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Islamophobic attack on 84-year-old woman

Loon Watch - 24 August, 2014 - 23:12

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The Local

Police confirmed that they received a report of the attack in the Favoriten area of Vienna, and are currently investigating.

The perpetrator was a 30 to 35-year-old man who spoke and insulted the woman using a strong Viennese dialect.

Another nearby woman was also knocked down by the man, according to reports.  Nearby teenagers who came to the assistance of the old woman were unable to prevent the man from escaping after committing the assault.

According to the IGGiÖ, the Turkish woman, who uses a cane, was initially in shock and could not be interviewed by police.  She was taken to the emergency hospital in the 20th district.

A police spokesman said that investigations are ongoing, while the police wait to speak to the victims of the attack and are calling for witnesses.

According to the IGGiÖ, the case is unique in its brutality and shows that the xenophobic mood has further escalated. “As bad as this incident was, we hoped that it can strengthen opposition to trends of Islamophobia,” it said in a press release.

Isis: it is very much of its time and place and stronger for it | Jason Burke

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 August, 2014 - 06:15
What Baghdadi has done is fuse the political Islamists' aim of seizing power with the neo-traditionalists' more global vision

Just under a decade ago, a battered militant group then known as al-Qaida in Iraq decided it needed rebranding. A new structure and name were introduced to a sceptical public. The formation of the Islamic State of Iraq, complete with designated ministers, was announced.

The ISI's leaders lacked credibility and its supposed administrative structure lacked substance. That the "state" in the title was nothing more than an aspiration was clear to all. But the scepticism with which the ambitious name was once greeted is now looking misplaced. The ISI eventually evolved into the Islamic State, which now controls a swath of land from western Syria to western Iraq running religious schools, bakeries and power plants, exporting oil, levying taxes and organising parades of tanks, a potent overseas outreach operation and fighting a war on several fronts.

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Isis: a contrived ideology justifying barbarism and sexual control | Mona Siddiqui

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 August, 2014 - 06:15
The appeal of the Middle East wars to some young British Muslim men can't be reduced to an 'Islam and the west' debate

Islamic State or Isis have emerged as the most recent form of radical jihadism and we in the west feel bewildered by their ferocity and brutality, especially towards minorities. First, the Iraqi Christians, then the Yazidis hundreds of them being forced to either convert or be killed.

The recent beheading of the American journalist James Foley is only one act of defiance towards US airstrikes, with threats of more reprisals. With Al-Qaida, Boko Haram and now Isis never has it been easier to instil fear, it seems, into the most powerful nations in the world.

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Ferguson Cop Dan Page Relishes Being A “Killer”

Loon Watch - 23 August, 2014 - 22:56

Officer_Dan_Page

Ferguson Protests: Missouri Cop Suspended after ‘I’m a Killer’ Video Circulated

By Mark Piggot (IBTimes)

One of the police officers tasked with keeping security in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri has been placed on “administrative leave” after a video circulated in which he appears to rant about Muslims and Barack Obama – and boasts about killing people.

Officer Dan Page, who during the Ferguson unrest was filmed pushing CNN TV reporter Don Lemon and other protesters, was giving a speech to the St. Louis/St. Charles chapter of the Oath Keepers, which according to its website is “a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”

In his talk, which apparently took place on 22 April and was uploaded soon after, Page makes a number of extraordinary boasts, including ones about his being a multiple-killer.

“I personally believe the Lord Jesus Christ is my saviour, but I’m also a killer,” he is seen saying. “I’ve killed a lot and, if I need to, I will kill a whole bunch more. If you don’t want to get killed, don’t show up in front of me.”

In the speech Page, a former Vietnam veteran and military reservist, rails about black people being “little perverts”, homosexuals, and the “four sodomites on the Supreme Court.” He tells someone in the audience: “Policemen are very cynical. I know I am. I don’t trust anybody. I hate everybody. I hate y’all, too. I hate everybody. I’m into diversity – I kill everybody. I don’t care.”

The head of the St. Louis County police department. Jon Belmar. told CNN the video was bizarre and found the boasts about killing particularly disturbing: “As a police chief, that’s something I’m not going to be able to endure.”

A psychiatric evaluation of Officer Page will now take place.

Police in Ferguson have been strongly criticised for the shooting of Michael Brown which sparked the riots, but the events have also seen rising concern over the increasing militarisation of police.

Under the “1033 program” hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment from Iraq and Afghanistan has been passed on to local police forces across the US including grenade-launchers and armoured vehicles.

