another seriously wounded in Khuzdar, some 320 kilometers on southeast of the provincial capital on Friday.

The  BSO has announced a complete shutter down strike throughout Khuzdar district on Saturday (today) against the incident.

According to sources, unidentified armed men riding a motorbike sprayed volley of bullets at shop with sophisticated weapons in Koshk area of Khuzdar and managed to flee the scene. Resultantly, Abdul Sattar, Bebarg and Mehran workers of BSO, aging 20 to 25 sustained bullets wounds and rushed to the hospital, where doctors pronounced Abdul Sattar and Bebarg dead.

Sources said that two check posts of Frontier Corps were also set up close to the site where the said incident occurred, however, the attackers easily escaped after firing on the shop.

A large number of people, including former Tehsil Nazim National Party Asif Jamaldini and district general secretary of Balochistan National Party (Mengal) Javed Balochistan rushed to hospital as the news of killing of youngsters spread in Khuzdar.

Meanwhile, spokesman of BSO Khuzdar zone in a statement has strongly condemned the killing and injuring of its activists and announced a complete shutter down strike in Khuzdar district on Saturday (today).

Peace Groups Permanently Shut Down Army Experience Center in Philadelphia

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PETER TOBIA / File Photograph
Army Capt. Jared Auchey (center) in a humvee simulator with Gumersindo Vidot (left), 26, and Charles Hopkins, 29, at the Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills in 2008.

Victory: Peace Groups Permanently Shut Down Army Experience Center in Philadelphia

Army announcement made just days before planned protest. Several large demonstrations, non-violent civil resistance and regular vigils contributed to its demise.

WASHINGTON – June 11 – Franklin Mills Mall, Philadelphia, PA – A coalition of thirty peace groups has proven triumphant in their goal of forever shutting down the “Army Experience Center” in a suburban shopping mall in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that the Army plans to permanently close the facility. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/96031939.html

After almost two years of glorifying the “Army experience” and U.S. wars through video and war games, the Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills Malls announced it will shut down on July 31, 2010.  The $13 million, 14,500 square foot Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills Mall boasts dozens of video game computers and X-Box video game consoles with various interactive, military-style shooting games.  The facility has sophisticated Apache helicopter and Humvee simulators that allow teens to simulate the killing of Arabs and Afghans.  Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Rob Watson compared the Army Experience Center to “a heavy dose of candy cigarettes.”

Dozens of local and national peace groups joined the “Shut Down the Army Experience Center” effort in January 2009, soon after the heavily marketed Center got national press coverage.  The mall was the site of several protests of hundreds of people, with more than a dozen arrests.

Six of those arrested were acquitted by a Philadelphia trial judge on May 24, 2010, and prior to that at a trial last year, six arrested were also acquitted.

Elaine Brower, one of those arrested twice, whose son joined the Marines at age 17 and served three tours in Afghanistan & Iraq, became a vocal opponent of the AEC.  She said today, “This is a victory for the entire peace and anti-war movement.  The team work and coalition building that was accomplished led to our success.  We were relentless in our struggle to shut this center down, and we did it strategically.  As they say, a people united will never be defeated!”

When the center opened the Army announced it was designed as a pilot program and would decide whether to launch them nationally. As recently as August 2009, however, Jared Auchey, Company Commander at Franklin Mills, was boasting of the center’s “success” and claiming others were being planned.

Former US Army SSgt. Jesse Hamilton, now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, stated today, “By portraying war as a game, the AEC glorified violence to our children and disrespected those soldiers who gave their lives in combat.  As a combat veteran, nothing makes me happier than to know that the AEC will no longer have the ability to corrupt our children’s minds and disrespect our deceased war heroes.”

Bill Deckhart, Coordinator of the BuxMont Coalition for Peace Action stated, “I am just elated.  Being a peace activist we don’t get a lot of wins so we must savor this victory.  There’s still lots of work to do and we need to help create a world that can be peaceful and does not need to think about military recruiters and sending people to kill or be killed for corporate profits.”

The Army is planning an official announcement today and a news conference tomorrow, before another large demonstration planned for Saturday.
http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/53064

The coalition to Shut Down the Army Experience Center involved BuxMont Coalition for Peace Action, Veterans for Peace, Brandywine Peace Community, Iraq Veterans Against the War, CODEPINK, Granny Peace Brigade, Peace Action Montgomery, Peace Action National, NorthWest Greens, Woodstock Peace and Justice, Pax Christi Long Island & Pennsylvania, Military Families Speak Out/NYC, Delaware Valley Veterans For America and World Can’t Wait.