Friday, October 30, 2009

A Muslim's Journey of Islam

How many of you can relate with Imran Khan's story?

Every word of this essay resonates with me except this single sentence, "Since
all morality has it roots in religion," it may be because he did not journey
into Atheism. Morality is a product of the society, of the need to co-exist and
not exclusively a construct of religion. Morality existed prior to the dawn of
religion and continues to exist where there in no religion.

Imran Khan's interview below is fascinating. It is almost an identical journey
of my life. My turn around came about a decade ago, when every one was
attacking Islam.

I came across a verse from Bhagvad Gita that said "finding the truth is one's
own responsibility" and then I pondered over the scenario of the Day of
Judgment; you are on your own, it is how you treat others that matters, what is
your role in creating a balance or peace around you? No one is going to be with
you except your own deeds and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told his own daughter
Fatima that she has to earn God's grace the old fashion way, earn it. He told
her she is not going to get a free pass.

Those two were the most powerful statements in my life. To which I add that no
matter what your Rabbi, Imam, Pundit, Pastor or clergy teaches you, it is you
who will bear the responsibility of living with yourselves in your solitude.

Karen Armstrong's book Muhammad is one of the most influential books in my
journey of Islam. It was her writings that made me understand Muhammad the man
that I can relate with, connect with and admire him and mentor him. Imran wrote
"Islam is a universal religion and that is why our Prophet (peace be upon him)
was called a Mercy for all mankind.

Mike Ghouse

Imran Khan: Why The East Sticks To Religion

My generation grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak. Our older
generation had been slaves and had a huge inferiority complex of the British.
The school I went to was similar to all elite schools in Pakistan. Despite
gaining independent, they were, and still are, producing replicas of public
schoolboys rather than Pakistanis.

I read Shakespeare, which was fine, but no Allama Iqbal – the national poet of
Pakistan. The class on Islamic studies was not taken seriously, and when I left
school I was considered among the elite of the country because I could speak
English and wore Western clothes.

Despite periodically shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in school functions, I
considered my own culture backward and religion outdated. Among our group if any
one talked about religion, prayed or kept a beard he was immediately branded a

Because of the power of the Western media, our heroes were Western movie stars
or pop stars. When I went to Oxford already burdened with this hang up, things
didn’t get any easier. At Oxford, not just Islam, but all religions were
considered anachronism.

Science had replaced religion and if something couldn’t be logically proved it
did not exist. All supernatural stuff was confined to the movies. Philosophers
like Darwin, who with his half-baked theory of evolution had supposedly
disproved the creation of men and hence religion, were read and revered.

Moreover, European history reflected its awful experience with religion. The
horrors committed by the Christian clergy during the Inquisition era had left a
powerful impact on the Western mind. To understand why the West is so keen on
secularism, one should go to places like Cordoba in Spain and see the torture
apparatus used during the Spanish Inquisition. Also the persecution of
scientists as heretics by the clergy had convinced the Europeans that all
religions are regressive.

However, the biggest factor that drove people like me away from religion was the
selective Islam practiced by most of its preachers. In short, there was a huge
difference between what they practiced and what they preached. Also, rather than
explaining the philosophy behind the religion, there was an overemphasis on

I feel that humans are different to animals. While, the latter can be drilled,
humans need to be intellectually convinced. That is why the Qur’an constantly
appeals to reason. The worst, of course, was the exploitation of Islam for
political gains by various individuals or groups. Hence, it was a miracle I did
not become an atheist. The only reason why I did not was the powerful religious
influence my mother wielded on me since my childhood. It was not so much out of
conviction but love for her that I stayed a Muslim.

However, my Islam was selective. I accepted only parts of the religion that
suited me. Prayers were restricted to Eid days and occasionally on Fridays, when
my father insisted on taking me to the mosque with him. All in all I was
smoothly moving to becoming a Pukka Brown Sahib. After all I had the right
credentials in terms of school, university and, above all, acceptability in the
English aristocracy, something that our brown sahibs would give their lives for.
So what led me to do a ‘lota’ on the Brown Sahib culture and instead become
a ‘desi’?

Well it did not just happen overnight.

Firstly, the inferiority complex that my generation had inherited gradually went
as I developed into a world-class athlete. Secondly, I was in the unique
position of living between two cultures. I began to see the advantages and the
disadvantages of both societies.

In Western societies, institutions were strong while they were collapsing in our
country. However, there was an area where we were and still are superior, and
that is our family life. I began to realize that this was the Western
society’s biggest loss. In trying to free itself from the oppression of the
clergy, they had removed both God and religion from their lives.

While science, no matter how much it progresses, can answer a lot of questions
– two questions it will never be able to answer: One, what is the purpose of
our existence and two, what happens to us when we die? It is this vacuum that I
felt created the materialistic and the hedonistic culture. If this is the only
life then one must make hay while the sun shines – and in order to do so one
needs money. Such a culture is bound to cause psychological problems in a human
being, as there was going to be an imbalance between the body and the soul.
Consequently, in the US, which has shown the greatest materialistic progress
while giving its citizens numerous rights, almost 60 percent of the population
consult psychiatrists. Yet, amazingly in modern psychology, there is no study of
the human soul. Sweden and Switzerland, who provide the most welfare to their
citizens, also have the highest suicide rates. Hence, man is not necessarily
content with material
well being and needs something more. Since all morality has it roots in
religion, once religion was removed, immorality has progressively grown since
the 70s. Its direct impact has been on family life. In the UK, the divorce rate
is 60 percent, while it is estimated that there are over 35 percent single
mothers. The crime rate is rising in almost all Western societies, but the most
disturbing fact is the alarming increase in racism. While science always tries
to prove the inequality of man (recent survey showing the American Black to be
genetically less intelligent than whites) it is only religion that preaches the
equality of man. Between 1991 and 1997, it was estimated that total immigration
into Europe was around 520,000, and there were racially motivated attacks all
over, especially in Britain, France and Germany. In Pakistan during the Afghan
war, we had over four million refugees, and despite the people being so much
poorer, there was no racial

There was a sequence of events in the 80s that moved me toward God as the
Qur’an says: “There are signs for people of understanding.” One of them
was cricket. As I was a student of the game, the more I understood the game, the
more I began to realize that what I considered to be chance was, in fact, the
will of Allah. A pattern which became clearer with time. But it was not until
Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” that my understanding of Islam began to

People like me who were living in the Western world bore the brunt of anti-Islam
prejudice that followed the Muslim reaction to the book. We were left with two
choices: fight or flight. Since I felt strongly that the attacks on Islam were
unfair, I decided to fight. It was then I realized that I was not equipped to do
so as my knowledge of Islam was inadequate. Hence I started my research and for
me a period of my greatest enlightenment. I read scholars like Ali Shariati,
Muhammad Asad, Iqbal, Gai Eaton, plus of course, a study of Qur’an. I will try
to explain as concisely as is possible, what “discovering the truth” meant
for me. When the believers are addressed in the Qur’an, it always says,
“Those who believe and do good deeds.” In other words, a Muslim has dual
function, one toward God and the other toward fellow human beings.

The greatest impact of believing in God for me, meant that I lost all fear of
human beings. The Qur’an liberates man from man when it says that life and
death and respect and humiliation are God’s jurisdiction, so we do not have to
bow before other human beings.

Moreover, since this is a transitory world where we prepare for the eternal one,
I broke out of the self-imposed prisons, such as growing old (such a curse in
the Western world, as a result of which, plastic surgeons are having a field
day), materialism, ego, what people say and so on. It is important to note that
one does not eliminate earthly desires. But instead of being controlled by them,
one controls them. By following the second part of believing in Islam, I have
become a better human being. Rather than being self-centered and living for the
self, I feel that because the Almighty gave so much to me, in turn I must use
that blessing to help the less privileged. This I did by following the
fundamentals of Islam rather than becoming a Kalashnikov-wielding fanatic.

I have become a tolerant and a giving human being who feels compassion for the
underprivileged. Instead of attributing success to myself, I know it is because
of God’s will, hence I learned humility instead of arrogance.

Also, instead of the snobbish Brown Sahib attitude toward our masses, I believe
in egalitarianism and strongly feel against the injustice done to the weak in
our society. According to the Qur’an, “Oppression is worse than killing.”
In fact only now do I understand the true meaning of Islam, if you submit to the
will of Allah, you have inner peace. Through my faith, I have discovered
strength within me that I never knew existed and that has released my potential
in life. I feel that in Pakistan we have selective Islam. Just believing in God
and going through the rituals is not enough. One also has to be a good human
being. I feel there are certain Western countries with far more Islamic traits
than us in Pakistan, especially in the way they protect the rights of their
citizens, or for that matter their justice system. In fact some of the finest
individuals I know live there.