The Observer view on David Cameron's Middle East policy: time for leadership, not idle threats | Observer editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 August, 2014 - 21:03
Barack Obama has offered a coherent argument about US foreign policy objectives and how these might be achieved. We need the same from David Cameron

On Iraq, Isis and the much discussed domestic jihadi threat, David Cameron last week managed to often simultaneously accelerate, reverse and put his foot on the brake, as he motored to and fro from his holiday home in Cornwall. He left a cloud of confusion in his wake.

The prime minister started the week by warning of an existential threat and promised to use "all the assets we have", including our "military prowess". By Thursday, he was suggesting that "patience" and no significant policy changes were required in the aftermath of the barbaric murder of James Foley.

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Brussels Diplomat, Jean-Marie Pire Assaults Qatari Princess

Loon Watch - 22 August, 2014 - 21:46

Jean-Marie_Pire

Thankfully, Jean-Marie Pire has been arrested for assaulting a woman wearing the veil, in the process ripping off her earrings, leaving her with cuts and bruises.

Strangely reports on the assault have been describing Pire’s attack in mild terms, as if he were simply “removing the veil,” or “taking off the full-face veil.” Grabbing and ripping off a woman’s veil is should never be described as “removing” or “taking off,” it is plain and simple assault!

HuffingtonPostUK

A senior Belgium diplomat has been arrested for taking off the full-face veil of a Qatari princess after she asked him for directions, in a case that has highlighted difficulties in imposing the so-called “burka ban” in the country.

Jean-Marie Pire, who apparently specialises in protocol, went about removing the woman’s niqab, a black full-face veil, when approached by her on the street in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

The 60-year-old diplomat, who did not know the identity of the wealthy royal, took offence to her clothing when she approached him with two other women last week, asking for directions.

“I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,” Pire said, according to The Times. “With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium,” he added.

“Because the person asking me a question didn’t seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but what she did wasn’t legal either!”

Belgium, along with France, banned full face-coverings in 2012, imposing fines for wearing veils.

Local officials have reportedly already given the unnamed woman a fine of around £115 for breaching the ban on face-coverings. She also faces up to seven days in prison for wearing the garment in public.

The woman, who has not been named, has made an official complaint to Brussels prosecutors, who may now charge Pire with assault.

She said she suffered cuts and bruises after her earrings were violently dislodged, along with her veil.

Read the rest…

If this is real religion, then you can count me as an atheist | Giles Fraser

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 August, 2014 - 19:29

The best way of getting rid of bad religion and by that, I mainly mean violent religion is by challenging it in its own terms

What is it with religion and violence? One man severs the head of another, and in the name of God If this is real religion, then count me an atheist. But this is real religion, I hear you say. The history of religious belief is a history of horrendous violence: intolerance of others, burnings and lynchings, religious wars in which millions have died, torture, persecution. Its easy to see the appeal of John Lennons imagining no religion.

So why is it that religion often does not have enough moral fortitude to resist its own capacity for violence? At its heart, religion is that category of belief in which the world does not revolve around me but around something other than me. It is a sort of Copernican revolution in which the human being is not at the centre of all things. That is not its only characteristic, but it is essential.

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Action and reaction in the Middle East | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 August, 2014 - 19:23

I agree with much of Ian Birrells exposition and most of his conclusions in his piece on the Middle East (James Foleys brutal death shows we cant solve Iraq, 21 August). I cannot, however, agree when he describes our foreign policy as confused. It seems to me not so much confused as short-term, short-sighted and utterly self-centred.

We back repressive regimes because they are mostly secular, we back the Saudis because they sell us oil and buy our weapons, we back Israel because the US does, we fail to back Mohamed Morsi in Egypt because he is not at all secular. To put it simply, our politicians love to keep us in a state of fear (and Islam is currently the chief bogeyman), the big companies love making money and we will do anything the US asks. The policies are deeply flawed, but confused? I dont think so.
Nick Shepherd
London

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London mosque distances itself from 'female jihadi' who worshipped there

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 August, 2014 - 19:05
Khadijah Dare, from Lewisham, who moved to Syria in 2012, says she wants to be first UK woman to kill a western prisoner

A London mosque has distanced itself from one of its former worshippers after she vowed to become the first female jihadi to kill a western prisoner in Syria.

Khadijah Dare, from Lewisham in south-east London, said she wanted to carry out a copycat killing following the brutal murder of American journalist James Foley.

