Why Islam doesn’t need a reformation | Mehdi Hasan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 May, 2015 - 15:44
The critics of Islam who are calling for a ‘Muslim Martin Luther’ should be careful what they wish for

In recent months, cliched calls for reform of Islam, a 1,400-year-old faith, have intensified. “We need a Muslim reformation,” announced Newsweek. “Islam needs reformation from within,” said the Huffington Post. Following January’s massacre in Paris, the Financial Times nodded to those in the west who believe the secular Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, “could emerge as the Martin Luther of the Muslim world”. (That might be difficult, given Sisi, in the words of Human Rights Watch, approved “premeditated lethal attacks” on largely unarmed protesters which could amount to “crimes against humanity”.)

Then there is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The Somali-born author, atheist and ex-Muslim has a new book called Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. She’s been popping up in TV studios and on op-ed pages to urge Muslims, both liberal and conservative, to abandon some of their core religious beliefs while uniting behind a Muslim Luther. Whether or not mainstream Muslims will respond positively to a call for reform from a woman who has described their faith as a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death” that should be “crushed”, and suggested Benjamin Netanyahu be given the Nobel peace prize, is another matter.

'Islam isn’t Christianity. They are are not analogous, and it is deeply ignorant to pretend otherwise

The truth is that Islam has already had its own 'Reformation' of sorts

Related: If we are to fight extremism we must bring people together, not silence and ban them | Sayeeda Warsi

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National Service? If I hear it again I’ll go Spare!

Indigo Jo Blogs - 17 May, 2015 - 13:35

So, in today’s Telegraph there’s an interview with Prince Harry (right), who is set to leave the Army next month after ten years of service, in which he calls for the return of National Service because being in the Army kept him out of trouble and helped some of the men in his command turn their lives around. While Harry the Spare doesn’t have any political role, clearly when he speaks, the Establishment media listens, and while in opposition David Cameron proposed some kind of “school leaver programme” which might entail some kind of community service for a year but, as I pointed out at the time, could default to military conscription where no such civilian options were available.

There are solid reasons why we got rid of National Service and why most of the countries of the developed world have got rid of it over the past 30 years or so. It was never part of British tradition; it existed for two short periods of the 20th century, namely 1916 to 1920 and 1939 to 1960, the last conscripts leaving the Army in 1963. Only two west European countries, Spain and Austria, retain conscription. Countries that do nowadays tend to be third-world countries, often dictatorships. There are good reasons for having armed forces that entirely consist of people who chose to enter; many of them come from families where others, often several generations, have gone into the forces. It means absenteeism and desertion is low; in countries where conscription still exists, people (usually men as women are usually not called up) concoct excuses such as pretending to be gay, or flee abroad, or go into hiding. When they are deployed in a war that is not a matter of national existence (but may be of international importance, such as in peace-keeping forces), public tolerance for losses is that much less, and any setback could lead to pressure to pull out; it is, to say the least, unethical for conscripts to be used in a war of political choice.

In his interview, Harry says, “I dread to think where I’d be without the Army”, and that he joined because as a child he enjoyed “wearing the combats … running around with a rifle, jumping in a ditch and living in the rain, and stuff”. That’s all very well, but not all boys (let alone girls) are actually interested in that, and for some the world of work offers much the same opportunities for physical adventure and exercise (minus the rifles, of course). Then he says about the men under his command in Windsor:

“You know, I was a troop commander in Windsor for three and a half years, but I had 11 guys under my command.

“And some of those guys were - I mean naughty’s not the word - they were on a different level. And their backgrounds and the issues they had.

“And then over those three years to see the way that they changed is huge, absolutely huge.”