What I dislike about them is their double standards in the way they protect the
rights of their citizens but consider citizens of other countries as being
somehow inferior to them as human being, e.g. dumping toxic waste in the Third
World, advertising cigarettes that are not allowed in the West and selling drugs
that are banned in the West. One of the problems facing Pakistan is the
polarization of two reactionary groups. On the one side is the Westernized group
that looks upon Islam through Western eyes and has inadequate knowledge about
the subject. It reacts strongly to anyone trying to impose Islam in society and
wants only a selective part of the religion. On the other extreme is the group
that reacts to this Westernized elite and in trying to become a defender of the
faith, takes up such intolerant and self-righteous attitudes that are repugnant
to the spirit of Islam. What needs to be done is to somehow start a dialogue
between the two extreme.
In order for this to happen, the group on whom the greatest proportion of our
educational resources are spent in this country must study Islam properly.

Whether they become practicing Muslims or believe in God is entirely a personal
choice. As the Qur’an tells us there is “no compulsion in religion.”
However, they must arm themselves with knowledge as a weapon to fight extremism.
Just by turning up their noses at extremism the problem is not going to be

The Qur’an calls Muslims “the middle nation”, not of extremes. The Holy
Prophet (peace be upon him) was told to simply give the message and not worry
whether people converted or not, therefore, there is no question in Islam of
forcing your opinions on anyone else.

Moreover, we are told to respect other religions, their places of worship and
their prophets. It should be noted that no Muslim missionaries or armies ever
went to Malaysia or Indonesia. The people converted to Islam due to the high
principles and impeccable character of the Muslim traders. At the moment, the
worst advertisements for Islam are the countries with their selective Islam,
especially where religion is used to deprive people of their rights. In fact, a
society that obeys fundamentals of Islam has to be a liberal one.

If Pakistan’s Westernized class starts to study Islam, not only will it be
able to help society fight sectarianism and extremism, but it will also make
them realize what a progressive religion Islam is. They will also be able to
help the Western world by articulating Islamic concepts. Recently, Prince
Charles accepted that the Western world can learn from Islam. But how can this
happen if the group that is in the best position to project Islam gets its
attitudes from the West and considers Islam backward? Islam is a universal
religion and that is why our Prophet (peace be upon him) was called a Mercy for
all mankind.

(Mr. Imran Khan is the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf PTI. His article
first appeared in the Arabnews)

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Saudi-ization of Pakistan

It appears that the Saudiization is catching-on, discreetly replacing a long tradition of co-existence with exclusivism.

Why is the Saudi Product selling? Is it Money? Are the desperate souls getting some deviant satisfaction? They are ripe candidates and are vulnerable to suggestions; The Wahhabi mind set becomes a easy sale for the merchant mullahs, they buy it and latch onto to achieve that sense of manliness, a sense of I can do it.

We need to do the research to find out what germinates it.

It is convenient to blame Wahhabi ideology and naive to wash off our hands that the problem is solved. That is irresponsible thing to do unless we find the roots of the problem and bring about a lasting solution.

Please note that I will not defend the Wahhabis. I am more opposed to the exclusive ideology of Wahhabis than an average person. However, we need to learn to bark at the right tree. Place the responsibility where it belongs, so we can find real sustainable solutions.

We need to study, if there is a correlation between un-employment rate, injustice and how men behave with women, the easy target to amass a wrong sense of self worth is by preying on the weak. Isn't that an animal instinct, rather than a Wahhabi inspired attitude?

Mike Ghouse

A stern, unyielding version of Islam is replacing the kinder,
gentler Islam of the Sufis in Pakistan

By Pervez Hoodbhoy
Newsline, Pakistan

The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only institutions serving as jihad factories. This is a serious isconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state.

For 20 years or more, a few of us have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. In fact, I am surprised at how rapidly these dire predictions have come true.

A full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, resulting in thousands of deaths. It is only a matter of time before this fighting shifts to Peshawar and Islamabad (which has already been a witness to the Lal Masjid episode) and engulfs Lahore and Karachi as well. The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy.

Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals and ordinary people praying in mosques have all been reduced to globs of flesh and fragments of bones. But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities.

Nor do they approve of the army operation against the cruel perpetrators of these acts because they believe that they are Islamic warriors fighting for Islam and against American occupation. Political leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have no words of solace for those who have suffered at the hands of Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved exclusively for the victims of Predator drones, even if they are those who committed grave crimes against their own people. Terrorism, by definition, is an act only the Americans can commit.

What explains Pakistan’s collective masochism?

To understand this, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have rendered this country so completely different from what it was in earlier times.

For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula. This continental drift is not physical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Muslim one.

Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the rich soil that had nurtured a magnificent Muslim culture in India for a thousand years. This culture produced Mughul architecture, the Taj Mahal, the poetry of Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and much more. Now a stern, unyielding version of Islam (Wahhabism) is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis and saints who had walked on this land for hundreds of years.

This change is by design.

Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state used Islam as an instrument of state policy. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for academic posts in universities required that the candidate demonstrate a knowledge of Islamic teachings and jihad was declared essential for every Muslim.

Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of a spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal. The notion of an Islamic state – still in an amorphous and diffused form – is more popular now than ever before as people look desperately for miracles to rescue a failing state.

Villages have changed drastically; this transformation has been driven, in part, by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrassas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers.

They are bitterly opposed to Barelvis, Shias and other sects, who they do not regard as Muslims. The Punjabis, who were far more liberal towards women than the Pukhtuns, are now beginning to take a line resembling that of the Taliban. Hanafi law has begun to prevail over tradition and civil law, as is evident from the recent decisions of the Lahore High Court.

In Pakistan’s lower-middle and middle classes lurks a grim and humourless Saudi-inspired revivalist movement that frowns on any and every expression of joy and pleasure. Lacking any positive connection to culture and knowledge, it seeks to eliminate “corruption” by regulating cultural life and seizing control of the education system.

“Classical music is on its last legs in Pakistan; the sarangi and vichitraveena are completely dead,” laments Mohammad Shehzad, a music aficionado. Indeed, teaching music in public universities is violently opposed by students of the Islami Jamaat-e-Talaba at Punjab University. So the university has been forced to hold its music classes elsewhere.

Religious fundamentalists consider music haram or un-Islamic. Kathak dancing, once popular with the Muslim elite of India, has few teachers left. Pakistan produces no feature films of any consequence.

Nevertheless, the Pakistani elite, disconnected from the rest of the population, live their lives in comfort through their vicarious proximity to the West. Alcoholism is a chronic problem of the super rich of Lahore – a curious irony for this deeply religious country.

Islamisation of the state and the polity was supposed to have been in the interest of the ruling class – a classic strategy for preserving it from the wrath of the working class. But the amazing success of the state is turning out to be its own undoing.

Today, it is under attack from religious militants, and rival Islamic groups battle each other with heavy weapons. Ironically, the same army – whose men were recruited under the banner of jihad, and which saw itself as the fighting arm of Islam – today stands accused of betrayal and is almost daily targeted by Islamist suicide bombers.

Pakistan’s self-inflicted suffering comes from an education system that, like Saudi Arabia’s system, provides an ideological foundation for violence and future jihadists. It demands that Islam be understood as a complete code of life, and creates in the mind of a school-going child a sense of siege and embattlement by stressing that Islam is under threat everywhere.

On the previous page, the reader can view the government-approved curriculum. This is the basic road map for transmitting values and knowledge to the young. By an act of parliament passed in 1976, all government and private schools (except for O-level schools) are required to follow this curriculum. It was prepared by the curriculum wing of the federal ministry of education, government of Pakistan. It sounds like a blueprint for a religious fascist state.

Alongside are scanned pictures from an illustrated primer for the Urdu alphabet. The masthead states that it has been prepared by Iqra Publishers, Rawalpindi, along “Islamic lines.” Although not an officially approved textbook, it is being used currently by some regular schools, as well as madrassas associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), an Islamic political party that had allied itself with General Musharraf. These picture scans have been taken from a child’s book, hence the scribbles.

The world of the Pakistani schoolchild remained largely unchanged, even after September 11, 2001, the event that led to Pakistan’s timely desertion of the Taliban and the slackening of the Kashmir jihad. Indeed, for all his hypocritical talk of “enlightened moderation,” General Musharraf’s educational curriculum was far from enlightening.

It was a slightly toned down version of the curriculum that existed under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto who had inherited it from General Zia-ul-Haq. Fearful of taking on the powerful religious forces, every incumbent government has refused to take a position on the curriculum and thus quietly allowed young minds to be moulded by fanatics. What may happen a generation later has always been a secondary issue for a government challenged on so many fronts.

The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s so-called “secular” public schools, colleges and universities had a profound effect upon young minds. Militant jihad became part of the culture on college and university campuses. Armed groups flourished, they invited students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan, set up offices throughout the country, collected funds at Friday prayers and declared a war which knew no borders. Pre-9/11, my university was ablaze with posters inviting students to participate in the Kashmir jihad. Post-2001, this ceased to be done openly.