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Egyptian cleric says men are allowed to spy on women in the shower

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 August, 2014 - 11:20
Osama al-Qusi sparks outrage by saying a man can secretly watch a woman wash if he is interested in marrying her

Men can spy on women in the shower, an extremist cleric has argued in Egypt, prompting outrage from other Islamic scholars.

According to Osama al-Qusi, a Salafist or ultraorthodox preacher, peeping toms can watch a woman wash as long as they are interested in marrying her.

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What is your legacy?

Muslim Matters - 22 August, 2014 - 05:00

This is a repost, and was originally posted here

 

A leader is remembered not by what he or she possessed or consumed, not by how much power they had or whether they were charming or beautiful, but by the legacy they leave behind. This is what I want to talk to you about; leaving a legacy.

I want to start by saying two things to you which I want you to remember.

The first one is:

1.       “It is in the nature of extraordinary goals to inspire extraordinary effort.”

The second one is:

2.       “It is in the nature of the 'dream' to be impractical.”

A practical dream is an oxymoron.

I want you to remember these two things because I am going to tell you three stories about three people who believed in extraordinary goals and had impractical dreams. To tell stories is a good way to learn, no? Okay here goes.

The first story is about a man who bought a train ticket for the First Class and got into the compartment. But as he was sitting there, a strange thing happened. The Guard came and threw him out of the compartment. Actually, physically threw him out onto the platform. As the man picked himself up from the ground, a dream was born; the dream to set his people free from slavery.

But remember, the dream to set his nation free was born when the man could not even guarantee his own freedom. A very impractical dream. A very extraordinary goal.

The second story is about another man who sat in a prison for 27 years. I have seen that prison. It is a prison on a rock in the middle of the ocean. A rock that is surrounded by the sea which has some of the largest sharks in the world. That nation has the most sophisticated shark repellent technology in the world. You know why? Because they have the biggest sharks. This man sat in that prison without any hope of ever escaping. A lot of the time in solitary confinement. And in that situation he had a dream. The dream was to set his people free from the apartheid which enslaved them in their own land. Once again, a very impractical dream. A very extraordinary goal.

The third story is about another man. This man, when he was young, had a sporting accident in which he lost the use of both his legs and his eyesight was also affected. He was, since then confined to a wheelchair. Then what did he do? He went to get an education in one of the most venerable universities in the world. After he became a scholar, he went back to his people, where he became a refugee in his own land because the invaders and occupiers of his land destroyed his home along with the homes of thousands of others. All his life there, he worked to help his people in their misery to bring some measure of relief to them through medical aid, social help, food, emotional support and by teaching them to fight for their rights.

For this service, he was imprisoned for many years by the invaders and spent time in some of the most horrific prisons in the world. And all the while he had a dream; to set his people free and to have their land returned to them.

Then finally, at the age of 67, on March 22, 2004 while he was returning home from the morning prayers in the masjid, he was murdered by the invaders and joined the honorable list of martyrs.

As we stand here today, there does not seem to be any chance of his dream ever coming true. But he dreamt and others share that dream. The man died but the dream lives because dreamers die but dreams live on as long as there is someone to dream that dream. Once again an impractical dream. An extraordinary goal which inspires extraordinary effort.

The first question I want to ask you after telling you these true stories is:

What is your dream?  

In order to make dreams come true we need perspective.

Perspective is the ability to hold two pictures in your mind: Where you are now and where you want to be. The positive tension between these two pictures will drive you to reach where you need to be.

Without perspective we are either stuck in the current reality and get frustrated or we have our heads in the clouds and no idea of how to realize what we want to achieve.

We all start in the same place….as children. What does that mean? It means that at least initially, our condition depends on others who take care of us. So we get conditioned to look to them to 'make us' happy. And when that does not happen, we blame them.

This leads to the mental model: “Someone else is responsible for my welfare. My role is to feel good or bad about what the other person does. If I am happy, I laugh. If not, I sulk.”

Strangely, many people get stuck in this mental model even when they grow up physically and are in charge of their own affairs and have the power to do things for themselves. Because to grow up, means to take responsibility. To take ownership for all that you say and do and its effect on others and on the world. Not merely to accept accountability but to actively seek it. To stand up and say, “Here I am. You can count on me.” And if things go wrong, as sometimes they will, to say, “I am responsible for what has happened. Here is what I learnt from this. And this is how we will ensure this never happens again.” Most people fear this intensely.

So they are all ready to talk about freedom, but will not actually work to become free.

There is great safety and solace in slavery, in never growing up. In being a 'child' all your life. And you can see so many 50 and 60 year old children. There is much to fear in freedom. Emotional Maturity is therefore not a factor of age of the body but the maturity of the mind.