But the Army is not the only thing that can turn around a young man who is in trouble, and not everyone needs that anyway. Some young people leave school, or college, perfectly fit to go and get a job, and if there were still jobs available in many parts of the country, they might just go into them instead of hanging around with nothing to do. Prince Harry, of course, needed something to occupy his time, because he’s a Royal with no formal role or responsibilities, even personal ones, and therefore nothing to do; the same was true of his elder brother, but he has a higher profile as the heir and has a job coming up, albeit one he will most likely have to wait another 20 or 30 years for. The Army may have taught Harry a lot, but as someone remarked on Twitter earlier, most of us learn that by not having maids.

But my biggest objection is that it’s a theft of a year or two of a young person’s life when they could be establishing themselves in the world of work, and while for some they may gain skills or qualifications, for others it will consist of endless parades or “square-bashing”, to say nothing of the risk of racism and bullying. Some officers enjoy victimising those in their command, and young men frustrated at being denied their liberty or sent to unfamiliar places far from home will take it out on each other — as we already know they do in prison or in other institutions such as boarding school — or on local civilians or prisoners of war. There will be people victimised and there will be suicides and murders, as indeed there has been even in the Army as it is now. Most people accept the need for conscription when there is a war of national survival, but as things stand it’s just not necessary.

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Losing their religion: The hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 May, 2015 - 10:30

As debate rages over the radicalisation of young British Muslims, are we overlooking a different crisis of faith? Ex-Muslims who dare to speak out are often cut off by their families and fear for their lives. A brave few tell us their stories

Sulaiman Vali is a softly spoken 32-year-old computer engineer. A natural introvert not drawn to controversy or given to making bold statements, he’s the kind of person who is happiest in the background. He lives alone in a modest house on a quiet street in a small town in East Northamptonshire. He doesn’t want to be any more specific than that about the location. “If someone found out where I lived,” he explains, “they could burn my house down.”

Why should such an understated figure, someone who describes himself as a “nobody”, speak as if he’s in a witness protection programme? The answer is that six years ago he decided to declare that he no longer accepted the fundamental tenets of Islam. He stopped being a believing Muslim and became instead an apostate. It sounds quaintly anachronistic, but it’s not a term to be lightly adopted.

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'Dark and dangerous times': GOP hopefuls focus on Islam at Iowa summit

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 May, 2015 - 23:26
  • Trump, Jindal, Cruz and Santorum address rightwing event
  • Organiser attacks Clinton adviser, warns of ‘civilisational jihad’

Related: Student who told Jeb Bush 'Your brother created Isis' speaks out about incident

“We are bunch of babies,” Donald Trump warned a church full of conservative activists in Iowa on Saturday, as Republican presidential hopefuls stepped up their deployment of fear over national security as the weapon of choice to differentiate themselves in a crowded campaign.

Related: America's 'counter-jihadis' fan flames of hatred across Middle East

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Racism Is Off Topic in NYT Profile of Justice Minister

Ayelet Shaked, justice minister in the new Israeli government, gets a pass today in a “Saturday Profile” by Jodi Rudoren. Although Shaked is noted for her extremist rightwing views, it seems she faced no challenges in her interview with The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief. The story we find here is all about style and personality.

Rudoren makes a quick run through some of the most disturbing elements of Shaked’s agenda, noting that she favors annexing most of the West Bank, deporting African asylum seekers, limiting the power of the Supreme Court, punishing Israeli groups that criticize the occupation and creating laws that enshrine the rights of Jews over other groups.

There is no discussion of what this means for the future of Israelis and Palestinians apparently no attempt to engage the new justice minister over these issues. We learn that Shaked has drawn heated criticism (some of it sexist) and that she is “the most contentious appointment” in the new government, but we get no deeper look into her motivations.

Only one of her critics, the Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, is identified by name in the article. She is quoted briefly as saying that Shaked’s appointment is a “threat to peace and security” and “generates a culture of hate and lawlessness,” but Rudoren fails to examine the factors that inspire these fears.

Instead, the focus here is on Shaked’s reaction. We learn that she responded to the criticism that accompanied her appointment with a “this-too-shall-pass shrug,” a characteristic attitude according to those close to her. They have called her a “robot” and “the computer,” because she is not given to emotion. Her style is analytical and methodical, Rudoren tells us, and she is “disciplined” and “a doer.”