Still, the primary vehicle for Saudi-ising Pakistan’s education has been the madrassa. In earlier times, these had turned out the occasional Islamic scholar, using a curriculum that essentially dates back to the 11th century, with only minor subsequent revisions. But their principal function had been to produce imams and muezzins for mosques, and those who eked out an existence as ‘maulvi sahibs’ teaching children to read the Quran.

The Afghan jihad changed everything. During the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, madrassas provided the US-Saudi-Pakistani alliance the cannon fodder they needed to fight a holy war. The Americans and Saudis, helped by a more-than-willing General Zia, funded new madrassas across the length and breadth of Pakistan. A detailed picture of the current situation is not available.

But according to the national education census, which the ministry of education released in 2006, Punjab has 5,459 madrassas followed by the NWFP with 2,843; Sindh has 1,935; the Federally Administrated Northern Areas (FANA), 1,193; Balochistan, 769; Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), 586; the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), 135; and the Islamabad capital territory, 77. The ministry estimates that 1.5 million students are acquiring religious education in the 13,000 madrassas.

These figures appear to be way off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 madrassas. The number of students could be correspondingly larger. The free boarding and lodging plus provision of books to the students, is a key part of their appeal. Additionally, parents across the country desire that their children be “disciplined” and given a thorough Islamic education. The madrassas serve this purpose, too, exceedingly well.

Madrassas have deeply impacted the urban environment. Until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city different from the rest of Pakistan. Also, it had largely been the abode of Pakistan’s elite and foreign diplomats.

But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio-cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrassas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students, sporting little prayer caps, dutifully chant the Quran all day. In the evenings they swarm the city, making women minus the hijab increasingly nervous.

Total segregation of the sexes is a central goal of the Islamists, the consequences of which have been catastrophic. For example, on April 9, 2006, 21 women and eight children were crushed to death and scores injured in a stampede inside a three-storey madrassa in Karachi, where a large number of women were attending a weekly congregation. Male rescuers, who arrived in ambulances, were prevented from moving the injured women to hospitals.

One cannot dismiss this incident as being just one of a kind. In fact, soon after the October 2005 earthquake, as I walked through the destroyed city of Balakot, a student of the Frontier Medical College described to me how he and his male colleagues were stopped by religious elders from digging out injured girl students from under the rubble of their school building.

This action was similar to that of Saudi Arabia’s ubiquitous religious ‘mutaween’ (police) who, in March 2002, had stopped school girls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing their abayas – a long robe worn in Saudi Arabia. In a rare departure from the norm, Saudi newspapers had blamed and criticised the mutaween for letting 15 girls burn to death.

The Saudi-isation of a once-vibrant Pakistani culture continues at a relentless pace. The drive to segregate is now also being found among educated women. Vigorous proselytisers carrying this message, such as Mrs Farhat Hashmi, have been catapulted to the heights of fame and fortune.

Their success is evident. Two decades back, the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu. Today, some shops across the country specialise in abayas. At colleges and universities across Pakistan, the female student is seeking the anonymity of the burqa. And in some parts of the country she seems to outnumber her sisters who still “dare” to show their faces.

I have observed the veil profoundly affect habits and attitudes. Many of my veiled female students have largely become silent note-takers, are increasingly timid and seem less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. They lack the confidence of a young university student.

While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the distance. The socially conservative are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world. The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine – the list runs on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims, and if presented with incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression.

The immediate future does not appear hopeful: increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control of the minds of worshippers. In the tribal areas, a string of new Islamist leaders have suddenly emerged: Baitullah Mehsud, Maulana Fazlullah and Mangal Bagh. Poverty, deprivation, lack of justice and extreme differences of wealth provide the perfect environment for these demagogues to recruit people to their cause. Their gruesome acts of terror are still being perceived by large numbers of Pakistanis merely as a war against imperialist America. This could not be further from the truth.

In the long term, we will have to see how the larger political battle works out between those Pakistanis who want an Islamic theocratic state and those who want a modern Islamic republic. It may yet be possible to roll back those Islamist laws and institutions that have corroded Pakistani society for over 30 years and to defeat its hate-driven holy warriors.

There is no chance of instant success; perhaps things may have to get worse before they get better. But, in the long term, I am convinced that the forces of irrationality will cancel themselves out because they act at random whereas reason pulls only in one direction. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and the evolution of the humans into a higher and better species will continue. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, they will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religiosity and nationalism. But, for now, this must be just a matter of faith.
# # #

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Towards a kind and just society

Towards a kind and just society

God wills for humanity to strive for a balance; social, spiritual, biological, physical, moral and environmental. When this elusive equilibrium is achieved, where no one is afraid of the other, oppression becomes a story, exploitation fades away, and goodwill becomes the norm of the society. Religion has achieved its goal; indeed, God is all about peace and equilibrium – Mike Ghouse


Extremists obsession with female bodies

The article by the title "Why are Islamic extremists obsessed with female bodies?" follows my commentary. *** note about the Bra is listed below.

It is a serious issue that needs attention. First of all, let’s acknowledge that the practice of dehumanizing a woman is wrong, and that it is spreading unabated.

Secondly, let’s accept the responsibility that each one of us has to do our share of work for creating civil societies.

Justice and Fairness is the hall mark of civil societies, where justice and a sense of fairness is the norm, there is a correlation in people’s confidence the sense of security that brings peace and prosperity. We cannot have peace when people around us don’t.

Since these attitudes are seriously spreading, we need to do the research to find what germinates it. The abuse of women continues in the most civilized societies as well as the traditional sub-societies where the culture of men is to be the providers and women to be the nurturers.

We need to study, if there is a correlation between un-employment rate, inability to bring fairness and justice in their enclaves and how men behave with women, the easy target to amass a wrong sense of self worth is by preying on the weak. Isn’t that an animal instinct, rather than a Wahhabi inspired attitude?

Don’t the politicians in India use the unemployed to go burn the buses and trains for Cauvery water, for Tamil/ Hindi conflicts and for a host of other conflicts.

It is convenient to blame Wahhabi ideology and wash off our hands that the problem is solved. That is irresponsible thing to do unless we find the roots of the problem and bring about a lasting solution.

Please note that I will not defend the Wahhabis. As a Pluralist, I am more opposed to the exclusive ideology of Wahhabis than an average person. However, we need to learn to bark at the right tree. Place the responsibility where it belongs, so we can find real sustainable solutions.

Given that, I would reccomend that it be re-titled as "The extremiss obsession with female bodies."

*** I found the picture of bra appropriate on this site to make a point – just recently Yvonne Ridley was in Dallas sharing her story about her capture by the Talibans… she made a big point about the Talibans, when in Jail, she washed her underclothing and hung them on the clothes line to dry, the whole ministry was involved in telling her to remove and the reason they gave was that the bra would incite the men, it would tempt them and she had to remove the object of temptations from the clothes line that is in their sight outside the compound. She made a comment about their obsession about this rather than doing the foreign policy work. The notes about her visit at:

Mike Ghouse

Friends, Following article reinforces concerns articulated by Pervez Hoodbhoy in "The Saudiisation of Pakistan and the death of its rich culture" (Thank you Farida), from a rapid and malignant spread of Wahhabi ideology in Islam.

I must warn the reader that the article has some explicit language and expressions. If you have no tolerance for that, please don't read any further. Otherwise, read and reflect meaningfully.
# # #

Why are Islamic extremists obsessed with female bodies?

Fanatics view women as objects of pleasure, temptation and sin and use
strictness toward them as an easy form of religious struggle"

- Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany

The Shabaab movement in Somalia controls large parts of the south and centre of
the country, and because officials in this movement embrace the Wahhabi
ideology, they have imposed their views on Somalis by force and have issued
strict decrees banning films, plays, dancing at weddings, football matches and
all forms of music, even the ring tones on mobile phones.

Some days ago, these Islamic extremists carried out a strange operation: They
arrested a Somali woman and whipped her in public because she was wearing a bra.
They announced clearly that wearing bras was un-Islamic because it is a form of
fraud and deception.

We may well ask what wearing bras has to do with religion, why they would
consider them to be a form of fraud and deception and how they managed to arrest
the woman wearing the bra when all Somali women go around with their bodies
completely covered. Did they appoint a special female officer to inspect the
breasts of women passing by in the street?

One Somali woman called Halima told the Reuters news agency: "Al-Shabaab forced
us to wear their type of veil and now they order us to shake our breasts....
They first banned the former veil and introduced a hard fabric which stands
stiffly on women's chests. They are now saying that breasts should be firm
naturally, or just flat."


In fact, this excessive interest in covering up women's bodies is not confined
to the extremists in Somalia.

In Sudan, the police examine women's clothing with extreme vigilance and arrest
any woman who is wearing trousers. They force her to make a public apology for
what she has done and then they whip her in public as an example to other women.

Some weeks ago, Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein insisted on wearing trousers
and refused to make the public apology. When she refused to submit to flogging,
she was referred to a real trial and the farce reached its climax when the judge
summoned three witnesses and asked them if they had been able to detect the
shape of the accused's underwear when she was wearing the trousers.

