Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Khutbah Competition.


This is a great initiative, Insha Allah it may become a catalyst in developing a new practice of thoughtful, time sensitive Khutbah's. Let's reduce every sermon into writing as we will have records of it. Indeed, all the great speeches made in human history were written first and delivered next. It is a great trend to follow.

It will also inculcate the habit of speaking for Muslims of all hues, without any biases. This is a crtical need of the hour. I urge all to participate.

Khutbah Competition
Muslims for Progressive Values announces
The Al-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) Khutbah Competition

Feb 8, 2007 Los Angeles, California

Vie with one another in doing good works. Wherever you may be, God will gather you all unto Himself: for, verily, God has the power to do anything.” [The Qur’an, 2:148]

Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. [The Qur’an, 16:125]

In light of these Qur’anic verses, Muslims for Progressive Values announces the establishment of the al-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) Khutbah Competition, an annual competition and award for excellence in sermon writing for North American Muslims. Al-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, one of the best known and best loved American Muslims, was a brilliant orator. His speeches and sermons combined exhortation to justice, dignity, and righteousness, with extraordinary eloquence.

MPV hopes this competition named in honor of Al-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz will encourage other American Muslims to follow in his footsteps, to consider seriously the task of preparing sermons that not only teach, but also uplift and inspire. We hope to promote excellence in writing and delivering khutbahs throughout the American Muslim community, and to foster an environment where excellence in preaching is valued as greatly as the erudition and education of the preacher.

For 2007, two prizes will be awarded:
$1000 for The al-Hajj Malik Ash-Shabbazz (Malcolm X) Prize for Excellence in Sermon Writing, which is a juried competition
$500 for The People’s Choice award for Excellence in Sermon Writing, which will be a popular award based upon rankings given by readers who visit the competition website and vote on the khutbahs.

Additionally, the winners will be invited to deliver their sermons during the first conference of Muslims for Progressive Values, to be held at Sarah Lawrence College June 15-17, 2007. MPV also intends to publish the winning essays in a booklet which will be available to the public.

The judges for the first year include:

al-Husein N. Madhany, PhD Program, Medieval Islamic History and Theology, University of Chicago.
Kerry Gearin, lawyer; advocate for abused women and children
Jack Fertig, columnist; head of the San Francisco Progressive Muslim MeetUp Groups
Laury Silvers, Assistant Professor of Religion specializing in Islam at Skidmore College; founder of progressiveislam.org
Donations to support the competition are welcome; please click here to donate via paypal. Thank you!

Call for Entries:

The Al-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) Khutbah Competition Submission Guidelines:
The competition opens February 15th, 2007
Final Deadline to submit entries is April 30th, 2007.
Winners will be announced June 15th, 2007, at the MPV Conference.

Sermon entries for the year 2007 should describe ways in which North American Muslims can apply Islamic principles to better our world, country, communities, and the lives of family, friends, and others. Special consideration will be given to sermons which demonstrate how North American Muslims, individually or collectively, can take leadership roles in long-term civic engagement efforts. The focus should be on turning hope and good intentions into practical action, with the goal of making Islamic principles come alive to solve problems and move the Muslim community and American society to a better place.

All khutbahs should be between 3000 and 7500 words (approximately 20-40 minutes delivery time), and must be written in English. Qur’an and hadith may be quoted in Arabic, although it is not required. If Arabic is used, translation should be provided. Use of technical language from fiqh and theology, Arabic phrases, and other jargon should be kept to a minimum.The competition is open to all Muslims, of any race, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, and religious affiliation (sunni, shii, sufi, etc).

While imams and chaplains are encouraged to submit entries, no official position, title, or educational background is required of contestants. Judging will be upon the merits of the khutbah, not the merits of the writer.All identifying information (including name, gender, age, ethnicity, and contact information) will be stripped from the written entries before being sent to the judges or being posted on the competition website to ensure a fair competition. In the juried competition, each khutbah will be given 1-5 points in five categories:

content (including clarity, organization, understandability)
use of Qur’an and/or hadith
rhetoric/strength of argument
emotional appeal
relevance to the North American context

Thus, there will be a maximum of 25 points from each judge, or 100 points total. The khutbah receiving the highest cumulative marks will be the winner.
In the people’s choice award, readers will rate each khutbah on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the best, 10 being the worst). Each khutbah will be ranked according to the average of all scores received. In the event of a tie, the khutbah with the largest readership among those who received the top marks will be deemed the winner.

Entries should be in Times New Roman, 12 point, double spaced, and with at least 1 inch margins on all sides. All entries should include a cover sheet with a title for the khutbah, author’s name, address, phone number, and email. Only title, with no personal identifying information, should be on the subsequent pages of the khutbah itself.

Submission to this competition constitutes agreement on the part of the author that the submitted khutbah may be posted on the People’s Choice website and may be included in any compilation/publication of winning entries.

Email all entries to Sabahat Ashraf .
For further information please contact the competition coordinator, Sabahat Ashraf, at iFaqeer@Gmail.com


Sunday, February 25, 2007

8000 Female Hadith Scholars

Research: 8000 Female Hadith Scholars

This is an interesting development. Most of the opposition to this will come from a small, very small, tiny, weeny group of insecure Muslim men (make no mistake about it, it is not just Muslim men, all little men act like that ). Men who need to grow up and accept that whether male or female, child or senior, all are fully capable of dealing everything about Deen and Duniya.

The only superiority one can achieve is, how humble one is and how much good one does to Allah's whole creation. It is the Taqwa. It is ironic and paradoxical, that the exalted one is the most humble one.

Is there a need to feel superior? Absolutely not. Every ritual in Islam is geared to make us think and feel equal and most importantly humble. Arrogance and spirituality are inversely proportional to each other. Meaning - higher the arrogance, lower the Taqwa, lower the arrogance, higher degree of Taqwa.

Indeed, God is an equal opportunity creator, he has created a binary world, world of action and reaction. There are hundreds of verses where the opposites are mentioned equal number of times. Balance is the ultimate goal, for us Muslims through the concepts of Justice, Fasting, Salat and Zakat we can strive for that elusive balance. When there is justice, just nations, just businesses, just relationships, just economies and just laws, every one in the society will progress. This is not communism, where equality is forced, it is accomplished through choice and free will. One may want to be a millionaire and others may just want to earn a little and live a life, that is their choice, nothing superior or inferior about it, as long as Just means are employed to get there.

Our community, whether Muslim or not, can uplift itself by absorbing the essence of Islam - that of Justness. We should take away all the un-wanted barriers for every individual from desiring to contribute towards the overall development of the community. If we cannot encourage the strivers, we should learn to shut up.

Speak up! silent no more.

Mike Ghouse

February 25, 2007

A Secret History

For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the stock image of an Islamic scholar is a gray-bearded man. Women tend to be seen as the subjects of Islamic law rather than its shapers. And while some opportunities for religious education do exist for women — the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo has a women’s college, for example, and there are girls’ madrasas and female study groups in mosques and private homes — cultural barriers prevent most women in the Islamic world from pursuing such studies. Recent findings by a scholar at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies in Britain, however, may help lower those barriers and challenge prevalent notions of women’s roles within Islamic society. Mohammad Akram Nadwi, a 43-year-old Sunni alim, or religious scholar, has rediscovered a long-lost tradition of Muslim women teaching the Koran, transmitting hadith (deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and even making Islamic law as jurists.

Akram embarked eight years ago on a single-volume biographical dictionary of female hadith scholars, a project that took him trawling through biographical dictionaries, classical texts, madrasa chronicles and letters for relevant citations. “I thought I’d find maybe 20 or 30 women,” he says. To date, he has found 8,000 of them, dating back 1,400 years, and his dictionary now fills 40 volumes. It’s so long that his usual publishers, in Damascus and Beirut, have balked at the project, though an English translation of his preface — itself almost 400 pages long — will come out in England this summer. (Akram has talked with Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the United States, about the possibility of publishing the entire work through his Riyadh-based foundation.)

The dictionary’s diverse entries include a 10th-century Baghdad-born jurist who traveled through Syria and Egypt, teaching other women; a female scholar — or muhaddithat — in 12th-century Egypt whose male students marveled at her mastery of a “camel load” of texts; and a 15th-century woman who taught hadith at the Prophet’s grave in Medina, one of the most important spots in Islam. One seventh-century Medina woman who reached the academic rank of jurist issued key fatwas on hajj rituals and commerce; another female jurist living in medieval Aleppo not only issued fatwas but also advised her far more famous husband on how to issue his.
Not all of these women scholars were previously unknown. Many Muslims acknowledge that Islam has its learned women, particularly in the field of hadith, starting with the Prophet’s wife Aisha. And several Western academics have written on women’s religious education. About a century ago, the Hungarian Orientalist Ignaz Goldziher estimated that about 15 percent of medieval hadith scholars were women. But Akram’s dictionary is groundbreaking in its scope.
Indeed, read today, when many Muslim women still don’t dare pray in mosques, let alone lecture leaders in them, Akram’s entry for someone like Umm al-Darda, a prominent jurist in seventh-century Damascus, is startling. As a young woman, al-Darda used to sit with male scholars in the mosque, talking shop. “I’ve tried to worship Allah in every way,” she wrote, “but I’ve never found a better one than sitting around, debating other scholars.” She went on to teach hadith and fiqh, or law, at the mosque, and even lectured in the men’s section; her students included the caliph of Damascus. She shocked her contemporaries by praying shoulder to shoulder with men — a nearly unknown practice, even now — and issuing a fatwa, still cited by modern scholars, that allowed women to pray in the same position as men.

It’s after the 16th century that citations of women scholars dwindle. Some historians venture that this is because Islamic education grew more formal, excluding women as it became increasingly oriented toward establishing careers in the courts and mosques. (Strangely enough, Akram found that this kind of exclusion also helped women become better scholars. Because they didn’t hold official posts, they had little reason to invent or embellish prophetic traditions.)
Akram’s work has led to accusations that he is championing free mixing between men and women, but he says that is not so. He maintains that women students should sit at a discreet distance from their male classmates or co-worshipers, or be separated by a curtain. (The practice has parallels in Orthodox Judaism.)

The Muslim women who taught men “are part of our history,” he says. “It doesn’t mean you have to follow them. It’s up to people to decide.” Neverthless, Akram says he hopes that uncovering past hadith scholars could help reform present-day Islamic culture. Many Muslims see historical precedents — particularly when they date back to the golden age of Muhammad — as blueprints for sound modern societies and look to scholars to evaluate and interpret those precedents. Muslim feminists like the Moroccan writer Fatima Mernissi and Kecia Ali, a professor at Boston University, have cast fresh light on women’s roles in Islamic law and history, but their worldview — and their audiences — are largely Western or Westernized. Akram is a working alim, lecturing in mosques and universities and dispensing fatwas on issues like inheritance and divorce. “Here you’ve got a guy who’s coming from the tradition, who knows the stuff and who’s able to give us that level of detail which is missing in the self-proclaimed progressive Muslim writers,” says James Piscatori, a professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University.