We also learn that Shaked studied ballet as a child, joined the Scouts and did well in math. In the same paragraph, as if this were one more dab of color in her resume, Rudoren informs us that Shaked served as an instructor in the Israeli army’s Golani Brigade in Hebron and “grew close to the religious Zionist settlers.” Her experience there “cemented her stance on the right.”

This bit of information calls for more discussion. Hebron settlers are noted for their violence against the indigenous Palestinians, and it would serve readers well to know why Shaked identified with them so closely.

Shaked is a member of the extremist Jewish Home party that opposes any kind of autonomy for Palestinians. One of its members is the racist rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, who has said that Palestinians “are beasts; they are not human” and that “a Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile even if he is a homosexual.” (Rabbi Dahan has been named as head of the Civil Administration, the Israeli army agency in charge of the West Bank.)

This is the company that Shaked keeps, but the extremism of her party is off topic in this article. Although we get hints of her ultraconservative stance in the story, Rudoren skips over these clues quickly, preferring to dwell on style and trivia.

Rudoren should be asking what Shaked’s appointment means for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and what it means for dissident Palestinians and Jews in Israel, but this not in her sights. Her aim here, it seems, is to conceal the grim reality of Israel’s racist government, to make light of an ominous turn in Israeli society.

Barbara Erickson

Filed under: Ayelet Shaked Tagged: Ayelet Shaked, Eli Ben Dahan, Golani Brigade, Hebron, Israel, Jewish Home, New York Times, Palestine

Queensland teenager who travelled to Syria influenced by ‘the wrong people’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 May, 2015 - 05:40

Toowoomba 18-year-old Oliver Bridgeman failed to return from humanitarian trip to Indonesia

Friends of a Queensland teenager, who is believed to have travelled to Syria, say he has been transformed and influenced by “the wrong people”.

The 18-year-old, named by the Courier Mail as Oliver Bridgeman, failed to return from a humanitarian trip to Indonesia.

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Indonesian navy rescues 200 from ocean near Aceh, after 750 saved earlier

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 May, 2015 - 02:53

Military official tells ABC 200 asylum seekers were seen in the water by fisherman and picked up by a warship amid warnings of a growing migrant crisis

The Indonesian navy has rescued another 200 asylum seekers off the coast of Aceh, the ABC is reporting, after more than 700 were rescued by fishermen the same day.

Major General Fuad Basya told the ABC the 200 asylum seekers were seen in the water by fishermen on Friday morning and the navy sent a ship to the area to pick them up.

Related: How to solve the Asian migrant boats crisis – expert views

Related: South-east Asia faces its own migrant crisis as states play 'human ping-pong'

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AlJazeera: French Mayor Wants To Ban Islam

Loon Watch - 16 May, 2015 - 02:47


Does this even need any commentary? Meftah’s response seems perfect.:

By Massoud Hayoun @mhayoun, AlJazeera English

After the mayor of a small French city called this week for France to ban Islam, at least one French Muslim political activist was rejoicing.

Mayor Robert Chardon of the Southern French city of Venelles tweeted multiple times on Thursday that “the religion of Islam will be banned in France on Oct. 18, 2027.”

Mehdi Meftah, founder of Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR), a political party representing the interests of people from many of France’s predominantly Muslim former colonies in Africa and elsewhere, called the mayor’s calls to outlaw Islam “absurd.”

“We are interpreting this as a great thing,” Meftah said. The comments, he added, show that “We, [French Muslims] are more and more visible. We have our mobilizations. We have our visions of what France should be.”

Chardon was not immediately available for comment.

A spokesman for Chardon’s party, the center-right UMP of former French President Nicholas Sarkozy, told Al Jazeera that they are considering banning Chardon from the party.

“We condemn this but have yet to issue a formal comment on the issue,” UMP spokesman Pierre-Albert Mazars said. “We have begun procedures to look into removing [Chardon from the Party].”