This voluntary slavery of the mind is not only found in individuals but in organizations, societies and countries. Often among those that are very rich and powerful but choose to be helpless and blame others for what happens to them. They refuse to see that their happiness lies in their own hands. That they can be free of this mental bondage, if they choose.

So my next question to you is:

Do you really want to be free?

What is the key word in that question? Yes, that's right. It is 'really' Do you REALLY want to be free?

Freedom, if you really want it, comes with some choices that you have to make: And these are:

  1. To care more than others think is wise
  2. To risk more than others think is safe
  3. To dream more than others think is practical
  4. To expect more (from yourself) than others think is possible

My dear brothers and sisters, we all start in the same place in another way. We all start as idealists. I have yet to see a child who was not an idealist. We all want to make a difference to the world we live in, to do great things and to be remembered. But how many people actually achieve that? And why not?

Let's see what happens and why.

We all start as Idealists. Then life happens. Things happen where people let us down. Often the very people we counted on to support us. People deceive and lie and cheat and sacrifice long term benefits for short term gains. They are corrupt and this and that and the other. So as all these things happen, we get onto the slide and start sliding downwards.

From being Idealists, we become Optimists (because idealism is tough to put down, especially when you are young and energetic) and then we become Realists, than Pessimists. Along the way we acquire 'advisors'; people with lots of 'education'; who take us aside to 'talk some sense' into us. They tell us, “Look, don't be a fool. Get real. This is the real world. Be practical. Be realistic. Ideals are okay to talk about. They don't work and will get you into trouble. Forget all this. Look around you. How many people do you see actually working for 'ideals'?”

We say, “But look at what Yawar is saying!! What about that?”

Our advisor will say, “Let him talk. What does it matter? That is his job. He is a teacher and trainer. Let him talk. You eat the nice snacks, meet your friends, have a nice time and go home. Forget him. Forget what he says.”

And slowly – if we choose and only if we choose – we also become like our 'advisors'. We become Cynics.

From Idealist to Optimist to Realist to Pessimist to Cynic; on the slide.

Cynics are very popular at parties as they are witty and make cynical remarks and make people laugh. But cynicism is a cancer. It eats the soul from inside. And unlike cancer, it is contagious and spreads.

And in the end, at the bottom of the pile, we become Indifferent. We stop caring what happens. That is the real bottom of the pit.

But remember one thing – all this will happen only if you choose to allow it to happen. It is your choice and you are completely in control of it.

You know why people get angry and fight you when you say idealistic things? Because you remind them of what they were one day. The flame of idealism is possible to dampen. But it is impossible to kill. It will remain alive as long as we live. It dies when we die.

That is the reason people oppose idealists at first. Because when people who have allowed themselves to become cynical and indifferent meet you as an idealist, you remind them of what they were like, long ago. In your eyes they  see a glimpse of their own history and that frightens them. They hate what they chose to do to themselves. They hate the picture of themselves that they see in your eyes. All this while you are not aware of what is going on and you think they are opposing you. But they are not. They are fighting with themselves. They believe that if they can make you shut up, then somehow all will be well. Because they are one of the many who believe this fallacy, that if one can make someone who speaks the truth to shut up; then one can remain comfortable in one's falsehood. They refuse to face the reality that the truth is the truth even if no one speaks it.

The thing to do therefore, if you want to light the lamps of other's idealism, is to ensure that your own lamp never goes dim. The way to do that is never to lower your ideals in the name of expedience, or diplomacy or Hikma. By all means use your wisdom and skill in putting across your ideals in as convincing and acceptable a way as you can, but never lower the standard. For the standard is our only protection against the slide into mediocrity and oblivion.

Remember that no person or nation lives forever. But their thoughts, their goals, their ideals and what they stood for endures long after they have become dust. That is what we stand for; ideals that have stood the test of time and which we carry forward to generations who will come, long after we have gone.

In 1997, a man used to stand outside the White House holding a lighted candle in his hand, a silent protest against the US sanctions against Iraq. He would turn up there every evening and would stand there for a few hours well into the night.

One evening, it was wet, windy and very cold. As usual the man came, wearing a coat with the collar turned up against the bitter cold, and an umbrella to shelter the tiny flame of his candle from the blustery wind.

As he stood there, the guard at the gate, who used to see him every day and occasionally waved to him in friendly camaraderie, came out to him and said, “Man! I know you are committed to this cause. But look at this night! It is so cold and horrible; you are one man, standing here alone, do you think you can change them?”