When one of the witnesses hesitated in answering, the judge asked him directly:
"Did you see Lubna's stomach when she was wearing the trousers?"

The witness gravely replied: "To some extent."

Ms. Hussein said she was wearing a modest pair of trousers and that the
scandalous pair she was accused of wearing would not suit her at all because she
is plump and would need to lose 20 kilograms in order to put them on.

The judge convicted her anyway and fined her 500 pounds or a month in prison.

In Egypt, too, extremists continue to take an excessive interest in women's
bodies and in trying to cover them up entirely. They advocate not only that
women wear the niqab, but also that they wear gloves, believing they will ensure
that no passions are aroused when men and women shake hands.

We really do face a phenomenon that deserves consideration: Why are Islamic
extremists so obsessed with women's bodies?


Some ideas might help us answer this question.

First, the extremist view of women is that they are only bodies and instruments
for either legitimate pleasure or temptation, as well as factories for producing
children. This view strips women of their human nature.

Accusing the Somali woman of fraud and deception because she was wearing a bra
is the same charge of commercial fraud that the law holds against a merchant who
conceals the defects of his goods and makes false claims about their qualities
in order to sell them at a higher price. The idea here is that a woman who
accentuates her breasts by using a bra gives a false impression of the goods
(her body), which is seen as fraud and deception of the buyer (the man) who
might buy (marry) her for her ample breasts and later discover that they were
ample because of the bra and not by nature.

It would be fair to remember that treating women's bodies as commodities is not
something found only in extremist ideologies, but often happens in Western
societies, too. The use of women's naked bodies to market commercial products in
the West is merely another application of the idea that women are commodities.
Anyone who visits the red-light district in Amsterdam can see for himself how
wretched prostitutes, completely naked, are lined up behind glass windows so
that passersby can inspect their charms before agreeing on the price. Isn't that
a modern-day slave market, where women's bodies are on sale to anyone willing to

Second, the extremists believe women to be the source of temptation and the
prime cause of sin. This view, which is prevalent in all primitive societies, is
unfair and inhuman, because men and women commit sin together and the
responsibility is shared and equal. If a beautiful woman arouses and tempts men,
then a handsome man also arouses and tempts women. But the extremist ideology is
biased in favour of the man and hostile to the woman, and considers that she
alone is primarily responsible for all sins.

Third, being strict about covering up women's bodies is an easy and effortless
form of religious struggle. In Egypt, we see dozens of Wahhabi sheiks who
enthusiastically advocate covering up women's bodies, but do not utter a single
word against despotism, corruption, fraud or torture because they know very well
that serious opposition to the despotic regime (which should really be their
first duty) would inevitably lead to their arrest, torture and the destruction
of their lives. Their strictness on things related to women's bodies enables
them to operate as evangelists without any real costs.

Somalia is a wretched country in the grip of famine and chaos, but officials
there are distracted from that by inspecting bras. The Sudanese regime is
implicated in crimes of murder, torture and raping thousands of innocents in
Darfur, but that does not stop it from putting on trial a woman who insisted on
wearing trousers.

It is women rather than men who always pay the price for despotism, corruption
and religious hypocrisy.

Fourth, the extremist ideology assumes that humans are a group of wild beasts
who are incapable of controlling their instincts, that it is enough for a man to
see a bare piece of female flesh for him to pounce on her and have intercourse.
This assumption is incorrect, because humans, unlike animals, always have the
power to control their instincts by willpower and ethics. An ordinary man, if he
is sane, cannot have his instincts aroused by his mother, sister, daughter or
even the wife of a friend, because his sense of honour and morality transcends
his desires and neutralizes their effect.

So virtue will never come about through bans, repression and pursuing women in
the street, but rather through giving children a good upbringing, propagating
morality and refining character.

According to official statistics, societies that impose segregation between men
and women (as in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia) do not have lower rates of sexual
crimes than other societies. The rates there may even be higher.


We favour and advocate modesty for women, but first we advocate a humane view of
women, a view that respects their abilities, their wishes and their thinking.

What is really saddening is that the Wahhabi extremism that is spreading
throughout the world with oil money and gives Muslims a bad image is as far as
can be from the real teachings of Islam. Anyone who reads the history of Islam
fairly has to be impressed by the high status it accords to women, because from
the time of the Prophet Mohammed until the fall of Andalusia, Muslim women mixed
with men, were educated, worked and traded, fought, and had financial
responsibilities separately from their fathers or husbands. They had the right
to choose the husband they loved and the right to divorce if they wanted.
Western civilization gave women these rights many centuries after Islam.

Finally, let me say that religious extremism is the other face of political
despotism. We cannot get rid of the extremism before we end the despotism.
Democracy is the solution

Alaa Al Aswany is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Yacoubian
Building and Chicago, and is a regular contributor to the Egyptian newspaper
AlShorouk. Alaa Al Aswany, The Globe and Mail.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book smashes India's "Islamic terrorism" myth

Book smashes India's "Islamic terrorism" myth
A former IG of Maharashtra police lays bare a massive plot to destabilise India

By M Zeyaul Haque

New Delhi, October 22 (The Milli Gazette): A new book curiously titled Who Killed Karkare? says a nationwide network of Hindutva terror that has its tentacles spread up to Nepal and Israel is out to destroy the India most Indians have known for ages and to remould it into some kind of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The writer, a former IG Police of Maharashtra, SM Mushrif, has reconstructed a fearsome picture out of former Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s chargesheet against alleged Hindutva terrorists like Lt. Col. Purohit, Sadhvi Pragyasingh Thakur and others.

The chargesheet pointed towards a mind-boggling nationwide conspiracy with international support to destabilise the constitutional order and the secular democratic Indian state that upholds it, to be replaced by a Hindutva state run according to a new Constitution. For that the conspirators were prepared for a massive bloodbath, using bomb attacks on religious places to trigger that anti-Muslim holocaust.

Mushrif, who has over three decades of diligent policing behind him and whose feats include exposing the Telgi scam, has made an elaborate case out of nearly a dozen blasts over a large area of the country conducted by Hindutva terror groups of different stripes. His case: a section of India’s intelligence services, a miniscule group in the armed forces and a section of different state police forces have been compromised and infiltrated by these elements, a development that bodes ill for the future of the country.

In Hemant Karkare’s net (of investigations, of course) many big and small fishes of VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and Sanatan Sanstha (which has been found to be involved in Diwali-eve blasts in Goa last week) had been trapped. Serving and retired army officers, academics, serving and retired officials of India’s premier intelligence service were ensnared in Karkare’s fishing net. The menacing power of the latter groups, inspired by sustained anti-Muslim hate campaigns of the last six decades, gave the plot a sinister and highly destructive character.

Among the plans unearthed by Karkare was a blueprint for the assassination of 70 prominent Indians who could by a hindrance to the project of Hindutva. Interestingly, most of the persons marked for elimination would, naturally, be Hindus because it is they who primarily run the dispensation. The conspirators were also unhappy with organisations whose Hindutva they suspected to be less virulent than desired.

Mushrif, who very well knows the power of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to make or mar lives and careers, says he is prepared to face the consequences of hostility of this power hub. He musters “evidence” to show that the IB has regularly been interfering with regular police investigations to let Hindutva terrorists slip out of the net and replace them with random Muslim youth. To fudge the issues further obliging police officers in the states would not mind exterminating a few Muslim youth to be branded posthumously as “terrorists”.

There are quite a few number of such cases where such extra-judicial killing of Muslim youth has turned out to be false police encounters. All this is done to cover tracks of Hindutva terror. Mushrif says a “Brahminist” network that has its origins in Maharashtra, and is closely knit across political parties, government services, including IB, and other vital sectors of life is behind the terror that seeks to destroy the secular, democratic state. He hastens to clarify that very few Brahminists are Brahmins. Many are from other high Hindu castes, some from middle and lower castes.

Most Brahmins are fair-minded and would not like to associate themselves with hate ideologies. Hemant Karkare, too, was a Brahmin, Mushrif says. So is Mushrif’s son-in-law.

It is pertinent to note that “Brahminism” and “Brahminical order” first appeared in Dalit protest vocabulary in the Dalit uprising movement in Maharashtra towards the turn of the 20th century. Mushrif, who appropriates part of this vocabulary for the present discourse, says that Maharashtra still remains the centre of this ideology that, among other things, has the dubious distinction of killing the Father of the Nation.

The power establishment that really runs the affairs of this country (Mushrif says it is not Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi) does not want to expose the Hindutva terrorists. One example is the blasts in Samjhauta Express, which the IB said was carried out by Pakistan’s ISI. Mushrif quotes a report in The Times of India that said, “the Centre had blamed the ISI on the basis of the IB’s findings.” However, during a narco-analysis test under Karkare, Lt. Col. Purohit had admitted having supplied the RDX used in the blast. The IB, which draws its power from its proximity to the Prime Minister (its director briefs the PM every morning for half an hour), did not want Karkare’s investigation that blew the cover off the IB’s shenanigans, to continue.