The erosion of women’s religious education in recent times, Akram says, reflects “decline in every aspect of Islam.” Flabby leadership and a focus on politics rather than scholarship has left Muslims ignorant of their own history. Islam’s current cultural insecurity has been bad for both its scholarship and its women, Akram says. “Our traditions have grown weak, and when people are weak, they grow cautious. When they’re cautious, they don’t give their women freedoms.”
When Akram lectures, he dryly notes, women are more excited by this history than men. To persuade reluctant Muslims to educate their girls, Akram employs a potent debating strategy: he compares the status quo to the age of al jahiliya, the Arabic term for the barbaric state of pre-Islamic Arabia. (Osama Bin Laden and Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of modern Islamic extremism, have employed the comparison to very different effect.) Barring Muslim women from education and religious authority, Akram argues, is akin to the pre-Islamic custom of burying girls alive. “I tell people, ‘God has given girls qualities and potential,’ ” he says. “If they aren’t allowed to develop them, if they aren’t provided with opportunities to study and learn, it’s basically a live burial.”

When I spoke with him, Akram invoked a favorite poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” Thomas Gray’s 18th-century lament for dead English farmers. “Gray said that villagers could have been like Milton,” if only they’d had the chance, Akram observes. “Muslim women are in the same situation. There could have been so many Miltons.”
Carla Power is a London-based journalist who writes about Islamic issues.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Muslim Support for Terror

The myth of Muslim support for terror

The issue is not Muslims V. Christians or Jews, Palestinians V. Israelis or other wise, the issue is simply bad people V. all of us.

Blaming Muslims does no good, and it is downright stupid, it rather aggravates the situation to blame Muslims for the acts of a few. It is like saying Americans are bad people for the inhuman acts of those at Abu-Ghraib.

Throw me in the Jail for the wrongs I do, but do not blame my family, my neighbors, my religion or my nation. By blaming the religion, we are pissing of the good people who follow that religion.

Shoot me with a good aim, hoping I am the target but don't shoot blindly and run down Afghanistan, Iraq and the universe. Destroying others for the acts of few have caused the people to be agitated who would otherwise would not have been. We look like maniacs with an open gun with no aim. We need to laser bark

http://mikeghouse.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/12/laser-barking-bark-at-the-terrorists-not-islam.htm . We need compassionate people around to make the world a better place and not revengers.
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith and civic issues. He has appeared on the local affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS and FOX and has been written up the news papers. He founded the World Muslim Congress on the belief that we all have to live together and we might as well enjoy living it. He believes if people can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. His articles can be found at www.FoundationforPluralism.com , and http://mikeghouse.sulekha.com/

The myth of Muslim support for terror

The common enemy is violence and terrorism, not Muslims any more than Christians or Jews.
By Kenneth Ballen

WASHINGTON - Those who think that Muslim countries and pro-terrorist attitudes go hand-in-hand might be shocked by new polling research: Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria .
The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland 's prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "never justified," while 24 percent believe these attacks are "often or sometimes justified."

Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world's most-populous Muslim countries – Indonesia , Pakistan , Bangladesh , and Nigeria . Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are "never justified"; in Pakistan , that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh , 81 percent.

Do these findings mean that Americans are closet terrorist sympathizers?
Hardly. Yet, far too often, Americans and other Westerners seem willing to draw that conclusion about Muslims. Public opinion surveys in the United States and Europe show that nearly half of Westerners associate Islam with violence and Muslims with terrorists. Given the many radicals who commit violence in the name of Islam around the world, that's an understandable polling result.

But these stereotypes, affirmed by simplistic media coverage and many radicals themselves, are not supported by the facts – and they are detrimental to the war on terror. When the West wrongly attributes radical views to all of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, it perpetuates a myth that has the very real effect of marginalizing critical allies in the war on terror.

Indeed, the far-too-frequent stereotyping of Muslims serves only to reinforce the radical appeal of the small minority of Muslims who peddle hatred of the West and others as authentic religious practice.

Terror Free Tomorrow's 20-plus surveys of Muslim countries in the past two years reveal another surprise: Even among the minority who indicated support for terrorist attacks and Osama bin Laden, most overwhelmingly approved of specific American actions in their own countries. For example, 71 percent of bin Laden supporters in Indonesia and 79 percent in Pakistan said they thought more favorably of the United States as a result of American humanitarian assistance in their countries – not exactly the profile of hard-core terrorist sympathizers. For most people, their professed support of terrorism/bin Laden can be more accurately characterized as a kind of "protest vote" against current US foreign policies, not as a deeply held religious conviction or even an inherently anti- American or anti-Western view.

In truth, the common enemy is violence and terrorism, not Muslims any more than Christians or Jews. Whether recruits to violent causes join gangs in Los Angeles or terrorist cells in Lahore , the enemy is the violence they exalt.

Our surveys show that not only do Muslims reject terrorism as much if not more than Americans, but even those who are sympathetic to radical ideology can be won over by positive American actions that promote goodwill and offer real hope.

America 's goal, in partnership with Muslim public opinion, should be to defeat terrorists by isolating them from their own societies. The most effective policies to achieve that goal are the ones that build on our common humanity. And we can start by recognizing that Muslims throughout the world want peace as much as Americans do.

• Kenneth Ballen is founder and president of Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to finding effective policies that win popular support away from global terrorists.

Love & Islam

Iftekhar Hai Feb 22, 2007

Iftekhar, we are proud of you, keep writing and keep building bridges, that is the most productive susatainable good will. I urge Muslims to write to the editor, at least in 50 words, however you feel about the article. But please do write. The news papers prefer local address for publication. You can write this much, it is 60 words.

Your column has appeared in 7 News papers, and that is really good news. The more the better.

  1. Oakland Tribune http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune
  2. Tri-Valley Herald http://www.insidebayarea.com/trivalleyherald
  3. San Mateo County Times http://www.insidebayarea.com/sanmateocountytimes>
  4. The Argus http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus
  5. Daily Review http://www.insidebayarea.com/dailyreview
  6. Alameda Times-Star http://www.insidebayarea.com/timesstar
  7. http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_5279644

*Love and Islam*

One friendly neo-conservative keeps asking me if there is love in Islam, and what the Koran says about forgiveness and reconciliation. Another question I get is, what does the Koran say about loving your enemies?

They are legitimate questions, especially in the present climate of the war on terrorism.

The more and more I think about this, I am reminded that the Koran gives broad guidelines for establishing a peaceful and progressive society within your family, your community, your country, and the rest of the world.

Love is not mentioned as many times in the Koran as it is in the Gospels, because Jesus never lived to see the fulfillment of his Kingdom, whereas in the case of Prophet Muhammad, he lived, regulated, controlled and interpreted the laws when he established an Islamic state.

In the case of Jesus, love, forgiveness and reconciliation became central to his teachings, because he did not want his followers to become vengeful for cutting his life short and causing suffering.

With Muhammad, his initial life of suffering and pain were replaced with successful fulfillment of his dream, which led to the establishment of the Islamic state in one succession after another.

Reconciliation came in the form of establishing a law-abiding Islamic state through the interpretation of the Koranic laws that guaranteed successful continuation of Islamic states for more than a thousand years. Hence, forgiveness and reconciliation came more from the point of view of victors or the vanquished.

Thus, love, in Islam, plays a dominant role in raising a child from birth to 10 years, and discipline plays a major role during the formative years from 11 to 20.

During adulthood, love takes on a lesser role, when education, hard work and labor are key factors in arming a person with tools for living a better life. The goal for the well-disciplined citizen would be to take on the world and build communities with strong foundations based on sound family values.

In the case of loving your enemies, the Koran takes on a more practical approach of reforming and shepherding them to righteous ways before they get entitled to forgiveness.

Under the global war on terror, terrorists are not entitled to love and forgiveness if they do not change and reconcile first from within their hearts and minds.

Finally, Muslims should never consider non-Muslims as enemies, because the Koran acknowledges pluralism. Salvation is for all, as long as they believe in God and do righteous deeds.

The global war on terrorism is not a war on everyone of Islamic faith. It is focused on radicalized terrorists who take a narrow-minded view and who deny others their basic human rights.

The concept of unconditional love is reserved more for the immature or mentally unstable person — not for terrorists. The war against terrorism will ultimately lead to victory for freedom, liberty and justice that are so essential for establishing a society of love where justice can reign.

*Iftekhar Hai,* president of United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance (http://umaia.net ), lives in South San Francisco and is active in numerous inter-religious organizations.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Interfaith Dialogue

The Buzz Word of Interfaith Dialogue
NATION, Feb 7, 2007.
Tarik Jan

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was lately in Davos. According to the implications of his own statement, he wanted to engage the chieftains of world politics and industry into a dialogue on the Western-generated perception of Islam as the religion of violence. How far he was successful in proving that Islamic terrorism is a fiction we do not know. Leaving aside the outcome, it was a noble objective and he should be applauded for his desire to create a peaceful world where each nation could live according to its own value system, free from fear and insecurity. But laudable as it was, there is a little naiveté to it that unfortunately comes from the weakness of his basic premise predicated on certain presumptions. One, the world is rife with confrontation between Christianity and Islam; two, the West does not know about Islam and thus the moment we make them know, rising tempers will cool down to harmony; three, humans are rational – willing to understand and thrash out problems through patience and reason.

Unfortunately, none of the presumptions has a chance to turn into workable hypotheses for they are at odds with reality.

For any dialogue to succeed it is important that a genuine desire should prevail between the intending dialogists to listen and appreciate each other’s viewpoint. To our misfortune, this kind of mindset is non-existent because the principle of parity is missing in the situation. The West is on a surge of destruction while the Muslims suffer from the devastation of a calamity imposed on them. Whether we accept it or not being powerful and thus dominant, the West has no need for dialogue with the weak and the occupied. Power, as Henry Kissinger once said, is aphrodisiac. One may stretch the metaphor and say that virility impels the virile to ways of seduction, or even beating the reluctant into submission, control and gratification. The weak pleads for dialogue, the strong gives a shut-up call. The dialogue does not suit such a situation ruled by differentials and not symmetry.

Besides, interfaith dialogue labors under the impression that the West is ignorant about Islam and the moment Muslims engage it into a dialogue the misgivings would give way to harmony and embrace of friendship.

What adds irony to the West-Muslim relations is the discomforting fact that the West knows about Islam more than an average Muslim knows. During the past two hundred years of colonial domination, they have poured over the pages of the Qur’anic text and scrutinized the annals of Muslim history with the help of their academies of orientalism. They have also peeped into the Muslim makeup, its vitality and its weaknesses. In short, they know the Muslim psychology more than the Muslim rulers know about their people. To them, unless Muslims are torn from their Grundschaft (Islam), the anger they have will not leave their bodies. Islam motivates them to action – to resist and fight foreign hegemony. Islam therefore has to be reviled, castigated, and painted in odious colors as enemy so that it could be wrenched from the soul of the vanquished.