The man looked at the guard and smiled. “I don't do this to change them,” he said, “I do this so that they will not change me.”

Much has happened since 1997 and history has been written in words of shame by the blood of innocents. However there is one man somewhere who still believes in justice and mercy and that truth will eventually prevail over falsehood. That is his legacy. The legacy of a man whose name we don't know. But his story inspires others. We need such people more than we need those who have the power and use it only for oppression.

I say to you that I am a shameless idealist. I have always been and would like to remain this way until the end of my days. And if I ever start to slip, as can happen to the strongest of us, then I want you to remind me of what I am saying to you today.

So the next question I want to ask you is:

What are your ideals?

Finally I want to close my speech by telling you another true story. This one is about a little boy and the famous writer Loren Eisely. Loren writes that he was on holiday by the sea side when one night there was a big storm. Very early next morning as he was walking on the beach he saw that among the debris of the storm were literally hundreds of starfish which had been thrown up on the sand the previous night. As he walked along, Loren saw someone in the distance doing what looked to him, like a dance. The person was bending down and standing up and moving along as he did this. As Loren neared him, he saw that it was a little boy who was picking up starfish from the beach and was throwing them back into the sea.

Loren was like me. A man of the world with a lot of education and life experience.

He went up to the boy and asked, “What are you doing?”

The boy said, “I'm throwing these starfish back into the sea so that they don't die. They can't move on the sand and if the sun comes out, they will dry out and die. So I am throwing them back so that they will live.”

Loren says, he laughed at this statement. He then proceeded to put things in 'perspective' for the boy. Remember, I told you the importance of having perspective? But there's perspective and there's perspective.

So Loren said to him, “Look, do you realize that on this beach alone there are literally thousands of starfish? And then of course there are hundreds of beaches in the world, on which are thrown up millions of starfish in every storm. You are one kid, throwing one starfish into the sea! For God's sake, what difference does it make?”

The boy looked at Loren; he looked at the starfish in his hand, he turned and threw it far into the waves and said to Loren, “It made a difference to that one!”

Loren writes, “I walked away and kept walking for a long time. Then I returned to the boy who was still there, picking up and throwing the starfish into the sea. I silently picked up a starfish and threw it into the sea. And we did this together for a long time.”

My final question to you is:

What difference do you want to make?

The post What is your legacy? appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Terrorism laws not aimed at Muslims, say Tony Abbott and Asio head

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 August, 2014 - 03:41

Prime minister insists Australias concern is to prevent terrorist crime, not to single out any community

Tony Abbott and the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, David Irvine, have underlined that the government counter-terrorism laws are not aimed at Islam after growing criticism within the Muslim community over the national debate.

In a set piece speech in Adelaide, the prime minister said the government was targeting extremism with its proposed laws, not Islam.

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Isis beheading video brings calls for rethink of UK domestic terrorism fight

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 August, 2014 - 21:12
James Foley killing and broadcast by hunted 'British' jihadi spur MPs to seek wider campaign against UK extremist groups

The UK government was under pressure to rethink its approach to tackling domestic extremism as security services, led by MI5, intensified the search for a masked jihadi, suspected of being a British citizen, who is believed to have beheaded US journalist James Foley in Syria.

As Foley's employers revealed that the terror group Islamic State (Isis) demanded a ransom of $132m (£80m), MPs on both sides of the House of Commons called for a step change in the fight against extremist groups amid fears that up to 300 British citizens are fighting with Isis.

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Tariq Ramadan’s Boycott: A Critical Analysis

Muslim Matters - 21 August, 2014 - 17:01

I had the pleasure of first meeting Dr. Tariq Ramadan during the 2011 RIS Convention when I was covering the event for this publication. It was an amicable meeting; I recall being struck by his down-to-earth attitude. He took the time to have a genuine conversation with people – a rarity at such large events.

It was the year of the Arab Springs and I remember his insightful talk about the role played by American institutions in kindling the protests in Egypt. The next year I met him again at the RIS Knowledge Retreat where he gave a series of classes entitled, 'Shariah, Sufism and Ethics'. It was a powerful analysis of ethics and spirituality in the Islamic tradition. I recall asking him advice on how to combat the shariah fear-mongering that was going on at the time; he responded with words of wisdom as usual, 'Normalize your presence without trivializing yourself'.

So, I was naturally quite shaken to hear that he had publicly boycotted the RIS and ISNA conventions; especially given his active role in the past several years. While he doesn't use the word 'boycott' is his essay, his action is just that – a public censure of an organization and disengagement to achieve particular goals. I found his stance particularly troubling, and more importantly, ineffective. The reason being that he fails to adequately answer the essential questions for a successful protest: why boycott, how long to do it and what needs to be done to address the underlying concerns of the boycott.