Once Karkare was removed from the scene, the IB moved in to fill his position with KP Raghuvanshi, a pliant police officer with extremely low credibility among Muslims for his record of letting off known Hindutva terrorirsts and implicating innocent Muslim youth even in bomb attack cases on mosques.

There are quite a few interesting vignettes here, like Raghuvanshi and Col. Purohit’s association with Abhinav Bharat in Maharashtra, whose hand was evident in a series of blasts across the country. It has old connections with men like Veer Damodar Savarkar (whose relative Himani Savarkar leads the Abhinav Bharat movement), Dr Munje, who led the Hindu Mahasabha, and other Hindutva luminaries. It is at the Bhonsala Military Academy run by these groups that Purohit trained police officers, including Raghuvanshi. Mushrif asks a pertinent question: Will Raghuvanshi pursue the investigation against Purohit, his guru? A plausible answer is, perhaps no. Already charges have been dropped by a special court under MCOCA against 11 accused, including Purohit, on the grounds of insufficient evidence produced in the court by the prosecution.

This was just the beginning of the undoing of Karkare’s painstaking investigation. Mushrif says slowly the system is working to undo all of Karkare’s work and let off the terrorists who over the years destroyed scores of lives and wreaked irreparable economic damage. The ATS team under Karkare had pointed out VHP leader Praveen Togadia’s role in the blasts. The ATS under Raghuvanshi dropped the investigation against him saying (please hold your laughter) they do not know who Togadia is!

A number of investigations have been thus sabotaged by the powers that be and the tracks of the Hinduta terrorists duly covered. The 319-page book is crammed with such information.

But what about who killed Karkare? Mushrif says two teams were at work on 26/11 ­– one which did the maximum damage, and was from outside. The smaller team took advantage of the confusion of the moment and acted only on the relatively small CST-CAMA-Rangbhavan stretch that killed Karkare. It was a desi unit that wanted Karkare and his men out of the way.

Book: Who Killed Karkare? The Real Face of Terrorism in India
Author: SM Mushrif
Price: Rs 300
Pages: 319
Publisher: Pharos Media (, New Delhi
# #

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chandra Muzaffar on Islamic Inclusivism

Interview: Chandra Muzaffar on Islamic Inclusivism and Muslim Exclusivism
By Yogi Sikand -

Interview follows my comments - Mike Ghouse

Dr. Muzaffar - I firmly believe that the various messengers of God did not intend to create new communities of followers defined by external markers and rituals that had little or nothing to do with the central core of their message. Instead, they were sent by God to reform attitudes, to nourish proper ways of being human.

Mike - The purpose of all faiths is to spiritually connect the humans with the divine, simply meaning understanding existence, accountability, the beginning and the ending. The idea of religion is to bring peace and balance to an individual and what surrounds him or her; life and matter. To be religious is to be a peace maker, one who mitigates conflicts and nurtures goodwill.
Dr. Muzaffar - A third sense in which it is used is to refer to the whole of humankind in general.

Mike – Qur’aan, 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 sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware."

Dr. Muzaffar - but, rather, as a person who upholds certain values and reflects or possesses certain attributes, a person who believes in the one God, submits to His will and does good, irrespective of his or her community.

Mike – Muslims have got that right, but the focus has been the rituals, just as Neocon Christians are hung up with the words of Jesus “ You come to father through me” . Muslim Neocons have gone literal. Let me add a few more phrases, Krishna says in Bhagvad Gita, “surrender to me” and of course in Qur’aan Allah expects one to “submit to his will”. In essence, they nearly mean the same but the literalist in all traditions are hung with external manifestation rather than what it means.

Dr. Muzaffar - which Muslims generally think is wholly unchangeable, is actually fiqh, the product of the Ijtihaad or the thinking and interpretation of ulema, who were after all, fallible human beings like the rest of us.

Mike - Yogi, in your previous interview of Dr. Muzaffar, he said “"The fixation of many Muslims with fiqh, with the externalities of religion in terms of rituals or with Arabic linguistic terms and culture, completely negates what I regard as Islam’s inherent universality." And in my article, Are Muslims part of the American Story, I wrote, “We must learn to re-examine our attitudes towards others and push the refresh button to understand the essence of Islam. We must do our inner jihad against the temptations to reduce Islam to rituals, we should not only be identified as Muslims by the ritual aspect of our religion, but also be recognized by the spiritual aspect of “being a Muslim”.

Dr. Muzaffar - many Malay Muslims, mid-West Americans or Indian Hindus would not be enthusiastic about opening up to others.

Mike – That is the case with all Neocons (Muslims, Christians, Jews or Hindus) - * Neocons

Dr. Muzaffar - And so, Indonesian Muslim religious intellectuals are much more open to questioning conservative understandings of religion and to promoting more contextually-relevant responses to a range of contemporary issues.

Mike – Part of it may be because of separation of state and religion. Islam always exhibits its wisdom and universality in democracies and free nations; in religious nations it gets choked.

Yogi, thanks for the interview. It is enlightening.

Mike Ghouse

Interview: Chandra Muzaffar on Islamic Inclusivism and Muslim Exclusivism
By Yogi Sikand

Chandra Muzaffar is Malaysia’s leading public intellectual. Author of numerous
books, mainly on religion, hegemony and resistance, he is the President of the
International Movement for a Just World. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand
he talks about various aspects related to Islam and Islamic assertion in

Q: Could you tell us something about yourself and your academic and activist
background? How did you get interested in Islam?

A: I was born in 1947 in the state of Kedah in northern Malaysia. Both my
parents were Hindus who were originally from Kerala in southern India. My mother
was a third generation Malaysian but my father had been born and brought up in

Since my teens I evinced a strong interest in religion. I kept wondering about
the purpose of life, life after death and so on. And so I began reading about
religion. I started with Hinduism, and then went on to Christianity and then to
the Bahai Faith. I was even actively involved with a Bahai group but I left
after a while. There was more emphasis upon rituals than I had expected. In
1967, I enrolled at the University of Singapore to do a Bachelor’s degree in
Philosophy, Politics and History, eventually specializing in Politics and that
is where I began reading about how Western philosophers looked at the big
existential questions about life.

In the second year at the University, I became very close to a leading Malaysian
intellectual, who was at that time the head of the Department of Malay Studies
at the University of Singapore the late Syed Hussein Alatas, a very well-known
sociologist and author of numerous books on Islam. I began spending a lot of
time with him in his house. He had just then set up an opposition political
party in Malaysia, and so we would spend hours together discussing politics,
national unity, inter-communal relations and social justice in Malaysia. It was
he who inspired me to start reading about Islam. I read numerous works by many
Muslim authors who represented a diverse range of understandings of Islam. I
also read Alatas own works on Islam and was influenced particularly by his
personality, lifestyle and his very universalistic understanding of and approach
to Islam.

After graduating from Singapore I returned to Malaysia, where I registered at
the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang to do a Master’s degree. For my thesis
I worked on Malaysian politics, in the course of which I did fieldwork, which
gave me the opportunity to meet many Malay Muslim leaders from the Islamic party
PAS and to learn more about their understanding of Islam as a political
ideology. By this time, I had strengthened my own conviction in Islam ”not the
ritualistic, dogmatic sort of Islam, but the Islam that stands for universalism,
that stresses fundamental values over forms, that does not recognize mere
rituals and externals as a criterion of one’s religious commitment. And so in
May 1974 I formally embraced, or, as it is said, reverted to, Islam.

Q: You mentioned that one reason for your disenchantment with the Bahai Faith
was its ritualism. Given what some might call the excessive ritualism associated
with the general practice of Islam in Malaysia and elsewhere, it might seem
strange that you were attracted to Islam, is it not?

A: As I just mentioned, I was attracted by the universalism that I discovered in
the Quran, but which Muslim practice very often tends to completely negate by
associating Islam with a particular community and with a set of rituals. This is
quite in contrast to the understanding of Islam that I learnt from Syed Hussein
Alatas. I think one could argue that every religious community has betrayed its
leading figure by turning into a separate group, using rituals to shore up
boundaries to set it apart from other similarly constructed groups. This has
happened with Muslims as well, and has led to the universal message of Islam
being negated in practical terms.

My own understanding of Islam is that it is basically a worldview, a distinct
attitude, a weltanschauung, and not the creed of a narrowly-defined community. I
do not believe that the purpose of Islam is to create a community defined in
this sense. Rather, it is to nourish a certain outlook or way of living that
reflects certain basic values and which should not be seen as being confined to
a certain community. My understanding of Islam is one that is fundamentally
opposed to communal thinking. I mean, how can one consider a person who commits
a heinous crime like murder a Muslim in the true sense of the word ”which
means one who submits his will to God ”simply because he has an Arabic name and
has verbally recited the shahada, the Islamic testimony of faith?