Mazars said the party had no idea why Chardon had chosen the date of Oct. 18, 2027.

Meftah said Chardon’s tweets reveal that French politics “are in a state of disarray” and undermines the legitimacy of Islamophobia as a political platform.

French politicians “see [Muslims] as a threat,” Meftah said, a sign that French Muslims are gaining power as a political entity.

Unlike in the past, when French Muslims were marginalized, they now have their own movements like the PIR and can push back against what Meftah calls the “white political establishment.”

Read the entire article…

Friday Links

Muslimah Media Watch - 15 May, 2015 - 20:54
Nadia Manzoor is on a crusade to use humor and honesty to talk about the challenges she faced as a young Muslim immigrant coming of age in the US, through a web comedy series called “Shugs and Fats.”   The French government is under growing pressure to make a clear ruling on whether schoolgirls can [Read More...]

Counter-terrorism feeds terrorism – put Michel Houellebecq’s play back on | Srecko Horvat

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 May, 2015 - 15:30
Cancelling cultural events – as Croatia has done with Houellebecq’s latest work – on security grounds is an act of repression, and no way to tackle extremism

Ever since the publication of his latest novel, Submission, it seems Michel Houellebecq has succeeded in achieving what in psychoanalytical theory is known as “the return of the repressed”.

It is not by chance that the last cover of Charlie Hebdo before the deadly terrorist attacks carried a caricature of Houellebecq, with the strapline “In 2015 I lose my teeth, in 2022, I will do Ramadan.” What happened as tragedy in France repeated itself as farce in Croatia this week. A play, based on Michel Houellebecq’s novel Les Particules Élémentaires, was to open in Dubrovnik in July. But the Croatian interior ministry decided to cancel the premiere for security reasons after the police determined that staging the play would present a security risk.

What happened as tragedy in France repeated itself as farce in Croatia this week

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Is it one rule for the Hindus and another for the Muslims? | Giles Fraser

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 May, 2015 - 12:17
The different responses to a political endorsement from a Hindu leader and from imams show the UK’s law of undue spiritual influence is not consistently applied

She describes her job as “to carry the hopes and aspirations of thousands of Hindu families in the UK”. And in the performance of this role, Trupti Patel, president of the Hindu Forum of Britain, hasn’t been shy to rally her people to vote for one particular party. In an open letter on the forum’s website, Patel attacks Labour and the Lib Dems for insulting Hinduism by supporting legislation to outlaw caste discrimination. “Only the Conservative party has stated that if they are in a majority government, then this piece of unwanted legislation will be repealed,” she says, adding: “In these elections, the very honour of your faith is in danger of being undermined.” In short, vote Tory.

David Cameron has a longstanding relationship with the 600,000-strong Hindu community. Just three days before the general election, he was back at the temple in Neasden, north London, taking part in the ceremony. The Conservative Friends of India even rewarded him with his own campaign song in Hindi: “The sky is blue and glorious. This is colour of Britain’s pride. Let’s join together with this blue colour. Let’s join together with David Cameron.” Mind the contents of your stomach, it gets worse. “Your dreams will be fulfilled; He’ll keep his commitments; The job which David has started; He’s determined to finish.”

Obscured by the public outcry against Lutfur Rahman, Richard Mawrey has opened the most enormous can of worms

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Islamic school allegations to be investigated by Christopher Pyne

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 May, 2015 - 06:00

Education minister to look into reports school scrapped national anthem, banned piano on the grounds it is evil and stopped boys and girls sharing corridors

The federal education minister Christopher Pyne will investigate allegations of stricter Islamic practices being introduced at the Islamic College of South Australia.

Pyne will write to the state government and to the principal of the school in Adelaide to inquire into the allegations that sparked protests on Friday.

