Saturday, May 3, 2008

Fall-Rise of Islamic State

Noah Feldman wrote another master piece in March - and it is a must read to understand Sharia, it is at:

Mike Ghouse
# # #

The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State
By Noah Feldman

May 1st 2008
From The Economist print edition

The slogans of political Islam remain highly resonant, whether as a programme for peaceful governance or an inspiration to wage war. Two new books explain why

Princeton University Press; 200 pages; $22.95 and £13.50

Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to Al Qaeda
By Mark Juergensmeyer

WHEN the British and French empires were at their height, imperial service often provided an outlet for the talents of precociously clever ethnographers, social anthropologists and scholars of religion. On the face of things, Noah Feldman is a similar figure, rendering important services to the American imperium, both as a rising star in the intellectual establishment and in more practical ways—he helped to draft Iraq's new constitution.

A young professor at Harvard Law School with a doctorate in Islamic political thought, Mr Feldman is brimming with the sort of expertise that America's new proconsuls in the Middle East and Afghanistan badly need. Above all, he is qualified to opine on how America should react to the dilemma posed by the huge popular support, in Muslim lands, for explicitly Islamic forms of administration.

In a short, incisive and elegant book, he lays out for the non-specialist reader some of the forms that Islamic rule has taken over the centuries, while also stressing the differences between today's political Islam and previous forms of Islamic administration. In particular, he shows why “justice” is such a resonant slogan for Islamist movements. At least subliminally, it evokes memories of a dimly remembered era when Islamic law, as interpreted by scholars, acted as a real constraint on the power of rulers. To many Muslims, the legal tradition of their faith is not viewed as an alternative to Western democracy, based on secular law, but rather as the only real alternative to totalitarianism.

That perceived dilemma—either Muslim law and scholarship, or unfettered dictatorship—is not just a hangover from history; it also reflects the fact that many secular regimes which replaced traditional Muslim empires were dictatorships, with no separation of powers.
So far, that is a familiar argument. Mr Feldman becomes more interesting when he shows how the Ottoman empire, in its efforts to modernise while retaining some Islamic legitimacy, almost unavoidably grew more dictatorial and less Islamic.

The very fact that Islamic law was codified implied a downgrading in the authority of Muslim scholars; their task had been to apply a set of abstract, unwritten principles to an infinite variety of situations, and the written law code risked putting them out of a job. When the Ottoman sultan-caliph tried some cautious constitutional experiments in 1876, it appeared to his pious subjects that he was undermining God's sovereignty. This was not so much because the experiments seemed bad, but because constitutional change implied that an earthly ruler could tinker with systems that had been divinely ordained.

The modernising challenges facing the late Ottoman era dimly foreshadow, as Mr Feldman demonstrates, some of the problems of modern political Islam. But there are differences: the Islamists of today are not trying to reinstate the power of the scholars, which was a hallmark of all previous Islamic regimes. Instead, what modern Islamism proposes is an odd mix of popular sovereignty and the sovereignty of God; as though the people, having been offered sovereign power, freely decide to render that power straight back to God.
Another of Mr Feldman's paradoxes: any modern constitution or legal code that consciously proclaims its intention to be Islamic and deferential to God, will fall short of the early Islamic ideal, where the sovereignty of God was so deeply assumed that it did not need spelling out.

Mr Feldman's book is more descriptive than prescriptive. But many readers may conclude that in Islam's heartland only forms of governance that incorporate Muslim values can hope to be legitimate. If secularism has been imposed in many places by dictatorial methods, that is not because the secular rulers were gratuitously cruel; it was because secular principles had little hope of gaining spontaneous popular assent.

One huge question, unanswered by this book, is how minorities—practitioners of other religions or none—can expect to fare in countries where a form of political Islam is practised by the will of the majority. Even if the Islamic majority offers its non-Muslim compatriots generous forms of cultural autonomy, the infidel minorities can hardly be anything more than second-class subjects of an Islamic realm.

Whereas Mr Feldman's argument is about Islamic principles as a basis for creating stable, legitimate regimes, Mark Juergensmeyer, a professor of sociology and religious thought at the University of California, Santa Barbara, highlights the odd fact that the slogans of Islam, and other religions, are more effective than any secular battle-cry as a way of rallying people to wage war, or at least to live in armed readiness. Mixing analysis with reportage, he describes encounters with the leaders of Hamas, and with Jewish zealots who cheer the killing of Palestinians. He traces the advent of Hindu bigotry as a force in Indian politics and the role of Buddhism in Sri Lanka's conflict.

Any book that takes in such a sweep is bound to have errors of detail. But it is more than a minor error to describe the first decade of the Soviet communist regime as “relatively tolerant” towards religion. Still, Mr Juergensmeyer is right in his broader point—that in the early 21st century, religion retains a mobilising power that secular nationalism and universalist ideologies like Marxism have lost. If you are trying to make people risk their own lives and take the lives of others, then calling the enemy “infidels” (or, literally, demonising them) is more effective than calling them foreigners or class enemies.

In each of these books, there is at least one lacuna. Having made the fair point that scholarship and modern political Islam don't easily mix, Mr Feldman should have said something about Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the hugely influential and telegenic sheikh based in Qatar who seems to straddle both those worlds quite happily.

Mr Juergensmeyer distinguishes between the effects of secular nationalism and transnational religion, but he says little about religious nationalism, the opportunistic but effective combination of these two supposed opposites. As any thieving Balkan warlord knows, decent people often kill in the name of a half-forgotten national cause and for a religion in which they hardly believe. Using both tricks at once is especially effective.
The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State.

By Noah Feldman.
Princeton University Press; 200 pages; $22.95 and £13.50

Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to Al Qaeda.
By Mark Juergensmeyer.
University of California Press; 384 pages; $27.50 and £16.95

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.