I firmly believe that the various messengers of God did not intend to create new
communities of followers defined by external markers and rituals that had little
or nothing to do with the central core of their message. Instead, they were sent
by God to reform attitudes, to nourish proper ways of being human. Sadly,
however, precisely the opposite happened after their demise in every case.
According to conventional religious thinking, people are judged or viewed not in
terms of the basic values that the prophets stressed, on the basis of how they
relate to others, to Nature, and so on, but in terms of an elaborate set of
rituals and external markers. This is really tragic.

Q: You seem to argue, if I get you correctly, that Islam did not intend to
establish a separate community. But what about the concept of Muslims as an
ummah, as a separate people defined on the basis of religion?

A: I think there is a lot of confusion about the term ummah. The Quran uses the
term in different senses, which do not negate each other. For instance, it is
used in the context of the ummah of Medina, which included the Muslim Ansars and
Muhajirin and various non-Muslims, including Jewish tribes who were brought
together through the Covenant of Medina. A second sense in which the term ummah
is used is for those who accepted God and Muhammad as His messenger, as opposed
to those who rejected one or both. A third sense in which it is used is to refer
to the whole of humankind in general. In none of these senses does it
necessarily convey the exclusivist notion of community that many Muslims
understand it as.

So, I would contend that one of the major challenges before Muslims today is to
reappraise the whole notion of ummah, to retrieve what I believe is its actual
connotation as a group based on values and that transcends communal divisions.
This notion of the ummah is suggested in the Quran but it has been subverted in
the ways in which it has conventionally been understood and interpreted. I
believe that in todays context of rapid communications and the breaking down
of barriers dividing countries and communities, it could be possible to move
towards what I regard as the true Quranic understanding of the ummah that goes
beyond the narrow notion of religious-based communities.

For this we also need to reevaluate our understanding of what ˜Muslim
means. A Muslim should be understood not as someone born into a particular
community that claims to be Muslim, but, rather, as a person who upholds
certain values and reflects or possesses certain attributes, a person who
believes in the one God, submits to His will and does good, irrespective of his
or her community. This is why the Quran regards all the many thousands of
prophets who appeared before the Prophet Muhammad, in different parts of the
world, as Muslims. This means that belief in and devotion and surrender to God,
which is also reflected in righteous deeds, suffices to be considered a Muslim
in the literal sense of the term as one who has submitted to Gods will.

The Quran refers to the Prophet Abraham as a true believer, as a Hanif, and when
it specifies that he was neither a Christian nor a Jew it seems to me to suggest
the point that he did not create any sect or community defined in this narrow
sense, and that he was free of any narrow communal affiliation.

Q: If, as you say, to be a Muslim is to believe in the one God and lead a
righteous life, and that this suggests Islams universalism, why do
˜Muslims in practice place so much more importance on the Prophet Muhammad
over the other prophets although the Quran very clearly specifies that all the
prophets are equal and that no distinction should be made between them?

A: I think this has a lot to do with history, with the development of identity
of an expanding community over time. So, very often what Muslims are protecting
in the name of Islam is this narrowly-conceived identity or historical tradition
rather than what the Prophet stood for the basic values and beliefs, which,
unfortunately, are not conventionally understood as the defining attributes of
Muslims today. And what many of them defend in the name of Islam is not what the
Prophet taught and stood for, but, rather, what some medieval scholars and
jurists or fuqaha had written centuries ago, which they wrongly equate with

This blind adherence to the views and prescriptions of the fuqaha is one of the
most fundamental problems of Muslims. Ironically, those who claim to interpret
the divine word are themselves considered ˜divine now. Much of what passes
off as divine shariah, which Muslims generally think is wholly unchangeable, is
actually fiqh, the product of the ijtihad or the thinking and interpretation of
ulema, who were after all, fallible human beings like the rest of us.

Q: Lets turn to Malaysia. Many Muslims (and others) outside Malaysia think of
Malaysia as a ˜model Muslim state or even as a model Islamic state.
Do you agree with this perception?

A: What those who think in this way see when they look at Malaysia is just the
brighter side of the picture: a country with a fairly high per capita income, a
very high literacy rate and good infrastructure, and which has to a great extent
succeeded in eradicating absolute poverty. On all these indices undoubtedly
Malaysia has done well, much better than most other Muslim-majority countries.
So, when non-Malaysian Muslims see all this they regard it as the achievement of
a people and government who do not subscribe to a narrow version of Islam, and
who are trying to ward off the creeping influence of this sort of Islam, and
they contrast this with their own countries. They admire the fact that Malaysia,
as a Muslim-majority country, has been able to do well by these standards
without imposing a narrowly-conceived shariah state, for they know that the kind
of progress Malaysia has achieved could not have happened if we were ruled by
that sort of state.

This is what particularly impresses them. Also perhaps the willingness of the
former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to challenge the dictates of
the International Monetary Fund and to raise the issue of continued Western

But what people who consider Malaysia as a model Muslim country dont look at
is the other side of the picture: crass capitalism, rampant consumerism, lack of
integration between the different communities and so on.

People who uncritically regard Malaysia as a ˜model Muslim state do not see
or know that generally Muslims in Malaysia are very conservative when it comes
to things that are presented in ˜Islamic terms, and that what the
traditional ulema say or believe is still considered by most Malaysian Muslims
as binding. Often, Malaysian Muslims have no problems if you talk about
something as long as you dont bring in Islam, but the moment you do, their
approach becomes very traditional. A good instance of this is our legal system.
In our civil courts we have had Muslim women judges for a long time. That has
never been a problem. In fact, a few years ago the Chief Judge of peninsula
Malaysia was a Malay Muslim woman. But till today we have had not a single woman
judge in the shariah courts although there are many women in this country who
are well-versed in what is considered to be Islamic law. This is because of a
very conservative understanding of the Malaysian ulema that women cannot be judges in shariah courts, although there is actually no rule in Islam forbidding this. Even in countries like
Sudan, Iran and Indonesia there are women shariah court judges, so why not in

Q: Are you suggesting that, overall, the traditional ulema still have a very
decisive influence in shaping Malaysian Muslim understandings of their religion?
What about alternate voices? The Malay middle-class has grown vastly in recent
decades. Has this resulted in any sort of movement pressing for a re-thinking of
Islamic theology and jurisprudence, for a contextual understanding of Islam?

A: There are only a very few, scattered individuals who are trying to do this
sort of work. It certainly has not taken the form of a movement in this country.
It is true that the modern educated and economically well-off Malay or Muslim
middle class has expanded considerably in Malaysia. But still you find that when
it comes to Islam they generally remain very conservative. For instance, on the
issue of apostasy from Islam, a hugely controversial issue in Malaysia, most of
middle-class Malays, despite their education, would continue to insist on its
criminalization by the state even though this does not have any Quranic sanction
and in fact violates the Qurans insistence that there is no compulsion in

Q: Scholars have argued that to a great extent the practice and perception of
Islam among the Malays is influenced by Malay ethnicity. Does that have anything
to do with the sort of conservatism that you refer to?

A: Yes, to a great extent. So, for instance, the issue of apostasy is also seen
even by many well-educated Malays as a threat to the Malay community and its
special position, as threatening Malay solidarity in the face of other
ethnic communities in the country. This is a reflection of a pervasive fear
among many Malays that if they move out of their ethnic cocoons, which they seek
to bolster through appeals to a conservative version of Islam, and open up and
embrace others the Malays will be overwhelmed by others. This is how Malay
ethnicity and insecurities shape Islamic understandings in the country.

Q: How valid are these insecurities, though?

A: Some decades ago some of these insecurities would have been understandable.
At that time, the economy was almost entirely controlled by foreigners and
ethnic Chinese. But today there is a very sizeable Malay middle class. Malays
now play significant roles in the upper reaches of the economy.. So, I feel
there is no need for them to feel insecure any more. Sadly, however, the
political parties keep playing up, even creating and further magnifying, these
insecurities. Even Islamic groups that otherwise insist that ethnic chauvinism
is contrary to Islam are not averse to this sort of political manipulation.

I must add that this is not a phenomenon unique to the Malays. In large parts of
the American mid-West you can find people who subscribe to the ridiculous theory
that their country is under threat from poor little Cuba. Or in India many
Hindus believe that the impoverished Dalits or heavily marginalized Muslim
minority are a threat to them, while this is not the case at all. But because of
this sort of ethnic and religious collective consciousness, which, contrary to
what Marx claimed, is much stronger than class consciousness, many Malay
Muslims, mid-West Americans or Indian Hindus would not be enthusiastic about
opening up to others.

Q: Despite generous government patronage of various Islamic institutions, it
appears that Malay intellectuals have not made a significant contribution to
contemporary debates about Islam or in developing socially relevant and
contextual understandings of Islam. This is in contrast to neighbouring
Indonesia, where Muslim intellectuals have a rich legacy of articulating
alternate Islamic perspectives on a host of social issues of contemporary
concern. How do you see this?