Equally problematic is the assumption that as opposed to Islam – a living faith – there is Christianity to talk with, which is not true. Undoubtedly, Christianity does exist – no same person can deny its presence. To think, however, that Christianity is the sole occupant of the power seat in Washington or elsewhere and as such understanding between the two can ease the situation will be misreading the Muslim-Christian landscape. The West has a bias for Christianity but no love for it. In its temper, the West is anti-religion with secularism as its battle cry. Any belief that negates secularism is thus anti-West and has to be fought with. In their thought, Islam is against reason (whatever it may mean); Muslim are emotional and lack intelligence as well as the civilizational level to equalize with.

The Bush era has brought Christianity to White House impelling studies like Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy, but other than retooling Christian faith to its geopolitical agenda, it has no genuine belief in Christianity, especially in the establishment and academia (exception allowed). The neoconservatives who call the shots in the Bush administration are making use of the Christian constituency and their beliefs in the end times, Armageddon, and coming of the Christ to fight satanic antichrist that would culminate in one-thousand-year reign of peace. The Bush administration by embracing such dispensationalist ideas, which serve its foreign policy goals of dominating the Middle East and adjoining oil-producing countries, has gone into a confrontational mould towards the Muslim world. Religion for them is a means to reinvent American imperialism and not a sustaining leitmotif. Interfaith dialogue in this context is not a dialogue between two faiths to find common grounds to stand together – it is not Christ in tandem with Muhammad (peace be on them); it is Caesar poised against Christ. How can you engage such a mindset into a dialogue, is perhaps being ignored.

Worse is the presumption that humans are rational and could be persuaded to reason out differences. First humans are not rational in the theoretical sense: they are only rational in a limited sense to gratify their conveniences and to give gloss of plausibility to their prejudices and desires. Even at the idea level we find ideas rooted in emotions. Unless we succeed in separating ideas from emotions a wrong idea would stay clung to its emotional context and thus difficult to synthesize and coalesce into a productive format between two groups of human beings. Post 9/11 president Bush said it more than once that he was amazed why some Islamic countries hated America. “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” That it was said in his Congressional speech added solemnity to it. But it was funny. Patrick J. Buchanan, that noble Christian soul, describes such answers to 9/11 as insult even to “the intelligence of a second-grader.” More so, when such statements come from the highest office of the United States of America: it gives a dismal picture of the rational state of a civilization that Mr. Bush represents.

Besides, the West does not believe in dialogue when it comes to Muslims. They may dialogue with the people in the western hemisphere because of their many commonalities, interests, and strategic concerns but Muslims are the pariah who have to be intimidated, insulted, and isolated as they are their killing fields. Edwards Said, that great observant scholar of cultural imperialism, cites Richard Barnet’s The Roots of War and gives us a peep into the U.S. psyche and its reflection in its “hyper actionalism” (my words). Barnet says the U.S. interventionism across the world has “all the elements of a powerful imperial creed …: a sense of mission, historical necessity, and evangelical fervor” that drives it to lay rules for international conduct. Being above the international system, if there is any, the U.S. is the sole arbiter of right and wrong, combining in its imperial person the role of a prosecutor, witness and judge against humanity. Can you argue with the law-giver of that super standing? And even when it agrees to talk it sets the framework asking for answers. Often it is an accusation, for example, you are a terrorist; Islam is a religion of violence. The accusatory statements are framed in a language and wrapped in a tone that puts the accused into a defensive mould, forced to say what others want him to say. He becomes part of the U.S. engineered peace process on any condition, no matter how great the cost because he has to prove that Islam is another “Quaker religion” and that no matter the kind of situation he is faced with, he will never stand up for his right because he is a peace seeker.

The only hope is to believe that there is a Christianity that can be drawn into a dialogue by invoking the common Abrahamic tradition among the three faiths. I wish there is such Christianity, unsoiled by the company of the capitalist West, and willing to build bridges of understanding with the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the prospects here are not bright either. For example, as cited by Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy, the “evangelicals have substituted Islam for the Soviet Union. The Muslims have become the modern-day equivalent of the Evil Empire.” Again with minds like these, where is the scope for a dialogue?
Mr. Aziz should know that dialogue was once a noble idea, it is now a cliché.
----------------- Please read the following Master piece article on interfaith dialogue

Manufacturing Islamophobia

Manufacturing Islamophobia
By Ram Puniyani
21 February, 2007Countercurrents.org

A friend's son Murali, a bright engineer, was studying in US. Murali is amongst the commonest of names amongst Hindus. This word Murali stands for flute, the musical instrument of Lord Krishna, which acted as a big lure for Gopikas (daughters of milkman) to fall in love with the Lord. But my friend's son Murali had a different fate. The US security agencies thought this is a name in disguise for a Muslim called Moor Ali, and the rest was the usual harassment meted out to the Muslim youth, resulting in Murali, returning to his home town, swearing at the US security agencies and all else concerned notwithstanding.

Post 9/11 the demonization of Muslims has gone several notches up. As such the demonization of Islam, Islam being presented as the new threat coincided; on one hand with the decline of Soviet states, and on the other with the coming to power of Ayatollah Khomeini, who succeeded in coming to power on the crest of the revolution which threw away the US stooge, Raza Shah Pehlavi. US was making merry with the Shah, who in turn was installed after the overthrow of democratically elected Mossadeq. Incidentally Mosaddeq to the great annoyance of US interests, nationalized Iran oil, and so was overthrow by a coup engineered by US agencies.

The phenomenon overlapped in time to pave the way for US media and other propaganda mechanisms to project 'Islam as the new threat', the earlier threat as per the US was Communism. This propaganda picked up by and by and today, God forbid, if you have a Muslim sounding name or face or any other characteristic, the 'security' hounds will get for themselves enough work to show their prowess. The average person on the street will think twice before shaking hands with you, the lurking fear being that you may be carrying some bomb hidden on your body somewhere.

Immediately after 9/11 2001 a Sikh was murdered in US, as the killer took him to be a Muslim. In many a European countries, the Muslims have faced intense intimidation, which is going up lately. The situation has gone to the extent that even the state governments have to wake up now if they want harmonious sailing of their affairs. Starting from innocuous looking jokes against Muslims, the matters have gone to the extent that a full fledged attempt is on to project Islam as the religion preaching hate and violence and Muslims as the intolerant fanatics. Every other person will tell you as to how Islam preaches to kill the Kafirs, How Jihad is an integral part of Islamic teaching and as to how Jihadis are mere Islamic soldiers. Here in India there is a long list of charges against Muslims, starting from the misconceptions about Muslim Kings breaking temples to humiliate Hindu religion to every Muslim having four wives twenty children to everyterrorist being a Muslim. As such of course, whatever be the underlying cause of these misconceptions, currently there had been enough number of incidents in which Muslims have been involved in such acts, to give a pretext to the political forces benefiting from this, to give bad name to the whole Muslim community.

To add to the problem, here in India, this Islamophobia, and fear of Muslims has come on the top of ongoing RSS project of spreading Hate against Muslims which has been in operation since last more than seven decades. The interesting point is that a numerical majority has been indoctrinated to believe that this minority is a threat to them. The US propaganda and RSS designs match to a great extent. This outfit has been spreading hate against Muslims using the distorted view of history and lopsided presentation of their current social life. This propaganda succeeds as an average person will not exercise her critical faculties at every juncture when seeing the content of what is beamed on the tube of idiot box or what one keeps reading in print over and over again. As such Gobbles did grasp this mechanism to the hilt and could create the phobia against Jews, as a prelude to the genocide launched by his mentor, Adolf Hitler. Even today one is not interested in the historical content of the use of word Jihad or Kafir, or one has nothing to do with the fact that no religious community can be uniform. But this phobia against the minorities has a serious political role to play. It forms the ground on which violence stands. Which in turn ghettoizes the community, intimidates its large chunk and its political rights are taken away despite the formal operation of democracies.

Culture as a disguise for religion; is shown to be at odds with the culture of others. Power stalks in the apparel of religion or culture. While this phobia plays it role in legitimizing the aggression against some countries or the carnage launched against them, it in turn also creates a society with deep fractures along the religious lines. The phobia directed outside also turns inside, to create scare amongst the more powerful sections within the community itself. Most of the retrograde processes are bidirectional. Hate outside creates intimidation inside. Creation of phobia against the outsider, the increase in insecurity within.

Even if we grant that the communities such targeted will become used to a new rhythm of survival under stress and fear, the bigger question is; can democracy survive in such states/ communities? While the political goals and purposes of imperialist powers on one hand and social elite on the other are well served in such an atmosphere, surely the progress of society is the victim on the altar of atmosphere of phobia against others. In this political scenario it is no coincidence that the sectarian understanding of communities thrives. One such sectarian nationalism was propounded by RSS chief, Golwalkar (We, or our Nation hood defined), where he asserts that Indians are basically Hindus, so others have not to be given equal citizenship. This proposition put forward in 1938, has made a strong social and political impact during last two decades. On similar lines, one does not know if there is an inspirational connection, the current US ideologue Samuel Huntington, in 'Who are we?' argues that US is essentially Anglo Saxon and others are a threat to the American ethos. While Golwalkar is the local sectarian ideologue Huntington is currently playing the similar divisive tunes at global level. The similarity between these two ideologues is striking on one hand and the coincidence of the latter coming precisely in the decades of nineties with Hindutva, Gowalkars ideology, picking up nineties, is not just coincidental.

The maters have gone too far. The targeted hate against the Muslims, the construction of phobia against Islam has crossed the threshold. While it served the US to attack many a countries for the sake of oil wealth, while it has helped the Hindu right to appropriate the social privileges, at the same time it has played and more so now than anytime before; is playing a counterproductive role to those states/societies and communities themselves. The schism between communities is acting on the nerves of democracies and weakening them as the process of societal development is getting retarded. It surely will have the impact on weaker sections of society and also will affect the economies worldwide. Humane values have taken a back seat during this period. This era of dark sectarianism needs to be overcome as soon as possible. The rise of right wing, rise of religious right at various places is a warning to the democracies and the progressive liberal elements all over the World that if this Islamophobia is not checked, the acts of terrorism will continue. The reality in the World is standing on the head many a times; though it seems currently as if terrorism is due to violence inherent in Islam and Muslims, the fact is that it is the political lust of vested interests that Islam is demonized.

We need to work on intercommunity relations, on spreading the words of harmony and peace, to look at religions as a set of moral values and not just a set of rituals or identities. We need to have the humane spirit prevail over the machinations of the interests of those out to grab the global and local resources for their own selves.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Secular Islam Summit

March 4-7, 2007Hilton,
St. PetersburgSt. Petersburg,


I have posted the pictures of the speakers below.

A debate roars in my mind about this conference, a few of you may have already made up your mind and few may be debating as well.

The possible responses are laid out in no particular sequence.

1. The conference is about Islam, they may have some ideas and questions that I may learn.

2. I cannot let the liberals take over Islam from the rightists. It belongs to the moderates, the 99% of us.

3. The conference may bring up questions that are tough to deal with and I don't see the need to talk about those issues, whatever they may be.

4. I do not trust these speakers, they are simply there to bash Islam. They have no sincere intent in reformation, but they are here to bash Islam and Cash dollars. If you want to make money, attack Islam, there are suckers out there to use them and be used. I have no desire to attend.