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If we are to fight extremism we must bring people together, not silence and ban them | Sayeeda Warsi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 May, 2015 - 15:40
To build British values, we must listen to British Muslims. Let’s not legislate for tolerance by being intolerant

This general election delivered a more united government and a more cohesive Conservative party, but a more divided United Kingdom. It was therefore heartening to hear the new government’s commitment to bringing forward policies that would help to bring us closer together as a nation, would try to eradicate the “us and them” mentality, and allow us to congregate around the noble cause of shared British values. Heartening, that was, until one read the small print of the proposals on British values.

This could have been a moment at which to raise our eyes to the sunny uplands of a future, united, cohesive nation, in which the opportunities that this country has to offer are available to all. A very Conservative vision.

The ultimate defence of freedom is freedom itself, and that’s not something we can take for granted

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When You Marry for Four Reasons, Don’t Forget Your Reason

Muslim Matters - 14 May, 2015 - 12:09

By Karim Serageldin

As a practicing psychologist, I was once consulted by a brother in Turkey in need of immediate relationship advice. In summary, the brother's “emergency” was that he had met a nice religious girl from a good family but was not attracted to her at all. He was under pressure from both his and her family to make a decision after three short meetings with the sister.

I asked him what he liked about her; he said she was religious and came from a good family.

“Okay, what else?” I could feel his anxiety through the computer screen. To marry or not to marry?

“Should I just go for it?” I was shocked.

Marriage is a lifelong commitment that requires compatibility, attraction and personality flow, none of which he felt. But he failed to recognize this, because he was stuck on the hadith (narration of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) narrated by Abu Huraira in Bukhari:

“A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be unsuccessful.” (Book #62, Hadith #27)

In my opinion, this hadith is often misunderstood, because in pursuit of a religious spouse we forget the other reasons. In the case of the young man I talked to, he thought we should only marry for religion and ignore the other three. Are you likely to sustain and succeed in a marriage where there is no compatibility beyond sharing a similar theology and ritual practices? Furthermore, what someone else calls “religious” may not mean the same thing to you.

In my experience working with couples for many years, I know for a fact that this is irrational. When we fail to apply reason in matters of religion, we get pain, destruction and failure, especially in marriage. We cannot live a true path of spirituality if our attempt to follow Islam lacks sincerity, wisdom, and deep reflection on our context and ourselves. Some Muslims live the path of serving Islam, as if it is a person nodding its head in approval every time we apply a hadith or Qur'anic verse. Islam is a path to God. God is the one to whom this path leads. Did this brother think about God in his process? That one day he will meet Him and be asked about “just doing it” without regard for the deeper requirements for success in human relationships? He considered getting married in order not to hurt the sister's feelings—what about when he divorces her because he realizes it was a huge mistake?

A few points to reflect on:
  1. Never ever marry someone you don't feel right about out of fear or pressure. This is likely to lead to failure. In the end, you and your partner will suffer, not your family, your culture, or even your religion.
  2. Marry someone who possesses all four reasons mentioned in the hadith not just religion. This is more likely to succeed and sustain a life long partnership.
  3. If religion is important to you, avoid marrying someone who does not have religion, even if the other three reasons are alluring. This is just as unlikely to succeed.
  4. Use this hadith as a guide, not an axiom with closed borders. We also marry for love and chemistry, in addition to these four reasons.
  5. Islam teaches us to admire diversity. If we always married people from the same socioeconomic status, race, or ethnic group, for example, this would hinder a more colorful, multicultural ummah (community).
  6. Sometimes people act religious because it is more “marketable” for marriage. Be cautious and go beyond surface checkpoints of theology and practice. Get to know the person and their family more deeply.
  7. Take your time. If you do not feel you are given enough time to get to know someone do not get married to avoid cultural stigmas. Families that rush their kids into marriage are the ones to have sincere skepticism towards.

Karim Serageldin is practicing psychologist with years of experience working with the Muslim community. He facilitates workshops, counseling and life coaching with an integrated approach of Islamic spiritual values and contemporary psychology. He specializes working with relationships, youth, family and men.

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