A: Perhaps the over-dependence of the bulk of the Malay middle-class on the
state, for patronage or for jobs or whatever, is itself a reason for the
stagnation of Islamic discourse in the country. Obviously, if you are dependent
on the state for your job or sources of funds you cannot really defy the line of
the state, be it on Islam or any other issue. But equally or perhaps even more
crucially, because of the ethnic issue in Malaysia few Malay intellectuals are
willing to be seen as going against what is seen as the interests of their
community. So, for instance, when it comes to many socio-economic or
socio-political matters, very few of them would stress Islamic universalism over
what they perceive as the Malay position. Another factor for the
retardation of Islamic discourse in Malaysia is that, on the whole, the middle
class Malay mindset is still conservative in matters of religion, relatively
untouched by reformist trends in other Muslim countries.

When one compares the situation in Malaysia with that in neighbouring Indonesia
the difference appears stark. There are several reasons for this. For one thing,
religious reform movements were an integral part of radical nationalist and
anti-colonial struggles in Indonesia. The Dutch in Indonesia directly interfered
in Islamic matters. They did away with the local Sultans and set up their own
board of Islamic affairs, which was staffed with Dutch administrators. This
naturally made the Indonesian ulema much more involved in the anti-colonial and
nationalist movement. In what was then Malaya, on the other hand, the British
retained the royal houses of the Sultans and appointed them as ˜heads of
Islam in their own states and generally refrained from interfering in Islamic
matters. The perpetuation of these monarchical structures also resulted in the
strengthening of a conservative approach to the religion since the Sultans
wanted to preserve the
status quo..

A second, and equally crucial, factor for the difference is that Muslims form
almost 90 per cent of Indonesias population, while they only a little more
than 60 per cent of Malaysias population. That is why Indonesian Muslims are
much more confident about their identity and feel less threatened by other
communities in their midst than the Malays. And so, Indonesian Muslim religious
intellectuals are much more open to questioning conservative understandings of
religion and to promoting more contextually-relevant responses to a range of
contemporary issues.

Q: Given the inextricable link between religious and ethnic assertion among the
Malays, which numerous scholars have alluded to, how do you see the phenomenon
of what is commonly described as Islamic revivalism in contemporary Malaysia? Is
it really a purely religious or even spiritual phenomenon? Or does it have more
to do with assertion of Malay communal identity?

A: I think it is related to a large extent to the quest for the assertion of
Malay multi-ethnic Malaysia. It has little, if at all, to do with
any spiritual awakening. In Malaysia, this superficial so-called Islamisation
and Malay ethnic assertion are in many senses synonymous because Malay and
Muslim are regarded as interchangeable terms. The Constitution of Malaysia
even lays down that considering oneself a Muslim is an integral part of being
Malay. So, especially due to the sort of ethnic-based politics in Malaysia,
instead of heralding a truly cosmopolitan Islam, the sort of Islamisation
that Malaysia has witnessed is leading to further reinforcing of a narrowly
conceived Malay ethnic consciousness. While it is portrayed as
Islamisation it is actually little more than Malay ethnic assertion.

Take, for instance, the question of hijab or modest womens clothing. Today
most Malay women wear a head-covering, though it is clear that the sort of
covering that they are so particular about is not mandated in the Quran. But for
many Malays, the womans head-cover is not just a religious statement. It
serves as a crucial marker of Malay ethnic identity, to mark off Malays/Muslims
from others.

Q: From Mahathir Mohamad onwards, successive Malaysian Prime Ministers have been
using Islam as an ingredient in Malaysia’s economic development strategy. Has
that at all worked?

A: I dont quite agree. I dont think Mahathirs version of Islam or the
Islam Hadhari of his successor, Abdullah Badawi, had any major role to play in
shaping or influencing Malaysias development strategy. Mahathirs use of
Islam was a very political move in recognition of societal pressures, to win
Malay votes and to out-maneuver the ˜Islamist opposition. So, he set up
some ˜Islamic institutions, but was careful not to touch the countrys
capitalist system. On the economic front, he established an Islamic Bank. His
experiment in Islamic insurance has not taken off. Other than this, he
made no other effort to ˜Islamise the economy. And I must add that I
don’t think the so-called ‘Islamic banks’ are really Islamic at all. At
least in the form they have assumed in Malaysia, they have fully adjusted
themselves to capitalism, and are now a lucrative means to make a lot of money,
while small borrowers actually pay more
than what they would have to if they took loans from commercial banks.

I don’t think genuinely Islamic banking needs Islamic label. Any
system that aims at proper generation and distribution of wealth, that helps
sustainable growth along with equity, can be considered Islamic without needing
the Islamic tag. If someone wants to call it Christian or
Buddhist banking its fine by me; I can still call it ˜Islamic if
it cares for the poor and reinforces justice and equity.

Why must we want to put a so-called ˜Islamic label on everything? It is a
reflection of a narrow-minded, communal, indeed tribalistic approach to Islam
and Muslim identity, one that I feel is contrary to the Quranic spirit and its
universalism. So, you have people talking about Islamic sociology or
Islamic environmental science and even ˜Islamic English and so on. I
think this is a very restrictive way of understanding Islam. We have to get out
of this suffocating obsession with such labels.

Q: Lets come back to the question of a certain vision of Islam, as
articulated by Mahathir Mohamad or Abdullah Badawi, as an input in
Malaysias economic development policy. Can you elaborate a little more?

A: I don’t think Islam has been an input in this sense. Perhaps the only case
is that of the Tabung Haji, the government-run Haj Fund, to which people who
want to perform the Haj can contribute every month. Just before they leave for
the Haj they are given the money that they have saved plus some bonus. The money
collected by the Tajung Haji is invested in various companies. That, I believe,
is the only Islamic input, if you can call it that, into Malaysia
otherwise capitalist path of development which undoubtedly has some elements of
social justice.

Q: Mahathir Mohammad and, after him, Abdullah Badawi, repeatedly stressed what
they considered to be an ˜Islamic work ethic as essential to the
countrys development. How effective were these exhortations actually?

A: Yes, Mahathir repeatedly stressed values such as dedication, hard work,
loyalty and obedience, but overall in such a way as to make them
capitalism-friendly. He did not, of course, refer to other such Islamic values
as redistribution of wealth, compassion and social justice that would in any way
challenge capitalism.

As for Abdullah Badawi’s Islam Hadhari, I don’t think it worked at all.
Although it also ostensibly sought to promote a certain work ethic, and the
agencies of the state tried to promote it, , it had no impact at all on people
and society in general. Islam Hadhari consists of ten points. I have no quarrel
with these points, which sound very lofty, but why brand this as a certain type
of Islam or add an adjective to Islam? If you want to change Muslim attitudes
you have to present and approach Islam as Islam itself, without any additional
adjectives, like ˜Hadhari” or whatever. That way of packaging Islam puts off
Muslims and is sure to be rejected. This is one reason why many Malaysian
Muslims resisted the very concept or label of Islam Hadhari.

Chandra Muzaffar can be contacted on cmuzaffar@...
Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and
Inclusive Social Policy at the National Law School, Bangalore.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

ICNA Houston, Home for the needy

I am pleased to see this development in my state; Texas
The story about Houston follows my notes;

Good things are happening, Muslims are realizing the need to serve the mankind on the models of several organizations including the Catholic Charities, where they simply serve the person in need, with no discrimination and no hidden agenda other than pure service.

In Dallas, we have two individuals pioneering this effort; Dr. Basheer Ahmed and Dr. Hind Jarrah. Both of them have raised funds to begin the home for homeless, and are short on funds, I hope the community feels the need for this, as a priority and gets this going. Please don't assume others will do it, if that was the case it would have happened by now. You, yes, you as an invididual need to do your share of taking care of the needy.

You will be amazed to know that the Muslim women are going through the same difficulties as women in all other communities, it is a shame that women, who are the foundation of the society have to go through this hardship. My late wife Najma and I have witnessed women thrown out of their homes by cruel men with no hearts in the middle of the night. The civility of a being is seen in how they treat others. It is time, we the men participate in this, to create a society that is good for all of us, Muslim Americans as well as every American.

If you are serious to serve or fund or find funds, please contact, remember if you are not serious allow them to serve the needy, please don't take up their time;
Dr. Basheer Ahmed at:,
Dr. Hind Jarrah at:,

The civility of society is measured by how they treat the underprivileged and disadvantage individuals. I have difficulty using the words battered women, shelter etc. I would rather call them Women at disadvantage, Home for the Needy.

Jazak Allah Khair
Mike Ghouse

ICNA Relief USA Has Started the Shelter Home for Homeless Women

Houston, Texas (Reported By ILyas Choudry / 10-10-2009): Famous Journalist and Houston Fox TV Channel 26 News Reporter Isiah Carey has called the Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA (ICNA Relief USA) Houston Homeless Women Shelter as: Providing Haven for Houstons Homeless.

We will able to accommodate 14 homeless ladies at a time, without any discrimination (religious and/or ethnic), at this ICNA Relief USA Houston Women Shelter Facility, We do have a procedure and interview all the candidates for eligibility to stay at our Facility. At this time, we are unable to house children with the women. We do have a food pantry, where any needy person can come and avail from the non-perishable food items. We also follow certain procedures for this pantry.