There may be other responses as well.

I invite other points about these people and those who attend the conference, please share it with us. I would have gone, had I not had commitments in Dallas.

Hasan Mahmud: I know him and I trust his intent, he is working on verifying the Sharia Laws if they meet the essence of Qur'aan - Justice and equity and questioning the ones that are not just.

Irshad Manji: She is determined to have the Muslims see another point of view, there is nothing wrong with that. She sees the mistakes the we interpret the holy book. Though many of us have a problem with her life style, she is not there to put Islam down, but some of our practices down.

Wafa Sultan - is not a reformer, she is a Islam basher. She will bash Islam and Cash all she can, that is her business. I have read about her and have written about her as well. She does not fit the bill of a reformer. A reformer stays with the people he or she desires to reform, a basher does not give a hoot about the sensitivities of his or her people. There are suckers who pay her and that is her business. But she is not there to bring any reason into Islam.

Ibn Warraq: All I have read of and about him is negative. May be there are positives things he writes about Islam, as that is the subject. I need to take time to learn. His write ups are mainly used by the Islam bashers, neo-cons and the extremists in other faiths.

You are welcome to shoot your comments;

Mike Ghouse

An international forum for secularists of Islamic societies

In the last decade we have increasingly heard calls for a "reformation," a new Enlightenment, or a secularization and liberalization of Islamic thought and practice. And yet there is to this day no organized international response. At the same time, a growing number of secular Muslims and secularists from majority Muslim countries have been undertaking these intellectual and strategic challenges independently (here “secularists” includes both those who embrace a thoroughly non-religious worldview, as well as those committed to separation of religion from government and robust freedom of conscience).


December 28, 2006, 12:23 am

Mona Abousenna - Mona Abousenna is co-director of the Center for Inquiry-Egypt, Secretary General of the Afro-Asian Philosophy Association, and also Secretary General of the International Ibn Rushd and Enlightenment Association. She is head of the English Department, Faculty of Education, and Director of the Centre of Developing English Language Teaching, Faculty of Education at Aim Shams University, Egypt. She is co-editor of Averroes and the Enlightenment.

Shaker Al-Nabulsi - Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi is a Jordanian intellectual residing in the United States who has authored widely-cited articles on Islam and Arab governments. In an article for the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyasa, he asked why Islamic religious scholars haven't issued a fatwa against bin Laden. In 2006 he authored an open letter to letter to Saudi King 'Abdallah Ibn 'Abd Al-'Aziz, demanding an investigation into a doctorial dissertation submitted to the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University that named 200 modern Arab intellectuals and authors whom the author accuses of heresy.

Nonie Darwish - Nonie Darwish is a founder ArabsForIsrael.com and author of They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror. She was born and raised as a Muslim in Cairo Egypt and the Gaza strip. She is a writer, translator and public speaker. She has a Bachelors Degree in Sociology/Anthropology from the American University in Cairo and was a journalist and editor at the Middle East News Agency. Her father headed the Egyptian military intelligence in Gaza and the Sinai in the 50's when Gaza was under Egyptian control. He headed the Fedayeen operations against Israel under President Gamal Abdel Nasser's leadership. He was killed in Gaza in a targeted assassinated in 1956 when Nonie was 8 years old.

Manda Zand Ervin - founder and president of "Alliance of Iranian Women," an organization working to bring the attention of the world governments and human rights organizations to the plight of the women and children in Iran. I have been actively working with some of the members of the United States Congress, some members of the Administration and European Parliament. I have spoken at the United Nations, Helsinki Commission and the congress of the United States and many other institutes and organizations. She is a frequent guest on BBC, Radio America, NPR, VOA, ABC Radio, and others.

Tawfik Hamid - Born in Egypt to a secular Muslim family, as a teenager Tawfik Hamid joined Jammaa Islameia, a terrorist organization led then by Ayman al Zawahiri. Hamid was chosen by this organization to debate and criticize Christians. To fulfill this role he started to read the Bible and began to realize his fundamental disagreements with terrorism. Hamid then began speaking regularly in mosques where he developed a peaceful understanding of Islam that is compatible with human rights. Hamid is now a medical doctor who also holds degrees in psychology and education. In media interviews and at lectures at UCLA, Stanford and Georgetown University, Hamid speaks out against jihadism. His most recent book is The Roots of Jihad.

Shahriar Kabir - Shahriar Kabir is a journalist, filmmaker, human rights activist, and author of more than 70 books focusing on human rights, communalism, fundamentalism, history, and the Bangladesh war of independence. As a result of protesting against government-sponsored minority persecution, he was imprisoned twice and declared a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International while several international journalist forums and human rights defenders campaigned for his release. The recipent of numerous awards for his contribution to Bengali literature, he has addressed at least sixty international conferences, seminars, and workshops on issues of peace, communal harmony, and human rights.

Nibras Kazimi - Nibras Kazimi is a visiting scholar at the Hudson Institute and a weekly columnist on the Middle East for the New York Sun. Previously, he directed the Research Bureau of the Iraqi National Congress in Washington DC and Baghdad, and was a pro-bono advisor for the Higher National Commission for De-Ba'athification, which he helped establish and staff. Mr. Kazimi's research focuses on the growing threat of jihadism in the Middle East, as well as prospects for democracy in the region. His primary interest is the national security of Iraq, and how threats to the nascent democracy there are enabled and coordinated by regional Middle Eastern actors and factors. He has traveled widely, most recently to Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and speaks Arabic and English fluently.

Hassan Mahmud- Hassan Fatemolla is a Bangladeshi-Canadian journalist, playwright and human rights activist who helped lead a campaign against the introduction of Islamic Sharia law into Canada's system of civil justice. He is the author of Al-Bhodorer Deshe.

Irshad Manji - Irshad Manji is the internationally best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith. She is circumventing censors by posting free translations on her website: www.muslim-refusenik.com . A senior fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy, Irshad writes columns that are distributed worldwide by the New York Times Syndicate. She is also producing a PBS documentary about Islamic reform, to be aired in 2007. Above all, Irshad is president of Project Ijtihad, which aims to reconcile Islam with freedom of thought.

Salameh Nematt - the Washington Bureau Chief of Al-Hayat International Arab Daily (London) and the LBC, the Lebanon-based Arab satellite channel. Among his previous posts, he has been diplomatic correspondent in London for Al-Hayat, as well as the Amman Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat and freelance correspondent for the BBC Arabic Service. For a brief period in 1999, he served as Head of the Strategy Unit at Jordan's Royal Court, an advisory post for the king. He resigned two months after taking the job due to policy differences with the government over democratic reforms. He returned shortly afterwards to Al-Hayat. He was Chief Political correspondent of the English language Jordan Times daily and Al-Rai, the leading Arabic-language Jordanian daily.

Dr. Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington (2001-2006) and a Visiting Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracies in Brussels (2006). He has been a Professor of Middle East Studies, Ethnic and Religious Conflict at Florida Atlantic University from 1993 to 2006. He has published several books and articles including in the Middle East Quarterly, Global Affairs, Journal of Middle East and South Asian Studies and other specialized journals. He has been interviewed by national networks including MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, NBC, PBS, Discovery Channel, C-Span, BBC, Sky News, CTV, CBC, Globat TV, al Jazeera, al Hurra, Abu Dhabi TV, al Arabiya as well as local ABC, CBS, PBS, NBC and others. He appears on European, Arab, South Asian and Latin American outlets and is a frequent contributor to US and international radio programs.

Wafa Sultan - a Syrian-American psychiatrist whose essays on Middle East issues are widely circulated in Arabic. On February 21, 2006, she appeared on Al Jazeera's weekly discussion program "The Opposite Direction" to debate Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli. The New York Times estimated that the video of her appearance has been viewed at least one million times. In 2006 she was included in Time Magazine's list of 100 influential people in the world "whose power, talent, or moral example is transforming the world."

Amir Taheri - Amir Taheri was born in Iran and educated in Tehran, London and Paris. He has been a columnist for the pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawsat and its sister daily Arab News since 1987 and a contributor to the International Herald Tribune since 1980. Between 1972 and 1979 he was executive editor-in-chief of Kayhan, Iran's main daily newspaper. He later served as editor-in-chief of Jeune Afrique, the French weekly specialising in Africa, as well as Middle East editor for the London Sunday Times. Taheri has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and The Washington Post, Die Welt, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, La Repubblica, L'Express, Politique Internationale, Le Nouvel Observateur, El Mundo, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and the Daily Mail, among others. Taheri is a commentator for CNN and is frequently interviewed by other media including the BBC and the RFI. He has written several TV documentaries dealing with various issues of the Muslim world. Taheri has published nine books some of which have been translated into 20 languages.

Ibn Warraq - Ibn Warraq is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry specializing in Koranic criticism. In 1996 he published the groundbreaking work, Why I am not a Muslim. He went on to edit a serious of anthologies: What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text, and Commentary; The Quest for the Historical Muhammed; The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book; Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out; and Which Koran? Variants, Manuscripts, and the Influence of Pre-Islamic Poetry. His latest book is Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism.

The purpose of the Secular Islam Summit is to bring together these thinkers and activists in an ongoing cross-cultural forum and clearinghouse to generate and share new practical strategies and disseminate these to the public and opinion-makers worldwide.

Speakers include Mona Abousenna, Shaker al-Nabulsi, Nonie Darwish, Afshin Ellian, Hasan Mahmud, Tawfik Hamid, Shahriar Kabir, Nibras Kazimi, Irshad Manji, Salameh Nematt, Walid Phares, Wafa Sultan, Amir Taheri, Mourad Wahba, Ibn Warraq, Manda Zand Ervin, and a distinguished member of the Iraqi government, among others. Click here to see their bios.

Download Secular Islam Summit brochure (275KB)

About the organizers Valentina Colombo is Senior Research Fellow in Transitional processes towards democracy in the Middle East at IMT School of Advanced Studies, Lucca (Italy). She is Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy (Brussels)and at the Center for the Liberty in the Middle East (Brussels/Washington). Her studies focus on contemporary Arab liberal intellectuals and the role of women in democratization processes. She writes a column, New Averroes, in the Italian weekly Tempi. She has just published an anthology of Arab intellectuals against Islamic extremism (Mondadori, 2007).Austin Dacey is a philosopher and writer with the Center for Inquiry specializing in the intersection of science, religion, ethics, and culture. He serves on the editorial staff of Skeptical Inquirer, Free Inquiry, and Philo: A journal of philosophy; and serves as the Center's main representative to the United Nations. He is author of The Secular Conscience (forthcoming).Michael Ledeen is an expert on U.S. foreign policy. His research areas include state sponsors of terrorism, Iran, the Middle East, Europe (Italy), U.S.-China relations, intelligence, and Africa (Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe). A former consultant to the NSC and to the U.S. State and Defense Departments, he has also written on leadership and the use of power. His latest book is entitled The War against the Terror Masters. Ibn Warraq is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry specializing in Koranic criticism. In 1996 he published the groundbreaking work, Why I am not a Muslim. He went on to edit a serious of anthologies: What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text, and Commentary; The Quest for the Historical Muhammed; The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book; Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out; and Which Koran? Variants, Manuscripts, and the Influence of Pre-Islamic Poetry. His latest book is Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism.

Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi is a political and human rights activist with a concentration on issues surrounding Iran, Khomeinism and political Islam. She is the editor of the English section of the website Iran Press News, which provides news and information about Iran that is generally not reported by the western media. Compiled and translated by Banafsheh, the information comes directly from the Islamic Republic's own news media, as well as activist organizations, human rights and labor groups, Iranian bloggers, and other sources. Born in Iran, she attended the American University in Paris as well as the French institute of higher cinematic studies where she studied film, linguistics and semiotics. She and her husband, Elio Bonazzi, an Italian political scientist are regular contributors to many U.S. and European political journals and publications. Banafsheh has also been a regular contributor on the John Batchelor Radio show. Banafsheh and Elio are writing their first book entitled The Unopened Persian Letters.

Friday, February 16, 2007

To Veil or Not to Veil

To Veil or Not to Veil
By: Ferrukh Faruqui


Sister Ferrukh,

Exceptional piece and it is indeed gripping. You have captured the imagination Thanks for writing this. Insha Allah I will be posting this to World Muslim Congress group as well as share it with Muslim women groups.

The Hijab ought to be a free choice, to wear or not to wear should not be compelled either religiously or socially or by the men in the family. Iran and Turkey’s two extremes serve as a good guide line to follow a middle path, the path of choice. The verse no compulsion is quite extensive and all encompassing in every aspect of life.

Rightfully, one's modesty is reflective in one’s heart, in one’s gaze and in one’s conversation. Indeed, this Hijab thing has caught on in the last 15 years. It is more like a fashion statement to Hijab, or it may give a false sense of superiority. Once one claims superior, the spirituality goes out of the door. Arrogance and Spirituality are indeed inversly proportional, greater the spirituality, lower the arrogance and vice versa.

We are striving as well to debunk the notion that Islam is a monolithic faith. You have expressed it very well.

The girl not responding to your Salaam, may not have to do with religion, I have encountered similar situations some twenty five years ago here in Dallas – when only a few of us were around. Any one who looked South Asian, we tended to greet them and they would quickly pretend they did not see me. In the grocery stores they will go hide in the isles until I am out of the check out. Incidentally, the word is South for the people you were describing and not South East Asian – and I don’t know what West Indian means – unless to mean Caribbean Indians.

Islam is simple and we need to keep it that way.

Mike Ghouse

To Veil or Not to Veil
By: Ferrukh Faruqui

Quick, what do the words "Muslim woman" bring to mind? Is it the austere beautyof a face untouched by make-up, framed by a sober headscarf? What about thefresh-faced girl celebrating the end of exams over coffee with her friends,their shining hair swinging free? Could she be a swimsuit-clad mother frolickingwith her family on a sunlit beach or a hijab-wearing high-school senior poundingdown a basketball court, dribbling as she goes?

Can we envision all of these images or only one? Some may argue that women inIslam are homogeneous in thought, action and appearance; witness a recentMaclean's Magazine cover depicting an ominous array of black-garbed,stereotypically angry Muslim women – an image as frightening as it is false.

The truth is that Muslim women come in all shapes, sizes and colors, with allsorts of perspectives on Islam, the world and their place in it. Some areoutspoken and vocal, while others are more retiring. Some veil and others donot. And that's okay.

Another often overlooked truth is that hijab is actually a minor issue, bothwithin the teachings of the faith and as we go about our daily lives. But as theMuslim world intersects with western (particularly North American) society, theveil has by virtue of its very visible and prominent presence become fraughtwith layers of meaning. It can be a symbol of menace to uneasy westernerswondering if hatred festers within the heart of the young woman poring over herbooks in the university library. To the civil libertarian genuinely concernedabout the status of eastern woman, it may be proof of the downtrodden Muslimfemale, subject to the whim of her menfolk. Some women choose to retreat into acomforting anonymity (especially the very few who choose to wear the niquab, orface veil) while others boldly don the hijab in an attempt to proclaim theiridentity, autonomy and ideology.For these women, the hijab is a testament totheir faith.

For others in post-revolutionaryIran and those languishing under the rule of the unschooled Taliban, an equallymomentous and arguably more dangerous act would be to fling off the chafingrestrictions of the chador. And certainly the veil in any of its manifestationsis as susceptible as any other overt religious symbol to being hijacked forpolitical gain.

Among the oft-cited reasons to wear the hijab – an opaque covering that hidesthe hair and neck – is to preserve a sense of modesty and a desire to be freefrom the leering gaze of the male.

An infinitesimally few go further and cover their faces. The niquab is mostoften seen in the poorer, usually rural regions of a very traditionalpatriarchal society where women are generally absent from the public sphere.Invisible shadowy figures all, they are often burdened too with the guardianshipof family honor (notwithstanding the possible illicit relationships of theirmale relatives).

This bleak picture is in contrast to the heady world of seventh-century Arabiaas the new religion of Islam became established under the stewardship of theprophet Muhammed (peace be upon him).This beloved spiritual leader was also theadministrator of a nascent Muslim state where unveiled women participated fullyin public life, attending the mosque not only for congregational prayers butalso to engage in discussion and debate the sociopolitical concerns of the day.No one questioned his or her modesty.

Islam eschews monasticism. We (men and women both) live in and are of thisworld and are exhorted to strive to reach our full potential in all fields ofhuman endeavor, be they intellectual or spiritual. We must accept ourresponsibility to become fully contributing members of our society, be thatsociety in Copenhagen or Khartoum or Odessa or Ottawa . The face veil may beimpractical in this regard. In any meaningful human discourse, we rely onnonverbal, often facial cues to direct and enhance communication. Especially inour pluralistic society, it is incumbent that we be mindful of the sensibilitiesof our non-Muslim neighbors and avoid erecting an unnecessary barrier tounderstanding.

Taking up the hijab can be a potent form of protest in places like France andTurkey where the state has unwisely proscribed its wear. In 1926 Iran , Reza Shah's minions forcibly removed the hijab from outraged women in the streets.But in 1979, following his triumphant return from years of exile in France , theAyatollah Khomeini decreed the return of the chador as if insensate womankindmust meekly accept whatever the mullahs pronounce.

What those mullahs, the state and often the press (both western and eastern)conveniently ignore is that, just as there is no compulsion in religion, therecan be no single edict on the topic that carries weight with all. Women's bodieshave again become a convenient battleground on which to wage ideologicalbattles, and not so incidentally to control those same women as well.

Cynical men on both sides of the divide attempt to manipulate the naïve woman:the deeply conservative to erase her from being, and the misogynistic fashiondesigner to create fantastically impractical, blatantly sexual outfits of dressthat few women would choose to wear. It's always our choice, though, to rejectthe ridiculous, whether it emanates from Parisian runways or the autocraticedicts of a self-styled mullah.

When I was a child growing up in Winnipeg , my siblings and I were the onlyMuslims in school. It felt a bit odd, but it was the only reality we knew. Noone seemed threatened by us; they were more bemused by our dark exoticism amongthe milky complexions of our Caucasian classmates.

Later, the Muslim presence in Canada grew and was reflected accordingly in ourprairie town. We attended Muslim summer camp, built a mosque and evolved as acommunity. During this time, I never heard the word "hijab."

Sure, we covered our heads when we recited the Qur'an and performed salaat, theritual prayer. No one scolded me or gasped if an errant hair escaped my gauzydupatta. No man succumbed to his baser desires as we wandered freely through theprayer hall attending lectures and day camps. We weren't relegated to a "women'sonly" entrance or space. We couldn't be; we belonged where we were.It was ahalcyon time.

Because the first Winnipeg mosque served as the only Islamic center of worshipin that vast unpeopled province, we were a multi-ethnic group. The majority ofus were immigrants from Southeast Asia, mostly Pakistan , with a smattering ofArabs from the Levant , some Bosnians, and some West Indians. A few of the Arabwomen, by no means all, covered their hair. None of the others did. It wasn't anissue.

However, things began to change. Political events beyond my ken at the timestirred the global ummah. Their ramifications reached even placid Winnipeg ,dozing on its prairie. Some younger Muslim girls were beginning to wear thehijab. It didn't affect me particularly, believing as I did that the decision tocover is a deeply personal one, an outward display of inner faith.

But when conditions begin to change, they very often continue to change andthat very quickly indeed. The previously tolerant atmosphere seemed to darken.Some hijabi women seemed to feel that theirs was a superior Islam, that wenonhijabis were floundering in stormy waters, were not quite as enlightened asthey were, and were perhaps even destined for hell. One particular incidentremains etched in my memory. Strolling down a wing of the local mall, I happenedupon a recent acquaintance sidling past me. "Assalaamu alaikum," I called,thinking she hadn't seen me. She glanced briefly toward me before continuing onher way. Discourtesy is always discomfiting, but this encounter was moretroubling than most. Upon mentioning the episode to a mutual friend, she noddedsagely, quite unperturbed. "You see, Ferrukh, she didn't say salaam to youbecause you don't wear hijab."

The matter-of-factness of this explanation was as stunning as it wasspurious, and silenced me temporarily. It did, however, force me to confrontsome hard truths about intolerance and to articulate to myself my own belief inan inclusive, loving faith.

There's nothing complicated about Islam. At its core is a belief in tawheed– the oneness of Allah and the acceptance of Muhammed, peace be upon him, as Hislast prophet. Its precepts are simple too: to be kind to each other, to keepfrom wrongdoing, to try to do the right thing. Surely then, common courtesytrumps any notion of a false superiority based on a questionable interpretationof the expression of feminine modesty. Would this girl be so churlish, I wonder,as to refuse to respond to the cheery "good morning" of a colleague or aclassmate?

Some time later, the same mutual friend confided to me earnestly: "You know,Ferrukh, just because I wear hijab doesn't mean that I'm better than you are."Gazing back at her with equal gravity, I responded quietly: "I never thought youwere." Dumbfounded, she stared at me until we both burst into laughter. Therelief of returning to the common plane of human fallibility from the rarefiedrealm of religious exertion freed us both from the invisible fence that aseemingly innocuous length of cloth had built between us. True modesty residesin the heart and is expressed in every word and glance and gesture. Its sistervirtue is humility. The truly faithful shun spiritual arrogance. Pride in ourown piety has no place in Islam.

Nor has unreasoning compliance with glib pronouncements uttered by complacent,usually unlettered authoritarians of both genders.

A multitude of women, a spectrum of opinion and a diversity of thought, allunited under the banner of Islam; this is Muslim womanhood. Bestowed withintelligence by our Creator, Whose first command to us was "Iqra!" ("Read!"),wecontemplate the Qur'an and find wisdom there. We look to the ever more complexworld around us and ponder the concerns that collectively weigh on us. Everstriving to find our place in North America, as Muslims and as equal citizens,we will raise our voices to confront the dangers that threaten us all – the lossof rationality to fear, of civilization to chaos – while resolutely marching tomeet a future in which the acknowledgment of our common humanity willInsha'Allah bring us to peace.