Dr. Ramadan's first allegation against RIS is that it remains 'apolitical'. I find this charge particularly disingenuous given that speakers, including himself, frequently address political issues at the convention. I clearly recall the atmosphere at the 2008 convention when Israel started its bombardment of Gaza; outrage and condemnation was outspoken. A fundraising session that year, led by imam Zaid Shakir in the main halls, raised over $100,000 within a half hour for the victims.

When the civil war in Syria started and Bashar-al-Assad began his atrocious crimes, the speakers did not shy away from expressing their disgust with him. When Ghaddafi was captured and killed, Dr. Ramadan was the one who voiced the unacceptable way in which his case was handled. These are just a few examples I can recall from my numerous years as an attendee and volunteer. Perhaps RIS isn't political in the way Dr. Ramadan would like it to be, but to accuse convention of being silent on political issues is an unfounded assertion.

Dr. Ramadan's second and more serious allegation relates to the speakers at RIS. He accuses these speakers of supporting dictatorships, despots and all the oppression they perpetrate. He fails to elaborate on who these speakers are and neither does he bring proof as to why he believes some of the leading Muslim preachers are supporters of tyranny and war crimes.

Those well informed on sectarian politics of the Middle East assume they know who and what he's referring to; the rest of us are baffled and in utter confusion by this accusation. In his blog post, he refers to these people in convoluted terms such as 'some speakers' who follow the 'sufi' trend. This has implicated all the scholars at the convention and we're left wondering: could he be referring to Shaykh Hamza, perhaps its Habib Ali, may be imam Zaid, what about Dr. Jackson, or is it anyone associated with Mufti Ali Gomma or the late Shaykh Buti ?

Professor Ramadan's elusive approach only opens the doors to speculation, conjecture and confusion. By disparaging the moral character of the scholars that Muslims so deeply trust and rely on for spiritual guidance, he has sown the seeds of doubt in their hearts – his boycott will do nothing to remove it. Not only will his move lead to political rifts, it also creates a spiritual crises built on doubts and division.

In the worldview of the Dr. Ramadan and his supporters, the immoral stances of their opponents are obvious – to the average American or Canadian RIS attendee they are not; most are clueless about the subject matter in the first place. If he was going to make such egregious allegations in public, especially on a matter generally debated in inner scholarly circles, he should have taken the liberty of at least supporting and clarifying his claims. Sure, we hear of the occasional tweet here and a facebook post there, but those hardly offer the degree of certainty required to establish such bold claims.

Instead of identifying, confronting and refuting the people he so vociferously opposes, Dr. Ramadan sanctimoniously declares them to be puppets for tyrannical rulers. He neither engages in a debate with them nor does he give these scholars a chance to clarify the basis of their positions. Using unsubstantiated claims masked in ambiguity he fosters the very phenomenon of partisan politics he's trying to combat.

I am certain Dr. Ramadan has convincing arguments to back up his views, but his failure to elucidate them for us only breeds suspicion and bars us from the opportunity to judge for ourselves. If the scholars speaking at our conventions have indeed committed such serious transgressions, we deserve to know with absolute clarity before we decide to boycott them.

As for his boycott of ISNA, the professor offers much more concrete reasons; his approach, however, is still divisive and ineffective. The grievances he has expressed about ISNA's unacceptable silence over deeply troubling aspects of U.S. domestic and foreign policy are universally shared by American Muslims. These Muslims, however, have not decided to boycott ISNA over it.

Instead, the recent events have lead to serious introspection and have stirred a much needed debate on how Muslim engage with government institutions. These issues will no doubt be raised and discussed at the upcoming convention; Dr. Ramadan could have been an important voice in influencing change but he has decided to not be present at these meetings.

ISNA is at an important cross-roads; it has become manifestly clear that its current engagement model has shortcomings which need to be seriously re-examined. It has to determine an approach where it can collaborate with institutions of power without being stifled by them or compromising its integrity. Glenn Greenwald, like many others, have stressed the need for an effective outsider-insider strategy for engagement. ISNA will certainly fall under the 'insider' category; its mandate is not like that of CAIR – which always seems to be in conflict with institutions of authority. It needs to transform itself into a effective lobbying group which can advocate on behalf of Muslims without being paralyzed by fear. Now, more than ever, it needs friends, not boycotters.