Moreover, we have an Islamic book service, from where people can borrow or buy books for their review. We are looking for generous cash donations from people of all backgrounds, to pay for the beds we have purchased for this shelter and for other amenities. People can give in-kind donations as well in terms of computers, not expired non-perishable food items, toiletries™, items used by women like hair brushes, lipsticks, etc., cleaning stuff, and so on. For this people can call us at 713-692-2408 or visit the Center located at 4021 Baden Street, Houston, Texas 77009.

These were some of the things informed at the Open House this past Saturday, October 10, 2009 by Manager of Operations Sister Munirah Vaid & Project Coordinator Sister Seemi Bukhari of ICNA Relief USA Houston Homeless Women Shelter.

This is building upon the success of our Temporary Housing Facility in New York City. We have a well known track record in the Southern States for sheltering those displaced by Disaster and providing short term emergency assistance. Now we will be offering long term care and shelter for internally displaced and homeless women,†informed Ayub Badat, the National Executive Director of ICNA Relief USA.

Throughout the day from 9:00am. till 9:00pm., several gentlemen, ladies and families kept pouring into the Center for the Open House and prayed for all those involved in this project of extreme social need. For further information, Ayub Badat can also be reached at 1-917-602-4450 (Cell) or call Munirah Vaid 936-355-3751 (Cell) or Seemi Bukhari 832-382-1669 (Cell).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chandra Muzaffar on Pluralism & Ijtihad

I subscribe to Dr. Muzaffar’s views and have taken up the initiative to bring about a new dimension in our understanding of Islam in the context of the ever universalizing world. A few abstracts followed by the interview. Mike Ghouse

"The fixation of many Muslims with fiqh, with the externalities of religion in terms of rituals or with Arabic linguistic terms and culture, completely negates what I regard as Islam’s inherent universality."

Sadly, this project has not gone very far, although in the recent past people like Abul Kalam Azad and Iqbal in India, and Malik Bennabi in North Africa, did argue along these lines, even though they may not have termed this as ijtihad as such, perhaps because,

Given the traditionalist ulema’s understanding of what qualifies a person to be called a mujtahid, these people (Abul Kalam Azad, Iqbal, Malik Bennabi) would have been automatically disqualified by them.

We have also tried to promote intra-Muslim dialogue, between progressive Islamic scholars and the traditional, or ‘orthodox’, groups, but here, too, we have failed. One reason for this is that the latter are simply not open to dialogue with the former, whom they consider as having deviated from what they regard as true Islam.

Chandra Muzaffar on Pluralism & Ijtihad
By Yogi Sikand.

Chandra Muzaffar is Malaysia’s best-known public intellectual. He has written widely on questions related to Islam, inter-faith relations and liberation theology, issues that he discusses in this interview with Yoginder Sikand.

Q: Much of your writing focuses on a critique of capitalism and consumerism, or what you very aptly term as ‘moneytheism’, which you contrast with the monotheism of Islam. How do you see Muslim scholars dealing with these issues?

A: Unfortunately, what is in some circles called ‘Islamic Economics’ has not sufficiently critiqued capitalism and the consumerist ethos. In fact, many of those associated with the ‘Islamic Economics’ project have simply tried to apply a so-called ‘Islamic’ gloss on capitalism. If at all those associated with the ‘Islamic Economics’ project critique consumerism, which is such a deeply-rooted phenomenon globally, including in predominantly Muslim countries, it is only at a very general level, in the form of statements to the effect that it is incompatible with Islam, or appeals for balance, restraint and moderation. But this does not go along with any rigorous analysis of economic structures that generate consumerism in the first place. I don’t know of any well-known writers associated with the ‘Islamic Economics’ project who have done this in a sufficient manner. Rather, their focus tends to be more on the technical aspects, such as the ban on interest, interest-free banking and discussions about disallowing the production of things considered to be haraam.

I think one reason why these scholars have not sufficiently critiqued consumerism and capitalism is that they tend not to discuss issues that are not already written about in the fiqh tradition. Then, the references in the Quran that could be interpreted as condemning consumerism are of a general sort, and are not, in most cases, specific, and so these scholars have not gone beyond these generalities. Further, many of these scholars lack sufficient sensitivity to class issues, and so their project ultimately tends to work in favour of the powers that be, the ruling classes, their formulations being easily co-opted into the existing capitalist framework. A good instance of this is what are fashionably called ‘Islamic banks’.

Q: Another major concern in your writings relates to the concept of ijtihad, which you use to argue the case for reformulating traditional Muslim understandings on a host of issues. How do you envisage ijtihad in relation to vital issues of contemporary import, such as gender relations or relations between Muslims and others?

A: Generally, ijtihad, if at all it is discussed by Muslim scholars, is in the context of the nitty-gritty of fiqh formulations, but, personally, I think it should also apply to a whole range of other issues, including our world-views, the way we understand our religion and its relation to other faiths, inter-faith relations, issues of gender, and so on. Sadly, this project has not gone very far, although in the recent past people like Abul Kalam Azad and Iqbal in India, and Malik Bennabi in North Africa, did argue along these lines, even though they may not have termed this as ijtihad as such, perhaps because, given the traditionalist ulema’s understanding of what qualifies a person to be called a mujtahid, these people would have been automatically disqualified by them.
Q: A major issue that ‘progressive’ and ‘modernist’ Muslim scholars are today focusing on is the need to go beyond traditional fiqh formulations, and, indeed, the very tendency to understand every issue in terms of the fiqh tradition. How do you relate to this?

A: Personally, I feel that we need to emancipate ourselves from the traditional fiqh methodology. The moment you view something from the traditional fiqh point of view, or look at it as a ‘Muslim’ issue, rather than one of universal human significance, you limit your own understanding, transforming it into something narrowly communal, which, as a Muslim, I see as going against the fundamental universality of Islam. The fixation of many Muslims with fiqh, with the externalities of religion in terms of rituals or with Arabic linguistic terms and culture, completely negates what I regard as Islam’s inherent universality.

Frankly, I am increasingly despondent about the marked tendency to see and interpret things from a narrow ‘Muslim’ or so-called ‘Islamic’ point of view, and this applies to new fads such as ‘Islamic Economics’ or ‘Islamic food’ or whatever. If one is looking for solutions to problems through traditional understandings of religion—any religion for that matter—at the end of the day, if one’s mindset is not universal, the quest is utterly futile. I think one of the most basic tasks before us today is to evolve universal understandings of spirituality that go beyond, and transcend, religion and communal barriers, as traditionally conceived. Sadly, we are in a situation where religion, in the sense of labels, language, dogmas and rituals, seems to be of more practical importance than God. That is to say, even if we may not recognize it, we worship our own particular religions in place of God. This is precisely what many Muslims tend to do with their exclusivity, their narrow approach to fiqh, their obsession with rituals and laws which they imagine to be the shariah, and, indeed, what amounts to the very idolization of the shariah.

Q: You have been at the forefront of seeking to promote inter-religious dialogue between Muslims and others, in Malaysia as well as internationally. How do you reflect on your experiences in this regard?

A: In Malaysia we have tried to do this sort of thing, but the problems are daunting and we have not been very successful. We have also tried to promote intra-Muslim dialogue, between progressive Islamic scholars and the traditional, or ‘orthodox’, groups, but here, too, we have failed. One reason for this is that the latter are simply not open to dialogue with the former, whom they consider as having deviated from what they regard as true Islam. If at all they are interested in any sort of dialogue, it is simply in order to impose their own perspectives on others. This can hardly be called dialogue, in the true sense of the term. They are simply too-closed minded, whereas dialogue presupposes that dialogue partners should be open-minded and amenable to listening to other views. Otherwise, there is no point in even attempting to dialogue.
As for inter-faith dialogue, I, as a Muslim, believe that there is much that Muslims need to set in order before they can genuinely dialogue with people of other faiths. Certain deep-rooted, traditionally-held notions, shared by millions of Muslims, must be recognized as being gravely inimical to genuine inter-faith dialogue, such as common assumptions about terms such as kafir and jihad, the alleged ‘impurity’ of non-Muslims, the notion of Muslim supremacism and the belief that all non-Muslims are ‘enemies of God’ or are doomed to perdition in hell. We need to revise our understandings of these issues if we are at all to be able to proceed with the task of inter-religious dialogue and solidarity. Many of these understandings emerged after the demise of the Prophet, at a time of Muslim political expansionism. These were later reinforced in the face of Muslim political losses and traumas in the wake of the Mongol onslaught, the Crusades, and, then, European colonialism, and, now, Western, particularly American, imperialism. We need to re-evaluate our views on these matters, and bring them in line with proper Quranic understandings, which I believe to be just and egalitarian.

Chandra Muzaffar can be contacted on
Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Social Policy at the National Law School, Bangalore.

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quraan burning

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

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

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

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thank you.


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