Comments added by Mike Ghouse on 2/17/07

Learning is a life long work, and all of us are engaged in it.

First of all, Qur’aan is a book of guidance and not a law book, and guidance implies freedom and discretion.

Apparently discretion was used when Hazrat Aisha (RA) covered her face in the example given below.

This debate was suppressed for centuries, as the arrogance of the keepers of knowledge did not allow any thinking. If you have to go to China to learn, did not mean much to the keepers, what they knew is all there is to know. One of the messages of Islam was to free individuals from the clutches of clergy.

Thanks to Allah, we are getting our freedom now, we are able to question and learn. However, we always need to seek guidance from the learned as an additional effort and part of checks and balances. We have to have the freedom. As long as we are within the core beliefs, we are fine.

Core beliefs:

Belief in one creator, belief in the Day of Judgment as our behavior in our life hinges on it, belief in Muhammad (pbuh) as he is the one who showed us the way, belief in justice and truthfulness as that fulfills God's vision of a society of equilibrium. (Qur'an, Al- Hujurat, Surah 49:13: O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah is Knower and is Aware).

Ritual mechanisms like Salat, fasting, Hajj and Zakat were part of the equation to put us on the right path.

One such ritual recommendation is Hijab or Modesty. Modesty is one’s heart, it is in one’s attitudes and it is a two way street. Modesty is for both men and women. In matters of faith, when Allah tells us that there is to be no compulsion in deen, then there ought not to be any compulsion on women to wear Hijab.

Modesty is given, all normal people, both men and women wear modest clothes. Most Muslim men and women are faithful to each other and most of the societies we live in “democratic or otherwise, care for the safety of the un-safe. The material form of Hijab that is used “from a shuttle cock Burqa to just a piece of cloth over the head ought not to be imposed on any one. Let it be a woman’s choice.

“No compulsion” is not selective, it is universal in application. No compulsion can even mean asking one if they are fasting in Ramadan, as it amounts to flaunting one’s own fasting and making it embarrassing to the other. You fast, because you are fulfilling an obligation, but do not compel others even subtly. It is between them and their God; ultimately, they are the one’s to account for. Not you and I.

Islam is about freedom and not compulsion.

No one should be a control freak, and we should not allow any one to compel us to do what he or she wishes. That is the reason we do not have a pope, we have the freedom to follow the guidance of Qur’aan. Following the deen is individual’s own responsibility as and how we live in the society becomes a communal responsibility. That is why we have to learn about each other (within our group and outside our group) , and know each other so we can figure out a peaceful way of co-existence

Jazak Allah Khair

Mike Ghouse

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Human Rights & Tolerance

Human Rights and Tolerance within Islam: Legal, Political, and Spiritual Perspectives

Dr. Robert D. Crane
Posted Feb 7, 2007

Part One

Tolerance and Human Rights: The Quintessential Oxymoron

One of the reputed proto-founders of the Great American Experiment, Cicero, stated two thousand years ago: “Before one begins the discussion of anything whatsoever, one should first define one’s terms.”
As suggested by the American expert in the psychology of communication, Patricia Nur Abdallah, the generic word “respect” is better than tolerance in defining the approach to human rights in Islam, namely, respect for individual and community responsibilities and for the human rights that derive from them.

The generic word “respect” reflects three different levels of a new paradigm of thought. They range from tolerance at the bottom as the least inclusive level, and diversity at an intermediate level, all the way to pluralism as the most inclusive level and in this sense as the opposite of tolerance.

Basic tolerance means merely, “I hate you, but I won’t kill you yet.” Diversity means, “I can’t stand you, but you are here so I can’t do much about it.” Pluralism means, “We welcome you. We have so much to learn from each other, because we each have so much to offer.” Thomas Kuhn’s path-breaking study in 1969 introduced the concept that paradigm shifts are the motor of history. As established frameworks of thought, such as tolerance, prove their own bankruptcy, new paradigms, like pluralism, emerge to explain and shape reality.

One of the best explorations of this subject, published in 2003 by Yale University Press, is William R. Hutchison’s Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal. The well-known scholar, David Hollinger of U.C. Berkeley, writes: “This is the most ambitious book yet from the dean of historians of religion in the United States: a wonderfully discerning exploration of how Americans have variously confronted and tried to evade the challenge of religious diversity.” The thesis of Hutchison’s book is that pluralism has never been institutionalized in America, much as Americans like to pride themselves on being a model of religious freedom. Calling for “new models for understanding,” Hutchison distinguishes “between a fact or condition called diversity and an ideal or impulse for which the best term is pluralism. The modern definition of pluralism as signifying an actual welcoming of diversity is a modern concept, which modern historians like to project back, without evidence, into American history.”

He observes that the very ideas of religious freedom and pluralism have evolved throughout American history in stages, of which the major ones in this “quietly persistent process of redefinition” are “pluralism as toleration, pluralism as inclusion, and pluralism as participation.”

Perhaps Hutchison’s most controversial conclusion, because it results in recommendations, is that the “melting pot” ideal “operated to suppress differences far more than to respect and utilize them.” He clearly details the lack of freedom inherent in pressures for “assimilation,” which amounts to both individual and community suicide. Although he has no specific recommendations, the thrust of the entire book advocates what should be called “integration.” This term, which he does not use, means that individuals of each group in society proactively bring the wisdom of their tradition to enrich the overall society in which they live. Hutchison instead uses the term “participation.” “Pluralism by participation,” he writes, “implies a mandate for individuals and groups … to share responsibility for the forming and implementing of the society’s agenda.”

The most extreme and most sophisticated example of patronizing intolerance in contemporary America, because it most starkly illustrates the reversal of truth and falsehood, was Michael Novak’s seminal article in the April 2003 issue of America’s leading journal on religion in public life, First Things. Its founder, Bishop Richard John Neuhaus, a convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism, changed the environment in Washington by his enormously influential book, The Naked Public Square. This journal and its elite pundits are today the world’s most influential force in shaping policy toward the role of religion, including Islam.

Michael Novak’s article, entitled “The Faith of the Founding,” represents an entirely new approach to Islam, because it is based not on generalizing from the actions of extremist Muslims but on denial of the basic fundamentals of Islam as a religion. The newest strategy is to single out the essential truths of Islam, deny that they exist, and assert that their absence constitutes the Islamic threat. This sophisticated strategy may be more effective over the long run than are the simplistic claims of Pat Robertson and Franklyn Graham that Muslims are bandits and are programmed by their vicious cult to kill the infidels, meaning anyone who opposes their plans of global conquest.

“Only Judaism and Christianity,” writes Novak, “have a doctrine of God as Spirit and Truth, Who created the world in order to invite these creatures endowed with intelligence and conscience to enter into friendship with Him. Only the Jewish and Christian God made human beings free, halts the power of Caesar at the boundaries of the human soul, and has commissioned human beings to build civilizations worthy of the liberty He has endowed in them.”

Novak contends that even though some Muslims may be good, Islam is inherently bad because it does not recognize a direct relationship of the person with God and therefore can have no conception of human rights or of government limited by recognition of the sovereignty of God. He rejects as a fraud precisely all that Muslims have always said are the central teachings of their faith. By portraying Islam thus as inimical to the very foundation of America, this scion of the Neo-Con intellectual elite casts Islam as a mortal threat to everything good in the world.

This kind of extremism is dangerous because it constitutes ideological aggression much worse than the simple invasion and attempted occupation of another people’s land with the stated aim of saving the world from chaos. This intellectual and spiritual aggression denies the possibility of pluralism, regards diversity as problematic, and views tolerance only as a tactic in a war to the finish against evil. This is precisely the kind of aggression that stokes the fires of extremism among its targeted victims and necessarily leads the most alienated among them to respond in desperation with the tools of terrorism.

Part Two

Human Rights in Islam from the Legal Perspective

We will address human rights in Islam from three different perspectives: legal, political, and spiritual. The Islamic legal perspective on human rights was developed over the course of centuries through Islamic jurisprudence, which is known as the roots or ‘usul of the Islamic shari’ah. And then we will address the political perspective and the practical matter that throughout much of Islamdom’s history the Islamic call for political freedom has been observed primarily in the breech.

Any discussion of human rights in Islam or in any other civilization should begin with recognition that the concept of human rights is new in the history of human thought. This concept is a product of the secular thought that originated in the European Renaissance, which was a unique movement to liberate humankind from religion. Most people in the world still view human rights in a religious context. Within this context, which is universal in human history, human rights have always been explored and developed as part of the higher concept of justice.

Justice is perhaps the most universal value in all civilizations, which is why there is so much negative reaction to the failure of American policy-makers to include freedom and democracy within the concept of justice as a higher paradigm of thought.

Both Sunnis and Shi’a have a common foundation in their classical reliance on justice as central to their Islamic faith, and they have a common need to re-emphasize this in order to apply Islam as a constructive force in the world. They also need to appreciate the central role of justice in the founding of America so that they can work to revive classical American and classical Islamic thought as the common heritage of Western civilization and indeed of all civilizations.

Justice assumes the existence of a truth higher than man-made positivist law. In fact, justice is merely an expression of this truth. The recognition of a source of truth that transcends the material of the here and now raises the question of linkage between the immanent and the transcendent, between the lower and the higher levels of reality, between “contingent existence” and “Absolute Being.”

The major purpose of religion and of prophets as intermediaries between God and man is to raise our natural awareness of the multi-dimensional nature of reality. Jesus, whom Muslims call the Prophet of Love, taught that as a manifestation of the divine he was an essential link. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This statement of ultimate reality and of the means to access it is just as true today as it was when Jesus spoke it 2,000 years ago and is perhaps even more needed, now that we have entered the most militantly polytheistic period of human history.

The study of justice in Islam is a distinct discipline. Although it has never had a distinct name, just as many Islamic disciplines did not have a name until centuries after they existed in fact, the best term for the Islamic study of justice might be ‘Ilm al ‘Adl. The direct English translation is simply “knowledge of justice,” which might connote a finished product with all the challenges in the past. In fact, the classical study of justice is heuristic in the sense that it seeks knowledge about the sources, nature, and praxis of justice, with the challenges lying more in the present as a means to build on the best of the past in search of a better future.
The simplest definition of ‘ilm al ‘adl is the search for transcendent justice as a source of wisdom to be manifested or embodied in a set of essential principles for a universal code of human responsibilities and rights. Only when people observe their moral responsibilities can any rights become real.

The purpose of all religion is to empower the truth, which exists independently of human beings but requires religion in order to be translated into principles of compassionate justice. The search for truth at the higher esoteric level is known in Jafari jurisprudence as ‘ilm al taqwa (knowledge of the One through love). The search to make it manifest at the exoteric or outward level, in the sense of balance through the coherence of diversity known as tawhid, may be identified as the major object of ‘ilm al ‘adl.

These two pursuits, the esoteric and the exoteric, as both the classical Islamic thinkers and their counterparts, Saint Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross, defined them, have ultimate meaning only as they fulfill each other. This is the essence of Islamic thought and of every world religion.