Dr. Ramadan's boycott no doubt succeeds in putting pressure on ISNA and kindling up much needed discussions, especially given the support he has received from fellow speakers. However, this pressure comes at a cost. He has chosen to take a highly divisive route and no doubt has burned many bridges with the Muslim leadership in North America. Given his influence, the move has also galvanized many of his supporters who too are re-considering their attendance at the convention. ISNA is the one of the few institutions American Muslims could look up to as a representative of their interests; being publicly chastised and boycotted by a leading Muslim academic is bound to create division at a time when unity desperately needed.

Furthermore, the more important shortcoming of this move is that Dr. Ramadan has offered no concrete actions that need to be taken to address the issues he raises. How long will he and his supporters disengage from two of the largest gatherings of Muslims in North America? Blanket boycotts with no clear demands and deadlines are pointless and ineffective. What steps exactly does he want RIS and ISNA to take? We'll never know the answers to these questions.

Professor Ramadan felt it a moral obligation to dissociate from organizations he had serious political disagreements with. Instead of the method he employed, he could have easily taken a less divisive and more effective route.  This could have been achieved had he publicly published detailed criticisms of ISNA and RIS with suggestions for actions they need to take. He could have then, like many others, privately declined attending the conventions; his absence would then be more meaningful to the organizers as well as the attendees. I am thinking of something along the approach Shaykh Hamza Yusuf took to highlight his disagreements with ISNA over the moon sighting issue.

The current approach taken by Dr. Ramadan is rash and its impact is temporal. He has picked a fight with the very people he needs to be advising; its unlikely they'll be receptive to what he has to say if he does't resort to more diplomatic methods. No one questions the legitimacy of the criticisms he has offered or the concern for good that drives his actions. However, this highly controversial approach has lead to greater harm, in this author's opinion, because it engenders disunity amongst Muslims, casts doubts on the integrity of our scholars and fails to provide any tangible solutions to the exceedingly complex challenges our community faces today.

Ed Note: We encourage discourse and writers on Muslimmatters have a variety of individual points of views including this post; this should not be taken as a Muslimmatters 'position'.

The post Tariq Ramadan’s Boycott: A Critical Analysis appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Shaykh Nazim obituary

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 August, 2014 - 15:14

Shaykh Nazim, who has died aged 92, was an influential spiritual teacher and head of a branch of the Naqshbandi order of Sunni Islamic Sufism. He led about 300 Sufi centres in more than 30 countries as diverse as Chile and Japan; his followers ranged from heads of state to the homeless and troubled people in search of solace.

The spiritual training of Sufism is intended to help people to love, honour, understand, and be true to themselves and others. Shaykh Nazim taught that Sufi ways were universal, and his methods were grounded in everyday living.

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What the jihadists who bought “Islam for Dummies” on Amazon tell us about radicalisation

Mahdi Hassan - 21 August, 2014 - 10:06

Pretending that the danger comes only from the devout could cost lives.

 Magnolia PicturesMinisters and security chiefs could learn a thing or two from Chris Morris’s black comedy Four Lions. Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of Milestones by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about Messages to the World: the Statements of Osama Bin Laden? Guess again. Wait, The Anarchist Cookbook, right? Wrong.

Sarwar and Ahmed, both of whom pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last month, purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies. You could not ask for better evidence to bolster the argument that the 1,400-year-old Islamic faith has little to do with the modern jihadist movement. The swivel-eyed young men who take sadistic pleasure in bombings and beheadings may try to justify their violence with recourse to religious rhetoric – think the killers of Lee Rigby screaming “Allahu Akbar” at their trial; think of Islamic State beheading the photojournalist James Foley as part of its “holy war” – but religious fervour isn’t what motivates most of them.

In 2008, a classified briefing note on radicalisation, prepared by MI5’s behavioural science unit, was leaked to the Guardian. It revealed that, “far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could . . . be regarded as religious novices.” The analysts concluded that “a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation”, the newspaper said.

For more evidence, read the books of the forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer Marc Sageman; the political scientist Robert Pape; the international relations scholar Rik Coolsaet; the Islamism expert Olivier Roy; the anthropologist Scott Atran. They have all studied the lives and backgrounds of hundreds of gun-toting, bomb-throwing jihadists and they all agree that Islam isn’t to blame for the behaviour of such men (and, yes, they usually are men).

Instead they point to other drivers of radicalisation: moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, for a sense of belonging and purpose. As Atran pointed out in testimony to the US Senate in March 2010: “. . . what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Quran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world”. He described wannabe jihadists as “bored, under­employed, overqualified and underwhelmed” young men for whom “jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer . . . thrilling, glorious and cool”.

Or, as Chris Morris, the writer and director of the 2010 black comedy Four Lions – which satirised the ignorance, incompetence and sheer banality of British Muslim jihadists – once put it: “Terrorism is about ideology, but it’s also about berks.”

Berks, not martyrs. “Pathetic figures”, to quote the former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove, not holy warriors. If we want to tackle jihadism, we need to stop exaggerating the threat these young men pose and giving them the oxygen of publicity they crave, and start highlighting how so many of them lead decidedly un-Islamic lives.

When he lived in the Philippines in the 1990s, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, described as “the principal architect” of the 11 September attacks by the 9/11 Commission, once flew a helicopter past a girlfriend’s office building with a banner saying “I love you”. His nephew Ramzi Yousef, sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, also had a girlfriend and, like his uncle, was often spotted in Manila’s red-light district. The FBI agent who hunted Yousef said that he “hid behind a cloak of Islam”. Eyewitness accounts suggest the 9/11 hijackers were visiting bars and strip clubs in Florida and Las Vegas in the run-up to the attacks. The Spanish neighbours of Hamid Ahmidan, convicted for his role in the Madrid train bombings of 2004, remember him “zooming by on a motorcycle with his long-haired girlfriend, a Spanish woman with a taste for revealing outfits”, according to press reports.

Religion does, of course, play a role: in particular, a perverted and politicised form of Islam acts as an “emotional vehicle” (to quote Atran), as a means of articulating anger and mobilising masses in the Muslim-majority world. But to pretend that the danger comes only from the devout could cost lives. Whatever the Daily Mail or Michael Gove might have you believe, long beards and flowing robes aren’t indicators of radicalisation; ultra-conservative or reactionary views don’t automatically lead to violent acts. Muslims aren’t all Islamists, Islamists aren’t all jihadists and jihadists aren’t all devout. To claim otherwise isn’t only factually inaccurate; it could be fatal.

Consider Four Lions. Omar is the nice, clean-shaven, thoroughly modern ringleader of a gang of wannabe suicide bombers; he reads Disney stories to his son, sings Toploader’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” with his mates and is pretty uninterested in Muslim beliefs or practices. Meanwhile, his brother Ahmed is a religious fundamentalist, a big-bearded Salafist who can’t bear to make eye contact with women and thinks laughter is un-Islamic but who, crucially, has no time for violence or jihad. The police raid the home of peaceful Ahmed, rather than Omar, allowing Omar to escape and launch an attack on . . . a branch of Boots.

Back in the real world, as would-be jihadists buy books such as Islam for Dummies, ministers and security chiefs should venture online and order DVDs of Four Lions. They might learn a thing or two. 

Mehdi Hasan is an NS contributing writer, and works for al-Jazeera English and the Huffington Post UK, where this column is crossposted

4 Thoughts on Condemning People Doing Terrible Things

Muslim Matters - 21 August, 2014 - 02:52

 

CONDEMN THIS NOW

Here are four thoughts that normally go through my head when folks ask for individual American Muslims to condemn some foreign group of people claiming Islam while doing terrible things:

1) Muslims regularly speak out when people try to abuse our faith or use it as cover for atrocities. It seems that a combination of things limit the reach of our voice: we are not good at getting our message out and people often are not truly interested in what Muslims actually have to say.

2) Personally, I'm tired of playing the condemnation game and I find it a bit offensive when people question if I disagree or am appalled when some crazy people do horrible things, while claiming that they are Muslims or that they are acting in accordance with Islam. That's because it should be expected that I'm appalled and the question itself makes me wonder about the questioner. It makes me think that when atrocities are committed in the name of something they identify with do they support the atrocity?

3) I've also noticed that there is a huge double standard or in the best cases severe cognitive dissonance in the people who regularly ask for or “need” to hear condemnations from others. They tend to broad brush groups, while ignoring either the problems in their own communities or more commonly the fact that they openly support things that directly contradict their stated values when done in support of causes they are sympathetic to. This brings me back to wondering if/when the shoe was/is on the other foot would/do they speak up?

4) If it is the case that we struggle to live values-based lives, avoid hypocrisy and create a better world, it is not/shouldn't be considered hard to be against people abusing one's own faith or cause. It is much more difficult to be morally consistent in all areas of our lives.

The world needs a lot more honest introspection and a lot less finger pointing. Gandhi told us a long time ago to be the change we wish to see in the world.

The post 4 Thoughts on Condemning People Doing Terrible Things appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

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