Justice is a normative phenomenon in that its applications must derive from higher norms or purposes. Rules and regulations applied without guidance from their higher purposes can produce injustice. In Islamic jurisprudence the guiding norms are known as the maqasid or purposes of Islamic law, or as the dururiyat or essentials, or as the kulliyat or universal principles.

Justice is important for Muslims because they consider that it is the translation of truth into practice and that therefore justice is nothing more than the Will of God, as indicated in the Qur’anic ayah from Surah al An’am, 6:115, tama’at kalimatu Rabbika sidqan wa ‘adlan, “The word of Your Lord is perfected and completed in truth and justice.” Its nature and substance, however, must be sought out through deduction from the three sources of knowledge, namely, 1) haqq al yaqin, known as Revelation; 2) ‘ain al yaqin, known as natural law or the sunnatu Allahi; and some jurists would say also from 3) ‘ilm al yaqin, which is the human intellectual processing of the first two sources.

In highly simplified explanation, the architectonics of justice in the Islamic shari’ah consist of a hierarchy of levels proceeding from the general to the specific, the highest known as maqasid; the intermediate or secondary level known as the hajiyat; and the tertiary level known as tahsiniyat, which might be compared to the specific courses of action in program planning.

The number and even the meaning of the maqasid are flexible, ranging from a generally accepted five a thousand years ago to seven or more in later centuries. Differences in interpretation depend in part on whether one is referring to the maqasid narrowly as law or more broadly as functional guidelines for public policy. The strictest definitions are called maslaha al mu’tabara, the broader as istislah, and the broadest as istihsan.

We may identify at least seven irreducibly highest principles. In highest priority, these start with haqq al din, which for six hundred years until the present third millennium was ossified in the Sunni portion of the Muslim world to mean “protection of true belief,” but in recent decades has been expanded by the greatest modern scholars, following the lead of Shaykh Ibn Ashur in the first half of the twentieth century, to mean “freedom of religion.”

Next come three sets of pairs. The first pair consists of haqq al haya and haqq al nasl, which mean the duties, respectively, to respect the human person and life itself and to respect the nuclear family and communities at every level that derive from the sacredness of the human person. The first one, haqq al haya, includes the elaborate set of principles that define the limitations of just war. The second one includes the principle of subsidiarity, which recognizes that legitimacy expands upwards from community or nation to state, and not the reverse.

The second set consists of three responsibilities that deal with institutionalizing economic and political justice. These are, respectively, haqq al mal and haqq al hurriya. Both economic and political justice are based on the principles of freedom through both subsidiarity and self-determination. It must be said that, more often than not, this second pair of responsibilities throughout much of Islamdom has been observed in the breech. And even when the principles are acknowledged, the derivative lower levels of institutionalized implementation have been ignored.

The third pair of maqasid consists of haqq al karama, which is the duty to respect human dignity, especially in freedom of religion and gender equity, and the duty to respect knowledge, including the secondary level of implementation known as freedom of thought, publication, and assembly.

Part Three

Political Rights in Islam from the Theoretical Perspective

In addressing human rights in Islam from the political perspective, one must distinguish between theory and practice. The two human rights most emphasized today from the political perspective are religious freedom and political freedom, with gender equity a close third. Religious freedom has been respected in practice historically better in Islamdom than it has in Christendom, but the opposite has been true in recent centuries for political freedom in the sense of institutionalizing representative government.

The universal principle of political freedom, known as haqq al hurriya in Islamic jurisprudence, has always been understood as a call for self-determination by individual persons and by the communities in which they find their social identities. The secondary level of hajjiyat calls first of all for khilafa. This provides that the highest responsibility both of those who govern and those who are governed is to God. The idea is that people should be governed by people who are governed by God. This is basic to Thomas Jefferson’s teaching that a people can remain free only if they are educated, that education consists primarily in learning virtue, and that a people can remain virtuous only if both their private and their public lives are infused with awareness of God.

The next of the second-level principles of haqq al hurriya or political freedom is shura, which calls for responsive governance and for political institutions to assure that the government is a servant of the people rather than the reverse.

The third requirement is known as ijma, which is the duty of every citizen and especially of the opinion leaders to seek consensus on a preferred political agenda and to reach compromises on the means to pursue this agenda in specific policies and courses of action.

Institutionalizing these three second-level requirements of political freedom is important because self-determination as the framework of haqq al hurriya is based on the principle known in Western moral theology as “subsidiarity.”

This provides that all problems should be resolved at the lowest political levels, with resort to higher levels only when resolution is otherwise impossible. The concept of subsidiarity comes from two of the other primary principles in the Islamic code of human rights. The first of these two is haqq al haya, which provides that the highest level of human sovereignty, subject only to the Sovereignty of God, is the human person. This, in turn, gives rise to the correlative principle of haqq al nasl, which provides for the derivative sovereignty of the human community in ascending levels all the way to entire civilizations and the even to the human species.

Respect for both personal and community-based sovereignty is the root of the Islamic concept of ittihad, which refers to the unity that can result from the decentralization of political power through federalism or the looser concept of confederalism. Since political power follows the economic power of ownership, in Iraq, for example, decentralized political legitimacy might be operationalized best by privatizing ownership of Iraqi oil in equal shares of inalienable voting stock to the ultimate level of sovereignty, namely, to every person resident in an Iraqi federation.

This option has been considered at the highest levels of the U.S. government and resoundingly rejected. Such pulverization of concentrated economic power would undermine the efforts of American occupation authorities to centralize political power. Unfortunately, such top-down centralization and modernization have forced tribally-based communities into competition with each other either to control the American-imposed central government or to destroy it.

The same intractable problem has been created in Afghanistan, according to Selig Harrison, who is the long-time South Asia bureau chief at the Washington Post and is now Director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy. Writing in his January 30th column entitled “Discarding an Afghan Opportunity,” Harrison laments that the U.S.-backed Karzai government has been “rushing to create a centralized regime instead of keying the process [of unification] to the gradual development of a national economic infrastructure” in which every person has a personal stake.

The real problem is that the concentration of economic and political power at the behest of foreign interests is considered by both Iraqis and Afghanis and by most of the rest of the world as a denial of justice.
Even in the Holy Land we see a strategy to create two centralized governments in what may become two ghetto states rather than to promote a decentralized economy of mutual advantage as the means to develop a regional Abraham Federation based on acknowledgement that for more than a thousand years Muslims and Jews were each other’s most reliable friends and could be again. This option has been advanced and detailed by the Center for Economic and Social Justice now for almost a quarter century.

Ironically, one of the principal victims of such a strategy of centralized global management is British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who provided his own epitaph after his talk at the Davos World Economic Forum on January 28th, 2007. According to David Ignatius’s column, “The Blair He Could Have Been,” in the Washington Post of January 31, 2007, Blair lamented, “The West’s fine talk of democracy and freedom has little meaning if it is not anchored in a sense of justice. Without such bedrock values, the grand goals of the Atlantic Alliance are empty.”

Part Four

Political Freedom in Muslim Practice

This sad note introduces the practical aspects of political freedom and more generally of human rights in Islamdom. Unfortunately, the praxis or political reality of human rights in the Muslim world
is a mirror image of Prime Minister Blair’s swan song about the practice of human rights by the West.

The major issue in contemporary Muslim thought is the role of the state. Like human rights, the concept of
the state is a relatively recent Western construct. It arose as a means to end the Thirty Years War at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 by accepting human power rather than God as the highest authority in human affairs. The state is a secular construct that recognizes the corporate or collectivist identity of its citizens as the basis of legitimate power. As I learned in the introductory course on international law at Harvard Law School, the state by definition has a monopoly of coercion, and its geographical jurisdiction extends as far as it can control more than fifty percent of the population in a given territory. This legitimizes the political principle of “might makes right,” which would seem to be inevitable once one rejects justice as a restraining principle.

What happens when radicals in any religion begin to talk about creating a religious state? In effect they are talking about substituting themselves for God. Whether this is to be a so-called Islamic State, or a Jewish State, or a Christian or Hindu state, makes no difference. The inevitable result must be the denial of human rights.

The fountain of such extremism is the paradigm of thought popularized by Syed Qutb. He was the Muslim Brotherhood’s equivalent of Lenin in the sense that he redirected toward absolutism the Sufi-like movement begun by his enlightened mentor, Hassan al Banna, who functioned perhaps as the equivalent of the Brotherhood’s Karl Marx. Qutb’s doctrine was embodied in his declaration that, “There is only one place on earth that can be called the House of Islam (dar al islam), and it is that place where an Islamic state is established and the shari’ah is the authority and God’s laws are observed. … The rest of the world is the House of War (dar al harb).

Modern extremists may use different words, like dar al zulm, the land of evil, or dar al kufr, the land of those who are going to hell because they deliberately reject the truth, but the substance of their war is the same, namely, to invent and instigate a clash of civilizations and to declare a holy war with the slogan “no substitute for victory.”

Syed Qutb’s openly political paradigm of thought differs little from the openly religious paradigm of the radical puritanical reformers, whether anti-establishment like the Salafis in Saudi Arabia, or pro-establishment like the fascist Wahhabis. The ultimate aim of them all is the acquisition of absolute power here on earth. The basis of right versus wrong becomes the relativistic reduction of justice to one’s own narrow self-interest in a clash with everyone else, so that blowing up Jewish babies and oneself can be easily justified and even sanctified in the pursuit of a higher cause.

The modernist solution to felt injustice has always been to seek power. Failure in this pursuit can turn moderates into extremists, and failure to secure justice once one has grabbed power can generate still more extremism from the victims of the political quest. Lord Acton declared that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This generalization is too abbreviated. The quest for power corrupts more than its possession, because madness comes from the arrogance of believing that one can acquire absolute power and keep it. This applies to both economic and political power, especially when the addict pursues each form of power limitlessly in order to augment the other.

Failure in the impossible quest for absolute power redoubles the madness. Since it is in human nature to seek the absolute, the quest for material power can turn into a false god. As the utopias of the twentieth century confirm, false gods of whatever kind in the world are the primary source of evil.

Terrorism has arisen as the new threat to civilization because the “terrorists” know that all the dominant paradigms of the twentieth century are bankrupt. In their hopeless rage they will not consider even the possibility of anything else, other than their own blind rampage of destruction. What they do not know is that they are creatures of this bankruptcy. They are part of the problem, not of the solution. Terrorists are products of Western cultural disintegration, even though they will die for the illusion that they are not.
The roots of terrorism predate the so-called “Islamic” phenomenon. This is brilliantly explained in Abdul Hakim Murad’s article, “Bombing without Moonlight: The Origins of Suicidal Terrorism.” In a companion article, entitled “The Mechanics of Terror,” in the Spring 2005 issue of Islamica, published in Jordan, Jibril Hambel writes: “The actual root cause is the real or imagined failure of a code of beliefs or set of social conditions, [which has produced] a moral/ethical/philosophical vacuum that self-styled reformers and modern-day prophets feel compelled to redress.”

This phenomenon can be observed during the last hundred years in a succession of failed ideologies, ranging from Communism, to Nazism, to apocalyptic Zionism and Wahhabi polytheism, to the more extreme forms of tribalistic Neo-Conservatism. The failure of movements for freedom and democracy without a higher framework of transcendent justice exposes their followers to the hollowness of their own values and to the contradictions in their own hopes. They resort to nihilistic violence in order to show commitment to the values they lack. Further failure only escalates the vicious circle.

Ignorance of the true solution taught by all the Prophets is why terrorists resort to terror and why their targets resort to terrorist counter-terrorism. They have no alternative but to destroy each other and themselves in the process, like scorpions in a bottle.

Part Five

Deconstructing Pax Islamica

When President George W. Bush first took office, he called for a global Pax America, but was cautioned to replace this with Pax Universalis. Later he followed Henry Kissinger’s advice to avoid such utopian terms altogether until the world correlation of forces had prepared the way for a new international law conducive to such a goal. In his op ed position paper on August 12th, 2002, in the Washington Post, Kissinger abandoned his usual real politik by calling for an immediate invasion of Iraq specifically to introduce such a new international law.

Many Islamists in recent decades have called for an Islamic state, but they are referring to the so-called Islamization of specific states, not to the Islamization of the entire world. The most radical of all the Muslims, however, have never had any qualms about their call for a global Pax Islamica, which they call the khilafat. Most of them are former socialists and they are familiar with the Marxist doctrine that the dialectical forces of history will bring about the victory of the proletariat and the end of history. As converts to their unique sect among those who want to politicize Islam, these utopian extremists, most notably Osama bin Laden, believe that Allah has commissioned them to bring about the end of history through the imposition of a global Caliphate. Adopting the modern language of European secular humanism, Pan-Islamist extremists now call for a global “Islamic state” to be created through Muslim conquest of the world by a single ruler.

This issue of a global caliphate is not new in Islamdom. In fact, as a contentious issue it has never disappeared since it first surfaced more than a thousand years ago. The major issue is not whether there should be a universal or global caliphate but what it should be.

Ironically, the extremists’ chosen source for much of their extremism is Ibn Taymiya, the Hanbali jurist, who lived at the time of the Mongol invasion seven hundred years ago. He developed a sophisticated understanding about the Islamic doctrine of the khilafat that demolishes the extremists of his day and of ours. As a Sufi who opposed the extremism then spreading among the Sufis of his day, Ibn Taymiya was a political theorist who died in prison for opposing the extremism both of tyrants and of their opponents. He was in fact a model of those who both understand the sources of extremism and the means to counter it. His mission was to deconstruct extremist teachings doctrinally in order to marginalize their adherents.

One of his modern students, Naveed Shaykh, in his new book, The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States, writes rather poetically that extremism comes when pan-Islamists operationalize a unity of belief in a human community of monist monolithism rather than in a boundless love for all of God’s creation in a transcendent Islamic cosmopolis. Extremism comes when people substitute a political institution for themselves as the highest instrument and agent of God in the world, when they call for a return of the Caliphate in its imperial form embodied in the Ottoman dispensation. It comes when they call for what Shah Wali Allah of India in the 18th century called the khilafat dhahira or external and exoteric caliphate in place of the khilafat batina or esoteric caliphate formed by the spiritual heirs of the prophets, who are the sages, saints, and righteous scholars.

In the late Abbasid period of classical Islam, according to Naveed Sheikh, “The political scientists of the day delegitimized both institutional exclusivism and, critically, centralization of political power by disallowing the theophanic descent of celestial sovereignty into any human institution.” In other words, they denied the ultimate sovereignty claimed by modern states since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which elevated states to the ultimate level of sovereignty, in place of the divine, thereby relegating religion to the periphery of public life or excluding it and with it morality altogether.

The late Abbasid scholars, faced with a gradual process of creeping despotism, denied the divine right not only of kings but of every human institution, and they condemned the worship of power and privilege that had brought corruption upon the earth. For insisting on this foundation principle of Islam, as detailed in Chapter 59, “The Scholar’s Road,” in Khalid Abou el-Fadl’s book, Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam, the greatest scholars throughout Muslim history were imprisoned, some for years and decades. This is precisely why Muslims traditionally have considered them to be great.

Ibn Taymiya, completed the process of deconstructing the ontological fatalism of caliphatic thought by restricting the role of the caliphate to what probably the greatest Islamic thinker of all time, Abu Hamid al Ghazali, had called an ummatic umbrella functioning only to protect the functional integrity of Islamic thought rather than to govern politically. Ibn Taymiya asserted that the unity of the Muslim community depended not on any symbolism represented by the Caliph, much less on any caliphal political authority, but on “confessional solidarity of each autonomous entity within an Islamic whole.” In other words, the Muslim umma or global community is a body of purpose based on worship of God. By contending that the monopoly of coercion that resides in political governance is not philosophically constituted, Ibn Taymiya rendered political unification and the caliphate redundant.

The very concept of an Islamic State and even of political Islam is a prime example of Westoxification, especially in its jihadic incarnation as the pursuit of justice through power and the pursuit of power eventually as an end in itself. By drawing religion into the pursuit of power such political Muslims preempt those who would bring the wisdom of higher religion into the public square. The very concept of political Islam reveals a Western mindset with a totalitarian leaning based on a level of tolerance that denies the very concept of human rights.

Part Six

The Islamic Spiritual Perspective on Human Rights

Contrary to the assertion by Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute, the spiritual perspective on human rights is shared equally and entirely by the greatest traditionalist thinkers in both Christianity and Islam, as well as in Judaism. They recognize a direct relationship of the person with God and therefore conceive of human rights as sacred, including the right of persons and communities to a government that is limited by the sovereignty of God.

Above all, they recognize that the practice of morality, traditionally known as the virtues, is the purpose of spiritual wisdom. In the language of Christianity this means that moral theology is united with dogmatic theology in a single discipline of knowledge.

Perhaps the best discussion of religion by Christian theologians relevant to Islamic jurisprudence may be found in the treatise by Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., in his 479-page magnum opus entitled Christian Perfection and Contemplation According to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross, Tan Books, Rockford, Illinois, 2003, translated and reprinted from the original French Perfection chretienne et contemplation, 1937.

Of all the most eminent Christian scholars of the past two millennia, these two, writing respectively seven hundred and four hundred years ago, were probably most familiar with Islam. St. Thomas wrote that the master of masters in philosophy and moral theology was Avicenna (Ibn Sina), through whom he absorbed Aristotelian methodology.

According to Miguel Asin Palacios in his book Saint John of the Cross and Islam, translated by Douglas and Yoder, Vantage Press, 1981, the Carmelite, St. John of the Cross, borrowed his entire methodology and terminology from Shaykh Abu’l Hassan al-Shadhili, who was a contemporary of St. Thomas. Shaykh Shadhili of North Africa founded what came to be known as the Shadhiliyyah Sufi Order, which is the only great tariqa to originate outside of Central and Southwest Asia and is ancestral to many of the modern Sufi paths in Europe and America.

St. Thomas and St. John of the Cross are usually considered to be opposites in that St. Thomas emphasized the rational basis of faith, whereas St. John of the Cross emphasized the higher level of infused wisdom. Together with all the Muslim theologians, theosophists, and jurisprudents, both St. Thomas and St. John agreed that there could not possibly be any contradiction between faith and reason, and that if one saw an appearance of such then one’s understanding of at least one of the two must be wrong.

All of these wise thinkers, however, went far beyond the negative belief that there could be no contradiction between the truth that God reveals though nature and the truth that he reveals through human intermediaries, known as prophets. They also believed that each of these two sources of truth is designed to reveal and enrich the other and that they both have a common purpose.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange compellingly demonstrates that St. Thomas and Saint John of the Cross agreed on everything and that only the materialist mind could fail to understand Saint Thomas’s insistence that the purpose of every person and of moral theology is a closer “union with God.” Muslims call this union wahdat al wujjud. One may debate the extent to which this concept of union with God is more epistemological than ontological, that is, whether the experience is more subjective than objective. My extensive discussion on the subject in http://www.theamericanmuslim.org,/ entitled “Wahdat al Wujud: Fact or Fiction,” suggests that merely discussing this issue intellectually obscures the value of the experience both for the individual person and as a source for a higher perspective on human rights.

This background would cast doubt on the supposition that three months before he died St. Thomas became a Muslim when a gift of contemplation from the Holy Spirit (ruh al quddus in Islamic terms) caused him to terminate his multi-volume Summa Theologica in mid sentence and refer to all he had ever written as “only straw” in comparison with what he now beheld. He was ordered to appear before the Pope in the Vatican and supposedly was murdered along the way. This is sheer speculation designed to undermine appreciation of the common essences of the Christian and Islamic religions.

Like classical Islamic jurisprudents, St. Thomas taught that “dogmatic theology,” which deals with what one can know only by revelation from Ultimate Being, i.e. God, such as life after death, must be considered together with moral theology as a single science. Moral theology deals with ethics and the virtues in human action and interactions in the world of Existence, as distinct from the higher level of Being. The virtues can be known by human reason based on observation in the material order of reality, but Revelation has enlightened and ordained them to a supernatural end.

These two methods, the deductive or analytical from the higher world of Being and the inductive or synthetical from the lower world of Existence must be combined, because they have the same end. This end is based on the mystery of God, known best through infused contemplative prayer in the realization that God is closer to the soul than it is to itself. This is expressed in the Qur’an by the statement, Wa nahnu aqrabu ‘alayhi min habil al warid, “We are closer to him [the human person] than is his own jugular vein.”

This union of Existence and Being provides the context also for a favorite prayer of the Prophet Muhammad, who used the word hubb for love of God: Allahhumma, asaluka hubbaka wa hubba man yuhibbuka was hubba kuli ‘amali yuqaribuni ila hubbika. Translated, this means, “Oh Allah, I ask you for your love, and for the love of those who love You, and for the love of everything and every action that will bring me closer to Your Love.”

The theme and purpose of Father LaGrange’s major life work was to revive St. Thomas’s teaching that ascetical and mystical theology is nothing but the application of broad moral theology to the direction of souls
toward ever closer union with God. This, in fact, might be considered to be the Christian definition of religion.

If one’s personal relation of loving submission to God, which Muslims call taqwa, is the essence of higher religion, then the human right known as freedom of religion is axiomatic. The ultimate freedom is when one’s only desire, as Thomas Merton once put it, is to become the person that one is, in other words, to become the person that God created one to be. This includes the freedom not to do so.

This spiritual perspective, which raises human rights to the sacred level as ultimate ends of existence, necessarily implies also the opposite. Any perspective that raises an ideology of power to the practical level of an ultimate end and rejects justice even as a concept in foreign policy, inevitably will lead from cosmos to chaos.


Email to: SpeakerMikeGhouse@gmail.com

Voice of Moderate Muslims

Voice of Moderate Muslims
Voice of Moderate Muslims

Moderate Islam Speaker

Moderate Islam Speaker
Moderate Islam Speaker

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 (www.UnitydayUSA.com) 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.

URL- http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/08/planned-muslim-response-to-quran_18.html

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.